After an unexplained two week break, our favorite pair of consulting detectives is back in a case that involves dinosaur skeletons and the world of illegal smuggling. There’s also a nice dose of character growth and stretching for Sherlock as he learns that acting as a sponsor is not as cut and dry as he had hoped.
Once again, Sherlock and Watson are faced with a murder, though in this case, the dead body is REALLY cold. Watson has been rifling through Sherlock’s trunk of cold cases and comes across one she might have a lead on with the help of a geologist friend named Gaye (which refers to her name and sexuality.) They are looking into the murder of one Doug Newburg, who was killed in the midst of Sherlock’s drug addiction, therefore Sherlock was not able to give the case the attention it deserved. Now that Watson has taken the lead role in the investigation, she needed an expert to discuss the sediment found on Newburg’s body; hence why she and Gaye head over to the Newburg residence to take a look in the backyard. As they look around, they discover a rock that looked like it was carved out as part of an archeological dig and by Gaye’s estimation, was around 65 million years old.
Gaye’s prediction was correct, the rock contained a full skeleton of a baby dinosaur, a Nanotyrannus to be exact. According to Jerome Thomas, a paleontologist at the natural history museum, this particular dinosaur is only excavated in Mongolia, so it’s safe to assume that the bones were smuggled into the country, with the intention of selling them on the black market. In a convenient twist for the storyline, one of Newburg’s associates Diego, is into the black market trade. They tail him, arrest him and find out he didn’t have anything to do with the murder. Diego claims simply had left the rock with Newburg and he was murdered before Diego could get it back. He figures Newburg’s killer made off with it and didn’t think to check the backyard. Holmes has the brilliant idea to put the skeleton on the black market and see if they can flush out Newburg’s killer. Unfortunately, before that can happen, the skeleton is stolen right under their noses thanks to an inept officer. A pair of thieves posing as Customs agents make off with the priceless artifact because the officer at the evidence locker didn’t check credentials.
Someone who knew where the skeleton was must have a source within Customs and have the ability to sell it on the black market. In order to find a smuggler with that kind of power, Sherlock and Holmes set up a meeting with “C” who is employed at a high end auction house and may have names or contacts within the black market. It’s also revealed that Sherlock and C maintain a steady correspondence of erotic letters (Elementary fandom, I need fic about this ASAP. Don’t let me down.) Turns out that C is a stylish older woman (fuck yeah) who is able to give Sherlock one name: Magpie.
In order to draw out Magpie, Holmes goes about creating fake rough drafts of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to sell. The ploy works and they get a meeting with the mysterious figure, only to arrive at his residence and find him murdered and the skeleton destroyed. Enlisting the help of Gaye, Holmes figures out why Magpie was killed and the skeleton destroyed. The dinosaur could prove the veracity of the “dead clade walking” theory, which asserts that some dinosaurs survived the meteorite hitting the Earth 65 million years ago. It’s a highly divisive issue in the world of paleontology and someone may have been willing to kill to disprove the theory and save a career.
They gather the most vehement opponents of the theory and ask for a DNA sample. They get a hit from evidence found at the scene from a paleontologist, but turns out he has an air-tight alibi. What is discovered is that the paleontologist we met in the beginning, Jerome Thomas, co-wrote a textbook with the latest suspect. It’s the book used in almost every Paleontology 101 class and if the dead clade walking theory was proved correct, their textbook sales would plummet. It’s enough evidence for a warrant and it’s probably best if Thomas confesses.
As with almost every episode, there is some sort of character development interspersed between major breaks in the case. This week, it’s Sherlock’s sponsee Randy who provides the emotional catalyst in the story and draws Sherlock away from the case at various times via text and phone calls. In an apt metaphor, Holmes receives most of his text from Randy right before he’s about to drill into a skull. Anyway, Holmes agreed to act as Randy’s sponsor on the condition that he would not act as Randy’s therapist or friend. He would simply show him the techniques he used to keep himself sober.
Well..that’s easier said than done. Randy’s ex-girlfriend Eve is now back in town and she is a big trigger for him. Holmes commiserates, as the start of his addiction was also because of a woman he fell in love with. Though he understands, he tells Randy that he must cut off all contact and distance himself for the sake of his sobriety. Randy comes up with a bunch of excuses of why he can’t do that: Eve has no place else to go. He can’t just kick her out, etc. Turns out, being a sponsor isn’t as cut and dry as Holmes had first thought. It’s interesting to watch him struggle to understand why Randy hasn’t taken his advice to heart and to see his frustration he must interrupt his investigation to help Randy in his moments of weakness. Even Watson points out that he’s acting with compassion, he is still acting more with tolerance than actual feeling.
I guess the most apt metaphor is that being a sponsor is like trying to solve a cold case; it has frustrations and setbacks. Holmes realizes his difficulty dealing with Randy and his choices connect back with the case of Newburg. He admits to Watson (whose emotional arc this season has taken a backseat to Sherlock’s) that he did not give this case the attention it deserved or the full use of his abilities. He was in the midst of his addiction and that consumed him. In the end, the show treats addiction with the weight it deserves. Randy gets high with Eve and it’s only after that he realizes Sherlock was right and he kicks her out. The clock has reset to zero and the episode ends with Holmes accompanying Randy to an AA meeting with a kind of wry determination, knowing that his work is long from finished.