Elementary “It Serves You Right to Suffer” Review (Season 5 Episode 9)

It Serves You Right to Suffer

So, as those of you who read my last review know, originally CBS had planned to wait until next year to air anymore new episodes of “Elementary.” Fortunately, as a sort of special Christmas present, it looks like we’ll be getting two new more episodes before the year’s out after all, beginning with tonight’s “It Serves You Right to Suffer.” (Guess that title wasn’t aimed at us after all!)

Perhaps CBS saw the opportunity to cash in on the lack of competition at the moment, or they were simply taking advantage of the fact that they could actually air the show when it was supposed to air, as many of the episodes have aired well after 10pm in many areas, because of football games running late, making the show’s schedule a bit unpredictable, to say the least, if you weren’t watching live.

This means that it’s entirely possible the show’s intended audience weren’t watching because it was on too late and/or their DVR’s didn’t catch the entire show, as it often wasn’t airing when it was supposed to. As such, the show’s ratings may have suffered a bit as a direct result. I guess we’ll find out soon enough if the gambit has worked- if people even realized it was on. I have faith that fans like myself found out in time to catch it, though. We’ll see, come tomorrow’s ratings, I suppose.

As for the episode itself, it was definitely worth catching, as things with the ongoing Shinwell storyline came to a head finally, as he found himself in the crosshairs of the cops after someone was killed in the area his former- or possibly current- gang ran in, the South Bronx Killas, aka the SBK. But was Shinwell really involved or was he framed for it?

As I predicted in previous reviews, the whole trying to scare off Watson was indeed to attempt to keep her safe, as Shinwell knew that she might end up in the line of fire if anyone was looking to hurt the ones he loved/cared about. However, when the body of gangbanger Ricky Morales was found in SBK territory, with a reported sighting of a man in an army jacket and a cross found on the scene, along with a disposed gun, all signs pointed to Shinwell’s involvement.

It Serves You Right to Suffer

Eventually, he cropped up at Holmes and Watson’s Brownstone, seeking help for a crime he didn’t do- though he did help cover up. It turns out that Shinwell was indeed running with the gang again- but not because he didn’t have a choice. Rather, it was because FBI agent Whitlock (Dorian Missick, “Haven”) had recruited him to be an undercover informant.

Though he did move the body, it was to take the heat off of the SBKs and make it look like a rival gang did it. The gun drop was admittedly a mistake, as his prints found on it could serve as a parole violation and send him right back to prison. However, his handler could potentially help him, but for obvious reasons, Shinwell couldn’t go to him personally.

One problem: it was all done off the books, as Watson found out after having a talk with Whitlock. It seems that the agent had run afoul of trouble when he used force with a former informant and he had to pull a lot of strings to get out of it, resulting in his not being able to use informants anymore. Except that Whitlock didn’t stop after all, and continued to recruit more informants to help him, only this time off the books.

As such, Whitlock couldn’t help Shinwell, as to do so would be admitting he was still recruiting and using informants illegally. So, given this, Watson had to find another way to help Shinwell, mainly by solving the death of Morales and proving it wasn’t Shinwell who did it. The problem with this was that the clock was ticking, as a result of a tenacious detective, Cosa (Debi Mazar, “Younger”), who was putting a rush on the prints of the .38 found near the scene of the crime.

Of course, as Holmes pointed out to her at the scene, the murder wasn’t committed with said weapon, anyway, but rather with a old-school antique weapon, a Nambu pistol, which was used extensively in WWII, making it a decidedly atypical gun for gangbangers, least of all one not looking to stand out, which one would assume would be most of them. Why make things that much easier on the cops?

It Serves You Right to Suffer

Shinwell stakes out a fellow gangbanger, along with Holmes, and they break into his apartment after he leaves, where they find prescription pills with Morales’ name on them. This leads to Morales’ therapist (Susan Blommaert, “The Blacklist”), who finally talks to Holmes after he points out that her own life might be in danger if the gangbangers who killed Morales are looking to tie up loose ends, which would certainly include someone he told potentially damaging secrets to.

She admits that Morales was suffering from panic attacks, as he feared that he could be killed at any minute by a rival gang member- but also by his own gang. This was because- wait for it- he was yet another of Whitlock’s off-the-book informants. No wonder the guy was on medication for anxiety attacks!

As such, naturally, Holmes suspects that Whitlock may be the real culprit here, perhaps worrying that Morales might go rogue and tell someone what was really going on and get him in trouble. A closer look at him reveals that Whitlock’s grandfather served in WWII, which could well have given him access to the weapon used to kill Morales. But beyond that, there’s no real evidence tying Whitlock to the crime, really.

Shinwell gets a call from SBK associate “Tall Boy” (Ruffin Prentiss, “Power”) for a meet, but Watson warns him it might be a set-up. Thinking that Whitlock might be cutting his losses by leaking information to the SBKs that Shinwell is an informant, in order to have them do his dirty work for them, Watson warns him not to go, but he says he has no choice, as if she’s wrong, the SBKs will definitely think something’s up.

Fortunately, it turns out that his cover isn’t blown after all- it seems that “Tall Boy” was only looking out for him, by giving him a new gun to replace the one he lost, though he does get onto Shinwell for dropping the old one in the first place. However, there is a catch: he wants Shinwell to accompany him on a money drop, as the heat is on with the cops, as the body was found near their usual drop-off location.

It Serves You Right to Suffer

Upon telling Holmes this, he realizes what Whitlock’s real motivation was in all of this: he was getting info from informants in order to find out where they made money drops, so that he and a team of people could rob them and pocket the cash. He had killed Morales not only because he was getting squirmy, but intentionally dropped the body in SBK territory so that the SBKs would relocate their money drop location so that he could rob them.

Watson discovers there have been four other previous occurrences, and tracks down one of Whitlock’s other informants, who Cosa is questioning. Watson talks to Whitlock and points out that the informant might talk and tell Cosa what Whitlock is up to anyway, so why not help Shinwell out before it’s too late and the gun proves to be his, thus sending him back to jail?

She says that she can arrange it where he gets put outside of general population in jail, which would almost certainly get him killed, in hopes of sweetening the pot, but he refuses to cooperate. Then, he almost immediately calls her back, and says that he’ll give her the gun used to kill Morales- and then promptly shoots himself with it, knowing he’s screwed either way if he goes to jail.

Holmes points out that another member of Whitlock’s team is almost certainly out there and the .38 can still be traced back to Shinwell, so they’re not completely out of the woods yet. Holmes calls in a favor with Bell, playing on his sympathies by pointing out that his own brother is a reformed convict, and manages to get a hold of the gun in question and wipe it down before it has been processed, thus saving Shinwell’s bacon in the clutch.

Holmes tracks down Shinwell, who spent what he thought was his final hours helping out a fellow tenant at his apartment building by fixing a leak. Holmes tells Shinwell he just got a “second” second chance, and this time, he better not blow it. But is it too late for Shinwell, after having gotten back into the gang again? Also, what about Whitlock’s other team member out there, assuming he had a partner? (I suspect it might be Cosa, given Mazar’s limited screen time- surely they wouldn’t recruit a known actress for such a nothing part, right?)

Elementary 3

Regardless, that is where we leave things until next week’s episode. Is Shinwell doomed, or can he be saved if they take down Whitlock’s other partner? Even if they do, is he in too deep with the SBKs again? We’ll just have to wait and see next week, I guess. In the meantime, this was a fairly solid episode, and very character-driven, which was nice after the show has struggled a bit balancing the cases with the main characters for a lot of the season.

This time one of the main characters WAS the main case, and from the looks of things, another will be next week as well, as it appears to be Watson’s turn to defend herself from false accusations of a crime, which should be interesting. I’m really glad CBS opted to continue showing new episodes this month, as the show could use a boost after all the time slot shenanigans and late screenings and what not. Thankfully, the episode was a good one- I just hope people tuned in this time around.

Join me next week for the final episode of the year- assuming CBS doesn’t go nuts and air one on Christmas, that is! I think that’s a safe assumption, personally, but who knows with these people, lol. Thanks for reading!

  • usedtobelucy

    Good review and recap, Mark. Glad at least some of us caught this episode. They’re predicting next week’s episode to begin at 10:30. So I wonder what that means about the actual start time!

    LIke you, I thought it was a pretty good episode and I definitely enjoyed it. Nice to have the two storylines be just one story line once in a while so it gets more time and more focus. And I like the whole ambiguous feeling of the Shinwell story. The uneasy ambiguity attached to just about every character in Elementary at some time or other is a favorite element of the show for me, right up there with the humor. And I really like the way Nelsan Ellis is playing that character.

    I’m enjoying the interplay between Holmes and Watson on the subject of her involvement with Shinwell and what can be expected of him and what not. Very interested to see where that goes over the course of the season.

    I guess mostly because there was just one storyline going on, it did kind of seem to me that the here’s-a-complication-that-raises-the-stakes-points in the script were a little blatant last night. But in a way that was also sort of a refreshing change of pace from the near-chaos in some episodes where there’s such a huge amount going on.

    Thought Aidan Quinn did a good job with his Elementary directing debut. (And I guess his first directing credit, period, if IMDB is to be trusted.) I liked the shot of the FBI agent on the phone with Watson, for example. Where it both was and wasn’t obvious that he was going to be a suicide in a few seconds.

    I loved the screaming phone at the beginning. Those touches of humor in the show are really priceless, to me. I wonder whether it means anything about her overall mood that Watson was so pointedly depicted as sleeping in, with Sherlock pointedly commenting on it. That’s been a sign of trouble with her in the past, although sometimes it’s also just been a character gag. I’m assuming this is going to be a somewhat Watson-centric season ultimately, though, so maybe it does mean something.

    Looking forward to next week’s episode, in any case.

    • Mark Trammell

      Totally meant to mention Quinn directed this one- even had it in my notes, along with the “screaming” phone- this is what happens when I write reviews in the middle of the night, lol. I fare better when I wake up early and do them, but it was actually on time for once, so I thought I’d be ok this time. Oh well.

      I, too, thought the “single character” focus (more or less) was a welcome and refreshing change, and I agree that this season will likely focus a hair more on Watson, though you never know- they could knock us for a loop midway through the season. We’ll see.

      For those of us who watched Ellis on “True Blood” this is proof positive of how solid an actor he is- the two characters couldn’t be more different.

      As for the ratings, they were down just a hair, but basically stayed where they were over the last few weeks, which is around the 5 million mark. It seems that the core audience has stuck with the show, more or less, even throughout the time slot and time changes, which is good news at least.

  • august2004

    I also thought this episode was better than average. The writers made the gang banger scenes believable, and the conclusion was tough but plausible. And Sherlock once again committed numerous crimes – breaking and entering, violating doctor-patient privilege, tampering with evidence – to solve another murder mystery. As a result, Shinwell owes Joan and Sherlock a big favor or two in future episodes…
    I don’t know much about the complex world of television licensing rights and payments, but from what I have read on the Internet, I understand CBS is pleased with the sales of Elementary episodes in syndication. Is Elementary on Hulu (I don’t get it: Hulu or syndication sales!)? So even if current TV ratings for the show are lower now, it has a favorable future market in syndication. I bet CBS wants to keep the momentum going and broadcast new programming to as many people as possible…

    • usedtobelucy

      Good to know. Here’s hoping. And since they make it and own it they get the cash, so that can’t hurt.

      Besides Shinwell owing H and W something, he showcased some clear detective traits in this week’s episode. So …. quite a few things yet to play out with him, looks like.

      • Mark Trammell

        As someone pointed out- I forget who, sorry- Shinwell is indeed a character in the books/stories, so I would think so. Perhaps he will take Watson up on her offer to train as a detective after all, with an assist from Holmes.

    • Mark Trammell

      Damn- I meant to mention that stuff, too! I also noticed the fact that Holmes twisted the law yet again this season- like you said, several times within this episode alone.

      Not sure if Elementary is on Hulu either as I don’t use it at all. I used to before they turned into a pay-service, which it seems as if ALL services are heading towards, splintering the market in a really unfortunate way, as no one is possibly going to go for so many choices: Showtime, HBO GO, Amazon, Hulu…the list goes on. I’ll stick with Netflix, thanks. I just hope they don’t go there with YouTube.

      I hope you’re right about CBS wanting to keep the show going, but now that’s it’s well past 100 episodes, they might just cut their losses, depending on how much the show costs. We’ll see.

      • usedtobelucy

        Elementary is on Hulu.

        I do wonder about the developing economics of tv with all the things you mention and more. CBS has their own paid streaming service too. It’s all pretty wild west right now and, I would think, kind of financially unpredictable.

        And, Mark — Don’t worry about a few things you didn’t mention in your review even though you meant to. You wrote a fine review! And what would the rest of us write about if you’d already discussed it all?

        I’m hoping they get renewed but I really don’t think they will. Although, except for Lucy Liu, they don’t have a terribly expensive cast.

  • august2004

    One article I read said CBS was getting $3 million/episode for syndication rights. But I don’t if that is exclusive or how long that lasts. Hulu payments have to help too. With thousands of entertainment opportunities out there now, maybe 5 million viewers per new episode is an acceptable new normal….
    Regarding Shinwell: maybe he will too will enroll in the Sherlock Holmes Detective Training Academy. Or he could get killed off trying to help Joan and/or Sherlock. Personally, I’d like to see Holmes train Lt. Bell more, since he’s been on the show from the beginning and we know more about the character. We shall see…

    • Mark Trammell

      if that’s true, it may well be in their best interest to keep the show around, then! To me, 5 million is fine, as a lot of regular cable shows average that or less and stay on the air, so why shouldn’t this one? Sure, CBS is a major network, but I’m not sure you could even watch it at all without at least basic cable these days. I feel like Elementary is a better bet than something unproven, at the very least. Their ratings are pretty consistent, at least.

  • august2004

    Good points, Mark. But if CBS can get $3 million an episode, and they have produced more than 100 episodes during the past five years, that’s more than $300 million in syndication sales. That’s some serious jack! The program doesn’t really need to be renewed next year. However, with advertising, cable, live streaming, syndication sales, etc., good programming is a very desirable product to have in a crowded marketplace…

    • Mark Trammell

      True enough. Let’s hope the odds are in the show’s favor!