Warning: not only are there spoilers below, but there is also a picture from the episode that's a bit gross, so, be warned!
"Ears to You" is quite an enjoyable episode of Elementary, featuring a mystery that is as engaging as the character interactions, which is relatively unusual. As enjoyable as Elementary generally is, the mysteries themselves are sometimes pro forma, cliched, and/or implausible--not surprising, perhaps, in the context of series television, in which writers have to come up with over twenty stories a year--and about characters who are smarter than those writers, to boot. The plot offers up a genuine poser. Gordon Cushing (Jeremy Davidson) lives under the burden of an accusation: his wife Sarah (Cara Buono) disappeared in 2010, and ever since, he has been suspected of having murdered her. Even his story of receiving a ransom demand in 2011, in which the terrified Sarah was put on the phone to talk to him, has cut little ice, since he paid the ransom, did not get Sarah back, but has no proof of the actual ransom demand: maybe it was just a story to try to raise questions about questions his guilt. Now, in 2014, another ransom demand comes to him in the form of apackage, this time accompanied by a couple of gruesome tokens as proof of life (see the title of the episode, as well as the first picture here).
But, are these Sarah's ears? If so, she must still be alive, but what kidnapper keeps a prisoner for four years? That's just the first question, though; the plot unfolds in an intriguing series of revelations and twists: Sarah is indeed still alive, but still has her ears, claiming that she fled Cushing out of fear for her safety and has lived incognito, married to a plastic surgeon ever since. But if so, whose ears are these? Their DNA matched that of hairs on a brush from the Cushing house. But the woman Cushing thinks might be the victim--a prostitute with whom he was cheating on his wife--herself died three years past and was cremated, so could not possibly be the ear donor. And say, wait a minute, what about Cushing's story that his terrified wife spoke to him on the phone three years back, during the first ransom demand? Now that we know she's still alive, and know therefore that he didn't invent the first ransom story to try to conceal his guilt for her murder, how does that incident change things? We get some good instances of Holmes's (Johnny Lee Miller) deductive reasoning, almost as an aside, as he works through the possibilities. I won't reveal the answer, except to say that it's surprising and might see on the face of itseem pretty unlikely but is actually feasible.
If we see Holmes exercising his deductive skills to track down the truth about the primary plot, Watson (Lucy Liu) using her own skills to see through Lestrade's (Sean Pertwee) crisis of confidence. Possibly the strongest sceen in the episode is the one in which Watson reads Lestrade's recent history in his clothing and demeanor, and pushes him to face his problems. The secondary plot traces Lestrade's attempt to reclaim his self-confidence as a detective by solving the mystery of his own mugging. Meanwhile, Holmes and Watson debate whether helping him is better (Watson's view) or practicing tough love and letting him bottom out is better (Holmes's view). This disagreement neatly encapsulates the difference between Watson's compassion-based and communally-driven character and Holmes's more insular and detached one. The reminders of last week's cock-fighting sub-plot perhaps lurks beneath the surface here, as the continued presence of roosters Romulus and Remus is a feature of the episode. Whereas last week they could be seen as symbols of Holmes and Lestrade as two bantams strutting their stuff, here instead they echo the tension between Watson and Lestrade as the evidently jealous ex from whom Holmes has moved on. Watson's inherent compassion is also reinforced by the fact that she has clearly gone back on her assertion that she would not feed them! They also have some plot relevance, as one of the pieces of evidence on which Lestrade depends on in his plausible (but ultimately wrong) solution to his puzzle is a cock feather. The irony is that Lestrade's confidence is restored when he thinks he has outsmarted Holmes, and Holmes allows him to think so. The anxiety inherent in being Holmes's partner, and therefore inevitably secondary to his genius, serves as the crucial element in Lestrade's crisis of confidence and comes up as something about which Lestrade warns Watson. Whether this warning will bear bitter fruit remains to be seen, but one hopes it will not.
We can be sure, I think, that this bomb will not detonate, but I suspect it's a metaphor for coming problems, as we near the season finale.
So, do you agree or disagree with my assessment that this is one of the better episodes of the series? what did you like or dislike about it? Let me know in the comments below; I'm all ears!