Reviews

'Bones': Dancing with the Forensic Anthropologist

The midseason premiere of Bones, which aired 14 January, returned to one of the show’s major strengths, the frequently serious characters' capacity for silliness.


Bones

Airtime: Mondays, 8pm ET
Cast: Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin, T.J. Thyne, John Francis Daley, Tamara Taylor
Subtitle: Midseason Premiere
Network: Fox
Creator: Hart Hanson
Air date: 2013-01-14
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The midseason premiere of Bones, which aired 14 January, returned to one of the show’s major strengths, the frequently serious characters' capacity for silliness. This much was clear at the start of the first of the two hours, “The Diamond in the Rough.” Dr. Sweets (John Francis Daley) was watching -- and talking back to -- a cheesy ghost hunting show. His look of utter shock at the discovery of what appeared to be an apparition, but was actually the diamond-encrusted body of a murdered dancer, introduced the wacky humor of this episode.

This foregrounding of the cast's comedic skills was especially evident when Booth (David Boreanaz) and Bones (Emily Deschanel) revived their undercover aliases -- "Buck" and "Wanda Moosejaw" -- and entered a ballroom dance competition in order to investigate the victim’s competitors. This setting not only afforded an opportunity to explore the goofy sides of Booth and Bones, but also offered the usual benefit of a crossover episode, appealing to fans of So You Think You Can Dance?, as former contestants and even judges made guest appearances.

Mary Murphy, a judge on SYTYCD since its first season, acted her part as a judge here with a mix of awkwardness and self-regard. While Tyce Diorio, another SYTYCD judge, sensibly remained mostly silent, Murphy relied on her signature “Hot Tamale Train” cheer as a needless self-promotional allusion to her own show. By contrast, the crossover dancers provided credibility for one of Bones' typically out-there murder investigations. Dmitry Chaplin, as Kendrick Mann, the victim’s former partner, delivered a convincingly cocky attitude, not just because it was backed up by superb dancing skills, but also because of his decent acting.

Other dancers, including contest champions Chehon Wespi-Tschopp and Eliana Girard, showed up as wordless background for Booth and Bones' plot. As they worked to fit in, Deschanel's playful performance revealed Dr. Brennan's rarely seen but delightfully quirky side, abetted by Booth, who turned out to be something of a dance aficionado. Pursuing information from another, highly skilled, contestant, Booth clumsily attempted to imitate his every step, producing a classic comedic juxtaposition and an allusion to Boreanaz’s days on Angel. Here, too, Boreanaz demonstrated his ability in both highly serious, emotional scenes and in humorous ones.

Not all of the actors displayed this same aptitude. Michaela Conlin continued to struggle with the changes in Angela, once free-spirited woman and now more restricted. Angela spent this entire episode complaining that she was (still) unhappy with her (amazing) job. For some time now, she has wanted to go back to being a “real” artist instead of helping to catch murderers, and this episode showed exactly why the writers should let her leave. Having lost her wild side after becoming a mother, mopey Angela no longer fits in with her team members.

Angela's husband, Hodgins (T.J. Thyne), on the other hand, was as eccentric as before, a point highlighted in this episode through some experimentation with camerawork. One shot followed Wendell's (Michael Grant Terry) point of view as he walked into Hodgins’ lab to find dozens of emptied cans of spam. As he turned to a delighted Hodgins huddled over a human-shaped spam blob covered in maggots, we stepped closer along with him, zooming in on a mad-scientist-like Hodgins, who declared, “I found something amazing.” The intensity of Thyne’s delivery, paired with the energy of the zoom, helped us to share Hodgins’ excitement and also Wendell’s resulting unease.

Booth and Bones’ audition scene also used camerawork to immerse the viewer in their mutual attraction. As the camera spun around with the dancers, the dreamy filter and lighting turned a laughable foxtrot into a touching scene between the couple. We felt the warmth between the two, as this perfect picture of love was frozen in time. When Bones asked if they had to do anything special when the dance ended, Booth assured her she needn't, "because it’s never gonna end, Bones. It’s always gonna be like this. Just like this.”

Although “The Diamond in the Rough" was followed by a second episode that was more typical of the series' eight seasons, the first offered a glimpse of what might be, at least in terms of style. The guest appearances were entertaining and the camerawork was inventive, but the real merit of this episode was its return to Bones' endearingly absurd humor.

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