| "Child Predator"
Season 1, Episode 3
|Air Date||18 October, 2012|
|Viewers||10.91 million (U.S.)|
|Previous||"While You Were Sleeping"|
|Next||"The Rat Race"|
Sherlock consults on the case of a serial killer nicknamed "The Balloon Man", a child abductor who has murdered eight victims since 2005. Sherlock's signature bluntness does not endear him to the family of the killer's latest target, but he manages to get a lead that helps him identify the Balloon Man's van as a decommissioned police vehicle. The cops quickly track down the van and are shocked to find that it is being driven by 19-year-old Adam Kemper – the Balloon Man's first victim. With time running out, Sherlock realises that Kemper is the only person who can lead them to the killer and save the life of the abducted child.
In 2005, 12-year-old Adam Kemper leaves his house to walk to school, but he is flagged down by a man in a car, who snatches him and drives away, leaving an array of colourful balloons behind.
In 2012, Joan Watson comes down for her morning jog, expecting Sherlock to join her, only to see that he has spent the entire night poring over his case file on The Balloon Man, "New York's own bogeyman." Watson is familiar with the case, since the Balloon Man's first victim, Adam Kemper, lived only a few blocks from where she was living at the time. Since then, the Balloon Man has kidnapped six other children. Holmes corrects her, seven - he heard on his police scanner that ten-year-old Mariana Castillo was taken from her bedroom in Queens that night. Holmes predicts that Captain Gregson will be calling him within the next fifteen minutes - and in fact, his phone rings as he finishes speaking.
Holmes and Watson meet Gregson and Detective Bell outside the Castillos' house. Heading in, Holmes notices a broken piece of ivy, apparently snapped by Mariana as the killer carried her away. As they enter the house, Holmes is aghast to see a camera crew setting up, preparing to film the Castillos' televised appeal to their daughter's kidnapper. Holmes sprays the lens of the camera with paint, telling the Castillos that three of The Balloon Man's victims' bodies were recovered, and forensics indicated that he kept them alive for between half a day and two days; there is a direct correlation, he insists, between the level of the parents' media exposure, and the length of time their child lived. The Balloon Man feeds off the public grief of his victims' families, and feeding that hunger will only make him end the child's life that much sooner. Distraught, the Castillos look to Gregson for confirmation, who carefully says that Holmes is usually right. Holmes says their job is simple: do everything he says, if they want to get their daughter back alive.
As Holmes pokes through the Castillos' home, looking for clues, Watson reflects aloud that she feels unusually close to such a horrible crime, being in the victims' house - Holmes rudely suggests that she go outside, since her "nattering" is distracting him, and she can be most productive by listening to him and not speaking. Before she can tee off on him, he removes a bottle of wine from the refrigerator and carries it back to the living room.
Mr. Castillo claims that when Mariana was snatched, he was buying a bottle of wine from the bodega down the street. Holmes says this is a lie, since the bottle of wine has its label on the bottom, but bodegas label their bottles in a different place. Other clues Holmes noticed indicate that the Castillos were separated for a time, during which Mr. Castillo lived in Long Island. He also received a phone call just before he left the house. "Tell us her name, Mr. Castillo" Holmes finishes. Mr. Castillo admits that he dated a co-worker during the separation, and the woman called him last night. He went outside to meet her, but swears to his now-furious wife that he only spoke to her briefly. telling her their affair was over. Mr. Castillo swears she had nothing to do with Mariana's kidnapping, but Holmes says that if she was parked on his street last night, facing his house, she may very well have seen the kidnapper.
The woman, Lori Thomas, is interviewed at the police station. She is wracked with guilt, believing that, by calling Mr. Castillo out of his house, she inadvertently created the opportunity for the kidnapper to strike. Gregson asks her what she saw.
In the background, Watson begins to ask about their next move, and Holmes shushes her, instructing her that with a case like this, her job is to stay silent and listen to him, not talk.
Ms. Thomas relates that, after speaking with Mr. Castillo, she began to drive away, before a van ran the stop sign and nearly hit her. Holmes speaks up and correlates this with several other important facts: the autopsies on The Balloon Man's found victims indicated that he chloroformed them into unconsciousness, but the broken vine outside the Castillos' home indicates he did not do so to Mariana - why? Holmes theorises that the man was in an unusual hurry, most likely because he heard police sirens - Holmes remembers hearing on his police scanner that the police being called to a domestic dispute near the Castillos' home, only a few minutes before Mr. Castillo called 9-1-1. Clearly the kidnapper heard the sirens, thought the police were on to him, and tore out of the neighborhood in an unusual hurry. Ms. Thomas cannot identify the make and model of the van with any certainty, but she is positive that it was painted dark brown.
Holmes, Watson and Bell return to the Castillos' neighborhood, looking for a camera or a witness that could have seen the fleeing van. While Bell canvasses the neighborhood, Watson tees off on Holmes about his "one way street" definition of conversation. Holmes explains that, for him, nothing makes a case clearer than him explaining it aloud, so, back in London, he would often use cab drivers, waiters, or the occasional prostitute as a sounding board - them talking back to him was quite unnecessary. Watson points out that Holmes hasn't slept for at least twenty-four hours, and it can't be good for his health - Holmes pipes up that, contrary to what he said before, her "chatter" is extremely useful to him. It's like "white noise", and the act of tuning her out helps him focus better. Case in point: he has just noticed a parked sedan on the street that was sideswiped by a speeding vehicle, leaving traces of dark brown paint. There are also traces of white and blue, in very distinctive shades. Holmes tells Bell to put out a BOLO on a decommissioned NYPD van, sold at auction and repainted dark brown, but with a jagged streak down one side.
At the police station, Holmes is napping, when Watson brings him coffee. He tells her not to be offended by his earlier words, she should know that having someone to talk to about the case is extremely useful to him. Back in London, he often used a phrenology bust, nicknamed "Angus," as his sounding board, and gradually came to the realisation that he much prefers to talk to living persons. "Glad I made it to the animate category," Watson replies sarcastically. Then Gregson and Bell run past, telling Holmes that the van has been sighted.
The NYPD trails the van at a discreet distance, until the driver realises he is being followed and tries to escape. The police converge and force the van to a stop, and the driver takes off on foot. Bell brings him down with a tackle, but is confused when the man's hoodie is pulled off to reveal a 19-year-old, a boy much too young to be The Balloon Man. Holmes looks closer and recognizes the boy, by a birthmark on his neck, as Adam Kemper, The Balloon Man's first victim.
Adam, virtually catatonic, is interviewed at the police station, where Bell assures him that he is safe now, and pleading for anything he might know about his abductor. Watching through the glass, Watson remembers reading about similar cases, in which a kidnapped child actually grew to sympathise with and care for his abductor. Holmes wonders aloud, if that is what happened here, whether or not Adam might have assisted his captor with his subsequent crimes?
Outside interrogation, Holmes asks to speak with Adam in private. Gregson refuses, pointing out that this is an extremely delicate situation, and besides, Holmes is not a police officer. Holmes points out that, if Adam is afraid of being implicated in The Balloon Man's crimes, perhaps he will open up to someone who isn't a cop. Gregson relents: Holmes has five minutes, no more.
In interrogation, Holmes sits opposite Adam and introduces himself as a consultant. He says he has some idea of what Adam must have gone through, since Holmes attended boarding school in England and was frequently victimised by bullies. He also understands that, in that kind of environment, victims often cling to their abusers, perversely seeing them as the ones who can protect them. Miraculously, Adam opens up, just a little, describing his kidnapper as a caring man, who brings home donuts after work every morning.
Watson is impressed with Holmes's handling of the situation, wryly asking him if any of the story he told Adam was true. "I went to boarding school," Holmes deadpans. They are watching as Gregson and Bell meet with Adam's parents and their attorney, who says that they are already negotiating with the District Attorney's office to grant Adam immunity for any crimes he may have committed, in exchange for identifying The Balloon Man. The problem is, the District Attorney may not respond until the next morning, and Mariana Castillo doesn't have that amount of time.
Aside, Holmes says to Gregson that he has a lead: from Adam's description, they now know that The Balloon Man works at night. It is not much of a clue, Holmes admits, but he has cracked cases with less.
That evening, Holmes lays out all of his case files on The Balloon Man, preparing to scour every photo and piece of paper for a clue. He starts to head off Watson's lecture about him not getting any sleep, but she surprises him by saying she agrees with what he is doing:a child's life is at stake. Therefore, she is ready to help him any way she can. Holmes insists that only he can pour through the files, so what he needs most is some strong coffee to help him stay awake. Watson, remembering a trick from her medical school exam days, has a better idea: doing a hundred full-body squats, to get the blood flowing is "better than coffee." Holmes is dismissive at first, but, eventually, the two of them are doing squats in unison.
The next morning, Watson is fast asleep, and Holmes is waiting on the telephone. He rousts her awake and says he found a vital clue: the Kempers, and the families of the first two subsequent victims, all had their homes fumigated, or had neighbors who did, shortly before the kidnappings. The police interviewed the exterminators who worked the neighbourhoods, but failed to elicit any strong suspects. Holmes thinks they were on to something, except that the lead went cold because The Balloon Man changed jobs between taking his third and fourth victims. The fourth, fifth and sixth victims' families, and the Castillos, all have something else in common: they, or their neighbors, are subscribers to the Investors Post, which is delivered at night. Holmes is on the phone with the paper to identify the deliveryman on the Castillos' route. Getting the man's name, Holmes grabs the list of exterminators from the earlier kidnappings, and finds a match: Samuel Abbott.
A SWAT team storms into the apartment listed as Abbott's home address, and finds it empty except for a cluster of balloons saying "Good Job!" and "Congratulations!" Attached to the balloons' string is a flash drive, on which is found a video from a digital camcorder: Abbott tells the police to give him back his "son," Adam, by noon the next day, or he will kill Mariana.
The Castillos plead with the NYPD to agree to Abbott's terms, but Gregson says it is not that simple; Adam is a victim of the Balloon Man as well, and they can't send him back against his own parents' wishes. The Castillos angrily point out that, if it is true, as they heard on the news, that Adam is being offered immunity from prosecution, that he is an accomplice to Abbott's crimes. Moreover, Adam is legally an adult, which means that if he will agree to go back to Abbott to save their daughter's life, he should be offered that choice. Gregson says that, since the Kempers hired an attorney, he does not have the authority to make that offer. The Castillos storm out, promising that they will sue the NYPD if their daughter dies.
Gregson reflects aloud that the Kempers' attorney prevents any cop from speaking to Adam - but what about a "non-cop" like Holmes?
Holmes interviews Adam in private again, pleading with him to help them save Marianna's life. Adam is distraught and confused, saying he honestly doesn't know whether to protect Abbott or punish him, and, more than anything, he is scared of being prosecuted for what Abbott made him do. Holmes tells him that the immunity deal is now on the table. Adam wipes away a tear, and says that he will sign the deal, and tell him where he and Abbott lived.
While Abbott is feeding Mariana a sandwich, another SWAT team bursts into his apartment and tells him to release her. At first, Abbott holds a gun on her, but then cracks and says, "tell Adam I'm sorry" and shoots himself in the head.
Mariana is safe, but Holmes, looking over the crime scene, is still not satisfied. Dead or alive, Abbott is not a very impressive figure, and doesn't seem to fit the profile of The Balloon Man. Looking over the apartment, Holmes notices one bedroom is generously furnished, while another is bare except for a mouldy cot. Watson assumes that the latter is where Adam slept, but Holmes looks closer at the pillow on the bed, and the broken window, in the larger bedroom.
That evening, Adam enters his old bedroom in his parents' home, and is surprised to see Holmes sitting there. Holmes admits that he entered through the window, much in the same way that Adam exited his bedroom in Abbott's apartment, though Holmes didn't cut his hand the same way Adam did.
Holmes has figured out that Adam, not Abbott, is the killer. Abbott was a disturbed man, who kidnapped a child out of loneliness. Imagine his surprise, Holmes muses, when his abductee became the dominant one in their relationship. Abbott continued to live in squalor, while lavishing attention and gifts upon his "son," who occupied the larger, generously furnished bedroom, and eventually persuaded his "father" to cross the line from kidnapping to murder. Adam abducted and killed all of the subsequent children, with Abbott as the accomplice.
Adam smiles and reminds Holmes that he has an immunity deal that makes him untouchable. He excuses himself to go downstairs for dinner with his overjoyed parents, inviting Holmes to let himself out the same way he came in.
At home, Holmes furiously throws a knife, repeatedly, at a copy of Adam's immunity paperwork. Watson finishes a phone call with her friend at the District Attorney's office, who says the language of the deal is ironclad: Adam cannot be prosecuted for any crimes committed in consort with Samuel Abbott. She tries to console Holmes that he did make a difference, by helping to save Mariana's life, but he retorts that "hand[ing] a psychopath a get-out-of-jail-free card" is nothing to celebrate. As he takes aim with the knife again, Watson suggests that he do some more squats if he wants to blow off steam, as it would be easier on the decor. Holmes grumbles that he can't, he overdid the squats the previous night, and his back has been aching all day. He raises the knife... and lowers it, having found the loophole he wants.
Adam is sitting on a bench next to a playground, innocently watching the children at play. Holmes sits down next to him, and Adam taunts him that he'll be a law-abiding citizen from now on, but would love to share some of the details of his past crimes with the detective. Holmes shows Adam some new information from his case file. One of The Balloon Man's victims, the fifth, was kidnapped while Samuel Abbott was in the hospital, undergoing back surgery. That one kidnapping and murder was all Adam's own work, but his immunity deal only covers crimes committed "in consort with" Abbott. Adam's cool begins to slip, as he sees the police squad cars converge around him. Holmes says Adam is free to try and run if he wants to, but then again, fair play is really not his style, is it?
Holmes gets up to leave, and Adam defiantly says that he won't be in jail for long, since he is only being prosecuted for one murder, and the jury is bound to sympathise with the fact that he suffered abuse at Abbott's hands. To Holmes, it is a feeble defiance, and he doesn't bother to look back as Adam is arrested.
That evening, Holmes opens his case files again, protesting as Watson pours herbal tea and starts to close the house for the night. Holmes insists that, at the successful conclusion of a case, he is full of energy and momentum, and it is the perfect time for "them" - he, Watson, and "Angus" - to go through his old cases. He predicts that he will solve three cases before midnight - but when Watson turns around to bring him his tea, he is fast asleep, snoring against the easy chair.
Behind the scenes
- The episode was initially titled "The Balloon Man".
- Holmes's statement, '"From a drop of water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other" is quoted from A Study in Scarlet.
- Jonny Lee Miller – Sherlock Holmes
- Lucy Liu – Joan Watson
- Aidan Quinn – Captain Thomas Gregson
- Jon Michael Hill – Marcus Bell
- Johnny Simmons – Adam Kemper
- Yancey Arias – Robert Castillo
- Michael Countryman – Barry Kemper
- Erin Dilly – Amanda Kemper
- Selenis Leyva – Sara Castillo
- Christopher Evan Welch – Samuel Abbott
- Larisa Polonsky – Lori Thomas
- Andrew Chamberlain – Young Adam Kemper
- Don Guillory – News cameraman
- Brian O'Neill – Kemper FamilyaAttorney
- Flint Beverage – Sgt. O'Donnell
|#01 Pilot||#09 You Do It To Yourself||#17 Possibility Two|
|#02 While You Were Sleeping||#10 The Leviathan||#18 Déjà Vu All Over Again|
|#03 Child Predator||#11 Dirty Laundry||#19 Snow Angels|
|#04 The Rat Race||#12 M.||#20 Dead Man's Switch|
|#05 Lesser Evils||#13 The Red Team||#21 A Landmark Story|
|#06 Flight Risk||#14 The Deductionist||#22 Risk Management|
|#07 One Way to Get Off||#15 A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs||#23 The Woman|
|#08 The Long Fuse||#16 Details||#24 Heroine|