Castle Review: “Secret Santa”

C: Santa’s body falling from the sky! Sexy Christmas lingerie! Blood pools and jock straps and warm woolen mittens! This year, Castle‘s put their own, twisted spin on the heartwarming Christmas special. And to assist us in reviewing the episode, Special Guest P will be sleigh-bell-chiming in.

M: Really, we’re calling E’s friend “Special Guest P”? No offense to P, but that seems a bit much.

E: Suck it up, Grinchy.

M: Not grinchy, just thought we could do better. You know, something more clever.

C: Okay, be more clever then. … What’s that? No ideas? Right, moving on.

M: Before anything else, a quick mea culpa. In our last review, I forgot to mention my favorite line of the episode, one we all agreed we should have touched on. When Castle, Beckett and annoying boy were holed up in the basement and Castle found the non working CB radio, he was asked if he knew how to fix it, and quipped “No, but I have seen every episode of MacGyver!” Loved that. Okay, back to the Christmas episode.

C: Before getting into this week’s murder plot, I want to talk about the big thing in “Secret Santa” that I can’t get over: Martha and Alexis telling Castle they’ve made other plans for Christmas Eve. Pardon me, what? Christmas, I’m pretty sure, is by definition the time when you tell your friends that you need to be with your only son and granddaughter/single dad and single grandma.

E: Yes, hello!

C: While some families don’t make a big deal of Christmas Eve, if the Rodger-Castles have a longstanding tradition of opening their presents that night (which seems perfect for impatient Rick, btw, though I know Mrs. M’s reasonably patient family does the same thing) then everyone in the family should expect to be there!

M: I don’t want to get in trouble, so I am leaving the mentioning of my in-laws and the word patient in the same sentence completely alone. Nothing to say here, please disperse.

E: You have to agree that they were very cavalier about blowing off long-standing tradition – not even asking if he minded switching things up.

M: In her defense, Martha never asks. Alexis is a different story.

P: I thought the Castle ladies having other plans would turn out to be so Beckett could have her author all to herself. Still, it’s hard to believe of Alexis. She would never skip out on her dad’s Christmas Eve after only knowing a guy for a month. Her whole relationship with the guy who went to Stanford took longer just to get them to exchange cell phone numbers. Improbable that Dad has never heard of this Max.

C: Highly improbable!

M: I was sort of there with you, P. Right up until the last scene where they told him they cancelled their plans I was expecting it all to be a ruse to pull some kind of surprise gathering off, where Beckett and the Wonder Twins, and maybe Lanie and others would be there. Now a day later, I still think I like my imagined ending better.

E: Oh, me too.  Liked your ending, that is, not imagined it the same way myself.

C: Yeah! That would have been way better. As to Beckett, it was more believable to me that she would prefer to work on Christmas Eve, but I really think she could have just told him her reasons to begin with.

M: Totally. There was no reason for her not to, except that she’s on TV, and TV writers have people do stupid things that they never would do in real life.

E: Once again, I got the impression it was going to be about money and the difference in their gift giving capabilities.

P: And their decorating capabilities. Castle’s overly decorated apartment makes me feel claustrophobic. I like a little Christmas craptacular, but I can see why Beckett would feel overwhelmed by his mere description. But as for the ending, I knew they’d Magi it out and get together.

E: English Majors unite!  That was so Magi.  “I was just going to the precinct to see you!”  “I left the precinct so I could come to your place.”

P: Yes!  Though I thought he really would have a present.

C: After her saying so many times for him not to buy her anything? Yeah, it was a surprising demonstration of wisdom on his part, to actually refrain!

M: No, that’s the classic trap that girlfriends/wives pull. Constantly saying no present, being completely rational and logical about it, which plays into the man’s relationship wheelhouse, and then giving him a gift and being mad when no gift is provided to her. Luckily for Castle, Beckett didn’t play that game.

E: We’re ignoring you and your sexist and irrelevant commentary on that subject, bro.

M: Only because I’m right.

C: Actually, Beckett’s way more the “rational and logical” one in this relationship. So.

M: Moving on…

E: Which you need to do because you’re not only wrong but outnumbered…

C: Everyone in this episode was having their Christmas traditions messed with. Esposito and Ryan apparently spend it together every year (awww), but this time Jenny’s got other plans for Ryan.

M: Wonder Twin #1 still expecting WT#2 to come over to play Madden on Christmas Eve now that he’s a newlywed was a little baffling, but they were playing a larger game with Espo.

C: Espo’s out in the cold, and in the meantime, Ryan’s taking it pretty hard that Santa Claus is dead. Have we mentioned that’s how the episode begins yet?

M: No, actually, we haven’t.

E: Yeah, we haven’t been very much into the narrative this time.  Switching it up for the non-traditional traditional Christmas episode, that’s how we roll.

C: I know how these writers love their shock-value openings, but I couldn’t help thinking of how that poor family making snow angels will get trauma flashbacks from the sight of a Santa suit for years to come.

M: Yeah, the poor girl especially, Christmas would be ruined for her. Perhaps for life. I mean, how do you get over Santa falling out the sky, with no buildings or low flying aircraft in sight, landing dead in front of you?

E: You don’t.  Heck, I still have traumatic flashbacks of coming home from that family vacation and finding our cat dead in the backyard and that’s not in the same league as almost being pancaked by Santa.

M: You had to bring that up? I was 6 at the time, and can still remember the weather that day (bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, but not hot).

E: Definitely sunny but not hot, (it was February), and you were 7, and you weren’t the one who actually picked up the cat so I’m not sure you can taunt me about hideous memories, but go on.

C: Eep. I’m glad I wasn’t born yet. On to a happier childhood association… It takes them a while to figure out who the victim really is, because even his wallet doesn’t break character – the ID says Kris Kringle. Just as I’m thinking “just like in Miracle on 34th Street!!” – Castle says it for me.

M: Castle’s cockamamie theories about what the true nature of a crime might be, since the start of the series, have been some of my favorite moments in the show’s run. This episode was right up there with the best of them, all the Santa and Christmas references, his undying belief that he really could have been pushed out of his sleigh. Loved it all, especially when no one would go along.

E: There’s nothing like Santa-conspiracy theories to get our Rick going.

C: Yeah, he’s of course trying to push a “this is the real Santa” theory. When they discover a bullet hole in the man’s back, his faith is unshaken. “Do you still think he fell out of his sleigh, Castle?” asks Beckett. “No. Clearly he was shot out of it.”

M: The crime scene staff finding a chip of candy cane red paint on him didn’t hurt Castle’s crusade, either.

C: True. Then later, after Castle rejects one of her theories, Beckett asks: “How is that less plausible than your sleigh?” Castle can’t pass up the opportunity: “I think you mean less Clausable.”

M: You guys know I love puns. Christmas puns are fantastic – like the one our friend posted the other day, “The Wreath of Kahn” – but even I cringed at “Clausable.”

E: No! I loved that.

M: Seriously? Maybe it’s me.

C: It’s you. They do eventually find an identity for the victim, though: he’s a financier named Edmund something who walked out on his whole life 5 years ago on Christmas Eve, after watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Now the gang just has to find out why he’s been living as a Santa ever since, and who would have wanted to Scrooge him in.

M: Now that was truly bad.

C: You’ll never stop me! In the meantime, Castle’s trying to sweet-talk Captain Gates into giving Beckett the night off, not knowing that Beckett volunteered for the shift herself. Gates, on her way to suffer over tiny sandwiches with her mother-in-law (why?), is being surprisingly tolerant.

E: Wow, did we get an earful about her evil mother-in-law. Also, anyone else besides me disappointed that Castle’s present wasn’t big enough to be one of those creepy dolls Gates loves so much?  I’m still mad at him for smashing hers.

M: Yes! I was completely expecting that!

C: Me too! A lost chance for some good continuity.

P: I don’t like any of that. We don’t want Gates to have too much personality. Better when she was formidable, not vulnerable to her mother-in-law. She’s getting too many lines. You just want her to say, “get back to work.” And give looks at Castle and Beckett when she enters the room.

M: I agree, they’ve been humanizing her too much lately. You don’t bring in the actress that played the b**** of a First Lady on 24 to be a china-doll-collecting, mother-in-law-fearing mush puddle. Let’s get back to Castle cringing when she appears out of nowhere behind him.

E: You know her spirit was there when Castle and Beckett decided not to kiss under the departmental mistletoe.  (Can I just add, mistletoe at a police station elevator?  BAD IDEA.)

M: So bad it could have been on that SNL Bad Idea Jeans commercial.

C: But why she didn’t jump into the elevator and kiss him when the doors closed, I’ll never understand! Castle’s not the only one bummed out at the idea of being alone Christmas Eve, though. Poor Esposito is casting around for someone to spend it with, too (it apparently never occurs to the guys to hang out together). Espo moseys oh-so-casually down to the morgue…

M: …freshly doused in Lanie’s favorite cologne…

C: Ha, that’s right. But she tells him: “Let’s not be one of those sad, desperate holiday hook-ups.” If he’s still interested after Christmas, though, she says to give her a call. Aww.

E: Could a reconciliation be in the works?  They had the stupidest breakup ever, and it’d be nice to see that rectified.

M: Literally right before WT1 showed up in the morgue Mrs M remarked that she wants Lanie and him to get back together. Maybe it will happen, they did basically break them up for no reason. But there were other developments on that front that we’ll get to in a minute.

E: Yes indeed.  We won’t get ahead of ourselves. You know where else we won’t go?  Esposito, dancing with the Santa lingerie Ryan bought for Jenny.  Talk about cringe-worthy.

C: Almost as cringe-worthy as the visions that’ll dance in your head after one suspect Santa comments: “Maybe it’s time to hang up the fluffy red jockstrap.” “Is—that a metaphor?” Castle pleads. We can only hope.

M: Changing the subject, trying to keep that image out of my mind’s eye… fa la la… Anyway, the case was a throwback Castle case, lots of twists and turns and like our good old Castle episodes.

C: In this case, the twist involving a SANTA SCHOOL, which was freaking awesome. Apparently they’re quite well-trained these days, Santas. None of this dragging in random old men off the street, like in the aforementioned 34th Street. They even have agents, from the Bells & Holly Agency!

P: Multiple Santas have been done and are fun.

M: Yes, but in this case the Santas turned out to be conspirators, not murderers. As usual, the killer ended up being the most recognizable guest star.

E: Or at least the guest star one figures is probably the most recognizable.

M: It wasn’t until late in the episode, however, that we turned our gaze to her, so it wasn’t clear. They had to first take us through the transformation of the victim from sleazy banker to professional Santa, his Robin Hood-like turn helping the people he hurt, and a fun romp into the world of Santa School, where Santas go to learn their trade, and then to a successful heist of a strange, ugly-but-expensive clock and a failed attempt at snagging a whole lot of documents revealing the victim’s crimes from his former life.

E: Even for Castle, this was a supremely complicated case.  The helicopter, the secret companies, the civil action suits.  I did love the candy cane fight between Espo and the mentor Santa/get a way driver, though.

P: Really?  In the end, I thought it was a silly fight scene if the guy’s innocent.

C: Yeah, and I’m really unsure about why the other Santas joined in.

E: One Santa for all?  Well, fine, good point.  Phooey.

M: No no, the guy wasn’t innocent. He stole (borrowed) a helicopter, was the get away pilot in a heist in which someone got killed, and accidentally let the body drop out of his illegal flight into Central Park. I’d say that’s worth the candy cane fight. That aside, when they finally ruled out the generic looking sleazy former business partner, I knew it would be Captain Gates’ former 24 cast-mate, the victim’s (and Jack Bauer’s) ex-wife.

C: Apparently I should have watched more 24. Back at the precinct, with the case wrapped up, Ryan reveals why he seems oddly hesitant to go home for sexy Christmas with his wife. Jenny wants to try for a baby! Gosh, Ryan-as-a-dad will be adorable.

M: Agreed, the super sweet couple will make for great TV parents.

C: But Ryan’s anxious about trying for a baby in such a dangerous, crazy world. Esposito answers this in just the right way: “The world’s always falling apart, bro. Since the beginning of time.” Exactly!

E: Even though most of us don’t walk in the same darkness NYC homicide detectives do, it’s one of those issues every thoughtful would-be parent grapples with.  I liked that they went there, and I loved the response.

M: I loved that line, one of the best the writers have ever come up with. Way to go Wonder Twins!

P: That was nice, but “Go and make a baby”? Corny, bro.

E: Also, a little bit gross.

M: Yeah, well, I cut them some slack because of the line before.

C: I do like that, at the end, Esposito gets to play Santa himself, returning the stolen clock to its original owners, the family whose lives the victim was trying to make up for wrecking.

P: Holy crap though, can you just remove a $30,000 clock from evidence? Shows seem to do this all the time, for the sentimental ending of a police procedural…

M: I think that when a case is over it can be, but that would have to be either after the trial, or when the D.A.’s office, and maybe the defense attorney’s, has determined that the evidence is not relevant to the case. Either way, the same day as catching the killer is pretty unlikely, even if it did make for a nice scene.

E: Yeah.  It would be years.  But it’s probably wise not to ask questions about this show and verisimilitude.

M: Whatever that means. I assume vermicelli is involved.

P: It would be nice for Esposito to be with a nice widow, though I liked when he and Lanie were hooking up (in the beginning). At the very least, he is not alone and the family seems sweet.

E: Larcenous teen included.

C: Interesting… I took the invitation to dine with the family as a random Christmas kindness, but fair enough – they could maybe have made the widow older-looking if they didn’t want viewers to read any romantic potential there.

M: I’m with P, I thought it was a romantic door opening.

E: Me too!  So it’ll be fascinating to see if this turns into something (and Lanie gets mad he didn’t call) or if he and Lanie restart their romance.

M: Speaking of romance, we end with Castle rushing to go be with Beckett on the Christmas shift, only to find her at his door rushing to start a new Christmas tradition with him… in his creepy, WAY over decorated apartment. I mean, what the heck was with the Poseidon-type things that bracketed the entry to the living room? Imported European garland? And the goofy little train running when no one’s home? I expected Beckett to be creeped out. I know I was!

E: Yeah, I’m sorry, but like P said, it looked like a department store.  Not cool.  Not cool at all.

C: But Castle did say he used to imagine Christmases like that when he was a kid and not well-off. It may not be how we picture a nice homey Christmas, but it seemed to be his dream, and isn’t that nice?

P: …Yeah, it was a nightmare.

C: Well, fine. But we all have until January 7th to get over it! A month away from Castle, Beckett and the gang begins… now.

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