**This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Elementary, “All in the Family.”**
This week’s Elementary was heavy on the mob stuff (turns out Joan grew up in Queens! The victim’s name is Handsome Bobby! The Deputy Commissioner is actually a mob plant! Everyone had Italian last names!) and the winter gear (it snowed! Joan wore a cool hat!) but the real focus of the episode ended up being Marcus Bell. Sort of.
It started with Sherlock and Joan, in fancy dress, being frustrated with Detective Nash, an “ingrate and a clod,” at the end of a museum robbery case. It turns out they’ve tried to team up with half of the precinct’s detectives in Bell’s absence, but to no avail. We see that Bell himself is trying to fit in to his new job in Demographics, but it’s not going well. He didn’t choose the Knicks, and his cold-weather-hating partner appears to be inherently lazy. When Bell finds a body in a barrel thanks to a tip through the DC, he calls Gregson… who brings Sherlock and Joan.
During the course of the investigation, Sherlock aligns himself with the DC in a blatant attempt to get a rise out of Bell.
Sherlock: “Watson and I will now be splitting our time between this unit and Captain Gregson’s squad. Or did I mischaracterize your professionalism?”
Bell: “You mischaracterized our relationship.”
Sherlock: “Perhaps what you and I require is an airing of grievances.”
Bell: “You have a problem with me?”
Sherlock: “You seem incapable of accepting my sincere apology. A bit petty, don’t you think?”
Bell: “What do you call latching onto my new unit when you know I don’t want you around?”
Sherlock: “For this unit? A profound stroke of luck. I think Watson and I could do great things here. With the help of analysts like yourself, of course. Or do you prefer the term ‘number cruncher’?”
Sherlock says it all with such disdain that you can’t blame Bell for not taking it very well. I’m not sure if Sherlock is trying to subtly manipulate Bell by bringing up Joan a lot, too, or if that’s just incidental. Bell goes to talk to Captain Gregson the next day about pulling Sherlock back, but much to Bell’s chagrin, he ends up sharing an elevator with Joan. He’s a great detective, so he figures out pretty quickly that Joan doesn’t know anything about Sherlock’s timeshare plan.
Bell: “I’m sorry, I doubt I get a real vote in this anyway, but you’ve gotta get why I don’t want to see him around.”
Joan: “For what it’s worth, he’s really –”
Bell: “I know, I know, but can you do me a favor? Because he listens to you. Can you tell him to back off?”
Joan is none too happy with Sherlock when she confronts him at the Brownstone, and she calls him out for being unwilling to admit that he likes consulting for Bell the best. But they also get a break in the case, one which results in Sherlock believing the DC to be the leak in the investigation. Unfortunately, the DC is Bell’s boss, so they need to break the news to Bell and hope that he gets on their side.
Bell isn’t receptive. He even throws a disappointed look at Joan on his way out, saying, “You know, I expected this kind of garbage from him.” But that barb breaks Sherlock’s practically-nonexistent patience. He confronts Bell at the front door of the Brownstone, and Bell is now at the end of his rope.
Bell: “What is it with you?! I won’t forgive you, so you want to send me on a witch hunt? Wreck my career?”
Sherlock: “Oh, your career, is that what you’re calling it? Sitting behind a desk, analyzing data?”
Bell: “Oh, I’m sorry, wasn’t it you who, just two days ago, told my boss that you wanted a piece of the action?”
Sherlock: “I was attempting to get a rise out of you! To remind you that no matter where you go, or how tedious the work you undertake, it will not change what you are: a detective!”
Bell: “I am a detective!
Sherlock: “Well you still carry the title, yeah. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? It’s a calling. It’s your calling. You are not an analyst, you are not an assessor of data. You transferred from major crimes either because your pride would not allow you to occupy the same space as me, or because you’re feeling sorry for yourself. In either case, a pathetic excuse!”
Bell: “I have a tremor in my hand. I can’t shoot, can’t get out in the street and work cases, because of you!”
Sherlock: “Bollocks! You could’ve stayed at major crimes until you completed your rehab!”
Bell: “You’re assuming my rehab can be completed!”
Sherlock: “Because I have faith in you! I have faith in your perseverance! Be my friend, don’t be my friend! Whatever! But don’t be so foolish as to confuse punishing me with punishing yourself!”
It’s finally the sentiments that Sherlock really had all along: that he doesn’t understand Bell’s sudden retreat into self-pity and torture. Not only did Bell refuse the best medical treatment available to him, he went on and immersed himself into the type of work that he despises. Sherlock, a man who spends his life chasing the dragons of solved cases in a constant effort to avoid chasing metaphorical dragons, doesn’t understand this stasis that Bell has locked himself into. It’s funny because Sherlock actually has experience dealing with that sort of person: Joan did the same thing when she quit being a surgeon to be a sober companion.
But it’s interesting that the concept of fear has not entered Sherlock’s mind; that he hasn’t considered that maybe Bell is a little bit afraid of getting back his gun and his desk and putting himself in harm’s way again. If that’s what Bell’s feeling, he doesn’t let on, and Sherlock certainly doesn’t consider it a mitigating factor.
Bell takes a moment to gather himself before he continues in a calmer voice.
Bell: “You know what I thought the first time I met you? ‘Man, it comes easy for that guy.’ Well I’m sorry. It doesn’t come that easy to the rest of us.”
Sherlock: “I am a drug addict, Marcus. A drug addict. Now that might seem like an abstraction to you, because I have been sober since I made your acquaintance, but two years ago, I was as pitiable a soul as you will ever meet. With help, I fought back, and I got a little bit better! I know what I’m supposed to do with my life. Do you?”
Those are the right words to say. Finally.
What Bell probably isn’t realizing is that aside from the danger of drug relapses, Sherlock is not a man who makes a mistake twice. Taking out pride, vanity, and bruised egos, Bell should actually be pretty confident that Sherlock will never negligently put him in the sort of danger that could get him shot again.
With Sherlock’s words ringing in his ears, Bell goes and talks to the DC to suss things out for himself, and he expertly bends it so that it seems like he’s trying to get Sherlock taken out of consulting for their unit. Nevertheless, Bell shows up at the Brownstone that night, satchel in hand.
Bell: “I had a talk with the Deputy Commissioner.”
Sherlock: “You shared our suspicions.”
Bell: “I asked him about the tipster, same as you. And he didn’t blink. He was comfortable, open… but there was something in his voice. It bothered me. Couldn’t tell you why.”
Sherlock: “You have instincts.”
Bell: “My point is, I wanted to know. I had to.”
And it turns out, Bell’s instincts were right. The DC was dirty. Together, he, Sherlock, and Joan cook up a way to entrap the DC so that they don’t have to wade through piles of evidence. Gregson is thrilled to assist in the ambush, clearly happy to work with Bell again. Later, Gregson thanks Sherlock and Joan for “straightening everything out with Marcus. It’s good to have him back.” Sherlock actually had no idea Bell had returned, but he’s happy to see him. Bell grudgingly gives Sherlock and Joan a nod before the episode draws to a close.
People can draw the conclusion that Bell is enabling, even rewarding, this sort of behavior from Sherlock, but I personally don’t see the harm in how he acted. He was boorish and selfish and very harsh, but he didn’t deal Bell any harsh truths that he couldn’t handle. Just because Bell is back doesn’t mean he’s let Sherlock off the hook — it simply means he’s finally decided to stop punishing himself.
No new Elementary until the end of the month, around the same time Sherlock will air in the United States. Anyone here watch both shows? (All three of your friendly bloggers do!)