If you didn’t get the chance to see Castle, it was terrific. Or was it authentic? Like a slice of really good pizza. Nope, no half baked plotlines here. Okay, I’ll stop now. In case you haven’t already figured it out, that’s right folks, we’re dealing with a murder at a pizza parlor.

We start off with a couple making out on the street. The guy offers to show the girl his place to get them off the street and out of public, which I’m sure the public appreciates. His “place” turns out to be a pizza parlor. How romantic. There’s an awkward exchange as the two smell something cooking in the oven. Unfortunately for them, it’s not a pizza but a charred dead body. Talk about a mood killer.

Speaking of crispy… We jump to Castle making Alexis some turkey bacon for breakfast. Alexis is upset because her good friend, Lauren, is having a birthday party and disinvited her in front of everyone. However, Alexis’ boyfriend, Ashley, is still invited. Castle offers to call Lauren’s mother but Alexis knows that will only make things worse. This is something she needs to handle on her own.

Castle confides in Beckett about the situation with Alexis and her friend on their way to the crime scene. Beckett reminds him Alexis will have to deal with these types of situations all her life, and it’s best to let her handle it on her own, even though his first instinct is to protect her. Beckett assures him Alexis is smart enough to rise above it all.

Once they step into the crime scene, it’s all business, and Castle and Beckett launch into a very confusing conversation about the rival pizza parlors in the area. Authentic Nick’s. Terrific Nick’s. Authentic Terrific Nick’s. Terrific Authentic Nick’s. You get the picture. Anyway, the body was found at Authentic Nick’s and, luckily for the victim, he was dead before he was ever tossed into the oven.

Nick Jr. was the one to find the body. He runs the pizza parlor with his dad, Authentic Nick, whose real name is Ralph Carbone. Apparently everybody calls him Nick. Don’t ask. Nick, aka Ralph, is sure one of his competitors is behind the body in the oven. Just last week someone put soap in his pizza sauce and he wouldn’t put it past any of them to take their rivalry a step further. The rivalry between said pizza parlors goes back for years, but never anything more than college level pranks.

Lanie is able to ID their victim as Gordon Burns. Castle knows of him from Burns’ investigative reporter days. He admired Burns’ work. After going through his burnt wallet, the only useful information Beckett finds is a partly charred photo of  a woman. According to Burns’ records, he was divorced so it’s not likely the photo was of his wife but it could be his girlfriend.

Castle and Beckett are able to contact Burns’ editor, Walt Shaw, who tells them Burns had a daughter who was killed when she was ten, causing the reporter to take a downward spiral. Burns didn’t write much after that but Shaw occasionally threw him a puff piece to work on to help him make his rent. Burns’ last piece was a pizza wars story, nothing special. However, a few days before he died, Burns had called Shaw to let him know the story was much bigger than he’d initially thought. Maybe those pizza wars turned deadly after all.

A search of Burns’ apartment reveals it’s been ransacked. Someone has already been there. Esposito speaks with Burns’ neighbor, who informs him she’s been holding Burns’ mail because he told her he’d be out of the country for awhile. Burns’ was obviously still in town, so why was he laying low?

The CSU report turns up evidence of fingerprints on the oven, Nick’s fingerprints. Except, they don’t belong to Authentic Nick, they belong to one of his rivals, Terrific Authentic Nick, whose real name is Sal Malavolta. Confusing, right? Sal admits to being in the parlor and touching the oven, but only because he wanted to steal it in retaliation for Ralph stealing the breakers from his electrical box. Ralph thought Sal was the one putting soap in his sauce. Sal, who used to work for Ralph, admits he left because Ralph cared more about laundering money for the mob than he did about pizza. Oh, and he happened to mention all of this to Burns for his article.

After their talk with Sal, Castle and Beckett bring Ralph in for more questioning. He refutes Sal’s claims and assures them he’s innocent, he makes his money purely by selling pizzas. Ralph also asserts he only talked to Burns’ about pizza, nothing more.

Esposito canvasses Burns’ apartment building and turns up a new lead. One of Burns’ neighbors witnessed him having a rather loud argument with another man, Authentic Terrific Nick aka Luca Sabalini. Luca was angry with Burns because Burns was going to print Luca’s secret recipe for his fat free pizza – it’s not fat free. Burns told Luca he’d reconsider putting that piece of information in his article if Luca did him a favor, only Burns died before he could tell Luca what that favor was.

Ryan is able to trace the phone call Burns made to Luca in order to find out where Burns had been staying, a hotel in Midtown. Castle and Beckett go check it out, finding Burns’ laptop in the hotel room. They also find Burns’ notepad with yesterday’s date and a phone number written on it. While Beckett is running down the phone number, Castle continues to look through the notepad, which turns up two names, Johnny Farrell and Swede Anderson. The names sound vaguely familiar to Castle. Beckett gets a hit on the phone number, a woman named Monica Wyatt (guest star Liz Vassey), and there’s a photo to accompany it. The woman is the same woman in the picture found in Burns’ wallet.

A quick chat with Monica reveals she and Burns dated a few years back, but only for a couple of months. They’d bumped into each other the other day in the Village and had made a date for the night before. Burns told Monica he was working on a story, and that he’d just come from the Hall of Records, but she had no idea what his story was about. He never showed for their date.

Ryan runs Burns’ financials and finds out Burns used his ATM card the night before, a little after 11pm, but his transaction was left incomplete. The transaction wasn’t canceled, more like Burns had been interrupted, so the machine ate his card.

Castle heads home and finds Alexis crying on his mother’s shoulder. Alexis decided to crash Lauren’s party, only to have it backfire on her. In fact, things went so badly that Alexis refers to Lauren as “the most conniving bitch in the entire world.” That’s right, Alexis said “bitch.” I’m as shocked as you are. Castle starts to reprimand her for it but Martha waves him off, telling him it was warranted. And it was from the sound of it. During the party, Lauren pulled Alexis’ boyfriend, Ashley, up on stage with her and kissed him in front of all to see. That little revelation causes Castle to let the B-word fly, though he quickly clamps a hand over his mouth. Ashley, ever the gentleman, left the party with Alexis, apologizing profusely even though it wasn’t his fault, just as any good boyfriend should. But, while Alexis knows the truth, Lauren took things a step further and posted pictures of she and Ashley kissing on her website, making it look like Ashley cheated on Alexis to all their friends.

Castle goes to Ryan for a little favor, even bribing him with Beckett’s coffee, which is never a good idea. Castle wants Ryan to have his tech friend hack into Lauren’s website and remove all the photos of Lauren kissing Ashley. Oh, and he doesn’t want Ryan to tell any of this to Beckett. But of course, Beckett knows all, sees all, and hears all, and she just overhead their conversation, or at least, the end of it. She then snatches her coffee from Ryan. You don’t mess with Beckett’s coffee. Sorry Ryan.

Beckett’s research turns up a new lead, a drug trafficker named Harley Romero, only, he’s been dead for eight years. Before they can dig into that any further, Esposito arrives with surveillance footage from the ATM. The footage shows Burns using the ATM, but he’s writing something, possibly a message. Before he can finish however, a man armed with a knife pops up behind him. A closer look at the footage identifies the armed man as the supposedly dead drug trafficker, Harley Romero.

Beckett and Castle bring Burns’ editor back in for questioning, hoping Shaw might be able to shed a little more light on Burns’ connection to Harley Romero. Shaw doesn’t recognize Harley’s name or picture, but when Castle asks him about the names Johnny Farrell and Swede Anderson, Shaw tells them they’re both names of characters from old film noir movies. Castle realizes that’s why the names sounded so familiar to him. This rings a bell with Shaw, who remembers a story Burns once worked on about drug traffickers but was never able to finish. The drug ring Burns was investigating at the time was set up inside legitimate businesses. Whenever someone came around to buy drugs, they’d use a code word. This particular ring used film noir character names as their code words. Shaw thinks this is the story that originally destroyed Burns since Burns was after the ring leader himself, a man named Cavallo. Beckett chocks it all up to street myth. There’s no such person named Cavallo, it’s all a story made up to scare off rival drug dealers and pin their murders on. Shaw insists Cavallo is real, and the fact that Burns was getting close to him is what got Burns’ daughter killed.

Beckett asks Ryan if he remembers Cavallo from his days in Narcotics, which is a nice little reminder of Ryan’s past. Ryan recalls hearing of Cavallo around the same time a bunch of drug dealers were murdered. That also happened to be around the time Harley was killed, which means Harley could’ve easily faked his death and started the rumors of Cavallo to scare off other rivals.

Esposito gets the enhanced footage of Burns at the ATM, and Castle is able to dechiper what Burns was writing. It’s an address. The team races to it only to discover an abandoned drug lab. Burns had hit the jackpot, but it looks like it cost him his life.

The next morning at the Castle loft, Alexis heads for the door in a rush with a quick goodbye to her father. Before she can get too far, Castle calls her over for a kiss goodbye. Alexis obliges but before she can get out the door, Castle notices a scratch beneath her left eye. He asks what happened and Alexis details the fight she had with Lauren. Lauren accused Alexis of removing the photos from her website, which Alexis claimed she didn’t, and the two exchanged words. Lauren scratched Alexis so Alexis punched her. Castle quotes Beckett on this one, reminding Alexis that retaliation is not the answer, she needs to be smart enough to rise above it all. Then of course, as most fathers would, Castle asks Alexis if she kicked Lauren’s ass. When Alexis says yes, Castle can’t help but be proud.

Back on the case, a canvass of the area around the abandoned drug lab turns up Burns’ phone. This strikes Castle as odd. Perhaps Burns didn’t drop it on accident but on purpose so that whoever was after him wouldn’t discover what was on it. After taking a closer look at Burns’ phone to see what he was trying to hide, they find a picture of Monica Wyatt in front of the drug lab.

The team heads to Monica’s place but she doesn’t answer. They hear a crash from inside, prompting Esposito to kick the door in. When they get inside they find Monica on the floor, her forehead bleeding, and the window is open but any suspects are long gone.

Monica tells Castle and Beckett that she and Burns did date, but that he was only using her to get close to Cavallo. Years ago Monica had money problems and got involved in drug trafficking to make money. She doesn’t know who Cavallo is or what he looks like, only his right hand man, Harley. Beckett is fairly certain that drugs are being trafficked through a pizza parlor, they just need to know which one, but Monica has no idea. Castle asks Monica if she’s ever heard the names Johnny Farrell and Swede Anderson. She says yes, that’s how Burns got onto the story in the first place. Those are Cavallo’s code names from last week, but she doesn’t know this week’s code names. Beckett has Ryan take Monica to Narcotics to see if she can be of any help to them.

After visiting two of the four Nick’s pizza parlors, Castle and Beckett pay a little visit to Terrific Authentic Nick’s. Castle steps up to the window and says they’re picking up for Sam Spade, the name of Humphrey Bogart’s character in “The Maltese Falcon.” The employee working the window looks the pair over before going to grab a pizza box from beneath the counter. Once he hands it over, Castle opens the box to find it’s full of bags of heroin.

They bring Sal in, who confesses to letting Harley use his business as a front for drug trafficking in exchange for him burning down Authentic Nick’s once he was done. After Harley killed Burns, he called Sal and asked him if he could use his oven to get rid of Burns’ body. Sal said no, which led Harley to put the body in the oven over at Authentic Nick’s. Beckett asks Sal to help them get in touch with Harley. Sal claims you don’t find Harley, Harley finds you. Whenever he runs out of drugs, Sal calls Harley and he appears with more. Beckett gets Sal to make the call and Harley arrives at Terrific Authentic Nick’s with a briefcase only to find Beckett and the boys waiting to arrest him.

The case appears to be wrapped except Castle is still bothered by the fact that Burns dropped his phone. Why would he ditch it if there wasn’t anything valuable on it? Beckett recalls the only thing on the phone being a picture of Monica Wyatt, who is just about to leave the station after her visit to Narcotics. Monica gets on the elevator just as Beckett figures it out and stops her.

A further investigation into Monica’s background reveals the real Monica Wyatt was a heroin addict who was shot to death. Right around the same time, the myth of Cavallo emerged. Monica is the real Cavallo. And if that weren’t enough, all of the names of Monica’s real estate clients are those of noir characters. Her story suddenly has more holes than Swiss cheese.

With the real kingpin now behind bars, Castle heads home with a little treat for his daughter – a pizza from her favorite place. Surprisingly enough, he still likes pizza after this case. Then again, dead body in a pizza oven aside, it would be hard not to like pizza. Castle asks Alexis how things went with Lauren and, after a mediation session with their school counselor, Alexis was able to get to the heart of the problem. Lauren didn’t like that Alexis was spending so much time with Ashley and was worried Alexis had ditched their friendship. Are they friends again? Too soon to tell. But time and pizza heal all.

Things We Learned This Episode:

  • Castle never passes up an opportunity to tease Beckett about being a fangirl.
  • Captain Montgomery has a sense of humor.
  • Castle and Beckett seem awfully comfortable sitting on a bed together. Inches apart. In a random hotel room. Just sayin’.
  • There really are apps for everything.
  • Beckett discovers Castle had many imaginary friends growing up, and still does.
  • Somewhere out there, there are naked pictures of Richard Castle. I wonder if Beckett has found them.

Written by Stephanie Guenzler.

Find her on Twitter @pure_believer.

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