Mathematician Harlan Emple (Rich Sommer, last seen in the episode ‘Solve for X’) returns in this episode in which Holmes tries to encourage a closer bond between Watson and Kitty. Emple, an eccentric who likes to solve mathematics problems with his shirt off, is taking part in a complex online mathematics puzzle involving a number known as Belphegor’s Prime. When the clues lead him to an empty warehouse, he finds not the next clue, but a dead body packed in mothballs. Needless to say Holmes and Watson are called in, and initial indications are that the motive involves the impressive cash prize offered for solving the problem. Of course, it’s not that simple.
As the dead bodies and clues pile up, it becomes clear that the treasure hunt is a blind, and the actual reason for the game is to force an anonymous maths blogger into the open, and to bump him off. No prizes for guessing that Emple turns out to be the target, though the eventual culprit is rather obvious (given a quick perusal of the cast list). The motive, though, is unclear right up to Holmes’ final analysis, and couldn’t possibly have been guessed by the viewer, so the mystery falls somewhat flat.
Joan also has a little case to solve, which she does with the reluctant help of Kitty.
A notorious property dealer has his eyes on a derelict building, and Joan has been engaged to discover his motives; a little bit of surveillance and online research soon have this wrapped up, so again, there’s not much of a challenge involved.
But this episode is much more about character dynamics than plot. It opens with an untypically throwaway scene featuring American football celebrity Phil Simms as an unlikely expert in knife-throwing. Presumably this was some sort of cross-audience promotional ploy [Ed’s Note – Simms commentates on the NFL for CBS, Elementary’s US home], but it doesn’t detract from the episode, though neither does it fill us with enthusiasm to find out whether Phil is actually a skilled practitioner of the ‘impalement arts’.
Simms, it transpires, is one of Holmes’ ‘irregulars’, experts called in to solve problems requiring a particular skill-set outside Holmes’ own. Harlan Emple, though, has made the mistake of trying to become more than that by forging a friendship with Holmes, and soon realises that this is why he has been frozen out of other investigations. The question arises whether Holmes regards Watson in the same way – certainly he’s tried to put space between the two, though not with much success – and whether his relationship with Kitty is anything other than a substitute for Watson’s presence in the brownstone. But there’s a nice scene where Holmes physically leaps to protect Detective Bell from gunfire, suggesting that he does have some regard for people beyond their immediate usefulness.
It was inevitable that the addict/companion relationship between Homes and Watson would have to progress, and inserting Kitty into the equation aids the transition. Holmes gets to be a little more barbed regarding Watson’s domestic arrangements (‘Your home is utterly… pleasant’, he notes acerbically), and Watson gets to dispense homilies and pamphlets to Kitty, who ends up going to a meeting for rape survivors. Mind you, our money is still on Kitty having a spectacular crack-up, and it can’t be long in coming.
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