Castle: A Death in the Family

A Death in the Family is the title assigned to the season finale of Castle. Well, much to my dismay, the medical examiner was back this week. Back, and in pure idiotic form. Her horrible nonsensical forensic ramblings were worse than ever. She’d have made a great fourth Stooge this week. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

It took me an entire season to figure out what is so wrong with this medical examiner character. I finally came to the realization that she’s a total wimp. A real pushover. She’s not tough and strong-willed like the female doctors I know – Marcella Fierro, the former chief  M.E. in Richmond, Virginia (the real-life Kay Scarpetta), or Sally Aiken, the chief medical examiner in Spokane, Washington.  Those two women are two tough customers. Shoot, my personal physician (a female doctor) here in the Boston area is very petite, but she’s got spunk. Yep, backbone is what’s missing in this character played by Tamala Jones.  She’d have been much better off on a show like Baywatch.

Tamala Jones as Lanie Parrish

Tamala Jones on the cover of Smooth magazine. You don’t see Kay Scarpetta doing cover shoots, so Tamala Jones should leave doctoring alone. Fair trade.

Okay, now for the show. The story opens with the usual dead body. This time the victim is found in a car with a plastic bag duct-taped over his head.

The body had been inside the hot car for approximately a week. Now, you and I both know what would happen to a piece of meat – pork chops, chicken, steak – if we left it out in the New York summer sunshine for a week, right? Yep, it would decompose. It would be covered in maggots, flies, and other creepy crawly bugs. And the smell would be so awful you’d have to wear a mask over your mask coated in perfume just to get to the box of masks.

To make this scene even worse, the dead guy was inside a hot, black car – a real-life Easy Bake Oven that would enhance odor-producing decomposition. But (cue the superhero music) psychic super-M.E. is sitting inside the car with the victim (face and nose unprotected) along with Beckett, who, incidentally is nose to nose with what should be a rotting human body in advance stages of decay. The other detective sidekicks are leaning into the car discussing the case and waiting anxiously for the pearls of wisdom that’ll soon be slipping from the lips of the medical examiner. Her first words? “From the state of decay, I’d say he’s been dead about a week.” WAIT a minute. This guy’s body is in great shape. No decomp whatsoever. In fact, his suit is still neatly pressed. This guy was a real sharp dressed man.

The M.E.’s next words were, “The preliminary cause of death is asphyxiation. I’ll run a tox just to make sure.” Well, I’m assuming she was assuming that the plastic bag over the face caused the death of this poor guy, but there was no way to make this early diagnosis without an autopsy.

For all she knew, the man could have been shot, stabbed, or poisoned. And if he had been poisoned she’d have needed some sort of idea what kind of poison in order to detect it in a tox screen. Toxicology screens are not catch all tests.

The victim’s hands weren’t bound, but his fingers appeared to be broken. The good doctor (I use both terms quite loosely) states that the fingers were broken prior to death. How could she possibly know that by looking at the hands of a man who’d supposedly been dead for a week. Of course, the hand she held up was still swollen from the injuries he’d received 7 or 8 days earlier.

I’ve grown weary of discussing this character. Let’s move on. Oh, one more thing. Castle TV execs – Please, please, please hire a consultant for the next season, or you just may be the cause of a Castleside. That’s right, if I have to stomach this crap for one more episode I just may hold a TV remote to my head and press fast forward until my credits roll.

– Beckett and crew discuss their lack of success in finding information about the victim (a plastic surgeon) in the hospital where he performed his surgeries. Castle suggested checking with the people who work in billing, because they know everything about a patient. Castle was right. This is first place to go when conducting an investigation regarding a patient.

– The victim was the lucky recipient of a mob hit, because he’d performed plastic surgery on a federally protected witness who was to testify against his former Sopranoish buddies. The surgery was paid for by the federal government who was also guarding their star witness. Here’s where the police procedure in this story gets riddled with bullet holes. Once the feds learned about this hit on the doctor they’d have started an all out effort – FBI and US Marshals – to find the killer. Organized crime falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI. It would be their case, not the NYPD. In fact, conducting a parallel investigation would have jeopardized the FBI’s case.

– Beckett demands to question the FBI’s witness (who is in the witness protection program and is under heavy federal guard). No way. The FBI would never allow it. IT”S NO LONGER HER CASE!

– Mob assasins shoot through the FBI agent’s Suburban doors with cop killer bullets (according to one of Becket’s Abbott and Costello partners).

True, that could happen. That’s what the bullets were designed to do. However, Abbot (or Costello) stated the vehicle was armored. If so, the doors would have been heavily plated, which would have prevented the bullets from passing through.

Finally, (Yes! This pain-inducing show was finally over!) Beckett storms the hospital room to arrest the killer, a mob hit-woman. She does this with an army of federal agents standing at her back. NO FREAKIN’ WAY! The FBI would have made the arrest.

The show ended with Castle getting the nerve to tell Beckett that he’d been secretly investigating the murder of her mother. He was about to reveal a new development in the case when the screen went dark. The only thing missing here was Journey playing Don’t Stop Believing and Beckett’s goofy partners trying to parallel park outside the hospital.

Well, Graveyard Shifters, what do we do on Tuesdays while Castle is on break?


17 replies
  1. Carla F
    Carla F says:

    Oh *please* don’t start on “24”. In the first season, the daughter’s friend is injured and goes to the hospital. She’s put in the “ICU”, a private room. I have too many nurse friends to believe that ICU is anything but a very large room where the lights are on all the time and everyone sees everything, all day, every day. I suspended credibility from then on, but they keep pushing my limits. It’s still fun to see the plot twists, but more than once I’ve pointed to the TV and said, “Okay, that can’t happen.”

    Probably not as much as if I watched “Castle”, though. 🙂

  2. janirvin
    janirvin says:

    Can’t watch Castle…your reviews alone make me cringe! I’d be interested in your take on the newer show “The Unusuals.” Anyone else watching this one?

  3. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:


    “Dave – They had towed the car to an impound lot before searching it.”

    I see. Those are the little details you miss when you watch a show for just a few seconds. I’ve tried watching it longer, just can’t do it.

  4. Wilfred Bereswill
    Wilfred Bereswill says:

    Lee, next Tuesday I’d like you to start reviewing this season of 24.

    BTW, speaking on female MEs, Mary Case here in St. Louis is also one of those ladies who could show the producers a thing or two about how the role should be played.

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Dave – They had towed the car to an impound lot before searching it. The car was towed for parking violations, but no one noticed the dead guy until the vehicle was at the lot.

  6. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    Enjoyed your review, Lee.
    Missed the show last night. I was depressed after the Pens lost in OT & had to shut off the TV. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but essentially the truth.
    Hmm? What will we do during the Castle hiatus?

  7. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Dave – I know, that comment was made for the off button.

    Sheila – If I had written all the things I had on my list I’d still be writing when the next season started. I did make note of the bus load of officers seated inside, or peering into, the car. You’re right, that many people would definitely contaminate the scene (the car was the crime scene). The medical examiner also would have compromised any evidence in the passenger’s compartment since she was seated there and touching everything within her reach.

  8. Sheila Connolly
    Sheila Connolly says:

    All too true. But you didn’t even mention that half the NYPD was sitting in the car, which was a potential crime scene. Evidence? Ha!

  9. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Lee, I saw this show for exactly 5 seconds last night (landed on it during a male “channel flipping” episode) and in that short time I heard the ME announce that, “If my guess is right, this man was tortured before he was kiled.” I kept flipping.

    Now I find out the body had been in a hot car for a week. Hell, ANYBODY would look tortured after that.

    I understand the show takes liberty with the ME, because they want the viewer to get the cause of death and get on with the show, but it seems they’re being pretty blatant about it.

    New show idea for next year – Castle meets CSI?

  10. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Carla – I think we’ll see the show again, for a few episodes at least.

    Bobby – An M.E. effect might be a little fun. It would make things a lot easier and cheaper for law enforcement. No more high-tech gadgets, lengthy investigations, or training. All that would be needed is a medical examiner with psychic powers who knows nothing about medicine or science and isn’t afraid to flaunt their ignorance.

    Joyce – I know the show is fiction, and it’s supposed to be a comedy of sorts. But they’ve strayed much too far away from the comedic aspect, which makes their pitiful attempts at realism seem absurd. And now the comedy seems to be interjected at odd places that no longer seem to fit the show. I see major cracks appearing in the seams. It’s a shame because the show started with huge promise. I think I’ll stick to The Big Bang Theory for my laughs on Monday nights.

  11. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    I turned off the TV as soon as I heard the intact corpse had been in the car for a week. Even I knew it wouldn’t look like that.

    Lee, you should contact the producer and offer your services as a consultant. For a large fee, of course.

  12. Bobby M
    Bobby M says:

    “Paging Doctor Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard (oh and “Dr.” Parrish). Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyik!”

    I just hope that this show doesn’t create an “ME Effect.”

  13. Carla F
    Carla F says:

    Note to self (for next season): never read Lee’s “Castle” review in the office. The random snickers and giggles annoy the people in the cubes around me.

    I haven’t seen a “Castle” episode yet, but your reviews are so thorough and entertaining that I feel like I don’t need to. I’m really going to miss these until next September! Thanks, Lee! This definitely brightened up my Tuesdays!

    Good luck getting the ME character upgraded next year…if there IS a next year…

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