An Elementary Community
CBS (ended 2019)
I have never watched Elementary because of „the case of the week”. The subplots are often at least as compelling as the main story lines and deal with topics that are very rarely put focus on, especially not on Network TV.

The problem that was discussed this week was so riveting to me that I had difficulties following the story of the murdered foster mum. I think I will have to watch the episode again.

The issue of making connections and finding your place in the world is a common and ongoing one for people who are gifted or otherwise different. It has been a current theme on Elementary since the beginning of the show.
When Cassie first appeared in Season 4 I didn’t like the story at all as I thought that too many things remained unexplained. I liked the character of Cassie though, specifically the interactions of her with Sherlock.I
am following a twitter account that posts links to articles about giftedness. Coincidentally a few days ago there was one about the challenges intellectually gifted people face in their development of identity.

I have decided to use it to outline the consequences for Cassie and Sherlock and also the differences of the two characters.You will find the link to the complete article at the end of this review.

„Steinberg (1985) lists five sets of psychosocial concerns which affect our lives as we progress from childhood to adulthood, intensifying in the adolescent years. These are: the development of identity — the quest for a personal sense of self and an acceptance of one’s individuality; the growth of autonomy — the process of establishing oneself as an independent, self-determining individual; the search for intimacy and the establishment of peer relationships based on trust, openness, and a similarity of values.“

Those five concerns interact with each other and for most of the population they seamlessly integrate. This is not the case for gifted individuals though.
We live in a society that values conformity, excelling in the area of intellect is not something that is appreciated, often even resented by peers. So you either decide to be yourself but lonely or socially accepted but not yourself.

Cassie grew up in various foster homes.
She probably realised very early that she was different from the other kids but as she never experienced any continuity nobody ever noticed her outstanding intellect and helped her use it in a positive way.
That ended in her becoming a con girl, perfect in blending in everywhere, but never able to develop a true self. She became the people she pretended to be.

Sherlock on the other hand grew up in an environment where intellect and knowledge was promoted. His father may not have been present a lot but we got shown on various occasions that his level of knowledge at least equals the one of his son and that it is the one area where Morland and Sherlock are able to connect.
It was fairly easy for him to define his intellectual ability as a strength and develop it.In contrast to Cassie though he never got the chance to put on a mask to be socially accepted. The moment he entered boarding school he got bullied and rejected. As a result he is a very insecure person and closer contact to other people frightens him what makes it very difficult to form any connections at all.

„Highly gifted adolescents or adults who spend much of their lives concealing their true abilities and interests behind a protective mask, risk losing touch with their innermost feelings and beliefs. The realisation in adulthood, of how much one has denied one’s giftedness in earlier years, can be cathartic, but learning to redefine oneself as a gifted individual can be a healing experience. This process of redefinition may be initiated by encountering other gifted people with whom one can identify.“

It may be a bit far-fetched but in a way you can interpret Cassie’s lying and conning of people as the extreme form of protective mask. It was the only thing she knew to do well. When she met Sherlock she realised that there was another person who was like her but who obviously had found a way to be part of society despite being different.

As we got told in „Poison Pen“ (S.2 Ep.4) at the age of fifteen Sherlock was close to giving up, accepting to be a useless individual without purpose as the people around him told and showed him every day. But then by chance he got to know Abigail Spencer, a person who wasn’t his intellectual peer but who was still a kindred spirit in a different way. Through her he found out that he was able to do things no other person could.

„I was adrift back then. I had-had no purpose.
My so-called peers made me feel that that might always be the case.
Abigail, she gave me a gift. A view inside a mind capable of murder.
…Without intending to, she she helped me understand who I was and and what I might do with my life.“


When Cassie came out of prison she was once again confronted with her differentness. The social worker in the half-house tells Sherlock that Cassie tried to connect to the other girls but that she finally gave up because she didn’t fit in.
Feeling lonely and not knowing what to do with herself she turns to the one person she ever felt some sort of connection with. Not knowing how to get into contact otherwise she uses the way she feels comfortable with: Lying and pretending.

Of course Sherlock keeps his guards up, especially after the betrayal of McNally, but by chance Cassie touches the detective’s sorest spot by trying to get a rise out of him mocking his assumingly privileged childhood. You can see that the moment she mentions it Sherlock’s composure collapses completely. But it makes him realise for the first time that not everything Cassie says is a lie and that finally enables him to find a way to get through to her and help her.

„(Linda) Silverman (1997) points out that the capacity to love others cannot develop fully until one has learned to love oneself. She indicates that the process involves several stages: self-awareness, finding kindred spirits, feeling understood and accepted by others, self-acceptance, recognition of the differences in others, and, eventually the development of understanding, acceptance and appreciation of others. Thus, the capacity to develop strong and lasting friendships cannot develop in the gifted individual until she herself has experienced the glad peace of being understood and accepted by “kindred spirits” — people of similar abilities, values and interests.“

Seven years ago Sherlock has found Joan and now Cassie has found Sherlock.

Sherlock says he doesn’t know what and who Cassie will become eventually but I think it is safe to say that her chances to become a person who is able to connect to people and contribute to society have risen considerably.

At the end of last Season I wrote an essay about the pros and cons of being different to the norm and got a lot of positive feedback to it from gifted people. You can find the post in this thread, too, so if you are interested to know more feel free to read it and if you like leave a comment. I am curious about your thoughts.

Article quoted in this review:
The „Me“ Behind the Mask: Intellectually Gifted Students and the Search for Identity
by Mirada Gross, 15th September 2011:
http://www.sengifted.org/post/the-me-behind-the-mask-intellectually-gifted-students-and-the-search-for-identity






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