Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guest Episode Review - #117 "The Skull in the Desert"

Time for the next Bones Season 1 Episode review: The Skull in the Desert! 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
# 111 - "The Woman in the Tunnel" - Winona
# 112 - "The Superhero in the Alley" - Ellynne
# 113 - "The Woman in the Garden" - Kate
# 114 - "The Man on the Fairway" - sai
# 115 - "Two Bodies in the Lab" - This review is classified as Missing in Action. Please email obsessedwithbones[at]gmail[dot]com if you happen to spot this review or have any information. There is no financial reward but any information would be appreciated. Help us track down our beloved episode review so that we may share it with all fans!
# 116 - "The Man with the Bone" - Emma
This review was written by em-jay.

Season 1 list - all covered, still need 3 submitted
Season 2 list - 1 or 2 free!

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The Skull in the Desert

Who doesn’t love a good Angela-centric story? This is the first Bones case to personally involve one of the team members. Brennan’s turn is coming up shortly followed by Hodgins, Zack, and Cam, but I think Angela is a good choice as the first team member for case involvement. There is a bit of mystery to her and how she fits in her role as semi-normal-but-still-squinty, flirtatious, free-spirited artist, and still Brennan’s best friend. Knowing Brennan as we do, we sometimes wonder what prompted their friendship in the first place and how does it keep surviving?

Overall feel of the episode: I’ll be honest, after the first time I watched it, it wasn’t my favorite one. But now I seem to like it more and more each time I watch it. So, since I enjoy the episode so much, let me get the nit-picking out of the way.

What didn’t I like about his episode?
-How are we supposed to believe that Angela has had a boyfriend for three weeks a year for the past five years, and this is the first we’ve heard him mentioned? Even if they only spend three weeks together every year, I doubt they avoid all communication for the other 49 weeks. But they create a history between Angela and the community to make it believable enough that I will ignore it and suspend reality for the time being.

-Also, what’s the deal with Angela having to call Brennan down in the first place? Once Angela sees the skull, why can’t she do any kind of facial reconstruction or sketch? Isn’t she Angela Montenegro, Forensic Artist? Why does she need Brennan to tell her if it’s Kirk? Does she really need Brennan to place the tissue markers? Can’t she look at the skull and have some indicators of the person she knows? Think “Intern in the Incinerator” here. Or maybe it just takes two more seasons for her to get that good…

-Lastly, if Kirk only got three weeks with Angela each year, why did he agree to go off on a photo shoot while she was there? When Angela called Brennan, she said he left “five days ago.” Even if he was only planning to be gone one day, it still seems odd. If she’s visiting him for their annual together-time, you’d think he’d plan for the vacation. Again, we just have to suspend reality, I suppose.

That being said, there is still so much to appreciate. Getting some or all of the team out of the lab is always an exciting episode. These become some of our favorites.

The case recap: Angela is off in the desert when her photographer boyfriend, Kirk Persinger, goes missing. About five days later, a skull shows up on the sheriff’s doorstep. She calls Brennan asking (but not asking) for help, and Brennan drops everything to fly out of D.C. to be with Angela. With only a skull available to them, Angela knows it needs to be sent back to the Jeffersonian for examination. Brennan then enlists Booth’s help to persuade Sheriff Dawes to let the Jeffersonian team help with the investigation. Once Zack and Hodgins determine that the skull belongs to Kirk, the priority seems to be on finding his guide, Danny, before strictly focusing on Kirk’s killer. Naturally, they go hand-in-hand, but as always, the priority is on rescuing someone you hope is alive and then identify the killer. They hope that one might lead to the other.

Since the episode is mostly off-site, the remaining Jeffersonian team members spent most of their screen time together. So I decided to lump them together for the purposes of the review, starting with Goodman. It’s always great to see him do something significant outside his realm as boss. Identifying the counterfeiter’s dyes was an interesting use of his skills, but I had more appreciation of his purpose in this episode of acting as the father-figure to the team.

Goodman really pours out the tough love with Zack which is a huge push for Zack to move forward as a character. It would be too easy to just write in his earning of the doctorate without seeing his progress, but watching it makes it that much easier to sympathize with the kid and even humanizes the squintiest of the squints. It is perfect for us to see his struggle toward accomplishing that goal as well as his struggle with what the accomplishment of that goal means that he would be leaving behind: the opportunity to work under the esteemed Dr. Temperance Brennan. Our hearts break with his as he has to hear Goodman tell him, “You can’t assist Dr. Brennan forever.” It’s a bit harsh for poor Zack, but as he told Hodgins, he has Zack’s best interests at heart, and “we have to think of what’s best for him.”

It’s quite touching, and I think very realistic, how much sadness there is among the team on behalf of Angela when they determine the skull belongs to Kirk. It’s pre-“more than one kind of family,” but they are a family nonetheless. A family feels the pain that another member feels, and Hodgins and Zack are not happy to have to break the news to Brennan because they know what it will mean for Angela. I think that Brennan had to see this emotion toward Angela before she could accept it from the team toward her in The Woman in Limbo.

Even with less screen time, Hodgins doesn’t let us down. He still dishes out the goofy comments and competitive nature that make him so much more complex than the run-of-the-mill Bug, Slime, and Particulates expert.

“Who vacations in the desert? It’s like lunching at the dump.”
“Angela! We’re betting. Are you using Crisco or butter for sunscreen?”

The dynamic between Hodgins and Zack is always entertaining. We know that Zack can drive Hodgins crazy, but his protective nature flares up at Goodman when they need to pressure him toward growth. It begins with Hodgins and Zack arguing in front of Goodman. How much more “father figure” can you get than having each of the “boys” present his case, and Goodman has to determine the “winner” of the argument? And poor, frustrated, unappreciated Zack walks away with Hodgins smirking at another win.

It’s not long before Hodgins’ attitude changes. After Brennan expresses disappointment in how long it took Zack to get back to her, we see the change in heart for Hodgins. He looks a little proud, a lot impressed, and slightly chagrined that Zack didn’t go the childish route that Hodgins had earlier. When it would have been easy to play the blame game, Zack shows maturity that has Hodgins building respect for him. Zack is starting to come into his own!


It’s so nice to see Booth at his FBI best once again. Sure, we like the heroic Booth, the sentimental and romantic Booth, the protective Booth, and even the goofy Booth, but if we’re honest, he wouldn’t be the other half of the “best crime solving team” if he wasn’t diligent. He even gives Brennan a bit of a hard time about it, too. After all, she’s the one that asked him to fly down there and “get federal on his a--.”

Booth: Last night before I left, I used my FBI powers to force the sheriff to send the skull back to the Jeffersonian. Talked to him this morning. You know, he seems a little resentful.

Brennan: What time is it?
Booth: Let’s go. Drink that on the way.
Brennan: Wha…? On the way where?
Booth: You know, to go check out the model/guide/whatever’s place.
Angela: Danny. Can I come with you?
Booth: No, no, no. We can ask tougher questions if you’re not there.
Brennan: Wait outside while I get dressed.
Booth: No. Uh-uh. The sun’s been up for an hour out there. It’s already the surface of Mercury. I can stand here and close my eyes, eat my doughnut. Best I can do. Okay.

Brennan called him at night (Angela was going to bed), and he somehow managed to “use his FBI powers” to get the sheriff to cooperate about the skull, get flights, and stop and talk to the sheriff before going to see Brennan and Angela before the sun was even up for an hour. That’s what got him to where he is in the FBI.

At this point in Season 1, Booth is still struggling to prove his worth (whether it’s in his own eyes or theirs) to this bunch of genius squints, and when Brennan acknowledges his expertise, he deserved that chance to puff up his chest in pride. Booth’s face is priceless when he realizes that Brennan does, in fact, appreciate what he does and the power he wields with that badge of his.

As much as Booth picks on the squints, it’s very touching that Angela needs only to say his name for him to know exactly when to step back and let her talk Sheriff Dawes into letting her develop the film from Kirk’s camera. And Brennan was still clueless…

Brennan: With your sister maybe still alive out in the desert, every hour counts.
Dawes: Can’t do it.
Angela: (whispers) Booth…

Booth gave her this look:

…and began to talk about Wayne Kellogg and usher Brennan out of the offices.
Booth: He lied. Let’s go check him out.
Brennan: What will we be looking for?
Booth: Oh, what we always look for. You know, something that doesn’t fit, something that, you know (winks at Angela) somethin’.

We also see a bit of Booth’s cocky side (pre-belt buckle!) when he tells the sheriff that he’s trained as an Army Ranger (“Does that mean anything to you?”); yet, he does it with a clear intention to use his skills for another person’s benefit. He doesn’t overdo the display of his cocky side, but when he does show it, it is often tempered by his generosity. We wouldn’t see him as the heart person he is if he was only cocky.

Brennan really shines in this episode. There is a good balance of the real human in her while still being slightly socially awkward. She is definitely in the role of the true friend, giving us a clearer picture of how she and Angela were ever able to forge their friendship to begin with, while still showing an appropriate level of the strictly rational scientist.

Angela: Brennan, if you hug me and you be all caring, it’s because you think Kirk is dead or because he was sleeping with Danny.
Brennan: No, it’s because… I’m sorry that my friend is upset because someone she loves is missing.

Brennan: And if he was yours, 100% yours for three weeks a year, that’s…that’s more than I’ve ever had.

I think that if we never saw the bonding and growth in their relationship, we’d have a hard time believing that they really DO have a history together as best friends. It’s nice to see that relationship reinforced every once in a while. I love that she “up and left” on vacation at a moment’s notice because she knew Angela needed her. It is a nice glimpse into her humanity and how their friendship works without being out of character.

We also have another shout-out to the “Brain and Heart” theme, this time discussed between Brennan and Angela.

Angela: You promise? From your heart?
Brennan: Better, from my head. …And, yes, Ange, I promise…from my heart…you will get another chance.

Angela’s personality is also well-portrayed throughout. The pace of the episode, the beauty of the scenery, and the intricacies of the community and history pay tribute to the depth of Angela’s character. The song being played when she is finding Danny is simply beautiful, and it fits Angela’s character so well.

Booth and Brennan On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of development of the B&B “relationship” yet in this episode, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Let’s examine the evidence: Booth has definitely agreed to this favor because Brennan asked him to, but he’s also helping out Angela because she is part of the team. It could be argued that he only agreed to Brennan because a) she boosted his ego, and b) she’s his partner; however, his dedication to helping her best friend could not go unnoticed by Brennan. He treated them both with kindness and tenderness without shirking his responsibilities. Whether Brennan would admit it this early in Season 1 or not, Booth must have built up major brownie points just for taking that trip.

It’s interesting that we see Booth do this for Brennan (primarily) and Angela (secondarily) because Brennan asks him to right before we watch him barge his way into a hospital to help Brennan despite the fact that she told him she didn’t need him. I think Brennan probably needed to see Booth’s dedication progress in this way specifically because she may not have handled it as well if she thought it was only directed at her. If she knows that Booth’s protective nature runs that deeply for any member of the team, she will have less of a desire to push him away immediately for being overprotective.

This brings up another common theme of Bones: the competition between Booth and Brennan. There seems to be a lack of it in this episode. With Booth, Brennan, and Angela away from the lab, they were basically on their own, even having very little FBI backing as well. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I think they need the occasional reprieve from the competition of “I’m here to protect you” vs. “I don’t need to be protected” and “We’re a team” vs. “I can handle anything on my own” in order to continue to confirm the structure and stability of their partnership. Of course, it wouldn’t be Booth and Brennan if they didn’t have their moments of bickering.

Brennan: Booth, please. Angela’s boyfriend is missing, maybe dead. It—it took all of my charm-
Booth: All your charm? Oh, boy.
Brennan: -just to get the sheriff to let me look at the skull.

Booth: No offense to Angela, but she doesn’t even really know this guy. She’s only with him, what? Only three weeks out of the year?
Brennan: Uh, no offense to you, but you are a stodgy traditionalist when it comes to relationships, buddy.

Brennan: What if he’s escaping out the back door?
Booth: You don’t spend a lot of time in trailers, do you?

The awkwardness of having to interrogate Angela is so appropriate and pulled off so well by Emily and David here. There is a knowledge that they really don’t want to have to ask her the difficult questions, and yet they do it because it is their responsibility. The ease with which they do it shows how very good they are at their jobs, and their sensitivity toward Angela acknowledges the closeness of the team without compromising the integrity of their work.

It’s funny to watch Brennan shove Booth out of the sheriff’s office when things didn’t go his way. Sheriff Dawes was being purposefully vague with Booth, and Booth didn’t like being out of the loop:
Booth: If Joseph is the murderer, he’s just sending you on a wild-goose chase.
Dawes: Well, then, we know he’s the murderer, and all we’ve wasted is a tank of gas and a goose chase.
Brennan: How far are we going?
Dawes: A ways.

We’re so used to seeing Booth initiate the physical contact to stop her from talking, get her out of a room, squelch an argument in the making, calm her down, etc. The few times we see Brennan initiate the contact always catches our attention and seems more powerful. She is just as invested in the partnership and keeps him on task when necessary just as he does for her.

We don’t have a typical end-of-episode scene with Booth and Brennan. However, unlike The Doctor in the Den, I didn’t miss it. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Tamara Taylor did an amazing job, and it was an interesting way to develop her character (sorry, that’s someone else’s review!), but I still missed our B&B scene. With this episode, I didn’t feel at all ripped off that Angela was a part of it. It was quite appropriate since this was her episode, and it still showed a great deal of love and respect among them that they are able to tease each other without being hurtful. We see how much Booth and Angela (heavily heart people) respect the brain that makes Brennan the amazing woman they know and love.

Brennan: Obviously you subconsciously sifted through the rational facts of the case and processed the most likely scenario.
Angela: I’m sure that’s it.
Booth: Yeah, what else could it be?
Angela: Well that’s the only rational explanation.
Brennan: Are you guys making fun of me?
Booth: You know, let’s go back home, you know, where there’s water, shelter, and living things.

Other favorite quotes:
Angela: We’re about 100 miles past where Jesus lost His sandals.
Brennan: I assume that means we’re extremely isolated.
Sheriff Dawes: Welcome to the Merville County Morgue. (How gross is that skull in the sealed up plastic bag all covered in residue?!)
Angela: She wants the plate, Ben, not the muffin. (Her friends always step in to translate for her!)
Booth: Okay, who are you, Dr. Phil?
Brennan: Who’s Dr. Phil? Some kind of expert?
Booth: He likes to think so.
Brennan: Who are you?
Alex Joseph: I’m the guy holding the big gun.
Booth: Yeah, on a federal agent, which I’ve been very nice about so far.
Brennan: Let’s rush him. He can’t shoot us both.
Sheriff Dawes: Angie, maybe he deserved more…not my place to say, but he couldn’t have done better. No man could. (I imagine Hart Hanson must be a very chivalrous man they way they have so many men treating women with respect and dignity. It’s very refreshing to see in the media today.)
Brennan: How long do you think we’ll survive out here if the sheriff doesn’t come back?
Booth: Three days, max.
Angela: How far are we from the highway?
Booth: Five days, minimum.
Brennan: I don’t like that math.
Brennan: Only Angela could get a ride in the middle of nowhere.
Angela: I don’t know what that means.

Brennan: My lungs are gonna come out through my throat.
Booth: You know, where I come from, when you say you’re driving “a ways,” you know, it means 45 minutes.
Angela: Out here, it means 4 hours.
Brennan: We’ve been driving five.
Dawes: I maybe should’ve said “quite a ways.”

Thanks for reading! Comments? Disagreements? I’d love to hear your take, too.

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