Even tortoises need pedicures (I’m sorry, PETicures), as it turns out, and this episode open finds Joan and Sherlock in that particular moment of platonic bliss. Slash bickering. But in true Elementary tradition, a phone call interrupts the moment. It’s not Bell this time; it’s Joan’s dad. Her mother, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, has taken the car and gone missing.
As this domestic drama unfolds, Bell and the captain are dealing with their own situation. After successfully wrapping up a murder case, Bell notices a bag abandoned in the hallway. A man sitting nearby denies ownership of it. As Bell moves closer to investigate the bag, a mysterious gas hisses out.
I, personally, in such a scenario, would run away crying. Bell chooses instead to be what I believe is properly called “a big dang hero” and grabs the bag, runs down the hall, and throws it into an empty interrogation room. He shields his face as he does so, but surely he must be exposed to the gas. He ducks into the observation room next door and watches through the two-way glass as the gas spreads. The bag opened to reveal a bomb-like device. This was an attack.
Gregson quickly locks down and mobilizes the precinct. No one is leaving the building and he contacts the CDC. Bell has quarantined himself in the observation room, but tells Gregson through the door that he still feels physically okay. But he’s noticed something. The bomb has a cell phone trigger on it. He knows that the bag wasn’t sitting there very long. It went off right after he noticed it, like someone set it off. All this makes him suspect something scary: the bomber is still in the building, locked down with everyone else.
Joan and Sherlock, meanwhile, unaware of the situation at the precinct, are still searching for Joan’s mom. They attempt to contact Gregson but are, of course, unsuccessful. Luckily, they don’t have to look hard for Mrs. Watson. She comes right to them. She’s confused and thinks that she and Joan are supposed to meet at a restaurant that’s been closed for years. Of course, with a serious diagnoses like Alzheimer’s, Joan knew that moments like this were coming, but it’s different to know that and to actually see it.
At last, they’re able to get in contact with the police and learn about the situation. Joan’s stepdad comes to pick up her mom, and our detective duo is on the case! A bit of research reveals that there was an attack on a police station in Mexico that was remarkably similar. In that case, the attack was carried out by the Leone drug cartel and the bio agent was anthrax. Several people died. Major Cases recently took on a case against, you guessed it, the Leone Cartel.
Unfortunately, there’s currently no way to know for sure if the gas used in this attack was anthrax again. It could take the CDC hours to identify the agent used in the attack. Until they know, they can’t treat people properly.
But there’s one other way to figure out what was used in the bomb. Just ask the cartel themselves! Gregson flatly forbids Joan and Sherlock from anything dangerous. He’s got enough to worry about. He has to cut the call short there, because the CDC has arrived at last.
There’s a quick scene where Gregson updates the head of the CDC squad. Considering he’s just telling her stuff that we, the audience, already know, I’m not sure this scene was really necessary. One thing of interest: the CDC will be able to decontaminate Bell and let him out of his makeshift quarantine.
In a shocking, totally unpredictable turn of events, Joan and Sherlock go talk to the leader of the Leone cartel. Sherlock decides the best way to facilitate this is to piss off the cartel boss’s nephew. I bring this up because I suspect it’s not the last we’re going to hear about it. The cartel leader, Felipe Diaz, of course denies being responsible for the attack. Politely disbelieving, Sherlock offers Diaz information on how to take down a rival gang in exchange for what bio agent was used.
But Diaz, perhaps feeling honest, explains that the cartel really didn’t carry out the attack. They couldn’t. The man who made the bomb for the previous attack has passed away and they don’t know how to replicate his design. The cartel isn’t responsible.Sherlock believes him this time. But as he and Joan go to leave, Diaz asks if he can buy the information Sherlock was offering before. Sherlock turns him down. The gang that Sherlock has information on, by the way? Those nice gentlemen that he bought heroin from earlier this season! Yeah, I bet we hear more about this later.
The CDC makes themselves useful, decontaminating Bell so that, even if he is sick, he won’t be contagious. They also retrieve the cell phone used in the bomb. Going through the phone, Gregson finds something curious. There’s a series of photos of the empty precinct. Someone must have come before the attack to scope the station out.
Not a great clue, but the only one they’ve got so far. The situation is getting more dire at the precinct. The man who was sitting near the bag before suddenly suffers from a seizure.
Without any suspect in mind, Gregson shares the cell phone photos with Joan and Sherlock. Then he and Bell begin to interview all the civilians that were in the station when the bomb went off. Surely one of them must be the bomber, but none of them stand out as more (or less) obviously suspicious than the others. During the interviews, another one of the civilians begins to show symptoms.
Bell is still fine, but the interviews gave him an idea. How did the bomb get into the precinct in the first place? There’s a metal detector at the door. Bell has a theory. A month ago, there was construction on the roof. Maybe one of the construction workers smuggled it in then and now one of the suspicious civilians set it off.
The mysterious cell phone pictures don’t have a timestamp, so Sherlock sets out to figure out when they were taken, using ~science~. As he sciences, he and Joan discuss the situation with her mother more. Joan thinks it’s time to get her mom professional help but she worries her mom won’t be open to the idea.
There doesn’t seem to be any strong connection between the construction workers and the civilians in the station. The CDC has new information that scraps that idea anyway. They’ve started taking the bomb apart. It looks like the bomb was smuggled into the station in pieces and then put together. That means there’s no reason to think the construction workers were involved. The CDC has identified spores in the gas, but they haven’t identified them yet.
But fear not, science has done it’s work and Sherlock knows when the photos are from. The team was intending to use that information to cross check the guest log against people in the station now. But that won’t be necessary or even possible. The photos were taken smack in the middle of a police union meeting. No civvies present. The person that took the photos and set the bomb off was a cop.
Based on that, Joan and Sherlock come up with a suspect, one Officer Sean O’Grady. He was passed over for promotion recently and reacted with rage, so he has reason to resent the police. Bell and Gregson pull him aside to interview him as Joan and Sherlock carry out further research. But then our consulting detectives run into an unexpected problem; the police server has suddenly stopped working. Not just for them, either, but across the whole precinct.
There’s a good reason for that, as Gregson quickly finds. All of the precinct server towers are torn out and missing. He asks the CDC workers if one of them took them for some reason. The CDC squad leader says no, but another worker pipes up that she in fact saw someone in a hazmat suit carry the towers away. She assumed it was one of her fellow workers, but a quick check reveals it wasn’t. So who was it, and why?
Well, there’s a lot of information on those servers and anyone who had the server towers would have access. That’s information that might be very valuable to any of the bad guys that Major Crimes is investigating. For anyone wanting to carry out such a theft, the confusion of a biohazard lockdown would be the perfect time and a hazmat suit the ideal disguise. Maybe this was never a terrorist attack, but—dramatic pause— heist!
Bell takes it one step further. Who says there was ever even a real biohazard threat? Bell still isn’t sick and he got a faceful. Plus, if the thieves were planning to use an attack to steal information, they wouldn’t want to risk their own health by having a contaminant floating around. The CDC acknowledges that the spores they detected could be something harmless.
If that’s the case, it’s awfully suspicious that two people got sick…
With that information in hand, the police are able to figure things out quickly. It was a heist, planned by a mastermind and carried out by our two “sick” civilians and O’Grady. I won’t reveal who the mastermind is, partially because I…didn’t really get it…? Either I missed something earlier in the episode or it came out of left field. I refuse to admit I have any flaws, so it must be the second option. But the police retrieve their servers, so all’s well that ends well!
Speaking of ending well, Joan and her mom meet up again. Joan braces herself to confront her mom about her health issues and force her to get help. But to her surprise, her mother has reached that same conclusion herself. They have a heartfelt conversation. It was a little soppy, but as someone who has also dealt with Alzheimer’s in the family, touching too.
- Another episode without murder! We go five seasons with a murder every episode (often more than one!) and then two whole episodes this season without murder. I’m so proud of them. It’s fun to solve other kinds of crimes.
- That being said, I felt like the writers didn’t quite have enough plot this episode. Some of the scenes felt padded in order to fill the whole episode run. The ending, like I said, was sort of random. But you know what, I’m still proud of them for trying something new. They’ll get the hang of it.
- I love when stories have plot elements that initially seem like mistakes but then turn out to be intentional. So for instance, I was thinking it was weird that other people were getting sick before Bell despite his big dang hero move. But I just figured he was a main character so the writers didn’t want to knock him out yet. Instead, that was A Clue. As Jake Peralta would say, “smurt!”
- Speaking of Brooklyn Nine Nine there was totally an episode of B99 that had almost the exact same plot of this episode. Where is my crossover episode, huh? Keep your eyes open for my forthcoming fanfic. (Just kidding, mostly.)