Episode Title: "Linchpin"
Writer: Andrew W. Marlowe
Director: Rob Bowman
Following the events of last week's episode, Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) witnessed the murder of Dr. Martin Blakely before they were trapped in Beckett's car and sent into the water by another vehicle driven by the assassins. When Beckett and Castle try to escape the car, they discover that the doors won't open and Beckett is trapped by her seat belt. She is also unable to locate her gun. Castle submerges himself to find the weapon and he doesn't reappear for several long, uncomfortable moments before Beckett is overcome by the rising water. But just when all seems lost, two shots are fired from within the car, freeing them.
Later, Detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) ask Castle and Beckett for details about Blakely's murder which they can't answer because of their previous orders from the CIA. Even Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones) and her new intern, Alexis Castle (Molly Quinn) show up before CIA agents Sophia Conrad (Jennifer Beals) and Martin Danberg (Josh Stamberg) arrive and berate the duo for not letting them know that they broke Martin's code. Castle and Beckett are escorted back to the hidden CIA base; where Sophia verbally tears into them and throws them off the case. Sophia also implies that she was intimate with Castle, which doesn't go unnoticed by Beckett.
Beckett actually seems quite upset by the revelation that Castle had a relationship with her predecessor and it apparently ended badly. Beckett even hounds him about it the morg, where Alexis and Lanie overhear everything. The CIA may have confiscated Blakely's body, but Beckett and Castle remain dedicated to going after Thomas Gage ( David Chisum), the rogue agent whom they believe may be trying to use Blakely's scenarios to destroy America. That night, Sophia sneaks into Castle's apartment and says that her earlier verbal smackdown was a ruse. Sophia gives Castle a lead to pursue because she says that she still wants him on the case.
Although Beckett is less convinced about Sophia's change of heart, the lead does send them to Blakely's apartment, where they discover an intricate diorama that seems to predict the demise of the U.S. through World War III. They also spot the so-called linchpin: a picture of a Chinese girl in a school uniform. Beckett and Castle are soon caught off guard by Gage, who saves their lives when they come under fire from unknown assailants. Once Gage gets them safely away, he tells Castle and Beckett that he's being framed by someone within the CIA.
Before Castle and Beckett can be convinced of Gage's innocence, Sophia shows up with a squad of agents and takes Gage into custody. Back at the CIA compound, Gage reiterates the fact that he's being set up… which is quickly confirmed when he is found murdered in the interrogation room. Through data backtracking, the finger is pointed at Danberg; who manages to flee the facility. With Danberg gone and another possible mole within, the CIA seems stuck until Castle suggests identifying the girl by figuring out where the photo was taken.
While waiting for the computer to finish a search of the mountains in the picture, Sophia privately shares with Beckett a few details about her prior relationship with Castle. Sophia says that after she slept with Castle, all of the tension and longing in their relationship disappeared… which also seems to upset Beckett. Some time later, the girl in the photo is identified as the daughter of an influential Chinese businessman; who could cripple U.S. assets if it was discovered that a rogue CIA agent murdered his child. From there, the domino effects would lead to destruction.
To complicate matters, the businessman and his daughter are both in New York for a U.N. meeting. Racing to save their country, Sophia takes Castle and Beckett with her and locks down her own people before meeting up with Agent Corrigan. Unfortunately, Corrigan and Sophia reveal themselves to be the real traitors and she prepares to execute the duo while Corrigan moves to assassinate the young girl. Before Sophia can shoot Rick, she implies that his father is well known within the CIA and may possibly be an agent himself… before she is shot and killed by Danberg.
With Danberg's help, Beckett foils Corrigan's hit on the girl and the day is saved. In the aftermath, Castle openly wonders if his missing father is involved with the CIA, but Beckett seems to downplay the possibility by noting that Sophia was a traitor who lied to both of them. Beckett assumes that Sophia's betrayal is hitting Castle hard because of his feelings for her, so she phrases it as his disappointment about tarnishing the inspiration behind one of his first fictional heroines. But Castle says that Sophia's character became more like Beckett over time; which is part of what drew him to her in the first place. Satisfied, the duo walk off together again.
Do you know what Kate Beckett fears more than anything else? Based on this episode, I think that I do.
Given the extremely dangerous nature of the threat from this two-parter of "Castle," it would have been natural for Beckett to express fears over her near-drowning experience and her very close call before Danberg saved Beckett and Castle from Sophia. The potentially catastrophic consequences of Sophia's plan could have kept anyone on edge and jittery about their survival.
And yet, the thing that Beckett seemed most fixated on was the fact that Castle had slept with Sophia. It was more than just minor jealously. Sophia was the proto-Beckett in Castle's life. She was his first so-called muse that inspired one of his most popular characters through her strength, her drive and her passion. Of course he was going to fall for her. Castle is Castle, after all. Once she got over the initial shock, I'm sure that Beckett wasn't actually that surprised.
But getting back to that fear, did you notice the terror in Beckett's eyes when Sophia described how the passion went out of their relationship once she slept with Castle? I believe that's the thing that would keep Beckett up all night. Beckett knows that Castle loves her, even if she didn't remember what he said when he thought that she was dying. Four years alongside Beckett could fill dozens of novels and even Castle has admitted to his mother that he stopped following Beckett just for inspiration a long time ago. He really does love her and his actions constantly reinforce that to her. So, of course she knows.
However, she knows Castle too. He's got a history of failed relationships, despite what were probably some genuine attempts on his part to settle down. Beckett's biggest fear may be that once she and Castle consummate their long simmering relationship, the spark that they have between them would die. And that spark means everything to Beckett, even more than a potential romance. Beckett's partnership with Castle gives her life meaning, but if she got that close to him then she would always have that nagging doubt that he would someday leave her behind and move on to the next woman. It's not like he hasn't done it before. At the end, Beckett had to lie to herself and Castle by insinuating that what Sophia had told her wasn't true.
On the other hand, Beckett must really love him too if she cares that deeply about it… which should make Castle-shippers everywhere very happy.
"Linchpin" continued the "Castle" tradition of having a two part episode that features a major guest star and ridiculously increased stakes. How do you top last season's two parter that had Castle and Beckett defusing a huge bomb that would have threatened the entire city? By having them save their country from being destroyed during another World War. Again, it's a little ridiculous but it's still undeniably fun.
Andrew W. Marlowe (The creator of "Castle") and Rob Bowman tend to be the strongest writer and director pairing on the show, and they successfully gave "Linchpin" a much larger scope than usual. The opening moments between Castle and Beckett as their car sank in the water ranks among the best scenes in the series. It was very well staged, with great performances by Fillion and Katic that really sold the tension. Almost as effective was the way that Castle and Beckett faced their immanent deaths at the hands of Sophia.
Regarding Sophia, I really liked Jennifer Beals in the first part last week and through most of this episode. But I felt that her traitor turn existed only for the shock value and it didn't feel like an organic direction for her character. There would have also been a great deal of value in keeping Sophia on the playing field and giving Beckett a real romantic rival for Castle's heart. Even with Castle's previous relationship with her, Sophia's betrayal just didn't seem to have the sting that it should have.
The one intriguing thing to come out of Sophia's last scene is that Castle's father is now back in play. Now we know for certain that Castle's dad is out there somewhere and he's likely still involved with the CIA. Knowing the way that this show works, I wouldn't be surprised if Castle's dad also has some sort of connection to the murder of Beckett's mother, or the old man supposedly protecting them both from whoever hired the sniper.
Some of the CIA complex scenes came off as a little silly, as they made the conventional work of tracking down their suspects or subjects look way too easy. It may have been a commentary about how hard Castle, Beckett and the rest of the team usually work on their cases; but it did kind of suck the drama out of those scenes,
But for the most part, "Linchpin" was exciting to watch as the closing part of a fairly self-contained story that also had some promising indications of where "Castle" could go in the future. And it's good to see that even in the fourth season, "Castle" seems to have a lot of life left in the series.
Crave Online Rating: 8.8 out of 10.