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‘Castle’ Season 7 Premiere Recap: “Driven”

Want to know what happened to Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) after the Season 6 finale? You had to wait over 30 minutes to find out. And it had me wanting to push the fast-forward button to when they found him.

The first 30+ minutes are all about Kate Beckett’s (Stana Katic) search for her missing fiance. She is frantic, distraught and lost for most of the first 10 minutes.

Major kudos to Katic for, as always, a stellar performance when it comes to an out-of-sorts Kate Beckett. Her range of emotion from fear, to frantic searching, to the beginnings of doubt about the man she loves really helped push the story along when it got bogged down by the details.

The episode opens just as the Season 6 finale closed, with Beckett peering down a ditch at Castle’s burning car. She scampers down despite Ryan and Esposito yelling at her to get back. After the overly dramatic water spraying down of the car by the firemen that magically stops the engulfing flames, she is able to see Castle is not in the car.

Thus begins the frantic search for him, that is, after Beckett changes out of her wedding dress. Beckett tries her best to compartmentalize – focus on the evidence and the leads and try not to be the worried bride-to-be searching for her future husband.

When they track down the black SUV they think took Castle, Beckett, Ryan and Esposito are shocked when they arrive and the SUV is crushed. After Beckett spear tackles the guy who crushed the car, she takes him in for interrogation.

That’s when they find out he was paid to crush the SUV by none other than Vinnie “The Scar” Cardono. Remember, Vinnie was the mobster Castle and Beckett had a run-in with in the Season 5 episode “Murder He Wrote” set in the Hamptons. Castle kind of accused Vinnie of murder and he was not very happy about it.

Beckett brings in Vinnie to talk to him and Vinnie says he and Castle were good – they worked it out. Vinnie continues saying he got a call from someone he didn’t know, set a time to drop off $10,000, and was paid to get rid of the car.

Tory, the 12th computer whiz, tracks down the spot where the money was dropped off and sees a man dumping it into a dumpster. After zooming in, Beckett, Esposito and Ryan are shocked to see Richard Castle dropping off the cash.

Beckett says she needs a minute and goes out into the hallway and breaks down. It is the first time in the episode we have really seen her crack – but then she quickly regroups. The FBI is involved but after seeing the footage of Castle dropping off the cash, they are leaning away from a kidnapping and more toward Castle just left. After all he withdrew the $10,000 himself, and though Beckett says it was for their honeymoon, the FBI guy isn’t convinced.

Beckett then goes to talk to Martha and Alexis. Was Castle going through anything, was he having doubts? Castle’s two biggest unconditional supporters, his mother and daughter, answer with an emphatic no. Then Martha tries to soothe Beckett by saying Castle was looking forward to marrying her.

Then the trails goes cold. Beckett’s old murder board for her mother, in her apartment, is replaced with a missing persons board. Through a montage, we see Beckett checking every lead, every nugget of information and time passes – two months exactly – and still no sign of Richard Castle.

Thirty minutes into the episode, a man is found adrift on a small boat. That man is Richard Castle.

When Kate Beckett hears the news, she rushes to the hospital and Ryan and Esposito are there to greet her. They say he isn’t injured, Beckett is relieved. When she enters the hospital room, Castle is unconscious and she is concerned again.

When Martha and Alexis arrive, she and the other two women learn there is no reason he should be unconscious and they are sure he will wake up.

Beckett has a lead, the boat he was found in, and she is back on the case. But she doesn’t like what she finds. When they find where the boat originated from, they also find a man in a trailer who owns the boat. He says he remembers seeing Castle camping out there for a while, and he didn’t seem like he had been kidnapped or in distress.

When Beckett, Ryan and Esposito examine the camp site, it does look like Castle had been camping there. His wedding clothes are in the tent as well as his watch and newspapers about his kidnapping.

Beckett is reeling when she arrives back at the hospital with the evidence mounting that Castle just up and left. But the truth can be deceiving and she is shocked to find out Castle thinks he was just in an accident and maybe a day or two has passed – not two months.

Castle keeps stressing that all he remembers is the black SUV and then waking up in the hospital. After Beckett tells him what she found, she takes him to the trailer and camp site. She is shocked to discover the man she met is not the same man she met earlier. Also, the camp site is gone.

As she struggles to process what she is seeing, Castle tells Beckett he wouldn’t have camped this close to the water. He said he had a defunct book idea called “Tropical Storm” and the research made him fear tsunamis and staying close to water – even his Hampton’s home is inland.

So, Richard Castle is back and there are still questions. Plenty of questions that it appears will be slow burn with answers.

At the close of the episode, Martha toasts Castle’s return with him, Alexis and Beckett. Martha is sitting directly in front of Castle with Alexis flush to his right. On Castle’s left is Beckett, who is sitting slightly askew on the couch with her legs away from him. Why is this important? Because, in a small way, that feeling of being part of Castle’s family she felt at the end of Season 6, seems to have waned a bit.

Castle’s mother and daughter believed in him unconditionally, Beckett’s faith wavered when she was faced with the evidence.

So, it was no surprise when Castle and Beckett were getting ready for bed they were on opposite sides of the room – she standing awkwardly in the archway looking at him. She only moved closer when she admitted she lost hope and how she would get it back, including threatening to shoot the janitor for moving Castle’s chair in the precinct.

But a couple can’t go through that kind of trauma unscathed and Castle admits they can’t just pick up where they left off and Beckett agrees. He then says they will get there as Beckett cries on his shoulder.

Will they get back to where they were? Probably. But all this drama for drama’s sake and bait and switching the wedding at the end of Season 6 has me indifferent. I spent most of the Season 7 premiere wanting to speed it up and just get to the moment Castle was found. I feel I will also be doing this until the writers get these two married.

And has me shouting: JUST MARRY OFF CASTLE AND BECKETT ALREADY SO WE CAN MOVE ON!!!

Bonus: Javier Esposito was an obnoxious jerk in this episode who seemed to relish every minute it seemed Castle was in on his kidnapping. Was it just him being pompous or was it the actor Jon Huertas continuing to push his ill-conceived head canon that Kate Beckett and Esposito had a romantic past? Either way, it wasn’t needed.