Bones - Season 10, Episode 9 (Review)

The Mutilation of the Master Manipulator
Episode Summary
The Jeffersonian is dealing with the very fragmentary remains of an individual whose hand, foot, and upper leg were found in different parts of the greater D.C. area. From the femur, Brennan notes they have a Negroid male, about 6'2" tall. DNA confirms that all body parts are from the same person, but his DNA is not in any database. Angela figures out that the body parts were likely all from the same trash route and asks Booth to send a team out to a neighborhood whose trash hasn't been picked up to see if there are more parts.  In the neighborhood, Brennan gets the skull. More pieces are found in trash compactors around D.C., so the team now has the pelvis and thorax. The auricular surface of the ilia suggest the man was in his early 50s, there are numerous stab wounds, and kerf marks and striae suggest a reciprocating saw was used to disarticulate him. Angela manages to somehow get an ID through facial reconstruction - Randall Fairbanks, a professor of psychology at fictional Kenmore College, on sabbatical for the semester. Saroyan confirms that DNA suggested he was biracial. 

"Don't mind me, I'm just going to point my radical
'90s handset phone at these gooey remains..."
Aubrey and Brennan go to visit the victim's home. Brennan notices the pink hydrangeas, likely that color because of a change in the pH of the soil. She then sees blood-soaked soil. Hodgins comes out and finds that there is so much blood, there are blowflies. Aubrey suggests Hodgins do an experiment with soil composition and blood to see how long it would take the hydrangeas to change color, in order to get time of death. Hodgins and Bray note lots of blood in the garage/workshop, likely where the victim was dismembered. Aubrey finds a tablet with a woman screaming on it; but it turns out it was part of a psychology experiment. Fairbanks asked volunteers to administer test questions to someone outside the room; if the person answered wrong, they pushed a button that delivered a shock. The voice on the tablet was grad student Tabitha pretending to be shocked.  Tabitha insists she cannot give the FBI the names of the participants in the study because of doctor-patient confidentiality, which is utter crap.

Back at the Jeffersonian, another foot and leg come in.  The kerf marks make it look like the killer switched blades in the middle of the task. The thoracic vertebrae show multiple stab wounds, and there's chipping on the anterior aspect of the sternum. Brennan thinks the weapon went through the back and to the front of the body. Angela cross-references the participants on video from Fairbanks' files with student IDs from the college and lands on Alex Heck, who was upset following his participation in the study. Although the remodeled fractures to Fairbanks' mandible and ribs date to around the time that Heck got out of the study and was upset, it turns out Fairbanks injured himself in Brazil on vacation with Victoria Andrews, his previous graduate student. Victoria's relationship with Fairbanks soured, she trashed his lab and got expelled from school, then left the area. She recently moved back to work on and sell her art, and Fairbanks took up with Tabitha. The metal in the blades of a sculpture Victoria made matches the wounds found on Fairbanks, but she denies having killed him. 

The right ulna, radius, tibia, and fibula then come in to the Jeffersonian.  Bray notices bite marks on the right radius and scaphoid that appear to have been made by a woman. Brennan checks Victoria's teeth, but the diastemata are too wide to be hers. Angela pulls footage from the neighbor's birdhouse camera and sees the figure of Tabitha, just hours before Fairbanks was killed.  She admits to having snuck into his house, to do an olfactory experiment on him. He caught her, and they fought, but she left.  Hodgins notes the antifreeze on both of Fairbanks' hands, and Bray finds a curved abrasion on Fairbanks' finger; both of these, plus some of the food particulates Hodgins found earlier, are consistent with poisoned cat food. Brennan xrays the cat and finds bone fragments from a Buick's wren in his stomach. The wren is on the endangered list, which leads the FBI to question Fairbanks' neighbor further. She admits she was trying to poison the cat, who kept scaring away birds that she wanted to watch. Fairbanks caught her, they struggled over the poisoned cat food, and he fell backward onto the sculpture, impaling himself. 

  • Forensic
    • Initial forensic ID seemed reasonable, especially considering the lack of remains that existed.  Diameter of the femoral head can give you sex, and length of the femur is a good proxy for height. I'm not entirely sure what is meant by the "lack of curvature" of the femur -- platymeria is fairly common regardless of race. But I found at least one (not-great) source that suggests femora are "straighter" in people of African descent. And auricular surface is perfectly fine at giving you an age range; it's particularly good for older adults, as we don't have a lot of reliable methods for aging people over 50.
    • They could have done more with the sharp trauma, other than kerf and striae, like calling more attention to the fractures produced and noting how they figure out the blade was changed in the middle. But it all seemed to be in order.
    • I highly doubt that that woman had enough jaw strength to bite into a 6'2" man's wrist--through flesh, muscle, tendons, and into bone so cleanly.  Points for using the word diastemata on TV, though, in spite of the mangled pronunciation. 
  • Plot
    • Does anyone have metal trash cans anymore?  I haven't seen those in, like, two decades.
    • What IRB panel would OK this absurd psychological study?  And even if they OK'ed it in the first place, after that Alex guy went kind of crazy and had adverse effects from the study two years ago, don't you think they'd pull IRB approval?  Plus, this is a research study, not a doctor-patient relationship. I suppose there could be some kind of privacy or anonymity clause in the paperwork the participants had to fill out, but, yeah, no.
    • How did the crazy bird lady get the various body parts to various D.C. parts?
    • Was the sculpture still in the yard? I don't remember seeing it.  What did the crazy bird lady do with it?
    • Can hydrangeas grow blue in northern Virginia?  I ask only because we have them here in Florida, but my mom (from Virginia) hadn't seen them before and was curious to know how to get them.
    • The Hodgins experiment seemed... super fake and super lame.

Forensic Mystery - B+. Not too bad this week, perhaps because the body parts kept rolling in, contributing new and interesting information each time.

Forensic Solution - A-. No major complaints. Could have done a bit more with all the evidence, though, to explain the forensics.

Drama - C. But instead of devoting more time to forensics, they had to focus on Bray getting a girlfriend. Which... eh. Whatevs.


Unknown said…
About the study, a similar one was done at Yale in 1963.

About the flowers, apparently to get blue, you want to add aluminum into the soil (making the pH 5.2-5.5). Not sure if that's probable in Virginia though.
Rachel Perash said…
I'm from Fairfax, VA and my neighbors have blue hydrangeas. Although it's obvious that they're suppose to be white and are dyed with something.
e said…
My parents have neighbors with blue hydrangeas. They live in SE Virginia.
Otkon said…
Certain varieties of hydrangeas will change color from pink to blue depending on the pH of the soil. An acidic soil will allow the plants to absorb aluminum from the ground and that is what causes the change. That being said, it is absolutely not an instantaneous process as Hodgin's experiment leads the viewers to believe. It is not like putting food coloring in a vase and letting a cut carnation suck up the dye.
Anonymous said…
This experiment wasn't just similar, it was an exact copy of the Milgram experiment! Couldn't the show's creators have a bit of originality in coming up with their psych experiment?

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