Bones - Season 6, Episode 17 (Review)

The Feet on the Beach

Episode Summary

On the U.S.-Canadian border, nine pairs of feet are discovered by federal agents on patrol. Brennan and Booth go to the scene for some reason. Based on the size of one of them, Brennan suspects an adult male. The range of motion of the metatarsal-phalangeal joint puts that individual at 18-50 years of age.
Booth points out a pair of boots without any feet in them, and Brennan thinks they could be one of the victims' shoes. Dr. Douglas Philmore, a Canadian podiatrist who puts himself forth as a forensic podiatrist, arrives on the scene with a limp right arm, which hasn't worked since he read Brennan's caustic reply to his plea in a journal for forensic podiatry to be considered a subspecialty. Because of her callousness, Philmore takes possession of the Canadian feet, and Brennan sends the rest back to the Jeffersonian.

At the Jeffersonian, Hodgins and Angela are looking over the feet that Brennan sent back, even though neither of them has experience in osteology. Hodgins noted that the feet weren't cut off - they fell off already decomposing bodies in the water, and the shoes helped float them to the surface. He notices a rank smell in the boots and thinks they might not have been in the water. Hodgins extracts some sweat from the boots and does DNA analysis, which triggers a hit on a Canadian ex-con with mental health issues. Dr. Sweets talks to the ex-con, but finds out he switched his boots for a nice pair of sneakers he found at the scene.

Inside the shoes, Hodgins finds a sticky, insoluble protein that he recognizes as spider mite silk, leading him to conclude that the victims were all in the same location before being dumped. Based on the level of decomp, Dr. Philmore, who has arrived at the Jeffersonian with the remaining feet, and Dr. Brennan think the bodies have been decomposing for 1-3 months. Philmore further notes some striae on the superior aspect of the talus. Unlike the other feet, which disarticulated naturally, this one shows evidence of dismemberment while the victim was still alive. Angela checks rainfall and wind patterns and finds that the bodies likely originated near the St. Regis River, near the (nonexistent) University of Hogansburg in upstate New York. Brennan realizes that eight of the people originated at the body farm, but the ninth - who was dismembered perimortem - may have been a murder victim. The shoes the homeless guy took were worth $2,000 and had a serial number in them. Philmore asks Angela to make a wire frame image of the shoes and digitally project the victim's feet into them - the pattern of wear matches.

Back in NY, Booth and Brennan head over to the U of H's Body Farm, where they meet Prof. Peter Simpkins and Norman Hayes, a PhD candidate. The victim originated in the same location as the feet according to the spider mite silk Hodgins found on all of them. The serial number on the shoes is traced to Dylan McElroy, who was a grad student at U of H. Prof. Simpkins thought he'd dropped out of the program. Dylan's roommate Kent Durham also thought Dylan had just disappeared. He owed Kent two months' rent among other things, so Kent was selling off Dylan's shoes. Dylan got cash to fund his trips to Japan and elsewhere to buy shoes by selling marijuana. Hodgins finds that, along with the mite silk from Oligonychus ilicis, the SEM analysis also picked up Cannabis sativa pollen, meaning the weed was being grown at the Body Farm. Norman gives Booth and Brennan a tour, showing them the flooded areas and the place where Dylan was likely growing weed. Norman was at the University of Helsinki studying for a semester and got back a few weeks ago. Prof. Simpkins admits to knowing about the marijuana; he let Dylan grow it in exchange for free product.

At the Jeffersonian, Hodgins finds many more species of insect on the victim's feet than he would have expected, especially bugs from far away. He suspects that they came for a particularly interesting food, and he checks their stomachs, finding a food gel used by reptile breeders. There are traces of the gel on the sneakers, which means the victim's body was likely covered in the gel to speed decomp.

Dr. Philmore notices that the anterior aspect of the left navicular is 3mm less than the right. Angela is impressed, but Philmore insists he's not a podophile. He shows her that there is sharp trauma to the left navicular, where a blade shaved off a piece. The resulting striae and wall of the cut indicate it was made by a power tool or two. The tools from the Body Farm are magically transported to the Jeffersonian. Philmore doesn't need Angela to input all the dimensions, as he sees that the blows to the feet were made by two different blades. The blow to the talus cut the right foot horizontally, and the blow to the left navicular was vertical and parallel to the bone. They realize that the weapon was most likely a riding lawn mower. If the victim were standing up, the first blow to his right foot would have severed the plantar artery, and he would have bled out.

Booth and Brennan confront Norman with the fact that he bought 2 gallons of Gro-Fast bug food. They suspect that Norman was angry with Dylan for having contaminated his barren field - which was the basis of his doctoral dissertation - with marijuana. He was going to flunk out of grad school and had $60k in student loans. Norman took out the riding mower to get rid of the weed, but Dylan got in the way. Norman thought Dylan would yield, but he never did.

Oh, and there was other stuff. Saroyan lies and gets her daughter Michelle into Columbia. Michelle decides to take a year off. Sweets tries to psychoanalyze Philmore and eventually succeeds in getting his arm working by hitting him in the head with a metal projectile. Booth thinks Brennan should apologize to Philmore, and she does in her own way.

Forensic Comments
  • I was excited about the Body Farm episode, but boy did it disappoint. Chronologically...
  • There is an American Society of Forensic Podiatry. Not sure what exactly Philmore was fighting (in a peer-reviewed journal?) for recognition of.
  • Hey, the victim was a golfer. This was mentioned once. Based on nothing. And then never spoken of again.
  • If the feet disarticulated naturally, why is there at least one standing up with a severed fibula attached? Maybe the Body Farm was doing research on fractures and decomp?
  • Who puts a Body Farm in a place that floods? Simpkins did explain that the river hadn't flooded in 400 years, but still. Also, how are there not, you know, walls that prevent: a) living people from getting in, and b) dead people from getting out? A Body Farm's a serious and expensive research endeavor, not just a vast expanse of land where one can trip over rotting corpses. And then a body explodes in front of Booth and Brennan - but no researcher was watching it, taking notes, recording it on videotape?
  • If Dylan was getting Cs in grad school, how had he not been kicked out? There's generally a limit to the number you're allowed.
  • Prof. Simpkins should bear some responsibility for screwing up Norman's dissertation research. What kind of advisor completely hoses his student's project for a few buds of weed? His Body Farm funding should be pulled and he should not be advising students. Oh, and he should probably be fired for all this. Norman, however, wouldn't have flunked anything. You don't flunk a dissertation. I'd be pissed if someone screwed up my research, but I'd just have to do it again, not have to leave school.
  • I don't buy that the forensic podiatrist was all that essential. Brennan would have found sharp trauma to the navicular (or one of her interns - for whom Philmore was standing in this week - would have).
  • How did all the feet and tools from the Body Farm get to the Jeffersonian so damned quickly? Teleportation?
  • Why didn't anyone know whether Dylan had been gone 2 months or 2 weeks? Sure, he wasn't in touch with his roommate. But he had no parents? Or Facebook friends? Or cell phone records? If he had been around for 6 of those 8 weeks, there would have been some trace: airline ticket, etc.
  • Also, where was Dylan's body? Did Norman just leave it in the open because it was the Body Farm? Did it get washed away in the flood? Why didn't Booth and Brennan go looking for the rest of the corpses - I mean, there are now 9 decomposing corpses floating around upstate NY/Canada somewhere.
  • "You can't even walk without tripping over your own feet." "Those aren't my feet!" - Hilarious federal agents saying hilariously stupid things
  • "Xrays of his feet showed osteomorphosis of his metaspacial turtleicious." - Hodgins mocking Brennan
  • "The average increase in the protrusion of a woman's buttocks is 25% when wearing high-heeled shoes." - Dr. Philmore (not sure if it's true or apocryphal, but now I get to link to this awesome Reddit post)
  • "Feet are what separate us from less evolved hominids." "What about brains?" "I like to believe the fact that we walk upright is the reason our brains developed."
  • "The liquefaction of tissue is nearly finished. Anaerobic organisms from the gastrointestinal tract have started the microbial proliferation. Here's a decomp in garbage scenario. They must be establishing baseline timetables for decay in a damp setting with direct sunlight." - Brennan geeking out at the Body Farm
  • "Canadian... or afraid?" - Sweets (and a phrase I will now be using often)
  • "Apology is from the ancient Greek apologia meaning speech and defense. Contrite is from the Latin contritus meaning crushed by a sense of sin." - Brennan, on saying you're sorry

Forensic Mystery - B. The biggest mystery to me was why they mentioned the victim was a golfer.

Forensic Solution - B. Solution seemed reasonable. Not a lot of forensics going on: some sharp trauma and... foot reconstruction. Oh, and Hodgins got a bunch to do.

Drama - C-. The Body Farm was not in any way believable (horribly run, horrible security, horrible grading/siting), nor was the graduate program at the U of H. The super-nice Canadian was over the top and bordering on an ethnic caricature. Saroyan and Michelle ... zzzz.

This week's post may be link light for a while - too much to do, too little time to review Bones.

Update (4/8/11) - My esteemed Canadian colleague Sheri let me know that this episode was loosely based on a history of feet washing up on Canadian shores. A variety of news coverage can be found here, here, and here.


Anonymous said…
just a crazy nit pick. The guy was killed because the weed field "over grew" the body's location. cannabis doesn't grow like that. it needs seeds to be planted and no grower would plant around a dead body. for the seeds to be left there, an entire crop from the year before would have to be abandoned pretty early in the year. (male cannabis plants are removed as soon as hey show gender to prevent fertilization which lowers potency.) So the plants were put there a year ago, went through their entire life cycle, had their seeds survive the winter and then a study body was placed there before they had a chance to sprout. And if he was testing a "barren ground" theory, why the hell would someone plant in barren dirt. sorry had o rant somewhere
Anonymous said…
Hey it is Dr. Filmore, and the St. Lawrence River where the feet originate at from The Body Farm t University of Hogansburg.
Anonymous said…
There is no such product as "Gro-Fast Insect Feed". I understand that items need to be created, as they can't product place everything, but there is no such product, period. There are products to be used to "gut load" feeder insects - to make them as nutritious as possible before feeding them - but there is no super growth feed available. Gut loading can be done with commercially prepared products - I often use Fluker Farms Orange Cubes, which offer both nutrition and water in one product - or you can gut load with stuff like leafy greens, veggies, fruit, and so forth.
emma harvey said…
"Hey, the victim was a golfer. This was mentioned once. Based on nothing. And then never spoken of again."
I really like it when they do that. Because, in real life, you don't know what would be important and not until after the fact. Like Brennan says, you don't know what evidence is important. I hate it when they only discover or talk about the "exactly right things". You complain about this a lot. Guess it's just that we like different things in our shows. I think believability is important not only in the science. It would be really weird if they only noted things crucial to catching the killer.

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