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Elementary: “A Stitch In Time”

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Elementary isn’t a show that always uses a “Previously On” sequence, but we get one here to mark the return of a recurring character: Hannah Gregson is back, and she has a case for Joan.

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This becomes the B-story in “A Stitch In Time,” which primarily focuses on the murder of a well-known skeptic who investigated the wrong ghost in the wrong house and got caught up in something much larger than a fake haunting. The Hannah Gregson storyline is ultimately a minor part of the episode, with Joan easily able to split time between the two cases even though Sherlock keeps chiding her for distracting herself with helping a mediocre beat cop. She takes time to meet with Hannah about the robberies in her neighborhood, she pieces the case together and gives Hannah the information to take up the chain, and then she hunts Hannah down when she discovers that Hannah has chosen to act on the information herself to win a commendation and advance her career as opposed to following proper procedure and allowing the detective to try to hook a bigger fish in the prescription drug trade with the lead.

Like so many B-stories on Elementary, this one is mainly there to give Sherlock and Joan something to talk about in quieter moments in the larger investigation. As Joan is faced with a difficult ethical dilemma about whether or not she should tell Captain Gregson about the situation, she talks to Sherlock about it, and eventually she goes to Gregson and finds out Hannah’s already told him what happened. But when we reached that final scene, I expected there to be some kind of takeaway that would give the story greater meaning, but instead it ended up being nothing—Hannah’s cunning and out for herself, Gregson loses some respect for her, and Joan was just basically along for the ride.

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So what was the point, then? A similar question turns out to be central to the A-story, as Sherlock discovers that a lengthy tunnel being built to access a transatlantic data cable—Ruby, it’s called—was made in order to install a box that would seem to do absolutely nothing. When they presumed the box was going to steal the data, that created a motive to dig the hole—when it appeared to do nothing, that motive disappeared. In the case of the Hannah storyline, the motive never materializes: while not necessarily a terribly way to spend a percentage of the episode, it never managed to feel particularly thematic, nor did it do much for our understanding of either Gregson or Joan’s characters. Instead, it seemed like it was there because the character existed and the show needed a B-story, which does not do a lot to make an episode stand out.

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The A-story is a double-barreled false front, beginning with what seems like a calculated murder of a local skeptic and then transforming into a presumed terrorist plot, after which it’s revealed that the character conveniently revealed earlier in the episode and played by the most recognizable guest actor is a former insider trader who wants to be seen as doing nothing even when he’s slowing down the financial district’s Internet connection by micro-seconds in order to better his own, blind-traded portfolio. It’s a perfect example of a case that in no way, shape, or form needed to start with a murder—while the murder offers the show the starting point it’s convinced the audience needs and becomes a useful way to increase the stakes for the hired help killer such that he requests the Picasso payoff that helps them pin the crime on Eiseley, the core of the case is over the box that does nothing, which is a compelling idea also manages to bring regular Irregular Mason back into the fold (since it doesn’t involve the internet, from which he is grounded).

Mason’s appearance is a nice callback to previous episodes, and “A Stitch In Time” has a few smaller elements—like Sherlock choosing to let Joan sleep in, but preparing post-it note directions to speed up her actions upon waking—that tap into the cumulative connection we share with these characters. However, more than other episodes this season and the show at its procedural best, it ended up feeling like a box that does nothing, with everything going in one end and out the other without much to show for it. The show does not need to deal out significant plot or character development in every episode, but they don’t necessarily need to feel as empty as this one did at the end of the day. I honestly don’t have much to say about it, which is a bit disappointing this late in the season, especially given how much momentum the show had going into the conclusion of the Kitty Winter arc earlier in the season.

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Stray observations:

  • While Sherlock’s brief foray into a cult gives him a chance to point out that cults are terrible, it also gives the show a launching point into its investigation by framing the “Church of Modern Atomcism” as a cross being Scientology (who hire private investigators) and the Guilty Remnant (who use their members to stalk people).
  • Empty Cup Awards: Lucy Liu was a little bit too weak-wristed with her likely empty coffee cup prop as she delivered Sherlock’s coffee to him, but the Foley artists were on-point with the sound effects as she put it down on the table.
  • Writer Peter Ocko has had a really fascinating career trajectory, with a lot of different types of procedurals and a range of sitcoms. The ingenuity in the plan in the episode would seem to reflect this experience, although I wish more could have been done to really connect the episode and its events to what makes the show and its characters distinct.
  • “I’m afraid I’m quite allergic to iconography”—Sherlock on why he doesn’t carry a badge.
  • I’m presuming that the “Ruby” cable was named after the “Emerald,” which is a real transatlantic cable. I also didn’t realize how many of them landed in the Atlantic provinces of Canada, which is where I’m from.
  • Clyde Watch: The opening scene of Sherlock allowing the bees from his rooftop colony was mainly a sight gag that also served to remind us of the bees without having to shoot at the rooftop location, but my real question is whether or not Clyde is allergic to bees. The internet would appear to suggest that my concerns are unfounded, so I have to presume Sherlock was aware of this before following through on the bee plan. If he wasn’t, and he picked the bees over Clyde, then I just don’t even know anymore.
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