Once Castle established its four-sided series chemistry, the show became one never-ending double date, dozens of murders included. Now fans are dealing with the concurrent breakdown of both of the show’s tentpole duos. The Caskett estrangement smacks of a brazen attempt to inject some new conflict and sexiness into a dynamic that fed on will-they-won’t-they dramedy for years. (Would a season 8 Castle love scene have been quite so heated if Rick and Kate had been waking up together every morning, business as usual?) But the build of tension between Ryan and Esposito — our Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, or maybe our Bert and Ernie — is too much to handle at the same time.
The murder in “The Last Seduction” is one of the more violent Castle slayings. A young man returns home to a small, dark apartment, grabs a beer from the fridge and notices a knife missing from his cutlery block. The biggest one, natch. Lanie counts nine entry wounds in young Scott McCoy, out of work actor and frequent bar brawler. Castle, who’s squirmed his way into another case in a favor-swap with Ryan and Esposito, notes that the ferocity of the killing suggests a crime of passion.
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And a crime of passion is what Ryan and Esposito’s NYPD-assigned therapist thinks they may be heading for. The guys aren’t making any headway in their sessions. Previously on Castle: Esposito passed the sergeant’s exam and Ryan didn’t. Ryan shot Esposito in the butt in an unfortunate case of friendly fire and maintains that it was an accident, not internalized jealously like Esposito suspects. (“Tell that to the hole in my ass…the one that he put there.”) The therapist suggests that dissolving the partnership might be the best option at this point, but the boys aren’t ready to give up. Perhaps a buffer would relieve the tension. Luckily Esposito and Ryan know just the attention hog to distract them from their issues.
Castle is willing to be the detectives’ mediator because they promise to distract Beckett while he sets up a surprise in her office. Tomorrow is their first anniversary, and he’s hellbent on celebrating it, whether they’re physically together or not. Ryan asks Kate to come along with him to interview Anton Ford, an ex-con whose prints were all over the victim’s apartment and who had been seen getting beat up by Scott a couple of times at the same bar. He’s a decent suspect, except he’s got a few inches and a lot of pounds on the guy and he nearly bursts into sobs when he sees the crime scene photos. Anton was Scott’s friend and a pick-up partner. In their version of Extreme Wingmanning, Anton would take a dive in a staged fight so that Scott could take home the rich, married woman of his dreams. Or at least his dreams for the night. Anton remembers a few of Scott’s marks and agrees to describe them for a sketch artist.
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Meanwhile, Castle is staging “Operation Boo-yah,” a Chuck E. Cheese-ing of Beckett’s office. He clearly didn’t learn from the cautionary tale of one Tobias Funke; he coats the room in confetti and his signature romantic cheesiness. Still, Beckett misses the big goofball and is moved enough that she agrees to accompany him to an anniversary dinner. It’s a “time out of the time out,” they reason, terribly. I wonder if they’ll discuss where Beckett disappeared to last week, since no one else has mentioned a reason for her absence.
As a skilled investigator and a lover of all things conspiracy, why hasn’t Castle questioned the fact that Vikram has apparently been hired at the 12th? Maybe it’s been explained that he feels more comfortable staying in New York than returning to Washington and that Beckett did him a solid, but we haven’t seen that scene. He’s concerned that Beckett having a nice dinner with the man she married will derail their investigation (mind your business, Vikram), yet he waltzes into her office while Castle is there to deliver new evidence. Suspension of disbelief: activated.
Anyway, Vikram does have information relevant to this case. Scott McCoy was receiving regular transfers from shell corporations to an account with a different mailing address than the apartment where he was found dead. Ryan, Esposito, and Castle take a look around his staging area, a flat that’s un-lived in and obviously a swanky hook-up spot for his paid trysts. The buffer method is simpler in theory than in practice. Esposito and Ryan are bickering so much that their buffer needs a buffer from them. Castle suggests a tactic he and his second wife Gina found helpful. They wrote their grievances down and shared them later and found that some seemed less important after the heat of the moment passed. Ryan takes to this strategy immediately, annoying Esposito even further by furiously writing notes. Between insults, the investigators assess that the apartment is tricked out with a WiFi-enabled camera and printer with a photo still in the tray; clearly somebody was watching, and that was the person paying Scott his fee.
Anton’s descriptions match the various headshots and tabloid photos of socialite divorcée Annika Smythe and her wealthy, blond pals Claire Stephens and Nancy Underwood. Castle’s eyes light up at the news that they might be dealing with a “murderous First Wives Club” who’d learned that they’d all been played by Scott and banded together to kill him. (You know he was choreographing the musical number in his head.) He trolls Annika’s Instagram and finds out that they’re all having a spa day later, and this is exciting because spa days mean naked time…and the perfectly innocent opportunity for someone to see which woman has a dragonfly tattoo on her lower back that matches the one in the hidden camera still from the apartment.
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