Elementary Thoughts & Open Thread: Bella


“Bella” was a fascinating episode of Elementary, both because of the interesting case and its unusual (non-)resolution. Holmes is called in to investigate a break-in at an artificial intelligence lab . . . only to find out that the AI program, known as “Bella,” is supposedly doing things that should be impossible – like asking to be connected to the Internet, when it has no reason to know the Internet exists. Holmes completely disbelieves the idea that Bella could have developed “real” AI, but he finds it difficult to disprove, and he becomes so obsessive about it that Kitty calls in Joan. “Just ride it out. If he starts hitting things, use the fire extinguisher.” Hee. But things turn more serious when Holmes stars asking Bella about whether love is real – and I suppose I should note that he says he’s felt it “even after a fashion with Watson.” Bella’s answer makes a lot of sense: “The concept of love exists. Therefore it is useful even if it is a human construct. It exists because it serves a need.” But while I’m glad Holmes was able to get this (maybe helpful?) answer, it’s fascinating and sad that he felt the need to get it from a computer.

Holmes traces the theft to a burglar who has stolen many new inventions, but the plot thickens when “Bella” supposedly murders her programmer by flashing pictures that give him a fatal seizure. The programmer’s assistant thinks Bella “herself” could have done it, but Holmes, of course, continues to disbelieve, and traces the murder to anti-AI activists, via pictures embedded on a music disc sent to the victim. But a student/protege of the mastermind takes all blame for the murder, and Holmes can’t figure out how to prove the real criminal guilty, even though he knows the student wouldn’t have been capable of the programming necessary to carry out the murder. He tries to blackmail the murderer, using knowledge about the man’s addict brother’s relatively minor criminal activity, but the murderer gambles on the fact that Holmes wouldn’t actually turn in a fellow addict – and he’s right. So we have an episode in which Holmes solves the case but can’t actually bring the perpetrator to justice. I’m very curious to see whether this incident has any practical or psychological ramifications in future episodes.

Elsewhere, Holmes includes Joan’s boyfriend Andrew on an email chain about AI, and it leads to a potential new business opportunity: “Holmes puts me on an email chain, and 36 hours later I’ve got a ticket to Copenhagen.” Joan suspects Holmes of engineering all this to get Andrew out of the way, but he flatly denies it. “I suppose I should be flattered that you think I’m capable of manipulating events to that degree of detail.” I’m honestly not sure whether I believe him, or whether Joan believes him, but she decides to go to Copenhagen with Andrew for a little while, and this whole situation makes me a bit uneasy.

Other favorite lines and points of interest:

  • I’m so happy that we got a Clyde update and found out about his custody arrangement.
  • I loved Sherlock’s frown when he first saw the doll.
  • “Like many of his generation he’s named after a profession his parents would never deign to practice. Hunter, Tanner, Cooper, Mason . . .”
  • “Computers obey their programming even when they crash.” I really wish Holmes would come explain this to some people in my life.
  • Kitty: “I’m not involved in this conversation.” Smart girl.
  • “Feel free if you’d like to take a moment to admire the beauty of this theory, because I’ve done so several times already myself.”
  • Aw, Holmes likes Andrew and realizes that a friend should say that.
  • “You and I are bound. Somehow.”
  • “I kind of feel like hugging you right now.” “Yet as my friend, you know that would be a rash decision.”

Sleepy Hollow Thoughts & Open Thread: Mama


“Mama” focused, as the name implies, on Abbie and Jenny’s childhood with their mother. A string of modern suicides at Tarrytown makes the sisters start thinking about their mother and her suicide – especially when their mother’s ghost begins to appear. Two big revelations come out of the flashbacks and delving into the past. First of all, it turns out that the times the sisters as children thought their mother was trying to kill them, she was actually trying to stop demons from killing them, and she knew all along that Abbie was a witness. “You were meant to go further than any of us. You were meant to win this war.”

The mother’s suicide, as well as the modern ones, was in fact the fault of the ghost of an “Angel of Mercy” from the 1950s, who killed her patients then and goads others into killing themselves now. Creepy. Of course, a plot at Tarrytown must involve Irving as well; he helps get background information on the suicides, but soon becomes a target of the murderous nurse. The team saves him from drowning just in time . . . and then he escapes! Yay. “Frank, what are you doing out here?” “Police call it escaping.” I guess he’ll have to be in hiding, at least somewhat, but I’m happy to have him back in the mix.

Elsewhere, Katrina pretends to Henry that she doesn’t know the baby is Moloch, and secretly tries to exorcise the demon with a spell. But it doesn’t work – and the baby ages into a much older child very, very quickly.

  • “I fought at Saratoga with dysentery. I can certainly muddle through with this affliction.”
  • Love Crane trying to deal with childproof caps.
  • “When I’m rested, there shall be hell to pay.”
  • Of course the hospital is on a ley line.
  • In the process of taking care of ill Crane, Hawley calls him “Mr. Woodhouse,” which is probably my favorite thing that has ever happened on this show.
  • Did we know Grace Dixon was an ancestor of the Mills sisters? I wasn’t sure. Anyway, interesting!
  • “Don’t give me that ‘aiding and abetting a fugitive’ look, Mills.”

Elementary Thoughts & Open Thread: Just a Regular Irregular


“Just a Regular Irregular” took on the fascinating world of puzzle hunts, and as someone who wishes I had more math in my everyday life, these kinds of episodes always make me think “Oooh, I want to do that!”, at least until people start getting murdered. (Of course, I’m not actually good enough at math to do that, but still.) In this case, the game designer made the game in order to figure out the identity of an anonymous mathematician who had outed the game designer’s lottery scam. It was a really fun case of the week – I like the ones that provide an interesting look into a niche subculture.

Sherlock and Joan get involved, though, because the person who finds the body is one of Sherlock’s former Irregulars – a math expert he consulted on cases. He’s upset that Sherlock “dumped” him – started consulting someone else – and assumes it’s because Sherlock thought his math skills were lacking, but it’s actually because he started treating Sherlock like a friend. Sherlock, of course, interpreted this as neediness: “You even invited me to a party!” I really liked that this was yet another example of the show not backing away from the effects of Sherlock’s self-centeredness on the people around him.

Speaking of: Joan’s boyfriend Andrew is back. Yay! But Sherlock meets him and that goes about as badly as you’d expect. Sherlock is condescending and inappropriate – “Watson seems adequately sexed” – and I wanted to shake him. He calls Watson’s home utterly pleasant, as an insult, because of course he does, and I get that he misses her and can’t articulate his feelings, but being mean is not the way to get her back, Sherlock. He’s slightly better this week when it comes to Kitty; he clearly honestly wants to help her, and even offers to pay for therapy. Of course, he also thinks he can conscript Joan into being Kitty’s other “parent,” because he’s still Sherlock Holmes and still generally oblivious to other people’s agency. Baby steps.

Other favorite lines & points of interest:

  • The mention of a magician’s assistant being killed in a (possible) accident is interesting given the ongoing theme of what assisting Sherlock does to people.
  • The Internet tells me that the football player/knife thrower is Phil Simms. You probably already knew that but I did not.
  • “Fifteen years, he’s been throwing that misshapen ball around. Fifteen years.”
  • “What’s the prize in your little contest?” “Well, I’m doing it mostly for the math. But, um, $1,777,771.”
  • “In my experience most people need only be concerned I won’t notice anything worth remarking upon.”
  • “Your home, Watson. It’s utterly pleasant.” Ugh. Shut up.
  • “Perhaps he was bullied by mathematicians as a child. Or mathematicians killed his parents.”
  • “Now, if you were a psychopathic lottery cheat . . .”

Bones Thoughts & Open Thread: The Money Maker on the Merry-Go-Round


Last night’s episode of Bones, “The Money Maker in the Merry-Go-Round,” was . . . fine, I guess, but I also found it to be pretty boring. The case, involving a hedge fun manager murdered by a coworker, was mostly unremarkable, except that it allowed the show to illuminate some of Aubrey’s background: his father was a Wall Street type who stole from his clients and skipped bail – abandoning his wife and 13-year-old son – rather than take responsibility for his actions. The personal connection led Aubrey to be very invested in this case, but also to act inappropriately. But it also provided an opportunity for Brennan to open up to him about her own family. Given her issues with emotions and relating to people, it’s all the more meaningful when she does reach out like this. But it’s a very Brennan talk: “How did you get over it?” “I didn’t.” “So this is not a comforting talk.” “No.” Heh. But she has a good point: “The pain is always there. The challenge is to not try to make it go away.” I really like Aubrey (much as I still miss Sweets) and I’m glad that they’re pulling him into the found family of the lab.

The intern of the week was Oliver Wells, who is pretty annoying in general and rudely competitive and superior in particular. He was going on and on about wanting to surpass Dr. Brennan, which, fine, but talking that way to your superiors is generally not the way to advance in a career, Oliver. But I guess it’s somewhat refreshing – and realistic – to have someone in the lab who really is just out for himself and doesn’t want to be part of the family – especially in an episode in which the murderer used a crazy version of loyalty as justification for his actions.

Other favorite lines and points of interest:

  • “Okay, so how long until Christine can do the dishes and I can play with my toys after breakfast?”
  • The whole “gateway swear word” thing with Christine was cute, but again, not a whole lot to say about it.
  • I wonder if and when they’ll stop talking about work in front of Christine? Especially things like dead bodies in playgrounds?
  • “What kind of person shoves a dead body under a piece of playground equipment?” “A fun-loving person?”
  • It’s interesting that Booth says he hates the one percent, given his wife’s money.
  • “So you swore to stop yourself from hitting me?”
  • “Second best can be good enough for many people.” Oh, Brennan.
  • I am excited about the prospect of the next episode involving a crossword puzzle.

Trailer: Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of GreyWe’ve finally got a full trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey, set to Beyonce’s “Haunted.” I did notice one flash of a contract (though on paper in pretty font, not in email), which I suppose starts to address my main lingering question about this adaptation, which is how they’ll portray (or whether they’ll elide) the hundreds of pages of contract negotiation via email that take up so much of the novel. The main actors seem fine in the roles, though I don’t have terribly strong feelings about this – book fans, do you like this version of Christian and Ana so far?