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The fury of competition hangs over Castle, and we’re not talking about the murder of a pro-skater in “Law & Boarder.” We’re talking about Scrabble, the board game all writers take seriously – especially if they’re clever, tough, gorgeous cop fianceé repeatedly kicks their ass at it.

The Players:

  • Director: Tom Wright
  • Writer: Jim Adler
  • Cast: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever, Molly Quinn, Susan Sullivan

Episode Title: “Law & Boarder”

A professional skateboarder is murdered in a late night chase with a motocross biker, but that’s nothing compared to the intense game of Scrabble in which Beckett defeats Castle. Our writer is desperate for a rematch all through the first stages of the murder investigation. Our victim was a one-time runaway with history in NYC, so the detectives assume he came back East for more than just a competition. Is it to seek revenge on the Albanian mobster his convict mother once dated? Or to rob a law firm, because he’s a thief? Both leads turn out to be more complicated – as does Beckett, apparently. She plays ‘quixotic’ to trounce Castle yet again. But because we’re leading up to a wedding, Ryan and Esposito are fighting for Best Man status as the team gathers leads on the skater’s old history. Castle assumes their one-upsmanship is them being nice about his Scrabble defeat. The fun and games get put on hold when the team finally hits a break. They find part of a video tape of a deadly skateboarding accident of yore. They leverage it into a confession from the sporting event’s manager. Back in the day, he and the victim witnessed another skateboarder’s accidental death at the hands of a trust fund kid who hung out with them. They were promised $5 million as soon as he came into his money. But the victim didn’t want to hold to the deal, so he was planning to steal the evidence back from Trust Fund’s law firm, and that’s why the Trust Fund killed him. There’s nothing worse than being arrested on your 21st birthday for murder.

The Good:

  • America’s Pastime: It was nice for Castle and Beckett to have a break from a wedding-motivated plotline for once. When Castle’s petty and flustered, it’s adorable. The Scrabble was a silly, low-stakes way to keep the couple occupied in their off-hours while still folding into the games theme of the episode. Plus, ‘Quixotic,’ is kind of the dream word in Scrabble. Well done, Beckett!
  • Winners: But by all the air on all the half-pipes, the best comedic subplot was Ryan and Esposito’s battle for wedding supremacy. The chemistry and timing between these two is instantaneous at this point. It was great to see it put to fuller use than we sometimes get from them. Plus, the actual outcome, of Alexis being Castle’s Best Man, was the most satisfying conclusion possible.

The So-So:

  • Sartorial Sideline: Did anyone else think Beckett spent half the episode attired for a dressage tourney? Not that Stana Katic can’t pull off the look of an English huntress, but it was oddly distracting. We know Castle was wearing that incredibly bright red shirt for the strip poker at the end to really pop, but we can’t explain Beckett’s jacket. Theories are welcome in the comments.

The Bad:

  • Not Much Go-Pro: Given the amount of time spent on two different couples’ banter, the actual plot was all mechanics. The strongest cases of the week somehow complicate or parallel what’s going on with our regulars. The ‘rollerball’ and competition antics are there, it’s true, but only if you squint. Castle’s done better work recently to hide the procedure in its procedurals. There could’ve been way more Go-Pro work on bikes and boards and stuff. But we’re not too fussed about the plot being a light one.

Overall:

We’re in the run-up to either a wedding bonanza finale or the shocker cliffhangers Castle occasionally indulges. “Law & Boarder” was indeed light. Full of funny beats, low-stress, with a murder only because that’s what these characters do. Is it especially memorable? No. But every time you hang out with friends isn’t going to be legendary, either.

Rating: 7/10

Castle airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Could you choose between Ryan and Esposito? Let us know what you thought in the comments.