If there’s one thing the Olympics taught us, it’s that the competitive world of swimming is cutthroat, fierce, and populated with attractive men. ‘The Dead Pool’ starts with a young swimmer doing what he does best. Suddenly a dark figure approaches him. Cut to Castle, discussing his young writer friend Alex Conrad who is going to be in town. Castle wants Alex to follow him and Beckett around. Predictably, Beckett is not into this scenario at all. My prediction: Beckett is going to be charmed by Alex. Or Alex is actually the murderer.
Castle and Beckett arrive at the crime scene. The swimmer’s name was Zack--a member of the SUNY swim team. He was swimming when his murderer came up behind him, pressed a rag soaked in a “caustic substance” to his face. Zack passed out, dropped into the water and drowned. He was discovered by his teammates.
After some character background on Zack (he was driven, competitive, loved swimming), Beckett asks about his personal life. His parents aren’t local and he got into the university on a partial scholarship. The coach is acting fishy and evasive.
Esposito discovers that last night the night janitor saw Zack talking to another teammate--“Rocket” Rob Tredwyke. Cut to a scantily clad Rocket Rod at a photo-shoot with some more scantily clad ladies. Rod tells them that Zack wanted to have “the talk” (the “I’m getting more famous so I’m just gonna cut you loose if that’s okay” talk) with his girlfriend, Bridget. Meanwhile, Lanie brings Zack’s mother in to identify the body. His mother has a touching conversation with Captain Montgomery. He asks about Zack’s girlfriend Bridget.
Ryan discovers text messages sent to Zack from Bridget on the night he was killed. Predictably, one of them is “Zack if you leave me I swear to God, I’ll kill you.” Now, it’s only act one, so I doubt Bridget is the killer (my money is still on the coach), but this is a nice juicy piece of information to bring Bridget in for questioning. Not only does Bridget have a temper, she has a criminal record and four protective older brothers to go with it. Bridget is tough in a fake-nails, fake-tan, “stay away from my man, skank” way. She was worried that Zack was cheating on her, so she followed him. It wasn’t another girl, just a man he was arguing with. A man with an accent, but don’t ask her which one because does she look like she works for the UN? Nonetheless, Bridget describes the accented man to a sketch artist.
Esposito has some information from Zack’s financial records. He only had a partial scholarship, no student loans and no job. His mother was unable to help him out financially, so where did the money come from? Castle suggests that he went to a loan shark. Meanwhile, a call comes in that Zack’s apartment has been trashed. Castle and Beckett check it out. They discover anabolic steroids. Zack’s tox screen was clean, which can only mean one thing: he was selling the drugs to make money.
Lanie runs a test on the drugs. They’re loaded with masking agents to make them nearly undetectable. There have been rumors of drugs like this being developed in Eastern Europe. Castle connects this to the hard-to-identify accent belonging to the man Zack was fighting.
Beckett is being strangely reluctant to accept any clues whatsoever. She refuses to believe that Bridget was telling the truth about Zack’s argument and she’s hesitant to believe that Zack was selling the drugs. Ryan returns from interrogating Bridget’s brothers, somewhat worse for the wear. The brother’s alibied out--they were all at “leprechaun toss.” Sadly, Ryan follows up this sentence with “don’t ask,” which is exactly what I wanted to do.
Ryan goes to his contacts in Narc and Vice to see if the sketch rings any bells. Esposito goes to Zack’s teammates to discuss the steroids. Unsurprisingly, everyone denies the existences and use of the drugs. People should learn not to lie to cops.
Beckett and Castle are puzzling everything out when, just in time to bring another writer-perspective, Alex Conrad arrives. Fans of Fox’s “Lie To Me” and the short-lived ABC Family show “The Middleman” will recognize Alex as Brandon Hines (Eli Loker on “Lie To Me” slash Wendy’s Boyfriend Whose Name I Have Forgotten on “The Middleman”). In my opinion, this episode just got a million times more awesome. Alex is a fan of Nikki Heat, but instead of praising the sex scenes, Alex instead references Nikki’s piercing intelligence and self-assured beauty. Beckett is defenseless against his charms (who wouldn’t be?).
Alex is a lot like Castle in season one--more of a writer than a detective. Don’t get me wrong, Castle is still a writer first and foremost, but he doesn’t use “writing terms” as often as he used to. Alex thinks the steroids are a red herring (see! Writing term!) and that the killer is from the old neighborhood. Beckett latches onto Alex’s theory so quickly Castle’s head spins. Castle tries to spirit Alex away, but not before Beckett gives Alex her card and tells him to call her about the book he’s working on. Beckett, Beckett, Beckett. I don’t like Doctor Josh, but why are you flirting with the attractive young writer? Why don’t you flirt with the attractive older and distinguished writer?
Castle is insanely jealous. He thinks that Alex is trying to steal his muse (Alexis: “What’s the punishment for that? Five to ten in mythology jail?”). Castle is not amused. After all, Castle’s publishing company is calling Alex the next Richard Castle. Alexis tries to put a positive spin on it. She points out that perhaps Alex is just trying to get to know Castle better through Beckett. He promises to give Alex a chance. His resolve is tested the next morning, when Alex sends Beckett a basketful of mini muffins and a note saying “thanks for last night.” Ooooh.
Ryan ran Zack’s fingerprints through the unsolved latent database and got a match! Turns out somebody stole a car two weeks ago. The name of the car owner doesn’t ring a bell, but Castle connects the medical equipment found in Zack’s apartment with a video he saw. A video of people using the equipment to steal a car. Zack wasn’t a drug dealer--he was a car thief. Zack’s best friend in high school, Tommy Marcone, was also a car thief. Castle and Beckett go to check him out at his favorite bar. Tommy won’t talk, but to soften up the crowd Castle buys the whole place a round of drinks. He’s rewarded when the bartender gives him the name of the Eastern European man in the sketch: Jimmy Lennon.
Jimmy Lennon owns an auto repair shop, but I’ve watch enough TV to know that it’s actually a chop shop. Castle and Beckett round up everyone when Lennon tries to run. At the chop shop they discover Brian Morris’ car--one of Zack’s teammates and his rival for number one on the team. They also discover steroids in the glove compartment. Ruh roh. They bring in Tommy Marcone for questioning. Tommy admits that he stole the car, but out of revenge after Brian spiked Zack’s food to give him food poisoning. After they took the car, they discovered the steroids. Beckett doesn’t waste any time in bringing Brian (and his lawyer) in to ask more questions and accuse him of killing Zack.
Castle points out that Brian (spoiled, pampered, controlled by his father) isn’t the sort of person who would get his hands dirty. Ryan and Esposito comb through the financials to look for anything pointing towards a hired killer. They discover that Brian cashed a 25 grand savings bond after his car was stolen. Even worse: after searching Tommy Marcone’s apartment, the cops discovered 25 grand in cash, bound with little paper sleeves from Brian’s bank. Tommy admitted to blackmailing Brian under Zack’s name. He emailed him through a school computer. This leads us back to Brian as the killer.
Phone records show that Brian only called one number after he received the blackmail message: to his father. His father in turn made dozens of calls to a Dr. Rex Colabro--a sport’s medicine doctor with several high profile athlete patients. Brian’s father and the good doctor discussed damage control: ways to protect Brian’s eligibility and avoid getting tested. Shortly after this, Ryan receives news that Brian has quit the team temporarily because of an “injured shoulder.” Sure.
Alex comes by to take Beckett out. Castle clearly cannot handle this and invites Alex to his mystery writer’s poker game. This is an honor Alex can’t pass up. Castle and the other writers ruthlessly needle poor Alex. In the midst of this, Dennis Lehane asks who has the biggest secret? Who has the most to lose if the steroid use was discovered? Castle thinks he has an idea.
It’s the coach. The coach who has been to Romania four times in the past two years. Romania, which happens to be in Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe, where the steroids are from. Apparently Brian was once the best, but he peaked and Zack started taking over. Brian’s father met with the coach to plead Brian’s case (by promising to donate a lot of money to the program). Instead of nurturing new talent, the coach accepted the money and gave the steroids to Brian. But Brian wasn’t the only person he gave steroids to. He also gave them to Rocket Rob--the scantily clad swimmer from the beginning. After Zack discovered that Rob took steroids, he confronted him. So Rob killed him. Bravo, “Castle,” bravo. I was sold on the coach as the killer and you turned the entire episode around on me. I’m impressed.
After the case is wrapped up, Beckett confronts Castle about his treatment of Alex. Castle admits that he was jealous of Beckett spending time with another writer. Beckett just laughs and tells Castle that she thinks it’s sweet and promises to be a one-writer girl. Alex isn’t fazed--he just jumps onto the Ryan and Esposito bandwagon and makes friends with them instead.