Castle "The Lives of Others" Review: All the World's a Stage

Castle S05E19: "The Lives of Others"

100th episodes are not always reliable beacons of quality. The milestone always sounds like a big, celebratory thing, but just as often it's simply a mark a showrunner wants to hit in order to all but assure syndication for a series. More and more, though, that 100-episode quota is less-than-necessary for syndication—in fact, Castle already airs in reruns on TNT, so Andrew Marlowe and crew haven't had to worry about the big syndication question mark for some time. Perhaps because of that, Castle's 100th episode really was a simple, sweet celebration of the character and the series, rather than just some benchmark for future financial security.   

It was also an excuse for the show to go full Hitchcock in a cheeky, goofy tribute to the late, great master of suspense. The whole episode was a Rear Window scenario, featuring a laid-up Castle in a wheelchair, recovering from an accident that occurred during a pre-birthday ski trip with Beckett. Castle's mom was off on a retreat somewhere, and Beckett had caught a new case involving a murdered IRS agent, so Castle was essentially left to his own devices all day long. Somewhere along the way, Alexis decided to buy him a pair of binoculars, which led to the first of several very explicit references to Rear Window throughout the episode, which probably didn't need to be there. Then again, I met a 20-something the other day who had never seen a single movie prior to 1980, so maybe the references did serve a purpose.

Castle didn't use his newly found free time to write, or to really do anything of use. Instead, he actually picked up the binoculars and started spying on his neighbors in the building across the way. It all started out innocently enough with a bit of minor voyeurism. But then Castle fixated on a young couple who were on the verge of sexual congress; because of course he did. But suddenly, another man came into the apartment, forcing the young woman to hide her other man, and to scramble to find a way to push him out of the apartment before the boyfriend found out. Unfortunately, she failed to see her secret guy's fedora lying on the ground, and the boyfriend eventually took notice. Castle was enraptured by the will he/won't he scenario now in front of him, though that turned to panic when the boyfriend decided to confront the girl by pulling a knife on her and dragging her into the bedroom, where Castle couldn't see what might be happening.

Nevertheless, Castle was convinced that a murder had taken place, pulling Beckett and the team into the situation by having them visit the neighbor's apartment. But when Ryan and Esposito didn't find anything, Castle was dumbstruck. He knew what he'd seen, but nobody believed him.

Considering just how blatant of a Rear Window riff this was, it's telling that I was so willing to go along with it almost exclusively on the merits of Nathan Fillion's burgeoning paranoia and obsession. Castle is an obsessive character, one who often treats murder investigations like trifling puzzles devoid of any real human connection or tragedy. Which isn't to say that he doesn't feel anything, but it's obvious that Castle takes his inspiration more from a detached, mechanical mindset, where it's all about just connecting all the dots. Here, Fillion gave one of his more wonderfully frazzled performances, portraying a man just this side of desperate while maintaining the air of silliness and fun that Castle so desperately needs to stay afloat. He grumbled and pouted at every rebuff by his colleagues, and he seemed genuinely thrilled when Alexis took an interest in the case. Watching the two of them eat popcorn as they watched the neighbor do totally dicey things, like drag a rolled up carpet out of the apartment and wander into the bedroom with nothing but a paint mask and rubber gloves, was simultaneously a bit disturbing and also mildly hilarious.

Even better was the conclusion, which featured Castle and crew frantically charging into the neighbor's apartment after it appeared that Beckett had been attacked by the killer, and discovering... a surprise party! Yup, the whole thing was a set-up, perpetrated by an apparently way cleverer Beckett than we ever knew existed. The victim and murderer? Students in Castle's mom's acting class. Even Captain Gates, who'd enjoyed one of her more memorable moments of screaming bloody murder at Castle earlier in the episode, was in on the whole thing. In this regard, the episode almost flew around Rear Window entirely before landing on something closer to David Fincher's The Game, a movie in which Michael Douglas's rich asshole character is put through elaborately staged paces that at times seem so intricate and complex as to defy all manner of reason and logistics. This was certainly not as ludicrous as that, though it did require an expertly tuned understanding of Castle's mindset and personality in order for it to ever have worked. I guess the understanding here is that Beckett is such a person with such an understanding, which is wonderful, but also maybe a little terrifying. I'm trying to think of how I'd react if my girlfriend displayed such an innate and all-encompassing understanding of my psyche, and every scenario I picture ends with me having a complete mental breakdown.

The only problem with "The Lives of Others" is that the aforementioned IRS murder ended up getting shoved completely into the background, to the point where I actively forgot about that investigation every single time we cut back to Castle. It wasn't a terrible mystery, but the culprit was telegraphed way too early (note: it's always the guy with the terrible facial hair), and Beckett's sudden and complete understanding of how the murder was "staged" went beyond mere serendipity and entered the realm of the ludicrous. Then again, she'd just managed to stage an entire fake murder for her boyfriend to surreptitiously witness, so maybe we should just start being afraid of her now.

Otherwise, this was about as delightful an episode of Castle as you could hope for, given the anniversary. It's nice to be so thoroughly reminded of why you still like a TV show, especially after you've seen 100 episodes of it.

What'd you think of the episode?



NOTES

– I didn't want to sully the main write-up with any Comic Book Guy-level nitpicking over the logistics of Castle's murder party reveal, but holy hell, how did Beckett manage to rent a giant empty apartment for a week? Also, was it already furnished? Were those acting students just so in love with Castle's mom's teaching that they were willing to basically drop everything and do this for a week? How did Beckett know Castle would suddenly think of the refrigerator?!? Phew. Okay, I'm done. No, I don't actually want anyone to try and answer these questions. I just wanted to say them out loud to get them out of my system. I'm good now.

– Ryan: "Watching a phone won't make it ring. I learned that in junior high." I swear, every other episode Ryan says something that makes me want to hug him and just tell him everything's going to be okay. Which makes last week's sudden badassening of the character all the more inexplicable and hilarious.

– Apparently, Castle and Beckett were planning on going to Bora Bora for his birthday, prior to the skiing accident. So yes, I'd say that Beckett has taken to Castle's fabulously wealthy lifestyle just fine, since she's apparently not even batting an eye at the notion of multiple expensive getaways within weeks of each other.

– Pretty sure I lack the rage and gumption to ever actually kill someone. That said, if I found out my girlfriend was cheating on me with a guy who wears a fedora, I'd at least have to stop and think about it for a second.

– There was definitely a bit of Grace Kelly influence in Stana Katic's party dress at the end there.  

– Someone please make me an animated .GIF of Esposito and Ryan doing the Charlie's Angels pose, so that I might repurpose it later for my own nefarious ends. 

Comments (60)
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It was one of the best episodes of Castle. Loved every moment of it. Its my favorite of the season as well.

Alex, my 21 year old friend has not seen a single movie which wasn't released post 1990. So, yeah the explicit references are much needed.
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"– Someone please make me an animated .GIF of Esposito and Ryan doing the Charlie's Angels pose, so that I might repurpose it later for my own nefarious ends. "

THAT. It sums up the episode perfectly.
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While I've rarely watched Castle in the last two years, I was in front of a TV set for this one. It was no disappointment. I diversion from the norm, a chance to see Castle immobilized and ultimately an opportunity for Beckett to display what she's learned from having Castle write the solutions to her cases for years.
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Although I figured out Beckett's plan early on , I think this was a great episode and I loved the Rear Window homage . The way the murder was resolved and the actual name of the woman ( DeWinter ) also recalls another classic from Hitchcock : Rebecca ( 1940 ) . Happy 100th episode Castle , and here's for 100 ( or at least 50 ) more !!!
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How did they know Castle would be watching at the precise moments needed to make the murder storyline plausible?
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Another great episode. I also want that GIF of Ryan Espo doing the Charlie's Angels pose.
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If you are going to buy somebody a gift for their birthday, you start saving up money, so it's easy to assume she was planning it for a while and saved up enough? She knew Castle would think of the refrigerator because she obviously knows Castle. By making sure the guy gets a can from the cupboard she knew that it would activate with her getting a drink from his fridge, thus resulting in him connecting the dots. The acting students, if they were still students, would like to do something like this. Put their skills to use in a real situation so they have real practice. Very easy. If you don't like that answer then: Martha offered them discounts. Nothing unbelievable there so there is nothing you nitpick about any of those points.

Also, the guy didn't just find the hat then kill her. There was an obvious time difference between when he got home and the 'murder'. Just look at the lightning for time of day, at least a few hours. Just sayin' it wasn't an immediate decision for the guy either.
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Absolutely LOVED this episode. This epitomizes everything that made me fall in love with the show. Everything that happened at the beginning of the season with it's really shmaltzy lines now becomes ok now that the show is back on track.
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As some have said before, my favorite part of the episode was totally when Castle asked how many cases they had solved together and Beckett said about a 100 or so. I didn't even realize it was the 100th episode till then! So nice little wink from the writers. Also, when Castle is checking out the appartments across the street, the first window he looks into is Marlowe and his writing partner of that week, sees them fighting and says: Must be writers. That cracked me up too. The IRS case felt like a total filler, but other than that, I loved this episode. They've been trying to recreate some of that S1/2 funness and this episode certainly brought it.

Also, I didn't think Beckett going to such lengths to set the whole thing up was creepy. You have to remember, Castle does like that kinda stuff and they've been working together every.single.day for about 5 years, so Beckett would be well aware of that, even if she weren't his girlfriend. But seeing as she is, her going through so much trouble, was just plain cute to me.
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This was a great episode, but I think the show needs a serious change-up -- we've seen about all the Big Apple murders we can see. Maybe Beckett needs to become chief of police? Unrealistic, I know. Or maybe the crew should move out to LA or DC (although I know that brings back memories of 80's spinoffs).

I don't know. Something to liven things up. Because if they keep with the status quo, I don't think they can pull off something as entertaining as this week's episode every week.
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I partially agree, but for different reasons.

NYC is a very diverse and weird place... it's not that unheard of for some really weird crimes / murders. So it might take a little while longer before they run out of decent ideas.

BUT... all shows eventually become stale. Once you pass that 3rd season mark... it's all down hill. By 4 you're starting to get stale, by 5 it's starting to really show. The only real options are to "change things up" a little bit, but then you risk breaking the formula that made the show interesting in the first place.

Honestly, I'd be OK with Castle ending next season. I LOVE the show, the characters, the actors/actresses. But I'd rather they left before they become a pale imitation of what they once were
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I'm also ok on Castle ending next season (because it's already stale) but it would be great if the writers can come up with something incredible and make this show last until season 20, just like L&O.
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Except for the fact that Law and Order, set in NYC, was on the air for 20 years and as I fondly remember it, the shows never got stale.
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They also rotated most of the cast like every 4 years. Outside of Jack and VanBuren Briscoe not many people lasted longer than that.

Lots of shows that try to rotate too much of the cast fail. So L&O got lucky. Plus by focusing half the show on the trials really helped
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I loved this episode. A lot.

And I, too, would like to have a .gif of Ryan and Esposito's Charlie's Angels pose. That was amazing.
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How many murders do you think we've solved since we met?
- Oh, I don't know. Maybe a hundred or so?
I absolutely loved that part. I'm crossing my fingers for a hundred more, too!
Overall it was a very nice and fun 100th episode. The only thing that bothers me: How did the hired actors know when to start their little act? How did they know, Castle would look out of his window in precisely that moment and not a couple of minutes earlier or later? But I'm willing to overlook that little flaw in the plot because the writers gave me the Charlie's Angels scene. I want to have that GIF and watch it over and over again!
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"The only thing that bothers me: How did the hired actors know when to start their little act? How did they know, Castle would look out of his window in precisely that moment and not a couple of minutes earlier or later?"

Kate, Alexis & Martha with the help of survellance experts in the NYPD had rigged the entire apartment with mini web-cams. They also tampered with the helicopter to make it crash giving Richard nothing else to do. I know that wasn't in the show but just a little imagination and it's easy to fill in the blanks :)
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As so often said: there is no coincidence. On Monday I watched Rear Window after reading a review by Paul Verhoeven in my Dutch newspaper. A day later this magnificent episode of Castle appeared; it was almost an epic remake of the movie and I wondered a long time how this would end as they probably wouldn't do a complete remake. But they ended it complete in style for the person Castle as well as the series (giving us a great 100th episode).
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Friggin awesome!!! Anyone who's got some complaint, should stop watching entirely and resort to other things deserving of your whiny behinds!
No seriously, this was a fantastic episode and had so many funny moments, i was pretty much grinning ear to ear the entire episode.
- the angels pose (especially Esposito): hilarious!
- Castle wheelchair bound flying his 'copter: superb television!
- ... (too many others moments)
And my favourite line:
-"Where is Captain Gates?"
- "She couldn't make it"
-"Good" haha that was so great on Castle's part.
Such a shame we have to wait a whole week again!
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Oh I got bad news for you matey, we have to wait 2 weeks!
Not sure why but next Monday says no Castle in my program.
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fck hell and devil! you're right! dagnabbit! :(
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I have to admit that the only thing that I didn't like about this episode was the way Beckett seemed to solve the IRS case in just a second. I said to myself: C'mon!!! Seriously?? Just by looking at the tiny little scribble/doodle/thingy in a corner of the video? Patrick Jane should be careful or he'd just end up unemployed. But what the hell, the rest of the episode was simply mind blowing. The writers had me all the way to the end and I almost feared about Beckett's life.

Your questions are valid but I'm sure they can be answered very easily by anyone. You can basically do anything if you're filthy rich (or your relatives are).

About Ryan, I feel the same way about him and I also feel much more respect for him now that we know he can be so tough. He can kick-ass, be hilarious and adorable all at the same time.

I think anyone would have killed (figuratively) someone for a prank like that. I'd be furious. But since we all know how Castle is, his reaction was pretty predictable yet surprising because I honestly thought he was going to do and say something that he wouldn't regret.

Who wouldn't get used to that life style? I would in a blink.

I do too want that .GIF pose. Please.
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Excellent ep, but I also had those questions about the crazy rear window setup. Very manipulative of Beckett too, as Castle believed she was in real danger! But the twist was good enough to make it more entertaining than questionable.
Also, can't look at Ryan the same away again since he blew me away last week. I want more badass Fenton O'Grady whats-his-face... the name was ridiculous, but he sold it!
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The episode was pretty cute but what I really want is to see Kevin Ryan in a leather jacket again. I've caught the Ryan bug.
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I didn't see that ending coming, great episode!
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I LOVED this episode. I am not going to over analyze it. It's a tv show. It's not supposed to be totally realistic. It's meant to be entertaining. This episode was beyond entertaining. The writers, cast, and crew did a magnificent job. Bravo and congrats on the 100th episode! I am hoping for 100 more!!
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Good The Game reference, even though I still believe somebody forced Fincher to change the ending of that movie it just doesn't make sense.
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I'm soooooo jealous of Castle... I you have a girlfriend like Becket who gives you your ulitmate birthday party, you better hold on to her tight.

Now, in reality.... I'm soooooo jealous of mr Fillion... he get's get close with the lovely and always gorgeous mss Katic.

Oh, and I likes this episode. It was a great one.
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I agree, Castle better hold on tight to Beckett!

I must say I am captivated by Stana beacuse she is smart, beautiful, and unbelievably talented. Just a little envious that she gets to get up close and personal with Nathan Fillion who is smart, funny, kind, and adorable! Nathan is a pretty fortunate man as well because he gets to work with and hang out with the lovely Stana.

As far as the episode goes, it's one for the history books. Very well done!
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I loved Castle's 100th episode! And as of when I knew? The moment the lights went out in the apartment LOL
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http://25.media.tumblr.com/96c5759bbdb781eb106907b38d44152d/tumblr_mkmtmgL9AZ1rpp9nio1_500.gif

Ask, and you shall receive. Are they not the most adorable freaking detectives ever? Ha. And yes,every time Ryan opens his mouth, I kinda wanna hug him and put him into my pocket like a little leprechaun who can then suddenly become badass and fight off evil doers away from my presence. That's my secret wish.
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YA!
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Not a secret anymore :)
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I share your opinion in this. Castle's big 100 was not an important story arc, but a nice and likeable episode that reminded me of the goofiness of Castle's essence.
Loved it. It was different in a good way. It was fun, thrilling, had me in the edge of my seat once or twice AND I loved that Marlowe was in it.
Also, Ryan and Espo' s Charlie's Angels move? AMAZING.
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Has anyone picked up on the fact that Beckett used the "L" word for the first time? She said "Your wild imagination is part of what I love about you."
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It's not the same as "I love you" though. Not that I doubt that they indeed love eachother. And I think they both know it :)
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I did!!! I heard it immediately!! :D
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Really enjoyed the episode and yes totally agree to the "so thoroughly reminded of why you still like a TV show, especially after you've seen 100 episodes of it. "
That Charlie's Angels pose is going to be a classic!!!
You wonder how much the little details help, yes?
"There was definitely a bit of Grace Kelly influence in Stana Katic's party dress at the end there." Why thank you! That was a good catch! Now I'll just have to go and watch Rear Window and the magnificent Grace Kelly, haven't seen it since I was a kid ( that was aaaages ago!)
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How did Beckett know Castle would suddenly think of the refrigerator?!?
I dunno, maybe when she dropped a huge hint by saying "Hey Castle do you want a drink from the refrigerator?"
I pretty muched guessed that the whole thing was a birthday set-up early on, mostly because they made a huge deal of it being Richard's birthday and usually when Martha is going away to spa or whatever it's one line of dialouge from Richard saying he has the apartment to himself again. Although the final clincher was the little look Alexis gave Kate after Alexis had been roped into Richard's "investigation" .
Knowing (OK suspecting, because you're never going to really know until they do the reveal) that it was a brithday present actually made the whole episode more fun, because you're in on the joke and you get to watch someone get more and more wound up over nothing.
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I thought the huge giveaway was when Kate first was upset with him for being up all night, then gave a huge smile behind his back...
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I actually wondered about the sudden insight to the refrigerator at just the right moment but then when I watched it Beckett actually says "Would you like a DRINK from the FRIDGE?" So I guess Castle's was just a little slower than Beckett expected him to be.
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My biggest problem with the entire party setup was how it started, everything after that was just "gravy" in the WTF was that plotline they had going on.
How did they know Castle was going to be looking at that exact apartment, at that exact time?
Before that he was happily playing with helicopters and other toys so it's not like they had a timeframe for starting the murder scene that sucked him in. Even if they had webcameras on him they couldn't know which windows he was watching.
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Ryan and Esposito were the ones that got him interested in that apartment at that time when they went to pick up Beckett. That was exactly the moment I started to figure out that it was going to be a fake murder. I just wasn't sure Beckett was in it too, but I knew they were and Alexis too, since they made an effort to explain that she had given him the binoculars. I immediately thought they were setting him (and maybe Beckett) up.
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How did he know which apartment they were looking in, they never gave him the binoculars?
And that still doesn't explain how they knew exactly when to start acting.
They really expect us to think that he was being watched 24-7?
The whole set up/execution was far to elaborate considering that 3 of them were working an active case, another was running a police precinct.
I get it's just TV but come on.
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I liked this episode, but called the twist pretty early on just because it was SO specific to Rear Window that it felt forced beyond even the recent episode that wholesale stole from The Ring. It was fun and Castle got to live out a moment he clearly would enjoy, plus spend time with Alexis.

My singular problem with this episode was that Rick Castle is a very successful mystery writer, and yet his handling of the Rear Window situation was not clever or different. Aside from a clumsy attempt at using a video camera, nothing he did was smart or original in any way, it wasn't reacting with the mind of someone who thinks about these things all day for a living.

As for the original case, this could have used a little more time shown, they have the team recognize how shady the husband looks but until the ending don't investigate enough to connect those dots. It was fine but had no weight to the investigation, just one character after another. And the involved party was the first one they meet, as usual.

But overall it was a fun episode. I think at this point it's impossible to keep the relationship secret from Gates though, how many cop cars blew their lights and sirens getting to a party with this couple celebrating together?

On the notes...
- I think she rented it for a whole month and maybe even rented furniture, it was likely a very expensive gift in that regard. Not counting the broken-down door repair. I think Beckett probably made sure the "killer" would keep playing more and more obvious notes about avoiding the fridge until he noticed, either that or she simply would have made a different excuse to go over there. Nerd. ;-)

- I thought last week's Kevin Ryan, Undercover Nark episode was ok for him as a character, a cop in homicide isn't going to be a green know-nothing.

- Are you saying that Beckett might not be a golddigger, but you ain't seen her with no broke suckas?

- If your girlfriend left you for a hipster, you'd celebrate. Ok, no, you'd cry like a punk because all guys cry like a punk, but you'd know deep inside you were better off because she was a hipster-humping hussy. But then you'd have to ask yourself... WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT HER CHOOSING YOU?!? Damn.
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It was a fun episode. Could the main murder have been more fleshed out? Yes. Did it have to be? No. Castle, has the uncanny ability to just entertain. Aside from the silly Esposito and Ryan episodes.
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It was a nice episode so i am not going to overthink the problems....
when you see a good episode, don't ruin it, just enjoy it...
at least that is what i think, you do not have to agree
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Alas, it comes apart if you think about it too much. How did the actors in the other apartment know when to stage the fake murder? They had to do it while Castle was watching, or the whole thing was for nothing. So... how did they know when he was watching?

Not only did they have to get the use of the apartment, they also had to use a storage locker. And if the security guard at the storage facility wasn't in on it, then there's a possible problem in the future if Beckett is ever accused of searching without probable cause.
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I've been trying to work it out. It's the gift binoculars. A mercury switch would indicate when they were up and level (hooked to a radio obviously), but to determine if they were pointed at the right window an IR transmitter and receiver maybe. A directional antenna could do too. A signal could be rigged, but it's definitely the weakest link in the story.
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I'm guessing Castle's mom financed the whole thing using Castle's money. Shitty deal having to pay for your own birthday present.
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I don't think he'd mind..
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probably, but then even michael douglas in the game ended up chipping in...
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Loved the episode. And when the lights went out at the end when Beckett was struggling with that guy, I knew it was going to be a birthday surprise party.
One other idea I had during the episode was that the cases would some how be connected and it would be up to Castle to figure out how.
PS: Loved the Charlies Angels pose. And Beckett sticking her tongue out at Castle. She's done that before and she's absolutely adorable.
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I loved the idea and was very glad it was all a rouse even if it had some gaps in the plot.
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I had a feeling it was all a gag (or a dream) the instant Ryan and Esposito found nothing in the bedroom. They may play comic relief, but they weren't born yesterday. A knife fight in a bed-room is hard to cover up in under an hour so they would have noticed something.

Add to that Kate's "damsel in distress" routine in the kitchen and that cinched it. I mean, we've seen Kate take down some bad-arses before and we were supposed to believe a bear-hug from behind would neutralize her? Seriously?

All in all it was a humorous episode. I like how the infrared mask things are becoming a "thing" on TV.
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The infrared thing actually irritated me just a tiny bit, because when I saw it I knew I'd seen fairly recently on a police procedural show. What I couldn't remember was which one, so I've been stuck with this stray thought poking me in the back of the brain all day.
I think I've narrowed it down to either NCIS or Hawaii Five-0,
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It was Hawaii Five-0 just over a month ago ! Hope that helps :)
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Thanks Abigail :)
The thing that was really buggin me was the possibility that the writers had used it on Castle sometime this season but somehow forgotten that they'd used it and introduced it as a new idea for a second time.
As long as I could get the answer to where I'd seen it before was "Not Castle" then I'm happy. But yes, Hawaii Five-0 does ring a bell, something about reflectors sewn into the neckline of a jumper or something, not that it really matters
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