Watters was interesting though surprisingly light on science, but the episode itself was not, due to the clever use of vector calculus by Amanda’s physicist father as a plot device.
In short, the corpse of gymnast Amanda Watters is found dead in a park. Suspects include her absent-minded physicist father (Schiff), her drug dealer, her coach, her sister-like gymnastics spotter (played by U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist McKayla Maroney), and her new fellow prodigy friend, Rachel Howes (Cherami Leigh).
Per usual, the underlying theme was friendship, but not in the warm and fuzzy manner viewers are accustomed to seeing on Bones. “The Spark in the Park” focused on the overtly distorted and horrifying views of friendship held by Rachel ‘She-Shouldn’t-Have-Lied-To-Me’ Howes, Amanda’s egomaniacal murderer, and Haley ‘Stealing-From-Friends-Is-The-Bomb’ Kent, Cam’s self-absorbed identity thief. Both women brutally justified their behaviors based upon perceived slights from their victims. With friends like that … well … you know.
In the end, Brennan proved Howes strangled Amanda against a balance beam because Amanda failed to follow through with their pact to abandon their fields of expertise. In the subplot, Cam ran into Haley Kent (Bonnie Root) at the FBI and punched her right in the kisser, then later confronted her in jail only to learn that Kent targeted her because she believed things always came easily to Cam who was easy pickings because they were friends, and because Cam had been recently unwilling to knowingly fund Kent’s lavish lifestyle. Dang.
Deschanel, Boreanaz, Taylor (Cam), Vahdat (Arastoo), and guest-star Richard Schiff (Dr. Leon Watters) delivered equally solid performances in a distilled storyline whose focus remained almost exclusively trained on their five characters. Particularly compelling was Deschanel’s Brennan who steadfastly empathized with world-renowned physicist Watters, Amanda’s grieving yet stoic father. Brennan astutely perceived the pain and grief behind Watters’ seemingly unemotional response to his daughter’s death and his own status as Booth’s main suspect, and spoke to him using logic and the demands of inertia to help Watters find meaning in soldiering on despite his tremendous loss.
Despite the somber tone of these scenes, it was refreshing to see Temperance ‘I-Don’t-Know-What-That-Means’ Brennan acting as interpreter for Booth in regard to human behavior. Throughout his interactions with Watters, however, Booth was uncharacter-istically aggressive and acerbic to an uncomfortable degree – though, granted, Watters did blatantly insult Booth at one point. The most plausible explanation for Booth’s behavior could be his loathing of a chronic child abuser-turned-murderer, but missing was his emotive delivery of these concerns to his mate and partner. Was a scene left on the cutting room floor, one wonders.
Throughout, Brennan addressed Booth’s ungracious behavior with considerable aplomb when she would have been justified in sending him to the doghouse without a Scooby Snack. Thankfully, Booth took her reproaches like the evolved alpha we know and love (read: he may have been disgruntled, but he refrained from lashing out in general). In the end, he more than redeemed himself with Brennan (and, hopefully, us) by apologizing and admitting Brennan was right during a classically sweet forehead-to-forehead, hand-holding-while-smooching breakfast bar scene in the kitchen of their home. It would have been nice to see him do the same with Watters, though. Not the kissing and hand-holding … the redeeming himself, of course.
Speaking of Watters … and Brennan again … Their best scene in Bones’ 176th episode was at the very end when Brennan visited Watters and realized his chalkboard scribblings were a depiction of Amanda’s life in movement. From his vector calculous equations of her lying in a crib, to riding a bike and jumping on a trampoline, to flying through the air in perfect arcs as a gymnast, Watters had captured the essence of his daughte and Brennan understood it all, calling it absolutely perfectly beautiful. The final equation on the board was Amanda at rest once more. The ballet of this scene was genius in the way pure science was used to tenderly communicate the absolute love of a father for his most precious possession, his memories of his daughter. On a personal note, the beauty of this scene reduced this writer to tears. Tell me I’m not alone in that, people!
Bones has long had a reputation for their commitment to using real science in their storylines. As in everything, mistakes are inevitable, but Bones does its darndest to provide viewers at every academic level with entertainment which is both compelling and realistic. For those science-minded viewers, let it be known that the equations on Watters’ blackboards were real. Bones enlisted the assistance of Sean Carroll, a physicist at Caltech with whom they have consulted in the past. How cool is that? I digress.
Before moving on to the topic of Cam’s identity theft, let us acknowledge how creepy it was in the opening scene when that couple took pictures of themselves with the corpse. Dang. Not unentertaining, just creepy. Speaking of which, there seemed to be a (not so subtle) underlying theme about technology providing greater access to opportunities for nefarious behavior. Haley used it to thoroughly destroy Cam’s credit, Amanda used it to get illicit drugs and to hook up with another child prodigy who eventually killed her, and this crazy couple used it to document that they found a corpse in the park. It’s evident that the insulation and anonymity afforded those using technology to build their relationships exposes them to greater dangers than conventional relationship building tactics. Did anyone else catch that? Buyer beware, I say.
About Cam’s identity theft. Cam’s vengeful attitude toward her ex-college girlfriend, Haley, was completely justified, in this writer’s opinion. Arastoo’s initial ‘get over it and move on’ stance was off-putting until he explained his atrocious experience in Iran and the anger that consumed him. One would have thought that Arastoo would have greater understanding for how long it takes to emotionally recover from such a personal and pervasive invasion of an individual’s private self. Anyone who has had the experience of devastating loss knows that everyone grieves in their own unique way and in their own unique time. Kudos to Cam for boldly facing her predator. She may never be able to forgive Haley for what she has done, but Cam has now begun to take control of the impact it will have on her life going forward.
“The Spark in the Park” was a classic Bones episode: interesting, relevant, thought-provoking, focused, and poignant. So far the move to Fridays hasn’t slowed this crimedy down in any significant way. Perhaps for the holidays Bones fans will be gifted the promise of a tenth season. I know it’s already on my Christmas-Kwanza-Hanukkah list!
Bones returns with all new episodes in January beginning with “The Ghost in the Killer” on Friday, January 10th, at 8:00-9:00 pm ET/PT on FOX. During winter hiatus catch up with Bones on Fridays at 8:00-9:00 pm ET/PT on FOX with “The Shot in the Dark” on December 13, then ”The Patriot in Purgatory” on Friday, December 20.