Essential Bones: The Boy in the Shroud

(I figured I’d post this in place of a fan review, since there’s no new Bones episode this week, but we’ll be back on a regular schedule next Tuesday, when Natesmama will post her thoughts on Aliens in a Spaceship for this series.)

Things changed at the beginning of season two, and it presented us with a conundrum in terms of this series. From a plot point of view, the first episode, The Titan on the Tracks, gives the most straightforward account of why Dr. Goodman left, who Cam is, and why she’s there — as well as also following up on the prison death of Vince McVicker.

But from a character perspective, an argument can be made for the season’s third ep, The Boy in the Shroud, being more important to the overall story. It’s where the show not only explores the consequences of Cam taking over as boss, but also sets up the team dynamics that are still in play today – and it does so via a case that hits particularly close to home for Brennan.

The episode begins with Cam and Booth revealing a shared bias that the remains of a teen boy found in a garbage truck must be those of a street kid; later, Cam’s more narrow bias, against foster kids, becomes even more apparent.

I like Cam, as a rule. But here? She’s an ass.

Let’s be honest: all of the characters on the show reveal a bias of one kind or another at times, and Cam’s is at least founded in statistics and her experience as a coroner, so she’s not completely wrong to point it out – in a similar situation, Brennan would do the same thing, falling back on data to support her position.

But Cam’s determination to shut down every line of inquiry that doesn’t fit with her conclusion about what happened is rather mystifying to me.

Early on, when she tries to narrow Angela’s first ID search, she says, “This is why I was appointed to this job, Dr. Brennan – to streamline the process,” and I believe that’s a clue to what’s going on: she’s still trying to figure out how to do what she was hired to do, which includes managing a group of brilliant, difficult-to-manage people.

But she doesn’t yet know them, and digging in her heels and attempting to control everything they do nearly leads to disaster, as she threatens to fire Brennan.

(Disastrous for her, that is, because trying to explain to her bosses why she was suddenly having to find replacements for the entire team, beginning with the irreplaceable forensic anthropologist, and including their FBI liaison, probably wouldn’t have looked good on her first annual review.)

Fortunately, Booth steps in and I think his confirmation that Angela wasn’t making an idle threat when she said, ‘you lose her, you lose us all’ allows Cam to step back and reassess.


“I’m with Bones, Cam. All the way. Don’t doubt it for a second.”

There are different ways of coming to know someone, and Cam’s long history with Booth – and, perhaps, the fact that he’d had the same knee-jerk response she had initially about the victim’s identity – allows her to trust what he’s saying enough to recognize that more will be gained by working with Brennan than by fighting her at every turn.

Cam’s not the only one with control issues, and we learn more about Brennan in the episode, as well – not only about her past as a foster child, but also how that past affected her. Plus, because it comes via Booth, it allows us to see her through his eyes:

“You know, they say with foster kids, they’re really hard on themselves.”


“Yeah. Experts, psychologists, like that. Apparently, foster kids feel so alone in this mean world, they lose that knack of trusting other people.”

“You mean at work?”

“Uh, everywhere. You know, the weight of the world. It’s – It’s just profound. They say that they, uh, have a hard time letting themselves off the hook. They grow up with control issues.”

It’s not the most articulate he’s ever been, but she trusts his analysis and runs with it, telling Cam in the last scene, “Booth says that I have…well, something about control issues and the weight of the world…I really hate psychology.”

That scene, with the two of them in the diner, sets up everything that comes later in terms of how the lab is run, or rather, co-run, because they balance each other out, both leading in different ways: Cam’s the boss in an administrative and personnel sense, and while Brennan’s unquestionably the head scientist, they’re more flexible than you might expect, occasionally switching roles.

There’s trust there, on both sides, and respect, and that recent moment that I absolutely loved, when Cam looked to Brennan for the strength to autopsy Sweets? It began here:


In addition to giving us the true start of that relationship, and to showing us just how deep Booth’s knowledge of, and commitment to, Brennan was, even at that early stage, The Boy in the Shroud gave us one more thing, as well, that’s important to the larger story.

It gave us this, as Hodgins and Angela continued to take slow steps toward a romantic relationship:


It’s a quiet, wordless, moment, and all the more effective for being so.

All of that is why, while watching this instead of The Titan on the Tracks might confuse a new viewer on a few points, the overall power of what’s established here makes it worth it.


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