Crimes of Opportunity: Elementary ‘The Rat Race’ Review
Beginning an episode with a worried Watson trying to find Holmes is one (effective) way to catch our attention. Continuing by flashing back to before Holmes goes missing is also a very good way to keep it. In ‘The Rat Race’, we see Holmes struggle with a difficult case that reminds him of his previous addiction, and Watson is given a love interest. There are so many funny one-liners that it is hard to only mention a few of them – this show is hitting all of the right emotional notes. Oh, we also learn that the normally extremely well-spoken Holmes has a fondness for texting in abbreviations – this is important later. Spoilers ahead!
When an old friend tricks Watson into going on a blind date, Watson thinks her date may be hiding something. She shares this suspicion with Holmes, who is pleased (“Flexing our deductive muscles are we? I could burst with pride”). Despite fearing being a ‘cyber-stalker’, Watson lets Holmes talk her into looking up her date’s marital status. They find out he is married. It is interesting to see how living with Holmes has already altered the way Watson thinks.
As it turns out, the man has a good excuse for lying. He explains to an annoyed Watson that he married a woman in order to protect her from being deported, and likely killed. She comments on his compassion, but then has a guilty expression when he inquires as to how she learned he was married.
The case of this episode is handled a little differently than usual. Instead of Holmes working as an aide to the police, Captain Gregson hires him out solo on a job that the NYPD can’t yet get involved with. The CEO of a billion-dollar corporation has gone missing, and the company wants answers. Holmes demands twelve times his normal rate for the job (despite the fact that he does not have a normal rate), and calls the Wall Street-type characters a bunch of ‘crooks’ in ‘costumes’.
When the investigation brings them to the scene of an apparent heroin overdose, Watson is immediately concerned for Holmes. She says that people can relapse by just hearing the word ‘heroin’, and now Holmes is standing there staring at it. He insists he is fine, but his mannerisms are anxious as he looks around the apartment. Despite this obstacle, Holmes still quickly deduces that the overdose was not accidental. The man was murdered.
After some studying, Holmes comes to the conclusion that there is a killer inside the corporation. The mysterious employee deaths that have occurred over the years are what he refers to as crimes of opportunity, not passion. When he shares this theory with the group and describes the career path he thinks the killer has had, one man recognizes it as his path and takes offense. The man sarcastically asks if Holmes is accusing him of murdering five people, to which Holmes coolly replies, “Well, this is a bit awkward, but I’d say that you were a damn good suspect.”
When that suspect ends up having a solid alibi, Holmes is very frustrated. It is evident that he is having a hard time after seeing the drugs, and is using the case to distract himself. This does not dull his sharp skills, and it doesn’t take him long to track down the real killer – the original suspect’s secretary, Donna.
Since the audience has spent the entire episode tensely waiting for Holmes to go missing, it is stressful to watch him follow Donna into an underground parking lot all alone. Does anything good ever happen in those dodgy places? He fixates on her when he confronts her, so caught up in the chase that he is unable to avoid being tasered and tied up by the psychotic woman.
Even though Donna uses Holmes’s phone to text Watson that he is okay, Watson still figures out he is in trouble. Donna uses proper grammar and punctuation, something Watson already knows Holmes does not do when texting. Watson alerts the authorities, who arrive just in time to save Holmes. Amusingly, he later tries to take credit for this rescue.
Since Watson had to come clean about her real relationship with Holmes, Holmes addresses his addiction with Captain Gregson. This results in the most emotional scene of the episode. In a moment of incredible vulnerability, Holmes admits that he was too embarrassed to tell Gregson about his addiction, and apologizes. Turning out to be an even better friend than he seemed, Gregson says he already knew and was just waiting till Holmes was ready to talk about it. He also notes that Holmes’s work hasn’t slipped one bit since Scotland Yard. The sincerity of the scene is so very touching that it is strange to remember we have only known these characters for four episodes.
Jonny Lee Miller shines as Holmes, and in this episode is given the opportunity to show a different side of his himself. He can devastate you, then make you chuckle within a span of about five minutes. Since Holmes is already a rather hyper character, he masterfully displays the distinction between that uneasiness, and the agitation that comes from craving the substances he previously abused.
At the end of the episode, Watson complains about her date blowing her off while Holmes tries to remove self-inflicted handcuffs (some people watch TV). Since Watson thinks her cyber-stalking scared the date off, Holmes offers a reflective observation on the consequences of thinking the way he does: “It has its costs… learning to see the puzzle in everything… they’re everywhere. Once you start looking, it’s impossible to stop.”
If, like me, you find this genuine character development ‘impossible to stop’ watching, catch Elementary Thursdays on CBS.