Castle: Law and Murder – A Review

Well, another episode has come and gone. And this week Caskett (insert appropriate eye roll here) and crew spent the entire hour working a case involving a poisoned juror. Unfortunately, for those of us with investigative minds, the case and killer were pretty predictable. However, that’s sometimes how it goes in the real world. But when I’m watching TV cops, I like to see a bit more twisting and turning before I know the identity of the killer. In this episode, I had him pegged as soon as he appeared on screen.

Okay, this review won’t take long since there really wasn’t a lot to talk about as far as police procedure, but, and you’d better sit down for this one, I have to point out a few good things about Lanie.

For the first time, or so it would seem, the writers did a little forensic homework. Therefore, Lanie actually sounded as if she’d at least walked across a med school campus at some point in her life. Here’s what she had to say about the dead juror (Oh, and she waited until post autopsy to determine cause of death. Nice touch for a change).

– The guy died from cyanide poisoning, and Lanie made this determination using a color test (Cyantesmo test paper).

FYI – The strip is a preliminary test. The confirmation testing would be conducted by a toxicologist in a lab, not by the M.E. Still, it’s a one-hour show, and they needed to get to the point, so they had Lanie report the finding (Of course, she could have said toxicology ran the test and reported to her, but…). Anyway, for the writers out there, Cyantesmo test paper is normally a pale green strip that turns blue in the presence of hydrocyanic acid. The finding is then confirmed using gas chromatography.

BUT…as always, Lanie would have needed a reason to have the victim tested for cyanide poisoning since that’s not something that’s on a normal tox screen. And guess what? She did. She told Beckett that she detected the smell of bitter almonds on the victim. Also, the victim presented with “pink lividity.” Both could be indicators of cyanide poisoning.

So this was good information. But the writers couldn’t stop there. Nope. They couldn’t stand having Lanie sound as if she were a real medical examiner. They followed up with this one…

– Beckett asked Lanie how the poison was introduced and Laine responded with, “Brownish stains in his mouth indicated he recently had coffee. Maybe it was there.” WHAT? So brown stains in someone’s mouth means they’d just gulped down a cup of Starbuck’s best brew? What about tea, a cigarette, or a chocolate doughnut? What about anything that could leave a brown stain???

– Beckett, during an interview with a particularly tough-looking suspect, tells the guy, “Sit down before I make you sit down.” Well, that type of statement only works if you’ve got the a** to back it up. She’s tough, but in this case, I don’t think that would have been the case. I believe this guy would have mopped the floor with both Beckett and Castle. Still, I can see every cop in the world trying it. Part of the job is putting on the tough-guy suit and playing the game.

– Castle made the statement that most poisonings were committed by female killers. I believe that’s an accurate statement. Shootings are male crimes for the most part. But I’ve seen women who were pretty good at slicing up people with knives, so that method could go to either sex.

– The scene where Ryan and Esposito cornered a guy in a closet was pretty good until the man hit the floor. That’s when we heard the detectives’ weapons making all sorts of clicking noises, as if the officers had just racked the slides, or something. That DOES NOT happen, folks. Please don’t write it that way in your stories. Pointing a firearm at someone does not make it click, snap, crackle, or pop.

– I believe it was Ryan who told a probationer/parolee that he’d have him back in prison before roll call. FYI – Normally, that process is called “count,” not roll call. They don’t actually do a roll call. Instead, corrections officers conduct “head counts” several times each day.

– Am I alone here, or does anyone else want to see more of Ryan and Esposito? These guys should be conducting interviews, etc.

– I liked the fingerprint-on-the-seatback-button idea. That’s the stuff that breaks cases. Good thinking here.

– Oh, and the crooked DA… Who didn’t see that coming? Besides, the cops don’t work for the DA.

All in all, I’d say this episode was just okay. Sure, it was solid, but nothing more. No “WOW” factor.

So I guess it beat watching Sanford and Son reruns.

Well, I’d better leave something for my review partner to discuss. So, take it away, Melanie…

To me, this seemed like a filler episode, with the plot dwelling mostly on the case, but I enjoyed it. Plenty of twists and turns.

Nothing earth shaking happened between Kate and Rick, however, although they did manage a little theory building, a few shared smiles, and Kate chastised Rick for tracking Alexis via her phone.

The sweet scene farther along in the show when Alexis came into the precinct and she and Rick ironed things out made both me and Kate smile. She seems to like seeing Rick in “daddy” mode… the time when he’s the most genuine.

The “Forbidden Planet” framing device was a nice touch. Rick begged first Alexis and then Martha to go with him to see the movie at the beginning of the show, but they both declined. Then at the end, Beckett admitted that she’s a fan of the movie and plans to go since they’ve solved the case — sans Josh, who’s on shift — and this thrills Rick, but he doesn’t let on that he loves the movie, too. He lets her think he’s never seen it. So she insists he go along… and with a hidden grin, he agrees, even asking her to go for burgers at Remy’s afterward. Sly dog. She doesn’t agree to that right away, but who knows what might happen off camera? <smirk>

Next week’s show looks interesting… but the one I really can’t wait for comes later, during May sweeps. The big trip to L.A. for a case and a visit to the Heatwave movie set.


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No Key, No Problem: How The Bad Guys Get In (Good Guys, Too)

Set of picks, tension wrenches, and a broken key remover.

Padlock shims. Used to open spring-operated padlocks.

PRO-LOK7 is designed to open any standard ACE 7-pin lock.

62-piece lock pick set

Manual pick gun. Insert pick. Squeeze trigger. You’re in!

Slim Jims and wire tools for vehicle entry


Window punch


Breaking car window glass is easy enough using a punch, but not everyone has access to the tool. But…everyone can certainly get their hands on a common, everyday spark plug, right? Well, here’s what a tiny piece of porcelain from the tip of a spark plug can do.


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Alaska Adventure: On A Dogsled

Those of you who’ve been following our friend Monica’s adventure already know she left everything behind to live and work with sled dogs in the wilds of Alaska. And when I say everything, I mean she turned her back on sunny California and a very high-profile job in biotech (Monica is a scientist) to reside in a one-room cabin with no running water. Yes, that means nighttime visits to a very frigid outhouse!

To keep warm in the -40 temperatures, she and her roommate and fellow rookie dog handler, Regan, must split wood for the fire barrel, their only source of heat. The two adventurers take turns sleeping in the top bunk (heat rises so it’s the warmest of the two bunks in the cabin), and they share the responsibilities that go along with caring for 60 sled dogs—placing clean straw in the dog houses, cleaning up after the dogs, feeding and watering, exercising, and scraping frozen urine from the sides of the dog shelters.

Monica has been in Alaska for a few weeks now, reporting back to civilization only when she is lucky enough to catch a ride to a place with internet capabilities. And, after all this time, she’s still loving every minute there. In fact, she plans to let us know how the team fares in the next race, a grueling 440 mile run in Kotzebue, a native community just above the arctic circle that’s only accessible by plane.

Regan and crew ready for another day

* All images are the property of Monica Palme and may not be reproduced or used in any way without her expressed written permission.


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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

The Graveyard Shift extends our condolences to the families of these brave officers.

Officer Andrew Dunn, 30

Sandusky Ohio Police Department

March 19, 2011 – Officer Andrew Dunn was working patrol when he stopped a man riding a bicycle at night with no lights. When he approached the suspect the man opened fire, striking Officer Dunn five times. The officer managed to return fire, wounding the suspect, and called for assistance before succumbing to his wounds.

Officer Dunn is survived by his wife, two sons, his parents, two sisters, a step-mother, and two step-siblings.

Officer Jermaine Gibson, 28

Cathedral California City Police Department

March 19, 2011 – Officer Jermaine Gibson was killed in an automobile crash when his patrol car left the highway and struck a tree. The crash occurred during a high speed pursuit of a suspect driving a stolen vehicle.

Officer Gibson is survived by his wife and infant son.

Officer Craig Birkholz, 28

Fond du Lac Wisconsin Police Department

March 20, 2011 – Officer Craig Birkholz, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, was shot and killed when he responded to a call. As he and another officer approached the house the suspect opened fire from a second story window, striking both officers and a police canine.

Officer Birkholz is survived by his wife.

Officer Elmer (Buddy) Christian, 34

Athens-Clarke County Georgia Police Department

March 22, 2011 – Officer Buddy Christian was shot and killed after responding to assist a fellow officer who had been shot by a carjacking suspect. The suspect fired the fatal rounds through the window of Officer Christian’s patrol car as he drove up.

Officer Christian is survived by his wife, two children, his parents, and brothers.




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The Secrets To Creating and Writing Compelling Villains

Villains. They’re the bad guys of our stories who are devoted to wickedness. They have specific goals and will stop at nothing to reach them. Are you as driven to write them as compelling characters?

The hero of the story is a stumbling block for the villain. He’s in the way, therefore the villain must do all he can to eliminate the him. An antagonist (someone who merely opposes the hero) simply makes waves for the hero.

Villains are used to create tension in a story. They also provide much-needed hurdles for the hero to overcome during his journey.

Unlike antagonists, villains are sociopathic, narcissistic, and can be quite unpredictable. And they often use fear to get their way.

Villains must be layered characters—three dimensional. And they absolutely must have a reason to do what they do. Do not make your villain a mindlless killing machine!

Think of real-life villains… What makes them so creepy, and scary? Yep…they’re real.

When should you first bring your villain to the page?

Readers must be able to identify with the villain. Perhaps he has an interest in animals, or children. Maybe he’s a devoted church member or the hero’s letter carrier. Maybe the villain is the babysitter for the hero’s children.

Villains are extremely motivated.


Don’t go “villain crazy!” Over the top villains are unbelievable.


Those were just a few basic guidelines for creating a compelling villain. If all else fails you could follow a simple recipe I concocted. It goes something like this (Of course, like all good cooks I’ve kept a few secret ingredients to myself).


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Castle: One Life To Lose – A Review

After a couple of weeks off the show was back in full swing with a visit to the set of a fictitious soap opera called Temptation Lane. And Fillion probably felt right at home in this episode since he paid his soap opera dues way back when on One Life To Live.

The show opened with the body of the week (the soap’s head writer) falling from a closet onto the set during the taping of the show. The poor woman had been killed with a fire ax, which, to me, looked more like a prop from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Even so, it fit perfectly with this light and humorous episode.

But…(yep, here it comes) Lanie had to open her mouth, spilling the usual flow of stupidity. So I’ll get that out of the way first. REMEMBER, I only point this stuff out so writers, and others, won’t think this is how it is in real life. You guys asked me to do this so there’s no need to complain about my Lanie-bashing! Okay, here goes…

Lanie, while displaying enough cleavage for three women, squats beside the body and says, “Spinal cord was severed with an ax.”

Well, I guess she’d brought along a pair of those x-ray specs you can order from the back of comic books, because that’s the only way she could have known the extent of the injuries at this point. And she didn’t stop there, continuing with, “Upon contact (with the ax, I guess) her lungs filled with blood causing her to drown.” WHAT??????????? Boy, those x-ray specs are really worth all one-hundred pennies. In fact, every detective and pathologist should run out and buy a pair today!

WAIT, there’s more. Lanie says, “Based on the CSU sweep (I didn’t know those folks reported to her) the victim was killed here. The killer cleaned up the blood spatter and then shoved her (the victim) in the closet.”

How (shaking my head vigorously from side-to-side) would they be able to tell where the victim was killed if there was no spatter? THAT’S what they’d use to determine the position of the killer and of the victim.

Enough of Lanie, and believe me, I’ve had enough Lanie “VooDoo M.E.” to last a lifetime. I did like how Beckett and crew eliminated suspects as a means of reaching their goal. That’s normally how it’s done, unless the clues are really obvious. So, good job there. The rest of the investigation was a yawner. In fact, I pegged the killer from moment one, almost as if she had a flashing red arrow hanging above her head throughout the show. However, this episode really wasn’t about  the murder. It was meant to be fun and it was. Lots of great one-liners, and lots of Fillion’s silly side. Beckett was fun, too. Well, with the exception of the phone call at the end. That’s getting really old. But I’ll leave the mushy stuff to Melanie. And speaking of Melanie…what’d you think of this week’s show?

This nod to Nathan Fillion’s days on One Life to Live reminded me why I love the show in the first place: snappy banter, inside jokes, and heated (though small) Castle-Beckett moments.

• Castle started with the banter and flirted with Kate, and she gave it right back throughout the episode.

• Rick nailed Kate as a “shipper” — someone who invests in a relationship on a TV show (That would also be me, but we’re talking about Kate and Temptation Lane… right?)

• Castle mentioned the name “Esplanie” for the pairing of Lanie and Esposito… a highlight that cracked me up because that name for the couple first came up on my favorite fan site. (Along with “Caskett” for the Castle-Beckett ship. Creepy, yes… but it fits.)

• Beckett and Castle built theory together in classic fashion. Too cute, especially when Ryan and Esposito called them on it.

• A fabulous Castle-Beckett scene at the end of the show after Rick gives Kate a signed picture from the cast of Temptation Lane. The kind of scene that makes my little Caskett heart go pitter-patter… only to be interrupted by a phone call from Josh (Dr. Motorcycle Boy) to Beckett. Worst. Timing. Ever!

All in all, I enjoyed this episode that took us back to the Castle basics. Can’t wait for next week, when a juror drops dead in the jury box.

And just for fun



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