Bones - Season 6, Episode 9 (Review)
The Doctor in the Photo
The episode opens with Bones throwing a dinner party for her coupled friends - Booth & Hannah and Angela & Hodgins (but apparently Daisy & Sweets didn't make the cut). Brennan of course is an expert on zoology as well, so she notes that the pelvic diameter of the chicken suggests female, the strong muscle markers indicate it was free-range, and a hairline fracture to the tibial tarsal bone shows that the chicken struggled while her feet were restrained before she was decapitated. After dinner, Booth and Brennan are called to inspect a dead body, whose skeleton has a dogwood tree growing through it in a park in Woodland. Brennan determines the skeleton is female, but the team has trouble pinpointing time of death. From the skull, Brennan finds a high, narrow nasal root and a straight (nasal) profile, indicating the woman was Caucasian. Good dental work indicates she wasn't poor. At a glance, Brennan estimates she stood 175-180cm, or 5'8"-5'9"; she had an athletic frame and was about 63kg (143 lbs). The woman also wore a dolphin ring very similar to Brennan's.
The entire tree with the skeleton is taken to the Jeffersonian. Brennan finds a longitudinal fracture to the right temporal bone, which could represent the fatal blow. A (perimortem) night stick fracture to the left ulna indicates the victim was holding her hands up when she was hit. Further, bony growths on the 3rd and 4th medial phalanges (of her right hand) are occupational markers that Brennan and Saroyan tie to a seamstress, artist, or medical professional. Meanwhile, Hodgins has used dendrochronology to determine that the time of death was last November. Based on the physical description, the possibility of an occupation, and the time of death, Hannah (using a laptop and Bing, she claims) finds out that Dr. Laura Eames went missing at that time and was never found.
When Brennan gets Dr. Eames' records, though, she starts to have a bit of a breakdown: the doctor looks just like her, talks just like her, and is similarly rational and empirical. Brennan can't sleep and comes into the Jeffersonian at night, chatting up the night watchman, Micah (Enrico Colatoni). She finds that the victim was stabbed in the ribs, but that they had healed 4 to 6 months prior to her death, when she was killed by a blow to the head. After talking with the medivac pilot and Sweets, Brennan catches up with Hodgins, who determines that the particulates in the victim's head wound include a reflective paint or other material. Brennan suspects the father of a boy who needed a heart transplant, Dworsky, but he has an alibi. Everyone suggests that the doctor was in Woodland buying drugs; Brennan refuses to believe it. To prove this, Hodgins puts a piece of clothing (skin? tissue?) from the victim into mysterious liquid, and it turns purple, indicating the presence of heroin. Brennan continues her conversations with the victim after hours and discovers that she wasn't hit on the head, rather she was thrown onto her head. The psych evaluation of the doctor that Sweets does reveals she was logical and detached in order to deal with so many people around her dying. He further suggests that she put herself into dangerous situations out of despair or a desire to feel something different, which the medivac pilot corroborates.
In the end, Brennan figures it all out. Dr. Eames went to Woodland to speak with the Whalings, whose son was brain-dead but who wouldn't allow his organs to be donated. She wanted to convince them to donate his heart to the Dworsky boy. Dr. Eames bought heroin for the heck of it, apparently, and had it on her when she was accidentally hit by a car. She hit her head on one of those raised reflective plastic pieces in the road; and Brennan assumes that the hit-and-run driver buried Dr. Eames in a shallow grave in the park.
After several days of being personally affected by the victim and failing to remain objective, Brennan confesses to Booth that she thinks she made a mistake in rejecting him. To his credit, he is firm with her and says that Hannah is not a consolation prize. Brennan has indeed missed her chance. Back at the Jeffersonian, Brennan looks at the case file with fresh eyes and realizes that Dr. Eames doesn't look exactly like her. A combination of sleep and distance from the case made her realize what was really in front of her.
- I thought the "tibial tarsal" bone in animals was normally called the astragalus, but I'm not up on my avian zoology.
- Estimating race from the nose alone is probably not the most reliable way to figure this out. What about the eye orbits, cheekbones, etc.?
- I'd love to have Brennan's super power: estimate a skeleton's height and weight at a glance. No annoying regression equations needed!
- Is there a reason that Brennan never bothered to estimate age at death? That is a lot easier to do at a glance than height/weight and would have added another thing that Brennan and the victim shared.
- Damnit, the Bones writers made me learn something. I'd never heard of a night stick fracture before. Props to the prop people this week, as they laid out the entire skeleton correctly on Brennan's lab table.
- The Bones writers are rather obsessed with so-called occupational markers. These are not at all reliable indications of occupation (especially not in the first world, where we use computers, sewing machines, etc.), and I wish their ID of the victim wouldn't rely so often on these (e.g., the ballet dancer from episode 5).
- A bit of research tells me that Hodgins' magical purple test is called a Marquis test, which is a solution of 2% formaldehyde in sulfuric acid. The liquid (reagent) turns purple in the presence of heroin, morphine, and opiates.
- Brennan finds the exact same raised reflective road thingy on which the victim hit her head over a year ago. And it still has blood on it. What are the odds?
Pretty good this week, honestly. The back-and-forth between Brennan and Dr. Eames started off normal, then went to kind of creepy, then settled on a middle-ground between over-emotional and over-analytical. A random extra gets in a line from T.S. Eliot: "I will show you fear and a handful of dust." Brennan and Micah make good foils for one another, paralleling the Brennan-Booth (and Dr. Eames-Medivac Guy) relationships. Brennan notes that "if there is no such thing as objectivity, there's no such thing as measurement, which means empiricism is meaningless." Micah later insists again that "there's no such thing as objectivity." For the most part, the struggle within Brennan to balance objectivity (as a hallmark of science) and emotion (as a hallmark of humanity) was nicely written and - at least for television writers - subtle. Well, until the end of the episode, when Brennan has a breakdown in Booth's car and confesses that she regrets having missed her chance with him. It's not the worst dialogue in the world, it's just the most expected (and thus rather cliche).
I am left wondering, though, if Micah is real or not. Booth didn't seem to know who he was, so I think the writers left it kind of vague. (IMDB.com tells me that he has not shown up as a guest star before and that his name is Micah Leggat. Which is an anagram for... Magic Leg Hat? I've got nothing.) Thoughts?
Forensic Mystery - B. We are drawn into the victim's story because Brennan is drawn into her story. The fact that the victim had absolutely nothing to lose (Brennan's words - because, you know, being the best cardiac surgeon on the east coast isn't worth anything if you don't have a man in your life?) actually made her more compelling. Points taken off, though, for the probable misogynist undertones to a lonely, workaholic woman.
Forensic Solution - B. The science was actually believable tonight, except for the way Brennan could tell height/weight at a glance. Points taken off for that and the discovery of the very reflective road thingy that killed the woman with blood still on it.
Drama - A-. The Bones writers made me care about this episode. In spite of the fact that I knew the victim would end up not looking like/sounding like Brennan, I enjoyed how the writers got there. Points docked only because I think the writers tried to humanize Brennan too much in this episode: screwing up FBI work, relying on intuition, and throwing herself at Booth. Had they extended it over two episodes, I think it would have worked better.