Castle Review: “Target”

C: If you read us often, you’ll probably be expecting exclamations of horror at yet another serious episode – and Alexis Endangerment of all things. Yet somehow, I’m not horrified. In fact, it was a pretty well-written episode.

E: You’ll be more surprised to hear I’m not horrified either.  Maybe it’s because they don’t overplay the Alexis Endangerment card.  Maybe because I just don’t have any damn idea what’s going on.

C: Ha! Fair enough. It was a pretty confusing plotline.

E: Not necessarily in a bad way.  We just – have very few clues to go on, so far. To start the episode, we watch a young guy stand in an alley, facing down a charging van.  He shoots, emptying round after round into the van, which keeps coming.  He doesn’t turn away.  He loses the game of chicken.

C: You have to admire his grit, but I wasn’t sure why he couldn’t have stood to one side and shot at the oncoming car just as effectively. Maybe he really believed they would stop — but he was trying to kill them.

E: I know – stand aside, shoot out the tires and follow them!  But then I guess we wouldn’t have a corpse to follow.  Through judicious use of traffic cameras, Beckett figures out that we’re looking at the kidnapping of a Columbia college student (who was in the van).  It takes the team much longer than it takes the audience to figure out where the murder victim fits into this scenario.

C: The kidnapped girl is Sarah El-Masri, whose parents are rich and powerful Egyptians; when she refused a bodyguard, her father hired this young man to be a bodyguard-at-a-distance: essentially, to stalk Sarah for her own protection. Which didn’t work out so well for her, but particularly not for the protector, in the end.

E: The girl’s parents are perhaps blamed for some sort of calamity under the old regime. When no ransom call arrives, we’re left to wonder – was she taken for revenge or for the money?  Castle tells Beckett he can’t imagine what the couple is going through, with their only daughter kidnapped – which I thought was rather an odd comment from a writer with an only daughter.  He doesn’t know, but he could certainly imagine.

C: Odd comment? Try ham-handed foreshadowing. Maybe my statement about the good writing needs a caveat.

E: No, the rest of it was good.  The kidnapper is a gun for hire who normally runs drugs.  But who hired him?  At least we find out where Sarah was taken: leaving a lecture on climate change at a midtown hotel.

C: And it was a huge stretch that got them to this point; Sarah’s roommate said she was going to some “science thing,” and the team tracks down three science-related cultural events in the city. Yeah, because there are so few science things in New York City, and she definitely couldn’t have been referring to a study group for her science class or anything…

E: Yeah.  Incredibly lame.  (I did like Castle trying to explain to Javi that science fiction and science are by definition not the same thing; we have humor, even in a serious episode!)  Of course, it turns out Castle doesn’t need to imagine what the El-Masri’s are going through.

C: Right, because guess who’s in that science class? And who invited Sarah to hear this really interesting lecture with her? You don’t need to guess, you already know it’s Alexis. Beckett tries to comfort Castle that everything will be okay, but — if only in moments like these — he’s a realist. “Don’t,” he says. “Don’t promise me you’ll find her unless you can do it, because I’ll never forgive you. Just like I’ll never forgive myself.”

E: Eventually, Alexis and Sarah wake up in a strange bunker-like room equipped with a bathroom and sweat suits for each girl.  They get fed what seems to be airline food (little tiny containers) through a small hole cut in the door.

C: I think this is the moment where the episode shifted away from my expectations, and became something more interesting. I really didn’t think we’d see Alexis. I mean, it’s a staple element of Child Endangerment Plots that you can’t show the audience the child is okay. So the moment the scene opens on Alexis lying on the floor, we were in new territory. And what’s great, in the end, is that Alexis isn’t just some endangered child; she’s a young woman with an excellent head on her shoulders and iron nerve.

E: Oh yes.  That’s quite excellent.  First, though, there’s a horrifying moment when the team finds the van, which is doused with blood.  Thankfully, this belongs to the driver (shot by the bodyguard) who we find holed up with his nurse sister.  That’s when Beckett leaves her boyfriend alone with the one guy who must know where his daughter is.  Castle channels Captain Mal Reynolds, and turns quietly ugly.

C: Oh, moral dilemmas. How you fascinate me. When Castle asks for a minute alone with the wounded driver, I couldn’t believe Beckett gave it to him. Then again… as Lanie put it, this is personal for all of them. Would I punch a wounded man who had info on the whereabouts of a kidnapped child I loved? It’s hard to say no.

E: At this point, I’m thinking there’s no way they can solve the mystery in an hour.  But Castle, who softly tells the driver that he can use measures the police can’t, discovers that the girls were taken to a farm in upstate New York.  As the FBI closes in, I’m thinking oh, I guess we have time to get there after all!

C: Ah, see now, I’d been paying attention to the commercials advertising this as a special two-hour event. So I knew they weren’t getting Alexis and Sarah back this week.

E: Humph – looks like using the dvr to skip commercials isn’t always the bonus I think! In their bunker, the girls try to take apart the situation.  They were drugged.  The building is old, the floor is decaying.  It must be deserted, because they can’t hear anything.  Sarah’s had training by an expert on surviving a kidnapping, so they go through what she learned. But then they do hear a noise.

C: They try to act on the advice Sarah received in security training, and humanize themselves to the kidnappers. But the men outside the door are speaking Arabic, saying that people are coming.

E: Above the door of the farmhouse, the FBI agents notice a camera. Then Alexis, joy of our lives, notices Sarah has bobby pins in her hair.  She remembers when Daddy bought a door for them so they could learn how to pick locks; perfect!

C: I know, so great, right? Little Castle’s wacky upbringing pays off!

E: And it’s a good thing too, because the FBI isn’t outside… not their door, anyway. It turns out the farmhouse is empty, except for the corpse of the kidnapper, tied to a chair, his fingernails pulled out.  What?  Clearly, if he were killed by colleagues they wouldn’t have needed to torture him.  So does that mean that the girls are not only in a new location — one to which we have no leads — but that they’re with another set of kidnappers?

C: Yikes. I must admit I’m completely stumped by this plot, and fascinated.

E: Where ever the girls are, the webcams at the farmhouse (a unlikely bit of pre-planning if the kidnappers are totally new) have told the kidnappers that the FBI has made it that far. It’s at this point that Alexis picks the lock.

C: She and Sarah split up down different halls, looking for a way out. That is seriously brave!

E: Alexis finds an unlocked room with a computer and phone.  I wanted her to go for the computer, or both at once, but she tries 911, which doesn’t work.  So then she skypes Dad.  She reaches him, and the FBI listens in  — but she can’t give him any distinguishing characteristics of where she’s been taken.

C: I’m still impressed with how quickly she thought on her feet.

E: Totally. Then she hears someone coming, and so she runs — right out a door onto a rooftop.  In Paris.  Holy cow.

C: Yeah, that was some roofie they gave those girls, not to know they took a six-hour flight. (Also, was anyone else annoyed that they woke up with their lipgloss perfect?)

E: Oh I know, ridiculous. And here’s another nitpick: are we to assume that was a European phone?  Can you Skype without using a country code?

C: Actually yes, that’s the magic of Skype; if she signed into her own account, she could have called Castle’s computer with the click of a button. Using Skype was a very clever workaround for the writers; she’s able to get through, and it’s not until we see the Eiffel Tower in the distance that we realize why dialing 911 didn’t work.

E: Oh, now that is super cool to know.  I had no idea.  That was an amazing twist.  And even better, the one promised in the previews for next week!  SO excited.

C: Overall it was a taut and exciting episode, with a few nice little Castle and Beckett moments mixed in (“Gates will see.” “I don’t care.”). And we’d better hang on to those memories, as next week it looks like they’ll be on different continents…

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