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