Essential Bones: Aliens in a Spaceship

S02E09 Aliens in a Spaceship

This introduction of the Gravedigger as the second serial killer the team faces is one of the most loved episodes in the Bones fandom. And with good reason. It gives us pathos, danger, emotional tension, great drama and the perfect example of the team coming together as a cohesive whole to solve a crime…only this time, the crime is the kidnapping and live burial of Brennan and Hodgins.


The episode opens with Brennan and Hodgins already deep in the ground, and then flashes back to explain how they got there. The case that is the catalyst starts with the discovery of what is first suspected by local police as a spaceship containing two aliens buried in the ground, but which turns out to be an old beer vat with the remains of Matthew and Ryan Kent. The Kents were twin teenage boys who had been missing for five years, when their parents were sent a message that they were abducted by a serial kidnapper nicknamed The Gravedigger, so named because he/she buries their victims and leaves them unless the ransom demands are met.

The case is broken down with facts supplied by the squints and field work supplied by Booth and Brennan, which is why, while this episode has some genuinely iconic moments, it’s also a true team effort. By the time Brennan and Hodgins are kidnapped themselves, they are closing in on the bad guy and it is looking more and more like a normal case for the team. But once two members are thrown into true peril, nothing about this case remains normal.

While this is the introductory Gravedigger episode (it would take one more team member being kidnapped, two more episodes and four more seasons for this arc to fully resolve itself), the focus is on the well-oiled machine that is Booth and his squints, working both from within and without to save Brennan and Hodgins from certain death. Hodgins has enough money to pay the ransom, but he himself stops that idea in its tracks with his own rule of no payment without proof of life…proof they simply don’t have and that The Gravedigger never gives.

Booth pushes the Squints to find every clue they can while he works the FBI angle, using every connection to the Gravedigger case he can to find his partner and their colleague. The level of desperation is palpable, and never as much as when Booth finally loses it on Thomas Vega, the former FBI profiler who is now the preeminent expert on the Gravedigger, having written a bestselling book about the killer.

VEGA: You know what? You just need to deal with the facts. That if you can’t put the ransom together in the time he gave you, your partner is dead. 

(Booth grabs Vega and throws him down on the table) 

BOOTH: Here’s the deal, all right. You have a relationship with this guy, what they call symbiotic – you benefit from each other – hmm. So know this. That deadline comes around, and my partner is still underground – I will end you. You understand? Yeah? (He picks him up off the table) Three hours to live. Better hurry.


At this point, it’s entirely possible that Booth is in love with Brennan. The topic has been debated ad nauseum but since Booth is a fictional character, we will never truly know how he was feeling at the time. Yes, he was sleeping with Cam (having turned down by pointedly ignoring a rather overt hint from Brennan that she would be willing to help him satisfy his ‘urges’ in ‘Truth in the Lye’) but they never made that relationship more than it was, which was basically ‘friends with benefits’. Cam knew the score, even without Booth telling her that he was ‘with Bones’, all the way. And this episode perfectly lays out the case to be made for a Booth and Brennan pairing. There was more work to be done to build them into what they are today, but no other episode shows the need they have for and the absolute trust they have in each other.

And speaking of trust…we can’t discuss this episode without discussing the topic of Brennan’s faith in Booth. Hodgins tells her ‘What you have is faith, baby.’ and she seems to scoff, but we and Hodgins both know better. Brennan says herself that it isn’t faith that she has, but that Booth has proven to her what he can accomplish. But what she fails to acknowledge is that belief perfectly illustrates her absolute trust and faith in everything Booth does. Just as Booth has faith that Brennan and Hodgins are still alive.

ZACK: You’re forgetting something. Brennan and Hodgins are out of air.

BOOTH: Great. You wanna give up, huh? This is Bones we’re talking about and Hodgins. You really think they didn’t find a way to extend their air supply? Hell, they found a way to send us a message to ask us for help and you want to give up because of math!

Booth believes Brennan will fight until the bitter end, and it angers him that no one else shares that faith. Unfortunately for Booth, the one person who does is unreachable, buried six feet underground with Hodgins.


The other important relationship that shines in this episode is the burgeoning romance between Angela and Hodgins. He admits to being “stupid in love” with Angela, right before Brennan does some on-the-fly surgery to save Hodgins from an escalating compartment syndrome injury and while we don’t see much of a reaction from Brennan, we later learn (Woman in White) that Brennan was in love with Booth as well so she clearly relates, something Hodgins may already suspect. It’s Hodgins who instigates the farewell notes they write and Hodgins’ despair at not being able to tell Angela everything to her face is so obvious, it’s as painful to us as it is to him.

The dichotomy of the two relationships (Booth/Brennan and Angela/Hodgins) is a reflection of the main duo themselves, as well as the two parts of the whole of the team and Aliens, more than any other episode in my opinion, highlights that perfectly.

We’ve only known the characters for 31 episodes at this point, but in the end this still stands as the classic Bones team episode. Between Booth and the team working together and Brennan pushing Hodgins to extend their air, this is truly a group effort…one that succeeds, as it always does when Booth, Brennan and the squints band together. Booth, in the last scene with Brennan in church, says it best: “It was all of us. Every single one. You take one of us away and you and Hodgins are in that hole forever. And I’m thankful for that.”

And so are we, Booth. So are we.




5 thoughts on “Essential Bones: Aliens in a Spaceship

  1. What I love about this post – or one of the things – is that I don’t remember discussing with anyone the significance of Brennan’s use of the word love during the wedding prior to reading the note. I took the letter itself and her use of the word love to mean that looking back now, she knows she did love him, not that she knew she was in love with him when Hodgins says, ‘is there anyone you want to write to?’ (or whatever the question was.)

    I was so impressed when the contents of that latter were revealed, because I thought everything she said in it could be true of someone who was in love, or falling in love, but didn’t know it, while also being true, I suppose, of someone who did recognize what she was feeling, but chose not to say the words themselves in the letter (for a variety of reasons.)

    So I think it’s great that you’ve opened up that up, and I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say. Great post!

  2. This makes me want to watch the episode all over again, so thanks for that!

    I never really considered Brennan was in love with Booth already at this point when she wrote her letter, or I guess I mean I never considered if she was *aware* that she was, but like rynogeny said, the letter as written could certainly point to that, too, and it still sounds totally plausible for where they were then and now. (I admit I’d never thought much of that letter until the wedding episode, assuming they’d never really call back to it. Glad I was wrong!) I’ve been more in he the camp that she likely only realized in hindsight what the letter actually meant.

    But, I think I’m jumping the gun, because the episode itself is great enough without bringing the future into it. 🙂 it’s amazing how quickly this whole cast of characters gelled — I can’t believe this was only episode 31!

    Hodgins always breaks my heart in this one.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  3. That shot of Booth running through the quarry might just be my favorite shot of the whole series.

    It’s a toss-up between that, and his smile at the end of Change in the Game.

  4. Ah, lovely post.

    I can’t watch this episode now without remembering them saying that they’d originally intended for Janine O’Connell (Vega’s assistant) to be the Gravedigger. Then I think it’s funny, here’s a not very large redheaded woman intended to be the killer, and they eventually cast Dierdre Lovejoy; a not very large redheaded woman as Heather Taffet aka The Gravedigger. So all the arguments of why there had to be a partner or helper would still have held even with their original intentions. LOL don’t know why but it tickles me.

    Anyway. everything you say here about Hodgins reminds me that in the beginning of Bones I was not a fan of Hodgins. Really; I wasn’t! When they first started showing his interest in Angela, I’d just think ugh no. Then this episode happened, and I believe this is when I began to fall in love with him. Hodgins is awesome, and when he tells Brennan, “It’s been an honor.” I want to weep. He really is remarkable, and I think it’s due to this episode…make that I’m pretty darn sure it’s due to this episode that I do love the Brennan/Hodgins scenes so much. It all started here.

    As for Booth/Brennan and being in love. I do think Booth was in love with Brennan by the end of season 1. I do think Brennan was in love with Booth by Aliens. But I also believe that while Booth at least had an idea that he was gone over her, that Brennan had no idea that what she was experiencing and was love only was only too willing to believe Booth when he’d tell anyone and everyone that it was a partners relationship. She allowed herself to believe that because anything else was unacceptable and too dangerous, too likely to lead to hurt.

    And your reference to The Truth in the Lye, yeah I think that while Booth was willing to have a “friends with benefits” relationship with Cam, he knew (even if he wouldn’t admit it) that he wanted so much more from Brennan and trying to have that kind of relationship with her would be way too dangerous to everything.

    Anyway since I’ve gone on too long already, I’ll just add. I love the photos you included in the post. 🙂

  5. I have watched this episode so often I practically have it memorized, but I still enjoy it. Part of the reason is the acting is pretty amazing. Watching Booth’s face as he goes from a casual conversation to almost panic when he hears the voice mail at the diner is a testament to David Boreanaz’ skill as an actor.
    Thanks for the great post.

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