If Castle had set sail on a Titanic parody episode circa season 4 or 5, the show would have gone all out on the references. The victim would have been involved in a star-crossed relationship with another passenger below her station. The motive would have been a priceless jewel reminiscent of Rose’s “Heart of the Ocean.” Ryan and Esposito would have gone undercover as first-class valets. And Castle and Beckett would have really recreated that iconic sweaty car scene instead of just talking about it.
But there’s no time for the full-scale James Cameron treatment in the show’s midseason finale. “Mr. and Mrs. Castle” is essentially two episodes slapped into one: the madcap blockbuster caricature and the heavy relationship drama. The cruise ship shenanigans are the writers’ way of softening the climax of the Caskett rupture for the audience, and the seams do show. But Castle has a playful reputation to uphold, even when its main characters are engaged in a mutual betrayal of trust straight out of The Affair. The only way to counterbalance the drama? Jazz hands.
Our body this week is a floater. Felled by an execution-style bullet to the forehead, Laura Madden was a dancer in the onboard musical revue on a Titanic-themed ocean liner called the RMS Bently. Perlmutter — sporting a fetching new beard — finds a piece of string attached to one of Laura’s molars and then an 8-ball of pure, uncut heroin on the other side of it. The detectives don’t know immediately what to make of it. Your standard drug smuggler would have 20 or 30 of those bags tickling her digestive system, not just one. Though the purity of the drug in Laura’s stomach means that even that small amount guarantees a $30k payday.
Beckett boards the Bently and is met by a fake smile and a brick wall. The staffer who serves as the boat’s first line of PR defense crows about the Bently’s “impeccable safety record” and insists that Laura’s death must have been an accident. (“Unless she tripped and fell on a bullet…”) To no one’s surprise, Beckett is also met by her indefatigable husband, who’s having a Leo DiCaprio moment on the deck above. She tries to be exasperated; he turns on the charm — business as usual. Until the boat starts moving. The owners of the RMS Bently are very interested in protecting the ocean liner’s reputation as a safe if spectacularly cheesy vacation spot, and thus are hijacking the crime scene. The captain informs Castle and Beckett that a smaller boat is being sent to tow them home, and that he’s instructed the crew not to cooperate with their investigation in the meantime. Undeterred, Castle and Beckett divide and conquer.
As Castle makes his way into the ship’s dinner theater, he overhears the dance captain talking about “some rich guy” who purchased an immersive VIP package that puts him on stage for the performance. He’s already “some rich guy,” right? How hard could it be to impersonate passenger Dave Shermer for a few minutes? He commits to the role before finding out that Mr. Shermer has significant dance experience, and that’s all the excuse the show needs to drop in a couple of minutes of Nathan Fillion physical comedy as Castle shimmies, shakes, and eventually pants through the big number. (“I was a professional square dancer. A lot less cardio.”) The charade does get him closer to Laura’s roommate Bethany, who tells him that Laura had been spending a lot of her free time below deck. Castle asks to look through her things. Bethany tells him the the crew had a habit of hiding their personal items in “stash spots” around the ship, since diaries and other treasures were less safe in their own rooms.
Meanwhile, Beckett is interviewing the “three Marthas” who’d been pointed out to her earlier on the Lido deck. The RMS Bently is a full-time home to a small core of retirees, so these shuffleboard-playing ladies were around even before Laura joined the staff. She’d seem “distracted” on their last sail, the women tell Beckett. They know nothing about Laura and drugs, but secret partier Elaine knows where she gets her pot supply. That leads Beckett to bartender Isaac Dern who, despite a record and an outstanding warrant, cops only to small-time dealing. His late-shift and drunken clientele are his alibi, though he does say that he saw Laura rushing up to the deck after her performance.
Castle and Beckett case the area together, though the jumpy crew already wiped it clean. They couldn’t wipe down the hull though, which is where Beckett spots some of Laura’s blood. A black light reveals more residue on the deck. Still distracted by their anniversary “time out” interlude, Caskett slip into a little Titanic role-play and accidentally stumble on Laura’s stash spot. They find a handheld video camera in one of the lifeboats and along with it, the motive for Laura’s murder. Laura’s mother had told Ryan and Esposito that Laura had left her job at an environmental non-profit to take this new job and help her family. It’s a shady cover story, since cruise line dancer isn’t known for being a lucrative gig. The videos prove that Laura had been single-handedly surveilling the Bently’s illegal trash-dumping practices when she stumbled on a massive heroin smuggling operation. Her footage shows an engineer named Accosta unloading kilos of white powder from a drum before he’s called away. With just a few minutes left before their escort arrives, Castle and Beckett head to the engine room to find him. He runs, Beckett gives chase, and he’s inevitably caught and arrested for Laura’s murder. And so ends the at-sea portion of this Castle episode.
NEXT: Hack me if you love me[pagebreak]
Castle doesn’t know yet that Beckett is actually investigating two cases at once. Remember that Vikram and Beckett have been trying to track down Vulcan Simmons’ successor by identifying the signature of his product. The heroin in Laura Madden’s stomach is a match, and the two are closer than ever to avenging their former colleagues from the attorney general’s office. Simultaneously, Castle is closer than ever to figuring out what his wife is really up to, and the consequences of that could be catastrophic. Last week, his post-coital bliss was interrupted by the mysterious text he saw on Beckett’s phone. This week, he puts Hayley on finding out where the message came from, an invasion of Kate’s privacy that Martha firmly warns him against. (“You may just have crossed a line you cannot uncross.”)
Neither Castle nor Beckett are behaving rationally in this mess, but I’d rather place the blame squarely on Vikram. Ensconced in their new headquarters-slash-former-nudie-bar, Vikram admits to Beckett that he didn’t have anything when he sent her the incriminating text. He just wanted her out of Castle’s bed. Beckett points out that it’s not really his call when and how she decides to spend time with her own husband, but his error in judgment fades into the background with the arrival of some real evidence.
Back at the 12th, Beckett announces to her staff that a public defender is on his way over to sit in on Accosta’s interrogation. Representation isn’t a point of interest unless it’s going to become a thing, so baby-faced Caleb Brown already carries some suspicion. He’s arrogant and shrewd in his conversation with Beckett. He tells her that Accosta is willing to plead guilty to second degree murder if she’ll recommend a reduced sentence. Deals run both ways, Beckett reminds him. She wants to know who Accosta is working for, since this international operation goes far beyond one grunt worker. Brown smiles. All Beckett has is a video, and no physical evidence linking the heroin in Laura’s stomach to the “bags of spoiled flour” that Accosta was moving. Brown wins this round and seems awfully pleased with himself.
Castle is called out of the precinct by Hayley, who’s been able to trace the infamous text. “Hey Rick: thanks for today,” Beckett says sincerely as he leaves, so he should at least feel a little guilt as he moves into the next phase of this spousal spycraft. The text was sent by Vikram through several proxy servers, Hayley explains. It’s a system that he and Beckett created to safeguard their communications. “What if Kate brought him in to secretly investigate those murders?” Castle asks, and really, that line of thinking hadn’t occurred to either of these practiced inquiring minds before?
While Vikram and Beckett track the signal from the burner phone belonging to Accosta’s unknown partner, Hayley and Castle knock down firewall after firewall to hack completely into their vigilante system. It’s a distressing scene. Castle calls Beckett so that Hayley can lock into her signal. He does so under the pretense of an invitation for sex, which is off-the-charts, ethically speaking. Vikram can geo-locate their cyber-attacker, so Beckett calls Castle’s bluff, claiming that she’s right downstairs and ready to go. It’s a good thing Martha left after Castle declined to take her advice to leave Beckett’s secrets alone. Even a mother would have a hard time forgiving this kind of trespass. Hayley is one firewall away from all-access. Vikram receives a 10-4 from Beckett to fry Castle’s system, since she knows he has a back-up. The damage has been done to more than just a computer server. “I hope I didn’t just nuke my marriage,” Beckett sighs.
The drugs that docked in New York with Bently are being moved by trash dumping vehicles. Vikram and Beckett corner the one driver who didn’t make it to the dump site on time and try to force some information out of him. “They pay me not to ask questions,” he stammers, and Beckett knows enough about drug trafficking to know that the guys who get their hands dirty are rarely in the know. She instructs him to call her when he receives his next assignment or she’ll arrest him and put a cartel target on his back.
NEXT: It’s time for the DTR talk[pagebreak]
When Vikram and Beckett reach the warehouse, the product is already gone. But Ryan and Esposito were able to identify Accosta’s partner, another Los Zetas cartel employee by the name of Leo Longarzo.
This isn’t the ideal time for a relationship-defining conversation, but Castle and Beckett’s entire history as a couple is tied to their work. Finally, they have the talk that’s been put off unnecessarily for the whole front half of this season. Beyond the reality of Lockset (is this the first time Beckett refers to Lockset as a person?), this stalemate exists because Beckett and Castle have fundamentally different concepts of how mandatory truth is in a marriage. Beckett wants blind trust; Castle wants brutal honesty. Both are valid points, but Castle sees the detachment behind Beckett’s vow to protect him. “I’d walk into a tornado for you, Kate,” he says, before wondering aloud why she couldn’t have told him the truth and then orchestrated a fake break-up for the cover that she required. “Deep down inside, you like being broken,” he says, parroting Bracken’s words from the season opener, “and you need this obsession.” He’s not angry, just resigned.
Beckett gets Longarzo’s whereabouts, then Castle sends her off to another battle. “You have a job to do, and there’s no one better.”
Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito hunt down Longarzo, who escapes from his apartment into a back alley. Cornered, he pulls a gun on them, and Ryan and Esposito open fire. He’s dead instantly, and Beckett’s only thread back to Lockset has been cut… until Vikram traces the ownership of the warehouse. The papers were written up by none other than Caleb Brown, who’d inexplicably up and left his cushy corporate law firm to slum it with the public defenders. He pled down Accosta to take the cops’ focus away from the drug running. The trail is hot again, and Beckett informs Vikram that they’ll quietly and carefully keep close tabs on Brown’s every move.
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Back at his apartment, Castle is having a heart-to-heart with his platonic Her fantasy, Lucy. Analytical as the AI is, she wants to know why Castle is considering forgiving Beckett even though he’s so adamant that lying is the most serious offense. “That’s because I’m in love,” he says. Breathe with me, everybody. Everything is going to be alright.
Beckett knocks on the door. And Castle’s sympathies were pointing him in the right direction, because she admits that she should have been honest with him from the very beginning. The Lockset investigation isn’t over, and she (and judging by the comments on these recaps, you guys) are over tip-toeing in the dark and handling it alone. “Please, don’t make me do this without you,” she says and that’s game over. Castle has never been able to deny Beckett anything. The fake break-up is on, right after a healthy session of “naked punishing.” See? Business as usual.
Odds & Ends
- Castle and Alexis have an nontraditional father/daughter relationship, but they should probably draw the line before toasting his sex life together.
- “Plus, I can work out my core.”
- “If you can’t tell your mother what you’re doing, you should not be doing it.”