As you may or may not recall, there was a minor storyline recently on Castle in which Castle was kidnapped, went missing for two months and then returned with self-induced amnesia. Turns out this is the kind of thing that can cause lasting psychological damage.
“Child’s Play” begins with Alexis and Martha doting on Castle as a way to channel their lingering anxiety. This is the obligatory emotional bookend to the episode, so file it away until later. It has no other relevance to the plot.
Castle Interview: Tamala Jones Teases Spicier Lanie in Season 7, Plus New Esposito Development >>>
The murder of the week takes place in an ice cream truck, thus ending any metaphorical summer still left on television. The victim, Anton, was a young ice cream man shot at close range. The team quickly realizes that someone was hiding in one of the truck’s cabinets when the murder happened. Since they find a permission slip from Mrs. Ruiz’s second grade class, they assume the witness is an 8-year-old with a fragile psyche.
From here, the investigation schisms in a few directions. First, Castle and Beckett investigate the school where Anton took classes in graphic design. His teacher, Natalie, says that Anton freaked out in class soon before he was killed, but his entire portfolio has been deleted from the school’s records. So, kind of a dead end there.
Second, the team discovers another victim who seems to have been killed by the same person a few hours before Anton. His name was Clark Jaffe and he was a retired police officer. He’s affiliated with Anton in some way because Anton was seen getting into his car after class.
But more on that later, because Castle spends the majority of this episode being tormented by schoolchildren, and that needs to be talked about.
90% Kid, 10% Rugged Handsomeness
It is decided that Castle will go into Mrs. Ruiz’s class to try and find out who the reluctant witness is, because a) he has the maturity of a second grader and is thus uniquely qualified for the job, and b) this show has long since abandoned any pretense of realism. If suspending my disbelief means getting to watch Nathan Fillion wear fairy wings and a tiara, then consider it suspended.
Castle is unprepared for how awful children can be, but he’s actually not bad with them. Some latent, Buffy the Vampire Slayer-obsessed portion of my brain tells me that Nathan Fillion almost became a teacher himself, but you’ll have to fact-check that with whatever issue of Tiger Beat I got it from. In any case, Castle has the kids write a story, hoping to interpret traumatic experiences expressed in them. Jack seems like a likely candidate, but it turns out he just watches age-inappropriate television.
After spending some time having kids mock him, steal from him and try to cause him grave bodily harm via marbles, Castle connects with Emily. Emily drops ominous hints at having experienced awful things, so Castle makes blatant Frozen references with her. This is clearly not his first magical tea party, by the way. Alexis trained him well. But Emily is really just dealing with a bully, and Castle gives her some lovely advice that she interprets as permission to punch said bully in the face.
How Did Anything Get Done Before Castle?
It’s too bad that this gets Castle kicked out of the school, because all the other leads just reveal confusion. The team discovers that Anton and Jaffe, who have no discernible connection or criminal history, shared a PO Box. It was clearly being used as a dead drop for something. The store owner mentions that Anton got a call the day he was murdered from someone with a Russian accent, which deeply disturbed him and sent him off in quest of a phone.
Awesome Police Skills reveal that Anton called Dimitri Kalenkov, a Russian mafia enforcer. Beckett and friends go to his apartment, but they find that he’s been dead even longer than the other two victims. There’s also a torture set up, but evidence says that Dimitri was the torturer rather than the victim.
Beckett is still at a loss as to how all of these people are connected until she gets a call from Anton’s father saying that their home has been ransacked. In Anton’s room, they find a bag full of blank passports. They know Anton has the graphic design skills to forge the documents, and they learn that Anton and Dimitri grew up together, but what the three victims were doing now is still a mystery.
Spell Check Was Not Helpful
Luckily, someone throws Castle a Hail Mary pass before he leaves his weird classroom role of man-child. One of the kids drew an ice cream truck and put the drawing in Castle’s pocket. With the help of Mrs. Ruiz, Castle and Beckett discover that the artist is Jason, the resident bully. Beckett gets him to admit that it wasn’t him but his adult sister who was in the truck. Cut to…
Natalie the graphic design teacher! She was bound to pop up again. And, oh, her story is a doozy. She, Anton and Jaffe were creating fake passports, not for profit, but to stop human trafficking. They were trying to help victimized Russians gain passage back home. One of the pictures Anton was presented with, though, sent him into a tizzy. It was of a man named Polkovic, and I want to apologize right now for that almost certainly incorrect spelling, but I couldn’t find the actual name anywhere.
However his name is spelled, Polkovic is a war criminal from Georgia whose actions ravaged Anton and Dimitri’s early lives. When Anton saw the picture, he contacted Dimitri to be sure it was the same man. Polkovic found out about the picture, which was a problem for him; the reason he’s managed to allude capture for so long is that there are no recorded pictures of him, so this photograph could mean his end.
Natalie says that the picture is in her apartment, but when Castle and Beckett get there the place has already been ransacked. Fortunately, they realize that the picture is with a camera Jason took to school. Unfortunately, Polkovic is hiding under the bed and learns of its location. They all inevitably meet in the classroom — thankfully, when no children are around — and Polkovic soundly kicks their asses until Chekhov’s marbles make another appearance and Castle takes him down.
Your Weekly Family Drama
In the end, everything worked out pretty well. Castle and Beckett get to bring down a heinous war criminal, Mrs. Ruiz gets a medal from the police department and the kids get cupcakes. It’s a good day.
The only thing left to do is mend Alexis’ crippling emotional trauma in the episode’s remaining 90 seconds. In true Castle fashion, this is done with scooters. There’s also a heartfelt father-daughter chat about fear and love, but let’s be real. It’s all about the scooters.
Castle airs Mondays at 10pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)