When Bones opens on a regional dog show with a poodle named Gaston, you generally know what kind of episode you’re getting. Booth is going to complain about technology. Brennan’s going to learn something. If you’re lucky, a suspect might even use salami as an alibi. Bones is large and contains multitudes, and if we’re going to send it off properly, we have to honor the quirky standalone hours right along with its darker fare. But tonight’s episode pays homage to those later-season cases-of-the-week without quite turning out to be one of them, and that’s a poodle of a different color.
Before we meet the wizard behind the curtain, let’s go back to the top of the hour, when “The Brain in the Bot” looks like the straightforward tale of a pair of star-crossed show dogs eating a corpse in the woods. The body belongs to tech guru Ian Goldberg, whose company, Social Cybernetics, is engineering robots to work with kids on the autism spectrum. Their pride and joy is a model named AMI, who looks like she should be offering Kate McKinnon a mini quesadilla but talks like — well, like she’s Brennan. They’re both fluent in eight languages. (AMI: “Very impressive. For a human.”)
AMI cuts Booth and Brennan down to size in a literal millisecond, reading their facial expressions and summing up their personalities in the process. Brennan is 78 percent curious, 22 percent jealous; Booth is 94 percent amused and 6 percent skeptical. That sounds about right. But when Hodgins finds particulates in Ian’s skull that match AMI’s material, Booth is 100 percent not having it. He did not join the FBI to interrogate a robot. When AMI says she has no memory of seeing Ian on the day of his death, Booth yelps, “You’re lying!” like he’s been eating his words since before they left his mouth. AMI isn’t capable of lying; her memories of her last day with Ian have been erased. From AMI’s point of view, this episode is a sad, backward 50 First Dates.
To find out who deleted AMI’s data, Angela analyzes the coders’ comments like they’re signatures on a painting, which is exactly the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that just won her a MacArthur Fellowship. The so-called Genius Grant is going to the one member of this team who’s not technically a genius, and she couldn’t be more deserving. Brennan claims to be happy for her best friend, but she can’t leave it there. “It’s simply that I never imagined you would ever achieve this honor,” Brennan says, “let alone before I did.” Ouch.
MacArthur Fellow Angela Montenegro (I’m introducing her like this from now on) just keeps doing the work. She figures out that Ian deleted AMI’s data, and he got sloppy — he left behind a sound file in which he scheduled a meeting at Patriot Industries. Booth assumes Ian was selling his AI to a weapons manufacturer, but he was actually selling it to a man who wanted to make sex dolls that talk like real women. “I mean, not real women,” Esposito clarifies, confident that Booth and Aubrey will back him up on this, “but the way you wish women would talk.” Booth and Aubrey don’t back him up, but they also don’t punch him in the face, and that’s why this scene could use more Brennan.
Ian created a complex artificial intelligence system in order to help autistic kids and then decided to put it in sex dolls, and if that sounds like the kind of idea a person would only have while getting high in the woods, that’s because it is. Ian used to drop acid with a guy named Randy in order to think outside the box; it was Randy who first suggested the sex bot venture. He expected a cut of the profits, but Ian tried to buy him off with a Bluetooth radio made of the same material as AMI. Randy beat Ian on the head with it, then, tripping on LSD, tried and failed to cut off Ian’s head with a pocketknife. That knife does him in — Ian’s wounds contain traces of a preservative used in sausage. Brace yourself for the best accidental confession in Bones history: “The package said it was all natural!”
NEXT: The other NFL
This is the kind of authentic interrogation experience you just don’t get with robots. Randy is so bad at murdering that the nation’s best scientists look at the evidence and assume they’re dealing with someone who is very good at murdering. Only Booth stops to think that the killer might just be a “knucklehead stoner,” because Booth understands that it’s possible to be so much something that you appear to be the opposite. Randy is so incompetent that he looks smart. Brennan is so empathetic that she looks cold.
Brennan knows how she comes across, and she uses her 40th birthday to have some fun with it. She plans her own surprise party, confusing her guests (“Are we, like, supposed to hide or something?”) before unveiling three cakes. One is for her birthday, one is in celebration of Angela’s grant, and one congratulates Daisy on her new job. Daisy has been worrying over her application to the National Forensic Lab, and Brennan has been busy lowering her expectations. But as it turns out, Brennan is the one who recommended Daisy in the first place. She also nominated Angela for the MacArthur Fellowship. We’re all guests at this surprise party.
Like Brennan, I don’t always like to be surprised, especially when I’ve been misled first. I spent most of this episode trying to reconcile Brennan’s emotional openness — she jokes with Cam, embraces Max, and picks up on the fact that her father seems sad — with her jealousy toward her best friend and her inability to nurture a former intern. Brennan has always pushed her squints to turn in A+ work, so it was good to see her put Daisy to the test, but she didn’t have to add that Daisy might be too young for the job. And her support for Angela has always outweighed her own ambitions.
Of course, that’s the point. Brennan’s attempts to throw everyone off the trail felt out of character because they were. It’s too bad that she assumes this is how her friends see her, just as it’s too bad that the writers have actually painted her like this in recent years. But if “The Brain in the Bot” is commentary on that characterization, I’ll take it. Brennan’s gesture might be awkward — poor Angela shouldn’t have to waste any time feeling bad about this honor — but it’s still so genuinely sweet that I teared up. We learned too late that Sweets used his birthday to give his friends gifts. It looks like Brennan is carrying on the tradition.
Brennan doesn’t even want any presents for herself, though Booth obviously gives her one anyway. Technically, he gives her a court date (in a couple of months) for Zack’s appeal, but in a bigger sense, he gives her his faith in her ability to find new evidence in the lobbyist’s murder. Even though she’d rather not presume innocence or guilt, Brennan is flattered by Booth’s trust. And she’s going to need something good on the horizon because her father has bad news. Max keeps dropping hints that he won’t be around much longer, and Christine catches a hospital bracelet falling out of his pocket. She doesn’t know what that means. Brennan, for once, probably will.
Bits and pieces:
- Welcome back, “Hot Blooded.”
- “Life is not a competition, Daisy. Trust me, if I have learned anything being in this chair, it’s that happiness comes from accepting what you have.”
- Hodgins tells Max about Angela’s award as soon as he sees him. He’s telling everyone. He’s probably hired a skywriter already.
- “We didn’t bring you in here because of your blog, Matthew.” I wish this could have been a Booth line.
- “What about one of those chunky stone necklaces you like to wear?”
- I would stake my life on the assumption that Hodgins is into model trains.
- Hodgins has described his emotions by pointing to his heart two weeks in a row now.
- “Same here, Daisy. Except for when you shot me.” “Oh God, will you ever let that go? It was an accident.”
- “Chin up, Gaston.”