Elementary “Hounded” Review (Season 4 Episode 16)

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On the latest episode of “Elementary,” the show managed to find a clever common ground between the old-school approach we know and love and newer, more “ripped from the headlines”-type material, in the “Hound of the Baskervilles” redux, “Hounded.” Of course, it would have been pointless to simply do the exact same story as the classic novel, so “Elementary” changed things up to keep them interesting, and for the most part, they were successful, particularly in terms of incorporating modern technology.

After a solid side subplot that we’ll get into later, we began with the familiar set-up: a man out jogging is chased by an unseen beast, which eventually runs him off the road- and right into the path of incoming traffic, where a truck promptly runs him over, killing him instantly. The man in question? None other than Charles Baskerville, of the insanely wealthy Baskervilles, who are naturally friends of Morland’s, who asks Holmes to take a look at the case.

Holmes and Watson talk to the first-in-line to the Baskerville wealth and estate, Henry (Tom Everett Scott, late of “Z-Nation,” but perhaps still best-known for “That Thing You Do!”). Henry confirms that Charles was a venture capitalist, known for his work with tech start-ups, but no suspects leap to mind as of yet, so Holmes and Watson go and check out the scene of the crime, where they discover evidence of Charles having been pursued by a large attacker, with a potential third witness on the scene, who left behind a bottle of booze.

Watson tracks down the witness in question, a homeless vet (Robbie Tann, “Gotham”), who begrudgingly offers up what he saw after Watson gives him a little cash and later helps set him up in a homeless shelter. He claims to have seen Baskerville pursued by a large, glowing beast, possibly a bear or a wolf, though he can’t be sure, having been drunk at the time.

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Holmes discovers that Charles had a largely unused messaging account online, in which he had received a host of death threats, primarily from one user, who covered their tracks well. The user in question was against Charles’ work with Basic Genetics, a Bio-tech venture Charles funded that specializes in genetically-modified organisms, mainly plants, vegetables, and the occasional animal.

Holmes and Watson pay them a visit, where they meet with the woman in charge (Haviland Morris, who fellow 80’s kids will know from the likes of “Sixteen Candles” and “Gremlins 2”), who claims their work was essentially harmless, and certainly not worth killing over.

Nonetheless, while there, Holmes spots- no pun intended- a dog with a decidedly unique feature: he’s a chimera (great word!) whose DNA has been combined with that of a jellyfish, thus giving him a phosphorescent glow that makes him literally glow-in-the-dark! This was, of course, a direct nod to the original story, where a dog was instead painted with a phosphorescent paint to make it glow.

However, this particular pooch is not only as docile as they come, but completely lab-bound, and so therefore couldn’t have committed the crime at hand. And, yes, for those keeping score at home, this was the second episode in a row to feature a sad doggie with a dubious future that made you wish Holmes would adopt them- or at least Watson on the sly. Whatever the case, someone considered this and the lab’s other experiments as GMO-trocities, so the rep pointed them in the direction of their most vocal protestor, a Mr. Selden.

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Though also a nod to the original book, this Mr. Selden was entirely too formidable to be chasing anyone around in the woods, though he does indeed walk with a cane. He has various pictures on his table of what sort of thing these labs are up to, notably a so-called “War Dog” (not to be confused with “War Pigs,” lol), which are alleged super-dogs commissioned by the military to be stronger, faster and smarter than regular dogs and to kill on command, according to Selden.

Holmes and Watson have the head of Charles’ company’s main competitor brought in, who laughs off the notion of “enhanced canine assets,” saying that, while they did indeed get funding for such a thing from the military, they failed miserably at it and had their funding cut off, thus making the notion of a IRL Krypto still a fantasy at best. He directs them to instead take a look at those who Charles “patent-jacked.”

This is basically the practice of rich people, who invest into companies, eventually getting controlling interest, then selling off their successful patents to the highest bidders for a profit, often screwing the inventors in the process for far less money than they would have gotten if the money men hadn’t gotten involved. Charles was notorious for doing it, and had at least 30 potential enemies he had done it to that could well have a grudge against him.

Watson finds evidence that Henry knew all about his brother’s “patent-jacking” schemes, and thus, could be the next target of an enemy. Henry says they were all well-compensated, so he couldn’t imagine anyone killing over it, but speaks too soon, as right on cue, he hears a beast-like growl from his backyard and sees something charging out from the bushes.

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It breaks into the house, smashes down the door in the room Henry’s in and pursues him outside, where, on Holmes’ directive, he stands across from it on the other side of a pool. Sure enough, Holmes’ gambit succeeds, and we discover what Holmes already figured out from listening on his end of the phone during the attack: it’s not an animal at all, but a robot!

Not being able to quite compute the fact that the tarp on the pool wouldn’t support it, the robot charges over it and falls in, which is where they find it when Holmes and company arrive. Lest you think this is the stuff of science fiction, I was actually already familiar with this pseudo-beast, thanks to this video, which went viral some time ago online. It is sort of terrifying, though!

The robot turns out to be the combination of the efforts of various departments’ efforts, which Holmes eventually tracks primarily to Stapleton Innovations, which just so happens to be run by a cousin of the Baskervilles, Rodger (Michael Gladis, “Mad Men”), who is also next in line for their vast fortune, should anything unfortunate befall Henry. (This was yet another nod to the original novel- though, as before, used as a red herring.)

Rodger informs them that the robot in question was one of five they had made for the military to carry things, all affectionately named “Gus.” This particular one had gone missing, obviously, having been stolen en route to its benefactors. Rodger claims to have been out of town at the time, in Montana. However, a co-worker tells Holmes and Watson while out on a smoke break that he’s lying and that Rodger actually has them cover for him while he goes off whoring behind his wife’s back, with his most recent trip being exceptionally close to where Charles died.

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Holmes investigates further, to discover that the activation codes for the robot are indeed Rodgers’. Rodger claims that lots of co-workers knew those codes, and says the prostitutes he was with can vouch for his whereabouts at the times of the attacks, which they do. Watson is still skeptical that these women could have been paid off, so they bring Rodger in to confront him, where he makes the dubious move of offering to deck Bell or Gregson intentionally to prove his innocence, as a felony would render him ineligible to inherit the fortune at hand!

The two thankfully decline Rodger’s invitation, though Watson remains suspicious, saying that Rodger could have just said that knowing that the police would never take him up on it. However, it does spark something on Holmes’ end- what if there was yet another potential heir out there that they didn’t know about? If so, then it would make sense that they would be eliminating all the others.

To draw them out, Holmes suggests that they fake a murder, putting out a faux press release that declares that Henry killed Rodger. This, of course, renders both out of the running, in Henry’s case because of the crime involved. At first, it seems a bust, but then, some five days later, a Miss Lyons (Jennifer Ikeda, “Smash”) shows up, claiming to be a heretofore unknown “love child” of a Stapleton, with the birth certificate to prove it, and who just so happens to work for Rodger.

This was, once again, another reference to a character from the original story, only this time, it was no red herring, but the actual culprit. Miss Lyons meets with Miss Chambers (Enid Graham, “Boardwalk Empire”), saying that she thought she was being set-up for the murder of her “killed” cousin. Little does she know that he is in the next room, listening along with Henry and Holmes and the rest, who are also recording the conversation at hand.

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Holmes confronts her, saying that it was a clever approach to take, especially as she was the one who framed Rodger for the crime, rather than her being the one who was being framed as she said. Either way, Henry is very much alive, much to Lyons’ shock, and the conversation is enough to bag the team a warrant to get the rest of the evidence they need to bring Lyons down, as are some discovered forged emails that were allegedly sent by Rodger but were actually created by Lyons as further proof of his “guilt.”

As all of this was going on, there was also an ongoing side plot involving M.E. Hawes (Jordan Gelber, “Law & Order: SVU”), who was still reeling from the bombing at his morgue and the loss of his would-be girlfriend and co-worker. Having made a glaring error that could potentially cause a lot of damage in a recent case by contaminating a key piece of evidence, Holmes confronts Hawes, wondering if he isn’t having problems.

Hawes admits to taking anti-anxiety meds to help him get over the trauma of the experience, but says he has it under control. Holmes, given his past, isn’t so sure, and threatens to tell someone that Hawes is self-medicating if he doesn’t get the help he needs ASAP. Hawes eventually caves, telling his boss what’s going on, who agrees to give him medical leave to address the problem via rehab. Thankfully, he gets to keep his job, but as Hawes informs Holmes later on, he may not, as he’s had some lower-stress job offers in smaller towns that he’s considering, under the circumstances, thinking a change of place might do him some good.

Hawes, dubbing himself the “PTSD M.E.” with tongue firmly in cheek, thanks Holmes for “bullying” him into submission and basically saving his career in the process, and even goes so far as to compile a list of potential subsequent replacements that are most likely to have the temperaments and wherewithal to put up with Holmes’ often-brusque and sometimes off-putting behavior, which was a nice gesture.

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In doing so, of course, Hawes pays it forward, by offering up a future potential chess companion and surrogate friend-in-the-making for Holmes to fill the void left behind in his absence, which he didn’t have to do. Once again, we get, in a slyly-plotted second-tier story, proof of how far Holmes has come, both in his nature as a friend to those he works with, and in his sobriety, without having to beat the viewer over the head with it. Well-played, “Elementary.”

I really enjoyed this episode, not in the least because of its connection to one of the most-celebrated Holmes’ tales. I dug the way it updated various plot points and characters from the original, and the whole “robo-dog” thing was a nice touch, especially as something “ripped from the headlines” that actually fit in well with the proceedings in a way that didn’t stick out or draw attention to itself. I know I’ve criticized the show in the past for doing so, but I don’t mind it if it’s well-done, and this was.

I don’t doubt that there’s stuff I might have missed in this version of the classic story that others might have picked up on, so be sure and point them out in the comment section if you did! (I think, but couldn’t be sure, for instance, that the note about “reaping the whirlwind” was a direct quote from the book.)

That said, definitely one of the better episodes of the season, IMHO. It hit all the sweet spots for me as a longtime viewer: solid, economical characterization for the suspects; lots of twists and turns- many of which were unexpected; side events that moved the main characters forward in a pleasing way; and a great sense of humor.

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Factor in a cameo from the apparently-no-longer-hibernating Clyde (yay!); a choice rant about Thomas Edison from Holmes, which, if true, I had no idea about; and some knowing, amusing details (i.e. the fact that Morris, known for “Gremlins 2,” played a geneticist, which also factors into that film; the bits about prostitutes and Rodger and both Holmes’ and Watson’s reactions to it, etc.); and you had a winning, entertaining episode, I thought. What say you?

Sound off below, and be sure and join me in the future on Sundays, as the show will be moving into its new time slot, starting March 20th, where it will continue until the end of the season. I will, of course, keep you posted as details arrive on whether or not the show will be renewed, but I have a good feeling this move might just be what the doctor (Watson) ordered, as it will have a strong lead-in, thanks to the final season of “The Good Wife,” which will be wrapping up over the next few weeks as well. Here’s hoping!