Live From New York
This week’s victim is Sid Ross, creator and producer of the long running sketch show Saturday Night Tonight (yeah the writers lack of subtlety comes through as always). According to Lanie, Sid was strangled with his own tie somewhere between 11 PM and 2 AM and thrown down an elevator shaft.
Ryan and Esposito interview Sid’s wife, who admits that a producer of Sid’s caliber naturally made some enemies over the years. She also says that Sid had called her the night before saying that someone was out to get him though he didn’t say who.
Castle and Beckett go to question the president of Sid’s production company Gene Vogel to see if he knew who had a grudge against Sid. Vogel immediately thinks of one of SNT’s biggest stars Mickey Franks (Jaleel White). According to Vogel, Mickey has grown increasingly unstable for the last year or so and due to this recent behavior, Sid was about to fire Mickey from the show.
Castle and Beckett bring Mickey for questioning which gets off to an odd start to say the least with Mickey seemingly believing a cheap hand puppet to be his lawyer. Of course, he drops this act quick when Beckett tells him he’s the prime suspect in Sid’s murder. As it turns out, Mickey was pretending to be crazy so that Sid would let him out of his SNT contract and he could pursue a movie career. Mickey also claims that about 9 PM the night before he walked by Sid’s office and heard him yelling at someone on the phone about a deal going down around midnight.
Esposito goes through Sid’s phone records and finds that the mysterious call came from an untraceable burner phone. He also says that Sid made a call right after that to the show’s guest host Danny Valentine. Castle and Beckett go to talk to Valentine about the phone call (though not before watching him act out a sketch lightly parodying their exploits). While Valentine not so subtlety hits on Beckett, he says that he was supposed to have drinks with Sid and his ex-wife but Sid had called at the last minute to cancel (apparently Sid and his ex-wife were still close friends even after their divorce). He also mentions that he saw Sid leaving the building shortly afterwards and going into the subway, which he found to be strange since Sid had an around the clock driver.
While Castle and Beckett wait to find out where Sid went on his subway trip, Esposito tells them that Sid had a not yet announced deal where he would sell 49% of his company to an equity firm. Shortly after, Ryan is able to track Sid’s movements from the subway courtesy of some security and traffic cameras and discovered that Sid got off the subway in Brooklyn at about 11:30. Ryan also finds out that the cops had responded to a 911 call in the area at about the same time about some reported shots fired. The detectives are able to watch some traffic camera footage of the incident in question and they watch Sid run away from the scene and being briefly chased after by a masked man.
It’s Saturday Night
The next day, Ryan tells Beckett about a homeless man who witnessed a black SUV speeding away from the scene minutes after the shots were fired. The homeless man was able to give a partial license plate which is traced back to an ex-drug kingpin named Kurt Van Zant who according to Ryan was recently released from a 35 year prison sentence. While he was in prison, Van Zant also sued Sid, claiming that he financed the SNT pilot and that Sid screwed him out of the profits. Less than coincidentally, Esposito shows up to inform Beckett that Van Zant was just seen entering the SNT building courtesy of a day pass ordered by Danny Valentine.
Castle and Beckett go to interview Valentine once again in his dressing room only to find Van Zant about to throw him out the window. As it turns out the only reason Valentine let Van Zant in the studio in the first place was because he claimed to have information about Sid’s murder. When Van Zant showed up however, he attempted to shake down Valentine to get him to sign over his stake in SNT which was given to him 35 years ago when he agreed to host the pilot.
Back at the precinct, Beckett tries to get a confession out of Van Zant. He insists that he and Sid buried the hatchet when he got out of prison and that Sid promised to pay him once the equity deal went through. He also says that the day Sid was killed that he asked him for an unregistered gun. He decided to secretly follow Sid to his mysterious meeting to “protect his investment.” He witnessed the man in the mask picking a green duffle bag out of a dumpster and then Sid starts attacking the masked man and yelling “You got what you wanted! Now where is she?!”, and saw the shots being fired and Sid running off shortly afterward. Not wanting to be caught violating his parole, Van Zant opted to flee the scene.
Once Van Zant’s alibi checks out, Ryan talks with Sid’s business manager who tells him that Sid had withdrawn $4 million from his bank account on the day he was murdered. Beckett puts two and two together and realizes that this was a ransom gone wrong. It doesn’t take long for the detectives to realize that the kidnapping victim is Sid’s earlier mentioned ex-wife who hasn’t been seen or heard from in the last two days. Tech is able to trace Evelyn’s whereabouts through her recently recovered cell phone and find her tied up in an abandoned warehouse (well that was easy). Evelyn doesn’t know who kidnapped her but gives a pretty good description of the mask and a distinctive ring the that he had been wearing. Castle recognizes the mask’s description as one used in a SNT sketch, meaning the culprit works at the show.
Castle and Beckett go back to the studio and after the episode takes a brief pause for a Carly Rae Jepsen performance, who is serving as SNT’s musical guest, they notice Chad, one of the show’s assistants, wearing a ring like Evelyn described. Despite Chad’s denials, things are looking pretty bad for him since the mask and an unregistered gun were found in his apartment. Castle however, starts to think that all the evidence against him seems too perfect and even Beckett admits that Chad would make a pretty convenient fall guy. To prove their theory right, Ryan tells them that he found out Sid had been going through his corporate bank accounts and noticed that someone embezzled almost $4 million from the company.
The killer is revealed to be Gene Vogel, the president of Sid’s production company. He had embezzled the $4 million to invest in a failed start up company and had intended to use the ransom to pay back the money he had stolen before Sid could find out what he did. The plan went horribly wrong however, when Sid recognized him at the exchange and confronted him later at his office leaving Vogel with no choice but to kill Sid.
While this case has been going on, Martha is busy preparing herself for her return to Broadway. The first night of previews are a couple of days away and according to Castle she goes through a ritual he refers to as the 48 Hour First Line whenever one of her plays is about to premiere. It basically consists of her saying her first line over and over again for two days straight which in this case happens to be “Is he dead?” (though Castle admits it could be worse since one time her opening line was “Come on baby, I’ll make it worth your while”).
The day of the previews though, Castle notices his mother is visibly anxious about the premiere. She laments that she hasn’t been on Broadway in awhile and the way theater is covered has changed significantly since then thanks to social media. She even considers dropping out of the play entirely but Castle is very quick to talk her out of that and is able to help her get her confidence back. She visits Castle at the precinct after her performance to announce that she has been receiving rave reviews for her performance.
The mystery itself wasn’t anything special but what helped make this episode better for me personally was the stuff happening outside of the mystery. For starters, watching the SNT sketch parodying Castle and Beckett was actually kind of funny and it showed the writers are willing to poke some fun at their sometimes absurd premise.
I also found the scenes with Martha to be well handled, since she, like Alexis (whom as I predicted was nowhere to be found this week), is someone who has mostly just been around the last couple of years. It was nice to finally see her do something interesting and the scene between her and Castle was easily the best scene of the episode. It served as a nice mother-son moment and was equal parts dramatic and funny.
Next week season 7 comes to a close with ‘Hollander’s Woods,’