Watching Castle 3.03: “Under the Gun” (ABC)

Poor bail bondsman Deon Carver. The latest unfortunate victim on Castle was done in by a conk to the noggin at the office, leaving behind a grieving widow, a bail bond business and an indecipherable treasure map tucked away inside his shoe.

We’re sad to see you go, Deon, especially since you’re one of the few bail bondsmen left in America who still accepts Vista as a form of payment!

As usual with Castle, we’ve got more twists than the Coronado Trail and enough suspects to fill a hot tub, so we’d better get on the case.

Castle Murder Twist Number One: someone called 9-1-1 from Deon’s phone approximately one hour after the murder occurred and left the phone off the hook.

Castle Murder Twist Number Two: a listening device hidden inside Deon’s office adding machine.

Castle Personal Relationship Twist of the Week: special guest star Jason Beghe, who arrives on the scene as Beckett’s former training officer turned bounty hunter, Mike Royce.  Applause from me.  It’s always good to see Jason Beghe in anything, though he might wince to hear me say that my favorite performance of his was as the athlete turned quadriplegic nursed into self-acceptance by a psychopathic chimp in the 1988 film Monkey Shines.  Anyone with me on this?

Additionally, the “Bess Armstrong” rule spelled out in my recap to last week’s Castle episode applies to this week’s episode as well.  Jason Beghe ain’t cheap to get as your guest star, so we should all expect that there’s more to him than just the crusty surrogate father figure to Beckett we currently see before us.

Suspect #1 – Serial burglar Random Pierce (Keith Robinson) who was seen having a heated argument with Carver the day before the murder.  Confirmed Alibi: Pierce was caught shoplifting at the BookMart uptown at the time of the killing.

Suspect #2 – Old Man and Retired Crook Clifford Stuckey (James Handy) who was the victim in Random’s most recent burglary, leading to Random’s arrest and the need to hire Carver’s bond services.

But Old Man Stuckey’s prints were also found at the scene of the crime.  What gives, Old Man Stuckey?  He swears he was only there in the hopes that Random would be willing to turn his life around, in which case Stuckey would be willing to drop the charges against him.  But if you’re charged with robbery, isn’t it up to the state to decide whether or not to press charges?  Just asking.  Castle and Beckett didn’t seem to be thrown by Stuckey’s answer, and they’re way better looking than I am, so I guess we should all believe him.

By the way, Stuckey caught sight of the mystery treasure map and gave it the wide-eyed knowing glare common in 1960s soap operas.  Add a dramatic organ chord and it could have been Dark Shadows

Castle and Beckett take a break from interrogating suspects to visit Lanie down in the morgue, whose line, “I was just getting ready to cut open Carver’s skull!” pleases me ever so.

Under the light that is used apparently to assist in skull-carving, Lanie caught a faint glimpse of a cross drawn on the victim’s forehead with holy water.  A brief review of Carver’s financial records leads us to discover he regularly contributed money to a local church run by Suspect #3, Father Aaron Lowe (Brian Krause), whose shoes match the prints found at the scene of the crime.

Seriously, this must be the busiest bond business in New York.  Everyone in town has stopped by.  Accepting Vista really opens a whole new customer base, doesn’t it?

Father Aaron claims that he was only visiting Carver to help counsel him on his marital problems with wife Brooke (Sophina Brown), and when he found Carver’s body, he administered last rites, called 9-1-1 and fled out of concern the police might try to frame him for the murder.  This is the dumbest priest ever.  He administered last rights and left a holy water cross on Carver’s dead head but didn’t think anyone would be able to piece together a priest had been there?

Father Aaron’s looking pretty guilty until news comes that it was Brooke who purchased the listening device found in Carver’s office, officially making her Suspect #4.  Brooke admits to placing the bug out of fear Carver was having an affair, but claims the only things she ever ended up hearing were Carver’s continual proclamations of love and devotion

If you need to re-fill your beverage, now would be a good time because here’s where the Castle coincidences really start to pile up.

It turns out that Father Aaron volunteered at the correctional facility that housed Random, who was cell mates with a Malcolm Lloyd, a thief doing twenty for a jewel heist he pulled off with Old Man Stuckey as his partner back in the early nineties.  The D.A. let Stuckey walk, but Lloyd got sent to the slammer, dying of a heart attack only a few weeks prior to Carver’s murder, which means he’s officially out as Suspect #5.  And the jewels… say it with me, y’all… were never recovered.

On his deathbed, Malcolm Lloyd revealed the existence of the coded treasure map to Father Aaron.  When Father Aaron went to Lloyd’s cell, the map was already gone – stolen away by Random who had no idea how to read it and proceeded to break into Old Man Stuckey’s apartment to force him into decoding it.

Father Aaron, who was following Random at the time, called the cops on him and got him arrested in order to get the leverage needed for Random to be forced into sharing the map with him. A penniless Random was offered bail money by Carver at the prodding of Father Aaron, making the three men co-conspirators in a three-way treasure split.

Later, Carver had called Father Aaron and declared he’d figured out the mystery of the map, but by the time Father Aaron arrived at his office, Carver was dead.

Meanwhile, while chatting with daughter Alexis about the dangers of Vespas and the emotional tug of light sabers, Castle is put in mind of the famous Mad Magazine “Fold-Ins,” where a single image on a sheet of paper can be folded in a way that reveals an entirely different image.  Through a series of these folds, Castle discovers that the map’s lines and boxes actually form the words “UNDER THE GUN.”

Beckett and her mentor Royce head out for drinks, relive old times and pay mutual professional respect to one another.  But we’re past the mid-way point in the episode and the “Bess Armstrong” bomb regarding guest actors is about to detonate.  Turns out Royce is also in pursuit of the treasure and has snatched Random from Central Processing to get the information he needs to snag that buried thirty million dollar payday.  But before a heart-broken Beckett can put the final pieces together in her head, Royce vanishes.

Now, it’s sometimes impossible to excuse some of the rather stupid moves supporting characters who should know better make on Castle, but as long as the Castle/Beckett relationship gets plenty of attention, I’ll play along.  Unfortunately, that’s not happening this week.  The fun of the two main characters is being completely sacrificed for an unnecessary amount of plot twists with an over-abundance of characters and some huge plot leaps.

Plot Leap Number One: How is that Royce, a former police officer and current bounty hunter who’s apparently been an ace at his job and an inspiration to Beckett for years, immediately phones the police station to apologize to Beckett for who he is, and gets duped into staying on the phone long enough for the cops to get a trace on his location?  When the team arrives at the address, there’s poor Random, who’s been screwed by pretty much everyone else in the episode, handcuffed to a water pipe and ready to provide the exposition needed to take this episode home.

It turns out that Carver’s wife, Brooke had lied about hearing her husband reciting endless love sonnets about her with the listening device she planted in his office  In fact, just the opposite,  Brooke overheard her husband, Father Aaron and Old Man Stuckey arguing over whether or not to cut her out once the fortune was uncovered.  She also overheard the “Fold Ins” solution to the mystery map, and decided to off her husband by braining him with a trophy, dig up the treasure and keep it all to herself.

Plot Leap Number Two: Beckett and Castle found the brochure for St. Jude’s Cemetery in Carver’s office, and remembered that Carver had actually been cremated, so there’d be no need for a cemetery.  This led them to the assumption that the markings on the mystery map were in fact gravestones, and that the treasure must be buried under a gravestone baring the last name of GUN (or, as it turned out, GUNN).  But even if Brooke had figured out the cemetery angle, how was she able to determine which cemetery in New York – or in the country for that matter – was the correct one to hit?  There was nothing on the map that said “St Jude’s” on it, unless I missed something.  If I did, my apologies to everyone involved, but if I didn’t, wow!  That’s a tough one to overlook!

Nevertheless, Castle and Beckett end up at the graveyard where they find the headstone in question.  Brooke immediately emerges from the shadows and pulls a gun on them.  Beckett returns the favor and pulls her gun on Brooke.  Then, Old Man Stuckey emerges from the shadows and pulls a gun on Castle, Beckett, and Brooke.  This is followed by Royce emerging from the shadows and pulling a gun on Stuckey, and then Detectives Ryan and Huertas emerging from the shadows and pulling guns on Brooke, Old Man Stuckey and Royce.  This cemetery has the worst night security guard in history!

Castle, being the only one holding a PeakPlus tactical flashlight instead of a firearm, is forced to jump into the half-uncovered Gunn plot and start digging, but instead manages to wipe out Brooke and Stuckey with a little grave dirt to the eyes.  Huertas puts the hold on Royce, who nobly hands his cuffs over to Beckett.  She dutifully collars her perp.

This was by far the least successful episode of the season thus far, and it neglected the fact that people are tuning in to see the male lead and the female lead flirt with one another, with a little murder and car chase here and there in the background to move things along.  It’s too bad that the Beckett and Royce angle was so shoehorned into the story.  I wouldn’t have minded seeing the two of them really form a relationship over a two or three arc backstory, only to see it dashed to pieces by a betrayl from Royce a little further down the line.  That would have given Stana Katic a little something new to play, and resulted in some real meaty scenes where Castle provided a shoulder for her.  Instead, Beghe’s talents were fairly wasted.

And even worse, we never even received the pleasure of getting to see this glorious thirty million dollars of jewels that has been driving every charater’s motivations through the entire episode.  It’s retrieved and returned to its proper owners off camera and brushed over with a few lines of dialogue.  “Under the Gun” felt like a ninety minute story squeezed into a sixty minute timeslot.  That was the real crime on Castle this week.

Anyone agree… or am I just taking all the fun out of it?

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2 thoughts on “Watching Castle 3.03: “Under the Gun” (ABC)

  • October 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

    This sounds like one crazy show. we have burglars, priests, a whole smorgasboard of people. It almost makes me wish I owned a television…

  • October 6, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I think considering the amount of care you put into re-capping the show, you are fair to call out things that don’t work for you.

    LOVE VISTA! I’m going to apply for mine today. You find a lot of great subtle moments in this show.

    I too am never as satisified when there is not as much Castle and Beckett but that’s what makes me come back for more. You too apparently. Thanks for the write-up.

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