The murder of a Secret Service agent puts Booth in the line of fire
Credit: Patrick McElhenney/FOX
S11 E17
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Will no one let Seeley Booth forget that he’s related to John Wilkes Booth? He’s a good person. He doesn’t deserve this. Booth’s secret shame is back tonight for the first time since the 100th episode, which flashed back to his first case with Brennan. She could tell from her new partner’s bone structure that he was descended from the infamous assassin. The president can tell from Booth’s official files, which is much less cool than looking at his cheekbones.

Our team is taking calls from the highest office in the country this week after the murder of Secret Service Agent Graham Roberts. Roberts was last seen outside Richmond, where the president is scheduled to host a campaign fundraiser. Is this the first time Bones has confirmed that it’s moving on an alternate presidential timeline? Bones has always seemed to exist in a slightly kinder reality; a woman of color runs a government science lab, which is staffed mostly by women, and this week, an Indian woman is the unquestioned best agent on a Secret Service team. But most of her colleagues are middle-aged white guys, and so is the President of the United States. Maybe that’s intended as commentary, but it’s still a surprisingly boring move for this show.

In its continued quest to be an all-around buzzkill, the government also sidelines Booth from the first part of the investigation, citing concerns about his “heritage.” While Booth waits out a security check because of something his “nutcase relative did 100-plus years ago,” and Brennan, who’s sick, helicopter-moms her way around the lab via video chat, Aubrey and Secret Service Agent Marissa Patel team up to retrace Roberts’ last steps. Roberts was tasked with checking on anyone in the Richmond area who could be a security risk, and Neil Stockton raises all of the right red flags. Stockton owns a landscaping company; evidence on the victim’s shoe suggests the killer is in the business. There’s also the small matter of his tweet wishing that someone would shoot the president.

Patel and Aubrey find Stockton reading a magazine about guns in the bathroom (typical), but both of his shoulders are bad. He could never have killed the victim or swung a shovel at the face of the man who called in the body. Nobody here stops to think that maybe Stockton could have an accomplice, which seems like an oversight. This is why they need Booth. The president gives his consent for Booth to rejoin the investigation just as Brennan decides to rejoin the world. She’s not contagious anymore, and she WILL show you her tissue to prove it.

Brennan gets to Booth’s office just in time to charm Agent Brandt Walker, Secret Service legend, with her snot, and for all of the secondhand embarrassment I’m suffering, I’d watch her put Walker in uncomfortable situations for days. The guy is shady. He greets Booth by telling him that he’s “heard a lot about” him. I’ve been here for 11 seasons, Bones; you can’t fool me. People in important positions only praise Booth when they want to manipulate him. Piling suspicion on suspicion, Walker mixes up his words when he welcomes Booth back to the case: “It wasn’t protocol. It was just personal.” Booth attributes it to lack of sleep, but a Secret Service agent shouldn’t make that kind of mistake. The last straw: Walker questions Booth’s advice. On snipers. No.

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Things between Walker and Booth go from tense to hostile when the team starts to suspect an inside job. Roberts appears to have been murdered at his hotel, which was crawling with Secret Service agents — and the killer knew how to get around all of them. Even though the president is wheels up in an hour, Booth demands that Walker bring in every member of his advance team for interrogation. He’s not taking any chances, and he’s not backing down. “The Secret in the Service” won’t go down as my favorite hour of this generally solid season, but Booth is operating at peak Booth here, and I’m all for that.

NEXT: Oh chute

While Booth runs this show, Hodgins is back at the crime scene taking a big risk. It looks like Roberts was dumped down the laundry chute across from his room, but the top and bottom of the chute have already been cleaned. When Hodgins asks Cam and Aubrey to lower him into the chute to check for any evidence that the killer might have missed, the stakes are too high for Cam to turn him down — so he goes in, and my stomach drops with him. We all know this isn’t going to end well. Sure enough, as soon as Hodgins has bagged a damning piece of evidence, the belay hook at the top of the chute gives way, and he plummets. He manages to grab the opening at the floor below him and hold on until he’s rescued.

The evidence Hodgins bagged in the chute points to Patel, who was having an occasional fling with Roberts. She kept quiet about it because they’re not allowed to date in the service, but she insists that he was alive when she left him. Booth takes her off of the president’s security detail anyway — just as Walker gets word that POTUS is moving up his arrival time. Guess who’s about to live out his Secret Service fantasies! But even though part of Booth has to be living the dream, he isn’t cavalier about the risks. Brennan makes it very clear that he has to come home in one piece.

The best way to keep Booth alive is for Brennan to get back to the bones. Fisher has been filling in during her illness, and while it’s good to see him back — and smiling, and in possession of a doctorate — he’s still no match for his old mentor. Brennan recognizes an injury on Roberts’ body; she’s seen it before from a Navy SEAL, and it looks like this one was left-handed. Walker ticks both of those boxes. Just as Booth is going for Walker, Aubrey spots Stockton in the crowd. Booth barely has time to call out a warning before Stockton aims at the president. Walker takes the bullet, Booth shoots Stockton, and Walker dies in Booth’s arms as the president is rushed to safety.

Cam’s autopsy on Walker finds bruising consistent with the wounds he would have sustained killing Roberts. Walker had a blood clot in his brain, and it made him forgetful and paranoid; when Roberts noticed his odd behavior and demanded that he quit, Walker killed his fellow agent in order to continue serving the president. This is what happens when you don’t have someone like Brennan to watch your back. Brennan knows how much Booth hates having to take a life, just as she knew that being judged for John Wilkes’ choices would bother him, even when he tried to pretend that it didn’t. She wishes that she weren’t still sick so she could take care of him, but Booth is just happy to have a captive audience for his stooge impression.

Meanwhile, Hodgins’ adventure in the chute has given him a new outlook on his chair: He knows he would have gone in there regardless, but his arms might not have been strong enough to hold on if he hadn’t been doing so much physical therapy. When Fisher showed up all rosy and cheerful, I thought the Jeffersonian’s most-outspoken pessimist might be the one to help Hodgins find the silver lining, but Hodgins found that all on his own, thanks very much. And Fisher might still have a ways to go to reach real happiness — he spends the whole case making a big deal out of his secret government job, but his pride deflates when Angela figures out that he’s actually a tutor for the president’s daughter. Chin up, Fisher. It’s a start.

Bits and pieces:

  • The parade of Secret Service agents marching into the lab called back to season 5’s J.F.K. outing, “The Proof in the Pudding,” the first episode to bring up Booth’s relationship to John Wilkes Booth.
  • “Look, if you need someone to vouch for Aubrey, he’s the best around.”
  • “I see Angela wasn’t joking about you being paralyzed.” What kind of joke would that be?
  • “There seems to be a pirate there with you.”
  • Brennan to Angela’s Reiki healer: “Shhhhhhhh.”
  • “Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine.” “No, Penicillin is the best medicine.”
  • “I’m going to cough on you.”
  • “I hate both of you, and I’m super depressed that you figured that out. I’m off my game these days. Bye.”

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