November 22, 2014

Bones - Season 10, Episode 8 (Review)

The Puzzler in the Pit
Episode Summary
Some protestors at a fracking site found a body in the pit. The narrow subpubic concavity and irregularly lipped ventral margin of the pubic symphysis suggests the victim was a man in his 40s. His left ulna was fractured and he had a cast; a piece of fabric with blood on it was found caught in the cast, and there were clues written on it about vengeance. His bones were quite porous for his age. Saroyan and Brennan note that the remains have less flesh than they did when they were found, and Hodgins thinks someone added HCl to the pit. He pours baking soda on the body to stop the tissue decomposition. The entire body has similar pitting save the occipital, because it was a fake bone. Based on that, Angela finds that the victim was Lawrence Brooks, who had a severe injury during a boating accident. Brooks worked as a major national crossword puzzle creator and was known as somewhat of a recluse.

"Hey, look, I just gave birth to a 2-month-old!"
Booth talks to Amelia Brooks, his wife.  She didn't report him missing, ostensibly because he often stayed out to work on his puzzles, and suggests that his assistant, Alexis Sherman, may have been responsible. While Alexis was upset that Lawrence hadn't made her co-editor yet, she insists she did not kill him.  She plays a threatening voice mail for Booth and Aubrey and describes a man who came looking for Lawrence on several previous occasions.  Based on Alexis' description, Angela draws the face of Emery Stewart.  Emery was writing a book on Brooks, but his voice does not fit with the threatening phone call.  He suggests Donald McKeon, a one-time friend of Brooks' but more recently bitter rival.  McKeon was staying at the hotel to which Booth traced the threatening call.  He admits to having made the call, but not to killing Brooks.  He insists that Brooks stole one of his puzzles, and he was threatening legal action.

Back at the lab, Brennan and Daisy find remodelled fractures localized around the pelvis, ribs, ankles, and arms. An x-ray of his femoral shafts shows significantly thinning cortical bone. There is also bone bruising around the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints, suggesting he punched someone right before his death. There are also healed avulsion fractures from about two months ago, suggesting someone bent his fingers back. A tox screen of his bone marrow reveals Brooks had been taking a drug for Alzheimer's, and that drug caused the bone issues.

Booth and Aubrey talk to Amelia Brooks again.  She admits she knew about the Alzheimer's and that she was publishing Brooks' old puzzles, because they needed the money from his job for his treatment. She accidentally published McKeon's puzzle.  She didn't know where Brooks' money went. Angela tracks down Brooks' bank statements and finds he was doing gambling online. Aubrey finds the bookie, who admits to having broken Brooks' fingers but didn't kill him.  Brooks was bankrolling Alexis.  She admits to stealing his money, but did not kill him. 

Finally, Daisy finds bilateral neural arch fractures on C5, C6, and C7, suggesting cause of death was a broken neck.  Then her water breaks. At the hospital, the team realizes that Saroyan's partial match on the blood in the cast could mean the blood was from a close relative. Aubrey reads Emery's manuscript and realizes that he is Brooks' son.  In college, Brooks got his girlfriend pregnant; the girlfriend died in childbirth, and he gave up the baby. After Emery's parents died in an accident, he learned he was adopted and figured out Brooks was his birth father. He had arranged with Brooks to meet at a cafe to talk, but Brooks didn't show. Emery tracked him to his house, saw Brooks out on a walk, and confronted him.  Brooks claimed he didn't know Emery, and they got into a fist fight. Brooks fell backward down the hill and died. Emery decided to cover up the body.  Aubrey tells him Brooks had Alzheimer's--that's why he didn't remember Emery; he wasn't ashamed of him.

  • Forensic
    • They used the pelvis for age-at-death and sex this episode!  Woo!
    • As usual, I question their ability to find "microfractures" and "bone bruising" all over the place, but especially so since the bones were compromised by acid.
  • Plot
    • It seems odd that someone would bother to reconstruct the EOP and nuchal lines on a fake occipital.  Are skull prostheses really that detailed with respect to anatomy?
    • Amelia knew that Lawrence had Alzheimer's, and she didn't report him missing when he didn't come home?  And she knew that he had Alzheimer's, and she didn't bother to look into their joint accounts to make sure the money was being managed properly?
    • Hodgins was running around the lab with an erlenmeyer flask filled with red liquid.  Not king of the lab safety team, eh?
    • Hahahaha, another TV baby: cute, plump, pink 2-month-old.  And Daisy doesn't have to deliver the placenta.  And the nurse hands her the baby with a light blanket, rather than shoving a tightly-swaddled baby on her boob.  Oh, TV birth.  So funny.  At least it was too late for an epidural; that was realistic.
  • Dialogue
    • "I'm told my people skills are not very well developed." - Brennan
    • "A human being is trying to escape from her vagina." - Angela

Forensic Mystery - B.  Solid enough mystery.  Some plot quibbles as above.

Forensic Solution - C. This episode relied on Angela to: find the positive ID, do a forensic artist sketch of the possible killer, and do forensic computing to find bank information. She's always doing crazy things, but this episode was egregious in how many hats they needed her to wear.

Drama - C+. Some solid pathos at the end from the guy who played Emery.

November 21, 2014

Who needs an osteologist? (Installment 21)

One of my undergraduates pointed out today a Twitter post by Kathy Reichs, the author, of course, of the Temperance Brennan book series on which the TV show Bones is based.*  Reichs' post is a throwback Thursday picture of her working in the lab at the LSJML in Montreal:

My student noticed that the scapulae, humeri, and tibiae were mis-sided and not laid out in anatomical position.  Surely, she thought, Reichs would not post a picture of herself with bones in weird positions.  I harp on this in class all the time: lay out the bones in anatomical position. They have to be as close as you can get to anatomical position.

I am well aware that when you're working on a skeleton, bones get out of place and rearranged.  I've absolutely confused myself before by not paying attention and putting bones back in the wrong places, then wondering why there was suddenly a new fracture on the bone.  But Reichs' photo involves practically all of the bones not in anatomical position.  She was looking at the posterior aspect of the arm and shoulder bones? The tibiae got misplaced? Quickly staged photo op? (But how long does it take to lay out 20 large, unbroken bones... 2 minutes tops?)

So, who needs an osteologist today?  Apparently Kathy Reichs does.

*Full disclaimer -- as much as I rag on Bones in my reviews, I am a huge fan of Reichs and especially her book series (which is way, way better forensically than the TV show).  And thanks to Jennifer Waters for pointing this out - A+ osteological work!

Previous Installments of Who needs an osteologist?

November 18, 2014

A Dozen Ways to Make a Mummy

Tomorrow's lecture in bioarchaeology has twelve case studies of mummies from around the world.  Inspired by that (and by my constant foot-dragging when it comes time to write lectures), I give you A Dozen Ways to Make a Mummy, to the tune of Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.  (Apologies in advance to Mr. Simon, whose work I can't get enough of, even when random people sing Cecilia upon meeting my kid.)

A Dozen Ways to Make a Mummy

The problem is that a body tends to decompose.
The answer is clearer if you take time to repose.
I'd like to help you with this song I have composed.
There must be... a dozen ways to make a mummy.

Stick a hook up the nose, Mose.
Break the ethmoid, Floyd.
No need to be coy, Roy, just suck those brains free!
Take out the heart, Bart.
Get some canopic jars, Lars.
Pile on the nat-Ron, just listen to me.

You say, "I know about the ancient Egyptians.
But tell me more, please, without going into conniptions.
I'd like to hear you give some more descriptions
about the dozen ways to make a mummy."

Well, you can soak it in salt, Walt.
Spray it with tar, Edgar.
Float it in honey, Lee, like a Roman sweet.
Sink it in a bog, Dawg, to preserve that meat.

You say, "Why don't we both just think of this some more
for I believe that if we try, we can make a Mummy Corps
full of people who think that this gore of yore's no snore.
There's more than... a dozen ways to make a mummy.
More than a dozen ways to make a mummy."

With many thanks to everyone who contributed to my Facebook and Twitter threads, including: Phoebe Acheson (@classicslib), Alison Atkin (@alisonatkin), Katie Biitner (@kbiitner), Lindsay Bloch,  Lynne Goldstein (@lynnegoldstein), Bethany Nowviskie (@nowviskie), Joy Reeber, Laura Wagner (@TiLauraRose), and Erika Zimmermann Damer.

November 15, 2014

Bones - Season 10, Episode 7 (Review)

The Money Maker on the Merry-Go-Round
Episode Summary
A bunch of dads playing at the park with their kids find a dead body under a merry-go-round.  The whole merry-go-round is brought back to the Jeffersonian, apparently so that some intestine can fall on Saroyan.  Brennan and Wells estimate sex as male from the lack of subpubic concavity, age-at-death as mid- to late-20s from the auricular surface, and white ancestry from the parabolic dental arch. Saroyan puts time-of-death at 2 to 2.5 days before. The dead man had a mouth full of veneers worth tens of thousands of dollars, but no phone or wallet, and his wedding band was missing. There's hemorrhagic staining in the cranium around the time of death. Saroyan and Angela reconstruct the skull and face and get a positive ID: Toby Wachlin.

Booth questions Anne Wachlin, but she just returned from a trip. She notes that Toby worked at Horizon Equities, and Aubrey bristles (wahn wahnnnn, sad backstory alert). They go talk to Mason Barnes, who runs the company.  He said that Toby was having issues with Blair Ellis, who has a temper.  Blair denies killing Toby. 

Hodgins finds from the lack of playground particulates in Toby's shoes that he was killed elsewhere. Saroyan finds that Toby had a cocaine problem. Traces of an industrial-strength insecticide coupled with pollen from Hungarian oak trees lead the FBI to a house in an affluent neighborhood.  While Wells figures out that there were multiple points of impact on Toby's skull from a blunt object, Booth finds out that Toby was injured in Derek Kaplan's house the night of his death. Wells notes a perimortem injury to the distal radius from a thin, cylindrical object that came to a point. Angela looks at Kaplan's bedroom and thinks the weapon may have been the candlestick.  Toby was in the bedroom with an escort.  The escort admits to having stabbed Toby with the candlestick, but denies killing him.  He owed her money for cocaine, so she took his wallet, cell, and wedding ring as collateral; he wanted the cell phone back desperately. Angela needs Toby's iris to unlock his phone, so Saroyan reconstitutes it with saline. Once in, they find evidence that Toby's boss was trying to bribe the chief technical officer at the stock exchange to put their computer closer to the server. Wells finds hemorrhagic staining to the right side of the mandible, circular and 25mm in diameter.

Booth heads back to Horizon to arrest Barnes for securities fraud. Barnes denies killing Toby. Brennan finds blood on Barnes' desk and doorknob, but he insists that anyone could have come into his office because it's unlocked. Wells goes back to the wounds and finds that Toby was hit 9 times; Brennan hypothesizes that the skull may have fractured along the suture lines and that that fracture may have cut the killer. Within the sagittal suture, they find a fragment of emerald.  Booth realizes it's a ring that Ellis wears, and they call him in for questioning.  He admits it pretty quickly: Toby was sneaking into Barnes' office to take money to give to the escort/coke dealer, and Ellis was annoyed that Toby wasn't playing well with others.

  • Forensic
    • Lack of subpubic concavity is one of three traits used in the Phenice technique for estimating sex.  It's not the best trait (that would be ventral arc), but at least it's better than narrow ischiopubic ramus ridge, amiright?  Auricular surface aging is fine, I suppose, but a parabolic dental arch isn't the most reliable indicator of ancestry.  As usual, no osteologist would use just three traits to ID the person.  (As a point of reference, I just handed out a packet of 25 pages of data collection sheets to my Human Osteology class today, for use in their final skeletal ID report.)
    • I don't buy that the cranial sutures would break in such a way that they could cut the assailant without his noticing it.  I mean, there's muscle and flesh and other stuff before you get to the bone.
  • Plot
    • They're not even pretending that these are federal cases anymore, are they?  There's no reason to call the FBI in, like, most of the last several seasons.
    • Anthropologists know that IQ is not a good measure of intelligence.  So it's weird that Wells and Brennan keep arguing about it.
    • Why aren't sex, age, ancestry, veneers, and missing person's report enough for ID?  Why do they need to do a facial reconstruction (which always seems to make a positive ID, even though in real life, that doesn't cut it)?
    • How did Ellis move Toby's body?  Why the playground? Why under the merry-go-round?  Seems really random.
  • Dialogue
    • Oh jeez, far too many people said the word "ass" far too many times in this episode.

Forensic Mystery - C+. Pretty clear who did it from the get-go.

Forensic Solution - B-. Eh. Not much forensic work in this episode. Pretty tidy all around.

Drama - C. I aggressively don't care about Aubrey's back story.  I kinda liked him better before they tried to give him depth.

November 10, 2014

Bones - Season 10, Episode 6 (Review)

The Lost Love in the Foreign Land
Episode Summary
We open on Cam and Arastoo "making fesenjaan," as they say ("it's the hardest Persian dish!") when a dead body outside of Baltimore interrupts them.  A bunch of goats clearing a field found a dead body. Based on blowfly larvae, Hodgins puts time-of-death at 6 to 7 days ago. Brennan does some forensic-fu and figures that the deceased was a female of Asian descent based on the length of the hip axis. Wear on the mandibular dentition puts her in her 20s. Harris lines on her long bones indicate malnutrition as a child. She also has osteoporosis and is missing the fourth and fifth phalanges on both feet.  Based on the robust brow ridges and sternocleidomastoid muscle attachments, Brennan figures she was Chinese. Angela gets no match for her facial reconstruction.

Hodgins finds a watch with a serial number on it. Angela traces that to Sandra Zins, who knew the deceased as Theresa, her maid.  She did a lot of work in Asia and her deceased husband was an importer. She found Theresa through Sunny Helpers; Victor Lee owns the company. Lee tells Booth and Aubrey that Minyung (Theresa) was his employee but he didn't know where she lived. He gives them a list of clients and names and points them at Jeremy Walford, a registered sex offender who likes Asian girls.  He denies having killed her, but gives them her bus route. 

Meanwhile, the Jeffersonian team finds more information. Enlarged facets at the distal ends of the radius and ulna suggest her wrists were dislocated, and abrasions suggest they were tied. Straddle fractures in the pelvis suggest sexual assault, but there is no evidence of sexual assault in the soft tissue. Vaziri also finds slightly remodeled fractures to the sternum from blunt trauma sustained about a week prior to death. Saroyan finds histoplasmosis in the lung tissue, which leads Hodgins to cross-reference bat caves with the bus line and particulates found in Minyung's shoes. Booth and Aubrey head to the location -- a ramshackle house whose door is answered by Victor Lee.  Booth and Aubrey bust in and find a basement filled with a bunch of female migrant workers. Alex Radziwill with the State Department gets involved because of the human trafficking issue, and Tammy, who speaks for the whole group, tells Booth that Victor beat her and the others. He wouldn't let them contact their families and threatened their lives. Meanwhile, Angela puts together some photo paper recovered from goat excrement and finds the person was Sung Dae Park, who was wanted for killing Minyung's father back in China. Sung didn't know that Minyung was in the U.S.; he killed her father for beating her and they were trying to start a new life, but he was also trafficked.

Brennan notices a puncture wound to the transverse process of the C5. Hodgins reasons that Minyung lost her toes because of frostbite while she was trying to leave China. Angela finds that Lee's Sunny Helpers is actually owned by Sandra Zins, and Booth questions her and then arrests her on suspicion of murder.  Without an idea of the cause of death, though, he can't hold her.  Vaziri then finds an abrasion to the lower edge of the mandible; the location and severity would have severed Minyung's carotid artery.  Brennan works with Angela to narrow down the weapon to a cuticle pusher used by manicurists. Booth realizes that Tammy, who worked in a nail salon, killed Minyung.  She eventually confesses.  Minyung was beaten by Victor for sneaking out to find Sung; Tammy thought that Victor would harm them and their families if she snuck out again, so she killed Minyung. 

  • Forensic
    • Arrrrgh.  Hip axis length?  What the what?  Maybe the writers were thinking of this 2004 article on the possibility of differentiating a multiethnic population in Singapore?  But this 2008 article shows no difference between three major ethic groups.  So yeah, no using hip axis length to tell ancestry, mmm 'k?
    • Since the victim was in her early 20s, it's possible to still see Harris lines (that occurred in, say, adolescence).  For some reason, the writers always seem to think that Harris lines are permanent like linear enamel hypoplasias are.
    • Robust brow ridges indicate Chinese?  Don't even get me started on the sternocleidomastoideus muscle attachment site.  No clue how or why that's supposed to indicate ancestry (maybe this ancient 1967 article on the posterior supramastoid tubercle, from a time when every single cranial feature was examined to indicate "race"?)
    • Dislocation can only be seen on bones if it's longstanding.  Postmortem dislocation of Minyung's wrists from dragging would show up on the soft tissue, not the skeleton.  No idea what they think they mean by "enlarged facets."
  • Plot
    • Where are Brennan's students in school anyway?
    • Vaziri makes up a new dissertation proposal in one day's time.  Excuse me while I collapse in fits of laughter. (But I'm always happy when Pej Vahdat gets screen time. And I love fesenjaan.)
    • Isn't Park a traditionally Korean name?
    • Why would Tammy have manicure tools on her at home? Wouldn't she leave those at work / wouldn't they belong to her employer?
  • Dialogue
    • "My job is to nurture trailblazers, not sycophants." - My new line for responding to prospective graduate student emails
    • "Anthropologically speaking, one group will always occupy a higher status and will exploit those who are more vulnerable." - Pretty much sums up the topic of my last couple lectures in Bioarchaeology
    • "They need someone low to the ground to deal with the bottom-feeders." - Alex from the State Department 

Forensic Mystery - B+.  I'm still not sure where the sexual assault/straddle fractures and osteoporosis quite fit in.

Forensic Solution - D+. Ugh, all the ancestry stuff was awful. Matching the weapon to a cuticle pusher was likely impossible. Dislocation evidence was unrealistic. On the up side, histoplasmosis? 

Drama - C+.  The plus is for the pathos.

November 1, 2014

Bones - Season 10, Episode 5 (Review)

The Corpse at the Convention
Episode Summary
Brennan is the keynote speaker at the fictional National Forensic Sciences Convention and plans to tell the Schroedinger's cat joke.  At the convention, Hodgins has a run-in with an old nemesis, Leona Saunders, and the rest of the team geek out over new forensic tools. Brennan runs into author Tess Brown, and the latter appears to have a strained relationship with Edward Harkness, the chairman of the convention. Just as Brennan starts to talk, a fire alarm goes off.  Tess Brown points out a body in the stairwell doused in gasoline.  Brennan tries to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but that makes it worse.

"Wendell, should you even be here? Oh, whatever, we don't
want to get all that goo on our fancy clothes. Carry on."
After the fire department puts out the flaming body, the team gets to work, with help from the forensic tool purveyors angling to get their product into the hands of the Jeffersonian team. Booth and Aubrey show up, as does Wendell, who is in remission. He notes that the small brow ridges and sharp upper margin of the eye orbit suggest the victim was female, and her pubic symphysis puts her in her early 40s. Her burned lanyard is given to Angela to try to get information from. Hodgins takes an impression of a shoe print that was burned into the concrete floor. Stab wounds are apparent on the ribs and soft tissue of the torso, and Saroyan thinks that the victim died an hour or so before the fire was set. Angela finds four female registrants unaccounted for, and using her facial recognition software, she finds a match in Leona Saunders.

Hodgins admits that he and Leona fought.  She stole his idea for an odor recognition device and ended up making millions on it. But he didn't kill her.  He finds on the footprint some olive and canola oil, and the design of the shoe also indicates possibly a kitchen worker at the convention center left it.  The shoe is a match for a kitchen worker who clocked out early.  Booth and Aubrey question him at the FBI, but he denies killing Leona.  He did stumble on the dead body before it went up in flames, and he did take money out of her wallet, but he left before the fire.

Once the body is transported to the Jeffersonian, Wendell notices striations on the ribs and sternum.  Saroyan finds the contents of her stomach. He also finds a piece of a bandaid, and gives it to Saroyan to run DNA on.  Even though it's been through a fire, the DNA comes back as a perfect match for Hodgins. He admits to having thrown a bandaid in the trash that morning at the convention center. Brennan doesn't see any obvious defensive injuries.  She notices a spiderweb fracture to the sternum, suggesting someone hit her hard to knock the wind out of her, before stabbing her. Indentations on the right ribs are deeper than on the left, but Brennan thinks that it was from someone pretending to be a right-handed assailant. Leona's stomach contents included strawberries, chocolate, and expensive wine, and Hodgins finds that the wine had been delivered to Harkness's room the night before the murder.  He admits to his affair with Leona, but he had previously been seeing Tess Brown. She is questioned by the FBI but lawyers up. 

Particulates in the stab wound are from obsidian, Hodgins finds, so he thinks that it may have been burned up in a magnesium fire. Brennan notices a slight discoloration on the ilium that may have been a third accelerant. Hodgins finds out that it was sulfuric acid and potassium chlorate. Together they are volatile, but if they are separated they are fine. He reasons that the aluminum foil he found on Leona was keeping the two chemicals apart; when the acid ate through the foil, the reaction happened and created the spark that kicked off the gasoline fire. This means that no one has an alibi any longer. But the puncture wound to the left 5th rib near its vertebral end may have been what killed Leona. Hodgins finds that the shape of the wound is very specific: the rod of Aldous Carter's thermocouple.  Although it records data each time it's used, there is only one data point on it, from when Saroyan used it.  Carter had wiped it. But Hodgins finds traces of the nano composites from Carter's gloves on the body, and after they bring him in to the FBI to question him, Brennan mentions that they have DNA evidence tying Carter to the murder: he cut himself with the magnesium strips he was using to set the fire, and there is DNA in his patented gloves. Carter admits to killing Leona because he found out she was sleeping with him just to steal his idea. He set up the murder as a way to sell his products.

  • Forensic
    • Most things seemed to be in order.  Sex and age estimation were fine. Most of the injuries seemed reasonable.  
    • The radius and ulna were kind of ridiculously laid out on the lab table; both radii were medial and flipped anterior-to-posterior.
    • How did they positively ID Leona?  I guess Angela did facial reconstruction/match (which isn't a positive ID)?
    • The convention was taking place in the late morning, I gather, but Leona's stomach still had evidence of wine, strawberries, and chocolate from the early morning?  Seems like that wouldn't last that long.
    • Oh, I love it when DNA tests on tiny bits of burned stuff come back with a perfect match for someone, and within the span of like 15 minutes.  Totally realistic.
  • Plot
    • I guess there could be forensic conventions with a keynote speaker.  It would be more appropriate to send them to a conference, though, which is not the same thing.
    • Did I understand Hodgins right?  Did he say he'd found 600 g of obsidian when swabbing the ribs for particulates?  That's... a lot of obsidian.
    • You know, if one of the Jeffersonian staff is accused of murder, they really should not be working on the case because, uh, the law 'n' stuff.
  • Dialogue
    • "A great, a good, and a right mind is a kind of divinity lodged in flesh." -- Seneca
    • "Conventions usually devolve into carnivals of indiscretion." -- Convention director dude
Forensic Mystery - B-. This could have been much better if they'd cut down on the number of things the killer used to try to throw the Jeffersonian off his trail. Fewer details can lead to stronger storytelling.

Forensic Solution - B-. The whole fancy-gloves-cut-magnesium thing at the end seemed pulled out of a hat.  "Oh yeah, we have your DNA.  Boo-yah!"

Drama - C. Eh.  In some scenes, everyone was all "*gasp* Hodgins might have done it!" and in some scenes, everyone was all "Nah, let's not even question him and let him keep working on the case." It was uneven, is what I'm saying.

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