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.