BANG! A kindergarten teacher, Sarah Vasquez, is shot dead in broad daylight. The recently-engaged woman was so excited about planning her wedding. Evidence suggests the victim was gunned down by a long-range shooter. No one wants to say the word “sniper” around Beckett, as she’s still dealing with the aftershocks of when she was shot.
BANG! Henry Wyatt, a 38-year-old attorney, is shot in the head while walking down the sidewalk. Beckett seems a little on edge at the crime scene. A makeshift flag was taped on a nearby sign to gauge wind speed. A loud noise sends Beckett cowering to the sidewalk. She’s only half-listening to the briefing back at the station. After Beckett snaps at Castle, our favorite mystery man knows that something isn’t right with his partner.
Beckett dismisses her therapist’s suggestion that she’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The shrink also suggests that she step away from the sniper case. That’s not gonna happen. Video footage shows the unidentifiable sniper as he plants the wind flag. The team finds a shell casing at the spot from where the shot was fired. A small paper doll is also found at the scene.
The shell casing is traced back to a former Special Forces sniper named Marcus Ford. The guy is brought in for questioning. Some personal issues seem to seep through as Beckett goes at Ford hard during the interrogation, but the guy alibis out. Later, another paper doll is found in the building where the first shooting took place.
Alexis helps Castle determine that the paper dolls are cut out from replicas of famous paintings. The titles of the artwork serve as clues as to locations. It’s a solid lead, but it doesn’t come soon enough. The sniper shoots another victim through the window of a 15th floor conference room. The target is alive. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Beckett is spinning more and more out of control.
Beckett has a major PTSD episode while alone in her apartment. Esposito knows what she’s going through. He takes Beckett into a back room to show her the rifle that was used to shoot her. Esposito says she should embrace what happened and use it to give her strength. This little talk is just what Beckett needed.
Surveillance footage at the latest victim’s office building shows the sniper holding a coffee cup similar to the one the wounded woman had. The shooting victims all went to the same coffee shop. Castle realizes that all three people had recent successes. The sniper is a loner who feels anger at their good fortune. While canvassing a shooting spot, Beckett realizes the gunman likely has a physical disability. The knowing look she shares with Esposito let’s Castle know his partner is back at the top of her game.
The sniper is identified as Lee Travis, an ex-Marine who was discharged after losing his leg. The guy went into a deep depression that turned into rage. He worked as a security guard at a museum which explains the arty paper dolls. Castle finds the paper cutout that predicts the location of the next shooting. Make that “shootings,” as there are many dolls latched together. Travis intends to take out a high school track team in Central Park.
Dozens of police officers search nearby buildings for the next shooting location. Beckett radios that she’s investigating an open door in an abandoned suite. She peers through an opening to see a rifle pointed out the window. Beckett storms in, but Travis is ready for her.
The disturbed ex-Marine kicks Beckett’s gun away as he takes aim. Travis believes he has a job to do. Beckett does her best to make the guy see that she understands what he’s feeling. She even shows him the scar from where she got shot. But Travis is too far gone. BANG! A window shatters as Travis goes down. Beckett looks outside to see Esposito standing on a nearby roof holding the rifle he used to save her life.
Back at the station, Beckett thanks Castle for giving her the space she needed to get through this difficult case. Later, she tells her therapist that she’s ready to be more than the person she became after her mom was killed. It sounds like Beckett is finally ready to let go.