By moving Beckett slightly out of the foreground, the writers provide screen time for further character development of her cohorts, especially Ryan and Esposito. Although having Beckett so frequently off-stage limits opportunities for the usual Beckett-Castle banter persiflage, humor percolates throughout the episode, both in dialogue and in sight gags. As Ryan, Esposito, and Castle engage in some "male bonding" while on the case of a murdered New Jersey casino owner, the viewer learns more about the trio's team dynamics and their genuine caring for one another. Previous presentations of team dynamics [with or without Beckett] have generally involved dangerous and/or highly stressful situations; however, this less intense situation offers opportunities for different sorts of character development.
Most episodes of Castle feature subplots for comparison/contrast with the primary plot. This time, Alexis' attempts to get on with her life after breaking up with Ashley provide the subplot. Her planned quiet night with "the girls" almost becomes a brawl, courtesy of Twitter. Similarly, the planned routine investigation [which "the boys" hope will leave them some time for an impromptu bachelor party for Ryan] becomes anything BUT routine. Ashley tries to disguise her grief; similarly, members of the trio try to disguise themselves in order to excavate the truth from a flurry of lies, excuses, and hidden motives.
The theme of relationships permeates this episode: Alexis has severed her relationship with Ashley and may well take a huge step back from her relationship with the female friend responsible for the near-brawl; Castle's relationship with his daughter always brings to mind his relationship with Beckett; Esposito and Laney have broken up with each other; Ryan's relationship with his fiancée necessitates disappointing Castle and Esposito as he must choose one of her family members to be best man; two suspects in New Jersey turn out to be both innocent and in love with each other; the relationship between Beckett and Gates seems to be taking a turn for the better; and the relationship between the murdered man and his ex-wife is pivotal to the plot.
With Ryan, Esposito, and Castle in New Jersey, Beckett has no buffer against Chief "call me sir" Gates – but this time, she does not need one. Perhaps because it is "girls' day in" at the office, Gates talks to, and listens to, Beckett without engaging in her usual snide comments, sarcasm, criticism, or high-handedness; her generally belligerent and confrontational attitude appears only briefly, as she orders Castle to accompany Ryan and Esposito to New Jersey. Responding to the apparent changes in Gates, Beckett lowers her guard a bit and actually teases Gates about her attitude toward Castle, the first bit of humor this season to involve Gates directly rather than as a target for the team's disgruntled comments to one another. Until this episode, Gates appeared both monolithic and Neolithic: one attitude only, with that attitude set in stone.
Even without the usual tensions and without much Castle-Beckett interaction, this episode works well. It offers Beckett hope of a better relationship with Gates, which could become a springboard for Ryan, Esposito, and Castle to experience a similar change in their working relationships with Gates. Even if a bit short on plot, this episode is long on character.