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'Castle' fan recap: The mystery of Richard's disappearance is revealed

Season 7 | Episode 20 | “Sleeper” | Aired Apr 20, 2015

Asleep in a boat, adrift in the middle of the ocean.
A familiar but unknown man says “Been a long time, Rick.”
A cheap gold trophy. Award accolades. Applause.
Guns firing.
Blood. Lots of it.
A man bleeding out on the floor from a gunshot wound.
Castle in camo paint and combat gear trying to save the dying man’s life.
Castle in an army truck in the jungle.
Trying to outrun bad guys in a truck who are shooting at them, a rough-looking blond man leading the charge.
A Chuck Norris lookalike jumps in next to Castle and begins to shoot at the bad guys.
A license plate.
With Arabic characters?

These are the visions that haunt Castle. And these are the visions that, after some encouragement from Beckett, he describes to his brand-new therapist Dr. Burke. They’re opting to try hypnosis in an effort to uncover the real meaning behind the dreams Castle has been having about his disappearance.

After nearly seven months without news, the mystery of Castle’s disappearance rears its ugly head once again. Castle, unable to sleep due to a myriad of frenetic visions invading his dreams, sets out to get to the bottom of his abduction once and for all.

From his breakthrough session at Dr. Burke’s, Castle goes full-on Carrie Mathison, diving deep into the newly resurrected investigation. Tory tracks down the license plate Castle remembered as registered in Thailand. At this point, Castle is all in, whereas everyone else can’t seem to really get on board with Castle’s wild theories. Ryan, Esposito, Lanie, Gates—and I think even Beckett, just a little bit—are entertaining Castle’s quest to uncover the truth, but begrudgingly so.

After remembering something about the trophy from his dreams (he won it for debate back in prep school), Castle actually receives a real break: Esposito pulls some strings to get his hands on some Pentagon files for soldiers that match Castle’s description of the man who came to his aid in the army truck. Much to Esposito’s surprise, Castle actually recognizes one of them as the Chuck Norris wannabe from his dreams.

His name is Jeff Powers, and unfortunately, the discovery of his identity didn’t come soon enough. When Castle and Beckett go to Powers’s apartment to question him, they find him executed. Fortunately for Castle, however, Powers’s death is the first concrete clue that all of his dreams and theories might actually have some truth behind them.

So with the full force of the team now at his back, the search for the truth continues.

Ryan and Esposito question Amber, an exotic dancer at a club Powers frequented, and she tells them that some sort of Army buddy had come looking for Powers just a few days earlier. When she describes him to the sketch artist, he looks exactly like the blond man leading the attack against Castle in his dreams. Incidentally, Castle had uncovered the identity of that same blond man by way of more hypnosis therapy with Dr. Burke.

After walking back through his steps of the day he went missing, Castle remembers being at a coffee shop watching the news when a strange buzzing noise filled his ears. With Tory’s help, Castle watches the clips from that day, and—SURPRISE, SURPRISE—the blond killer from his dreams is lurking in the background. So with the news footage and Amber’s description, the team is on to their next lead.

Meanwhile, Lanie finds some pretty grisly evidence while performing Powers’s autopsy. Turns out, he’s missing eight teeth because they were ripped out of his mouth as a means of torture before he was killed. Knowing that the killer’s DNA is likely on a pair of bloody latex gloves somewhere near Powers’s apartment, Beckett sics the bloodhounds on the case, and they’re able to track down a bag with exactly the kind of incriminating evidence they needed: bloody gloves and eight sad little teeth belonging to Jeff Powers.

The DNA on the gloves leads them to Ilya Golovkin, a former Russian KGB operative who now mainly deals in high-profile assassinations. His photo matches Amber’s description and the news footage Castle saw, so the team ventures to his apartment to arrest him.

Unfortunately, when they arrive, the only person they find is Amber, dead, executed in the same way as Powers. Ilya knows they’re onto him.

Sidelined by Beckett because he’s too involved with the case, Castle obviously decides to ignore her orders and focus his attention on Jenkins, the last man he spoke with who knew anything about his disappearance and who then seemingly vanished off of the face of the earth. (The last time we saw Jenkins was in the second episode of the season when Castle goes to Montreal in search of answers and is told he had his memories wiped voluntarily and that he shouldn’t investigate further.)

Castle goes through Powers’s phone records and tracks down some abnormal behavior: Powers visiting a Chinese restaurant every Tuesday at exactly the same time. There, the hostess recognizes Powers, but not Jenkins. But it’s not who she recognizes that’s important here: Castle recognizes a waiter at the restaurant as the man who was bleeding to death in his dreams. Castle chases him down and confronts him.”You shouldn’t be here. If you’re here, I’m a dead man,” the waiter says.

AND THE PLOT THICKENS.

Now, here’s where things get a little tricky, so bear with me.

The waiter tells Castle his real name is Belal Khan. He says he knew Castle back in the day when they went to prep school, though Castle vehemently denies ever knowing him. Belal shows Castle a picture of the two of them HOLDING THE DEBATE TROPHY from Castle’s dreams as proof. Belal then tells Castle that they did, in fact, previously know each other and were very close friends (he says Castle even consulted him for his very first Derek Storm novel), but that all of Castle’s memories of his friendship with Belal were erased and replaced with false memories.

Belal tells a baffled Castle that he’s actually a former Al Qaeda–agent who made a deal with the U.S. and defected so he could work for the CIA. During Belal’s attempt at a rendezvous to be extracted to the U.S., his handler was killed and his cover blown. He agreed to make a new rendezvous, one more time, in secret, but only if he could bring along someone he truly trusted and that was too famous to be killed, thus lowering the risk that he would be double-crossed and murdered during the extraction.

Things went sour, but Castle was able to help in “ways he’ll never know.” Um, okay?

When Belal leaves, Castle is surprised by the Russian assassin Ilya, who finally caught up to him. But just in the nick of time, JENKINS SHOWS UP and kills Ilya to save Castle. AHA!!

Now, it’s amazing at this point that Castle doesn’t have whiplash from all the INSANE information being thrown his way.

But hold on, there’s more.

Naturally, Castle has millions of questions for Jenkins. Sure, if he chooses to believe Belal, that’s one thing. But it still doesn’t answer, like, EVERYTHING ELSE.

Jenkins tells Castle that he had received intel that a major Al Qaeda strike was about to go down, but in order to stop it they needed to get Belal and his intel. So they had to kidnap Castle to be there for Belal’s extraction. And he was, and the strike was thwarted, and Castle literally helped stop a terrorist attack?

And so here we are.

Confused? You should be.

BECAUSE THIS EXPLANATION IS COMPLETELY BONKERS.

It seems as though all is well, with Castle telling this whale of a tale to his family. So I guess the Mystery of Richard Castle is a mystery no more.

Except that I think it totally isn’t and there are still so many questions and, like, WHAT IN THE WORLD DID I JUST WATCH?

Oh, and by the way:

  • I love this show. I really, really do. But this explanation, this very strange, very bizarre, out-of-left-field direction the writers decided to take for this story’s (seemingly) final chapter is a real letdown. It doesn’t fit with the show, it is out of nowhere, it’s confusing as hell. I hope there is more to the story. After all, we still don’t know how Castle got shot. I NEED MORE.
  • So over Esposito’s snarky remarks about how he doesn’t believe Castle’s story. Get your friend’s back, yo!
  • Seriously. This episode. What.

Castle airs Mondays at 10/9C on ABC.