Aug 152020

Bones S10E03, “The Purging of the Pundit”, aired October 9, 2014 IMDB

Unlike in the previous Bones episode, “The Girl in the Fridge”, BDSM is closely integrated into both the mystery and Booth’s character arc in “The Purging of the Pundit”. 

Forensic procedurals are all about the puzzle, and in this case the victim’s masochism provides the puzzle. The body of a right-wing media figure, “Hutch” Whitehouse, is found partially consumed by animals. His corpse shows signs of being bound and tortured, including repeatedly struck in the testicles, but it also appears to be consensual.

Fuentes: “It’s like he was enjoying being murdered.”

Eventually, they determine that the victim’s nose was broken, causing his nasal passages to fill with blood. Combined with a ball gag in his mouth, this would have suffocated him. 

A major theme of this episode is trust. “Purging” takes place after Booth and Brennan have married and had a child, and after Booth has lost a partner and been in federal prison. Though now free and back on duty, he is unable to trust new team members or even Brennan. 

The conversation between Brennan and Booth about BDSM is less superficial than before. 

Booth makes one of his knee-jerk dismissals of kink, and Brennan points out that he likes to be bitten during sex. 

Booth: “It’s creepy, right? I mean, sex is about love, not about being tied up and beaten.”

Brennan: “I disagree.”

Booth: “What?”

Brennan: “Sex and violence are two of humanity’s most primal urges. An amalgamation of is a logical by-product.”

Booth: “Bones, S and M isn’t a peanut butter cup. It’s not two great tastes that go together.”

Brennan: “You enjoy being bitten.”

Booth: “Bitten? No, I don’t!”

Brennan: “When we make love, sometimes I nibble your ear. Your response is very positive to say the least.” 

Booth: “Look, a nibble is a lot different than being whipped.”

Brennan: “All degrees of the same thing.”

Brennan and Booth investigate a room the victim paid to soundproof, and discover a fully-equipped dungeon. (Unlike the earlier Bones episode, which only showed a box of toys.) Booth says she is excited by this. She says she is “fascinated as a scientist.” She looks very interested when she picks up a red flogger and swings it, though not at Booth.

DNA from bodily fluids in the dungeon lead to Booth questioning a Miss Skarsgard. 

Skarsgard: “Agent Booth, I’m a dominatrix. If the rough stuff bothered me, I wouldn’t be fit to do my job.”

She sounds surprised and shocked when informed Hutch is dead. 

Skarsgard: “This would not happen on my watch. I’m a professional.”

Booth: “Oh, professional. What do you guys have, some kind of a union?”

Skarsgard: “I’m a licensed therapist. I provided a safe, reliable service.”

Booth: “So you were his, um, therapist.”

Skarsgard: “Yes. Hutch felt great guilt that he made his money inciting the worst in people.”

Booth: “Oh, and your beatings helped him with that.”

Skarsgard: “I never beat him. He was disciplined, which fulfilled his need to feel punished. Making progress too. I can’t believe he’s dead.”

As we’ve seen before, one way to manage the social deviance of pro dommes is by invoking the concept of woman-as-caretaker. 

She says Hutch was thinking of quitting the show and becoming a moderate. She swears that when she left him, he was fine. 

Skarsgard: “He could have released himself whenever he wanted to.”

Booth: “When you left him? Well, you left him bound and gagged.”

Skarsgard: “Abandonment was important to Hutch. But the handcuffs and restraints I used had safety releases. It was up to him to decide when he had had enough. I would never harm a client.”

More investigation shows that the victim’s producer found him dead and disposed of the body. 

Producer Bob: “Handcuffs, leather, ball gag. It was revolting. I could not let the cops find him like that.”

The bondage gear, disposed of in another storm drain, provides a link to Hutch’s on-air partner and “punching bag”, designated liberal Alan Spaziano. He found out about Hutch’s bondage sessions and photographed Hutch in full gear with his cell phone to blackmail him to stay in the job. When Hutch escaped and attacked him, Spaziano hit him with the cell phone, inadvertently killing him. Then he mimicked Hutch’s voice on a phone message to give himself an alibi. 

Confronted with his own violence, Spaziano goes into denial. 

Spaziano: “This is not who I am. It was an accident.”

Both Hutch’s wife and his domme say that, beneath the domineering, cruel public persona was a man who felt guilty for what he did and wanted to be punished for it, or leave it entirely. Again, masochism is based on the guilt of the powerful. The actual murder was committed by Spaziano, the meek liberal who needed his on-air partner, the masochist who wouldn’t let his sadist quit. 

Forensic investigation shhows treat the human body as a puzzle; there is always a hidden truth to be revealed via investigation. This can get into transphobic areas, such as when “reading” a transperson is treated as a triumph of science, not an act of disrespect to the person. In this case, the victim’s masochism, revealed by close examination of his physical body, is treated as the truth of his identity, in contrast to his domineering public persona.

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