Solving a murder is a fine way to put things in perspective: Having a bad day? This guy’s dead. At its best, it’s a job that inspires empathy and clarifies priorities. At its worst, it’s a ready-made excuse to avoid dealing with your problems. “We have a murder to solve” is a great way to shut down a conversation, and everyone on Bones knows it—a little too well.
Cam is usually the first person to pull everyone away from the drama and back to the murder at hand, but today, she’s the one who can’t focus on the case. Arastoo’s brother Hamid has terminal cancer, and if Arastoo—who fled Iran at 18 and became an American citizen—returns home to care for him, he could be arrested. Cam thinks that the risk is too great. Arastoo is willing to chance it in order to be there to hold his brother’s hand. Neither one can agree on whose problem this is; while Cam wants equal say in the decision, Arastoo sees it as his choice alone.
This isn’t the first time Cam and Arastoo have questioned where they stand with each other, but their expectations have flipped: Now she’s the one ready to talk about marriage. It makes sense. Cam likes control, and as much as getting married would threaten that control, she’d rather share decisions with Arastoo than with an entire regime. And as much as Arastoo has been a romantic in the past, he’s also driven by a sense of honor, so his duty to his family trumps his personal happiness. But is Cam his family now too? We have a murder to solve.
Connor Freeman, who spent five years in jail for attempted murder, is found dead at a mine; he accidentally set off the explosives in the mine while attempting to escape a captor who tied him up, tortured him, and tried to cut off his prison tattoo.. Brennan suspects a member of a rival prison gang out for revenge, but Booth resents the implication that all inmates are senselessly violent. Remember when Booth was in prison for three months? He’s been on the inside now. It changes a person.
I’m not going to minimize Booth’s experience in jail, which left him beaten and suffering obvious PTSD. But this is a weird conversation to have in the context of an hourlong procedural at any time, much less in America’s current climate, because Booth’s trauma was mostly brought on by the fact that prisoners ganged up on him for being an officer of the law. Sympathy for law enforcement isn’t high on the list of Causes to Believe In right now. It’s a good thing that Booth himself is so quick to defend violent prisoners as victims of a system.
Ever the optimist, Booth wants to believe that Connor turned his life around after he was released. Brennan knows that statistics aren’t on her husband’s side here, but she doesn’t want Booth to think that she’s looking down on anyone. “I’m not judging them,” she says. “I don’t do that, Booth. I just look for evidence.” She doesn’t do that, and before Booth went to jail, his whole argument about the prison system probably would have gone to her. Instead, we’re left with Booth’s general frustration with Brennan, who isn’t really judging, but who is still using stats to justify cynicism, which isn’t great either. But we have a murder to solve.
Connor worked at a bakery staffed exclusively by former inmates. (“We’re all ex-cons. And we got fresh cherry pie today.”) Owner Roger Flender is committed to helping the men get back on their feet, but he has so much faith in their character that he refuses to suspect any of them. Flender directs Booth and Brennan to a man named Pemberton, whose sister was shot in the convenience store robbery that sent Connor to jail in the first place. Pemberton admits to following Connor on the day that he died, but he must not have been a very good stalker, because Connor had some secrets of his own.
NEXT: Not all bakers[pagebreak]
As much as everyone wanted Connor to stay clean, he’d gone back to using drugs. His girlfriend Sabrina eventually cut him off financially, refusing to help him rob her office with the help of someone else from the bakery. Could his bakery accomplice also be his captor? Angela and Hodgins trace his escape route back to an abandoned building, where Aubrey and Booth find three more bodies—and a row of old, dessicated patches of skin marked with tattoos. This bakery rehabilitation story just became a hunt for a ritualistic serial killer. (WHY NOT?)
One of the bodies belongs to a priest who was assigned to a parish in West Virginia, where Alex Rockwell, assistant manager at the bakery, was an altar boy as a kid. Booth talks a reluctant Flender into helping them locate Rockwell, who grabs Flender. Booth shoots Rockwell’s shoulder and takes him into custody, along with a knife that matches the marks on the bones. They have their proof; Rockwell is the killer. What they don’t have is much of an explanation for his actions. Booth can only concede that Brennan was right: “Some people are just missing that little piece of goodness, and there’s nothing you can do about that.” Brennan thinks that’s a terrible thing to be right about.
But there are still people like Booth who feel bad about shooting serial killers’ shoulders, and that gives Brennan hope. While Flender spirals in the face of this kind of evil, Booth and Brennan have learned how to live with it. Booth figures the world would have ended by now if the good people didn’t outnumber the bad. In that sense, it’s fitting that the ritualistic murders (which, yes, probably would have made a more interesting focal point for this story) were shoved in the background so Booth and Brennan could hang out in a bakery that rehabilitates ex-cons. Drug addicts bake, too. Sometimes people try to do the right thing but do it badly. The country that wants to arrest you can still be beautiful.
Hamid’s cancer is getting worse, and Arastoo has made his decision: He’s going to Iran. He reminds Cam that he isn’t choosing between two people he loves; he just can’t let a member of his family suffer alone. Cam, of course, is charmed by his sense of duty. She’s even been researching new treatments on the side, just to make sure that she gets to meet her future brother-in-law some day. But if they want marriage to be their biggest problem again, he’ll have to come back to her—and judging by their bittersweet hug, it’s not going to be easy.
Bits and pieces:
- Cam goes to Booth for relationship advice. It’s always good to see their old friendship in action.
- Brennan throws shade on the new guy: “It’s a good thing you brought me rather than Aubrey. He’d eat everything in here.”
- Cam’s pea coat is by far the Cam-miest pea coat imaginable.
- Is there anything better than Hodgins’ pure delight when he finds his coworkers making out?
- “And then it was just a matter of plugging in Hodgins’ horrible little math problem.” Angela has a new job description.
- Hodgins and Angela have done some things with zip ties. Now you know. Now we all know.