“The Monster in the Closet” is not a comforting hour of television. Co-showrunner Michael Peterson has compared the episode to Psycho, and it’s packed with nods to The X-Files’ famously disturbing “Home.” But it feels so classically Bones-y that I’m a little bit comforted anyway. Vintage elements of the series — Booth and Brennan in trench coats! Heart-to-heart chats on the walkway above the lab! — weave through the episode, lending something warm and familiar to an otherwise chilling story. Then again, I’ve watched “Home” enough to know that familiarity is its own kind of weapon. It’s easy for a killer to strike when you’re sleeping with your front door unlocked.
Or closet door, in Christine’s case. Booth and Brennan’s daughter is having trouble sleeping; she’s convinced that there’s a monster in her closet. She won’t be the only one having nightmares after this week’s case. The body of social worker Allison Monroe turns up in a park looking practically taxidermied: Her skin is deliberately desiccated, and there’s wire between her bones to articulate the skeleton. The killer posed Allison’s body. He lived with her corpse for six months after her death. He re-applied her lipstick and dressed her in old-fashioned clothing. HE SPOON-FED HER DEAD BODY SOME PORRIDGE, MASS HYSTERIA.
There’s a cassette in Allison’s purse labeled, appropriately, “Home,” ready to provide the atmosphere for the rest of this fun-fest (“Buffalo Gals,” the “Wonderful, Wonderful” of the hour, now ruined forever. Wonderful). Also in her purse is a dog-eared Bible with the verses on punishment marked. Allison’s husband says that she wasn’t religious, so our resident Catholic (Booth) teams up with our resident behavioral analyst (Sara Rue’s Karen Delfs, back again) to work out a profile. The killer is ashamed of himself; he treated Allison like a mother figure in the hopes that she could stop him from killing anyone else. When he could no longer suppress his urge to take another life, he “killed” Allison a second time to free himself from her authority.
Allison’s boss — who’s so cooperative that I don’t trust him — points the FBI in the direction of George Gibbons, who applied a few times to be a foster parent. Allison rejected every one of his applications. George has a criminal record; he was charged with kidnapping five years ago, though the boy was unharmed, and he’s spent time in prison since. He never stood a chance at being accepted as a foster parent, but he kept applying, maybe because he was obsessed with Allison. And he definitely has the house of a killer. It’s a dead ringer for the Peacock home, but George’s place is also creepy for its own reasons, like the 13 cats that roam its halls. Make that 12 cats; one of them, whose hairs were found on Allison’s body, is missing. (Aubrey: “You think he ate him?”)
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Booth and Brennan head to George’s place alone, where Brennan makes sure to remind her husband that, scientifically, no one can hear them scream. George is waiting for them upstairs — though not under the bed, which is kind of a missed opportunity. He puts a knife to Booth’s throat, but Brennan, somehow as adorable as she is hardcore, tricks him into lowering his weapon with the help of a Colt .45 sound file on her phone. (“I considered going with pump shotgun, but that seemed like a bit much.”) Allison’s necklace is downstairs, and George indicates that he’d like to confess to her murder, so everything seems open and shut.
It isn’t. Karen is concerned by George’s journal; she suspects that he faints at the sight of blood, so she proves it by cutting her own palm in the interrogation room, which can’t be proper FBI procedure. George never killed anyone, but he’s the perfect accomplice: One threat to his favorite cat, and he’ll confess to a murder that he didn’t commit. The killer has been holding the cat hostage to punish George for picking Allison — who could be traced back to George — to be the killer’s “mom.” Aubrey and Karen promise to protect him if he’ll tell them what he knows, but George won’t talk. He hangs himself before the end of the episode.
NEXT: Some strings attached
The dead bodies are piling up around here, and Brennan blames herself. The killer has done this before, but she and Booth were retired when the last victim showed up at the Jeffersonian. They weren’t around to solve the crime. Arastoo did a thorough job, but there’s no arguing with statistics: Given Booth and Brennan’s success rate, there’s a good chance they would have cracked the case. She’s rattled, especially because it’s so easy for her to understand how this killer thinks. They both see dead bodies as people. Now is the time for Booth to rationally point out that empathy is not at all the same as treating a murdered corpse like your mother.
Booth just wants to get Brennan out of the lab to clear her head, but she needs to keep working. There are holes in the bones that don’t line up to the rest of the evidence. It takes Booth to figure out what they were for: The killer strung Allison’s body from the ceiling like a marionette. Booth re-creates the image, hoisting the skeleton from the rafters of the bone room like the worst museum exhibit — and Cam, whose whole life is just walking into rooms at inopportune times, shows up in time to catch the results. It’s the creepiest scene of the hour.
But the best scene comes earlier: Using the fact that the killer would have been after a strong role model, the team identifies the first victim as recently retired high school principal Douglas Burkhart. Booth meets with Burkhart’s wife, Elizabeth, in his office; she doesn’t seem to know anything, but she asks him not to stop asking questions: “For my husband, I need to find a way I can help.” David Boreanaz puts on his empathy face, and we leave Booth at work, staring down the likelihood that there’s nothing Elizabeth can do but at least not leaving her to face it alone.
Back at home, Brennan listens to “Buffalo Gals” of her own accord and then wonders why she’s jumpy. When something shatters in Christine’s room, Booth and Brennan fear the worst, but their daughter is fine; she just broke a snow globe when she tried to confront the monster in her closet. She dealt with her embarrassment by hiding in a pile of stuffed animals, which is a perfectly fine response to most of life’s problems. Everything’s okay — too okay for the end of this hour. The killer had a camera hidden in George’s house, and he got a look at Booth and Brennan before it was disconnected. Now he’s across town in a basement full of marionettes, zooming in on a still of Brennan’s face. I’m tired of serial killers who fixate on Brennan, but can you blame them?
Bits and pieces: