Up in the great Northwest (aka Washington State), a vet and a park ranger are investigating a dead bear. The ranger, Sherman Rivers, a Native American, is sure that it was just a poacher, nothing nefarious, but the vet, Dr. Denise Randall, has to perform a thorough examination. Amongst the beef jerky and other random food in the bear’s stomach, she finds… a human hand.
In the other Washington (D.C., that is), Booth gives Brennan a picture of the hand. The case was bumped all the way up to Booth, and Brennan suspects it’s because she works with him and they think that she can ID the victim. She wants to work through just getting pictures, but Booth informs her that they’re heading across the country. Brennan takes it to Dr. Goodman, but he’s all for her getting out and living a little… connecting with other people. “Are you suggesting I have sex with Agent Booth on a field trip?” she asks, totally missing the point. He says that’s exactly why she needs to get out more and advises her to pack some bug spray.
As Booth and Brennan drive along a picturesque mountain lane, Booth comments that sitting in a hotel with a $50 per diem isn’t his idea of a good time, either and Brennan is shocked that he can live on that. She doesn’t get a limit, which Booth thinks is just unfair to the taxpayers. It’s a good minute of what is probably their first real adorable exchange together where you can start to see their chemistry come out. It ends with Booth suggesting that Brennan needs to take him out to dinner on her tab. She says they’ll start with breakfast. When they arrive at the town, Booth goes to find the sheriff while Brennan meets with the local doctor, Dr. Andrew Rigby, and the vet and ranger who found the body. Brennan needs to have the Jeffersonian team investigate the remains more and she asks what the fastest way to get the remains there is. The unanimous answer is “Charlie.”
Charlie, it turns out, owns the express shipping place in town. And he’s hot. He also knows a lot about the exhibits at the Jeffersonian and he’s even reading Brennan’s book. He’s also totally hitting on her. I don’t know why, but I find him extremely suspicious. Back in D.C., Zack knows that the marks suggest a handsaw, but beats himself up for not being able to tell any more. Angela reminds him he’s just a grad student and offers to make a 3D image.
Meanwhile, Booth is talking to the slightly unhelpful Sheriff Scutter, getting the layout of the population of the town. A 29-year-old woman went missing recently, but nothing else out of the ordinary. No real resident crazies, a few poachers, that’s all. Once Brennan arrives, Scutter is much more helpful. He reveals that they tracked the bear’s route via GPS before it died and Brennan suggests checking the bear’s scat (such a delicate term) for more human remains. The sheriff is totally hitting on her, too, by the way.
In D.C., Zack and Hodgins speculate on why there’s only the hand in the bear’s belly, but are interrupted by a hot delivery girl, who they think is certainly an upgrade from their previous delivery person, Jimmy with three nostrils. Hodgins swoops in and signs for the package, chatting her up pretty smoothly. He doesn’t ask her out to coffee, though, as that’s a third delivery step. She looks forward to the next couple of deliveries, she remarks as she leaves. Zack is pissed that Hodgins bogarted his delivery.
Park Ranger Sherman leads B&B out to the bear poop and tells Brennan that his people would call her a bone gatherer, helping put souls back together to help them find their rest. She thinks that’s the best description of what she does that she’s heard. The poop needs to be sent to D.C., of course, so Brennan pays Charlie another visit. He’s on chapter 7 and wants to know if she does everything the Brennan in the book does. Not the sex, he quickly corrects… the shooting and chasing and stuff. Okay, he’s totally the killer. Don’t have sex with the hot killer, Brennan… DON’T DO IT!!! Zack calls in while Charlie is busy not helping Brennan with her package and informs her that the victim died a week ago and the bear ate the hand one to three days later. He needs her assistance on some of the marks on the bone, though and she sets up a satellite connection so that she can get a picture beamed in from him. As she’s setting it up, Charlie asks Zack is his boss has a boyfriend. “Not currently,” Zack replies before asking if Charlie is extremely hot. Charlie asks if Zack is extremely smart as Brennan notices that the marks on the bone are from teeth… human teeth. They’re looking for a cannibal. Hot Charlie is a cannibal? NO WAY!!! [Insert comment about what he can eat here – sorry kids, he’s totally my type, I don’t know where these comments are coming from.]
Sheriff Scutter is a little icked out about the cannibalism, but Brennan has seen it before in various societies, no big deal. She hypothesizes that they could be looking for someone in need of help – maybe the missing girl came along an already dead guy, hungry and lost. I dunno. I don’t think I could do it. Hodgins and Angela talk about the same thing in D.C. as he waits for his bear poop. Zack intercepts the package, though and blurts out to the delivery girl that she’s hot. He doesn’t intend it as a compliment, just a statement. She smiles, though and remarks that he’s so cute, she could eat him up. OH NO! SHE’S A CROSS-COUNTRY CANNIBAL!!!
Brennan asks Dr. Rigby if anyone in the town has been treated recently for prion disease. Dr. Rigby jumps straight to asking about the cannibal… the news is all over town already. In the other Washington, Hodgins is pissed at Zack as he plays with his bear poop. There’s some bone, along with tin cans and other random things in the poop. Including some flaps of skin with a tattoo on them. Fortunately for them, Angela is a tattoo expert and she’s able to recreate the design, which is a Haida Indian sun design. As Angela phones Brennan to give her this news, she asks about the hot guy and if Brennan is getting in there. She reminds her that what happens in Aurora stays in Aurora. I think you have that wrong, Angela. With the new tattoo information, the sheriff runs another missing persons check and the only match is Adam Langer, 22, missing ten days from a local city. Scutter knows the kid, though; he used to come up and visit Ranger Sherman, wanting to be a ranger himself. Booth, Brennan and Scutter head out to pay Sherman a visit. The sheriff asks him to go make some tea so that B&B can get a look around, but Sherman makes a run for it. Booth heads after him as Brennan and Scutter search through Sherman’s house. They find a saw and an eaten apple (that Brennan hopes to get a dental impression from). When they break open the freezer, it’s stuffed with meat… but what kind? Brennan’ll need to send it to the lab to find out what kind it is and Booth lost the guy, so they’ve got the rest of the night free. Angela suggests that Brennan call that Charlie guy and take him out for a drink.
At the local dance hall dive, Charlie and Brennan share a dance and he’s surprised that she hasn’t wrapped the case up yet. “In real life, you have to wait for lab results,” she replies. Hahahaha, suuuuure, your cases so often align to real-life processing times. Charlie reveals that he and Adam were climbing buddies and Brennan notes that the definition in his biceps and triceps make him in ideal condition for it. Charlie’s asking even more questions about the case as Doctor Rigby cuts in, but he just wants to talk about the investigation, too. He is sure that Sherman didn’t do it; his tribe never believed in cannibalism. The sheriff rescues her but he starts talking about the bite marks, so Booth finally takes the lead and saves Brennan from being pumped by everyone. He points out that everyone was hitting on her and I think they might be a hint of jealousy in his voice.
Hodgins has been slaving over the poop and has squat. Angela invites him out to dinner, but he’d rather wait there for the delivery girl. Alas, the next morning, Zack has torpedoed Hodgins again and swooped up the package. Booth has waited, too. He waited for Brennan to have breakfast so long his eggs went cold. They find Ranger Sherman quickly and he explains that he’s not a cannibal. Zack calls Brennan with the analysis on the meat and it wasn’t human, just black bear. All becomes clear: Sherman ran because he was a poacher, not a cannibal. Zack also informs Brennan that Hodgins found evidence of some beetle infested trees, which Sherman can helpfully lead them to. When they find the patch of trees, Sherman confirms that the bear was there seven days ago. There right now? A big honking satanic rock circle. Brennan snaps a picture to send to Dr. Goodman (a Native American expert) and they find a shallow grave nearby containing Adam and the female hiker, Ann Noyce, whose heart has been cut out. Ew. Goodman looks over the pictures and explains that it’s a perversion of a standard medicine wheel. He interprets it as taking energy by eating flesh. Goodman says that the ritual isn’t complete, though; that they’ll find two more bodies. In the morgue, Brennan determines that both victims were killed with gun shots to the head, at close range. Doctor Rigby still doesn’t think that Ranger Sherman could have done it.
As they hold him in custody, Sherman suggests to Booth and Sheriff Scutter that maybe Adam was supposed to be heading to see Charlie, but stopped to see vet lady Denise instead. And that Charlie had a thing going with her, too. In full disclosure, Scutter admits that he sees her occasionally, too. Brennan arrives with the news that the bite on the apple doesn’t match the bite on the bone, so Sherman is cleared as the cannibal. Booth and Brennan find Denise at the bar and try to get a teeth impression from the very drunk vet. She explains that she didn’t report him missing because she would have had to admit they were lovers and that would have made like four people mad. “There’s not a lot to do in a place like Aurora,” she explains. She also points out that she wouldn’t have made a deal about the hand if she were the cannibal. Which is a valid point.
Back in D.C., Zack has found something like teeth marks, but too exact, like from a machine. He sends the image to Brennan and she can’t believe she missed it: the marks are from a sternum spreader. B&B go to find the doctor and Booth allows Brennan to have one of his guns for self-defense. The bodies are gone from the morgue and so they head down to the furnace room, where Rigby is trying to destroy all the evidence. It’s a spiritual rite, he explains, but before he can go on his crazy guy rant, Brennan hits him over the head with a bedpan.
Back in D.C., Hodgins and Zack await the delivery girl, looking their best, as Angela observes bemusedly. She comes with a package and they imply that the one she asks to sign is the one she’s interested in. She looks from Zack to Hodgins before settling on… Angela. “Oh! That is really sweet. Thank you,” is Angela’s adorable response. Hodgins thinks that was the hottest option, but Zack thinks it would have been hotter if she choose him.
Wrapping up in D.C., Brennan is glad she ventured out of her comfort zone. “You don’t often find ritual cannibalism so close to home,” she explains. Rigby has had prion disease, but still no idea from where. Could even be from licking his fingers after surgery and ew. As Booth tries to stomach his food, Brennan talks about coming back up there to ski in the winter. Charlie says the skiing is great. As Brennan talks about how perfectly developed his hips and thighs are, Booth is totally done trying to eat his breakfast.
There are a few interesting things going on in this episode. We see Booth and Brennan getting a little more comfortable with each other and we also see Booth starting to attempt to broaden Brennan’s horizons. In some throwaway dialogue when they arrive in Aurora, Brennan talks about something she’d studied in Guatemala, and is shocked to find that Booth had been to the country as well. She asks with scorn if he was an eco-tourist, but he reveals that he was there on sniper duty, stopping her in her tracks. It’s an important shake to Brennan’s assumptions that she’ll continue to get as their relationship develops.
Another interesting thing is how much emphasis is on Brennan’s hotness in this episode. They never attempted to make the character of Brennan Hollywood homely, fitting the conventional TV stereotype of smart, but not that pretty. Even from the first episode, Brennan is always presented as having her choice of suitors. And even more importantly, she is shown as being comfortable with the idea of casual sex. It’s in an episode that’s yet to come, but we’ll soon discover that her attitudes surrounding sex are based in her anthropological background, from cultures where monogomy is not the cultural norm. It’s a controversial take for a mainstream show to not only take, but to not make a huge deal out of.