A young teacher at a troubled school is found murdered in an abandoned bookstore; can we blame social media for this?
Bones needs more Caroline Julian. While most supporting players are pretty much open books by the 10th season, Patricia Belcher’s no-nonsense federal prosecutor keeps a sense of mystery about her—and the more we learn, the more I want to know. It’s time for Caroline’s hour in the spotlight. Was this that hour? I’m not sure it dug deep enough into her past to qualify, but I have more questions than ever, so we’re moving in the right direction.
Caroline is on the board of the United Teaching Fellows, a program that sends college graduates to teach in underperforming school districts. When one of those young teachers, Mia Ferrara, is found dead in an abandoned bookstore, Caroline fears for the program’s reputation. She grew up with nothing, and she doesn’t want anyone to have to suffer for an education. How did Caroline work her way up to the U.S. Attorney’s office without even the financial means to compensate for the fact that, as a black woman, she was already going to have to work twice as hard to get anywhere? Let’s talk about privilege in the education system! This is an hourlong romantic crime procedural and there is absolutely no way we’ll have to simplify that discussion to fit it in!
There is, of course, a fair amount of sentimentality in this episode’s approach to the education gap, but the show’s heart is in the right place—as was Mia’s. She tracked her students’ test scores, gave kids a second chance when she caught them with drugs, and pushed them to do better when everyone else wrote them off. Her big success story was a student named Marcellus Miller, whose older brother Keith lashes out at Booth and Caroline when they question Marcellus for passing a note that said “187 bitch” in Mia’s class. 187 is code for homicide, but the boy insists that he didn’t mean anything by it. Mia believed that he could get into college. When he stopped by her classroom after school on Friday, it was the first time she’d ever turned him down for tutoring.
The brothers don’t have alibis, and Keith keeps calling Mia a bitch—which Caroline will not tolerate in her presence, thank you very much—but Brennan sympathizes with how much they’ve had to rely on each other. It’s just the two of them. I wish she would talk about her own brother, who caved to pressure after their parents disappeared and left her behind. I wish she would bring up her experience in foster care. I wish she would acknowledge her past. I’m all for Brennan moving on, but her empathy for abandoned kids has always been handled so well, and this episode misses an opportunity by failing to draw those parallels. Brennan does, however, school Booth on the complex flaws of the education system over lunch, and may that never change.
As much as Caroline wants to see the high school exonerated, there’s no evidence that Mia left campus before her death. She also went to a clinic in the Millers’ neighborhood with a cut on her hand, and Keith has an assault charge with a knife. None of that looks good to Caroline, but Booth reminds her that the last thing the neighborhood needs is another hasty conclusion. All they can do is follow the evidence. That’s a very Brennan-esque sentiment from the guy who relies on gut instinct—his wife has rubbed off on him—but Booth and Brennan weren’t that different to begin with. They’ve never been in a hurry to arrest people who have everything working against them.
Keith’s knife is a match for Mia’s injuries, but he says that she cut herself. She came around to check on Marcellus, who skipped a few days of school to earn some money and help his brother. Keith had no idea, but Mia assumed that he was forcing Marcellus to work, so she sliced her own hand, threatening to blame it on Keith if he didn’t let Marcellus go back to school. Someone should really follow up on how crazy that is, but she’s dead, and it worked; Marcellus hasn’t missed a day since.
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Keith still won’t give his alibi, so Aubrey takes Marcellus aside and gets him to admit that when Mia was killed, Keith was stealing food from the grocery store. That’s his third strike with the system—enough to send him away and land Marcellus in foster care—but Aubrey promises not to press charges. He’s talking to Marcellus without a guardian present, so this conversation never happened anyway. Two wrongs make a right?
Back at the drawing board, Brennan and Cam figure out that Mia’s killer broke her knees and spine to fit her body in the passenger seat next to him. “Okay, that’s really creepy,” says Angela to the women who once buckled their dead colleague into the back seat of her car to take him to the lab. Mia’s fellow UTF teacher, Shane Gentry, has a compact car, and Hodgins finds Shane’s skin cells in some eraser shavings. Mia caught Shane changing his students’ answers to boost his success rate. He wanted out of this school and into a cushy job at the Department of Education. When Mia refused to let him go through with it, he strangled her.
Caroline didn’t want to see the program’s name dragged through the mud; will it be? Probably less so than it would be if a student were to blame. The “bad neighborhood” is innocent; the problem here is the kid who took no interest in fixing it. It’s a surprisingly nuanced conclusion to the case; UTF may very well be this school’s best possible solution, but there’s a danger that comes with placing inexperienced kids in schools that need the best educators. Even Mia went so far to help the kids that she cut herself. But she did help them, and she started something with the Miller brothers that Caroline intends to carry on. More Caroline, please.
In other news, Brennan has joined Twitter at her publisher’s suggestion. Surprising no one—except her publisher, who must never have seen her do a TV interview—she uses the platform to share lengthy articles about forensic science. After some urging from Booth, Brennan enlists intern-of-the-week Jessica to teach her the way of selfies and hashtags, to great success. Her Twitter following explodes, but so does her competitive spirit. Angela is right to convince Jessica to take it down a notch, because “life is better when Brennan tweets about the most promiscuous tribe in Timbuktu. Who else would do that?” If Angela has to be controlling, she might as well use it to set Brennan free. And of course, Brennan uses that freedom to tweet about UTF; her followers even start donating. People really should trust her more.
Bits and pieces: