Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Guest Episode Review - #111 "The Woman in the Tunnel"

Time for the next Bones Season 1 Episode review: The Woman in the Tunnel! If you want to start at the beginning here are my Season 1 Bones Reviews from last summer:

# 079 - "Pilot" - My Review
# 101 - "A Boy in the Tree" - My Review
# 102 - "The Man in the SUV" - My Review
# 103 - 'The Man on Death Row" My Review
Guest Reviews so far:
# 103 - 'The Man on Death Row" - Meryl
# 104 - "The Man in the Bear" - ForensicMama
# 105 - "A Boy in a Bush" - Bekka
# 106 - "The Man in the Wall" - Jeni
# 107 - "The Girl in the Fridge" - Jenny
# 108 - "The Man in the Fallout Shelter" - Emma
# 109 - "The Woman in the Car" - Milky
# 110 - "The Woman at the Airport" - Robyn
This review was written by Winona.

If you have committed to a review, please check the list and, if your time is coming up soon, please email me your review or an eta on when you might have it, thanks!

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The Woman in the Tunnel

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit up front that I have been a huge fan of David Boreanaz since "Buffy" days and that I began watching Bones at the very beginning of Season 1 because basically I'll watch whatever show he's doing. However, I had no DVR at that point in time - and in any event it's been 4 seasons back now - so I'm sure that there were episodes I missed even in summer reruns. All this is to say that I didn't remember "The Woman in the Tunnel" when I discovered (or "rediscovered?") it a few months ago. Since that time, it has become one of my favorites from Season 1. (Also, I tried to get the dialogue quotes right but they may not be exact.)

“Woman in the Tunnel” opens with Brennan, Booth & Zack suspended from ropes, dropping down to the bottom of a 60+ foot vertical tunnel in order to investigate a female body found by DC public workers at the bottom of an old air shaft. The opening scene suggests that Brennan, Booth & Zack have become more comfortable as a team, although being suspended so far above-the floor in an underground shaft makes them extremely nervous.

Brennan: I've done plenty of climbing and these lines have load tolerances that are more than adequate.
Zack: What about shock tolerance? The rope jerks, …the kinetic energy increases - and Snap! - we fall to our deaths. (Just then all 3 ropes suddenly drop several feet and snap to a halt)
Booth: Okay, let's say we just stop the chatter.

Once they are at the bottom of the tunnel, Brennan asks Booth to let her shoot his gun but Booth is reluctant to give it to her. Brennan reminds Booth that they have been working together for months now and he should show some trust in her. Booth reluctantly hands her the weapon which she uses to shoot the rats that are busy compromising the victim's remains. While examining the remains, Brennan sees a man in the shadows of another tunnel. She calls out to him and runs after him into the dark. Booth follows and chastises her when he catches up, telling her she shouldn't run by herself into the dark after the man. Brennan responds, "He lives down here".

The team moves to the Jeffersonian where they examine the deceased's remains and Brennan tells Booth that the victim was 24-year old, Marnie Hunter. Hunter was a documentary filmmaker whose latest project was about the "mole" people who inhabit the labyrinth of forgotten tunnels under the streets of Washington, D.C. Booth and Brennan then interview Hunter's fiancée' who shows them Hunter's raw footage. Suddenly, Brennan recognizes in the footage the man who ran through the tunnel the day they found the body. So the investigation moves back into the tunnels to meet the Mole Man.

The characters on Bones are drawn with so much respect and dignity it is easy to care about their stories. In Woman in the Tunnel, the murder is the vehicle that carries the audience on an interesting journey where they meet the character of the Mole Man, learn of his relationship to the others who have chosen to live underground, and study his interactions with Booth. Of course, well-defined "guest" characters don't just tell their own story; they reveal something about the regular characters as well. Such is the case with Harold Overmeier, the Mole Man.
When Booth first meets Harold, he is not inclined to treat him with any respect. Brennan reminds Booth that this man is the alpha-male in the tunnel society.

Booth: Important?! He lives in a box underground.
Brennan: In this society… he has stature… Give him his due.

To please her, Booth starts over again and respectfully (if somewhat reluctantly and a tad insincerely) asks Harold to help them. To Booth’s surprise, Harold accepts the change in demeanor and answers some of Booth's questions. He is eventually taken into custody and interrogated at the FBI. It turns out that Harold is a former military man who has chosen to live underground to atone for the people he killed. Booth tells Harold that he understands how Harold ended up the way he did because Booth served as a Ranger. (Later, while Booth and Brennan are talking to the social worker that introduced them to Harold, Brennan tells Booth that Booth atones for what he's done by finding murderers; Harold atones by living underground.) Listen to the interrogation room interplay between Booth and Harold:

Harold: I killed people.
Booth: You saved the lives of five men.
Harold: I killed a pregnant woman.
Booth: She had a bomb strapped to her.
Harold: She had a child in her arms. She died right away but the child, he took a while....he kept looking at me.
Booth: You did what a soldier had to do.
Harold: Yeah, I was a good soldier, a very good soldier - but a pretty bad human being.

Wrapped up in those few lines are two opposing western society attitudes toward military duty and the taking of human life. It also shows Booth's belief in and acceptance of the rules of war. Yet we sense that his gentle answers to Harold most likely are a reflection of his own pain from his role in the war. The camera angles in the dialogue described above are tight, focused on Booth and Harold. They exclude any indication of the interrogation room or other characters that may be present. The scene evolves from a standard police interrogation to a very personal exchange between two ex-soldiers, each man dealing with his demons in his own way. The writers maintain a delicate balance that is non-judgmental and sympathetic to both attitudes. Harold judges not Booth but himself. Booth tries to move Harold past the guilt the other man feels. Powerful stuff.

We learn one thing in the interrogation room scene that advances the plot: Harold gave Marnie something and she died. Good timing, too, because at this point we care more about Harold and Booth than about solving the murder.

“Woman in the Tunnel” contains the visual collage of “bug-guy”, skull reconstruction and weapon identification sub-scenes that are so identifiable with this series and especially with Season 1. They are always intellectually stimulating but entertaining, with background music unerringly matched to the scenes. In “Woman in the Tunnel”, the “Angelator” is definitely the technology star. This device is an unusual twist on other forensic science show toys. Angela’s computerized, holographic magician puts a face on the victim and graphically tells the story of how her wounds were incurred. In addition, though, this marvelous visual aid depicts in color-coded splendor the maze of tunnels and other feats of modern engineering that inhabit the ground under our nation’s capital. This visual mapping allows Booth, Brennan and Dr. Goodman to determine where in the tunnels the murder may have occurred.

The tastiest dialogue nugget comes in the scene where the writers poke teasing fun at the “squints”, using the juxtaposition of Goodman/Brennan’s higher brain-powered analysis of the engineering tunnels with Booth's laser-like practicality.

Dr. Goodman to Bones (as they decide how to analyze the labyrinth of engineering schematics): Inductive, Reductive, or Deductive.
Brennan: Inductive.
Dr. Goodman: As you wish. (Goodman and Brennan start analyzing.
(Booth cuts in)
Booth: What about the diamond dust?.... (Seeing their expressions)...What I’m not allowed to help?
Dr. Goodman (as the professor, explaining the rules of the game to a student): That's deductive. We agreed on inductive reasoning.
Booth: Hey...Just trying to think outside your box.

What distinguishes the Bones supporting characters from other TV shows of the same genre (read: CSIs of all persuasions) is the way that these characters relate to each other, not just to Booth/Brennan. Whether it’s Jack’s dodging the paperwork associated with the principal piece of evidence in this case, or whether he’s showing his frustration with Zack’s inability to recognize or engage in small talk while working in the lab (“Those are rhetorical questions that I’m not expected to answer, right?”), these characters don’t just share plot-advancing dialogue with each other. They connect. They maintain relationships with each other that exist outside of Booth and Brennan and the lab and yet are inextricably linked to them.

Angela is earth-mother to Brennan (“You haven’t eaten a thing all day.”). She manages to seem un-squint-like while taking care of Brennan yet she exhibits the intelligence to design and run the Angelator and recognizes her own dynamite artistic skills as a forensic sketch artist (“…I’m good”). Angela rises above her own fears of the “homeless” man who may have murdered Marnie and dropped her body down an air shaft. In the interrogation room where she goes to interview Harold and to sketch the woman Harold thinks may have something to do with Marnie’s death, Harold complains about the brightness of this above-ground world. (“It’s too bright up here”). He has mentioned this before to Booth who ignored the comment. This time, however, Angela hears him. Without a word, she rises, crosses to the window and closes the shades so the room darkens. With that one move, she wins Harold over: an acknowledgment that treating people with kindness and respect can change interpersonal dynamics. As Brennan tells her, “You’re good at that.”

Furthermore, what viewer doesn’t identify with Jack’s frustration when he calls his boss (Brennan) to tell her he has found a critical piece of evidence in the case, yet Brennan hangs up on him without acknowledging the find (He says to himself, looking at the disconnected phone: “Good job, Hodgins. What would we do without you?”)

These characters are real, flawed, multi-layered and, most of the time, loving and lovable. They mirror the minor frustrations we all feel with our daily jobs in one form or another. They learn from each other and they change as a result of knowing each other.

Take this exchange among Zack, Jack, Brennan, and Goodman standing around the lab table discussing the second set of remains found in the oldest tunnel.

Goodman: Would you permit a bit of conjecture?
Brennan: You’re the boss.
Goodman: This fellow knew something of value was being stolen.
Jack: He came down there with an accomplice… (Realization dawns on him. He looks at Brennan). I apologize. I’ve been hanging around with Booth waaayyy too much.
Brennan (shrugging off his discomfort): It’s a valid hypothesis. No doubt one of many.
Zack (still caught up in the story): They argued, one killed the other for the treasure. But doesn’t that mean the vault will be empty when we find it? (He looks up at Jack) Oh – my – God! They got me too!

“Woman in the Tunnel” is a turning point in Season 1. The pure scientists, the lab rats, are no longer just Brennan’s “squints”. They are evolving. Brennan’s murder investigations outside of the lab are drawing her team away from their ivory tower existence and into the real world: They are becoming Booth’s people.

In sum, the writers, actors, and characters of “Woman in the Tunnel” will have you, too. In addition to Marnie’s murder, the plot has a 100-year old skeleton, buried treasure of a sort, and a murderer to catch. And yes, they solve the case but for that revelation, you’ll have to watch the episode.

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