Elementary "The Red Team" Review: Enough With the Spies Already

Elementary S01E13: "The Red Team"

Spies and counterintelligence must be tracking well on the giant algorithm machine that tells studio executives what to make shows about, because for the second time Elementary set a story in the little-known, high-stakes world of international espionage with an episode centered on “The Red Team,” a phrase which brought me back to my college days where lots of fellow students wore the T-shirt “BE THE REDS!” which I think is grammatically incorrect yet totally charming. Needless to say, the episode was not about a beloved Korean sports team that the secondary characters were members of, but an elite National Secret Service squad that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Here’s the thing: The pitch of “Sherlock, but in New York City!” CUTS GLASS because of how unique NYC is. And New York has the weirdest crimes IRL. Like, just last year alone a sushi restaurant burned down because one of the chefs hoarded gasoline in soy sauce buckets, a father walked into a public school swinging a chain around his head and demanding to fight some 14-year-olds because someone was bullying his daughter, and a building superintendent broke into a tenant's apartment to sex up their dog. (Well, the dog thing happened in New Rochelle, but you see what I mean.) NYC has literal layers of people from every culture in the world who have grown set in their New York City-specific ways and are thrust together in this pressurized atmosphere, and that means the crimes that happen there are like, you know, interesting but instead we’re getting mixed up in these big international spy dramas. I mean the climax of last night’s episode happened in a seedy motel that looked like it was in Burbank. I know it's roughly $500 million a second to film in New York but Elementary doesn’t even TRY to get anything about the city across except for like, hailing taxis. You know they have at least the same money Louie did in Season 1, but that rarely comes through in the cases. Sherlock living in NYC mostly translates to his house looking vaguely like a set from the film version of Rent. And more and more the crimes seem to happen in isolated, non-New York bubble locales, or in largely theoretical worlds like that of secret national service groups, Russian spies, international assassins, etc.

But far be it from me to argue with the computer that runs Hollywood. It’s the size of a refrigerator and voice activated and draws on both science AND magic for its computations, and I don’t. Maybe I am not smart enough for last night’s storyline? I honestly had a lot of trouble following the bouncing ball all the way through. A conspiracy theorist was killed, he had been bugged by Yossarian who said he was a marketing exec and not a spy with a Catch-22 reference code name but this hot team of super spies was being killed off BY OUR GOVERNMENT but they didn’t want to talk about it to a Brit/the NYPD because they were proud to die for their country and also the last one alive would have this super valuable information to sell to Page Six and then one of the guys who had a wife in a wheelchair (and was either carrying a boombox or a big purse) decided to everybody else off to save her life and… I’m sorry I suffered this breakdown of understanding where my brain got just straight-up too bored to function and I just started mentally fixating on the shiny parts of the show that caught my magpie’s eye. Like Lucy Liu’s wet look!

And her boots! This episode was a foot fetishists’ fant-ta-ta-saaaay. She was wearing some HOT BOOTS. Sherlock, also, I realized a lot of this show functions as a primer for the freshest in men’s sweaters. He had so many holier-than-thou sweaters this week. And he kept doing like little muppet expressions. NOT A COMPLAINT!

It was exasperating how awful the NYPD were. We’ve seen Sherlock solve the last 11 cases singlehandedly and vindicate Gregson from framing a terrible murderer, and yet they were still icing him out at the station and getting angry at him for helping them out.

Then they horribly accepted his help and let him solve the case after rightfully admitting they were too stupid to sort out a box of Legos let alone a spy ring and then Gregson PUNCHED SHERLOCK IN THE GUT at the end for his troubles. How awful. What a bunch of just terrible stupid thugs. Hopefully the real police department is not as horrible but ever since that one cop tried to meet women online for the express purpose of cooking them I’ve given up hope on the 5-0. And also one time the LAPD pulled me over under suspicion of being a hooker!

Yes, it’s true. I had a 5am shift at a hostel in Hollywood where I worked the front desk and made the hooker mistake of putting on chapstick before hopping out of my vehicle. A car pulled up and did that little “YOPYOP” sound and they pulled me over and wanted to know, “Where are you going, what are you doing, oh you have a job around here? Or really, at this hour? What kind of job? Well go over there and walk in the front door then, if that’s the case. Who does that car belong to? Where’s your daddy?” and all that kind of commentary. Let me tell you right now, I was NOT dressed the part of a streetwalker I had a giant navy blue crewneck sweatshirt on top of huge baggy jeans and sneakers and wet hair in a pony tail and chapstick. They wrote down my license number and everything! I slumped around feeling like Fantine for the rest of the day. So no, I’m not going to sit here and sing you a lullaby about how IRL as a whole the police are looking after us all day every day because each police department is but a tapestry of individuals and some of those threads are BROKEN.

Loved the bit with the turtle.

ALSO BEES. BEES. Okay, so from last episode, technically the first commenter to call out how I was wrong about the Sherlock’s pet hive from the pilot never coming back again was THEOPRATT. I owe you a coke! DM me via this site with an address to send you your prize!


QUESTIONS:

1. What’s your personal experience with police?

2. Does Elementary need some more of that “real authentic New York pizza” sort of tone or should it just keep doing its thing?

3. Is Gregson being totally ungrateful for that time Sherlock did his job for free and also that time he let it slide that he had framed a criminal with false evidence?

4. Are you getting tired of all these high-falutin’ spy game type plots or are they exciting?

Comments (38)
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Was just watching this episode where I noticed, just after one minute in, a discontinuity: The jug which Sherlock has just used to add milk to his scrambled eggs suddenly quantum leaps from the counter where he set it into Joan's hand. Watson immediately places it back on the counter next to Holmes where it "belongs". Anyone else notice inconsistencies?
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It IS a bad sign for the show if the review of an episode starts talking about personal experiences of the reviewer half way through that review.

Sadly I have to agree, this one was sort of weak.
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Recently saw the unaired pilot of the British "Sherlock" (yes, the Benedict Cumberbatch one). Even that rough & tumble, shortish, unpolished and incomplete version was a million times better than this episode. Sorry.
The police are nice. They'll stop when it's raining to help you change a flat tyre, they'll escort you home, and they'll have a nice chat over a cuppa. Well, that didn't happen to me, exactly, but to my 18-year-old sister...
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Do you not review Scandal anymore? :(
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I liked this episode in a sense. I was hoping for a little more Watson/Holmes friendship interaction, but I didn't get too much of it. Loved the whole deal with Clyde the turtle. That cracked me up. So to answer Lily's review questions.

1. What's your personal experience with police?

Well..... I live in London, in fact I live in Tottenham, where the London Riots started. I've seen people get beat up just outside my house for crying out loud. My faith in the Police Department and Justice System of England is EXTREMELY limited. I trust them to catch a cold. That's about it. I did have a cop ask me what I was doing hanging around OUTSIDE MY HOUSE! Stupid cops. They don't deal with real crimes, they chase random people and ask stupid questions.

2. Does Elementary need some more of that "real authentic New York pizza" sort of tone or should it just keep doing its thing?

I kinda like Elementary the way is is at the moment. But I would like to see some wacky crimes. I used to read original Doyle's Sherlock. There was some wacky, s**t crimes. There was this whole deal with paralysing a snake, making it look like a hat band and giving it to someone so they could be killed with it. THAT was amazing. We need more crimes like that. I also want more about M and more of the development of a friendship between Holmes and Watson. (nods)

3. Is Gregson being totally ungrateful for that time Sherlock did his job for free and also that time he let it slide that he had framed a criminal with false evidence?

If you look at it from Gregson's P.O.V. it's sad because Gregson really trusted Holmes and then Holmes did something to completely shatter that trust. We all know why Holmes did it, but Gregson doesn't. So Gregson is angry and feels betrayed. So he wants to hit Sherlock, so he does it, because he knows that Sherlock won't hit back. Sherlock allows it, because as a smart man of great intelligence, he knows that Gregson needs to hit him for them to move on. So I wouldn't agree that Gregson is being ungrateful. It's not that he's not grateful to Sherlock. He admits that without Sherlock their cases wouldn't get solved. But he's angry that his trust has been broken and he may be slightly angry that they do need Sherlock, even if he does do silly things. (nods)

4. Are you getting tired of all these high-falutin' spy game type plots or are they exciting?

Hmn..... I'm not really into the whole spy thing to be honest. I'm not even a fan of James Bond. But if the story is interesting I'm happy, spies or no spies. LOL!
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I totally agree with this review, which was far more interesting that this convoluted episode. I have no idea what was going on, not made any easier by the ramblings of "sherlock". I want to like this show, but after half a season, I do not find anything that makes me want to keep going on watching. I read about the great chemistry beforehand of Watson and Sherlock, but I am still waiting for it to develop. Funny, it also seems like there are only 2 cops in all of NY, they handle all the cases and not too interestingly. Person Of Interest blows this show away. After tonight's super bowl episode i might bail on this one.
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OMG I was trying to reply to pcsjunior and suddenly his comment disappeared! He had such an awesome comment that perfectly made the point that smaller crimes can be harder and more interesting to solve....hopefully its just my computer freaking out and I didn't have a brain fart and hit remove? My mouse was hovering over reply. Look, a lot of my keyboard accoutrements are covered in cookie crumbs, no lie. Is there some way to get his comment back? It was brilliant. Egads.
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Lily, please do us all a favour and stop watching Elementary.
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Disorientating? Did they use that because Sherlock is British?
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-This review is hilarious. The cop story, chica. The damn cop story. I choked on my tea. Too funny. My experiences with 5-0. Hmm they can vary. Most of the mundane.
- I suppose it does need a bit more of the New York state of mind. There is plenty to go on. I don't dislike the spy thing, because that always intrigues me too, so I didn't find this episode to be too bad. Though I may have snoozed on some parts myself, or checked out,or something.
- Yes and No. It's the trust thing. I thought it was an interesting development for their relationship. Clearly Sherlock has the classic "daddy-issues" that 85% of the human population is afflicted by. Not too many people really get through to Sherlock or matter to him, but Gregson does. I actually enjoyed seeing him a bit unsettled that he's on the outs with the trust thing.
- I could take them or leave them. I'm just enjoying the show regardless. Miller and Liu have a great chemistry that has gotten better as the season progresses. I'm really buying that they genuinely care about one another and love the heck out of their partnership, even though neither of them are inclined to say as much and find ways to rationalize why they like being around one another. And it's all non-sexual which makes it all the better. Watson is slowly starting to hold her own in the deductive aspect of things, which helps because I'd hate to see everyone else come across as incompetent in relation to Sherlock. I like their dynamic.
-Thank God they didn't kill Clyde. Clyde was sooo cute. :)
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The Red Team awesome episode, the Best New Show of the Season keeps getting better period!!! nuff said!!!
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soo i agree with the part of not following the story... so confusing...ok, i have to admit that i wasn't in my best condition (sooo sleepy), but i was with my eyes open the entire time...
1. none... sorry, i can't contribute with some story
2. it needs more new york feel cause part of the attractive is having sherlock in new york... like duh.
3. yup totally but i think it's part of his character now. apparently he is supposed to be ungrateful and angry.
4. yeeees! for god's sake i know it's really in now, but can someone tell the big machine that i think it is getting annoying?
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This is how bland, repetitious, technically intransigent, and routine this kind of show ultimately is; Lily's personal story, mid-review, was more interesting than the show.

I hereby demand that every review harken some backstory to Lily's glamor days.
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I can't believe someone managed to write an entire review of this episode without touching on the central "secret plan" that they never actually revealed. That felt like such a cop out. Shows can get away with those off-camera reveals only if they've established themselves as clever, and Elementary certianly hasn't earned that right yet. Lazy!

We could discuss thug cops and the lack of a NYC setting at anytime, but I was hoping we'd discuss this actual episode at least a little bit (it is the title of the article).

So not only did this week's episode manage to sneak by without addressing The Plan, so has this review managed to glide by without addressing any specific or relevant details from the episode it's reviewing... Oh wait, I see what you did there.
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There is no plan that would satisfy the imagination or intellect of all viewers, so it was never ever in the cards to reveal the plan. They made the right choice. The only choice.
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Sounds like another cop out to me. There's no fictional *anything* that would satisfy the imagination and intellect of all viewers. Writers can still come up with a brilliant and clever plan that will satisfy some or most of their viewers, that's sort of the point of writing. Particulary a detective series.
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My argument would be that the writers have no intention of being clever; moreover, are incapable. I've yet to see a single episode that challenged me as a viewer, or even as a human being. In this way, Safibwana is correct. It's CBS. Like the other major networks, they desperately need to appeal to the broader audience.

Consider this: let's say you're a genius in a room. 155 IQ, and you invented the orgasm. The average of intelligent people in that room is 100%. Add in three more people. Because the natural order of things dictates that you're special, the other three are likely average to sub-average. And like that, the average dips to 25%. With ninety-nine other people, and a considerably advanced mentality as yours, it's safe to assume that you stand alone among the 1%.

As the population rises, we no longer require the IQ of 155 or the ability to invent the one thing every single human covets. The average percent of intelligent people dips to such embarrassing levels, that the sub-average we once qualified have now become the above-average. Thus, the quality of products made should naturally reflect this regression in order to maximize profits and viewership. It's business 101; with no regard for tapping into the invaluable well of creativity the measly above-average population could easily provide.

Elementary is by no means a good show, but it argues its quality among the deficient with the help of shameless ads boasting "the #1 new drama in America!"

All of this is to say, if you're looking to watch a show and be challenged, Elementary is hardly going to satisfy you like its British older cousin. If you're looking to stare at some moving pictures after work and let your standards of intellect and creativity atrophy, you can do a worse than Elementary...but not by much.
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1) Personally none, except maybe that one time a bunch of friends and I had the brilliant idea of buying a case of beer and drinking it in a nearby alley. Cop was fairly nice, though. No ticket and we kept the unopened bottles... but my brother got hit in the face with a BIKE and maced for walking on the sidewalk NEXT TO a demonstation. So there you go.
2) I've only been in NY once in the 11th grade, so no idea. I still like the show.
3) Sherlock should totally have brought that framing thing to shut his fat face up.
4) Yeah, I'm getting tired of how they constantly repeat the same plot archetypes, especially this early in the series.
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Are people still watching Elementary? I gave up after episode 8. I hated Watson's character and her nagging personality. Sherlock also didn't have that 'likeability' for me. Similar to a character like the lead in 'Lie to me'. I was waiting for Sherlock to relapse and go crazy. I wanted to see the 'human' side of his character, but all we got was Watson's nagging and some awfully uninteresting cases. It could have been great, but it didn't happen for me. Hopefully, it will get better for the devotees!
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You know the ep is bad when the fate of the turtle was the most interesting plot line.

As for the police I've actually had a couple of them drive up and draw their guns on me and my brother. We were dropping off some stuff to a family friend. We rang the door bell and about a minute later a cruiser stopped behind us then the cops drew their guns and told us not to move. They gave some BS story about getting a call about a possible break in. To this day I still wonder what that was really about.
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I was worried about the turtle to be honest. Lol.
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I thought it was a good episode. Technically there was no spy. It was just some deranged guy who thinks that no one would be able to keep the secret. I actually enjoyed that twist. Murders due to revenge, jealousy and money are so boring.

I also noticed that the show itself doesn't really show New York. Is it even filmed in New York? But I don't mind really. Sadly its a typical procedural show so its understandable if the only scenery we get to see are from helicopter shots of the skyline.

And just because Sherlock personally helped Gregson that doesn't mean he should forever be his debt forever. I don't think a goodie-two shoes cop like Gregson can easily forgive someone who supposedly committed attempted murder, and lie to him.
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This episode was a bit boring, but it added important two things to the puzzle:

1. A new character - Clyde. "And the duo became the trio". I think Sherlock might fall in love with him - a no wonder - Clyde is cute.

2. "Wall of Crazy" - is Sherlock going to be a male version of Carrie Mathison now? I would love the two of them to meet. That would be awesome.

Questions:

1. I don't have any. It seems Police and I go to different places.
2. I don't mind the current style of the show.
3. Maybe a bit. Howver, he's played by Aidan Quinn and I would forgive him everything.
4. I think spy stories should be limited to spy shows (like Homeland and The Americans)
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The best part of this episode was Clyde. They're clearly taking a page out of Person of Interest's book and including an animal on cast. Give it a few episodes and the turtle will be solving crimes by nomming on evidence.
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I WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE PLAN WAS!!!!!!!!!!
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DieHard - 4. :)
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First of all, I am honored to get the coke, it will certainly give my life meaning for 5 minutes to an hour, depending on how things go. Anyway, onto the questions.

1. I've had a mostly good experience with the police. I live on an island with 6,000 year-long residents, so everything has a small-town feel to it. As such, no one would ever be pulled over and asked in they were a prostitute, mostly because there are no prostitutes on the island. Well, there may be one or two, but they would never, ever stand on a street corner to advertise themselves. So yeah, the police are pretty decent here. It probably helps that we don't have a lot of crime.

2. From the beginning, this show hasn't really struck me as being one that really utilizes New York all that much as a physical city. The main aspect of the city that it does use well is the people, and as you pointed out, the crazy crimes that happen in said city. So I don't think that it needs to have a crime take place on Broadway or in a pizzeria, or somewhere that screams of New York, every week; but, it could benefit from adopting that genuine New York tone with many of its characters.

3. On the one hand, I can see where Gregson is coming from, since Sherlock was planning on torturing and murdering a guy, which is a pretty bad thing. To say that it subverts the course of justice is an understatement, especially from a policeman's point of view. And actually it wasn't Gregson that framed the criminal, it was his old partner who did that. But still, I think Gregson is being pretty harsh about all this. Technically, all Sherlock did was hurt M a little, once he found out he wasn't responsible for killing Irene. And the reason he was planning on doing this was for revenge and love, which are two motivations that Gregson should understand. Revenge is the kind of thing that you try and pull someone back from doing, for their own good and whatnot, but that you don't blame someone for wanting to do. Also, M is still a serial killer, so it wasn't like Sherlock punched a random, innocent guy. Regardless, Gregson needs Sherlock, or at least could really use his help, so he won't be going anywhere, as this episode established. And over time I think Gregson will come around; he's just bitter for the moment. And I agree that that punch in the bar was uncalled for.

4. I'm honestly a little conflicted on these spy cases. In the original Sherlock Holmes stories, his brother Mycroft works for the intelligence service, and Sherlock is often called in to consult on matters of national security. So in a way, these spy plots fit nicely into the Sherlock Holmes mold. However, in the original stories he was approached by the government to solve these crimes, whereas in this case he stumbled into this case in a rather odd way. I agree that this case was pretty confusing, but this was more due to the disjointed storytelling than the fact that it was about spy games and all that. It starts with Sherlock checking up on a conspiracy theorist, who turns out to have been strangled with a belt. They then find a listening device in his apartment, and track that to a secret government field office, where a guy works who happened to have been the liaison to the Red Team. Then they meet the Red Team, who are slowly being killed off.

Now most of this can be worked out. The guy with the sick wife was killing everyone off slowly so that no one would know the plan they came up with, and this happened because he himself felt tempted to sell the secret at one point. He killed a guy in a mugging, killed the liaison that Holmes and Watson met in the field office, and was going to kill the rest of the team. However, the original murder, the one of the conspiracy theorist, wasn't really sorted out properly. Another conspiracy theorist confessed to the murder, but Holmes said that he thought it was still planned, or something like that. The bugging makes sense, because the victim was spot on with one of his theories, for the most part, so naturally the government would want to keep tabs on him. But the killer almost certainly wasn't responsible for his death, since the conspiracy guy didn't know what the plan actually was, and therefore didn't need to die. And yet, no one said anything to this effect. Sherlock didn't even say something like: "it seems one conspiracy nut murdered the other nut after all" or anything to that effect.

So yeah, this particular plot was fairly convoluted, and the way they initially stumbled upon it was one big string of coincidences. I don't have a problem with them solving other spy cases in the future, but it would be nice if the plots were handled better, so there aren't as many loose ends. It would also be nice if they didn't have to go so far out of their way to get on these cases, and if instead the government came to them. And since Sherlock just demonstrated his abilities to the government, those two agents that came a calling to their doorstep might come a calling again, this time with a new case to solve. So while I do enjoy these cases of espionage, and while they do fit the original series, so far this show hasn't done the best job with them. So if they continue to crank out these plots, they should be better realized at least.
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"The guy with the sick wife was killing everyone off slowly so that no one would know the plan they came up with, and this happened because he himself felt tempted to sell the secret at one point."

Elementary's Solution: Kill the other six people who have the secret.
More Interesting Solution: Crush those six people by eliminating the thing they care so much about that they might get tempted.

Honestly, sometimes it's like the writers aren't even trying.
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At least they haven't had LA Buses drive by in the background like on CSI:NY
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I once got a call from the police at my house because I jumped over a fence, from one public area to another, when I was 13, to retrieve a football...
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What you said in the 2nd episode review was "…Put 'you owe me a coke' in your comment if you think the bees are coming back & if they do I'll get the first three such commenters a coke."
theopratt was first, I was second, and emmairis was third.
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EXCELLENT. I forgot it was 3. You three DM me with addresses & cokes will be on the way.
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Let's be real also I wanted those delicious cokes all to myself.
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I promise I'll drink mine after toasting you while watching Elementary.
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now it might not be the place to mention it but you started it. having lived in London for a while and working at spitting distance from the MI6 HQ getting stopped by two heavily armed police is still very unnerving when you walk around with your photography club.as you probably know English police don't usually carry firearms, but when the do it's military grade. and yes a series of silly questions followed. It was embarrassing.
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In general I had good experiences with the police, just to be straight. Had to deal with them often professionally and they know there s**t.
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