Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 9. On the Line (2013)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 9. On the Line (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 9. On the Line starts us on top of Thor Bridge, but those of you who are keen adherents of the original canon need not panic. This is just a pretext. The suicidal woman is out to frame Lucas Bundsch (Troy Garity) for the murder of her sister. She goes through the motions of stealing a gun from his home and then using it to kill herself. Our accused demands a polygraph and is just beginning to answer questions when news comes from the bridge. As Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) had predicted, the weighted gun is in the river. Our accused need not answer any more questions. Except Sherlock is now convinced this man is a serial killer and he wishes he’d allowed the suicide to frame him. Sherlock and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) then deconstruct the technique to be followed by anyone who wants to beat a polygraph test. Edward Snowden and all others who have to go through mandatory polygraph testing should try out this method. It looks good with tongue biting, controlled breathing and antiperspirants to the fore.

The meeting with Detective Gerry Coventry (Chris Bauer), the veteran detective who had the original case, is not a success. He’s dismissive. Indeed, his attitude offends Sherlock and leads to a public spat. Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) tells both to cool it but even Watson is surprised by Sherlock’s vehemence. As retaliation, the detective gives Bundsch the brownstone’s address and he comes round to threaten our heroes. This confirms the battlelines as Holmes tell him how the crime was committed: unconscious woman moved out of the flat in a refrigerator, a fake bomb strapped to her ankle to force her to make a telephone call where cameras would pick her up, and so on. When the confrontation is over, Holmes now dumps on Coventry which pleases no-one. As justification, there’s a link between Bunch and two other women who have disappeared. Holmes and Watson split up to talk with the families, Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) going with Watson.

Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller(, Watson (Lucy Liu) and Gregson (Aidan Quinn)

Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller(, Watson (Lucy Liu) and Gregson (Aidan Quinn)

We now arrive at another of these background issues that the good series deal with sooner rather than later. Indeed, if you watch the BBC Sherlock series, the hostility of the rank-and-file police to Holmes is strongly featured. That’s why they are all too ready to believe Moriarty’s monstrous lie. So Coventry is the tip of the NYPD iceberg. If Gregson does not stop Holmes from showing them up as less than competent, the offended precinct will call in the union and raise a formal complaint. Gregson’s defence that Holmes has a high closure rate cuts no ice. The morale of the police is more important than the performance of the outside consultant. Independently, Watson has picked up on the growing animosity. She pulled a cartoon from the noticeboard and asks Holmes whether it would actually cost him anything to be more civil to his “colleagues”. All the honest cops are in the same business of trying to put criminals behind bars. Instead of put-downs and slights, they should all be working together in good humour.

This leads to an interesting point of clarification. As Polonius says in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” More often than not, Holmes claims he gets results because of the way he treats people. He resists the idea of making nice as hypocrisy. He understands Watson’s point that there’s a certain utility in oiling the wheels of professional relationships. He just sees no point in it where he’s involved. This means, of course, that Watson is going to be involved in some unpleasantness — they are both named in a restraining order in this episode — but that’s part of the price she must pay for working with him. Oh, and before you ask, the only reason he makes the to-him extraordinary effort to be courteous to her, is that he considers her to be extraordinary. So the woman who helped him deal with his addiction and now shows signs of ability as a detective is extraordinary in Sherlock’s eyes.

Hmmm. I’m not sure about that. It’s understandable that we might want to see the woman who stands beside Holmes as something special, but that’s not quite the way she’s been written. Yes, she may be a very good technical surgeon and she’s very patient with difficult addicts, but her first steps as a detective are only mildly impressive. This is the Sherlock Holmes show after all. So his assessment of her as extraordinary must be based on something else. If I was going to be unkind, I would refer to men who capture and/or train extraordinary animals and keep them around as pets. Or I could suggest he’s too proud to admit he simply likes her for who she is, has matured in the emotional department to admit her into his affection, and will leave future developments to natural evolution. He’s not a conscious change person as we’ve seen from his approach to the addiction. He has to grow comfortable with himself at each stage of his rehabilitation as a person.

The plot involving Lucas Bundsch should really have been spread over two episodes. There was great potential in this man to challenge Holmes. It would have been good to end the episode as Holmes realises he’s been sent on a wild goose chase. We can then have a proper investigation of the support group, analyse the methodology of the serial abductor and killer, and arrive at the conclusion. On paper it sounds good but how would Gregson convince a judge to move on this when Holmes has been hit with a restraining order? As presented, the solution is over in two minutes with victims recovered. Gregson hangs tough to the NYPD — anyone who doesn’t like my using Holmes, the door is over there (well, actually there are several doors, but the point is made). And that’s an end of the episode. This artificial limit on plot development is tiresome. The production team cast Troy Garity as the killer who proved a great success. He would have done well as an adversary over two episodes. On the other side of the fence, Chris Bauer was underused as the political situation in the precinct was swept under the carpet. Aidan Quinn was given more time which worked well. Good as Elementary: On the Line proved to be, it could have been so much better.

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 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 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 24, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Agreed. This really was a two-part story crunched into one. The thing that bothered me, though, was how long it took Holmes to realize that Mr. Serial Killer was attending to another victim the night he was framed–or why lie on the polygraph? Other than that, great episode which, as you said, really should have come early in the first season.

    • November 24, 2013 at 10:51 am

      I’m not sure Holmes is at fault. He may infer that Mr. Serial Killer has done it before because he has trained himself how to beat the polygraph test, and Holmes may see he is lying about what he was doing that night. But Mr Serial Killer could have been doing any number of things, some merely embarrassing, e.g. he’s a cross-dresser and was at a gay club as a woman, or preparing the next crime, e.g. he was following a woman that he’s planning to abduct. However, I agree with you that he was very slow to think about the practicalities of how an abductor keeps his victims alive during their captivity. In one week, I’ve read one book and watched a television episode that completely failed on this point. The logistics of bringing in food, supplying water to drink, keeping the captive clean, providing toilet facilities, and so on are completely ignored. In the book, the kidnapped person was tied up for days yet managed to get up and walk away without piss and shit causing any embarrassment when he stood. In the television episode, the two abducted were kept drugged so feeding and washing them down would have been a major problem. In this episode, he should have made the connection as soon as the pattern of abduction and body dumping after days/weeks became apparent. If he’s keeping them alive for sexual purposes, keeping them attractive may be a necessary part of the rituals, enhancing the need for constant visits.

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