Zack and Brennan examine a rib cage on the forensic platform while Hodgins distracts himself with pictures of Angela's desert vacation. He stops on one photo of Angela relaxing in the arms of a man on a sun-kissed ridge. Brennan explains that Angela has a "boyfriend" for three weeks every year (Sc.1 / Pg. 2). His name is KIRK PERSINGER. Zack clicks on a videolink and Angela appears in her resort room. She asks to speak with Brennan in private.
Brennan retreats to her office where Angela reveals information that a human skull in a box arrived on the local Sheriff's porch. Her boyfriend, Kirk, went in to the desert five days prior on a photo shoot and hasn't come back. Nobody can find him, or his guide.
Against Goodman's wishes, Brennan packs her bags and heads to the desert on "vacation."
Angela and Brennan ride in Angela's jeep. Angela feigns reassurance that the skull isn't Kirk's, asking Brennan to look at it for verification. Kirk was with a good guide, a friend named DHANI WEBBER, and it isn't like them to be gone this long.
SHERIFF BEN DAWES is quick with Angela and Brennan. He orders the Navajo police to search the canyons. He doesn't have any patience for city folk like Brennan. Low on water and gone for more than a week, he's concerned that time might be running out. Reluctantly, Sheriff Dawes offers the skull to Brennan. A cursory examination reveals a, "prominent brow ridge" indicating "a male." The cranial shape and nasal features paired with a "pattern of maxillary suture fusion" suggests a Caucasian around thirty to thirty-five years of age (Sc.6 / Pg.6). The mood changes considerably when Brennan discovers "bevel marks" indicative of "perimortem-contact gunshot." This man wasn't caught "unawares" by the desert. He was shot.
In Angela's Bungalow, Brennan and Angela discuss Kirk. Brennan regards some contact sheets with pictures of Kirk's guide, Dhani, who also happens to be a beautiful model. She does her best to comfort Angela, which alarms Angela even more, "If you hug me and be all caring, it's because you think either Kirk is dead or sleeping with Dhani." Angela reaffirms her connection to Kirk and the special bond they share, tugging the few heart strings Brennan knows.
Brennan calls Booth and asks if he'll come to the desert to assist in the investigation. The Sheriff can't accept some book-smart hayseed blowing in to tell him his business. Brennan needs Booth to "get federal on his ass," a request he gladly accepts.
Booth arrives to rally the troops. He uses his "FBI powers" to force the Sheriff to send the skull to the Jeffersonian for analysis. Brennan and Booth then head to Dhani's trailer to poke around. Booth runs down the likeliest scenario - boyfriend runs off with an attractive model/guide and crosses a scorned lover. Brennan dismisses the possibility. Regardless of Booth's "stodgy," traditionalist beliefs, Angela and Kirk were in love. Their conversation is interrupted by ALEX JOSEPH, a Native American aiming a rifle at them. He is on edge and paranoid. After a brief showdown, Alex enters the trailer to retrieve some potential evidence. It's a picture of Dhani arm-in-arm with Sheriff Dawes.
Back at the lab, Zack and Hodgins exchange words about proper conduct while Dr. Brennan is away. Hodgins, listening to his iPod, let's Zack know how insignificant he is without Brennan around. After all, he is merely her assistant.
In the Sheriff's office, Sheriff Dawes studies the search grid as Booth accuses him of avenging a love triangle. The Sheriff scoffs, claiming Dhani is his half-sister. The team considers the idea of Alex hurting either Dhani or Kirk out of jealous rage. To that, the Sheriff says deliberately, "It's on my list of nightmares." Brennan takes a call on her cell from Hodgins. The DNA results prove the skull belongs to Angela's boyfriend. The hair sample tested "off the charts" for peyote. Zack discovered a full-grown male coyote with a malformed jaw dined on Kirk's remains. Brennan orders the team to have Goodman locate a naturalist. Booth lays it out: a simple missing person's case has now become a drug-related execution.
Driving to deliver Angela the bad news, Brennan listens to Booth puff his chest. He's ready to take over the case on a Federal level, but Brennan thinks that will only shut them out. "Desert Dwellers are very insular," she defends. It's best that they work within the system. Now in agreement, they decide to find out who supplied Kirk with his peyote.
Booth grills Angela with the difficult questions about her boyfriend. Angela protects his reputation, "the peyote wasn't recreational - Kirk took part in some Native Indian rites." Booth and Brennan learn Kirk's peyote supplier was a local artist, WAYNE KELLOGG.
Wayne Kellogg proudly boasts about his lucrative overseas art career. He then coolly brags about his participation in numerous peyote rituals. Booth sets him straight, "Peyote is only legal if you're a member of the Native American Church. Which means you and Kirk bought it illegally." Wayne refuses to give up his source. Brennan notices his HUMVEE outside. It's the same HUMVEE from Dhani's trailer, the day Alex stared them down with his rifle. They put two and two together, and assume Alex Joseph is connected to the peyote trade.
Booth and Brennan return to Dhani's trailer to question Alex. They find his body sprawled on the ground, bloody and unconscious.
Booth tries to push the Sheriff's buttons. He throws a number of situations his way, all of them tying Sheriff to the crime. Sheriff Dawes denies that Dhani could've been the trigger person. He also refutes a rape vendetta fantasy Booth conjures. Sheriff Dawes first priority is finding Dhani, nothing else.
Brennan and Booth are patched in to PROFESSOR INEZ and Goodman via Angela's laptop. The professor coordinates research on tracking coyotes. She locates the coyote with the malformed jaw Zack connected to Kirk's skull. Based on the packs feeding patterns, she prints out coordinates that should lead the team to the remainder of Kirk's skeleton.
Angela opens up to Brennan about Kirk, "He's the man I compare all other men to." Brennan appreciates her warmth and candor. Angela then offers to help search for Kirk's remains.
n the middle of the desert, Brennan, Booth, Angela, Sheriff Dawes, and a line of Navajos search for Kirk's bones. Angela and Brennan reflect upon the spirituality of the desert. "If you stand still enough, the desert will actually speak to you," Angela wishes vacantly. Sheriff Dawes informs Booth that Alex woke up from his beating. The men who beat him were Navajos protecting their peyote ritual. When one of their own breaks rites, as Alex did by selling the peyote to "white guys," justice is swift. Booth worries the same men could've held a kangaroo court for Kirk. This is a notion the Sheriff dismisses. The "whites" are his responsibility.
The searchers find Kirk's scattered bones along with his camera. Angela carefully cradles the camera. She can't afford to have the film recklessly exposed. If the desert has any omens, they might show themselves on the film in the form of Kirk's murderers.
Angela and Brennan negotiate with Sheriff Dawes to keep him from sending the camera to the State Police Crime Lab. Even if the Sheriff believes Angela is better at developing the film than the state lab, it doesn't absolve her from being a potential suspect. Booth gets a tip that Kellogg only sold one hundred and twenty thousand dollars worth of art overseas, a meager number for someone who claimed to have a "beach house in Los Angeles." They decide to follow up on the lead. Angela takes advantage of her moment alone with the Sheriff. He wasn't aware that the relationship tilted in favor of Angela. Kirk wanted to marry her, but she couldn't commit. She was friends with Dhani. Her guilt will only subside if she can put her skills to use. Sheriff Dawes relents.
Booth presses Kellogg about his success as an artist. He also pushes him on his vehicle capable of traveling great distances in the desert. However, it isn't enough to detain him. Brennan comes across some quarter inch steel engraving plates with designs unlike Kellogg's style. He contends they were commissioned from a private client. Angela calls Brennan's cell. She was able to develop the film, but Sheriff Dawes ran off with the negatives the moment she showed him the pictures.
Booth confronts Sheriff Dawes in his office. The Sheriff took the photos to Joseph to help pinpoint an outcropping. The formation doesn't match the location where Kirk's body was found. Booth guesses he was killed and deposited in the area where they found his bones. The Sheriff suggests they travel to the site to check for clues.
Back at the lab, Hodgins and Zack have a battle of egos. Zack refuses to release the bones to Hodgins until he determines how the body expired. Hodgins needs to isolate the "particulates" to narrow down where the bones may have originated, a task more important to the case. Dr. Goodman settles the dispute by placing control with Hodgins.
Sheriff Dawes escorts Team Bones in his 4x4. They stop at the rock outcropping. Angela, Brennan, and Booth decide to locate the exact spot where the picture originated while the Sheriff takes a drive to see if he can find his sister. The moment the truck leaves their sight, Booth makes a startling realization: They are out of water, without cell phones. The Sheriff left them to die.
The sun bakes the team as they crest a small hill. They see a Jeep. It's Kirk's. The alternator is smashed, and all the wiring is pulled out. Blood on a rock and striated patterns in the sand tell a gruesome story for Kirk's demise. The vehicle tracks leading away from the body appear much wider than the Sheriffs. They also stop at what appears to be a make-shift air strip. Booth was right - drugs. " Mexico is about eighty miles that way," Booth figures. Just as they are about to give up hope on their own survival, Sheriff Dawes appears with Angela in the passenger seat. The group determines Alex Joseph to be the prime suspect. He rolled up on Kirk and Dhani together, alone. The Sheriff calls the station and requests a deputy to "slap some cuffs on Alex Joseph." However, Alex has disappeared. Sheriff Dawes decides to collect Wayne Kellogg's Humvee instead.
At the Sheriff's office, Brennan and Booth stand by Kellogg's Humvee as Dawes and his deputies conduct a Luminol test inside the vehicle. "Any blood stains should flare bluish green when the luminal hits them," Brennan reminds the investigators. The luminal flares on the shape of a body. The body could've been strapped to the hood, where it was transported two hundred miles before being dumped to the coyotes.
Brennan calls Zack and asks if Kirk's bones show more damage than "can be explained by animal activity." Zack eagerly offers, "The pubic rami are fractured and the left hemi-pelvis is severely displaced." These are injuries congruent with a fall. Or, as Brennan hypothesizes, the murderer "Loaded his body on the airplane, then tossed it." Brennan is miffed at the length of time it took Zack to get her the information, a screw-up at the hands of Hodgins. Regardless, Zack takes the bullet.
Wrapping up Kirk's case doesn't get Sheriff Dawes any closer to his sister. She could either be "kidnapped by drug dealers" or "dying somewhere out in the desert." Dr. Goodman calls Brennan. The engraver plates she noticed in Kellogg's home fit the dies for the Venezuelan 500 Bolivar bill. These are counterfeiters' dies.
Kellogg and his lawyer, LARRY STANSFIELD, play a game of cat and mouse with Booth and Sheriff Dawes. Kellogg smugly admits to the counterfeiting, but vehemently denies any involvement in Kirk's death. He arranged to meet with the counterfeiters at the airstrip in the desert. They noticed two people spying on them. The counterfeiters commandeered his vehicle and drove up the hill. A single shot was fired. The vehicle returned, and the men departed. Kellogg can arrange to have the FBI present at the next exchange, but only if Booth drops the murder charges against him. The Sheriff explodes on Kellogg. He wants to find his sister. Booth advises the Sheriff to ignore the deal. A trained Army Ranger, Booth offers to track Dhani himself.
At the Jeffersonian, Dr. Goodman levels with Zack. "You can't assist Dr. Brennan forever," he says delicately. Goodman implies that Zack is too comfortable in the lab. He needs to advance his studies. Being around Dr. Brennan is a distraction he can no longer afford.
Angela, Sheriff Dawes, Booth and Brennan spread out to search the arid landscape. For a moment, Angela stops, shuts her eyes, and is completely still. A vision of Dhani materializes. The spirit directs her to the near death Dhani collapsed in the shadow of a rock. Skin excoriate by the sun, lips cracked, Dhani is alive.
In her Bungalow, Angela comes to terms with the loss of Kirk. She confides in Brennan her apprehension at ever finding another man like Kirk again. Brennan uses science to settle her fears, "...nothing in the Universe happens just once. Nothing." Booth enters and breaks the moment. Sheriff Dawes and his deputies caught the counterfeiters. Dhani gave a statement saying it was Kellogg who pulled the trigger on Kirk. If Angela hadn't pointed the helicopter in the right direction, Dhani wouldn't be alive to set the record straight. The desert spoke, and Angela listened with her heart.