If you’re going to tread water, you might as well log roll while you’re at it. The final season of Bones is obviously still waiting to play its best cards (like next week, maybe? That teaser was something else), but as a standalone case, “The Flaw in the Saw” was exactly the kind of fun escape I can get behind. It had flannel. It had a pancake feud. It had Booth and Brennan on a log. Best of all, this episode still found time to advance this season’s most satisfying arc — the case for Zack’s redemption. Given that we’ve only got 12 hours to work with, I’ve been surprised by how many episodes lately have felt disconnected from the larger narrative, so it’s good to see this season start to find its momentum. And any episode where Brennan tries to comfort someone with a wooden bear is okay by me.
Phyllis Paul, aspiring golfer-turned-competitive lumberjack, is found dead in a dumpster, her body dismembered by a saw. I wouldn’t generally dwell on that kind of gruesome detail if I could help it, but Rodolfo has to, and that’s where the fun begins. Since I still haven’t forgiven our intern of the week for that time he revealed himself to be low-key sexist, I’m very much on board with the way Hodgins punishes him here, as he sits on the sidelines (“Unfortunately they haven’t invented a specialized wheelchair for dumpster diving”) and orders Rodolfo to dig around in the animal guts. What was a moose liver doing in a Virginia dumpster? That’s another case, probably.
Rodolfo whines his way around the lab, but performing the basic functions of his job earns him absolutely no sympathy from Brennan. He even tries to con his way into going to a lumberjacking competition in Brennan’s place. He frames it as a sacrifice he’d be willing to make for his boss, but she sees right through him. “All men love chainsaws,” Rodolfo admits. He even gets a security guard to back him up. (“Greg, how do you feel about chainsaws?” “I love chainsaws.”) Brennan loves field trips with Booth even more, but she promises Rodolfo that she’ll “chatsnap” her whole experience. Bless.
Phyllis was a natural lumberjack — or, as her girlfriend Nancy disdainfully puts it, “lumberjill.” (It’s good to see this show casually throw an LGBT couple into the mix.) One of the competitors Phyllis dethroned on her rise to the top was Helga, whose huge tree trunk of a husband — his name is literally Ragnar — marvels that he “didn’t take Phyllis for the gettin’ murdered type.” Helga insists that she’d never kill Phyllis; they were training partners. Using the same mathematical concepts she once applied to golf, Phyllis was teaching Helga how to science her way to the top.
But people (at least people who aren’t Brennan) don’t go to lumberjacking competitions for the tape measures. They go for the axes and the splintering tree trunks and the hint of danger that comes from knowing that no one here has really done their research. One of the competition circuit’s most dissatisfied spectators, a kid by the name of Gene Frong, even went so far as to throw a golf club through Phyllis and Nancy’s window with a note telling the former to stick to golfing. There was also a slur involved. But Gene says that despite all the fuss he made, he liked having Phyllis around; she was in a “hilarious feud” with the pancake guy.
That pancake guy (played by David Koechner) is Jack Flap, and despite the fact that this is so obviously not his given name, he gives no other, and I wouldn’t want him to. (Also, this is Bones, so it might be his given name.) Jack makes a big show out of how chill and folksy their feud really was, claiming that although Phyllis “wasn’t the nicest Jill at the jamboree,” he didn’t really mind when she reported his food truck to the health department. Jack wins Aubrey over with his sweet, sweet cakes.
Back at the lab, Hodgins finds fungi from plants that could only coexist at a nursery. Good news for people who like a little atmosphere with their murder: Abandoned plant nurseries are extra creepy at night. The greenhouse Angela tracks down has low-hanging mist and everything, not to mention enough blood to prove that it’s definitely where Phyllis died. In a barrel, Aubrey finds Phyllis’ flipline, the steel cable she used to scale the pole in tree-climbing events. It’s covered in vegetable oil. Sabotage.
NEXT: Lumbergals being lumberpals
The saboteur probably should have used gloves, but he’s not very bright. Cam finds skin cells matching a volunteer firefighter in the system: Ragnar. He admits to the sabotage; he just couldn’t stand to see his wife lose after she worked so hard. She and Phyllis went on so many weekend lumberjacking trips! Ohhhhh snap. Helga and Phyllis were having an affair. Ragnar, blissfully ignorant, goes on and on about how much time the women spent together while Booth and Brennan sit across the desk with their hands clasped, enjoying the show. Booth finally oh honeys Ragnar right out the door.
Once they’re alone, Helga admits that she and Phyllis were cheating on their respective partners, and she says it was serious. They were going to leave Ragnar and Nancy behind and get married. They even got fitted for rings. Helga breaks down crying, and Brennan, who left her stack of “There, there” business cards at home, struggles to comfort her. The only thing she has to work with is a small wooden bear on the desk. She nudges it in Helga’s direction: “Do you want a bear?” This is easily the hardest I’ve laughed all season.
Nancy shows up at the competition to confront Helga (“You can’t hide from me, you lumberslut!”), but although the affair gives her obvious motive for murder, she claims that she only just learned about it this morning when the jeweler called. Luckily, Hodgins has a new lead: The marks on Phyllis’ bones contain a combination of sugar, syrup, and pig fat. Jack killed her after all. Join me in a moment of silence for Aubrey and all the pancakes he’ll never get to eat.
After the health inspection took his old truck out of commission, Jack was forced to get a new one. To pay off his loan, he stole Phyllis’ engagement ring, and he isn’t even sorry for killing her when she caught him. “Without my truck,” he reasons, “my life was over anyway.” That seems like a stretch.
Everyone other than Helga thought Phyllis was sciencing the fun right out of the sport, but she refused to conform. Brennan can relate. Christine is learning to ride her bike without training wheels, which Brennan sees as a good excuse to teach her daughter about the physics of biking. Booth just wants to let her fall and pick herself up until she gets it. He believes some things should remain a mystery, and he doesn’t want Brennan to suck the wonder out of everything by explaining it. But to Brennan, the wonder is in the explanation. This isn’t the first time they’ve had this argument, but it’s fun to see them reframe it through their daughter’s eyes.
As with most of their disagreements, Booth and Brennan are never going to see eye to eye on this one (and they shouldn’t). But one of them does have to teach Christine to ride a bike. They challenge each other to a log-rolling competition to settle the score, and as the screen cuts to black, we hear one of them fall in. In the end, it doesn’t matter who won. Unless you’re Christine.
Now, on to an open-ended mystery that actually needs some closure. Hodgins comes to Angela with photos of an old crime scene — the house of the lobbyist Zack confessed to murdering. Hodgins doesn’t think Zack ever would have left so much blood, and Angela agrees, but she thinks it’s a reach. Also a reach: Hodgins finds something in the lobbyist’s wounds that Brennan supposedly missed. (Does that even happen?) It’s the killer’s microbial signature, preserved thanks to the presence of anthrax, and it doesn’t match Zack’s. But microbial signatures have never held up in court, and the anthrax is a really lucky break — maybe too lucky. When Hodgins brings the evidence to Cam, she wonders if he might be planting evidence to prove Zack’s innocence.
Wow. That’s a loaded assertion, but I love that we’re going there — not because I think Hodgins actually did plant it, but because suspecting Hodgins of something he ultimately didn’t do is a time-honored Bones tradition. And Cam wouldn’t be Cam if she didn’t ask the questions that even she doesn’t want to ask. Hodgins, looking hurt, tells her to throw away his findings if she doesn’t trust him, but she gives the file another look when he leaves. As Hodgins would say: Tension, party of two.
Bits and pieces:
- Cam’s high bun might be even better than her low side bun. More buns for Cam!
- Booth doesn’t wear a suit once this entire episode, and I have no complaints.
- I’m enjoying this season’s obscure callbacks. The latest: Angela telling Hodgins that he’s going to hell for having inappropriate fun at someone else’s expense.
- “So we’re looking for a well-traveled knight with a love for America’s favorite pastime, golf.”
- I can’t believe it took us 12 seasons to go all “Who’s on First?” on Brennan’s nickname. (“Wait, who’s Bones?” “She’s Bones.”)
- Booth thinks “the internet” is one of those things that should just remain a mystery.
- “Your hair looks beautiful today, I must say. It’s going to look that much better when it gets all wet.”
- “I hope your lack of scientific strategy results in you losing.” “We’ll work on that trash talk later.”