210 Bones of Contention

There exists this need to hold onto … things … 

Summary:  An anthropologist is murdered and Don’s team investigates if her current project is the reason.

Original air date: December 9, 2005 (US)

Teleplay by:
Christos Gage and Ruth Fletcher-Gage
Story by:
Jim Sterling

Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc


Opening numbers:

18 Million: Native Americans, 1492
350,000: Native Americans, 1900
206: Human bones
2: Truths

Family Concepts: (character development)

  • Charlie has consulted on a paleotology project
  • Larry has sold his house
  • Larry is still eating only white food
  • Amita has taught a class in the structure and dynamic of galaxies
  • Alan still has his wife’s things in boxes in the garage
  • Alan drives a silver Acura TL license number 5MUT929

Episode Quotes:

  • Charlie: Hey! I’m organized … enough.
  • Larry: There’s a symmetry  to my chaos, OK.  My system is chornological by height.
  • David: Lawyers cost about $200 an hour.  Good will would cost you a lot less.
  • Don: It’s more of a geographical thing; apparently race isn’t really a factor.
    David: They need to circulate that memo.
  • Alan [to Don]: You’re gonna help with the dishes? We should eat at someone else’s house more often.
  • Charlie: The math always works.
  • Charlie: Were we really gonna talk?
    Don: I brought a six-pack.  If things go south we can just watch the game.


Episode Synopsis:

Jennifer Abernathy is working late at the Heritage Museum when she hears something.  She tries to run, but is eventually caught and is found dead at the bottom of a staircase by a night watchman.  Don’s team is called in because the museum sits on tribal land, thus making the death a federal matter.

The museum director can’t fathom why Jennifer would be working so late, but a notebook found near her body might be able to answer that question.   Charlie and Larry look at the notes and recognize several formulas used in dating objects in anthropology.  Don talks to the museum director and she says there would be no reason for Jennifer to date an object, the museum has technicians to do such work.  When she checks the dating equipment, though, she and Don find the machine was used within a very short time of Jennifer’s death.  Charlie is able to take measurements from Jennifer’s notebook and discovers she was trying to date a skull, and if her numbers are right a skull that is 10,000 years old and now missing.

Megan talks to a Chief Clearwater to see if he can help with the investigation.  He has bought items from black market dealers in the past and Megan hopes he can supply names of people who would deal in items like the skull Jennifer was researching,  The black market dealers leads Megan and David to Kenneth Hill, a scientist with the Heritage Museum, he is also Jennifer’s boss and lover.  He claims he knew nothing about what Jennifer was working on the night she died, but that doesn’t hold up for long; it turns out he knew exactly what she was doing as he asked her to date the skull before it was turned over to Clearwater’s tribe under the rules of NAGPRA.  Hill wanted to keep the skull as it pre-dated the tribe’s own origin date and was an important find. Don realizes the skull may interfere with the tribes claims to land and more importantly gaming revenue if it’s discovered there were populations in the area that are older than Clearwater’s tribe.

Megan asks Clearwater to come to the FBI office to discuss the case but they are soon interrupted by a call that Clearwater’s house had been broken into and his wife injured.  Mrs. Clearwater tells the police Hill was the one who broke into the house and stole tribal records.  Megan thinks he is trying to find another site that would have human remains of a similar date to the skull that is still missing.  Charlie points out that there’s no way Hill could succeed in discovering another site and Don realizes they don’t need another site, Hill’s best chance of finding more bones is to go back to the site where the skull was found.

Don and David find Hill at the site and arrest him, he admits he wanted the skull for it’s historical importance but that he didn’t kill Jennifer.  David does a search of tribal members who have been disenrolled and finds Frank Lopez, the night watchman who found Jennifer’s body.  Lopez tells Megan he let her killer into the museum on a promise he would put Lopez’s now deceased mother back on the tribal rolls.  Don and Megan arrest Chief Clearwater for Jennifer’s death.  When he is asked about the skull he states it’s at rest in a place only he knows.