This week’s episode was penned by Kathy and Kerry Reichs. As we already know by now, Kathy is the real life inspiration for Temperance Brennan. I always look forward to any episode she writes, as I know to anticipate a very thrilling and intricate plot. Not only was the case complex and intriguing this week, the character stories were just profoundly beautiful. Especially as it related to Brennan and Clark. This season continues to impress me, each and every week. And The Stiff in the Cliff definitely did not interrupt the pattern of my personal perceived perfection.
Use Your Words
At the beginning of the episode, Booth finds his wife and daughter glued to the television set in their living room. Booth points out that it happens to be a weekday, which apparently means that Christine should not be watching any TV. But Brennan assures him that it is educational. It’s the news, after all. At first, Booth appears interested, as the story is related to a famous missing explorer- Henry Charles. But when the anchor begins talking about the (fictional) “Frank Party” and harrowing tales of cannibalism, Booth swiftly turns it off. Though, he happens to be a tad too late. Christine asks her parents about cannibalism. Brennan, of course, informs her daughter point blank. “Ew.” I so love seeing how Booth’s and Brennan’s parenting styles differ. We knew that there would be surprising similarities and stark differences when it came to opinions on child rearing. And something we have always known about Brennan is that she believes in telling the truth to kids. However, Booth believes that his “first grade monkey” should wait until middle school to talk about humans consuming other humans. Christine is a bit anxious about going to school. She is concerned about her friend Emma (I wonder if this was the Emma who Christine bit in preschool), who has been bullied by a boy in their class. Booth tells Christine to stand up for her friend. But Christine wants to know if she should push the boy back. With a not so subtle look from Brennan, Booth informs Christine that she should never push people. Brennan adds that Christine should use her words. I love seeing these two parent together. These are moments I cherish because I never could have imagined seeing anything like this 11 years ago.
Brennan receives a notification informing her that she has been chosen to identify the remains in question. She is ecstatic, and proceeds to rush frantically around the house. She then starts adorably yelling about her jacket. At the lab, Clark confirms that the victim is indeed Henry Charles. As it turns out, he too was on the famed expedition when he was just an undergraduate student. Upon further examination, Brennan discovers that Charles did not die of hypothermia, as originally posited. He was actually murdered. And after finding out that Clark was a member of the expedition, he is now a suspect.
We have known Clark Edison a bit longer than the other squinterns. He was around back when Zack was still working at the Jeffersonian. I think, as an audience, we knew immediately that he could not have killed this man. I certainly did not need any proof. His history with these people was evidence enough. And I have to assume that everyone at the lab knew he had to be innocent as well. But they are scientists. And they have to approach this case as they would any other. Objectively.
At one point during the case, Booth and Brennan are heading to speak to the archaeologist on the team, Marcus Eldridge. He is famous for writing the quintessential book on the discovery of the Frank Party. As the partners are walking around a college campus, Brennan gets a text from Christine’s teacher informing her that Christine has called the class bully a “troglodyte.” Booth is amused because their daughter is only doing what she was told. She is using her words. But Brennan did not want Christine to involve herself in the conflict.
“Come on Bones, she’s defending her friend.”
“Well, Christine should not have gotten involved in the first place.”
“Bones, you know what, you could learn something from your daughter.”
“If you are trying to imply that I should show more support for Clark, I fundamentally disagree. It is essential for my work that I remain unbiased.”
In Brennan’s position, Booth says that he would do whatever he could to save one of his people. I can understand both sides. As usual. Booth will always come to the rescue of someone he cares about- or someone he believes is wrongly accused. But Brennan is also doing the right thing. Throughout the episode, she remains unbiased. She approaches this case as she would any other. She does not let her personal feelings cloud her judgment. Her relationship and history with Clark is irrelevant for the purpose of this case.
Fast forwarding a bit through the interrogation of the other members of the expedition team. All evidence continues to point to Clark. During the scene where Brennan and Booth are in the interrogation room with him, Clark admits to punching Henry Charles after catching him in the hut with Hazel- the woman Clark was involved with (and in love with) during the time of the expedition. “So you hit him to stand up for yourself. And Hazel.” Booth plainly states this as he shares a knowing look with Brennan. There is always something else going on underneath the surface with these characters. Clark then admits that he did a lot of stupid things for this woman, including covering up one of her mistakes while she was examining the Frank party remains. She nicked off a chip of the C4 vertebra, and Clark knowingly did not log it. “You compromised the data? That is a serious breach of of your integrity as a scientist.” Brennan is horrified. And Clark is ashamed. Clark then admits to Booth and Brennan that he was the last person to see Charles alive. He has no alibi. Clark begs Brennan to consider their nearly ten year history. “If there’s anyone who can prove my innocence, it’s you.” Brennan agrees to reexamine the evidence. But that is the best she can do.
The team stays late at the lab that night trying to find anything probative to aid in clearing Clark’s name. Booth even makes a semi-rare appearance at the lab to bring the team coffee and “fuel.” He wants Clark to be vindicated as much as they do. But Brennan continues to work the case her way. This means taking a closer look at the “sensational” book written about the expedition by Marcus Eldridge. Brennan is shocked to see that many of the interpersonal details in the book were grossly exaggerated. She then realizes that the poor photo quality of the cannibalized remains in the book was intentional so that the bones would be “impossible to scrutinize.” Apparently this is a huge realization, as Brennan essentially skips out of the room for the second time this episode. Booth, however, is still a bit confused.
Brennan brings out the set of allegedly cannibalized bones. She shows the team clear evidence that the cut marks in the bones were not made by tools from the 1800s, but by modern blades. This is proof that the entire discovery was a sham. “The cannibalism was faked.” Eldridge does admit to faking the discovery. Henry Charles was going to expose him. But he implies that victim’s disappearance was merely a “lucky” coincidence. Brennan may be able to discredit him as a scientist, but she cannot prove he is a murderer.
After slicing up the victim’s brain in a rather gruesome way, Cam, Wendell, and Hodgins discover a bone chip which matched the one Hazel accidentally chipped off the remains at the site. It was the exact piece of bone, which Clark covered up. Hazel is the murderer. She killed Henry Charles with the same ice ax she used to “manhandle” the Frank Party remains. The chip from the C4 vertebra was found embedded in the victim’s brain. Hazel admits that her reputation hinged on a recommendation from Marcus Eldridge. If Charles discredited Eldridge, she would have lost her entire reputation among the science community by default. She simply could not let that happen. And apparently that meant far more to her than her relationship with Clark. But, she loses her reputation anyway. And Clark is now vindicated. Murder never pays. Not with the Jeffersonian around.
Clark comes to Brennan’s office later that evening to thank her. He tells Brennan that if it wasn’t for her, he would surely not be standing there. That is very likely. And makes me even more grateful for the existence of Temperance Brennan, if that is even possible at this point. She saved Clark. But to Brennan, it was just another day at the office. “I simply did my job.” Clark asks her if she really thought he could have killed Henry Charles. “It would have been a disservice to you for me to consider my personal beliefs. But no, I never thought you were capable of such a crime.”
There are a million reasons why I love this woman. And a million more as to why she is my hero. Booth wanted Brennan to stand up for her friend. And she did. But she did so in her own way. Coming to her friend’s rescue meant doing EXACTLY what she did. In order to clear Clark, it was imperative that she remain objective. The worst thing she could have done for him would be to let her feelings get in the way. Brennan’s objectivity allowed her to discover the evidence necessary to vindicate Clark. But her face is nearly heartbreaking to me when she tells him that she never truly thought he could have committed murder. She knows him. They have a history. They have a relationship. And while neither one of them were interested in getting personal in the early years, they now have an incredibly special bond. Their relationship has been one of my favorites to watch evolve over the years.
What bothers Clark is not that Brennan could have ever believed he was a murderer, but that she found out what he did while on the expedition. He violated one of the most sacred tenets for a scientist. He was party to a scam. He helped cover up the truth. As a scientist, he should be uncovering truths, not hiding them. Working with Brennan as his mentor all these years, Clark knows she values very little above the truth. He is ashamed. He calls it his “true crime.” He tells her that what he did is now all over the news, which Brennan admits had caught her attention. Clark feels it is necessary to then tender his resignation. He claims he should have known the cannibalism was a fraud. “Any forensic anthropologist worthy of the Jeffersonian would have.” But Brennan points out that he was not a forensic anthropologist at the Jeffersonian at the time. “You were an undergrad persuaded by your professor.” “Yes, but a good scientist relies only on his own analysis.”
Brennan obviously does not agree with Clark. At least not in this instance. She wants him to look at the latest copy of the Forensic Anthropology Times. He is stunned to see that Brennan has written an article in his defense. Brennan notes that the entire scientific world believed Eldridge’s fraudulent claims. Clark should therefore not be so hard on himself.
“Mistakes make for better scientists, Dr. Edison. Every expert today has made a past error of some kind. Besides, that’s what friends and teammates do. They stand up for each other.”
Temperance Brennan has taken a page out of her own daughter’s book. She has used her words, quite literally. She used her words to defend her colleague and friend. She is not about to let him lose his career. He was young. Mistakes happen, she said so herself. We place our trust in the wrong people sometimes. That can often have detrimental consequences. When Brennan was younger, she misplaced her trust in several instances. One that jumps out at me was when she mistakenly trusted her old professor, Dr. Stires. But then, someone older and wiser convinced her that SHE was the better scientist. And really, the better person. Clark is an excellent scientist. And Brennan is standing up for him because he deserves it. And because she cares about him. He is part of her family. Clark looks absolutely shocked. And really, quite touched. He tears up. It’s interesting to think back to a time when he refused to let work get personal. But lines blur. He knows that now. And then he hugs Brennan. She is a little startled at first, but smiles as she accepts his hug. She then instructs Clark to get back to work, as items have surely piled up in his absence. Ever the professional. But she changes so many lives. This is just another instance of how large her heart muscle really is. And more and more, she is letting others in on the “secret.” Actually, those closest to her are well aware.
The last scene of the episode is a classic Booth and Brennan closing. Brennan is surprised at how much mud was on Christine’s clothing when she came home from school. Booth tells Brennan to come over to their bar and have a drink with him. “I’m really proud of my two girls for standing up for their friends.” Can I just point out that Brennan did not correct him when he called her a “girl.” But Brennan explains to him that Christine did not stand up for her friend. She joined her friend in the mud after a boy pushed her in. “Solidarity, Bones.” Booth explains that Christine jumped into the mud to make a point, just like Brennan made a point with the article she wrote about Clark. Brennan is a bit discouraged though, as Marcus Eldridge received $2 million to write an exposé
on the expedition. I cannot imagine there are many things more appalling to Brennan than a scientist who is being sued for fraud being rewarded with such an exorbitant amount of money. Science should not be about fame or infamy. Brennan so often reminds people that she is the best in the world. She is a successful author and scientist. But she is only speaking the truth. She worked hard to get where she is, and she is the best on her own merits. She would never falsify evidence. She would never betray the truth. UNLESS she had a very good reason. I don’t want to speculate on what those reasons would be. But money would certainly not be on that list.
Booth says for $2 million dollars, he could write an
on Brennan. But she claims that she has no secrets. The look on Booth’s face tells me otherwise. He talks about what he would buy with that money- an ice rink, a yacht, a plane. Brennan is unimpressed with his impractical ideas. She says she would buy solar panels. They bicker back and forth, as they so often do. These two are far too precious for words. So feisty. Always ready for a good bickering session. They love to bicker. It’s what they do. It’s what they have always done. And it is always a pleasure to watch them be playful with each other. I just could not love them more.
Cam’s Not-So-Sensible Wedding Dreams
While the case was going on, Cam was also planning her upcoming nuptials with Arastoo. Cam has always been the “sensible” one. Her sister points this out several times throughout the episode. From the way she dresses, to the way she lives her life, it’s not hard to disagree with that assessment. Cam is a practical woman, for sure. Her sister, Felicia, has come down from Philadelphia to help her with some of her wedding planning. In her words, she wants to help Cam plan “the perfect wedding.” In actuality, she has done a lot of the preparations for Cam, as she figured someone as “sensible” as her sister would not want to bother with the more mundane details. Cam seems to be holding something back as this story plays out. But she wants her old relationship back with her sister . She and Felicia used to be close before her sister became a bit too competitive. Lest we forget that time she kissed Booth when she thought Cam and Booth were still dating? Actually let’s keep that in the past. Brennan overhears Angela bringing that moment up, and she does not seem entirely pleased about thinking of the many women her husband has kissed over the years.
Cam and Felicia are off to a shop to try on wedding dresses. Felicia has already pre-selected a few “sensible” options, as she is convinced Cam will not want a dress that she can only wear once. That would be highly impractical. But as Felicia is talking to her from outside the dressing room, Cam spots a very impractical gown hanging up in the back. It is certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing of dresses, I will admit. But while others assumed this was Cam finding a dress she really wanted, I saw it more as a symbol. It’s not the dress of her dreams. It’s what the dress represents. A fairy tale princess wedding, of sorts. She tries on the “poofy” gown and smiles at her reflection in the mirror. It is the first genuinely happy look I think we saw from Cam since she left the lab. While Felicia is outside droning on about “simple” color schemes, Cam is spinning around as if she is living out her own personal fantasy. This is not the first time we have seen Cam like this. If you remember, she called Booth and Brennan’s wedding “every woman’s dream.” You can be sensible every other day of your life. A wedding is something millions of women dream of every day. It is a day that belongs you and the person you are marrying. While some people admittedly go a little overboard, there is room for whimsy. I am speaking from observation and not experience, so I may not get the feelings quite accurate here.
By the end of the episode, Cam’s sensible wedding is essentially planned. And Felicia’s work is done. She comes by the lab to say goodbye to Cam. She hands her a binder with all the solidified plans. “All you need to do is pick a date.” Hodgins and Angela look at bit stunned at how quickly everything was pulled together. Though, I will say that Angela managed to pull off quite a stunning and perfect wedding in a day for Booth and Brennan. So it is not actually that inconceivable. Felicia tells them it’s what Cam wanted. And finally Cam admits what she has been thinking this entire day. “I know it’s silly, but I can’t help it. I…I want the poofy dress, and the champagne waterfalls, and the personalized candy bars, and the bridesmaids, and the ten-piece band.” Angela’s face looks a bit like mine- “They have personalized candy bars?” Felicia does not seem upset by Cam’s confession in the least. She asks why Cam didn’t tell her. Cam was embarrassed. “It’s a little girl’s fantasy.” And she also didn’t want to incite a fight with her sister. Felicia reminds her that they are sisters, and that their “relationship ebbs and flows- that’s life.” She loves Cam. “When did you get so mature?” “Around the time I felt terrible for making out with your boyfriend.” And let that be the last time we discuss that particular moment. Okay, I’m only partially serious. That was definitely not a kiss I was too worried about over the years.
While I personally have no strong desires for poofy dresses and personalized candy bars, I certainly do not begrudge Cam for dreaming. So what if she feels like it’s a “little girl’s fantasy.” The highly rational Dr. Brennan carried that photo of her dream wedding dress around until she got married. It is not foolish. She is allowed to be fanciful sometimes. It doesn’t make her any less level headed. I think it’s sweet. And like Felicia, I just want Cam to be happy. If this is what she wants, I am all for it.
Another brilliant episode. While I knew from the beginning that Clark could not possibly be a murderer, I still found myself on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the case would be resolved. It was truly an exciting hour of television. All hail Bones.
We still have a long ways to go still before the end of the season. A small hiatus, a stand-alone episode, and then the finale. I do not want to speculate too much about 11×22 quite yet. But I do not believe I have ever been this terrified for a season finale before. Season 9 gave me a bit of anxiety. And it delivered for sure. I did not talk to a soul for days. I couldn’t. I was stunned. And emotionally drained. But The Nightmare Within the Nightmare has the potential to be one of the most intense and horrifying finales to date. And that makes me insanely nervous, but also ridiculously excited. I have some theories. But I know that anything can happen. And that with Bones, I should always expect the unexpected.