THIS EPISODE IN CASTLE HISTORY: FOOL ME ONCE 10-12

While he’s dropping playful hints to Beckett about the plot of Castle‘s first book based on her, the two investigate the murder of Steven Fletcher, a con man posing as an Arctic explorer for school children. The case takes several interesting turns, fascinating Castle and infuriating Beckett, when they suspect that the victim was actually a CIA operative and may have faked his own death. But when an old CIAcontact of Castle’s disputes that the victim was ever a spy, everyone wonders just who is being fooled.

Castle faces a similar surprise. Dylan is Alexis’s new violin instructor. Her young, very sexy violin instructor. He is going to Julliard and is a musical prodigy, so when Alexis’s old instructor Olga retired, Alexis got lucky to get him. For his part, Castle’s worried that Dylan will get lucky with Alexis. Despite his best efforts, Alexis leads Dylan into her room for some private tutoring.

Castle arrives at the school wondering where the body is and is fascinated when he realizes that his victim is a fraud who died in an undisclosed location. The teacher, Mr. Wheeler, is flabbergasted. He shows them Fletcher’s brochure. He was a Yale Ph.D. who was making a one-man trip to the North Pole. Some local private schools funded his trip, and in exchange he transmitted regular reports to the kids, giving them a unique educational experience.

While Mr. Wheeler talks, Ryan has passed around a picture of the view from Fletcher’s window, caught for a moment on the webcam. He hits pay dirt; one of the uniforms recognizes the building, at 79th and Amsterdam. At the apartment, they find a makeshift sound stage for Fletcher’s “Arctic reports”. The door was unlocked, so either Fletcher had left it unlocked or the killer had a key. They approach the body, Castle putting on his gloves and admiring his hands of blue. Fletcher was shot once with a large-caliber bullet that pretty much eradicated his face. Did his killer hate him that much? Also in the apartment: a box of passports and IDs– “Fletcher” was probably running several cons at once.

Back at the station, the usual suspects are running multiple cons of their own. Castle is eager to hear what Beckett thinks of Heat Wave, especially since it was so hard for him to get her an advance copy. Beckett claims that she hasn’t had a chance to look at it yet. Esposito has to haul all the evidence boxes up, since Ryan (winking at the guys from behind) hurt his back.

Another of Fletcher’s aliases conned a violently insane woman, Patty Schultz, out of her life savings about a year ago. The woman had been forcibly detained in a psychiatric hospital several times. Might she have tracked him down and gotten revenge? Schultz is a bust. She has a rock-solid alibi, and so while all she cares about in this world is her cats and killing Stephen Fletcher, it’s clearly not her. She assures Castle that just because she was insane didn’t make her an easy mark. On the contrary. She has paranoid personality disorder– she’s even more suspicious than a normal person. Fletcher, who went by Stephen Miles with her, was the first person in years who made her feel safe. Until he made off with $60,000 that she paid to cryogenically keep her and her cats. “That man could sell sand to camels,” she said, half-admiringly. Beckett turns down her request to see Fletcher’s corpse.

Fletcher’s next con is as Stephen Lambert. He was engaged to be married to Elise Finnegan, heir to the Finnegan fortune of over $100 million. Elise flat-out doesn’t believe it, and damn all the evidence. She breaks down into tears while her parents and best friend comfort her. Stephen had given no signs of being a con man, and in fact was even paying for the wedding himself.

The gang stays late that night trying to unravel all the cons Stephen was pulling. Someone once tried to con Stephen with a Nigerian email scam– but Fletcher conned him instead out of $10,000. The boys are all impressed. They love a good con, and especially a con movie. What’s Beckett’s favorite? None. To their horror, she hates con movies. As they talk, a weird point comes up. Fletcher already had the money, and maybe he filmed the broadcasts to keep the school from finding out, but why bother writing personalized, well-researched responses to all the kids who had written him? Something’s fishy.

Beckett leaves early, and Castle thinks her claim that she’s not leaving to go on a date is fishy, too. Ryan and Esposito haven’t heard anything. It’s left to the viewer to see her steamy date. She goes home, pours a glass of wine, runs a hot bath, and settles down to read a good book by candlelight. Heat Wave, of course.

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Alexis is practicing her violin with Dylan late at night when Castle gets home. Castle’s suspicions are already riled up by the Fletcher case; he can’t resist eavesdropping. When Dylan leaves, Castle tells Alexis he’ll need to get a background check, maybe even a polygraph. Alexis walks out, fuming. But this gets Castle thinking. (About half way through)

The next morning, he calls Beckett out of her sparring session to tell her he’d cracked the case wide open. It’s simply inconceivable to Castle that Gerry Finnegan didn’t realize that his daughter was marrying a con artist. If he did know, perhaps his anger led him to murder. Beckett isn’t buying it, but Ryan and Esposito ran gun registration records and Gerry Finnegan owns a gun whose caliber matches that of the murder weapon.

Finnegan’s gun doesn’t match. But Finnegan did know that Stephen was a fraud. Stephen had begged Mr. Finnegan not to expose him, insisting that he really did love Elise and was done with cons. He offered to sign any prenup that Mr. Finnegan wrote, cutting him out of the family fortune forever if he wanted. Finnegan, incredibly, believed him, and agreed not to say anything. Finnegan had had the detective hold onto the incriminating photos, but agreed to share them with the police. He hadn’t admitted to knowing to Castle and Beckett in the first interview because Elise was there and would have been heartbroken.

Castle is starting to believe that maybe Fletcher really was going straight for the love of Elise, but Beckett doesn’t buy it. She says that people never change, that they can’t and won’t. Period. Castle, a former playboy gone straight himself, looks wounded after the conversation.

The photos come in, and immediately Castle and Beckett realize that they need another talk with Jim Wheeler, the elementary school teacher. The photo was taken after Fletcher supposedly had left on his “arctic voyage”, so why was he at a coffee shop passing envelopes to Wheeler? Wheeler falls to pieces. He admits that he’d figured out that the photos in the brochure were photoshopped and took a cut in exchange for his silence. He says that Fletcher’s trip may have been faked, but the educational experience was real and the kids loved it. Facing jail if he doesn’t cooperate, he has no idea who might have killed Fletcher. “But have you asked his partner?”

Up to now, there’s been no mention of an accomplice. Wheeler helpfully points her out. It turns out that she’s in the picture, too. Under the magnifying glass, they recognize her at once. Elise Finnegan. “Who’s conning whom here?”

Elise had furiously denied that Fletcher could have been a con man, even the face of overwhelming evidence. Now it looks like she was sitting right there when he was pulling scams. After wrestling with her conscience, she comes clean. Fletcher was CIA. (“Best case ever!”) The con man act was just that, an act intended to cover his real mission: infiltrating the International School. Most of the students there were the children of UN Diplomats, many from some of the USA’s worst enemies. Fletcher, and fellow agent Jim Wheeler, were using the school to get intelligence from their parents. Castle totally buys it, but Beckett leaves amazed at how gullible Elise, and Castle for that matter, are.

There’s only one way to resolve it. Castle bets her a dollar that Fletcher really is CIA, and then calls his guy in the CIA.”You have a guy in the CIA?””When are you going to learn? I’ve got a guy everywhere.” They’re still talking about Agent Gray, by far the most dangerous man Castle’s ever met, when he materializes seemingly out of nowhere. He’s already read Heat Wave and loves it, especially the sex scene between Nikki Heat and the roguishly handsome reporter who’s helping her. Talk about steamy. Agent Gray quickly confirms that the CIA’s never heard of Fletcher, and then vanishes in plain sight.

That’s when Castle is picked up and dragged into an interrogation room. Alexis has discovered that he called Julliard to check up on Dylan’s record, and is insulted and furious. She points out how irresponsible he is and how responsible she’s always been. How could he not trust her? She rips into him for a little while longer and then leaves Castle, broken. Beckett, who watched the whole thing in the mirror, tells Castle that Alexis took him down like a pro. Castle’s been pushing her to break the rules and have fun, and now suddenly he freaks out. Beckett is playful about it until she realizes that he’s genuinely heartbroken. Then it’s back to work.

They arrive too late– Elise has already left. But Beckett spots a clue that blows the case wide open. On a table is their engagement album. Sue made it; she’s a graphic artist, but Beckett and Castle realize it looks exactly like the arctic brochure Fletcher used to con the International School. It’s the Undercover Lover con. Sue met Elise about a year ago, developed a friendship, and learned enough about her hopes and dreams and desires to give Stephen a playbook to use when, six months later, he arrives on the scene, with an identity designed to be Elise’s ideal man. It wouldn’t have made sense to have faked his own death now, so close to the payoff. But what if Fletcher really had gone straight, as he told Gerry Finnegan? Then Sue stood to lose millions. She kills Fletcher in a way that ensures he can’t be identified, then fakes a call from Fletcher to Elise. Somehow, she’s still conspiring to get away Elise’s money.

Meanwhile, at Elise’s bank, Sue tells her that she’s just spoken with Stephen. A million dollars of Elise’s money will get the two of them out of the country. Stephen’s got more stashed overseas. Elise rushes in to get the money. She comes out with a briefcase full of cash. She just missed Stephen’s call to Sue. Sue is to take the money to the safe house while Elise packs, and then the two can be together forever. Elise hands her the case and thanks her best friend for helping the lovers make their escape.

Sue walks around the block, climbs into her car, and pops open the briefcase. Far from having money, it has the most worthless thing in the world– newspapers! Castle and Beckett knock on her car window. She fell for the oldest con in the book: The Lazy Susan. They haul her off. A laptop in the trunk had the voice editing software that she used to fake Fletcher’s phone call to Elise. The bank guard, who was in on Beckett’s trick, shares a reference to The Sting with her. Castle objects that she hates con movies, but Beckett laughs at how easy a mark he is.

Still doing paperwork, and thinking Castle’s gone for the day, Beckett sneaks off into the women’s bathroom. As she hunts feverishly through the pages, Castle’s head pops up over the stall she’s in. Beckett, stunned, can’t even speak. Castle smugly tells her that the sex scene she’s hunting for is on page 105. He wishes her a good night, and leaves. Beckett is outraged, she’s furious, she’s humiliated… she quickly turns to the page, and her eyes widen in shock. Whoa….

Back at the stately Castle manor, the sounds of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played very badly echo through the apartment. Martha is getting lessons from Dylan, and Castle can only hope that the two run away together as he apologizes to Alexis. They make up, and run off for dinner. (Toward the end)

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