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Recap: Bones 7.16 “The Past in the Present”

It’s season finale time and genius hacker/murderer Christopher Pelant is back and making it personal this time. Get your Kleenex ready. If you’re wondering why the jump between last week’s episode number (7.12) and this one, the Bones team actually filmed 4 additional episodes this season, mostly focusing on the squints (since Emily Deschanel’s pregnancy was the reason for the shortened season). While they’re not on the schedule yet, FOX has an option to air them during the summer, so we’ll be here recapping when and if they air.

At Pelant’s parole hearing, his lawyer argues for him to have the ankle monitor removed. Pelant plays the contrite criminal, stating that he knows now that hacking is a serious crime and that there’s a company ready to hire him that knows all about his hacking past. Caroline Julian (speaking for the sane side of keeping the ankle monitor on) snarks that he’s not a hacker anymore, he’s a murderer. At the parole board’s questioning, Booth and Brennan speak up and show the board their evidence that he’s a person of interest in two investigations. The board seems skeptical since it’s all circumstantial, but agrees to review it anyway. Both Brennan and Booth’s phones start ringing, but they don’t realize at first that the ringtones were changed to a howling sound. Pelant looks over with his typical dead-eye expression.

A screenshot of Andrew Leeds from "Bones" and Andrew Scott from "Sherlock." They look like brothers.
Uncanny, hmm? Left screencap via, right promo photo via BBC.

Seriously, can I digress and talk about Andrew Leeds’ performance as Christopher Pelant for a minute? The comparison that comes to mind (and not just because they look so similar) is to Andrew Scott’s performance as Jim Moriarty in the BBC’s Sherlock. The complete conviction to his portrayal of a sociopath who delights in creating chaos just because it’s the most interesting thing his brain can think up is a completely fascinating and terrifying thing to watch. There’s no reasoning with Pelant – he does what he does because he wants to, because it’s what passes as a challenge, and, most of all, because it’s fun to see all the puppets play their parts exactly how he wants them to do so. I really wish we had more than two episodes with him this season, though I’m glad to see they didn’t get him wrapped up neatly by the end of this episode. I don’t know how he could top what he does in this hour (with barely  half a page of dialogue, by the way), but I look forward to it with a perverse kind of glee.

Okay, back to the episode: B&B arrive on site at a wildlife reserve where a couple on an ATV found some remains when their GPS led them astray (I wonder who was behind that). There’s not much tissue left, since a pack of wolves appeared to chow on the victim. Brennan does her quick ID as male, late 30s, and stops when she notices some remodeling on a really unique fracture that looks to be about 8 years old. She double checks it and then states that she set that break: the victim is a friend of hers, Dr. Ethan Sawyer. Booth’s phone, with it’s hacked howling ringtone, rings again, leaving no doubt in our minds and Brennan’s that Pelant killed her friend.

Ethan Sawyer went to grad school with Brennan and was a mathematical genius who focused on finding patterns in systems. Unfortunately, that ended up driving him to paranoid schizophrenia. Brennan admits to Booth that she had been consulting with Ethan on the Pelant case. Booth is upset at what Pelant’s people finding out that they were consulting with someone mentally ill would do to their case, but Brennan says he was the only person she knew smarter than Pelant, so he’d have been the only person able to help. That knowledge made him extremely dangerous to Pelant. Booth says they’ll hold on to that information until they find the means and motive to lock Pelant up. Things get worse when Booth discovers that Ethan had been ranting about a demon baby that he had to kill, namely Christine, and that Brennan knew about it. While Ethan was in a locked down ward, there was a (surprise!) computer glitch that placed him on an open ward the day before he was killed. Before that, he’d had no visitors since Brennan last saw him two weeks ago; what’s more, Ethan gave her an old math book when she left.

Back at the lab, the squints are finding out some disturbing stuff of their own: Cam finds indications that Ethan was still alive when the wolves ate him. Wolves don’t eat live prey, so something must have been making him look dead. Wendell’s looking for non-wolfy stuff, but can’t find anything. He reminds himself what Dr. Brennan taught him: “Gather evidence and follow it without bias.” Hodgins asserts that Pelant made a mistake and that they’ll find it, remarking that Pelant isn’t God. Angela finds the worst discovery of all: security tapes from Ethan’s hospital showing Brennan leaving. The tapes are time-stamped the night before he disappeared. Angela has no idea how he would have hacked it and tells Brennan that her alibi is that they were at the Founding Fathers together, drinking and talking about Christine’s upcoming christening. Angela tells Brennan that she knows she wouldn’t kill anyone and Brennan asserts that, under the right circumstances, she knows she could. “Like someone thinking your baby is a demon and wanting to kill her?” Angela asks. The pieces fall together and Brennan realizes that Pelant is framing her.

Brennan shows the footage to Booth and all he can say is, “This is bad.” There’s four hours of Brennan’s time that are unaccounted for. Max (who’s put Christine to bed), comes down and tells them they need a plan for what will happen if the evidence continues to stack up against them. Booth tells him that they can handle this and Max, to his credit, knows not to press the issue anymore right then. But stack up the evidence does. Straight, precise marks on the victim’s bones are revealed to be cuts through all the minor veins and arteries, leaving him to bleed out, attracting the wolves. With Pelant having no medical or anatomy training, how would this get connected to him? Wendell finds a needle mark in the bone, with a trace of whatever drug was used to subdue Ethan still inside. When Hodgins runs it, it’s from a curare plant, used as anesthesia in the ’40s, a substance that leaves the body quickly (so it wouldn’t be on the tox screen). The plant is really rare and the person would have to distill it themselves from the plant. Which Hodgins happens to have two of and which he lent Brennan two weeks ago. The team is devastated, but Wendell says they can’t ignore the fact that someone threatened her kid. Cam backs him up and says that they have to do everything by the book so that they’re above reproach. Angela can’t believe what they’re saying and storms off. Angela goes to tell Booth about the new evidence. Booth starts trying to think of how they can counteract the evidence when he gets a phone call from Brennan saying that Pelant has her and she’s locked in his bathroom. It is obviously a totally faked call, but Booth is under some stress, so he heads to Pelant’s place where Pelant lets himself be roughed up quite a lot before pointing out that Booth should maybe check with Brennan, who is at home when Booth calls. Caroline scolds him for that play (of course, there’s no record of Booth receiving the initial call), and tells him that because of it, Pelant’s parole was granted and he’s free to go. More bad news: Booth and Brennan are both off the case. Agent Flynn is replacing him and takes Booth’s badge and gun. As he leaves, he reminds Flynn that, “With a guy like Pelant, nothing is the way it seems.”

Angela goes to see Brennan (against the rules), determined to look at every computer trail and figure out how to stop Pelant or point this back at him. From his library records, he reads a lot… like, A LOT. 80 books in 3 months. His PPV bill shows a ton of movies. No one could read all those books and watch all those movies in that time. Agent Flynn arrives at the house with a warrant to search Brennan’s house and car. Booth notices that the house number is slightly off. Oops, better fix that technicality. Flynn says the Prius is on the street, so public property, so give him the keys. Oops, Booth lost them… guess you gotta tow it. When they get rid of Flynn, Booth tells Angela and Brennan to pack up everything they have on Pelant and tells Angela to get to the library to check out those books.

A screenshot from the TV show Bones. The character Cam looks very sad
All the awards for Tamara Taylor, guys. Screencap via

The dominos keep falling as Sweets is kicked off the case by Agent Flynn and Caroline (who arranged the typo on the warrant) is booted because a money transfer has been made from Brennan’s account to hers. Before she’s kicked off, though, she gives Brennan a heads up that an arrest warrant is imminent and it’ll be better for her if she turns herself in. The final nail in the case has come down… the hair samples in Brennan’s truck match Ethan. Cam is crying over the results as Hodgins asks her what she’s going to do. “I’m going to get myself together and do the right thing… either you believe in the system or you don’t,” she asserts. Cam believes in the system, as much as it hurts. Brennan and Booth spend a moment with their baby as Max comes over and tells them that they have to make a run for it. Booth admits that he’s been thinking about it, but knows it will make her look more guilty. Max explains that they need to get off the grid, “Computers are the system and this guy runs the computers.” He know what it’s like when the system turns on you. He leaves, but Brennan tells Booth that she wants to have Christine christened before she’s arrested, and that she wants to be there (he had previously been okay with her not attending because religion is his thing).

A screenshot from the TV show Bones. A hidden message glows in blue code on a wall
Thats... a lot of saliva. Screencap via

It’s not over, yet, though, as Brennan realizes (FINALLY!) that Ethan was trying to send her a message through an inscription in the book he gave her. Cam and Hodgins go to Ethan’s room in the hospital, looking for a message in a triangle. Cam pulls out the infared and finds invisible writing on the wall. Ethan left a message in saliva. Angela doesn’t have any idea what the code is, and when she calls Brennan to tell her, Brennan thanks her for believing in her and tells her she loves her. She hangs up and goes into the church for the christening, after Max gives her some fatherly advice to breathe, take a minute, and forget about everything but Booth and Christine.

A montage takes us through the following events: Booth looks so happy to have Christine christened. Pelant enters B&B’s house. Angela scans books in and finds some code in an RFID tag. Pelant replaces the alarm clock in their bedroom with what looked like, earlier, a homemade bomb. He takes pictures of Christine’s crib, smiles at the security camera. Christine is splashed with holy water and Booth looks happier than I’ve ever seen him. Oh, this is all going to come crashing down, isn’t it? Angela finds Caroline and explains how Pelant changed the code in the RFID tags to insert viruses into the system, but it’s too little to keep Brennan from being arrested. Angela blames Cam, but Caroline protests that she’s the only one who didn’t do exactly what Pelant expected and that’s why the Squints are still on the case, which is exactly what Pelant fears.

At the church, Booth goes to get the car. Brennan stops him and tells him that she loves him and doesn’t want him to think that Christine is the only reason they’re together. Oh, Booth, sweet naive, Booth, how are you surprised by what happens next? Booth leaves and Max pulls up and tells Brennan, “Let’s go.” She buckles Christine in her car seat as Max reiterates that she’s to use cash only stay off the grid, wait for him and if he’s not there in three days, go to the next meet spot. He tells her he’s right about this. Meanwhile, Booth’s car won’t start and he seems to realize what’s going on just in time to see Brennan driving away. He grabs Max and asks him where they’re going, but Max won’t tell him. Booth wants to be with his family, but Max tells him he has to stay in the system, stay alive, get the bastard and bring his family home. Max will keep the girls safe and alive in the meantime. Booth sits on the church steps alone as Brennan drives. Even Christine looks sad.

A screenshot from the TV show Bones: a baby in a car seat looks very sad
I know, Christine... I know. Screencap via

This was probably one of the most thematic and foreshadow-tastic episodes of Bones that we’ve ever had. From the push and pull on our heroes as to whether they follow the book and trust in the system or do what they know is true, to the frequent dissertations from Booth that Pelant shouldn’t change their lives, to the montages juxtaposing what the good guys are doing with what Pelant’s up to – every action in this episode meant something. It was also a refreshing change of pace from a show that’s gotten pretty formulaic. Many of you have commented that you can pick the killer pretty easily each week. This episode turned that formula on its head, questioning how you know who the killer is when all the evidence points elsewhere. Just writing this recap was like going through the emotional roller coaster of the episode all over again. While the entire season was choppy, this finale was definitely satisfying.

What did you think?

By Crystal Coleman

Florida girl living on the west coast. During the day, I consult in social media and community management. I have a really cute puppy (Elphaba) and a British husband (I keep him for his accent) as well as an unhealthy relationship with parentheses.

3 replies on “Recap: Bones 7.16 “The Past in the Present””

This was the best ep of the season! I like your Moriarty comparison, that’s totally apt here. I think the team is always at its best when it’s fighting one of the big bads (with a few exceptions.) None of the others (maybe the silver skeleton fellow) is as equally matched to Bones as Pelant.  He gave me the chills when he broke into Booth and Bones’ house while they were Christening Christine.

I’m a little pissed this was the finale, it’s going to be so hard to wait to see how this plays out!

I actually loathe the kind of episodes that happen in a crime shows – and other genres – when the main protagonist is falsely accused because they make me incredibly paranoid!

But otherwise I have to admit it was an excellent episode, I’d been growing a little bored of it, now I have to know what happens next.

Seriously shedding a tear for Booth (it’s his birthday today, btw)- just wow. I’m still on season 4…my intention is to be all caught up by the time Season 8 starts in prime time. It’s possible that I’ve become a bit obsessed and am crushing on Agent Booth a little more than a 38 yr old should be. ANYWAY.

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