Welcome to my very late recap of Castle‘s last pre-holiday episode, “Cuffed!” Thanks for your patience. As the title implies, the episode begins when Castle and Beckett wake up handcuffed together – and don’t know why or where they are. They’re in a dark room, and conclude that they’ve been drugged – there’s a needle mark on Beckett – and perhaps robbed, since all their belongings are gone. Slowly, they piece together the day. In brief:
They went to a seedy motel (or, as Castle calls it, an “Advent calendar of salaciousness) to look at the body of an unidentified white male in his late thirties. He was drugged – he has a needle mark like Beckett – and suffocated, and his prints were burned off. (Beckett to Castle: “Don’t say spy. Or mob hit.”) He has no ID, and no match in Missing Persons, but a paper in his pocket has the address of a cafe and a meeting time. Castle notices a postal bar code on the back of the piece of paper, which is actually an envelope, and it leads them to a house in Queens. There’s no one there except for an old woman in a cage – and that’s the last thing either Becket or Castle remember.
Back at the station, no one knows where Castle and Beckett have gone, but Ryan and Esposito cover for them – and Gates knows it. They go to the cafe and find a waitress who saw the vic meeting with someone; Lanie reports that the vic had been sedated. By this point, Ryan and Esposito are still covering but starting to get worried, so they trace Beckett’s car and use security camera footage find that it was dumped by an unknown man who was then picked up by another man. Gates knows where she’s placing the blame: “What the hell did Castle get her into?” The team combines partial prints to ID the victim as Hank Spooner, a Texan truck driver who was taking cargo to Queens. The man he met at the cafe was a DEA agent: Spooner had been helping smuggle drugs but wanted out. When they find his truck, there’s blood on the floor and a crate with air holes and hair.
Meanwhile, Castle and Beckett are doing what they can to figure out their situation. They get the lights on and realize that they’re in a room with steel doors and cinder block walls that also has a big locked chest freezer and a hatch in the ceiling. They try to push the freezer over to climb on it to get to the hatch, but it’s too heavy, so Castle tries to open the lock (with techniques he learned during book research) and finally gets it open. The freezer is, creepily enough, full of weapons and chains. Beckett then tries climbing on Castle’s shoulders to get to the hatch; she can just barely reach, but a man opens it from above, gives them a sinister smile, and slams it back closed.
Ryan finally notices the postal bar code on the piece of paper, but when the cops get to the house, it’s empty. There’s a hatch in the floor, but when they open it, it turns out not to be the one imprisoning Castle and Beckett. The house is a bank foreclosure, and they discover a case with a similar set-up a few months earlier – in a house owned by the same bank. They narrow the foreclose list down to eleven possible locations and send units to all of them. Beckett and Castle’s actual location is the fourth one Ryan and Esposito try, and they get there just in time, because . . .
While all that was happening, Castle and Beckett hear people talking about selling “her” on the other side of the wall and suspect that they have walked into a human trafficking operation. Beckett convinces Castle that they need to rescue the girl she believes is imprisoned with them – “If it was Alexis on the other side, what would you do?” – but when they break through the wall, they discover that what’s on the other side is not a girl, but a tiger. Yes, a tiger. The tiger, of course, is thrilled with this sudden snack delivery, and Castle and Beckett have no better option than to stand on top of the freezer – not quite out of the tiger’s reach – and scream.
Luckily, Ryan and Esposito hear them, but just as they open the hatch, the bad guys – who turn out to be the old woman from the cage and her sons – materialize out of the darkness with guns drawn. Ryan and Esposito end up deciding to let the suspects go so they can save their friends, but there are plenty of police cars waiting right outside, so no one gets away after all. It turns out that the original victim, Spooner, wasn’t helping smuggle drugs – he was transporting endangered tigers for illegal sale to rich customers all over the world.
Even in the midst of such a high-stakes case, though, no one’s personal lives are on hold. Lanie and Esposito are bickering, and when Castle wants to know what it’s about, Beckett and Lanie both insist it’s none of his business. That, of course, is why he wants to know. Beckett finally tells him they’re arguing about “everything.”
Beckett: “They both want to be together but neither of them wants to admit to it.”
Castle: “Ugh. Why do people do that to themselves?”
Beckett: “Maybe they just don’t see it.”
Castle: “How could they not? It’s so obvious.”
Maybe I’m projecting, but it seemed like Castle and Beckett, or maybe Fillion and Katic, could barely keep straight faces during that exchange. Pot, meet kettle! Meanwhile, Jenny and Ryan are discussing where to spend the holidays. Jenny wants to drive to Florida to see her family, and Esposito says the road trip would actually be a relationship test: “Locked together . . . hours . . .” Sound like another situation we know?
Of course, in between avoiding murderers and tigers, Castle and Beckett had some time to not talk about their relationship. As they’re first trying to navigate while handcuffed, Castle accuses her of always having to lead, and she claims he’s always stepping on her toes. When he asks “Why do you always have to be first?” she points out that she’s the one with the gun, which is a good point, really, and gets at a reason Castle might not be willing to hear: She wants to protect him. He asks “Would it kill you to let someone open the door for you once in a while?” and I mentally ask him whether he doesn’t think that asking her on a date would be a good circumstance in which to facilitate that. Their whole relationship is encapsulated when she finally tells him “Fine. You lead.” All he can come up with is “Thank you. . . . Where did you want to go?” Oh, Castle, you’ve got it bad.
At the end of the episode, they’re both ready to admit that, except for the tiger part, it really hadn’t been that bad:
Castle: “After that experience, if I ever have to be hitched to someone, it would be you.”
Castle: “Hitched? No, I didn’t say hitched, I said cuffed. Handcuffed. Not hitched, the colloquial or any other connotation or meaning.”
Beckett: “It’s okay, Castle. I understood what you meant. And for what it’s worth, if I ever have to spend another night handcuffed to someone again, I wouldn’t mind if it was you, either.”
Beckett: “But next time, let’s do it without the tiger.”
Castle: “Next time?”
Beckett walks out of the station smiling, and we’re nicely set up for the second half of the season, which will start with Jenny and Ryan’s wedding – another perfect set-up for plenty of accidentally-on-purpose romantic suggestions. Try not to propose quite yet, Castle. You might scare her off.
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)