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Nanny McDead
Season 1, Episode 2
Nanny McDead
Air date March 16, 2009
Written by Barry Schindel
Directed by John Terlesky
Episode guide
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Season 1
March 9, 2009 -May 11, 2009
Season 1 is now available on DVD  

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This is the first season Season 2

Nanny McDead[1] is the second episode of the first season of Castle.

Summary

The body of a nanny stuffed into an apartment building clothes dryer sets off a convoluted investigation into the hows and whys of her death. Castle, now a part of the detective team through an arrangement with the Mayor, lends his skills of envisioning scenarios and pointing out seemingly-unrelated details - not to mention unorthodox methods - to the investigation.

Recap

Things start with a 'girl power' ringtone under a bed, and drop through the building to the basement, where's someone's just finishing a spin cycle - as part of the load.

Meanwhile, back at the precinct, Castle is clearing up, or rather sweeping aside, the paperwork than will allow him to dog Beckett's steps, without being able to sue the city for any consequent harm. The departmental lawyer whose unenviable task it is to try to get Castle to treat this with appropriate seriousness suggests that Castle should refer the document to his own lawyer before signing. The gist of the response ("Where would be the fun in that?") leaves the lawyer looking as if he has great sympathy for the colleague who tends to the writer's affairs. Beckett gets the call about the body, and gleefully leaves Castle entangled in red tape.

Arriving at the scene, Beckett is filled in by Ryan. An older tenant tried to use the dryer, and found the clothes in it were still being worn. Esposito's preference for going commando, at least in warmer weather, comes up, and Beckett spots a couple of promising leads - a bleach bottle and what looks to be a blood stain. CSU will hopefully have more. The deceased is identified as the nanny from 12-F, so that's where Beckett heads.

Her trajectory is diverted by the arrival of a smug Castle, who has pumped the captain and tracked down the tale. As his 'inspiration', the idea of striking Castle appeals to Beckett on many levels. The writer's legion of fans, however, include the doorman, so he's able to tell Beckett the victim's name, Sara Manning, and that she's been employed here for two years. Claudia Peterson, answering the door, was clearly expecting, though understandably not looking forward to, the upcoming conversation.

Having been unable to break the news to their son, the Petersons close the door to his room before giving their accounts. Howard mentions Sara's gift with kids and bond with their son, while Claudia describes her as "such a lovely girl". Their routine has the parents taking their son, Justin, to school, and Sara coming into the apartment later, doing laundry, then collecting him about 2 p.m.. They both have demanding jobs, so generally only one of them is home for dinner - last night it was Howard. Castle then begins to interpose questions and comments of his own, disrupting the atmosphere and flow Beckett has been carefully constructing. Sara's boyfriend is named as Brent, but with no further details, beyond being 'ex' for a month. Sara's parents aren't on the Petersons' contact list, and they live in Atlanta. Beckett takes the girl's jacket and bag as she leaves, and begins to do the physical digging in the elevator. Sara's cellphone, however, is missing, but the bag contains her Georgia driving license, a fact which somehow crystallizes for Castle 'the call' Beckett has to make, and the wrench it must be.

At the precinct, the detectives, and the captain, having been going over surveillance footage, tracking Sara's last known movements - down to the laundry room, back, and down again. Over the subsequent hour, only the tenant who found the body takes the elevator all the way down. Since the stairs must have been used, the detectives plan to run the names of maintenance workers on duty (three) although Castle feels all the neighbors should be checked, as they make better murderers, from a narrative standpoint. He begins to weave the tale of 'the guy in 8-B', unassuming, pleasant enough, keeps to himself, until this beautiful young girl passes through his orbit. He starts, as a game, to find out about her, watch her patterns and movements, and the interest spirals into obsession. Cloaked in the shadows and anonymity, he strikes Sara down as she leaves the elevator, ensuring the cameras don't catch him at it. Her empty eyes reproach him for the murder he never meant - he just wanted her to truly see him. The warm sigh of the dryer draws his attention, and he reverently places the body inside, a smile on his lips as he realizes that he does, in fact, have a quarter on him, and he starts the spin cycle which buys him time to use his skills - and disappear. At this point, as Castle goes for coffee, the detectives are finally released from his spell, to investigate the neighbors - particularly the guy in 8-B.

Chez Castle, the evening has revolved around Chicken masala à la Martha, and the chef is now resting. Alexis, in her 'token sane person' role, is already on with the cleaning up. Her suggestion that by grabbing a slice on the way home "you really are turning into a cop" delights Castle, and he proceeds to fill Alexis in on the case. The inconveniences of reality compared to literature are lightly skated over, and his daughter wonders aloud why she never had a nanny. Castle, as usual, takes no credit for Alexis' finer qualities, and his own mother, as ever, makes an entrance. Martha defends her own need for nannies, as a working actress. She contrast this with the ability to sit in front of a computer at home and claim it's work. Castle's lack of knowledge of his father comes up, and the two are clearly rehashing a well-worn argument. Beckett calls, in what Castle sees as a very hopeful sign for their cooperation, until he's informed she was ordered to. As he heads out the door, Alexis brings her own bedtime forward half-an-hour from his suggestion of eleven.

In the morgue, Beckett wants Castle suitably attired before they go in, whilst he is concentrating on the jokes he might crack. Lanie has her analysis for them, that Sara was struck with the bleach bottle and fell forward, cracking her temple on the table's edge. The heat from the dryer, however, has somewhat obscured a potentially crucial fact - Sara had sex not long before her death, with someone using protection, making rape possible, but improbable. Castle feels Beckett's observations show her own sexual slump. All joking aside, Castle clearly finds the reconstruction of a real life affects him more than he anticipated.

Upstairs, the detectives begin to has out method and motive, discussing potential causes and triggers, with Castle happily adding his share. On the subpoenaed phone list one number 'pops' - though it stopped calling two weeks prior to her death, Sara had ceased calling that prepay earlier still. The captain wants the boyfriend, Brent, found and questioned. Before the go into interrogation, Beckett gives Castle a quick refresher on the fact that he's a guest. Brent, whose surname is Johnson, has been picked up by uniforms and told they have questions for him. Brent wants to pass the break-up off as 'mutual', but Beckett has voicemail recordings of his attempts to get back together, and personal insults. As Beckett prepares to follow up her advantage 'the observer' blows her out of the water once more - with exposition of motive. Bringing the conversation back round to its original track, Beckett discovers there is one 'mutual', their friend Chloe Richardson, a college classmate of both who is another nanny in the building, and the person who found Sara her job. Brent's own workplace can, apparently, provide him with an ironclad alibi, and Beckett trusts her instinct to let him go. Brent scuttles out, and Castle is delighted to discover that cops are not bound to always tell the truth, the whole truth . . .

Next stop is the playground near the building where the local nannies congregate, a location that leaves Castle misty-eyed with fond memories of his own times with a little Alexis. Just as Beckett is thawing to him, however, he reveals the icing on the cake - the proportion of women to men, women impressed by the amazing sensitivity of a father who really spends time with his little girl. The conversation slips into a discussion of philosophies of marriage, and Beckett is more than a little relieved to spot a girl who fits Chloe's description. According to Chloe, Sara had struggled to make ends meet as a temp for some time before she (Chloe) heard about the Petersons need for a nanny. Beckett clearly empathizes with Chloe's distress, but her job compels her to persevere. The young women sometimes met for coffee before work, and the day of Sara's death was one such. Brent's belief that Sara had a lover is mentioned, and Chloe says that Sara would sometimes stay late at the Petersons, but only on nights when Mrs. Peterson wasn't home for dinner.

Castle points out his earlier desire to 'go after' Howard Peterson, but Beckett explains that her technique is to learn about the most probable suspects before questioning them thoroughly, so that they are "tied to more specific answers". Castle is impressed by her ability to mask her suspicions, and claims she would do wonderfully at the writers' poker game, which Beckett believes is financially out of her league. Howard Peterson looks less than delighted to see them again.

Out on the street Beckett begins to chip away at his earlier assertions, but when he confesses to an affair, it's not the one they expected - Sara stayed late covering for him whilst he was with a colleague from work. Back at the precinct, as Ryan bemoans the death of loyalty and true commitment, Castle offers "DeGeneres and deRossi" as a faithful couple. To the disappointment of 'the boys', Beckett refuses to play guessing games, and is rather delighted by the party whose alibi collapsed.

Claudia Peterson, it turns out, wasn't at work when Sara was killed, which makes her look very guilty. Sara, however, had told Claudia about Howard's affair, motivated by guilt of her own, and Claudia informs Beckett and Castle that Howard had been giving the nanny extra money to keep quiet. Claudia was, in fact, at her lawyer's, making preparations to serve Howard with divorce papers, something she didn't want to 'spoil' by telling the truth earlier.

Back at the Castle residence, the writer is going over a DVD of the surveillance footage which he burned without 'bothering' Beckett for permission. Martha joins him, pointing out the reality of how research doesn't pay, at least directly. She muses on the thinking of a woman who invites such a pretty young girl into her home. A comparative screening of the two elevator journeys, however, shows a five second discrepancy, meaning that Sara did not travel down to the basement from the same floor on each occasion. The second time was, as Beckett and Castle discover by experimentation, from the fifteenth floor.

On that floor, the first door they knock on belongs to an elderly gent, who doesn't appear to be the mystery lover, but during an uncomfortable sex-centric discussion they spot a young girl and her mother coming out of another apartment. This turns out to be the Becca Chloe looks after, so it seems as if Sara came to see her friend. Diana Harris then turns to her husband, Ian, who's just emerging from a nap, to check whether he was around on Tuesday, when Sara might have dropped by. Castle, apparently as part of his research, needs a bathroom break, and heads off in the direction indicated. His snooping reveals a supply of condoms in the bathroom cabinet. Ian, meanwhile, is explaining his fuzziness on the details is due to needing regular midday naps, as he works nights as a musician. Whilst Beckett continues to gently probe, Castle starts to dial someone. A ringtone (the one from the cold teaser) is suddenly heard, surprising everyone, it seems. It comes from under the bed where Ian was just napping, and Diana demands answers about the owner of the phone.

Beckett, Castle and Ian 'adjourn' to the precinct, where Beckett proceeds to poke holes in his story until he comes clean, and admits he was sleeping with Sara. They establish more of the timeline, since Becca and Chloe return 'around one' for lunch every day. At this point proceeding are broken up by Ian's lawyer, who directs his client to say nothing further, and escorts him off the premises. Castle notes that the process is much harder when going up against those who know the rules.

The team considers bringing Chloe in to corroborate Ian's alibi, but Castle points out there's no need - the elevator footage has a timestamp. They check, and Sara left the fifteenth floor at 12.48, probably being killed about ten minutes later. Chloe gets in the elevator at 12.54, but Beckett notices that she doesn't have Becca with her. As Chloe would have known Sara's routine, she has become a person of interest.

When Beckett and Castle go to Chloe's apartment, her roommate says she's not there, but has gone babysitting for the family. Castle spots a cropped family portrait of the Harrises, with Chloe taking Diana's spot, and they realize that Sara wasn't the only one sleeping with Ian. This means the musician may now be in serious danger, given how Chloe deals with her problems.

Back at the building, the doorman has informed Esposito and Ryan that both Chloe and the whole family are upstairs in their apartment, so Beckett decides action is needed and, on condition that he behaves, Castle is permitted to come along. The door is open, and a body visible on the floor as they reach the apartment, so things do not look good. The detectives go in with weapons drawn, to find Diana has locked herself and Becca in the bathroom, and it's Ian on the floor. Ryan checks, and finds he has a pulse, at which point the doorman calls up to say there's a girl in the laundry room - with a knife.

When asked about her plan, Beckett says simply "To get everyone out of this alive" as she heads towards a potentially fatal confrontation with Chloe. The girl is sat on the table in the laundry room, carving rhythmically on herself. She seems to want 'suicide by cop', asking Beckett why she doesn't just shoot her, and the detective changes tack, putting her gun down and trying to engage in dialog, a situation complicated when Castle slides in through the door, adding an unwanted variable to the scenario. Chloe recounts Ian's lies, all the while continuing her self-mutilation, and Beckett appears to have considerable sympathy for her plight. When Chloe declares she's pregnant, Beckett sees a foothold, and again offers to get her help. Chloe only wanted to talk to Sara, warn her off, she claims, and had seen with her own eyes the tangle of sheets that were all the proof she needed. Chloe becomes increasingly worked up as she describes Sara's determined ignorance of how she (Chloe) and Ian felt about each other, and Castle fears increasingly for Beckett's safety. Chloe describes how she hit Sara with the bleach bottle, and is distraught even in the retelling, and then speaks of putting the body in the dryer with rising and visible ire. Beckett maintains eye contact through all of this, reiterating to Chloe the need to put the knife down and let her help, and finally, after a long hesitation, she lets it drop.

When Castle compliments Beckett on her show of 'sisterhood' the detective is clearly annoyed, and points out that this pretty much all stems from the selfishness of Ian Harris, but that he won't have to take the consequences. Castle counters that there is a large divorce settlement looming over him, but to Beckett it cannot be adequate punishment.

Back at his place, Castle is trying to capture the intense emotions of the day in a Nikki Heat context before the feelings fade from him, and interweaving clear, derivative aspects of Beckett with the more fabulous elements of his own imagining. Alexis comes to check on him, and reassure herself that he isn't too upset. She's surprised to hear that there was a twist he didn't see coming, remarking how this puts him in the position of one of his readers. He feels that 'pumpkin' is an endless wellspring of surprise in his life, and she in turn is grateful for the nanny she had.


Cast

Main Cast

Guest Stars

Quotes

Police attorney: Mr. Castle, be advised: if you get injured following Detective Beckett to research your next novel, you cannot sue the city. If you get shot, you cannot sue the city. If you get killed...
Castle: My lifeless remains cannot sue the city?
Police attorney: Mr. Castle, these waivers are serious business. Perhaps you'd feel more comfortable by referring the matter to your attorney?
Castle: What, are you kidding? He'd never let me sign these! But fortunately, it's his job to get me out of trouble, and not to stop me from getting into it.
Ryan: So, she opens up the drier, takes the other person's clothes out, finds Miss Fluff and Fold here instead.
Esposito: If that's not a cautionary tale about poking around with someone else's laundry, I don't know what is.
Esposito: I'm sorry. If someone started rooting around my underwear without an invitation, I'm taking that as a serious breach of hygiene.
Kate: I thought you went commando, Esposito.
Castle: We could always make it strip poker.
Kate: Sorry, but I prefer mystery to horror.
Kate: It's accompany and observe. Not participate and annoy. Got it?
Castle: Participate and annoy's a lot more fun, but alright.
Castle: So. Looks like I managed to make it through the case without getting injured, shot, or killed.
Kate: Yeah, well, maybe tomorrow.

Featured Music

  • "So What" - Pink
  • "Come On In" - Tommy Fields

Trivia

  • At the end of the episode, Castle is typing on his laptop. He closes it and puts it on his desk. Seconds later, when he's looking at a photograph, the laptop is open again on the desk in the background. Then, when the camera is panning out, it appears to be closed again.
  • Beckett jokingly says to Esposito, "I thought you went commando, Esposito." This is a double entendre, but it's also literally true. Esposito is a former Army Special Forces soldier.
  • Watch for: a campaign sign during the park scene that reads "Jeff Horn for City Council". He's the next episode's victim. His opponent, who also appears in the episode, has campaign signs out as well.
  • Castle mentions the soap opera One Life to Live is where he got the idea for his first best seller.[2]
  • Castle's comment to Brent Johnson that his voicemail recordings made "Alec Baldwin's messages sound like rainbows and unicorns" is a reference to Baldwin's 2007 voicemail to his then 11 year old daughter, in which he called her a "thoughtless little pig."[3]
  • The episode title is an obvious reference to the film "Nanny McPhee".
  • Actress Jayne Brook, who played Claudia Peterson, is the wife of director John Terlesky, who directed this episode.
  • While Castle and Beckett were talking about Alexis and walking to the park, you can see campaign posters of Jeff Horn, the next victim, and Jason Bollinger, the suspect two episodes later.

References

  1. The title is an allusion to the 2006 film, Nanny McPhee.
  2. Nathan Fillion appeared on the soap opera One Life to Live as Joe/Joey.
  3. Alec Baldwin's Daughter Talks 'Little Pig' Voicemail

External links

Nanny McDead page at the ABC.com - Castle site

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