Bones - Season 6, Episode 11 (Review)

The Bullet in the Brain

Episode Summary

The Gravedigger (Heather Taffet, a lawyer turned serial killer from seasons 2, 4, and 5 who buried her victims alive) is being transported to the courthouse in an attempt to appeal her conviction for murder. Dr. Sweets is with her in order to give her the psychological counseling she requested. But Gravedigger wants to rattle Sweets so that he will give faulty testimony on the stand. She asserts that "if you testify at my appeal, I'm gonna walk" and "we all know who's the weakest link in the chain," referring to Dr. Sweets and his use of psychology to help the FBI find and catch criminals. Just after Gravedigger and Sweets get out of the prison transport van, a gunshot comes out of nowhere, powerful enough to completely destroy her head. The gathered protesters scatter, except for James Kent, a father of two of Gravedigger's victims, who was standing in the crowd with other victims' families, filming the event. Shortly thereafter, Brennan shows up at the scene and she and Booth find the bullet, which was shot with such force that it was embedded in a marble balustrade.

Brennan orders the cranial fragments to be collected and sent to her team at the Jeffersonian. Dr. Saroyan explains to Brennan's weekly assistant, Wendell Bray, that when a faster-than-average bullet hits the brain, the shock wave can cause an explosion: hydrostatic shock. Brennan gives Wendell a paper on reconstruction of gunshot injuries to help him reconstruct how the head exploded. Angela and Hodgins discover that the bullet was copper with only traces of lead and work to restore its original form based on its weight and the properties of the metal.

At the FBI, Booth draws up a list of suspects, which includes James Kent and Brennan's father, Max Keenan. Angela's reconstruction is sent to Booth, who recognizes the bullet as a 338 Lapua Magnum based on Angela's use of the Sears Haack aerodynamic profile. Booth realizes that he didn't hear a gunshot because this was a professional hit.

Wendell reconstructs the skull, and he notes that there was a clean entry wound to the left parietal, 2 cm above the suture. The exit wound was most likely in the right parietal, but it was hard to tell. Based on the trajectory of the bullet and the Gravedigger's height, he and Angela reconstruct the path of the bullet. Angela also uses D.C.'s ShotSpotter system to attempt to isolate the location from which the shot was fired. She picks up a gunshot on two microphones and uses a Venn diagram to find the overlap between their ranges. From this, she gets Booth an address.

Booth and Brennan show up at the address Angela gave them; it's the apartment of a prostitute, Tracy Levec. There, they discover that a table has been moved towards the window, which would have allowed a sniper to get a reasonable, if long, shot at the Gravedigger. While looking through the apartment, Brennan finds a bathtub with garbage bags taped over it. She and Booth open it to reveal a partially skeletonized woman. It turns out that this victim was not placed in lye but rather in a tub full of Drano. Hodgins estimates time of death as 144 hours (6 days) before. Brennan and Wendell discover that Levec's atlas was fractured and a knife was used to sever her spinal cord. At the FBI, Brennan says that the killer used his left hand, twisting counter-clockwise, to inflict the fatal cut to the spinal cord. Based on the characteristics of the kill, Booth thinks he is looking for Bill Preston, a sniper he knew in Afghanistan.

Booth questions Preston, but Preston denies he made the kill and instead points a finger at Jake Broadsky, who was Preston's mentor for a decade. Broadsky has been missing for some time. They discover that, under the alias Gary Gray, Broadsky cashed a check for $2 million from James Kent a day after the murder of Gravedigger. Kent admits to having paid someone to kill Gravedigger; he used the money he'd raised to ransom his boys before she killed them. But Kent does not know who the sniper was; in fact, the sniper called him and offered to kill Gravedigger for $2 million. Booth then discovers that Broadsky purchased land outside of D.C. in the name of Seely Booth.

Booth confronts Broadsky on his property. Broadsky doesn't admit to killing Gravedigger and puts sufficient doubt in Booth's head that he can't just take a shot at Broadsky. Booth does chase Broadsky - he doesn't need a warrant since the land is in his name - but Broadsky blows up an out building, and Booth sprains his ankle and dislocates his shoulder. He has the chance to get a good shot at Broadsky but doesn't take it.

On the drama side of things, Sweets is rattled by what Gravedigger said to him in the prison transport vehicle, and he keeps replaying it on a small tape recorder. Eventually, Miss Julian steps in to snap him out of his funk: she admits that she was terrified when she saw Gravedigger get killed (she even "messed" herself) and points out to Sweets that it's all over. Angela is annoyed that Hodgins seems happy with the fact that Gravedigger is dead, even though he was buried alive by her. And Brennan's father comes back to prove his innocence.

From the forensic side, I can't think of a more disappointing episode. I gather that there is some attempt to work up interest in the FBI side of things for a possible spin-off involving one of Booth's sniper friends, but I don't tune into Bones for the police work.

Forensic Comments
  • There was so little forensic anthropology work in this episode that I don't really have much to say...
  • Wendell notes that the entry wound was "2 cm above the suture." But that's not terribly precise; I think he meant "2 cm superior to the squamosal suture."
  • Is it really that easy to buy property in someone else's name? I've bought and sold a couple houses, and it's a giant pain in the ass.
  • How does Max just walk into Brennan's lab in the Jeffersonian? Is there no security there?
  • Why is Booth doing crowd duty in the opening scene? Aren't there other people who work at the FBI?

Nothing sticks in my mind from this episode. I was hoping that the Sweets storyline would turn into a clue - i.e., something in what the Gravedigger said would lead them to her killer - but there wasn't a payoff there. I honestly don't know why Sweets would be terribly riled by Gravedigger; is there some history there I don't remember?


Forensic Mystery - D. There wasn't a forensic mystery in this episode. Gravedigger was killed by a long sniper shot. Reconstructing her head from a million little pieces didn't help anything. Tracy Levec was positively identified by dentals, I assume. There was no question about who was killed or really even by whom.

Forensic Solution - A. Since one person died in plain sight and the other was partially fleshed (and owned the apartment in which she was found), there wasn't a lot of forensic anthropology work to be done. The few forensic elements that were in the episode were fine, though, and the information about the weapon and method for killing Levec did help track down the sniper.

Drama - C. For most of the episode, I was terribly bored. But the opening scene when Gravedigger was killed was super dramatic, and about half-way into the episode there were some good dramatic elements. Still, since Booth ruled out quickly that the sniper's goal was to kill Gravedigger and no one else was in danger, there was only manufactured drama (like Sweets' mini-crisis and Angela's harping on Hodgins).

Ugh, nothing like a crappy episode to make me feel bad for Gravedigger - she could have had a better swan song.


Heather B. said…
I got stuck watching Bones last night because I had some hardcore fans on my crew. They threatened to lock me the ambulance after I spent the first half of the show bitching out the television for their crappy interpretations of projectile trauma and ballistics analysis. At the very least, the graphics folks could have done some research on entry wound vs. exit wound morphology-- and don't get me started on the bullet caliber/configuration/velocity required to cause someone's head to go kaplooey like that.
Anonymous said…
This episode was awesome! You guys are being way too technical
emily said…
i thought this was one of the better episodes of the series and definitely the best episode of the season!
mike_dish said…
I agree with Anonymous. This episode was awesome. I found so much pleasure seeing Taffet/Gravedigger "expire," especially after what she said to Sweets in the transport truck. And I had no problem with the graphics people - it looked incredibly realistic on my DISH Network HD feed. That's why I love being a DISH Network customer (and employee). I have access to more HD channels than any other provider could offer me, and the quality is excellent.
Shanella said…
I'm viewing these the day after (or in this case, yesterday) on Hulu, so I'm a little late to the comment game.
Personally, I think they wanted us to believe that Sweets was thrown off his game because GD told him something that he's been wrestling with for a while -- that is his youth and text book knowledge. What I didn't like was they drew it out too long ... I think Booth or Hodges should have recognised something, but At least Caroline pulled him out of his funk.

In any case, I do like this episode.
mike_dish said…
I agree Shanella - I would have thought Booth or Hodges would have recognized that Sweets was having some problems. I absolutely love Caroline, lol. I'm just surprised that she would have admitted to doing what she did when Taffet was "put down."
Anonymous said…
If you look at the bullet trajectory it is imposible for the shot to have come from any height, the shooter would have to be at the same level or slightly lower than the target for the bullet to end up in the wall at that height and distance from the target.
If the bullet had been fired from where they say it was the bullet would have impacted the pavement three to six feet from the target and probably richochet towards the court bouncing of the steps and likely heading back towards the crowd.
Anonymous said…
Okay, on your last two "Forensic Comments" questions, Max probably got in because he used to work at the Jeffersonian, the security there probably remembered him.

Booth working crowd control is harder... Maybe because he was supposed to be at the appeal and the FBI decided to kill two birds with one stone? Honestly, I just think it's because it got Booth there when the Gravedigger was killed.

I think the episode was better, but yes, definatly a cop episode, not a forensic one..
Anonymous said…
As a psychotherapist, it really bothered me that Sweets said "disassociate" rather than "dissociate".
Yes! We need someone critiquing the psycho-criminology-whatever-Sweets-does side of the show! Are you planning to start your own blog? :)
KW11 said…
Thank you 15 Feb 2011 20:07 Anonymous for your ballistics comment. This bit of legerdemain in the show has plagued me so long that I finally went searching for an analysis that made more sense to me.
Yours did. What a relief.

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