Episode Title: "Nikki Heat"
Writer: David Grae
Director: Jeff Bleckner
Previously on "Castle":
Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), one of the most successful mystery novelists in the world was recruited by NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) to help solve a copycat murder case. Finding inspiration in her, Castle leveraged his friendship with the mayor to force Beckett to let him follow her on murder cases. In the ensuing three years, they have become a formidable team that has closed several difficult homicide cases together. Castle has also written two hit "Nikki Heat" novels based directly on his experiences with Beckett.
Several months ago, Castle signed a deal to bring "Nikki Heat" to the big screen. And the movie is about to go forward.
At home, Castle watches preliminary footage from the "Naked Heat" movie and he is upset with the casting of Natalie Rhodes (Laura Prepon) as the title character, in addition to the numerous changes to his dialog. Grateful for the inevitable call from Beckett, he meets her at the gruesome murder site of Stacy Collins, who has been impaled on a fence. Apparently, Stacy was a high end matchmaker for rich people. While coming up with theories as to who wanted her dead, Castle is surprised when Natalie shows up to the crime scene to follow Beckett around for the film. And he’s even more put out when he learns that Natalie never even bothered to read his book.
The trio learn that Stacy had hired a private investigator named Duke Jones to do background checks on her clients for the past two months. They also discover that Stacy had stashed $250,000 in a handbag at her home, which they believe she may have been killed for. As the case progresses, Natalie begins to take on more and more of Beckett’s characteristics. Natalie even provides a crucial break by suggesting the detectives track down the owner of the handbag through its registry. They also discover that Jones’ assistant, Greta Morgan (Kelly Thiebaud) was part of a scheme with Jones to entrap rich husbands for infidelity in order to break their prenuptial agreements.
Beckett soon starts to get more and more unnerved by Natalie, especially when the actress changes her appearance and hairstyle to match her own. Even the detectives at the police station start to confuse Natalie for Beckett. Meanwhile, Natalie has become infatuated with Castle and works out that Nikki Heat’s lover in the books is based on him. She attempts to sleep with him "as research," but disappointedly tells Beckett the next day that he refused her. Natalie also tells Beckett that Castle is more or less in love with her and that the "Nikki Heat" books are his way of fantasizing about being with her.
The police track down Greta at a hotel and she agrees to help them, but only after being intimidated by Natalie’s "Nikki Heat" while Castle and Beckett watch in shock. They learn that Stacy was in on the scheme and Scott Donner (Thomas Calabro), one of the entrapped husbands turns out to be the man who killed her. When the trio confront him in his office, he threatens to kill himself. But in character once again, Natalie talks him down using the same lines from the "Nikki Heat" script that Castle objected to. Afterwards, Natalie leaves them, but not before wishing she could have done more "research" with Castle. Beckett and Castle then watch as Detective Ryan (Seamus Dever) successfully proposes to his girlfriend in the precinct.
"Castle" is one of those TV series that hasn’t quite leaped to greatness, but it’s a dependably solid show. It’s been about two months since I saw an episode of this series, but it’s also really easy to jump back into it.
Laura Prepon was really impressive in this episode. I was never a big fan of hers in "That ’70s Show," but her over-the-top impression of Katic’s Beckett was very funny. If anything, she should have done the switch to Beckett’s clothes and hairstyle more gradually. They even threw in an actual "Single White Female" reference to her behavior. The only thing that didn’t ring true about it was that Castle turned her down for sex. I call bullsh** on that one. When Natalie was in full Beckett/Heat mode, there’s no way he shouldn’t have gone through with it. She was his dream girl there and he’s normally at least somewhat lecherous under the best of circumstances. His stated reason that it was "too meta" just didn’t fly.
It also seems like the producers are jumping through increasingly convoluted hoops to keep Beckett and Castle from getting together, which is just tiresome at this point. The fear is always that a show will loose its spark if the leads get together too soon, but this is getting ridiculous. Natalie basically explains the subtext of the "Nikki Heat" novels to Beckett… and she barely reacts. Are you freakin’ kidding me? Beckett probably already knew on some level, but the fact that she had no discernible reaction didn’t feel like the correct response.
The murder case wasn’t all that interesting, but then its rarely the point on "Castle." Again, watching Natalie’s "Nikki Heat" actually solving the case was the highlight of the show. It was also kind of funny to see former "Melrose Place" star, Thomas Calabro as the killer, but he was barely in the episode. One of my other frustrations with "Castle" is that it doesn’t always give the audience enough information to solve the mystery ahead of time… and that’s part of the attraction of a detective story. Bringing in killers largely out of left field is not the mark of a good mystery.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.