The title of this week’s episode of Elementary is “Give Me the Finger,” so I invite you to join me in imagining Joan and Sherlock putting up their middle finger at the preps in the grand tradition of My Immortal.
The episode opens with Gregson’s daughter, Hannah, coming to visit him at the precinct. Hannah is also a police officer, one that Sherlock and Joan have had encounters with before. She and Gregson have a serious talk in his closed office.
The murder of the week kicks off with firefighters finding a body in the wreckage of a burnt home. The victim is one Ando Azuma, a Japanese citizen who was working as an IT consultant in New York. Whoever killed him didn’t take it easy. He was struck on the back of the head, tied up with zip ties, and tortured before finally having his throat slit. He’s missing a pinky finger too, but that wound is old. Bell also notices he’s covered in tattoos. He makes the obvious conclusion: Azuma was a Yakuza member.
Sherlock noticed the same thing, but has one correction. Clues in the apartment suggest that Azuma wore a prosthetic. But current Yakuza members consider the sacrifice of a finger to their gang to be a sign of honor. Only former Yakuza members cover up their lost digits. Azuma was a Yakuza member, yes, but a former one. Interestingly, there’s no sign of the prosthetic in the wrecked home. Sherlock wonders if the point of the attack was not just to kill Azuma, but to take his finger.
Among the many languages Sherlock speaks is Japanese. He poses as an ex-Yakuza and lures the technician that provided Azuma’s prosthetic to the brownstone. She isn’t Yakuza herself, but discreetly provides prosthetics to former gangsters. Bell and Sherlock question her about Azuma. She insists that Azuma had totally given up his Yakuza ways but has another interesting lead. Azuma’s pinky wasn’t just a normal prosthetic; it had a flash drive embedded in it. That may have been what his murderer was after all along. The technician also gives them the dark web account that Azuma used to pay her.
At the precinct, Gregson asks to speak to Joan. We finally learn what his conversation with Hannah was about. Hannah confessed to her father that she’s an alcoholic. She’s in recovery now, but Gregson was completely blindsided by the news and feels guilty.
Joan returns to the brownstone to find Mason, the computer prodigy Sherlock consults for help on cases. He’s also my favorite of all of Sherlock’s Irregulars, so I was very happy to see him. Mason is attempting, with some difficulty, to hack into Azuma’s dark web account. In the background, Sherlock is loudly consulting with the Tokyo police. The Japanese detective he speaks with confirms that Azuma left the Yakuza honorably. Normally, former Yakuza members that leave on good terms are left alone. But Azuma wasn’t just a normal gangster; he specialized in espionage and blackmail. That, combined with the missing thumb drive (or pinky drive, as Sherlock puns), suggests that Azuma was killed over some incriminating blackmail material.
Sure enough, when Mason finally breaks into Azuma’s account, they find that he was receiving regular payments from someone. Blackmail payments? Sherlock recognizes the account name as being from another New York-based Yakuza member, one Go Shinura.
Sherlock and Joan find Shinura observing sumo wrestling practice. He acknowledges that he was making regular payments to Azuma, but says that they were for a gambling debt. That’s still motive, and in fact, Shinura freely admits that he wanted Azuma dead. But Shinura couldn’t lay a finger (haha, get it?) on Azuma. Yakuza aren’t allowed to hurt former gang members unless they break the rules by performing criminal activity. Shinura was trying to catch Azuma in the act and even witnessed him breaking into an industrial facility. But Shinura hadn’t yet gotten permission from his gang leaders in Japan to move against Azuma.
The detectives’ next move is to check out the facility that Shinura saw Azuma enter. At night, it appears abandoned, and Sherlock picks a lock and lets them in. They are promptly apprehended by members of the US Air Force. Not so empty after all.
Come morning, an irritated Gregson bails them out. But they still have to answer some questions from the Air Force. Sherlock uses the opportunity to accuse the Air Force of having Azuma killed…to protect American nuclear security. His brief time in the facility was enough for him to deduce that it’s a nuclear control hub. If Azuma infiltrated that system, that would be a big deal.
But Sherlock has it backward. Azuma wasn’t working against them, he was working for them. He was a security consultant testing the safety of the facility. The Air Force is planning to implement a new system update for the entire nuclear network. This secret facility was the first to test it with Azuma as a consultant. Now the military is worried that they’ve been compromised by Azuma’s death. Things seem even more dire when they learn from the police about the missing pinky drive. If Azuma stole the system specs, they’ll have to scrap the entire thing and start again. For now, they have to put the entire update on hold.
Sherlock researches online but finds no chatter about Ando’s drive or about the system specs. If someone did steal the specs, it’s not online yet. But Joan has a different theory. She’s heard from the fire marshall about the fire at Azuma’s place. The detectives had been assuming that the fire was an attempt to destroy evidence from the murder. The fire marshall, however, thinks the fire was started on accident. Azuma was cooking when he was attacked and the stove, left untended, started the fire.
If that’s the case, then Azuma’s body and home ought to have been left undamaged and it would have been instantly clear he was missing the prosthetic. With the drive missing, the Air Force might have realized sooner how seriously they were compromised..and the sooner they realized that, the sooner the update to their system would have been put on hold. Joan theorizes that was the point. Not everyone in the military approved of the update. The nuclear system is currently running on “Legacy tech” from the 70s. The tech is so out of date that it’s practically unhackable and thus potentially more secure than a modern system. Maybe someone was willing to kill to keep the old system.
But Azuma was not known to the public to be involved in this update. If the system update is the motive, the murderer would have to be someone working in the facility. Luckily, Joan found a General Alvero who was vocally against the update and who worked in the secret facility. As Sherlock and Joan wait for information on Alvero, Sherlock asks Joan about her earlier secret consultation with Gregson. She’s reluctant to share Gregson’s private information, but eventually reveals the truth.
The police bring Alvero in for questioning. But he quickly (and with some embarrassment) provides an alibi. He couldn’t have killed Azuma because he was engaged in kink play at the time. Pretending to be a baby, specifically. Hey, everyone’s got their thing, right? I mean, not me. But everyone else.
Alvero points them to a different lead. The military had a contract to receive legacy tech from a local business run by a man called Eddie. If/when the military updated their system, they’d no longer need Eddie’s legacy tech and he would go out of business. Alvero had mentioned Azuma to Eddie before, although not by name. Maybe Eddie killed to protect his business.
Elsewhere in the city, Hannah is at home when her roommate lets her know that someone outside the house hit her parked car and wants to talk to her about it. She heads out to find…Michael. I was genuinely shocked. I thought it was going to be Sherlock, being a busybody! Michael, as always, is vaguely creepy, but all he does is insist that he and Hannah exchange information so he can pay for the damage.
The police investigate Eddie’s home, but find it empty, with signs that Eddie left in a hurry. But Eddie owns a boat that’s in storage, so Sherlock and Bell head to the storage facility. As they approach, shots ring out. They duck behind cover and hear Eddie shouting. He wasn’t shooting at them but shooting out the window in his boat so they could hear him yelling. He’d accidentally trapped himself in his boat for five days straight because he believed that someone was trying to kill him…in an incident that sounds a lot like what happened to Azuma.
As Eddie is checked over by paramedics, Sherlock speaks to Gregson. Sherlock believes Eddie’s story, but that’s not what he wants to talk to Gregson about. Instead, he tries to give Gregson advice about Hannah. Gregson doesn’t want to hear about it, but Sherlock persists. He’s not doing it for the captain’s sake, he says, but for Hannah’s, and ultimately Gregson listens.
Dunbridge, an insomniac, was heading to his office extremely early one morning when he was attacked. Like Azuma, he was struck and bound, but unlike Azuma, he wasn’t tortured and was able to escape. Sherlock and Bell think that it wasn’t a murder attempt, but that Dunbridge interrupted a break-in to his office. His attack occurred before Azuma’s, so they wonder if his somehow triggered Azuma’s attack and head to his office to investigate.
There, they’re able to deduce that the attacker made copies of some of Dunbridge’s records. The records relate to the buying and delivery of a shipment of floppy discs, some of which Dunbridge still has. With old legacy tech like the discs, you can attempt to erase them, but the data is often still recoverable. Mason is able to restore some of the data on the remaining discs and finds that they contain records from a still-existent stationary company. It all seems boring and meaningless until Joan comes in with an update from the fire marshall. The fire at Azuma’s home was definitely an accident, started by him cooking peppers and garlic. Somehow, these two apparently unimportant details lead to Sherlock cracking the case.
As always, I won’t spoil the killer’s identity, but it involved durian, counterfeit money, and definitely took me by surprise. I like to be right, but it’s also nice to be surprised sometimes.
But the episode ends on a darker note. Late at night, Hannah returns to her home. Inside, she finds her roommate, murdered. Out on the dark street, Michael listens to Hannah’s horrified scream.
- When Sherlock finds that Azuma’s prosthetic pinky is missing he says something to the effect of, “I’d say the game is afoot…but maybe it’s a-finger.” What a dork! But I laughed so I guess I’m a dork too.
- On the one hand, the identity of the murderer legitimately surprised me this time and I enjoyed that. That being said (spoiler alert), there are three different episodes now in the last few seasons alone where the killer turns out to be a corrupt government official who is a person of color. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it’s starting to become a pattern and it makes me uncomfortable.
- I felt the sumo bit was overkill. Like, I get it, they’re Yakuza, they’re Japanese. You made your point.
- What is Michael up to? He was keeping me on my toes this episode. Obviously he killed Hannah’s roommate to draw Sherlock’s attention, but why the roommate instead of Hannah? What’s his plan here?