Castle: The Blue Butterfly

“The Blue Butterfly” was an episode of Castle unlike any other, which made it extremely fun to watch but difficult to write about in the ways we usually write about the show. So please bear with me as we try to sort this out . . .

Our victim of the week is Stan Banks, found dead of a gunshot wound at the famous, now-defunct Pennybaker Club. Castle finds one big clue at the club: Someone’s belongings are stashed behind the bar, but they don’t know whose. Meanwhile, Stan’s estranged wife tells the detectives that Stan was obsessed with searching for lost antiquities, especially something called the “blue butterfly.” She also got a mysterious call saying that he owed $10,000; this turns out to be from bookie Ray Horton.

Castle finds a private investigator’s diary from the 1940s among Stan’s belongings and takes it home to read. As he reads, Castle mentally casts his family and friends as the various figures in the story. He, of course, is P.I. Joe Flynn, while Martha is his secretary and Alexis is the young client calling herself Sally Scofield. Meanwhile, Beckett is beautiful mob mistress Vera McQueen, while Ryan and Esposito are two of the mob boss’s informers and Lanie is nightclub singer Betsy Sinclair.

In the diary, Castle finds a case from the 1940s that he thinks is connected to the current case. Sally hires Flynn to find her sister Vera – and, of course, Flynn is immediately smitten: “Looking at that photograph, all I could think was ‘What a beautiful doll.'” (The photograph Castle pictures is, of course, one of Beckett.) The bartender at the Pennybaker points Vera out to Flynn – whose reaction is “Where have you been all my life?” – and tells Flynn that Vera is the mistress of mob boss Tom Dempsey. Dempsey notices Flynn looking at Vera and has two of his boys beat Flynn up outside the club. (A brick falls out of the wall during the fight. This will be important later.) Vera runs outside . . . wearing a big blue butterfly necklace.

In the present day, Horton tells Castle and Beckett that Stan was looking for the necklace, which was rumored to be somewhere in the club. The diary said it was kept in a secret safe in Dempsey’s office, but the first safe Castle and Beckett find is empty; Castle theorizes that there’s another, hidden safe, but when they find that one, it’s empty as well. While they’re looking for the safe, Castle accidentally refers to Vera as “Kate,” and Beckett realizes he’s picturing her as Vera and calls him on it – but doesn’t seem particularly upset. And they both clearly identify with Joe and Vera for the rest of the case.

Back in the forties, Flynn tells Sally he’ll arrange a meeting with Vera, but before he does that, he and Vera fall in love and decide to run away. Vera wants to sell the necklace to finance their getaway, but Flynn thinks it’s too dangerous because Dempsey’s boys always watch Vera when she’s wearing the necklace. When Vera can’t find a way to get the necklace from the safe secretly, though, they plan for her to slip away wearing the necklace while Dempsey and his boys are distracted by a Jimmy Doyle/Sugar Ray Robinson prize fight. Flynn’s secretary objects to this plan, and makes Flynn admit to Vera that he sought her out because he was hired by her sister – but Vera says he doesn’t have a sister. And then the diary ends. Beckett is not happy about this – “Why would you tell a story when you don’t know the ending?” – but Castle suggests she read one of his books if she wants a neat ending.
Ray Horton denies killing Stan, and tells the team that he was Stan’s business partner: he financed Stan’s purchase of the diary from Flynn’s secretary’s granddaughter. Stan said he’d found a man who had the missing piece of the puzzle, but Ray didn’t know who he meant. Meanwhile, Ryan discovers that the gun used to kill Stan was also used in the unsolved homicide of Vera and Joe in 1947. Castle and Beckett are both visibly upset by this news of their doppelgangers’ fate. It turns out that Vera and Joe were found dead in a car in the alley outside the club; they were shot and then the car was set on fire. Dempsey was the only suspect, but the police didn’t have enough evidence, and then Dempsey died of a heart attack four months later.

It turns out that Clyde Bolasco, the treasure hunter who inspired Stan, had purchased Dempsey’s guns at an estate sale. Bolasco says that Stan had a preposterous story and wouldn’t show him Flynn’s diary, so Bolasco wouldn’t give Stan access to his research. It also turns out that Stan thought a white Mustang was following him, and it had been seen outside the club as well. Then Tom Dempsey’s lookalike grandson is caught breaking in to Stan’s apartment, and tells Castle and Beckett that Stan had approached him under a fake name and claimed to be writing a positive biography of Dempsey. At singer Betsy’s recent funeral, though, Tom (the grandson) figured out what Stan was up to – but denies shooting him.

Bartender Jerry Maddox was at the funeral too, so Castle and Beckett go to see him. Jerry remembers Sally from 1946, but says that she was actually the daughter of one of Dempsey’s former mistresses, who killed herself when she was dumped. Sally blamed Vera and plotted to take her down by setting up the P.I. situation.

Back to the present: A local homeless man identifies Clyde as the one who was camping out behind the bar at the club, and Clyde finally admits to being there but still insists he didn’t kill Stan. He planned to threaten Stan and take the necklace, but as soon as Stan walked upstairs with it, Clyde was chloroformed. When he came to, Stan was dead and the necklace was gone.

Castle recognizes Sally’s shoe in the crime scene photo from 1947 and realizes that Sally was killed, not Vera. He then makes a connection involving Jerry Maddox listening to music Joe Flynn liked, and realizes that the bartender and his wife are actually Joe and Vera. They admit it, and tell Castle and Beckett that Stan figured it out and threatened to expose them, so they told him where the necklace was. As they tell the story, Castle and Beckett realize from his reaction that the couple’s in-house health aide is actually the killer. He’s the son of the woman who sold the diary, and thought he had more of a right to the necklace than Stan did because he got the job and put in the time with the Flynns to try to discover where the necklace was. The police find the necklace in his apartment – and it turns out to have been fake all along.

Castle and Beckett do at least get the rest of the story from Vera and Joe, though. What actually happened was that Sally and her husband attacked Vera and Joe as they were trying to make their escape. Sally and her husband wound up dead in the struggle, so Joe put their bodies in the car and burned it so people would think Vera and Joe had died and not look for them. Vera decided the necklace was cursed, but Joe didn’t want Dempsey to get it back, so they hid it behind the loose brick in the wall of the club. In the present day, Vera and Joe are afraid Beckett will arrest them for this sixty-year-old murder, but she rather adorably decides not to, and she and Castle are both visibly pleased that Vera and Joe turned out to be so happy together.

The imaginary historical parts of this episode provided plenty of Castle/Beckett romance – and kissing! – perfectly designed to make shippers simultaneously giddy and frustrated. There’s a particularly delightful moment when Lanie, as Betsy, looks at the pair and says “You two are a walking fairy tale. Good lord.” And at the very end, there’s an exchange between Vera and Joe that’s a clear call-out to the shibboleth of Castle fandom: “Tell me you love me, Joe.” “Always.”

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

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