Grass is Greener
We open up the episode with Beckett reading the paper but for her the news isn’t good. She is dismayed to find out that one of her classmates at the Police Academy has been promoted to captain. She doesn’t have any particular objections to the guy’s promotion but admits to Castle that it makes her feel like she’s not doing as well as she could be (though honestly it also feels like she resents the guy for doing better than her). Castle sympathizes with her due to his own occasional insecurities when comparing himself to the more successful author James Patterson and he warns her that kind of thinking rarely leads to anything good.
Before they can discuss the matter further however, they get called into another murder scene. This week’s victim is ex-con Henry Graham who got shot once in the chest around midnight the night before in a park. Shortly after the murder, a witness saw an Asian woman in her mid 30s going through the victims pockets and was quite surprised that he wasn’t killed as well. Beckett notices that Henry was still wearing his work uniform and goes to question his boss at a tow truck company. The boss doesn’t know why Henry was at the park but insists that Henry was a stand-up guy in spite of his past. His boss also admits however, that Henry received threats on a regular basis because the cars he tows were often repo jobs and that he had been asking for access codes for a 2013 X5 despite no cars of that kind being on their repo list. Castle theorizes that Henry was secretly a car thief and the X5 he stole belonged to a Triad assassin (don’t worry that doesn’t go anywhere).
Meanwhile, Ryan and Esposito make a visit to Henry’s apartment and talk to his landlord. Much like his boss, the landlord only has nice things to say about him. When they start asking her about the Asian woman, she matter-of-factually tells them she had seen her heading up to Henry’s apartment about ten minutes ago. Ryan and Esposito’s investigation of Henry’s apartment doesn’t go too well for either of them since while they do find the Asian woman inside, she easily disarms the both of them and holds them at gunpoint. Not a particularly proud moment for either of them especially considering that Esposito is supposed to have Special Forces training. Luckily, the only thing that gets hurt here is the pride of the detectives as the woman reveals herself to be a cop with the Hong Kong PD.
Back the precinct, the Hong Kong PD officer, whose is now introduced as Chief Inspector Zhang is being questioned by Beckett (while Castle lightly ridicules Ryan and Esposito). Zhang insists that she didn’t kill Henry (and Captain Gates quickly shows up to confirm her alibi) and that he was an old friend she had planned to visit. She claims that she became worried about Henry when he cancelled the visit and was unable to reach him afterwards, so she came to New York to investigate. When Beckett and Gates realize that Zhang is going to continue investigating Henry’s death with or without the NYPD’s help, they offer to let her work on the investigation, which she reluctantly agrees.
Hong Kong Teamup
Castle, Beckett and Zhang go to a restaurant called Jade Temple in Chinatown where Henry had gone to lunch the day before to see if anything happened there that could explain why he was killed. The restaurant owner and one of the hostesses say they don’t know anything but Zhang gets a second hostess to admit that she saw Henry arguing with a middle aged man in the restaurant while he eating his lunch. Zhang also notices the restaurant offers free Wi-Fi and uses that to identify the mystery man as FBI agent Michael Glassman. While Zhang proves herself to be a more than capable detective, this causes Beckett to be more than a little jealous. Through some exposition we find out that not only does she run a task force in San Francisco but she’s also married to a movie star and has two kids. This causes Beckett to say to Castle that “She’s just like me. Only better.”
Castle and Beckett try getting some answers out of Glassman but he opts to stonewall them completely and walks out. With the investigation stalled for the time being, Beckett decides to spend some time with Zhang and have a “girl’s night” which has Castle a little worried since Beckett has basically already admitted to being jealous of her. Turns out Castle is right to be worried since Beckett and Zhang spend the majority of their time at a shooting range where Zhang is again better at than Beckett. On the plus side however, Beckett does get Zhang to admit how she and Henry know each other. Zhang tells her that when she was a kid she had to go to public school in New York where she got bullied for not being able to speak much English and that Henry stuck up for her.
The next day, Beckett continues to feel insecure compared to Zhang which isn’t helped by Ryan’s announcement that Zhang may have just found a lead to crack the case. Zhang has found some video footage outside of Henry’s apartment building that shows him getting abducted and pushed into a dark van just hours before he was killed. The van turns out to belong a drug dealer named Billy Hicks whom Zhang recognizes as a guy Henry used to work for as an enforcer and was the reason Henry went to prison. Beckett theorizes that the FBI is trying to build a case against Hicks and that was the reason Glassman approached Henry at the Jade Temple. This brings Zhang to the conclusion that Hicks had Henry killed for talking with the FBI. Sadly, before the detectives can do anything with this information, Gates tells Beckett they have been ordered not to approach Hicks saying that it was a “federal matter” all but confirming Beckett’s previous suspicions. Zhang doesn’t take this news very well and storms out.
Beckett realizes too late that Zhang has decided to go confront Hicks at the gym he operates in and by the time she gets there, Zhang has already beaten up all Hicks’ goons off screen, leaving Hicks himself shaken up and threatening to press charges. He suddenly becomes more talkative however when Beckett threatens to arrest him for Henry’s murder. After claiming the abduction was merely a gag, Hicks finally admits that Henry came to him a week ago wanting half a kilo of cocaine though Henry didn’t go into specifics about why he wanted the drugs except that he was using it to get a friend out of a bad situation. He adds that Henry had been so grateful for the help that he tipped him off about the Feds approaching him.
Afterwards, Beckett chews Zhang out for going rogue on her which causes Zhang to confess that her life isn’t as perfect as it seems. She says that she’s currently separated from her husband and that she’s not being the kind of mother she should be (both likely due to an over dedication to the job). She also believes Henry’s death to be her fault because Henry called a couple of weeks before asking for her help which she initially blew off because of her busy schedule and by the time she got around to helping Henry it was already too late.
After the smoke clears from the incident with Hicks, Ryan and Esposito come back with a fresh lead. They find out that Henry was seen loitering outside a parking garage and one of the vehicles inside was a 2013 X5. The owner of the vehicle is wealthy real estate developer name Jeff Wadlow who has a history of drug charges. His latest charge came a couple of days ago when he got pulled over with half a kilo of cocaine in his car after the cops received an anonymous tip. This brings detectives to the conclusion that Henry planted the drugs in Wadlow’s car but they’re not sure as to why Henry would do it.
When they question Wadlow in lockup, he says he’s never seen Henry before in his life and suggests one of his competitors talked Henry into planting the drugs. When the detectives look into Wadlow’s recent business deals they discover he’s recently been buying up property in Chinatown. Less than coincidentally he outbid a company called VCN Holdings each time. The owner of the company, Mimi Tan is said to have ties to human trafficking and also happens to be the owner of Jade Temple. They figure Henry was persuaded by Tan to plant the drugs on Wadlow and when the job was done she killed Henry to tie up loose ends.
Beckett and Zhang go to confront Tan about this new information and she initially denies everything until one of her hostesses from earlier starts attacking her. The hostess says that she has been forced to work off a debt she owes to Tan in exchange for entering the country and that Henry had agreed to plant the drugs in Wadlow’s car to buy her freedom. She also confesses that she was supposed to meet Henry at the park the night he died but that he left a message for her at the last minute telling her not to come. When Beckett and Zhang hear this, they ask the hostess who gave her the message. Afterwards, detectives figure out the killer was another hostess of Tan, who killed Henry to prevent her friend from leaving her all alone with their boss.
In the aftermath, it appears that Tan is going to be arrested for her human trafficking crimes and Zhang leaves the precinct on good terms with Beckett.
Inspector Zhang isn’t as bad of a character as I was expecting going in and I honestly don’t think I would mind seeing her again even though I have my doubts the writers will ever revisit this character. Sure the revelation about her troubled home life was a tad predictable but I still thought it was handled fairly well.
What holds this this episode back though is an annoying sense of “been there, done that” as far as the writing goes. Normally, I would try not to make such a big deal out of recycled plot lines on this show since after almost seven years worth of episodes it becomes almost unavoidable. The problem here is they’re reusing plot lines from THIS season. Sure with Zhang we get an idea of what Beckett would look like if she was focused solely on the job but we were already shown that this season with that asinine parallel universe episode. As for the murder victim negotiating with a criminal for (just revealed out of nowhere) love one’s freedom, we already saw that the show’s Expendables ripoff back in December.
Next week things appear to become personal for Detective Ryan as he finds himself mixed up in a murder plot. Tune in next time for ‘At Close Range.’