Castle returns with Tone Death, where Beckett and Rick are carrying on a secret dating relationship, mainly to keep Castle safe from Kate’s “extra curricular” investigations, and having a wonderful time. Before the couple begin their day though Martha is rehearsing her show and as she begins “The Things We Do For Love” a stage hand starts the snow machine and a “Carrie” style blood shower hits the backup singers.
A human corpse is the source of this blood “bath” and she was part of a reality TV musical contest. The victim was also an ex con. Castle’s mother is very upset by the death of the girl, whom she met the day before. She asks Richard to personally look into who murdered the young performer.
The dead girl’s name is Robyn King and it looks initially like her mother may have something to do with her death until Ryan discovers that King’s mom died when she was a child. So the woman who turned up and argued with the girl, whom she called “momma” is a stranger.
Kate and Rick have a fake argument in front of Ryan and Esposito tells the three who “mamma” is, a drug dealer that Robyn worked for back before the girl’s prison sentence. The cops also learn that King was going up to Spanish Harlem regularly. Mamma’s alibi is tight and as Rick and Kate talk, she slaps him when Ryan turns up to maintain their “cover.”
Martha wants to help Rick to find Robyn’s killer and he reveals the emoji message on the dead girls cell phone that he took a picture of. Alexis has to help translate the text as neither Castle nor Martha “speak” emoji. The three solve the puzzle and learn where in Spanish Harlem Robyn was going. Alexis and Rick head down to investigate.
Castle gets rattled and texts “911!!!!” to Espo just before finding a group of young people rehearsing musical numbers which segways into a “riff-off.” After Ryan and Javi turn up with the cavalry, Alexis and Rick learn that Robyn belonged to an ex-con group of singers, the ACA Cons, who are competing in the AAC (All American A cappella competition) and that one of the group was angry with the dead girl after being kicked out.
The kicked out singer, Agnes Malina becomes a new suspect and while the cops look for the missing woman Kate speaks to the sponsors of the ex-con group to get more background on the singers and the dead girl.
During the investigation, since Ryan saw Kate slap Rick, he and Javi decide that Castle has been cheating. To get the guys off his back (or chest) Richard lies and says he is having an affair with a Russian fashion model.
The three men find Agnes at boyfriend Dexter’s apartment (a pretty funny scene where Rick keeps looking in the wrong spot for the hiding girl) and when she is questioned about Robyn it turns out that she is innocent. Later, Javi and Ryan sympathize with Kate about Svetlana, and offer to throw Rick down the stairs.
The investigation takes Esposito, Ryan, Beckett and Castle to the competition rehearsals where they speak to the head of the singing reality TV contest, Dr. Larson (John Billingsley) and then Javi (Jon Huertas) gets into a sing-off with Hunter (Corbin Bleu) which Castle messes up.
Kate hears Rick in the next room and it turns out that Hunter, who initially runs until Kate stops him mid-flight with a clothesline maneuver, paid off Dr. Larson to fix the competition so that Robyn’s group would not win. As Larson is questioned by Ryan and Esposito he reveals that the ACA Cons intro video upset the victim and she cut short the meeting with the head of the competition.
This last bit of evidence leads the detectives and Castle to the killer as they track down what happened the night that Robyn was arrested. Evidence showed that the dead girl was innocent and when she went to confront the real culprit she was murdered.
Tone Death allows for some nice bits of comedy with Ryan and Espo telling Kate that in the break up Beckett “gets them.” It also allows Jon Huertas to show off his “pipes” in the mini sing off. Seamus Dever proves that he is still adept at comedy with his various reactions to the Kate and Rick separation.
The entire “secret dating” schtick cannot last long, however, as it requires too much stupidity on the part of Kevin and Javi. Although Beckett’s fake boyfriend “Doctor Livingstone” provides a cute ending to the episode.
Susan Sullivan (Martha) gets a chance to make up for her lack of time on the new season thus far and in this episode, Molly C. Quinn also gets a fair amount of screen time as her character Alexis helps out dad and grandma.
Sadly, the newest addition to the Castle family Toks Olagundoye (who plays Hayley Vargas) gets credit but no screen time, hopefully this will change in upcoming episodes. It also appears that Kate’s investigations have been put on hold for the time being.
One item of complaint has to be that Nathan Fillion is playing his character of Richard Castle increasing for laughs, losing that “cop by osmosis” plot thread that had appeared. Surely there must be a happy medium where the actor does not feel compelled to constantly engage in prat falls and silliness.
Kudos to John Billingsley (who this writer watched in action on another set, woking on another show; Stitchers) who managed to make his cameo a masterpiece performance despite having little screen time. What a consummate actor.
Castle airs Mondays on ABC. Tune in and see where Rick and Kate are headed next in their relationship while they solve crimes together…Like the good old days.