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March 23, 2010 at 04:33 PM EDT

Image Credit: Richard Cartwright/ABCCastle has a lot to live up to after the way ABC has been promoting the two-part “event” that finds Beckett, Castle, and Federal Agent Jordan Shaw (guest star Dana Delany) chasing a serial killer who’s obsessed with Nikki Heat. Last night, Part 1 did.

Just as Castle got word that Heat Wave had been optioned for a film — James McAvoy would make a great Kevin Ryan — Beckett got a phone call from a man reporting a murder. One that he’d committed. They traced the call to Grand Central Station, where they found a dead man in a phone booth. Five shots to the chest. The bullets had letters pressed into them. Castle thought they spelled “Kinki,” but Beckett reordered them to “Nikki.” Another call: The man wanted Nikki to know the next part of his message was waiting at the Central Park Carousel. Another four slugs spelling “Will.” Enter the Feds led by Delany, looking younger than she gets to on Desperate Housewives. Castle was starstruck — she’s good at her job and has cool toys that he naturally wants to touch. Watching Beckett get jealous over losing Castle’s professional interest brought humor to the episode, as did everyone finding out that Nikki and the writer tailing her in Heat Wave have sex in Chapter 11. (Note to self: Next time I’m in the book store, find Heat Wave and skim Chapter 11.)

They thought they caught the killer when they identified pinkie prints, but it turns out the killer had bought a guy’s pinkie finger for $5,000. Is that really all a pinkie is worth?! The killer had bandaged the man’s finger, and included a series of numbers that corresponded to page numbers and words in Heat Wave: “I will kill someone else before midnight tonight unless you stop me.” Angry that Beckett hadn’t figured out how to capture him in time, the killer called again and asked, “How does it feel to know that you have failed?” Again, they traced the call and ended up at a parking garage. This time: No body. He took it with him. Beckett went home and sent away her security detail. I don’t care if you sleep with a gun, that’s just stupid. What kind of cop doesn’t want added protection? It’s called back up. You call for it all the time. Luckily, it was only Castle outside her door. He brought wine and intended to spend the night since he felt responsible for getting her into this. In the morning, he got up to make them pancakes, which, combined with the two wine glasses and bed head, was quite damning when they had to call in the troops after Castle opened her front door to get the paper and instead found the body of the third victim. While the guys pestered Castle for details (I thought he was going to bang their heads together when he pulled them close), Jordan read the situation for Beckett as more than an “I know where you live” threat: “He’s saying he’s disappointed in you. In his mind, he gave you fair warning that he was gonna kill again. If you had been smarter, you would have been able to stop him. He’s saying ‘This one is on you,'” Shaw said, as the self-doubt washed across Beckett’s face. “I’m profiling him, detective. Not agreeing with him. The guy’s a freakin’ nut bar. Don’t let him get to you!” Perhaps my favorite Delany moment.

Eventually, they realized the connection between the victims: One was a taxidermist who refused to give a guy his stuffed dog when he couldn’t pay for it, one was the dog walker who lost control of the pet that killed the killer’s dog, another was the lawyer who refused to take the killer’s case. The killer must have been reading Heat Wave when he snapped. They identified the killer, and found his apartment. I thought we found out that Jordan was a mother at that moment because the killer, who knew the police were on their way, had planted a bomb there. But maybe I’ve just seen Speed too many times. Instead, he shot himself. Or, so we thought. The police found the body and the explosives he’d been making. But later that night, after a chat with Alexis, who was sad that Martha is moving in with her boyfriend, Castle realized the man they found had the gun in his right hand. He’d been murdered by the real killer, who they’d already identified as left-handed. The real killer wanted them to think it was over, so they’d drop their guard and he could make a big scene. Castle couldn’t reach Beckett on her cell phone because she was in the shower. He kept calling as he headed to her apartment (and Martha called the police). She finally picked up and heard Castle say the killer was still alive. Then we heard the killer’s voice on a detonator. “Goodbye, Nikki” and BOOM! Her apartment was in flames.

Now, I need to issue a BIG SPOILER ALERT here. Stop reading if you don’t want to know whether Beckett survives…

I immediately thought there’s no way this show is killing off its female lead. But a piece of me — the one that had watched Kate die in NCIS‘ Season 2 finale — needed to be sure. Photos for next week’s episode on the ABC press site confirm Beckett lives. (If they were really concerned about us spoiling that, they shouldn’t have uploaded them.) So, now the question becomes how did Beckett survive? Was she staying at a friend’s? And how will the show top Part 1? Any theories?

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