Booth and Brennan walk the cold, lonely hallway of the FBI morgue. They meet with HARRY TEPPER, a Medical Examiner residing over a naked corpse. The body, identified as TED MACY, was found in a national park. The victim expired from an accidental drowning. Brennan questions why she was called - after all, she doesn't "do skin." Booth explains, "I didn't bring you to examine the body. I want you to look at what they found in his hand." The examiner reveals a finger bone, steeped in a lethal cleansing solution. Brennan emasculates the examiner for his shoddy preservation techniques, "You've removed particulates and trace elements that could potentially lead us to his killer. Is this your first day on the job?"
In the lab, members of Team Bones trade guesses as to the origin of the finger bone. Angela presumes "Native American," while Zack speculates "British Colonial." Hodgins jumps in with "American Revolutionary." Brennan continues to study the bone, "Alternating sclerotic and porotic areas on subperiosteal surface demonstrates that whoever this was suffered from tertiary syphilis" (Sc.3 / Pg. 4). Radiocarbon dating puts the finger at three hundred years of age. When Booth offers the location of the bone, " Assateague Island," Hodgins' tone enthusiastically changes. "The Money Pit," he remarks in disbelief. The team learns Assateague Island is home to Blackbeard's treasure. For three hundred years, people have dug, searched, and risked life to uncover Blackbeard's hidden loot. The possibilities open the case wide for Booth, "So the victim finds evidence that the treasure exists, maybe even finds some of it. Someone else wants it all for himself. Certainly a good motive for murder."
Booth and Brennan travel to Assateague Island, home of the "Hardewicke-Macy" excavation. They interrupt an argument between BRANSON ROSE and GILES HARDEWICKE. Branson, a billionaire funding the dig, wants to pull out of the project. GILES threatens him with a lawsuit. The two continue to bicker, ignoring Booth and Brennan's presence. Brennan cuts in by identifying herself as FBI, on assignment to investigate a murder. Rose is thrown by the accusation of murder. His eyes grow wide with excitement, "What did Macy find that was worth killing him for?" Rose orders the workers to put his stuff back. The dig must go on.
Zack and Hodgins fantasize about the lore of "Blackbeard's curse." Zack maintains a scientific approach while Hodgins obsesses over the mythology, "(In) 1902 two men disappeared while digging, never found their bodies." Brennan and Booth enter and instruct Hodgins to analyze soil samples taken from the pit. The soil and water found in Ted Macy's throat and lungs potentially came from the top of the shaft. They want to make certain he was murdered there. Hodgins pleads to dive the shaft for "silt abstracts." Booth calls him out, "You just want to look for treasure."
FBI agents guard the crime scene on Assateague Island. Booth is pressed by MAYOR NEY to be more diplomatic with his investigation. Blackbeard's curse is the core to the island's tourism economy. Booth keeps a hard line, "This is a murder scene." Hardewicke introduces Booth to DANE MCGINNIS, a salty diver working on the dig. Dane reluctantly prepares Hodgins for his dive.
Brennan examines the finger bone under a microscope on the forensic platform. Angela initiates a philosophical discussion on the "curse." "Worth killing for?" she asks pointedly. Brennan considers the irony, "Stealing all that (treasure) and never enjoying the spoils." Either way, to Brennan, the real curse is greed.
Dane updates Hodgins on the dangers of the "shaft." After working on the dig for more than ten years, Dane resents any outsider like Hodgins getting to break the two hundred foot barrier. His envy turns mournful when he tells Booth and Hodgins his brother died searching the same shaft. Hodgins then descends into the depths of Blackbeard's curse. Passing a flood trap and the site of the first pit collapse, Hodgins lands safely at the bottom where he discovers a human skull.
The skull matches the rest of a recovered skeleton laid out in the bone room. Brennan, Zack and Hodgins review their analysis. Zack learns, "C-14 dating matches at three hundred years." And bowed legs are the "result of visible calcium and phosphate deficiency" (Sc. 10 / Pg. 22). The skeleton suffered from scurvy and tertiary syphilis, adds Brennan. The evidence is clear: they found a pirate. If true, Booth suggests a motive, "Macy was killed because of what he found." Hodgins validates Booth's assumption, "Silt in his throat and lungs confirms he was killed at the top of the shaft." The investigation comes to a halt when Goodman calls Booth and Brennan to his office to calm an irate Branson Rose.
Branson charges Team Bones with thievery. He claims he was granted a permit to dig at the site and keep whatever he uncovered, bones included. His attorney assures him the Jeffersonian has no right to keep the skeleton. Booth doesn't flinch at the threat, sending Branson from the room in a rage. In the aftermath of Branson's fury, Booth puts the pieces together. With Macy out of the picture, Hardewicke doesn't have to split as much of the pot with Branson.
At the dig site, Booth fishes for answers with Hardewicke. Hardewicke's business has been under pressure for quite some time. In fact, Branson is his last investor. If Branson pulls out, Hardwicke is finished. The theory hits a snag - Ted Macy was like family to Hardewicke. He has the scars on his body to prove it. In 1992, Hardewicke pulled Macy out of a sinkhole, saving his life. A fresh set of bruises next to the scars sends Booth down another trail. Hardewicke confesses Macy was sleeping with the mayor's wife. When the mayor got suspicious, Hardewicke took the fall for his friend.
Brennan frantically searches the bones room. She calls to Zack, "What did you do with the bones?" They are gone. Someone stole the skeleton.
Brennan goes on a tirade about the lack of security at the Jeffersonian. Booth, Goodman, and Angela helplessly absorb her venting. Booth spins the burglary into something positive, "Whoever took those bones obviously had something to do with the murder." Zack saved the finger bone in his lab, but the missing remainder of the skeleton conveys a message to Brennan, "There's something they don't want us to find..."
The mayor's wife, KATIE, defends her affair with Macy to Booth. It was a mistake. She dismisses the notion of the mayor avenging the affair by killing Macy. "Look, it's Hardewicke and the rich guy you should be looking at," she contends. They were always fighting over money.
Brennan, Zack, and Hodgins work on the finger in the lab. They can't extract any particulates because the Medical Examiner cleaned the bone too thoroughly. Brennan notices a small hole in the tip of the finger, possibly "man-made." As she heads out, she orders Zack, "...don't let that bone out of your sight."
Booth and Brennan meet with the Medical Examiner to see if they overlooked any type of weapon involvement. The Medical Examiner holds to his initial report, "The larynx is crushed." But Brennan's trained eye sees more, "The fractures" on C2 through C4 "are all left to right, approximately forty-five degree angles on each bone... that means the head was jerked to the left and up, making sure the spinal cord would tear. The larynx was crushed when his neck was broken" (Sc.17 / Pg. 33). But that doesn't account for the hole in the finger. "Something damaged that bone. And it didn't happen three hundred years ago..." Brennan states as a matter of fact. This triggers an idea, which sends her hurriedly out of the room.
Zack determines the hole in the finger came from "a disposable acupuncture needle." Brennan runs a UV light over the bone and explains, "Diminished fluorescence. That only happens if the bones have been cleaned and treated. These bones didn't start out in the shaft. They were placed there."
On the forensic platform, Booth and Brennan listen to HARLEY FRANKEL, the Jeffersonian's museum curator. He positions himself over a skeleton, assuring Brennan of his exhibit's authenticity. Brennan removes one of the bones from the case and snaps it in half. The bones are artificial, acrylic. She compares the finger bone with the other "bones." "You can see the hole where the wire was threaded when the skeleton was assembled for display," she presents. The evidence enlightens Booth, "(the original bones) were planted in the shaft on Assateague Island to make the whole treasure business seem real. But someone found out."
Brennan, Booth, and Goodman face FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR SAM CULLEN. Cullen reviews the security issues tied to their missing skeleton. He informs the team Branson Rose has some friends in very high places. Rose wants the FBI out of his excavation. Booth can't remove the team just yet. The stolen bones were obviously used to "salt the shaft" in order to lure dollars from investors. Cullen asks, "Who do you like?" Booth and Brennan agree, Giles Hardewicke. As Booth puts it, he has "Access, motive, ability..."
Hodgins and Dane share a couple of beers as Dane recounts his foray into diving and treasure hunting. Dane is unphased when he learns the bones were planted in the shaft. Years of disappointment, the loss of his brother, Dane's jaded outlook is permanently ingrained. Hodgins can't wait to get back in the shaft to search again. "When you got three doctorates and you tell the FBI you need more samples, who's gonna argue?" (Sc. 21A / Pg. 40). Dane takes his queue, "You wanna go down again, don't you?" Hodgins can barely contain himself, "I could use your help."
Brennan and Booth take another crack at Hardewicke. They mention Katie's information about the company breaking up. Hardewicke laughs off the accusation. Macy told wild stories as a part of his act to get women in bed with him. It was his way of positioning himself as a heroic explorer. Hardewicke drives his feelings home, "There is not a single way in which I'm better off without Macy." As a final gesture, he offers full access to his company books without a search warrant.
Angela and Goodman watch security tapes from the night of the theft. A blip of static on the screen indicates a moment when the cameras went down. For one minute and forty-six seconds the cameras were shut off. Goodman and Angela run a test with a stop watch. The only person who could have enough time to get to the bones before turning the cameras back on would be a security guard.
Jeffersonian security guard ERIC HUGHES defends himself in front of Booth, Brennan and Goodman. He admits to stealing the bones, selling them for a "couple hundred bucks." Booth produces a wire transfer for ten thousand dollars in Eric's name. Eric fingers Macy and Hardewicke as his contacts.
Booth and Brennan return to Hardewicke's trailer at the dig site. They find him motionless, blood trailing from his nose and mouth. He's dead.
The Medical Examiner declares Hardewicke died from a crushed larynx, the same cause of death for Macy. This isn't enough for Brennan. She reviews the x-rays and observes the same damage "between C-2 and C-4, forty-five degree angle." Booth recognizes the pattern as a Special Forces move.
Branson Rose meets with Booth and Brennan in the presence of his attorney. Although he spent time in the Special Air Services, an elite Special Forces unit, Branson denies any connection to Ted Macy's death. Macy salting the shaft disappointed him, but didn't inspire murder. His lawyer abruptly ends the meeting, causing Brennan to slap Branson across the face. Branson doesn't react, prompting another slap. His lethargic reaction time absolves him of the crime as Booth realizes, "No way he's Special Ops. It's PR crap."
Dane helps Hodgins suit up for another dive. He complains about never getting to the bottom. Hodgins offers to share the experience the way the Three Musketeers would, "All for one and one for all."
Booth and Brennan drive in his SUV. Booth calls in Dane's background to find out which branch of the military he served. Brennan thinks it's a "Hail Mary Pass." Booth explains, "He said Hodgins swam like a squid." Squid is military slang for a sailor.
Hodgins drops deep in to the muddy waters.
Dispatch returns to Booth, "Mcginnis, Dane served in the Navy. Rating: Chief Petty Officer, Naval Special Warfare." He was a Navy Seal. They confront Dane at the shaft holding an air hose. Hodgins voice transmits over the intercom. Dane threatens to cut Hodgins air. Booth draws a bead on him with his Glock. The standoff begins. Dane wants Booth to throw his gun in the water. Unaware of the activity above, Hodgins continues his dive, offering details at each new depth. Dane wants the truth to be known. Macy and Hardewicke turned his dead brother's passion into a con job. Planting the fake bones dishonored the people who gave their hearts to the dig. Hodgins finds a gold coin, but it isn't enough to distract Dane. Brennan convinces Dane to save Hodgins in the name of the treasure, for his brother. He releases his grip on the air hose.
Team Bones stare at the gold coin in awe. Hodgins can barely let go of the experience, "An original Breen 984 half doubloon, designed by Ephraim Brasher, engraved by Ephraim Brasher." Zack translates, "A real, gold, pirate coin." Hodgins reluctantly releases the coin to Goodman. With Blackbeard's treasure located, a little of Hodgins' childhood disappeared in the process.