Title Secret Santa
Two-Sentence Summary While investigating the murder of a Santa impersonator, Castle and Beckett prepare for their first Christmas as a couple. Romantic reunions, new traditions, and expanding families appear on the horizon as the holiday spirit descends on the 12th Precinct.
Ryan: Jenny says to me, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without kids.” She wants to try. But I come to work; I watch the news every day…It seems like the world’s falling apart. How am I supposed to bring a kid into that?
Esposito: World’s always falling apart, bro. Since the beginning of time. But having kids, raising a family…That’s what keeps it together.
My Thoughts I was excited for “Secret Santa” from the moment I found out Castle would be doing a Christmas episode this season. And I can honestly say that this episode didn’t disappoint. Were some things different than I was expecting? Yes. Did I get the epic “Caskett gift exchange” I’d been dreaming of for years? No. But I got something that was quite possibly even better: an episode filled with the warmth that makes Christmas such a special time of year, like a mug of hot chocolate on a snowy winter evening.
The case itself didn’t matter too much to me. Although, I did love Castle’s theory about the clock and the secret organizations of time-guardian Santas. Anytime Castle gets to unleash his childish side and tease Beckett with elaborate theories, I’m a happy girl.
Ultimately, this episode worked because it was filled with the sense of family and love that is especially important to us around the holidays. Each character had a story, and each story felt like it came from a natural place of character development. Even Captain Gates got in on the act this week; her disdain for her mother-in-law was hilarious but also believable. I’m a big fan of using humor to soften the audience towards Gates, but I like it best when her humor is snarky like it was in “Secret Santa.”
I found it incredibly sweet when Ryan revealed that Jenny wants to have a baby. We’ve watched them grow from first dates to marriage proposals to last season’s wedding and now a baby. But it broke my heart in a very real way to hear Ryan voice his fears about bringing a baby into a world that seems to be getting bleaker all the time. It’s a very real fear for anyone who’s ever thought about having kids, but I can only imagine that it’s 100 times worse for a homicide detective.
That little scene between Ryan and Esposito about having kids is the epitome of why I love Castle so much. For as great as Castle and Beckett are, this show wouldn’t work without the other dynamic duo in the 12th Precinct. In this episode, when it could have easily become solely about Castle and Beckett’s first Christmas together, these two partners were given a genuine moment of heartfelt conversation that actually touched me more than anything Castle/Beckett-related in “Secret Santa.” I loved that it was Esposito—the one who went through hell and back as a soldier—reassuring Ryan. And what he said is so true; family is what keeps the world together when it looks like it’s crumbling. That’s always been one of the biggest messages Castle espouses: the idea that families—both our biological one and the one we choose—are our sources of light in a world that could so easily become darkened by tragedy.
(Side Note: Anybody else get really sad because Esposito wants a family so badly and Lanie’s not ready? Or is it just me? Jon Huertas really sold Esposito’s loneliness in this episode, which made his act of kindness at the end even more beautiful.)
Ultimately, like any Castle episode, “Secret Santa” would either be made or broken by the interactions between Castle and Beckett. And while the interactions weren’t as big as many were expecting (myself included), they were ultimately just right in terms of the tone of the episode. This was an episode about family and what family means to us during the holidays. It started out that way from the get-go, with Castle’s distress over Martha and Alexis deviating from the usual Christmas Eve plans.
I don’t always relate to Castle’s open, childlike personality, but I certainly did in this episode. I felt his pain at the idea of his traditions changing; I understood his enthusiasm for decorating, his exact times for opening gifts, and his giddiness over the idea of a Christmas movie marathon with Beckett (“Or some other kind of marathon that makes life wonderful…”). For Castle, Christmas is a celebration of hope, a light in the cold December darkness. It made perfect sense for him to love the holiday with his whole heart, and it also made sense for Beckett to be a little gun-shy about embracing it in the same way.
Nathan Fillion has been stellar this season, but I’m not sure he’s been better than he was in “Secret Santa.” He made Castle’s sense of holiday cheer feel warm but not overbearing, and he perfectly captured Castle’s disappointment as each Christmas Eve plan fell through. It was a fine line to walk between genuine heartbreak and petulant whining, and he walked that line with a tightrope artist’s grace. Also, if you’ll allow me a moment of superficiality: He looked gorgeous in this episode.
My favorite moment of Castle’s in this episode was his surprisingly mature reaction to Beckett’s lie about working the Christmas Eve shift. For anyone who thinks this episode was lacking in the Castle/Beckett department, look at this scene again and think about the last time Beckett lied to Castle about something that mattered to him. Gone is the Richard Castle of last season’s “47 Seconds,” who assumed the worst about Beckett and punished her for lying to him. In his place is a Richard Castle who understands that there’s always a reason—a story—when it comes to Beckett, who confronts the issue calmly and with an open mind. I must say, I like this Richard Castle much better. This is character and relationship development at its finest.
And of course there’s a story behind why Beckett works the Christmas Eve shift, and what a revealing story it was. I had a feeling that Beckett wasn’t a fan of Christmas because of her mother dying so close to the holiday, and Stana Katic once again broke my heart with the grief that Beckett keeps just below the surface. But I was surprised by her reasoning behind working, though I shouldn’t have been. Beckett has always used her grief to fuel her work; she honors her mother through her job. So it made sense that she would be her own version of a Christmas Batman, protecting the city from the pain she feels every day.
Castle’s reaction to Beckett’s explanation was even more beautiful than her story. Fillion has a way of softening his face while Katic is delivering these big, revelatory speeches that melts my heart. He looks at her like he’s falling in love all over again with this woman as she opens up new parts of her life story with him, like it’s an honor to be the one she chose to share that story with.
While that scene was my favorite moment between the two in the episode, I definitely found myself enchanted by the holiday happiness of the ending. Seeing Beckett arrive at Castle’s door all smiles—ready to celebrate Christmas for the first time since her mother died—made me feel the same way I felt when she showed up at his door in last season’s finale: proud. Beckett’s ready to start a new tradition, one that honors her mother by celebrating the joy and love of the holiday season. Her tradition of protecting the city in her own way was noble, but it was based in the kind of pessimism that used to define her. Now, with Castle in her life, she’s ready to open her heart to the hope of Christmas again, the belief in the good rather than the fear of the bad.
Standing together in front of Castle’s gorgeous Christmas decorations—foreheads pressed against each other with a gentle intimacy that still surprises me—these two characters looked the very picture of real love. It’s not always flashy gift exchanges, flowery speeches, and big kisses. Sometimes, love is a warm smile, a whispered “Merry Christmas,” and an ability to simply be still together and share a quiet moment. That’s mature love—believable, relatable love. And that’s what the writers and actors have given us this season with Castle and Beckett, a love story to believe in.
“That’s always been one of the biggest messages Castle espouses: the idea that families—both our biological one and the one we choose—are our sources of light in a world that could so easily become darkened by tragedy.” wonderfully put =)
hahaha Christmas Batman! Great review as usual.
January is so far. Sigh. I cannot wait for the return of the deep fried twinkie! (which in real life are going out of business, so obviously that says something about twinkies ;-))
Thanks! And I agree about January feeling so far away. After this week, all of my favorite shows are going on hiatus. It’s going to feel so lonely without them!
“which in real life are going out of business, so obviously that says something about twinkies”
HA! I love this!
I really loved this episode!
This show is never better than when it focuses on all of the characters that we have come to love. My heart broke for Esposito during this episode. He lost his normal Christmas Eve partner when Ryan got married, which is something Esposito really wants for himself. I do like that it’s Lanie who isn’t ready to get married yet as far as subverting stereotypes go though. It’s a nice change.
I am so happy that Castle and Beckett are both willing to make new traditions together. I especially love the growth that Beckett showed by being able to celebrate Christmas again rather than keeping everyone else safe during their Christmas. She is finally able to move on and find her own happiness and I feel so proud of her.
I totally agree with you about Lanie and Esposito’s relationship. I like that the writers are turning the stereotype on its head and creating a female character who isn’t ready for marriage and a family and a male character who does want those things. It’s a rare thing to see on TV, and I’m happy they chose to go in this direction with their relationship…but I’d be lying if I said I wanted them to stay apart much longer. 😉
Nathan shows such emotion in his face without ever saying a word. The way he looked at the dinner table thinking about missing Beckett just broke my heart. Thank you Kate for changing your mind and showing up for one of the sweetest scenes ever.
Nathan has such an expressive face. I’m pretty sure he can say more in one look than the majority of actors can say in multiple pages of dialogue.
Finally watched the episode! First of all, I agree that Castle and Beckett’s scene in the precinct was their finest moment in this episode–I loved her line about “watching over” the families in the city and how much it means to her, and I liked that he immediately understood that.
Now, confession time: I’m pretty sure Castle has never made me cry before, but I cried at the end with the whole traditions-are-changing scene/ Esposito’s clock delivery. That might have more to do with the fact that I’ve lost all of my Christmas traditions this year than it does with anything else, but in any case, well done Castle writers for tapping into my rampant holiday depression! (I actually do mean that as a real compliment. I kind of love it when shows make me cry.)
I love when TV shows make me cry! I consider it a sign of great television when a show makes me tear up on a regular basis. I can definitely see how this episode could have that effect. It’s hard to see traditions change, and I really liked that the writers dealt with that in a believable way.
Hi Katie – thanks so much for a fantastic write up! I just stumbled on your website last week and have spent the past couple of mornings reading through your Castle episode recaps, and I think you are spot on with everything you say – great insights! I love, love, love this show – which is so funny because my husband and I started watching it years ago as just a standard of the week – we liked it fine, but it didn’t necessarily grab us the way some other shows did. It wasn’t until the Season 4 episode (which was so unbelievably amazing) that I became completely hooked – I spent this past summer watching all seasons on DVD back to back, and I think that gave me a newfound appreciation for the whole story arc and the superior quality of the acting, writing, and chemistry among the cast. I adore Castle and Beckett, and I am so glad that the show has charged ahead with their romance and relationship – as everyone keeps saying, it feels so real and authentic, but on the best possible level – the way every mature love affair SHOULD be (and kind of really isn’t). I think the first half of the season has been just about perfect, although I didn’t love the documentary episode, and I really wish Beckett had told Castle that she loves him by this point – I can’t wait to see Castle’s face when he finally hears THAT!! I think they are on the right path for the second half of the season. However, in the upcoming episodes, I’m really hoping that we get to see Beckett demonstrating how she feels towards Castle more – not just that she loves him, but that she finds him special, wonderful, bighearted, etc – all the things that the character has evolved to be. After all, we know that Castle thinks she’s extraordinary – it would be really nice to see her show what she thinks and feels back to him in a positive way – sometimes it seems like she isn’t very nice to or about him (I don’t mind that she teases or makes fun of him, because he can be pretty ridiculous – just would like to see her acknowledge him and what he is to her as a person and to her as a professional partner in a more positive light), I’m also hoping that the upcoming episodes about his father gives us a chance to see him leaning on her for a change. So – fingers crossed – now, back to watching re-runs waiting for Jan 7!!
Thank you so much, Laura! And I’m so happy to see other people that are really passionate about this show. I’m really looking forward to the episodes about Castle’s father for two reasons: 1.) Nathan Fillion is going to knock those episodes out of the park with this acting and 2.) It’s going to be an interesting change in their dynamic to see Castle needing emotional support from Beckett.
I understand wanting more open declarations of love/admiration from Beckett. For me, though, I think this is just who Beckett is. She’s never going to be as demonstrative as Castle is with her emotions, and that’s what makes them work. Little by little, she’s showing him in her own way that he means more to her than anyone else, and I love that about her character. The fact that she’s a little more emotionally closed-off than most people makes those moments of revelation and those beautiful smiles/looks/moments of vulnerability between her and Castle all the more important because they’re rare for her. I’d love to hear her say “I love you” soon, but that’s a huge step for her after losing someone that she loved so much at such a formative age, so I totally understand the wait.
I just have a lot of Beckett feelings, as you can tell. 😉