In this week’s fabulous episode of Castle, we saw the comeback of the emotionally charged cases we were used to during the first few seasons of the show. “Under the Influence” gave us the opportunity to get to know Esposito’s background, as well as see him in a new role: that of mentor; all with the usual wit and heart that are Castle’s trademark.

The episode starts out with a hilarious Castle and Beckett moment, during which they discuss whether choosing to watch the movie Valentine’s Day will make Beckett lose a turn to choose another in the relationship. Wisely, Esposito mentions that she should lose two. The banter is quickly discarder, however, when they arrive at the crime scene and find professional DJ Holly Rhodes, a woman who grew up in foster care and was involved in several illegal activities before getting her act together, dead from a gunshot wound. Lanie indicates that the blood loss points out to the murder having occurred elsewhere, instead of in the dumpster where she was found.

The list of suspects isn’t long: initially composed only of rap singer M.C. Thug and Holly’s assistant, it quickly lengthens to include Monster, a 14 year old boy who’s re-baptized as Cookie Monster by Castle. Monster’s real name is Joey Malone, and he worked as Holly’s assistant for a few parties- coincidentally (not really), the parties attended by Joey inevitably end with the host or one of the guests losing jewelry and the like. The line between theft and murder, however, is a thick one, or so Espo and Beckett believe. Esposito’s theory that a seasoned criminal put Joey up to this kind of theft proves accurate when the name Shane Winters pops up on both Holly and Joey’s criminal records as the man who bailed them out.

Capturing him is no easy feat: Joey refuses to give Winters away, and he finds the way to let him know he’s a suspect, giving him time to burn the car where he transported the body and therefore get rid of all evidence. Joey’s loyalty is no rewarded, as Winters is quick to give him away in order to save his own skin. The case isn’t so easily closed, and finally the clues lead to the real killer, and not just the accomplice: pop star Regina Cane, who wanted to break into the studio of rival singer’s producer and illegally download her new album, making sure that it wouldn’t oversell hers when they both went public the following week. Holly, having found out the plan, rushed to the studio and tried to stop her, but only got killed for the trouble… and with her own gun. A major ouch situation, if you ask me.

But the case was more emotionally charged than that. Esposito was worried about what Winters would do to Joey if they set him loose, but also unwilling to throw him into juvie. He ended up taking him to his apartment, where he told him (and us) the story of his parents’ divorce and his complete lack of communication with his own father. Joey also came from a broken home, in his case because of his father’s death and his mother’s suicide. So it gave them the opportunity to bond a little, before Joey managed to, in Espo’s words, “pull a Houdini” and disappear through the window. By the time Esposito caught him, the kid had managed to call Winters, so following the “fool me once” rule, he took Joey to the precinct the next day, first handcuffed to him, then to the desk.

By the time Joey found out just how little affection Winters held for him, he finally gave him away. But his involvement with Espo doesn’t end there: Esposito talked to Joey’s school counselor and asked her to call him if the kid kept ditching school, and promised him to call and check in once a week. He showed Joey his own criminal record: apparently, Esposito has his own history with underage crime. He told him he needed the kind of help he’d found in a teacher who saw something in him that he didn’t even see himself. It was such a beautiful, heartwarming scene, and it really showcased both Jon Huertas and Nadji Jeter’s acting skills.

But the story goes even further: Esposito threatens, er, talks to Winters and tells him to stay away from Joey and every other kid out there, or he might find himself in the situation of being forced to kill… in self-defense, of course.

Baddass Espo and sweet Espo all in one episode? I approve.

What did you think of “Under the Influence”? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Caro

Book blogger, coffee junkie extraordinaire, lover of all things storytelling.