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.”

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 . . .”

Elementary Thoughts & Open Thread: The Five Orange Pipz


Elementary doesn’t always directly reference the original Conan Doyle stories, but it’s always fun to read along when they do. You can read “The Five Orange Pips” online for free, though it really only resembles “The Five Orange Pipz” in some superficial ways: a few of the characters have the same names, and, most importantly, the victims are warned of their death by receiving five orange things in the mail: pips (orange seeds) in the original, and beads called “pipz” on the show. In the original, the case ends up being all about the Ku Klux Klan, which is not the case on the show.

On the show, some of the pipz were accidentally poison, due to a manufacturing error: they metabolized into GHB and killed some children. The victims were involved in the cover-up of this, and the father of one of the dead children confesses to the crime 17 minutes into the episode, so obviously it’s not a real confession. The real culprit is an FBI agent, who realized that if he could get the court case about the poisonings to end via blackmail and murder, he could steal the “evidence” and sell it as GHB. It was a perfectly fine case of the week, but served largely to let us see the developing dynamics between Holmes, Watson, and Kitty.

So, Kitty. I spent much of the episode being ready to be done with her, even as we learned a bit more about her – for example, she helped Scotland Yard when a boy was missing and didn’t want any credit, which is, of course, admirable. She’s jealous of Watson (and the fact that she thinks Holmes gives Watson all the interesting work) and/but also trying to present herself as the anti-Watson, blaring loud music and painting things in an attempt to make Holmes’s townhouse hers as well. This got me thinking: Is Watson more biddable or actually just more compatible with Holmes, or both? Related: Bell points out that Watson seemed to keep Holmes stable, and Kitty is definitely doing the opposite, messing up both the investigation and Holmes’s ordered life.

Watson is worried as well, and does a background check on Kitty, which seems to surprise Holmes more than it should, or perhaps he’s just insulted: “Was there some question you didn’t think you could simply ask me?” Watson finds that Kitty has no records past five years ago, which Holmes of course knows; he tells Watson that Kitty was the victim of a horrific crime and had to hide her identity, and he offers Watson paperwork to prove it. I loved that Watson went to Kitty with this, and didn’t read anything until Kitty urged her to. The scene between the two of them at the end of the episode made me like Kitty better, and be more patient with the idea of sticking around. Holmes certainly seems to think they’re in it for the long haul: “I believe she will make an excellent investigator. Just not today.”

One thing I definitely like is the way Kitty’s presence has gotten rid of some of the power imbalance between Holmes and Watson and made them closer to equals. “It’s unlikely I’ll find another case even half as worthy of my attention.” “I could say the same thing.” “And indeed you should.” I love him acknowledging her skills, and this is making me less averse to an eventual romantic connection between the two.

Other favorite lines and points of interest:

  • “The file that was on your desk.” “The file that was in my drawer?”
  • “He failed to provide a compelling alibi and then refused to allow the police to search his home. I’m inclined to think he’s innocent.”
  • Bell: “When am I going to meet this Andrew guy? I thought we were going to get drinks.” I want to see this!
  • Interesting body language in the conference room scene: Joan and Sherlock sit close to each other, with Kitty far away.
  • “Did you think I would place an ad in the classifieds, ‘Detective seeks protege, no questions asked?'”

Elementary Thoughts & Open Thread: Enough Nemesis to Go Around


Elementary is finally back! Boy, I missed this show. Unfortunately, after season premiere “Enough Nemesis to Go Around,” I still miss the show as it was, though I’m willing to go with it and see what it will be like now.

Because we start with a big change: Joan is on her own in New York, working as a P.I., consulting with the cops, and generally being awesome. The first section of the episode really drove home the point that Joan can stand fully on her own, both within the show as an investigator and as a character to carry the show. Not that I don’t love this version of Holmes, and love them working together, but I would absolutely watch The Joan Watson Show. We don’t need to rehash the whole case she’s working on, but it’s a reasonably interesting one in which an assassin “shoots” people by pulling bullets toward a giant magnet. And the mastermind behind the murders tells Joan that Joan herself was an intended target, and threatens her. Will this thread come back going forward? Don’t hurt join!

But in spite of herself, Joan winds up getting some help on the case from Holmes, who is back in New York after being fired by MI6. (“Creative differences, I’m afraid.” Hee.) He sends the police a tip letter about Joan’s case “from” a fake name that leads her back to him, but she is absolutely not ready to forgive and forget: “You ended it in that note you left me eight months ago. The one that was five whole sentences long.” Oh, Sherlock. Joan tells him “You were right. I didn’t need you anymore. I still don’t,” and I love that this is true, and that painful as the separation is for them and the viewers, it may lead to them coming back together as equals. But I’m happy that Joan isn’t forgiving him immediately for the way he left, because one of my favorite things about this show has always been the way it makes Holmes deal with the consequences of his actions rather than just having everyone excuse him because he’s a genius.

Speaking of consequences: Holmes’s abrupt departure is a factor when he tries to get his gig with the NYPD back as well. Gregson doesn’t oppose him coming back – he couldn’t and still be professional, really – but he’s extremely cold about it: “We’re not friends . . . We just never said it out loud before.” And, smartly, Gregson leaves the decision as to whether Holmes can come back up to Joan: she’s the one who’s been reliable, and she’s established herself as a skilled investigator in her own right, so of course Gregson wouldn’t want to risk losing Watson to get back the unreliable, difficult Holmes.

All of this is complicated by the fact that Holmes has returned to New York with a new apprentice, Kitty. Holmes briefly has her surveilling Watson – “I wanted to know exactly how much to apologize for.” – but she keeps doing it after he tells her to stop, and he is not pleased. He’s also not happy that Kitty told Joan she was his new partner: “I told her I was your partner.” “So you lied to her.” Kitty is obviously curious about and probably jealous of Joan – “The one you never shut up about.” What’s her deal, exactly? How long is she going to be around? How long will Holmes possibly put up with a non-Joan replacement?

Because he is, quite literally, trying to replace Joan, and he says as much. He tells her about the heroin he had in his possession as a test, and the way her announcement that she was moving out made him immediately realize he’d fail the test and that, therefore, he was depending on her too much. “It was wrong to make you the face of my problem.” But he decides – or at least is trying to tell himself – that the important thing about Joan was simply his role as mentor and teacher: hence Kitty. I doubt he’ll be able to keep up the pretense for very long that there was nothing special about Joan herself, and he already seems impatient with Kitty and is trying to work with Joan in some capacity – he offers to be a sounding board for her on cases. Joan agrees to let him work for the police, but is very hesitant to let him back into her life. (For good reason!) And when she presses him on why he returned to New York, he says “Isn’t it obvious? I belong here. As do you.” I will confess that at this point my notes say “OH MY GOD SAY YOU’RE THERE FOR HER,” and I don’t even mean that in a romantic way, just that he needs to admit to himself and everyone else that she is important to him and that that’s okay.

As I said, I’m curious to see how this season goes – will our duo fall back into working together all the time, or stay somewhat separate? How long will Kitty stay and how will she change the dynamics? I am of two minds about this – I recognize that changing up the show can make it narratively interesting, but at the same time, I enjoy it more when Holmes and Watson are spending a good deal of their time interacting.

Other favorite lines and points of interest:

  • “You’re running a narcotics cartel now. You have to look your best.”
  • “I have a turtle.” Did Sherlock just leave Clyde??
  • “You’ve had worse roommates.”
  • I like Joan’s new boyfriend Andrew so far, and I hope he doesn’t turn out to be evil. The reptile meet-cute was great.
  • The brownstone all covered up was so sad.
  • Here’s the Mystic massacre the fake John Mason name came from.
  • “I was thinking of no one but myself.” “Must have been a day that ended in Y.”
  • “Don’t be sorry. Be better.”
  • “I got into a baton fight with someone named Kitty.”
  • “Please note, this model is not to scale.” Hee.
  • “His body’s probably at the bottom of the ocean.” “You’re so negative, Joan.”
  • “I guess I didn’t see it as throwing anything away. I saw it as moving towards something.”

Elementary Season Premiere Sneak Peeks

ElementaryElementary is premiering later than most shows this year, because of CBS’s football schedule, but it’s finally back this Thursday, October 30th! Here are two sneak peeks from the premiere, “Enough Nemesis to Go Around.” Can’t wait! I’ll be writing about this show each week again this season. Who’s watching?

Video: Elementary Goes to NYCC

ElementaryElementary isn’t back for a few more weeks yet, but in the meantime, we’ve got some highlights from the show’s recent New York Comic Con panel! EP John Polson and actors Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, and Ophelia Lovibond discuss the season premiere, Holmes’s sobriety, the Holmes/Watson dynamic, and more. Elementary premieres on October 30th.