Credit: Colleen Hayes /ABC Television Group © 2012 Disney Photo: Senator Bracken in Castle Season 5, Episode 13: "Recoil"

Castle’s back! Fans might have been reeling over the last couple of episodes, but we got almost everything we could have dreamed of last night: Caskett moments, action, and intense Beckett and Bracken stare-offs. If only a Caskett kiss could have weaseled its way on-screen, we’d be over the moon. But we’ll settle for a B v. B showdown instead. So let’s get into it.

Just in case you’re wondering, Castle doesn’t think Alexis and new boyfriend, Max, are that serious, because Castle hasn’t actually met him yet. Let’s just get that part out of the way, since it only took up about 30 seconds of the episode in the first place. What else are Beckett and Castle supposed to talk about in the car on their way to a crime scene?

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Credit: Colleen Hayes /ABC Television Group © 2012 Disney Photo: Senator Bracken Arrives at the Precinct in Castle Season 5, Episode 13: "Recoil"

Bracken’s Back!

In other news, all a homeless man wanted to do was get warm near a barrel fire, but instead he found a dead body inside. Charred beyond identifiable recognition, Lanie uses a titanium screw in her jaw to ID the victim, Melanie Rogers, an eco-friendly engineer from New Jersey. Ryan pulls her phone records and notices that she had only called two numbers in recent history, the last of which was to her half-sister the day she died. The other calls were to a DC cell phone number, leading the 12th to believe she was seeing someone who might still be in the city.  

Her sister, Julie, doesn’t know anything about the mystery gentleman, however, she tells the detectives that Melanie was meeting someone a few nights ago. Beckett also inquires about Melanie’s last phone call, but Julie never spoke to her. In a voicemail message, a panicked Melanie said that something wasn’t right, and if anything happened to her, to look for a specific license plate number. Before she could finish reading it off, Melanie was shot. As the phone drops to the grounds, Beckett could hear the clicking noise of a Zippo lighter.  

Beckett and Castle are led to the Standish Hotel, known for it’s clientele discreteness, but the hotel manager won’t divulge names so easily. Sure he recognizes Melanie, but he won’t give up who she was meeting there. Clearly this guy’s an amateur, because one drop of the word “warrant” and suddenly the manager whips out a newspaper, points to a photo of Senator Bracken, and disappears.

Ding, ding, ding! The cell phone Melanie called matches Bracken’s number, meaning somehow he is involved. Beckett gets all revengey-eyed, seeing this as her chance to finally bring down the corrupt senator on a non-corrupt level, but Castle’s concerned that his lady love will go in with guns blazing and spook the senator into killing another Beckett. She’s gotta play this carefully.

Enter Ryan and Esposito to hop on over to Bracken’s quarters. He’s working on unveiling a piece of legislation that could put him front and center for the Presidency, and Melanie was helping him with his keynote speech, set for the next night at the Widmark Hotel. But Ryan and Espo poke “The Dragon” after they accuse him of canoodling with the victim instead. Bad move, guys.  

Credit: Colleen Hayes /ABC Television Group © 2012 Disney

X Marks the Spot!

Back at the precinct, everyone is still pointing fingers at Bracken, despite his clean bill of alibi. After all, his style is hiring someone else to kill for him. They just have to connect the real shooter to Bracken, and the case is closed. Or is it?

Our crime fighters narrowed down the actual crime scene to a parking garage near the Widmark, and spot the car that Melanie mentioned. Inside they find a duffel bag carrying a sniper rifle, a map of the Widmark, and a notebook with Bracken’s face crossed out in red. What does it all mean? It means that Bracken isn’t the suspect, he’s the target. And just like that, monkey meets wrench in Beckett’s dream scenario of punishing Bracken.

Ugh, now Senator Bracken has infested the precinct with his increased security needs. Beckett and Bracken come face-to-face for the first time since the pistol-whip incident (can we get a replay of that?) and Gates is all cancel your speech before you get shot, Sir. But it’s Castle’s I-write-murders-for-a-living-and-you-haven’t-even-seen-the-ones-that-didn’t-make-my-book eyes that Bracken should really be afraid of. Oh, and Beckett’s the one leading this particular investigation, so really Bracken’s not safe anywhere. The two of them talk in private, and as much as Beckett wants to see Bracken six feet under, she’s going to do her job. He agrees to send over all of the threatening letters he has received over the years to try and match the handwriting found in the notebook.

Castle and Beckett rummage through the letters, while Castle tries to get Beckett to open up about the situation and all of its dilemma-filled drama. But she saves that for Dr. Burke when she finds a letter matching the notebook, but hides it from Castle. She could turn it in like the good cop that she is, but a large part of her wants to let the assassination attempt go through as planned, solving all of her problems. Dr. Burke tells her to choose the one she could live with.

The next morning, she has a change of heart and decides to show the letter to Espo, Ryan, and Castle, mainly because she sees Julie crying and realizes that the actual killer needs to be brought to justice. But before she can say anything, the gang catch a break and are led to Robert McManus, a schizophrenic whose latest episodes were triggered by the death of his son, believed to be caused by Bracken.

Credit: Colleen Hayes /ABC Television Group © 2012 Disney

Hit Me With Your Best Shot!

When they raid McManus’s apartment, he’s nowhere to be found, but Beckett sees McManus coming off the elevator. When he runs, she fires a couple rounds to make it look like she tried to stop him. So now McManus is gone, and traces of C-4 were found in his apartment. Beckett feels awful, because she just thought it was Bracken that he was after. If innocents get hurt in a bomb explosion, she would never forgive herself.

And don’t think Beckett still isn’t saintly. She comes clean to Castle about hiding the letter, because she doesn’t know what kind of person that makes her for not actively stopping the man who wants to kill Bracken. OK, maybe saintly isn’t the right word, but we still love Beckett, and who could blame her, given the circumstances?

McManus is eventually found and questioned by Beckett, since she’s in the same boat of wanting Bracken to pay. But McManus thinks Beckett is trying to set him up. He won’t say anything regarding the whereabouts of the bomb. Before Beckett can flip a table, Gates storms in and says they found the bomb-covered vest. Case closed, and Gates tells Bracken he’s safe again.

Credit: Colleen Hayes /ABC Television Group © 2012 Disney

Click, Click, Boom!

Castle heads over the Beckett’s apartment, and finds her examining the case file again. She’s got reason to believe the case isn’t over, and thinks McManus was set up. How could someone that disheveled pull off something so advanced and sophisticated? Plus, McManus doesn’t smoke, and they heard a lighter over the voicemail. Things just aren’t adding up, and Beckett believes that this was all just a distraction, so that the real bomb could be set up. Going on a hunch, Beckett makes a risky call and has the Widmark Hotel evacuated.

Bracken is furious and presumes that Beckett is just trying to get back at him. When the bomb squad doesn’t find anything, Bracken vows to make her pay for ruining his speech. Beckett freaks out, knowing that if she’s wrong about all this, her career could be over. Suddenly, Beckett hears the clicking sounds, like she heard in Melanie Rogers’ voicemail, and sees a man pull out a detonator. Beckett runs over to the limo and tackles Bracken away from the explosion, and Castle stops the limo driver before he can get away. The final nail in the coffin was traces of Melanie’s blood found in the driver’s apartment.

The limo driver disguised himself as Robert McManus, to frame him, but Melanie, who recognized the driver’s real identity, caught on and was killed for knowing the truth. In the end, the limo driver was hired by Ben Moss, a former Presidential hopeful, and now big-time kingmaker with great political influence. Bracken had Moss publically arrested, a heroic move that could make for a good President.