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Nudie Pics, Blackmail, and Murder! Castle Recap for Season 3, Episode 23: ”Pretty Dead”

To the very loud strains of "Born This Way," a group of glittery contestants from Victor Baron's All-American Beauty Pageant rehearse on his hotel's stage. Things are going great until a lighting truss is lowered revealing the dead body of 21-year-old Miss Illinois, Amber Middleberry. Screaming, lots of screaming.

Credit: Vivian Zink/ABC    

People Love the Underbelly

Perlmutter is covering for Lanie, and says the young contestant was strangled with her own sash sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. There was also a black sequin in found her hair, which hardly seems like a clue since this is a pageant. Amber attended a dinner party for Victor Baron the night of her murder and checked back into her hotel room at 10:43. Amber's dad says everybody liked her (oh, Dad!), which obviously can't be true.

Baron and his wife, Kayla, are too busy pretending to be upset to actually feel upset. Baron has cameras filming the whole pageant process, including the dinner party, so there's lots of juicy behind-the-scenes footage recorded. One of Amber's fellow contestants says she heard Amber fighting with some guy in her dressing room, but Justin Hankel, Amber's pageant consultant, insists it wasn't a boyfriend. He also says that Amber had recently been crying and said she felt taken advantage by someone.

Judging by the footage from the dinner party, where Amber makes the most disgusted face ever at pageant host Bobby Stark, Castle and Beckett think it could be him. Conveniently, he's also wearing a black sequined jacket.

Credit: Vivian Zink/ABC    

The Sequins Are a Match!

Three women have filed restraining orders against Bobby in the last year, because he is that much of a charmer. He does a scene from Taxi Driver in the interrogation room, which seems like a bad choice given the circumstances. The very high star says he was just trying to get Amber on his Goddess Train and doesn't remember where he was when she was killed. Esposito finds out that Bobby was tweeting photos of his "manhood" from a cab at the time of the murder, and so he has the most ludicrous alibi ever.

And the Violin Played On

Amber's pageant talent was violin, and according to the footage taken at the fancy dinner, she had the instrument with her, but it was missing from her room during the sweep. The cops find it in a dumpster behind the Baron Hotel with Miss Georgia Joy Jones' fingerprints all over it. The very high-strung Joy admits to taking the violin from Amber's room to sabotage her, but found something very incriminating inside the case — nude photos of Amber! With a note on the back: "You know my price. Pay up or I'll destroy you." Blackmail, much?

The Moral of the Story Is That Boyfriends Can Be Creepy

So, Amber had no way to pay off whomever was blackmailing her. Pageant consultant Justin says that Amber's hair in the photo looks like the style she wore six months ago, right around the time she got headshots taken by a photog named Dax Lattimer. Dax insists to Ryan and Esposito he didn't take any dirty pics, and that Amber was with her annoying boyfriend the day of the shoot, who fancied himself a photographer. Turns out his name is Jeremy from Illinois, and Amber broke up with him last year. Apparently, he didn't get that memo, because he moved to NYC last month. We need to take a break here for a second.

Credit: Vivian Zink/ABC    

Ashley Shows Up at the Station

OK, here's what happened. Ashley got into Stanford, but decided to stay closer to home to be with Alexis. Alexis broke up with him so he would do what's best for him and not what's best for her. In a rather extreme move, she also cuts off all communication with him. Ashley opts for Stanford instead and begs Castle to talk to Alexis for him. He thinks they can make the long-distance thing work.

Ah, to be 17!

Castle feels awkward, especially when Ash says, "Have you ever been crazy about someone who's determined to push you away?" Thank you for the new tag line. While we're here talking about things unrelated to the case, how distracting is Beckett's denim and leather jacket?

Jeremy Is a Stalker, Not So Much a Killer

He has that going for him at least. C&B burst into his apartment and find naked pics of Amber taped to the door. Behind the door, unfortunately, is his dead body. It looks like he hanged himself, but really he was strangled. And get this — he was killed before Amber was! Jeremy's hard drive was also wiped clean, which means that someone else wanted the evidence of those pics and the blackmail wiped out.

Alexis Break!

As she sits forlornly gazing at photos of time gone by, Castle delivers Ashley's message to Lex. She asks him if he thinks a long-distance relationship is a good idea, and he says she has to take a chance. He would hate for her to be so focused on the problem that she misses the big picture. Missing...picture...yup. They weren't looking closely enough at Amber's naked photo surroundings.

Credit: Vivian Zink/ABC    

Didn't We Know Victor Baron Was Involved?

The photos of Amber were taken in Baron's vacation home while he was having a little fling with her. But here's the kicker. Jeremy took the photos while Baron was out, and he and Amber were working together to blackmail the pageant chief. Amber agreed not to reveal the pics if Baron slipped her the pageant questions. The only other person Baron told about the blackmail was pageant manager Candace Ford. Both she and Victor have alibis, though. The pool of suspects is dwindling fast.

It Must Be Justin

Yep, pageant consultant Justin killed Jeremy first after finding the photos, because he thought Jeremy was blackmailing Amber, his prized pageant jewel. Well, he wasn't, and when Amber found out, she threatened to go to the police. Bye-bye, Amber.

Is Montgomery Retiring or Dying or Neither?

What starts off as sweet — Monty's wife stops by the station on their 30th wedding anniversary — quickly turns sad. The Captain announces he's retiring next year to spend more quality time with Mrs. Monty. This is legit upsetting, but it gets worse. Beckett tells Castle that Montgomery is always crying retirement and that "he's not going anywhere." We know someone dies in the finale. Is it him? Was that hint-hint too obvious? What is going on here?

Oh, and Alexis is following Ashley to Stanford.

05.10.2011 / 07:33 PM EDT by Lauren Bull
Related: Castle, Recaps

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