What Castle fan didn’t want to see a ‘Castle/Beckett shackled together in a dark room’ episode? Answer: none! We all anticipated much Caskett-y goodness, and this episode delivered in spades. “Cuffed” focused on the two main locations, the basement where the duo was being held and the 12th precinct where Ryan, Esposito, and even Gates took over murder board duty in order to solve the case and find Castle and Beckett.
The episode opens with Kate waking up after almost cuddling with Castle. She pulls him out of his slumber to start a discussion of their situation. They find themselves handcuffed together devoid of their belongings and the memories of what transpired the night before. After piecing together a few details about the seedy hotel to where she summoned him, the show flashes back to the murder scene.
Castle and Beckett arrive to find the victim’s body, and they also witness a tense bickering session between former lovers Lanie and Esposito. While they get the details from ‘Esplainie’, they watch the undercurrents of the fight play out as Javi and Lanie give out details from the crime scene. Clever camera work shows us reactions to the information as well as the various eye-rolls and rye lip twitches from all four of the conversation’s participants. It all boils down to a body with no identifiable features or documentation with the fake name, ‘Jack Sparrow‘. The suspect even burnt his fingertips to obscure his prints.
We’re taken back to the basement where Castle and Beckett try to reconstruct more of the previous evening’s events. It leads them to another flashback where they join Lanie in the morgue. Castle grills Lanie about the fight between her and Esposito and gets shut down by both Lanie and Beckett. The conversation turns to the M.E.’s attempts to get fingerprints by soaking the burnt fingertips for several days. She gives the detective a scrap of paper found on the victim with an address jotted on it. It’s added to the murder board – then Javi and Ryan are tasked with scoping out the address while Beckett and Castle speculate to find further clues. After his usual attempts to introduce CIA and Mob hit scenarios, he sees a postal bar code on the paper and they use it to find a second address – a house in Queens.
Castle and Beckett decide to run down the second location on their own and have a very ‘meta’ discussion about Lanie and Esposito that echoes their own relationship tribulations. An unlocked door opens and they investigate, ultimately stumbling upon an old lady in a cage where they find their memories of the events end. The scene ends with a Star Wars trash compactor-esque view of Castle and Beckett wondering what occurred after the blackout to put them in the dank basement with their left wrists shackled together.
Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito then have a conversation about relationships while making coffee (Author’s note: I feel like coffee is an unbilled character in every episode). Ryan wonders about the logistics of spending alternating holidays with his fiancee’s family, while Esposito takes the jaded side and warns him about losing control. There’s a cute bit where Ryan realizes there are no stir sticks left, so he has to use Javier’s freshly licked second-hand stick. I thought it was an apt way to highlight the relationship between the partners. They go on to discuss Ryan’s plans for a road trip to Florida with Jenny where Javier makes an analogy to being trapped in a confined space where the couple will have to confront any lingering issues of doubt between them. It is of course a parallel with the situation Kate and Castle are facing as captives. They introduce a lead from the cafe found at the paper’s address to their uptight new Captain Gates.As this episode does throughout, the scene takes us from Javier’s description of a canoe being like a relationship (work together and it’s smooth sailing, fight each other and go in circles), to Castle and Beckett walking in circles and bickering about her control issues. He points out her need to be first through a door, and her desire to always be the smartest in their discussions. They find a light switch and start their investigation of their surroundings.
As they find a large padlocked freezer, Castle’s speculations begin again. This time he compares their situation to the movie SAW, and she shuts him down as usual. Kate tries to come up with ways to escape the situation and points out they’ve been there several hours – her deduction based upon the fact that she’s hungry. Castle remembers he has some beef jerky in his pocket, but it’s dismissed as Kate inspects the room trying to find an escape route. She looks up and sees a hatch, so the pair formulates a scheme to move the freezer so they can reach high enough to investigate.
The next sequence finds us back at the precinct where Ryan and Esposito discuss the sketch of a man seen eating with the victim on the night of his murder. They finally start to worry about the missing detective and her partner. The two men decide to use the transponder in her cruiser to get a location on the oft-rogue duo.
Back to the basement where Castle and Beckett’s attempts to move the freezer fail as the freezer is much too heavy for the two of them to move. Rick proposes he try to crack the combination lock so they can empty it of its contents and make it light enough to move. His research again comes in handy as he mentions his work with a preeminent safecracker to Beckett.
We switch back to Ryan and Espo as they drive to find Beckett’s police vehicle. They find it in a sketchy neighborhood amongst burnt out cars and construction equipment. Javier notices a conveniently placed surveillance camera, so the boys get the footage of the car being left. Back at the precinct, they show the footage of two men dumping the car and leaving in a Ford F-150 to Gates, who jumps to the conclusion that Castle was responsible for their disappearance.
Another scene switch to the dank basement shows Castle on his umpteenth attempt to open the combo lock. Beckett is clearly annoyed at having to hold her arm in an uncomfortable position while he fumbles around, trying to gain access to the contents of the freezer. They snipe at each other and she finally asks to have her arm back. She grills him for more of his wild theories and to her disappointment, he sees only dark scenarios. To quote Castle: “(he) can’t think of a version that ends well, not even a Disney version.” (Disney being the parent company of ABC, the network on which Castle airs.) They assume at this point they’ve been gone long enough for someone to notice their absence, and Kate urges Castle to restart his attempts to cheat the lock open.
Going back to the morgue, where Lanie and Esposito continue their subtext filled conversation disguised as inquiries about the case. Ryan plays interference, and they ultimately convince her to start the fingerprinting process, even though it’s most likely too early to recover anything from the still-dry burnt flesh. At this point, the only evidence they’ve gotten leads them to conclusions that the victim had a job where he sits a lot but also gets calloused hands.
Back to Castle and Beckett where he finally cracks the lock. They hesitantly open the fridge and find bloodied knives and a plethora of manacles completely filling the container. They pause to take in the creepiness of their situation, then start to pull out the contents of the freezer, making it light enough to push towards the hatch.
We return to the morgue, where Javier hovers over Lanie as she performs the detailed work of trying to recover fingerprints from the victim’s slightly macerated skin. Her attempt fails, but Ryan asks if any part of the print is salvageable. She tells him that perhaps part of the fingertip is usable, and he deduces that they can pull partials from the paper and put them together with the fragments Lanie salvaged to get enough of the print to identify the victim.
While Ryan, Esposito and Gates go over the information they’ve gotten from identifying the victim, a man walks into the bullpen and takes the sketch from the whiteboard. He marches into Gates’ office, shows the sketch which is clearly a representation of himself, and reveals that he’s a DEA agent. Running the vic’s prints alerted him to their investigation. Agent Martinez (the DEA Agent) explains the reason he was meeting the victim at the cafe the night of his murder. He was a trucker hauling suspicious cargo from the Texas / Mexico border to New York. As this is a known drug trafficking route, Martinez was following the man so he could find the people responsible for his payloads. The meeting between Spooner (the victim) and Martinez was the man’s plea to the DEA for protection in exchange for his information on the smugglers. He told the agent that “it’s not at all what you think.”
Gates is then informed that troopers found the man’s semi, so they set off to check out whatever evidence was left behind in the tractor-trailer. They arrive to find a lone crate, its shredded sidewall has hair that was left in the haste to remove the contents of the box. Ryan discovers a large patch of dried blood on the floor behind it.
Beckett and Castle have moved the container to the middle of the room, under the hatch. They’re still quite far from the door, so Kate proposes Castle lift her on his shoulders so she can get a closer look. He balks at the idea in normal Castle-fashion, and their first attempt is an abject failure. The cuffs weren’t allowing them the freedom of movement required to lift them while facing each other.
Between the Castle / Beckett bickering, we do a quick-cut to a discussion between Gates, the DEA agent and the rest of Beckett’s team where they find Spooner’s waybills. She tells Ryan and Esposito to check into the other delivery locations, then demands all of the DEA’s info on the trucker so she can find her missing ‘people’. (Author’s note: it was refreshing to see her refer to Castle as part of the team, even if it was after a snarky comment that Castle was the troublemaker in their disappearance.)
We return to Kate and Castle’s second attempt at acrobatics to reach the hatch. This time, when she jumps on his shoulder from his back, they succeed and she finds the hatch is open by lifting the corner slightly. This apparently gets the attention of one of their captors, who opens the hatch to see the couple fall back onto the mattress and scream at him to release them. He gives an evil grin, and slams the hatch shut.
The detectives and Captain Gates have discovered that Spooner took legitimate deliveries to disguise his illegal shipments, and at this point it’s still presumed that he was part of a drug-smuggling ring. They get information from a furniture store employee who helped unload his cargo. He was suspicious when he sees several empty boxes and hears what he thinks is breathing coming from behind them. Gates looks at the murder board and speculates that Beckett and Castle noticed something that the other detectives missed and they set out to investigate. As she returns the scrap of paper to the whiteboard, Ryan sees the barcode and realizes they can get another address from it, just as Castle had. They arrive with backup at the house in Queens to find it empty and cleaned. However, the team finds a hatch in the floor and opens it to find some junk left behind.
Returning to Beckett and Castle, we see him trying to get the handcuffs open with one of the knives from the trunk. When the knife breaks, she reminds him that her police handcuffs won’t be removed that easily, and Castle points out there is another way to get out of the cuffs. He implies they can cut off one of their hands. Beckett assumes he’s volunteering, and when she mentions his ‘generosity’, he tells her that he thought she should lose her hand, since it’s “smaller”. His ridiculous proposal is interrupted by the sounds of footprints and they go to the door expecting to confront their captors. Instead, they hear a negotiation between two men, one of them speaking arabic. They walk along the hallway and enter the room next to theirs where the conversation continues. It sounds as though the men are discussing the purchase of something described by the words “She is beautiful”. They come to the conclusion that their kidnappers are involved with human trafficking. The scene ends with a humorous declaration by Castle that they are next in line to be sold, and he amusingly ponders his worth as a best-selling author.
The action goes back to Ryan and Esposito at the abandoned house. They discover that it was a property in foreclosure, and the suspects were squatters. The neighbors described the recent occupants and mentioned they drove a black F-150, so the detectives realize that they are the people responsible for Beckett and Castle’s disappearance.
We’re taken back to Castle and Beckett, who are trying to communicate with whoever is being held in the room adjacent to their own. While pounding on the wall, Kate knocks off a tile and discovers that the wall in question is not cinderblock like the others, but is stucco and tile. She decides to to tunnel through it, and when Castle protests, she points out that he wouldn’t hesitate if Alexis was the other captive. He relents, and they both start digging with the knives available to them.
Javier and Ryan make it back to the precinct where they again start to theorycraft, using both the evidence gathered from the abandoned house, and the files sent from the DEA Agent. They link the suspects with foreclosed properties owned by a ‘National Bank’.
At this point, Castle and Becket have chiseled away enough of the plaster to start pummeling the wall with their feet. They break through and after trying to get the attention of the occupant, it’s decided that Castle will poke his head in to survey what lies beyond. He quickly sees that it’s not a human-trafficking ring – when out of the darkness, he’s charged by a huge but gorgeous tiger. (Author’s note: can you say completely unexpected plot-twist?) They are then confronted with the possibility that the cat looks hungry, while it pulls away pieces of the broken lathing trying to get at them. Castle remembers the beef jerky in his pocket, so he retrieves it and tosses it to the tiger to buy a little time. It turns out to be VERY little time, and they frantically try to devise a way to stay out of the cat’s reach.
Meanwhile, Ryan and Esposito show Gates the other properties that are candidates for new locations taken over by the suspects. This sequence is interrupted by quick-cuts back to Castle and Beckett’s attempts to escape the clutches of the very hungry tiger. They try to push the freezer against the ever widening hole (Author’s note: I assume it’s getting bigger, although the scene shows the hole at inconsistently varying sizes). Then we’re back to the detectives at the precinct narrowing their choices by necessary features, such as houses with a basement, and easy freeway access to easily receive deliveries.
Cut to Beckett and Castle seeing the freezer can’t be moved in time, and he proposes they get into the container. She shoots him down fearing it will latch shut and they will suffocate. He then announces that he “has a plan”. Another scene switch to Ryan and Esposito arriving at a group of industrial businesses. We then see Castle lifting Beckett onto the now upturned freezer, where he scrambles quickly thereafter. She points out that tigers can jump high enough to reach them, but his idea bought them another few minutes. During a sweep of the warehouse, Ryan and Espo find the F-150 they saw in the camera footage, and they know they’ve found the right property.
After another quick scene in the basement of said building, Castle reverts to his tried and true escape plan, screaming like a little girl. This is when the two timelines converge, as the other two detectives begin to hear the pleas for help coming from inside the property. They make their way to the hatch and find their partners being stalked by the pretty kitty below them. Just as they’re about to pull them back up onto the ground floor, the old woman, who is now revealed to be part of the smuggling ring, emerges from the shadows with a shotgun trained on Esposito.
The boys raise their weapons, and her two sons, who are the suspects they’d been following, also come into view with guns drawn. The tense exchange between the two men and the criminals ends with a demand that they be let go so the detectives can save their partners, still screaming for help from the basement just under their feet. They reluctantly assent after hearing the freezer crash over, realizing their friends are much more important than catching the baddies. They rush to the hatch, dragging along chains with which to pull up the ‘damsels in distress’. Seeing the tiger on the now fallen container, they think briefly that the pair had been eaten. They then hear Kate replying that they hadn’t, and she reveals they had grabbed onto some supports around the hatch as a (very) temporary stall. With a “nice hangout” gag, they lower a chain into the basement to retrieve their pals. Outside the warehouse, the abductors are making their escape in the truck as Gates and her team turn on their spotlights and arrest the hillbilly-esque gang.
Beckett’s reunited teammates help to remove the cuffs, and Ryan mentions that he’s surprised to see the pair hadn’t killed each other. Calling back to his conversation with Esposito in the break room, he decides that he and his fiancee will fly to Florida. Gates arrives with a box containing the confiscated belongings of a newly freed Castle and Beckett. Esposito drops her cuffs into the box and the two detectives and author exchange an somewhat embarrassed glance. Gates announces a new policy – no-one goes anywhere without calling in a report, so she can keep track of her employees.
The case wraps up back at the 12th where the DEA Agent and the detectives piece together the evidence to get a clear look at the events leading up to the death of their victim. Inserted here is another amusing gag where Castle fusses about the tranq they were given, and says he “still has has a taste” in his mouth, and worries about his health. Beckett eye-rolls ensue while he is inspecting his mouth with his tongue. Castle asks about the fate of the tiger, and Esposito tells him it will be shot, then is corrected by Beckett who replies that she will be relocated to a preserve or a zoo.
The episode ends with a familiar Caskett-y exchange. Castle says that if he ever has to be ‘hitched’ to someone, he’d like it to be her. She eyes him, and he stammers that he didn’t mean it like that, he meant cuffed. While he helps her into her coat, she informs him that she has similar feelings – if she ever has to spend a night handcuffed to someone again, she wouldn’t mind if it were him either. As she picks up her motorcycle helmet and turns to leave, she tells him that “next time” they should do it without the tiger. Castle is left incredulous, inquiring as to what she meant by “next time”, and she glances back at him knowingly. The show ends with a parting shot of Castle looking smug and hopeful, a nod at the WT/WT relationship that seems to be building throughout this season.
“Cuffed” is the tenth episode and the fall finale of the fourth season of Castle. The show returns January 9th with an episode entitled, “Till Death Do Us Part”, featuring the wedding of Detective Kevin Ryan.
Castle: “If I were writing a book, this is where bad things would happen.”
Esposito: “It’s a dummy.” (referring to camera in hotel lobby)
Lanie: “It’s not the only one.”
Castle: “Of course it’s none of my business, that’s why I want to know.”
Castle: “You would make a terrible conjoined twin.”
Beckett: “hundred-first’s time’s the charm.”
Lanie: “Javi? I can feel your impatience all over my backside, and rushing me is NEVER a good idea.”
Esposito: “You’re talking about that print, right?”
Gates: “Your man’s dead, Agent Martinez, and two of my folks are missing.”
Castle: “‘Lift up my shirt, pull off my boots’. Under normal circumstances I would like where this is heading.”
Beckett: “You can fantasize later, after we get out of the room.”
Castle: “Just so you know, (it’s) not as much fun if I have your permission.”
Castle: “I’ve always liked your legs, but now I respect them.”
Beckett: “Yeah, yours aren’t so bad either. You know, for the next police picnic, we should we should do the three-legged race together.”
Castle: “I have a plan.”
Old woman: “Maybe I’ll shoot the pretty one first.”
(Ryan and Esposito then exchange sideways glances trying to determine to whom she is referring as the ‘pretty one’)
Beckett: “I did not survive a bullet to the heart to die as tiger kibble.”
Kevin Ryan: “How was that tiger? Was it GREAAAAT!?”