Leveling things out after Castle’s Beckett-less field trip to Los Angeles, “Fidelis Ad Mortem” put Rick on light duty for the week. The episode sent Beckett back to the NYPD Academy that molded a skilled hothead with a personal mission into one of the department’s finest officers. We’ve spent eight years with these characters. But with the muddle that the Loksat mystery made of the early part of this season, it was nice to get a reminder of exactly who Capt. Kate Beckett is.
She’s the boss, first of all, and not usually called to a crime scene unless some noteworthy detail warrants her presence. In the case of Daniel Bardot, it’s the pains the killer went to to extract the bullet that killed him. Beckett reasons that the shooter’s caution means that the gun must already be in the ballistics database. The identity of the corpse begs a captain’s involvement, too; Bardot was an NYPD recruit, enduring the same training exercises and bad cafeteria food that Beckett and her colleagues once did.
Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito take a walk down memory lane, each of them responding differently to reminders of hallway push-up contests, drill sergeant-esque instructors, and the enviable size of Bardot’s dorm. (Esposito wouldn’t know; he lived off-site to better facilitate “menages” with “cop groupies.” Charming.) To no one’s surprise, Beckett was the star of the place. Deputy Commissioner Malone calls her a “legend” and reintroduces her to her investigation liaison and former mentor, Sgt. Ortiz. Beckett smiles at the man like he’s a soft, 98-year-old grandmother and not the wiry, tough-love machine he turns out to be. Beckett likes people who challenge her. Apparently she always has.
Ortiz tells his former pupil that Bardot had been faltering during exercises lately and blamed a personal issue. The instructor didn’t ask what the issue was or how he could help; that’s not the social ecology of a place like that. He was aware that Bardot had overcome some circumstances to get where he had been. The recruit’s parents died when he was young, and he grew up in Hunts Point, the home base of the Irish Mafia. Mix well and bake for an hour at 350 degrees — you wouldn’t expect to get a New York City cop out of that.
The pool of suspects is narrowed significantly when Lanie discovers the fragment of a bullet still in the deceased. The gun was academy-issued and part of Bardot’s company’s assigned artillery. Only members of Company 38 could have signed that weapon out, leaving Beckett with 14 savvy, practiced recruits to break. She has to break them quietly; if word of the investigation got out, the careers of 13 promising public servants would be ruined to catch one killer.
Special Guest Instructor Beckett strikes a combination of fear and starry-eyed respect into Company 38. She basically infiltrates their training, using standard exercises and demos to spot inconsistencies. Who’s slower on the trigger than usual? Who’s too stoic when she prods the recruits about their classmate’s death? (“I have been at the edge of that map, and monsters lie there.”) These students have advantages that no civilian killer does: intimate knowledge of how these cases are worked. Fortunately, Beckett is nothing if not an adaptable investigator.
The captain’s classroom sting shakes a few relevant pieces of information loose. Rysposito do some legwork on the 38’s whereabouts and pin one alibi as the exact opposite. Four recruits were watching a boxing match at the gym across the street the night that Bardot died, and rumors are flying that one of the trainers was selling steroids to one of the fuzz. In the guise of an interrogation methods demo, Beckett straight-up interrogates the recruits who were at the fight. A guy named Chambers freaks when the drugs come up and makes a run for it. He was selling, yes, and the threatening note in Bardot’s locker was from him. But they settled the matter with a bribe: $5,000 that Bardot desperately needed. Chambers figures that Bardot’s secret academy girlfriend might know what that payoff was for. That’s Rachel Decker, an overly competitive, highly ambitious, little-liked superstar who reminds the captain of herself.
If you picked The Departed of the possible Irish gangster movies Castle might be referencing here, come and collect your complimentary Scottish wild salmon. Physical evidence (fish scales, to be exact) from Bardot’s shoes puts the victim at an office around the corner from the place his body was found in the time shortly before his death. He wasn’t out for a midnight jog, as he told Decker. He was meeting with “Lucky Jack” Flanagan, a known crime boss who has nonetheless been eluding prosecution for years. Vikram emerges from his cryo-chamber (I’m guessing) to scan the recruit’s laptop and finds a folder containing every last official file the NYPD is keeping on the Irish gangster. The story changes: Bardot isn’t a Hunts Point boy gone good; he’s a Hunts Point boy who had been groomed since his youth to be a mole.
NEXT: Student of the month
The captain strolls into Flanagan’s lingerie wholesale front (“T&A” — well played, production design), and why doesn’t Kate Beckett threaten mobsters every episode? Flanagan taunts her with his years of freedom and an offer of a great deal on crotchless panties. Beckett barely blinks, leaning in to say, “It’s the cocky ones who are the easiest.”
Flanagan’s stink is on another recruit in the company, complicating matters further. It’s recruit Decker who went to college on Flanagan’s dime. She’s the mobster’s illegitimate daughter; when she enrolled in the academy, he attempted to blackmail her into feeding him information. To save her reputation from exposure of her parentage, Bardot took her place in Flanagan’s operation. Beckett supposes that Flanagan must have put Bardot down as soon as he got what he needed from him. She sends Decker into his office wearing a wire, and even the greenest rookie would know that’s a terrible idea. Beckett’s projecting herself onto Decker. She sees their similarities so clearly that she forgets that Decker is nowhere near as experienced. She also glosses over the fact that Decker is mourning someone close to her. “Not everyone is as strong as you,” Esposito cautions. Beckett doubles down: “She can handle it.”
She can’t, though. Decker pulls a gun on Flanagan and tearfully demands a confession. Beckett and Rysposito defuse the situation, but Lucky Jack isn’t budging. He took the files and considered the transaction over. Bardot walked out of that office alive; Flanagan remembers a car following him down the street. Decker looks to Beckett for approval; she believes Flanagan is, in this case, being truthful.
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The car Flanagan heard that night was as police-issued as the weapon that killed Bardot. For a few horrible minutes, Beckett suspects the killer is Ortiz, taking revenge on a dirty would-be cop. But the deputy commissioner signed Ortiz’s vehicle out to stalk Bardot after the recruit found more than the Flanagan files on his office laptop. Malone couldn’t take the chance that his corruption would be brought to light, even though he had no proof that Bardot had even noticed or cared about the incriminating data.
Decker is broken by her failure to keep her cool. She wanted so badly to be an officer of the law that the protection of that dream indirectly got her boyfriend killed. Beckett has been in the game for long enough to know that even the officers with the purest of intentions will make the wrong call sometimes; their emotions will get the better of them; and they’ll have to assess, forgive themselves, and move on. It’s proof of Decker’s idealization of the job that she assumes one mistake spoils her for it. Beckett convinces her to keep on doing what she’s doing, with one important change. “You can’t do this if you go it alone,” she says, and Decker understands.
Beckett returns to her partner at the end of the episode, ready to talk about the bombshell that she couldn’t even address before. He was tempted to lock away what he learned in Los Angeles in the ol’ mind palace, but no good has come of Castle and Beckett keeping things from one another. The revelation that Castle knew about Bracken and Loksat before his memory wipe and executions of Beckett’s former colleagues is difficult for her to hear. But the separate mysteries that have hung over their lives for the past year and a half have merged into one giant super-plot, and it’s way past time for Castle and Beckett to quit waging their wars alone. (“This is our fight now.”) What’s past is past, but they have a new lead on Loksat, some professional hacker friends, and finally a congruous story line. Let’s put the Caskett back in Castle. It’s long overdue.
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