Can the team trust an old friend?
Credit: Ray Mickshaw/Fox
S12 E1
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Bones is back — way back. About a decade back. If you’re still getting used to writing “2017” on everything, Bones’ final season premiere isn’t going to help, because by the end of the hour, it might as well be 2007. Nothing says nostalgia like making everyone think the intern is a serial killer.

Which he’s not. Zack Addy is not stringing up dead bodies and feeding them porridge. You can go have nightmares about something else now. But it’s not just that Zack isn’t the killer; he’s also not a killer, and now everyone knows it — even Zack. (Honestly, how this little Midwestern teddy bear ever assumed he’d be capable of murder is beyond me.) The first step in Zack’s apology tour is the Jeffersonian, where, as you may recall, he just kidnapped Brennan in order to win her trust. Sure, okay.

Two hours after her kidnapping, Brennan wakes to find her former protégé watching her. He bristles at Booth’s name, then points out that she hasn’t come to see him “in some time.” Is that why he’s mad at Booth? Did Brennan’s home life pull her away from Zack, or did she just stop visiting because it was too painful? Maybe if he weren’t being framed for murder, we’d have time to answer these questions. Zack plans to inject himself with truth serum to prove to Brennan that he didn’t kill anyone, but Booth tracks them both down before he gets that chance because Zack’s master plan was to hide with Brennan in the basement of her own office building, which also happens to be a shrine to Zack’s bad choices.

I love that in eight years, no one has bothered to move Gormogon’s artifacts out of the vault. It’s almost like they’ve got unresolved issues. Cam, Hodgins, and Booth are still sure of Zack’s guilt, and they’re all processing differently. Cam tries to keep it stoic. Hodgins plots revenge against his old friend. Booth, in one of the sweetest moments of the hour, just pulls Brennan into a hug. Only Brennan is taking Zack’s claims seriously; her argument is that he didn’t kill her when he had the chance, but even his doctor knows he’s “very fond” of Brennan, so that’s not an airtight alibi. Brennan, just admit it: You’re fond of Zack, too.

Dr. Roshan, head of the facility where Zack has been institutionalized, visits the FBI with more than just proof of fondness. He’s also got surveillance tapes that show Zack repeatedly leaving the psych ward. In the interrogation room, Zack tells Aubrey that he’s been “allowing himself free time,” which is the gutsiest way to describe breaking out of a secure facility that I’ve ever heard. The last time we saw Zack sneak out, Sweets walked him back. Did he start escaping again after Sweets died? Dr. Roshan says that Sweets came to visit Zack almost weekly; it was his murder that threw Zack into such a fit of rage that he injured his head — hence the scar. I didn’t think this was possible, but Sweets and Zack just got even more tragic.

Zack spends most of his “free time” breaking into the library to hack his friends’ emails, keeping up on their work and definitely not on the photo attachments between Angela and Hodgins. But there’s more: Zack has been passing himself off as a world-renowned neurosurgeon and sending Hodgins’ physical therapist his treatment protocol. He’s the reason Hodgins has feeling in his legs. In retrospect, the fact that he called himself “Dr. Bancroft” should have been a hint, since that was also the name of the head of the Jeffersonian Institute during Zack’s time there. Was Zack trying to get caught, or does he just not know enough people?

NEXT: These are Zack’s confessions

Hodgins visits Zack to thank him, but Zack has bad news. Even with the pain in Hodgins’ legs, there’s still only a 1 percent chance he’ll regain mobility. “I have been told,” Zack says, “although it has not been proven scientifically, that hope can sometimes have the power to heal. Hope is what I was trying to give you. But my fear is all I have brought you is pain.” He might as well be talking about his stint with Gormogon, which started in part because he knew how Hodgins felt about secret societies. The difference is that this time, Zack is motivated by something beyond logic. Look what Sweets did for him.

As if Zack’s confession breaks the spell, Hodgins loses all feeling in his legs before the end of the hour, and it’s unlikely that he’ll ever get it back. I’ll never put a happy last-minute twist past this show, but if this really is the end of the possibility that Hodgins will walk again, I’m satisfied. He doesn’t need a miracle; Bones has never presumed that there’s only one way to be okay.

While Hodgins is losing hope, Zack might have found it. His gesture reminds Booth that Zack just isn’t the murdering type. Aubrey balks: “You realize we’re talking about the person who kidnapped your wife here.” Keep up, Aubrey. Everyone on this team has at least one person they’d kidnap. And Booth’s gut is never wrong. Apparently, he had his doubts about Zack as a killer last time, not that he shared them with the class. He must not have wanted to upset Brennan any more than he had to. He should have risked it.

As if on cue, behavioral analyst Karen Delfs knocks on Booth’s door. She’s back from Kansas City; Booth can tell that “I’m back” isn’t the whole story, but he lets her join the investigation anyway. Karen suggests that the killer might have dissociative identity disorder, and while Zack has never been diagnosed with DID, it could have been triggered by the trauma to his head. In the hope that they’ll spark something in him, Booth agrees to let Zack look at the case files.

The interrogation room is not the lab, but when Brennan and Zack are looking at X-rays together, it might as well be. It’s just like old times, at least until Zack — who admits there are some gaps in his memory, likely due to his medication — puts his head in his hands and asks to be put under maximum security. The evidence all adds up to his guilt. Brennan agrees. When she says, “He — we have come to a conclusion,” it’s the “we” that gets me, because when Zack was found guilty the first time, Brennan put her forehead on his and said, “We know.” She doesn’t want him to be alone.

I still have questions about how every non-Sweets member of this team fell out of touch with Zack. Why is Hodgins, who used to visit Zack and joke about the “king of the loony bin,” so ready at the top of the hour to shove a needle down his throat? But whatever caused the schism, we’re seeing the results: When Zack’s friends stopped coming, he filled the void with visits from people who saw him as a curiosity. Karen interviewed him; so did Dr. Faulk, therapist to the Puppeteer’s latest victim. Zack talks about it like he’s flattered, but they just wanted to use him.

Both Karen and Faulk also happen to wind up on Booth’s suspect list. Dr. Faulk’s parents were murdered when he was a child, which is a classic serial killer origin story, but he suggests that they’re looking for someone else — someone who will try to steer the investigation. Booth asks Aubrey to find out why Karen was transferred back to DC, leading to a great sequence in which Karen’s hovering starts to freak out Brennan for absolutely no reason. Karen only left Kansas City because her married boss kept hitting on her, so she hit him. You escape the clutches of one creepy boss, and everyone thinks you’re a murderer.

NEXT: Don’t tell Brennan what to do

The slow build of suspicion around Karen is one of two great fake-outs in this hour. When Brennan takes Wendell back to Graham Reynolds’ basement to look for more evidence, Cam and Booth panic. To be fair, she was just kidnapped yesterday. But that’s no reason for Brennan to stop living her life. “I wasn’t aware I needed permission,” she sighs, coolly ignoring her husband’s requests that she get out of a murderer’s lair. She and Wendell find another body, and nothing bad happens, because Brennan is a reasonable person.

The body, hidden in a secret room in the basement, turns out to be the key to the case. The bones belong to a conjoined twin, and when Angela ages up her facial reconstruction, it’s a perfect match for Dr. Roshan. After losing his brother on the operating table, Roshan adopted his dead twin’s personality. I’m glad this story didn’t wind up villainizing people with dissociative identity disorder, but now I want to know more about Roshan’s teen-murderer twin. And if Roshan thought he’d found the perfect scapegoat in Zack, he obviously underestimated how much this team cares.

Booth gets to the psychiatric institute in time to save Zack, but it’s a close call — and in his fight with Roshan, Zack finds himself holding a syringe to the doctor’s neck. Even to save his own life, he can’t push the plunger. He doesn’t have it in him. Now that he knows that, he’s ready to rejoin society. Zack finally tells Booth and Brennan that he never killed the lobbyist, and it’s Booth who believes him first. (I think we could power a small city on one confident “I believe you” from David Boreanaz.) Booth promises Zack that they’re going to help him, and Zack goes in for a hug, which Booth shuts down. Some things never change.

Brennan pats Zack’s shoulder with an open hand instead; he told her once that it “conveys approval.” Is there a way to pat an episode of television on the shoulder?

Bits and pieces:

  • Emily Deschanel’s directorial debut was officially worth the wait. There was a shot of Cam watching Zack get taken into custody that really got me.
  • Showrunner Michael Peterson, who wrote this premiere, joined Bones after Eric Millegan left, but he sounds like he’s been writing Zack for years. “I am not well versed in social etiquette, but I believe when dealing with accusations of serial murder, it is best to meet face to face.”
  • Subject line of an email from Cam to Hodgins: “NO. Absolutely not!!”
  • I’m living for the pained look Booth gives Aubrey at the line, “Maybe your gut needs a probiotic.”
  • Karen wants to know how Brennan knows about Zack’s lack of scars. Nothing brings people together like a Christmas lung fungus.
  • “Doctor, as I have always told people, I’m stronger than I look.”
  • “I have gloves on.” “Stop.”

Episode Recaps

Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz play a will-they-won’t-they crime-solving duo.
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