While investigating the murder of a recruiter for a private university, Sherlock also has to deal with whether his father believes he is a murderer
“I could’ve sworn I had that statue removed,” says Morland Holmes upon seeing his son standing outside his office, thus beginning this week’s episode of Elementary by focusing on their fraught (to say the least) relationship. Sherlock is there to scold his father about not disclosing the assassination attempt when he first came to New York, but he doesn’t get very far. Morland insists it’s all been dealt with and that everything is fine. Sherlock’s response: “Well, you’re lying.” Of course, he’s not wrong.
In another part of town, a band of thieves are rummaging through a house and taking everything they can. Standing at the window, the lookout of the group keeps an eye out just in case the homeowners suddenly make a surprise appearance. As he looks across to the next apartment, though, he gets a completely different surprise. A few floors up, he sees a man shoot and kill another man.
Fast-forward to two weeks later, and Sherlock is coming home from a rendezvous with a mercenary he believes could have some info about the attempted murder of his father. He got more than he bargained for with this mercenary, though: a little fighting and a little sex, apparently. “The two aren’t mutually exclusive,” he says.
Joan informs him that they’ve received a call about investigating a murder from two weeks back. Sherlock thinks that the case will most likely be cold but is willing to hear out the woman who called them. Lily, who runs a halfway house, says she knows who killed the man in the apartment from two weeks ago.
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The victim’s name was Dennis Hicks and he was a recruiter for Fairbanks University, a privately owned, for-profit college. She says he was a whistleblower that was set to testify against Fairbanks for using shady recruitment tactics and ripping people off. Sherlock isn’t so sure until Lily details the misdeeds. She has a file full of cases she’s planning on showing to the Department of Education that prove how Fairbanks, which owns her halfway house, exploits the vulnerable positions these people are in, tying them to student debt and offering no real education in return.
The first thing Joan does is check out the apartment where Hicks was murdered. Despite another detective insisting the case is related to a string of break-ins in the area, Joan posits that that can’t be true. Instead, she suggests that one of the burglars witnessed the murder, that he could have seen something from across the way.
Once the detectives figure out who would have known what homes were empty that night, based on RSVPs to a dinner party at a local Russian church, they question him about the murder. He gives a description of the man he saw, which gives the detectives a sketch to show around the neighborhood and halfway house.
Meanwhile, in an unfortunate turn of events, Lily, the halfway house operator, ends up murdered, strangled in her office. The murderer makes it look like they were after contraband stored in a box in her desk, but Joan knows better: The case files were also missing.
That leads Joan and Marcus to question William Trager, the owner of Fairbanks University, the man who stands to lose millions of dollars should any case go against him from the Department of Education. He shirks their questions, though, and the detectives are left with only a bit of information provided by Trager’s lawyers.
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Meanwhile, Sherlock continues to investigate his father’s assassination attempt. In doing so, he notices that Lukas Muller, Morland’s Interpol contact, is angry at him. He can’t seem to figure out why until he puts the pieces together: Morland used Lukas to investigate the assassination attempt, and the initial suspect was Sherlock. That’s right: Morland thought his own son had tried to kill him.
Sherlock confronts his father with this evidence, and Morland admits it’s true but says he’s long since moved past that theory. Sherlock isn’t so quick to move on, though, saying that it’s about time his father returned to London and cut off all contact with him and Joan because all he does is endanger their lives. He can’t believe, despite all of their problems, that Morland could question his own son’s character.
Elsewhere, the composite sketch of the man who shot Hicks turns out to be Victor Nieves, a convicted criminal who was once enrolled at Fairbanks and was a resident of the halfway home. Marcus uncovers an alibi for the murder of Lily, though, which is strange because Victor has come into the station and confessed to both the murder of Hicks and Lily.
That leads to a fantastic interrogation scene, where Sherlock muses on the philosophy of plea deals and bargains, and uses Lily’s kind and empathetic nature to fuel his investigation. He tells Nieves that he couldn’t have murdered Lily based on the timeline. While Nieves doesn’t give up who killed Lily — he really doesn’t know — he hints at the idea that the man must have been in the same situation as him, which is in debt to Fairbanks University.
That once again puts Sherlock onto Trager. He confronts him in his office, alone, and details past misdeeds, including arson and a hit-and-run, that he believes Trager paid for in order to benefit Fairbanks with the DOE. Trager can only laugh, though, as he says he’s had a deal in place with the DOE for days now, so hiring someone to kill Lily and get rid of the case files would be ridiculous.
That leaves Sherlock in a tough spot. Plus, his father is apologizing for including his son as a suspect and promises to return to London, but not without telling Sherlock that he really had wanted to mend their relationship. Turmoil everywhere!
While he can’t mend his relationship with his father, Sherlock does manage to pin the hired murders on Trager. Following a complex trail of evidence that proves Trager was using his debt collector to hire vulnerable Fairbanks students with criminal pasts to do his dirty work, Sherlock puts it all together in a slideshow and surprises Trager with it during a board meeting. It’s a wonderful delivery of comeuppance.
With that finished, Sherlock goes to see his father (after another fight/sex rendezvous). He says that he doesn’t care whether he stays or goes but that he’s going to keep looking for the man that tried to kill him. He has a lead that the Interpol agent who preceded Lukas Muller was following Morland, most likely hired by whoever wanted Morland dead. It’s something, but there’s surely still a lot more to come.