Well, this was quite the dramatic (and gross!) episode. Let’s dive right in.
The Mystery of the Week first looks like an epilogue rather than a beginning: Heather Taffet, the Gravedigger, is headed to the courthouse for her final appeal. Sweets is with her, because she requested counseling, and Booth and Caroline Julian are outside with an angry crowd of protesters as the van pulls up to the front of the courthouse – because the parking garage gate is unexpectedly closed. Coincidence? Booth, scanning the crowd for anything out of the ordinary, sees someone filming the scene – and then Taffet gets out of the van and immediately has her head shot off. Silently. And graphically. (Seriously, there are a lot of shots of the headless corpse.) Sweets, who was standing behind her, is splattered with blood, and the crowd runs away – except for the guy with the camera, who just keeps filming.
The team, of course, immediately gets to work. Booth finds the bullet hole in a wall and uses it to figure out the bullet’s trajectory. Since he didn’t hear the shot, he concludes that it came from far away, and requests data from DC’s ShotSpotter system. The skull fragments are sent to the Jeffersonian, where Cam determines that a single bullet, at a faster than average speed, made Taffet’s head explode. Hodgins retrieves the bullet from the remains: it’s quite large and looks like copper. Angela determines that it’s 12 grams of pure copper and has grooves “unrelated to internal ballistics.” She promises to try “unsquishing” it. Wendell works on reconstructing the skull and determines that the entry wound was at the left parietal.
Meanwhile, Caroline suspects that Brennan’s father Max might have shot Taffet to protect his daughter, and Booth puts Max on the suspect list. Once Brennan sees this, she begins to suspect him, but Angela does her best to talk her out of it. (Hilariously, each person thinks Max is in a different country.) Max soon calls Brennan, supposedly to check on her in the wake of the shooting, and claims he’s in Maui, but the audience can see he’s somewhere with snow. When Brennan tells him that he’s on the suspect list, he denies involvement and confesses that he’s actually in New Hampshire. Max later shows up and gives Brennan receipts as an alibi, but doesn’t want to talk to Booth. Brennan believes him, but Booth is skeptical: “Just tell Max that drunk in New Hampshire is not an official alibi.”
Booth questions the man who was taping the crime scene: It turns out he’s James Kent, father of two of Taffet’s victims. Kent says he was there with some of the other families, and that he didn’t run the way everyone else did because he didn’t know what was going on. He denies involvement in the shooting and gives his footage to Booth. The tape confirms to Booth that the shot was from the south-southwest, but he still can’t hear it.
Angela creates an image of what the bullet probably originally looked like, and Booth realizes that it was a custom, hand-made bullet, which suggests that this was a professional hit. The bullet hit the wall at over 1000 feet per second and with very little angle, so it was an extremely long shot, and Angela doesn’t think Max would have been capable of it. Booth and Brennan recreate the scene and suspect that the shot came from nearby law offices. One of the suspects, Harvey Morrister, works there as a paralegal: he’s a former military marksman, and Taffet had him disbarred. (What? How? Why? I missed the explanation of this, if there was one. Anyone?) When they bring him in for questioning, though, he’s nervous and fidgety, and Booth and Sweets agree that he couldn’t have done it.
The team finally gets the ShotSpotter data and traces the location of the gunshot to the apartment of an escort named Tracy Leveque. Booth and Brennan go to the apartment, and Booth brings a gun so he can mimic the sniper’s position. He can only just barely see the courthouse, and concludes that the sniper picked the apartment for the challenge of it: “Only the best sniper in the world” could have made the shot. Brennan concludes that Booth must know the shooter, and Booth agrees. An odd smell leads them to the bathtub, where they find Leveque’s body dissolving in what they initially think is lye, but turns out to be caustic potash. (Second graphic scene of the episode!) Brennan determines that Leveque’s head was severed from her spine, and the markings on the bones suggest the the sniper stabbed with his left hand (even though he shot right-handed), used a hunting knife, and might have been Israeli-trained. Hodgins experiments with caustic potash and estimates the time of death at six days ago. The date and time of Taffet’s hearing wasn’t public knowledge at that point, so Caroline still thinks it was some sort of inside job.
There’s a list of only six snipers who could have pulled off the shot, and Booth says he knows all of them. Sweets is assigned to look into their psychological background. Booth questions a sniper he knew in Afghanistan named William Preston. When Preston protests that Booth just doesn’t like him, Booth says no one likes him, but it turns out Preston was on assignment elsewhere. He suggests that Booth is avoiding facing the fact that the killer is a man they know named Jacob Broadsky. At first, Booth insists that Broadsky isn’t a suspect, but then concedes. Broadsky disappeared after a hostage situation in which he killed someone before getting permission to shoot. When Sweets suggests that Booth approves of this behavior, Booth insists he doesn’t approve, but understands why Broadsky did what he did.
Under the alias Gary Gray (after a famous long-dead British sniper), someone created a bank account and deposited $2 million – the same amount James Kent recently withdrew, and the amount Taffet had demanded as ransom for Kent’s sons. Kent confesses that he paid someone to kill Taffet, but he didn’t get a name or even see the killer. The killer picked the victim and price, and Kent just agreed.
A witness reports seeing Broadsky at a gun shop in the middle of nowhere, and it turns out that Broadsky purchased a property nearby – under the name Seeley Booth. Booth concludes that “This is between me and him” and goes to the property to confront Broadsky. Broadsky claims that he didn’t kill Taffet, but then refers to Leveque as collateral damage. He claims: “We’re the same, Seeley. We both want to do the right thing.” Broadsky runs, but Booth realizes he can chase him onto the property without a warrant because the property is in his name. Broadsky remotely blows up his trailer to distract Booth and gets away. Booth decides not to shoot him because he isn’t 100% sure that Broadsky is guilty.
This episode definitely centered around Booth, and it’s nice to see his past come up. I also enjoyed seeing him leading other agents – we so often see him with the squints, but don’t get much of a sense of how he relates to his peers. I did find myself wishing that the show had remembered Booth’s Catholicism in this episode: How does he feel about the death penalty, anyway? He didn’t interact much with Brennan this week, but they did have a few nice moments that showed how much they care about each other. Brennan’s first words when she found Booth after the shooting were “I’m so glad you’re okay,” and at the end of the episode, Booth is looking at Brennan as he says, “I just didn’t want to let anyone down.” When Brennan is talking to her dad at the end of the episode, Booth watches through the window with a rather inscrutable expression on his face.
Sweets was definitely the MVP of this episode for me. Before she’s killed, Taffet gets into his head, calling him a little boy and claiming that “Everyone knows who’s the weakest link in the chain.” She claims that Sweets’ testimony at her appeal would guarantee her release, and her words haunt him in the wake of the shooting. He becomes withdrawn and starts doubting his abilities. He insists to the rest of the team that he’s fine, but when Booth sends him home to get some rest, Sweets thinks this means he’s not needed.
It takes Caroline to snap him out of it. In a powerful scene, she confesses to Sweets that she had never been so scared in her life, but convinces him not to give Taffet power over his psyche:
Caroline: “We’re all just people, cherie. You’re an expert with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Now, who’s Heather Taffet?”
Sweets: “A dead serial killer?”
Caroline: “You’re damn straight … it’s over. She can’t get to any of us anymore.”
Sweets gets his head back in the game, and when Booth rather adorably notices and asks what changed, Sweets gives the credit to Caroline “hollering” at him.
It’s always fun when Brennan’s father Max shows up, and this week he has two purposes: to be a brief and unconvincing suspect, and to take his turn as the Greek chorus/audience stand-in demanding to know why Booth and Brennan aren’t together yet. (This job usually goes to an intern.) His very first question to Angela is about his daughter and Booth, and he’s upset that they’re not and that Booth is with someone else. He tells Brennan that she’s prettier and smarter than Hannah – what a good dad! – and admits: “I just always thought that you and Booth would get over the nonsense and settle down.” Brennan, unsurprisingly, doesn’t want to talk about it. Later, he thanks her for believing that he wasn’t the killer, and gives her a fake ceramic conch shell toothbrush holder. They have a whole bit about this that I found unconvincing: the upshot is that Brennan will at least pretend to believe that she can hear the ocean in a seashell, despite knowing it’s scientifically incorrect, because her father told her she could. This could have been a touching moment for a father-daughter duo with a less fraught history (and less commitment to science). Or it could have worked to show how Brennan is learning to meet people on their own terms, if it had been with a character she actually trusted, like Booth or Angela. But for these two characters? I didn’t buy it.
In another subplot I wasn’t really feeling, Hodgins is thrilled about Taffet’s death and says he would reward the killer if he could, and Angela freaks out about his enthusiasm. “The father of my child cannot condone a full-out assassination.” But Sweets tells Hodgins that his feelings are normal, seeing as how Taffet buried him alive and all. And this is … never really resolved between Angela and Hodgins, actually.
The Rotating Intern is Wendell, but neither he nor Cam have much to do this week aside from their lab duties.
Next week: Polygamy! I’m sure that’s completely random, because it’s not like there’s anyone on this show in love with two women or anything.
Photo Courtesy of FOX