In this week’s Castle, Nathan Fillion returned to his roots with a murder on the set of a daytime soap opera. Not being a soap fan myself, some of the inside jokes were no doubt lost on me, and I kept wondering why guest star Corbin Bernsen didn’t just put in a call to Shawn and Gus. At least while the mystery was – yet again – predictable, the characters were back to their usual playful selves, and more moments of connection between Beckett and Castle were had.
Seriously, though, could we please break through the crazy fan stereotype? Nathan ought to know better.
“One Life to Lose” opens in the midst of a soapy scene from the fictional Temptation Lane, until one actor opens a closet, and a real dead body falls out with an axe in her back. Across the city, Castle’s mother Martha is grooving to “Takin’ Care of Business” as she cleans out the kitchen. She banters with her son, filled with frenetic energy, until he receives the Beckett call, and announces that he’s off to the studio crime scene. Martha’s interest is piqued as she used to be on Temptation Lane back in the day, but Castle refuses to let her come with – it’s one civilian per corpse.
The corpse turns out to be Sarah Cutler, head writer. “A writer?” says Castle. “Why would anyone want to kill a writer?” “Oh, so many reasons,” Beckett replies with a half-smile. Castle’s imagination immediately turns to the outrageous; what’s more fitting for a soap opera set than uncovering a plot about a weather machine owned by an evil billionaire?
Lanie determines cause of death to be, unsurprisingly, the axe in the victim’s back. Now, I like Lanie as a character, but she has got to be one of the least professional fictional medical examiners on TV. Way too much cleavage for a crime scene. And despite the fact that she’s only twenty feet away, Esposito seems to forget his cleavage-bearing girlfriend when he interviews (and drools over) diva actress Mandy Bronson. While they snipe at one another, Mandy and her onscreen love interest, Lance (Bernsen), both claim to have gone home after 6 the previous evening when shooting wrapped for the day.
Beckett and Castle interview Sarah’s husband, Vince Bowers, one of the show’s directors. He points them in the direction of ‘FoxCanLover,’ an irate fan who blamed Sarah for killing off one half of her favorite TV couple. Here’s a place where the meta got both funny and irritating. Having Beckett know about ‘shipping’ (investing in the relationships of a show/book/movie, etc.) is completely adorable, but Castle is a bestselling author. The idea that he’s never come across a Nikki Heat/Jameson Rook shipper is just plain ridiculous.
Then Jane Seymour comes running in – she’s the deceased’s mother, Gloria Chambers, recently reunited with her daughter after giving her up for adoption. (I was sure she was sleeping with her daughter’s husband, but, alas, I was wrong.) Castle immediately suspects Gloria’s motives include needing a heart transplant – he’s still on his soap kick. But he’s not so distracted by soap plots that he fails to notice Beckett’s familiarity with the material.
(A brief aside, at around 8 minutes into the show, Beckett and Castle appear to walk through the halls of Princeton Plainsboro. No Hugh Laurie sightings though.)
Castle and Beckett meet Sarah’s assistant, Reese Harmon (Tina Majorino). Maybe it’s because Tina’s too good to waste on a bit part, but from the moment I saw her I knew she had ‘murderer’ written all over her. She lets Castle and Beckett into Sarah’s office and divulges some more info on the crazed FoxCanLover, aka Carrie Edwards. (I hope she never runs for president.) Beckett and Castle then pull Carrie Edwards into interrogation, and, sadly alienate some of their own fanbase by portraying fans as nutjobs who live at home with their parents, and relish in the actual, physical death of a human being because of a ‘ship. (Or was that just me?)
I know there are some psycho fans out there. But there are plenty of people who consider themselves shippers, who are perfectly normal and do not rejoice in death. It’s not a smart idea to start offering negative commentary on people who invest in fictional relationships when the success of your show depends heavily on the relationship between fictional people. Also, don’t cast aspersions on people who still live with their parents. We’re in a goddamned recession.
Esposito uncovers secret meetings Sarah Cutler made with a mysterious ‘M’ that neither her assistant or her husband knew about. Chances are her husband didn’t know anything because they had been separated for months. Vince is forced to admit he was having an affair with Mandy. He was with her the night of the murder, but Mandy left the hotel after receiving an e-mail from Sarah, ostensibly about a script.
Castle thinks the husband’s motive is too mundane, but wants to break Mandy. Beckett agrees that she has some explaining to do – and Castle has a brainstorm: he’s going to start referring to Lanie and Detective Esposito as EspLanie, which he says, “is perfect because they’re always ‘esplaining’ things.” It amuses me that never once during this episode does Castle wonder what his smash-name with Beckett would be. (Psst, for those not in the know, it’s Caskett.) Then Martha turns up, deciding to play ‘inside source’ by cozying up to old love interest Lance Hastings.
Assistant Reese lets Beckett and Castle into Sarah’s e-mail to find the message sent to Mandy – it includes script pages which describe Mandy’s character Angela Cannon getting gored to death by a bull in Pamplona. The team thinks Mandy confronted Sarah, who was trying to save her marriage, and ended up killing her. But Mandy claims she simply seduced Peter Connolly, Sarah’s second-in-command, to keep her job. Connolly confirms he gave into lust and agreed to talk to Sarah on Mandy’s behalf.
In a not-particularly-subtle moment, Reese wanders by and Connolly drafts her for the writers’ room, saying to Castle that Sarah really liked a script about horses that Reese had written, and, well, he was down a writer. Esposito calls to say that Sarah’s husband’s alibi is confirmed, but that Ryan had uncovered the location of Sarah’s mystery appointments, a coffee shop. The next appointment is scheduled in an hour.
At the cafe, Castle and Beckett are overwhelmed by a barista’s sobbing for Sarah’s death. But instead of being Sarah’s own given-up-for-adoption daughter or something equally juicy, it just turns out that Sarah had agreed to read the barista’s script, and now the barista would never get her chance in the biz. Boo hoo. To get her to stop crying, Castle agree to read the script and pass it on to his agent if he likes it. Then Sarah’s mystery date shows up, and is revealed to be a private investigator, hired by Sarah to look into Gloria Chambers, the mother – who is, of course, not really Sarah’s biological mother. Gloria’s a professional con-artist, but not a killer.
Castle and Beckett at their best toss ideas back and forth about another man in Sarah’s life, finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences. Ryan grins and says, “Do you two practice this when we’re not around?” Nah, it’s totally natural.
Gloria points them towards Lance Hastings, who bought Sarah a pair of very expensive earrings in an apparent attempt to win her back. Castle and Beckett burst in on him in the dressing room after hearing Martha’s loud exclamations for help. Unfortunately for Castle and Beckett, the actors were just rehearsing. After a terrible Jack Nicholson impression, Hastings admits that he sent Sarah the earrings as a thank you for getting him out of his contract long enough to do a movie role. No hanky panky involved.
He claims that when he arrived, Sarah was reading a script that upset her. She claimed someone betrayed her, but didn’t say who. Can you guess where this is going? I could.
But first, a moment of cute: Castle suggests they sleep on it, and Beckett gives him a significant look. With mock astonishment, Castle adds, “Separately. Why, Katherine Beckett, I never…”
He returns home for some family time, and after Martha instructs him to purchase an apology present, she asks about the barista’s script, which she thinks is pretty good. As Castle leafs through the pages, he has an epiphany…
The team sets up a sting, and Castle writes a new scene for the actors on Temptation Lane. In the booth, a terrified Reese watches as her own plagiarism is brought to life on set. Turns out, no surprise, she passed the barista’s unsolicited manuscript off as her own to get Sarah’s attention. After all, she had to work like a slave, didn’t she deserve the opportunity? A message to all writer’s assistants out there: if you don’t know and accept that you’ll be treated like a slave, you’re in the wrong biz.
Finally, Castle and Beckett share a moment over their secret love of soap operas, and after Castle presents her with a signed cast photo, Beckett opens up to admit that Temptation Lane was a show she used to watch with her mother, that it makes her feel safe. Then Dr. Motorcycle Boy calls and ruins the moment. Castle goes home only to be the moment-ruiner when he walks in on Martha and Lance Hastings getting cuddly on the couch.