Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 1, Episode 13. The Red Team (2013)

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 13. The Red Team (2013)

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After a short hiatus over the Christmas and New Year holidays, Elementary: Season 1, Episode 13. The Red Team (2013) gets us back in the saddle. It reminds us that everything in life depends on cause and effect. Animals evolve and produce sufficient survival genes to identify and respond to threats in their environment. As a bonus to mere survival, humans have developed what we choose to call intelligence and, as a distinction between us and the animals, we understand our environment rather better. Blessed with foresight, we plan against future contingencies, put defensive measures in place, and generally try to keep ourselves safe. So this episode is a single metaphor, albeit divided into a number of different strands.

Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) has lied to Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and is now living in his home on her own time. No more money is coming in from a “concerned” father. She’s constructing a trap for herself and her (ex)client. Ironically, Sherlock collapsed into drug abuse because the single person most important to him was murdered. Watson is now allowing herself to become emotionally important to Holmes and therefore making him vulnerable again. This is foolish, selfish and all the worse because she’s doing it with her eyes open. As a specialist in the nature of addiction, she sees the risk her client will become dependent on her. Or, indeed, that he has already become dependent on her.

By kidnapping Moran with the intention of killing him, Holmes betrayed Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and the NYPD. It’s unrealistic of him to expect them not to care. He would have killed Moran and willingly gone to jail. That he did not kill was down to the accident he did not have the right man. Watson can open lines of communication with Gregson but it must always come down to the not-quite friends reaching an accommodation. Both of them are essentially pragmatists. All it will take is for Gregson to acknowledge he does not have to like Holmes in order to take the benefit of his brains. Perhaps he might like to add a little pay-back for that feeling of betrayal.

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) thinking about Moriarty

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) thinking about Moriarty

As a society, we also like to look ahead and with international terrorism having come to mainland America, the US government uses simulations and “war games” to explore the nature of credible threats and develop appropriate countermeasures. Let’s say it puts together two teams in an annual contest to test America’s preparedness. The Blue Team is the home team. The Red Team is the foreign devils (although, of course, they are all properly vetted US experts). Then something strange happens. In 2009, the US government breaks with convention and wraps the annual event in a web of secrecy. The conspiracy theorists go wild. They speculate the Red Team came up with an attack strategy and the Blue Team was unable to defend against it. Two years later, one of the Red Team dies in a mugging. Then a second is hospitalised with what’s diagnosed as early-onset Alzheimer’s. Perhaps foreign agents are involved. But why would they kill members of the team that might pass over the unbeatable strategy? Perhaps to frighten the others into revealing it?

People have to live with who they are. Dr Watson is lying to Holmes. Holmes has the capacity and willingness to kill. Gregson is an honest cop who justifiably feels betrayed. The remaining members of the Red Team are in fear. Their intelligence has placed them in danger, has perhaps placed all America in danger. What a shame that something that has been thought cannot be unthought, that decisions once communicated cannot be denied. There are always consequences even if the thoughts and decisions are not acted on.

Judging this solely on the development of the narrative arc, this episode is strong. Everyone, including Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill), gets to have an opinion. That we are moving on with Holmes and Watson together is plausible for now. Holmes also more clearly understands Gregson’s feelings. As to the rest of the episode, it’s unfortunate the precise mechanism whereby Holmes talks down the killer and secures the release of the police officer held as hostage is somewhat absurd. This solution was unnecessarily grandiose and breaks the Arthur Conan Doyle requirement of reasonable plot plausibility. That said, Elementary: The Red Team is one of the better episodes to date.

For the reviews of other episodes, see:
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 1. Pilot (2012)

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 2. While You Were Sleeping (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 3. Child Predator (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 4. The Rat Race (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 5. Lesser Evils (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 6. Flight Risk (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 7. One Way to Get Off (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 8. The Long Fuse (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 9. You Do It To Yourself (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 10. The Leviathan (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 11. Dirty Laundry (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 12. M (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 14. The Deductionist (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 15. A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 16. Details (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 17. Possibility Two (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 18. Déjà Vu All Over Again. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 19. Snow Angel. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 20. Dead Man’s Switch. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 21. A Landmark Story. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 22. Risk Management. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episodes 23 & 24. The Woman and Heroine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 1. Step Nine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 2. Solve For X (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 3. We Are Everyone (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 4. Poison Pen (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 5. Ancient History (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 7. The Marchioness (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 8. Blood Is Thicker (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 9. On the Line (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 10. Tremors (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 11. Internal Audit (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 12. The Diabolical Kind (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13. All in the Family (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 14. Dead Clade Walking (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 15. Corps de Ballet (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 16. One Percent Solution (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 17. Ears to You (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014).

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  1. February 3, 2013 at 1:51 am | #1

    Agreed–good story but weak end. There were a couple of touches I especially liked. One was that it was pure happenstance that got Holmes on the track of the main mystery. Another was that, for once with this type of story, the US government or a “rogue agent” didn’t turn out to be the bad guy. The writers are making some effort to avoid the obvious cliches.

    However, I disagree with you on the Watson angle. I think Watson has recognized the fact that Holmes needs someone to balance him, at least for now. Yes, she is lying to him in order to remain, but Holmes lies to everyone all the time; he even lies for no reason just to see what the other person’s reaction will be (the turtle). Being the “cold, calculating machine” that he is or thinks himself to be, when he learns of Watson’s deception he’ll understand her motives and get over it. Not without drama, of course.

    One last note: in this episode, Holmes is also lying to himself; he very much values Inspector Gregson’s friendship, and is ashamed of what he did/intended to do even if he is too proud to admit it. Otherwise he would have faked an apology almost immediately. It will be interesting to see how Gregson’s relationship with Holmes changes now; any further rapprochement must come from Holmes at this point, which can only make him more human.

    • February 3, 2013 at 2:16 am | #2

      The turtle is a delightful touch. The series would benefit from more of these running jokes.

      As to Watson, I suspect we could get into one of these, “She knows he will know that she’s lying” type circular arguments. I’m not entirely sure of her motives for this lack of honesty when it would have been so easy to tell him the truth. Would he really kick her out if he understood she cared enough about him to want to stay on for a while? This is not “love” and it keeps the relationship on a basis of trust. As it is, all she’s achieving is the opportunity for him to misunderstand. Or it’s an example of the scriptwriters cynically creating a hook for new drama when the deception is revealed.

      The close-up of Sherlock held at the end is nicely ambiguous. It could be guilt or he could be angry that Gregson was not more forgiving. I understand your analysis and do not discount the idea he feels ashamed. For now, I prefer the view of real arrogance and bitterness he has to beg for crumbs from a man with a level of intelligence he does not really respect.

      • February 3, 2013 at 2:35 am | #3

        I didn’t say “she knows he will know that she’s lying,” only that she believes that he will accept the reason for the lie if he discovers it. As to her motives and decision to lie in the first place–I think you may be right about the writers creating a hook for more drama; it would have been much easier for her to simply take Holmes up on his offer of an apprenticeship as an excuse for her to stay and help him after her contract with his father expired.

        As to why she doesn’t simply tell him she wants to stick around to continue to help him, we’re back to that pride and arrogance that is indeed part of Holmes’ character; he cannot admit he needs her–he can only accept her help if it is “forced” on him or if he’s the one helping her (the apprenticeship).

      • February 3, 2013 at 3:47 am | #4

        You’re edging toward the spirit of my comment that the Holmes/Watson relationship is plausible for now. That could change in a second if the scriptwriters try to manufacture a crisis out of the lie. The canon depends on a continuing relationship between the two. Inventing reasons for them to separate and then come back together again does not seem constructive. Although Holmes would no doubt consider he had a droit de seigneur (without the sex being necessary so long as dominance was established), she could end up gratuitously damaged and sufficiently resentful she would never come back and/or stay on. What possible benefit could there be for her to take abuse from Holmes? She would just say to herself that she had made a terrible mistake in breaking the trust between them, i.e. he’s expected to lie to her but she’s suppose to be honest with him, and walk away without looking back. In rational terms, there would be nothing to keep her by his side. I refuse to believe there will be a romance. So the only scenario I can envisage is that, having left, she must return to rescue him (again). In all probability, Holmes will relapse and guilt forces her return.

      • February 3, 2013 at 4:50 am | #5

        Although Holmes would no doubt consider he had a droit de seigneur (without the sex being necessary so long as dominance was established), she could end up gratuitously damaged and sufficiently resentful she would never come back and/or stay on.

        Great googly moogly, no! Watson’s attitude towards Holmes is strictly platonic and professional; she sees him as a patient at best, and thank Jove for that. Since they started with a warden-councilor relationship, anything else would be too squicky; I cannot imagine the writers ever going there.

      • February 3, 2013 at 12:23 pm | #6

        It’s a very short step between the protectiveness of a counsellor for her patient and the love of woman for a man whose intellect she admires. As a medical student she was taught to accept a duty to treat her patients. She should be dispassionate and do what is objectively in the patient’s best interests. Where appropriate, this means abandoning him to the care of others or to no care if that is what the patient desires. The fact Watson cannot bring herself to do so and feels she has to lie about it suggests she’s already emotionally involved to both their detriments. I hope the writers don’t go down this road but the signs are not encouraging.

        On a slightly different note, Arthur Conan Doyle had two men sharing the same accommodation. As modern sophisticates, we could see this as mere friendship or speculate on whether there was a homoerotic reason for them to stay together. At least the writers have given themselves a heterosexual “couple” and avoided the whole gay marriage issue currently roiling both America and the UK.

      • February 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm | #7

        Indeed. And whatever Sherlock Holmes’ preference, Dr. John Watson married often enough that one has to assume he was straight.

      • February 3, 2013 at 2:28 pm | #8

        In Victorian times, men who had a professional image to maintain married for the sake of appearance. Not, of course, that Dr Watson would have to do anything so dishonest.

  1. April 5, 2014 at 12:38 am | #1
  2. April 12, 2014 at 12:04 am | #2

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