Elementary "The Deductionist" Review: An MVP Episode

By Lily Sparks

Feb 04, 2013

Elementary S01E14: "The Deductionist"

Last night’s Elementary was blessed with a golden opportunity: Airing after the Super Bowl gave the show basically an opportunity at a second premiere, such was the number of new viewers who would be exposed to it. And to give Elementary full credit, its cold open made the absolute most of the opportunity, with a lowest-common-denominator hook, custom-made to snare football fans: namely, two women in bikinis shimmying around Sherlock.

True, it’s not for nothing that Super Bowl Sunday is the #1 day of the year in incidences of both sex trafficking and domestic abuse, but doom and gloom aside, introducing the violent mystery the show had in store with a fluffy whipped-cream garnish of pure sex appeal was a brilliant way to go, and the writers justified it with a cute-enough button (Sherlock captured the lap-dancing robbers that had been arousing and bamboozling NYC!). From there the episode went into one of Elementary's cooler and most terrifying mysteries: A convict taken out of jail to donate his kidney to his sister hops off the table in the O.R., absolutely slaughters his team of surgeons, and escapes onto the streets.

I have seen such a deplorable smorgasboard of gratuitous cinematic violence, everything from The Master of the Flying Guillotine to Hobo With a Shotgun, and yet Innes a.k.a. "The Peeler" rising up from the operating table in nothing but a paper gown and killing everyone in the room still stood out as genuinely unnerving. I guess I’ve never seen someone in scrubs get stabbed; I just compartmentalize the genres of "medical drama" and "cops-fighting-villains," so the overlap felt weirdly scary and fresh and the way it was filmed and edited made it exponentially creepier. Violence for the sake of violence on TV isn’t cool bros, but if you’re going to throw in a violent bit to make your audience terrified of your villain, this will do the damn trick.

So then the Peeler was out and about terrorizing New York in every conceivable way, an FBI profiler showed up to figure out where he would go now that he was off his chain. Sherlock seemed tres awkward around her and finally screamed at Watson apropos of nothing, "IF YOU’RE ASKING IF WE HAD SEX, YES, OBVIOUSLY!" which was one of the more charming ways to use a character’s social weirdness to cut to the heart of the matter. (Another line I genuinely loved, when Watson told him that thanks to his addiction, he had made a friend and then had to clarify "Me. I meant me." Awww you guys.) Yes, the profiler had knocked Sherlock's boots and then spilled his secrets to the world, and Sherlock was still a little tender about it, so this was something he and the Peeler had in common. Neither of them liked being "figured out" by an uppity blonde in the FBI whose profiles didn't so much "profile" as "talk a lot of shit." In fact, she had talked so much shit on Innes and his upbringing that his parents basically died of shame. Shame was the real villain here, truth be told.

Of course, the giant gaping hole in the logic is that if Innes gave two shits about his parents' feelings, he never would have gone about killing and peeling people in the first place—and also, umm, 100 percent of serial murderers were abused in some way by their parents. (All killers no, but serial murderers, the ones who make snuggies out of their victims' skin and so forth, they generally can relate to Carrie.)

Whatever, I'll allow it, it was still scary enough and sort of plausible enough, even when they got to the apartment of the sister whose kidney was ruined and they found her whole house stocked with foods that ruin your kidneys (cheeseballs and licorice, my two faves!!!) so they realized she was complicit in the Peeler's scheme, and that was a stretch, but I went with it and I enjoyed the ride. It helped that the actress playing the sister was absolutely convincing at being both sick and crazy.

Beautifully balancing this ultra-violent psychological thriller case was this weird subplot with Watson’s apartment. As soon as I heard she had been subletting her apartment I said aloud to noboody, "Girl tell me you did not all a subletter loose in your house." I don't like to generalize, but subletters are shady. I’ve seen a subletter leave a pot of nipple paint out on the bathroom counter for all the world to see and I've had a subletter tell me to my face that three girls—and one of whom was his girlfriend—had died in his arms. I'm not kidding! And this was after he had ASKED ME OUT. You are really shouting out to the universe "Chaos Theory, show me what you got!" and throwing the door of your house wide open when you sublet, is all I'm saying.

Anyway, the fact that this show owned that and then turned it into this recurring weird visual joke—especially when they showed clips of that porn—was so weirdly funny and tangential and brilliant. I love that Elementary took a little leap there and injected some off-kilter humor that way, bravo. It balanced the grisliness of the Peeler somewhat.

But the final confrontation between Sherlock and the Peeler and the gun and the handcuffs— honestly, I didn't get it. I mean, I understood the words and the logic, but it seemed that by creating that situation Sherlock was proving her profile of himself true, not making any points about Innes. That Sherlock would self-destructively put himself and a gun across from a serial killer said more about him than who Innes was, no matter what he chose (gun or cuffs, and ultimately I'd say it's braver to take the cuffs and face down a confession than kill someone else in a man-to-man confrontation). I’d love a commenter’s take on this exchange and what it meant for both of them.

So yes, a weird and wonderful episode. If this had been first experience with Elementary I’d tune in next week, so, Super Bowl opportunity: well won!


QUESTIONS:

1. On a scale of 1-10, how believable is it that a law-abiding woman would ruin her kidneys to revenge her parents?

2. Have you ever had an experience with a shady subletter?

3. What exactly was Sherlock offering with the gun and the handcuffs?

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  • MariaMahoney Feb 10, 2013

    Well, if I'm honest, I liked this episode. The whole sub letting plot just cracked me up. But to answer Lily's review questions...

    1. On a scale of 1-10, how believable is it that a law-abiding woman would ruin her kidneys to revenge her parents?

    To be honest, it wasn't believable. I didn't like that part of the plot. I could almost understand if the woman took an opportunity to kill dis biatch when she came to visit her. I COULD believe that, just about. But I don't believe someone would purposefully ruin their kidneys just for that. After all, if she had any brain whatsoever, she'd realise her parents died from shame at one murdering child, who they were then accused of abusing, so why make the shame level doubled? So I'd give that a 0 to be honest. Apart from that, GO TEAM SHERLOCK GO!

    2. Have you ever had an experience with a shady subletter?

    Hmn... well I live in England. The basic rule of life is subletting. I'd rather sublet to family. But actually this plot was more believable than Innes' sister ruining her kidneys. Landlords often do crap like that to get their rent controlled tenant out of the apartment so they can charge a freaking fortune. In fact, my family has been hassled several times to move out of our home because of the location we live in, and the fact that they can't raise the rent. However we tell them to get bent. We live near bus stops, train and tube stations, why would we leave that? Easy access to everything we could ever want. LOL! So I totally believe that the subletter would be stupid enough to film a porn movie in Watson's apartment, and that the Landlord would take full advantage of this. He might like Watson as a person, but money is money. Very believable.

    3. What exactly was Sherlock offering with the gun and the handcuffs?

    Sherlock knew Innes would go for the gun as soon as he made it clear the gun represented that Innes had changed. In fact, the gun represents his cowardice, because he doesn't want to go back to jail. It's not a risk if you know what someone is going to do. I would have been more surprised if Sherlock had said the same thing to Innes but offered the handcuffs in the place of change. Innes is inherently violent. The man will always chose a weapon over jail. So Sherlock was prepared for what Innes would do. As he was prepared, it was a calculated risk. You could say it was self destructive in a way, but as Sherlock said to Gregson when they finally arrested Innes, it might take years for Sherlock to figure out if his experiment worked. I don't think Sherlock was talking about Innes in that moment. I think he was talking about himself.

  • MarlboroMagpi Feb 07, 2013

    Can someone explain to me how can Lucy Liu who is obviously Asian Chinese can have a English family name of "WATSON" ?

    We have seen her whole family in one of the earlier episode. They were all Chinese so it is unlikely the mom married a Caucasian man. The brother look Chinese and her mum seems quite traditional. My guess is that the writers did not think of it when casting Lucy Liu. They just thought Lucy would be a good cast which I agree but I don't think they thought about the family name issue.

  • oats22 Feb 17, 2013

    Her father is white in the show.

    Can't find the screen cap, but in the ep where the phone rings and it says "mom & dad," look at the picture. Her mom is a chinese woman, her father is a white man.

  • MariaMahoney Feb 10, 2013

    Actually, I've seen it happen quite a lot. Many families emigrate to England and America, my assumption is that in America, they do the same sort of thing as they do here in the UK, which is when they're not very sure of how to spell or pronounce a name they change it. My grandmother emigrated to England from the Greek part of Cyprus, and when she was given English citizenship, she looked at her passport (as well as the passports of her other family members who came to England) and found that rather than giving them the surname Charaloumbos, which was their surname, they'd given them the surname Paraskeva, which was their father's first name. THAT was weird. Also, my friend who is Chinese by origin, had to change her first name to something English when her family emigrated to England, because her first name was too hard to pronounce. It sounds ridiculous, but Joan Watson being of Chinese origins is not the strangest thing I've ever heard.

  • RenAlexisCati Feb 09, 2013

    I have a friend who's filipino which has a family name "PARKER", and his whole family looks filipino. Just saying. haha

  • awaryfool Feb 07, 2013

    "the #1 day of the year in incidences of both sex trafficking and domestic abuse"

    This is not true and it never was true. This reviewer is parroting a myth.

  • AdaHui Feb 07, 2013

    I don't know what it is with me and watching Sherlock smack the shite out of people with batons/sticks but it totally works. Maybe it's the delivery but when he first whacked M a few episodes ago and then with his stick thing on the Peeler, I fall a little more in love with JLL every episode. I should have expecting it was coming with the whole practice thing early on in the episode but I never do and I love how he gets himself into sketchy situations and then gets himself out all on his own.

  • Llostris Feb 07, 2013

    "The Deductionist" was a pleasant surprise after a very disappointing "The Red Team". This episode had a good, interesting plot (seriously, crazy serial killers are the best!). That's "Elementary" I like to watch.

    1. I was very happy to see Kari Matchett (another great guest star after Lisa Edelstein - come on, writers give us Claire Danes next!) I guess, it was Joan's time to pose as FBI agent. I'm starting to think they have some kind of FBI fetish in CIA :) (I really can't wait for season 4 of "Covert Affairs")

    2. Character development. I loved Joan's way of saying "FYI, we're friends". Awesome! Also Irene wasn't the only non-prostitute Sherlock slept with. I hope we will meet his other exes.

    3. I loved the look of shock on strippers/robbers faces when Sherlock said that he usually solved more homicidal cases. It was like "we're robbing a police officer". Talk about epic fail.

    4. I kind of expected the sister to be a complicit. After all, in one of episodes we had a killer who pretended to be a coma patient. Hospitals in "Elementary" are full of criminals. Need a suspect? Go to hospital.

    5. Joan can add "contacts in the porn business" to her resume. I'm sure her flat will be famous now.

    6. Where is Clyde?! Did Sherlock eat him? We should get at least one scene with Clyde every episode.

    Question:

    1. Crazy people are just crazy. There is no scale for them.

    2. Nope, never.

    3. Sherlock just wanted an excuse to beat the crap out of the serial killer.

    Great review Lily, as always :)

  • tryptz Feb 06, 2013

    I doubt this will win over new viewers. I so hoped it would BUT the episode was weak weak weak! Which is shocking cause so far each episode before this was awesome. The case was....weak and not up to the usual high writing standard of this show. I pray they dont get to rue this missed opportunity come renewal time.

  • Watashii Feb 06, 2013

    I really liked how this episode was comparing deduction vs. profiling. I was totally rooting for Sherlock all the way. I can just imagine Sherlock butting heads with the guys from Criminal Minds.

    Personally I didn't like the episode. The first ten minutes of it showed stripper dancing and a massacre. And this was the episode shown after the Superbowl? I'd be turned off if it was the first episode I've watched.

    I actually like how Watson had her own little 'case' and had to deduct something even though it was very little. As much as I like Elementary, I don't think it will get any boost because the case wasn't really big or interesting enough.

  • terminaltrip421 Feb 06, 2013

    I thought it was one of elementary's weakest episodes. and even with kari matchett one of my least favorite. up there with the child abduction episode that I had a problem with for the same reason you did.
    That opening scene was obviously thrown in there so that CBS could use it during super bowl commercial breaks to advertise the show. and I hate fake chests and there were three women with fake chests in the episode. really lame. also man I wish lucy would smile more, it's the difference between among the most attractive women in the world, and pretty attractive asian chick with anger issues.

  • AmitBaloda Feb 06, 2013

    Here's my take on the 'Gun' or 'Cuff' question:

    Admittedly, it would be much more cowardly to take cuff in that situation since it would mean that he definitely would be avoiding confrontation (which incidentally is told to him at that very time). But telling him to choose after clearly pointing out that choosing would predict whether you are a coward or not was not that stupid or self-destructing because this made the choice clear before he had even made it. As we had seen previous to that scene that everything that innes did was to discredit someone else's views of him (clear coward move btw). He did not care for his family (again proven by him asking his sister to destroy her life for his agenda) but in fact all he cared about was himself.

    And why sherlock put himself in that situation is may be because he felt defeated by him when he predicted that innes would lay low and kill any available 'blonde' but it didn't happen. So, his superego kicked in and then he need to prove to himself that he is the superior being (a trait clearly defining his personality).

    So, to me, all that talk about the profiler being right or wrong was just 'poppycock' and it didn't mean anything and certainly not what Sherlock was saying.

    And thank you lily for this great review. I finally read one of your reviews in which you haven't disliked the episode (I don't read all you reviews, so may be its my fault).

  • bleumystique Feb 06, 2013

    Great review!! Choked a few time...which is only a good thing when I'm reading or watching something funny...other times, not so much.
    -It was a weird and wonderful episode and they did take full advantage of the post Bowl crowd. When it opened with half naked ladies dancing around a half naked Sherlock, I think I said something along the lines of "This guy is freakin awesome". I think I'm developing a crush on JLM. I know it's criticized a great deal but I'm loving the hell out of how he plays this role.
    - It's been long established that I'm ship-challenged. I use the term ship to describe any dynamic between two characters that I love, whether it's platonic or romantic. So...what do we call Sherlock and Watson? Like, can I say bromance? Whatevs. Their humance is the bestest. I love how it's slowly but surely escalated over the episodes,a now they just genuinely care about each other and are friends. I loved how Joan told him that he had a friend, and clarified that it was her. That line made me laugh. Love their chemistry.
    - Believability I'd say a -10. unless she's seriously, psychologically off her rocker, no person in their right mind would damage themselves to such a degree as to revenge her 'rents. C'mon now. There are other ways! See Emily Thorne's black book of Revenge.
    -No. I have enough shady. I don't need more shady.
    - Proving her wrong.

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