Castle 4-18: A Dance with Death

When I found out that they were planning an episode of Castle that centered around a reality dancing competition, I was actually surprised they hadn’t done one before. Since the show has Dancing with the Stars as a lead in much of the year, it seems like a natural fit. And while last night’s show within a show looked like it took more from the dancing shows on other networks, it was still lots of fun.

The episode opens during the taping of one of the semi-finals of A Night of Dance, a hot reality show that features amateur dancers competing for an undisclosed prize. Honestly, the prize doesn’t matter because the host has barely gotten through the introductions when the female contestant for that episode misses her cue. An assistant is sent to her dressing room and she is found dead from a gunshot.

Now before we get back to the story, a quick aside. If they didn’t film that opening scene on the set of Dancing with the Stars, I’d be shocked. It looked enough like it. They tweaked some things here or there, but for the most part, it had to be the same set.

As Laney is doing the autopsy, she goes over the contestant’s story. She was an heiress who was boozing it up until she barely survived a train crash. That scared her straight, and she started pursuing her dream of a career in dance.

The judges on the show are quick to point the finger at the last contestant eliminated. The man was very hostile in his exit video and even threatened our victim. Plus he’d be allowed back in the competition since the rules state if someone is ejected, the last person eliminated will be brought back. But he has a solid alibi.

The victim’s financial advisor is brought in, and he reveals that she had gone on a shopping spree a few weeks ago, something she hadn’t done for months but was something she used to do before the crash. All the items bought were clothes that weren’t in her size, but Castle recognizes one item on the list as belonging to someone who worked on the show. Sure enough, our victim was being blackmailed, but the blackmailer didn’t quite know why. But the host of the show was threatening the victim about something. The host finally confesses that he caught the victim shooting up but hadn’t reported her. But when he caught her again, he was threatening her to stay on the straight and narrow. If he knew one of the contestants was using drugs but didn’t report it, it would be his job.

The problem is, her autopsy doesn’t show any evidence of drug use. A careful search of her apartment turns up some needles and a vial, but they aren’t drugs. It’s insulin. Her doctor hasn’t diagnosed her as a diabetic, however.

And at this point, some fingerprints from the victim’s apartment come back as another woman. This other woman looks remarkably like the victim. In fact, Castle starts spinning theories about twins separated at birth. Even more interesting, the woman whose finger prints were found in the apartment died in the train cash that our present victim survived.

The focus now shifts to our mystery woman since it looks like she was the real present day murder victim, having switch identities with the heiress who died in the train crash. Had someone learned her secret? Or did her past come back to bite her?

Her past includes a career as a stripper, where she met the heiress. The heiress took advantage of their close looks. She paid for plastic surgery and then sent our current victim to do all the things she didn’t want to do, like community service for drunk driving. This allowed the heiress to keep partying it up.

As they keep digging, they learn that the victim was interested in a death that happened 3 years earlier, the death of the heiress’s grandfather. He was 98 when he died, so it was ruled natural causes. But when they pull up his autopsy, there are some inconsistencies. Inconsistencies that lead Alexis, under Laney’s supervision, to think the grandfather might have been smothered by a pillow.

Castle and Beckett interview the grandfather’s butler who recalls that when he found the old man dead, he also found an odd pillow on the bed. Yes, it’s looking like murder. And it’s looking like that is what got our current victim killed as well.

At the time the grandfather was murder, he was threatening to cut off the heiress because he didn’t approve of her boyfriend. So if they can track down the boyfriend, they just might have the killer.

And the boyfriend is…the financial advisor. He was the heiress’ boyfriend at the time, but as soon as the heiress got control of her money, she dumped him. Only a chance comment made to our present day victim, not knowing who she really was, made her suspicious about the death several years ago and made him realize that he was about to be exposed for that murder from several years ago.

For those keeping track, he was the second person interviewed in the police station, but the only time he was interrogated was in the final scene. He was the seventh person at least they talked to since they talked to several people at the studio before they even left the crime scene.

In sub-plot news, Martha spent the episode trying to get a theater critic she’s had a rocky relationship with to give her new acting school a mention in her column. That ends with Castle having to read and critic the critics’ novel.

And Ryan and Esposito spent the episode talking about why woman were no longer flirting with Ryan. The conclusion is that Ryan is too happily married and giving off the stench of being a newlywed. Of course, they don’t conclude that until after Esposito has gotten Ryan’s wedding ring stuck on his finger.

It was nice to see Alexis is still at the coroner’s office. I wonder if this is part of how they intend to keep her around after she graduates from high school this year. I thought the scene where she was giving the findings was quite fun and Castle’s hug at the end was very funny.

As far as the mystery, I liked it. I found the twists to be entertaining if not quite believable (I really don’t think people can fool family members with a switch of this nature). The killer was logical, and the path they took to get us there was well laid out, so when they pulled him in, it was obvious to me why he was the killer.

However, I do have one gripe. In most of the mysteries I read, it’s a given that if you find the murder weapon near the suspect, he’s being frame. No one is so stupid to leave a gun with their prints on it someplace that could be traced to them. And yet that’s how they pinned the murder on the financial planner enough to get him to confess. Of course, in real life, people are dumb enough to dispose of guns in locations that incriminate them, so this is more realistic. But the part of my brain that is warped by all the mysteries I read was rebelling.

From what I’ve heard, this was the last “fun” episode of the season and the next few will turn a bit more serious as they wrap up the various storylines of the season. Looks like Beckett’s secret will come out next week. The fallout from that will be quite interesting.

Until then, I’ll be adding reviews over at Epinions.