Castle and Beckett’s public reunion is fresh enough that they’re still collecting congratulations, and Castle is already back at it again with another love story. But unlike Caskett’s, this one doesn’t end in French toast kebabs, red wine, and dueling A.I. personalities. Our Javier Esposito is one half of a bona fide star-crossed lover scenario; we’ll have to be satisfied that he and his Juliet made it through their reunion without killing each other.
In “Heartbreaker,” a painful shard of Esposito’s past comes back to haunt him after an armored truck driver is shot and killed in the middle of a robbery. The Castle and Beckett fake breakup is back in the off position, so Castle is on hand to identify a strange goopy material at the crime scene. The substance dripping from the vents is a combination of gelatin and ladies’ perfume (“One Direction body spray, nailed it!”), and Esposito regretfully announces that he’s seen this method in action before. Nine years ago, he brought down one member of a crew who ran a quick-and-dirty heist on an auction house. Sonia Ruiz and her accomplices used the same flowery formula to disable the security systems in that job. Still, Ruiz went down for the crime. Esposito ought to know, since he was the arresting officer — the arresting officer who just happened to be engaged to his perp.
Espo’s work family immediately knows that he’s overstating his comfort level over Sonia reentering his life. (Kate’s silent mortification is A+.) Beckett goes into the interview herself to see if Sonia’s resolve has softened and if Beckett can’t get the names of her crew mates out of her. But that’s information that the convict didn’t give up because she simply didn’t have it. Sonia tells Beckett that she was never given the name of her partner for this exact reason. She was Mako in the exchange; her partner was Hammerhead; and the whole job was the brainchild of a “shotcaller” going by Great White. Finally, a crime boss committed to living every week like it’s Shark Week.
Great White, a.k.a. Jimmy Sanchez, is dead, but Sonia’s partner did let it spill once that Sanchez used to hang out in a certain a bar in Spanish Harlem. Sonia warns Beckett that the clientele there won’t talk to a cop, and Beckett knows she’s right. Beckett gets Sonia, who has three months left on her sentence, a furlough to go into the dive and get a lead on Hammerhead’s whereabouts. Esposito is far from okay with this plan. If even Ryan doesn’t know about this incredibly significant relationship and how it fell magnificently apart, then Esposito definitely hasn’t dealt with it. He’s over Sonia; over the web of lies she created to obscure her illegal activities; and definitely over the fact that he had to slap those cuffs on the woman he was planning to marry and turn her over to the state. Yes, Esposito is well and truly over all of it — until he sees Sonia in a head-turning dress. (“Might want to tell your mouth.”)
Beckett would prefer Espo stay far away from any mission having to do with Sonia; she knows how feelings complicate things. But Sonia refuses to walk into the bar with “St. Paddy” in tow. Ryan is swapped out for Espo, and suddenly the former flames are on a monitored date. Castle and Ryan listen in via Sonia’s ankle bracelet mic and gossip about the ex-lovers’ chemistry. (“It crackles.”) They hear Esposito “five-finger filet” the cagey bartender into giving up some details on Hammerhead and keep surveilling them as they head up the street to pay Hammerhead Joey a visit at his grandma’s house. Joey pulls a gun on Sonia and Espo, and Sonia takes off. She cries self-defense to the boys later, and they reluctantly believe she wouldn’t be so stupid as to risk an increased sentence with just months left to serve.
In interrogation, Joey half-admits to his shark code name but also crows that his firearm is registered and that he did nothing but legally defend the honor of his beloved grandmother. His smile falters when he’s shown the photograph of the victim, but he alibis out thanks to his now-upstanding existence as the proprietor of the fast food phenomenon Chicken Chicken Chicken. Oh, and the Jello mixture? That was a bit of a trade secret, not the intellectual property of one man.
NEXT: Couples therapy
The plot thickens like a nice original recipe batter when Ryan figures out that the truck robbers were employing an inside man. That man was our victim, Michael Kirby. His wife breaks down under questioning, confessing that her husband’s financial problems led him to accept the proposition of a mystery benefactor. That same benefactor offered to bail Joey and his chicken joint out of bankruptcy, to the tune of half a million dollars. The truck heist only netted a hundred thousand. That job was the means to another end, and no one was supposed to die.
Meanwhile, everything that Beckett was trying to avoid by keeping Esposito clear of Sonia is happening. On the way to the bar, the former couple trade insults softened with memories. Esposito’s weakness is that he — with his precise moral code — never understood why Sonia couldn’t or didn’t want to live inside the lines. The question under all of it is this: Wasn’t it enough? Weren’t they enough? Sonia is struggling with the same problem. Espo didn’t just bring her in; he was the first officer to figure out that she was involved. They both had choices and they both went with scenarios that meant their future together would be dead, thoroughly embalmed, and then buried.
Espo is a hard-ass cop, but he’s also a family man with a mother who’s tired of him not bringing home a date to weekly dinner. He figures he at least owes Sonia one more taste of his mom’s famous mofongo, so they make an unauthorized pit stop on the way back to the prison. Primed for humiliation, Sonia hears from Esposito that he accepted the blame for their failed relationship in front of his relatives. They have no idea where she’s been, but they accept her back with open arms. His trust is betrayed when Sonia’s plea for a hot shower turns out to actually be code for “I’m going to climb out the window now.” Esposito’s real and unwavering soul mate shows up immediately to bail his partner out of this mess, ideally before Beckett becomes the wiser. (“I can’t ask you to do that for me.” “You didn’t have to, I’m volunteering.”)
The truck robbery and its familiar M.O. was bait set out for the police. Besides the unplanned murder, the plan worked like a charm. Sonia’s furlough got her exactly where she needed to be: by the sickbed of her ailing father, the real Great White. Alberto had stashed away Sonia’s cut of the gold coins she and Joey lifted from the auction house. Determined to right a wrong that his weakness for this woman created, Esposito dashes out of the precinct as soon as he makes the Alberto/Sonia connection. By the time Ryan and Castle find the house, Sonia, Espo, and Sonia’s new accomplice/boyfriend Ronaldo (our friend, the cagey bartender) are gone.
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Sonia only had three months left to serve, but her father didn’t have that kind of time. In order to get her share of the money, Sonia had to physically get to her dad and then to that stash. Ronaldo and Sonia bring Espo along with them to the warehouse where the treasure is hidden, Ronaldo talking big and making like he’s going to put the cop down before they make their escape. He pulls a gun on Esposito after Sonia gets the gold in hand but finds hers in his own face. “He threw you away,” Ronaldo argues. But Sonia still loves Espo, and that’s never what any of this was about anyway. Espo very nearly gave up his entire purpose in life to protect Sonia from consequences. And maybe she considered going straight for him. But their differences persist. At least they got to save each other one last time.
Beckett tells Esposito that he did the right thing, and I’m not sure that’s true. But Beckett also justly admits that she could never preach cold and emotionless police work, being who she is and all. If by “the right thing,” she meant caring about where Sonia ended up and how she’d be when she got there, then sure. That compassion is what makes Esposito a great cop and a good friend. And if he can trace most of his hero moments in the last 10 years of his career to one fateful day when he had to make a terrible decision and do a selfless thing, then maybe that’s what destiny is.
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