“The Ghost in the Machine” is, at its essence, a pretty standard “Bones” story. The two-year-old remains of a teenage boy are found partially buried in an abandoned greenhouse. Brennan immediately theorizes the age and sex of the victim, while Angela’s facial reconstruction proves that the victim is Colin Gibson.
As the clues and the suspects run through the story, we learn the following:
- Colin had a significant history of injuries, eventually explained by a daredevil, athletic lifestyle.
- His parents are crushed and not guilty of anything.
- Colin’s friends turn out to be some older kids who encouraged crazy stunts and bravery.
- Discoloration of the skull indicates that the body had to have been moved — from an abandoned shack to the greenhouse.
- It turns out that the victim died when he fell while “surfing” on the hood of his father’s classic car.
- The two older boys in Colin’s crowd were driving and hid the body out of shame. The older girl (on whom Colin had a crush) knew nothing of this.
That’s pretty much it for the case and the investigation. This is because the story in “The Ghost in the Machine” is much more about how each person involved faces the possibility that the victim is watching.
Avalon Harmonia’s story
Remember how Angela (Michaela Conlin) has a favorite psychic who may or may not be full of it? Well, Avalon Harmonia (guest star Cyndi Lauper) is back for the 150th episode. She shows up at the Jeffersonian because she feels that the dead boy is still present, needing closure before he can move on.
Obviously, the vast majority of the squints think this is crazy, so Avalon has to sneak around in order to get any time with the skull.
It’s debatable as to whether the psychic actually helps much. Avalon does explain to the boy that he would have led a good life but has to go now. Dead Colin seems to ignore this and sticks around. It’s not the murder that has Colin stuck in his own skull. So what is it?
As we have seen several time over recent episodes, Angela is not OK just thinking of victims as body parts. She has to humanize them. That makes this a particularly tough case for her. Angela mostly deals with this by talking to the skull like he is an actual teenage boy — one who has a crush on her. Subtle flirting and active compassion are fully evident when the artist is alone with the remains.
Like his wife, Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) treats the skull like a real kid. In between testing paint chips and dealing with wasp infestations (the wasps eventually are the key to discovering the original dump site), Hodgins talks to young Colin about what was coming in adolescence. Much of this conversation would probably be mysterious to an actual 14-year-old kid, but the scientist’s reminiscences definitely shine a light on where Hodgins came from.
Cam (Tamara Taylor) does not play a major part in the investigation — the remains were too decomposed for her job to apply much. And initially, she isn’t a fan of Avalon and her psychic theories.
But there is more going on in Cam’s head. Within seconds of mocking Hodgins for talking to Colin’s skull, Cam does the same. She wants the kid to pass on a message to her mother about how she’s happy. You know, if that’s how it works.
Brennan and Booth’s story
The central couple of “Bones” pretty much sticks together in this episode. And Colin’s skull becomes kind of a third wheel to them.
Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is not impressed initially by the concept that any part of Colin could remain after his death. This isn’t surprising, considering Brennan’s standard view on anything non-empirical. Still, she is intrigued by the idea that the remains are watching and caring about what she does. Brennan begins to talk to the skull as she works.
And then she takes Colin home with her for the night.
Her odd choice does help the case — late at night, Brennan realizes that the bone discoloration is a key clue that points the team in the right direction. As for Booth (David Boreanaz), he is understandably creeped out and saddened by the presence of a child’s skull in their home. By the morning, however, he just wants to say a prayer for the boy.
While traveling out to find evidence, Booth and Brennan contemplate Colin further as they play a mix CD the boy gave to his crush just before dying. The music is a pretty good selection for a kid — except for the part when the audio screeches unpleasantly.
The end of the story
Once the guilty kids have been found (not sure what their actual crime was, but they definitely ended up in trouble for something) and the death has been explained, Colin should be ready to leave.
He doesn’t. Not right away, anyway. Avalon thinks that something else remains undone, and Angela goes to Brennan to figure out this impossible secret. She does. The secret is in the mix tape.
That screeching noise turns out to be a video file on the CD, showing Colin playing a love song on his guitar for the girl. As the song ends, our point of view shifts away from the skull for the first time, and we see (along with Avalon) a happy Colin skateboarding away.
Later on, Booth presents Brennan with her own mix tape (a collection of MP3 files in this case), featuring their song, “Hot Blooded.” And the family dances into the end of the 150th episode.
A few quotes for the road…
- Booth, to the skull: “We’re gonna find out what happened to you, kid.”
- Hodgins, to Angela: “I love it when you hang onto your humanity, even when it means I get yelled at.”
- Hodgins, to the skull: “I’ve never seen Brennan tear up from a victim before, so big ups there!”
- Cam, to her mother, via the skull: “I’m 87 percent happy and I love you very much!”
- Brennan, to the skull: “I lied when I said you died instantly. Sweets said it would be kinder to your parents.”
- Avalon, to the skull: “You’re still here after my beautiful speech?”
- Colin (in video): “I just felt like I was going to die if I didn’t tell you how I really feel.”