Season 3, Episode 20 (54)
Original Air Date - April 4, 2011
Castle and Beckett find themselves in the middle of an intense pizza restaurant rivalry when a man is found dead in a pizza oven, only the war over who makes the best pizza may be the least of their concerns. Meanwhile, one of Alexis' friends turns on her resulting in her getting into a fight at school.
- 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
- Liz Vassey - Monica Wyatt
- Gary Basaraba - Ralph Carbone
- Beth Behrs - Ginger
- Darin Brooks - Nick Jr
- John Ciccolini - Vinnie Delfino
- Alton Clemente - Server
- Gregg Daniel - Walt Shaw
- Joe Guzaldo - Luca Sabalini
- Peter Onorati - Sal Mallavolta
- Stephan Smith Collins - Harley
Beckett: I thought Terrific Nick’s on the East Side was number one?
Castle: Ah no, that’s Authentic Terrific Nick’s. This is just Authentic Nick’s.
Beckett: This isn’t Terrific?
Castle: No, just Authentic. It’s also not Terrific Authentic Nick’s. That’s across the street.
Beckett: Well, what’s the difference?
Lanie: The difference is this one has a dead body in the oven.
Beckett: (sees the burnt corpse) Ooh-kay.
Capt. Montgomery: Did I hear right? You found a body in the oven at Authentic Terrific Nick’s?
Beckett: Authentic Nicks.
Capt. Montgomery: Authentic Nick’s! Oh, thank God. The wife loves Terrific Nick’s.
Lanie: As expected, the body was too badly burned to get any prints, but I did find this. You see here where the shin bone should be? Those are titanium plates.
Castle: So - killer cyborg, sent from the future; resistance intercepts his coordinates and redirects him into a pizza oven, saving humanity.
Castle: I went to a book signing of his, the one he did on the Sarajevo snipers, she was…coloring next to him while he was signing books.
Beckett: He must have been a good writer for you to stand in line.
Castle: Yeah. He was.
Nick: You found my prints?
Beckett: Yeah. So why don’t we back up and you tell us why you killed Burns.
Castle: And this time hold the extra cheese.
Esposito: I’ll give you a hint. He’s authentic…and terrific.
Castle: You have an app for that?!
Beckett: Yeah, NYPD issue. We just got it.
Castle: Can I…
Beckett: (pulls away from Castle) Whoa!
Castle: Fine. Then you don’t get to play my Angry Birds. (continues in a sing-songy voice) And they just came out with a new one.
Beckett: You had a lot of imaginary friends growing up didn’t you?
Castle: Still do.
Castle: Listen, if I gave you a website, could you have your friends at Tech hack into it and take some pictures down?
Ryan: Did someone find naked pictures of you again?
Castle: No need to mention this to Beckett. You know how she gets with these things.
Beckett: Things like abusing police resources for your own personal agenda?
Castle: Did you kick her ass?
Alexis: Kinda did.
Castle: Good girl.
Beckett: Never underestimate the power of a woman on a mission.
Castle: No, I don’t. And I have the alimony checks to prove it.
Castle: Winner, winner, pizza dinner.
Beckett: That right there is 30 years easy, 30 authentic terrific years.
- Burn It Off performed by Blues Explosion - opening scene
- Anchor of Love performed by Lindsey Ray - ending scene
Full Episode Recap
A young man and woman make out on a street late at night outside Authentic Nick’s pizzeria. They make their way into the shop where the woman smells something cooking in the kitchen. The man investigates and finds a dead body, burnt beyond recognition, in one of the pizza ovens.
At Castle's loft, Richard Castle serves his daughter Alexis breakfast, but she says she isn’t hungry. Castle’s pulls out of her that her best friend Lauren has scheduled a huge birthday party, uninvited Alexis and won’t tell her why, but is allowing Alexis’ boyfriend Ashley to attend, leaving her humiliated. Castle suggests she throw her own party, but Alexis says there isn’t time since the party is tonight and she cannot compete with the large bash Lauren has planned. Castle then volunteers to call Lauren’s mom, but Alexis vehemently disagrees, and promises to handle the situation by herself.
Later, Castle walks towards the crime scene explaining to Detective Kate Beckett how all his instincts are telling him to protect Alexis. Beckett says he should let Alexis learn how to deal with difficult people herself, but reassures Castle that she is smart enough to rise above the petty games of teenagers. They enter the pizza shop and Castle helps Beckett figure out the difference between their crime scene, Authentic Nick’s, and its neighbors across the outside intersection, Authentic Terrific Nick’s, Terrific Authentic Nick’s, and Terrific Nick’s. Medical Examiner Lanie Parish explains the victim is male, guesses the time of death was sometime before 2a.m. and the cause of death a stab wound to the chest. Detective Javier Esposito joins them and says he found no sign of forced entry. Beckett asks him to search the oven for fingerprints.
Castle and Beckett interview Nick Junior, who found the body, and he explains that he and his lady friend returned to the shop around 4:30a.m after he and his father closed up around 11p.m. Beckett asks for a list of all shop employees just as the owner, Ralph Carbone, enters. He accuses Sal Mallavolta, owner of Terrific Authentic Nick’s and a former employee of his who stole his recipes to open his own place across the street. Nick Junior joins in, also accusing Vinny Delfino, owner of Terrific Nick’s, and Luca Sabalini, owner of Authentic Terrific Nick’s. Carbone says all three have been trying to run him out business for years. He goes on to say that a few weeks ago one of them put a gallon of soap in his pizza sauce, he retaliated, and now they are getting back at him again.
As the body is rolled out of the shop, Esposito reports that all Carbone’s employees alibi out. Lanie says the chances of getting a fingerprint off the body are not likely, but she’ll wait for dental records and pull missing person’s reports. Castle suggests they interview Mallavolta, Defino, and Sabalini and Detective Kevin Ryan agrees, so Beckett tasks him with interviewing each, to his chagrin.
Back at the precinct, Castle muses over how clever an idea it is to dispose of a body in a pizza oven and describes for Beckett how he did something similar in one of his books. Beckett guesses the killer thought the body would be totally destroyed, but was foiled when Nick Junior showed up. Captain Roy Montgomery joins them and is relieved to find that the murder took place at Authentic Nick’s instead of his wife’s favorite place, Terrific Nick’s, as well the fact that he won’t have to tell her about their new “full-body flavored” pizza. Castle is amused at the joke, but Beckett rolls her eyes.
Ryan joins them confirming Carbone’s story, and saying that the other three owners all have dozens of complaints against them including bricks thrown through windows, slashed delivery truck tires and flaming bags of excrement. Castle is surprised that Beckett doesn’t seem interested in following up, but she doubts that the Nicks suddenly shifted from minor pranks to murder. Her phone rings and she answers.
In the morgue, Lanie tells Beckett and Castle she found evidence of titanium plates in the victim’s shin bone. Beckett ignores a wild theory of Castle’s about killer cyborgs, to hear Lanie add that, using the serial numbers off the plates, she was able to identify the victim as Gordon Burns. The name strikes Castle and Lanie expects him to joke about the irony of his name and his being found burned in an oven, when Castle tells them Burns was a reporter for the New York Ledger whose articles he was fond of reading. Lanie says she also found a melted and empty cell phone belt clip and Burns’ wallet on the body. Beckett pokes through the wallet and comes to an old picture of an attractive woman inside. She asks about next of kin, but Lanie says he was divorced with no children. Castle wonders what a reporter of his caliber was doing dead in a pizza oven and Beckett suggests they ask his editor.
Back at the precinct, Walt Shaw describes how Burns was one of his best reporters until he became an alcoholic after his 10-year old daughter was killed. He then says the last assignment he gave him was to cover the pizza wars between the Nicks only Burns called him a few days ago and said it ran much deeper. Later, Beckett tells Ryan and Esposito to dig further into the Nicks’ backgrounds while Castle muses about how amazing it was that Burns survived covering the military in Afghanistan only to be killed working on a story about pizza. Esposito says it’s not much different from being a cop when Ryan arrives saying Burns’ cell phone isn’t picking up. Beckett tells him to pull his financial records and call history and suggests they search Burns’ apartment for notes on his story which might provide a clue to his whereabouts the night he was killed.
Esposito, Castle, and Beckett find Burns’ apartment trashed. Esposito volunteers to check with his neighbors in case someone heard something suspicious. While searching, Castle comes across a picture of Burns with his daughter and sentimentally remembers seeing her coloring while he waited in line for Burns’ autograph at a book signing. Esposito returns and reports that one neighbor says he has been holding Burns’ mail for a week on the assumption that Burns was out of the country. Beckett now suspects that Burns wanted to disappear and Castle is confident they’ll find his notes when they locate where he was staying. Beckett’s cell phone rings and Ryan tells her CSU found Sal Mallavolta’s prints all over Carbone’s oven.
In an interrogation room, Mallavolta admits to meeting Burns when he interviewed him for his story, but denies killing him. He claims to have been in Carbon’es shop seeing if he could steal his oven in retaliation for his causing electrical damage in his kitchen. He retorts that Carbone had it coming because of his ties to the mob and money laundering, which he disclosed to Burns. Later, Carbone admits to having a cousin who is in the mafia and denies that the FBI found anything in their investigation of his books in the 1990s. He says the whole thing was Mallavolta’s idea in an effort to shut him down.
Outside, Ryan discloses that he found only a few calls the night of Burns’ death to his editor, a fact Castle doesn’t buy if Burns’ claim to be hot on a story is true. Esposito enters and says one of Burns’ neighbors recalls seeing him having an argument with Luca Sabalini, owner of Authentic Terrific Nick’s. Sabalini later admits to arguing with Burns, but claims to have been home the night he was killed. Beckett disputes this, saying his wife told her he snuck out for part of the night to see his mistress. Sabalini admits this and says he argued with Burns because Burns planned on exposing the fact that his fat-free cheese isn’t fat free at all. He then says Burns called him offering to keep the secret quiet if he agreed to do him a favor, but he never found out what. Beckett and Ryan go back through Burns’ phone records and trace the call to Sabalini from a hotel in midtown.
At the hotel, they find Burns’ laptop in his room and a draft of his pizza story saved on it, but no further clues about what could have gotten him killed. Castle then finds his notebook and sees a note about meeting someone the night of his death and a phone number. To Castle’s excitement, Beckett uses an application on her cell phone to run down the number, but refuses to let him try it for himself. In response, he hints at having a new version of the Angry Birds game on his phone and refuses to let her play it. While he waits for the results of her search, he also finds the names Johnny Farrell and Swede Anderson in Burns notebook, which ring a faint bell. Beckett’s search traces the number to a Monica Wyatt, who matches the picture from Burns’ wallet, and may be the last person who saw him alive.
Castle and Beckett visit Monica Wyatt at her high-end apartment, which arouses Castle’s suspicion that she might be into money laundering. Beckett disagrees teasing Castle about all his imaginary friends. Beckett shows Monica the photo of her from Burns’ wallet and she recalls how they dated briefly three years ago and how he changed after his daughter’s accident. She also admits that she agreed to meet him the night he was killed after bumping into him on the street, but he didn’t show. She also remembered he told her he was onto a hot story and had just come from the Hall of Records. Castle asks her about Johnny Farrell and Swede Anderson, but Monica hasn’t heard of them.
Back at the precinct, Beckett confirms Monica’s alibi for the night of the murder. Ryan arrives with Burns’ financials and says he attempted to use an ATM machine several blocks from the pizzerias, but the transaction was never completed. The three suspect Burns was somehow interrupted and Beckett tells Ryan to pull the surveillance video on the machine. She promises to check out the Hall of Records in the morning and gathers her things to leave.
Back at his loft, Castle finds his mother, Martha Rodgers, comforting a distraught Alexis. Martha explains that Alexis crashed Lauren’s party and Alexis angrily describes how Lauren kissed Ashley on the stage in front of everyone at the party. Ashley then fled with Alexis and apologized profusely, leaving Alexis to wonder if Lauren’s entire plan was to try to break them up. Martha reminds her how the plan has seemingly failed, but Alexis says she heard Lauren has pictures of her and Ashley kissing posted on her website, leading her friends to believe Ashley cheated on Alexis.
The following morning, Castle arrives at the precinct with his and Beckett’s usual coffee. Finding Beckett not arrived from the Hall of Records yet, he approaches Ryan and offers him one of the coffee cups in exchange for getting a friend of his to hack into Lauren’s website and take down the pictures of her and Ashley. Ryan agrees to do it off-the-record, after confirming the pictures aren’t of Castle naked, and Castle asks him to promise not to say anything to the straight-laced Beckett. However, she catches the two talking, snatches her coffee out of Ryan’s hand, and chides both for their plotting. Castle follows her to her desk, denying any wrongdoing as Ryan slips the website address into his pocket.
Beckett tells Castle she found that Burns requested information on the 2003 murder of drug trafficker Harley Romero. Beckett asks Ryan if he found any drug charges in the backgrounds of any of Carbone’s employees and he answers no. Castle suspects, given the brutality of Romero’s murder, that the mob was involved, but Beckett says she heard it was a result of a drug turf war. Esposito announces that the bank sent over the ATM surveillance footage of Burns.
In a conference room, the four watch the video where they see a nervous Burns approach the ATM and begin writing a message on a slip of paper. But before he can finish or put it up to the camera, he is assaulted with a knife and dragged off. After Ryan rewinds and pauses the video, Beckett identifies Harley Romero as Burns’ attacker.
Later, Beckett explains to Captain Montgomery that so far they have found no connection between the pizza shops and Romero. He wonders if pizza isn’t the connection, but rather if Burns knew Romero from a previous assignment. Beckett and Castle talk to Walt Shaw again, who is unfamiliar with Romero. Castle asks him about Johnny Farrell and Swede Anderson and Shaw says they are characters from old film noir movies, which finally jogs Castle’s memory. Shaw then remembers how the only drug story Burns ever worked on involved a mysterious drug lord named Cavallo who dealt in heroin, just like Romero did, and who required distributors to use code words of character names from film noir movies to signal when they needed more product. Beckett believes the Cavallo story to be simply an urban legend, but Shaw is unmoved, saying that Burns’ investigation got him too close to Cavallo, and cost him his daughter’s life in the process.
Outside as Castle and Beckett look at the murder board, Beckett asks Ryan, who previously worked in narcotics, about his knowledge of Cavallo. He said he first heard the story in 2003, around the time of Romero’s death and the death of several other drug kingpins. Castle then speculates that Romero faked his death, killed off his competition then started a whispering campaign announcing the arrival of Cavallo as the new drug lord in the city. Esposito enters and says CSU was able to enhance the video of what Burns was writing at the ATM. In the conference room, the gang watches the enhanced video and Castle copies what Burns writes: “365W127 BAS” which Beckett interprets as being the basement of 365 West 127th Street, which is 3 blocks from the ATM. Beckett, Castle, Ryan, and Esposito raid the basement of the address, find it empty of people, but full of evidence of a drug processing enterprise. Beckett tells them to have CSU sweep the entire basement and tell her if anyone saw anything.
The next morning, at Castle’s loft, Alexis tries to hurry out the door to school, but Castle calls her back for a hug and kiss. When she returns to him, he notices a bruise and scratch on her face, which she says is a result of a fight she had with Lauren the day before after Lauren accused her of ruining her party, hacking into her website and removing the pictures of Ashley. Alexis admits that Lauren infuriated her, and Castle advises her that retaliating isn’t the answer because things will undoubtedly snowball out of control and that she must learn to deal with mean people all her life by rising above their shenanigans. They hug and Castle nevertheless congratulates Alexis for kicking Lauren’s tail.
At the precinct, Castle tells Beckett he regrets not getting involved sooner, but Beckett predicts Lauren would have simply found another way to get to Alexis and warns Castle not to “underestimate a woman on a mission.” After they briefly update Montgomery on the status of the case, Castle wonders if Romero might be distributing out of one of the pizza shops, but Beckett says she needs more solid evidence to obtain a search warrant. Esposito and Ryan arrive and Esposito tells them CSU found no fingerprints in the basement or in the entire building. However, Ryan says a uniformed officer found Burns’ cell phone. Castle wonders if Burns didn’t deliberately toss it when he was being chased in an effort to protect its contents. Beckett and the guys find a photo of Monica Wyatt entering the drug lab on the phone, meaning she is somehow involved in the heroin ring.
At Monica’s apartment, Beckett and the guys hear a crash and her scream in distress. Esposito kicks in the door and they find Monica on the floor bleeding from cuts on her arm and head. She claims Cavallo tried to kill her and Ryan and Esposito run out her window to chase the perpetrator. Later on, Monica tells them Burns only dated her to get information from her about Cavallo’s identity and she admits to being involved in the drug ring since, as a real estate agent, she could easily find space out of which the drug operation can work, then quickly move on to a new location if necessary. She explains that Burns found her a few days ago, saying he was onto new information that would take down the ring, freeing both of them of the threat posed by Cavallo. She denies knowing who Cavallo is and pegs Romero as Cavallo’s right hand man and the person who tried to kill her. Beckett tells her of their suspicions that Cavallo is distributing out of one of the pizza joints, but she denies knowing which one. Ryan and Esposito return saying Romero got away. Before leaving, Castle asks Monica about Johnny Farrell and Swede Anderson, which she identifies as last week’s names to be used when one of the traffickers needed more drugs and that Burns connected Cavallo and the pizzerias when he heard someone drop one of the names. She doesn’t know this week’s names but says Burns told her they were from his favorite film, The Maltese Falcon.
While Ryan and Esposito hold all four Nicks at the precinct, Beckett and Castle approach each restaurant, test-driving names from the film to find out which restaurant Cavallo was using. They approach Terrific Authentic Nick’s and Castle asks for an order for Sam Spade. The worker hands him a large pizza box which is stuffed with bags of heroin.
Back at the precinct, Castle and Beckett have Sal Mallavolta in interrogation. He denies being involved in Burns’ murder and says Romero approached him offering to burn down Authentic Nick’s in exchange for his letting them distribute drugs out of his place. When Romero contacted him about using his oven to kill someone, he refused, so Romero put the body in Carbone’s oven. Beckett asks for his help in finding Cavallo and Mallavolta agrees.
Later, Romero’s car pulls up outside Terrific Authentic Nick’s and Romero exits, carrying a briefcase. He lays the briefcase down on the counter and finds Beckett in front of him brandishing her badge and gun. He turns to run, but Ryan and Esposito have him cornered. At the precinct, Beckett, Castle, and Capt. Montgomery watch Romero from the observation room. Castle muses about the brilliance of the whole drug distribution plan, which allows Cavallo total anonymity. Montgomery congratulates both for catching Romero.
Outside, Ryan says Monica Wyatt cooperated with narcotics, so Beckett tells him to let her go. She adds that Burns finally got the justice he sought, but Castle says it bothers him how Burns deliberately dropped his phone knowing it had a picture of Monica on it. He wonders why he would do such a thing since it clearly doesn’t point them directly at Cavallo, but Beckett has a thought.
Meanwhile, a smirking Monica boards the precinct elevator to leave, only to have Beckett stop the doors from closing. An hour later they enter an interrogation room where she waits. Beckett explains how they know Monica faked her death around the time Cavallo allegedly arrived in the city, took the name for herself and created a front for herself as a real estate agent by using the names of characters from film noir movies as satisfied customers and the drug money to acquire new properties. She and Castle then tell her how they figured out that Burns was not a prior relationship, but a pesky reporter who wouldn’t leave her alone about Cavallo, so she killed his daughter to get him off her back, but when he caught wind of the drugs being run out of Mallavolta’s pizza place, he caught up with her again, so she had Romero kill him and faked his attack on her. Sensing she is caught, Monica asks for her lawyer.
That night, Castle arrives at his loft with Alexis’ favorite pizza. He asks about school and Alexis recounts how she called a meeting between her and Lauren with the school’s counselor where she learned that Lauren was just jealous of all the time Alexis was spending with Ashley and feared their friendship was suffering. As a result they resolved their differences. Castle hugs his daughter, telling her to give Lauren time. They then dig into the pizza.
Who: Gordon Burns, reporter for the New York Ledger
Found: in the pizza oven at Authentic Nick's
Where Killed: Near an ATM a three blocks from 365 W127th st
How: Stabbed with a knife in the chest
Who: Nina Burns, age 10, Gordon's daughter, killed a couple of years ago
- "Cavallo" real name Monica Wyatt
- Harley Romero aka Harley Playful, Handsome Harley
- Monica: Cover up her drug distribution business
- Harley: worked for Monica as the "face" of "Cavallo" the mysterious brutal drug lord