Geez, Bones, leave it to you to render us speechless and clinging to our children as they groggily wonder why we’ve gotten them up after just having put them to bed. Tonight’s “The Lost Love in a Foreign Land” is frightening in a way Bones usually isn’t. Never mind the mangled remains of the 20-ish year-old victim; the nightmare of this Bones installment is the topic of human trafficking, and the question of the righteousness of murdering one to save the many.
“The Lost Love in the Foreign Land” has people abusing, threatening, and killing other human beings, all in the name of making a buck from slave labor. It’s tragic and truly something we regular folk just don’t think about happening here in the United States of Free America. Well, apparently it does. And it does no good to look the other way and pretend that it doesn’t exist.
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Genre-Blending Bones Defies Labeling
Bones is known for its style diversity. It’s part of what makes Bones a challenge to pin a genre label to. Each episode is most definitely a crime procedural, but any single episode can be a comedy, a tragedy, a romance, a high-speed chase, or a commentary on social issues. This allows Bones the flexibility to get incredibly dark, or to be heart-crushingly poignant, or to make us laugh until we cry, or to wave a righteous flag of awareness as high as they feel necessary to get their point across. The mix keeps them fresh.
This week’s episode unfolds with ample education about the inhumane treatment of human beings inside our own borders. But it’s not just that. It’s also a tale of the continuing relationships of our main characters, predominantly Arastoo Vaziri and Camille Saroyan as they both struggle with the meaning of their relationship and the professional boundaries which love can tend to fade to gray when their hearts get fierce in defense of the other.
Beautifully written and portrayed this week is the character of Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) who plays a role reminiscent of who she was in earlier seasons: a woman both determined and forthright, yet guileless. In other words, her actions reflect her true heart. She wants what is best for Arastoo and she’s willing to disappoint him in the process of delivering what he needs to hear.
Love in the Days of Pomegranate Syrup and Ground Walnuts
Bones’ “The Lost Love in the Foreign Land” opens with a morning scene between Arastoo (Pej Vahdat) and Cam, with Cam getting her panties in a twist over the topics of food and marriage. The good news is that Cam and Arastoo’s mother seem to be getting along swimmingly, as Azita Vaziri has been sharing recipes with our forensic coroner. These recipes, apparently, have social connotations alluding to a greater relationship commitment than the couple now shares. The bad news is that Cam is skittish about the topic of marriage.
Despite Arastoo ‘Captain Confidence’ Vaziri’s excitement over his assumed dissertation-approval by Brennan, he’s quite disconcerted over Cam’s reaction to his mom’s recipe for wedding food, namely fesenjan, a Persian dish made with meat covered in pomegranate syrup and crushed walnuts which is usually served at weddings.
This early morning discussion sets the scene for a stream of tension between the couple throughout the episode.
A Beautiful Face Without a Name
The crime-fighters are called to the scene of a crime where we have discussion of excrement and the lovely image of the King of the Lab and Agent James ‘Max Smart’ Aubrey running around a field chasing goats so they can find out what evidence they’ve eaten. If goats will swallow shoe leather, they aren’t going to let a little putrefaction get in the way of some tasty shoes and/or jewelry off a corpse. The jewelry, it turns out, seems to have been stolen and later proves a key piece of evidence which leads to the victim’s identity.
The victim appears to be in her early 20s and of Asian descent with evidence of poor nutrition as a child. Little does the crew know at this point that the tale in her tibias and trochanters only scratch the surface of the tragic life this poor girl has led. As the story unfolds, so deepens the awareness of the underground atrocities perpetrated by lowlifes who profit by trafficking in human beings.
Angela does her magic and creates an image of the victim’s face, but there is no match for her in the system. She must be an illegal alien, they decide. Hodgins, using the watch he retrieves from one of the goats, assists Angela in figuring out who might be able to provide an identity.
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Booth and Aubrey Interview a Lovely Monster
Sandra Zins (Phyllis Logan) identifies the facial reconstruction as that of her maid, Min-Yung whom she hired from Victor Lee (Francois Chau) who runs a service called Sunny Helpers. Sunny Helpers provides foreign workers with low-paying jobs. Sandra has no idea why Min-Yung had her watch or how she died. Hmm. Really? It turns out later that this posh piece of work is the monster who owns the shell corporation which owns Sunny Helpers and the company the victim’s fiance (we later learn) worked for as a slave.
So, next in the hot seat is this Victor Lee who claims to be as innocent as a lost puppy. I call bullshit right then and there. Lee says Min-Yung came from a village called Yanbian and had no home here so she slept wherever she could find a place to lay her head. Little did we knowthat sleeping on a bench in the park covered in newspapers would have been a happier existence for Min-Yung than what Lee was hiding.
Brennan, Portrayed by Brennan, is Forced to Deliver Devastating News
Up on the medico-legal platform during the remains examination, and though she is loathe to do so, Brennan is cajoled into revealing her rejection of Arastoo’s dissertation proposal in front of the whole team. It’s not good news, of course, et voila, we have another strand to the subplot being formed around Cam and Arastoo for this Bones episode.
Throughout “The Lost Love in the Foreign Land” something happened with Brennan that made me want to stand up and clap my hands with appreciation. Brennan, in this episode, displays that straight-forward, fiercely committed, guileless side of her personality that hasn’t had much of an opportunity to come out to play of late. This is exemplified several times throughout the episode in her interactions with Arastoo and Cam. It is wonderful and refreshing and as comforting as a hot bubble bath. Ahhhhhh. I simply love this Brennan. The Bones fairies are to be commended. I’m looking straight at you, Emily Silver.
Arastoo, who had been overzealous up until this point, is devastated. The continuity of character in this scene and throughout is phenomenal. Remember his childlike glee when he thought his paper was going to be published in an anthropological journal? He was exactly the same degree of excited. It’s great to see this side of him repeated. Continuity is difficult to maintain over six years of intermittent episodes. The writers (and Pej Vahdat) are to be commended for this. Bravo.
Cam Overstep Her Boundaries
Brennan returns to her office and is ambushed by a disgruntled Cam who shakes a reproving finger at Brennan. Cam insists that Arastoo’s research proposal was excellent. Brennan, thank goodness, is more committed to Arastoo’s excellence and innovation than in making him feel good. She expects more from him … that’s why she’s the top forensic anthropologist in the world. Only the best get the opportunity to intern with her, so what the hell is Cam thinking?
At first I thought this is out of character for Cam, but then I remembered her meddling into Michelle’s college applications back in (Episode). Sometimes Cam just can’t help herself when it comes to the people she loves. Well, it’s hardly a flaw worth thrashing her for. After all, Booth ran a background check on Jared’s girl friend, Brennan looked at Wendell’s medical files when she suspected he had cancer, Hodgins withheld Gravedigger evidence from the FBI, Angela was willing to provide an false alibi for Brennan during the Pelant case. We all get a little stupid when it comes to protecting those we love, right? Why should Cam be any different? In the end, Cam marches off with no argument for Brennan, because she knows Brennan is right. Besides, dear lady, this isn’t really about the dissertation, is it?
Compelling Dissertation Proposals & Relationship Squabbles
Already Arastoo is over the rejection of his dissertation research project as I figured he would be. He knows Brennan is not a petty person and that she is committed to his excellence, his ingenuity. It takes this little exercise in humility to remind him that his goal should be to innovate, not to impress or please his boss. When Brennan says she expects a far more original and compelling dissertation subject than what Arastoo proposed originally, that seals the deal for him. See, Arastoo gets it. This makes him fall more deeply in professional love with his mentor than he already was. You can see all of this portrayed in his facial expressions and his manner toward her.
Now, Arastoo’s manner toward Cam at this point? Not so much love as irritation. He gives her a “what-for” about her argument with Brennan over his dissertation. He says her involvement showed a lack of respect. Cam knows it was bad judgement, but her emotions ran amok and she lost control — not a common occurrence for our perfectly poised and coiffed cadaver-stabber. As an aside, what the hell is going on with Cam’s hair? I’m not one to pick on a character’s appearance, but that squid she’s got dangling over her head bothers me. #ThatIsAll
It’s clear that what’s really upsetting Arastoo about Cam is the marriage thing. Her reticence to discuss it is a slight to his ego and/or his heart. He says it’s Cam he can’t deal with. Okay, that was a little harsh, but this is a drama, right? Cam does apologize, but everything is not copacetic yet, and the squintern stomps off.
“Honestly, Officer, I Just Tickled Her A Little,” Said the Rapist
Lee from Sunny Helpers directs the Booth and Aubrey to Jeremy ‘Sting Look-A-Like’ Wolford (Brian Poth), a registered sex offender with a penchant for Asian female students who just happened to be the last person to see Min-Yung alive. This guy is skin-crawling creepy all the way from his scrawny fingers to his floppy peroxided head. Shiver. Ick. Ick. But, he seems to be innocent — of the murder, at least.
This poor excuse for a human says he made advances on Min-Yung but she would have nothing of it and got on the bus to go home.
Aubrey, who turns out to be rather excellent in the interrogation room, goes Boothy on the turd and smugly tells him that his information is definitely NOT enough to keep him from getting locked up with a bunch of people who hate sex offenders.
It would be interesting to see a bit of backstory on Aubrey. So far we know nothing except that he has testicles. And he eats a lot to combat a low sugar level thing.
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Bat Poop Bus Stop Leads to the Mr. Lee’s Hidey Hole of Horrors
Booth and Aubrey head out to an address Hodgins provides based upon the bus Min-Yung took and find Mr. Lee protecting a dingy poo pit full of accidental female slaves. Wow. There are so many you can’t even count them. Aubrey is disgusted. Booth is incensed.
Enter my favorite Bones lawyer second only to Caroline, the vertically challenged Alex Radziwill (Danny Woodburn) along with an interpreter who assists in the debriefing of the group of foreign captives. Booth wants to talk to all of them, but Tammy (Xue Lian) is the spokesperson for the group. It turns out that Lee threatened to harm all these women’s families if they did not work for him. He also refused access to their family members. Tammy has a daughter she fights to keep safe. That daughter stitched a design on a purse she carries around.
Lee regularly threatened to maim or kill family members in order to maintain compliance from his “employees.” Radziwill explains how this kind of blackmail is easier than restricting them with chains. When all of the women hold out photos of their loved ones, the room falls silent and the message is clear that these women were desperate to protect those they loved.
Back at the Hoover, Lee says he believed all his employees were legal immigrants. yeah, right, douche bag, who keeps their “employees” in a cesspit under a crappy shack? Who does that? This has got to be the stupidest lawyer on the planet to defend a scumbag like Lee. Did he not read the case files, see the images of the women in that hole? Read Tammy’s deposition?
Brennan and Arastoo’s Exploitation Infomercial
Brennan and Arastoo in the lab discuss the nightmare lives uncovered by this case. She talks about how in all societies, in all hierarchies, that one group will always exploit a group that is more vulnerable. Arastoo says he never thought this would happen in America, but this seems rather naive for a man of his age and experience. More than likely, though, the purpose of this scene is simply to provide an opportunity for the mention of the statistics — 15,000 people enslaved and sold for their bodies and labor each year in America. And all of the sudden we have an infomercial happening right in the middle of a Bones episode.
Here’s what I think about infomercials on Bones: Listen, those in our society who have the public’s attention have a responsibility to shine the light where it can do the most good. If that means taking 18 seconds out of a meaty case to pontificate about a very real injustice happening right underneath our haughty, privileged American noses, then so be it and more power to them. There, I’ve said my piece.
A Love Worth Killing For
Hodgins finds a crumpled piece of celluloid among the poopy remains. Angela is able to turn it into a photo of a man’s face. Fortunately, this face is registered in the databases and turns out to be Sung Dae Park (Truong Quoc Ly), Min-Yung’s fiance from her village of Yanbian. It turns out that Park is a fugitive from China for the murder of Min-Yung’s father. Things are looking really, really bad for Mr. Sung Dae Park at this point.
Booth interrogates Park who is shocked and devastated by the news that his fiance was in America and is now dead. He’s clearly dazed and in a state of intense denial. Booth confronts him about having killed Min-Yung’s father. Park admits to the crime and reveals that Min-Yung’s father was trying to sell her to some men in the village. That’s why he killed the man, who was beating his daughter, and fled the country.
Once in the United States, Park was supposed to send Min-Yung money to get to America, but he couldn’t because he was being trafficked just like she had been. He had no idea that she was searching for him.
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The Malice in the Manicure
Through a combination of technical wizardry and Brennan’s brilliance, the murder weapon, a cuticle pusher, is discovered. Once Brennan brings Booth this information he knows exactly who the murderer is. It was Tammy, the spokesperson for the female slaves in the basement of Lee’s shack. It turns out that Lee had said he would do unspeakable things to the slaves’ children if any of the slaves tried to run away. Ming Young had already tried to get away to find her finance, Park, once and had been severely beaten by Lee. When Tammy caught Min-Yung trying to get away again, she grabbed her and stabbed her with her manicure pusher until she was dead. Tammy did it to protect her daughter, whom Lee has threatened to kill or sell. Every character in this episode perfectly portrayed a deep level of disturb in the face of their findings.
Seeing the Good Despite The Bad and The Ugly
As a result of the case and of Brennan’s rejection of his original sycophantic research proposal, Arastoo get an idea for research: finding the forensic proof of trafficking so as to try to stop it in America. In the end, peace is restored between him and Cam who admits to her skittishness, but invites Arastoo over for some homemade fesenjung.
Back at The Mighty Hut 2.0 Booth is pensive about everything both Min-Yung and Tammy went through. He says he would do anything to protect Brennan and Christine (and Parker, we can assume, though I wish he’d said that as well). What’s hanging in the air unsaid is that Booth has already done so much to protect his family. He’s been nearly killed, he’s gone to prison. He’s killed others in their defense. He almost died for them. Booth has done all of that, but I haven’t. Unless you have been in the military or had some very unfortunate life experiences, chances are you have not had to do anything like what Booth, Tammy and Min-Yung, or even Brennan have had to do to protect their loved ones. Do you think you could kill another human being to protect your own child? I shudder to even consider the question.
Finally, Booth asks Brennan to never let him forget to appreciate what they have. “I won’t,” she says. Then Booth turns on the music and takes her in his arms for a slow dance in honor of the good fortune and in gratitude to the God that Booth will thank on both their behalves.
Bones aires Thursdays at 8pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)