It’s a night of mistaken identity, estranged fathers, a return to police service, and overly-convoluted doppelgängered murder mysteries for this week’s Elementary. But more importantly, it’s a story on the reappearance of Sherlock’s turtle Clyde, and of adorably fluffy monkeys tragically not-seen.

Ready for spoilers? We recommend not reading until the answer is an exuberant Yes!

Apparently Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) has been almost as concerned about Clyde’s absence this season as we were: the episode kicks off with cooking for our long-absent friend. Sherlock’s invented a home blend of snacks to increase his mineral intake, ensuring that Clyde’s shell is shiny and strong. It’s a good thing the charming turtle returned for “Tag, You’re Me”: Clyde provides the key transitions to hold an otherwise scattered episode together.

A horde of unruly second-graders in the kitchen, or Sherlock making turtle-snacks?

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Sherlock’s relapse forgotten (or at least politely unmentioned), the detective duo are back to work as his father’s promised interference from last week pays off. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) and Sherlock resume service to the New York Police Department, with string-pulling politics to make it happen occurring firmly off-camera.

The main plot is a story of mistaken identity, facial recognition, deception, and a cold case growing hot. As usual, the mystery starts with a murder, but this time even the killer is quickly confused when his victim’s doppelgänger appears moments later. Sherlock and Joan quickly find their connection to a doppelgänger-hunting website. The purpose of the website is unclear—it’s a commercial service, yet proprietor Dorian Moll (Jefferson White) may also be making a half-articulated statement on the dangers of automated facial recognition, or perhaps the bland uniformity of a population so large no one is truly unique. Any interesting philosophical conversation is quickly shoved to the side so we can quickly march on to finding more doppelgängers, including a living visual triplet to our original victims (Brendan Bradley earns triple credits as two corpses and a witness!).

There goes Sherlock, making references to movies Joan loves and he claims to have never seen...

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The point where one of the suspects, Curtis Tofano (Drew Rausch), acknowledges he found a doppelgänger, then falls back on a visual alibi without anyone pointing out how meaningless that is is about the point where it becomes obvious the procedural is even more painful than usual. Soon, we find that the intended victim was actually a co-murderer from a cold case gone hot, looking for a dupe to pass a DNA test on his behalf, with both himself and the innocent doppelgänger murdered by his earlier victim’s surviving kin, Sean Cudlow (Alexander Salamat). But who is hounding the confusingly-characterized possible-privacy-activist Moll? Why, the other murderer, Tofan, who already found a compliant doppelgänger for his DNA-test!

Despite the twists and turns, this case ended up feeling like everyone was a wee bit of an idiot. Sherlock and Joan didn’t earn their keep with brilliant insights. The usually-keen Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) was virtually absent, although we can hope he was off-camera politicking for the duo’s return. And poor Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) was relegated to note-boy passing on plot information at key times (and to be the subject of Joan’s now-mandatory threats of violence for claiming ignorance of a particularly beloved movie).

The scepticism is rampant, just not in the script.

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The weak main plot makes it all the more important Clyde played such a starring role in transitioning us into the subplot:

Watson: I see Clyde likes the food you made him.

Holmes: Yeah.

Watson: Or he just appreciates his dinner date going the extra mile.

Holmes: Eh, close, but wrong cold-blooded reptile. My dinner date is my father. I can understand you confusing him with Clyde. They could be doppelgängers.

Morland Holmes (John Noble) continues his eerie politeness, while Sherlock continues lashing out in discomfort. After his father politely enquires, “Was I expecting you?” Sherlock downright snarls, “Not to my knowledge, but I can’t rule you having foreseen it via the black arts.” His dislike for his father’s continued companionship established, Sherlock takes on daddy dearest as a client to hurry him on his way.

No puzzle can long-withstand the combined power of a pair of Holmes.

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The puzzle is a glimpse into Morland’s influence-peddling: Sherlock is tasked with unravelling a colleague’s objection to the siting of a wind power plant. He quickly ferrets out the real objection involves unbearably adorable endangered monkeys, giving us an extra bonus of fluffy cuteness if only via photograph. Still: far better than mangled corpses.

The subplot sorted as quickly as the main mystery, we can get to Morland’s true objectives. They’re finally revealed when he interrupts Sherlock shrink-wrapping Clyde’s leftover dinners: He wants to make amends for past crap parenting and be the father Sherlock never had. These are the character moments that make the show worthwhile despite lukewarm mysteries: Sherlock is badly masking his discomfort with snark, Morland is awkwardly vulnerable, and Joan is warily watching from the sidelines how all this disruption is impacting her friend.

Will Moll’s offer of free doppler-hunts pay off with every future visual alibi getting discounted, or will we forget this whole mess ever happened? Is Sherlock’s relapse a looming repressed disaster waiting for the least-opportune moment? Will Morland finally learn touching lessons on fatherhood, and will Sherlock find a way to accept them? Will we actually get to see the most interesting parts of the story next week, or do only cool kids get to see the drama off-camera? And will Ms. Hudson knit Clyde a new sweater for the chilly winter months?

Bonus gratuitous tux-shot, because we can.

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This week’s dialogue featured large swathes of rather dull exposition, but we still got a few biting moments:

  • Marcus Bell: Not betting against you but we still have to go through the process
  • Sherlock Holmes: Are you waiting for the magic words before you disappear? Because thank you.
  • Sherlock Holmes: And they are so all-seeing that you felt the need to adopt the guise of a clown from the future.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Not evil. Neutral. Like a shark, or a tsunami.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Well, as long as you don’t take your wine intravenously, I should be okay
  • Morland Holmes: Playing the victim doesn’t suit you, Sherlock.
  • Sherlock Holmes: If you’re wondering where someone flees to after accepting a life-changing bribe when they already live in Costa Rica, the answer is Switzerland.
  • Sean Cudlow: You think I’m the only guy to ever commit a crime in a ski mask?
  • Sherlock Holmes: Perhaps we could attend one of their reunions, make cheek swabs a condition of entry.
  • Morland Holmes: Ask yourself... when you were a boy, could anyone have parented you?

Backstage with Clyde.

Clyde status: He’s back!!! And well-fed, with a lovely roaming space full of enriching activities. But no new sweater to keep him toasty in the winter months.

Elementary airs on Thursday nights on CBS. All images credit CBS.


Contact the author at mika.mckinnon@io9.com or follow her at @MikaMcKinnon.