**This post contains spoilers for 2.17 of Elementary, “Ears to You.”**
At the end of last week’s episode of Elementary, the Brownstone became home to three more tenants: Romulus and Remus the roosters, and one Gareth Lestrade, former Detective Inspector and current unemployment benefits collector. I went into this episode fully expecting Roommates Shenanigans between the three humans and three animals (don’t forget Clyde the Tortoise!) and in the end, I was not disappointed. Lestrade is not a fan of the roosters, but Romulus seems to be a fan of commandeering remotes and camping out on Lestrade’s bed.
Sherlock spends most of his downtime in this episode deactivating fake bombs (a fitting metaphor for the tensions in the house) and doing his best to avoid Lestrade, who is agonizing over what job to accept next. It’s been nineteen days since Lestrade came to stay with them, and he’s still frozen with indecision. He gets mugged on the first night of Joan and Sherlock’s ear case (literally, it’s a case about ears, I’ll get to it in a minute) and that’s when Joan discovers that Lestrade has a stash of booze in the back of the house. She can’t stand for that (once a sober companion, always a sober companion) and he descends into self-pity about his situation.
Lestrade: “Holmes was right about me! I can’t do this job without him, I can’t be a detective.”
Joan: “You were a detective long before you knew him.”
Lestrade: “What, like back in the day, when I was adequate? When I was competent? Joan, these people, they don’t want adequate, they want special. They want me to be the man I was when I was with him!”
Joan: “I know that you have had your troubles, but you are overthinking this!”
Lestrade: “That’s easy for you to say, of course, isn’t it? You know, because you’re the one that’s with him now? You’re the one who gets to be special. Well, you know, just take it from someone who’s been there: enjoy it while it lasts.”
Joan gives him a deadline the next day, to take an offer and leave the Brownstone before the weekend. Lestrade immediately dives back into wallowing again, and Joan just can’t stand for that.
Joan: “I don’t find your self-pity amusing. When Detective Bell was out of commission, Sherlock burned through a string of detectives. Seven of them. Good ones, far more than adequate. But none of them good enough for him, or me.”
Lestrade: “Yeah, well, he did the same thing back in London, didn’t he?”
Joan: “Until you. He stuck with you, he chose you.”
She hands him case files (procured by Bell, mind you) on a string of muggings and encourages Lestrade to run down the lead. (For what it’s worth, the very next scene opens with Bell asking Sherlock about Lestrade. Sherlock deflects the question, but I think it’s a nice, subtle reminder that the new Lestrade isn’t Joan — it’s Bell. Joan is a category unto herself, and Bell is the detective Sherlock has chosen to attach himself to at the precinct. The difference now is that Bell is absolutely no Lestrade. Sherlock doesn’t care enough to bridge the gap even for Bell, because it’s just not worth caring about.)
Sherlock heartily disapproves of Joan’s methods, believing that Lestrade needs to “bottom out” in order to find direction. “I imploded. Look at me!” Nonetheless, Lestrade makes the necessary phone calls to track down his mugger and proves himself highly capable of being a good detective. To my eye, he’s still no Bell, because Bell isn’t hampered by insecurity, but he’s on the right track. He breaks into his muggers house and composes limericks as he collects evidence and waits for him to come home. He confronts him and knocks him out, and that’s when he sees it: a single rooster feather on the floor.
This sends Lestrade spiraling into a conspiracy theory involving Sherlock and Joan working together to orchestrate a case to help him get back on his feet. Joan is utterly confused when Lestrade confronts them, and Sherlock’s face betrays nothing. Lestrade arrives at a surprising conclusion: “Thanks to seeing through a plot devised by the great Sherlock Holmes, I’ve decided to give detecting one last chance, so I accepted a job this morning.” He’s going to work as a consultant in Ireland. He challenges Sherlock to deny the conspiracy, but Sherlock simply stands and shakes his hand.
Lestrade: “I wouldn’t feel too bad about him leaving you in the dark, Joan. You have to understand, you are in the infancy of your partnership. When you’ve spent as much time as I did with him, you’ll figure him out as well.”
But Sherlock later denies any involvement (or knowledge) of the case. Lestrade closed it on his own, and the single rooster feather was probably from his own clothing. Joan asks why he let Lestrade believe in the conspiracy, and Sherlock says he thought it would be the most helpful for Lestrade to believe that. The episode ends with Sherlock making tons of hilarious faces over his literal ticking bomb.
The case of the week is actually my favorite of the whole season, as far as standalone cases go. A man, Gordon Cushing, who is believed to have killed his wife in 2010 receives a package containing two severed ears, the DNA of which connect to his ex-wife’s DNA. Gregson and Joan are familiar with the original case, since it had a lot of media coverage at the time, but Sherlock was deep into his addiction and doesn’t recall any details. About a year after his wife had disappeared, Cushing had gotten a phone call from her kidnapper, demanding money. He even spoke to a hysterical Sarah on the phone, but after he dropped off the money, he never heard from the ransomer again. Now, three years later, he’s being ransomed again.
Cushing admits that he fell out of love with his wife long ago, and that he only wants her back so that people stop believing he killed her. The police assist him in setting up the ransom drop in the subway, but when the ransomer disappears down the tunnel, Kushing pursues him. The cops find them a ways down the tunnel, Kushing standing over the man’s dead body with bloody rebar in his hand. He’s brought in for questioning, but doesn’t appear to be placed under arrest. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure he murdered a guy.
Sherlock deduces from the dead body that the victim was a recovering alcoholic, and he, Joan, and Bell hit up meetings in search of people who might recognize the man. To their great surprise, they find the victim, Sarah Cushing, unharmed and possessing both of her ears.
Sarah says she did pack up and leave her husband. She made a new life under a new name and married a doctor, but she never came forward for fear of Gordon pursuing her. She claims the DNA matched because the hair they were comparing it to wasn’t actually her hair, because it came from someone else’s brush.
Gordon admits that it might not have been her brush, but that he really did speak to Sarah on the phone a year after she’d disappeared. Knowing that she’s alive and not kidnapped now, Gordon believes that Sarah is part of the conspiracy to ransom money from him. Sherlock and Joan spin their wheels, debating whether Sarah or Gordon is behind this case, but after a close examination of the ears (which turn out to be identical to Sarah’s) Sherlock remembers that Sarah married a plastic surgeon.
The case is twisted and fun to follow, but the best (or worst) part is the actual conclusion: Sarah grew fake ears on her back, courtesy of her plastic surgeon husband. He cut them off a few days ago and mailed them as part of a ransom to Gordon. Unfortunately, we don’t get any resolution about why Sarah and her plastic surgeon husband did what they did (were they hurting for money?) and what happened with Gordon, but still: fun case!
Next week: trouble, trouble, trouble!