Editor’s Note: When we first starting tossing around the idea of Bones Week, Sage and I both knew that we wouldn’t be able to do it without our dear friend Kelly contributing. After all, Bones was Kelly’s revenge on Sage for getting HER into The X-Files. Thus, Kelly and I sat down and listed our favorite episodes of Bones and lovingly fought with each other until we were in agreement on the 20 episodes we felt were the most definitive of Bones as a series. Here are the fruits of our labor. (And follow Kelly’s extensive Bones finale coverage over at Entertainment Weekly! She fancy like that.) — Kim
This is where I’m supposed to tell you how I feel about Bones. Like I’ve ever had just one feeling about Bones at a time.
You could start with Billy Eichner’s farewell sketch: a frenetically fond goodbye to a long-running procedural that most people think is a “CSI show.” Yelling, “It’s not a CSI show!” is part of my relationship with Bones. But then you’d have to imagine me in a dingy Dublin dorm room, an ocean away from my college and feeling unexpectedly alone, marathoning Bones at 2 a.m. because someone else I knew had just died. I studied abroad expecting an adventure that never came, so I spent my time with characters who understood adventure as I now wanted to know it: as a set of relationships and a sense of purpose. I thought I’d find myself in the city, but I found myself in the show.
It would be indulgent to list the actual, measurable ways Bones changed my life, both personally and professionally, but it did and still does, which is why there was never a question that I would stick with it until the end. Admittedly, for a few seasons there, Bones got so good at recreating what it did well that it lost some of the magic it had at its best, when it was still figuring out whether it wanted to be a comedy, a drama, or a romance, and so it was all of them. But in the last few years, Bones has found its way back to that sense of unpredictability. All but one of the episodes on our list are from seasons 1 through 6, but I’d be remiss not to acknowledge how much fun it’s been to watch this show start taking risks again. They call this last season “The Last Chapter,” but in classic Bones form, it feels like a look forward. We left out a lot of deserving episodes. There are a lot of episodes of Bones.
And listen: There is a reason why this show went on for so many years. Bones knows people. The argument that a procedural is “really about the characters!” is practically the TV fan version of “my dog went to a farm” at this point, but my family’s dog LITERALLY WENT TO A FARM and also BONES IS ABOUT THE CHARACTERS. Booth and Brennan stand at the center, the intuitive man and the rational, scientific woman, and while that dichotomy is so obviously indebted to The X-Files that the pilot just got it out of the way and admitted as much, it’s updated here for a more self-conscious era: Brennan a woman with peerless intelligence who fears coming across as cold, Booth an exploration of how traditional masculinity functions in our time.
Any show gifted with half the chemistry David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel brought to the small screen each week would be lucky to back it up with characterization half as strong as Booth and Brennan’s. But Bones did one better and made everyone feel real: the bug guy in anger management who’s also a wealthy romantic; the artist and computer whiz whose dad is ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons (like, what); the kickass coroner boss who stays up late worrying about her friends; the whip-smart psychologist looking to replace the family he lost. The boy who went too far trying to belong.
Bones has a knack for making you like people. It’s a byproduct of its empathy, which the show has maintained in the face of Hollywood peer pressure to make murder solving all flashy and soulless. Bones cares when it’s uncool, and that refusal to detach makes the series so hopeful (as both science and Brennan teach us, imperviousness is not the same as strength). For a show about people with such difficult pasts and dark careers, Bones has mostly resisted the temptation to get more tragic over time, choosing instead to guide these characters toward happiness and then defiantly keep them there. (Except Sweets. RIP, buddy.)
Optimism was this show’s radicalism. Bones pushed boundaries by normalizing, and it normalized so well that its quiet challenge to the status quo was mistaken for the new status quo.That one guy on Billy on the Street was wrong when he said Bones didn’t open any doors; it did, just not for some kind of hypothetical high-concept Breaking Bad 2.0. It was too busy paving the way for everyone else—the women who run government labs, the Iranian poet-doctors, the bisexual artists, the Army Rangers in therapy. Bones has never been properly recognized for the world it envisions. But maybe if you all just tie your friends to a chair and make them watch these 20 episodes, that’ll be a start.
I meannnn recognition isn’t what’s important. –Kelly
Honorable Mention: “The Boneless Bride in the River” (2 x 16)
This may have been my first episode of Bones, but I didn’t need context to know that in the end, Brennan would end up with that chisel-jawed guy who called out, “Ahoy the boat,” and muscled his way between her and her also-chisel-jawed then-boyfriend. Sully never stood a chance. That’s no knock on Sully, whose sensitivity to Brennan astounds me. Their relationship is new enough that he won’t let it stop him from sailing off to the Caribbean, but it’s already strong enough that he wants her to come with him—and deep enough that he knows what that request will do to her. (Catch me crying into the sleeves of a Sully-esque sweater when he asks Brennan if she wants to hug and accepts what he thinks is a no for an answer, only to find himself wrapped in her arms a second later.)
The case in “The Boneless Bride in the River” is not what I’d call good, but I’ve always had a soft spot for its character work. It’s a study in Bones’ purpose-based romanticism: the idea that one way to love the world is to dedicate yourself to a single cause. As both Sully and Angela know, that way of life requires missing out on a lot; even Brennan frames her decision to stay behind as a kind of failure, and one of the best things about this episode is its willingness to let the show’s status quo seem suddenly bittersweet. Even work worth doing can be used as a crutch.
But what Booth and Brennan sacrifice, they sacrifice together. Angela might think Gordon Gordon is “full of it” when he claims Brennan stayed for her work rather than for Booth, but there’s really no separating the two. Brennan doesn’t stay for Booth, exactly, but she does stay with him—she stays because, like him, she defines herself by her job. When she turns from waving goodbye to Sully and finds Booth waiting behind her, you can feel her roots and his starting to tangle. They need to solve murders, and so they need each other. Booth’s reminder that “everything happens eventually” is also the promise that, one day, she won’t have to choose. Or at least if she does, the choice will be easy. — Kelly
Booth: Give it time, Bones, okay? Give it time. Everything happens eventually.
Booth: All the stuff that you think never happens—it happens. You just gotta be ready for it.
Honorable Mention: “The Graft in the Girl” (1 x 20)
Everyone has an episode that they have an almost inexplicable soft spot for and “The Graft in the Girl” is mine. Nothing momentous happens in this episode. It’s not crucial to the Bones mythology, nor does it have any sort of big moment between Booth and Brennan. What it IS is a cracking good mystery/serial killer case that heightened by Booth and Brennan having a personal connection to the victim.
I think my favorite thing about “The Graft in the Girl” is that there is no Eleventh Hour cure for Amy Cullen. They say at the beginning that her cancer is terminal and they don’t back down from that. Alexandra Krosney is pitch-perfect in the role, bringing JUST the right amount of bitterness to Amy and the life that’s being snatched away from her, but she never crosses over into after-school special territory. But the real star of this episode is Michaela Conlin (who had an AMAZING back half of season 1, between this and “The Skull in the Desert”). Out of all our characters, Angela is the one who never dreamed that she would help solve murders for a living and the whole thing still feels very foreign to her. She lacks the clinical distance that Booth and Brennan have built up, so her heart is laid bare with the unfairness of the whole situation. Angela sees herself in Amy’s passion for art and her longing for love. Michaela’s performance is beautifully bittersweet as she tries to share of much of herself with Amy while she can. Her final gesture of creating the Louvre for Amy remains one of my absolute favorite Angela moments of the entire series. — Kim
Angela: Look, we can solve hundred-year-old crimes…we can, we can track down serial killers and identify people when nothing is left of them but sludge. So, why can’t we help a 15-year-old girl? All she wants to do is fall in love and visit the Louvre.
Hodgins: You can do that.
Angela: What do you mean?
Hodgins: You made a whole guy out of bone chips and lights. You can create the Louvre.
20) “The Spark in the Park” (9 x 11)
What I want to know is how it took nine seasons before Bones centered a case in the world of competitive gymnastics, especially considering the toll it takes on the body.
“The Spark in the Park” is the only episode past season 6 to make this list and I lobbied hard for it because of the MAGNIFICENT guest performance by our boo Richard Schiff and because it is a beautiful episode for Brennan. Brennan sees a version of herself in Dr. Watters, the version of her before opening her heart to Booth and Angela and the rest of her chosen family; the person she could easily become were she to lose everything as Watters has. Brennan UNDERSTANDS Watters on a fundamental level, she gets how he turns to his equations in times of strife because they make sense and his daughter’s death doesn’t. It’s so reminiscent of her 2 + 2 = 4 monologue in “The Devil in the Details.” When they can’t understand effects, people like Brennan and Watters turn to the things they know to be true. That’s why when Booth sees a shady murder suspect (His characterization in this episode was a BIT off, but I’m letting it slide), Brennan sees a father crippled by grief. Her compassion for him is overwhelming and it makes my heart EXPLODE because look at how much Brennan has grown. Look how strong her heart muscle is. Look at how she trusts her instincts about people. Look at how she COMFORTS a man in pain. It’s so beautiful.
Listen. All Richard Schiff has to do is show up on a show and I’m renting a plane to fly around the world with a banner declaring his brilliance. BUT THIS PERFORMANCE. It’s a masterclass in restrained emotion, in introversion, and in someone collapsing in on himself. He comes off as callous about his daughter’s death because he doesn’t know how to comprehend it. But all you have to do is look in his eyes to see that he’s devastated. Watters may not be a man of many words, but Richard Schiff doesn’t need them to create a fully formed character.
And that final scene? GOD. Emily Deschanel is so fucking good (THE SINGLE TEAR. Her emotional build. She’s SUCH a brilliant actress) as she realizes that Watters is painting a portrait of his daughter’s life through the only thing he understands: equations. Cause and effect. Life may not be good again, but at least some sense of it can be made. (Also a note to the editing of the episode because I LOVE how it ends in silence. Amanda really is at rest.) — Kim
Brennan: Follow the logic. If you kill yourself, the authorities will be convinced that you did, in fact, abuse and murder your daughter. She took care of you so you could keep working. Not everyone understands people like us. Inertia demands that you keep going. For Amanda.
Watters: Find who did this.
episode gifs via hamiltrashed.tumblr.com
19) “The Girl with the Curl” (2 x 07)
Early season two was a powder keg of sexual tension, between Booth, Brennan, Cam, Hodgins, and Angela all bantering and making eyes at each other (now that’s a fan fic I would read). SOMEBODY had to blow it and it was Jack Hodgins (because it was waaaaaaay too early for Booth and Brennan to go there). AND HE BLEW IT UP IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE. (Also when exactly did Jack Hodgins go from paranoid bug guy to dream guy? Discuss.)
Hodgins: We’ve been dancing around this for months now…like two pieces of neodymium caught in a magnetic field.
Angela: Is that good?
Hodgins: Yeah. But if the field weakens, they fly apart. Which is why I thought they should go on a date.
Ladies, your new standard. If you’re not compared to neodymium, it’s not good enough.
And THE DATE. Earlier in the episode, Angela talks about childhood and feeling free on the swings, so what does Jack do? He takes her to a park so they can swing. (END ME.) What gets me so much about this whole thing is Jack’s confidence. I’ve seen this episode a billion times. I JUST watched it in preparation for this post. I KNOW it’s coming and I still let out dying animal noises when Jack jumps off the swing and goes in for the kiss. It’s perfect. Too perfect, since it sends Angela running for the hills because she was NEVER supposed to actually fall in love with the Bug Guy. I know it all turns out okay a few episodes later, but man that hurt. The women on this show and their emotional skittishness though. I live for it.
The little girl in the last gif is me.
Take out the Hodgela of it all and this episode would still make my top 20. Season Two was LIT, y’all. I loved the dynamic that Cam brought to the group and I love how in these early episodes it’s clear that these characters are still all figuring each other out. (The awkward girl talk scene is everything.) I’m here for Brennan awkwardly trying to understand the hierarchies of young beauty queens and I’m HERE for her rants against Western beauty standards and the sexualization of young girls. (THIS SHOW.) And THEN there’s the infamous “well structured” scene with exactly ZERO personal space. (*panic laughter*) What blows my mind a little bit about this final scene is that Booth is sneaking around with Cam but he STILL can’t resist the pull he feels towards Brennan. I think it speaks a lot to Camille Saroyan’s character in regards to her reaction when Booth blows her off for Mee Krab with Brennan. She doesn’t get huffy or cause a scene. She simply shrugs (“Your loss, buddy.”) and goes on her way. It’s a subtle moment but it’s a powerful one. She knows. And you know what? She’s fine with it. — Kim
Angela: I need advice.
Brennan: What — on a personal matter?
Brennan: From me?
Brennan: But romance is sort of…this is like me asking you advice on phylogenetic systematics.
Angela: Phylogenetic systematics. I have no idea what that is.
18) “The Skull in the Desert” (1 x 17)
The average episode of Bones has a rhythm so consistent you could set it to music. When that story structure works, it really works; we’ve got a few of those episodes on this list. But it’s no coincidence that a lot of our top 20 are hours that shake up the usual formula. Even in season 1, “The Skull in the Desert” feels like a breath of fresh air and a chance to get some sun. A college writing professor would praise its strong sense of place. It builds a world so indifferent to my own survival that I’m desperate for its approval.
Of course Angela Montenegro would waltz into a community this suspicious of outsiders and make them love her anyway. Season 1 in particular does something interesting with Angela: She’s thoroughly her own person, but she’s also a little bit of everyone else. She’s Booth’s ease with people and Brennan’s fear that she guards herself. All three care so deeply that they’re scared into putting limits on it: Booth by making himself a lone wolf at work, Brennan by resisting emotional attachments outside of work, and Angela by loving someone completely—for three weeks a year.
“The Skull in the Desert” is my favorite Angela-centric outing, in part because it digs into her vulnerability and in part because Angela’s vulnerability is a mirror for Brennan, who admits how hard it is for her to open up without realizing she’s already doing it. Brennan drops her work to fly off to be with her best friend without a second thought. And when Angela has a vision of the woman they’re looking for, Brennan faces an experience that goes completely against her beliefs and says, “Okay.” That display of trust is, for me, the core of the hour.
Both of these women worry that they’re alone, but they already aren’t. Bones is concerned with the universal experiences we don’t talk about enough (death is one, but it’s hardly the only), and this episode takes the desert as an excuse to talk about a different kind of isolation. Everyone worries about dependence on another person. Everyone is ultimately more afraid to be alone. But Brennan knows from science—that’s another Bones thing: the dismissal of the idea that science is bleak—that opportunities that pass us by tend to come back in new ways. “Infinity goes in both directions.” Nothing happens just once. Kind of like how I rewatch this episode all the time. — Kelly
Brennan: “I want you to get federal on his ass.”
17) “The Knight on the Grid” (3 x 08)
Before the Gormogon arc crash landed in pain and betrayal, scattering debris the show didn’t finish picking up until last week, it gave us this bizarre, dangerous little flight. As bitingly funny as it is dark, “The Knight on the Grid” does both humor and drama loudly, but it does them well. It isn’t the episode I watch when I’m curled up under a blanket and looking for comfort. It’s the episode I watch when I’m looking for the TV equivalent of going to the Renaissance wing of an art museum and then snapchatting the paintings with jokey captions, which is a feeling I believe more TV should try to capture.
“The Knight on the Grid” is an episode about the search for a cannibalistic serial killer that also happens to be packed with laughs. Brennan responds to a bloody kneecap in her mail with the argument, “I can’t freak out every time somebody Googles me.” She gets casual about cannibalism with an archbishop, sets up a ruse really, really badly (“TAKE IT TO BETHESDA”), and starts bickering with Booth as soon as they’re blown up. This hour is also noteworthy for bringing Sweets into the investigation for the first time, and yeah, our boy brought his Star Wars references.
And yet none of these jokes come at the expense of the seriousness of the case. The subplot running through this episode is a personal one, as Brennan’s duties to her brother, her partner, and her job get all knotted up in Booth’s duties to the law and to Brennan. Of course he finds a way to honor both; that’s just who Booth is. He’s the kind of guy who can call in favors with an archbishop he met once, because (like Leslie Knope) Booth uses favors to help other people. Who wouldn’t want to kiss him on the cheek for that?
Brennan’s father and brother are good people trying to rebuild after getting caught in bad schemes. No one at the Jeffersonian knows how close they are to the start of that same story. Gormogon, after all, is about mentorship: two people working together to complete something, a warped perversion of what Brennan and Booth do. I have my issues with the way the arc’s fallout is handled, but it’s rooted in a misguided search for belonging, and when Booth warns Russ to keep his nose clean, it’s impossible to escape the sense that someone won’t. This episode builds a sense of dread so complete that it even darkens Brennan’s sweet storytime with Haley, whose cystic fibrosis puts its own kind of countdown clock on this family. But for Brennan to know something is fragile and hold it anyway is a start. —Kelly
Sweets: “Point of investigation: How do masters find their apprentices? Not on Craigslist. I checked.”
16) “The Passenger in the Oven” (4 x 10)
SCIENCE ON THE FLY. (Ha ha I made a funny.)
This episode is just so much FUN (Season 4 as a WHOLE was fun). I love when Bones puts Booth and Brennan in unusual situations that force them to think creatively. And you can’t get more creative than trying to solve a murder at 36,000 feet in the air with extremely limited resources and time. Booth and Brennan don’t have their team PHYSICALLY there to help them solve the murder, so it force Booth to think and act like a squint, and it’s glorious. (I love that even after YEARS in the field solving murders, Booth is still grossed out by a little thing like an eyeball.) I love how this case tests Brennan’s brain and makes her think outside the box as far as using everyday objects as forensic instruments. The moral of the story: pay attention in science class, y’all.
In the absence of the regular team, “The Passenger in the Oven” does a great job of populating Booth and Brennan’s world with colorful characters. The little old ladies who are crime novel junkies/Brennan fangirls are a DELIGHT. (They are also me and Sage.) I love how in just that 42 minutes, we get a perfect microcosm of this world, from the flight attendants all knowing each other’s business to shaming the pilot for hooking up with passengers in the bathroom. Setting up the kid who’s stealing booze off the drinks cart as the murderer is a GREAT move because he’s right in front of their faces all along.
What’s also fantastic about this episode is the great character moments between Booth and Brennan. I love him constantly sneaking into first class a la Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids. (“I’m ready to parrrrrrrrty.”). I love her being both delighted and exasperated by him doing so. The B&B flirting in season four was pretty blatant and I love how everyone in this episode mentions how hot they are for each other. (“We barely touch.” OKAY.) I don’t know if there’s ever been a more obvious come-on than the Sexy Librarian scene. (Thanks for your kink-sharing, Booth. Fan Fic writers are forever in debt.) BUT also what gets me about this episode is Booth’s openness with his insecurities regarding holding Brennan back and keeping her from the things she loves. It’s an amazing callback to “The Boneless Bride in the River” to me.
Booth: You want to get off the plane to see those old Chinese bones. I’m sorry.
Brennan: It’s not your fault.
Booth: Yeah, it is, because I’m the one that dragged you out of pure science and pulled you into murder solving.
Brennan: That’s not how I remember it.
Brennan: Yes. As I recall, I had to force you to take me into the field.
Brennan: Yes. You didn’t want to, remember? This is all my fault.
Sometimes Booth needs to be reminded that Brennan’s work with him is a CHOICE, so that’s exactly what she does here. And it’s one she doesn’t regret. — Kim
Booth: Bones—(sees glasses and smiles) All right, what I want you to do is take off your glasses, shake out your hair and say, “Mr. Booth, do you know what the penalty is for an overdue book?”
Booth: Never mind.
15) “The Dwarf in the Dirt” (5 x 07)
So I’m in Dublin, right? (This isn’t an Iron Leprechaun joke.) It hasn’t exactly turned out to be the ideal study abroad experience (for reasons that have almost nothing to do with the city—love you, Dublin!), but I’ve got plenty of time on my hands, so I’m watching every show I’ve ever seen an episode of, including Bones. For a while, it’s just part of my lineup, but things start to heat up when Booth and Brennan nearly kiss in a museum. I’m beginning to root for these two. Then Stephen Fry shows up as some chef who’s always repeating his first name. He’s telling Booth that his brain problem can be fixed with The Magic of Love and it seems medically unsound but I’m realizing I don’t care. And then Booth nails his marksmanship certification test, Brennan gives him that simple, confident thumbs up, and I’m locked in. I go back and watch the first four seasons of Bones in three weeks.
It might be less accurate to say that “The Dwarf in the Dirt” is the episode that hooked me on Bones than it is to say that it’s the episode that made me realize I was already hooked on Bones. Still, I owe this hour something for doing the clumsy catch-new-fans-up-to-speed thing and directly psychoanalyzing our main squeezes when they’re not around. I owe it for setting that marksmanship test to such nice music. I know all of this, which is why I resisted putting it in my top 20, even though I knew Kim would want it on here. I figured my biases were coloring my opinions. I wanted to be fair. But then I rewatched this episode and cried so hard at the end that I choked on my scrambled eggs, and I realized that I love my biases. Art is consumed subjectively GET OFF MY BACK.
If it pleases you, feel free to take this episode as the culmination of season 5’s early stretch, which brought the possibility of a Booth/ Brennan relationship right to the surface. Booth is the one whose feelings are labeled as romantic, but what I enjoy about this arc, and this episode specifically, is that Brennan’s feelings are just as obviously love. So much of the fear around pairing will-they-won’t-they couples comes down to the preconception that acts of love are somehow more interesting from a platonic angle, but what Booth and Brennan prove is that part of a good love story is noticing which foot your partner uses to take the stairs. Romance doesn’t exclude gestures of friendship, and Booth is literally doing more damage and putting Brennan in more danger by denying his hope for a relationship with her. “May I counsel patience on this front,” Gordon Gordon says. “Hope and patience.” And Booth is all right again. —Kelly
Brennan: “I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t to do help him.”
14) “The Killer in the Concrete” (2 x 18)
This episode is THRILLING. What has made Bones so special is the way that they can explore different genres, all while staying true to the basic tenet of solving crimes using forensic science and anthropology. “The Killer in the Concrete” turns into a good old-fashioned mafia movie. What I love so much about this one is that it’s BOOTH who is in genuine danger here and that there’s no way he can communicate his distress to anyone. Those torture scenes are INTENSE and Booth is so stalwart in the face of what must be unbearable pain. There’s no crying out for help and he gives nothing away (that sniper training, yo). I think he genuinely thinks this could be it for him and if he’s gonna go out, he’s going out knowing he adhered to his moral code.
What Booth DOESN’T know is that Brennan is moving heaven and earth to get to him, even if that means forming a reluctant partnership with her father. I think this is the perfect way to bring Max back after “Judas on a Pole” because we aren’t expecting him. Bones used Max brilliantly in those early days…we always knew he was out there and the knowledge that he could pop up at any moment kept us all on edge. “The Killer in the Concrete” isn’t a story about Brennan’s family arc, but it IS a story that begins to lay the foundation for Brennan being able to trust her father again. She turns to him out of desperation, after all. She knows the danger that Booth is in and the FBI is no help to her. She needs someone who can make things happen, even if the methods are unconventional and shady. Enter good old dad, who’s looking to get back in his daughter’s good graces. (Sage: And what would score you more points with Brennan than saving Booth?)
As if “Judas on a Pole” didn’t illustrate it enough, Max Keenan is RUTHLESS here. He’s genuinely terrifying when he captures the bounty hunter and interrogates her by smothering her with a pillow (also when he almost crushes that poor dude’s model airplane). Brennan proves how much she is her father’s daughter when she CLOCKS that woman after finding her in possession of Booth’s tooth. She may not want to admit it, but she definitely gets her fierce sense of protection from her dad. By the end of the episode, Brennan and Max may not be ready to have regular father-daughter brunches, but there is a modicum of grudging respect there, as well as a new code of honor between them. (“Well, it’s not like I actually GAVE him the keys.”) They still have a long way to go before Max is their go-to babysitter, but I think everything their relationship becomes is owed to how Max helped her save Booth, no questions asked.
Kelly talks later about how Bones loves punctuating their episodes with a great Booth and Brennan scene. This one is no exception, with Booth and Brennan sitting across from each other at the diner, singing “Keep On Tryin'” to each other, grinning like the fools in love they are. “There’s only one thing for me to do. It’s to keep on trying to get home to you.” YEAH OKAY. –Kim
Brennan: I want to do something but I don’t – I don’t know what.
Max: Are you asking?
Brennan: You’d help find the man who’s going to put you in jail?
Max: Well, Booth will – will do the best he can. I’ll do the best I can and we’ll see how it works out when we get there.
13) “The Woman in Limbo” (1 x 22)
Now this is the episode I watch when I’m curled up under a blanket. Bones‘season 1 finale captures that feeling of being right on the brink of falling apart when your best friend knocks on the door at midnight with Chinese food and a transparent excuse. (“You saw my lights from the road?” “That is correct.”) Booth is a good partner to Brennan throughout the first season. In “The Woman in Limbo,” he becomes a good friend.
Everyone is a good friend to Brennan in this episode, and Brennan is surprised by all of it. Her teary, “Everybody, thank you,” has as much to do with the support she’s getting now as it does with the lifetime of support she didn’t receive. Even her name was a lie. The events of this episode are traumatic for Brennan, and the story lets her be traumatized. Pretty soon this family of coworkers will stop feeling like a substitution for anything, but here it’s still tentative; here, the show is aware that the space for new relationships sometimes only opens up because we lost old ones.
episode gifs via drtemperancebrennans.tumblr.com
At least Booth is one of those new relationships. As much as everyone gets in on the action, this is Booth and Brennan’s hour; when Brennan remembers playing Marco Polo with her brother and Booth calls her name, he’s explicitly positioned as her new (to quote David Duchovny quoting someone else) human credential. Booth cares where Brennan is all the time. He defends her, refreshingly, from a place of respect, which the episode shares: It’s Brennan who gets the final confrontation with the man who killed her mother, and it’s Brennan’s intelligence that, she trusts, will lead her to the truth about her dad.
And there’s a twist in all of this, one that spans the whole series but might just begin here: Those new relationships can recontextualize and even save the old ones. Booth, by reaching out to Russ, and Angela, by getting him to open up, are able to put Brennan’s history with her brother in a different light. They “Polo” when she can’t, and she gets her “Marco” back. My favorite moment of this hour is when Brennan has nothing to say about her brother except that she has one. It’s real and ineloquent and confused, but it’s also a place to start. If Brennan’s job is to “identify people when nobody knows who they are,” then it’s this episode’s job to identify Brennan, and the profile it writes is of someone who’s already less alone than she knows.
Also, Bill Scully is a dick in all universes. — Kelly
Brennan: My name is Brennan. I’m Dr.—I’m Dr. Temperance Brennan. I work at the Jeffersonian Institution. I specialize in identif—in identifying—in identifying people when nobody knows who they are. My father was a science teacher. My mother was a bookkeeper. My brother—I have a brother. I’m Dr. Temperance Brennan.
Booth: I know who you are.
12) “The Proof in the Pudding” (5 x 12)
BOTTLE EPISODES FOR THE WIN.
No offense to Abed Nadir, but I live for bottle episodes, where all the characters are stuck in one location, forcing them to deal with one problem. It truly shows the strength of an ensemble when you put them all in one place together and the Bones ensemble has long been one of the great unsung casts of the past 12 years. “The Proof in the Pudding” works so well because it functions on two levels; we have the human relationship drama of Angela’s pregnancy scare AND we have the team tackling the greatest conspiracy of all time: the JFK assassination.
To me, TJ Thyne has ALWAYS been the MVP of the Bones ensemble and what a STELLAR episode this is for Hodgins. It’s hard to pick out a best moment for him in this episode. Is it the moment that he finally realizes that they are working on JFK’s remains? (“Hodgins, you’re vibrating.”) Is it the way he solemnly delivers the line “She never left his side.”? Is it how he and Booth butt heads over whether or not the Government would have murdered the President and then covered it up? Is it when he torments Mr. White about the Bush shoe-throwing incident and then gets his ass kicked? Those are ALL great moments, and they are moments that illustrate the Hodgins we all fell in love with in season one. But come on. You all know what the best Hodgins moment in this episode is.
Hodgins: You’re gonna have this baby.
Angela: I don’t know that yet.
Hodgins: Yeah, well, when you do…I’ve been thinking. You’re gonna try to raise this kid on your own. Wendell is a very decent guy…
Angela: He’s a great guy.
Hodgins: I know. But he’s a struggling grad student, and you’re gonna minimize his responsibilities for his own good.
Angela: Geez. Regular Nostradamus there, huh, Hodgins? Predicting the future?
Hodgins: Says the woman who consults a psychic. My point is, I’m your guy.
Hodgins: I’m your guy. I love you. I love you and I want to help you in whatever way I can. If-if you want to move in together, if-if you want to get married…I’m here for you. And for the baby. In whatever role you need. Okay?
THE MEN ON THIS SHOW.
Never mind that Jack and Angie broke up at the beginning of season four. Never mind that she’s been in two different relationships since. Jack Hodgins is still all “I’M YOUR GUY” with Angela Montenegro. And the thing is, there’s no sort of manipulation behind this confession. He’s SO earnest and everything he feels for Angela is there in those bright blue eyes. He’s not saying for her to dump Wendell and be with him. In fact, he’s not even offering himself as a romantic option in this speech, despite the whole marriage offer. He’s just saying that he loves her and he will be there for her in whatever way she needs. And when it turns out Angela’s not pregnant? He doesn’t try to take back what he said or brush it off. He’s just like “Okay, great.” The whole episode is the beginning of Jack and Angie finding their way back to each other. 8 episodes later they get married.
“The Proof in the Pudding” is not just a great episode for Hodgins and Angela though. Everyone in the ensemble gets their chance to shine, from Cam having her ULTIMATE boss bitch moment (“For future reference, you might want to inform your bosses that we don’t do half-truth here.”) to Sweets serving as Booth’s eyes and ears to Booth shooting out the lab door (SO HOT) to Brennan’s Jibber-Jabber monologue. The whole thing shows what a well oiled machine the Bones cast is and it’s an episode I would watch over and over again.
Oh, yes. The LITERAL proof in the pudding. After seeing how distraught Booth was about the possibility of the JFK conspiracy being true, Brennan gives him the ultimate gift: concrete evidence that the body isn’t. At least in Booth’s eyes anyway because he has no reason to think that Brennan would bend the truth. But she does. She loves him and she’d rather keep his faith in tact than be right. My FAVORITE thing in a lot of favorite things about this episode is how Cam sees what Brennan did and even calls her on it. “You’re a good person” indeed. — Kim
Hodgins: Since this is based on the official record, I can’t believe it.
Booth: Here we go.
Hodgins: You think there’s no way the President of the United States gets murdered in public in broad daylight and, and the truth gets covered up?
Booth: That’s right. It doesn’t happen. This is America.
Hodgins: The highest form of patriotism is to be skeptical of the official truth. That is why the First Amendment, free speech, is first in the Constitution you would die to protect. The lone gunman version isn’t possible.
11) “The Blonde in the Game” (2 x 04)
I will let the other Bones serial killers finish (no I won’t; that’s dangerous), but Howard Epps had the strongest serial-killing arc on this show, and not just because of his diverse array of hairstyles. Any one of his three appearances on this show could have made this list. “The Blonde in the Game” just happens to be our favorite.
That’s thanks in large part to Jasper the pig. Bones loves a strong final scene; a lot of the process of narrowing down this list was about reminding myself that a final scene does not a full episode make (hoo boy, would ranking Bones episodes solely by final scenes be like ranking your own children or what?). But the scene that gives us little Jasper works because it isn’t just tacked on; it ties the hour together. A throwaway comment Brennan makes at a crime scene becomes a classic deadpan Emily Deschanel moment (obviously she’d name her pet pig Jasper!!), then a gesture from the team, and then, in the end, a gesture from Booth.
episode gifs via drtemperancebrennans.tumblr.com
Bones understands the cost of taking a life, which Brennan does for the first time here. One of the most refreshing things about the place this show has made for itself in the crime drama landscape is that it doesn’t brush off violence. These people would lose their minds if they couldn’t make jokes over corpses, but empathy for the victim is still at the forefront (“it does. It matters”). Even killing a killer, even when it’s absolutely necessary, is acknowledged as a violation of the kind of world we should get to live in. So Booth gives Brennan a pig. He gives her a pig to say that there are still tiny plastic pigs in the world. He gives her a pig to say that he’s still in the world, thanks to her, and he’s paying attention. Pigs are smart and misunderstood; Brennan’s smart, but she’s not misunderstood anymore.
“The Blonde in the Game” gets more right than its final scene. It makes use of the whole team as investigators and gets good comedic mileage out of Brennan’s inability to understand how anyone could marry a serial killer. But at the end of the day, this one’s always going to come down to Jasper. —Kelly
Booth: You’re afraid that Epps turned you into him, into a killer. You have to come to grips with the fact that you killed another human being. Because when you kill someone, you know, there’s a cost. It’s a steep cost. I know; I’ve done it.
Brennan: I did the right thing.
Booth: I know. I was there.
Bones Week concludes tomorrow with our Top 10 Episodes of the Series!! Leave your thoughts on episodes 11 through 20 in the comments!