January 30, 2014

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XXXVII

It's pretty much all about Roman Britain this month, with a slew of articles and news pieces on some really fascinating skeletons...

News
Head-hunted Roman. (via The Guardian)
  • 21 January. The Guardian - Carthaginians Sacrificed Own Children, Archaeologists Say.  So, the discussion about whether or not Carthaginian tophets were places of ritual child sacrifice continues in the pages of Antiquity. The latest article is by a bunch of archaeologists and historians. I'm not thoroughly convinced by any of the arguments, but if I had to come down on a side, I'd believe the bioarchaeological evidence (or lack thereof).
Not a brothel baby. (via English Heritage)
  • 24 January. LiveScience - Ancient Roman Infanticide Didn't Spare Either Sex, DNA Suggests. This news story (which quotes me) covers a new JAS paper on the so-called "brothel babies" that were reported in 2011. I'm glad to see that the original osteologists who claimed these were neonates of prostitutes in a Roman brothel have reversed their stance after DNA testing, as "brothel babies" had become somewhat of a running joke in the Roman bioarch community. I am a bit disappointed, though, that only LiveScience has covered the update. Of course the BBC, Daily Mail, Telegraph, etc., that originally ran with the "brothel babies" story haven't issued any sort of update.
Articles
Fig. 3 from Mays et al. 2014
  • Jan-Feb. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, "An infant femur bearing cut marks from Roman Hambleden, England," by S. Mays et al. This article is a fascinating look at some perimortem trauma to a perinatal femur of a Roman-era child in England. Mays and colleagues suspect it resulted from the practice of embryotomy, or cutting a perinate out of the mother due to obstructed labor.
Social Media, et Cetera
  • 3 January. Ancient Studies Articles Podcast - Food for Rome (Killgrove & Tykot 2013). I took some time to read aloud my Roman diet paper from last year. You can download it from the ASAPodcast. I think it's also going up on the Elsevier site at some point (since I got permission from them to record this).
  • 20 January. LiveScience - Can 'Skull Theory' Reveal Sex of an Unborn Baby?  This was a fun story to comment on. Just before I gave my human osteology students a lecture on assessing sex from skull morphology, Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience pointed me to a website that suggests you can use the same morphology to tell the sex of your unborn baby on ultrasound. I told her immediately that it was nonsense (and that it's sex, not gender) but did a bit of background research to make sure I had data behind my knee-jerk reaction. All the juvenile osteology textbooks assert that using sexually dimorphic morphology (e.g., the size of the mastoid process) to assess sex isn't possible until about puberty when, of course, sexual dimorphism from secondary sexual characteristics becomes apparent.  At any rate, this article was a good way for me to talk to my students about the shortcomings of assessing sex based on skeletal remains.

January 25, 2014

Bones - Season 9, Episode 14 (Review)

The Master in the Slop
Episode Summary
The Jeffersonian gets sent a giant vat of pig slop in which there are human remains. Hodgins devises a filtration system to separate the liquid in the slop from bone. Brennan asks Saroyan for an intern to help out with the case, and she offers her Dr. Philmore, the Canadian forensic podiatrist.  Since we last saw him, Dr. Philmore has picked up a PhD in forensic anthropology and is in town to collect data for a paper he's working on regarding collaboration in forensics between Canada and the US. Brennan picks a piece of os coxae out of the slop and pronounces the person male based on the greater sciatic notch and 29-35 based on the auricular surface. Philmore finds an incisor and announces the person is Caucasian based on the spatulate shape. Hodgins sprays Philmore with remains because the writers love goo this season. Brennan and Philmore are pretty sure this wasn't an accident, as they find evidence the victim was dismembered: a reciprocal saw was used to sever the head of the femur, and there are false start kerf marks on the radius. It is difficult to ID the victim because of the damage to the skull: the left side of the frontal bone, the left maxilla, and right zygomatic are all missing. But a giant fracture on the occipital and avulsion fracture on the left mastoid process suggest possible cause of death. The team finds brown hair in the slop but blonde hair on the victim. Hodgins notes traces of chestnuts, which Philmore suggests farmers use to sweeten slop so pigs will eat it.  Someone wanted to dispose of the body quickly.

Booth immediately calls in Jerrick Henry for questioning.  In the past, he was accused of using pigs to dispose of a body.  Jerrick admits pretty quickly to having dismembered and dumped the body, but he insists he did not kill the victim.  The body was dropped over the back wall of his property. Since he saw the victim's face before dismembering him, he cuts a deal with the FBI so that they can ID the victim as Albert Magnuson, a chess master.  Magnuson's fiance, Suzanne Levitt, last saw him two days ago.  He lived with her and her chess master son, Tim. Although Suzanne controlled Magnuson's riches from chess, she insists she did not kill him and points the FBI at Magnuson's ex-wife Ingrid, who burned down his apartment.

Sweets, meanwhile, infiltrates the chess club since he was a boy genius and is amazing at chess. Tim talks about Albert as his mentor. A woman named Ahn Ni talks about how Tiffin Olan broke Albert's hand with a chess timer. Some creepy chess guy acts all creepy.  Booth and Sweets check out the parking lot, where Albert had a reserved space.  The lights and security camera are all broken.  The rest of the Jeffersonian team comes out and finds blood on the ground near Magnuson's parking space and on the wall. Angela tries to get information from the security camera, but the hard drive was fried at 2:30am. The body was dumped at Jerrick's house at around 3:30am.

Booth questions Tiffin Olaf, but he has an alibi: he was arrested for soliciting on the night Magnuson was murdered.  He then questions Ingrid, the ex-wife, who is very religious and was upset to receive photos of Albert and Suzanne in flagrante. Hence, she set fire to his apartment to cleanse it. She doesn't have a great alibi.

At the Jeffersonian, the team finds burned flesh in the pig slop, and DNA confirms it's from the victim. There are microblisters in the stratified squamous epithelium and the external horny layer, as well as enlarged vacuoles in the epidermal cells. The tissue was taken from the feet, whose bones also show avulsion fractures from subluxation. Adding to this the fact that the capsular ligaments and the calcaneal(?) ligaments show signs of stretching and abnormal position, and it appears the victim was electrocuted in the garage. The killer tapped into the electrical panel in the garage and created a circuit with clamps, wires, water, and rock salt. The shock blew off Magnuson's toes and threw him into the wall.

Sweets heads back to the chess club to play a bunch of people.  When Tim plays him, though, he notices something odd: Tim is unwilling to sacrifice his queen to get into a better position to win. Sweets reads this as Tim's being unwilling to sacrifice his mother, so he arrests him on suspicion of murdering Magnuson. Meanwhile, Angela gets a partial image off the security camera, of the instant Magnuson died. However, it's time-stamped 12:30, which means Tim has no alibi and someone tried to erase evidence. Since Tim took an electrical engineering course in college, he has the knowledge to create the circuit that killed Magnuson. Since he's a sociopath, though, he won't admit it and gives up no information... until Booth and Brennan collude to make Tim think that Suzanne is being arrested for Magnuson's murder. When Tim sees his mother in trouble, he admits to the murder.

In the B story, Saroyan is being honored as an outstanding woman in science by a magazine, an award that usually goes to Brennan. This upsets Brennan, so Saroyan gets the nominating committee to include Brennan and Angela. When information arrives about the award, apparently the magazine wants instead to have a bikini-clad pin-up spread of the best female scientists in the world.  Brennan reads the list of names and very quickly agrees to be a part of it.

Comments
  • Forensic
    • Brennan's rooting around in goo for the second week in a row. Way to possibly break remains, injure yourself, etc.
    • Wait, why do the writers think that no Canadians and Americans have ever worked together on forensic cases?  I mean, my colleague down the hall is a Canadian-born forensic anthropologist.
    • As usual, sex/age/ancestry was super easy - sure, greater sciatic notch is a quick-and-dirty way to estimate sex. Auricular surface can help in age estimation, but I don't know anyone who can just look at one and tell that narrow an age range.  And spatulate incisors equal Caucasian? Say what now? I suppose shovel-shaped incisors could suggest Asian, Native American, or even possibly Hispanic (if we count it as a "race" rather than an ethnicity). But then spatula-shaped incisors would be everyone else.
    • And as usual, the ID wasn't confirmed in any way on screen.
  • Plot
    • Apparently the Jeffersonian is so flush with money that they can afford to pay Angela to paint rather than do, I don't know, anything else.  Maybe she could update all the virus software on the Angelatron or something.
    • I don't get why the poor Canadian guy has to be mocked repeatedly by the writers. It's not particularly funny, the caricature they've created.
    • They also have enough money that Hodgins can build a stupid contraption to shoot goo everywhere when all they need is a sieve.
    • In the two or three days since Magnuson died, no one at the chess club noticed that there was a ton of blood on the ground and wall of the parking garage?
    • Wait, Sweets can arrest people?  I guess he's FBI, but... really?
    • Only someone who took a college course in electrical engineering can figure out how to complete a circuit?  I mean, my 4-year-old loves her Snap Circuits.
    • Angela manages to get just one still frame from the infrared camera and of course it just happens to be from the exact moment that Magnuson was killed.
    • So, the age-at-death estimate was late 20s/early 30s.  That's about the same age as Tim, right? I'm surprised no one mentioned the age difference between Albert and Suzanne. I'm also surprised that Tim talked about Albert as a father figure. Am I just being age-ist?
    • In real life, Brennan absolutely would not be a part of a "women of science" bikini pin-up calendar. The writers keep forgetting she's a freaking anthropologist and therefore well-read in topics like gender disparity in science and exploitation of women. Ugh, this creeps me out just writing about it.
  • Dialogue
    • "Children need to understand what losing means." Damn right, Brennan.
    • Brennan: "I am outstanding and without peer in my field." Philmore: "Americans are hubristic and Canadians must deal with this challenge." Brennan: "Facts are not hubris."
    • The lovely people at the Bones subreddit reminded me that Angela mispronounces the city of McLean, VA. You'd think someone living in the D.C. area would know it's Mah-Clayn (not Mic-Leen).
    • "The Jeffersonian is an institution where pulchritude is as abundant as brilliance." Bull. Shit. This tiny plot point made my skin crawl.



Ratings
Forensic Mystery - D+. I thought it was pretty obvious Tim did it. The mystery wasn't very interesting this week.

Forensic Solution - D+. Demerits for the incisors used to assess ancestry. And for telling at a glance what age the auricular surface suggested. And for not getting a positive ID.

Drama - F. Wow, was this a super boring episode, or was it just me?  The grade here reflects the B plot about outstanding women in science. That entire plot made me want to slap the (I'm assuming) all male writers for being horribly sexist.

January 19, 2014

Blogging (Bio)Archaeology: Best/Worst Posts

(stolen from TheseBonesofMine)
This month's Blogging Archaeology prompt deals with our best/worst posts. It's hard for me to pick a best or favorite post, to be honest, as there are aspects of all of my posts (in the PbO era, that is) that I love. So here are some favorites:

Best Posts
  • Gay Caveman! ZOMFG! This is the post that heralded the PbO era.  Prior to this post, I was mostly writing random observations about my dissertation and hadn't really heard of science blogging. Plus, no one had heard of me. I like this post because it is written in a reasonably accessible style, with plenty of snarky comments. This blog genre (take-downs of crappy science) remains my favorite to write. (The most recent in this genre is: Baby Bones Were Trash to Romans.)
  • Friends, Romans, Countrymen - Lend me your rears!  I am really, really horrible at coming up with titles, so I'm inordinately proud of the pun on this one, which reports on organic material found in a sewer at Herculaneum, and of being able to quote a Latin graffito about pooping.
  • Lead Poisoning in Rome. This is my most popular post, with over 35,000 views in two years thanks to Wikipedia, Reddit, and Google. It's a decent post, and I like it because it includes some of the data from the Romans I studied for my dissertation.  I think its popularity, though, owes more to the subject matter itself (as there aren't that many studies published on the topic) than to my writing or my explanation of the subject.
Worst Post
  • There's only one post that I have ever reverted to a draft after publishing it.  I didn't delete it, but it's no longer on my blog. In essence, this post was about an archaeological topic I didn't (and still don't) know much about involving an archaeology professor and a lawsuit. Although comments on the post were generally positive, I got emails off-blog about how I shouldn't write about the topic if I ever wanted to get a job. They weren't the first emails I'd ever gotten suggesting blogging may hurt my career, but in this case, I think taking the post down was the right thing to do.  After all, since I didn't fully understand the situation, I couldn't contribute anything to the discussion on archaeological ethics. It's not the kind of post I would write now, and it's not the kind of post I should have written then.  I'll stick to what I know best.

January 18, 2014

Bones - Season 9, Episode 13 (Review)

Big in the Philippines
Episode Summary
A body is discovered in some sort of urban-renewal garden. Animals unearthed the remains, and Brennan and Hodgins find traces of squirrels and coyotes, the latter based on their vomit. Calliphora vomitoria specimens suggest the dead body has been there about two days. There is severe trauma to the ribcage, and Brennan guesses from the slightly receding zygomatic that the person was Caucasian. She declines to figure out sex or age until they get the remains back to the Jeffersonian.

At the lab, Wendell notes blunt force trauma to the ribs; in addition, the tibiae and fibulae are fractured. He suggests that an assailant might have broken the bones to make the victim fit in the hastily dug grave. The rim around the auricular surface suggests to Wendell that the victim was late 20s or early 30s. He starts to mention the heart-shaped pelvic inlet as indicative of male sex when Saroyan holds up the fleshy penis. Saroyan runs the victim's DNA through CODIS and doesn't get a hit. Angela also gets no hits on her facial reconstruction from the DMV database. Hodgins finds a bloody napkin in the victim's clothing, and Angela uses her magic toys to see that it's from LeBemi's Bar. Wendell notes that the right fibula is full of cloacae, and Brennan confirms with the presence of a sequestrum that the victim was suffering from osteomyelitis.

Booth heads to LeBemi's to talk to the bar owner. He ID's the facial reconstruction as Colin Haynes, a country-and-western singer who frequently performed there. Booth and Sweets then head to Colin's apartment. They find lots of old records that inspired him, a sheet of lyrics he was typing up, and a torn-up check for $1,000 from War Hog Records. So they go to speak with the owner, Harriet, who had signed Colin but dropped him because his records weren't selling. She gave him the $1,000 to help him with his diseased leg. Angela and Sweets then attempt to suss out some clues from Colin's CDs -- whereas his first one was up-tempo, the second one was in a minor key and lacked love songs. The lyrics Sweets found in Colin's apartment, though, suggest he had once again started to be positive about life and love.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Wendell has isolated hemorrhagic staining as blunt trauma to the rib cage, which is Colin's cause of death. The weapon is a little more tricky, though. Jagged fracture lines on the anterior surface of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th sternal rib ends suggests the ribs were broken outward, as if a tool had been placed in his torso to get something out of the chest cavity.

Booth and Sweets return to Colin's apartment and talk more with Kara O'Malley, the superintendent of the complex.  While there, they notice an intruder.  Booth stops him and takes him in to the FBI for questioning.  The man, Adrian, is a recent visitor from the Philippines.  He simply wanted to get a souvenir of Colin to bring back for a museum dedicated to the singer. Colin's music is played all the time on the radio in the Philippines, and until last week no one knew how to find him. A video surfaced of a fan spotting and talking to Colin just outside his apartment. It was geotagged, so Adrian knew where to find Colin. His alibi checks out, though. Booth then questions Harriet from War Hog Records, since ASCAP lists over $100,000 in royalties for Colin's music. Harriet denies any knowledge of this and does not seem to know about the Philippino radio stations.

Wendell finally figures out cause-of-death. Ribs 2-5 show outward trauma, but heavy splintering on the posterior aspect also indicates inward trauma. The combination means the weapon was a fulcrum, likely a shovel. An incision on the third rib is more narrow, suggesting a stab wound from the blade of a knife. When the blade stuck into the rib, the assailant tried to dig it out by opening up Colin's torso with the shovel. A bit later, Wendell notices three parallel abrasions on a rib that are inconsistent with either a shovel or a knife.

Booth calls in Kara, the super, for more questioning after a waitress at a restaurant mentioned seeing her with Colin on the night of his death. She admits to the date and also admits to having thrown a drink in his face because of what she thought was braggadocio: he insisted he was big in the Philippines and that he was supposed to get tickets to fly over there, but he can't produce the tickets for her. Angela does some digging and finds out that the mysterious tickets were indeed delivered -- to Kara's apartment.  But the person who signed for them was the owner of LeBemi's, who was having an on-again-off-again affair with Kara. Apparently he didn't want Colin and Kara to go out. The three parallel abrasions were made by his watch, and Brennan finds blood under the bevel.

And in the B story, Wendell breaks his arm in a hockey game with Booth.  After reviewing the footage of the accident, Brennan disregards all medical privacy laws and looks at Wendell's xrays.  She notices permeated lytic lesions and lamellated periosteal reactions to the lesions, which allows her to diagnose him with Ewing's sarcoma, a particularly deadly cancer. Initially, Wendell plans to tour the world and make the most of the time he has left, which is only a matter of months.  But in the end, he decides to stay and fight with the help of his friends at the Jeffersonian.

Comments
  • Forensic
    • Ack, Tempe, don't stick your hands in the body goo and just root around. You might break something!  Also, the "femur bone" of a squirrel?  Redundant.
    • I guess it's good she didn't figure out age-at-death, sex, ancestry, and occupation of the deceased based on the body in situ, but...
    • Wendell, jeezum, no no no NO, "the heart-shaped pelvic inlet suggests gender..."  My intro human osteology students are going to get the gender/sex lecture next week (although most of them have already gotten it in Intro to Bioanth). There is no excuse for Wendell using the incorrect term "gender" when he means "sex."  Boo. Wendell fails my osteology class.
    • If they have the complete pelvis, they need to use the pubic symphysis to figure out both sex and age-at-death.  The auricular surface has issues.  Also, you need to figure out sex before age, since the age-at-death tables are sex-dependent.
    • Pretty sure Brennan was talking about the "sequester" in the bone, when it's "sequestrum." Also, the prop bone seemed to have cloacae, but there was no thickening; a bone with active osteomyelitis with a sequestrum would be swollen and kind of bulbous.
    • Ewing's sarcoma is not very common in the lower arm bones and is most common in kids (under 20); I guess Wendell is just different?
  • Plot
    • Holy crap, Brennan, HIPAA much?!?
    • And why do they keep killing off my favorite interns? Zack, Nigel-Murray, and now Wendell?
    • Alright, not much of this plot made sense to me... 
      • Why did the bartender break Colin's bones to make him fit in the grave? They speculated the reason was that the assailant was too small to dig the grave or something, but I guess that was a red herring.
      • Why did he dig in the chest for the knife blade? So that they couldn't trace the weapon or something?
      • If the War Hog Records woman didn't know about the royalties... who did? I mean, to whom were the royalties being paid?
      • Who kept leaking Colin's records and videos to the Philippines anyway? If he didn't have any fans in town, there was no one to bootleg his performances at the bar.
      • So Colin knew about the plane tickets to the Philippines a couple days before his date with Kara. But how did the bartender know what the tickets were? And how did he know Colin and Kara were seeing one another if they hadn't yet gone on a date? I mean, why did he sign for the tickets and then dispose of them if Colin and Kara weren't together at that point? So very confused...
  • Dialogue
    • "I recovered a portion of them as I was scooping vomit out of the victim's eye socket." -- Brennan.  (I used to be able to talk about anything gross and gory over dinner, and then I had kids. Something about pregnancy made me unable to do that anymore, and I guess it still lingers.)
    • Is this only the second time in the show's history that the title has not been The X in the Y? (The other time I remember was the attempt at a spin-off.)





Ratings
Forensic Mystery - There were some really bizarre plot points, and I was confused, so I'm giving this a C- for lack of a coherent mystery.

Forensic Solution - Other than Wendell's assertion that he could tell gender from the bones, this was pretty reasonable forensic work. No positive ID, of course. So, I'll give it a C+.

Drama - The case-of-the-week was pretty boring, but because they may kill off Wendell, I'll give it a B.

January 17, 2014

#ICanHaz3DModel (or, The Purple Hyoid)

None of the dozen study skeletons we have for teaching human osteology has a hyoid.  I was lamenting this fact earlier in the week and considering scanning the crappy plastic hyoid we have from our articulated skeleton (affectionately dubbed Skeletor by the students in a nod to both He-Man and our governor). But I decided to try something new: put out a call on Twitter for a 3D model made from a real hyoid. Whenever I need a copy of an article that I can't get (or am too impatient to wait for interlibrary loan to send it to me), I try out the well-known hashtag #ICanHazPDF, and I've always gotten a quick response.  So on Monday, I wrote:
In under 15 minutes, I had a response from Tom O'Mahoney (@bones2bytes), a biological anthropologist at the University of Manchester.  He offered to scan a human hyoid from their collection and send it to me within the week.  Even better, he posted the .stl file on GitHub so anyone can download it:
I had a chance to print it out this afternoon:

Immediately after printing

A touch wonky on the body, but I can
take a scalpel to it.
Needless to say, I am cheesy excited this worked.  In just a few days and for a few hours of two researchers' time, I am now able to give my students hyoid models to study in class this semester.  I'd like to get a couple more hyoid scans, to show a range of variation.  And I also need some coccyges... only one sacrum of the dozen study skeletons has a coccyx.  

So, uhm, #ICanHaz3DModel of a coccyx?

January 16, 2014

Who Needs an Osteologist? (Installment 9)

The Penn Museum seems to need an osteologist:

http://www.penn.museum/press-releases/1032-pharaoh-senebkay-discovery-josef-wegner.html

Those ribs are wonky, and the left metatarsals are sketchy, no?



Previous installments of Who needs an osteologist?

January 15, 2014

Bones - Season 9, Episode 12 (Review)

The Ghost in the Killer
Episode Summary
Brennan has been having nightmares about Pelant's last days, as he told her that a female serial killer is still on the loose and that the killer's work connects several individuals in Brennan's lab.  For some reason I can't recall, she is known as the Ghost Killer (which I keep referring to in my mind as the Ghostface Killah).  Brennan wants to pursue the lead that Pelant gave her, but Saroyan doesn't want to divert Jeffersonian resources and personnel to the case, given the lack of solid evidence (which is weird because, well, that is what the Jeffersonian does -- find solid evidence from skeletons).  As Brennan and Booth are talking about this over breakfast, Booth goes to retrieve the newspaper and finds a box with a dead woman in it. The note exhorts Brennan to find out what really happened to her.

"When no one's around, I pile up the bones
like Lincoln Logs..."
Brennan takes the remains to the Jeffersonian, where she determines based on the shape of the frontal bone, the narrow nasal aperture, and the size of the mandible that they are dealing with a Caucasian female. Desiccated skin and soil suggest she had been interred for more than a decade.  Clark Edison is called in to help Brennan, as no interns were available. A couple scenes later, Angela has gotten a positive ID, (apparently "Caucasian female with unknown age and date-of-death" is unique in the missing persons database!) as Lana Brewster, a competitive sailor who died at age 18 in 1995. Her body was found washed up on the rocks weeks after she completed a solo circumnavigation of the globe. A remodelled fracture to the right tibia is helpful for ID: she set it herself during the race, and the injuries on the bone match her known injury history.  The team finds some very odd things, though, that weren't included in the autopsy or medical examiner's report: leather string around both wrists and traces of Trillium pusillum pollen, the latter of which suggests her body was somewhere else before being dropped off at B&B's house.  Saroyan is amazed by the death report: Lana supposedly died of drowning, and all the bone damage was listed as postmortem when much was clearly perimortem.  It turns out that the medical examiner, Leslie Dollinger, was paid nearly $2 million to lie. However, she died several years ago, having moved to Costa Rica. Brennan sees marks (sharp trauma) on Lana's sternum that are similar to those in other cases.  Booth, however, does not believe the evidence links the cases, and Saroyan and Edison seem skeptical too.

Booth and Sweets talk to Lana's brother, Dan.  He wasn't a fan of his sister's, as his parents clearly doted on her and ignored him.  He does seem to recall that she had a boyfriend her parents weren't fond of.  Another competitor, Erica Stamp, is also called in to the FBI for questioning.  Her life was ruined by Lana, who turned Erica in for cheating in a race. As a result, Erica was not allowed to compete and then committed insurance fraud by sinking her boat using the transducer. Interestingly, the transducer was also blamed for the sinking of Lana's boat at the time of her death.  Lana's dinghy was also never found, which raises the question of whether someone else was on her boat at the time of her death.

Angela tracks down the money used to pay off Leslie Dollinger.  It came from Cestech Transbow Corp., a part of McNamara Corporation.  Hodgins, having grown up with money and several companies, knew Trent McNamara from his school days.  He remembers Trent as a bad kid; his father eventually sent him to boarding school in another country, as Trent had gotten himself kicked out of every major fancy one in the U.S.  Trent happens to be in town for his father's funeral, so Hodgins and Sweets go talk to Trent and his sister Stephanie.  Neither of them, of course, wants to talk about Lana Brewster's death.  Trent was, however, in a relationship with Lana at the time of her death, even though he wasn't supposed to be because he was in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Hodgins returns later to talk to Trent and tell him that he doesn't think he killed Lana; he thinks Trent loved Lana and sent her bones to Brennan to find out what really happened to her. Shortly after Hodgins visits Trent, it is reported that Trent killed himself; gunshot residue is found on his hand. Brennan is skeptical, though, as Trent had a remodelled injury to his right carpals that indicates his median and ulnar nerves were severed. She doesn't think he had the strength in his right hand to shoot himself. Saroyan disagrees, as the weapon was a .357, which has a 3.5-lb trigger pull.  Dan Brewster visited Trent just hours before he was found dead, but Dan tells the FBI that Trent wanted to talk to him and make amends.  Traces of soil on Trent's remains confirm Brennan's suspicion that he was the one who dug up Lana's remains. Oddly, both Trent and Lana have avulsion fractures to the third distal phalanx of the left hand; a fingernail would have been ripped off the middle finger.  Brennan thinks the Ghost Killer was responsible for Trent's and Lana's deaths, and Booth is starting to believe her.

Comments
  • Forensic
    • Couldn't they at least have estimated the age-at-death from the skeleton before magically coming up with a positive ID?  Epiphyseal closure and dental development would likely have narrowed the age to with a few years.
    • The clavicles are mis-sided in the long shot of Brennan laying out Lana's remains, then properly sided in the close-up.
    • Brennan at one point puts all the Ghost Killer victims' bones into giant piles in the lab.  They're the Jeffersonian... don't they have more tables than that?!  Those piles made my eye twitch. If my undergrads did that, we'd have a Very Important Conversation about how to handle skeletal remains.
  • Plot
    • Having lots of bones fall and smash on the floor would be a nightmare for me too.
    • The pollen tells Hodgins that Lana's body was somewhere else after excavation and prior to being left at B&B's house.  That never comes into play again, does it?
    • Wait, was the "Please find out..." note written in Comic Sans?
    • Clark has been sleeping at the Jeffersonian, as he broke up with his long-time girlfriend... whom I don't ever remember hearing anything about.  But hey, it got us a gratuitous shot of Eugene Byrd's abs, so I can't complain.
    • Saroyan doesn't want to fund Brennan's examination of the Ghost Killer's victims because she'd have to justify the expense to the Jeffersonian board, so she... agrees to pay someone from another department to oversee Brennan's work? Makes no sense.  Also, who has to justify in a budget every single expense their employees incur? It's not like my department chair has to account for the time I spend, oh I dunno, writing this blog...
    • Saroyan thinks Brennan lacks objectivity and is too close to Pelant/idea of the Ghost Killer and makes Edison oversee her. And yet in another scene, Saroyan lets Hodgins work Trent's death scene, knowing full well Hodgins was a childhood friend?
  • Dialogue
    • "I don't need another forensic anthropologist; I need an intern." Uhhh, Brennan?  You've got someone with a PhD and years of experience offering to help you, and you want to turn it down for someone with less experience?  Just, no.
    • "[Sailing around the world is] an amazing achievement until you realize that she didn't actually achieve anything." -- Brennan is not impressed.
    • "I was a rich kid. I had to sail and have at least one girlfriend named Muffy. It was in the charter." -- Hodgins
    • "I think you should call me Temperance. At least when we're alone." -- Brennan, to Clark.  I've said this before, but anthropologists really don't stand on ceremony. Sure, I ask my undergrads to call me Dr. Killgrove.  And I'd expect students and other non-colleagues to use that form of address if they don't know me.  But the people I work with?  No, we're all on a first-name basis. Mostly, I get annoyed at this presentation of Brennan/Saroyan/Edison because it's not consistent.  Hodgins calls Saroyan by her first name (her nickname, even) in this episode, as does Brennan, even though Saroyan is actually an MD (and possibly an MD/PhD?).  But Saroyan calls Brennan and Edison by their titles.  If you're going to write scripts in which anthropologists and other forensic professionals are so uptight that they call one another Dr., at least make it consistent.
  • Bones Fashion
    • I like Saroyan's chevron dress.  I'm partial to chevrons.
    • What is up with Booth's hair color?  It is not consistent from episode to episode.



Ratings
Forensic Mystery - B-. Not much to go on in this episode, as it's clearly a set-up for a Ghost Killer arc.  I'll tentatively give the mystery a B-, then, in the hopes that it gets more interesting.

Forensic Solution - D+. But I can't score the solution very high.  I mean, Angela got a positive ID from race and sex alone.  Some of the other forensic stuff was glossed over or not shown (e.g., Trent's remodelled injuries).

Drama - D. When the biggest dramatic moment in the episode is a character who isn't seen all that often crying about the end of a relationship the audience doesn't remember... yeah, not good.  I still have high hopes for this arc, though.

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