Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan can solve murders just by looking at victims' skeletons, but when it comes to affairs of the heart, she's clueless.
"Brennan has been abandoned by her father and her brother — the closest men in her life — and she can't let go of that," says Emily Deschanel, the plucky actress who plays the title character on Fox's Bones (Wednesdays at 8 pm/ET). "She's pretty much fearless in the rest of her life, but fear governs her relationships."
Fans of the show believe that her partner in crime-busting, FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), is her unacknowledged and unconsummated true love. But then along came Booth's old colleague, FBI agent Tim "Sully" Sullivan (Eddie McClintock), and sparks ignited.
Sully and Bones met cutely: Their first encounter involved fishing the remains of a coed out of a crocodile. In later episodes, they butted heads, and she discovered that his nickname, "Peanut," was an ironic joke about his manhood.
"Sully was introduced to show Bones as a sexual creature while providing a plausible obstacle to Booth and Brennan hooking up," explains show creator Hart Hanson. "Sully, who comes with less baggage than Booth, has a much healthier approach to love and life. But as we all know, 'easy' isn't necessarily what we're looking for in love."
This week the relationship reaches a dramatic crossroads. While her team of forensic experts tries to find the skeleton of a Chinese mail-order bride, Brennan takes off for some R&R with Sully aboard his yacht. Although Booth has been outwardly supportive of the blossoming romance, he's also a bit jealous. "He wants to drag her back to the lab on any pretext," says coexecutive producer Tony Wharmby, who directed the episode.
"Booth is rock and roll, Sully is easy listening," says McClintock, the actor who brings a tender vulnerability to the role. (Sorry, ladies. He's married with two kids.) "And Sully's partner has been killed. He has one foot out the door. He thinks if he doesn't get out, something bad is going to happen."
"After dealing with death all the time, Sully is a breath of fresh air for her," Deschanel says. "He shows her another life. But she doesn't get why he doesn't want to solve crimes anymore because that's what gives her life meaning."
Everything comes to a head when he pops a question. No, not that question. (An impulsive Grey's Anatomy-style marriage proposal doesn't suit Bones' rather unsentimental tone.) But the question is romantic.
"The man has everything," Deschanel says of Sully. "He's sweet, attractive, adventurous and fun. He's got a big boat, a big heart and big other things. He's a total catch, and any sane woman would grab him."
So what will the good doctor do? Deschanel's cagey response: "Let's just say that, after this episode, she may dabble in psychology!"