Elementary “Bang Bang Shoot Chute” Review (Season 5 Episode 7)

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On the latest episode of “Elementary,” a base jumper was killed on his way down from leaping off a building in the city, while Watson got wind of Shinwell hanging around someone he shouldn’t have, in the amusingly-titled “Bang Bang Shoot Chute.”

This was a twisty one, that didn’t allow for much subplots on the side, but thankfully, the show opted to just focus on the one involving Shinwell, so it didn’t feel as overstuffed as, say, last week’s episode. I don’t think I can do total justice to the intricacies of the main case, but I’ll do my best.

It all began with a pair of base jumpers, set to do a jump from a city building in “tribute” to a fallen comrade, who died in a freak accident when he bumped into one of the others, causing his parachute to malfunction and resulting in his untimely death. Both jumpers blamed each other somewhat for the incident, but had seemingly resolved their differences enough to do one more jump in the man’s honor- but was it a set-up for revenge?

Whatever the case, someone took it upon themselves to shoot one of the men, Bennett Neely, before anything else could go wrong, so he was already dead even before he hit the ground. However, as Holmes discovers, even if the shooter hadn’t taken him out, Bennett would have died anyway, as someone had cut his parachute to ensure his death.

The only real clue on the scene, beyond the cut chute, was the presence of a blue bead, of the type found on a bracelet. Holmes and Watson have a talk with the man’s wife, Roz (Laura Heisler,”The Middle”), who was pregnant and had an alibi for the time of death, having been out with friends who kept her company while she allegedly worried about her husband’s actions- with good reason, as it turns out.

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However, a search of their property revealed that ALL of Bennett’s chutes were cut, so no matter which one he selected, he would have been doomed. The wife says that the chutes were in an unlocked shed in an unfenced yard that anyone could have accessed undeterred. She admitted that she didn’t want him to do it, but would hardly have killed him with a baby on the way.

She does ID someone who might have- Mark Trenchman (Quincy Dunn-Baker, “Blindspot”), the cameraman and fellow jumper that was there with him on that last fateful jump, who was still MIA since the incident. She claims he still might hold a grudge against her husband for their fellow jumper Arturo’s untimely death, as Bennett was the one who knocked into him, causing the incident.

After finding Mark’s phone tossed, Holmes uses his camera against the man to track him down to a local hotel, where Mark was hiding out, in light of the situation. However, he claims he was doing so to lay low in case the killer came after him next, as he was also involved in Arturo’s death. He thinks it’s Arturo’s sister, Eliza (Flor De Liz Perez, “The Good Wife”), a West Point cadet with the sort of training that would have made her an excellent sniper.

She denies it, saying there was no way she could have snuck out to do such a thing, what with the heightened security on campus, but offers up her rifle to prove it wasn’t used in the crime. As further proof, she points out that Bennett was working on her late brother’s memoirs, which he had promised to finish if anything happened to Arturo before he could, which it obviously had.

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As the money that would have come from the memoirs would have gone to his two kids, she said she never would have killed him before Bennet had a chance to finish the book, as it would have deprived his kids of that inheritance. She also gives Holmes a copy of said memoirs in rough draft form to look over, lest it provide any clues to who might have actually killed him.

Sure enough, there’s a photo inside of Arturo and Bennett with a group of military men in front of a big cache of cash. As it was known that sometimes such money went missing in the war, Holmes suspects that the group were involved in stealing it, and perhaps that was what got Bennett killed.

Watson confirms that money went missing, but that it would seem that Bennett wasn’t involved- but he did have a sizable payment made to him from someone with clear ties to the theft. Had Bennett figured out that the theft had occurred and blackmailed the group for a piece of the pie? There were four potential suspects in the photo to track down and find out.

Holmes talks to a military source of his- the same one that provided him with the use of a helicopter from time to time- and finds out that all concerned are either dead or out of the country, save one: Declan Boyle (Bill Dawes, “All My Children”). The source also says that the bead Holmes found is a prayer bead, typically associated with Muslims from Afghanistan.

A talk with the wary Boyle, who comes packing to a meet with Holmes, determines that the men in question did steal some money, but that it wasn’t nearly as much as Holmes thinks it is. Boyle claims to have made his real money from investments, and that he was now a loan shark. In actuality, Boyle had lent the money to Bennett, with 25% interest, which Bennett had never missed a payment on.

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As such, Boyle would hardly have killed Bennett, as he still owed him money, which he would never have gotten if Bennett was dead, obviously. Boyle does point Holmes towards what he used the money for: to purchase a plane, ostensibly for skydiving. Further investigation reveals that the pilot used was Chet Polian, who was a retired man living in a nursing home, meaning that the name was stolen as an alias for the real pilot.

Fingerprints are lifted from the plane, but yield no match in the system. However, a closer look at the cargo hold reveals a couple of hidden seats there, leading Holmes to suspect the plane was used for more than the group’s stunts. It would seem that Bennett was also smuggling in high-paying illegals from Canada.

Bell looks through security footage from the hangar where the plane was kept, and one individual certainly stands out: Quadir Durrani (Ismail Bashey, “Scandal”), a former Taliban warlord. A talk with the driver assigned to pick up the smuggled people reveals the man’s location, and he is brought in.

However, when picked up, he is with his wife, Nazria (Anna Khaja, “Quantico”), who is not who he was seen with on the security footage. He admits his wife flew in separately, with their son, Marjan (Mohit Gautam), while he flew in with his daughter, Zohala (Pia Haddad), as seen on the footage.

Nazria confirms that Quadir did indeed once work with the Taliban, but that he was later recruited by NATO to help with the war effort. However, NATO later abandoned the area, leaving Quadir to fend for himself. He tried to get back in with the Taliban, if only to keep his family safe, but they no longer trusted him and eventually killed his brother.

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Fearing for his and his family’s lives, he made arrangements to move to America for all concerned. Quadir denies killing Bennett to cover his tracks, though, as he still had more family coming, and wouldn’t have done so before they arrived safely. He says they should talk to the pilot, as he and Bennett were arguing on the flight over about something, and things got heated.

Bell tracks the man down, a Gordie Kasdan (Dan Ziskie, “Treme”), who admits to flying the plane, but claims to have not known about the illegal stowaways- at first. Realizing that Bennett was cutting him out of the deal, despite all the risk he was taking, he took revenge by cutting the man’s parachutes. However, Holmes realizes he’s lying and covering for someone.

It turns out that Kasdan is actually Roz’s father, aka Bennett’s wife, and that, realizing what his daughter had done, he’d confessed to a crime he didn’t commit to protect her. Roz is brought back in and confesses she did it, admitting that she’d found out Bennett was cheating on her with another woman, and that he’d told the woman in texts that she’d found that he was going to leave her.

That said, she didn’t shoot him, so that crime was left unsolved, but Holmes figures out what might have happened- and that it might happen again if they didn’t hurry. It turns out that Bennett’s lover was none other than Zohala, and that those were her prayer beads found on his body. The two had planned to run away together, but Bennett was killed.

Her parents confirm that she was on the run and they hadn’t heard from her, and in fact, they didn’t know anything about the affair. However, their son did, and had gone after her- literally. Intending to kill his own sister, in what is known as an “honor killing,” for shaming their family- an idea gotten into his head by his time with the Taliban, which the son had also served in, alongside his father.

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After killing Bennett, Marjan had gone after Zohala, who was staying in a local Islamic shelter. The cops find Marjan outside it, about to shoot her, and promptly arrest him and take Zohala into custody as well, where she is reunited with her shell-shocked parents. One assumes things did not end happily, though, for this particular family, given their background and illegal status, so no real winners here all around.

The subplot revolved around Watson’s sister, Lin Wen (Samantha Quan, “CSI: Miami”), who spotted Shinwell hanging out with what she suspected was a gang member, or a former one. Relating what she saw over dinner with Clyde (!), Watson later brings her down to the precinct to look over potential suspects as to who it was.

Wen ID’s the man as Laquan “Tall Boy” Eversley, who was indeed a gang member that Shinwell used to run with and had grown up with him. Watson has him brought in and tells him to stay away from Shinwell, but Laquan says it was actually Shinwell that contacted him, not the other way around.

Holmes confronts Shinwell in the park and challenges him to a game of chess, telling him he’d do best not to let down Watson, who believed in him and his recovery. Shinwell basically tells him to stay out of it, then contacts Joan to meet and tells her the same, only much more forcefully. Is he falling back into bad habits and trying to keep her safe, or seriously threatening her- or is there something larger at play here?

I suspect Shinwell is up to something larger and is trying to keep Watson at a safe distance while he takes care of things. I think she suspects that he is also hiding something, and won’t let sleeping dogs lie so easily. We shall see, but there’s definitely something bigger going on here. Shinwell seems smarter than the average gangbanger, as evidenced by his chess skills, and I think Holmes knows it, too.

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All in all, this was another solid episode, if a bit on the complicated side. As with last week, it would have been awfully hard to figure out what was really going on here and who did it, but it was entertaining enough that it didn’t really matter. Also, it was much better balanced than last week’s overstuffed episode, so there’s that as well.

Overall, I liked the episode, and found certain aspects of it fascinating, particularly the whole tie-in with the Taliban and the “honor killing” thing, which is something that’s been in the news lately and is pretty horrifying. I’m also curious to see where the whole Shinwell thing is headed as well.

What did you think of the latest episode of “Elementary”? Did you figure out what was really going on, or were you similarly perplexed? What did you think about the Agatha Christie-like twist of there being not one but two potential killers? (That’s the second kind of set-up this season that echoes Christie’s work, BTW.) What do you think Shinwell is up to? Would you love to have a dinner date with Clyde? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you next time!

  • usedtobelucy

    Great job chronicling this way twisty episode. I agree about it being a pretty good one, although not exactly a great one (although I do love the way the Shinwell story line developed) and less overstuffed than last week so it was clearer.

    A lot of times it bothers me when I find out at the end that I almost certainly couldn’t have solved the mystery from what I was given. This time, though, it only bothered me a little bit. I guess because of the same reason you mentioned — the show was twisty and so entertaining that there were lots of other things to think about. There were a lot of great suspects and they all had interesting stories.

    Even some non-suspects had interesting stories, like the ex-military guy who’s been letting Sherlock use his helicopters because he owes him. I do love all these references to people in New York who owe Sherlock for various things. Like the Indian restaurateurs down the block who had his picture on the wall.

    I liked it that most of the suspects were involved in public events and high-profile newsy issues, yet at the end both the murderer and the murder attempter did it because of personal motivations related to an affair. (Come to think of it, though, there was a very good clue in the wife’s initial interrogation. The fact that, at the last minute, she tried to talk her husband out of making the jump, did implicate her, beyond her having the best access to the parachutes. After all, he was an inveterate, long-time base jumper. So why did she try to talk him out of it this time? Her behavior was pretty odd altogether, really.)

    Anyway, I thought having it be all about an affair was a good twist. Sherlock and Elementary trade so heavily — a la Doyle — in Sherlock’s penchant and ability to get involved in all kinds of high level and arcane world events, even though most murders are very personal actions, that I enjoyed seeing the detectives and audience hurtling through tons of international-affairs and multi-million-dollar heist intrigues and then having it all come down to a love triangle.

    I loved the way the Shinwell plot line played out. I have no idea what he’s up to or what he was really trying to do when he first tried to scare the crap out of Watson and then drove her away. But I expect it’s going to be interesting. And it was a great dramatic ending to the episode, I thought. Also dramatic — Sherlock’s semi-helplessness in this situation but his chessboard-symbolism threat to Shinwell that he can outsmart him and isn’t going to leave him unwatched.

    One of the things I appreciate about Elementary is the three-dimensionality it gives to the characters who pass through. Shinwell hasn’t been on screen much but he’s very layered and extremely ambigous, with the promise of a lot more of that to come. I think Nelsan Ellis is doing a really good job with the part, too.

  • august2004

    I agree with you guys that this episode was “twisty,” but too twisty for me. It tested my suspension of disbelief a little too much. There were lots of suspects. Most had a short reason for being suspected and a short alibi, and did the shooter even utter one word? And I don’t think the shooter could hit a free-falling base jumper twice, let along once. The “honor” murderer would have had other opportunities to shoot the victim with a high-powered rifle when he was a little more stationary on the ground! And don’t base jumpers test, prepare, their parachutes immediately before jumping? If the Elementary writers wanted a spectacular shot, they could have had the vic flying above the streets of NY in one of those wing suits! Meanwhile, reruns of Elementary have started running in the syndication TV market and probably will run in perpetuity for years to come. The producers still have many opportunities to make more episodes, complete with all the twists and turns they can imagine with a fictional crime mystery program…

    • Mark Trammell

      Good points all. I have indeed noticed episodes of the show cropping up in syndication, but I think that networks get a little more as they cross certain thresholds, and completing an entire season would net them that much more syndication money, so it’s in their best interest to at least let the season play out, but not necessarily to let it go on another one, with ratings so low. I hope they don’t pull the plug, but I think this may prove to be the final season for that reason alone.

  • usedtobelucy

    Forgot to mention one thing I thought was particularly fun. In the little chess scene, Holmes fooled Shinwell into thinking he was playing cautiously, but actually he was playing super-aggressively. Shinwell thought SH was losing when he nabbed his queen. But then it turned out that Holmes had sacrificed the queen for a supposedly pretty sure-thing checkmate. And Sherlock had to tell Shinwell that — he didn’t see it. That’s the kind of little fun and subtle moment that I love in Elementary.

    Usually makes up for the fact that they don’t always manage to get perfect balance among the tough and plentiful stuff they have to juggle in 40-plus-seconds-minutes they have for the actual show, These super-twisty, and, I agree, sometimes maybe overtwisty episodes, are clearly their attempt to fight off the constant criticism they got early about the mysteries being too simple.

    These days they’re more likely to overshoot in the complication direction. But I’m amazed at the stuff they usually do manage to convey clearly and entertainingly in that short time — the case-of-the-week and then this very substantive character stuff and season-arc stuff. And last night, as you faithfully mentioned, Mark, they even managed to show us Clyde.

    • Mark Trammell

      Agreed on everything you said, but august2004 does make some solid points about plot holes above.

      Still, compared to some shows- “Scorpion” comes to mind- this one doesn’t try one’s patience nearly as much, in terms of that sort of thing.

      I noticed the chess thing as well, though I didn’t go into too much detail about it up above.

      • usedtobelucy

        Yeah, I do agree about the “stretchers” in the plot (wouldn’t necessarily call them “holes” in this one, more like exaggerations that don’t withstand a lot of logical scrutiny.)

        And I also agree that those are really quite common in tv shows. In fact, I think they’re very likely deliberate, and maybe deliberately urged by networks, because although they’re not a bit realistic, they’re way way more “dramatic” and “exciting” than stuff that is realistic.

        As August said, I was immediately struck by the strangeness of shooting somebody while they were parachuting. At first it made me think that that had something to do with the potential shooter’s psychology — that it was some kind of clue about the murderer.

        But Holmes and Bell didn’t seem to blink an eyelash at it. So then I figured, no, it was probably just done to hook viewers using the “high concept” coolness and excitement of that way of murdering — completely unrealistic as it might be. It seems to me that they may be trying to inject more of this stuff into Elementary to see if they can’t juice its popularity a bit by making it as illogical but as “high concept” as a lot of other shows.

        I mean, movies have been pretty much completely taken over by high-concept, completely unrealistic, plot-logic-be-damned stuff, right? So in that climate I doubt that waning-in-popularity tv cop shows will be allowed much longer to have character-driven stuff with more low-key but interesting crimes. They’ve gotta be illogical high-concept violence, too. That’s my theory, anyway. Meanwhile, I cling to enjoying the parts of Elementary that are well written, character-related and intriguing because of something other than a special-effects-type murder!