Homophobia. Smoking at work. Hideous color schemes. These are the things Castle has taught me the ’70s were all about. As a 20-something, my knowledge of the decade mostly consists of The Brady Bunch reruns and embarrassing pictures of my parents, so this episode is a big learning experience for me. A hilarious, hilarious learning experience.
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“That ’70s Show” opens as so many Castle episodes do: with a smash cut between murder most foul and Castle and Beckett trying to work out some detail of their wedding. I’m beginning to hope that they won’t be getting married in the season finale because that would be even less plausible than the plot of this episode.
The wedding crisis of the week (flower arrangements) doesn’t get a lot of attention because the team finds the body of a ’70s mafia don. Vincent Bianchi disappeared in 1978 and is finally found buried in concrete. Since he’s found in a powder blue suit and most of the suspects have names like “The Lip” and “The Blade,” the theme of the episode is already firmly established. The first person the team investigates is Frank Russo, who briefly became head of the Bianchi crime family after Vince’s disappearance. He’s a legit businessman now, which displeases his wife because they can no longer afford to live in a penthouse. They both dress like they’re still in the ’70s, so maybe their money situation really is bad.
Russo refers Castle and Beckett to Harold Leon, Vince’s business advisor and near-constant companion. An issue arises because, while Russo may still dress like it’s 1978, Harold actually believes that it’s 1978. Vince’s disappearance sent him into a state of “pathological grieving” and he copes with the situation by deluding himself into thinking that no time has passed. Castle and Beckett are willing to indulge the delusion to get a few answers out of him.
But when he sees Beckett, he pops open a vintage bottle of sexism. I hear 1978 was a good year for that. She has to put up with it, though, because Frank’s panic when the illusion slips proves that they won’t get anything from him unless they play along. It’s probably the most contrived possible way to get everyone in ’70s outfits, but the results are hilarious so I’ll allow it.
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Equally contrived is the fact that the concrete poured over Vince in 1978 formed a perfect mold of his face and body. The morgue team makes it up to look like a real body so that Harold can view it and start to trust the team. Lanie dresses up as Foxy Brown, of course. Harold’s misogyny is completely silenced when he sees Vince, and he’s clearly devastated. On the way out of the morgue, just as Harold is agreeing to talk to the police about what happened that night, an orderly pulls out a gun and opens fire. He’s quickly assumed to be a professional, but they initially have no luck finding him.
Every avenue the team pursues leads nowhere; most of the possible suspects are dead or decrepit. Only Michael Carcano, head of a rival crime family, maintains some degree of health and menace. But he claims that he and Vince were planning on merging their families, so murdering Vince would have been bad for business. No one finds him trustworthy, but they have no evidence to suggest that he’s lying. Thus, they must get creative.
Harold says he’ll only give a statement at the station, which means they have to redecorate everything to make it look like it’s still the ’70s. Since Gates is out of town and thus can’t ruin the fun, they decide to go for it. Martha takes over because they need to give her something less destructive to do than helping plan the wedding.
The results are phenomenal. There are ’70s-era prostitutes being booked, who look pretty much the same as modern prostitutes. There are rainbow vests and polyester pant suits. There’s Alexis in a crop top, because they had to work her into the episode somehow. There’s the magnificently hilarious Ryan and Esposito, who’ve overdosed on old police footage and conveniently look exactly like a pair of cops from the ’70s. My notes from this section are just “LMAOOOOOOO” written over and over again.
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Despite the flawless hilarity of the charade, Esposito’s cell phone rings during the interrogation and messes with Harold’s memory. He only gets as far as telling them that Vince’s murder had something to do with the disco club Glitterati. Because this is the most contrived episode ever, Glitterati has recently been re-opened as a ’70s club. They can take Harold there to jog his memory without destroying the illusion. Ryan and Esposito take him while Beckett deals with Gate’s early return and the recently-identified morgue shooter, Robert Decker.
At the club, Harold breaks away from Ryan and Esposito and finds Russo, who owned the club in 1978 and still owns it now. He’s convinced that Russo killed Vince and is completely unfazed by the fact that Russo is 40 years older than he was in 1978. Surprise! He was playing everyone! Well, sort of. He claims that he was genuinely deluded until the morgue shootout, which forced him back to reality. He kept up the act because he needed to get to the station and see what Russo looked like now. Vince only wore his powder blue suit when he went to Glitterati, so Harold knew that’s where he’d been the night he was killed and thus suspected Russo was involved.
And then Castle and Beckett finally get to the heart of the story. Harold wasn’t just Vince’s right-hand man; they were in love. Harold’s rampant sexism is really just overcompensation. Since it was the ’70s, their love was doomed from the start, so Harold encouraged Vince to get married and dispel the rumors already surfacing about them. Vince had rented out Glitterati that night in order to propose, and Harold never saw him again. It’s a very tragic story that adds something redeeming to an otherwise slimy character.
Castle and Beckett quickly realize that the only person missing from this story is the woman Vince was going to propose to. They figure out that it was Maria, Michael Carcano’s sister and Russo’s wife. Vince and Maria’s marriage was set to unite the two families. But Vince couldn’t go through with it, and Maria was so upset by this rejection that she killed him and had her brother cover up the crime. Maria denies it, of course, but Decker sold her out as the person who hired him to kill Harold. Have fun trying to achieve that hair volume in prison!
The episode ends as any ’70s-themed episode must: at a disco. Everyone has a grand old time. Esposito checks out Lanie a lot, and I’m still not really sure why those two broke up. Martha is making peace with being left out of the wedding planning. And most important, Harold symbolically gets one last dance with Vince, finally letting go of the past. Bless you, Harold, and good luck with all the redecorating in your future.
Castle airs Mondays at 10pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)