James Swan was on the brink of celebrity stardom. Just a small town boy living in a lonely world, this Ithaca-born guitarist and his band had just been hailed the next Nirvana — and just like Kurt Cobain, his dream ended at the age of 27.
But unlike Cobain and the infamous members of the "27 club," James's death wasn't his own doing. Nope, he was murdered. Holy Shemp!
Behind the Music
Kate Beckett and the team arrive on the scene to find a dead body surrounded by cameras. But these cameramen aren't your average pesky paparazzi — they're part of a documentary crew that had been following the band for months, and without footage from the investigation, their film is a bust.
Beckett and Esposito try to fight them off, but the city's office of public relations deems the film "good PR" — and so does Captain Gates, much to our surprise — and with that, the 12th precinct is thrust into the spotlight. But not everyone is ready for their closeup …
And that includes Mr. James Swan, who is found dead in his trailer, bludgeoned to death by his own Gibson guitar. Unfortunately, the groupie in his closet — a strung-out Madam Butterfly — is pretty much useless. However, she does recall hearing some footsteps that sounded like horse hooves crunching in the snow just before passing out. Might wanna cut back on the drugs, lady … just sayin'.
The band's roadie, on the other hand, appears to be sober and offers some solid intel. Hank Rogers tells Espo and Ryan he saw an unmarked white van near James's trailer around the time of his death. The detectives trace the van to a man who was present in every single one of James's interview clips and paparazzi pics from the past few months. Looks like someone had a stalker!
Javi and Ryan go full-on Cops as they tackle him down and pull out their fanciest interrogation techniques, but as luck would have it, he was just Butterfly's doting dad. The only thing he was guilty of was letting his little girl get sucked into the sordid world of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.
Cue "Butterfly Kisses."
Meanwhile, Castle and Beckett put their heads together to form some theories of their own. After speaking with the other band members, they learn that James had blown off an important meeting the day he died. Butterfly's dad also reported seeing him head to a bank in SoHo before entering a building on Lafayette and Broome. Was he jonesin' for smack?
Nope. Lanie says his blood panels came back clean — but what's particularly interesting is just how clean. Turns out James had no antibodies for polio, which means he was never vaccinated. Even weirder? He had no medical records before the age of 17!
Something else worth noting is James's tattoo — the word "observe" across his forearm — a little tidbit you can tuck away for later reference.
Detective Beckett mulls it all over, doing her darndest to avoid the cameras, while Castle uses the opportunity to plug his Nikki Heat books. Shameless!
(Ithaca) New York State of Mind
Detective Esposito takes the reins on the SoHo pit stop, concluding that James paid a visit to a man named Sam Spear. Just before the visit, he withdrew $25K in cash, presumably to pay off Sam, who accused James of stealing one of his songs.
But he's not the killer. The two apparently settled the dispute, and Sam had even agreed to write a couple of songs for James — songs that were quite different from Holy Shemp's usual sound. Uh-oh, was James killed because he was about to fly solo?
Castle and Beckett barge in on the band's audition to interrogate the lead singer, whose shoes sound awfully similar to horse hooves crunching in the snow. Sorry, Ms. Butterfly, we stand corrected. But Keith maintains that he didn't kill James, explaining that he simply confronted his bandmate about the rumors before leaving his trailer — and he's even got a sex tape alibi to prove it. Some people will do anything to get on camera!
Just when they think they're back at square one, Detective Ryan discovers the smoking gun — James's mysterious link to Ithaca, New York. The band mentioned that he hadn't been the same since their show upstate, and we're about to find out why.
Remember James's tat we told you about, the one that said "observe"? It used to say "serve" — that is, before he escaped the 28-acre compound known as The Church of Worldly Enlightenment. Holy Shemp, our victim grew up in a religious cult!
The cult's leader, John Campbell, had priors and motive — plus he met with James the day of his death — so Castle and Beckett decide to pay him a friendly little visit. In another shocking twist, Beckett finally lets her hair down for a little Cops Gone Wild, pounds her fists on the table, and demands a confession. Is it hot in here?
Unfortunately, Campbell's not talking — but luckily the evidence is. Ryan and Esposito come across an old missing persons report, filed by cult leader Campbell, for one Buck Cooper. Buck was one of James's old friends from back on the compound, and he was declared missing when the musician went back to help him escape.
So who is this mysterious Buck? None other than Hank "roadie" Rogers!
Time to Face the Music
Castle and Beckett catch up with the roadie, who explains that James gave Campbell $25K in exchange for his freedom, and in turn, Campbell swore not to bother them again — a promise he upheld.
So if Campbell didn't murder James, who did? Enter stage left, Holy Shemp's hipster bassist!
Turns out, James had planned to offer Buck a spot in the band — after all, he was his first mentor — but that would have meant musical death for an existing member of the band. When Zeke heard he was the one being pushed out, he snapped and murdered James Swan in a cold-blooded fit of rage. Case closed!
But the show is far from over, people. Somewhere in the bullpen, two wayward detectives are singing their hearts out to the dulcet sounds of Holy Shemp's newest single. While we'd love to stay and watch, we're too busy following Kate Beckett as she turns the tables on the cameramen and locks them in a closet — a hiding spot she's all too familiar with.
Esposito can definitely sing, but Kate's mischievous laugh? That's the real music to our ears!