In hindsight, Castle and Beckett weren’t really designed for normal nuptials. They were always destined for an implausible, bordering on magical realism, possibly symptomatic of brain disease kind of wedding. This week’s episode of Castle, “The Time of Our Lives,” is half homage to It’s a Wonderful Life, half fan service and all kinds of crazy.

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For Breakfast: Cantaloupe and Plot Points

After some senseless violence, we meet with Castle and Beckett in their kitchen for a dose of foreshadowing. Castle is in a fragile way because of insomnia. I once had a nervous breakdown during a sleepless finals week because I was convinced that my enamel was eroding and all my teeth were going to fall out, so Castle’s drama in this episode seems pretty reasonable to me. 

After Beckett gets an invitation to her former boy toy’s wedding, she and Castle wonder where they would be if they hadn’t met. Beckett thinks she would be precinct captain and Castle thinks he would be a Pulitzer Prize winner, so clearly the relationship isn’t benefiting either of them. Theme alert!

The team investigates the senseless violence from before, which involved the theft of a briefcase and coal shoe prints. The coal leads Castle and Beckett to a coal plant with a huge sign bearing Marcus Lark’s name on the front, which is relevant because any name that’s given that much prominence has to have something to do with the story. Castle picks up an interesting-looking object (as he does), a shootout occurs (as it will) and Castle is momentarily blinded by a blue light.


When Castle opens his eyes, Beckett is nowhere to be found. That’s because he’s now in an alternate universe! When he gets to the police station, he learns a few things about this world. Most important, Castle and Beckett have never met. He did help solve the copycat killer case from the pilot, but he worked with another detective. Beckett really is captain and now wears her hair in a ponytail a lot. I’m going to assume Montgomery is alive and retired, but sadly there is no mention of him. Also, Esposito is still pining over Lanie, even though she’s having a baby with someone else, and Ryan and Jenny didn’t stay together. Castle’s presence had a profound effect on his friends’ love lives, I guess.

Characteristically, the first thing Castle does in this reality is get arrested. He knows a suspicious amount about the senselessly violent murder, as the cases are the same in both universes. Uncharacteristically, he actually comes to the most logical conclusion about the whole thing: he’s unconscious and in a dream, probably fueled by his recent insomnia. He should check his teeth to see if the enamel’s still there.

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It’s an Awkward Life

While Beckett’s life is pretty much exactly what she predicted it would be, Castle’s is … not so much. Martha is a two-time Tony winner who wears ridiculous clothes. She now supports Castle, since his Pulitzer-wannabe was a piece of crap and he spent most of his money being a man-child. Alexis has black hair, because that’s what happens when you move to LA. She actually looks pretty good with the dark hair, but with the red went her lack of sarcasm and affection for her father. Dye boxes should really come with warnings about that.

After rebuffing the advances of someone who may or may not have had a bedtime, Castle does a quick web search and finds his exact situation documented online. The object he touched is actually an Incan artifact that’s thought to be a doorway between worlds. Castle realizes that he’d been thinking that Bedford Falls would have been happier if he’d never been born Beckett would be better off without him as he’d touched it, and becomes convinced that finding it in this world is the only way to return home. Martha and Alexis tell him he’s crazy but don’t really care what he does, so off he goes on his new mission.

A few things are common among all universes. For example, Castle is found inexplicably trustworthy by law enforcement, and there is a stunning lack of adherence to police protocol. Castle impresses Beckett with his knowledge of the Incan artifact, so she allows him to accompany Ryan and Esposito in their search for armed criminals. Another constant is Castle’s inability to follow simple instructions, which leads to him finding the artifact but being held at knifepoint. In the ensuring struggle the artifact is broken. Castle is devastated before he remembers that an artifact that’s survived in good condition for centuries probably wouldn’t shatter like cheap ceramic. Low and behold, it’s fake, unlike the trouble Castle is now in with the law. Arrest #2.

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Beckett decides to let Castle go with a semi-stern talking-to and the team focuses on questioning he woman who help him at knifepoint. Her name is Maria Sanchez, and she and her cousin were trying to return the artifact to the Incan people. She says they had nothing to do with the murder, that it must have been committed by someone who overheard them at the airport and that she has no idea where the real artifact is now. Castle hears all this because he sneaks back into the precinct and into the interrogation area, despite the fact that he is literally surrounded by trained officers of the law. Beckett finally catches him. Arrest #3.

Beckett lets him go because she clearly feels a connection with him (and is still a superfan of his work), even though they don’t know each other. Castle sneaks around the precinct again and then asks Beckett out for a drink, which she accepts. Is this the “no one gives a crap about the rules” universe? Is it the land of “whatever, I do what I want”? Why does Castle even want to leave this place when he is clearly immune from any lasting consequences?

At the bar, it’s clear that Beckett isn’t crazy about being captain. She’s hardwired for the streets, though she doesn’t believe it because, without Castle, she never solved her mother’s murder. This bonding moment is cut short when Beckett realizes that Castle brought her here because he thinks the prime murder suspect might stop by to watch Australian rugby. He does, and they arrest him. Case closed, according to Beckett, because the murder has been solved. But they still haven’t found the artifact. Castle can’t believe she could be okay with leaving such a huge mystery unsolved, but this reality’s Beckett has learned to compromise.

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Ponytail = By-the-Books, Hair Down = Screw It All!

Dark-haired Alexis and Castle have a heart-to-heart and reiterate that this episode is about how everything we do matters, even if we don’t think it does. Castle decides to win Beckett’s trust and find the artifact, but is taken at gunpoint before he can do so. Again, some things don’t change.

It turns out Marcus Lark of Marcus Lark billboard fame is behind the whole artifact-stealing operation. He wants to make some changes to his own reality, but can’t get the artifact to work. He’s prepared to torture Castle in order to figure it out, but luckily Beckett, hair no longer in a ponytail, arrives to save the day. Or she tries to. One person manages to get a few shots off, and Castle jumps in front of her to save her life. He’s fatally shot in the process, but just as he’s dying, the artifact in his hand does its magic.

They Do

Castle wakes up back in the real world, having been knocked unconscious in the kerfuffle. Was he really transported to an alternate reality? Was it all just a sleep-psychosis-fueled dream? Marcus Lark is also the culprit in this reality, which suggests the former scenario, but Castle’s subconscious might have made that up in reaction to the giant Marcus Lark sign outside.

It doesn’t really matter what happened, though. The important thing is that Castle is now confident that he and Beckett don’t hold each other back and wants to marry her right away. Now that they’re both in better places emotionally than when he suggested this earlier in the season, Beckett agrees.

Luckily, this family is rich, so they all already have fancy clothes at the ready. Martha, Alexis and Kate’s father witness their impromptu ceremony, in which they write their own vows and each looks like they think the other makes the sun shine. And really, that’s all they need to make the wedding perfect. 

Castle airs Mondays at 10pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Mary Kate Costigan

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV