By Suzy Gruyere
A few months ago, my stepmother emailed me in that curious cadence that, even though it isn’t spoken language, still manages to denote breathlessness. “Suz! Do you watch Bones?” she inquired, “Because I recorded an episode for you. The story involves macaroni and cheese!”
In case you’ve never watched Bones, the title character (played by Emily Deschanel) is a forensic anthropologist who specializes in, you guessed it, bones. She’s not into typical cadavers, with all their icky gross decaying flesh and stuff. I’m with her, although her reasons are probably far different from mine.
Bones works with a team of impossibly attractive and clever-boots forensics types at the Jeffersonian Institute in Washington DC, where she also partners with FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) to solve murders.
Booth is wacky; we know this because he wears funny socks and ostentatious belt buckles that his psychiatrist (Stephen Fry in the unforgettable role of Gordon Gordon!) refers to as “the modern equivalent of a codpiece.” Meanwhile, Bones is soooo intellectual, she is missing most of the social interaction filters the rest of us came equipped with. Comedy ensues! Except it is grounded in some really hideous, gruesome murders and a lot of graphic special effects in the Jeffersonian lab.
Episode #42 is called “The Glowing Bones in the Old Stone House,” and the reason I mention it now is because it will air tonight on TNT (consult, as they say, your local listings). If you are a true macaroni and cheese fan, you may wish to check it out.
Seriously, somebody on the Bones writing staff is a mac and cheese nut, because ever since Dorothy made me watch this episode, I’ve started watching Bones reruns and I’ve kind of gotten hooked, and I’ve spotted at least two other macaroni and cheese references sprinkled among the witty, sexually charged banter and fancy scientific nomenclature they toss around. If you’re reading this, Bones writing staff mac and cheese lover, drop us a line! We’ll meet you at Comme Ça for LA’s best mac anytime.
Anyhoo, as you may have guessed from the episode title, the team is called in to investigate some glowing bones. Yeah, like glowing in the dark. Neato! (Spoiler alert: I’m about to unravel the murder mystery, so if you’d rather be surprised, watch it on TNT tonight and then come back for the commentary later. I believe this very special mac and cheese episode of Bones is the second in a block of three eps they will show tonight.)
Back at the lab, they figure out that the deceased is a local celebrity chef named Carly, whose restaurant is “like, impossible to get into,” according to one character. As luck would have it, though, Bones recently met Carly at a cooking lesson or something (sorry, I am not a good note taker) and she takes a personal interest in solving this one.
Carly is – I mean, was -- famous for her macaroni and cheese. “She puts leeks and little bits of pancetta” in her famous dish, one character sighs. I’ve never noticed any other episodes in which Bones (or anyone) shows any particular interest in cooking (or even eating), but for the purposes of this episode, let’s just accept that Bones really likes to cook macaroni and cheese. One of us! ONE OF US!! And more than once in this episode, FBI Special Agent Booth rhapsodizes about our favorite comfort food. “Well, mac and cheese…that’s God’s best handiwork!” Amen to that, sir. I’m not as much in favor of the scene set at Carly’s bustling and impossibly huge restaurant, in which Booth sticks his finger into a passing dish of mac as a waiter whisks it either to or from someone’s table. Ew, either way. But who among us has not felt that impulse?
You can tell this episode is several years old because they look at the victim’s Myspace page for clues. Today they’d go to her blog or her Facebook fan page. But for the purposes of this episode, let’s just accept that Carly’s Table has a comprehensible Myspace page that is not only easily navigable but also strewn with important clues!! What luck!
I’ll spare you the ins and outs of the investigation and cut to the chase. The bones were glowing because the knife that stabbed her to death was contaminated with some kind of enzyme that is found in a certain type of sea urchin, which is a popular sushi dish. The enzyme entered her bloodstream through the stab wounds. I am pretty sure it was the stabbing that killed her. The enzyme just made her bones glow.
So anyway, the sea urchin enzyme and the Myspace page clues lead our heroes to conclude that the murderer is another local celebrity chef, a sushi expert with whom the deceased apparently had an affair. Ta da, mystery solved! Or maybe not. My notes trail off at this point, and although I did not know it at the time, this show usually cycles through two or three suspects before arriving at a conclusion. The sushi chef may have been framed. I honestly don't remember. I guess I sort of lost interest in what others would consider to be the main storyline, because I was nervously perched on the edge of my seat anticipating the conclusion to the thrilling mac and cheese subplot.
As the saying (sort of) goes, a macaroni and cheese in the first act always goes off in the third. The final scene is set in Bones’ apartment where she has prepared Carly’s famous mac and cheese recipe for a certainly-not-romantic, no-way, uh-uh, nevertheless candlelit dinner with FBI Special Agent Booth. Bones proudly brings two individual gratin dishes of piping hot macaroni and cheese to the table and Booth digs right in.
“Mmm, this is unbelievable!”
“You like it?”
“I’d like to be alone with it!”
I know, we’ve all been there.
Of course, it’s difficult to properly review a macaroni and cheese that one merely glimpsed on television, but here goes. Earlier in the show, leeks and pancetta were mentioned as being components of Carly’s special recipe, but there is no sign of those ingredients in the prop mac. Instead, what Bones brings to the table is yellow and stiff enough to be mounded high in the gratin dishes. WeHeart Nation, we know this goes against the physics of mac baking, but I’ll allow it since we are dabbling today in the realm of fiction. There is no telltale crunch when Booth’s fork dives in, so no breadcrumb topping. My guess is that they used cold, gelatinous supermarket deli mac and cheese topped with a sprinkling of grated Cheddar to dress it up. Nothing we experts would get too excited about, but perhaps I expect too much from a humble television drama.
PS Just in case you're like me and worry about someday finding yourself trapped in the trunk of a car, as someone did in this episode and about every fifth episode of Law & Order (evidently I watch too many reruns on TNT): A Federal law passed several years ago requires that every new car must have a release lever accessible from inside the trunk. You can even install them in older cars as an after-market item. Phew! Sorry, tv scribes. You’re going to have to find another cliché.