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Elementary 1×20 “Dead Man’s Switch” Recap


Sherlock and Joan hunt for the accomplice of a murdered blackmailer.

Joan (Lucy Liu) finds Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) touching up some of his tattoos with his own nifty little tattoo gun. During their conversation, she learns that Sherlock is ambidextrous.

She and Alfredo (Ato Essandoh) want to celebrate Sherlock’s one-year anniversary of being sober, but Sherlock is against the idea – saying that it’s not a cause for celebration.

Soon afterward, he gets a call from Alfredo himself – saying that his friend, Ken Whitman (Thomas Jay Ryan), needs help.

Sherlock and Joan arrive at Whitman’s house. Two years ago, a man named Brent Garvey (Thomas Guiry) roofied Whitman’s daughter, Eva (Portia Reiners), and then brutally raped her. They went to press charges and two more victims emerged, so Garvey ended up cutting a deal with the prosecutors for a reduced sentence. Eva took it badly – even tried to commit suicide. After going to a therapist, Eva started to get better.

Then, two months ago, Ken received a video of Eva getting raped. The blackmail letter stated that Ken had to pay $10,000, otherwise the video would be posted online for everyone to see. Left with few options, Ken payed the blackmailer. But the blackmailer continued to ask for more money. Ken reached out to Alfredo, who told him about Sherlock and that he might be able to help.

Sherlock has a particular disdain for blackmailers. To Sherlock, they’re more despicable than murderers in some respects.

That night, Sherlock and Joan do a stake out of Charles Augustus Milverton’s (David Mogentale) place. Sherlock traced the bank account number left on the blackmail letter to Milverton’s address.

They wait for Milverton to leave, and then Sherlock breaks into Milverton’s house to find evidence of his crime and to get the blackmail videos. Joan waits in the car, serving as a lookout. Sherlock learns that he has videos of the other rape victims. Milverton is a professional blackmailer.

Joan warns Sherlock that Milverton has returned. Sherlock is about to leave, when suddenly an unknown man also appears – coming in through the back door. Sherlock quickly hides in one of the rooms, and witnesses Milverton being killed by the unknown man.

Cue credits.

Sherlock goes to the police station right after, and brings Capt. Gregson (Aidan Quinn) up to speed in the conference room, after giving him the video of Eva being raped. Sherlock is iffy about reporting Milverton’s murder. Milverton had claimed in his blackmail letter that he had a partner who would release the videos in case anything happened to Milverton. Sherlock wants to keeps the murder a secret, until they can find the accomplice. Gregson comments that Milverton’s murderer could also be the accomplice.

Gregson agrees to Sherlock’s plan.

Back at the apartment, Joan’s been rifling through Milverton’s things for any clues. The only thing of value seems to be Milverton’s ledger. She asks how Sherlock is doing, having witnessed a murder, but Sherlock just gives her a silent look.


Sherlock and Joan meet with a Garvey – the rapist – at a prison hospital. They question him about his relationship with Milverton, and about his role in the blackmails. It turns out that Milverton, a friend of Garvey’s father, was blackmailing Garvey, too. Milverton was able to acquire the videos because he bought Garvey’s old storage unit, where all of the videos were.

Later, Sherlock concludes that Garvey is telling the truth about getting blackmailed.

Sherlock is able to figure out from Milverton’s ledger that he made regular payments to someone with the codename “Henry Eight.”

Alfredo, who’s been surveying Milverton’s place, texts Sherlock that a man is at Milverton’s door.

When Sherlock and Joan get there, however, the man is long gone. Alfredo tells them that he thinks the man looked familiar, but he can’t quite place him.

Right when Sherlock is about to perform some psychological memory recall tactic on Alfredo, Joan pulls up a commercial of a lawyer – Sheriff Duke Landers (Wayne Duvall) – on her phone. (He’s basically Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad in that he’s a crooked lawyer, but way less awesome.)

That was the guy Alfredo saw.

When Joan and Sherlock question Landers, he claims that he has no idea who Milverton is. Sherlock grabs the diploma hanging on the wall behind Landers, and smashes the glass. He shows the paper to Joan, who’s been practicing handwriting analysis, and she concludes that the signatures on the diploma are forged – Landers’ law degree is fake.

Landers admits that he knew Milverton, but Milverton was not his client. He got Milverton off a D.W.I. charge a few years ago, and Milverton told him that if any sensitive information came across Landers’ desk, then Milverton could that information to make money for both of them.

Landers claims that he isn’t the accomplice they’re looking for, but that he knows that the guy is out there somewhere. Milverton referred to him as his “failsafe.” Sherlock demands Landers give him everything he has on Milverton.

Joan finds Sherlock playing with his sobriety chips, but he avoid the topic of his one-year sobriety.

Gregson calls. Some police officers caught the guy who murdered Milverton, trying to dispose of the body. The murderer is Anthony Pistone (Joseph Siravo), whose daughter was one of the rape victims. Pistone shows little remorse.

After Gregson is done interrogating him, Bell (Jon Michael Hill) approaches Sherlock with some information. He went to the address Sherlock gave him, but it was to a butcher shop, not the accomplice. “Abraham Zellner” appears to be a fake name.

Joan calls, telling Sherlock that Alfredo is at the apartment with news that Ken got another blackmail letter.

Sherlock thinks the accomplice must have sent it, and instead of releasing the videos, the accomplice has decided to take over and continue the blackmailing.

Sherlock goes to brew some tea, since it’s going to be a long night of investigating. Alfredo asks him about the meeting tomorrow, where Sherlock will get his one-year sobriety chip. But Sherlock tells Alfredo that he can’t accept the chip because it’s a reminder of his failure. Before Alfredo leaves, he tells Sherlock that the chip isn’t just about him.

The next morning, when Joan wakes up, she finds Sherlock in her room, who tells her that he thinks he’s cracked the case.

The accomplice is Stuart Bloom. When they go to his place, however, they find his dead body in the bathtub. He’s been murdered, and there are boot prints on his face.

Regarding Sherlock’s one-year sobriety, Sherlock tells Joan that he lied to Alfredo about why he couldn’t accept the chip. Sherlock admits that he relapsed the day after checking himself into rehab. Joan tells him that it’s just one day, but Sherlock doesn’t see it that way. He tells Joan that he’s going to talk to Alfredo about it, but he needed to tell Joan first.

They question Anthony Pistone again.

It turns out that Pistone is actually the step-father of the rape victim, and they don’t get along. He was tired of paying the blackmail money, so he tracked Milverton down. He beat him up, but then Milverton offered him a stake in his blackmail business in exchange for sparing his life. Pistone agreed. He murdered Milverton so he could take over the business, but he needed to get rid of Milverton’s ‘failsafe’, Stuart Bloom. So he murdered Bloom.

Sherlock finally meets with Alfredo. He tells Joan about their meeting, later, during another tattoo touch-up. Joan notes the time on the clock, marking Sherlock’s real one-year anniversary. She leaves him with a present, a framed poem by Robert Frost.



The case – based on a canon case from the books – was a bit of a letdown, but more engaging than many other cases have been. The emotional scenes were amazingly acted. I know it’s a long-shot, since they’re so dominated by cable television nowadays, but I’d love to see Jonny Lee Miller nominated for an Emmy. All of the character moments and relationships were handled really well, too.

Rating: B+

Memorable Quotes

Alfredo: Told you when I met you that I had a great sponsor. This is him [Ken Whitman] – the only one in the group willing to take a chance on a half-reformed, ex-car thief.

Sherlock: Another reason to dislike Milverton – he keeps cats.
Joan: Well, he should get himself a real pet, like a beehive.

[Sherlock answers his phone.]
Sherlock: The brownstone is on fire, my bees have escaped, and there is a giant comet headed for Manhattan.
Joan: Excuse me?
Sherlock: The way the evening is going I thought you could only be calling with more good news.

Sherlock: To me, it does not commemorate a period of success, but rather, the end of a period of great failure. I failed when I abused drugs, and I would really rather not be reminded of that fact.
Alfredo: I’m sorry if that’s how you see it. [Turns to walk away but changes his mind.] You know what I wish you got? Milestones like this one – they’re yours, but they’re not about you. They’re about all the people who haven’t got there yet. They see you do it, and they think, ‘why can’t I?’ You know, I know it’s hard, but one of these days, you gotta get over yourself.

Joan: Sherlock, I understand why you’re upset, but we’re talking about the difference of one day. It does not change what you did in the 364 that followed.
Sherlock: I decided to stop using drugs, yes? I decided. Me. And then 24 hours later… Sounds like a mere detail, but I am a man of details, and it matters to me.

[Joan puts the boxed gift on Sherlock’s desk.]
Joan: Found it at a second-hand store. It’s dark. It’s not just for anyone, but I thought it was very you. I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking of you.

Elementary airs Thursdays on CBS at 10/9 central.