Castle believes in a lot of things most people don't believe in. Specifically, he tends to believe in the kinds of things most people abandon once they reach a certain point of reason in their life—stuff like zombies, ghosts, and whatnot. But Castle isn't always the most reasonable person. He's a big man-child, we know, and in a way, it's fortunate that that childish aspect of his personality manifests in a way that primarily just makes him absurdly curious and maybe just a little bit gullible... as opposed to, say, making him a petulant, whiny ass, as so many man-children I know in real life tend to be.
So when Castle decided early on in "The Fast and the Furriest" that this week's murder had to have have been committed by Bigfoot, there wasn't much to feel about the situation other than an eye-rolling sense of déjà vu. Of course Castle believed a murdered primate researcher on the hunt for Bigfoot had been killed by the savage beast, because really, what else would he believe?
Here's the thing, though: Whereas I've found previous episodes revolving around Castle's peculiar beliefs kind of obnoxious, "The Fast and the Furriest" mostly managed to wriggle out of any major eye-roll moments. Maybe it's because Bigfoot is more of a cryptozoological mystery than a supernatural one, but I had an easier time just rolling with this episode's peculiar theories and goofy red herrings than I did when, say, the show tried to make me think that maybe a damn ghost actually killed somebody.
Not that I ever assumed the killer of 20-something researcher Anne Cardinal was ever anything but a decidedly human crime, but "The Fast and the Furriest" did at least manage to have some fun in splitting the team between its believers and skeptics. Initially, no one seemed quite sure what to make of Cardinal's injuries. Her body had been dumped outside of a hospital emergency room after being discovered in a random, dirt-filled alley in Manhattan by an ex-con passerby. In addition to blunt-force trauma to the head, her face featured a particularly grotesque slash mark that looked as if it was delivered by some kind of animal. When we learned that Cardinal's research dealt with primates, and that she herself was a Bigfoot tracker of sorts, Castle's brain went wild with theories about how the beast might've wandered into the city, especially after giant-sized footprints were found at the crime scene... alongside a pair of human boot prints.
Castle and Ryan went Team Bigfoot for a good chunk of the episode, while Beckett and Esposito took their usual position of Team Skeptical. This dynamic is nothing unfamiliar; in fact, it's something we've maybe seen a little too much of in the last couple of seasons. I like seeing the team square off against each other with differing theories, but in these kinds of goofball episodes, we always know that the story's going to loop back around to a less absurd conclusion. "The Fast and the Furriest" didn't really have much new to offer on the team dynamic front, nor was the actual mystery particularly great. So why did I think this episode worked at all?
For starters, there was a lightness to it that some of the show's other supernaturally oriented episodes have lacked. Yes, a young woman was murdered, but the action revolved around a rogues gallery of insane weirdos, ranging from a nerdy cryptozoologist who apparently owned his own, massive Bigfoot costume to a ludicrous cross between Steve Irwin and Captain Ahab who was hunting the beast in New York after claiming he'd had his arm ripped off by one in Nepal. It was all so ridiculous, and the whole episode pretty much played out that way, right down to the moment when Castle and Beckett found themselves trudging through the woods, hunting for Bigfoot and/or the original spot where Cardinal was killed, and getting caught in a giant pit that had been dug as a trap for a Sasquatch.
The episode also featured its share of decent little character moments. There was a particularly good one between Castle and Beckett mid-episode, where Castle lamented Beckett's lack of curiosity when it comes to the unexplained phenomena of the world. In that moment, you could see the childhood explorer in him peeking out, talking about how there are so few mysteries left in our world that it's impossible for him not to be curious about the ones that remain. Beckett's answer was equally good, as she talked about seeing the magic and the mystery in every day life, in the people around her. It was a more grounded perspective, but neither was really too far off from the other. They're both intensely curious people who just happen to have different curiosities. Considering how few genuinely reflective, conversational moments we've had between the two of late, it was nice to see them actually address Castle's weird pursuits in a way that felt natural to their relationship's development, as opposed to Beckett just shaking her head every time he brings up whatever weird supernatural murder theory he has, as she's often been relegated to doing in the past.
Still, as tends to be the case with these sillier episodes, the murder mystery didn't quite stick the landing. After spending most of the hour pursuing Bigfoot hunters and researchers, the evidence somehow circled back around to Cardinal's former roommate, who had been murdered a year earlier. The suspect was the girl's boyfriend, who'd disappeared not long after the murder. Beckett was convinced that he may have retreated to the heavily wooded area where Cardinal was originally attacked—and where Castle believed Bigfoot was hiding—so they went there, only to get caught in that trap, and run into the aforementioned researcher in his Bigfoot outfit, drenched in deer pheromones. That, by the way, was the only Bigfoot we got to see anywhere in the episode.
Eventually the boyfriend was corralled by the cops, but he wasn't the killer. Instead, the murder tied back to a seemingly throwaway character from earlier in the episode: Cardinal's boss at the primate sanctuary. As we learned through copious explanation from Beckett, the bossman had previously been Cardinal's roommate's professor. The roommate had mysteriously dropped out of school, which everyone assumed was because of the boyfriend. However, it turned out the professor had been stalking her, and when she was about to report it, he killed her. But he also took a souvenir in the form of a pendant she always wore. Cardinal recognized the pendant and began looking for more evidence, and when the guy got wise, he killed her too. That pendant, by the way? She swallowed it whole before she died. It was a pretty big pendant.
So, yeah, not exactly the rousing conclusion you might have been hoping for. Still, considering what a weird episode "The Fast and the Furriest" turned out to be, there were enough funny gags and cute character moments to mostly make up for the convoluted nonsense of the murder mystery. I'm just hoping this is our last "Castle believes in something weird!" episode for the season, given that we've only got a few installments left. We've seen enough of that for a little while, and frankly, we're starting to run out of things for him to believe in.
– I didn't say much about this week's weird subplot with Alexis stealing food out of Castle's fridge because I have no idea why any of that happened. Like, okay, Castle was annoyed that someone was stealing his food and set a trap, which exploded and turns Alexis's face blue. That was funny. But the conclusion, where Alexis confessed to spending all her allowance on some kind of crowd-funding initiative for bamboo gardens on skyscraper roofs? Yeah, you lost me there. I'm kind of sad at how lackluster most of the Alexis material has been this season. Outside of the two-episode kidnapping arc, there just hasn't been much for her to do this year, and these little moments aren't really tugging at the heartstrings the way they have in the past. Just kind of a bummer, since I like both the character and Molly Quinn.
– This was the second episode this season directed by Star Trek: TNG alum Jonathan Frakes. His other episode, the wonderfully funny "The Final Frontier", is still in the running for my favorite episode of the season. This one? Not so much.
– Perlmutter calling Esposito and Ryan the "B Team" was a bit ironic coming from the B-tier medical examiner. Where's Lanie been lately?
– Did I miss the explanation for why Cardinal had been planting the fake Bigfoot footprints in the alley? I remember the crazy Australian hunter guy suggesting that it was designed to throw him off the track of the "real" Bigfoot, but did we ever get confirmation on that?
– "There is one inexplicable, mysterious phenomenon that I believe in: Us." Beckett, providing the d'awwwwwww moment of the night.
– I'm not the only one who screamed "MAN IN SUIT! MAN IN SUIT!" at the TV the second the giant gorilla wandered up to Castle at the sanctuary, right? Because holy hell was that ever a guy in a bad gorilla suit. It was, like, Congo bad.
– Your animated GIF assignment for the week: The giant gorilla making the throat-cutting gesture at Castle like some demented, primate version of The Undertaker.