BONES Recap: “The Nail in the Coffin”


In the long previously, it’s all “Ghost Killer this and Ghost Killer that,” so I’ll go out on a limb and say this episode centers around the elusive Ghost Killer that hasn’t been talked about in a really long time.

We begin with a dad telling a campfire story about demons. Mom keeps telling him to stop, because he’s scaring the little girl, but the little boy is into it. Dad finally takes the hint and shuts up, and that’s when a skeleton body seems to fall from the sky. Mom is unimpressed with Dad’s tricks, but when the skeleton head falls into her hands, the screaming begins. Except for the boy, who thinks it’s all really cool.

Booth and Brennan at home. Apparently they’ve asked Brennan to fill out the bureau assessment for Booth re: that Germany promotion. Brennan has chosen to forego the measly three lines they’ve given her, in favor of an eighteen-page essay on comportment. Booth reminds her, this promotion affects her too, as if this territory wasn’t gone over with a fine tooth comb the previous week. But Brennan is being objective and dispassionate. Booth gets the call about the skeleton, but there’s a catch. Cam doesn’t want Brennan there, as this may be a Ghost Killer victim. She doesn’t think Brennan can be objective, so she’s using Clark instead. Brennan reacts to this in the way you’d expect, by insisting she’s going. Booth brings up how she and Cam got into it the last time. She asks if he agrees with Cam. He doesn’t, but he thinks she should be a team player and let it go. She seems to acquiesce.

She must have, because Booth shows up to the crime scene alone and says Brennan is pissed. Clark says to tell her it’s not his fault, but as Booth says, good luck with that. Cam says she doesn’t want Brennan veering off the investigation because she believes it’s the ghost killer. Booth points out she must have her suspicions. Cam said she does, but the victim was stabbed. Booth thinks the victim was also beheaded, but no. As Cam points to a noose up above, she says the body was hanged after death. Decomposition separated the head from the body.

Booth points out there was no attempt to hide the body and it’s awfully gooey. (A gooey female, according to Clark.) Then he asks “bug boy” for time of death, which is eight-ten days. Booth says he isn’t hearing anything that makes this a Ghost Killer victim, and Clark says he has to get it back to the lab to compare it to the other victims. Clark says he needs time, but Booth says they don’t have any. Then…hey! It’s Caroline! Where ya been?

She says she can’t start a serial killer investigation unless they’re certain, and when she catches sight of the body, she wonders why she didn’t just wait for the pictures. Booth pitches a fit about how Brennan should be there, and that’s when she comes walking up. I guess, not so much with the acquiescing. She sees the nail torn off thing and wonders why nobody caught it, but Clark points to his computer with all of his notes and pictures. Caroline squawks about how fighting amongst the squints is no good, and it shouldn’t go in the report, what with Booth bucking for that promotion. Booth is beyond caring about the mucky-mucks at this point. Brennan continues to goad Clark, until he calls her too arrogant to look at his findings. Apparently all of the fingers have avulsion fractures and all of the nails were ripped off. It turns out, all of her nails were glued on, but they weren’t fake, they were real.

Back at the lab, it’s the Bickersons. They’re confirming it’s a Ghost Killer victim, what with the nail of the third distal phalanx being torn off, just like all of the others, even though this one had them all torn off. Also, the attack was much more violent than all of the others. When Angela asks, Brennan says she and Clark are cool with each other, but she insists Cam should apologize to her for excluding her, which Cam points out she ignored, which Brennan says she would ignore again.

Hodgins is still at the crime scene, so he won’t be able to swab the wounds yet. Angela says she can get to identifying the victim as soon as Brennan gives her the skull. Brennan says it won’t be necessary and asks Clark to pull up Trent McNamara’s skull x-ray. When Clark asks if he was the last victim, Cam points out that he was a suicide. Brennan says she might want to reevaluate that, since the forward prominence of the lower mandible suggests a rare genetic marker. Then she asks Clark to bring up the current victim’s skull x-ray. She has the same marker. Conclusion: it’s Trent’s sister Stephanie. Cam asks why the killer would target the McNamaras.

FBI. Booth, Sweets, and Caroline. All of the differences of this killing are pointed out. How there was no attempt to hide the body or make it look like an accident. Has anyone thought of a copycat? Sweets says it’s really theatrical, and the Ghost Killer is upping his game. Booth points out it’s a “she” since that’s what Brennan said. That’s good enough for Caroline, but she also wonders why the killer targeted the McNamaras, since there’s never been a connection between the victims before. Sweets says there could have been a connection but just in the killer’s mind. Booth thinks it could just be that Stephanie was investigating her brother’s death, and she got too close to the truth.

Deputy Director Stark comes in to say he’ll give them any help they need. Booth makes a crack about how influential the McNamaras are, and that’s why he’s being so hands-on. Sweets tries to smooth it over, but DD says Booth’s honesty is why he’s being considered for the promotion. Booth cuts him off and says he’s not doing it for the promotion. Caroline says something about wealth having its privileges. DD says there are people above him who want this solved, and Booth basically tells him it will be solved when they say it’s solved. The DD says he’s glad Booth is running point on this and leaves.

Back at the lab, Hodgins returns with the fingernails for Cam to check for DNA, in case the victim scratched her assailant. She apologizes to Hodgins and reminds us he knew the McNamaras. Hodgins says they were always a little strange. He says all that money, and they’re just left with murder, sadness, and secrets, and he’s doing a hell of a lot better being broke. I don’t think that argument holds water, since even when Hodgins was wealthy, he had a rich, happy, secret-free life. Blood results come in. Stephanie was dosed with a homemade, untraceable anesthetic made from stuff you’d find in a garden.

Booth and Brennan, on their way to see the McNamaras’ gardener, who was the last person to see Stephanie alive. Brennan thinks the gardener would need a science background to make the anesthetic. Brennan also says she wrote seven pages on Booth’s problem-solving skills but reported her skepticism with him relying on his gut. Then she rationalized it by saying the gut instinct comes from highly developed observational skills, so it’s probably from what he sees, anyway. Booth thanks her for her support, and she asks how could she not, because he believed her when there was no tangible evidence there was a Ghost Killer. Booth says he relied on his gut.

The McNamaras. The stables. The gardener is telling them the last place she saw Stephanie was in the tack room. She left for her ten a.m. ride and never came back. The gardener never reported Stephanie missing, because she’d take off for trips a week at a time. She also grows peas and beans, which are key ingredients in the homemade anesthetic. Then Brennan opens a stable door and finds scratch marks on the inside, but they’re old. Also a fingernail is embedded in there. Booth sees something and pulls away the rug. It looks like someone was kicking at the floor. These marks are fresh, so it’s probably where Stephanie was abducted.

The lab. Clark and Brennan. Clark has categorized the perimortem injuries. Sixteen sharp-force traumas, mainly to the torso and neck. The wounds are from a serrated blade, and Clarke is having Hodgins swab the wounds for plant particulates to implicate the gardener, but so far there’s no proof she was involved. Then he thanks Brennan for being so accepting of him on the case and says he’s determined to prove Pelant wrong when he said Brennan wouldn’t be able to solve the case without him.

They find out Stephanie’s nails had been torn and bent back fifteen years ago, so if her nails grew back, they’d be irregular. Brennan thinks it must have been Stephanie who’d been scratching at the stable door, and Cam comes in to confirm it, based on the DNA taken from the fingernail Brennan found in the door. The other nails don’t belong to Stephanie, so Brennan thinks the killer glued the nails from his other victims onto her.

Booth wants to check with the SEC to find out who benefits from Stephanie’s death, but Sweets insists the murders are from an emotional, not financial, need. Booth says the gardener being the murderer would fulfill both, but Sweets says none of the other murders suggests a financial motive. Booth doesn’t care, since the McNamaras were loaded, and in murders like that, it’s always about the money.

The SEC. Booth and Caroline. Turns out that even though the records were sealed, they were able to find out the McNamaras were investigated eight times for stuff like insider trading. Caroline points out one of those cases involved 132 million dollars in tax violations and missing funds, but all they got was a slap on the wrist. SEC lady says the responsible entity received a cease and desist and paid a fine. Booth wants to know if Giles McNamara is an entity now, and  SEC lady says they try to avoid prosecution. It’s time-consuming. But Booth says it didn’t take them long to figure out Giles had paid off the medical examiner with two million dollars using one of his shell companies. SEC lady points to the 65-billion dollar Madoff case and basically says that two million was small potatoes, in comparison. Caroline says they’ll need the financial records for the McNamaras for the past eighteen years, but SEC lady says it’s confidential, proprietary information. Booth threatens her with a DOJ warrant to put her in jail for obstruction of a murder investigation. SEC lady picks up the phone. Good move. When Booth gets his “don’t eff with me” face on, you know he means business.

The lab. Angela tells Hodgins there’s six hard drives’ worth of financial information for the McNamaras’ financial dealings for the last eighteen years. As for the body, there was pesticide and other garden-type chemicals inside Stephanie’s stab wounds, which means they were on the murder weapon. They’re going to get a search warrant for the gardener’s chemicals and possible murder weapons.

Interrogation room. Booth and Brennan. Gardener in the hotseat. She’s told about all of the evidence against her and how they’re testing all of her tools. She said she has a pension, so why would she kill for money, but Booth said she thought she deserved more. When Brennan asks her to turn her head to the side, she declines, so Brennan gets up and stands to the side of her. Brennan asks to feel her mandible. After feeling around, Brennan deduces the gardener felt she deserved more money because she’s a half-sibling. Giles was her father. He had an affair with her mom, who worked on the estate. The gardener seems shocked by this. As the only remaining McNamara, even illegitimate, she stands to inherit billions.

Lab. Cam and Clark. Turns out, the other nails did belong to the other victims, including Trent, which means Cam’s ruling that it was a suicide is wrong. Clarke wants to know if the gardener would have had contact with some of the other victims. They go to Angela for the answers. It turns out it was Stephanie, not the gardener, who had contact with all of the victims. She’d put the nails on herself. She was the ghost killer. Now they wonder who killed her. Called it! Copy cat!

Back at the FBI, the crowd is gathered, including Brennan, Sweets, Caroline, and Booth, of course. DD wants to know what would make a princess become a serial killer. Sweets says the answer is Giles, who was a megalomaniac. He was very controlling and dominating, and the gardener admitted he used to lock Stephanie in the stables. When Stephanie put those fingernails on, she was putting something back she felt her father had stolen from her. Nobody reported the abuse. There’s one fingernail with no identity, but Booth thinks it’s from a victim they don’t know about. The gardener is still the best suspect. The DD says he wants convictions. No loose ends.

The lab. Hodgins found traces of tobacco in the wounds, which means it was also on the weapon. Stephanie had smoked, but there were no cigarettes, etc. on her at the time. Cam comes in to say she found out who the last victim is, and it was someone who died twenty years ago at age fifteen. Maya Zinkow. Hodgins remembers Maya and says she and Stephanie were classmates. At the time, a nice schoolteacher was convicted of the crime. They’re exhuming Maya’s body to see if they can link Stephanie to the murder and possibly clear the teacher. I’m sure he can just go back to that nice teaching career now. No problem.

Exhumation. Cam, Booth, and Brennan. Herman Kessler, the guy they convicted of killing Maya, was released six months previous, so he’d have good reason to come after Stephanie. Brennan wants to know how HE’D know, since they just found out. They open the casket, and despite my “Maya isn’t really dead and she murdered everyone” theory, Brennan compares the x-rays to the corpse and says there’s an excellent chance it’s Maya. Caroline is having the medical examiner’s report sent to the lab, and Booth will have Sweets locate Kessler.

The lab. Brennan, Cam, and Clark. The remains were put in a casket at the coroner’s office then taken straight to the cemetery, so she wasn’t embalmed. Cam thinks it’s strange her body wasn’t released to the family, so they could go through the funeral home. Brennan says none of the stab wounds were categorized except for a couple, when there’s clearly like sixteen stab wounds, plus the avulsion fracture from the torn fingernail. Turns out the ME who signed off on it was the same one Giles had paid off on the Lana Brewster autopsy, who was another victim of the Ghost Killer. Now they think it’s possible daddy Giles may have known Stephanie was killing these people but did nothing about it. Brennan wants to know how Kessler got this information.

Kessler’s apartment. Booth and Sweets. The red-headed super is asking if the murders are like Dahmer bad, until Booth threatens him with obstruction of justice, so he just opens the door. Inside are nothing but file boxes on Giles McNamara. Sweets makes a safe bet on calling it an obsession. They also find two sets of blueprints. One to the McNamaras and the other to someone else’s house. Booth thinks he’s going after that person now.

FBI. Booth, Caroline, and Sweets. Booth says Angela is going through the Hall of Records to find out whose house the blueprints are for. It turns out, Kessler got all of his information from behind bars. Since he was launching an appeal, he was able to get his hands on anything even remotely related to the case. Booth points out he never filed an appeal, and Sweets says that’s because he had no intention to. It was all about revenge. Kessler knew he couldn’t go up against the McNamaras, so he spent twenty years in prison figuring out a way to even the score. Among the info they found, was the pictures of the Maya crime scene, which supposedly never existed, due to damaged negatives. McNamara must have had someone working on the inside. Booth wants to find out who hid the evidence.

The Lab. Brennan, Clark, and Cam. The wounds on Maya’s body show a left to right trajectory, but the report states it was a right to left trajectory. The ME’s report was specifically designed to make Kessler look guilty. Brennan says Maya’s wounds mirror Stephanie’s wounds. Since Kessler was the only one who had access to the real information, they presume he must have killed Stephanie. Cam points out the rape charge that was dropped, but Cam says it was only because they didn’t want the body examined. Cam did find evidence of it, though. Of course, Stephanie couldn’t have raped her. Cam decides to try for seminal fluid evidence and says it’s not impossible to retrieve after twenty years. Really? Huh.

Angela goes to Brennan and Cam to tell them she found out what house the blueprints were for. Congressman Palter.

FBI. Booth and Sweets. Congressman Palter used to be Judge Palter, who presided over the Maya case. Then McNamara funded his congressional campaign through shell companies. Brennan comes in to say Cam got a viable semen sample. It was Giles McNamara. Sweets says it makes perfect sense for Stephanie to have killed Maya, since Stephanie was abused and would do anything to get her father’s attention. Booth is shocked that Stephanie would be jealous he raped someone, but to her, Maya was getting all of the attention, which led to a psychotic break. Giles hadn’t done all of the cover-up to protect Stephanie but himself. Booth wants Sweets to let the DD know what’s going on with the congressman.

Car. Booth and Brennan. They’ve got the siren on as they race to Palter’s. He’s not answering his phone, and Booth hopes he’s out playing poker. You mean they weren’t able to get his cell number? Booth says the DD was not surprised when he found out there was someone at the FBI who was protecting McNamara but gave him a blank check to find out who it was. When they get to Palter’s, they find his car door open and coffee spilled on the ground. They rush to the house, guns drawn. When they see a couple of huge pools of blood, Booth shoots the lock, and they go inside to find Palter hanging from the ceiling.

The lab. They immediately get to work on Palter’s body. He has the same number of stab wounds as Maya and Stephanie. Clark finds a wound that’s deeper than all the rest. Cam begins cutting away the tissue so they can get a mold of the wound and figure out the weapon.

FBI. DD, Booth, Caroline, and Sweets. All of a sudden the DD is yelling at Booth about the dead congressman, like it’s his fault. Booth says he’s just worried about who’s next. They don’t know, which is why they need to get out of the office and get back to work.

The lab. Hodgins tells Brennan he found tobacco in the congressman’s wound as well, and not only was he not a smoker, he legislated a higher tobacco tax. Hodgins also found evidence of a pesticide, but it’s been banned for decades. This goes with the evidence Brennan found that the weapon was really old. While Hodgins investigates fibers found in the wound, Brennan is doing an MRI on both victims.

FBI. They think with all of Kessler’s information, he knows the person in the FBI who was protecting McNamara, and that person will probably be next. Stephanie and Palter were killed within ten miles of each other, so Booth thinks Kessler must be close. Sweets agrees that he seems to be reliving the crime and making it turn out the way he thinks it was supposed to. Booth asks if Kessler is home. Sweets thinks he is, psychologically.

The lab. Through the computer images of the wounds on both the congressman and Maya, they can tell both victims were killed by a hooked blade. Hodgins comes in to say the fibers he found in the wound were asbestos. It was banned in the 1950s but was used in cigarette filters at the time. Cam asks if the victims were killed in an old tobacco factory. Must be, since Angela’s magical computer got a match. The murder weapon was a tobacco scythe.

Booth and Brennan. Sirens blaring. They’re headed to the Old Dominion tobacco factory that closed in 1968. Brennan asks if Booth called in for backup, but Booth says he knows guys like Kessler, and the quieter they are, the more chance they have of nabbing him.

Old Dominion factory. They find Kessler with a noose around his neck, ready to jump. They try to convince him to help them put people away for the cover-up (though there’s only one left now, since he killed everyone else), but Kessler says it’s no use, since the law isn’t for people like the McNamaras. That won’t be a problem, I think. The only remaining McNamara is the gardener, who didn’t even know she was a McNamara until Booth and Brennan told her. Brennan begs him to try, but he jumps. That’s when Booth shoots at the rope and breaks it. Kessler asks why Booth did that, since they won’t let him live, anyway. Booth promises they will.

Booth and Brennan at home. Booth brings home beer, since that’s all he could get his hands on, but they have to celebrate solving the Ghost Killer case. He says they’re trying to cut a deal with Kessler, so he’ll give them information. When Brennan points out he’s a killer, Booth says it matters who he killed, and that in the old west, he would have been made a sheriff. The DD recommended Booth for the promotion, but he has to be confirmed by the House subcommittee. Booth said he made it clear that no matter what happened, he and Brennan would remain partners.

Brennan wants to know if she should stop with the questionnaire, but Booth says the government loves their paperwork. Brennan says there was one question regarding them having a relationship outside of work. Booth says to skip it, but Brennan already wrote at length about their sex life, and doesn’t Booth find it interesting, and they told her to be thorough. She also wrote about how he never throws his socks in the hamper. Brennan is worried about being called before congress because she didn’t answer the question, but Booth thinks she should take the chance and skip it. Then they toast to catching the Ghost Killer.  

CJ Stevens falls asleep every night to the comforting flicker of her TV. Nothing makes her happier than the little red dot on her dv-r, notifying her one of her shows is taping. She edits books for a living and was even known among her editing comrades as “the grammar police.” Ending apostrophe abuse is her calling.

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  • Zahn

    I miss Sweets cannot you get him back somehow. Say it was a mistake

    I also wish Kyra Sedgewich had not left her show, the closer, also