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The Human Factor

© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

Basic Details[edit]

Season 5, Episode 23 (104)

Original Air Date - May 6, 2013


Beckett's team is frustrated by the Department of Homeland Security's taking over their investigation into the death of a government whistle blower killed by an apparent drone strike. As they dig deeper, they cross paths with a shadowy agent from the U.S. Attorney General's Office who is so impressed by Beckett's skills, he tells her about a job opening with his agency in Washington, DC.

Episode Images[edit]

© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.


Main Cast[edit]

© 2012-2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

Guest Cast[edit]

  • Eric Lange - Simon Warburg
  • Hrach Titizian - Omar Dixon
  • Carlos Bernard - Agent Jared Stack
  • Catherine Dent - Beth Tanner
  • Shane Coffey - Sean Tanner
  • Steven M. Gagnon - Colonel Fortis
  • Jeffrey Meek - Ronald Hooper (Military officer at Fort Drummond)
  • Amanda Tepe - Monica Lane
  • Paul Keith - Myron Mayblee, bookstore owner
  • Jed Bernard - Agent Guerrero
  • James Stellos - Dale Tanner
  • Mino Mackic - Cook (uncredited)





Full Episode Recap[edit]

Dale Tanner loiters on a street corner briefly then heads for his car. He climbs inside and sees a black sedan nearby. Suddenly his car explodes, killing him.

At Richard Castle's loft, the writer is playing with a remote control tank which has a pinhole camera mounted on the turret. He drives it into his bedroom where his girlfriend, Detective Kate Beckett is in her underwear and trying to decide what blouse to wear. Castle yells for her just to wear what she has on or less and she, spying the tank, tosses a blouse on top of it, blocking the camera’s view. Beckett’s phone rings and Castle answers.

As they approach the crime scene, Beckett notices a seemingly heightened security presence and that the destroyed car is already being towed away. She finds Detective Javier Esposito who explains that federal authorities swooped in and took over the scene before CSU could finish its sweep. He points out the agent in charge, Agent Guerrero, and Beckett pleads her case to him, but it falls on deaf ears. He shows her his Homeland Security badge and threatens to arrest her for obstruction if she gets in his way. He leaves and Detective Kevin Ryan joins Beckett and Castle, telling them that witnesses identified two men in dark suits and sunglasses nearby as the car exploded. He tried to get to them, but has been blocked. Beckett tries herself, but the men get in their car, refuse to talk to her or to identify themselves, and drive away. Beckett then sees another man in a grey suit watching her, but is interrupted by Esposito, who shows Beckett the victim’s wallet, which identifies him as Dale Tanner.

Beckett and Castle interview Dale’s wife Beth, and son, Sean, who explain that Dale ran a website, Whistleblower Anonymous where he exposed government secrets. He was planning on posting some documents soon, but whatever it was, was making him nervous. He’d recently moved into a rental unit in Queens since his family was being harassed by various governments. Beth has no idea why he would be waiting on the corner near where he died and says he kept a lot of information from her, including the identity of his partner. Suddenly, Sean accuses Beckett and Castle of trying to cover up the fact that the government killed his father then stalks away.

At the precinct, Ryan ends a phone call and says the feds are refusing to tell what evidence they found in Tanner’s car. Beckett suggests they use Tanner’s phone records to find his partner, but Ryan says he can’t them or his financial records and that Tanner’s law office has been cleaned out. Beckett asks about motive and Ryan said lots of entities were after him, banks, oil companies, and politicians. He didn’t even get through looking at his website before it was taken off line. Beckett suggests they focus on the bomb and Ryan realizes that someone had to have had access to the car in order to set it. Esposito comes over and says the night before at 1a.m., a neighbor of the Tanner’s saw an unfamiliar motorcycle speed out of the parking garage where Tanner kept his car. A traffic camera got the cycle’s plate, and he traced it to Monica Lane, a security operative at a fracking company Tanner exposed on his website.

In interrogation, Monica denies having anything to do with Tanner’s death and explains that she and he were having an affair, but Ryan suspects she was spying on him. Monica admits this was her real motive and points the finger at Dale’s wife, who threatened to kill him when she found out about their affair.

In another interrogation room, Beth admits she was upset and said some things she shouldn’t have, but she never went near his apartment and still maintains his work killed him. Ryan interrupts the questioning.

In the conference room, Ryan shows Beckett and Castle photos taken by CSU of the car which they used to determine that the explosion originated from the car’s front seat, instead of in the engine compartment. Hey also found metal shards that come from a very specific device. He then shows them CSU’s reconstruction of what happened where a missile from an unmanned drone takes out the car.

Later, Ryan tells a dubious Esposito that CSU found traces of a missile in the car and Beckett says that a drone training facility is located not far away from the city. She asks Ryan to look into Tanner’s friends while she and Castle head for the installation to meet with the head of the drone program. As she and Castle board the precinct elevator, Beckett doesn’t believe the government had Tanner killed because large bureaucracies don’t act so efficiently in her experience. Castle is relieved and hopeful that she is right.

At the military base, the head of the drone program, Colonel Fortis, gets Beckett to reveal the evidence that leads her to suspect a drone killed Tanner, but gives up no information and refuses to answer any questions, saying everything is classified. Fortis ends the interview, but Beckett sees the same grey-suited man from the crime scene watching their meeting from an adjoining room. She asks who he is, but Castle correctly guesses it is classified. Before leaving, Beckett vows to uncover what is going on.

On the drive back to the precinct, Castle spins the theory that Tanner planned to post super-secret documents, but was killed before he could do so to keep him quiet. Beckett wonders if he was hit by mistake, but Castle thinks it’s too much of a coincidence. Beckett’s cell phone rings and Esposito tells her that the feds just seized all materials related to Tanner’s case from CSU and Beckett realizes that the meet was agreed to just to figure out what evidence she had. Ryan joins him and reports that students from one of Tanner’s community college classes remember a former student, Omar Dixon, hanging around and Omar’s girlfriend confirmed that he worked for Tanner. Also, Sean Tanner attends the same college and Beckett and Castle remember that when they asked him and Beth about Dale’s partner, Sean changed the subject, so they suspect he knows Omar.

At the precinct, Sean initially claims not to know Omar, but changes his story after Esposito tells him Omar is likely in danger too. Sean confirms that Omar worked for his Dad and says he only has a number that he is supposed to call when he needs him.

Later on in a park, Beckett finds a nervous Omar who refuses to answer any questions about Dale and tries to walk away, but Beckett follows him. He claims to have people following him, but he doesn’t know who while the man in the grey suit follows both of them. Omar claims not to be Tanner’s partner and says he merely was Dale’s IT guy who worked on his website and had no interest in Dale’s work. As they approach a food truck, Beckett grabs the man in the grey suit and pins him to the side of the truck. She holds him with her gun and Omar identifies him as one of the men who has been following him then takes off. Beckett pulls a pistol with a silencer from under the man’s jacket and places him under arrest.

In the observation room, Castle notes how calm the man is, but Beckett isn’t intimidated. Esposito joins them and says his name, Robert Williams, is a fake and there is no record of him in the system. As Castle and Esposito watch, Beckett confidently questions the man who says his name doesn’t matter since he’ll be released soon. He also refuses to answer questions about Dale Tanner, but respects Beckett’s tenacity. She promises to keep him for the full 24 hours she is allowed, but he says she hasonly a few more seconds. Just then, Ryan interrupts, saying Beckett has a phone call.

At her desk, Beckett takes the call and is surprised to find the Attorney General on the line, who asks her to release the man. Beckett refuses, but eventually they reach an agreement and the man agrees to cooperate. He says his name is Jared Stack and he is a special investigator with the Attorney General’s office who was put on the case to be an objective third party since numerous agencies were worried about Tanner. He confirms that the missile that killed Tanner wasn’t fired from a drone at the base Beckett visited, but that some of the government’s drones have recently fallen into enemy hands or gone missing. When Castle says their theory that the government used a drone to kill Tanner is looking increasingly likely, Stack challenged them as to why the government would go to so much trouble and Beckett replies that they didn’t expect to get caught. Stack’s cell phone rings and he expresses surprise then hangs up.

In the conference room, he shows Beckett and Castle a video and audio feed from a government drone flying over the city on a training exercise at the time Tanner was killed. Stack says the pilot lost control and was forced to watch helplessly as the drone targeted Tanner’s car and fired, leading Stack to suspect that someone hacked into the drone’s software.

At the murder board later, Castle, Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito talk about the case’s twist. Esposito thinks the pilot was acting, but Beckett disputes this, saying his panic couldn’t be faked. Castle then takes the opportunity to theorize that the drone has gotten a mind of its own and that the “Rise of the Machines” has begun. Stack ruins Castle’s theory by saying that NSA picked up an encrypted signal that gave control to the hacker and that was sent at the same time the pilot lost control of the drone. NSA is trying to narrow down where the signal originated from and he guesses whoever the hacker is, had to know how to send the feed and had to have the software to do so. He guesses it was Simon Warburg and starts to leave to find where he is, since he’d been off grid. Beckett asks to work with him, but he refuses, saying he kept his end of the deal by telling her what he knows. Beckett tells the guys to dig into Warburg’s background in an effort to find him on their own.

That evening, Esposito and Ryan brief Beckett and Castle on Warburg, who is a programming legend and wrote the software that controls the government’s drones, but then sabotaged it and disappeared before he could be arrested. Castle predicts that Warburg’s ultimate plan is to create a drone army that can takeover mankind, but Beckett threatens that if he admits he truly believes his theory, she will find him less attractive. Esposito then shows them a video of Warburg, where he explains his actions by predicting that the government will take the technology too far and he has to stop them. Beckett theorizes that Warburg killed Tanner to demonstrate his own fear then framed the government for the crime, so if they find Warburg, they find their killer. Beckett notices the books in the background of the video and Castle identifies many of them as rare first editions. Ryan promises to search rare book stores in the morning to see if Warburg was a customer.

That night as Castle sleeps in his loft, he is awakened when his remote controlled tank appears on the bed and approaches him. He gets out of bed and the tank follows him around the room, further arousing his concern. He picks up a baseball bat and smashes the tank only to have hid remote controlled helicopter rise off the floor. As Castle swings for it and calls for Beckett get up so they can escape, she begins laughing at him. He defends himself saying he was trying to protect her, but she doesn’t believe him. Her cell phone rings and she finds Ryan calling, having found the bookstore where Warburg bought his books.

The next morning, Castle and Beckett visit the bookstore, whose owner recognizes Warburg as Mr. Smith, who picks up his books and rides a bicycle to the shop. Beckett calls Ryan and Esposito to ask them to look into properties in the area that have changed hands in the last year.

Later on, Castle and Beckett arrive at one property and despite not having a warrant, Castle passes through the unlocked gate. As they walk down the dirt road to what they think is Warburg’s house, Castle wonders if Stack gave them Warburg’s name to send them on a wild goose chase and to divert their attention from the potential rise of the machines. Beckett asks if her trick the night before is still bothering him, but he disagrees, saying he really believes the day will come when machines take over. Hearing an odd noise, Beckett stops walking. Both turn around in time to drop to the ground as a drone fires at them. Beckett pulls her gun and Castle pulls her backup pistol from her ankle holster. Both return fire and shoot down the drone. As Castle claims to be the one whose shot found its mark, Beckett notices the shell casings fired by the drone were blanks. Then Warburg shows himself, threatening to have Castle and Beckett arrested for trespassing and ruining his finest drone. Beckett shows her badge and Warburg relents.

In his home, Warburg explains that his desire to undermine the drones he helped create came from an incident in the Middle East where a drone pilot aborted a strike on a civilian vehicle when he noticed what turned out to be red roses on the car. Without the pilot’s judgment, the car would have been fired upon, given that it was thought it contained terrorists, and the innocent people inside killed. Ever since, he has worked against the program since the next generation of drones won’t factor things like roses into the decision to attack. He shows how he could override the pilot’s controls of a drone, but says he was on a bike ride at the time Tanner was killed, so he couldn’t have killed him, but he admits the software he wrote did, making him indirectly responsible for his death. He adds that he wanted Tanner to publish his software, so he’d saved it to a flash drive to give to him, but Tanner refused it, recognizing that it would lead to anyone being able to take control of a drone. When he heard about Tanner’s death, he found out that someone copied the software from his flash drive to a USB drive. Beckett and Castle suspect that only possible culprit is Omar Dixon.

In the car heading back to the precinct, Castle spins the theory that Omar sees the opportunity presented by Warburg’s software, copies it with the intention of selling it then tests it out by using it to kill Tanner. Beckett’s phone rings and Castle answers for her, finding Esposito on the line. He tells her Omar’s girlfriend says he packed a bag that morning and took off. Stack then joins in, admitting that he fed her Warburg’s name in hopes that she’d find a way to locate him. He says the FBI is picking him up now, but is surprised when Castle says he isn’t their killer. Beckett tells him that Omar is their prime suspect and Stack offers to help them find him.

At the precinct, Esposito, Ryan, and Stack watch as facial recognition software scans airport surveillance footage in search of Omar. It registers a hit on Omar at JFK airport boarding a flight to Beirut that left an hour earlier.

Later that evening, Esposito explains to Castle and Beckett that Omar chose that flight to Beirut because he knew they couldn’t pick up when he landed because of the lack of an extradition agreement with the country and because he has family there. Then Stack surprises everyone by bringing in Omar, saying he got his boss to call the FAA to recall the flight. He leaves his interrogation up to Beckett.

In the observation room, Stack watches Beckett enter interrogation and expresses to Castle how impressed he is with her technique. Omar denies killing Tanner and says all he did was pick up Warburg’s flash drive and return it after Tanner said he didn’t want it. He admits that one other person knew about it and could have copied it.

That night, Castle and Beckett question Sean Tanner at his house, and tell him they know he bought the same kind of USB drive that Warburg’s software was copied onto and that he had called his Dad’s office the day Dale was killed to see if he was there. Sean confesses that his Dad’s affair broke his heart since his mother had tried to hold the family together despite the fact that Dale only seemed to care about exposing scandals.

At the precinct, Castle invites Beckett to his loft for a glass of wine and she agrees, but they are interrupted by Agent Stack who thanks both of them for their work. Castle asks if he could get an endorsement from the President for his book and Stack refuses, but asks to speak to Beckett in private.

They adjourn to an observation room here Stack tells her about a job opportunity in Washington, DC, working directly for the Attorney General on the most complex cases whose result would have an immediate impact on history, and that he thinks she’d be perfect for it because of her exceptional thinking, strength, and intelligence. He then says he used to be a homicide detective like her before someone saw in him what he sees in Beckett. She denies that she wants bigger things professionally, but Stack says her whole being begs to differ. He gives her card, telling her to call the number on it to schedule an interview. She agrees to think about it and Stack leaves.

That night at Castle’s loft, he hands Beckett a glass of wine while she doubts the rise of machines is imminent. He says that is exactly what they want her to think because of the lack of the human factor Warburg spoke of. He muses about how humans, instead of machines, see things differently and that one may be happy with a particular situation while another may want to move on. He stands up and invites her to take a shower with him, to which she replies she’ll join him in a minute. As he heads for the bathroom, he asks what Stack wanted to talk about and she shakes it off, saying it was nothing.


  • Victim: Dale Tanner
    • Cause of Death: Car was blown up by a missile fired from an unmanned drone

  • Perp: Sean Tanner, Dale's son
    • Motive: Revenge: He was angry at his father for spending so much time on his work and then having an affair that he stole a program that allowed him to hack into the computer software controlling a drone. He then used the drone to kill his father.

Episode Analysis[edit]

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