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Elementary - All My Exes Live in Essex - Review

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This week's episode starts with Sherlock and Joan have handcuffed themselves to chairs to test out a new set of supposedly uncrackable handcuffs. Joan gets a phone call from her old hospital. Sherlock and Joan manage to crack the cuffs within moments of the phone starting to ring.

Joan’s old hospital has the latest case for our intrepid investigators, a young female doctor has gone missing. The hospital has a low amount of surveillance in the labs wing so anyone could have slipped in — or out. In one of those plot lines that seems a little too coincidental until it happens it real life, one of Joan’s old friends also contacts her, Sherlock asks if her whole social network chose to take today as a crisis day.

The missing Abby Campbell’s station has been meticulously cleaned, but Sherlock has found scuff marks from a sticky gurney wheel. Tracking the scuffmarks takes them to a room in the hospital’s basement that Joan has never been in before. Joan deduces that it’s a prep lab for collecting organs and preparing corpses for donorship to schools. After a few moments, Sherlock finds Abby Campbell stripped of skin and organs, hanging as a display skeleton not far from where she would have been murdered.

Sherlock guesses that the other remains had been burned away using the pressure oven Joan found when they arrived on the scene. He calls the killer “nasty and skilled,” deducing that the killer would have to have foreknowledge to have killed, disassembled, and reassembled her body in a night. He has also deduced that she was likely strangled due to the hyoid being missing. Oh and her husband is a doctor. But that’d be too easy.

Joan’s friend has been visited by someone called Jena Cortez (Burglary Division, Coney island) and she asked a bunch of questions about Joan and how the friend knew her, if Joan was type to commit a crime…. Joan reassures Emily it must have been a misunderstanding.

Sherlock brings in Abby’s husband Nate for a quick interrogation, albeit Sherlock goes rather lightly on him as they don’t have any evidence. Nate does have an alibi for the murder; he was doing the books with his unit manager. Abby had had cancer and only a year to live, but he hadn’t really told anyone outside of his nursing staff because Abby wanted to keep it private.

Back at the brownstone, Sherlock is listening to Friday to counter Joan for her obnoxious ring tone (I thought it was cute…) while he reviews the security footage. His backup song is a song about “dogs and who let them out.” He has found that Abby was having an affair and that the doctor with whom she was doing the deed called in sick the morning she disappeared, leaving only a PO box.

Joan has gotten calls from two of her other friends re: Jenna Cortez contacting them. She asks Sherlock if there’s any reason the police would be investigating her. Neither of them can think of anything.

Nate calls Sherlock’s phone to tell him he knows where the doctor who was sleeping with Abby is and he’ll tell them on the conditions it’s in person and that they don’t tell the police. Dr. Branford Fisher has been living with the Campbells — they’re in a thruple, three people married to each other. They claim neither of them killed their wife.

The two men have a daughter with Abby and were afraid of either social services taking their child or their careers being put in danger because of the unconventional nature of their relationship. Branford and Nate had been in a relationship before they met Abby and she had suggested becoming a thruple. She had been in a prior multiple marriage that ended badly. Not counting Abby, there were five people in the marriage and she had reportedly had a falling out with one of her fellow wives.

The NYPD tracks them all down easily. The first wife claims they all loved Abby, but she was stubborn. The first husband interviewed suggested that it was fine for the first year or two. The money seemed to be the issue between them all, the main conflict coming from Denise and Abby. Denise is the least helpful of the ex-spouses, predictably. Bell tells her exactly how it will go if she makes a “stink.” (read: Press.) Denise claims they buried the hatchet before Abby died; Abby had signed a contract giving up her claim in the house and emailed the document to Denise before she died. In return, Abby had wanted a confidentiality agreement for something she was selling. Denise thought it was something illegal because when she told Abby that contracts over illegal goods were null and void, she dropped the topic.

Joan goes to see the ubiquitous Detective Cortez to set up a time to talk. Cortez declines talking to her, telling her she’ll find her when she needs to talk to her and asking why the questions make Joan so uncomfortable.

Joan tells Sherlock she feels it’s personal. Joan’s been looking into Cortez and has ruled out ex-lovers as a motive due to Cortez being a lesbian and Joan not.

Sherlock’s theory is now that Abby had stolen fertilized eggs. The next day, Sherlock tracks down an old college buddy of Abby’s who would have use for fertilized cells. Joan threatens to get a warrant and as opposed to denying he bought them, the college colleague defends his research, ultimately admitting to a trade — Abby wanted to use his lab for blood work after hours. He grants them access to the computer records with no further pushing needed. Everything Abby could have used in the lab has been destroyed.

Sherlock and Joan develop a theory that Abby might have been researching the paternity of the embryos at the lab, but they don’t have any leads as to who or any evidence outside of a suspicion. They ask Gregson to get a warrant for the hazardous burn bag in the lab, thinking they might be able to find Abby’s research there.

Joan has found Cortez again and a theory as to why she’s bothering her. Cortez is bothered by the fact Joan, a private citizen in her eyes, was looking into anything to do with her department at all. She sees it as retaliation as Joan had no right to be looking into cops. Ummmm… just how corrupt are you, lady?

Sherlock sees what Cortez is doing as a “beef,” one that’s solvable. He advises her to force Cortez to see Joan as a peer.

Going through the hazardous waste, Joan and Sherlock have found blood samples she was analysing and based on her calendar, Sherlock knows who to talk to.

Sherlock talks to a Miss Russof, a woman in charge of a cancer group that Abby had been taking blood samples from. Russof had had her doubts, as did a group member’s spouse who had threatened Abby. And the man worked at a butcher shop. The man’s mother had been scammed by every person on the books when she had colon cancer and hadn’t wanted his wife to go through the same. None of that bears any leads until they find out her doctor was Nate Campbell. Joan follows the woman to the nursery and figures out that she doesn’t have cancer.

In the follow up interview, Nate’s diagnoses falls apart faster than tissue paper in water. As do several dozen of his other cases. Of the ones that agreed to be retested, a third of his patients didn’t have cancer and likely never did. His clinic manager recanted the alibi, confirmed he was headed in Abby’s direction after a heated fight, and oh yeah, confirmed the misdiagnoses. He only asks to speak to Branford before he’ll confess everything.

Joan’s way of getting Cortez to see her as an equal is to invite her to an NYPD charity boxing match. Cortez offers an immediate bought instead.

Back at the Brownstone, Sherlock makes a proven folk remedy for Joan’s now blackened eye and ice for her hand, telling her she needs more training. Joan comments back that the important part was that she landed the last punch.


The initial reveal that the murdered woman was right in front of not only Sherlock, but the people looking for her, was chilling. To me, it served as showing just how easily Abby's husband would have gotten away with the murder had someone with very astute eyesight not been on the case. It also serves as a reminder of how easily a missing or murdered person can go unidentified and the killer uncaught. From a criminological standpoint, I found it fascinating.

After initially calling having Abby's doctor husband be the murderer "too easy," the show proved me wrong both by introducing a second husband for Abby and by having people with motives, that without the knowledge of his cancer scam, seemed far more plausible.

Personally, I would have switched the prominence level of the plot with Sherlock's father with the plot with Cortez. To me, Cortez proved a much more formidable threat when rendered on screen than what she was given, but the writers accomplished the main goal of any entertainer: keeping their audience wanting more.

Next episode: Dec. 10

About the Author - Robin Smyth

Robin Smyth is an avid watcher of television; her favourite show is Justified. Her current focus is on writing her long-awaited novel.
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