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Dr. Temperance Brennan
Temperance Brennan.jpg
Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan
First appearance "Pilot"
Created by Hart Hanson
Portrayed by Emily Deschanel
Nickname(s) Bones, Tempe, Brennan, Bren, Dr. B
Aliases Joy Keenan, Wanda Moosejaw
Gender Female
Occupation Forensic anthropologist
Title Dr., Ph.d
Family Russ Brennan (brother)
Max Keenan (father)
Christine Brennan (mother; deceased)
Amy Hollister (sister-in-law)
Hayley Hollister (step-niece)
Emma Hollister (step-niece)
Margaret Whitesell (second cousin)
Spouse(s) None
Children None
Religion None (Atheist)

Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan Ph.D. (born Joy Keenan), is one of the co-protagonists of the American television series, Bones, which is very loosely based on author Kathy Reichs. She is portrayed by Emily Deschanel. Although the character is named after the heroine in Reichs' crime novel series, her characterization was based on Reichs herself rather than the books' protagonist.[2] The only similarity the two characters share is their occupation as a forensic anthropologist.



As demonstrated at the show's beginning, Bones appears to lack social skills and has trouble understanding jokes and sarcasm. However, these seeming social inadequacies are later explained to be defense mechanisms which protect Bones' vulnerability. By the end of the first season, it becomes clear that this need to protect herself has grown in consequence to her troubled childhood, and to her tenuous relationship to her parents who left Bones and her brother at a young age. Bones seems to have an inability to identify and explain her own feelings as well as lacking the ability to identify and adjust to others' emotions, a trait often referred to as alexithymia.

Her portrayer in the television series, Emily Deschanel, commented that Bones' Brennan "is a lot younger and different" from the Brennan in Kathy Reichs' books. Deschanel remarked, "Not that there aren't certain similarities, but it's a kind of a mesh."[3] According to Deschanel, she and the show's creator Hart Hanson discussed that her character "almost has Asperger's Syndrome".[4]

"Bones" creator Hart Hanson says he based Brennan in part on an Aspie friend, but the needs of a broadcast network like Fox to get as large an audience as possible meant he couldn’t come out and say that.

"If we were on cable, we would have said from the beginning that Brennan has Asperger’s," Hanson says. "Instead, it being a network, we decided not to label a main character, for good or for bad. But those elements are in there."[5]

Despite Bones' extensive knowledge of anthropology, she is quite unaware of pop culture and her coworkers, particularly Booth, like to tease her about it. A running gag on the series is someone making an obvious popular culture reference and she blankly states "I don't know what that means", and she is somewhat excited on the rare occasion that she does understand them.

Brennan is antithetical towards religion, verbally critical of all religious expression and beliefs in the afterlife.   This has led to more than one argument with Booth, who is a devout Roman Catholic and quite defensive of his faith. Brennan's character development is shown in the second season where she refers to the rest of the team as "our squints" even though the term "squints" is predominately used by Booth as a derogatory label for the scientists when he describes the team, Brennan included.

Bones is a bestselling author, who has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 18 weeks (revealed in "The Wannabe in the Weeds" (3x14)), although it was not specified if this was for one book or which list.


Brennan works at the Jeffersonian Institution in Washington D.C. and is paired with Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) to work on cases which require both their expertise. He nicknames her "Bones", referring to her job as a forensic anthropologist. The pair thus far seem to have a fairly comfortable working relationship, despite the differences in their personalities and the sexual tension evident between them.

Though denying a romantic relationship, she and Booth tend to spend more and more time together outside work as the series progresses. The two have "intimate" conversations about their past and present, and they "nearly" date, often having lunch or dinner together. Additionally, Booth taught Brennan how to ice skate, and has traveled with her to England and China.

Along with her work at the Jeffersonian Institution, Brennan is a best-selling novelist and writes about a fictional anthropologist, Kathy Reichs (this is a nod to the real life Kathy Reichs, who writes about a fictional anthropologist named Temperance Brennan). In the series' "Pilot" (1x01), Brennan says the closest other forensic anthropologist is in Montreal. Temperance mostly confides in her best friend and fellow co-worker, forensic artist Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin). Aside from Angela, Dr. Brennan has a band of 'squints' (a term given by Agent Booth to describe what scientists do - "they squint at things"), specifically entomology expert Dr. Jack Hodgins (T. J. Thyne), and formerly Dr. Zack Addy (Eric Millegan), a bone trauma expert who was also once Dr. Brennan's graduate student.

Brennan graduated from Northwestern University and is a licensed hunter (one episode, "The Man in the Morgue" (1x19)), reveals she has licenses allowing her to hunt in four unspecified states). She claims she only hunts for food (however, in "The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken" (5x06), she states that she is a vegetarian; a change she contemplated after seeing how pigs were slaughtered in "The Woman in Limbo" (1x22)). In the same episode, it is said she is trained in three types of martial arts. In "Aliens in a Spaceship" (2x09), it mentions Dr. Brennan was currently studying Karate. The known list of Brennan's diverse talents is expanded in "Double Trouble in the Panhandle" (4x12), as it is revealed she is a trained amateur highwire performer. Also of note are Brennan's intimate knowledge and understanding of forensic anthropology and kinesiology, have given her an aptitude for gaining clues from the body movements of other people ("The Woman in the Garden" (1x13), "The Truth in the Lye" (2x05), "The Girl with the Curl" (2x07)) and contributes towards her martial arts prowess, and she even advises Booth once how to win his fight against another Ultimate Fighting contestant in "The Woman in the Sand" (2x08).

In "Mayhem on the Cross" (4x21), a specific instance about Dr. Brennan's turbulent time in the foster care system is revealed. She was locked in a trunk for two days for breaking a dish. According to Brennan, she was warned of the consequences in advance. However, the water was simply too hot to safely use and the soap slippery and thus the dish was dropped. When Brennan reveals this information to Dr. Sweets and Booth, she becomes extremely emotional and very out-of-character. This creates an emotional connection between the three of them by metaphorically "sharing scars". Although all three continue to hide it, they become much closer.



Season 1

The first season establishes Brennan's character and background. She chose her field of research in order to find out what happened to her parents, who vanished without a trace when she was fifteen - leading to an unpleasant time in the foster care system before being rescued by her grandfather. This is revealed early in the first season, but later contradicted in the last episode of the second season, when in a conversation with her father Brennan says she always thought she didn't have any grandparents. It has been revealed she has one living brother, Russ. When she was fifteen and Russ was nineteen, their parents went out in their car one day to run errands and never came back.

In the first season finale, it was revealed Temperance Brennan's birth name was Joy Keenan. Her parents were bank robbers who were forced to change their names and go into hiding when they testified against other robbers in their group. Brennan discovers her mother's remains, which had been held at the Jeffersonian ever since she arrived, and finally solves her murder. She also reunites and reconciles with her older brother Russ (formerly Kyle Keenan).

Season 2

The season-long plot involves Brennan's developing relationship with Booth as well as the return of her father and brother. In "Judas on a Pole" (2x11), Brennan's father, Max, surfaces when she and her team investigate a murder he committed to protect her and Russ. Max disappears as quickly as he surfaced and takes Russ with him. Her father visits her several more times over the course of the season but manages to evade capture each time. In the final episode of the second season, he allows Booth to arrest him because he realizes each time he runs away, he cuts himself off from his daughter, which makes her feel abandoned once again. He states he has set Russ up with a straight job, but refuses to tell Temperance where her brother is living because he is violating the terms of his parole.

Also in the final episode of Season 2, "Stargazer in a Puddle" (2x21), Brennan agrees to become Angela's maid of honor. After Zack turns down the offer of being best man for Hodgins, Booth steps into the role. The episode ends with Brennan and Booth standing before the priest after Hodgins and Angela run off together without being married. In Season 3, Angela speculates this has caused a rift in the friendship of Brennan and Booth because of the symbolism (a man and a woman at the altar); however, Brennan seems to be more upset Booth did not advise Zack against going to work in Iraq.

She also speaks at least six other languages including (but not limited to) Spanish (The Women in the Garden), French (Pilot), Latin (The Boy in the Tree), Chinese (The Boneless Bride in the River and The Bone that Blew), Japanese (The Girl in the Mask), and German (The Blonde in the Game). In "Double Trouble in the Panhandle" (4x12) she explains to Booth she knows a bit of Russian, and in "Mayhem on a Cross" (4x21) she tells Cam that, as a forensic anthropologist, she can say 'skull' in just about any language.

Season 3

Brennan's father is accused of murdering the Deputy Director of the FBI and goes to trial, (Episode 13). Through her testimony and trial strategizing, Brennan helps him be acquitted of all charges. Due to the fact her partner, Special Agent Seeley Booth, arrested her father Max Keenan, Brennan and Booth are sent to therapy throughout the season with psychologist Dr. Sweets. As the season progresses, Brennan and the Jeffersonian team attempt to catch a serial killer known as the Gormogon, who eventually recruits Brennan's former grad student and current "squint" Zack as his apprentice. Brennan must also deal with the "death" of Booth, who took a bullet meant for her. He later is revealed to be alive, and Brennan tries to figure out why she was never informed. Brennan learns she was supposed to be told by Dr. Sweets, but Sweets didn't tell her so he could observe how Brennan acted in the face of Booth's death. She also changed her mind about having a baby after taking care of one, showing a more compassionate side to her personality. Dr. Brennan had a strange moment with Dr. Sweets's first girlfriend, April, who was seeking advice from another woman in a stable relationship. April thought it was strange because she is 27 while Sweets just turned 23, and asked if there was an concerns about the age difference between Bones and Booth (which is 5 years). Though she told April they were not together, it's unsure if she trusts her.

Season 4

There are more hints of romantic feelings between Brennan and Booth in this season, and it's been teased by creator Hart Hanson that this is the season that they "finally end up in bed together."[6] Their relationship became slightly strained when Jared Booth, Seeley's brother, was introduced (Seeley took exception to his brother's interest in Bones). In the episode "The Princess and the Pear" Brennan notes that Booth tends to be "needlessly protective" sometimes and she doesn't know why, to Agent Perrota, after Booth instructs Perrota not to let her go into the field alone.

Brennan is unhappy to see her father has obtained a job at Jeffersonian for a time, arguing that, as a convicted felon, he should not have access to the details of criminal cases (4x11, "The Bone that Blew"). Sweets claims this is because Brennan feels though her father is here now, she can only remember the times he was not there for her in her past. Upon a request from Max, Booth successfully convinces her to accept his presence at the Jeffersonian.

Further skills are revealed this season. Brennan is shown to have exceptional knowledge in the art of sword fighting when she and Sweets are injured after their car is run off the road and subsequently attacked by a Black Knight. In the episode "The Girl in the Mask" (4x23) she speaks basic, albeit flawed Japanese, and in "The Bone that Blew" (4x11) she understands Mandarin Chinese and translates for Booth.

Temperance Brennan is revealed to want to have a child in the season four episode, The Critic In The Cabernet. She decides she would like to use Booth's semen. Booth gives his approval, but eventually changes his mind after he hallucinates advice from Stewie Griffin to either be involved or don't do it at all. Brennan agrees to not have a child, or at least to wait. She discovers Booth has been seeing things frequently and takes him to the hospital where it is discovered he has a brain tumor. As he's being rolled into surgery, he lets her know if he dies, he wants her to use his sperm to have a baby. The season ends with an "alternate reality" episode, which in actuality is Brennan reading what she is writing to Booth while he is still unconscious. In this alternate reality, Booth and Bones are married and own a club, where most of the other characters work. The episode ends with Booth waking up, and asking Bones "Who are you?" and Bones looking surprised and upset. In an interview with Hart Hanson it was revealed that Booth doesn't have amnesia but rather he can't remember if she is the Brennan from the alternate reality episode 'The End in the Beginning' OR if she is his partner 'Bones.'

Season 5

Brennan begins to show more character development than ever in the new season. Though she is still hyper-rational and still doesn't understand some common parts of pop culture (in the episode "A Night at the Bones Museum", it is revealed that Brennan does not know who Britney Spears is), she has begun to display emotion more and more. She makes jokes and attempts humor, acts casual, and shows competitiveness more often, and wears more feminine clothing on more occasions. She engages in more speculation and guesswork, and seems more excited, eager, and enthusiastic about both anthropology and social situations. She seems to be able to distinguish differences between accuracy and the truth (as commented by Doctor Gordon Wyatt in "The Dwarf in the Dirt"), and sometimes even does things that she sees as irrational (such as donating money to help Angela save a piglet in "The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken"; this issue had caused a temporary falling-out between the two best friends for much of the episode). She also reveals that the only nickname/pet name she's had is her current one, "Bones", given to her by Booth early on in their friendship, first seen in the pilot.

Brennan is also much more sensitive to the feelings of others, Booth in particular. She expresses more concern for him than ever before, and does not shy away from him in the way that she used to, doing him many important favors with little or no persuasion. In "The Dwarf in the Dirt", it is revealed that Brennan notices minute details about Booth's habits, such as the hand he uses to hold his coffee mug and the foot he leads with when climbing stairs; Brennan says to Wyatt about Booth at one point, "I can't think of anything I wouldn't do to help him." This episode reveals that Wyatt, Sweets, and Angela all believe that Brennan and Booth are in love with each other. Brennan also continues to show her improved sensitivity to Booth's feelings when his grandfather comes to stay in "The Foot in the Foreclosure." While Brennan often made poor first impressions with others in the past due to her hyper-rationale and lack of social skills, she handles her meeting with Hank Booth very well and makes an extremely good impression on him, as seen by several compliments he makes toward her throughout the episode. Hank tells Brennan at one point that Booth "is a strong man, but he's gonna need somebody; everyone needs somebody." He tells Brennan not to be scared, and asks her to promise to be there for Booth (which she readily agrees to). Brennan is also more sensitive towards other people as well; when Hank confesses in guilt to Brennan that it was his fault that Booth's father abandoned Seeley and Jared years ago (upon seeing their father beating Hank's grandsons, Hank told his son to "get out," which caused the latter to leave and never come back), Brennan comforts him and reassures him that he is a good man. She also shows rather uncharacteristic emotion in "The Goop on the Girl" when the victim's mother is forced to bury her son alone; with tears in her eyes, she expresses desire to attend the funeral of Holden (the victim) so that his mother won't be alone, as no one should be alone at Christmas, even expressing that it is "heart-crushing", perhaps in remembrance of the fact that her parents left she and her brother during the Christmas season. This display of emotion prompts Booth to state that he thinks that Brennan has a bigger heart than people give her credit for.


While the character shares the same name and occupation in both the books and television series, her characterization in Bones is vastly different, lacking social skills and having trouble understanding jokes and sarcasm. Brennan is "very focused," and hyper-rational, she is very defensive and protective of evidence, and she deals with the 'horrors' of the crimes she investigates by focusing on the facts only. In the Pilot, Angela voiced perhaps the reason why Brennan comes off as distant is because she "connects too much." Despite her extensive knowledge of anthropology, she is quite unaware of pop culture (for example, she does not know who Britney Spears is) and her coworkers, particularly Booth, like to tease her about it. A running gag on the series is someone making an obvious popular culture reference and she blankly states "I don't know what that means," and she is somewhat excited on the rare occasion she does understand them (Although she still sometimes makes mistakes; on one occasion she confuses Will Ferrell with Colin Farrell (A Boy in the Bush).

At the start of the series, Brennan has never used deadly force, although she does shoot a man in the leg in the Pilot episode. She is forced to make her first kill to save Booth's life in the second-season episode "The Blonde in the Game" (2x4), an act that leaves her guilt-ridden; Booth's counsel afterward -- owing to his having killed close to 50 people in his career -- was an emotional linchpin of the aftermath. Her second kill, again to save Booth, comes in the third season episode "The Wannabe in the Weeds" (3x14) and passes without remorse (Although this may have been due to her belief that the assailant had killed Booth). By the fourth season episode "The Con Man in the Meth Lab" (4x9), she has become accustomed enough in using deadly force to consider shooting a hostage taker during a standoff (though it's Booth who ultimately kills the man).

Brennan is an atheist, is critical towards religion and believes in the death penalty. This has led to more than one argument with Booth, who is a devout Roman Catholic and quite defensive of his faith. Brennan's character development is shown in the second season where she refers to the rest of the team as "our squints" even though the term "squints" is predominately used by Booth when he describes the team, Brennan included.

In the season four episode "The Critic In The Cabernet" (4x25), Brennan shows a desire to have a child. She also shows sadness, compassion, fear and friendship when Seeley Booth needs immediate surgery. She went into the operating room with him, to be at his side, at his request. She also shows her commitment and deep emotional feelings towards Booth as she is holding his hand as they go into the operating room together. In the following episode "The End in the Beginning," she is writing about love while sitting at Booth's side waiting for him to wake up from the coma.

Throughout season five, Booth and Brennan have become exceedingly close. In "The Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," Booth asks Brennan to "be his village" in raising Parker. In "A Night at the Bones Museum," they nearly kiss (but are interrupted). In "The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken", Booth tells Brennan that he would do anything for her -- kill for her, die for her -- and he took her hand to comfort and reassure her. Instead of shying away, Brennan places her hand over his in thanks. Their relationship is also seen very clearly from outsiders. In "Harbingers in the Fountain," Angela's psychic expresses her idea that the two are profoundly linked. In "The Dwarf in the Dirt," Booth's former therapist Gordon Wyatt and Dr. Sweets consult on the pair, and Wyatt, along with Angela, all come to the conclusion that they are in love with one another and Wyatt commenting that Booth sees Brennan as his family and suggesting she accompany him to his upcoming marksmanship test to remind him that he needs to pass to protect her. In "The Foot in the Foreclosure," Booth's grandfather, Hank, advises Brennan to be there for Booth, and not to be scared, having clearly decided that they should be together.


  1. ^ "The Woman in Limbo", Bones, Season 1 Episode 22.
  2. ^ Goldman, Eric, "Digging Up Secrets With the Cast of Bones", IGN, May 31, 2007. Retrieved on June 4, 2007.
  3. ^ Bridget Byrne, "What's on tonight: Wednesday", The Albuquerque Tribune. March 28, 2007. Retrieved on April 7, 2007.
  4. ^ Gray, Ellen, "Boreanaz says 'Bones' is not procedural", Philadelphia Daily News, January 31, 2007.
  5. ^ "How TV shows try (or choose not) to depict Asperger's syndrome". 2010. Retrieved 2010-3-1. 
  6. ^ Hart Hanson Tease:


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