The most exciting part of “One Life to Lose” was that Jane Seymour (or as she was referred to in my house while I was growing up, Dr. Quinn) guest starred. The second most exciting part is the entire episode centered around the gruesome murder of the head writer on “Temptation Lane,” the soapiest soap opera of all time.
The first scene set up the episode to a T: a young, attractive woman is in bed with her older suitor. As they kiss, her (dashing, European) husband comes home. When the young attractive woman opens the closet door to hide her older, distinguished (read: graying) lover, a dead body falls out of the closet. The camera pulls back to reveal a sound stage and the actors (because they are actors, after all) are confused. Is this a set-up? Is this a prop? A closer inspection reveals the victim is Sarah–the head show writer–with a fire axe buried in her back. Gross, right?
Castle has breakfast with his mother–exchanging the witty banter that comes so easily to them–when he gets the call. Martha asks to come along. Martha reminds Castle that she was on the show for three weeks, during which time her character got married, kidnapped twice and trapped in a cave with bears. Wow.
There’s a quick introduction of the suspects (remember: the killer is introduced before the first commercial break). We have the two actors from the first scene, Mandy and Lance. The vic’s husband (Vince), her assistant (Reese, played by Veronica Mars alum Tina Majorino) and her formerly estranged mother (Gloria, played by Jane Seymour) who gave Sarah up for adoption as a baby round out the list of possible murderers.
The question becomes… who had it in for the charming, talented writer Sarah? She had gotten Reese, her assistant and an aspiring writer, a place in a writing fellowship. She loved her husband! She saved the show! Everyone loved her! Well, everyone Except for a “shipper” who blogs about the characters and their relationships. This shipper fanatically supported Mandy and Lance’s character’s relationships. Castle and Beckett eliminate the blogger from the suspect list, and Castle can check “reference fandom in a meta-cultural setting” off their list of things to accomplish this season.
When the police discover that Mandy (the actress) and Vince (Sarah’s husband) were having an affair, both suspects look a lot better for the murder, but they’re dismissed in the end. Next up is Gloria, who is not in fact Sarah’s mother, but an imposter after her money. Gloria’s alibi (“donating money to the ponies”) checks out. Castle and Beckett have reached the classic “back to the drawing board moment.” For Castle, this means going to Alexis and Martha for unexpected inspiration.
The inspiration comes in the form of a script–given to Castle and Beckett by a barista who knew Sarah. Martha remarks off-handedly that betrayal is commonplace on the set of a soap opera. Castle, in his own Castle way, solves the case. They catch the killer by writing a scene for the show–a scene where Lance’s character confronts Mandy’s character about plagiarism. Reese (the plucky assistant) has been promoted to staff writer and sits in the control room, where everyone covertly and eagerly watches her reaction to the scene. In classic procedural style, Reese starts to cry and confesses to stealing the script (but not to killing Sarah). She only confesses when Beckett reminds her that Sarah was killed with an axe, meaning that blood spatter–even blood spatter invisible to the eye–will cling to the clothes of the murderer. They arrest Reese and everything ends well.
The episode ends with a touching scene between Beckett and Castle (as always). Beckett admits that when she was a child she had her tonsils out, so her mother took time off work to care for her. They watched Temptation Lane every afternoon. Beckett admits that when she watches the show she feels safe, like she’s home. Castle gives Beckett a signed cast photo and tactfully leaves when Beckett’s annoyingly successful and charming boyfriend Josh calls. Seriously, when are they going to break up?
“One Life to Lose” was snappy, fast paced and funny–especially to anyone who has ever watched and mocked (or loved) a soap opera.