No one ever wants to admit that the truth is, in fact, subjective. But this week on Castle, a liar dies because he comes across a lie that offends his own moral code. Everyone sets their own personal boundaries on what they’ll lie about and for what purpose. And though Beckett visibly blanches when marital lies comes up in the case, the only truth she reveals to Castle at the end of the episode is that she actually hates his favorite novel.
The murder in question takes place in what’s supposed to be a sanctuary for reforming sinners. A man kneels at an altar alone, and pleads, “Oh, Lord. Am I on the right path? If so, give me a sign.” A shadow lines up with the sun in the stained-glass window in front of him and shoots him, shattering the piece in the process. This is Dave Johnson, whose vanilla-scented name turns out to be a clue to his situation. His priest can’t think of a reason why anyone would want to kill the man. A “faithful parishioner” and “loving husband,” the priest also insists that Johnson was a world-famous novelist. The name on his ID doesn’t ring any literary bells, but his pseudonym does. P.J. Moffat published one novel that took the world by storm and then slipped into obscurity. Alexis and Castle share a worshipful relationship with The Butcherbird’s Song; and of course the book by our fictional spotlight-shy novelist has a flying thing in its title. Too soon, show.
Johnson’s secret identity gives Castle an edge on the case, since he’s a self-described expert on the writer. But in order to have a reason to stroll through the doors of the 12th, he picks up Johnson’s widow, Wendy, as a client. He’s still intent on winning Beckett back through seductive crime solving (a phrase that had better be the translated title of this show in at least three foreign countries) as Martha half-warns/half-counsels her daughter-in-law. So he delivers Wendy to make her statement. The woman had only been married to Johnson for less than a year but felt like she’d “known him forever” because of the book that was his legacy. Her fixation on his work instead of the man is disconcerting, but she does explain why a literary giant was working as a janitor. Johnson had been researching another book for the past several years in the immersive, Method manner he preferred. This one dealt with the Mafia, who everyone knows hates avenging itself and protecting its interests. He told his wife he’d had a meeting with a man that day and it had gone wrong; that man, Ryan and Esposito discover, is known-gangster Milton Cicero. But Cicero didn’t sit down with Johnson or P.J. Moffat, for that matter. The man he was talking to was infamous Irish mobster and rat Jimmy “Two Guns” O’Malley, a clear reference to Whitey Bulger and a lynchpin in this Castle/Black Mass crossover. (We all wish.) Cicero called his tip into Boston in the hopes of reaping a reward.
Johnson likely had several more false names to uncover, but Beckett and her team realize quickly that their victim is a man who was running a number of cons. But if the Irish mob believed Johnson to be O’Malley, then they still could have taken him out. Ryan and Esposito track their hitman Billy O’Rourke to his hotel room and find him lending an ear to Castle’s marriage troubles over a boozy lunch. After he tossed him in his truck but before shooting him in the face, O’Rourke recognized that his target didn’t look anything like O’Malley. And maybe he is as “lovely” a guy as Castle claims he is, because when he finds out that Johnson wrote his favorite book, he pays for his potential victim’s dry cleaning and asks for an autograph. At the very least, he’s a professional. Ryan and Esposito have the sad duty of informing both of them that the signature is a fake, so O’Rourke’s trip was a total bust, minus his excellent seats for The Lion King.
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Espo points out a bizarre discrepancy between the precinct’s diagnosis of Johnson’s behavior and his actual behavior. Con men do what they do to scam people out of money. So far, they haven’t found any cash trails stemming from any of the victim’s identities. The priest is penniless; his wife isn’t from a wealthy family; and the real and very alive P.J. Moffat is receiving his royalty checks just fine. What even is the point?
O’Rourke observed Johnson having a verbal altercation with a “tall guy” outside of his apartment; unlike Johnson, Eric Logan is a scam artist with a record. Ryan and Esposito track Logan to a non-descript building at night and nearly put a few bullets through Castle when some suspicious noises spook them. Castle is having way too much fun with his spy gear catalogues; he’d placed a tracking device on Esposito earlier in the episode. And it’s a testament to their weird, loyal friendship that the only fallout is some mild grumpiness on the detective’s part. All three investigators go into the building together and find Logan leading what looks like a 12-step meeting. He was Johnson’s sponsor at Pathological Liars Anonymous, and what O’Rourke saw was Logan entreating Johnson to come to a meeting since he’d lately “fallen off the wagon.” Logan proves his unyielding commitment to the truth by calling Castle a “Patterson wannabe,” so even though the writer is ready to throw down, he and his cop buddies can at least trust Logan’s claim that Johnson was collecting evidence of something major in the hopes of exposing a public lie.
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In fact, Johnson had been using his expertise in fakery to expose city corruption. He only posed as Jimmy “Two Guns” — an alias that could have gotten him killed — to get a meeting with Cicero to get the dirt on union kickbacks. Right before his death, he’d been reassigned from his previous janitorial position due to an undefined “incident.” That incident happened to have occurred during his City Hall assignment, when he was caught breaking into the accounting office. Reed, the deputy chief, says Johnson claimed to be acting “on a mission from god,” and this leads Castle and Alexis back to St. Mark’s kindly blind priest. And either he’s got some skills in common with Matt Murdock or he can see just fine, because Father drops his cane and takes off running when he’s confronted. The man isn’t malicious, though, just crooked. He’s mismanaged the parish’s funds and takes advantage of the accounting experience Johnson has from the career he ruined in order to change the church’s payment status in the city system. While he’s in the database, Johnson discovers a $10 million slush fund that’s being embezzled from the budgets of public programs and intends to collect enough proof to bring the corrupt individuals behind it to justice. So after a lifetime of lying, it is the truth the gets him killed.
Beckett and her detectives need some City Hall insight to narrow down the list of people who would have had the access necessary to move the money around. Luckily, they’re all very close with someone who happens to be very close with the mayor. (“He’s going to be so smug about this.”) All the possible candidates that Castle identifies except for Reed have solid alibis, and he takes his consulting help one step further by suggesting they “Midnight Run” the guy. Father drops the hint that Johnson left proof of the corruption on the altar of the church so that they can set up a trap inspired by a 1998 Robert De Niro/Charles Grodin buddy comedy. (He would.) Ryan, Esposito, Castle, and Alexis wait in the pews for Reed to show up; Castle instructs Alexis to hit the lights just as Reed makes his getaway, which annoys Ryan and Espo but sets up a much more dramatic end game. When Reed puts the incriminating flash drive into his laptop, a video of Castle pops up on the screen to alert him to the very advanced (and very fake) virus that’s racing through his “keystroke history” to find where he buried the money. When they bring him in, Reed is pummeling his desk with the computer in fear.
But no, Reed didn’t kill Johnson. He’s got an ironclad alibi and doesn’t seem to be the type anyway. His beef with Johnson was worth $10 million, but Wendy’s was worth her full trust and the fulfillment of a young dream. She was so devastated and enraged when she found out that her husband was lying to her about being the P.J. Moffat that she decided he had to be punished. “There is no greater betrayal than a lie in a marriage,” Castle says. Hm.
The truth-and-lies theme of the episode extends out to the B and C stories and touches two central relationships. Ryan tells Esposito early in the episode that money is tight with a second kid on the way; Espo suggests that they both sign up for the Sergeant’s exam to level up to a higher salary. After Ryan looks into it, he tells his partner that the next proctoring is full, but really he just claimed the last seat for himself. There cannot and must not be a break-up of these two when Caskett is already estranged, so this betrayal is worrying. But bickering aside, Ryan and Esposito always have each other’s backs. Espo gets it in a way; Ryan has a family to support. But Ryan still makes up for his white lie by giving up the seat for his friend. In the end, Beckett throws her captain’s weight around to get them both slots. Team Best Friends is about to move up in the world, and they’re going to do it together.
Meanwhile, Beckett is still holding back her secret side project from Castle. Expect something to come to light around November sweeps, and not before. If all this talk about marital trust couldn’t shake her loose, she’s far too afraid of what the truth will do to Castle and his family to give it up just yet.
Odds & Ends
- Martha must get weekly massages to thank her body for carrying all that bling around.
- Ryan and Espo share everything, even altar boy roots.
- “Ricky, they’re cops, shut up.” “But they’re my cops.”
- Beckett had the lab compare the narcotics signature of the Vulcan Simmons’ product and another batch. “Now we can get to work,” she tells Vikram over the phone.
- “If by ‘ingratiate myself,’ you mean dazzle her with my Sherlockian genuis, then yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
- Since the very beginning, Castle has used the simple art of coffee to show Beckett how he feels about her. In this episode, she can’t make a satisfactory latte herself, even with the fancy espresso machine he gifted the precinct long ago. There’s a secret ingredient, Castle tells her, and she’s perfectly content with him keeping it to himself so he can keep on being that supplier. That’s his thing. That’s their thing.