In one of the least gross-out cold openings we’ve seen, a newbie border patrol agents stumbles over feet at the US/Canada border in New York. Not his own feet, mind you, but detached, partially decomposed feet. When Booth and Brennan arrive on the scene, the agents reveal they’ve found 16 feet total.
“The Feet on the Beach”
As Brennan starts trying to get rough victim IDs and pair them up, Dr. Douglas Fillmore arrives. He and Brennan are already acquainted. He’s a forensic podiatrist and Brennan wrote a very lengthy and persuasive paper to the forensic board explaining why forensic podiatry shouldn’t be a recognized field of study. Coincidentally, Fillmore lost the use of his right arm just after reading that paper. He’s an interesting person. And ever so slightly bitter. Brennan asks the agents to gather up the feet and ship them back to the Jeffersonian, but Fillmore points out that save a couple of pairs, the feet are on the Canadian side, so she can’t have them. Burn!
In the background, someone at the Jeffersonian has asked for Fillmore’s cooperation on the case, so the feet should be arriving shortly. Investigating the feet that they do have, Hodgins realizes that one still smells of sweat, so wouldn’t have been from the victims (who have been in the mud from 1-3 months). They run the DNA and it matches a Canadian citizen in a mental health facility. When Sweets interviews the suspect, Bernie, he reveals that he stumbled on the crime scene too and one of the pairs of shoes just happened to be the right size, so he took them. Sweets asks for the shoes to be sent to the Jeffersonian. Hodgins also discovers spider mites on all the feet, suggesting that all the victims were in the same place at the same time.
Sweets and Booth gang up on Brennan to try to get her to apologize to Fillmore. They explain to her why she should multiple times, but she just doesn’t get it. Dr. Fillmore arrives and attempts to assist in the investigation, but gets cut down verbally by Brennan with every observation. He notices that one toe was cut off pre-mortem, which Brennan hasn’t noticed yet. After a moment of pause, she assures him that she would have noticed it shortly. She tells Fillmore that her colleagues are encouraging her to apologize to him, but that he hasn’t asked for one yet. He says that it wouldn’t be appropriate, and Brennan is glad that he agrees with her. He’s flummoxed for a moment … darn his Canadian politeness. Angela comes to give an update on what they’ve found and Fillmore is very impressed. “Everyone here is quite extraordinary,” Brennan smugs. (Can you tell I don’t really like Brennan in this episode? More on that later.) Anyway, Angela reveals that the feet came from the University of Hogansburg, NY and Brennan instantly knows what happened. UH is home to a body farm, used by forensic specialists to study rates of decomposition. Upon contacting the farm, they discover that parts of the farm flooded recently, washing some bodies into the river. They’re only missing 7 bodies, though. That means the 8th pair of feet came from a murder victim.
After IDing the body farm feet, the team gets started on finding an ID for the extra pair. The stolen pair of shoes arrives: limited edition, two-thousand dollar shoes with a serial number, which is extra helpful. They check the size of the feet and the shoes via Angela’s Magic Screen and lo and behold, the shoe fits. Literally. At the body farm, Booth tries to talk to Brennan again about lightening up on Dr. Fillmore. She likens it to a FBI agent who only specializes in murders committed in February, but Booth says it’s not the same thing. Brennan changes the subject because she is totally stoked to be there and check out all the gross decomps. Now I see why the beginning wasn’t that gory; they were saving it for a body to explode from gas right in front of B&B. Nice. Booth can’t stand the stench, but Brennan is practically jumping up and down with excitement. Professor Peter Simkins, who runs the farm, comes out to share her excitement, too. He introduces them to his assistant, Norman, a PhD Candidate, who is very pleased to meet Dr. Brennan. Simkins takes them around the facility and explains that they don’t usually put bodies that close to the water, but they were running out of usable space. Plots need to lie fallow for a period after the decomp is done. Angela phones up with an ID on the victim: Dylan McEllroy, a U of H grad student. Simkins recognizes the name; he worked there at the farm, but Simkins just thought he’d dropped out. I make my guess on the murderer right then and for the record, it’s totally correct.
B&B head to the U of H campus and find Dylan’s roommate, Kent Durham, selling Dylan’s stuff in the courtyard. Dylan apparently had a lot of shoes, and would frequently disappear on his sneaker trips, so Kent didn’t think it was strange that he was missing. B&B want to know where a grad student was getting the money for trips to Japan and $2k sneakers and Kent reveals that he’s pretty sure that Dylan was dealing drugs. Coincidentally, Hodgins finds cannabis pollen on one of the spider mites. It’s pretty clear that Dylan was growing weed on the farm. When they question Norman about whether Dylan might have been growing a crop out there, he’s really shady about it. Even shadier: the cadaver technician, Mr Wolfram (WOLFRAM!!!) snapping at him “You can dispose of your own damn cadaver next time.” Seriously? It’s like there’s a bright, neon arrow point at this kid! He just got back from Helsinki, though, so he couldn’t possibly have killed Dylan. Aw, shucks! Norman denies having anything to do with the weed, but shows them the site that they suspect it was grown near. At that site, there’s a hanging body that drops as they approach it (just like in “A Boy in a Tree!”) and Brennan finds some spider mites nearby. Norman says that Simkins checks the sites every day, so must have seen the plants. At first, he denies knowledge of it, but then reveals that they had an agreement: Dylan grew and Simkins got free product.
In a nice piece of Windows SkyDrive product placement, Brennan has uploaded pics of the leaves to their SkyDrive and Hodgins finds a variety of insects that shouldn’t normally be there, leading him to check their tiny bug stomachs to see what they were feeding on. Also, Fillmore finds that one bone is 3mm shorter than another, but it’s not a genetic asymmetry; something shaved some of the bone off; a blade, probably a power tool. When they call Brennan with this news, she can’t bring herself to give him props for his discovery and Booth chides her yet again, insisting she should apologize to the man. She wants to know why he’s so bothered by it and he explains that he knows the kind of person she is inside and thinks that she should let other people in on the secret. Aww, Booth, there you go, making me melty.
Sweets visits Fillmore while he’s working, but Fillmore insists that he’s seen dozens of doctors about his arm and doesn’t wish to speak with Dr. Sweets about it. Sweets understands, but suggests that since he has a unique perspective on Dr. Brennan, more might come of it than before. After initially not being interested, he does eventually seek out Sweets, who suggests that he just confront Dr. Brennan directly. Being Canadian, he claims, confrontation is not his style.
Cam, Angela and Fillmore get together to figure out what the weapon was: two of the same blades, connected. Fillmore remembers that regular old grass was in the remains, as well; it must have been a riding mower. Angela pops those variables in her Magic Screen and it works! Hodgins has investigated the bugs’ last meals and finds that they had ingested a gel that is often used to hasten the time of decomposition in materials and even bodies. They’ve had the wrong time of death this entire time and who’s the only person with an alibi for the previous time? Norman, the PhD candidate. When they bring him in for questioning, he reminds them that he was out of the country, but they reveal that they found out about the gel. Which he, coincidentally bought a lot of two weeks ago. They speculate that the field that Dylan was using was Norman’s thesis project and the weed was ruining it. He confesses, saying that it wasn’t fair that he was going to flunk out because of it. He didn’t mean to kill him; he got to mower out to cut the weed down, but Dylan wouldn’t move. He thought he would move.
In Jeffersonian gossip, Hodgins opens a letter (that was sent to the Jeffersonian; he wasn’t being a creeper) and finds that it’s for Michelle. It’s an acceptance letter to Columbia. Angela suspects that Cam applied for Michelle without her knowledge, which Hodgins confirms when he delivers the letter and gives her a disapproving look. Later, Michelle sobs to Cam in the diner. Derrick broke up with her. He didn’t want to wake up in ten years feeling like he’d missed out on playing the field. Jerk. Cam doesn’t know how to respond, and Michelle is distraught because she can’t go to the same college as Derrick now, but it’s too late to apply anywhere else. To Cam’s credit, she doesn’t say I told you so, but just assures Michelle that they’ll think of something. Cam goes to Sweets for advice on how to tell Michelle that she’s into Columbia, but Sweets is shocked that she forged the application and lectures her about ethics and being a good example, which Cam isn’t too pleased to hear. Cam eventually reveals (or at least partly reveals) her Columbia acceptance to Michelle, but she thinks it’s a test and decides “I’ve learned it’s wrong to cheat.” She’ll just work for a year and take classes and she’ll get into Columbia on her own next year. Touchingly, she says she wants to be just like Cam. Cam, smarting from both Sweets and Michelle’s moral superiority, thinks she should aim higher.
As Fillmore goes to leave, Brennan approaches him and he finally stands up to her and tells her what he thinks of her. He gets her to admit that she only wanted him there for his feet and calls her close-minded. She, surprisingly, agrees. She then brings up her paper and admits that she was remiss in not noting his remarkable skill and expertise, adding that they wouldn’t have solved the case without his help. She even says that she was grateful and pleased to have the opportunity to work with him. Sweets, thinking that Fillmore’s arm will miraculously be better, throws something to him, which hits him in the head. Nice move, Sweets. Fillmore unconsciously feels his wound – with his right arm! Hey! Good job, Sweets!
At the Founding Fathers, the episode wraps up with a cute scene between B&B. Booth is proud that she apologized, but she points out that she didn’t, she was just contrite. She then goes on to list other things she’s contrite for, which are really just things that annoy her about Booth and he tells her not to apologize for things she thinks. And just not to mention them at all.
I’ve gotta say, I feel like this episode was about 15 steps back for Brennan. I guess, for newer viewers, it’s helpful to have an outsider come in every so often and serve to remind us that Brennan doesn’t do people well. But as a long time viewer, I feel like… come on, haven’t we already explored Brennan’s people issues about 80 times and gotten some growth out of it? Why is she clueless now? That, combined with a case that I had figured out in 20 minutes and a “meh” B-story, made this episode a little underwhelming for me. Anyone else agree? Disagree?