Fan Review: The Nail in the Coffin (Bones)

Some day I’m going to make a list of all the characters who are now in therapy due to finding a body on Bones. The mom and sister of this family will be toward the top of the list. (Though the winner is still the kid from the beginning of The Prisoner in the Pipe, who I’m certain has yet to pee in a toilet.)

Jumping into the story proper, it’s probably clear by now that the cases, while I appreciate the work that goes into them (the science*, the gadgets, making certain that everyone on the team contributes something every week) are really just the framework for me for character moments. Although I like following along and figuring out who did it, my focus is always where the emotion of the story is.

(*Did you know that Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder is totally a thing in the psych world, or trying to be?)

That said, the case here is not only important to the emotional beats (as we continue to transition from the effects of Pelant to the new threat, and set up the finale) but I thought very well done. The twists worked, and I liked how each new detail revealed another piece of the overall puzzle. Having established in The Ghost in the Killer that the McNamara family was dysfunctional, discovering here that that’s dysfunctional with a capital D contributed to this feeling like we were picking up the second part of an ongoing story, which I liked.

It’s also setting up the next chapter, the corruption in the bureau, and may have been a little heavy-handed there, but I think it needs to be, as one of the issues the show struggles with is how to tell serial stories in an episodic format (a not uncommon problem for many, if not most, shows.)

I figure there were three types of people watching the show last night: occasional viewers who missed The Ghost in the Killer when it aired in January, regular viewers who watched it, but hello, that was way back in January, when most North Americans, at least, were having our brain cells killed off by the Polar Vortex, and finally, the obsessed part of the audience who remembers every detail of that episode.

And those same three groups will be watching the finale in a couple of weeks, only some of them will be going, ‘wait – promotion? Corruption in the FBI? What?’ So the occasional heavy-handedness is intended, I think, to lodge a ‘there’s something HERE’ trigger in the memories of those who are watching while doing a dozen other things ranging from helping kids with homework, to, yes, flipping over to see what’s happening on a different channel.

That same problem, of how to connect serialized stories in a way that makes sense to irregular viewers without repeating what went before, is also at play with the character stories.

Watching this, if you’d not seen the January episode that set it up, I think you’d come away assuming that Brennan identified a serial killer that Cam believed she was wrong about, for no good reason beyond that she felt like being pissy – enough so to have given any related cases to Clark.

Since the focus here is that there is a Ghost Killer, and she’s caused problems among the team, that works as a setup for those who are just catching up with the story.

The problem is that, IMO, there were good reasons for Cam to give the cases to Clark. Brennan was obsessed with proving the existence of the Ghost Killer, to the point that she was refusing to work current cases and, oh, yeah, was also assuming things were true without any physical evidence, something decidedly out of character for her.

I’m generally pretty tolerant of Cam because I think she has a difficult job of being in charge of people she sometimes considers friends, not one of whom understands the concept of authority as applied to themselves.

But even believing that she was justified in what she did, I wanted to punch Cam in the face here. When Brennan shows up at the crime scene, and she says, ‘I told you not to come’? No. No, you didn’t, Cam. You took the chickenshit way out and put Booth in the middle, had him tell her you didn’t want her there, and then acted surprised and angry that he was pissed about it. Seriously, what did you expect he’d do?

And then… it was over, or nearly so. Even while still at the crime scene, they’re once more the team that finds answers, working together as they discuss the meaning of the fingernails. Back at the lab, Brennan calls for an apology from Cam…which she doesn’t get, and that’s it. From then on, things appear normal. Cam not only lets Brennan call the shots, she praises her work.

You know that ‘more than one type of family’ thing? Part of the wonder of families (well, the ones you want to be a part of, anyway) are that they can have knock-down-drag-out fights, and still present a united front to the world. (And really, this wasn’t that kind of fight, my desire to plant a brick in Cam’s face notwithstanding.)

But what I’m still wondering is whether the lack of tension after the scene in the lab is because they’re family, who’ve put the flap behind them and moved on, or if there’s going to be more to this story at some point, where we realize things haven’t really been put to rest?  (I still think Cam owes Brennan an apology, by the way.)

I’m a firm believer that the writers have the right to tell their story, and whatever I’d personally like to see (a deeper exploration of Cam and Brennan’s relationship, for example) is largely irrelevant. But I think it’s worth noting to the writers that I’m not sure what story I’m watching here in terms of their relationship. Cam was surprised when Brennan invited her to her bachelorette party, and so was I, a little.

But whatever is or was going on with Cam, there’s a nice contrast to it here in Brennan’s relationships with Clark and Booth.

I love Clark and Brennan together. In some ways, their relationship reminds me of a platonic version of her and Booth, in that Clark respects her completely, but isn’t afraid to be honest with her. However justified it might have felt to her, given Cam, the way Brennan’s acting when she gets to the crime scene isn’t fair, and isn’t in the best interests of the case. She knows it, and she also knows and trusts Clark, so while Caroline and Booth are expecting her to rip him to shreds for the arrogant comment, she instead goes to look at what he’s found.

And later, there’s this scene, which I love:

“I just have to say how much I appreciate how accepting you’ve been about me working with you on this case.”

“Yes. That is rare for me, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Yes, it is…I know Pelant told you you’d never be able to catch this Ghost Killer without his expertise. I’m determined to prove him wrong.”

“I appreciate that, Clark.”


His smile when he says, ‘yes, it is’ is one of pure affection, and that she clearly returns that is evident when she calls him Clark.

But what I really love in this episode is Booth’s defense of Brennan.  This isn’t the first time we’ve seen him do it this season, but it never gets old. He’s trying to do the right thing, to be the good soldier, acknowledging Cam’s right to choose who’s there. But he also knows that they’re a team, and that Brennan is essential to their success rate as crime solvers. “Bones should have been here from the beginning.”

His confidence in her pops up again, later, though, in a way that did initially puzzle me. During one of the conversations with Sweets and Caroline, he says, “Bones thinks the killer’s a woman; she’s never been wrong.” His confidence in her is well-deserved, but there’s never been any evidence that the killer was a woman, only Brennan’s belief that Pelant must have been correct in his theory about the gender of the killer.

Later, I realized that the answer is in the conversation they have about Booth’s problem-solving skills. When he thanks her for her support, she says, “How could I not support you? You believed in me even when there was no tangible evidence the Ghost Killer existed.”

Although Brennan does normally require physical evidence, there’s no reason at this point not to assume that she’s seeing the same things Pelant did and putting those clues together in the same way Booth’s gut does.

If that’s the logic here, I hope it’s something that gets revisited at some point. I wouldn’t expect Brennan to abandon her commitment to physical evidence in most cases, but having established that she believes in the idea of the gut being ‘highly developed observational powers’ it makes sense that we’d see her increasing awareness of her own skills in that area.

Meanwhile, there is another story going on here as well, of Booth and the promotion, and there’s another little bump here in terms of serial storytelling. Last week’s ep ended with Booth clearly distressed at the idea of a promotion if it involves his sniper skills; this week begins with him interested in what Brennan is saying about him.

He’s still Booth, and the promotion is not his focus – not when Caroline expresses concern about the “mucky-mucks” view of team conflict, and not when Stark references it when talking about why he’s glad Booth is leading the case. But he’s also not showing the reservations we saw last week, either.

I expect the answer, though, is that they can’t re-tell last week’s story this week by repeating his concerns about the promotion; the best they can do is to show that he’s up for one, mine for humor in the idea of Brennan filling out an evaluation form for him, and leave it at that until the next chapter in that story.

(I’m not commenting further on the corruption/promotion plot because I want this blog to stay spoiler-free, and it’s too easy for discussions to roam from speculation to spoiler. But I will have things to say about it over in the spoiler discussion thread at Bonesology later in the week.)

Bonus quotes:

“Is that my bureau assessment you’re filling out?”
“Yes. They wanted me to, because we’re partners. But you’re not allowed to look at it, it’s confidential.”
“What are all those papers there?”
“This is my answer to question 3a.”
“They only have three little lines for that!”
“It says use additional paper.if necessary.”
“There must be fifteen piece of paper here!”
“Eighteen.” (Booth and Brennan)


“Tons of money, and all that’s left is murder, sadness and secrets. I’m telling you,  I’m doing a hell of a lot better broke.” (Hodgins)


“And the nails?”
“That’s actually the most interesting finding.”
“Next time, please lead with the most interesting finding.”
“Well, I guess I like the build-up. I’m more of a crescendo kind of guy.” (Brennan and Clark)


“So Stark and Caroline are trying to figure out a deal so Kessler will cooperate.”
“He’s a killer.”
“Yeah, but who he killed… In the old west, they’d have made him a sheriff.” (Booth and Brennan)


“Does that mean I don’t have to finish filling out the questionnaire?”
“No, you know, you should still do it. The government, they love their paperwork.”
“Okay. There was one question asking if we had a relationship outside of work.”
“You should probably just skip that one.”
“Oh. I wrote all this.”
“This? Whoa – about our sex life?”
“Are you suggesting it isn’t interesting?”
“No!…But they don’t really care about that.”
“What if I’m called before congress to testify and they ask why I ignored the question?”
“Just ignore it for now. Here’s to catching the Ghost Killer.” (Brennan and Booth)



3 thoughts on “Fan Review: The Nail in the Coffin (Bones)

  1. Love this, you pretty much summed up what I felt/thought about this episode.

    One thing I want to add on the Cam “situation”; I really wanted them to call her on the whole suicide ruling for Trent McNamara’s death. She made that ruling; both Hodgins and Brennan said that was wrong, but Cam insisted, so now they had to change that.

    I loved that scene you highlighted between Clark and Brennan and the “That’s rare for me.” While at times Clark really has irritated me with is attitude, I couldn’t fault him at all this time (loved the crescendo comment too).

    I have been so incredibly happy with Booth and Brennan lately it scares me. I rarely get that in my ships. 😀 Oh where did his socks fit into that quote above? Brennan putting the info in his evaluation about his socks never making it into the laundry basket reminded me of Panhandle and her telling him not to blame gravity for his underwear on the floor. 😉

    • My problem isn’t with Cam’s decisions (i.e., with the suicide ruling) – under other circumstances, the rest of them would be all about following the physical evidence, too. But she’s being a hardass when she doesn’t need to be and when it’s making the situation worse. And then she flips back, as she did here.

      As to the socks, yeah, I did edit that out, though I loved it. It’s a long quote, and I thought it was either find a way to shorten it, or leave it out entirely.

      • What irked me with the suicide ruling was that in this episode she acted as though she’d had nothing to do with that original ruling. If I hadn’t watched the first Ghost Killer episode I’d never have known from this one that she was the one who ruled it suicide. I just wanted her to acknowledge…oops, but it was the only ruling I could make at the time. Something.

        Kind of the same way she just blew off the fact that she really should have apologized.

        And people complain about Brennan always having to be right! 😛

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