If last week’s episode was an homage to soap operas, this week was all Law and Order all the time. Joe Mcusic, a jury member, drops dead from cyanide poisoning in the middle of court. The case he was sitting on was the high profile murder of a socialite. While Castle and Beckett untangle the juror murder, Castle has to deal with the ramifications of snooping on Alexis’ phone and her consequential loss of trust.
Beckett and Castle meet the victim’s brother, and we learn more about his background. He was a former juvenile offender who ran a half-way house to help others pick up their lives. According to Joe’s brother he had a way with people–no one hated him, everyone loved him. While Castle and Beckett interview Joe’s brother, Ryan and Esposito pick up their first suspect–a missing juror.
The first suspect is never the murderer, but it’s always nice to rule people out. Unfortunately once they find the missing juror, a Mr. Mueller, the camera time spent on him sets him up as a bland, annoying racist. He tells Beckett that he disappeared because “a big scary black guy” was giving him the stink eye in the court room. After Joe died, he booked it out of there. When Beckett asked him to describe the man who was staring at him, the missing juror just repeats the phrase “big scary black guy” over and over again, as though the fifth time he says it Beckett will say “Oh, the big SCARY black guy. Yeah, I know who you’re talking about.” It’s vile and frankly–it’s unimaginative.
While all this is going down, Castle decides to use GPS to track Alexis’ phone. Instead of spending the day in the Village (like she said she would) instead she’s in Williamsburg. Castle is weirdly obsessed with why his daughter is in Brooklyn, and decides to poke the bear instead of using
Luckily, the television in the precinct happens to be tuned to the news and the defendant’s cousin Wardell Williams is on camera. The Racist Juror gets excited and points this out to Beckett. She brings him in for questioning, but not before Ryan and Esposito do some detective work. They see Wardell on tape giving the victim a cup of coffee–coffee that could have been laced with cyanide.
Wardell is too obvious a suspect to be the actual murderer and they are able to rule him out when the tests Lanie ran reveal that their timeline of the victim’s death is off. The cyanide was administered in a pill–and the capsule didn’t dissolve in the victim’s stomach. He was murdered before he got to the courthouse.
With Wardell out of the way, Ryan and Esposito discover an ex-con on parole living with Joe. The only interesting piece of information he has is that Joe sent two grand to the court clerk to buy his way onto the jury. Right? Right? So much drama. Meanwhile, Castle calls Alexis out on the fact that she went to Williamsburg instead of the Village. Predictably (and understandably) freaks out.
Beckett, Castle, and Capt. Montgomery meet with the socialite’s family and their lawyer (recognizable to fans of the X-Men movies as Senator Kelly). The audience is reintroduced to the brother, who is my favorite for the killer. A pay-as-you-go cell phone (also known as a burner phone) and a photo of the crime scene that revealed Joe was at the crime scene when the cops discovered Lila’s body. Here’s my new theory: Joe killed Lila, put her in the trunk of her own car and sold the hot car to the defendant, who was then pulled over, searched and arrested for the murder. However, Esposito (the spoil-sport) is quick to ruin my theory by revealing that Joe had an alibi: he was at the half-way house he ran all night. Now I’m back to suspecting the brother (either Joe’s or Lila’s) because neither character is married and “the brother did it” is second to “the spouse did it” in terms of classic procedural killers.
The trail eventually leads to the D.A./Senator Kelly, who is way too jumpy and defensive to be completely innocent. They put that on the back-burner to question the defendant, Otis Williams. Williams tells Beckett and Castle that he jacked the car, but didn’t kill Lila–meaning that when Williams stole the car Lila’s body was already in the trunk. He also drops the key piece of information: that he had to pull the seat forward to drive, meaning that Lila wasn’t the last person to drive (clearly, since she was dead).
At this point, I wondered why this episode is going through suspects like candy, spending all their time in the precinct and basically boring me to death. We’re 30 minutes in, and I just want to know who killed Lila and Joe so I can move on with my life. Instead of giving me this information, Castle decides to mend his relationship with his daughter. Even the prospect of learning why Alexis was in Williamsburg (paying for merchandise her friends shoplifted from a boutique) doesn’t pique my interest. Alexis needs to stop being such a goodie-goodie and screw up royally, because as sweet as she is, she’s getting bland.
Finally, finally, Beckett and Castle arrive at the correct suspect: Lila’s brother. I was half right! I was actually pretty convinced her brother killed her for her inheritance, like in the season one episode “Flowers On Her Grave,” but “Castle” finally (finally) subverted my expectations. They were coke fiends! With a gun! And Stephen accidentally killed Lila with his gun! And then Joe’s brother confessed to Joe, who couldn’t keep quiet.
Here’s the thing. This episode was solid and twisty, but ultimately unimaginative. Take the original murder victim, the socialite: rich? Check. Blonde? Check. Pretty? Double check. Combined with the fact that the defendant is a black man, this fictional case is as stereotypical as they come. Not to mention Castle’s immediate assumption that the murderer is a woman (“statistically, most poisoners are women”). “Castle” may be in a season three slump, but I’m sure it will get better in a week or two.