Firefly fans were in for a treat with Castle‘s most recent episode “Headhunters,” when star Nathan Fillion’s former costar Adam Baldwin dropped by to play Detective Ethan Slaughter – and made Castle, Beckett, and everyone else realize and articulate some important truths.
The actual case was particularly incidental this week, so let’s dispense with the basics quickly. The victim is a young Irish mobster named Glitch; he’s the son of Brian Reilly, a big man in the Westies. Glitch is found shot under an overpass – with a bag of heads. He was trying to atone for his mistakes and get back in good with the Westies by digging up bodies of members of a rival Jamaican gang and cutting off their heads, planning to leave them in Jamaican territory to . . . taunt the gang, I guess? It’s okay that this plan doesn’t make any sense, because it turns out that Glitch is none too bright and the plan was fed to him by Cesar Vales, the head of a Mexican gang that wants to move into territory held by both the Jamaicans and the Westies. Vales was using Glitch to start a war, hoping that his rivals will take each other out. The Mexicans ambushed Glitch at the cemetery, and he hid under the underpass and called his father for help – but his father showed up and killed him. Brian said that Glitch had crossed a line by digging up and decapitating corpses, and the fact that Glitch was his son just meant he was Brian’s responsibility.
The reason why Castle gets involved, of course, is because he and Beckett are having problems – a continuation of their tension from “47 Seconds” and “The Limey.” When the episode starts, Beckett is prepping for a trial, so Castle is home trying to write – but he has writer’s block. He’s acting out a Frozen Heat scene with dolls (including a dinosaur, Firefly fans) when he sees a news report about Glitch’s murder and decides he wants to meet Slaughter. When Martha protests that he already has a muse, Castle retorts “Yes, well, muses are to provide inspiration, and right now I ain’t gettin’ any.” Heh. He takes coffee to Beckett at the precinct, and she’s obviously, adorably thrilled that he stopped by – until she realizes that he wants an introduction to Slaughter.
Castle eventually finds Slaughter at the ME, but Slaughter wants nothing to do with him – “I need a writer hangin’ around like I need a case of the crabs” – until he learns that Castle is friends with the mayor. (There’s also a moment when Castle tries to win Slaughter’s affection by giving him his rather attractive brown coat. If you know what I mean.) Castle quickly learns that he got more than he bargained for, that an insane, whatever-it-takes loose cannon detective might be fun in fiction but will get him into serious danger in real life. Esposito soon tells him that Slaughter is known as the Widowmaker, because of his habit of getting his partners killed, and this colors Castle’s perception of Slaughter’s behavior, some of which is exaggerated or faked for effect – but some of which is very real. At one, Slaughter gives Castle a gun and makes him go into a bar alone; Castle ends up winning a fight that results, but he’s injured, and while he claims that this shows he can take care of himself, it’s obvious that he’s suddenly appreciating how much Beckett and the team do to keep him safe.
What makes Castle eventually object to Slaughter’s tactics, though, is not concern for his own safety, but rather concern about Slaughter’s bad police work. Castle is less than impressed by Slaughter’s rough interrogation techniques, which include locking witnesses in garbage trucks and car trunks and threatening their kid brothers. Castle’s protestations that what Slaughter is doing is wrong have no effect, and he finally draws a line when he realizes that Slaughter is coaching a witness to say that Vales is guilty even though the witness didn’t actually see the murder. Slaughter says Vales is guilty of lots of other murders – “The question is, are you in or out?” “I guess I’m out,” Castle replies. Good for him.
Castle goes to the boys for help, but Head Shipper Esposito sends him to Beckett. She at first objects that she isn’t allowed to get involved in another detective’s case, but Castle knows how to get to her:
Castle: “I’m not asking you to do it for me. I’m asking you to do it so the real killer doesn’t get away with murder.”
Beckett: “What makes you think I’m actually gonna fall for that blatant manipulation?”
Castle: “Because it’s true.”
And it is true, and, again, this shows how far Castle has come since the beginning of the series. It’s not that he wasn’t basically a decent person all along – he’d have had to be, or Beckett would never have gotten so close to him, or even let him stick around – but worrying more about justice for strangers than his own feelings and needs isn’t necessarily something that would have occurred to season one Castle. Luckily, it turns out that Beckett has in her hand at that very moment a traffic cam photo showing Vales didn’t do it. Castle’s blown away that she was helping even before he asked: “You did this for me? All this time, you had my back.” Aw. And he’s even more grateful – and feels guiltier – when he realizes she’s risking her job to help him with the case.
They solve the case, of course, but as Vales leaves the precinct, free for now, both Castle and Slaughter watch as Beckett confronts him with one of her best speeches ever:
Beckett: “You feel cocky, I get it. You just dodged a murder rap. Probably going to go out tonight and celebrate with your boys, and you should. Paint the town. But then? In the morning, I want you. To get. The hell. Out of my city.”
Vales: “But I like it here.”
Beckett: “You might like it right now. But starting tomorrow, you’re gonna see just how hard a city New York can be when the full force of the NYPD comes crashing down on you. Thirty thousand cops, making it their daily duty to make your life a living hell.”
When Slaughter says Beckett’s speech was sexy, Castle gives him a dirty look, but clearly agrees. As Slaughter leaves, he asks Beckett out: “Detective. You ever want to go on a date that ends in hot sex after a drunken fistfight, you know where to find me.” “Yeah. In never-gonna-happen-land,” she replies, turning him down flat. Point taken: Castle and Beckett have both had enough of Slaughter and what he represents, but he’s acted as a catalyst to start them on a path back toward each other:
Castle: “Hey, thanks very much for your help.”
Beckett: “No problem, Castle. It’s what partners are supposed to do.”
Slaughter’s craziness accomplished what it needed to do, as far as sending Castle running back to Beckett, but honestly, watching it got old very quickly. Luckily, Slaughter did drop a few nuggets of truth amid the nonsense, starting with “Rule number one: Do not use the word awesome. You’re a grown man.” And during a stakeout, Slaughter asks Castle if he’s sleeping with Beckett, and when Castle says they’re just friends, Slaughter asks what’s wrong with him: “Man needs a friend, he gets a dog. Woman like that, you storm the beaches or die trying. Come on.” Even the crazy guy who’s been on the show for twenty minutes is a shipper. (Unfortunately, the new red-headed intern at the ME’s office is also on Slaughter’s list of hot women – and when Castle realizes Slaughter means Alexis, he punches him.)
Back at the precinct, Ryan and Esposito are adorably offended that Castle is working with another cop, and when Castle brags to Slaughter that he has a team who will do stuff like run plates, both boys make it very clear that they work for Beckett, not Castle, and Castle ends up bribing them to help so he can save face. Ryan first calls Castle’s work with Slaughter “just a phase,” and eventually makes it explicit: “I feel like he’s cheating on us.” Aww, Ryan. But when he and Esposito realize that Slaughter and Castle are going after Vales and his gang with no backup, they rush to help and arrive just in time. Once they’ve rescued their wayward writer, they pull no punches with Slaughter:
Esposito: “Hey! Slaughter! Going in there like that without backup, putting a civilian in harm’s way, that’s not only reckless, that is bad police work.”
Ryan: “You’re just lucky that we traced Castle’s phone and we found you guys in time.”
Frankly, I’m surprised they haven’t given Castle a microchip implant by now. When they can’t convince Castle to stop putting himself in danger, Esposito goes to Beckett:
Esposito: “You need to do something.”
Beckett: “Espo, if the guy’s hellbent on leaving the nest, then there is nothing that I can do about it.”
Esposito: “You don’t really feel that way, do you?”
No, no she doesn’t. Beckett herself keeps insisting that she doesn’t care that Castle is working with someone else, but she’s not fooling anyone. When Castle returns to the precinct injured after the fight at the bar, they argue, but she’s obviously just worried about his safety. She finally admits to her therapist that she’s upset: “I thought that the two of us were actually getting closer together, and now it seems like he’s just pulling away.” She’s adorably defensive when Dr. Burke asks if the cop Castle’s working with is a woman, but gets seriously worried when Burke suggests that Castle is finally reacting to her lack of response to his feelings.
Beckett: “What if I waited too long?”
Burke: “You weren’t waiting, Kate. You were healing.”
Beckett: “Yeah, but then in the meantime he’s moved on.”
Burke: “Or he’s protecting himself by not taking more emotional risks.”
Beckett: “So then what do I do?”
Beckett: “What do you want to do?”
Indeed. In any event, the season finale is in two weeks, so she’ll probably do something.
Meanwhile, Alexis has a subplot that does a good job of being believable and important for the character while still mirroring things that are happening elsewhere. Because of her Stanford disappointment earlier in the semester, Castle’s been hiding all of her college letters, thinking that it will be easier for her if she gets the good news and bad news all at once – but Martha points out that this is dumb, since it just makes Alexis freak out about not getting any replies. It turns out that Alexis has gotten in almost everywhere – including Stanford, but she’s no longer sure whether she wants to go there. Castle: “They rejected you, and you feel betrayed.” Alexis: “How am I supposed to get over that?” The question of the hour indeed. Later, she wonders whether Stanford’s first rejection was a sign from the universe that she’d be better off somewhere else, and since Stanford is Beckett in this analogy, she and her dad have another conversation in which they’re talking about completely different things:
Castle: “You think you’d be better off somewhere else?”
Alexis: “I don’t know. Do you?”
Castle: “I don’t know either. I guess the question is, do you want it badly enough to get over being hurt?”
For what it’s worth, I’ve always assumed that Alexis would end up somewhere like Columbia or NYU to keep her around, and I haven’t heard anything about Molly Quinn leaving the show, but . . . I guess we’ll find out. I hope she stays.
Two random nitpicky things that bothered me in this episode: First, Slaughter consistently called Castle “Sherlock,” which was cute, but . . . Sherlock wasn’t a writer. Watson wrote the stories. And second, Castle’s publication schedule doesn’t work at all. He says he hasn’t even turned in a full draft of Frozen Heat to his agent, never mind his editor, and the book is out September 18. This is not how publishing works, kids. If he hadn’t said the title, we could choose to believe he was working on the next book, which would be far more realistic. I get that they want to mention the title of the next book that will be published in the real world, as a marketing thing, but couldn’t they have woven it in some other way? This was just frustrating.
Tonight: Zombies! Or something. And maybe Castle and Beckett starting to confront their feelings. Maybe. We’ll see.
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)