One thing that Bones does well is the special topics episodes. Since the general vibe of the show is pretty lighthearted, when a special topic episode comes along, it makes it all that more powerful. I think “The Signs in the Silence” is going to become one of their touchstone episodes.
Trigger Warning: This episode is centered on abuse of a special needs child.
A cop on routine patrol sees a body next to a dumpster and finds a person covered in blood. As he checks on her, she wakes up with a start and begins trying to attack him with the knife she was still clutching.
At the Royal Diner, Booth and Brennan are trying to decide what to get the Hodgins baby. They seem to be assuming that they’re getting a joint gift (seriously? Stingy much, guys?) Brennan observes that soon she’ll be the only one without kids, and Booth seems to think that having Baby Hodgins around will make her starting thinking about having kids again (something that hasn’t been brought up since mid-season four, I think). Caroline Julian, our favorite southern DA, interrupts their breakfast with an interesting case related to the girl we saw in the cold open. The girl is assumed to be deaf and uncommunicative (as Brennan corrects when Caroline calls her deaf and dumb) and assumed to be a minor, so Grace Meachum has been assigned to her from Child Protective Services. Brennan argues that they don’t even know that she is a minor until she runs tests to determine the girl’s age. In addition to the blood all over her and the knife in her hand, she was found with a bundle of money. Jane Doe (as they’re calling her) isn’t responding to signing and Meachum won’t allow any medical tests without the girl’s consent, which they’re clearly not going to get. Caroline has a court order, though, to override consent because of exigent circumstances; they want to find out who she is and who she attacked because they could still be alive and bleeding to death somewhere.
The pressure is on, and Jane struggles against the team, especially when the sign for “family” is made as Hodgins tries to get the particulates from her hair and clothing to possibly ID the victim. Brennan isn’t molly-coddling the girl, and Sweets asks her to talk for a moment. He explains to her that she’s disabled, restrained, and on display; they need to make her feel comfortable and secure for her to cooperate. He reminds her what being in foster care was like; every situation was scarier than it needed to be “because some supervisor was in a rush.” Brennan tries a different tactic and brings her to a machine that can get an x-ray of her wrists without having to restrain her as much. It works, and Brennan determines that the girl is between 13-17.
Booth gets a lead on the money found on her. They were sequential numbers, most likely from an ATM, so he gets on identifying who used ATMs near where she was found. Brennan starts to worry about what happened to this girl”¦ kids don’t start out bad, from her foster experience. Preliminary DNA IDs the blood on her as from a white male, mid-40s. There’s only one, conveniently, on the ATM they’ve found: Duval Price. When they go to his apartment, the door’s been broken in, and they find Duval on the floor in a pool of his own blood.
At the diner, Sweets is upset, as the case just doesn’t make sense. Brennan curtly observes that they’ll never know Jane’s motive, as she’s keeping it to herself. Sweets starts to get upset with her, mad that she’s just giving up on Jane, but Brennan reveals that there are facts they’re missing that could give them a motive and she intends to find them. “I’m not as cold as everyone assumes,” Brennan observes as Sweets apologizes. Brennan goes back to the video of the original, signed interrogation. Using the words per minute that she’s signing and specific signs that she makes, they conclude that she’s from a rural area in southern Pennsylvania. Meanwhile Hodgins has identified the paper in the girl’s pocket as a receipt from a hardware store in Crossroads, Penn. Booth and Brennan head there and find the owner and his wife, who recognize the girl as Amy, their daughter.
Amy is 15 and has a habit of running away, Mike and Denise Shenfield explain. They do their best with her, but they just can’t handle her sometimes. She always comes back after she runs away, though. They want to see their daughter. Back in D.C., Hodgins proves that the door was definitely too thick for Amy to have broken and he’s found fibers of another fabric. Brennan looks over the x-ray footage of Amy’s hand again and notices signs of a healed bucket handle injury”¦ a sign of child abuse. The picture starts to become clear. Brennan meets with Amy again, and through Meachum explains to the girl that she knows that she’s been abused and wants to get x-rays of the rest of Amy. Amy signs that no one believes her. Brennan sympathizes with how it feels not to trust anyone. “People lie,” she confides, “but bones always tell the truth. Your x-rays will tell us exactly what happened to you. No one can say that you’re lying.” Amy consents to the x-rays. When the x-rays come back, intern Arastoo correctly summarizes, “it’s worse that you can imagine.” Amy has had fractures everywhere”¦ legs, arms, skull. According to the injuries, it started when she was three. The Shenfields get impatient waiting to see their daughter, but they’re being stalled so Caroline can arrive with a court order to keep them away from her. Mike is enraged, but so is Brennan, who emotionally shouts that the girl has Waardenburg syndrome, that’s what made her deaf”¦ it’s genetic, they must have known. As she says this, she realizes something and goes to touch the bridges of their noses. She’s sure they’re not Amy’s parents.
They investigate the birth certificate, which they discover was fake. In the interrogation room, Booth asks who Duval Price is, if Mike and Denise pimped Amy out to him. Mike shuts down, but Denise protests that she was troubled and they loved her. Sweets plays the sympathy card, understanding that they tried their best and that it was difficult for them. Denise cries that they just wanted her to mind, just wanted her to be able to have a normal life. After repeated warnings from Mike for her to be quiet, he unleashes his rage and backhands her. Booth responds by pulling him out of his chair and punching him.
Back in the lab, Arastoo has found that judging by the way Amy was holding the knife, she couldn’t have stabbed the victim from behind. He must have been on top of her, making the stabbing self-defense. Hodgins uses the moisture in the door to determine that the door was kicked in at 2 a.m., a full two hours before Cam determined time of death. And the fibers on the door? They’re from a PriceCo flannel shirt, just like ones that Shenfield wears. Also, they’ve found a picture showing Shenfield and Duval Price were friends. They’ve got him and piece together what happened. Mike called his friend Duval when he saw Amy get on a bus to D.C. When Amy arrived, Duval grabbed her and took her to his apartment so her dad could come get her. Amy finally begins to tell her story. She signs that Duval was going to hit her and tie her up”¦ she tried to get away and only took the knife to scare him, but when he grabbed her, they fell. Brennan reminds her that she was just protecting herself, but Amy still feels remorse for killing a man. Booth tries to get the Shenfields to reveal who they took Amy from, but they’re not speaking anymore. Booth leaves them, snarking, “The only satisfaction I get is knowing what happens in prison to people who abuse kids.”
In another room, Brennan gets to tell Amy that the Shenfields aren’t her parents and by all evidence, no one hurt her before she was with them. She promises to help Amy find out who she is, and we see the girl smile for the first time. Sweets, Meachum, and Brennan try to help Amy remember anything from her early childhood, and in a moment that brings tears to Brennan’s eyes (and mine), she tells Amy about her experiences. How she didn’t trust the happy memories for so long, but she’d occasionally remember images of her mother and the feeling of being with her. Amy closes her eye and remembers a stuffed bunny but can’t picture anything else. Brennan has an idea, though, and asks to pull one of her wisdom teeth. The isotopes from the environment she lived in might still be in her tooth. Amy consents emphatically, and after a montage of forensic analysis, they find out that she was from near Los Angeles and find a missing child that matches her description (and even had a bunny). Her real name is Samantha Winslow, and Booth and Brennan take her to meet her parents. Jane/Amy/Samantha worries whether they’ll like her, and when the Winslows arrive, her mom signs “We never gave up, sweetheart,” as she presents the stuffed bunny. Samantha runs to her, and I have something in my eye for a moment.
As B&B walk away, Brennan lets Booth know that she thinks that they should get a stuffed animal for Baby Hodgins. She also suspects that it must have been very satisfying for him to hit Mike Shenfield. Actually, though, Booth is upset with his loss of control. His father was like that”¦ he doesn’t ever want Parker seeing that side of him. Brennan reminds him that it’s not the same. He’s not the same.
While I love that Bones tackles foster care issues, I do wish that we would see more of the good side of foster care (which, if they’re in good foster care, they’re probably not going to end up being in an investigation, so it’s kind of a self-selecting sample group). I almost hope that Brennan chooses to be a foster parent herself. It’s completely unrealistic with the hours she works, but I think it’d be an important character choice that would be the next step in resolving her past.
Stepping down from that minor quibble, I thought this story was done so well. The writers and show runners at Bones have done an amazing job over the past almost six years creating characters who have complex pasts. The very real thing I find about it is that it’s not something that always defines the characters. Brennan doesn’t bring up her missing parents every episode, nor does Sweets bring up his foster care background or Booth his alcoholic, abusive father. But it’s there when it’s relevant. Good or bad, it affects their actions and reactions. Brennan is extra cold and distant at the beginning of the episode because she has to try harder to keep her objective distance since the subject hits so close to home for her. Booth flies off the handle because he projects the specter of his father onto Mike Shenfield. They’re flawed characters, and that’s why we feel for them and relate to them so much, especially when we’re sucker-punched with episodes like this one.
The B-plot seems so inconsequential in comparison to the rest of the episode, but for posterity it was about Angela having Braxton Hicks contractions. This being her first rodeo, she and Hodgins took a trip to the hospital (after he had a meltdown while trying to find his keys) only to get the false labor diagnosis. They had a laugh about it in Hodgins’ tiny Mini Cooper, which Angela could barely get out of, leading her to point out that he might have to get a new car (which I was thinking as soon as I saw it). I mean, seriously, dude… you’re a millionaire, go get yourself a minivan before the kid drops.
What did you think? Do you like the more serious episodes of Bones, or do you crave the lighthearted ones?