A good gimmick counts for a lot on Castle, and tonight’s episode has one. Like most decent gimmicks on Castle these days, it appears to be inspired by something the writers saw on TV while procrastinating from thinking up something that could happen to Castle. A young woman’s dead body has been found sprawled across the floor of her fleabag hotel room, looking as if she were murdered while posing for Helmut Newton. There’s a pool of blood, and in her last moments, she managed to use it to write “LIE.” Castle and Beckett scratch their heads over this lurid clue. What was the lie that cost this poor girl her life? Was she murdered as punishment for telling a lie, or for having discovered that someone else was living one? Or is that too obvious, and the answer is more complicated? I was sort of hoping it would turn out that she was a victim of delayed road rage, and was killed by someone who’d tracked her down after she’d cut him off on the Long Island Expressway.
After establishing the victim’s identity and interviewing her ex-boss (played by a yelling, eye-popping Jim Belushi wannabe who gives the worst performance seen on Castle in a while—which is saying something) Castle has one of his periodic breakthrough insights. He looks at the photo of the bloody clue and realizes that they’ve been looking at it upside-down: It’s not a word at all, it’s numerals—“317.” It’s the number of a storage unit that, it turns out, belonged to the dead woman’s twin brother, who also died recently. The unit is about to go up for auction, and the woman who manages the storage place gives one of the better small performances seen on Castle in a while. When she’s shown the gruesome photo of the murder victim, she gives a wonderfully unimpressed reading of her line, “Yeah, she was here. A lot less bloody when I saw her, though.” Since the contents of the storage unit must obviously contain some vital clue, Castle dips into his own cash reserves to secure it for the investigation. The extras in the auction scene aren’t actually played by lookalikes of the cast of Storage Wars, but you can’t have everything. Bidding gets insanely out of control, but in the end, Castle is able to reel in his prize, with a little help from special guest star Kevin Brown (Dot Com from 30 Rock, I shit you not).
When Castle lugs all the crap from the storage unit back to the precinct to comb through it, the episode shifts from a goof on Storage Wars to a goof on Hoarders—which, since those shows are on the same network, counts as high conceptual integrity for Castle. Penny Johnson Jerald’s Captain Gates marches in, tells Castle to get all this junk out of her house, saying that she couldn’t care less that it might provide the key to solving multiple murders, and then sees a collectible doll she wants and melts. This is the closest that Larry Sanders’ former assistant has come to getting to play comedy since she came aboard this show, and even though the joke of her swinging from cold-eyed disgust to fannish adoration is kind of lame, I’ll take it. (I’ll even overlook the fact that it makes no sense that Captain Gates would be so obtuse about the potential value of the stuff to the investigation. If this were one of Castle’s heavy, conspiracy-paranoia episodes, which thank God it is not, I’d expect to find out that she’s trying to dump the evidence because she was in on the crime.) A better joke involves the brother having gone by the alias “Johan Fleming,” which was the secret identity of the male half of the Wonder Twins. When Castle tries to impress the detectives with his discovery, it turns out that, of course, that he’s the only person in the building who’s ever heard of the Wonder Twins.
In the end, the murders turn out to be part of the killer’s continuing cover-up of a hit-and-run accident that, years before, caused the deaths of the siblings’ parents. This solution is tossed off so lightly that it would be easy to miss just how baroque it is—if Captain Gates weren’t there to point out that, by the time the son of a bitch was done, he’d single-handedly wiped out an entire family.
Meanwhile, Castle and Beckett have been continuing to surreptitiously fan the flames of their love jones while keeping it a secret from their co-workers (though Castle’s daughter now knows about it, and it turns out his mother knew the whole time—there are no secrets at Casa de la Rick). In the sweetest scene, they sublimate their desire for a goodbye kiss into a handshake while murmuring about what they wish they were doing to each other, and it’s actually sexy. It’s a good sign that Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic are able to keep their loose, flirty vibe operating, even in an hour when a handshake is as physical as they manage to get.
- The murderer is a butler, so naturally, Castle calls attention to the fact that he has an excuse to call out, “The butler did it!” The funny thing is, just a scene or two earlier, he says, without a trace of irony, “Of course! It all makes sense now.”
- This is also the episode in which Alexis finally packs up her stuff and lights out for college. She and Castle have a little misunderstanding when he misinterprets her sadness about leaving home for resentment over his new relationship with Beckett. “How can you be so smart and so clueless at the same time?” she asks him, ignoring the fact that future generations will refer to being charmingly smart and clueless at the same time as “pulling a Fillion.”