Recap: Hong Kong Hustle

CASTLE - "Hong Kong Hustle" - After a man is mysteriously murdered in a park, Castle and Beckett team up with a competitive, high-powered female detective from Hong Kong, who has information about the victim. But as Beckett digs deeper into the case, she realizes neither her Hong Kong colleague nor the victim may be quite who they seem, on "Castle," MONDAY, MARCH 16 (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright) LINDA PARK, STANA KATIC

After three week hiatus, Castle returned with the first solo offering Chad Creasey. The promo for this that followed “The Wrong Stuff” didn’t do this episode any favors because almost immediately, people were moaning and groaning. In way, they were right to mumble. I don’t blame this on Mr. Creasey. Instead, I view this as a systematic failure of the leadership overall on the show. Once again, this was an episode where they had to change character histories to fit the plot. Writing to plot has become the norm this season and it was ever present in this episode.

It’s usually about this time the writers start to foreshadow future arcs, and the big one is Beckett’s career. Unlike season five where it seemingly fell out of the sky, the seem to be laying the foundation for the next big thing to come Beckett’s way.

While checking up on a newsletter sent out by the NYPD, she learns that an academy mate just made captain. He rose faster than her through the ranks (promotions from sergeant to lieutenant to captain are exam based).  This unsettles her a little bit and even shakes her up into think about what her future lies. In “The Time of Our Lives” Beckett was a captain. In season five’s “The Human Factor” she told Agent Stack she said she had no interest—but the catch with that was 1-PP. We don’t know about the precinct level, though we may soon find out.

The case of the week introduces another person to rock Beckett’s confidence in the form of a hot shot cop from Hong Kong (totally irrelevant and is pointless information) who apparently is at the top of her career and life. She’s everything that Beckett wants to be but probably isn’t the best role model. (Psst, Beckett—Agent Jordan Shaw.)

Inspector Zhang has gone rogue. She’s in town because a close friend is the 12th’s murder victim of the week. Beckett and Zhang are similar in many ways. They’re both dedicated and driven detectives. Both will stop at nothing to get justice. And that drive often clouds their judgment, as Beckett knows all too well.

It’s bad enough we have “The Time of Our Lives” that treated us to a version of Beckett that was all work and no play we get yet another reminder of what letting work get in the way of the things that really matter, love and family. I’m still not clear on the purpose of this episode other than to further Beckett’s overall dilemma about what she wants out of life and her career.

Zhang controls the entire investigation which only makes Beckett feel less confident in her abilities and didn’t help that Castle wasn’t exactly the best cheerleader and supporter of Beckett and her (superior) skills. Castle acted more like he Castle in “Tick! Tick! Tick!/Boom” with all of Agent Shaw’s gizmos and gadgets than someone who should have been re-assuring as Beckett’s husband.

Beckett was jealous then, too of Agent Shaw and she was a perfect of example and model of what Beckett could become if she chose. So there’s a theme and precedent, so the need to dredge up old plot lines is a head scratcher and not unexpected after seven years. But there was a point to Zhang’s appearance. It’s about trying to find balance as a woman and she fails miserably at it.

The case setup follows this Henry was asked by a Chinese matron (not sure what you call her) who owns a business to silence (not kill, but frame) a competitor. That’s who they finger first but it turns out, Henry died trying to save his girlfriend who wanted her freedom from the matron.

This episode actually brings up a very real problem: human trafficking. People who want a better life but can’t afford it so they find sponsors to pay for their journey to the United States. As repayment, they work in the service of their “sponsor.”

“Hong Kong Hustle” also borrows another plot an earlier episode, “The Mistress Always Spanks Twice.” In that episode, the victim was about to embark on new life but the roommate was co-dependent and feared a life without the roommate. So, she killed the roommate. It’s the same thing with “Hong Kong Hustle.” A girl who came over with the victim’s girlfriend didn’t want to lose her.

The point to this episode was that Beckett realized she can do more, be more without having to sacrifice what matters most to get there. She’s making a list of priorities. And the episode ended with probably the single best quote this season: “You cannot leave behind what is always at your side.”

“Hong Kong Hustle” wasn’t the show’s finest hour this season. It was par for the course. But like “The Wrong Stuff,” the writers are laying the foundation for the show’s future, whatever that is going into May.


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