‘Castle’ 5.23 Episode Recap and Review: The Human Factor

Good Morning Castle Fans! It’s a busy morning in New York City. An unassuming man in a bright red tie is standing on the sidewalk, waiting for someone. He checks his watch and looks around. He sees a black sedan that seems to worry him and he hurries to get into his car, checking his mirrors to view the sedan. Then BOOM! His car explodes.

At that moment in Castle’s apartment a war is raging. Castle is playing with his remote controlled tank and providing commentary all along the way. As his tank strays from the battlefield he sees something in it’s camera (mounted to the top of the tank). It’s Beckett, trying to decide what to wear for work. He very helpfully suggests she stick with the undergarments she has on, or less if she prefers. She looks around, spots the camera and tosses a shirt over it (pervert!-That’s Field Marshal Pervert to you!) Beckett’s phone rings and Castle answers it (a perk of being outed by Gates) and the team is on the case!

But what case is there really? It appears to be a car bomb, but when Beckett and Castle arrive at the scene most of the evidence has been confiscated by Homeland Security and they aren’t looking to share. In fact, they threaten to arrest anyone who sticks their nose into their investigation. But Beckett is not deterred. This is her murder investigation. But how to proceed when we don’t even know who the victim is! But wait, one of the officers found a wallet that obviously has been through an explosion. The man in the car is Dale Tanner. He is an activist who routinely took on big government and business. When they interview Tanner’s wife and son they find out that Tanner was the founder of “Whistle Blowers Anonymous”, a website dedicated to exposing corruption. Mrs. Tanner knows very little about her husband’s work, he had moved out of the family home 2 months ago to “protect” the family. He was being followed by government agents (black sedan, anyone). He did have a partner in his work, but she knows nothing about this person. At this point the son gets very angry and storms out after demanding to know why she is helping the cops, after all they are just helping the government cover up the murder of his father.

Back at the precinct is starting to look more and more like a cover up is taking place. Homeland is blocking every avenue of investigation, they have sealed his office, blocked his phone records, taken his computer. There is no shortage of suspects because of Tanner’s work, but how do they investigate? They start with the bomb.

Turns out it wasn’t a bomb in the usual sense, but we will get to that in a minute. First we need to interview Tanner’s girlfriend. Yep, his girlfriend. It seems he had other reasons for moving out of his family home. He left his wife. But his new love isn’t what she appears to be. She is actually a spy for one of the companies that Tanner tried to take down. For a minute she looks like a good suspect for the bombing but her job didn’t involve murder. She points the finger back at his wife, who had just found out about the affair and had threatened to kill her husband. When Beckett interviews the wife again, she admits to the threats but denies the murder. She truly believes that it is his work that got him killed. And it looks like she could be right. The bomb has been identified as a missile. That’s right, a missile. The kind that is fired from a drone. As in a U.S. military drone. As in it looks like their prime suspect just became the U.S. of A. But really, can this be possible? Apparently so. Drone testing routinely takes place at nearby Fort Drummond and Beckett and Castle are on the way their to a meeting at the base. But that meeting doesn’t go well. They are stonewalled at every turn. They leave with no answers, just more frustration.

That frustration builds when they get a call from the boys and discover that the rest of their evidence has been seized. The meeting was a ploy to find out what they knew, what evidence they had. And now it is gone. But Ryan has been able to track down the partner. His name is Omar Dickson a former student of Tanner’s from the college where he taught law to make ends meet. Omar is nowhere to be found but his girlfriend says he was friends with Tanner’s son, Sean. At first Sean won’t admit to knowing Omar, but finally he agrees to call him and set up a meeting.

Omar is expecting to meet Sean, but Beckett takes the meeting instead. Omar is obviously spooked and wants nothing to do with the investigation. He says he is being followed. He claims that he isn’t Tanner’s partner, he is his part time I.T. guy. He set up the website and helped maintain it and upload documents to it. While they are talking we can see that they are being followed, they round a corner and when the follower follows Beckett grabs him. Omar bolts in fear and Beckett takes the mystery man into custody. She has seen this man before. He was at the crime scene and at Fort Drummond, who is he?

Well, at first our mystery man is not talking, sure that he will be released at any moment. And he is. Beckett takes a call from the Attorney General and she agrees to release the man, in exchange for information. To start with, who is this man. His name is Gerald Stack and he is a special investigator with the Attorney General’s office. He is investigating Tanner’s murder and was trying to keep a low profile to give the A.G’s office plausible deniability, like Mission Impossible (only no mask).

Stack agrees that a drone was used to kill Tanner, but argues that it would be foolish for the government to use a drone to kill him. Why not just gun him down in the street. Why use a weapon that could so easily be traced back to him? Beckett has a great answer for this, because like most killers, they think they are going to get away with it. Then Stack gets a call. He has video feed from the drone. It wasn’t from Fort Drummond, but it was U.S. military. It is from a nearby National Guard base. The footage includes audio of the pilot losing control of the drone. It shows everything right up to the explosion. But the pilot obviously was not in control of the drone. It had been hacked. Hacked. Now there is a scary thought. U.S. military drones being hacked and redirected by persons unknown. Well, maybe not quite unknown, according to Stack there is one man who could do this. (No Castle, it’s not SkyNet) Simon Warburg. He is the only man with the talent to do this. Stack tells the team he is done with them, given them what they asked for and now he is off to find Warburg. But Beckett doesn’t give up so easy. Warburg is their prime suspect and she is intent on finding him.

They manage to dig up a video of Warburg explaining why he is against the use of unmanned drones (actually a very compelling argument) and Beckett notices something. The books in the background. They are all first editions, collectors items. So, Warburg is a collector and since he had to abandon his collection when he went into hiding (and he has OCD) it is possible he will be trying to rebuild his collection. Ryan will begin checking in the morning, but for now let’s get some sleep.

Castle is snug as a bug in a rug, tucked up in his bed snoozing when a noise wakes him. It is his toy tank and it is on the move across the bed towards him. He jumps from the bed in fear, grabs a bat and takes out the tank. But his helicopter is on the attack, flying up from the far side of the bed. Castle calls for Kate, they need to make a run for it. She emerges from from the covers laughing, holding the remotes for the toys. She got him good, he was sure they were under attack! The phone rings, it’s Ryan who is working late. He has tracked down the bookstore that Warburg is using to rebuild his collection.

Castle and Beckett visit the store the following morning and Castle is impressed with the it, until he notices his latest book on the 50% off display. OUCH. But the owner does recognize “Mr. Smith” a very discerning collector who normally picks up his orders by bicycle. This tells us he lives in the area. A check of recently purchased property leads Beckett and Castle on a search. We catch up with them at the last place on their list and Castle is sure this is it (he has apparently been sure of this each time). But as they approach the residence it seems he may be right as they are being gunned down by a drone. Beckett pulls her weapon to return fire and Castle grabs her backup piece from her ankle holster. They both fire on the drone and it goes down. Castle is quick to take credit for the “kill”. He needs to redeem his manhood after the “rise of the machines” incident last night. But Beckett has noticed that the drone was firing blanks. Enter Mr. Warburg, who is not happy that his drone has been shot down. It was meant to scare off trespassers, like them.

Warburg admits to killing Tanner. But we quickly learn that he isn’t speaking literally. He is not responsible for the drone attack directly. He explains how he used to work on the drone project, how he realized that the next generation of drones would not have the human factor of a pilot to make decisions and how he could not live with that. He tells a very poignant story of a pilot who aborted a mission that would have killed an innocent newlywed couple who just happened to be driving a car matching the description of known terrorists. He was afraid of what would happen in the future when the human factor was removed from the process and so he abandoned his work. More that that, he was working with Tanner to try to stop the work for progressing. He actually has a program that monitors drones in real time and can take over one of them. But he didn’t use it. He was nowhere near a computer when Tanner died. But he had given a copy of the program to Tanner. He wanted him to upload the program to his website, to force the government to take all drones offline. But Tanner was not willing to put so many lives in danger and refused to use it. He returned the program to Warburg. After his death Warburg checked the program and found it had been copied onto a flash drive. This leads us right back to Omar the assistant.

Enter Mr. Stack, who is able to track Omar using facial recognition software. Omar has fled the country. He boarded a flight to Beirut. But no worries, Stack has got this. He calls the A.G. and gets the flight called back. And he gives Beckett the interrogation. He is obviously impressed with Beckett, a fact that Castle picks up on. Beckett questions Omar and quickly realizes that this man is scared and innocent. He didn’t kill Tanner. But he can point us to the only other person to have access to the program.

Turns out this was a family matter all along. Sean Tanner killed his father for breaking his mother’s heart (and his) and destroying their home. He had set up a meeting with his dad, so he knew where he would be and he used the program to hack a drone and send that missile into his father’s car. Case closed.

One last thing before we go. Stack wants a private word with Beckett. He has a job offer for her. An interesting one, doing what he is doing. In Washington D.C. She seems thoughtful, but chooses not to tell Castle about the offer. I sense trouble in paradise ahead…..

As usual, a very interesting and enjoyable episode. I admit to being a bit worried about the season finale though. This storyline has been done to death in these types of shows and I worry that we may be falling into a rut. What do you think?


  1. I enjoyed watching this episode. Agree that the whole storyline of throwing obstacles in the way of the relationship has been done many times, but Andrew Marlowe always has a slightly different perspective on it and manages to keep it fresh. It’s the season finale so they just had to throw in some serious relationship drama to keep us coming back in the fall for Season 6! My favorite season finale was the end of Season 2 when Beckett asks “See you in the Fall?”
    Thanks for the recap!

  2. Find it interesting that Beckett did not tell Castle about the offer …. choppy waters ahead if he finds out! Nice twists and turns in this episode and some good supporting actors.

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