This episode is the third and final installment involving serial killer Howard Epps. We first met this very creepy creature in Season One’s A Man on Death Row, where he is literally the man on death row who cleverly manipulates both Booth and Brennan (and a naive young lawyer) into a stay in his execution (by Booth and Brennan finding more bodies). He continues his torment from behind bars in Season Two’s The Blonde in the Game, inflicting more pain on both his victims and our team trying to solve the case. This episode is a great capstone – not only because we are again battling a known nemesis, but the case involves the whole team, both in personal danger and good old-fashioned crime solving. I personally love episodes that keep the most screen time on the cast and less on guest actors; I like sticking close to home (a la The Man in the Fallout Shelter, Aliens in a Spaceship, Verdict in the Story, Hero in the Hold, to name a few). I know we can’t see our team in mortal danger every week – that wouldn’t be logical – but these episodes rise to the top in
an obsessed fan’s my mind. Overall, this is a great episode. Danger! Romance! Serial Killers! The Big Gun! Parker! What more could you ask for (shipper dreams aside)?
Despite my lackluster science and math grades growing up, I seek out the forensic anthropology in each episode, which separates Bones from every other crime drama out there. It’s one of the reasons why Bones is better. In our CSI world, fancy equipment solves many crimes. We take it for granted. It takes something more, someone better to look at a skeleton and deduce facts that solve the mystery. She can find a needle in a haystack, or a greenstick fracture hidden in a bone, and that tells a story. In the episode’s opening, Booth and Brennan have been called in to identify the very charred remains found in Howard Epps’s prison cell. Brennan quickly discovers that the wrist she is examining has a fresh break, whereas she broke Epps’s wrist long ago. And then Emily Deschanel perfectly delivers a line that sets everything in motion. Brennan, with complete confidence and exasperation states, “This is not Howard Epps.” And now, the devil’s loose.
The Heart and the Head
Bones, the show, is all about the heart in one corner and the head in another, duking it out to see who comes up the winner, if there could ever be one. In this episode, we have an actual heart and an actual head involved in the case, and very much a sense of mind games and logic vs. personal relationships. Epps plays his game by getting at Brennan through her friends and colleagues. First hit is Angela, who receives a bloody human heart in the mail courtesy of Epps. Then they find his ex-wife’s severed head in a fridge. The Bones body guys deliver again – that severed head looks all too real, add the fact that Cam reasons her head was severed while she was still alive, and it becomes all the more gruesome. Next hit is Booth, via son Parker. The boy is safe – Epps only used him to send a message – but that pushes Booth into pressuring Cam to buck protocol and cut open the severed head, which poisons her. Now Cam is dying in the hospital and Zack is almost blown up trying to retrieve the unknown poison from the found body of Epps’s ex-wife. The question in this episode is how much pain and damage will Epps inflict on the team before they are able to catch him?
Cam and Booth
We find out later that the show runners had planned to kill Cam off in this episode all along, but liked her (and I assume actress Tamara Taylor) so much they decided to keep her. As much as fans would have liked to see Cam go at this point, since she was stealing the affections of Booth, I am glad she didn’t go. It would have added even more anger to Booth and extra heaviness to the episode. It’s enough that Booth had to let Epps die; we didn’t need the death of his close friend/lover. Plus, I like that Booth decided to end it with her instead of her being taken away. (Shaking fist in air at Hart Hanson and Co. for knowing what we want even if we don’t know what we want)!
Booth and Brennan
We see how far they’ve come as partners in this episode when they both come to the same conclusion - on their own - that Epps was hiding out in the apartment next door to Brennan. Brennan battles the fact that Epps is after her friends and it is, as Epps puts it, all her fault. She is working out the game with Epps, while her friends are hurting, and trying to remain a good partner to Booth. All the while Booth has an ongoing battle with redemption. He spends most of the episode trying hard to protect everyone, yet ultimately he’s the one responsible for taking another life and thus one more life to make up for in the world. Could Booth have really saved Epps from falling to his death or did he let him go? The writers leave that up to us to decide. Will Booth let Epps live and continue to torment Brennan or let him fall and take one evil guy out of this world? Perhaps Booth doesn’t really know. Either way, he is not proud of himself and knows all too well the toll that takes on his conscience. We see this manifest in the next few episodes.
Brennan (about Epps): I wish you’d let me shoot him.
Booth: No, you don’t.
This episode also contains the quintessential “line that can’t be crossed” conversation. While we shippers believe this is the moment Booth rules out the possibility of being with Brennan romantically, I think in hindsight it is much more subtle. He seems to be clearly indicating to Brennan that what he had with Cam is now over, and perhaps less prominently ruling out something with Brennan as well.
Booth: Yeah, people who work in high risk situations, they can’t be involved romantically because it leads to things like what happened.
Brennan: High risk situations.
Booth: Every single day it’s with us. There’s this line and we can’t cross it. You understand what I’m saying?
Brennan: Yes, I understand.
This case hit him hard, and in a way, he is turning into Brennan – shutting out getting close to someone to avoid pain.
Booth: It’s important to make things right. I just don’t know how.
That pretty much sums up Booth and all the things he tries to right in a world gone wrong. Our hero is going to be tormented by this one for while…
The episode includes some additional classic lines. A few favorites:
Booth: You stay close okay; a lot of these animals haven’t seen a real woman since Reagan was President.
Angela (to Hodgins): Short men have better leverage.
Zack: I’m feeling uncomfortable.
Booth: You and Epps, okay, it’s personal. You’re everything that he hates.
Brennan: What is that exactly?
Booth: Well, you know, you’re a smart, strong, confident woman. And you figured him out, you made him feel powerless. So he’s going to want to prove that you’re weak and inferior. Soooo, you are not to go out on your own. Ever.
Booth (about Brennan’s big gun): Okay, you know people see you with that and the next thing you know everyone in this place is going to start packing.
Brennan: This is America, get used to it.
Hodgins: Beautiful woman with a weapon? Very Guns & Ammo summer issue.
Hodgins: I’m going to concentrate on my work now.
Brennan: Did you have to be so rough on him?
Booth: There was a bomb, I was being, you know, heroic.
Zack: I was heroic too.
Brennan: Yes, you were.
Booth: Somebody saved somebody, that’s all I’m saying.
Booth: I guess if you have to explain to yourself why you’re a hero, you’re not really a hero.