Elementary episode 9 review: You Do It To Yourself

Holmes is running a fever in this week’s middling episode of Elementary, not that it’s slowing him down…

This review contains spoilers.

1.9 You Do It To Yourself

Meet Joan Watson: disgraced surgeon, fledgling deductive reasoner, and wearer of small pink shorts. Too often in previous episodes of Elementary, Watson’s role has been reduced to that of audience avatar. She restates the questions to which we need answers, rolls her eyes at Sherlock’s bad behaviour, and every so often contracts a severe case of sayingcomplicatedmedicalwordsitis to hurry along the plot. We know we like her. We know we like Lucy Liu playing her. But do we know who she is?

A little more, after this week’s spoiler-tastically named episode, You Do It To Yourself. Not only did the title turn out to be the answer to the case of the de-eyeballed Oriental Studies professor (he arranged his own murder to frame the TA having an affair with his sex hostage fake wife), but also a comment on the nature of addiction and Joan’s history with her junkie ex-boyfriend.

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What was teasingly presented as a juicy revelation about Watson getting unprofessionally close to a former client ended up as the origin story of how Dr Joan Watson FACS became Joan Watson, sober companion. Watson’s relationship with heroin user Liam – who popped up this week asking for her help – inspired the career choice, so in many ways *cod psychology klaxon* Liam is the addict she’s trying to rehabilitate in each new client. As character revelations go, it’s no “Luke, I am your father”, but at this point we’ll take anything that adds a drop shadow to Watson’s flatly drawn psyche.

Some have taken issue with Watson’s behaviour in this episode, interpreting her act of making that Chinese herbal brew for a sick Sherlock as reducing the character to the restrictive role of clucky, orientalised mother-hen. That wasn’t a problem for me – she wasn’t exactly performing the tea ceremony and singing him Soft Kitty – not as much of a problem anyway, as Elementary serving up two sexually abused captive woman in just three episodes (the sandwich for last week’s ‘murderous-hooker-made-good’ filling). If the show’s representation of women doesn’t fix up pretty soon, it’s going to become very tiresome, very quickly.

Grumble over, You Do It To Yourself was a middling romp with some fun lines and a surprising emotional payoff. Sherlock’s not a man known for his patience, so by opting to wait by Watson’s side for her Godot-like ex, Elementary’s Holmes once again proved himself capable of endearing compassion.

Holmes’ illness turned out to be something of a narrative dead-end, and though he admitted to not firing on every cylinder, the common cold didn’t seem to slow him down. He resolved the case of the psychopathic professor with minimal fuss, clicking methodically through the wheel of possibilities like a human fruit machine until settling on his final answer. His only out-of-place behaviour in fact, seemed to be the extended product placement demo he carried out for Microsoft’s snazzy Surface tablet whilst sat on the toilet.

The episode opening gave us a new double act in the form of Messrs Bell and Holmes, whose deadpan “Tell something I don’t know”/“A pig’s orgasm lasts up to thirty minutes” one-two punch was a fun welcome mat. There looked to be a couple of Conan Doyle nods too, with a fever-addled Holmes promising to write esoteric monographs and – if this can be considered a nod and not just a wardrobe coincidence – wearing that “Bee” t-shirt in honour of his apicultural pastime? Yet more cheekiness came from Watson’s erection tea, which soon had the colour back in Sherlock’s cheeks.

As ever, Elementary’s draw isn’t its case-of-the-week (which, by anyone’s standards, was more gimmicky than clever), but Miller’s Holmes. His brow-wrinkled, face-rubbing frustration at not being right, that measured “Good show Mr O’Brian” at the sappy ending, and his final act of support for pal Watson showed him off as exactly the kind of TV hero I want to see. Not perfect, by any means, but great to watch, and capable of surprising us.

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Read Frances’ review of episode 7, One Way To Get Off, here.

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