This week’s Elementary, “A Burden of Blood,” begins with a bit of misdirection. Sherlock comes home to the brownstone to find Marcus just leaving and Joan hopping in the shower. He immediately jumps to conclusions and believes that they’re having a sexual relationship. They insist they aren’t, but he can tell that they’re lying about something, and the evidence seems obvious.
That’s not the only bit of misdirection, though. When Sherlock and Joan are called to a murder investigation in Queens, the evidence seems to be pretty straightforward, even if it’s not exactly revealing. A woman was suffocated with a bag over her head while sitting in the front seat of her car, the assailant in the back. She was leaving a message on her home answering machine at the time, and that message consists of her screaming and pleading for her life.
It seems to be cut-and-dry evidence, but Sherlock notices something strange about the woman’s inflection. She almost seems calm at first before she starts screaming, suggesting that she may have known the killer who camped out in the backseat of her car, waiting for her come out of a plaza restaurant.
Things get complicated when the autopsy comes back. The victim, Ellen Jacobs, was eight weeks pregnant at the time of her murder. What’s more curious is that she had a tubal ligation many years ago, meaning the risk of her getting pregnant again was pretty low. As Sherlock and Joan posit, an unexpected pregnancy could be enough reason for a husband to kill his wife.
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Thus, Sherlock and Joan head over to Ellen’s house to question her husband, Ernie. He seems legitimately surprised to hear that his wife was pregnant, but there’s more to it than that. Sherlock determines, after noticing his slight build and lack of a sense of smell, that Ernie must have Kallmann syndrome, a genetic condition that prevents people from going through puberty. Therefore, Ernie couldn’t possibly be the father. Ellen must have been having an affair, but Ernie swears he doesn’t know about any other man.
A visit to Ellen’s OB-GYN doesn’t turn up much evidence either. The doctor refuses to give up any information about the possible paternity of Ellen’s baby. Still, that doesn’t stop Joan from searching the doctor’s computer when she’s not in her office. By doing so, she finds out that Ellen was using a burner email address to correspond with the doctor and the father of her baby; a man who goes by the username Keymaster2020.
Meanwhile, Sherlock uncovers the real reason why Marcus was visiting with Joan. She’s been helping him study for the sergeant’s exam. Sherlock is surprised because he thinks Marcus is an invaluable detective. Marcus says that’s exactly why he didn’t ask Sherlock for help; he didn’t want the lecture that came with it.
After looking into the burner email, Joan finds out that Ellen had planned a visit to a local prison and had planned to bring along a guest. While the prison has no record of who Ellen was hoping to bring with her, it does note who she was planning to visit: Harris Grear, also known as the Triborough Killer, a man who murdered sixteen women a number of years ago. It’s seems a rather strange visit until the warden discloses that, in fact, Ellen is Grear’s daughter and once went by the name Meaghan.
NEXT: Spare keys and bounties
With that revelation comes another: Harris Grear also had a son. It doesn’t take long for Sherlock and Joan to find him, living a relatively peaceful life with his wife and two kids in New York. When they question him, he says he knew about his sister’s baby and the affair, but didn’t know who the man was. They saw him with her at La Porte Blanche one day but didn’t get a good look at him.
While perusing the security footage from La Porte Blanche, Joan notices that two people stop to take photos with the man sitting across from Ellen, whose back is turned to the camera the whole time. The selfie-takers are dangling keys while they take their picture, and that reveals a connecting thread. On the lawn of Ellen and Ernie’s house was a sign for real estate agent Warren Clift, who’s dangling a set of keys in the photo. Could he be the father/secret lover?
As it turns out, yes. He had slept with Ellen a few times but swears he didn’t know about the pregnancy. If that’s true, he didn’t have much motivation to kill her. If he’s lying, though, then the threat of his married life blowing up in his face was very real and could have given him reason enough to kill Ellen.
That theory is given more credibility when Sherlock and Joan discover that Warren’s mother was killed by Harris Grear, Ellen’s father, and that Warren specifically sought to be Ellen’s realtor. Just when it seems like they’ve found their man, Warren is attacked and nearly beaten to death. After more questioning, he says that Ellen knew who he was and understood his motivation. Hence, he was the one who was going to visit her father at the prison. He wanted to confront the man who caused his family so much pain.
After a list of injuries to Warren suggests he was beaten with a scaffolding pipe, Marcus heads over to Ellen and Ernie’s house to arrest Ernie. Scaffolding surrounds their house, and Marcus finds blood on a specific piece. Ernie admits to attacking Warren — he says he figured out he was the only one Ellen could have been having an affair with — but insists that he didn’t kill his wife.
As it turns out, he’s telling the truth. After listening to the voice message over and over again, Sherlock determines that Ellen remained calm even while saying “No” the very first time. While flipping through an old family photo album, he notices something written on the back of a picture of Meaghan and her brother: it has her name along with “No,” a nickname for Nolan.
NEXT: Fish in a bag
Thus, Ellen was screaming her brother’s name, begging him to stop while he suffocated her. The proof is in the plastic bag that was used to kill her, which contained traces of sodium thiosulfate, a chemical used by pet stores in the transport of freshwater fish, which was also found in Ellen’s lungs. It’s the same bag from the place where Nolan gets his fish. With the evidence piled against him, all the detectives want is a motive.
Admittedly, the explanation is a little underwhelming. Nolan says he killed his sister because they had a pact, that they agreed to end their “killer” bloodline and never have children; Nolan’s two kids were adopted. When he found out Ellen was pregnant, he killed her. Not the most exciting ending to an otherwise compelling case.
However, the episode ends on an emotional high note. After Marcus admits that he really only wants the sergeant job because of the pay raise, as his mother recently lost her job, Sherlock and Joan give him a mock case study to help him pass the test. Of course, this is Sherlock and Joan, so not everything is as it seems.
When Marcus figures out the case, Sherlock reveals that it was a real case and that Marcus was responsible for bringing the wanted man in. Sherlock and Joan wanted to show him how indispensable he is as a detective. On top of that: The wanted man had a $40,000 bounty on his head, so Sherlock gives Marcus a check, signed to his mother, for $36,000 — he had to take a 10 percent finder’s fee, after all.