An Elementary Community
CBS (ended 2019)
At first I was angry at the end of the episode that there was no further explanation about the statement of the lover of Caroline Gibbs about having seen the artist when she was already dead, with the killer clearly being a man.
But then I realised that that was the whole point. Watson said that she didn‘t believe that Diana Long would have mistaken somebody else for Caroline as she knew her very well. It turned out that Joan was wrong.
There is a very famous dialogue between John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in „A Scandal in Bohemia“ that explains why Diana did not notice that the person she saw wasn‘t her friend and also Joan’s misjudgement of the matter.

„When I hear you give your reasons“, I remarked, „the thing always appears to me so ridiculously simple, that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.“
„Quite so“, he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. You see but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.“
Arthur Conan Doyle – A Scandal in Bohemia
Diana saw a person dressed like Caroline and concluded that it was Caroline she saw. Would she have observed, she would have realised that the body structure didn‘t fit.
The crux of the matter is that our brain tends to go for the obvious and ignore the rest.
Throughout the episode you can find a number of other examples where people saw without observing:
  • The murderer of Parker Landis could escape because nobody could describe him or knew anything about the licence plate.
  • The police in France assumed that the yacht was robbed and then sunk because it was the obvious order. They never took into account that it could have been the other way around. There must have been clues though or Sherlock wouldn‘t have been able to come to a different conclusion.
  • The police believed that there was a serial killer because the DNA of one person was found at each crime scene although all the other evidence suggested that the culprits of the crimes were different people. Not even after one of the suspects killed himself, leaving a note saying „I‘m sorry“, did the police consider that there might be another reason for the matching DNA. BTW something like that really happened a few years ago.
  • Caroline Gibbs and Carson Mayfield staged a fight to get publicity for an upcoming exhibition and nobody suspected that the dispute wasn‘t real.
  • The last example was a trap even Joan Watson fell into. When Carson Mayfield told her that Caroline Gibson was arguing with her neighbour and that he overheard the term „affair“ she took for a fact that the affair was between the two although when you think about it, it doesn‘t make much sense that two people would argue about an affair that was going on between them, especially not in public.
Arthur Conan Doyle modeled his iconic detective after his professor at medical school in Edinburgh, a man called Joseph Bell. He obviously was a man with a very keen mind who was often able to make a diagnosis by just looking at a patient and talking to him or her briefly. He did so mostly by observing them closely, a technique that impressed Conan Doyle deeply and that his professor tried to teach to his students.

It is no wonder that the role model for a detective would be a surgeon as it is crucial for both professions to not rely on the obvious but to take every aspect and detail into account to come to the correct conclusion as the lives of people might be at risk if they don‘t.

I know that I have talked about it in one of my recent reviews already but this episode showed again how Joan‘s observation skills are important for Sherlock‘s well-being.

Since the beginning of their companionship Sherlock has used props to spark conversations about matters he urgently needed to talk about.
He is not able to ask for help directly so he has to rely on Joan to get the message. This time he used the file about the murder in Phoenix. He must have known that Joan would find it in the library at some point. If he didn‘t have wanted her to he would have hidden it somewhere he would have been sure she wouldn‘t look.
It was a nice touch that Joan told Sherlock that she was able to see it in his face when he was lying but assuring him that she was the only one to be able to.

The conversation that followed was extremely moving and showed how desperate Sherlock had been to speak his mind about McNally.
When Joan argues that she didn‘t need to be shielded from the truth Sherlock answers that he didn‘t do it to shield her but to save her from having to lie to everybody and knowing a secret of that kind and not being able to talk to anybody about it is corrosive.

The impact it had on Sherlock could clearly be seen over the last episodes if you observed closely ;-): The tics, that he didn‘t show for quite a while, have returned, the hyperarousal has intensified and on various occasions he got extremely aggressive even towards his friends.

You can deduce how relieved he must have been to be finally able to share his knowledge with somebody through the fact that he asked why when Joan told him that she didn‘t want to talk about it further in that moment and that it was him who took the topic up again later, something I think he never has done before.

The final scene gave us a fortaste of what might await us in the last four episodes before we have to say good-bye to an exceptional gem of TV writing and acting. I am excited and sad at the same time.
What about you?
1 Comment
Comments (1)
Jul 28, 2019
as you said, There is a very famous dialogue between John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in „A Scandal in Bohemia“ that explains why Diana did not notice that the person she saw wasn‘t her friend and also Joan’s misjudgement of the matter.

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