Hands of Blue - Castle 2x04 "Fool Me Once"
Hallowe'en Costume - Castle 2x06 "Vampire Weekend"
"I was aiming for his head" - Castle 2x18 "Boom!"
Speaking Chinese - Castle 3x09 "Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind"
"I like to feel shiny" - Castle 3x14 "Lucky Stiff"
Serenity - Castle 3x16 "Setup"
The whole episode - Castle 5x6 "The Final Frontier"
Before he became the goofy and glamorous Richard Castle, Nathan Fillion was the captain of a spaceship on a show called Firefly.
Firefly was a little science fiction show about cowboys in space. A space western, if you will. It lasted 14 episodes before Fox cancelled it, and it is utterly and completely beloved by almost everyone who's ever seen it. Myself included.
Nathan Fillion also adored the show, and I have to assume the writers and producers on Castle did as well. They have been popping the occasional reference to our dear, departed Firefly into episodes of Castle.
They make me absurdly happy when they turn up, and I thought I'd start to keep a list, with details included for the casual viewer who, perhaps, cannot recite entire sections of dialogue. (I really loved that show.)
Please feel free to goose me on any that I've missed.
And so, off we go. By episode...
Season 2, Episode 4 - Fool Me Once
There is a clip for this one, but the reference is very quick and it's visual. Watch Castle’s hands closely.
Did you notice the brief moment when he had the first two fingers on each hand sticking up, kinda like he was making two peace signs? That was the reference.
One of the phrases most Firefly fans will recognise is “two by two, hands of blue”. That’s essentially what Nathan Fillion was creating with his hands: blue hands, two twos.
The explanation for this one is a little bit complicated.
One of the ongoing storylines in Firefly was the question of what happened to River. River is a teenaged girl, sister to Simon, the doctor to our band of space cowboys. She is also a genius, and three years before the point where the series picks up, she went away to a special school for gifted children.
The school turned out to be a very bad place. River is essentially psychotic because of what they did to her there. Simon spent his fortune and sacrificed everything to break her out. And now they’re both on the run.
Not only is the law after them, but the people from the ‘school’ want her back.
River is terrified of them, and as they get closer, she ends up curled in a corner chanting “two by two, hands of blue” over and over again. Everyone thinks it’s another sign of her psychosis, a nonsense rhyme, until two men show up looking for her, both of them wearing blue latex gloves. And they are two very scary customers.
River’s story was an ongoing mystery through the 14 episodes of the series, and was mostly resolved in the Firefly movie, Serenity (often referred to as the Big Damn Movie).
Season 2, Episode 6 - Vampire Weekend
This one is so wonderful, the clip mostly speaks for itself.
The hallowe'en costume that Castle puts on? That was what Nathan Fillion's character, Captain Mal Reynolds, wore on Firefly. Mal was the head of our scrappy band of space cowboys.
And the little exchange:
Alexis: "B, didn't you wear that, like, five years ago?"
Alexis: "So, don't you think you should move on?"
is a good-natured dig at Nathan Fillion and the fans. Firefly, the series (there was also a movie), lived and died in the 2002/2003 television season, putting it a little more than 5 years prior to the Castle episode's original airdate in 2009. And yet, none of us are quite willing to let it go.
Season 2, Episode 18 - Boom!
In Firefly, in the episode called “Train Job” (which will be #2 on the DVD box set, but was actually aired as the pilot - it’s a long story), the great big strapping (male, despite his name) mercenary, Jayne, decides that he doesn’t want to wait for the Captain (played by Nathan Fillion, aka Castle) and first mate Zoe to get themselves out of the pickle they’re in, he wants to take off right away.
Simon, the doctor, doesn’t think this is a great idea and mixes a sedative in with the painkillers (Jayne having earlier been shot). Jayne eventually passes out, and they try to drag him back to the infirmary, but he’s too heavy, and they end up leaving him where he falls in the middle of the stairs in the cargo bay.
Later, the crew gets into a firefight in that same cargo bay with the bad guys of the week, and Jayne, still semi-conscious in the stairwell, manages to save the Captain's life by shooting the bad guy’s leg out from under him.
When the Captain turns to Jayne and says, "Nice shot", Jayne's response is a slurred “I was aiming for his head.”
Now, over to Castle.
In the episode “Boom!”, just towards the end of the episode, Beckett is being held at gunpoint by the crazy serial killer. She had given Castle a gun on the way in, just in case, because he was her only backup – the rest of the team being across the street in a building rigged by the killer to blow up.
When Castle sees Beckett in trouble, he shoots the gun out of the killer’s hand (without harming him at all), which eventually allows for the killer’s arrest. Later, Beckett compliments Castle, saying "Hell of a shot, Castle."
Castle’s reply: “I was aiming for his head.”
Season 3, Episode 9 - Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind
The "TV show I used to love" is, of course, Firefly.
Firefly was a science fiction show, set far in the future. And one of the founding concepts of the show is that America and China are the two great superpowers on Earth when humans have to leave the polluted planet behind and move to a new solar system.
This is reflected in the language and culture of their new future society. Everyone we encounter on the show is, at the very least, biligual, speaking both English and Chinese. While most of the dialogue was in English, many of the incidental phrases ("come in", "thank you", and so on) were in Chinese, as was pretty much all the cussing.
So having Nathan Fillion spew a long string of chinese words was a call-back to the fact that his character on Firefly, Mal Reynolds, was fluent in Chinese.
Season 3, Episode 14 - Lucky Stiff
In "Lucky Stiff", Castle and Beckett go undercover in a night club, posing as a rich couple and trying to find a drug dealer. Beckett spots him and sidles over to flirt some drugs out of him. (She's surprisingly good at it.)
When the drug dealer asks her what kind of party she's looking for, she says: "I like to feel shiny." The word 'shiny' is the Firefly reference.
Over on Firefly, 'shiny' was one of the commonly used slang terms 'invented' by Joss Whedon, the show's creator. (He also created Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, which was renowned for its inventive teen-speak.) 'Shiny' essentially means 'good,' with variations based on context. Kaylee, the mechanic, uses it a lot. "Everything's shiny, Cap'n, not to fret." And Nathan Fillion's character, Mal, occasionally used it as a one-word response to being given positive information.
Season 3, Episode 16 - Setup
In this episode, the B-plot involves Martha trying to take Alexis away with her to a spiritual retreat.
The Firefly reference here is the name "Serenity." Serenity is practically synonymous with Firefly. Serenity was the name of the ship of which Nathan Fillion's character, Mal Reynolds, was the captain. (Serenity was a firefly-class spaceship, which is where that name comes in.) Serenity was also the name of the pilot episode of the television series and the name of the (big damn) movie.
And the root of all of those names goes back to the Battle of Serenity Valley. Now, hang in there with me on this one. There's a lot of backstory here.
Six years before the series began, there was the Unification War. According to the history of the series, once Earth was no longer inhabitable, humanity hopped into some long-haul space ships and moved to another solar system. The new solar system was colonised from the central planets outwards, so the central planets are the most 'civilised' and the outer planets are kind of like the wild west. (Hence, the cowboys in space.) The Unification War began when the central planets decided that they wanted to be in control of the whole solar system, and the outer planets wanted to maintain their independence.
Mal Reynolds grew up on a ranch on one of the outer planets. When the war began he volunteered to fight for the Independents (called Browncoats because of their brown coats, which, you'll notice in the clip from Castle season 2, episode 6 "Vampire Weekend", Mal still wears).
It all came to a bitter end at the Battle of Serenity Valley. The valley was a key position in the war and the Independents held it against impossible odds for almost two months. It was a brutal and bloody battle (nearly half a million people died, two-thirds of whom were Independents), and it was the ground on which the Independents were finally and decisively defeated.
Mal took the defeat hard. He lost everything he believed in. Zoe, first mate of Serenity (the ship), fought with Mal during the war and is the only other member of their platoon to have survived Serenity Valley. She says, at one point, "Once you've been in Serenity, you never leave. You just learn to live there." That pretty much describes Mal. A part of him died in Serenity Valley and a part of him will never leave. Which is why he named his ship after it. Part acknowledgement, part defiance. He has made Serenity his home.
In short, it's a key name in the series.
So, in Castle, if it had simply been a matter of the resort being called Oasis of Serenity, that would have been one thing. A very quick passing reference that could almost have been an accident.
But, when Martha turns to Castle and asks:
"You haven't heard of the Serenity?"The answer is yes. Yes, he has. Over and over and over.
Oh… where to begin! This episode takes place at a science fiction convention, and part of me suspects it was written specifically to jam as many sci-fi references in there as possible. I’ll cover the Firefly ones. For the Star Trek-, Star Wars- and Battlestar Galactica-related ones (of which there are MANY), you’re on your own.
We’ll go in roughly chronological order within the episode.
Beckett: Cap your pen, Castle. There’s been a murder here.
Castle: Here at Supernovacon? Shiny!
‘Shiny’ is the Firefly reference, explained above when it was previously used in Season 3, Episode 14 “Lucky Stiff. In short, it's a slang term meaning, essentially, ‘good’ in the Firefly universe.
Castle: “They were cancelled over a decade ago. After 12 episodes.”
This is a bit of a jab at the television series itself. Firefly ran (and was tragically cancelled) in the 2002/2003 television season. Just about a decade ago now. They made 14 episodes, but only 11 actually aired. The last three were released on the DVD box set. I do NOT include Castle’s comment that it was “12 episodes too many” as part of the reference, for obvious reasons.
Beckett: I thought you would be a fan.Joss Whedon was the creator of Firefly. (Also Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse and the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D.) So Castle is saying he’s a fan of Firefly, which, in fact, we already knew from several of the references in previous episodes (Season 2, Episode 6 “Vampire Weekend” and Season 3, Episode 9 “Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind”.)
Castle: I’m a fan of GOOD sci-fi. Star Trek. Battlestar. That Joss Whedon show.
Beckett: I understand they have a very loyal fan base.This is something Beckett says about Nebula 9. It could easily be a reference to Firefly, whose fans are still incredibly loyal, even ten years after the show was cancelled. (For more on why the Firefly fans call themselves Browncoats, see the explanation of the reference in Season 3, Episode 16 “Setup” above.) I hesitate to declare this an actual reference, though, because that comment could be true of almost every science fiction show that has ever aired.
Ryan: Gabriel Winters. A.k.a. the real Captain Max Reynard. He knew the victim.The name ‘Captain Max Reynard’ is the reference. It’s only a few letters off the name of Nathan Fillion’s character in Firefly: Captain Mal Reynolds. While we’re on names, there is at least one other reference. The name of the woman who played Lieutenant Chloe was Stephanie Frye (we see the precise spelling on the murder board). The name of the young mechanic who travelled with Captain Mal Reynolds on his ship Serenity was Kaylee Frye. There was also a character on Nebula 9 called Commander Walsh. The pilot on Firefly was called Wash (his full name was Hoban Washburne). They tweaked Mal Reynold’s name, they could also have tweaked Wash’s.
 A couple of commenters have pointed out names that I can't believe I missed. Nebula 9's Lieutenant Chloe is taken from Zoe, Captain Mal Reynold's first mate. And, as with Chloe, she only had the one name. It wasn't until the (big damn) movie that we learned her last name. (It was Alleyne, if you're curious.)
Also, the bad guys in Nebula 9 were called the Creavers. Esposito explains: "The evil alien race from Nebula-9. Nasty creatures. They’ll eat your face off when you’re still alive and then serve your organs to their young." Creavers look like this:
On Firefly, there was a group called Reavers. They were human, but just barely, gone feral out on the edge of space. Many in the Firefly universe thought they were made up boogeymen, but they existed, and their backstory was a vital part of the movie, Serenity. In one episode when the crew of Serenity were being pursued by Reavers, Zoe explained: "If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing – and if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order."
Reavers look like this:
If we want to stretch it a little further, one of the suspects, the one who bought the laser gun for Annabelle and drove the white SUV, was called Simon, as was the doctor on Firefly.
Also, that same Simon on Firefly had a father whose name was Gabriel. And Captain Max’s real name in the episode of Castle was Gabriel. I’m pretty sure we’re pushing it at this point, though.
At about 9 minutes into the episode, on the extreme left of the screen as Henry Barnett shouts “Kate Beckett” before running over to give her a hug, there is a man in the background dressed all in brown. He is wearing what Nathan Fillion’s character Mal Reynolds used to wear in Firefly. If you want to see Castle himself wearing it, check out the clip from Season 2, Episode 6 “Vampire Weekend” above.
The one thing I can’t believe I DIDN’T see in the background at Supernovacon was a Jayne hat. Jayne was the big, burly mercenary who was the muscle on board Serenity. In an episode called “The Message” Jayne gets a package from his mother which includes a hat she knitted for him. It has yellow and orange stripes, ear flaps, and a pom-pom on top, and he wears it with enormous pride.
And in case you were wondering, the ‘phaser’, or laser gun, is NOT a Firefly reference. It being a Western in space, Firefly had mostly projectile weapons. In terms of the concern that projectiles might pierce the hull of the ship, the mercenary, Jayne, explained for us in one episode: “bullets is soft lead, Mal. Even Vera could barely breach hull and she’s the best I got!” (Jayne names his guns, and Vera was the biggest and baddest of them all. Practically a character in her own right. She even saved the day once.) There were, I think, only two laser weapons in all 14 episodes of Firefly. One was an antique that didn’t work, and the other was mocked for being overly complicated to use.
Similarly, Nathan Fillion sitting in a captain’s chair isn’t a Firefly reference either. There was no captain’s chair on his ship, Serenity, only a pilot’s chair and a co-pilot’s chair. If Nathan Fillion’s character, Captain Mal Reynolds, was on the bridge, he was usually standing over the pilot’s shoulder.
Castle: Some guys have no business commanding a space ship.The reference here is the disgust in Castle’s tone. Clearly he believes his alter ego Captain Mal Reynolds was better at it.