Despite the fact that I considered last week’s episode of Castle (“Last Action Hero”) to be one of the season’s worst and last night’s episode to be one of the season’s best, there are similarities between the two. For one thing, each episode involves either a scenario or a person that Rick Castle nerds out about and both episodes exploit Rick’s enthusiasm to put him in a situation where he could either break the law or get hurt. The difference is that this time, there were real consequences. It also helped that the writers found a way to tell a compelling main story while also working in a story about two of the show’s underused supporting players.
In “Bad Santa,” a doctor is gunned down by a man who is dressed up like Tim Allen in those Santa Clause movies.
Soon, we learn that the victim is a doctor named Eric Mercer who has ties to a crime family that Rick is familiar with thanks to a contact that he made while researching one of the Derek Storm novels.
Rick reaches out to his “friend” and they schedule a meeting at the strip club where his office is located. Then there are women that are barely dressed like Tim Allen in those Santa Clause movies and there is also a bit of awkwardness between Kate and Rick.
Meanwhile, back at the squadroom…
Laney asks Javy to meet her parents and to lie to them about being engaged. At first he is resistant, but then she basically trades the promise of sex for his compliance. And that is a TV trope that, after 7 years of marriage, I can confidently call complete bullshit on.
I was happy to see Javy and Laney in full-on couple mode, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened at the end of the episode. What happened? Keep reading, “time on page” matters, dude.
Meanwhile, back at the strip club…
Kate and Rick met with Rick’s goodtime mob buddy, Dino Scarpella (Paul Ben-Victor, who is better than 90% of the roles that he gets offered, including this one), but he says that he doesn’t recognize the victim. He is lying. It isn’t hard to tell, and when Kate gets on the phone and finds out that they got a positive match on a bloody Tim Allen Santa Clause suit that was in the car of one of Scarpella’s men, an arrest is made.
I’ll cut to the chase. That man, Christopher (Vincent Spano) is innocent and Dino wants Rick to clear his name and find out who killed Dr. Garner, who was apparently Dino’s cousin’s son that he raised like his own. To establish an unbreakable bond with Rick, Dino slices his hand and then cuts Rick as they swear the vow of Omerta and possibly Hepatitis. Now Rick is a member of the family and given access to the seedy underbelly of the mob and the family discount at The Silk Suit emporium.
There is value in the rare moments that pit Rick against Kate, especially now that they are married, and this is one of them as he must operate without her while on the outside of the law. But again, there are consequences to that.
The case moves relatively quickly, twisting and turning a bit and there are some honest surprises as they pertain to Scarpella’s daughter, a man named Luca Tosero, and their Romeo and Juliet-esque affair. There is also a bit of real tension on display between Rick and Dino that is absolutely rammed home by Paul Ben-Victor’s chops. As I’ve said, the show is called Castle, so you know Rick isn’t going to die, but I was about 80% sure he was going to get shot when Rick shared his theory about who the killer was.
In the end, the ID of the real killer is a genuine surprise that I won’t spoil and Dino offers him a favor in exchange for his efforts, but that’s all an appetizer for the real bombshells of the episode: the end of Javy and Laney and Rick’s removal from his role as a consultant.
Javy’s flirtation with the lady cop in the Taking of Pelham 123-esque episode seemed like the last act of a man who was both ready for and affraid of commitment, so I assumed that putting Laney and her parents into a room with him might cause him to either snap or propose. And by episode’s end, the experiment in real couplehood did seem to flip a switch with Javy, who seems to have an evolving set of priorities, but they don’t include Laney, and she didn’t seem to mind that. They both deserve “The One,” so they mutually broke up. Or they’re just going to continue to be fuck buddies while shopping for other options. I’m not sure, there was some weird body language as they left the screen.
As for Rick, he’s out because the killer got whacked and the DA found out that he had worked heavily with the mob to investigate the case. These are the ultimate consequences for the reckless way that he dove into the case (and it wasn’t the first time), but to me, that’s a little odd considering that the mob could have just whacked the killer after reading about it in The Daily News. I suppose it would be a public relations nightmare, though, so his banishment makes sense.
Kate’s recitation of her Christmas poem to Rick, in which she spoke of their everlasting partnership in life and at work, kicked me in the balls of my heart thanks to the merciless timing of the producers, who had her practically skip onto the screen with a broad smile on her face as Gates walked away from Castle after telling him the bad news. But while Kate and Rick’s partnership has been so vital to this show’s success, as I said before, conflict can also be good.
Starting with the mid-season premiere on January 12th, Rick will be a private investigator and a thorn in the side of Kate and the team. To me, this is a brilliant turn of events that might add a real kick to this show in its 7th season. Allowing Kate and Rick to share the same real estate while also allowing them to be competitive with each other. I don’t know how long this will last, but I hope it’s for more than an episode or two, because it didn’t seem like Rick’s issues with the mayor or the DA were minor thanks to his alignment with Dino. Also, I love a good PI series with the occasional light moment, and right now that is something that is sorely lacking on TV.