Booth and Brennan investigate a murder at a nursing home
Credit: Patrick McElhenney/FOX
S12 E3
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Bones is really bucket-listing its way through the final season, isn’t it? Ed Asner: check. Wheelchair sex: check. Hodgins beating a model of his grandpa with a cane: check. It would be easy for this show to take a page from Max’s playbook and pretend it’s not dying — and “The New Tricks in the Old Dogs” does feel more like business as usual than the last two episodes did — but even here, there are hints that this show is trying to come to grips with its own end. Where better to do that than a retirement home?

This week’s victim is James Felbeck, age 86, whose body turns up in a barrel of toxic waste. His bones would have dissolved completely if not for some meddling kids, who broke into the dump site to perform a cool experiment in the dead of night. Brennan loves them. I do, too. Bertram Schillinger, lawyer to Good Life Chemicals, is less amused; this is Good Life’s toxic waste, and it’s Schillinger’s job to pretend it isn’t toxic. Schillinger does a great job acting like the jury’s still out on science until he mistakes Aubrey’s kale smoothie for sulfuric acid, which sends him into a panic. Cam, never one to pass up an opportunity to mess with a man, kindly offers to spray him with decontamination foam. There’s one for the bucket list.

If only Hodgins were around to join the fun. The King of the Lab can’t make it to the site of the body dump due to a “wheelchair emergency,” which is code for, “Hodgins and Angela had such good sex in his wheelchair that they broke it.” Does James Felbeck’s nursing home keep a kit handy for that sort of thing? The residents might be old, but you know what they say: They’re not dead. James was seeing a woman named Barbara Baker (played by none other than June Squibb), who reacts to the news of his death by beating fellow resident Rufus (Ed Asner, at last) with a cane.

Barbara claims that before she got together with James, Rufus asked if she wanted to “pork.” (Rufus, with a classic Ed Asner grumble: “It’s a line that’s had limited success.”) She suspects he killed James out of jealousy, but Rufus has an alibi: He was watching TV that night with the new guy. The new guy is Red Hudmore (Hal Holbrook, rounding out this episode’s venerable trio), a vet who served with the same battalion Booth’s Pops served with in the ‘50s. Unfortunately for this investigation, that’s the end of Booth’s objectivity. Fortunately for us, Booth is adorable with old guys who remind him of Pops. They exchange salutes.

Booth is already giving a murder suspect more respect than Sweets got in three years. When Aubrey figures out that one of the orderlies, Sam, has a prior assault charge, Booth asks Red if he thinks Sam could have done it. Red gives the Boothiest possible answer: “I don’t know the guy from Adam, but my gut says not a snowball’s chance in July.” It isn’t hard to see why Booth likes him — they speak the same language. But Booth pushes Red to take a walk when the older man doesn’t feel like it, and Red hits the floor almost as soon as he stands. He’s broken his collarbone. He’ll be okay, but will Booth?

As for Sam the orderly, he says he liked James, who told him stories about his days as a boxer. He also says that James spent a lot of time on the computer in the weeks before his death. Angela checks the nursing home’s computers and figures out that James was searching for private investigators in New York, where Barbara used to live. She also notices that someone, using the account of a resident who died a month ago, was selling James’ osteoporosis meds online. It was Rufus; his love of NSFW Donna Reed photos gave him away.

NEXT: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Rufus is proud of the FBI for such sharp detective work. (“My taxes pay your salary. I’m glad to see that they’re not being wasted.”) He claims that James said he needed the money, but he also says they barely knew each other, which turns out to be false: The two were roommates in Virginia years ago. Almost everything about James Felbeck was a lie; nothing in his bones backs up his stories about living in Paris, boxing, or fighting in the war. Rufus and James were running a scam — the same one that got them kicked out of their previous retirement home. Rufus played the letch, and James swooped in like the knight in shining armor, taking advantage of Barbara’s generosity.

Booth can tell that Rufus isn’t a killer, but he doesn’t like what the evidence says next. Before he died, James hit someone on the clavicle with a cane. Red staged his fall in front of Booth; he actually broke his collarbone in a fight. He was upset to hear James bragging like a war hero when he never served. (I just realized Booth is probably going to kill someone when he’s 90.) Without those osteoporosis meds, James’ bones were so brittle that one hit was all it took. “I didn’t even hit him that hard,” Red sighs, joining the ranks of tragic Bones killers everywhere. I know he’s a murderer, but if there’s a way for Red to not die in jail, I hope Booth finds it.

Brennan says not to tiptoe around death, but Bones doesn’t wallow in it, either. It’s no accident that the victim, an old man without family, was saved from obscurity by curious teens doing science. Bones still has hope for the next generation, which is why everyone on the team is talking about kids this week. Angela and Hodgins are thinking about trying for another, and Arastoo wants to be a father. Cam spends the whole case searching for a chance to tell him that she supports him but doesn’t want to be pregnant right now, only to learn that he’d rather adopt a refugee child. Cam is with him all the way.

As for Booth and Brennan, they both think their family is perfect the way it is, which is why Brennan wants Booth to get a vasectomy. Booth reacts about as well as you’d expect. “You scared?” Brennan pouts. She treats Booth like a bored kid in a waiting room, offering to entertain him with videos explaining how vasectomies work (which is probably not the best strategy if she actually wants him to get one, but 10/10 for patronization). In the end, Brennan apologizes on the grounds of Booth’s Catholicism, but Booth never made his faith part of the argument — he went the “snipers don’t fire blanks” route — so that seems like an odd way to frame her truce. Anyway, she had a point when she reminded Angela that she and Booth had sex before marriage. They’ve already made exceptions.

But their whole relationship is an exception, and that’s an argument I can get behind. Brennan doesn’t want any kids right now, but she knows from experience that the best things are usually unexpected. She didn’t plan for any of the relationships she values most. (I like that in addition to Booth, their two kids, and Parker, Brennan puts her friendship with Angela on that list.) For now, they’ll keep taking the usual precautions, but she isn’t sure if she wants to lock the door and throw away the key just yet.

As for Barbara Baker, James hired the private investigator to find her long-lost daughter — he gave up his medication and, in the long run, his life to finance their reunion. Booth and Brennan watch mother and daughter hug in the conference room. “The unexpected happened,” Brennan says. “They fell in love.” She isn’t just talking about James and Barbara.

Bits and pieces:

  • I’m glad “SKALLE” found its way into this season’s callbacks.
  • “So what? You’d prefer I die from an obstructed airflow?”
  • “You know who Iron Maiden is? You, who thinks Maroon Five is a color palette?”
  • Hodgins wants to die in a carbon snake. Then, presumably, he still wants to be launched into the sun.
  • “No, I’m not hitting Gramps.”
  • “Columbo always questions his suspects separately.”
  • “That’s ageism, Booth.”
  • “What are the Mets?”

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Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz play a will-they-won’t-they crime-solving duo.
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