[Trigger Warning: 9/11.]
For Veteran’s Day, the Bones crew gives us a touching episode about an unidentified body that turns out to be a homeless veteran and becomes a personal case for the team. Booth has gotten Brennan into basketball and she’s especially a fan of Phil Jackson. So much so that she’s using his coaching philosophies to try an experiment with her Squintern team. She gathers her five best interns (Misters Abernathy, Bray, Fisher, Vaziri, and Dr. Edison”¦ either Daisy has quit or even Brennan agrees that she sucks) and tasks them with using the missing persons database to ID as many of the unidentified remains in the Jeffersonian basement as possible. They, being guys, turn it into a competition, trying to ID the oldest, or the most, except for Vaziri. He drew a homeless man who was found beaten in a parking garage. Very little to go on. Grasping for something, he points out some particulates to Hodgins and brings out the magic word: conspiracy. Hodgins gets the mass spectrometer going.
In just a few days, the “squint squad” has IDed eighteen sets of remains, all except for Vaziri, who is called in by Brennan. He doesn’t want to write this man off like the police did, especially noticing an old bullet wound. “How can I walk away and leave this man forgotten for a second time?” he asks. Hodgins arrives with results from the mass spec: the particulates were from jet fuel, and a lot of it. Cam looks into the original police report and finds that the time of death is listed as the same as when they found him; the police probably didn’t care. They discern that he actually died four days earlier than he was found on September 21, 2001. Vaziri gets the rest of the squints interested, too, and when Edison finds a metal fragment, they have Fisher (who’s the best at estimating remodeling fractures) give an estimate for when the victim’s rib was broken. Fisher says ten days before death. Vaziri suggests that given the date and the presence of jet fuel, he could have been at the Pentagon on 9/11. Edison says that all the Pentagon victims were identified. “Maybe just the ones who had homes,” Abernathy adds.
Brennan’s invested and wants to find out as much about the victim as possible. Sweets is cynical, thinking maybe the victim stayed anonymous for a reason (insinuating that he was a conspirator). There are no DNA matches, but Brennan’s found that the victim had exposure to high levels of uranium about 20 years ago. Booth says that uranium was used to make some casings during the Gulf War. Since there was no DNA database until the late ’90s, Booth has a hunch that the victim was a Gulf Vet. He has his friend Ben Fordham at the Pentagon show the victim’s picture around to see if anyone recognizes him.
Cam shares her 9/11 experience: she was still in New York then, working as a coroner. She signed more than 900 death certificates, spoke to the wives, husbands, children. She warns Hodgins that now isn’t the time for his conspiracy theories and Hodgins agrees. He says that he’s looked into all of the 9/11 theories and none of them hold water; it was an extremist act of people who hated what the U.S. stood for. Bray finds some dislocation marks, leading to a suggestion that the victim was dragged, too, and Edison wonders who could have beaten someone so brutally just days after the attacks. Abernathy asks Vaziri if this is too difficult for him because he shares a religion with the attackers. Vaziri asks him back if it’s difficult for him to work with Edison, since they share a religion that thought it was okay to enslave Africans, not to mention the crusades. Edison tells him to let Abernathy off, he’s just a kid, but Vaziri basically says that if he’s old enough to have opinions, he better have facts to back them up. Vaziri says that day wasn’t the work of religion, but of hate: “They hijacked my religion, too. It’s a privilege to show this victim the love that was so absent that day.” Abernathy apologizes and thanks Vaziri for taking the time to set him straight. Bray is quite short and testy about the case, too, so the next day, Fisher calls out the elephant in the room: “9/11 was a trauma to us all. And we act like it doesn’t matter.” He says they need to get it all out and shares his story: he was a senior in high school, stealing a test from his science teacher, who walked in crying. They talked and cried together. Edison was working before school, in a coffee shop. Everyone just stared at the TV, silent. Abernathy was 9, and had just gotten cut with scissors protecting his mom. She wanted to take him to the hospital, but his wound didn’t seem so bad in comparison. Vaziri was at morning prayers; “I didn’t believe in anything that day.” Bray goes last. He was with his aunt that day and a few days after; his uncle was a firefighter in New York. He never came home.
Booth has gotten an ID on the victim: Tim Murphy. Booth checked around the homeless shelters and found a box of his personal items that the woman who ran it kept (hoping that the guys would come back and have a normal life). He had a wife and a son. They bring his wife, Linda, in to tell her about what happened and ask he if she knew who might want to kill her husband. She hadn’t seen him in 17 years. He wasn’t the same after he came back, she explains. He was trapped in a munitions dump that got hit, so he was afraid to be inside. He didn’t seek help because he didn’t trust anyone. “They don’t give a purple heart for PTSD,” she explains. One day, he just vanished. She figured they were dead to him, but Booth shows her the picture that Tim still had.
Hodgins realizes that the metal fragment in the victim’s rib places him at the west side of the building (it was from one of the lampposts), putting him about 500 feet from the plane as it passed over. This is the moment I realized what happened, for reference. Brennan says the bones clues are becoming more difficult to decipher. Ben Fordham visits Booth with some new info. Tim was outside the west side of the Pentagon every day for over a year, yelling at everyone in uniform: “Walk in Moore Park.” But there is no Moore Park. People complained about him, security had to remove him once a week and sometimes he fought. Once, he tried to disarm a guard. Booth and Fordham think maybe that guard wanted revenge, but they can’t even get the records sealed to find out who was working that day.
Booth tries to figure out what “Walk in Moore Park” means when he has a realization and pulls a photo from Tim’s belongings. It shows Tim with four other guys in uniform: Walken, Moore, and Park. They were with him in the munitions dump and he was the only survivor. He petitioned 56 times to get his friends silver stars and when that didn’t work, he parked himself in front of the Pentagon. The squints realize that they need to go back to the beginning and they pull the clothes the victim was found in, finding much blood on them. While the blood IDing is processing, they go back to the wounds. Not all the fractures were traumatic: the dislocated shoulder, weightlifter type fractures in his patella. Nothing makes sense. Three IDs come back on the blood: Warren Kirk, James Donzig, and Diane Rollins, all of whom were working in the Pentagon that day. Booth and Brennan speak to Rollins, who tells her story: she was pinned under a beam and couldn’t move. When Brennan shows her the picture of Tim, she recognizes him. “That’s the man who rescued me. Do you know where he is? Can I thank him?” She relates that after he lifted the concrete beam off her, he saved two other guys. Brennan comes around to thinking that Tim wasn’t murdered.
She (assisted by Angela’s graphics) explains that because of their preconceptions, they assumed that this was just a homeless man who was assaulted and that without her exceptional team, they never would have discovered the truth. Tim was outside when the plane crashed, sending debris into his chest, fracturing his rib. When he went in to save people, lifting over 400lbs of debris, he received a dislocated shoulder and the compression fractures in his patella. The exertion broke his rib completely, causing a shard to puncture his lung. It took him ten days to bleed out before he died. The team is in sad awe at how much pain he must have been in and that he died with no one knowing what he did.
Tim is buried in a military funeral. The Jeffersonian team is in attendance, as are the three Pentagon workers he saved, and his wife and son. Booth speaks and ends letting his son, Sean, know that his “dad did not die a broken man living in the streets… he was as brave and noble as the rest of us. We lay him to rest today, a hero.”
At home, Brennan wonders if his fellow soldiers will get their silver stars. Booth says he and Fordham are on it. Standing there in the kitchen, Brennan starts crying. She tells Booth how she spent two weeks digging out and identifying remains from the towers. She was methodical, did her job well, never shed a tear. She never let herself feel it. She could avoid all of it before she met Booth. “Now,” she explains through tears, “I think of those people and I think of you. Any one of them, it could have been you.” She cries as Booth hugs her.
Overall, I thought this was a really great episode that veered just to the right side of getting a little overwrought (really, the only thing that seemed too speechy to me was Hodgins’ little bit, but your mileage may vary). And all the performances were great, but Tamara Taylor really gets the gold star this time. The episode ended with David Boreanaz speaking for the Veteran’s Crisis Line, which can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.