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'Elementary' recap: Rise of the machines

Season 3 | Episode 4 | “Bella” | Aired Nov 20, 2014

On this week’s Elementary, Sherlock comes face-to-face with a self-aware (maybe?) computer framed for murder in a plot to postpone the inevitable robot apocalypse.

But first, we learn that Holmes and Watson have entered into a joint custody agreement for their pet turtle Clyde, who spends the weekends with Sherlock before heading home to Joan for weekdays.

I admit, I’ve wondered about Clyde’s status since the season 3 premiere and it’s nice to have that question answered, especially considering how few answers we get during this week’s episode.

A man named Edwin Borstein (Orange Is the New Black‘s Michael Chernus) believes he has created an artificially intelligent computer program, which is nicknamed Bella and personified by a somewhat (read: very) creepy doll. He enlists Sherlock’s help in tracking down a man who broke into the lab and copied Bella’s program.

Sherlock is skeptical of Bella’s intelligence but is so vexed by its answers to his questions (particularly “Is love real?”) that he takes the case for free out of a desire to prove that the computer’s brain is nothing more than preprogrammed ones and zeros.

He rounds up a gang of experts (including Joan’s new boyfriend, Andrew from 6D) to figure out how to best Bella, while leaving the nitty-gritty of catching the burglar to Joan and Kitty.

To keep things short, they find the burglar and eradicate the pilfered copy of Bella’s program.

Case solved, right?

Wrong. As they go to tell Edwin the good news, they find him dead on the floor, the result of an epileptic seizure brought on by flashing images on Bella’s computer screens. A program error wouldn’t have caused that, and Edwin’s partner swears that she was the only other person with access to the program. That just leaves Bella, who may have seen her creator as a threat and killed him.

“Bella was, at the very least, displaying signs of actual intelligence,” the programmer says. “It’s possible that she deduced that the one variable keeping her from getting what she wanted was the person operating her.”

Note the use of the word “deduce” in that statement. No so unlike our favorite misanthropic detective, no?

Sherlock doesn’t buy it, but he confiscates the Bella computer and has a college student named Mason look through the coding. There’s no evidence of a computer virus or tampering, so Mason borrows a monologue from The Terminator (“a prescient movie in a lot of ways”) and asks Bella point-blank if it killed Edwin Borstein.

“No,” it says.

Well, okay then.

But if the doll ex machina didn’t murder Edwin, then it was framed. And who would want to frame a computer for a murder? Well, how about Isaac Pike, the foremost voice of warning about the end of the human race at the hands of our highly evolved machine overlords?

Edwin may have been a whiz at computers, but he was dumb enough to upload the contents of a death metal CD (“Death” metal. Get it? Rim shot!) onto Bella’s computer. The CD came from a friend—but not before being intercepted by one of Pike’s students, who slipped the seizure slide show between the tracks of cacophonous music.

Obviously, it was Pike’s plan to create the appearance of a sentient, murderous computer, thus creating the smoking gun needed to draw attention to the pending robo-pocalpyse. But his student, Erin, falls on her sword by confessing and taking full blame for the crime in order to protect her mentor. “His work is too important,” she says. “None of us can afford to interrupt it.”

Holmes isn’t fooled, and attempts to blackmail Pike into confessing by threatening to expose the drug crimes of Pike’s younger brother.

But Pike calls his bluff. He did some research on his own and learned that Holmes spent time in rehab. Unlikely then, he figures, that a recovering addict would send another troubled soul to prison.

“You might want the world to believe that you’re an automaton, a calculating machine,” Pike says. “You and I know better.”

Holmes returns home, seemingly at a dead end and once again interrogating Bella. He presents the problem of the Edwin Bersein murder to the computer and asks whether he should allow a killer to go free. Bella’s oft-repeated response of confusion is the last we hear for this week’s episode.

“I don’t understand the question,” she says. “Can I have more information?”

Is Bella the sentient harbinger of human extinction? Does Isaac Pike face justice for his crime? We don’t know. And since the plot synopsis of next week’s episode has nothing to do with computers, robot dolls,or artificial intelligence, we may never know.

Stray thoughts:

  • I could spend a whole post talking about the brilliant way this episode presented Holmes and Bella as mirror images of each other: he the human who acts like a machine, and Bella the machine that acts like a human.
  • This week was catnip for Holmes-Watson shippers, with Sherlock saying that he loved Watson “to a fashion” and a kitchen monologue about how important they are to each other. “My return to New York was driven, in large part, by a desire to repair our relationship,” he tells Joan. “And I think even though we might draw further or nearer to each other, depending on circumstance, you and I are bound somehow.”
  • Andrew earns the approval of Sherlock, and how about that high praise? “His comments were quite salient,” Sherlock says. “He is not an unintelligent man.” Sherlock swears he didn’t have a hand in shipping Andrew off to Denmark on a new business venture, but I have my doubts.

Elementary airs Thursdays at 10/9C on CBS.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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