This season we had two guest interns join the team. Of course, the first was Dr. Beth Mayer- played by the incomparable Betty White. The second, Sammy Mills, was portrayed by the very sweet and talented B.K. Cannon. My first assumption here is that no other regularly recurring squintern actor was available for this episode. So, the writers crafted a story around a brand new intern. It still astonishes me that the writers can create a dozen distinctly different interns. I actually really enjoyed Sammy’s character for a few reasons. Strangely (or not so much) I enjoyed defending Brennan’s actions here. That sounds peculiar (or does it?). So this will be a recap likely on both “Ms. Mills” as well as a brief examination of Brennan as well.
Sammy Mills Season 11 Episode Appearances:
11×16: The Strike in the Chord
Cam and Brennan are up on the platform examining the latest set of remains. Brennan looks up to see her newest intern stepping onto the platform for the first time. “Welcome to the forensic platform, Ms. Mills.” “I’ve been waiting five years to hear that.” Cam has as well. Apparently Sammy Mills is part of a work-study program at the Jeffersonian. This has historically involved more manual tasks, including scrubbing toilets at the Jeffersonian. I am still not entirely sure about the details of this woman’s background. She would have to be a graduate student, I would imagine. Or would she? Given the events which occur later in the episode, it’s hard to believe she’s quite on the level of the other interns. I don’t mean that in a cruel way. Just an objective fact. And the familiarity among the women from this first exchange indicates that they would have to have come in contact on a fairly regular basis. It’s slightly peculiar. But I guess some things will have to be left up to the imagination.
Brennan is ready to begin examining the body with her newest intern. Cam leaves the anthropologists to their work, but not before once again letting Sammy know that she’s genuinely excited to have her there. Brennan asks a series of standard questions (standard, when all you do is watch this show and you can essentially anticipate the types of questions Brennan would ask her students). Brennan inquires as to what Sammy makes of the “fracture on the occipital.” Sammy answers that the damage looks to be “trauma.” “That is accurate, however, could you be more specific? Would you agree that this is blunt force trauma?” Sammy agrees that it is definitely blunt force trauma. And that’s it. Brennan tries again to prompt her intern to elaborate. “Well, this fracture is shallow, and insubstantial, suggesting it is not cause of death.” “I agree. He hit his head hard, but it didn’t kill him.” Brennan pauses for a moment. She is, of course, used to being the most experienced forensic anthropologist on the team (and in the world). That said, she also expects her interns to already be at a certain level when they come to work for her. The best and the brightest go to the Jeffersonian. “Now that you’re an intern, Ms. Mills, your job is not to rephrase my words, but to come up with findings of your own.” Sammy ensures her new boss and mentor that she will do her best. She expresses her excitement over the opportunity another time. And even Brennan reciprocates her excitement. She asks Sammy to clean the bones and re-articulate them. “I can totally do that.” As Brennan leaves the platform, Sammy appears to take the pulse of the dead body. And I am concerned. I am concerned because in the span of a minute and a half, I have developed a real fondness for Sammy Mills. She is excited, grateful, and kind. And obviously, others have taken a liking to her as well if the esteemed members of the forensic division at the Jeffersonian division know her by name. But she seems to be a step behind the other interns. Remembering all of them on their first days, they had a decent command of forensic anthropology. Sammy seems to exhibit only a basic knowledge- at least from what I have seen thus far. Perhaps it’s nerves. At this point, I still figured that could potentially be the case.
The next scene begins with Hodgins and Sammy on the platform. Apparently she has charmed the entomologist as well because he is also incredibly thrilled to have her on the team. “I can’t believe I’m finally an intern at the Jeffersonian.” “I know, right? I haven’t been prouder since Michael Vincent correctly identified a Coccinella septempunctata.” That earns Hodgins a blank stare from the intern, but I definitely do not count that one against her. It sounds like an illicit spell from the Half Blood Prince to me. No one said a forensic anthropology intern had to be equipped with a knowledge of bugs. Hodgins lets her know that he was referring to a ladybug. Sammy proceeds to pick up the hyoid, and immediately gasps in delight. She believes she has found cause of death. Hodgins attempts to caution her to not to get too excited. “No, no, Sammy, don’t jump to…” But she cannot hear him. And it’s too late. Brennan has ascended the platform and Sammy is already more than eager to share her discovery. “Dr. Brennan, I-I found a broken hyoid. That-that means our victim was strangled.” Anyone who knows Brennan in the way that we do probably could have predicted her next line ”Ms. Mills, hypothesis is not fact. This fractured hyoid is likely cause of death, but we can’t know with any certainty till we look at it in further detail.” I cannot decide whether it makes me elated to see Sammy so excited that she may be right, or anxious to know that there is something a bit off here. Because if these two cannot strike some sort of a balance, Sammy’s position at an intern will likely be deferred until she’s acquired more experience.
Brennan instructs Sammy to take the hyoid to the bone room to further examine it under the medio-cam. Sammy takes the bone from Brennan and is about to leave the platform. “And in addition, do not wave the remains around. They are fragile.” The intern takes note and exits the platform. She still seems to be spirited and enthusiastic, even though Brennan is obviously a bit wary at this point. Hodgins assures Brennan that “she’s gonna do fine.” But Brennan is growing a bit skeptical after what she’s seen thus far. “I sincerely hope so.” As if on cue, Sammy slips on the stairs. “Oh. I’m fine. I’m fine. The remains are fine.” She smiles brightly at the two scientists, and makes her way to the bone room. Well, sort of. Brennan then yells to her that she is actually going the wrong way. Brennan’s face is pretty perfect here (when is it not?) but definitely showing some obvious concern. Hodgins is still optimistic.
The bones are now clean, and Brennan and Sammy are examining them in the bone room. Sammy found some fracturing on the rib. Brennan notes that the damage occurred on “both the posterior vertebral and anterior sternal surfaces.” She asks Sammy what that indicates. Sammy takes the more literal route and answers that there is fracturing on both the front and back. But that was not the answer Brennan was looking for. “I’m familiar with the definitions of anterior and posterior.” Sammy apologizes, and Brennan continues to make observations about the fractures. She wants to know what Sammy found from the hyoid fracture. “Oh, I believe it is a comminuted fracture.” Brennan concurs. And I almost want to cry over the look of sheer relief and a bit of pride on Sammy’s face. Brennan posits that the evidence suggest the victim was struck in the neck with a solid object, which fractured his hyoid and caused him to suffocate. Sammy concurs. Not the right thing to say. “Ms. Mills. I do not need your approbation. You were brought on as an intern to contribute to our process. If I must babysit you, you become a hindrance, and I-I just can’t have that.” Sammy’s face then falls. I am torn. I feel for this young woman for sure. It must be one of the most intimidating situations in the world to work alongside Dr. Temperance Brennan. She is world-renowned. She is brilliant. And she is who you want to be standing next to if your dream is to study forensic anthropology. However, she is tough. That is certainly not in dispute. But she is also fair. Thus far, she has given Sammy more than one chance. How many more will she give her? At this point in the episode, my guess was not too many more. Sammy promises Brennan that she can do this job. She refuses to become a hindrance. She is a little started, and likely a great deal more nervous than she was before. But she puts her head down and gets back to work.
Sammy has summoned Cam to the bone room so that she may show her something pertinent she has found. She discovered fracturing on both the olecranon processes. Cam is a bit perplexed as to why she is the one receiving this information and not Dr. Brennan. But Sammy wanted to run it by Cam first- because she’s the boss. Cam sees right through this. She is, indeed, perceptive. “Ms. Mills, you can’t be afraid to go to Dr. Brennan.” But she asks her what else she found anyway. It can’t hurt for “the boss” to be kept up to speed on all aspects of the case. Sammy explains that the victim was being attacked, so his instinct would be to protect his face. She adds that the elbows would have been fractured, and the wounds are defensive. Cam turns to leave so that she may go find any trace of a murder weapon in the corresponding tissue. But before she departs the bone room, she gives Sammy a figurative pat on the back. “Great work, Ms. Mills.”
This next scene was probably a bit controversial for some. It honestly would depend on your feelings about Brennan. And whether or not you are of the opinion that feelings come first in the lab. Sammy enters the bone room, as Brennan had requested to see her. She looks happy to have helped make an important determination about the remains. But then, her face falls once again when she sees that Brennan does not share in her enthusiasm. Apparently, she mis-categorized the injuries. She posited that they were defensive wounds, when in reality, they were crushing fractures. Her face is also crushing me. The victim more likely fell back onto his elbows. Sammy nervously claims that she knew that. Brennan picks up another bone, and asks why she was not informed about the fracturing found on it. Sammy catalogued it with the victim’s childhood injuries, when in fact, the fracturing was perimortem. She apologizes for her mistake. Brennan adds that “they are parallel to the hyoid and rib fractures, which indicates the killer hit the victim one time, with one object, such as a ladder, causing multiple parallel contusions.” I get the sinking feeling I know what is about to happen here.
“I should have seen that. It was right in front of me.”
“Your mistakes delayed the progress of the investigation.”
“I’m so sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“That is right, Ms. Mills, because… I have to let you go.”
“I know I can do better.”
“That is conceivable, but I can’t take that chance.”
Sammy begins to cry, as I’m sure many people would in that situation. To have your dreams dashed in a matter of hours has to be heart-crushing. I felt terrible for this woman. But I am going to take a moment to defend Brennan here. Because that’s what I do.
At the start of the episode, Brennan was as excited as anyone about Sammy’s new status as an intern. She certainly did not wish her to fail. She would never wish any of her interns to fail. They will all eventually help to carry on her legacy if and when she chooses to leave the Jeffersonian (which I imagine will not be for a VERY long time. We saw how well retiring from that position has worked out for her in the past). Each and every intern has come to Brennan equipped with an advanced knowledge of forensic anthropology. While Brennan of course initially intimidated a few of them, eventually they won her over. Sammy didn’t even have to soften Brennan’s demeanor. There was no need. This leads me back to the beginning, as I wonder what about the backstory of this character. There is only so much time in an episode in which to fit every story. We can assume that Sammy was a regular around the Jeffersonian while she participated in her work-study program. Was this program an automatic qualifier for intern status once a certain level of study was reached? If it is a Jeffersonian work-study program, I also have to believe that our team was also involved with approving the qualifications necessary to become an intern. Was someone else her teacher? Did someone else believe she was on that same level with interns like Daisy, Oliver, and Wendell? I could name more, obviously. But my point is, something went wrong here. Someone dropped the ball. This poor woman was not ready for primetime. She was put in this position before she was ready to really handle it. She was barely treading water in the deep end. She had the basic skills, that much was clear. She likely could have ascertained the more advanced knowledge with more time. Maybe she still can. But the fact remains that Brennan is right. After ample chances, and some mistakes that cost the team precious time, there was no more room for error. Regardless of Brennan’s personal feelings about Sammy, she couldn’t trust her in a professional capacity. She could not leave her alone with the bones. As harsh as it may sounds, she really did not have time to babysit. Brennan is ALWAYS willing to teach. But her methods require her students to be able to keep up and make their own accurate and astute observations along the way. I cannot fault her for this. Could her delivery have been a bit more compassionate? Of course. But this is Brennan. This is how Dr. Brennan operates at work.
This is not a classroom. This is a murder investigation. Every moment that passes, is another moment the killer has to escape. Time is of the essence. Mistakes here have severe implications. So, yes. I will support Brennan over and over on this. Am I biased? 100%. But I did not say that I have no empathy for Sammy. I truly do. The scariest thing in the world is to be thrown into a nerve-wracking professional situation. You try desperately not to make a single mistake. But one leads to another and soon you’re in over your head. You know you can do the job, but you just don’t know how to convey that knowledge. It’s a lot of pressure. And when the stakes are that high, I cannot imagine how much more weight you must carry. Brennan looks at Sammy after delivering the “fatal” blow. And I can see it in Brennan’s face. This is not season 1 Brennan. This is the product of a decade of evolution. There used to be a very well-defined line between personal and professional (okay, not counting the affair with her professor). Feelings had no place in the lab. But Booth happened. Angela happened. This team happened. Circumstances changed. And she grew up. And she learned that a professional group of colleagues could also be a family. So while Brennan is confident in her decision, professionally, personally- Brennan is hurting as well. She did not want this intern to fail. She was rooting for her. And so she tries to comfort her in a truly Brennan fashion. She puts her arm around her and says “there there.” Maybe some would perceive it as a bit awkward. But I think it was an incredibly sweet gesture. And really indicative of her personal growth. She relates to people in a way she never could in the past. She is still Brennan, of course. At her core, she hasn’t changed. But she has grown. I think the mother in her also couldn’t bear to hurt this person. Not everyone is as brilliant as Brennan. She knows that. I like to think of this situation this way- Either Sammy will realize that she doesn’t want to pursue this type of work. She will go after another passion. Or this instance will motivate her to get back to her studies and keep working hard. Until she really does get to the level she needs to reach in order to work more seamlessly with this team. And then hope that she is given another chance. Brennan gave Daisy a second chance, and she honestly could not tolerate her personality at first. So I believe that Brennan will be more than willing to give Sammy another shot (maybe under less intense circumstances at first). Brennan would never intentionally hurt another person. This was not her goal. But yes, this was a murder investigation. I support her decision here. I always will.
Later on, Hodgins notices that Sammy has been MIA for the last few hours. “She made significant errors, so I fired her.” Brennan says this relatively nonchalantly while examining the remains. Angela is stunned that it has only been one day. Hodgins shares in his wife’s shock. “Seriously? Come on now, I mean, everyone deserves a second chance, especially one of our own.” His statement here caused me to consider two (different) things- Hodgins was given a second chance at life. Sure, his condition is not entirely ideal. And he almost pushed away every single person he loved while he mourned his old life. But he was also given a second chance, in that he was given the chance to make things right again. He was given the chance to accept his new reality as a gift, and not as defeat. Additionally, Hodgins’ statement also indicates that the team has likely known and cared about Sammy for a significant period of time. Maybe their personal feelings were the reason she started this internship before she was fully ready. Who can really say at this point. “I am fond of Sammy as well, but I can’t let my personal feelings impede an investigation. Case in point. There’s sharp force trauma on the occipital which was obfuscated by the blunt force trauma, but it should have been found.” Again, this just proves my earlier assertion that it was not personal. Brennan cares for this person as well. But she is still rational. Still professional. And unfortunately, she felt that this course of action was necessary so as not to cause any more disruptions to the investigation. Brennan asks Hodgins to swab for particulates. “You expect us to work even though you just fired our friend?” “Thank you, yes.” Hodgins and Angela have known Brennan for a considerable period of time. They know how she operates. And they know that she has the biggest metaphorical heart of anyone. But he wanted this situation to work so desperately. Someone who works as hard as Sammy deserves a real shot. She wanted to be there. She just wasn’t ready. I keep saying that. But I feel that it’s the truth.
When Cam comes to check on Hodgins later on, Hodgins asks her if she can pull rank. He thinks that if she just asks Sammy back, they can get it all to work. “Wanting things to work and actually making things work are two very different things, Dr. Hodgins.” Once again, this was a loaded statement. It was about Sammy, but it was also about Hodgins and his personal situation during this episode. He wanted to get an experimental surgery. And Angela was definitely not on board. The risks associated were far too high. She almost lost him once to the explosion. And then again to himself. She was not willing to risk his life another time. They would find something that worked together. He wasn’t thrilled with her earlier in the episode. But after thinking about Cam’s words, he decides not to get the surgery. He wanted something to work so desperately. But thinking about it, would it actually work? Similarly, he wanted things to work with Sammy, but maybe they just couldn’t. At least not yet.
If my calculations are correct, there are just three more interns to go. On a completely independent note, the photo that Eddie McClintock shared from set this week is still a complete distraction to me. I honestly cannot wait to see how that story pans out in season 12 (But also, I will take any length hiatus for obvious reasons).
Have a wonderful week!