Sherlock and Joan deal with two murders, hockey masks, trampolines, and a long-hidden secret
Credit: Jeff Neira/CBS
S4 E19
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When I heard that this week’s Elementary was going to be a “two-hour event,” I was wary. What case could possibly justify two straight hours of investigation? Don’t get me wrong, I’m always down for more Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, but finding a reason to stretch a case across two episodes seemed like a strange idea. Thankfully, “All In” and “Art Imitates Art” aren’t connected by case, but rather by an intriguing bit of character development.

It all starts when a woman is shot in her apartment after discovering her window open and a bag of money sitting on her side table. The woman scrambles down the fire escape and finds her way to Sherlock and Joan’s brownstone. Her name is Lin Wen, and the reason she’s on Sherlock and Joan’s doorstep is because she knew Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, before he “died.” Now, she needs help.

She fills the detectives in on what’s going down and why she hasn’t gone to the police. Lin is a real estate agent who makes some money on the side by holding illegal, high-stakes poker games in her empty listings. A few days prior, two guys in hockey masks robbed the game, and the lookout she hired, Ian Walker, is nowhere to be found.

She believes that someone was coming after her, trying to frame her for robbing her own game. They were going to plant the money in her apartment so that she could take the fall, but when she came home and discovered the man in the act, she was shot. One of the first suspects is Sophia, who was the dealer during the game. Sherlock actually runs into her when he’s examining Lin’s apartment and discovers a burn mark from a shell casing on her arm.

After examining the burn, he determines that it must have come from a special kind of bullet that’s relatively hard to find. A quick perusal of Lin’s poker night guest list leads him to wonder if a man named Hobberkin attempted to kill Lin, as he runs one of the city’s most high-profile gun expos.

When Sherlock goes to question the man, Hobberkin basically admits that he was the one who shot at Lin, but says that he definitely didn’t rob the game. He was just looking to see if she took the money, and sure enough, she did — at least according to him. Still, the missing lookout, Ian, is the main suspect.

That is, until he’s found dead, suffocated by a chloroform rag, his body dumped in a drainage pipe. With that lead gone, but with murder now included in the case, Sherlock and Joan have no choice but to go to the police against Lin’s wishes. Once the NYPD is brought into the loop, the detectives head to the empty listing — which is now housing a new occupant — to look for clues.

What they find is interesting. After examining a weird light fixture, Gregson and Marcus find a hidden spy cam that would have been used to monitor the game, therefore likely belonging to whomever organized the robbery. That leads them to Matao, a man who works for Semper Apex, an information security company. He admits that he installed the camera, but that it was just to cheat during the game. It’s a believable scenario, so Sherlock and the team just take the old footage and hope to use it to pin down who robbed the game.

NEXT: Big Brother, Estranged Sister

Just as Joan, along with Lin, is sitting down to look at the footage, Agent McNally from the NSA remotely shuts down her computer, takes the footage, and shuts off the power to the brownstone. Apparently they need the footage for an investigation they’re doing, which leads Sherlock and Joan to wonder how many layers there are to this crime.

The layers are revealed when Sherlock and Joan pay a visit to the Celik Brothers, Turkish criminals they believe robbed Lin’s game. Of course, the Celik Brothers play dumb, but the detectives basically know they had something to do with it. When Sherlock sees an NSA van outside of their store front, he covertly asks for a meeting with Agent McNally to get things straight.

During that meeting, McNally throws a wrench into everything. He says that Sophia, the dealer who Sherlock questioned, is actually Sofi Demur, and she’s also involved with the Celik Brothers. In fact, they’re all Turkish spies, and by going to visit them and stirring up suspicion, Sherlock may have just tipped them off and sent them fleeing from the country.

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Thankfully, just before Sophia is going to make her escape, the detectives put everything together. Sherlock determines that the robbery, organized by Sophia and pulled off by the Celik Brothers, is actually a distraction from the real crime, which is getting an imprint of the key Matao uses to gain access to Semper Apex’s servers. All sorts of diplomatic information is stored on those servers, which would be of great use to three Turkish spies.

It’s an okay end to a knotty, but fairly engaging crime, but the real story here is Lin. She’s hostile and weird with Joan the whole time, and initially it seems it’s because she was involved with Mycroft. Eventually though, Joan figures out the truth. After tracing back Lin’s last name, she finds out that the two are half sisters — they share the same father — and that Lin had known this all along. She never knew Mycroft, but instead used his name as a way to get close to Joan and Sherlock, as a way to get in the door with her problem.

NEXT: Is it really art?

When Joan confronts Lin about her identity and her motivation, Lin comes clean. She says that she’s known about Joan for about two years, that her mother and her were abandoned by her father after he went off his meds. She says she came to Sherlock and Joan because she needed help and didn’t know where else to go, but outside of that she has no interest in getting to know Joan. In fact, she’s mostly hostile toward her.

Joan has that weighing on her mind as another murder makes its way to the detectives. Phoebe Elliot is shot outside of her gym late at night after calling Zeus, a ride-sharing program. Phoebe is seen preparing to get in the back seat of a car when the driver shoots her three times in the chest, killing her only moments before her ride actually arrives. Initially, her brother Keith is the main suspect. He has a history of stealing cars and perhaps was fighting with his sister, as they lived together after he was released from prison.

Keith is willing to do anything to have his name cleared though, and his behavior doesn’t seem to suggest that he wanted to kill his sister. He posits that his sister had a stalker though, or maybe many, as a picture of her recently used in an art exhibit had made her a sort of pseudo-celebrity.

The art installation using that photo is run by Ephram Hill. He pulls images from social media, blows them up on huge canvases, and “recontextualizes” them in an art gallery. Sherlock doesn’t bother to hold back his disdain when the detectives question Ephram. It’s the best segment in the two-hour event, as Sherlock dismisses Ephram’s work while trying to figure out who might have killed Phoebe.

During the questioning of Ephram, it’s revealed that five pictures were stolen from his gallery only a few nights before. Could the same person who stole the pictures have murdered Phoebe? And if so, what’s the motive? That line of thinking leads them to question a woman who posted an angry video threatening Ephram, but she insists it was all just a stunt for her own art project, where she’d take pictures of Ephram’s pictures and then sells them outside his gallery. You see, some people aren’t too happy with him taking someone else’s photos and profiting off them. Who would have thought?!?

Although the interview with the woman doesn’t get Sherlock any closer to finding out who killed Phoebe, it does give him another clue. He notices that the gallery picture of Phoebe has been altered from the original. More specifically, someone has removed a man from the background.

NEXT: Fuzzy picture, fuzzier theory

After some careful digging by Joan, who’s still reeling from the whole half sister thing and is trying to talk through it with Sherlock, she finds that the man in the picture is likely Lewis Bowman, who’s serving a life sentence in prison for murdering a young woman named Marissa, who was a friend of Phoebe’s in college. Umm, what?

So, basically, Sherlock believes that whoever stole and replaced the photo of Phoebe must have realized Bowman was in the background and wanted to keep him in prison because the photo essentially exonerates him. It shows that he wasn’t near Marissa when she was killed. It’s a photo alibi! So, who would want to keep him in prison? Essentially the question is, who framed Lewis Bowman and did that same person kill Phoebe?

The detectives first go to question Lewis Bowman, who maintains that he’s innocent. He says that he saw the real killer, and that they were wearing a distinctive white and green Baha sweater. That’s not enough to go on, but Bowman gives them a bit more. He says that his ex-girlfriend Amanda works on the police force, and that he believes the police planted evidence to get him convicted.

When the detectives question Amanda, she laughs off the accusations. She says that her and Bowman were never romantically involved, but rather he was obsessed with her. Still, there’s a weird connection in there. She’s a Connecticut state trooper and, from what the detectives can tell, someone stole a car from Connecticut, drove it to New York to kill Phoebe, and then drove it back. Pretty weird, right?

Anyway, the DNA results from the lab come back, and guess what? Keith, Phoebe’s sister, is a match. The detectives bring him in for questioning but he’s once again adamant that he didn’t kill his sister. He, like Bowman, says the evidence was planted, a specific charge that Sherlock finds interesting. Two people accusing the police of planting evidence might mean there’s some truth in there somewhere.

A closer look at a Connecticut lab technician named Zoe reveals that she’s known for something called “dry labbing.” Basically, when the police are sure they have the right guy and can’t quite get the physical evidence to match, she fudges the reports, leading to actual evidence that can be used to convict whoever is detained. So, if Phoebe came to Zoe asking about Bowman’s DNA sample after seeing him in her own picture, or someone else did for that matter, would that have given Zoe cause to kill Phoebe in order to protect herself from investigation?

NEXT: Family Affairs

Either way, someone knew about Zoe’s practices, making sure the car, which is left in Connecticut, would be put in her hands. Could it have been Amanda, the Connecticut State Trooper? Sherlock posits that perhaps she was angry that Bowman had chosen another woman over her, and therefore had framed Bowman for killing Marissa. Then, when Phoebe found out about Bowman being in her picture, she killed her as well.

Again, Amanda laughs that off, saying that Marissa was gay, so there was no hostility there whatsoever. That revelation leads to another, as Amanda tells the detectives that Marissa was having an affair with a married woman. After some digging, Joan figures out who that woman was: Krysta, the assistant district attorney who helped put Bowman away.

The detectives question Krysta’s wife, Terri, and determine that yes, Krysta and Marissa were having an affair. Then, Terri confesses to everything. She says she found out about the affair and killed Marissa after a confrontation, and that Krysta helped her cover it up and then did the same thing when Phoebe found out about Bowman’s presence in her picture. But, after redoing the DNA tests that Zoe never bothered to do properly, the detectives discover that it was in fact Krysta who killed Phoebe outside the gym. Got all that straight? Barely? Yeah, me too.

Anyway, after all the craziness, the “two hour event” once again comes back to its throughline: Joan’s half sister. After Lin lashes out at Joan for calling her mother and trying to find out more about her father, she apologizes and attempts to mend their relationship. It’s a nice moment between the two, and finally sees Joan getting her own storyline independent of Sherlock. Joan acknowledges that her and Lin have a lot of work to do to become close, but she’s willing to do it if it means they can one day be a family.

This two-hour event covers a lot of ground. There’s two cases, a number of subplots, tons of misdirection, and a bunch of family drama on top of that. Still, Elementary mostly uses its time well. Plus, Joan’s character is fleshed out and given more depth, which is more than welcome in this fourth season.

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