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'Castle' recap: Unfunny business

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Fred-Willard-Castle

Image Credit: Michael Desmond/ABCIs it just me, or did you also expect a Castle episode revolving around a late night war to be funnier? The show prides itself on its light side, but they played this one too straight. There was just… so much talking. We had so many people to rule out that we had no time for Castle to play with things he shouldn’t — unless you count the actress (Nip/Tuck‘s Kelly Carlson) sleeping with him to get a role in the Nikki Heat movie — or for Beckett to get shot at. I missed the physical humor/peril.

So the victim was Bobby Mann, an aging late night host (guest Tom Bergeron) who leaned over after Castle’s appearance on his show and said, “They want me dead.” Then, he died of a heart attack. Beckett thought there was no crime — he had a history of heart disease — but Castle insisted they run more tests. They found out his depression medication had a fatal interaction with balsamic vinegar slipped into cranberry juice.

We then had to rule out two of his six ex-wives (played by The Nanny‘s Nicholle Tom and Stealing Home‘s Beth Broderick), the intern he was boffing, and the younger host (Bill Bellamy) waiting to get his time slot. How very Carson, Letterman, and Conan. We also had to look into the sleazy private investigator (French Stewart), who’d bugged the office of the network president (Dan Cortese) for Mann. Bobby had heard the tapes the morning he died. The network prez had “joked” about how easy it should for him to drop dead, but he insisted to Beckett and Castle the worst he did was threaten to fire Bobby if he didn’t find a younger demo and pay him the $80 million out on his contract, which had five years left. In the end, Castle remembered that Bobby’s joke book showed him toying with a new gender-neutral signature signoff, and that he’d visited a rising female comedian the night he’d died (we’d also talked to her, after her set, so still no funny). Her motorcycle had been trashed and the words “Late Night Bitch” were etched in it. The murderer? Mann’s sidekick, played by Fred Willard.

I can appreciate that — normally hysterical Willard in the role of a killer and delivering a quiet, then angry confession. Mann had just told him that he was going to have to replace him if he wanted to keep the show. He couldn’t just discard him like one of his ex-wives and humiliate him. He should go down with the ship (nice close-up on Willard’s hands) and take his $80 million lifeboat. Beckett and Castle had gotten the receipt off the sidekick’s credit card, showing that he’d bought balsamic vinegar and cranberry juice shortly before he’d met up with Mann to reminisce about their run. All he had to do was offer him a drink. Case closed. It was a twisty case, but again, coming off the serial killer two-parter and last week’s Indiana Jones mummy episode — just not as action-packed and entertaining.

The B storyline provided some humor as Castle “comforted” the actress he shared Mann’s last show —  multiple times. After Beckett overheard Castle recommending her to the producer of the Nikki Heat movie, she suggested Castle was just being used. He suspected it, too, or he never would have been stupid enough to mention it to the actress during afterglow. She got angry and cried, which, of course, Beckett told Castle a professional actress would be able to do on cue. The actress was finally busted when the network president used sex with her as an alibi (and said she wanted a role in one of his sitcoms). She apologized to Castle and he forgave her — she’s an even better actress than he thought she was and she’s welcome to use him in that way any time she wants. I wanted to be angry with Castle for that, but then again, he was just using her, too. His motivation was having fun while Alexis was conveniently out of town. He just wanted to use his squirt gun in the bedroom. (That sounds dirty, but no, this is child-like Castle we’re talking about. There really was an actual squirt gun present.) The payoff to that plot line: Beckett verbally assaulted Castle when she thought he’d be seeing the actress again — he smiled because he knows she cares — and Beckett grinning when she found out his next date was with his daughter. From the preview for next week’s episode, we know that Beckett gets friendly with a robbery detective (Battlestar Galactica‘s Michael Trucco). Think Castle’s “I just got laid voice” inspired her?

Your turn. What did you think of the episode? Do you buy that the police now use Twitter as a way to track famous murder victim’s last movements? (Crazy to think, right?) Anyone else find it weird that Mann didn’t leave the studio until 12:45 a.m.? I wonder if late night crews really work that late, or if Castle‘s writers didn’t want to have to explain that late night shows actually tape much earlier… And what, if any message, should we read into the episode? I got that while it may have sucked that Leno was being pushed out for someone younger, he should have exited gracefully; that the network execs behind the move were the real douches (to have Cortese play you? ouch!); and that this was actually no laughing matter for the hosts involved.