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“That’s what partners do.” Rick responds to Kate in the last scenes of “Rise.” We fans, wait, nervously, holding our collective breaths, wanting to hear the word: “Always.” It doesn’t come. We almost need to hear it, for it had been an exhausting journey to reconciliation after Kate’s shooting and Rick profession of love to a fallen Kate, words she professed never to hear.
Kate had just thanked Rick for having her back. Striking a new tone, Rick demonstrates a mature attitude signaling personal growth and a change, Rick’s commitment and a deeper relationship. They are equals. They are partners. And so much is revealed in their relationship.
In fact always is seldom said again in season four, becoming a special word, used in the “Blue Butterfly” by their alter egos Joe and Vera, one other crucial time, and in the season’s finale, just the title alone, restoring joy to the Castle faithful.
Knowing about Rick’s love, even enjoying its security, Kate is freer this fourth season, to smile and enjoy herself, heal and grow and commit to therapy to become more for her and for him. Season four is about secrets but it is also about partners. We think of “Heroes and Villains” and the awareness between Kate and Rick, the writer and his muse to see how their partnership has grown.
“Head Case,” tells a tale of partners frozen for eternity with Kate believing in the great love stories. In “Kick the Ballistics,” following his mother’s admonition to be there for his friends, his partners, even if he wasn’t a cop, Rick supports his friends by digging in and doing the more boring tasks, leaving the cops to tend to each other, and admiring and supporting Ryan’s steadfastness and honor.
“Cops and Robbers” demonstrates just how far Kate will go for her partner, through dangerous doors to save him, and how much she loves him, although her love unspoken.
Beseeching Esposito in “Kill Shot” to help the stressed Kate to deal with her fears, Rick shows his selfless love for her, knowing that she will need the help of a buddy who has suffered from traumatic stress, understanding her panic and fear.
In the final scene Rick reassures Kate when she thanks him for not pushing her and giving her space. Rick simply says: “Always.” She sees new meaning in their love and encouraged, only works harder in therapy…for herself and for love of Rick.
Partners in “Cuffed,” literally bound together in danger, they find their rhythms. They really only want each other, hitched, cuffed or otherwise, but please never again with tigers. Both care for Royal in “Embarrassment of Bitches” until the beautiful dog chooses the little dog, so different from him, such an eye opener to Rick and Kate. And recognition flashes across Kate’s face.
A great love story, the film noir episode depicts a love to stand the test of time, Joe and Vera, Rick and Kate’s alter egos, together forever they are lovers, friends, parents and always-partners. Diamonds, money and jewels do not matter, not even the Blue Butterfly, only love and family.
In “Pandora” and “Linchpin” after a bit of a rocky time, Rick reassures Kate: “You are my partner.”
And so it goes with them, partners in tune, in sync and in love, sometimes a hidden, unaware love, having each other’s backs as always. Sometimes, however, things go awry, but still, in the end both deeply care.
Palling around with Slaughter, in “Headhunters,” Rick learns the hard way what a partner is not. Ultimately, Kate has his back and is there for him. Slaughter, in his grand exit, punches Rick; breathless, Rick alludes to Kate’s help despite his own hardheadedness, and Kate tells Rick that’s what partners do.
Season four ends in two episodes, really both of sadness and seeming defeat and also of reconciliation and love. Despite their falling out of sync, their love is literally” Undead Again,” loving each other and pledging to each other another chance for tomorrow.
Rick has protected Kate from harm, keeping vital information away from her, which stirs anger and a bitter argument. It is heart rending to hear Rick cry out in “Always,” how much he loves her and then tearfully declare that he is “more than a partner.”
Yes, they are more than partners in every sense, two very different people together in season five, basking in love’s glow and sharing an idyllic year together, learning about each other, and loving, until doubts and individual needs and wants threaten to separate them. Kate needs more and Rick because of his past history of two failed marriages is afraid to give more. They both need more. They both deserve more.
Now, in mortal damage with one day to live, Rick is poisoned by a powerful toxin, and Kate tries to reassure him, her life partner with a touch of humor, something he well knows, and tells him: “I’m not letting you out of our engagement.”
I am touched by Rick’s humor under duress.
When the doctor approaches him and Kate, Rick identifies “Mr. Castle” with a raised hand. He offers gallows humor in reference to not being there too much longer to get in the way. This is so like Rick, self deprecating and deflecting worry. He wants to help uncover the story and save himself with Kate beside him as always.
Rachel McCord, Kate’s partner, picks up on this humor, later remarking: “Is he always such a character?”
Beaming with admiration, Kate responds: “Yes, that’s one of the things I love about him.” It is so good to hear her speak of her love. It wasn’t always so especially when she felt that he killed her patience and she welcomed his departure. Love grew. Love changes everything.
Later he jokes with Rachel about the agency’s lousy coffee saying: “He would rather die than drink any of that sludge.” And then bemuses: “Too soon?” Words he has said many times to a half awake and seemingly indifferent Kate.
In “Cuffed” Rick confesses to Kate that humor and deflection are “coping mechanism.” Indeed he was a lonely, only child, navigating the world, often left alone to his own magical playmates, superior intelligence and devices. Kate understands and loves him for his magical qualities and his childlike innocence and joy.
But Rick is a mature, generous and loving man and talking to his concerned mother and daughter reveals this. Calmly, with death hours away, he reassures his mother: I’m fine,” but without the sass and smart quips he usually employs. Even with the annoying Pi braying in the background, Martha is pitch- perfect and knows her son well. In just a few seconds she articulates her fears and knows more is going on.
We have seen echoes of this tactic in “3xk” while signaling to his mother with his I love you that he is in grave danger. Also in ”After Hours” when Kate signals to him that Leo is the killer with her remarks about a baseball party of four, parents included. Rick knows it is a little too soon for that to come to pass.
As for why the agents remove him from his home, he explains: “I had some special knowledge of a case Beckett is working on.” Responsibly he deals with signed books and tells his mother where to locate them.
Our hearts break for this unlikely hero as he says his good- bye to his family. Although soon I will have to cease calling Rick an unlikely hero, for his actions have continually shown a man of action who will take care of those he loves.
Then the heart-breaker is spoken: “If I’m not there tomorrow”….”Thank you, mother.” We break with the word tomorrow and so does Rick.
To Alexis he says: “You know I love you,” and “see you tomorrow.”
What if tomorrow never comes and in fact he is living the last few hours of tomorrow. The man who taught Kate and his child, everyone, you and me, so it seems, to believe in tomorrow, that tomorrow is more hopeful, cannot rejoice now, but he remains steadfast, trying to be hopeful.
Rick is also stricken, with fear, but refuses to give in to self pity and call attention to himself. “What if tomorrow never comes. Will she know how much I love her?” to quote Garth Brooks.
Worried for Kate, the love of his life, Rick asks McCord how Kate is doing, and is relieved to hear well. Rick cannot bear leaving her alone, with pain and guilt, sorrow and a reason not to enjoy her life ever again. He needs her safe in her job and not destroyed with his death. His concern is for the three women he loves more than himself.
Dogged and determined. Kate will save him as he saved her in “Still.” They will do it together as they both did then and so many other times. They will find the story and the antidote. Rick will survive. He must.
Now the DC team is a kind, no nonsense, well oiled team, similar to Jordan Shaw’s, and we come away with a new respect for them, some of us prepared to dislike them on the spot. They care and they include Rick. They will help Kate find the story using all their resources.
Bronson, ex marine and special ops, the man who dropped dead in the car from deadly toxins had one and only one mission. We learn he was stationed in Dreamworld, a forward base in Afghanistan, a launching base for kill strikes.
With Rick’s help, the team learns that Bronson had been in touch with Brad Parker, a reporter for The Washington Union. Kate and Rachel bring Parker in and learn that Bronson was mainly concerned with ‘what he’d done.”
One thing else Parker reveals. Reed, Secretary of Defense killed the story, Reed who had also been commander of Dreamworld. And as General Reed, he ordered a strike on an al Qaeda, second in command, Anwar Zuware, also killing his family.
Of course, the former General Reed denies the existence of Dreamworld and of Bronson. The two partners do nail him down …”if such a base exists.” Obviously such a base is classified.
The investigation continues with a young man, related to Zuware and who might have had reason for revenge upon Bronson who actually guided the missiles, targeting the home and informing the strike force as to when the al Qaeda leader was in his home. However, Rashid himself is innocent.
But he is privy to Bronson’s secret. Upon rushing in to his family’s home, he witnesses Bronson holding the body of a servant girl and walking off with her body. Bronson then threatens him.
At this point Rick shows some of his special knowledge in unraveling the word Valkyrie. With new classified documents to unlock, the team notices that so much information is blacked out. How can they ever hope to find anything about Valkyrie?
Rick points out they should search for all blacked out words with 8 letters. He explains they have different spaces, lengths and fonts and leave very specific clues, typographical fingerprints.
Rick’s theory is correct and many references and words appear, surrounding the blacked out Valkyrie. The last page reads target acquired, mission engaged, target destroyed: a transcript of a missile strike.
Richmond, the tech specialist, suggests they find the original audio recording, and he can do this with some of his connections.
Valkyrie was the servant, an undercover agent. The audio recordings reveal the strike led by General Reed and spotted by Bronson. Repeatedly Bronson warns: “Valkyrie is still in there.”General Reed will not stop the strike. Reed will kill his own agent.
And after the strike is completed, he orders Bronson to go in and recover Valkyrie’s body, thus covering up the murder of an American operative.
Kate confronts Reed to push him and ultimately see what he will do which is pull rank to squelch Kate, but to Kate this indicates he is not involved with the Bronson murder, for he would not want to call any attention to himself.
As it turns out the agent, Fallah Usman, Valkyrie, was Brad Parker’s fiancée. He recovered her body at Dover Air Force Base. As ex military, he knew the score and proceeded to wreak his revenge on Bronson and those responsible.
Rick joins the team to go to Parker’s apartment where they find blueprints and references to his next target. .. Defense Secretary Reed. Rick is failing, but still riding with Kate.
Both Kate and Rick do what they do best: bounce theory off each other.They theorize. Rick concludes that Parker would want to do to Reed what Reed has done to him “take away the person he loves the most” Kate interjects… “His wife.”
With the team all going to Reed’s engagement at the Naval Academy, a similar twist and misdirection to the Jordan Shaw episodes, Rick and Kate turn back to Reed’s home where Parker is conducting an interview with Mrs. Reed. Rick passes out on the grass and Kate rushes to Mrs. Reed only to find her now poisoned.
Chasing Parker, Kate is overcome, and Rachel appears, her back up and partner, who follows Kate and Rick’s hunch.
In a tender scene with Kate awakening him, Rick recovers in the hospital with his mother, daughter, Pi and Kate, his family present. Groggy now, Rick jokes about a strange dream involving all of them. But he lives to see tomorrow.
Alone with Kate, Rick says: “Least I got to see you“
“So sorry, Castle. This wasn’t supposed to be this hard.“
“Washington or Us?” Rick asks.
Just before he falls back to sleep Rick seeks to reassure Kate: “Sometimes the hardest things in life are the things worth doing. Just because we haven’t figured it out doesn’t mean we won’t.”He is committed to Kate and their love. They will make it work.
With a few last words to Rachel, Kate learns to her disbelief that nothing will come of Reed’s role in all of this. Kate is disappointed, for she believes in justice for all. She has seen those who think they are privileged get away with murder.
She champions the victims and believes they deserve to be heard. She speaks for them; she honors them. Rachel counsels Kate that nothing is black and white in Washington and she should make peace with that. It will never be different. Kate is conflicted.
Gracefully Kate thanks Rachel for backing her up.
“That’s what partners do” Rachel answers.
Yeah, that’s what partners do. Kate mumbles to herself.
Looking away and then back towards Rick, Kate knows another truth. Rick has always believed in her, has believed she is who she always was. Rick is her partner, and more than a partner.