Bickering soap stars? Tawdry offscreen affairs? Backstabbing – literally? For Castle and Beckett, when you’re investigating the axe murder of a soap opera writer, it’s all in a day’s work.

We start off this Castle episode in the midst of a love scene, a couple getting hot and heavy in bed (guest stars Corbin Bernsen and Rebecca Budgig), and in what looks to be the middle of the day no less. The woman proclaims this has to be the last time because she’s going back to her husband after this. Okay, this is really starting to sound like a soap opera. Oh, wait…that’s because it is! The woman’s husband is home early and her male companion rushes to hide in the closet. Typical soap opera move. As the closet doors are pulled open, out tumbles a little surprise – a dead woman’s body with an axe stuck in her back. Did the crew decide to play a little joke on their lead actors? Not this time. Not only is the body real, it’s that of their head writer, Sarah Cutler.

That same morning, Castle steps into the kitchen and is greeted by an unfamiliar sight. Martha is cleaning. Never thought you’d see the day, right? Apparently, neither did he. She’s going stir crazy with nothing to do these days, the space for her acting studio won’t be ready for another month, and she needs to keep herself occupied somehow. Beckett calls Castle to let him know there’s been a murder and, as any good mother would, Martha eavesdrops on Castle’s conversation. She knows that address, it’s where they film “Temptation Lane.” Martha was on the show at one time and fears the victim is someone she knows. After failing to get Castle to let her tag along, a quick jab about him not being a trained professional mixed with the type of guilt only a mother can inflict gets him to promise to text her with updates.

As they arrive on the “Temptation Lane” set, Castle does his best to impress Beckett with his soap opera knowledge. They meet up with Lanie to get all the grisly details of the murder, and Lanie launches into a rant about a storyline she disliked on the show, proving herself to be quite the fan. Esposito seems less than impressed.

Beckett gives Ryan and Esposito the honor of interviewing the two actors who discovered Sarah’s body, Mandy Bronson and Lance Hastings. Esposito is instantly smitten with Mandy, much to Ryan’s chagrin. The two actors trade barbs but are able to provide their whereabouts for the time of the murder.

Castle and Beckett interview the victim’s husband, Vince Powers (guest star Cameron Mathison), who also happens to be a director on the show. He points them towards a blogger who goes by the handle FoxCanLover. Apparently she’s a crazy “shipper.” If that’s not funny enough for you, funnier still is Beckett having to explain to Castle what a “shipper” is. He’s a writer who is pretty in touch with his fanbase, shouldn’t he know these things? Castle quickly realizes that Beckett knows more about the soap world than meets the eye. Vince isn’t sure how to get in touch with this FoxCanLover but he’s pretty sure Sarah’s assistant, Reese (guest star Tina Majorino of Napoleon Dynamite fame), can. Before he can tell them more, a hysterical woman comes running over, apparently Sarah’s estranged mother, Gloria Chambers (guest star Jane Seymour).

Reese, who was at an aspiring writers’ mixer during the time of the murder, is able to provide Castle and Beckett with FoxCanLover’s real name, Carrie Edwards. She shows them shows them her blog, where Carrie had earlier posted her intentions to give Sarah “the axe.” See what they did there? Nice one. Unfortunately, Carrie also alibis out.

While discussing the show with Castle, Beckett once again reveals one too many plot details about the current storylines. While she managed to come up with a plausible excuse for her last slip up, Castle is not buying it this time. Beckett is definitely a “Temptation Lane” fangirl. She finally admits to having seen a few episodes but that’s as much as she’s willing to concede. Beckett quickly turns the tables on him, reminding him he seems to know just as much about soaps as she does. Castle tries to claim that was all for research but Beckett’s not buying it either. When Esposito walks up a moment later, both silently decide to keep this between the two of them. Smart move on their part. Wouldn’t want to give Esposito or Ryan any more ammo to tease them with, they have plenty as it is.

Esposito discovers Sarah had made several mystery appointments on her calendar, while Ryan learns that Sarah and her husband, Vince, were separated. Funny he hadn’t mentioned that sooner. Then again, they never do. This case is beginning to rival any of the stories on “Temptation Lane” with all the twists and turns it’s taken.

If that’s not enough drama for you, once confronted by Castle and Beckett about his separation from Sarah, Vince can provide an alibi for the night of the murder. He was in his hotel room with the star of “Temptation Lane,” Mandy Bronson. Mandy didn’t stay the night though. She got an email from Sarah, new script pages, and decided to head home to memorize her lines. Pay-per-view and the mini bar are now Vince’s alibi, but Mandy sure is looking suspect.

Martha arrives on the scene with hopes of being Castle and Beckett’s inside source on the case. Apparently back in the day, when she was on “Temptation Lane” herself, she was pretty tight with Lance Hastings. Lance was Martha’s love interest way back when, on-screen…and off. Beckett looks positively giddy at that statement, while poor Castle looks like he maybe just threw up in his mouth a little. Martha fills Beckett in on her character’s history on the show, explaining how she was kidnapped, buried alive, trapped in a cave with bears, kidnapped again and held hostage in the sewers of Paris. Beckett wants to know just how long she was on the show. Three weeks, according to Martha. Three weeks? From what I remember back in my soap opera watching days in high school, that sounds about right for a soap.

After going through Sarah’s email, Castle and Beckett discover Sarah was planning on killing off Mandy’s character. If that’s not motive to kill Sarah, I don’t know what is. But motive isn’t enough and Mandy also has an alibi, which proves to be just one more twist in this crazy case. In order to keep her character from being killed off, she went to see the second in command, Peter Connelly. It seems Peter has always had more clout with the network than Sarah so Mandy did what any self-respecting actress would do when confronted with the possibility of losing her job, she slept with him. Okay, maybe not self-respecting. One quick conversation with Peter confirms Mandy’s alibi. He also promotes Sarah’s assistant, Reese, to writer. He’s down a man, or woman as the case may be, and can use all the help he can get.

With that out of the way, the pair track down another lead. It turns out Sarah’s mystery appointments were being held at a local coffee shop. Castle and Beckett speak with a waitress there who knew Sarah. Initially, she seems devastated by Sarah’s death but in reality is only upset about losing what she considers to be her big break. She’s also an aspiring writer and had given Sarah her script to read in hopes she’d like it and pass it along to her agent. With a little encouragement from Beckett, Castle reluctantly agrees to take the script and do the same in exchange for the waitress telling them who Sarah was meeting with. As luck would have it, Sarah’s mystery man walks in and the waitress points them in the right direction. After speaking with the man, they learn he is a private investigator Sarah hired to follow Gloria Chambers, her estranged mother. The PI informs them that Gloria was not Sarah’s birth mother but a fake. Even the “Temptation Lane” writers couldn’t make this stuff up.

Sarah had suspected Gloria was not who she said she was as soon as the woman showed up claiming to be her birth mother. Gloria is actually a con artist who was after Sarah’s money and must’ve figured she’d be an easy mark. As if we needed one more twist in this case, Gloria points them towards another mystery man, someone who recently gave Sarah a pair of diamond earrings worth over $10,000.

The team easily discovers that Lance was the one to purchase the earrings, and not only that, he also went back to the studio around the time of the murder. That’s kind of something you should mention when you have two detectives interviewing you during a murder investigation, don’t you think? Beckett wants him picked up immediately, there’s only one problem – Martha is with Lance.

Castle and Beckett rush down to the studio to come to Martha’s aid. Beckett doesn’t think Martha’s in any danger but Castle’s not so sure. When they arrive they hear what sounds like a very fearful Martha and Castle goes into action hero mode. He kicks down the door like he’s been taking lessons from Esposito and finds Lance holding a knife to his mother’s throat. Beckett instantly draws her gun while Castle pulls his mother to safety. Too bad it’s a false alarm, the knife is just a prop. Martha and Lance were only rehearsing a scene, and Castle is positive his mother will make him pay for ruining her moment.

While reading over the waitress’ script at home, Castle figures out who the killer is. Beckett meets him back on the set of “Temptation Lane” where Castle has written a scene for Lance and Mandy to act out that parallels the real crime. He hopes that, by implicating the killer in the scene, Beckett will be able to get a confession out of the real murderer. It turns out Reese had stolen another writer’s script and claimed it as her own. Reese was sick of being Sarah’s assistant, and constantly under her thumb, so she plagiarized someone else’s work to try and get ahead. She left the mixer early and headed back to the set to kill Sarah before the truth could come out.

To celebrate finally solving this convoluted case, Ryan suggests they head to The Old Haunt for a drink. Castle promises to catch up with Ryan and Esposito, but first he has a little present to deliver. Once he and Beckett are alone, he hands over a signed cast photo from “Temptation Lane.” Beckett is thrilled by the gift but knows that Castle wants to know her reason for watching the show. She tells him the story of when she was nine and had to have her tonsils out. Her mother took time off work to stay home with her and the two sat curled up on the couch watching episodes of Temptation Lane together. Now, every time Beckett sees the show, it reminds her of that time with her mother, making her feel safe and at home. She gives Castle permission to judge away but instead he tells her his DVR would put hers to shame. However, he is really glad to know this personal little tidbit about her. They lock gazes and share a smile…until Josh calls and ruins the moment. She hesitates to answer the phone, but only briefly, and Castle leaves to give her some privacy. As he makes his way to the elevator, she thanks him again for the photo before finally answering her phone.

When Castle arrives back at the loft, he inadvertently walks in on an intimate moment between his mother and Lance. The lines these two are spouting are so cheesy, Castle assumes, rightfully so, that they’re running lines together, and he asks them just that as the pair are about to kiss. Unfortunately that’s not the case and Martha quickly makes it known they’d like to be alone. Castle makes a hasty retreat to his bedroom, shuddering the entire way. That is not an image he will soon forget. But looking on the bright side of things, at least someone in that apartment is finally getting some action.

Things We Learned From This Episode:

  • Hair, apparently, reminds Castle of Beckett. Aww… I think.
  • The entire team are all closeted soap opera fans. Castle watches soaps. Esposito used to watch novellas with his grandma as a kid, plus he has a huge crush on Mandy Bronson. And while Lanie is a “Temptation Lane” fangirl, and proud of it, Beckett is a “big, fat ‘Temptation Lane’ fan.”
  • Castle has “soapy” daydreams about Beckett, and really, can we blame him?
  • Castle thinks Esposito and Lanie’s shipper name should be “Esplanie,” since they are always explaining things.
  • Ryan thinks Castle and Beckett practice finishing each other’s sentences when he and Esposito aren’t around.
  • Castle likes to keep Beckett on her toes.
  • The next time Castle mentions “sleeping on it” to Beckett, he really needs to pay more attention to her reaction. She didn’t look at all put off by the thought, even when he pretended to be. “Katherine Beckett, I never…”
  • Apology gifts can be expensive.
  • No matter how old or successful Castle gets, his mother, as with any good mother, still won’t let him take shortcuts in life.
  • Josh has the worst timing. EVER.

Written by Stephanie Guenzler. Find her on Twitter @pure_believer.

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