Bones - Season 6, Episode 21 (Review)

The Signs in the Silence
Episode Summary

A cop on patrol finds a girl in a cardboard box between two dumpsters. She's covered in blood and wielding a knife. Miss Julian asks Brennan to look at the girl because the blood clearly isn't hers and she's a deaf-mute (deaf and uncommunicative), meaning they don't know who she is or what happened.

Hodgins manages to get some particulates from the girl's hair and clothes, but she's uncooperative. Sweets pulls Brennan aside to remind her of her time in foster care, when she was similarly uncooperative and treated poorly by adults. Brennan stops Arastoo's attempts to get a dental xray from the girl, which would confirm that she is a minor. Instead, they use a spiffy rotating xray thingy and get a clear look at the distal radius and ulna. Both are only partially fused, putting the girl's age between 13 and 17. A DNA test on the blood reveals it was from a white male, while the T cell test indicates he was in his mid-40s.

Meanwhile, Booth traces the cash found on the girl to an ATM in a mostly-black neighborhood. By scanning the past 48 hours of photographs, Booth and Brennan narrow their search for the victim down to one person: Duvall Price. They go to Price's house and find his door smashed in and his dead body in a pool of blood.

While discussing the girl's possible motive for murder over lunch, Brennan asks to see the videotapes of the girl signing. She notices that her signs are different than standard ASL - they're made higher on the body and at a different rate. Brennan thinks that the girl may have learned a dialect of ASL that could lead them to her home. She has Angela run a kinetic cross-scan of the videos and finds that the girl's particular ASL style is most common in southern Pennsylvania. Booth has Angela reconstruct the paper in the girl's pocket. On it is written "Bus 122" - the only bus from southern Pennsylvania to D.C. - and it's from a hardware store in Crossroads, PA. Booth pays a visit to Shenfield Hardware, and the proprietors recognize the girl as Amy, their daughter.

Hodgins meanwhile realizes that he should be able to figure out when the door was broken down based on the splintering of the door and the fluctuations in ambient humidity. Arastoo and Brennan look at the girl's xrays and notice a remodeled suboccult metaphyseal fracture, also called a bucket handle injury. This type of injury is suggestive of child abuse. Brennan talks to the girl and gets her to agree to a full body xray because her bones don't lie and will tell them the truth about her abuse. These xrays show extensive remodeled rib fractures, subperiosteal new bone formation on both femora and the left humerus, linear skull fractures with different levels of remodeling, all indicative of years of systematic abuse beginning when she was 3 years old.

Amy's parents come to the FBI to see their daughter. Miss Julian gets a court order to prevent them from seeing her. Brennan realizes that Amy has Waardenberg's syndrome, a genetic condition. Yet neither of the people claiming to be Amy's parents has dystopia canthorum or a high nasal root. While further questioning the Shenfields, Booth and Brennan get the wife to talk, and her willingness to do so angers the husband, who backhands her across the face. Booth punches him in return.

From Price's skeleton, Arastoo finds that there is a nick on the inside (ventral side) of the manubrium. This likely was not made by Amy attacking him from behind. Rather, Brennan suggests that Price was on top of her, and she reached up and around to stab him at an angle. She was trying to defend herself.

Based on the splinters, Hodgins thinks that the door was broken in almost 2 hours after Price was killed. He further found fibers from a PriceCo flannel shirt on the door. Booth finds a photo in the Shenfields' house of the husband and Price. Through interlocking narratives, we find out that Amy was planning to run away. Her father found out an hour into her bus journey and called his friend Price in DC to intercept her. Price kidnapped Amy from the bus stop and brought her back to his apartment. He told her that her father was coming to pick her up, but she didn't want to be beaten more and tried to flee. Price tried to restrain her and was going to hit her, so she grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed him in self-defense.

Brennan wants to know where Amy was originally from. She asks her to remember any happy memories, and Amy comes up with a stuffed bunny but nothing more. Brennan asks permission to extract one of Amy's wisdom teeth to do isotope analysis on the enamel in an attempt to figure out where she was from. The isotopes tell Brennan that Amy was originally from Los Angeles. When Booth runs Amy's data through the missing persons database, he gets a hit for Samantha Winslow, who was kidnapped at age 3. The Winslows arrive, stuffed bunny in tow, and sign their excitement at finding Samantha again.

Forensic Comments

  • The dictionary tells me that derogative is a real word, but I still don't believe it. Normal people say derogatory. Derogative just makes me start singing Bobby Brown.
  • Brennan's age range for the fusion of the epiphyses of the distal radius and ulna (13-17) seems a bit young. Scheuer and Black say that the distal ulnar epiphysis begins fusing at 14-15 in females and the radius follows a bit later. Brennan suggests that the epiphyses are partially fused, which would put the girl's age range more like 15-17.
  • Brennan notices a man's age on the ATM photo by looking at his "nasolabial lines and the depth of the lateral ???? lines." Any idea what the thing that sounded like "oberdal" was?
  • There are indeed dialects of ASL, which makes sense because it's a language, but is actually pretty cool.
  • Bucket handle fractures appear to occur most often at the knee joint, not the elbow (Arasto onoticed the injury on the distal humerus).
  • The "inside" of the manubrium doesn't make much sense - inside the bone? We'd say "ventral side/aspect" instead.
  • Did we ever get an explanation for why the girl was kidnapped as a toddler and by whom? Did her birth mother have Waardenberg's (which is why she could sign)? The condition seems to be autosomal dominant in some forms but recessive in others.
  • Aaaaaand, drum roll, please, for the Bones error that made my eyes roll... Wisdom teeth don't start calcifying until at least 7 years of age. So no amount of isotope analyses of the third molar would tell Brennan where Amy/Samantha spent the first 3 years of her life. The best tooth to test for that would be the first molar. Check a dental development chart next time, writers.
  • Oh yeah, and Brennan's screen with pretty blocks of color representing unnamed isotopes was funny, since mine don't look anything like that. Also nice that isotopes (which rely on water sources and geology) can pinpoint the girl's original location with great specificity to L.A. If I can't figure out where my 2,000-year-old Romans are from because of their intense importation of water and food, does isotope analysis really work for modern Americans?
  • The hoary trope of the unprepared father made me fast-forward through the Hodgins-Angela parts. Anything I missed, other than some more Braxton-Hicks contractions?
  • I dislike the episodes where Brennan shows emotion. Not because of the emotion part, which is fine, but because Emily Deschanel feels the need to be even more robotic than usual in the pre-emotive scenes to draw a contrast between scientific Brennan and humanistic Brennan.

Forensic Mystery - B+. The actual dead guy wasn't terribly interesting, but the girl's case and story were. Doing forensics on a living person is much the same as doing it on a dead person, so finding out about her abusive past and figuring out her ASL dialect made for an interesting mystery. Even the horribly wrong isotope analysis was a good idea.

Forensic Solution - C-. I would have given this episode a decent grade if it weren't for the isotope bit. Their use of isotopes on the show never fails to piss me off.

Drama - A-. I liked the mystery of the girl's past and present; it was pretty compelling. Points off, though, for the Hodgins-as-incompetent-father subplot.


Anonymous said…
I definitely ditto your comment about the whole Hodgens and Angela part. Come on! And anyway--side point--how long has she been pregnant now?!?!?!
Overall, great storyline. Interesting learning about a live person. I like your breakdown on what is accurate vs what isn't medically speaking.
Frances said…
I stopped watching this show after the first season, but I find your reviews so funny that I try to catch it every once in awhile now. I didn't see this episode, but it sounds interesting. I agree about Brennan trying to show emotion. It's just not that funny -- it's like they're trying to imitate Spock in Star Trek (which WAS funny).

I think a show about real forensic anthropology would be interesting to most people. Why don't they use real science instead of the made-up stuff? Why is it so necessary for Brennan to definitively state the victim's sex and race before taking the remains to the lab to do a proper analysis? Especially when she does it in the dark -- that's hilarious.
Frances said…
Oops -- meant "ancestry" not "race". My prof would kill me for that.
David said…
I really love stumbling across things like this.

In short - holy shit - fiction is fictional? You're really spending time evaluating a loosely medical television show for its medicine? I mean, to each his own and godspeed, but really?

A fictional drama on television has ostensibly a singular purpose - to tell a compelling story.

A biological anthropologist's job is to, I assume, spend time dealing with biological anthropology, which, in reality, I know absolutely nothing about. As such - I respect what you do.

That all being said, let art do its job. This was one of the most compelling dramatic narratives on television in some time, so reading a review, however inconsequential, that criticizes the art for the science is - in many ways - very offensive.


Leila said…
Poop on you, David. Some of us come here not to have the show criticized, but to see it compared with the actual science. If you dislike it so much, then don't read this, but don't tell someone not to do something that OBVIOUSLY other people really enjoy. To me, that's even more offensive.
Anonymous said…
Something else that bothered me is how Brennan knew the girl had Waardenburg syndrome. She doesn't really fit the symptoms for Waardenburg; she had hearing loss, but there are plenty of reasons for that, and she had white/blond hair, which is a nice way to cover up the white forelock, but otherwise she didn't really match. Also, why would Brennan be able to diagnose that? Do forensic anthropologists learn about all those diseases? She should have done a gene test.

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