This is a special recap of “Kill Shot” and we will have a shortened version posted in a day or two that is like the other recaps. This episode is a particular favorite and we wanted to cover this a bit more thoroughly.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT THIS EPISODE | Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious mental health condition that affects more than just soldiers and emergency services personnel. It can affect anyone who’s experienced a traumatic event. Detective Kate Beckett still has the physical scars from the shooting but she is also suffering from the psychological effects. Her symptoms don’t go unnoticed by those around her. The depiction of Beckett’s of PTSD is about as honest and real as they come.
THE CASE | Someone is targeting people in New York City. The sniper has carefully picked his victims based on their success. Each victim that Beckett comes across triggers a PTSD episode and each sends her further spiraling to the point of no return. The team is finally able to connect the shooter to a series of tokens left behind that point to the next shooting. They eventually are able to figure how the shooter is and where his next, and last, target will be.
When they finally catch up with the suspect, Beckett tries to talk him into finding another way. She tells the suspect that if he’s going to shoot her, he has to look in her eyes. They are too much alike she tells him. But he’s not backing down. Esposito saves Beckett’s life by shooting the suspect thus proving to her that snipers are also a force for good.
BECKETT’S PTSD | As someone who knows people who suffered and continue to suffer from PTSD, I can tell you first hand that the symptoms are not always apparent and they can mask themselves as something else. The important thing to remember is to give the person space and not crowd them. Castle knows Beckett is having trouble coping with the case. He goes to Esposito for advice. As a combat veteran, Esposito knows what Beckett is going though. He is the only person who understand. And his the only person who can get through to Beckett to find a way to cope and come to terms with her shooting.
The first shooting stirs up memories of her shooting as the victim is shot through the heart. Her team goes so far as to avoid the word of sniper out of fear it might upset Beckett. At home, she starts to replay her own shooting in her mind.
The second victim starts to bring more episodes. First, the jump at a car door shutting. The sounds of the traffic and emergency sirens only heighten her anxiety. She starts looking around for a place where the shooter could be hiding. One of the symptoms of PTSD is hypervigilance—exaggerated behaviors designed to detect threats. Everyone notices it—Castle, Lanie—they all see it. It’s also getting harder for her to cover-up what’s eating away at her and for her to focus on the case. Things come to a head when she hears a siren and she ducks down. Esposito becomes fully aware of what is going on with Beckett. And they all just stare at her.
Back at the precinct, Beckett is there but she’s got all these feelings and memories. Castle makes a mistake by approaching her on what happened at the scene. It only provokes Beckett to be defensive. She tries to withdraw from people, from the situation.
Triggers become the key here. Previously, the word sniper didn’t bother her. But at the precinct it triggers another episode. That sends her to her therapist. She doesn’t understand what’s going on with her. This is new territory—she’s been able to handle herself emotionally in some pretty tough and dangerous situations. And for someone who’s in control of her emotions she was finding herself unable to control what is going on inside her head.
Beckett: You don’t understand. I need to be okay.
Dr. Burke: That’s not always a choice, Kate. What you’re describing—hypervigilance—is a classic symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Beckett: I don’t have PTSD.
Dr. Burke: You were shot by a sniper. I think it’s fair to say this case is going to bring up issues. Issues you still haven’t dealt with.
Beckett: Okay, then fine. I’ll with them. Right now, I need to figure out how to make this stop.
Dr. Burke: It’s not going to stop. Not without time and treatment. The psychological trauma is as every bit real as the physical trauma.
Beckett: Listen, people are dying out there. I don’t have time to get all weepy over a couple of scars.
Dr. Burke: Okay, so what’s the alternative? Walking around thinking you have crosshairs at your back. Thinking every glint off a window is a sniper scope?
Beckett: Look, there’s gotta be a pill out there or something, right? Something to take the edge off.
Dr. Burke: Medication can help. But not right away.
Beckett: Then what?
Back at the precinct, the boys talk about Beckett. They’re concerned about Beckett. Esposito tells Castle to give Beckett space and don’t take it personally.
When Beckett returns from her emergency therapy session she’s shaking and it’s really only a matter of time before her world comes crashing down around her. The boys will have her back throughout the rest of the episode, covering for her as she continues to sort through the emotions.
They track a shell casing to a gun range owner who was once a former special ops sniper. In the interrogation, more symptoms from PTSD start to manifest itself when Beckett goes after the gun owner. Castle can only watch as Beckett unloads her pain from her shooting onto this guy. Beckett has convinced herself that this guy is the shooter. But when they come out of interrogation, Esposito delivers the ballistics report—no match. And his alibis check out. It’s back to square one.
Beckett has more flashbacks at the precinct when she is staring at the murder board. Castle brings her out of with coffee—it’s a light scene. Beckett says she’s fine to Castle.
Beckett tries to drink the pain away. But it only sends her further into the dark abyss. She relives her shooting, her death.
Castle figures out the dolls are clues to the next shooting. They’re too late, however. The shooting has already happened. Unlike the previous two shootings, the third victim is alive and this is the one that sends Beckett over the edge. She can’t deal with a live victim.
She rushes into a back hallway where she strips off her badge and gun and collapses to the floor. She was trying to separate herself from the case, from everything associated with her and her emotions.
She’s lost her ability to cope And that is when Esposito finally steps in and does what someone who’s been through what she’s experiencing. He has her hold the sniper rifle, the one that shot her. He tells us to use it to make sense of what’s going on. It brings up that conversation Beckett had with her dad about the truth being her weapon to yield. The truth is, the sniper rifle is only a tool. Beckett is finally able to admit that she’s in trouble. Beckett uses to the rifle to realize that the shooter has a physical limitation.
Beckett thanks Castle for giving her space to get through this.
Beckett goes back to her therapist. She realizes that her problems go back to her mother’s death.
Beckett: I’ve let it define me. Drive me. It’s made me who I am. But now… I want to be more than who I am. But I don’t know how to do that without letting my mom down.
Dr. Burke tells her that she’s gonna have to make peace with her mother’s death. With her shooting. She has to let it go.
And Beckett says she’s ready.
SNIPER SCHOOL WITH JAVY | Granted this episode was about as heavy and as serious as they come. But one has to like how Javier Esposito walked the viewer through sniper school without it being the dreaded information dump or long exposition. At every turn of the case, he was explaining something in such a way that was easy to handle and understand.
THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR | It almost killed me to see Castle helpless as he watched Beckett spiral out of control. He went to the right guy for advice and heeded it. He didn’t push. He let Beckett sort through this and had her back when she needed it the most. The boys did as well.
BEST LINE | It’s hard to pinpoint a best line in this episode. But I think this the best one:
Castle: Just waiting for my partner. Maybe you’ve seen her. Pretty girl, thinks she can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, yet still manages to laugh at some of my jokes.
ONE SMALL MINOR QUIBBLE | People who suffer from PTSD don’t get over it that quickly. I suppose in episodic TV it’d be a drag to have a character carry on for episodes with the effects of PTSD. People with PTSD often experience it for months, years and sometimes a lifetime.