Castle: “An Embarrassment Of Bitches”
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Castle: “An Embarrassment Of Bitches”

C+

Castle

“An Embarrassment Of Bitches”

Season 4, Episode 13

 Tonight, Castle succumbed to a pretty serious case of the cutes. The show tends to be a little cute even at the best of times--and tends to be at its worst (for my taste, anyway) when it sets its jaw grimly and resolves to be at least as serious as a late (post-pastel) period episode of Miami Vice. But what with the New York setting and the dead bodies and all, the cuteness usually gets cut with something a little meaner and edgy than a Hell Kitty backpack. The closest thing to a trace of meanness here was the title, which made me smirk at first glance, but which seemed to lose something when it turned out that the episode was largely about dogs. The opening setting was a dog show, and the murder victim was a judge whose choice of "best in show" had made him a candidate for assassination in the eyes of many aggrieved dog owners. (We got just enough of a look at the dog he'd pinned the blue ribbon on to see that the killing might actually have been justified. I think I've seen that animal before, in grainy footage, on an episode of Finding Bigfoot.) The scene of Castle at home, trading quips with daughter and mother while waiting for the phone to ring, was pretty cute, but well within acceptable, previously established boundaries of Castle cuteness. The scene at the murder scene was cute, in a way that may have tested the limits set by previous episodes, but it didn't charge the goal posts and knock down any old ladies. But when Castle was walking down the street and began to strike celebrity-model poses, and paparazzi started snapping pictures of him, and then a disappointed voice called out, "Hey, that's not Jason Bateman!" one had a clear sense of watching a show that had temporarily gone off its meds.

The paparazzi were there because one of the fancy, hoity-toity, dog-loving celebrities involved in the case was a young brunette lady with an expression of bright-eyed inanity and a chihuahua that seemed to be growing out of her midriff. This woman, whose body language Castle had seen fit to mock, was Kay Cappuccio, a much-gossipped-about tabloid fixture and star of the top-rated TV series Keeping Up With The Cappuccios. I think there might be a chance that something about the character was supposed to be reminiscent of some actual celebrity, perhaps one of the Mandrell sisters or the actress who plays Coach Beiste on Glee. But don't hold me to that, it's just a gut feeling. Anyway, she had been the first person to discover the dead body, but had postponed reporting it, out of a sense that it would not be good for her career. "Have you ever heard the expression, 'there's no such thing as bad publicity?' Having your picture taken with a dead guy is the exception." Miss Cappuccio and her near-Muppet-quality dog spent a lot of time hanging around the police station, which gave Beckett a lot of time to seethe about the degraded world and cheap and tawdry culture that could permit one such as her to reap fame and riches just for being photogenic and having an active social life. 

Like everyone else on a scripted show on network TV, Beckett disapproves of reality TV, and told Ms. Cappuccio so, to her shiny face. "I usually find," she said, referring to the suspect's chosen genre, "that it's not at all real, and I don't like people who present fiction as truth. In fact, I find it to be a waste of time." Ms. Cappuccio could have replied, "Wow, if you feel that way about people who present fiction as truth, you must have been a lot of laughs to have around this building when the Central Park jogger case fell apart," presumably because she felt that it would make for an awkward moment. This was our first clear sign that Ms. Cappuccio had hidden depths. The only detective who picked up on this was Esposito, who spent every minute he could chatting her up and commiserating with her on the tribulations of scandal and fame. Maybe he just wanted to keep his head low and avoid being called to share any scenes with some of the other characters, such as a dog therapist named Dr. Barker. Even with a hint like that, Castle and Beckett went into their interview with Dr. Barker under the mistaken assumption that she had been counseling the murdered man, instead of his dog. They had to make that mistaken assumption, otherwise, when they asked how their patient had been doing and she said that his poor state of mind had been reflected in his diet, which consisted largely of "dead birds, and even his own feces," it would not have been hilarious.

Disappointingly, the trash-TV celebrity plot thread turned out to be key to the story, meaning that not a hell of a lot got made of the dog-show angle. It seemed to be the more promising, less over-tilled subject, but maybe, once the first draft of the script had been approved and the dogs and their handlers had already been hired, somebody decided that it wouldn't be prudent to go into head-to-head competition with Christopher Guest. (The episode did include a scene in which Castle and Beckett settled a disagreement with a round of rock, paper, scissors, just ten days after Sam and Dean used the same gag on Supernatural. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki won that one. Those guys are to rock, paper, scissors what Buster Keaton was to falling off the water tower.) It's too bad, because, after the title, the dogs were the best thing about the episode. Most of the energy that should have gone into solving the murder got rerouted into Castle and Beckett's duel over which of them would win the true affections of one of them, a gorgeous animal that Castle wanted to adopt as the police detectives' mascot. He barely blinked when someone pointed out that they already had a perfectly good mascot in Castle himself, but that's basically what Castle is. On the show's weaker nights, he slips to practically being the mascot of his own damn show. Sit!