With its procedural-leaning plotlines inspired by a James Patterson murder mystery, the freshman drama Instinct has all the right pieces to become CBS' next big long-running hit. Except some audience members noticed some of those pieces from the most recent episode were very, very similar to how a story played out on an episode of the now-gone Fox hit Bones, and the copycat accusations even reached the ears of Instinct showrunner Michael Rauch, who took to social media to apologize to both fans and to Bones creator Hart Hanson. So what actually happened here?
Instinct's third episode, titled "Secrets and Lies," focused on the murder of an Amish teenager who'd made the move to "the big city," which was the same basic logline for Bones' Season 9 episode "The Plain in the Prodigy." The connections go deeper, of course. The teen on Instinct had kept popsicle sticks in his room, which tipped the detectives off that they were related to piano keys, which led them to interviewing the boy's piano teacher.
In the Bones episode, the Amish teen kept rocks in his bedroom, and not popsicle sticks, but their impact was the same, as it led the Bones detectives to the piano comparison and an interview with the instructor. Now, the storylines did split apart from there, with different outcomes for all involved, but it'd hard to look past the initial concept of an Amish teen making a big move, getting murdered, and then leading detectives to a piano teacher through the use of seemingly random objects kept in bedrooms.
Without more information available, it's impossible to know exactly what the situation is here. The similarities had some fans online calling Instinct out for plagiarism, which is not something that Hollywood takes lightly. So whenever Micael Rauch was tagged in a post asking about the Bones/Instinct situation, he was fairly quick to respond with frankness.
It's obviously unclear what kind of a follow-up will happen here. Could it be that one of the writers had this plot angle in his head and accidentally used it without remembering its source? Could it be something more nefarious than that? Or possibly even a complete coincidence? Probably not that last one, though. (Interestingly, one commenter brought up a second potential copycat scene from Instinct involving elements from the Bones Season 4 episode "The Con Man in the Meth Lab," so continue drawing your own conclusions.)
While we'll be keeping our eyes and ears out for more developments in this case, tune into Instinct every Sunday night on CBS at 8:00 p.m. ET. And when you're needing to see what other new and returning shows are on the way soon, head to our midseason premiere schedule and our summer premiere schedule.