Three months later! Last episode ended with Sherlock walking out the door to go at last on a vacation to recuperate from his PCS. This episode begins as he triumphantly returns. There’s an extremely adorable Joan and Sherlock hug. Sherlock has been headache free for a month and is clearly feeling better.
But he isn’t home long before he finds the two aren’t alone there. Joan has a guest over…a very pregnant young woman named Kelsey. Joan is thinking of adopting her baby. Sherlock makes this face:
Perhaps fortunately for them, a body recently buried in concrete has been found in the city. Unfortunately, construction on the site has resulted in the body being cut in three pieces.
The body belongs to an unidentified Jane Doe, strangled two days earlier. She has a fiber in her teeth from a seatbelt, which must have been the murder weapon. Sherlock also finds a smart fitness bracelet among her belongings and is able to use that to identify her place of work, which leads to her identity.
She was named Lauren Wexler and worked for a company called Pathas Global but had been suspended shortly before her death. Lauren was meant to be working on a project called MERMA, a vehicle that would clean pollutants out of ocean water. But in two years, her project hadn’t gone anywhere. The company owner had benched her. He has an alibi, by the way, so he’s not the murderer. But he mentions that he once heard her have an angry phone argument with a man named Troy.
Back at the precinct, Bell and Sherlock go through Wexler’s belongings from the office. Sherlock proves he’s back at the top of his game by whipping out a neat bit of deduction. A pamphlet in Wexler’s belongings show she went to an urgent care not located near her house. There’s a bit of red paint in a distinctive shade on a hoodie. An internet search shows there’s a house with that shade of paint near that urgent care, and the owner of the house is one Troy Roselli. Of course you could ask, “what if the paint was on the inside of the house, not the outside?” but shhh.
Sherlock, Joan, and Bell meet at Roselli’s place. Their new suspect attempts to run (fully nude, poor Bell), so Joan and Sherlock investigate his garage as Bell chases him down. As Sherlock picks the lock, they discuss Joan’s potential new motherhood. He supports her choice but is afraid no adoption agency will let a baby live with a recovering addict. Joan is firm that she won’t let that stand in her way. She, in turn, is worried that Sherlock won’t be okay with a kid around. He reassures her that he’s willing to make adjustments for her. Inside the garage, the two expect to find a car that matches the seatbelt used to murder Lauren. Instead, they find a fully built MERMA.
When they manage to catch Roselli and bring him back for interrogation, he confesses that Lauren stole the plans for the MERMA and roped him into helping her build it. Pathas Global planned to make the designs for the MERMA open source. Great for the environment, but not for the company’s bottom line or Lauren’s wallet, so she decided to strike out on her own. Roselli denies killing her, but mentions that Lauren also stole tech from other engineers and designers. She’d taken the MERMA out for a few test drives on the Hudson. Maybe someone saw and realized what she had done and killed her in revenge?
Joan and Kelsey go out for lunch together. They’re still getting to know each other so that Kelsey can decide if she wants Joan to adopt her baby. Kelsey is a very intense young woman and seems judgmental of Joan’s unconventional lifestyle. The baby was an accident and Kelsey’s parents aren’t exactly thrilled with it and are glad she’s giving the baby up. The whole conversation is slightly weird.
Back to the case! Wexler kept video logs of her test drives of the MERMA. In one, she’s confronted by an agitated security guard from a nearby construction site. He doesn’t want her working or taping near the site and suggests that the company doing the construction is shady. That’s an interesting lead. Joan and Sherlock wonder if the construction company was illegally dumping waste in the river and killed Wexler to cover it up.
There’s some evidence for that. While testing the MERMA on the Hudson, Wexler found high levels of pollutants such as heavy metals in the river. Sherlock decides to talk to a hydro-geologist among his Irregulars, a woman named Gay, while Joan goes to speak to the local county office of Buildings and Safety to find the name of the company running the construction.
The Building and Safety office is unexpectedly informative. The company is called Topaz Valley Industries and Joan obtains the paperwork for the site. But the man running the office, a Mr. Pickering, has something else to share: Topaz is a shady company. They threatened his life to force the permit on their construction site through. He thinks they may be associated with organized crime. What’s more, Wexler was there only a week earlier and found out all the same information as Joan.
Sherlock also has a useful consultation with Gay. They’re testing the river water. The construction site, they’ve found, is abandoned. Topaz wasn’t really building. Instead, they were siphoning sand from the river. Apparently, sand is a limited resource highly in demand, leading to people stealing sand to sell. But Topaz siphoned so much sand from the river that they’ve destabilized the river bed and put a nearby bridge at danger of collapse.
Topaz turns out to be a shell company, but Sherlock thinks he knows who is behind it. There’s a crime organization in India, often called “the Sand Mafia” who are known for this kind of behavior. They even have a representative in New York right now, one Vikrant Jindal. However, Sherlock doesn’t think he personally killed Wexler. Jindal’s signature MO is drilling holes in people’s head.
They track Jindal down to a restaurant. He denies almost everything, including knowing Lauren, but admits that they siphoned sand from the river. He doesn’t think they did anything illegally. Due to higher regulations in the US, the Sand Mafia made sure to obtain the appropriate paperwork. Jindal claims an environmental impact study from Building and Safety gave them the go ahead to safely siphon sand. (Say that five times fast.) Jindal even shares the paperwork with them. That certainly contradicts what the county told Joan.
Sure enough, the paperwork exists, but Gay says that any inspector would have to be foolish or actively destructive to say it was safe to siphon. So maybe the Sand Mafia forced him to sign. As Bell attempts to track the inspector down, Sherlock and Joan return home and discuss Kelsey. Joan doesn’t think Kelsey is going to choose her to be the baby’s mom.
Sherlock, of course, can’t help but interfere. He goes to speak to Kelsey. But he’s actually fairly sweet about it, attempting to reassure Kelsey that he believes Joan can do anything she puts her mind to and that she’d be a great mom. He also says that if he’s the problem, he’s willing to leave. Oh, Sherlock, why must you be so self-destructive?
Before the conversation can get anymore awkward, Bell finds the inspector. But he won’t be able to tell them anything. He’s dead, with drill holes in his head. Yet, even though all signs point to Jindal, when Sherlock inspects the scene he thinks that Jindal is being framed. Jindal is a member of a sect that holds cows as sacred. They would never eat beef or even touch leather, but the inspector’s hands are bound with a leather belt. Plus, why would such a cunning organization leave the body out to be easily found?
Handwriting samples from the inspector’s home also prove that the Sand Mafia’s paperwork was forged. But if they didn’t kill the inspector, that leads Sherlock to think they didn’t forge the paperwork either. There must be someone else that would benefit from sand being dangerously siphoned from the riverbed. Someone that really wants the police to think Topaz Valley is responsible for everything. Who could that be? I won’t spoil it, but it’s a fairly classic Elementary outcome.
The case is over and so is Kelsey’s period of getting to know Joan. She prepares to leave, crying as she goes. Kelsey confesses that she isn’t going to pick Joan to adopt her baby. In fact, she’s decided she wants to keep her baby. Seeing Joan live her unconventional life and hearing Sherlock’s belief that Joan can do anything inspired Kelsey. She wants to live her life the way she wants to, and she wants to keep her baby. It’s no surprise, Sherlock says. Joan is inspirational.
- There were so many sweet, affectionate moments between Joan and Sherlock in this episode, and it really did my heart good.
- It’s sort of ironic how Lauren Wexler stole the MERMA for totally selfish reasons, and yet her selfishness uncovered the sand theft and saved the lives of everyone that might have been on the bridge when it collapsed. She and the MERMA served their original purpose of helping people despite Wexler’s best efforts.
- I love episodes of Elementary that bring your attention to crimes that sound totally ridiculous and yet are real things. The Sand Mafia sounds absurd and yet a quick google search shows sand theft is an actual problem. Life is weird.
- Right before I started watching this episode I was thinking, “Hm, been a while since we heard about Joan having a kid.” Guess the writers were thinking the same. I’m still not totally on board with this storyline, but I think I’ll reserve judgement until I see how this ends. The whole “Joan can do anything!!!” was a little cheesy but also sweet.
- Between Sherlock’s PCS and him offering to leave Joan so she can have a baby (even though Joan doesn’t want that), I feel like his self-destructive tendencies are really acting up this season. I’m wondering if that will come to a head soon…maybe with Michael.