Castle: Kill the Messenger – A Review

Castle: Kill The Messenger


Kill The Messenger, this week’s episode, was written by Terence Paul Winter. I have to admit that I was intrigued when I read that Mr. Winter wrote this episode. I knew that he’d once played the part of Lee, one of Al Bundy’s football buddies on the hit comedy, Married With Children. Winter has also appeared in, and written for The Sopranos, another of my favorite shows. Well, needless to say, I could hardly wait to see what this very talented guy had in store for Castle and company. Besides, Winter had played the part of a character named Lee, so he has to be one of the good guys, right? Let’s see how he did…

The first thing I want to point out would have been a very important clue had this been a real murder investigation. In this case, it’s an accident that I don’t think we were supposed to notice. If you have the show recorded you’ll want to go back to the beginning  to see this for yourself.

The opening scene shows a bike messenger peddling his way through city streets when he’s intentionally struck by a car. He lands on the pavement, dead, and his bike is clearly lying in front of the suspect’s car, sort of under the front end, near the driver’s side tire.

The driver/killer gets out of his car and rushes over to the dead messenger. He grabs the dead guy’s backpack, then hurries back to his car and speeds away. Well, when the killer got back in his car the bike was no longer in front of the vehicle. Instead, it was lying off to the left-hand side of the bad guy’s car, well out of the way, which allowed the driver to make a really cool getaway. Obviously, a crew member had moved the bike to allow the action-packed escape, but in real life it looked like the video had been altered. That’s the stuff detectives watch for.

– Becket once again told someone to issue an APB (All Points Bulletin). Those alerts are now called BOLO’s (Be On The Lookout).

– Beckett’s boss, Captain Montgomery, made a comment about budget cuts affecting the case clearance rate in his division. He also stated that his superiors would still expect cases to be solved even with less funding and less manpower. This is a very real occurrence. I know that mayors and city council members all across the country take a good look at stats at the end of each month. Anyone who’s not pulling their weight could soon find themselves back in uniform, walking a beat.

– When a suspect’s name popped up on a terrorist watch list, Beckett and crew immediately suited up in full SWAT gear and then kicked in the door to what they thought belonged to the terrorist guy. Well, they were wrong. Instead, the apartment belonged to a sick, elderly woman. Hold on…Wait a minute! Whoa, Nellie…Do me a favor, guys. Close your eyes for a moment and let this scene really sink in. Get a good mental image of it in your mind. Got it? Okay, those of you who have my book on police procedure, please turn to page 229 and read the short anecdotal section there. Tell me what you think. Coincidence?

Oh, and what about a search warrant? Not to mention that little thing called probable cause. They had neither.

– I loved the scene where Castle and Beckett’s two sidekicks were sitting on the couch during the search, drinking coffee while cats climbed all over them. Hilarious, yes, but could that really happen? Sure, and someday I’ll have to tell you about the time my entry team and I searched the residence of a very well-known show business person. The elderly grandmother there (she was not the target of the investigation) insisted that we take a break during the search to partake in an elaborate buffet, including wine and champagne, that she’d ordered her staff to prepare for us. I couldn’t seem to make her understand the seriousness of the situation. Of course, we didn’t allow the staff to begin slicing, dicing, chopping, and cooking, and we couldn’t accept her offer, but that didn’t stop the little lady from trying to extend her hospitality.

– Captain Montgomery delivered the news that a suspect had been “shanked” at the prison. Good terminology. Shank is slang for a homemade weapon that’s capable of cutting or stabbing. He later referred to a similar weapon as a “shiv.” Same thing, different name.

– Beckett and company obtained a copy of phone call recordings from the prison. Not all prisons operate exactly the same. Many prisons do not record all inmate phone calls, nor do they listen in on all conversations. Normally, calls are monitored randomly, unless illegal activity is suspected. Then officials may listen in and/or record all calls made by the suspect.

If you managed to hear the beginning of the taped conversation made by the prisoner you heard a female accept a collect call. FYI – Not all inmate phone calls are collect calls. Most institutions have an inmate account system in place where the prisoners are allowed to purchase items in the prison store. They also use that same account to pay for phone calls.

Calls made using the account are billed at a normal rate, similar to what we pay for our home telephone calls. Collect calls, however, are billed at a tremendously high rate, possibly as high as four or five dollars per minute, maybe more. Fees collected from these calls are split between the prison and the company providing the service. It’s very profitable for both organizations. However, it’s a huge financial burden for family members who try to remain in contact with with the inmate.

– Inmates are normally very careful about what they say while using prison telephones. They know that phone calls may be monitored.

– The prisoner who was killed had been incarcerated for ten years and was still married. His wife was patiently waiting for him.  Normally (not always), relationships end after a few years once a spouse has been locked up. Relationships in these situations rarely make it to the decade mark.

– Beckett told one of her crew members to check the prisoner’s email records. Inmates do not have access to the internet. In fact, all inmate computer activity is closely supervised and is normally allowed only in a classroom setting. They’re not permitted to possess discs, thumbdrives, etc.

– Do you agree with Castle’s statement, “If a writer nails the beginning of a story then the rest simply falls in place.”

– M.E. Perlmutter is shown eating a meal in the morgue. Sure, I’ve seen coroners and M.E.’s having a bite to eat in the morgue. This guy plays a pretty good part. I wonder why his lines are better than those of the screwy female M.E.?

– Okay, Perlmutter did make a questionable statement. He said that injuries on a dead body (skull) weren’t consistent with the former M.E.’s report stating the death was caused by a blow to the head with a baseball bat. Then he said the previous M.E. probably didn’t conduct a thorough autopsy since the suspect confessed to the murder (using the bat). No way a pathologist would stop in mid-autopsy just because someone confessed to the crime. That’s not proof of anything. Too many people confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

– One of the detectives said that the prison warden refused to release a roster containing names of prison guards who may have participated in the murder of the prisoner. He also said the warden was going to keep the murder investigation in-house.  If this is a state facility the state police would probably investigate the murder. If it was a federal prison then the U.S. Marshals or the FBI would take the case. Of course, each prison has their own investigators who would assist in the investigation.

– Some of the interview scenes in this show were pretty good, with the exception of the one where two brothers/murder suspects were interviewed together, in the same room. Always separate witnesses and suspects.

-Beckett’s death notice delivery was decent. That’s a part of the job we all hate. And, it takes a special cop to do it properly. I’ve known cops who’ve called someone on the phone to tell them their spouse has just been killed. That’s horrible. I always delivered the news in person. It’s an unpleasant part of the job, but family deserves that final bit of dignity and compassion.

– M.E. Perlmutter tells Beckett and Castle to stand back prior to opening a casket that had been recently exhumed. He told them to be prepared for the worst decomposition and stench that one could ever imagine. The body had been dead and buried for ten years. Decomposition would have been completed long ago and there wouldn’t have been anything left that could possibly cause an odor. Well, with the exception of some of the forensic material in this show. That certainly stinks.

Oh, the M.E. is shown dusting items for prints. That’s a job for CSI or police officers. M.E.’s don’t dust for latent prints, and cops don’t perform autopsies. That’s kind of the rule of thumb.

* ABC photos

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16 replies
  1. Su
    Su says:

    Castle/Beckett interaction – my favorite lines from this week’s episode:
    “Are you guys together?”
    Beckett: NO!
    Castle: Not yet.

    Ranks up there with last week’s “You smell like cherries.”

    LOVE this chemistry. As a romance writer, it’s exactly what I want to put on a page.

    Lee, read p.229. I’m telling you, they read this blog and now they’re reading your book. Smart move on their part, IMHO.

  2. Lisa Haselton
    Lisa Haselton says:

    Yeah, pretending to bury the body on the off chance someone wants to dig it up in the future makes sense, but the family already knew she was related and the autopsy completed – if they feared anyone outside the family making the discovery, it seems it would have been before the funeral.

    It jumps out at me because the end of the show was about closure for families – this poor woman’s family agreed to the exhumation after saying she had a beautiful funeral and they’ve at least had that peace all these years. Yet now they have no idea where her body ended up. 🙁 The show is usually good about tying up the strings for the core storyline, too. I’m not losing sleep over it or anything, just a curiosity. 🙂

    Pat – I noticed the scarf too, and my first thought was how easy it would be for someone to grab it, or for her to get it caught on something. Quite out of place, but it was complementary to her outfit!

    Marie-Nicole – I’ve noticed Castle’s expressions too. I’m enjoying them as they lead up to something.

    I enjoy reading the weekly comments, this is fun. 🙂

  3. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    *snork* Oh, God, yes, I remember those days!
    Thank goodness I wasn’t drinking coffee, Lee–your comment would have sent it out my nose!
    We had so much fun working nights–the ‘boss’ slept on the job, so as long as we got our work out in a timely manner the rest of the time was play time!

  4. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    Lee wrote:
    Do you agree with Castle’s statement, “If a writer nails the beginning of a story then the rest simply falls in place.”

    My take:
    Absolutely. Speaking as unpublished but with seven completed novels under my belt and #8 in progress — yes. If I can take the time and think through what I want to set up and get that right, then the middle grows naturally from that and then the ending collapses neatly into place.

    It can be slow going, getting it pretty close to right the first time (for the record, I do a lot of editing as I go, so my “first” draft is pretty close to my final draft), and yes sometimes I’ve had to ditch scenes from earlier on that didn’t quite work later. Just today, I axed a scene and rewrote it completely. Much better — and it means that everything AFTER that scene will fall into place, since everything in a novel builds on what came before it.

    Others’ mileage will probably vary.

    Lee — just to say thanks for this very informative blog and your book. The current MIP opens with a murder, and your police procedure book has been quite helpful. When’s your next book coming out? 😉

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Joyce – Where’s your hometown team spirit?

    Melanie – I agree, the captain played a great role this week. I’d like to see more of his interaction as long as it’s like it was in this episode. I think the writer did a great job of capturing realism this time.

    Sheila – You’re absolute correct, but by 3am I was just picking random points from my notes. I left out a lot of things, but this shouldn’t have been one of them. Crossfire is a pretty serious issue. I can’t get anything past you. Good eye!

    Marie – Excellent observation. Facial expressions are difficult to read when someone’s playing a fictional role, but not when that role bleeds over into real life. I wonder what the real issue is behind the “look?”

    Dave – I doubt the new M.E. is a replacement for the Lanie Parrish character. But I can dream can’t I?

    Carla – I think the beginning and end are the easiest sections of a book to write. It’s all that junk in the middle that causes the problem.

    Lisa – There were a lot of holes in this episode, but I guess the writer left it to us to fill in the blanks. Sometimes that’s a good thing. In this case, I don’t know. The drawer thing was new to me, too, but I really liked the detail. Don’t you think the real reason for removing the body from the coffin was to conceal the fat that the dead girl was actually the illegitimate daughter of the politician?

    Margaret – I think they should have, and need, action like this in the show. I referred to that scene because it’s almost a carbon copy of something from my book, an event that actually happened.

    Hey Margaret. You wouldn’t by any chance remember the days of pipetting urine by mouth, or maybe keeping your lunch in the refrigerator beside patients’ blood, stool samples, and sputa, would you? 🙂

    Pat – I agree. I think they’re setting up a big finish for the season by planting clues in the weekly episodes. Hey, all the show needs to do is contact me and tell me how many places to save. We’ll make room and offer them a deal they can’t refuse.

  6. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:


    Yes, Lee, Another great review. And, of course, I enoyed the show. I, too, caught the bike problem in the beginning.

    Yes, as a writer I agree that if you set the beginning of your story up correctly, everything else falls in to place. Of course, I usually know how the story is going to end which helps me set up that opening. Being dyslexic, I never realized I wrote my story in reverse because I knew the ending though I did know that mysteries written that way. I write about LEOs so I always have a crime to solves, but I also have to have that ‘happily ever after.”

    Marie-Nicole, I also noticed Castle’s expression and there have been other times I thought something totally unrelated was a tease toward more info to come on Beckett Sr.’s murder. Bet it will be the cliff hanger for this season.

    Did anyone notice Beckett’s scarf? Man, I love the look but keeping darn those darn things out of the way is a pain, can’t even imagine a police detective wearing it. Maybe the costumer needs to go the writer’s police academy along with the writers!

  7. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Another wonderful round-up of comments, Lee! I really enjoyed this episode and it seems as if the writers are doing a better of job, for the most part. I do think the writers like the action of Beckett and company storming ‘something’ since they seem to include it in every episode.

    As an old Med Tech, I totally get Permutter eating in the morgue. Y’all don’t want to know what we used to do in the lab. ’nuff said.

  8. Lisa Haselton
    Lisa Haselton says:

    Another great review, Lee. I noticed the bike being moved right away. But I also got distracted with wondering how that driver could time NY traffic at all to let him accomplish his hit/steal/drive-off scenario. That bike messenger was moving right along weaving in and out of cars, and yet somehow managed to get in the one open spot where the bad guy was.

    I liked the reference to Kevin Bacon and Quicksilver. 🙂

    Somehow I missed out on what happened to the body. It had been autopsied, so it existed. I missed why it needed to be stolen before it was buried (probably so it could never be re-autopsied).

    And now I know there are drawers in top end coffins!


  9. Carla
    Carla says:

    “If a writer nails the beginning of a story, then the rest simply falls in place.”

    I can’t speak as a professional but in my experience (4 finished manuscripts, #5 in progress; all unsold, YET), I can’t disagree more with that statement. The beginning in the first draft will invariably differ from the beginning in the “final” draft, mainly because by the time I’ve finished writing the book, I have a much better grasp of who the characters are. I’ll want to portray them in the beginning as being vastly different people from who they are at the end, but I won’t know that until I’ve gotten to the end. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Jennifer Crusie say something similar. Bear in mind, I write romance fiction; maybe Castle’s genre is different. I’ve never tried a mystery but I thought it helped to write them from the end, backward.

    Thanks for the review, Lee! I have yet to watch an episode of “Castle”, but thanks to your day-after reviews, I feel like I don’t have to.

  10. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Hi, Lee.

    I’m glad the new M.E. doesn’t cause you quite as much heartburn. It seems the key is to not have the M.E. say so much.

    I wonder if this is a permanent change.

  11. Marie-Nicole Ryan
    Marie-Nicole Ryan says:

    Yep, I was waiting for the car to run over the bike when he took off again. I, too, missed the Castle/Beckett dynamics. BUT did you notice the pensive expression on Castle’s face when he asked Beckett did it help the victim’s family to know what happened and why? To me that was a direct link back to circumstances related to Beckett’s mother. He agreed not to pursue the matter several episodes back, but I think we will find out some day who killed her and why. Beckett needs to know, too.

    Or was I imagining the pensive expression?

  12. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Joyce, I’m sure there are other people in Pittsburgh who hate the Steelers.

    They just don’t talk about it. 🙂

  13. Sheila Connolly
    Sheila Connolly says:

    Hey, I wondered about the wandering bike! (And, gasp, Fillion muffed a line early on. But if he likes cats, I’ll forgive him.)

    One later thing that troubled me: when the chief and the two detectives confronted the killer at the car, the detectives were standing on opposite sides, both pointing their weapons at the killer–and their boss. If either one had fired, weren’t they likely to hit each other? Surely there would be a better way to position themselves? (Disclaiimer: even my daughter commented on this.)

  14. Melanie Atkins
    Melanie Atkins says:

    I enjoyed last night’s episode, but was hoping for more Castle/Beckett interaction…you know, the cute moments they often had. This episode didn’t have as many. Still, it was good. Ruben Santiago-Hudson (who plays Captain Montgomery), did an excellent job. He seemed realistic and focused. And the scene with the cats…too funny. Nathan Fillion is a cat person (I saw an interview with him once where he talked about the cat that came with his house and how he became really attached to it), so I’m sure had a blast with that scene. And I really like Perlmutter better than the other ME. Just sayin’.

  15. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Castle was pre-empted in Pittsburgh for the stupid Steeler game.

    I’m probably the only person in the ‘burgh who hates football and hates the Steelers.

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