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A wedding band, a symbol of faithfulness, encircles the ring finger of his outstretched left hand, and we know it isn’t Castle who runs across that city roof, who hangs over the ledge to save Kate. Battered and broken, flailing and now down to one slim hand hold, Kate calls out “Castle, Castle, Castle,” praying that the man she loves will again save her, so distraught, she, never to see him again, feel joy or see the sun.
She screams for him on that edge of dear life, calling Castle to come, the crash to concrete below all that is left now of her brave battle, her life passing before her, no more purchase on that ledge. In the last life saving nano-second, the band, the hand, snaps on to Kate’s thin wrist.
Kevin Ryan, Kate Beckett’s partner and friend saves her life.
It is hard to believe Kevin Ryan once embodied the wild rover and embraced the darker side, but ”The Wild Rover,” old pub song sings its story although it might have a couple of interpretations this time around:
“I’ve been a wild rover for many a year;
And I spent all my money on whiskey and beer.”
Such is the life of a deeply undercover narcotics cop. We catch a glimpse of his sinister and decent side in “Kick the Ballistics,” and delve more into that topic anon.
But we also learn throughout all of “Castle,” about the kind, endearing side of Ryan, partner, friend: an honest man, sensitive, sometimes funny, quietly-deep in every episode.
Kevin Ryan is the heart of the 12th Precinct. Sweetly he perseveres with all of the bigger personas vying for air time, so to speak. In “Swan Song” Ryan aptly sums up his role. He loves his partner, his “bro” Javier Esposito, but Espo can be a handful of brawn and brain and… ego.
First they bicker like the odd couple they are, the Irish leprechaun and the Hispanic hothead, but Ryan believes: “They make a pretty good team with different strengths.” Of course Espo cannot wait to brag to the “cinema verite” onlookers: “I am former military…expert marksman and first through the door.”
When Espo goes all bad-ass before the camera, strutting and swaggering, interrogating the stalker in “Swan Song,” Ryan, looking a little embarrassed for his partner, quietly lurks in the corner of the room rolling his eyes in pain and amazement.
And then Ryan reveals perfectly one of the roles he fulfills in his precinct: “Somebody’s got to know what door to go through. “ And so it goes with the two of them. Ryan is the self-described “circumspect, one, the nerve center of the team.”
He is daring, funny and physical when push comes to shove, but it takes conscience and courage to notify Gates, his superior officer when Kate and Javi go rogue to catch her mother’s killer. Risking anger and ridicule by all, ironically so, Ryan saves Kate; it hurts to break a code, but he does.
With Ryan we have more than meets the eye, more than the sweet, sweater-clad guy, more innocent than the others. In the ”Blue Butterfly” he is the Irish henchman, strong arm who calls Joe “boyo,” but in” Double Down” Rick calls him “Honey Milk,” (he brings his honey warm milk and honey at bedtime) as he dares Ryan and Espo to beat team Castle and Beckett to solve the double and doubly intriguing murder.
Ryan drools over Natalie Rhodes in “Nikki Heat,” star- struck, with the Amazon blonde, one of the five celebrities on his “freebie five” list of those he would sleep with given the chance. Yet, on bended knee in the precinct, Ryan proposes to Jenny before all, bringing tears to Rick’s and Javi’s marriage-jaded eyes.
In fact, Ryan’s marriage spurs Javi and Rick to think about their futures, alone, and Ryan has the honesty not to unduly worry about Jenny’s involvement with a man who collects, categorizes, and names his conquests for all to see. After all, Ryan explains, they were not in a committed relation, exclusive at that time, and his steadfastness and steadiness makes Javi and Rick look quite immature. And Kate takes notice.
Is it in “Final Frontier” that Javi calls him a Hobbit? Well, he’s been known to wrestle with leprechauns, and some dragons, too, sweater- torn, looking a little worse for wear upon occasion.
Off ghost busting with Rick in “Demons,” Kate calls him Shaggy to Rick’s Scooby. It is no secret he admires Rick deeply ever so; indeed, his partner frequently calls him “Little Castle.”
We’ve all enjoyed Ryan’s playful interrogation of Kate…and Rick in “Tick, Tick Tick” and in “Murder He Wrote.”
In “Tick, Tick, Tick,” Kate and Rick spend the night together, he protecting her with his “rapier wit” and making pancakes for breakfast. After the body falls through Kate’s door, Ryan, Javier and Agent Shaw come to investigate.
Gleefully Ryan interviews Kate, his friend and superior in rank. “What kind of breakfast?” With her answer, he writes in his little book, totally in his element after touching pen to tongue: “Isn’t that domestic?”
“Exactly what time did you and Mr. Castle go to bed last night?” he cannot wait to ask. Pen poised and ready, Ryan waits, roasts and writes, relishing Kate’s annoyance.
To Rick he remarks: “Dude, you made her pancakes?”
“Come on, Castle, we’re friends…Details.”
“…Witness refuses to co-op-er-ate.”
And then, of course, the “interview” or report in “Murder He Wrote,” ah, such parallels, but this time Ryan is onto something, that’s for sure.
“Aaron Lerner gave it up when I interrogated him this morning,” Ryan reminds Rick in their cell phone conversation between precinct and the Hamptons. Kate sputters in the background in their bedroom.
Rick and Kate actually fight for supremacy, shades of the bedroom scenes, closet- hide in “After the Storm,” here without articulating any audible sounds, but we know what they are saying. Shush…let me handle this. Ha.
“What do you know!?” Rick sputters with a double edge as in… exclamation and question. He and our Kate are shook with the horror of discovery.
“You still there, Castle? Ryan teases, delivers this line just perfectly. He’s got them.
Kate’s jaw drops, truly as the proverbial saying goes.
“What else did Aaron say?” Rick gulps as Kate’s clasps her hands before her face in prayerful mode. “Did he say anything else…about anything?"
“I’m pretty sure he told me everything he knows.” Ryan, feet up on desk, having a ball with Castle and Kate is in his glory, joking away.
Kate whispers, “Everything?”
“Everything, huh?” “That’s …good.” NOT
Ryan can barely contain himself with his final salvo: “Yeah! Good luck …with the writing.”
Seamus Dever is pretty darn awesome, not to mention Detective Kevin Ryan, ace detective.
In the end Ryan takes a little heat from his partner when he decides to stop pursuing the identity of Kate’s mystery, week-end date fling. And funny because in “Secret’s Safe with Me,” Kate complains to Rick: “If Alexis tells Lanie, Lanie’s gonna tell Esposito, and Esposito can’t keep his mouth shut with Ryan, and Ryan’s gonna blow it out of proportion.”
It’s a good thing Kate doesn’t see his busting out smile when Ryan identifies her date,and just who is sleeping with whom. He can keep a secret; it’s personal; it’s a matter of honor, and he never tells Esposito, at that time, indeed, after he gets over his initial consternation when Aaron reveals it is their Kate, the beauty with Castle in the Hamptons’ hideaway.
We see so many sides of the serious, sweet, fun loving guy. He’s become a reader of Rick Castle, holding his book, a massager of Vong’s video case, the designer jewelry expert in “Probable Cause,” and the Hollywood rag reader as revealed in “Rise.”
He frequently answers “What!’ to Javier who is only too happy to burst Ryan’s bubble and his frequent stands with Castle on the supernatural or bizarre with: “Bro, you make me embarrassed.”
Ryan remains unshakable, not exactly unflappable but he knows who he is. We laugh and admire his candor concerning his side forays on the pregnancy tour.
In “Almost Famous,” the male talent procurer presents Ryan with a male g- string, convinced that he doesn’t need any Espo, A Rod types, but Ryan’s skinny, Twilight- pale persona is just too perfect. Hey, “one size fits all, but they could pad.”
Without hesitation Ryan retorts: “I assure you this would fit.” He is a scrappy funny guy.
And for his serious side in “Law and Murder” our man of all seasons, our Renaissance man, the unlikely Kevin Ryan begins to quote Shakespeare. From “Julius Caesar” Ryan reveals: “Cowards die a thousand times before their death. The valiant never taste of death but once.”
Laughed at and challenged by his comrade in arms, Esposito, Ryan responds: “What! I’m not allowed to reference the Bard…I’m a Renaissance man.” Of course, Esposito asks him if he knows more than one quote, and the answer is no, but that doesn’t take away from Ryan’s continual quest to be more sophisticated and more informed than ever before.
“I don’t think I’m ready, Javi,” Ryan admits to his partner in “Secret Santa.” I come to work; I watch the news every day; it seems like the world is falling apart. How am I supposed to bring a kid into that?”
Javier knows his partner’s worth and responds: “…Having kids, making a family, that’s what keeps it together.” Ryan is the most decent of friends.
But sometimes our pasts catch up with us and pull us apart. Such is the case with Kevin Ryan in “The Wild Rover,” and for Rick Castle, too, in a most unusual way:
“And now I’m returning with gold in great store.
And I never will play the wild rover no more.
And it’s no, nay, never,
No nay never no more,
Will I play the wild rover
No never no more. “
Indeed, in “The Wild Rover,” Ryan and his buddy Rick, Little Castle and Castle protest: “I can explain.”
Oh famous last words for those who indulge in subterfuge. And Rick and Ryan are in deep.
When baker Jimmy Whelan is found dead in his cake batter, Kate calls one Siobhan O’Doul in for an interview; it seems that she and Jimmy did a lot of cell phone talking over the past few days. In the precinct Siobhan spies Kevin Ryan her long lost love known to her as Fenton O’ Connell, Ryan’s narcotics’ undercover name.
Walking over to Ryan, she grabs him in a fantastic lip lock, only to be checked by a horrified Jenny who demands she release her husband. Siobhan pops Kevin a few shots and is arrested. What a scene.
Meanwhile Kate has Rick on the carpet for his sleep- talking sins and repetition of a name, not once but fourteen times: “Jordan.” All of this occurs in the first few minutes of the show, and how do we breathe with all of these irons in the fire? Tonight is the night of subterfuge and deception, misrepresentation and false identity.
We learn that Kevin was undercover for 14 months, seven years ago, and established an entire identity as best friend to Irish mobster Robert Shannon or Bobby S., quite a dangerous character. Siobhan, in jail, is majorly annoyed with her ex lover Fenton.
She indicts Kevin: “Seven years without a word; you didn’t even have the guts to tell me to my face, just a note on a dresser.” Apparently this was the real deal back in the day, and it shows all over Kevin’s face.
Eventually we learn that Jimmy and Siobhan are confidential informants to Special Agent Sam Walker of the FBI. What they are after is Bobby’s “Bible,” a list of transactions that will bring down an entire kingdom.
The Bible is hidden in Bobby’s bedroom safe and Kevin, feeling guilty for his treatment of Siobhan, feeling honorable, trying to protect her and get her into witness protection, offers to go undercover and reestablish himself with his old, best- friend, Irish mob king-pin Bobby S. “I can do this,” Ryan declares.
Preparing for the change in identity, Kevin shows a toughened side, unbelievable to the others. First he must get past Bobby’s new head man and ultimately we have a showdown or a little power display. Bravely Ryan points Bobby’s weapon at his own head, showing guts and honor. He proves himself and is welcomed into the fold, but not so much by Liam Finch or his wife Maggie.
Bobby recites the Rover Song to his good buddy Fenton. So you are returning with “gold in great store,” and they drink a toast from Luke 15:22, to the returning prodigal, interpreted by Bobby as: “Your brother was dead and has come to life.”
Back on the precinct front Kate refuses Rick’s offer of coffee, and trouble is definitely brewing in this relationship. Oh, indeed, Kate will pry out Jordan’s identity even if she interrogates Rick in his sleep which he thinks is decidedly unfair. But who is to say she hasn’t already done that? “I hate not knowing things,” Kate declares.
“Jordan is not a woman.”
Through forensics the team learns that Bobby is being set up and his alibi holds up. He is innocent. Javier wants to get his partner out of there before it all explodes in his face, but Ryan in a secret meeting, confirms to Javi that he is staying and will get “the Bible.”
Ryan has a couple of intense scenes with Siobhan, the girl he feels he wronged. He probably did love her, his face reveals so much, especially when she asks: “Was any of it real?”
The deal collapses around Ryan who does manage to slither into Bobby’s room, open the safe and steal The Bible and get away. But Danny Keane has the goods on Ryan after following him and Siobhan. The next drive Danny and Ryan take is to the dock where only two things take place according to Ryan: Fishing and shooting. And Ryan is the bait or the target.
Bobby appears with Siobhan as his prisoner and orders Ryan as a show of loyalty to kill her, which he cannot do, especially with an unloaded gun, courtesy of Bobby.
>From his apparently weak position, Ryan confesses to being a cop and proclaims that they are all under arrest, for he has stolen Liam’s phone and called Javi, leaving the line open.
“Yo, Javi! Where you at?”
“Castle!” We hear a little roll call of his loyal, armed and dangerous friends and supporters.
“Seriously, I didn’t bring my vest,” Castle proclaims.
Apparently Maggie Finch murdered Jimmy, trying to establish her husband Liam as the chief number two man.
So what was Rick’s secret? It was funny but serious in a Rick way, an insight into his conscience and reminiscent of Alexis’ stealing a ride on the subway and her confession. A heightened conscience doesn’t fall too far from the old Castle brain stem.
In his nightmare or dreams, Rick was reliving an incident from his childhood. As a child he had to write a research paper on a now defunct automobile company named Jordan. Rick is so worried about Kate’s reaction to his words: “What happens if you don’t like what you see?”
“What happens if you don’t let me look?” This is an area in which they both need some practice.
Rick has someone else write the paper for him and then feels extremely guilty and undeserving when the teacher reads the report and the entire class applauds him, and his shining ability. Sadly, Rick tells Kate his fear: “I was a fraud.” And then something miraculous happens. Rick “wrote and wrote,” practicing to live up to the praise, to be better, to “earn the applause.”
Rick ends his confession to Kate: "I’m still trying.”
And we catch another glimpse of the lonely child Rick was and the man he becomes, still lonely we fear, despite his jovial cover ups and silliness.
Loving him, Kate responds to the man and the inner child: “It makes me like you just a little bit more.” Kate sees, needs more of the real Rick, not the face he presents to the chattering crowds. She sees his honor and decency and knows just how his beloved daughter Alexis comes by her honesty and stellar qualities.
But Rick would rather pretend in some self-effacing way. He is the father; he is mature and he is in charge contrary to popular opinion.
In “Kick the Ballistics” Ryan reveals what kind of man he is even though he feels less than whole after his stolen weapon is used to murder Jane Herzfeld. We see Ryan, his honor and decency.
To Carver the narcotics, undercover cop, Ryan contemptuously addresses, regarding his sloppy police work and disregard of life: “I did my time in narcotics; I know a short cut when I hear one.”
Ryan knows that Carver targeted and used Jane, as his confidential informant, exposed her and left her with no protection, no back up; essentially he is responsible for her death, although Ryan knows to his eternal regret that his weapon was used to kill Jane.
With honor and honesty Ryan stands up to Captain Gates in “Kick the Ballistics” when she wants to end the investigation saying: “So what? We just write the name of Jane’s killer in a file and let him walk free. That makes us clerks not cops.”
On an undercover mission the two partners, buddies, confront Ben Lee, Ryan trying to convince the young man to see the truth and to take charge of his own life. “Jane made you really want to try.” “… I’m talking about your life. Jane died fighting your battle.”
In the end Rick tells a disheartened Ryan the truth: “You are a better cop, Kevin. You are a better man because you didn’t send him (young Ben) in there alone,” to confront his murderous brother.
Finally in a scene of such poignancy, his partners and friends join Ryan in a salute. Espo toasts “to my partner, Kevin Ryan, a credit to the job.” And he is.
Ryan adds another toast: “To bravery and commitment; to love and sacrifice: to Jane,” who loved, the greatest gift.
As for Ryan, indeed, he returns home in "The Wild Rover,” to his beloved Jenny who needs to know that it is over, the undercover, the subterfuge and the danger, for as she says: “I need to know I can depend upon you. The (pregnancy) tests were for nothing.”
Joy reigns in the Ryan household. Jenny tells her husband: “I am already pregnant.” They are ready to face the world together with a child of their own.
The wild rover’s journey is over, with love and regret, and a lesson learned for Ryan and for Rick, too. Yes, the chorus and last verse of “The Rover” are heard echoing in the episode’s title words and in our imagination, a song for Ryan… and for Rick, for honor, understanding, acceptance, growth and redemption:
“And it’s no nay never,
No nay never no more,
Will I play the wild rover
No never no more.
I’ll go home to my parents, confess what I’ve done
And I’ll ask them to pardon their prodigal son.
And if they caress me as oft-times before
Sure I never will play the wild rover no more.”