'Bones' pushes some buttons

Davidboreanaz_bones_s3_240 Bones threatens to offend all of the people, all of the time with a tale that involves gender reassignment surgery, megachurch religion, and yappy, trivia-obsessed Englishmen. But damned if they don't end up with something that was actually touching and heartfelt. Not bad, Bones!

This spoiler spent one whole summer selling veggie burritos and following Phish.

The corpse of the week comes in two parts. The upper half of the skeleton that washes up in Chesapeake Bay had breast implants, so it's obviously a chick, right? The implants have serial numbers, so it's easy to identify the owner: Patricia Ludmuller, a good-looking blond who was the pastor at a community church on an isolated island.

Then the bottom half of the body washes up, and the pelvic structure says the skeleton is male. The vagina, on the other hand (and thank you, Cam, for not saying "vajayjay")... Obviously, we have a transgender woman who underwent gender reassignment surgery. It's not that difficult a concept to grasp. Except, of course, to Booth, who spends the first half of the episode wrestling with his inability to settle on a personal pronoun. Sigh.

Booth figures that Patty might have died at the hands of a man who couldn't deal with the idea of having slept with a transgender woman. The best suspect for that is JP, a parishioner who left a plaintive message on her answering machine. But Angela can see by looking at photos that JP knew about Patty's past, and he was fine with it. Besides, even though he fell in love with her, he insists they never slept together (after all, he's still married.)

Then Angela makes an interesting discovery -- Patty used to be Patrick Stevenson, the pastor at a megachurch who went on TV soliciting money from the faithful and decrying homosexuals. He disappeared on a trip in Southeast Asia, and his family thought him dead (or an early adopter of the Rapture). His wife and son were heavily involved in the church, so they might not have dealt well with Patrick's transformation to Patty. Patrick's wife refuses to believe Patty was Patrick, but DNA doesn't lie. Her son took over the ministry for a while, but he had a crisis of faith and stopped preaching. Perhaps he lashed out against his father.

Nope. Ryan left the church because he was tired of using God to bilk people out of their money. He's now a tattooed, pierced, punk who ministers at a detox center. He actually takes the news of Patrick's transformation into Patty very well -- especially when he finds out that Patty built a church that served those despised by society. It's just the kind of work he was trying to do, atoning for the sins of his past.

Evidence from the bones suggests Patty was struck by a boat -- and that whoever was driving the boat smashed Patty's hands, then drove back over her when she fell back into the water. The boat that did the deed belongs to JP -- but he's not the one who did the deed. His wife, Rita, was convinced that JP and Patty were having an affair. She decided to get rid of the other woman once and for all.

Booth and Brennan
Considering the subject matter, we had to deal with a certain amount of idiot Booth and socially tone deaf Brennan. Booth couldn't wrap his head around Patty's identity, and he kept saying Patty wasn't a "real woman." When he confronted JP in the interrogation room, he spewed enough of such silliness that Angela, who was listening in, said "You're just pretending to be a jerk to get a rise out of him, right?"  But Booth adapted, and finally seemed to accept, maybe even approve of, the choice Patty made. "Redemption through transformation," he says as Ryan preaches to Patty's congregation. "I get it." I think he just might.

Brennan was also dealing with one of her great blind spots: Religion. OK, we get it, she's a skeptic and most likely an atheist, she thinks religion is superstition, and doesn't respect any religious institution. But she respects Booth, right? So why can't she let him believe what he believes? She practically bellowed "What are you doing?" when Booth bowed his head to pray at Patty's memorial service, and stayed completely incredulous at any expression of faith throughout. I understand where it's coming from, but it's getting old.

Still, there were a couple of sweet moments. When Booth says "I know an 'ain't to proud to beg' phone call when I hear one," Brennan looks at him thoughtfully. "Have you made many of these 'ain't to proud to beg' calls in the past?" she asks. Hee! Then, when Booth observed that Patrick's wife wasn't fond of her husband, he used the fact that she only referred to him by his proper name. "I call you Booth and I like you just fine," Brennan says. "Thank you, but we're not married," Booth replies. It just sometimes seems like it... 

Later on, Booth waxes philosophical on how Patty was divided into two people -- Patrick, when she was a man, and Patty, the woman she became. In death, her body was cut in half by fishing line. "Do you think it means anything?" he asks Brennan. When she says no, he smiles a bit and says "I didn't think you would." He does know her well.

Even the end bit brought a certain grace note to the Booth/Brennan interaction. Booth says he gets the sermon, then asks "What do you believe in, Bones?" Brennan considers this for a moment, then says " I believe in always swimming with a buddy." Good to know.

The Lab Rats
Was this another out-of-order episode? Because last week, Angela and Hodgins worked out their issues. This week, Hodgins couldn't even look at Angela. It's annoying.

NotZack was a British guy who had a mind for trivia, and an inability to keep his fun facts to himself. Those include:

  • Tongue prints are as distinct as fingerprints.
  • The rods in the human eye are sensitive enough to detect the light from a struck match from as far as a mile away on a clear night
  • Women blink twice as often as men.
  • only 20 percent of Americans have passports.
  • Topless saleswomen are legal in Liverpool, but only in tropical fish stores.
  • It's absolutely impossible to kiss your own elbow

Ok, fine, good to know for a pub quiz, but hardly germane to the case. NotZack decides he's rather hang with a group of people who appreciate his nuggets of wisdom instead of insisting that they focus on solving murders. Bye, NotZack! It looks like only Cam will miss you.

Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends

  • NotZack tries to tell Hodgins that he's highly qualified to be in the lab. Ah, but Brennan calls you "mister," Hodgins says, which is "her very subtle way of saying you're not a doctor."
  • I like Cam a lot, but it bugged me that she seemed to be bolstering NotZack's ego because she thought he was cute. Come on, Cam -- you're better than that!
  • Hodgins makes his disdain for NotZack obvious. When NotZack asks what happened to the last guy, Hodgins looks at him for a beat, the spews out "He joined forces with a serial killer who was the last in a long line of cannibalistic murderers specializing in knocking off members of secret societies and building skeletons out of their body parts," all in one breath. Thanks for that pithy summary, Hodgins!
  • Booth theorizes that the sort of isolated island where Patty lived has some sort of seedy underbelly. "But what do I know, I'm from Philly, where the underbelly is on top." As someone who grew up near Philly, I can confirm that he's right.
  • Sweets has a slinky in his office, He should have known that's just the kind of shiny object Booth would use to distract himself in sessions.
  • Sweets does prove he knows his stuff when he bets Booth that Ryan will be working within 20 miles of his father's megachurch. Booth doesn't take it well when Sweets tries to collect.

What did you think -- did the storyline work for you, or do you think it threw in too many hot-button issues? Are you getting sick of NotZack, or do you like that conceit? Did the ending work for you, or was it too little, too late?

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