Synopsis for 3×09: Sherlock struggles with his sobriety while trying to help track down an old friend of Joan’s. However, the case leads to a murder investigation and at the center of it all is a mysterious drug trial for a time-altering medication.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

This particular episode of Elementary threw me to the point I felt like it was a blast from the past. I guess that’s just what Alfredo does to me when he appears on screen. Sherlock’s sponsor approached him with another challenge: outsmart Odin, one of the most updated pieces of anti-car-theft technology. He also wanted Sherlock to go to a meeting, which was refused. Still sore about the breach of his anonymity, Sherlock had been avoiding going to meetings and appeared to be struggling with his sobriety.

In the usual Sherlock way, though, it took him a while to open up about it.

While trying to outsmart the alarm, an old friend of Joan’s showed up looking for her. Another friend of theirs had gone missing and this friend thought Joan could help. Eager to have an excuse to get out of a meeting, and no doubt to put his mind to something other than drug use, Sherlock jumped at the chance to take the case.

Kitty briefed Joan, and in a cute scene struggled with Sherlock’s abbreviations. Joan helped out, and it reminded me of the episode I’d recently re-watched where Joan was struggling with understanding the way Sherlock communicated. There are a lot of parallels that are being drawn throughout the series between Kitty and Joan, and I like it.

Unfortunately, Sherlock was able to find Joan’s old nurse friend. She was dead in a dumpster, murdered by a hit to the back of the head. Sherlock made a connection to a man who was probably the culprit, someone who had subsequently gone missing, and thanks to help from one of his irregulars he was able to track the man down. Once they found Jacobi, though, they realized that he too was dead.

An autopsy, and review of journals Jacobi had been keeping, revealed rather severe brain damage to various parts of the hind brain. Jacobi had also claimed that he was thousands of years old in his journals and had been having delusions of altered time. Putting the dots together, the team eventually figured out that what Jacobi and the nurse Marissa had in common was an illegal drug trial testing out a drug that is supposed to make people essentially immortal.

It was a little out there this week, I’ll freely admit it. At the same time, it was fun to have a really strange case to contrast the other struggle the writer’s explored this week in the form of Sherlock.

In Jacobi’s journals he admitted to killing Marissa, but it was due to the drug that had destroyed his brain. The team worked to find other patients and while there were five names, most of them were dead or missing. There was one who appeared to be just missing and they were able to track him down. The medication they’d tested had taken its toll, but not nearly to the degree of the other participants in the study. They managed to convince the guy to go with them and he was able to provide some great insight into the entire situation.

Apparently the drug trial had offered an insane amount of money to the participants, including a lifetime yearly payment of one-hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The first thought was that some sort of pharmaceutical company was behind the study, but after bringing in the guy who had headed up the entire thing they came to realize it was a private funder and the face of the operation refused to give up the name.

At the same time, Sherlock and Joan finally had a heart to heart about his sobriety. In what I think was a beautiful scene, Sherlock finally admitted that he was struggling with his sobriety and had been tempted to use. He explained that the constant process of sobriety was tedious, repetitive, and relenting.

“Is reality simply a grind, a leaky faucet which requires continuous maintenance?”

He was finally tired of having to constantly work at not taking drugs. It was a very real scene, and something that isn’t usually explored on television. The other interesting thing he pointed out was that his relapse would be the climax to “some grand drama,” when in reality that’s not how relapse works. Addiction comes with backslide, and backslide leads down into what Sherlock stated was essentially an “anti-climax.” You use, but it isn’t because anything really happened. Rather, reality just ground you down to the point you couldn’t see why using drugs was terrible anymore.

It was so painfully real and a solid reflection of a drug addicts struggle that I really have to give props to the writers for including it. Most shows go for the flare, the big dramatic event that “forces” someone to turn back to their vice. In reality, addiction is a choice, one made usually because a high is a better alternative to reality. No matter how wise, intelligent, unique, or amazing a person is they are all susceptible to relapse.

After finally admitting it, things changed for Sherlock. He woke Joan up the next morning in his usual annoying fashion. He was finally able to disarm the alarm Alfredo had left for him using an EMP. He also continued to pursue the case, which led them to the elderly funder behind the entire operation.

The funder, however, refused to admit that he was involved in the scheme. After all, the man was about to face death due to heart disease. The police couldn’t scare him more than death did. However, the guy’s nurse gave him up but when they went back to arrest him they found the man asleep in bed. He’d taken his own medication and appeared to be dreaming. A man on the brink of death was willing to do anything, even take a brain destroying drug, just to feel like he could live a little longer.

In the end, Joan also offered to move back with Sherlock for a little while to try and help him maintain his sobriety. He turned her down and explained that it was a “temporary malaise.” Time will tell.

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