Television: Elementary, "Just a Regular Irregular"

There is, apparently, a code in Hollywood that says mathematicians/computer geeks must be rotund and wear glasses. Morris in Cloak and Dagger, Aaron on Revolution, Sylvester on Scorpion, and Harlan on Elementary all spring to mind, and I know there are many more of which I'm not immediately thinking.

These, I should point out, are the "lead" mathematician/geek roles. Subsidiary geeks can be pinched and thin (especially if they're women!), and all must be some level of disheveled. Even the rich ones in the suits must have unruly hair or something.

Anyway, this week's episode of Elementary brought Harlan back for another pass (he first appeared in "Solve for X"). While playing a math game that involves solving clues that lead to a location and another clue, all in the pursuit of a large cash prize (geocaching for geeks), Harlan stumbles across a dead body. Dead people do have a great sense of timing; they always seem to know just when to fall out of a cabinet or whatever.

Meanwhile, Watson has asked Kitty for help with a surveillance job. Kitty politely declines, but later Holmes puts Kitty on the job anyway. We don't see that conversation, but I do wonder how it went: "Do as your mother says!"

And, yes, this episode acknowledges that Holmes and Watson are parental figures for Kitty. Though Watson says flat out, "I am not Kitty's mother." But Kitty is smart enough to realize if she wants to be successful in this work, she's going to need nurturing from both sides, Holmes and Watson. The trade-off is Kitty agreeing to begin attending recovery meetings for rape victims.

So did the writers figure they'd run the addiction gamut with Holmes but needed to extend the whole Watson-as-counselor theme? (And Holmes-as-sponsor theme as well, in a way.) It shows a bit of a lack of originality to go over the same ground, even in a different way.

As for Harlan and the math game, another mathematician is found dead at the next site/clue. Someone is hunting mathematicians. But this killer is also clearly looking for something because he shoots them in the foot and knee before the fatal shot to the head. Considering the killer can't know which mathematician will solve the clue, and because disposal of the bodies shows lack of planning . . . Well, whatever. We eventually conclude the killer is looking for Mo Shellshocker, a math blogger who exposes things like lottery fraud. It's a pseudonym, of course, and by miraculous coincidence it turns out to be Harlan. (As Mo, not as the killer.)

Possibly one of the best moments of the episode comes when Harlan confronts Holmes for having "fired" or "replaced" him with a Berkeley mathematician. Holmes tells Harlan that he has found Harlan a bit too clingy, inviting Holmes to parties and discussing his personal life, and here we see the difference in the way two people can regard one another: Holmes sees Harlan merely as a consultant while Harlan has thought of Holmes as a friend. The expression on Holmes's face as he comprehends he's hurt Harlan's feelings is priceless. There's bafflement and realization all in one.

And the truth to Elementary is, there's no such thing as a simple relationship with Holmes. Yet Holmes is the only one who doesn't understand that. In his mind it's all very cut and dry. But for everyone else, interaction with Holmes is complicated and often exasperating.

I feel that way about the show sometimes, too. So much potential, and it does some things extremely well. But there are times the writers seem utterly unaware of the way the show is interacting with its viewers, and that can lead to problems down the line.

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