Saturday, June 22, 2024

Missing Heads and Creepy Dolls Make for a Scary Elementary Double Feature

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Two episodes in one week make for an Elementary double feature! Can I limit my chattiness enough to make them both fit into one article? Challenge accepted.

“How To Get Ahead”

You may be thinking that this episode title is a pun. Fear not, it definitely is. A report of a stolen chicken named Irma leads to the discovery of a decapitated corpse. Irma is nearby, also tragically decapitated, with her head shoved into the stump of the human corpse. The human head is missing and melted candles are found scattered about the body. Altogether, it suggests an occult ritual.

Sherlock isn’t convinced. He thinks the occult elements are meant to distract the police from the hard facts. However, the city councilman in whose district the murder occurred disagrees. He knew the victim, Gabriel Rojas. Rojas was a professor in religion, specializing in the occult. He consulted in many police and FBI cases involving the occult. The councilman is convinced that Rojas was killed in revenge for one of his cases.

The detectives, well, detect. Sherlock talks to Rojas’s college and Joan and Bell look into prisoners that Rojas put away. They don’t turn up any convincing leads.

Meanwhile, Joan and Sherlock are trying to find a replacement for when Bell leaves. The two like a female detective, Lena Romero, and ask the captain to interview her. He does so, but is troubled by an incident early in her career involving her partner shooting an unarmed man.

The case has come to a standstill when a clue forcibly presents itself to Joan and Sherlock’s attention. A glass bottle is thrown through the brownstone’s back window. On the bottle is a note advising them to talk to a local priest, Father Vega.

The priest has an interesting story. He draws Sherlock and Joan’s attention to the bottle itself. It’s a brand called Champerico Rum. Champerico has a distillery in Rojas and Vega’s home country of Guatemala. The distillery there treats local workers abominably but every time the workers attempt to unionize, a local paramilitary group, the MAGL, attacks them. Champerico denies any connection with the MAGL.

Rojas’s nephew worked in the distillery and went missing, prompting Rojas to investigate. He was helping a Guatemalan worker, Valentina Duran, organize a union. Duran was going to come to the US for help. But after she landed in New York, she vanished. Now Rojas has died. Hashtag suspicious.

Nor is this the first time Champerico has done shady stuff. A year ago, a bill to tax alcohol failed to pass after sustained harassment from a shadowy organization. It was almost certainly Champerico, but there’s no proof. I guess you could say they…killed that bill. Badum tsh. (Do you get it? Because Lucy Liu was in Kill Bill, get it? Do you guys get it? I’m funny.)

Sherlock arranges to meet with one of the Champerico executives. He does that Sherlock thing where he throws out accusations to see what sticks. But there’s no way that Champerico is responsible for Duran’s death…because she’s still alive.

It turns out that Duran did originally want to unionize the distillery. But when she realized she was pregnant, she became afraid of retribution from the MAGL. She decided the best choice for her and her child was to hide when she made it to New York. Apparently, Champerico has known where she was the whole time, but her vanishing of her own volition worked just as well for them as making her vanish. They were content to leave her alone.

But Duran still believes they’re responsible for Rojas’s death. Rojas found her too. A day later, he was murdered. Duran is sure that isn’t a coincidence. When he visited her, she gave him a collection of photographs. The photos show MAGL members and members of a private security firm that worked for Champerico. It’s obvious that members of the MAGL also worked for the firm, or, in other words, that the MAGL was in Champerico’s pocket all along. Unfortunately, the photos are pretty low quality and couldn’t be used as real proof. But it can’t be chance that Rojas died the day after he received these photos. Joan and Sherlock take them in order to examine them for clues.

Gregson continues to look into Romero. He consults with her former CO, who praises Romero but also hints that she engaged in some behaviors of perhaps dubious legality in the past.

Examining Duran’s photos reveals little of interest. Joan is beginning to wonder if perhaps Duran herself is a suspect when Bell calls. They’ve found Rojas’s missing head. It looks like another occult ritual. But at the scene, Sherlock notices a familiar face, and, more importantly, a familiar balding head, and immediately knows who killed Rojas. Spoiler alert without actually spoiling it: the murder actually had nothing to do with spooky, vaguely foreign “occult” stuff but everything to do with money and corruption, our old friends. Also, Irma gets her revenge.

Gregson tells Sherlock that he’s not hiring Romero. Sherlock and Joan themselves are already too prone to treading the line of legality. They don’t need a police partner that will encourage them to dubious actions but an ethical, morally upright partner to keep them in line, like Bell. If they can’t find such a person, then, well, maybe it will be time for their partnership with Major Crimes to end.

It wouldn’t be Elementary unless it ended with an Emotional Moment(™) that melts my little nerd heart, so we wrap up with Sherlock sincerely telling Bell that he’ll miss Bell when he leaves.


  • Even though it would be cool to have a new female character, I was glad the captain put the kibosh on Romero. It makes me uneasy enough when Joan and Sherlock break the law; at least we, the audience, know that they have pure motives. It’s quite another when a fictional cop does such things, considering that in the real world, cops do the same, often with less than a pure heart.
  • Valentina Duran was pregnant and they made a big point of Joan interacting with her. Very Hmm.
  • They mentioned Santeria like one time and I’ve had that Sublime song stuck in my head since.
  • But speaking of Santeria, I feel like detective shows can be prone to using vaguely foreign occult stuff as a sinister motive for murder and it’s a bit, shall we say, colonialist/racist? So it was cool to see Elementary just be like “um no,” and instead subvert the trope by having a corrupt white dude be the killer.

“Uncanny Valley of the Dolls”

No puns in our episode title this time, but a reference to one of my favorite, random theories. Hope no one is scared of dolls or robots or niche kinks this episode.

But first, scariest of all, stats. In order to join the Marshals, Bell needs to finish his master’s degree, for which he needs to take a stats class. Yet, when he attempted to add the class to his schedule, he was unilaterally rejected.

In a very special reversal, this time it is Sherlock who calls to interrupt Bell’s conversation with a crime scene. Much to my amusement, Bell himself remarks on the reversal. I love when shows are aware of their own tropes. (Sometimes I like to pretend the writers are actually reading my reviews and being like “oh dang, she’s so right and so smart and very sexy. We should hire her immediately and introduce her to Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.” It could happen!)

The victim is Bruce Deramore, dead of a gunshot wound to the heart. The crime scene looks ordinary until Sherlock reveals a most unique witness was present at the scene. I’m wondering if there is a more PC term for this that I should be using but yeah, it’s a sex doll. A very high tech doll that has special equipment to let her record and converse, meaning she may have important details about the murder.

Deramore actually worked for the company that produced Skyler. He was in charge of 3D printing. The NYPD requests the company’s help in unlocking Skyler’s memory. Unfortunately, Skyler’s AI isn’t smart enough to understand the police’s questions about the murder. But she can provide a different sort of information. Sherlock notices that Skyler’s doll model looks somewhat like a real person. Sure enough, checking Deramore’s social media reveals an ex-girlfriend with a familiar face.

Bell goes to his university himself to ask why he’s been rejected from his class. Surprise surprise, it’s all Sherlock’s fault. The stats professor, Baynes, worked with Sherlock at Scotland Yard and holds a grudge.

Deramore’s ex has an alibi. She was filing suit against the doll company for stealing her face. She also has a Clue. While arguing with Deramore the day before his murder, she’d noticed a receipt for a hotel room for the day he was killed.

This leads the detectives to a local sci fi convention. Deramore was attending, thus the hotel room. He’d had an odd interaction there. In the middle of a panel on the “real science” of sci fi, Deramore yelled at the panelist, grabbed his papers, and ran out the room. A few hours later, he was dead.

So what was the panelist talking about? Well, naturally, teleportation!

Okay, not exactly. Someone scans an item in one place. The information is sent to another place and a 3D printer there prints an exact replica of the same item. It’s more like 3D faxing. But the panelist, who is a bit of an oddball, insists that this is secret, high-tech stuff that the US government is keeping under wraps for military applications. A mysterious stranger leaked the “teleportation” plans to the panelist for…some…reason. Why would someone do that if these are really super secret plans?

But the police aren’t inclined to totally dismiss the “teleportation” theory for a few reasons. For one thing, Deramore worked with 3D printing. For another, the plans themselves look like real patents. Sherlock and Joan decide to look closer.

Consulting with experts in the field of 3D printing proves that the basic theory of the “teleportation” is possible. The plans are legit. Joan checks into Deramore’s background and finds that he in grad school, he worked with a Dr. Fukata doing research on 3D printing. Joan and Bell head to the university. Dr. Fukata no longer works there, so Sherlock goes to meet with him separately.

Joan and Bell talk with three grad students that studied with Deramore. They’re initially shady about discussing the “teleportation,” but when they see that Joan and Bell have the plans, they open up. Any NDA they signed no longer applies if the plans are out there in the world. The teleportation, it turns out, was originally Fukata’s plan. But it was shut down and all the research locked away. At least in theory. In fact, the detectives find that the papers are missing, stolen. Now they know where the leak came from and it sure seems likely that Fukata was responsible for it.

There’s just one problem. Sherlock is at Fukata’s house, but Fukata isn’t. He was arrested by the military police.

Hey, you remember that general some episodes ago with the baby play kink? Good ole General Baby. The police appeal to him for help with Fukata, whom they think is the victim of the Invention Secrecy Act. The US government can seize any invention they feel is a danger to national security. The inventor receives no compensation and is forbidden to keep working on his invention or tell anyone about it. If Fukata leaked the plans, then the military would have grounds to arrest him.

It makes sense. Fukata was unable to continue his research or profit off it so long as the secrecy order was in place. If the plans leaked and became public knowledge, there was nothing to stop him. But if anyone figured out he was the one to do it, he’d be in big trouble. Maybe he killed Deramore to cover it up, only for the military to come after him anyway. But the police will never know if they don’t get to talk to him, so General Baby agrees to give them access. Purely out of the generosity of his own heart, of course, not because they have a big secret on him.

Sherlock, meanwhile, is meeting with his former colleague/current nemesis. It turns out that Baynes doesn’t resent Sherlock for his general Sherlockiness, but for solving a high profile case before Baynes had the chance. That leaves Sherlock at a loss. How do you apologize for being too good at your job? I have the same problem all the time.

The interview with Fukata is illuminating. He denies killing Deramore and being the source of the leak. He didn’t care about riches and fame, only about his work. After taking his patents, the military approached him to continue his research in one of their labs. So he didn’t actually have motive to leak his plans. It sounds plausible.

Plus, he knows who does have motive. When Fukata first began to publish his work, he didn’t give his grad students the credit they deserved. They were all enraged, but with the work secret anyway, they couldn’t defend themselves. If the plans were leaked, that’d be a different story. Framing Fukata for the leak would be the cherry on top. Then Deramore found out and the perpetrator killed him to cover it up.

There’s just one problem. How do they figure out which of the three grad students has blood on their hands? Well, maybe they should ask Skyler for help. She was there the whole time, after all, and with some help from Joan, she leads them right to the killer.  

Sherlock has come up with a solution for Baynes. He offers him a high profile job in security, thus making up for the prestige Sherlock took from him by solving his case. If he won’t take the job, then he’ll have to deal with having Sherlock as an enemy for life. Eep. Baynes opts to do the Right Thing. Problem solved.

The most important application of 3D printing


  • Excellent work making Skyler supremely Uncanny Valley.
  • I get that Sherlock is the protagonist, but does every subplot have to connect back to him? I want the other characters to have lives outside of him.
  • The prank Sherlock played at the end with Skyler was very creepy and yet made me laugh. It’s good to see Sherlock being silly and having fun with his friends.

Images courtesy of CBS

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