Trivia tidbit: "The Gunk in the Garage" was originally billed as Bones episode number 715 and was filmed just prior to the season 7 finale. This, along with the fact that leading man David Boreanaz directed the finale, explains the shift in tone and focus in this episode. Not exactly new territory for the writers, who have had to write around the actor's prep period before, but it does mean the fans get a larger dose of the tertiary characters whether they want it or not.
Scheduling issues aside, Bones begins with a bang (literally). It's not often the writers depict murder onscreen, but when they do, it's sure to be a spectacle. Sure enough, in "The Gunk in the Garage," fireballs and gory guts are on display. Meanwhile, Booth and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) are driving to work, bickering about whether or not Brennan should buy their daughter an $800 stroller when the call comes in. En route to the scene they get another call, this time from Caroline Julian (Patricia Belcher), ordering Booth back to the Hoover, pronto.
The cover story for Boreanaz's absence is that the FBI is having a cash flow problem in the violent crimes division, so Booth is needed at his desk to shore up loose ends and make the presentation to the finance committee. Caroline is just about the only messenger Booth wouldn't shoot, and she butters him up with a prospective promotion should he follow through.
In lieu of Booth and Brennan leading the investigation, Dr. Sweets (John Francis Daley) steps up to the plate and is subsequently paired with the very young and very blonde Special Agent Olivia Sparling (Danielle Panabaker). Sparling is rude, egotistical, and shows none of the respect for Sweets or the squints that they've come to earn from Booth. She and Sweets fumble their way through the case.
Perhaps the audience is meant to draw parallels to the Booth/Brennan dynamic, which started out rocky but is working its way toward happily ever after. However, the chemistry just isn't there and any supposed attraction between Sweets and Sparling feels flatter than Sweets' already annoying relationship with Daisy Wick (Carla Gallo). The writers might have had better success selling this story if they'd brought back Tina Majornito as Special Agent Genevieve Shaw, though the line about Sweets aiming his "shrinky brain" at Sparling and shooting her is a gem.
As far as the case is concerned, it's a solid one and the ensemble effort from the squints is good. At first, the victim is thought to be Robert Carlson (Tim Ransom), but when he shows up at his house while Sweets and Sparling are informing Mrs. Carlson (Lori Alan), their focus must shift elsewhere. The only plausible solution Brennan and company can discern is that the victim was an identical twin.
Thanks to profiling via Sweets, Angela (Michaela Conlin) is able to narrow down the victim as Jerry Lamgella - the twin brother Carlson never knew he had. Sweets isn't the only one winning bonus points, though. Hodgins (TJ Thyne) also enjoys some of the limelight, whether it's boasting about being placed on his first watch list or his sheepish look that makes you know he is itching to blow things up.
This is why Thyne remains the uncontested King of the Lab amongst the ensemble. His timing is superb and his glee is infectious throughout the episode and it brings out the best in those around him, too. Hodgin's policy has always been to ask for forgiveness versus permission and the scene with him, Cam (Tamara Taylor) and Brennan talking about requisitioning equipment is hilarious. Plus, he blows stuff up, which is never boring.
As the episode draws to a close, Boreanaz is allowed to come back and play, making for one of the more intense chase scenes that Bones has ever offered. Years ago, in their sophomore episode, Brennan had to identify a man carrying a bomb so that Booth could shoot him. She does the same here as the killer Robert Carlson's wife hired to go after him zeros in on him once again, but this time she is on the phone instead of at his side.
It makes no difference and is a testimony to the show's strengths that the scene carries such intense emotion. Given all the excitement, the tag scene at the end seems almost superfluous. Clearly Booth was not going to get the promotion and leave fans at the mercy of alternate pairings. The conflict over money is an old one and blase after last week's real fight. It's good to know Booth has loosened up in his opinions over the years and is ready to negotiate a partnership as far as the money goes, but unless/until these two get married, it's no big deal. Bones has one more new episode to air before the Major League Baseball playoffs begin wreaking their annual havoc on the Fox Fall schedule.
Bones airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox.