Richard Castle: Private Eye
It’s been about a month since we saw Castle get himself banned from the precinct but as we see with this week’s opening he evidently hasn’t let that keep him down. Beckett and Martha notice that he’s in a surprisingly good mood and when they ask him why he tells them that it’s a surprise. Before Beckett can figure out what it is, she gets called in to work the case of the week.
The victim’s name is Shana Baker, who worked as an admissions officer for a highly prestigious preschool. The killer broke in through her bedroom window and shot Shana once in the chest. Judging from the crime scene and a discarded cigarette butt, the killer likely waited hours for Shana to come home proving that the murder was planned. Beckett also notices that the victim owns a small dog who is nowhere to be found in the apartment. While all this is going on the detectives get a surprise visit from Castle who reveals that he’s now a newly licensed private investigator (thanks to some online courses he took in secret).
Castle vs. NYPD
Despite his new P.I. license, Beckett tells Castle that he’s still not allowed at the crime scene and reluctantly tells him to leave (though this begs the question as to how he was able to enter the crime scene in the first place). Castle is clearly not thrilled by this but decides to conduct his own separate investigation. His investigation appears to be off to a good start because when Beckett and Esposito go to question Shana’s work colleagues at the preschool, Castle is already there waiting for them.
One of Shana’s coworkers tells Castle and Beckett that she had just finished sending out admission letters about a week before. When the detectives check the voice mail in Shana’s office they find a threatening message from a parent whose kid had been rejected. Just before Castle leaves the office, he notices of picture of Shana’s dog that shows it wears a tracking collar.
Back at the precinct, when Beckett tells Captain Gates about Castle’s P.I. license, she is understandably annoyed. She tells Beckett, Ryan and Esposito that while they can’t stop him from conducting his own investigation, they are not allowed to help him either (wonder how long it will take them to break that rule). The detectives then trace the threatening phone call to a high powered lawyer with a temper problem named Brian Whitman. When they question Whitman, he denies everything and claims he didn’t even have motive to kill her since Shana changed her mind and agreed to admit his son.
Meanwhile, Castle manages to hack the dog’s tracker and finds it being carried by a stranger in a leather jacket. Castle tries to follow the guy but since he does it in the most conspicuous way possible, the guy quickly corners him in an alley. The guy demands to know why Castle is following him and after a brief misunderstanding that gets Castle pepper-sprayed he explains that he’s investigating Shana’s murder. The guy says that he’s Shana’s dog-sitter and that he had been watching the dog while Shana was out of town.
Castle goes down to the morgue to see if he can figure out where Shana had traveled to the day she died. He looks at her autopsy report and sees that she had airline peanuts in her stomach proving that she was on a plane recently before and he gets chased out of the room by Perlmutter.
The detectives investigate Shana’s financials and find that she took a flight to Boston and came back just hours before she died. Ryan is able to piece together part of what Shana did during her Boston trip and says that she had met with a big shot attorney named Nicole Morris. When Beckett decides to question Nicole, Ryan tells her that she’s in meetings all day but gives the address to her current appointment. Beckett shows up to the address only to find out that it’s the address for Castle’s new P.I. office.
Beckett is less than pleased about Castle renting office space without telling her but nevertheless agrees to the two of them questioning Nicole together. Nicole tells them that Shana had been asking about the statute of limitations on numerous felonies including murder and also mentioned visiting a college named Radnor University. With that information the detectives discover that Shana had reversed the rejection of Brian Whitman’s son in exchange for him pulling some strings for her at Radnor so she could look at some campus police records from 1999 but the detectives don’t know which report she was looking for. Castle, meanwhile is able to find out about the incident Shana is investigating but without the information the cops got from Whitman, he doesn’t why (or even if) it’s relevant.
With both investigations stalled, both Castle and Beckett try to use a romantic dinner to work the other for information. Both eventually decide to admit what they know with Castle revealing that Shana had a boyfriend named Jeff Whalen who died at Radnor in 1999 under suspicious circumstances. According to Castle, Jeff drank too much and fell out of a window and when Beckett reveals what she knows, they both conclude that Shana had reason to believe Jeff was murdered.
Castle Returns to the 12th (Kind of)
With Castle’s information, the detectives look into the police report on Jeff’s death and find that all the witness statements are missing. Meanwhile Castle looks at an old college newspaper article about the incident and due to a suspiciously placed ad, Castle figures out that the article was changed at the last minute and that the editor deliberately left something out. Castle tracks down the editor Frank Jackson and persuades him to go to the precinct and admit what happened.
Frank tells Castle and Beckett that the night Jeff died there was someone else in the room with him but that he was pressured by the student’s dad not to mention it. When they ask Frank who he was covering for, he tells them his name was Spalding Elliot, a well known prosecutor who happens to be up for the office of Attorney General.
After the detectives match Elliot’s DNA to the cigarette butt left behind at the scene, they bring him in for questioning. Elliot insists that Jeff’s death was an accident and he’s being framed by his political enemies for Shana’s murder. The cops don’t believe him until Castle brings Shana’s dog into the interrogation room to show that Elliot is so severely allergic to dogs that he breaks out in horrible hives and with all the dog hair at the crime scene there was no way Elliot could patiently wait there for hours to kill Shana.
Now that the cops know the case is a big conspiracy, Beckett uses the information to do some more digging and finds some footage of Nicole Morris picking up one of Elliot’s discarded cigarette butts and arrest her for Shana’s murder. Even though Castle and Beckett have successfully proven Nicole to be the killer, she refuses to say who hired her and for the moment, whether or not we will ever find out who was behind the conspiracy is unclear.
Back at the apartment, Castle tells Beckett that since he still isn’t allowed to work at the precinct that he would like to keep up his P.I. business for a while longer. With this mind, Beckett shows her support by giving him a Sherlock hat and a brand new magnifying glass much to Castle’s glee.
I was actually surprised by how much I liked this episode. It was fun to watch Castle use his intelligence to actually solve the crime instead of spinning wild conspiracy theories like he usually does (and admittedly it was pretty funny watching Ryan try to pick the conspiracy theory slack in Castle’s absence).
The downside is that the episode also kind of makes Beckett and the other detectives look borderline incompetent. By Ryan’s own admission, it would make them look bad if Castle solved the case before them and based on what I saw that was pretty much the case. He beats them to the punch on multiple occasions in questioning witnesses and had to give them crucial information twice for them to even solve the case at all.
At the same time, I was pleasantly surprised the writers decided to keep Castle as a P.I. for the time being rather than just bring him back into the precinct like I expected them too. When Elliot was brought in for questioning I thought for sure the guy would be used as an excuse to get Castle’s ban revoked (very similar to the way Beckett got her job back last year) but I applaud them for not taking the easy way out or at least not yet.
Next week Castle gets his first official case as a P.I. but he may have bitten off more than he could chew.