Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement (2013)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement (2013)

Elementary poster

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched this episode, you may wish to delay reading this.

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement starts well with Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) actually trying to provoke some deductive brain activity in Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) by standing her in front of the holding cells at a precinct on a busy Friday night. While picking up a coffee, Watson is approached by a very tall police officer called Baskin who can’t solve a case involving robberies from felafel stalls. The resulting spat between Holmes and Watson is revealing. Meanwhile, there’s an invasion at the home of Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn), with his self-possessed wife (Talia Balsam) distracting the invader by triggering her car alarm and then shooting at the man through the bedroom door. It’s an all-action set-up. A neighbour sees the man run away, but there’s a little blood just outside the bedroom and on a car outside. Mrs Gregson gives a good description inasmuch as anyone can for a man in a ski mask, but it turns out the Captain has not been living at home for about a month. Because of his personal involvement, Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) takes point on the case. According to Holmes, marriage is “an unnatural arrangement” so he’s not surprised that a career detective who’s good at his job should find his marriage in trouble. For once, there are some pleasing asides which get back to the Arthur Conan Doyle canon for observation of facts and deductive reasoning in Holmes explaining why he suspected the Gregson marriage was in trouble, in suggesting why the stalker they find shot was not the home invader, and in identifying the status of the man who turns up shot dead as an ex-soldier.

Aidan Quinn and Talia Balsam in an unnatural arrangement

Aidan Quinn and Talia Balsam in an unnatural arrangement

This particular episode is one of the best in the series so far. It beautifully misdirects attention from what’s really going on and gives us half the episode to consider the relationships between our four series principals in a nicely constructed narrative cul-de-sac. The theme tonight is jealousy and other stresses in relationships. Watson is jealous that Holmes solved “her” case and Captain Gregson is angry a man has been visiting his wife while they are separated. Partnerships are difficult to manage. The natural tensions between mere colleagues become more difficult to defuse when relationships deepen. After twenty-eight years of marriage, Mrs Gregson is no longer comfortable with him being an obsessional cop who keeps missing dinners and forgetting anniversaries. If it’s good news, he may not have made the maintenance of the marriage appear a priority but he still loves her. In his usual caring fashion, Holmes offers Watson’s services as a marriage counsellor which is magnificently in character and manages to be simultaneously patronising to Watson and offensive to Gregson. However, he does recover the situation at the end of the episode by offering real advice. He also makes a major concession to Watson by giving her the cold case files. An integral part in building and maintaining partnerships is understanding the other person’s point of view. In this respect, Holmes is making slow but steady progress, and by admitting there are cases he’s not been able to solve, demonstrates some degree of humility. If Watson can solve what he cannot, then she’s proved herself (if that’s what she feels she has to do).

Always giving credit where it’s due, I need to applaud the scriptwriters for coming up with a different take on “Silver Blaze”, one of the better Conan Doyle originals. For once this episode elegantly captures the spirit of the trope without explicitly “borrowing”. It arrises during the second half of the plot in a completely natural way and, having given us the solution, then offers us an ironic moment at the end. Finally, the episode is also structurally intriguing because we never get to meet the actual killer face-to-face. Any random actor could have been behind the ski mask. But the failure to see the killer’s arrest is nicely made redundant. All things considered, Elementary: An Unnatural Arrangement is the proof, if it was needed, that when everything is on song, this can be one of the best series on television at present. Even more interesting is the quality of Aidan Quinn’s performance. I’ve always thought he deserved more screen time and this proves why we miss him in the general run of episodes. It was also pleasing to see Rosemary Harris still available for work. She lit up the screen for the two minutes she appeared.

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 13. The Red Team (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 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)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 22. Paint It Black (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 23. Art in the Blood (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24. The Great Experiment (2014).

  1. November 2, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Agreed, good show all around. Referring to the curious incident of “the dog who barked in the night” was a nice touch. I’m giving the writers kudos for the scene where Holmes’ attempt to offer Gregson support on his marital problem runs up against his own emotionally stunted worldview.

    • November 2, 2013 at 11:45 am

      The team (re)building theme does persuade Holmes to come back to Gregson at the end. The episode nicely ties up all the loose ends.

  2. joe
    November 9, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Do you know the name of the song at the end? I thought it was apropos.

    • November 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      I think it’s Heal by Tom Oell http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVxdY4rWIlQ

      • joe
        November 9, 2013 at 8:38 pm

        Thanks, I’ll check it out. Love your blog, especially the references to the sometimes less than subtle ways they build in original characters and storylines. I wasn’t sold on this concept early on but they have pulled it off beautifully, despite some of the hiccups you have pointed out. And you are spot on about Quinn. He is probably the best actor on this show and was brilliant in this episode. It is nice to see him get a chance to move beyond the single dimension he is usually allowed.

      • November 9, 2013 at 8:50 pm

        Aidian Quinn has been criminally underused throughout the series but, with Holmes and Watson the lead characters, Gregson and Marcus Bell have to take turns to get any screen time. Bell had the episode with his brother last season. This has been Gregson’s episode. We can expect them to pull back now and let Holmes and Watson do their thing for the rest of the season.

  3. November 9, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I would really love to see Quinn get his own series, as much as I’d miss Gregson. It’s interesting to speculate on what Quinn’s best role might be.

    • November 9, 2013 at 10:32 pm

      Although the US version of Prime Suspect is nowhere near as good as the British original, I though he showed promise in the role of Lieutenant Kevin Sweeney. I know this typecasts him in police procedurals but he has a quality of humanity about him when he relates to the victims of crime that’s quite appealing (i.e. hes the polar opposite of David Caruso in CSI: Miami who completely lacks credibility when it comes to showing a human face). If Jim Brass should ever take early retirement, I could see Aidan Quinn stepping into the role.

  4. November 9, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Don’t knock Caruso, he has range. *Sad*: Frowns, removes glasses. *Angry*: removes glasses, frowns. *Grief-stricken*: doesn’t remove glasses.

    • November 10, 2013 at 1:22 am

      Thinking about it real stars like Keanu Reeves, Vin Diesel and Arnold Schwarzenegger make David Caruso seem positively animated.

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