'Castle' Season 5, Episode 17: Freak Out

While a certain show about a certain motel might be premiering tonight over on A&E, here in the land of Network TV, Castle gives the horror genre a run for its money in 'Scared to Death.'

From the classic horror scream in the opening sequence to the unsolved mystery revealed at the end, the episode does a fairly good job of navigating the theme while giving it some very Castle touches, too.

From the beginning, it's clear the writers are aiming to lure the audience into a heart-stopping, bone-chilling adventure in the vein of The Ring, and the first victim, Val Butler (Alison Trumbull) does a good job of selling that point.

Castle (Nathan Fillion) further perpetuates the theme by doing inventory on the victim's belongings and concluding this was the work of an evil spirit. He becomes even more high strung after watching a chilling DVD that claims at "midnight on the third day, you die." Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Esposito (Jon Huertas) make like they don't buy into the evil spirit angle, but neither of them is willing to watch the DVD either.

Ever the voice of reason, it is Kate (Stana Katic) who never wavers on her belief that there is an actual human being out there murdering people as opposed to an evil spirit. Not even a string of dead-ends can convince her otherwise. Meanwhile, Castle's hyper little boy is on red alert and in a nice tip of the hat to the horror movies of old, he phones Wes Craven and interrogates him about evil spirits under the guise of research. Craven is not amused, but his advice does give the team their first break in the case.

The only link between Val and her fellow victim, Jason Bennet, is the Brunswick Inn, a building Castle's Internet groupies identified from the DVD image he put online. He opts to stay and continue scouring the DVD for clues while Kate and Esposito head to the motel. From the motel, the story begins to pick up speed, narrating the story of serial killer Nigel Malloy.

Both Val and Bennet were witnesses at Malloy's trial, but when it's discovered Malloy died in prison, Kate's focus shifts to Nigel's younger brother, Leopold. True Blood alum Jeffery Nicholas Brown does a convincingly creepy mental asylum patient and the perfect red herring suspect. Not only does Leopold have a reason to want to avenge his brother's death, he also lets slip that he knows there were two victims, not just one. Still, he claims he's been a good boy working toward his parole.

The episode hits its apex when a third potential victim is discovered. Castle and Beckett find Mark Heller (Brad William Henke) holed up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, drinking himself into a stupor and muttering about the blood on his hands. When the shadows start moving, Beckett leaves the two cowering boys in the cabin and has herself a spectacular chase scene through the dark woods.

Nurse Lockhart (Romy Rosemont), Leopold's nurse from the asylum, explains she's lurking in the shadows to protect Heller, not kill him, so that her boy Leo can be set free. Turns out she's telling the truth and that all along there was another suspect on trial for the murders Nigel committed.

Val, Bennet, and Heller had been coerced to give testimony about David Collier and Malloy, and the already unbalanced man had cracked in prison and killed himself. It is his daughter, Amanda (Vivian Kerr) - herself unbalanced - who takes it upon herself to seek vengeance for her father's death with a taser. (Hitchcock fans: Look out for the reference to Rear Window.)

This is a great twist and Kerr really transforms herself from the meek, frightened roommate at the beginning of the episode into a madwoman. All in all, a job well done with an obligatory mushy scene at the end for those shippers pining for a different kind of action between the leads.

Castle airs Mondays @10pm on ABC.

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'Castle' Season 5, Episode 17: Freak Out