Credit: Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC Photo: Richard Castle in Episode 3.24, "Knockout"

Best opening of a Castle episode ever? It's up there.

Beckett makes her weekly prison trek to visit Hal Lockwood (the evil guy who shot bad cop John Raglan in the cafe) to get more info about her mom's murder. A corrections officer tells the detective that Lockwood has been transferred to the prison’s general population, which means he's going to go kill Gary McCallister, the other cop who was kidnapping mobsters for ransom with Raglan.

That's exactly what Lockwood does just as Beckett and guards burst in. Someone on the inside apparently forged the transfer order so this would happen. There's a hearing for Lockwood ...

Credit: Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC Photo: Beckett in the Aftermath of a Courtroom Breakout in Episode 3.24, "Knockout"

Obviously, Beckett Goes to the Hearing: She confronts Lockwood, who's all cocky ‘cause something big's about to go down. Just as the hearing's about to commence, Beckett notices the other cops in the courtroom acting fishy. Her hunch is correct, because seconds later they throw smoke bombs and help Lockwood escape in a helicopter. Damn.

Et Tu, Montgomery?: Lockwood made weekly collect calls to a burner cell phone, and someone finally picked up four days ago. He mentions the names Charlie and Mike, and just as Beckett's about to look up all of Lockwood's known associates, Esposito is like, hold up, "Charlie and Mike" is military jargon for "Continue Mission."

Killing McCallister was just a means for Lockwood to escape, so who is he after on the outside? Castle speculates that it's a third cop who was working with the now deceased Raglan and McCallister on the mob kidnappings. Montgomery looks super nervous while Castle is speaking, and holy crap he's a bad guy! He orders Ryan and Esposito to kill Lockwood on sight, which is very suspect since Lockwood has the answers Beckett needs. So. Upsetting. Anyway, they find the helicopter Lockwood got out in at a hangar in Jersey, but there's not much evidence in it.

Jim Beckett, Meet Rick Castle: So, Beckett's dad stops by Castle's loft to ask the writer to convince his daughter not to go after Lockwood so hard. It's a sweet scene, and seeing them both at the same table -- the two only reliable males in her life -- gives a little more weight to everything.

Credit: TV Overmind Photo: Beckett's Dad Pleads To Castle! Sneak Peek of Castle Season 3, Episode 24: "Knockout"

Chuck Ryker, You Were Not Long for This World: So, the corrections officer who signed Lockwood's transfer order? Yeah, that's Chuck Ryker, the guy who Beckett was all chummy with at the prison. He was having financial trouble, and $50,000 was transferred to his account before Lockwood's move (obvious much?). He also didn't show up for work, but that might be because someone shot him in the head. Looks like Ryker also made calls to that same burner number. It also appears that the money was wired through a Dubai branch of a Swiss bank. What the hell is going on?

The Third Cop: OK, no one in Ryker's life knew about his bad financial situation. The only way he could have been targeted is if someone high-ranking ran his financials and knew his weakness. This third cop (oh, Monty) isn't Lockwood's target, says Beckett -- he's helping to organize things. Beckett yells at Ryan and Esposito to look at Raglan and McCallister's old arrest records to find any clues.

It's a good thing they do, because via a circle of condensation from a beer bottle and his knowledge of typewriters, Castle realizes that someone altered the records, replacing the real arresting officer's name with the name Napolitano, a cop who conveniently died in 1993. Montgomery (how could you!) orders Ryan and Esposito to look into who was manning the records room back in the day.

When Castle asks the Captain to take Beckett off the case, Monty waxes nostalgic about the first time he met Beckett while she was looking up her mom's case in the archives room. He has guards watching her, but she's a girl who can't be told to stop. Castle goes to her apartment to try and stop her anyway, saying that she's preventing herself from true happiness. They start to talk about their relationship only to end up fighting. He leaves, seeking counsel in Martha, who gets the best lines of the ep, natch.

Montgomery Gets Two Big Scenes: Well, Beckett asks Monty to kick Castle to the curb and he agrees ... a little too easily, in fact. He also hands her a flask and says things like, "We speak for the dead." It's just weird and sad and foreboding.

Then Lockwood stops by Monty's house for a late-night visit. So, Monty was definitely the third cop. Lockwood says the agreement was Beckett stayed alive if Monty kept her on a leash, but that leash is too long for Lockwood's liking now. He threatens to hurt Monty's family if the Captain doesn't bring Beckett to the helicopter hangar.

The next day, Monty kisses his family, mails some mystery files, loads his gun, and makes the call to Becks.

Ryan and Esposito Fight!: As though we weren't stressed enough. Ryan and Esposito find a sergeant who used to work the records room and graduated with Raglan and McCallister.
They stop by to visit with him, and the sergeant whips out a photo of a young Monty hanging with ... Raglan and McCallister! Esposito doesn't want to believe it, even as Ryan's like, "Uh, hello! That's why he wanted us to kill Lockwood!" They throw some punches, but then text Beckett with the news as she's approaching Monty at the hangar.

Credit: ABC Photo: Captain Montgomery

Montgomery Dies a Hero of Sorts: Monty doesn't want to kill Beckett, just confess everything to her. He was a rookie at the time of the mob schtuff and just looked up to Raglan and McCallister. When he accidentally shot FBI Agent Bob Armen in the alley, he dedicated himself to becoming the best cop ever and thought he could protect Beckett if she was close to him. He didn't kill her mom, but feels responsible for her death.

All the ransom money from the mob kidnappings went to the guy at the top who found out about the cops' crimes. We still don't know this guy's name because Monty's afraid Becks will go after him. Monty plans to off all the remaining bad guys himself. Castle, who was called in by the once-good captain, arrives to physically carry Beckett out of there. After a shoot-out, Monty and Lockwood kill each other.

A Cliffhanger!: Beckett insists on protecting Monty's reputation, and while giving the eulogy at his memorial service, gets shot by a sniper. Castle cradles her, says he loves her ... and the episode ends!

We don't know who shot her or whether she'll die, but Monty's last words to Lockwood were that he had taken care of everything. Who did he mail those mystery files to? And do we really have to wait three months to find out?