The 25 Absolute Best Episodes of Bones Of All Time
25. "The Movie in the Making" (Season 11, Episode 18)
Bones: The Mockumentary? This out-of-the-box episode wound up being one of the funniest hours of Bones’ later seasons, but it was also a bittersweet retrospective, as the camera crew pushed the Jeffersonian team to look back on the friends they’d lost. And when a segment on what these grown adults want to do “when they grow up” led Cam to propose to Arastoo, the results were movie magic.
24. "The Pathos in the Pathogens" (Season 8, Episode 23)
The case of a victim with a deadly virus turned personal when Arastoo was infected, leaving the team with only a few hours to catch the killer and save their friend. The tense hour raised the stakes in Cam and Arastoo’s budding relationship, and it even paired up Hodgins and Brennan (an always underrated duo) to concoct an herbal remedy that bought Arastoo more time. But the highlight of the episode was Brennan’s bold play to get the murderer to give up the antidote: She stabbed him with a hypodermic needle that she claimed was infected. It wasn’t, but if she had the virus, she’d have used it. And she wouldn’t have been sorry.
23. "The Santa in the Slush" (Season 3, Episode 9)
Thanks, mistletoe! In the spirit of giving — and blackmail — Bones’ second Christmas episode brought fans the first (on-screen) kiss between Booth and Brennan. But there’s a lot more to love about this episode than a little gum exchange: As Booth and Brennan both try to keep their respective families together for Christmas, the hour turns into a sweet defense of the white lies we tell to keep the holidays innocent. Booth also gets Brennan a very good Christmas gift. And did we mention that they’re investigating the death of Santa Claus?
22. "The Double Death of the Dearly Departed" (Season 4, Episode 22)
Trust Bones to have this much fun at a coworker’s funeral. Easily the show’s most slapstick hour, this episode finds the team trying to stealthily investigate a death that looks like murder — while at the guy’s wake. Highlights include Cam and Brennan stealing the body and taking it for a little drive, Hodgins making a dramatic toast to distract funeral-goers from the action, a sushi misunderstanding, and Sweets accidentally telling a suspect that murder is “nothing to worry about.” As a bonus, Booth and Brennan each get to sing. Guess who’s better.
21. "The Knight on the Grid" (Season 3, Episode 8)
Before the Gormogon arc broke apart the original Jeffersonian team, it gave us this bitingly funny episode (that’s a cannibalism pun). The hour swings broadly between drama and dark humor: On the one hand, you’ve got Sweets making Star Wars references and searching for serial killers on Craigslist, and on the other, you’ve got human teeth as bomb shrapnel. Meanwhile, the return of Brennan’s brother puts Booth in a tough spot, but he finds a way to honor both his duties to the law and his loyalty to his partner. As Sweets would say, that’s just how he rolls.
20. "The Graft in the Girl" (Season 1, Episode 20)
When a bad bone graft infected Amy Cullen, the daughter of Booth’s FBI boss, with a terminal illness, the team raced against the clock to find the source of the graft and save the other recipients. But it was too late for Amy, a teenage artist who just wanted to fall in love and visit the Louvre. This quietly tragic hour gave Angela a chance to shine as she designed a virtual reality program that allowed Amy to tour the Louvre from her hospital bed. If you weren’t reaching for the tissues and/or planning an international flight by the end of this hour, you weren’t paying attention.
19. "The Blonde in the Game" (Season 2, Episode 4)
Howard Epps, Bones’ first recurring serial killer, knew how to dig his “creepy serial killer hands” into everyone’s business, and he pushed Brennan to the edge here. Her exasperation with Epps is sometimes comedic — Brennan really does not understand why anyone would marry this guy — but it turns dark when Epps sets up a scheme from inside his prison cell to make Booth kill a man. To save Booth’s life, Brennan winds up taking the shot instead. The final scene of the hour is one of Bones’ best: Booth comforts Brennan with a tiny plastic pig. This show’s reverence for life has never been cuter.
18. "The Con Man in the Meth Lab" (Season 4, Episode 9)
Booth’s hotshot younger brother Jared rolls onto the scene in this episode, charms Brennan into joining him at a White House party, and almost upends the whole show. He tries to convince Brennan that her partner is afraid of success; in reality, Booth is just taking the hit for Jared’s mistakes. It's an hour that sheds light on the reasons why Booth never shines a light on himself, which is also why Brennan goes out of her way to celebrate him when she comes to her senses. The experience pushes Booth to confess a closely guarded secret: His father was an abusive alcoholic.
17. "The Woman in the Sand" (Season 2, Episode 8)
The first rule of this underground fight club is that you should never stop talking about it. When a murder investigation takes Booth and Brennan to Vegas, the pair wind up in their first undercover operation, posing as a couple of hot high-rollers named Tony and Roxie. Brennan finds it surprisingly easy to get into character, but Booth — who’s forced to fight while trying not to lose his gambling sobriety — isn’t having quite so much fun. At least, like us, he gets to enjoy watching Brennan shed her skin.
16. "The Spark in the Park" (Season 9, Episode 11)
The story of a murdered gymnastics prodigy rises and falls on guest star Richard Schiff’s subdued performance as her grieving father, a brilliant physics professor fracturing under the weight of a pain he can’t express. Fortunately, no one understands that problem like Brennan, who returns to the good professor’s office throughout the investigation to offer her support. By the time the episode is done, the professor has charted his daughter’s every move in an equation on his chalkboard, and math has never looked more like love.
15. "The Killer in the Concrete" (Season 2, Episode 18)
One year after burying her mother, Brennan runs into her fugitive father at the gravesite, kicking off this busy, dangerous, and slyly funny hour about family obligations. When Booth gets captured in the middle of a case, Brennan puts aside her reservations and teams up with Max to find him; her obligations to her dad might not matter to her more than the law, but her obligations to Booth sure do. She even goes so far as to “lie her ass off” to the Federal Bureau of Investigation once they know where to look. Reunited, Booth and Brennan decompress by singing together at the diner, as partners do.
14. "The Skull in the Desert" (Season 1, Episode 17)
It would have been a nice field trip to the desert if not for all the murder. After Angela’s photographer boyfriend, Kirk, goes missing in this season 1 episode, Brennan grabs her sunglasses and catches the first flight out there, and then she talks Booth into doing the same. It turns out Kirk was killed, and as the trio investigate the tight-knit community, Angela worries about a more self-imposed kind of isolation. But it’s Brennan who reassures her that she’ll get another chance at happiness; nothing happens just once. Science sometimes makes Brennan seem cold, but here, it’s the best encouragement she has to offer.
13. "The Boy With the Answer" (Season 5, Episode 21)
The trial of Heather Taffet, a serial killer known as the Gravedigger, opens up old wounds for Brennan, Hodgins, and Booth, all of whom have been on the wrong end of her deadly game in the past. As a final twist of the knife, Taffet gets most of their evidence thrown out, then leads the Jeffersonian team straight to the body of a boy she killed years ago, forcing them to drop their own charges so they can testify as expert witnesses rather than as victims. This episode offers a peek at the trauma these people channel into their work, even when justice seems impossible (because sometimes, it isn’t).
12. "The Woman in Limbo" (Season 1, Episode 22)
Bones set a high standard with its first season finale, which digs into the mystery of Brennan’s missing parents. When a body in bone storage is identified as Brennan’s mom, she discovers her parents were bank robbers who assumed new identities when she was a baby, and it takes a visit from her estranged older brother for her to learn the name she was born with (Joy Keenan). This episode pulls a lot of rugs out from under Brennan, but Booth and the rest of her coworkers, who dedicate themselves to solving the case, catch her every time.
11. "The Proof in the Pudding" (Season 5, Episode 12)
Nothing like pulling an all-nighter to investigate the murder of JFK, right? When a group of agents bring a skeleton into the lab and declare that no one is allowed to leave until they’ve determined cause of death, all signs indicate that the squints are staring at the 35th president of the United States. And that he was shot by more than one gunman. This episode gives conspiracy theorist Hodgins plenty to do (especially when Angela has a pregnancy scare), but it’s Booth who has the most to lose. He and Brennan prove how far they’ve come when he sets aside his feelings to get to the truth, and Brennan gives him the kindness of a (probable) lie. Was it JFK? We’ll never know. But probably yes.
10. "The Blackout in the Blizzard" (Season 6, Episode 16)
In this David Boreanaz-directed hour, a citywide blackout strands most of the team in the lab, giving everyone an opportunity to bust out their old-school science tricks, while Booth and Brennan wind up trapped in his building’s elevator. The episode gives the show’s two main couples plenty of time to talk, as Hodgins and Angela face overwhelming news about her pregnancy with optimism and Booth looks back on a rare happy memory with his dad. By the end of the hour, he and Brennan are writing down the date they believe they’ll get together and burning their papers like wishes. D.C. should get hit with more blizzards.
9. "The Man in the Morgue" (Season 1, Episode 19)
Brennan’s trip to post-Katrina New Orleans takes a turn for the supernatural when she wakes up bloody in her hotel room with no memory of the past day. As she and Booth are thrown into a world of voodoo forgetting spells, they discover that a doctor Brennan was working with has been brutally murdered; Booth proves how much he trusts his partner’s innocence when he hides evidence that she was at the crime scene. He also gives Brennan a big speech about why he respects her, and she pokes a guy in the eyes when he tries to send her home with a curse. Back at the lab, this is the first episode to hint at Hodgins’ upcoming flirtation with Angela.
8. "Two Bodies in the Lab" (Season 1, Episode 15)
It took Bones more than half a season to put Brennan in the position to need rescuing from Booth, and even then, she kept fighting. In this high-stakes hour, Brennan finds herself in the mob’s sights, and when she’s captured, Booth breaks out of the hospital to find her, leading to a well-earned first hug. But it’s the little moments that make the hour, like Booth’s attempt to get to know Brennan by rummaging through her music collection. The partners are jamming to “Hot Blooded” in no time. Sure, Booth gets blown up right after that, but it’s still their song.
7. "The Doctor in the Photo" (Season 6, Episode 9)
Bones looks inward in this atmospheric hour, which shakes Brennan with her resemblance to an emotionally closed-off doctor who turns up dead. She makes the resemblance literal by seeing her own face in the doctor’s photo, and as Brennan starts to crumble, her coworkers try to reassure her that she isn’t alone. An exploration of the idea that problems created in our heads are no less real, the episode honors Brennan’s fear that she’ll be forgotten while repeatedly proving that she won’t be.
6. "Mayhem on a Cross" (Season 4, Episode 21)
This episode opens at a rock concert, but its revelations couldn’t be quieter. When Stephen Fry’s FBI shrink Gordon Gordon Wyatt returns, he unearths a painful secret from Sweets’ past: He was abused as a young boy before being saved by his elderly adoptive parents, who recently died. Gordon encourages Booth and Brennan to invite Sweets into their lives and compare metaphorical scars, leading Brennan to share a painful story about the abuse she suffered as a foster kid while Booth admits that his grandfather was the only reason he made it to adulthood. It’s an uncommonly sad hour that helps explain what makes these people do the work they do.
5. "The Man in the Fallout Shelter" (Season 1, Episode 9)
All of Bones’ pieces fall into place in its first Christmas episode, which quarantines the team in the lab over the holidays. As they make the best of it with decorations and Secret Santa, they learn more about each other’s lives outside work — like the fact that Booth has a son and Angela’s dad is a rocker played by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. But the lab is already Brennan’s home, and she works through the holiday to bring good news to an old woman. It’s a bittersweet story about loneliness put to good use, and it comes to a hopeful conclusion when Brennan, ready for closure in her parents’ case, opens the last Christmas presents they ever gave her.
4. "Judas on a Pole" (Season 2, Episode 11)
Real-life Brennan, Kathy Reichs, makes a cameo appearance in this episode, which introduces Ryan O’Neal as Brennan’s dad, Max — not that he’ll admit it. Posing as his childhood friend, Max is in town to kill off the people threatening his kids, including a couple of higher-ups at the Bureau. This hour of FBI conspiracies (directed, fittingly, by The X-Files’ David Duchovny) gets increasingly tangled as Booth is suspended for asking the right questions. As for Brennan, she realizes Max is her dad just in time to watch him leave her again, but, as Booth reminds her, there’s more than one kind of family.
3. "The Verdict in the Story" (Season 3, Episode 13)
Bones’ best courtroom drama pits Brennan and her relatives against her work family: Max goes to trial, and the Jeffersonian has to testify for the prosecution. None of Brennan’s coworkers enjoy testifying against her father, and Angela even gets held in contempt rather than play a part in the conviction. But the boldest move here is Brennan’s ploy to get her father acquitted. Taking advantage of the jury’s need for a good story, she shows how much she’s learned from Booth and how far she’s willing to go for the people she loves, framing herself to get her father set free.
2. "The Parts in the Sum of the Whole" (Season 5, Episode 16)
For its 100th episode, Bones flashed back to Booth and Brennan’s first case, and it changed everything. The flashbacks in this Boreanaz-directed hour trace the beginning of a love story: Booth and Brennan, intrigued by one another, get drinks and kiss outside a bar. They didn’t waste any time. But they’ve been wasting time since then because their first stab at partnership ended badly. In the present, Booth takes a leap and admits that he wants to give their relationship another shot, but Brennan is too worried about hurting him to risk it. The episode rattles the show’s foundations, but it doesn’t shatter them; after it all, Booth and Brennan still walk off arm in arm to solve crime another day.
1. "Aliens in a Spaceship" (Season 2, Episode 9)
When Brennan and Hodgins were buried alive by the Gravedigger, it was an hour so tense it needed a countdown clock, and it's widely accepted as the series’ best. The science in “Aliens in a Spaceship” is vital, as Brennan and Hodgins try every trick in the books to stay alive underground while their friends work every angle to find them. As Booth points out after the ordeal, this case depends on every last one of them — not only on their skills, but on their refusal to give up. The hour is packed with standout moments: Brennan turning Hodgins’ handshake into a hug, Hodgins and Angela finally getting together, Booth running down that hill and pulling Brennan out of the dirt. And of course, the letter Brennan writes to Booth eventually makes for a great wedding vow.