Castle goes undercover in an ESL class to solve the murder of an immigrant from El Salvador

By Sage Young
March 01, 2016 at 06:45 AM EST
Mitch Haaseth/ABC
S8 E13
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That was a melting pot of a Castle episode, and I’m talking about more than its immigration corruption A-plot. “And Justice for All” threw everything at the wall and never slowed down for our comfort. The script hammered home a political message, revived a discarded character mystery, and saddled a bescarfed Castle with an unreliable French Canadian accent. The Feds, a hotbox full of reptiles, and a Tupperware of Korean noodles all played their part in this cheery chaos, which set the stage for next week’s West Coast field trip.

It seems that Castle’s mysterious two-month disappearance will finally be satisfactorily addressed — after season 7 wrapped up without the writer or the audience getting the answers that they needed. It’s been so long since the disappearance was more than mentioned in passing that the show had to contextualize it with some clunky exposition. Between Castle’s lost 60 days and Beckett’s rogue investigation into LokSat, this marriage (secret marriage) would make for a disjointed, if diverting, spy novel.

And maybe spy novels are the next big thing since Castle is having trouble musing without his muse. He whines to Beckett that being banished from her side while she’s at work (except, hm, he’s worked every case this season) is murdering his creative process. I have the same relationship Rick does with that unfeeling, blinking cursor, so I get it. On Beckett’s suggestion, he drops by Richard Castle Investigations to annoy Alexis and Hayley for a while. (“Your fearless leader has arrived.” “Yay! Go file these.”) He’s bored by their talk of corporate scandal but perks up when he sees a news report about the 12th’s latest homicide case. Death by snake? Imagine the punny title for that Nikki Heat novel.

The snakes he cared for didn’t kill poor Eddie Ramirez, but they certainly helped obscure his body. The nighttime caretaker was bludgeoned with a snake hook. (Note: This episode moves past the reptile element a little too swiftly for my liking.) Beckett multitasks at the morgue, distracting Perlmutter from his enthusiastic offer to set the newly “single” captain up with his identical twin brother and finding a threatening text message on the victim’s phone. An uninvited Castle claims that he could identify the sender by his distinctive syntax, but a resolute Beckett sends him home.

The extortion trail burns hotter when Esposito and Ryan find a briefcase stuffed with $10,000 in cash under Eddie’s bed, possibly the payoff the texter was demanding. The text itself came through on the wireless network of an English As: A Second Language School; Eddie was a student. (Hi Vikram. Do you work here? What is your job?) Their teacher warns Rysposito that Eddie’s classmates are wary of law enforcement, and it’s true. No one’s talking. Beckett reconsiders Castle’s offer and sends her linguistic expert in undercover. Ladies and gentleman, Jean Luc, French Canadian chef and friendly adult student.

Castle distracts the instructor and rifles through a stack of assignments. He finds one whose language structure parallels the text. Alistair Gascoyne​ is brought in for questioning. A quick search reveals that Alistair was known muscle for an English gangster, so between that and the threat, he’s looking pretty good for the murder. If only Rysposito could understand a word he’s saying. The boys call in British dialect expert Hayley, who informs them that Alistair is a Geordie and then proceeds to translate his English back to English. (Pop culture benchmark: The British version of Jersey Shore is called Geordie Shore. Take from that what you will.) The man did threaten Eddie, but he was boozed out of his mind at a pub when the murder occurred. The source of his anger? Eddie borrowed Alistair’s gypsy cab and returned it riddled with bullet holes. Alistair thought Eddie didn’t show up to class the night of his death to skip out on reimbursing him.

NEXT: All the way to the top

What did mild-mannered Eddie need a car for, and why did that errand end in gunfire? Like almost all of his classmates, Eddie held a much different job in the States than he had in his own country. Eddie had been a cop in El Salvador but lied on his immigration forms. He’d run in some corrupt circles, and Beckett posits that some of that bad business might have followed him to America. Eddie only hit up one location in Alistair’s cab: the Saldana Club, a sleazy operation led by two sleazy brothers. The detectives and their captain show up to the club to find it in complete disarray and the brothers in an impressive collection of slings. The bartender tells Beckett that Eddie handily trounced the brothers and demanded that aforementioned briefcase of cash. He was working on someone else’s behalf, though; he’d mentioned an ex-waitress mid-asskicking.

That former employee is Ida, the Senegalese painter Jean Luc met in his first day at ESL class. She’d been exploited by the brothers for the two years she’d worked for them. Because she didn’t have a Green Card, they demanded a thick slice of her paycheck and then fired her. Eddie didn’t like this one bit and promised he’d get what she was owed. He called her the morning of his death to announce his success and to fret about another, bigger problem he was dealing with. Castle dubs Eddie the “ESL Equalizer,” a reformed criminal who was dedicating his life to righting the wrongs committed against his fellow newcomers to this country.

Castle heads back to source, impressing at the class’s international foods potluck with a tray of Le Bernardin pastries masquerading as Jean Luc originals. Pakistani student Achmed is very interested in Ida’s police station adventure; Castle marks him as a likely beneficiary of Edde’s services. Achmed had told Eddie about a neighbor of his who’d went missing. Anita Rodriguez was undocumented and at someone’s financial mercy because of it. Eddie looked into it on Achmed’s request and told him that what he found amounted to a “conspiracy.” He knows no more.

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A print at the missing woman’s apartment leads to Marco Sutter, a career criminal for hire. He gives Rysposito a time of it, but they eventually get him into custody. Sutter, a pro, lawyers up immediately. All the detectives have to go on are his effects, including a key to a bus station locker. Ryan and Esposito head to the station to check out its contents, but the second they turn the lock, they’re put on the ground by a garage full of Feds. The 12th’s homicide investigation is stepping on the toes of an FBI stakeout, and an Agent Napier is pretty smug about it. Beckett is unimpressed by his bravado and well aware that she and her reports aren’t powerless here. She stands her ground and offers to cooperate if the FBI will do the same. Bluff called, Napier backs off.

Napier won’t reveal the real target of their investigation, but Beckett works that out soon enough. Vikram finds Anita Rodriquez in a deportation holding center in Texas. The order that put her there was signed off by a Judge Jason Caldwell. Courthouse security footage shows Edde paying the judge an unfriendly visit and an audience of plainclothes FBI agents looking on. No wonder the Feds weren’t interested in Sutter; the conspiracy, as Eddie had discovered, went far deeper than a simple extortion. Caldwell received kickbacks from the Texas facility for sending them undocumented individuals. Eddie’s murder occurred right as the FBI was building its case.

NEXT: America, is it worth the effort?

The NYPD’s hands are tied, but Castle’s aren’t. Unfortunately, we’ll just have to imagine the scene that comes before Jean Luc and his classmates run perfectly choreographed interference on Napier and his colleagues. I’d love to have seen the diagrams Castle almost certainly had drawn up. A series of distractions ensures that Castle will get to Caldwell first. And then things escalate quickly.

Hayley steps into the deserted hallway where Caldwell had been lured, pointing a gun at him and claiming to be Eddie’s fiancée. She shoots Castle when he plays dumb, and Caldwell predictably freaks out. “I promise I didn’t kill him,” the judge says. “I didn’t have to.” Their remarkably insane plan falls down when Caldwell sees the source of the fake blood inside Castle’s shirt. He brushes past them muttering, “The enemy of the enemy is my friend.”

Napier is furious. Caldwell caught wise to the law’s suspicions and made himself untouchable. Napier threatens to have the whole ESL class deported for their role in the scheme, and Beckett suggests that his job alone doesn’t make him a friend to those people. He’s as dismissive of them and their rights as Caldwell is.

Caldwell’s hint sends the cops back to Eddie’s past. A Salvadoran cartel boss by the name of Alonso Sanchez had his visa expedited by Caldwell, presumably for international murdering purposes. The man is genuinely surprised to hear of Eddie’s death. His visit, which he embarked on “with revenge in [his] heart” turned a corner when Eddie told him the truth about his relationship with Alonso’s brother. The crooked cop was trying to protect the drug kingpin when he was killed, but Eddie came to America to turn away from that old life and people like the Sanchezes.

Caldwell and Sanchez are both cleared of the murder (if not their myriad of other offenses), but what about the link between them? Someone had to have given Caldwell the skinny on Eddie’s past associates, and Castle thinks he knows exactly who that is. (“You know what this means, Beckett? After all these years I finally get to say it: J’accuse!”) The ESL teacher used his position to betray the people who walked into his classroom looking to enhance their ability to communicate and to make in-roads for themselves in a new culture. Unlike Caldwell and his errand boys, that teacher stood in front of those people every day, encouraging their dreams to their faces while selling them out behind their backs. “In your position I would have done the same thing,” Castle says. “No, I wouldn’t have; I have a soul.”

The Castle family hosts an Americana Thanksgiving for the class where Renaissance woman Alexis is announced as their new teacher. (Ehhh, why not?) It’s discomfiting to end this episode on a note of an upper-middle class white woman offering her approval to a multicultural dinner party, but Martha’s intentions are good and her pants are nicely patterned. Castle offers a simplistic take on a complex issue; but when the opposition are pros at turning fear and xenophobia into easily regurgitated soundbites, is that a terrible thing? In the words of Clueless teacher, Mr. Hall, “Tolerance is always a good lesson.”

Discomfiting too are Castle’s sudden mental vacations to his unexplained disappearance. His memories are first jogged by a taste of his classmate’s proffered potluck dish. He’s instantly transported to a Korean restaurant. At first, he thinks the temple that he sees lies outside the window. But a later flashback shows him that it’s a picture hanging on a wall. The Los Angeles neighborhood of Koreatown is a lot closer than Korea itself, fortunately, and Castle hopes more answers can be found there. All I ask is that there be no more secrets between Beckett and Castle; if they’re going to get to the bottom of this, wouldn’t everyone prefer they do it together?

Odds & Ends

  • How bad could a guy be who wishes “sweet dreams” to a tank full of snakes?
  • Hayley owns her increased screentime, especially when she shames Castle for complaining to her and Alexis for doing their (and really, his) jobs.
  • Perlmutter on divorce: “There’s a scalpel and a rib spreader if you need them.”
  • Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic team up as a crime novelist and a homicide detective — but are they more than partners?
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