Hodgins once told Brennan that he’d learned something from her about science: It narrows its focus if it only looks forward. Science should look in all directions. Progress is inevitable, but nothing sticks if we don’t look back to see how we got here. It’s a lesson that is finally catching up with our characters outside the lab. Booth and Brennan have always been defined by how they’ve grown since they met, but lately everything from their past has been coming back around.
There was Booth’s gambling relapse, which pushed him out of the house for a while as he figured out how to admit that he needed help. And then there was Brennan’s desire to step away from murder, which she finally followed through on when she left the Jeffersonian. But even now that she’s free to live her life with Booth, Christine, and new baby, Hank, Brennan can’t stop one thing from their past from coming back around: People just keep dying. Wasn’t Sweets enough of a price to pay? Now we’ve (presumably) lost Booth’s Pops, baby Hank’s namesake, played by the late Ralph Waite. He doesn’t get a “goodbye” in the full sense of the word, but I respect the show’s decision not to equate a real friend’s death with a fictional character’s, and naming the baby after Pops feels like the proper way to honor his legacy. Booth and Brennan look back, but they move forward.
Which means it’s about time for more death. Six months into their new life, Brennan is consulting for museums (she’s already finished two books; what, like it’s hard?), and Booth is a freelance instructor at Quantico. One totally average day — which in this family means that there’s an old plow on the counter and Brennan is teaching Christine all about it — he fixes his wife and kids with an extra lingering glance before he leaves. It’s significant, but it’s also not that unusual. Booth does that sometimes. There’s no cause for alarm until a dead body shows up torched in a van, and all of the signs point one way: The body could be Booth’s.
Cam and Aubrey try the old “dumb guy normal stuff” and do as Booth would — they give him a call. No answer. Brennan can’t get through either. Worse, when she checks on his guns, she finds them all gone, his wedding ring left in their place. Always our rational scientist, Brennan refuses to believe the worst until she’s seen the proof herself, but she’s cracking under the weight of the possibilities. Arastoo catalogues the evidence point by point: Booth’s gun is fused to one bone. Both legs show signs of parachuting fractures. Both arms carry the defensive wounds of a boy who was beaten. The skull is too degraded to see the marks of Booth’s brain surgery for sure, but it can’t be ruled out.
That’s one-too-many maybes for Brennan, who kicks everyone else out and reassembles the skeleton in a more intimate setting. Bones the show and Brennan the character have always centered themselves in that bone room because, in the process of studying the bones, Brennan comes to know the person, too. But this time, she has to consider the fact that she might already know him, and that’s the best part of this scene: There’s no pity in it. When this all does come to an end, it won’t be sad because Brennan lost the person who knows her best. It’ll be sad because she lost the person she knows best. What I’m saying is that I cried when she flashed back to their first kiss.
Angela does a facial reconstruction on the skull, and an FBI task force traces Booth’s last steps. But Brennan just keeps working on those bones. It takes a while, but she finds her proof: When Booth was in that firefight last year, a bullet nicked off a part of his scapula, and this one’s intact. It isn’t Booth. Brennan is thrilled for about ten seconds, and then she’s furious. Her friends made her think that her husband was dead. “I hope this isn’t indicative of how you’ve been running the Jeffersonian in my absence,” she snaps at Cam, mostly because she’s mad, but also because, on some level, she’s been looking for an excuse to come back. She hasn’t approved a single one of her potential replacements. Brennan isn’t going anywhere until they know whose body is on the table and how her husband is involved.
NEXT: It wasn’t a real clown