Bones: The Dentist in the Ditch

This week’s episode of Bones was kind of a mixed bag for me. There were some things I liked about it, and some things I really didn’t. That aside, I do feel like we saw some interesting growth going on with the characters. They all learned some things and advanced in some way during this episode, and I like it when that happens. Assume spoilers galore beyond this point, obviously!

I really disliked the handling of hep C in this episode. A lot, actually. One of the suspects is a woman who worked as a dental hygienist who reported the deceased (a dentist) for giving her hep C in a needlestick incident. It turns out that she did this to cover up an affair and the dentist was blameless. Which, whatever, fine, it was a plot point.

The problem I had was that the show reinforced, several times, that heterosexual sex is a common mode of transmission for hep C. That is simply not true. A needlestick is actually far more likely, despite what Booth may think, because transmission requires direct blood to blood contact. Suggesting that sexual contact is a mode of transmission was bad medicine, since it’s pretty widely recognized as a low risk factor currently.

I also didn’t like that the show mentioned that she was fired but didn’t elaborate; it was unclear if it was because of her grievance (which seemed to be still under investigation) or because of her hep C. In either case, it wouldn’t be legal.

I was really interested to see how they handled Padme, Jared’s girlfriend (now fiance). Booth got himself all worked up because she had a past as an escort, very in keeping for moralistic Booth, and Brennan rightly said “who cares?” The real test came at the end of the episode, when we learned that Padme and Jared had discussed it openly with each other. Booth was convinced that Padme’s past meant she was a bad person, and that she was covering it up; it was nice to see the show take Booth’s assumptions down.

Speaking of assumptions! I really liked the handling of gay men on this episode. The show turned some stereotypes on their heads in ways I really liked, like the line “yeah, I’m gay and I hunt. Get over it.” The episode really emphasized that, you know, gay men don’t fit into a stereotypical box (“you doubt a gay man can play football and be a dentist?”) and that there are “typical gay” behaviours, no way to easily tell a gay man from a straight one, and the episode managed to touch upon the issue of being closeted in a really great way as well. I even detected a sly reference to the questionable value of don’t ask, don’t tell when Booth said “gay guys saved my life in battle more than once.”

Zing.

“The Dentist in the Ditch” also featured a nice nod to neurodiversity and the value of including neuroatypical folks when Mr. Nigel Murray shouted “rhubarb!” and came up with a brilliant scheme for cleaning the bones. Hodgins said that in the future, anyone talking trash about how Nigel Murray’s brain worked could come talk to Hodgins, and Murray said that, you know. People already do that. There was a nice little quiet take there where Hodgins looked at Murray and it was like a little light went on, a light that said “different brains are valuable! And people with different brains are often discriminated against! And that sucks!”

“I don’t know if you were wrong, but I fail to see the point of being right,” Brennan says at the end of the episode. I really loved this line because it seemed like a bit of a departure for Brennan, who usually focuses on logic and being right. We really saw her wrestling with things and growing during this episode, and thinking about the fact that some things are more complicated than wrong/right. Overall, it was a good tagline for the episode as a whole.

Looking back over my thoughts on this episode, I think that my response was actually predominantly positive, it’s just that the episode was kind of soured for me by the treating of hep C. I felt like “The Dentist in the Ditch” handled LGBQT and neurodiversity issues really well, which excited me, and maybe that’s what made the hep C thing feel even worse; I saw that the show is capable of doing things right, and question why they felt the need to repeat erroneous information which contributes in a very real way to stigma for hep C patients.

Honestly, if it weren’t for that, this might have been my favourite Bones episode all season.

Laura, on the other hand, did not respond as positively to this episode! Go check out her review at Adventures of a Young Feminist.

3 Replies to “Bones: The Dentist in the Ditch”

  1. I get what you are saying about turning gay stereotypes on their head. I did like that they showed gay men playing football, not to see other guys in the locker room (as was implied by the investigation) but because they love the game. And I too, really like the line about being gay and hunting.

    But I still have a problem with the immense focus on being gay throughout the investigation. Past lovers is a good place to start for an investigation like this, I get that. But after that lead it seemed like all their leads were “this guy must have had his masculinity threatened because the victim was gay. Ok, I guess not. But this guy definitely must have been threatened by the victim being gay and killed him.” I just thought it was unnecessary and kind of portrayed being gay as “out of the norm.”

    I, too, really liked the storyline between Jared and Padme and Booth, which I didn’t touch on a whole lot in my post, and how it forced both Booth and Brennan to develop a little.

  2. Yes, Laura, that is a very good point; no one would be very impressed with investigators who said “well, obviously he was killed because he was straight.” BUT, I note that the finale of the episode had him dying because of something totally unrelated to his sexuality. Something which the investigators might have figured out sooner if they hadn’t been fixated on his gayness. So, is it possible that the show (as it often does) was presenting something to make a point? Kind of how like Booth is often very conservative? The show isn’t promoting those values or suggesting that they should be believed, they’re showing commonly believed values and deconstructing them. In this case, maybe they were using sexuality as a red herring, leading both the characters and viewers along through the episode and then sharply debunking it? Just a thought.

  3. I’m doing my “I can see both sides” thing again. On the one hand, I can see that the episode did focus a lot on the fact that the victim was gay. On the other hand, I totally take the point about Booth’s conservativeness being highlighted and challenged by the series. In addition, while they might not focus on straightness per se with other victims, they do focus closely on familial and romantic entanglements – for good reason, given that they are unfortunately fairly rich sources of perpetrators.

    In this case, perhaps they were also trying to acknowledge the fact that being in a marginalised group really does increase the chance of people murdering you – to not examine this aspect closely might be to miss something pretty important. And the show does play red-herring a lot; otherwise there’d probably be no way to stretch the drama out to 45 minutes, except with more interminable will-they-won’t-they Booth/Bones (I think we have just enough of that at the moment).

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