Castle: Always Buy Retail

Let me start out by saying, “Hooray!” Why? Because we made it through an entire episode without having to stomach the horrible medical examiner character and her extremely bad forensics information. Thank goodness she was a no-show. Perhaps she took the week off while the writers consulted with an expert. Let’s hope so. Doug Lyle, is your phone ringing? I’m sure the actor who plays the part would appreciate not looking foolish for once.

Whew! Now that that’s out of the way lets get started with our analysis of the show’s police procedure. We start with the traditional murder – a scene that’s plenty creepy with lots of blood and a bit of West African Voodoo.

Oops, wrong Voodoo. Here you go.

Problems with procedure begin early when a detective opens the victim’s mouth to pull out a piece of evidence. The rule of thumb at a crime scene should be sort of like that catchy Vegas slogan, “What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.” In the case of homicide investigations, the wording should be changed to read, “What’s in the body stays in the body.” Detectives shouldn’t remove anything from a body cavity. That’s the job for the M.E. during autopsy.

Castle made this comment to Beckett: “If you find out why (motive) the killer committed the act you’ll find the killer. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Remember MOM – Motive, Opportunity, and Means. Find the person who has all three and you have your killer.

I liked the fact that Castle called in a Voodoo expert to consult with Beckett. Cops do this all the time. After all, when you need to know something about plumbing, who do you ask? A plumber, right?

Beckett noted the defensive wounds on the female victim’s forearms. Great stuff! Very realistic (the information, not the makeup).

One of Beckett’s sidekicks (the Keystone Clones) looked at a glass filled with a red liquid and immediately knew the substance in the dish was chicken blood, and that the container was made in China. How? I’m guessing they learned that trick from the “psychic” medical examiner. She could identify anything without forensic testing. These two guys should pick up a copy of the book Police Procedure and Investigation. In fact, I’d gladly donate one to the writers if they’d send me their mailing address.

Moving right along – Beckett and Castle force their way into an apartment of potential murder suspects. The scene is hot (filled with danger). Beckett goes in with her gun drawn and pointed at the men inside. So far so good. However, Beckett quickly lowers her weapon to pacify the half-dozen large, nervous men. No way! She didn’t even conduct a basic pat down search for weapons.

Next, Castle starts pilfering through the men’s belongings. Another no no. Not without permission or a warrant. However, if the items (fruits or instruments of a crime) had been in plain view they could have confiscated them. If officers have to move something to see what’s beneath it or behind it, that’s considered a search. And they’d need that little thing called a search warrant.

A forensic artist drew a sketch of the suspect. I’ll let Robin Burcell tackle this one. This is her area of expertise. Are you there, Robin?

During an interview of a criminal suspect the bad guy asked for an attorney. Yet Beckett and Castle (I know he’s not a cop, but they’re allowing him to do what he does, so he’s acting as an agent of the police. This means he must play by the rules) continued to question him. No can do. Once a suspect asks for an attorney all questioning must cease at once. No exceptions.

Beckett tells a suspect he can’t leave town. Nope. Unless police have a court order they can’t force anyone to stay put. We’re all free to go where the buffalo roam, if that’s where we want to go.

Beckett and an entry team raid a building looking for the murderer. Horrible procedure. Some of the guys had their weapons pointed at the backs of the people in front of them; some were in a crossfire situation, and Beckett’s positioning of her flashlight was all wrong. She may as well have painted a bright red bulls eye on her chest. The light should be positioned away from the body. Suspects tend to shoot toward a light. A former co-worker of mine would affirm that fact. He was shot in the face by a shotgun-wielding robbery suspect who aimed for my friend’s light.

Castle’s pitiful attempt to describe the suspect’s vehicle was perfect. That’s the way it is in real life. Witnesses are terrible witnesses. They rarely get it 100% right. This was very good.

Again this week Beckett forced her way into a citizen’s home and started searching the innocent homeowner’s handbag. Let’s see…illegal and lawsuit are the two words that come to mind.

Great shootout with the killer at the end. Beckett terminates the standoff with Castle’s help along with the “pop” of a champagne cork (you’d have to be there to appreciate this one). The scene was pretty good until the good detective shot the suspect. She then approached the unconscious and very dangerous crook – a man who’d just fired what seemed like 400 rounds at her – grabbed his hands and folded them in front of his body for cuffing. This isn’t proper or safe (all suspects should be cuffed to the rear), but what made this scenario even worse was the fact that she was looking at Castle, smiling the entire time. The flirt factor was really in high gear! Not once did she even glance at the shooter while applying the cop bling.

There were other things about the show not related to police procedure that deserve a mention. Like Castle’s Kevlar vest with the word WRITER on the ID flap. Hilarious.

The ex-wife was quite annoying. I hope she and the M.E. take a stage left exit and forget to come back.

Oh, did I mention the show was much better without the M.E.?

All in all, I like this show. Really I do.

By the way, the Writers Police Academy begins this Friday. I hope to see some of you there.


39 replies
  1. PatMarin
    PatMarin says:

    Hi Robin,

    Having spent a class session with a ‘real’ composite artist (as apposed to a computer one), my instant reaction was, “Oh, that’s a computer sketch.”

    But you are right on the fast-paced entertainment factor. I think that’s also one of the reasons I enjoy Castle. First thing I do after I see it is look for Lee’s blog.

    I am thoroughly enjoying your online Cops A-Z class.

    Pat Marinelli, (the other Pat)

  2. Robin Burcell
    Robin Burcell says:

    Sorry I didn’t read your blog right away, but I only just watched Castle tonight, and didn’t want to read the blog before I’d seen the show, in case of spoilers. Love the Castle “review” but have to read it *after* I read the show.

    As far as the sketch, they very much glossed over it, so not enough detail to give an accurate depiction. (But isn’t that how good TV should be? Just enough detail to make you believe it is real?) And the sketch was awful detailed, considering. It’s possible they did a computer composite, but since they didn’t go into detail,or show the sketch being done, too hard to say.

    A real sketch is going to take a couple hours at the least, and it would preferably be done in an interview room, not at a desk in the middle of the squad room (as shown on the show) where they would be interrupted or the witness’s memory could be corrupted.

  3. PatMarin
    PatMarin says:

    Lee, I got a notice that the New Jersey Romance Writer Conference info was up, so I went and looked. That’s where I saw you name. I think it’s pretty funny that they haven’t contacted you and put your name up. I wonder how many other presenters don’t have a clue?

    Anyway, I hope to see you there.

    Pat Marinelli

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Hi April. Thanks for stopping by. Your cousin is one of Becket’s sidekicks, right? Cool. I’m not so sure he’d like my comments in the post above, but I’d love to learn where they’re getting their police information.

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Jonathan – One can only hope the M.E.’s gone.

    Melanie – Officers are trained to control weapons, not kick them away. Beckett should have picked it up and made it safe. See, you’ve been watching too much TV! 🙂

    jenifer – You’re right, but they switched at times. First they said Vodoo and then later they called it Voodoo. I think the M.E. wrote those lines.

  6. melanie atkins
    melanie atkins says:

    Ha ha! I love that show. And I feel really, really good that I caught most of what you said was wrong. LOL I knew that flashlight was in the wrong place…and when Beckett shot the guy, she also didn’t kick his weapon away from him. He could have picked it up and shot her! Still, it’s TV. I love it.

  7. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Purplesnowflake – I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the reviews. They’re fun.

    Pat – I figured I’d remain politically correct and stay out of the high heel conversation (they’re ridiculous and totally out of place in police work).

    You’ve heard something I haven’t because the New Jersey conference folks haven’t contacted me. However, I just visited their website. Apparently, they think they have since I’m on the list of presenters.

  8. PatMarin
    PatMarin says:

    Su, I also noted the high-heeled boots in Phoebe wore in “High Noon” which was pretty good consider I was soooo angry about not being in Savannah in the hot weather which made the use of the beer in the scene utterly stupid when everyone was freezing to death. To bad it was such an important part of the story. I also hated the house. But since the guy who played Duncan was so perfect, I calmed down and enjoyed the rest of the movie.

    You’ll notice that Lee said, he ‘noticed the high-heels’ but never commented on them. So, Lee, what do you really think about high-heeled shoes on or off the job?

    Oh, and Lee, I am do glad to see you will be at the New Jersey Romance Writer Conference in October. Haven’t seen you since Bouchercon in Baltimore.

    Congrats on your Writers Police Academy 2. I sure hope you have created a monster. Anything happening on the online idea?

    Pat Marinelli

  9. Purplesnowflake
    Purplesnowflake says:

    Whodoo voodoo?

    I swear through the whole thing – I never could decide if they actually were saying VOOdoo. Beckett acted like she didn’t know what it was the first time Castle said something so I almost thought they were saying Verdoo and it was suppose to be Vaudou (like the writers used a fancy word and the actors couldn’t figure out how to pronounce it) because I think most people are going to know Voodoo by name if not by sight.
    Maybe they would have done better to have called it Santeria which less people know about, but was done much better on Law & Order Special Victims Unit!

    Anywhoo…love your reviews!!!!

  10. JonathanQuist
    JonathanQuist says:

    It took me until this week to see Nathan Fillion as Castle rather than Captain Hammer (Corporate Tool) from “Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog”. Consequently, I haven’t been worrying too much about accuracy. But it’s nice to see you rip their technical details to shreds, and then sum it all up by saying “All in all, I like this show. Really I do.”

    From the Grain of Salt department, I’ll suggest the possibility that the detective removed the evidence from the victim’s mouth as a plot device to enable the writers to write the ME out of the episode.

    Hey, it could happen…


  11. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Mary – We’ll miss you. Maybe next year!

    jenifer – Sure, cops can say something like that, but this week Beckett actually meant it. And that was my problem.

    Again, this show is a comedy and we’re just having a bit of fun. Well, the show is a comedy, but the M.E. character is a joke.

  12. jenifer
    jenifer says:

    Was there something about her telling the guy not to leave town in this episode that made it bad? I think it was the first episode when she did it (and Castle did too – funny), and you said it was a great move. She can’t enforce it, but nothing says a cop can’t lie to someone like that. If the guy believes he has to comply, too bad for him.

    When they took the pouch out of the first victim’s mouth I was yelling at the TV. “The body belongs to the in-this-case-incompetent ME! They can’t do that!” 🙂

  13. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    I always get a chuckle out of your review of Castle, but I must admit if it wasn’t for the reviews it’s not a show I’d watch. It’s kind of like watching something because everyone will be talking about it at work the next day.
    I agree with the shoes, too. What is it with these shows? In all the CSI’s, the women show up at crime scenes in high heels & flaunting cleavage. I know, I know. You guys are all asking what’s wrong with that?
    Wish I was going to make it to the Writer’s Police Academy, but there’s no way I could fit it into my schedule. It sounds like it will be great.

  14. SuGreene
    SuGreene says:

    Wow – so glad someone else noted the shoes. (Also noted this in the Lifetime drama of Nora Robert’s High Noon – the female lead, a hostage negotiator, also wore high-heeled boots.) I thought it was just me.

    In complete agreement, Lee. The police procedure on this show is part of what makes it so funny. I keep thinking they probably wouldn’t allow him to be on all these crime scenes to begin with, would they? But Nathan Fillion is just funny, so I’ll keep watching it for the humor if nothing else.

    And yes, the ex-wife is annoying. But the daughter is rather amusing, if a bit of a stereotype.


  15. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:


    I watched about 10 mins of Southland and that was all I could handle. I don’t remember much, except when the officer pulled the guy over in a car and started the conversation by calling him a dirt-bag, or something to that effect. I think he was a rookie’s training officer, from what I could gather of the conversation (I was working a crossword at the time, so wasn’t watching intently.)

    Anyway, something about it really turned me off quickly.

  16. Peg H
    Peg H says:

    I too am enjoying Castle, but how bad is it when the cop’s wife (me) notices more errors than the retired cop (dear Hubby)?

    Wish I could be at Mad Anthony’s, sigh. To those of you going, have a blast!

  17. daphneatkeson
    daphneatkeson says:

    I’m always fascinated by LEO observations about TV shows’ accuracy. Thanks to your blog and book, Lee, and other feedback, I find myself pausing cop shows to annoy my husband by saying, “No, that’s not procedure…. They can’t touch the body until the ME gets there. No cop would say that… They’d have to get OT approval for that, etc.” I used to watch THE FIRST 48 to see real homicide investigations (well, as real as you get on TV), except the outcomes were just too depressing…
    Lee, I’ll see you Friday, assuming I don’t get lost driving in from Columbus, and will bring your book for you to sign!
    Daphne Atkeson
    w/a Dawn Atkins

  18. jnantz
    jnantz says:

    Excellent analysis as always. I gotta remember to start watching Castle on Mondays.

    I can’t make it to Mad Anthony’s this year, but I do hope this goes over well enough to become an annual thing. It sounds like a lot of fun and very informative to boot!

  19. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    I think if a supervisor told me to, “catch this guy before he kills again,” I’d look at my partner, slap my forehead, and say “Damn, why didn’t we think of that?”

  20. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:


    Ref. your question on on the 11 year old and her “father.” I am unaware of any specific case law that addresses this particular problem, but from a practical standpoint, Law Enf should err on the side of caution and stop the questioning. Of course, as it turns out, the father really wasn’t a parent, so it’s a moot point. Yet that issue may not come into it later, if it can be shown the police were acting with the reasonable belief that the man was, in fact, the legal parent.

    Tha’t the interesting thing about the law (and the maddening thing as well) – one small detail can change everything in a criminal case.

    Again, if an officer is faced with something like this, it is best they err on the side of caution, as subsequent court rulings are most likely going to land on the side of an individual’s Constitutional rights, regardless of their age.

    That’s a quandry with which officers are sometimes faced. In those “what should we do” situations, they must decide, “Do we press one way and risk losing the case in court, or go the other way, knowing this may be our one and only chance to solve the case?”

  21. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Vivian – Normally, I’m with you. But if I didn’t watch Castle, what else would I post on Tuesdays?

    Carla – I’ve never seen the show. In fact, I watch very little TV. Monday night seems to be my night, because I watch The Big Bang Theory (hilarious) and now Castle. Of course, I do follow the train wreck called American Idol.

  22. Carla F
    Carla F says:

    I can’t say I’ve seen “Castle” yet, Lee, but I rely on your reviews the day after so I can stay up to date.

    I wondered what you thought of “Southland” on NBC (Thursday, 10:00 eastern). I enjoyed the edge to the writing but noticed, when the officer pulled over the yellow Lambourghini, that he didn’t put his hand on the car. If you saw the show, were there any other factual errors?

  23. Vivian
    Vivian says:

    I can “overlook” some things if a show, or book, is well written and entertaining enough. However, when I start noticing all the goofs, and they distract me from the show or book, I’m finished.

    Yes, Lee, the writers need a copy of your book and USE it.


  24. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Barb – My wife and I both noticed the supervisor’s oh-so-important repetitive line, “Catch this guy before he kills again.” Yep, see you Friday. The Writers Police Academy is going to be fun.

    pabrown – Actually, I think the police procedure on Castle is a little better than most TV shows. You mean you don’t have manuscript-hanging line in your office?

    Pat – I did notice the shoes. Hey, there are several companies that manufacture jackets with the ID flap. Those flaps actually fold up inside a Velcro-sealed compartment for concealment.

    Will – I think you might enjoy the show. Unless you watch it like I do – pausing it every few seconds to make notes.

    Bobby – ACME. Just stand in line behind the coyote. Beep, beep.

  25. Wilfred Bereswill
    Wilfred Bereswill says:

    Hey, Lee. I’ve been meaning to watch this show. In fact I have about 4 on the DVR waiting for one of those boring nights with nothing to do that never comes around.

    Actually, I really liked Nathan Fillion in Firefly. If you’ve never seen it, get the series on DVD. Great stuff.

    Now you’ve cinched it, I’ll be firing up my DVR as soon as I can find some time. Thanks.

  26. PatMarin
    PatMarin says:

    Oh, Lee, I have been trying to get logged on here for ages. I keep forgetting my log name and password. I’m here now and hopefully won’t loose the info again.

    I love, love, these reviews of Castle. I catch a lot of the mistake but you show me the ones I miss.

    You forgot to mention the shoes. The high heels, not only high heels but the f***me spikes. I want to know how the ME and Beckett walk in them all day much less where them to a crime scene. The pool murder episode really showed them both wearing those heels but I caught them it a couple of other times, especially the ME. They were better saved when Beckett when to Castle book signing. When she walked in, oh my…..

    I want the WRITER vest too. Maybe we should all write to the show. This would be a great moneymaker and publicity tool. The vest should be reasonable in price, too, after all we don’t need the Kevlar part.

    Pat Marinelli

  27. pabrown
    pabrown says:

    I’m still out on Castle. The police procedure isn’t much worse than most TV. I was disgusted by the ex-wife and if she became a regular I don’t think I’d watch it again. Castle was such a mealy-mouthed wimp around her that I lost any respect for him.

    It would be nice if they would do some research on police procedure. It’s not like there aren’t lots of resources for them.

    And just for once, why can’t we see TV writers actually WRITING? All I’ve seen Castle do so far is hang up pages on a clothes line (what was that about anyway?) and sign a million hard cover copies of his book in a really big, really packed bookstore.

  28. BarbEarly
    BarbEarly says:

    Not sure which I enjoy more–the show or these reviews! I want a vest like Castle’s. You should get one too.

    I agree about the ex-wife. All she added to the show (IMO) was an excuse to throw more sex in there, as if there wasn’t enough of that on television already.

    I watched a recording of last week’s just before this one, and was a little surprised at seeing a couple repetitious things–the superior’s insistence that they “catch this guy before he kills again,” and the killer masquerading as a cop to get more information.

    Oh, and see you Friday!

  29. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Bobby – Hey, I’m just saying it wouldn’t hurt the writers of the show to do a little research. So why not start with my book?

    Elena – I’m going to let Dave Swords answer your question. He’s also an expert in interview and interrogation.

  30. Elena
    Elena says:

    I was witness to a situation that I’ve always wondered what the proper procedure actually was.

    The police were questioning an eleven year old girl. The putative father authorized the questioning. The girl said she wanted an attorney. The cops ignored her request and insisted she answer the questions. They still did nothing when the alleged “father” slammed her across her head knocking her off her chair.

    They were still trying to make her answer questions when another officer came in to say that there were a number of outstanding warrents on the man. That ended the situation – they took the guy off.

    The girl later told me that the guy wasn’t related in any way, just living there and had told her he would kill her mother if she didn’t give the answers he wanted her to give.

    I’ve always thought the officers acted improperly with her. What do you think?

  31. Bobby M
    Bobby M says:

    Damn. I keep forgetting to watch Castle on Mondays. Once again, excellent review here Lee And I love your photos this week, particularly the Hendrix. And of course your “subtle” self promotion of your book. 🙂

  32. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Good morning, Lee,

    Good analysis. Too bad the ME was missing. She gives you a good opportunity to teach by example – her bad example.

    One added comment about someone asking for a lawyer – you’re absolutely right in that once they say “lawyer” – you are done questioning. I just want to add that an officer can’t go back at them at any later time. The suspect must initiate contact. And then, as a practical matter, officers need to put it on tape and be very specific about the fact that the suspect initiated contact.

    Of course, that would be a good way for a writer to have a detective blow a case and get a confession thrown out.

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