Season 3, Episode 23 (57)
Original Air Date - May 9, 2011
Castle and Beckett are on the case when a contestant in a prestigious national beauty pageant is found strangled to death. Their investigation uncovers a blackmailing plot which indicates that the victim may not have been as innocent as they originally thought. Meanwhile, Alexis struggles with how to keep her relationship with her boyfriend Ashley (guest star Ken Baumann) going despite his desire to attend college out of state.
- Nathan Fillion - Richard Castle
- Stana Katic - Kate Beckett, Detective
- Molly C. Quinn - Alexis Castle (Castle’s Daughter)
- Susan Sullivan - Martha Rodgers (Castle’s Mother)
- Ruben Santiago-Hudson - Roy Montgomery, Captain
- Jon Huertas - Javier Esposito, Detective
- Seamus Dever - Kevin Ryan, Detective
- Tamala Jones - Lanie Parish, Medical Examiner
- Ken Baumann - Ashley
- Paul Terrell Clayton - Dax Lattimer
- Arye Gross - M.E. Sydney Perlmutter
- Stephanie Lynn - Amber Middleberry
- Rosero McCoy - Felix
- William Francis McGuire - Dan Middleberry
- Michael McKean - Victor Baron
- Nan McNamara - Stage Mother
- Teri Polo - Kayla Baron
- Sasha Roiz - Bobby Stark
- Amanda Schull - Joy
- Jonathan Slavin - Justin Hankel
- Bellamy Young - Candace Ford
Castle: Relationships aren’t hard. Odds are you’ll figure it out.
(Castle’s cell phone rings)
Alexis: Odds are someone’s dead.
Castle: Death of a beauty queen…scandalous.
Beckett: (sarcastically) Yeah, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.
Beckett: Hey there, Perlmutter.
Perlmutter: Detective. (less enthusiastic) Writer.
Beckett: Pageants aren’t fairy tales. They’re demanding, high-pressure competitions that bring out the very best and the very worst in people.
Castle: That is the voice of experience. Oh my God! You were a beauty queen!
Beckett: No. I had a roommate freshman year, Debbie Winnaker. It was like living with Elle Woods on steroids.
Castle: (sees the precinct full of beauty pageant contestants) This oughta bring back memories.
Woman: (to contestant) You’re slouching! Winners never slouch!
Beckett: (whispering) Castle, they’re everywhere.
Castle: Smells like the perfume counter at a department store.
Esposito: Beats the usual low-lifes and nut jobs.
Beckett: I don’t know if you can say that nut jobs and beauty queens are mutually exclusive.
Esposito: I checked the sequin against all their dresses.
Castle: I’ll bet you did.
Esposito: Watch a parade of beautiful women in evening attire? Yeah, I can do that.
Castle: I’ll bet you can.
Ryan: So, I’ve been interviewing these ladies…
Castle: I’ll bet you did.
Ryan: About their alibis last night.
Castle: Bam said the costume lady!
Bobby Stark: Besides, who wouldn’t want to ride the Bobby Rocket!?
Castle: Everyone from what we hear.
Beckett: Ok, so let me get this straight. You don’t remember where you were or what you were doing last night?
Bobby Stark: (thinks) That’s bad, right?
Beckett: That guy’s dropped more pills than a three-fingered pharmacist.
Castle: I just can’t believe that someone that’s given so much great fatherly advice on TV can be guilty of murder.
Beckett: He’s a drug-addled predator who left physical evidence on the body.
Castle: Well, when you put it that way…
Castle: Relationships aren’t math problems. You don’t solve them by being practical. I mean what happens if she meets her soul mate, but she doesn’t risk it because it’s not practical?
Esposito: Ok then, what about Hawaii? Earrings? Ooh, lingerie…
Castle: Things you buy a woman! I used to kill at Pyramid.
Castle: Thirty years of marriage and you don’t know what to buy?
Capt. Montgomery: If you’d stayed married long enough, you’d know it’s hard to stay original after the first ten.
Castle: That’s fair.
Beckett: So what’s the secret to your success?
Capt. Montgomery: There’s no secret, just keep showing up.
Castle: Beauty queens and naked pictures, as American as socialites and sex tapes.
Castle: Just because you’re smart and beautiful doesn’t mean you have good judgment. (gets look from Beckett) I didn’t mean me.
Beckett: Castle, have you taken a look at these photos?
Castle: Only insofar as it pertains to the investigation.
Castle: The best thing to give a woman is something she said she wanted when she didn’t think you were listening.
Capt. Montgomery: What if I wasn’t listening?
Castle: Gift certificate?
Beckett: It was my own private Vietnam. Our place smelled of hairspray, perfume, and cigarettes. I’m surprised that we didn’t spontaneously combust.
Castle: (dramatically) I love the smell of hairspray in the morning. Smells like…victory.
Ashley: Mr. Castle, have you ever been crazy about someone who is determined to push you away?
Beckett: (interrupts) Hey Castle, I…oh, sorry guys.
Castle: I think that nothing is certain, and you could be ending something that might have worked if you’d just given it a little more time.
Alexis: What if I’m just cutting my losses on something that was never meant to be?
Castle: Life is a journey and there is no predicting the outcome. The only things you can control are your choices and they’ll define who you are. I would just hate to see you so focused on the problem right in front of you that you completely miss the entire picture.
Beckett: (sees Castle looking at a nude photo of a victim) Remind me to get you a subscription to a girly magazine for Christmas.
Castle: Oh, that is so thoughtful of you!
Castle: A word of advice, Justin. When the lady says stop, stop.
Beckett: Castle, let me let you in on a little secret. Captain Montgomery retires all the time, just give it a week or two. He’s like the Brett Favre of the NYPD.
Castle: She decided it was worth the risk and she is going to just keep showing up.
Beckett: That's a good choice.
Castle: Hey, Dad. Guess what?
Alexis: I’m going to Stanford.
Alexis: I’m applying for early admission. And since I’ve been taking extra classes each semester since my freshman year, I have enough credits to graduate in the fall.
Alexis: Yeah. This way, Ashley and I will be together in January. In college!
Ashley: That was actually her idea, sir.
Castle: (completely dumfounded) What...
- This episode featured a Nathanism.
- Born This Way performed by Lady Gaga - opening scene when pageant contestants are rehearsing a dance number and the body is found.
- I Will Think of You performed by Laura Browne Sorenson - the pageant contestants remember the victim.
Full Episode Recap
The finalists in a prestigious beauty pageant rehearse a lively dance number on stage. When the host joins them, a lighting truss is lowered from above on which rests the body of a fellow contestant, Ms. Illinois.
At Castle's loft, Alexis Castle is engrossed in conversation with her boyfriend, Ashley, about colleges, when her father, Richard Castle, reminds her she has to get ready for school. She rather coldly acknowledges him as well as agrees with Ashley that everyone needs to get away from home at some point, eliciting a grumble from her father. After promising to talk to him later, she ends the call, and when Castle protests her desire to leave home, she jokes that they can become “the father-daughter version of Grey Gardens.” She goes on to explain that she didn’t sleep well the night before because Ashley got accepted into every college to which he applied, and he wants to go to Stanford University, despite her desire for him to stay local. Castle reassures her that she’ll figure things out as his cell phone rings.
As Castle and Detective Kate Beckett wind their way through the backstage area of the V.B. Tower, owned by the wealthy Victor Baron, Beckett explains the murder of the beauty queen to Castle, teasing that it is right up his alley. When they reach the stage, Castle immediately recognizes the pageant host as family sitcom star Bobby Stark and says, to Beckett’s chagrin, that he learned many of his parenting skills from his show.
Detective Kevin Ryan joins them, identifying the victim as Amber Middleberry. Medical Examiner Sydney Perlmutter greets Beckett cordially and Castle much less so. He rules the cause of death as having been choked by her sash between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Ryan guesses the killer put the body on the truss and raised it up to the rafters in an effort to buy time, leading Castle to speculate that the killer has knowledge of the stage equipment. Ryan disputes this, saying the lighting controls are easily operated by a touch-screen computer. He adds that Amber was last seen the night before at a dinner for Victor Baron and last used her hotel key card at about 10:45. Perlmutter also shows Beckett a single black sequin he found on the body, leading her to ask Ryan to find out if it matches anything the other contestants were wearing at the dinner. She asks about family and he points out her distraught father.
Amber’s father explains how after Amber’s mother died, Amber continued competing in an effort to feel closer to her. He adds that she had no enemies amongst the other contestants, since she had known many of them for years and how winning the pageant was her dream. He tried to call her the night before around 10:45, but couldn’t reach her, making him think she left her room.
Victor Baron joins them offering his condolences, promising to catch the killer, and demanding to have a word with Beckett and Castle. They join Baron in his penthouse office and meet his wife, Kayla. Castle asks if they knew Amber and all either can say is that she was a nice girl and a very good violinist. Baron promises to help with the investigation in any way possible, but hopes to keep the story away from the press. Beckett refuses and asks for the removal of the video cameras which have been filming them since their arrival. Baron explains that he likes to film all the behind-the-scenes of the pageant to catch its good and bad moments, but relents when Beckett casts him a hard stare. As Beckett talks with Baron, Castle gazes at the artwork on the walls. Beckett asks for footage of the previous night’s dinner and to interview all the contestants, which Baron promises to have the pageant manager, Candace Ford, provide to her.
In the elevator at the precinct, Castle calls the case a fairy tale turned horror story, and Beckett corrects him, describing how demanding and challenging pageants are. Castle becomes intrigued and gleefully concludes that Beckett was a beauty queen. She says she wasn’t, but that she had a college roommate, Debbie Winnaker, who was. The elevator doors open and Beckett is creeped out by the contestants standing all over the precinct while Castle likens the smell to that of “a perfume counter at a department store.” Detective Javier Esposito comments that it is better than interviewing “low-lifes and nut jobs,” a fact disputed by Beckett since they aren't much different from beauty queens. Castle is further amused when Esposito reports that he compared the sequin found on Amber to that of the dresses being worn by each contestant and came up empty. Castle teases him again when he agrees to Beckett’s request that he watch the footage of the dinner to see if the sequin matches any of the dresses worn the night before. Ryan joins them, ignores Castle’s teasing, and says they need to talk to one of the contestants.
In the conference room, the contestant explains how she went down to the stage to practice the dance she planned to perform as a semifinalist after the dinner and heard Amber arguing with a male whose voice she did not recognize, in the dressing room. She left when it grew heated and now suspects it was Amber’s boyfriend.
Outside, Ryan tells Castle and Beckett that neither Amber’s father, nor the other contestants knew anything about a boyfriend in Amber’s life. He says that if anyone would know, it would be her pageant consultant, Justin Hankel.
In the break room, Hankel says he has a strict policy against boyfriends for his clients since they can easily become a distraction. He says he suspected something was up when Amber seemed upset lately and would only tell him that someone was trying to take advantage of her and she would handle it.
Outside, Castle muses over the meaning of winning the pageant and Beckett observes that she has seen people kill for much less than what Amber had at stake. Esposito calls them over to his desk and shows them a clip of the video from the dinner the night before where pageant host Bobby Stark can be seen flirting with a jealous Amber. All of them also notice that he was wearing a black-sequined blazer.
Later, Esposito arrives with Bobby Stark’s blazer and pronounces the missing sequin a match. Ryan adds that Stark has had three women file restraining orders against him in the last year and that he paid a lot of money to keep everything quiet, plus Stark had been paying a lot of special attention to Amber lately, making Castle wonder if the attention was unwanted.
In an interrogation room, Bobby Stark does his best impression of Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, ignoring Beckett’s and Castle’s entrance. They finally get his attention and he sits down next to Beckett at the table instead of across from her, further weirding her out. She cuts off his narcissistic talk about his range as an actor and asks about his relationship with Amber. He denies killing her, saying instead that he was trying to recruit her for his own “Goddess train.” Beckett and Castle theorize that he lured Amber back to his hotel room to make her one final offer and killed her when she refused. He denies this, but fails to explain the sequin or to remember where he was or who he was with the night Amber was killed.
After Castle laments how such a great sitcom actor could be responsible for murder, Beckett asks Esposito to reconstruct Stark’s movements the night of the murder. He shows Beckett and Castle further video from the dinner where Amber has her violin case, which wasn’t found on her body or in her room. Beckett guesses Stark ditched it after the killing and asks him to search for it around the hotel.
That night at his loft, Castle and his mother, Martha Rodgers, laugh over pictures and stories of her when she was beauty pageant contestant. Alexis enters, clearly upset, and explains that she broke up with Ashley to keep him from hating her after he decided to go stay in New York for college and not go to Stanford. She breaks down crying in Martha’s arms as Castle looks on.
The following morning at the precinct over his and Beckett’s usual coffees, Beckett calls Alexis’ decision practical. Castle begs to differ, saying relationship issues aren’t solved and soul mates aren’t found by being practical. They find Esposito offering suggestions for gifts to Captain Roy Montgomery, who explains that his thirty year wedding anniversary is approaching and he doesn’t know what to give her. Castle is surprised at this and Montgomery responds that he would understand if his marriages had lasted longer. Beckett asks him how he has made it work and he answers “just keep showing up.”
Beckett asks Esposito for an update on Bobby Stark and he says the night of the murder he was in a cab taking pictures of his genitals and posting them to Twitter from 11 to 11:30, from 11:30 to 1 paparazzi caught him at the Tribeca Grand Hotel with an unidentified woman and after that he went to a gentleman’s club. Even though it puts them at square one, Beckett tells him to let Stark go. Ryan then interjects that they found Amber’s violin in a garbage bin behind the hotel and that fingerprints found on it match a contestant from Georgia, Joy Jones.
After Beckett and Castle confront Joy with their evidence, she explains how she stole Amber’s violin from her room out of fear that she would win the pageant. She denies killing Amber and says that when her body was found, she panicked and tossed the violin. Beckett doesn’t buy her explanation, but Joy insists that she didn’t need to kill Amber, since she found something in her case that would have ruined her. Back at her hotel room, she shows them nude photos of Amber. On the back of one is a message indicating to Beckett that Amber was being blackmailed.
At the murder board, Beckett wonders why Amber would allow herself to be photographed nude knowing that it could cost her the pageant. Esposito joins them saying that Amber’s father knew nothing of the photos or blackmail and that Amber didn’t come to him for money. It also wasn’t possible that she paid off the blackmailer since her financials indicate that all of her savings was being put into the pageant and she only had a small balance left. Beckett wonders why the blackmailer didn’t give her time to raise the money and Castle guesses she forced the person’s hand by threatening to go to the police. Beckett then notices that the pictures seem to have been professionally done and wonders if they weren’t taken early in her career and now are being used to extort money. She asks Esposito to get a list of photographers with whom Amber recently had sessions.
Esposito shows the photos to Justin Hankel and he realizes that they must have been the cause of Amber’s recent distress. He recognizes her hairstyle being from six months prior and promises to check his calendar to see with whom she had a session scheduled at that time.
In front of the murder board, Beckett reports that Amber didn’t confide in any of her friends at the pageant about the blackmailing. Captain Montgomery then approaches Beckett who says emphatically that she has no idea what to get his wife for their anniversary. Castle suggests he get her something she said she wanted when she didn’t think he was listening. When Montgomery admits that he wasn’t, Castle weakly suggests a gift certificate as Beckett’s cell phone rings. Esposito tells her that six months ago Amber had a photo shoot with Dax Lattimer, who freelances for adult magazines.
At Lattimer’s studio, he denies taking the nude photos of Amber, calling them mediocre, and says she wasn’t the type to ask for such shots. Ryan and Esposito press him, but he adds that Amber brought a boyfriend with her to the shoot who kept trying to inject his own ideas into the session. He says at the time of the murder he was home with his wife and son and his building’s doorman will back him up.
Beckett ends a phone call to Amber’s father who says she did have a boyfriend some time ago named Jeremy Kyper, who as far as he knows is back in Illinois. Castle says you don’t have to be local to commit blackmail, but Beckett still asks Ryan to see if Jeremy paid Amber a visit. Beckett then compares the case to her experience with Debbie Winnaker, saying she is amazed they didn’t spontaneously combust since their place smelled of hairspray, cigarettes, and perfume. A voice then calls Castle’s name and he turns to find Ashley asking for him.
He explains that he changed his mind about going to Stanford, but is afraid that if he calls Alexis to tell her she’ll be even more upset at him than she already is because would have ignored her wishes for him not to contact her. He goes on to say that he thinks they can make a long-distance relationship work and he hopes Castle will talk to Alexis about it. Castle resists, but Ashley makes his point by asking if he was ever crazy about someone who was determined to push him away. At that moment, Beckett comes around a corner looking for Castle, but backs off when she sees them. For a moment, Castle loses his train his train of thought, but eventually promises to do what he can. Ashley leaves and Castle recounts their talk to Beckett who calls Ashley’s request both sweet and awkward. Ryan then joins them, saying that spoken to Jeremy’s mom told him her son moved to New York a month ago.
Beckett knocks on Jeremy’s apartment door, but gets no response. She tries the knob and finds the door unlocked. Inside they find no sign of Jeremy, a turned over liquor bottle on the table, and a closet door and wall covered in nude pictures of Amber. When the door slips open, Beckett pulls her gun and signals for Castle to open the door. When he does, they find Jeremy’s dead body hanging inside.
Castle calls the case a classic murder-suicide, pronouncing that Jeremy tried to reunite with Amber, his obsession, killed her when she rejected him then hung himself out of guilt. Perlmutter, however, says his theory is wrong since Jeremy was choked to death then hung in the closet to make it look like a suicide. He also tells them he found bruising on Jeremy’s arms and ribs, indicating that he struggled with his killer before dying, and that he estimates he was killed half a day before Amber. Esposito notices that the hard drive of Jeremy’s computer has been wiped clean, indicating to Beckett that whoever killed both, did so to keep the nude pictures from coming to light.
That evening back at the precinct, Beckett says Amber’s father had no knowledge that she had gotten back together with Jeremy. Castle speculates that Jeremy had a partner in the blackmailing scheme who killed him when he wanted to back out and killed Amber when she threatened to go to the police. As Castle talks, Beckett has been buttoning up her jacket to leave for the night, but seeing his theory has merit, slumps into her desk chair, and asks Ryan, who was in the middle of making plans with his fiancée, to pull everything he has on Jeremy. Seeing the late hour, Castle leaves to Beckett’s surprise.
At his loft, Castle finds Alexis mournfully looking at old photos of her and Ashley and tells her of his conversation with him earlier. She asks him for his opinion and he says life is a journey without a definite outcome, but that all anyone has any control over is their choices, which will ultimately define who they are. He suggests that she might be so focused on the problem right in front of her that she is missing the big picture. Alexis congratulates him on his good advice as a thought strikes him.
The next morning, Beckett finds Castle at her desk combing over the nude photos with a magnifying glass and jokingly promises to buy him a subscription to a girly magazine for Christmas. He laughs off her show of generosity as he hands over her usual coffee, and points out something in the background of one of the pictures, which also jogs Beckett’s memory.
Castle and Beckett walk straight into Victor Baron’s office, interrupting their planning of a memorial for Amber. Surrounded by cameras, Beckett asks Victor about the blackmail and he immediately sends the cameras away. Beckett hands over one of the photos and Kayla immediately recognizes it as being taken in their bedroom at their house in The Hamptons. Beckett continues that they recognized the painting on the wall behind the bed as is a companion to the one Castle noticed days earlier in his office and that was noted in a spread on the house done by an architectural magazine. Victor explains to Kayla that it was only one weekend and denies taking the pictures. Beckett spins the theory that Amber went to Victor for help in paying off Jeremy’s blackmailing and Victor had both of them killed to keep their affair a secret. Victor then says that Amber was blackmailing him, explaining that unless he helped her win the pageant, she would send out the pictures which she had Jeremy take while he left her in the house to come into the city for a meeting. To keep his end of the bargain, he gave Amber the pageant questions which enabled her to get into the semifinals. After Kayla hurls a vase at Victor and Beckett separates them, Victor alibis that he was having drinks with Kayla and a city councilman until 1a.m. the night of the murder. Kayla eventually supports the alibi. Victor says the only other person who knew about the scheme was Candace, the pageant manager.
Candace denies killing Amber, but admits she was pissed at Victor for going along with the blackmail to hide his affair. After some coaxing, she admits that she was at the Tribeca Grand Hotel with Bobby Stark the night of the murder.
At the precinct, Esposito confirms both Victor’s and Candace’s alibis. Beckett tells him to dig into Victor’s financials to see if he didn’t hire someone to kill Amber and Jeremy. As they sit down at Beckett’s desk, Castle bets Debbie Winnaker would have disapproved of Amber’s doings. Beckett agrees, saying that winning wouldn’t have meant anything to her if cheating was involved. She then adds that Amber had to have been a pretty cold person to have made such choices. This means to Castle, since all of the contestants said Amber was a great girl, that someone is lying.
On the stage of the pageant, the contestants, Bobby Stark, and Justin Hankel are rehearsing a tribute to Amber when Castle and Beckett interrupt them and accuse Justin of the murder. They describe how he found out about their scheme to blackmail Victor, but he thought it was Jeremy taking advantage of Amber, so he confronted him not knowing that Amber was in on it. Justin takes off running, but is caught when he collides with a rolling wardrobe rack.
That night in Captain Montgomery’s office, Beckett and Castle explain that Justin confessed to the murders because Amber was his last chance at success and when he found the nude photos, he assumed Jeremy was the blackmailer. Jeremy was drunk when he confronted him, things got violent and Justin killed him then staged it to look like a suicide. He killed Amber when she found out and threatened to turn him in. Captain Montgomery compliments both of them on their work, but corrects himself when Ryan and Esposito clear their throats loudly. Captain Montgomery’s wife, Evelyn, then enters dressed for a night out, saying they are headed to dinner and dancing. Montgomery announces that, in accordance with Castle’s advice, the gift he decided on was his retirement next year. Seeing their gloomy faces, he reassures them that they will be fine without him and orders them to cheer up. They leave and Ryan and Esposito condemn Castle. As he tries to defend himself, Beckett spoils their fun, saying Montgomery retires every year and not to worry. She heads to her desk asking about Alexis and Castle says she decided to take a risk and “keep showing up” with Ashley. Beckett compliments her on her decision, they exchange a warm look, and she leaves for the night.
Back at his loft, Castle finds Alexis curled up on the couch with Ashley. She announces, to Castle’s shock, that she plans on graduating from high school in the fall to attend Stanford beginning in January. Ashley tells him that it was all Alexis’ idea, but he remains speechless.
Who: Amber Middleberry, age 21, Miss Illinois
Found: On a lighting truss over a stage
Where Killed: On the stage of Baron's All-American Beauty Pagent
How: Choked from behind with her own pageant sash
Who: Jeremy Kieper, Amber's boyfriend
Found: Hanging in his closet - looks like suicide
Where Killed: where found
How: Was strangled, then was hung (to cover up the strangulation)
Killer: Justin Hankel, Amber's pageant consultant
- Jeremy: Justin found the pictures that Jeremy and Amber were blackmailing Baron with and thought that Jeremy was blackmailing Amber
- Amber: She found out that he had killed Jeremy and was going to the police