Elementary “A Study in Charlotte” Review (Season 4 Episode 13)

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On the latest episode of “Elementary,” we had a complex one that didn’t allow for a lot of extraneous character-driven stuff- although what we did get was nice, as a sort of reminder of how far Holmes has come in the grand scheme of things- in “A Study in Charlotte.” The title was, of course, a direct reference to the Holmes’ novel “A Study in Scarlet” and though there were a fair amount of modern trappings here, it did indeed feel like a relatively old-school case, which was nice after one too many of the whole “ripped from the headlines”-type things as of late.

Yes, we did get some modern touches here and there- the whole “Awaycay” thing (which I’d admittedly never heard of), the counterfeit ED pills, the nod to “chainsaw art”- but on the whole, this was a case that felt distinctly like it could have been done back in the days of Doyle, with a few tweaks, naturally. “Scarlet” was the first Holmes novel, in fact, and there were indeed a few nods to it here, notably the death by poison and the use of the German word “RACHE,” which translates to “revenge,” which figured into the plot of the novel as well.

As such, I really enjoyed this one, despite much in the way of character-driven stuff. I won’t get too elaborate in my summarization of the plot, as it was pretty complicated, but here’s a brief synopsis: after a college professor named Ballantine (David Thornton, “Law & Order: SVU”) gives a group of students a mixture of psychedelic mushrooms, all keel over almost immediately and die, including the professor himself.

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Holmes and company investigate a former colleague, Foster (Lee Aaron Rosen, “Limitless”), with whom the professor used to work, but had a falling out with over conflicting thoughts over the use of psychedelics. The argument was such that Foster went so far as to have his name removed from the book he wrote with Ballantine, but he claimed that they’d made their peace with one another since.

Holmes discovers a cache of mushrooms hidden in a safe in Ballantine’s office inside a sofa, with a note from “C.K.” Holmes recognizes them as the same kind as were found at the murder scene and Watson identifies “C.K.” as Charlotte Konig, a biochemist and former T/A of Ballantine’s. A trip to her house reveals that she is also dead, the victim of the same bad batch of mushrooms. This would seem to rule out any malicious intent on her part, and rather point to someone poisoning her on purpose, with Ballantine and company being unintended collateral damage.

Charlotte was a German transfer student, and a bit of a wild child, with lots of tattoos, including one that read “RACHE,” which, as aforementioned, meant “revenge”- but on whom? A closer look reveals that she was actively suing a company for stealing her ideas, but a talk with an exec for the company proves that they were actually winning the battle, and thus, had no reason to kill her. However, she says she can help point them in the direction of people who are capable of making the type of poison used in the murders.

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At one of the labs in question, they speak to a doctor that speaks highly of CK, and Holmes spots a man with similar tattoos as her and corners him. He admits they dated, but that he broke it off when she decided she’d had enough partying and wanted to settle down and start a family. He says the last he heard, she’d found someone else and had gotten engaged. The man in question was named Griffin (Joseph Mazzello, “The Pacific”), and he’s not what Holmes expected, being devoutly religious, enough so that he refused to get a tattoo to commemorate his relationship with CK. He also didn’t report her missing, despite her being gone a week.

Griffin admits they had their share of problems, as CK kept backsliding into old bad habits, and they were constantly fighting about it. He didn’t report her missing because she’d done this sort of thing before without telling him. However, Holmes finds a hidden lab in Griffin’s backyard, which proves to be the center of an illegal ED meds operation. Griffin admits they were doing so, but that he didn’t handle the money or distribution, she did, and claims he has no idea where the money went.

Holmes looks for the pills online and tracks down the potential distributor, who claims ignorance of the pills being counterfeit. He says that he also didn’t stiff her on payment, as suggested by Griffin, but instead paid the interest and arranged for CK’s purchase of several rundown buildings. He assumed she was going to fix them up and unload them for a profit, but Holmes realizes that all the buildings in question are near the various properties of the company CK was suing, three locations in all.

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The reason is that, had the company expanded their bases of operations in a certain direction, they would have had to face more stringent EPA regulations that could potentially cost them millions. Holmes reasons that CK was attempting to blackmail them into purchasing said buildings in lieu of getting paid off for the lawsuit she was losing. But the exec points out that all they had to do was expand in a different direction and it wouldn’t have mattered.

The exec also gives them evidence that proves that her people didn’t even know CK had owned the land in question in the first place, and even if they had, there was nothing in it for any individual person, as it would have only gone towards the company itself, so there was really nothing to be gained from killing CK all around. Watson suggests they go back to the drawing board altogether, and again focus on Ballantine as the intended victim.

Holmes realizes that Foster’s initials are ACH, which just so happens to figure into the “RACHE” tattoo, which he doesn’t think is a coincidence. Realizing that Foster also dated CK, he investigates further, only to discover the two were actually married. He’d broken her heart and the two were in a nasty dispute that would have cost him a considerable amount of money. The reason he’d actually pulled his name from the book with Ballantine wasn’t because the two were at odds, but because he was trying to deny CK from profiting from it.

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Foster also hired a PI to investigate her and any other potential cash grabs she might try and make, only to discover her plot with the real estate properties. Realizing he could kill her off and reap the benefits of the sales himself, as they were still technically married, he did just that. The cops find evidence of the poison used in the murders in his lab, and it’s off to jail for Foster, not only for CK’s death, but Ballantine and his students, however unintended they might have been.

As all of this was going on, Watson had a sort of case on the side herself, when she stumbled into one after going next door to complain about the noisy neighbors. It turned out that the owner of the building, who also owned the building Holmes and Watson lived in, had opted to turn it in an “Awaycay” building, or a place that could be rented for short periods of time by people seeking to take a brief vacation or find a place to party, et al.

Watson goes to talk to the owner, Trent Garby (Richard Kind, “Gotham”), who finds it deeply ironic that Watson is there to complain about noise, as he used to reside in the building himself and had to move because of Holmes’ constant insane noise-making and various other eccentric behaviors. He’d repeatedly attempted to contact Holmes about it via email, but Holmes never got the emails, as they were sent to an old account. Holmes says he should have come in person to do it, if it was such a problem.

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Shortly thereafter, the building is burnt in a fire. After eliminating a somewhat bemused Holmes as a suspect, Watson does a little digging and discovers on the security tapes that there was a van belonging to a local hotel in the area near the time of the fire. She talks to Garby, who confirms that he wasn’t able to collect on the insurance, as the building was classified as a hotel, thanks to the whole “Awaycay” thing.

Watson realizes that the fire was actually arson committed by the hotel, as they saw the “Awaycay” movement as a threat against their own business and had sought to eliminate it. She gathers up the evidence and presents it to Garby, noting that it will allow him to rebuild and that she hopes he will consider moving back in, as she’d rather have him as a neighbor than a bunch of partying hipsters.

She promises to corral Holmes’ bad behavior (good luck with that!) and even install some sound proof insulation to quiet some of the noise. Holmes even offers him a jar of homemade honey- which is more than he did for his own father, so there’s that. She also points out that, as a florist, maybe he could help matters by brightening up their surroundings with some flowers. He seems to take it well, so maybe we’ll be seeing Garby on down the line.

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So, this was a highly enjoyable episode, with a solid mystery at its core that I genuinely wasn’t sure where was headed at any given moment. Yes, a lot of it turned out to be much ado about nothing, and, as the show is sometimes wont to do, the first suspect turned out to be the culprit, but I still dug the overall case, and really appreciated the nods to classic Holmes. I also really liked the Watson side case, and how it subtly showed how far Holmes had come from his devil-may-care early days, where he wouldn’t have given a whit about how his neighbors felt.

There were also some very cool moments scattered throughout the episode, from the icky (CK’s facial fungus) to the hilarious (Watson noting that Holmes was up to no good outside in the background as she was interviewing a suspect and trying to keep a straight face and not alert him) to the affecting (Trent seemingly genuinely touched by Watson’s actions to help him out).

I also liked how it acknowledged that someone had indeed noticed some of the crazier things going on at Holmes’ place besides Watson and was equally exasperated with them. No wonder Watson felt compelled to help the poor guy- she can feel his pain. Good stuff all around.

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What did you think of the latest episode of “Elementary”? Did you figure out who did it? Did you catch the references to old-school Holmes? What did you think of the Watson subplot? Do you think we’ll be seeing more of Trent? How gross was that fungi on CK’s face? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you next week!