The Teacher in the Books
Two guys looking for scrap metal in an abandoned bookstore come across a dead body. The FBI is called for some reason, and the Jeffersonian team heads out to examine the body as well. Based on the oval shape of the pelvic inlet, the open cranial sutures, and the projecting nasal bones, Brennan thinks the deceased was a white female in her early 20s. Saroyan notices ripped fingernails to indicate a struggle, and Hodgins puts time-of-death around a week ago based on the size of the web of a brown recluse spider nearby.
At the Jeffersonian, the team starts the defleshing process to examine peri- and post-mortem injuries. Using Angela's new algorithm that matches constellations of freckles and moles of victims with various missing persons databases, a positive ID is found: Mia Ferrara, age 22, reported missing by her boyfriend about a week ago.
Mia was a teacher with the United Teaching Fellows, stationed at a rough school in D.C. Miss Julian is on the board and exhorts Booth and Aubrey to do everything they can to solve this case. They talk to Mia's boyfriend first. He is a musician and has plenty of motive to kill Mia: she had a trust fund and their house was in his name too. Plus, he was sleeping with a bunch of other women at the time, and Mia had found out about it. Although the FBI cannot confirm the boyfriend's alibi, as the woman he was sleeping with gave him a fake phone number, they move on to other suspects.
|When's Emily's pregnancy going to be|
written into the show? Soon?
Booth and Aubrey talk to Mia's fellow UTF teacher, Shane Gentry, and the principal, Ann Franklin. Ann mentions that Mia was particularly attached to one of her students, Marcellus, and that she had had some trouble with him a few weeks prior. Booth and Aubrey question Marcellus in the presence of his legal guardian, his brother Keith. Marcellus admits that Mia made him feel dumb sometimes, but that she also went out of her way to tutor him. On the day she was killed, he asked her for tutoring, but she told him she would do it the following Monday. Neither Keith nor Marcellus has an alibi, and Keith has some prior weapons and assault charges. Aubrey finds that Mia's Twitter feed mentions something about how wrong she was about someone.
Meanwhile, the Jeffersonian team looks for evidence of injuries. There are avulsion fractures to both humeral heads, along with greenstick and hairline postmortem fractures to the ribs and scapulae, indicating Mia was confined to a small space. Hodgins finds both plastic and cafeteria food in his swabs, and along with Saroyan's find that there was lividity in Mia's ankles, they suspect she was kept in an upright position for some time after her death. Ethanol may have been used to mask the smell, so her body was in a semi-public place for a while. The mustache-shaped postmortem fractures on the parietal allow Brennan to figure out what happened: Mia was shoved into a locker at the school, placed there until the killer was able to move her. Booth questions the janitor, who has some priors and is living under an assumed name, but the janitor had a good relationship with Mia and insists that anyone could have taken his trash cart.
The Jeffersonian team then figures out cause-of-death by investigating the sixth cervical vertebra. Fractures to the anterior and posterior sections of the lamina indicate the victim was strangled, low down on her throat, as the hyoid was not broken. While looking for evidence of cause-of-death, intern Jessica finds healing sharp trauma to Mia's right proximal phalanges 2-5. Brennan scrapes off the woven bone so that they can get a clearer view of the original wound. Angela models it as a cut from a short, serrated knife and Hodgins finds traces of lubricant, meaning the knife may have been a switchblade. Keith's knife tests positive for blood that is not a match for his. He admits that it is Mia's blood, but insists she confronted him about Marcellus' job. Keith didn't know Marcellus was working, but Mia assumed Keith was making him work and keeping him from school. She grabbed the knife and cut herself; she said she would tell people he cut her if he didn't see to it that Marcellus returned to school. This story fits in, however, with Angela's discovery on Mia's computer of a sort of obsession with her job and with helping her students improve. Keith and Marcellus were together the night Mia was killed, but Keith was stealing food so that they could eat. Miss Julian vows to help tutor Marcellus and get Keith his GED.
The case comes together when Brennan and Jessica find postmortem fracturing to the third and fourth lumbar vertebrae and to both patellae. Brennan realizes that the body's being in the locker for several hours would mean it was in rigor mortis when the killer wanted to move it. The killer had to hit the body to bend it; usually, this is done in just one place, to fit the body in a car trunk. But someone who didn't have a large enough trunk may have bent the body in two places, to fit in the passenger's seat. Hodgins finds particulates from a high-end eraser with the body, so the team realizes the killer may have been Shane Gentry, Mia's fellow teacher who was also dealing with standardized testing the day she was killed. Booth reasons that Mia caught Shane changing answers, confronted him, and then was killed. His epithelial cells were found in the eraser, and he cleaned up his steering wheel lock with acetone, which unfortunately for him does not mask blood. Shane admits to having killed Mia; he was changing test answers because he didn't want to jeopardize his chance at a job with the Department of Education.
- Demographics: Shape of the pelvic inlet is fine for estimating sex (given that it's one of an array of aspects that need to be investigated to figure out sex). Projecting nasal bone is fine for estimating Caucasian (again, given that it's one of an array of aspects that all need to be considered for ancestry). Cranial suture closure is kind of a crappy method for figuring out age-at-death, though, as it's not terribly precise. Mia is supposed to be in her early 20s, so a better method would be to bracket her age with third molar eruption and epiphyseal closure of the medial clavicle, iliac crest, and/or the sphenooccipital synchondrosis. (I really want Bones to mention the sphenooccipital synchondrosis... just once. Pretty please, writers?)
- When they lay out the body, the radius is on the wrong side (it should be on the outside of the arm, but they always put it on the inside). We always lay out the body in standard anatomical position.
- Hyoids are only broken in a low percentage of strangulations, and more often when the person is older. The hyoid of a 22-year-old might very well not break (heck, it's probably not even fused at that age) during manual strangulation.
- Phalange?!?!?! Argh. It always, always annoys me when this word pops up in Kathy Reichs' books, and I'm pretty sure I've come across it in one of the pop-fiction Bill Bass books as well. It's curious, since the singular for the finger/toe bone is phalanx, as confirmed by Human Osteology, Wikipedia, the language of the ancient Greeks, and many other sources. I just don't get why the back-formation "phalange" creeps into things.
- What's a high-end eraser? And wouldn't Shane's skin cells be on it simply because he used it? He could have used it for anything.
- Was it explained why Shane had to stash Mia's body for a while? If the school was empty enough for him to kill her, wasn't it empty enough for him to move her body? And if he came back 6 hours later, that would be 10pm. How did he get into the school?
- Did Saroyan really say "serial killers like Ed Geins"? I rewound it, and I definitely heard an errant S.
- Oh, the Twitter plot. I'm not actually opposed to it, as Brennan is supposed to be a published author, and being on Twitter is not unusual. But the writing was inconsistent. Brennan first chastises Jessica when she thinks she is going to take a photo with evidence in it; that is, of course, a forensic no-no. But the other tweets, about how she is solving the case by scraping off woven bone, for example, are also unethical. Brennan further mentions that she didn't take a selfie with a skull because it would jeopardize the case; again, though, her concern also needs to be about the ethics of display of human remains. We do not, as anthropologists (whether we work with the recently dead or the long dead) take selfies with skulls. We respect the people whose murders we are trying to solve or whose ancient lives we want to know more about. Pictures of me hamming around with skeletons? All plastic. So I'm hoping that the photo Brennan refers to (of her with a skeleton arm around her) is being taken with a plastic skeleton. And yes, I realize at this point I'm down the rabbit hole, speculating on the off-screen ethics of a completely fictional character. But there's a point to be made here about ethics because it's not unusual in this country to come across human remains. No selfies with skeletons, people, that's what I'm saying.
- Also, I was actually disappointed that the tweets @DrBrennan made about articles (like the Miocene hominid one) went to plot teasers and not, well, actual articles. Damnit, I'm a giant nerd. I want my fake forensic anthropologists to tell me about real science!
- Angela tells Jessica to stop helping Brennan with Twitter because it's not a good use of Brennan's time and because she is hyper competitive. But Brennan is still on Twitter, right? Is @DrBrennan going to tweet more this season, or was the Twitter account really just a one-off? I wonder how the show got the handle too; I can't imagine no one had taken the handle. Did they snatch it up when Twitter was created, waiting until now to deploy it? Did they buy it from someone? (If so, I wonder how much it went for?)
- And finally, a fake anthropologist has 16,000 Twitter followers, and I only have 3,200? No fair. (Follow me, @DrKillgrove, please?)
- “I refuse to pander to the lowest common denominator; particularly one that relies solely on minimal, imbecilic thought.” - Brennan, on her thoughts about Twitter
- “I hope to gain anthropological insight into online sociological behavior and how it’s destroying interpersonal relationships.” - Brennan, on joining Twitter
- “You can’t take a photo of evidence; it compromises an ongoing investigation.” – Brennan
- “Too bad it would jeopardize the case, or I would selfie with a skull.” “It’s a noun, Dr. Brennan, not a verb.”
Forensic Mystery - B. A pretty solid mystery this week, with just the right number of red herrings.
Forensic Solution - B. Heavier on the forensics than many episodes, and most of it was pretty reasonable (except the stuff that should have been refined because of the victim's young age-at-death).
Drama - C. 'twas alright. Not too exciting, not too boring.