The Final Frontier
This week’s case proves to be right up Castle’s alley. The victim is an astronaut named Tom Richwood, who was intended to be a pilot for a mission to Mars in 2018 which has been privately funded by an internet billionaire (I’m pretty sure it takes more than one rich guy to fund a space program). The would-be mission to Mars gets more complicated however, when Tom is found dead during an elaborate nine-month simulation. The simulation is actually so elaborate, the detectives have to wear space suits (not that Castle is complaining one bit).
After Castle pretends to spacewalk for a couple of minutes, they question the rest of the astronauts. They start with the medical specialist who shows the cause of death to be a stab wound. The medical guy says there was no murder weapon on the scene but points out that Tom’s screwdriver is missing. Him and the rest of the astronauts all seem to have pretty solid alibis thanks to some tracking chips embedded under their skin for the simulation (which eventually prove pretty useless) and also being monitored by a talking computer program named M.I.R.A. Having seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, the creepiness isn’t lost on Castle.
When Beckett tries asking the astronauts to head over to the precinct for proper interviews, she learns that’s going to be a problem. Viggo Jansen, the internet billionaire funding the mission, doesn’t want to stop the simulation under any circumstances. When Beckett threatens him with a court order, he says that with his lawyers, that would take months. Fortunately, the two parties are able to reach a compromise when Jansen offers the detectives full access to the mission building so he can keep the simulation going. Beckett makes it clear though, that if any of them are responsible for Tom’s death she will remove them.
The case suddenly gets weirder when Esposito shows a video diary from Tom shortly before he died. On the video, Tom thinks there’s someone or something else in the simulation. Jansen claims that’s impossible with all the security measures he’s taken but one of his employees quickly disproves that statement by showing the system has been hacked. The I.P. address from the breach is traced back to a guy named Clint Granger. According to Jansen, Clint had been a candidate for the pilot spot on the mission but lost out to Tom.
When Beckett and Ryan question Clint, he freely admits to hating Tom (who may or may not have sabotaged him), but insists he’s not the killer. When the detectives present the evidence against Clint, he counters by saying he had been in Connecticut during the murder and in Nova Scotia during the hack and both alibis appear to check out.
When Ryan goes over the security camera footage of Clint’s apartment building they see a suspicious person entering the building right before the hack took place and leaving shortly after. The simulation workers quickly identify the mystery man as George Reyes who works as a crew member for the simulation and happens to be married to Angela, one of the remaining astronauts. Angela admits to the detectives that a couple of days before, she told George she wanted a divorce because she fell in love with one of the other astronauts (a female astronaut no less). Angela also admits she didn’t tell George who it was she fell for and that it probably would’ve been easy for him to believe it was Tom. When the detectives find George, he admits to hacking the simulation and framing Clint in an attempt to sabotage the simulation but that was as far as it went.
Castle and Beckett go back to the simulation building to see if someone else could have found another way in. Beckett manages to find the murder weapon in a ventilation shaft but Castle notices they’re being watched by an alien like being (a term I lose very loosely). The “alien” quickly disappears, though Beckett realizes that it was actually just a person wearing a gas mask (I’m really surprised it took her this long to realize it since I’ve seen old episodes of Doctor Who with more convincing alien costumes) and that the person has likely been making a tunnel to break into the simulation.
The next day, Ryan informs Castle and Beckett that the gas mask they found contained some trace amounts of DNA which surprisingly match Clint, who hasn’t been seen or heard from since the previous day’s interview. Esposito also traces the purchase of the gas mask to a mysterious company called Newton Endeavors located in Queens. Once they get inside the building, they see a space capsule under construction which Castle points out looks very familiar.
Castle deduces that the place is likely owned by one of Jansen’s competitors (I had no idea there was a competition between billionaires to go to Mars) who hired Clint to steal Jansen’s ideas. He is proven to be correct when they see movie producer/space enthusiast Sir Ian Rasher enter the room. Beckett tries to get Sir Ian to tell her where Clint is but Sir Ian initially denies even knowing him. However, when Beckett mentions Tom’s murder, Sir Ian changes his tune and gives up Clint’s location.
Back at the station, Clint admits to spying for Sir Ian in exchange for the pilot spot on his competing Mars mission but is still adamant that he didn’t kill Tom. Beckett is naturally skeptical of this until Clint admits he was working with one of Jansen’s astronauts (named Mikhail Dankov) to steal the information. After a hilariously pointless chase scene, the detectives bring Mikhail to the precinct for interrogation. He proves to be a dead end however, when he not only insists all of the other astronauts hated Tom’s guts but also shows he was taking spy photos during Tom’s murder. While looking through the pictures, Castle notices a rover in the background with the murder weapon attached to it.
Castle and Beckett go to Jansen with this information and ask him who could have used the rover to kill Tom. Jansen says M.I.R.A. is the only one that can actually control the rover, so he decides to take Castle and Beckett to the computer module room inside the simulation the get to the bottom of things. Once inside the room, the detectives and Jansen try to get some answers from M.I.R.A. but things don’t exactly go as planned. When M.I.R.A. refuses to answer any questions, Jansen tries to reboot M.I.R.A. instead. That plan backfires on them when M.I.R.A. begins filling the room with noxious fumes. The whole scene eventually becomes such a shameless 2001 ripoff, Castle actually tries commanding M.I.R.A. to “open the pod bay door.” Of course, nobody actually dies and Castle, Beckett and Jansen are eventually rescued thanks to Beckett suddenly remembering she has a cell phone (I’m totally not kidding). The attempted murder from M.I.R.A. is revealed to be a fail-safe in case the cops got too close to figuring out Tom’s killer. Jansen figures that it could only be one of the astronauts that set this up but Castle has a different theory.
Castle and Beckett confront the three remaining astronauts, who turned out to all be in on Tom’s murder because they all thought he was a threat to the mission. After a clever bluff from Castle, they all confess. Seems like it would’ve been easier to replace Tom with a more competent pilot once the simulation was over but hey what do I know about space travel? So yeah, with the entire crew either in jail or dead, I’m guessing a 2018 Mars mission isn’t in the cards
Martha and Alexis
During the course of the investigation, Castle can’t help but notice his apartment is beginning to get a little crowded. Castle and Beckett come home early to find both Martha and Alexis have brought dates home, much to Castle’s chagrin. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that Castle notices Martha’s date is wearing his pajamas (I’ve got to side with Castle on this, that’s just weird).
A couple of days later, after Castle and Beckett’s alone time is interrupted by Alexis and a couple of her friends, Castle decides to call a family meeting. It turns out however, Martha has also noticed the apartment’s increasingly cramped quarters and has decided to find a place of her own. Castle tries talking her out of it, but she insists that it’s for the best since she’s starting to do well with her career and it’s only a matter of time before Castle and Beckett start having kids.
The concept for the episode was interesting and fun but the execution left something to be desired. It started out well enough especially with Castle briefly living his dream of being an astronaut and with both Castle and Beckett admitting to secretly applying to go on a Mars mission. Once we got to M.I.R.A.’s mediocre HAL-9000 impression though, things started going to downhill. it also doesn’t help that we’re not really told all that much about Tom, so it feels rather ludicrous that his entire crew hated him enough to kill him rather than just get him fired. Having the culprit be the entire crew also just feels like lazy writing. There was an interesting idea but sadly, they didn’t quite know how to finish it.
It’s going to a little while before the next recap with Castle taking a break until March 16th. See you in three weeks with ‘Hong Kong Hustle.’