HOME ALONE | Christmas apparently is a huge — huge — thing for Rick, and as such he’s crestfallen to learn that both Alexis and Martha have broken tradition by making other plans for Christmas Eve. After venting to Beckett, he confirms that she is still on board to ring in the holiday with him. She tentatively nods, but stresses: “No presents. It’s too stressful for the first year” as a couple.
The pair’s planning is interrupted by their arrival at the crime scene, where a Santa-suited man “named” Kris Kringle took a fatal fall from… the sky?… onto the snowy Central Park lawn. We soon after realize that another 12th precinct duo might break with holiday tradition. “You, me, a six-pack and Madden on the big screen TV?” Esposito asks. But Ryan is detached, muttering that he thinks Jenny has other plans (that we later see may involve a “naughty Santa” outfit). Javy and his cologne then feel out Lanie, but she is going out with some gal pals — and frankly the ritual of a “sad holiday hook-up” makes her sad. But after the 25th, she sweetly offers, “Gimme a call.”
“Santa” is revealed to be Edmond Smith, a onetime private equity firm exec who used to pull a half-mil salary but quit that job, walked out on his wife (24‘s Leslie Hope) and sought a simpler life. Most recently, he tried to help his neighbor Beth (Eureka‘s Tembi Locke) and her son get back a home they lost to a ruthless bank. We proceed to follow several false leads including, as is tradition with Dead Santa storylines, a rival rent-a-Kringle. In the end — and my gift to you is cutting to the chase here, since the case was a bit of a lump of coal — it was the conspicuously guest-cast ex-wife who was at risk of losing her largesse if Edmond’s swindling past came to light.
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS | Back home, Castle beseeches Alexis to not set a “grim precedent” and instead stick with tradition, until he gleans that her plans are not with not friends plural but a friend — and not just a friend. And introducing a new beau to Dad on Christmas Eve is too much pressure. “Besides, you’ll be with Beckett!” she reminds. Or will he? Coming off of Rick’s latest promise of holiday revelry (including “a Christmas movie marathon… or some other kind of marathon that makes life wonderful”), Kate reveals that due to a short-staffed precinct, she pulled Christmas Eve duty. But when Rick later prompts Gates to give Kate the night off, the captain says that Beckett offered to work the holiday.
Rick confronts Kate: “If you’re not ready, why not tell me?” She explains that the holiday means different things to her, that in the wake of her mother’s death, she and her dad “put Christmas away forever.” So her tradition — which somehow never was shared with Rick in any of the show’s four off-camera Christmases — is to “keep watch” while her fellow cops with families spend time at home. “It’s as important as your tradition is to you,” she says. “I understand,” Rick warmly responds.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE | After cracking the case, Castle and Beckett find themselves under a mistletoe at the precinct, but instead of kiss just wish each other a Merry Christmas. Espo, meanwhile, asks Ryan, “Shouldn’t you be at home stuffing your wife’s stocking?” Ryan opens up that Jenny wants to start a family, but laying witness to the cruel world as he does on a daily basis, he’s torn. “The world’s always falling apart,” Javy says. “Family is what keeps it together. So go home, make a baby.” Esposito himself then gets plans when he returns a stolen family heirloom to Beth, and she invites him to share Christmas Eve with her and her son.
Back at his own home, Castle discovers that both Martha and Alexis nixed their plans to keep their tradition alive — except now it’s he who’s bailing. “There’s somewhere I need to be,” Rick says, as he rises from the table and goes to leave for the precinct… only to find Kate outside his door. “I was just coming to see you,” they say in unison. Beckett comes in, admires the gleaming Castle Christmas decor, and this time they punctuate their holiday greeting with a kiss. Castle then confirms, “I didn’t get you anything.”
What did you think of Castle‘s first Christmas, and Rick and Kate’s first holiday together?