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"Flight Risk"

Season 1, Episode 6

Flight Risk 2
Air Date 8 November, 2012
Writer Corinne Brinkerhoff
Director David Platt
Viewers 10.90 million (U.S.)[1]
Previous "Lesser Evils"
Next "One Way to Get Off"

"Flight Risk" is the sixth episode of season one of Elementary. It first aired on CBS on 8 November, 2012.

Summary

After hearing an unusual incident reported over his police scanner, Sherlock races to the crime scene and finds a downed private plane that crashed on a beach. The NTSB suspects mechanical failure, but Sherlock uncovers a body that was murdered before the plane went down. Using his powers of deductive reasoning, Sherlock must unravel the mystery and determine if the killer went down in the crash or if he is still at large. Meanwhile, Watson attempts to get Sherlock to go to dinner with his elusive father, who is in town on business.

Plot

Part One

Joan Watson is awakened early in the morning by radio chatter from downstairs, and runs downstairs in her sleepwear, with her hands clamped over her ears, to find Sherlock's police scanners turned up full blast. Sherlock appears with a bowl of cereal, half-apologizing for the noise by explaining that he didn't want to miss a single report while he grabbed breakfast from the kitchen. He complains that it has been a slow week for murder and mayhem in New York City, and he hasn't been called for a single consultation. While he is listening, Watson mentions that Holmes's father emailed her, inviting her and Sherlock for dinner while he is in New York on business. Sherlock finds this extremely amusing, explaining to Watson that his father has no intention of meeting with them; he deals with everyone, his own son included, at arm's length.

They are interrupted by a report of an "unusual incident" at Far Rockaway Beach, which Sherlock identifies as a plane crash. Sherlock is excited to hear Captain Gregson's voice, reporting his arrival at the scene, and tells Watson to get dressed right away.

Gregson is surprised by Holmes and Watson's appearance on the beach, which is strewn with the wreckage of a small plane. He says there is nothing for Holmes to do, since the crash appears accidental, and the NYPD is simply lending a hand to the NTSB, who already have their own expert, Miranda Molinari, on the scene. But Holmes looks at one of the four bodies on the scene, and notices that his leg was almost completely severed by a piece of fuselage, yet there is little to no blood on the man's trousers. The man was already dead when the plane went down, meaning he was murdered.

Part Two

Holmes examines the corpse of the murder victim, Hank Gerard, and sees that the man was killed instantly by a heavy blow to the back of the head. The shape of the wound indicates that it was inflicted by a heavy wrench, not the plane's fuselage.

While Sherlock examines the crime scene, Watson asks him if he is all right, since he seems a little "off - even for you." Sherlock says he is simply trying to do his part to solve a murder, and Watson points out that, if one of the passengers, or the pilot, attacked the dead man, then the murderer died along with them, and there is no killer at large. She wonders aloud whether Holmes is just trying to give himself an excuse for missing dinner with his father that evening.

All three of the passengers - Gerard, Walter Devlin, and Ellie Wilson - were attorneys with the same law firm. Gregson interviews Charles Cooper, the head of the air charter service, who confirms that those attorneys frequently flew with their airline, though he didn't know them well. The only person he did know was the pilot, Joe Newell, a model employee. Cooper is positive that, if anyone attacked the passengers aboard the plane, it wasn't Joe. He doesn't know if the attorneys had any enemies, but offers a security video from the air charter firm's parking lot.

Outside the interrogation room, Watson receives a text from Mr. Holmes's secretary, fixing the time and place of their dinner engagement. She says that Sherlock should show up, regardless of whatever issues he has with his father, who obviously cares about him. Holmes impatiently informs her that his father doesn't care about him, he does what he does for his son out of obligation, and he certainly has no intention of showing up for dinner. They are interrupted by Bell, who says he has a new lead.

After speaking with a junior partner at the law firm, Bell has learned that the three attorneys were headed to Martha's Vineyard to work on a pending class action suit against Carmanto Foods, who were allegedly marketing a sugar substitute that causes cancer. According to the junior partner, there was a heated dispute between Gerard and Devilin about how to proceed - Devlin thought the settlement the company offered was fair, while Gerard insisted on holding out for more. Then Gregson gets a call from Molinari, informing them that the plane's flight recorder has been recovered.

On the recording, they hear Walter Devlin shouting at Gerard, while Ellie Wilson tries to calm him and Joe Newell objects that he needs to be able to hear the air traffic controller over the radio. Suddenly, there is the sound of turbulence and the plane goes down. Molinari says Holmes appears to have been right, someone attacked the other passengers mid-flight. Holmes says, on the contrary, his initial theory was quite wrong: what they are hearing from Devlin is an entirely one-sided "argument", in contrast to the loud disturbances between Devlin and Gerard that were reported from the halls of the law firm. Holmes picks out Gerard's cell phone from the recovered debris and confirms that Devlin was leaving Gerard an angry voice message, meaning Gerard wasn't even in the plane's cabin, and Devlin was chewing him out for failing to show up. Molinari says that is impossible, Gerard's body was in the wreckage. Holmes has a new scenario: someone killed Gerard before the flight took off, then stuffed his body into the plane's cargo hold (which would also explain why the murder weapon, the wrench, hasn't been found in the wreckage). No one in the cabin was aware of this, since Newell, an experienced pilot, would have known better to have taken off with such a heavy weight in the hold that could have caused the plane to lose control - which is exactly what happened.

Holmes concludes that whoever killed Hank Gerard is still alive, and at large.

Part Three

At the precinct, Holmes puzzles over the board of evidence. Watson notices the conspicuous absence of photos from the crash site, and asks if he is afraid of flying. Holmes scoffs at this, then Bell comes in, saying Cooper has retrieved the footage from the security camera. It shows Hank Gerard in the parking lot of the hangar, arguing with a heavyset man whose back is to the camera. The video confirms that Gerard arrived at the hangar, which increases the likelihood that he was killed there.

That afternoon, Holmes is examining the video on his computer; the man Gerard was arguing with never faces the camera, but Holmes notices a "Carmanto Foods" logo on the sleeve of his polo shirt. The man has no distinguishing marks or features other than the old-fashioned pager attached to his belt. Watson says she is getting ready for dinner with the elder Holmes, and gives Sherlock one last chance to join her. Sherlock rejoins that she has one last chance to believe him when he says his father won't be there. Watson heads upstairs in exasperation, but leaves one parting shot: the mystery man's "pager" is actually an insulin pump, which should make it that much easier for Holmes to track him down.

At the local office of Carmanto Foods, Holmes and Bell interview employee Ed Hairston. At first, Hairston denies being at the hangar, but when Bell offers to show him the footage, Hairston closes the door and admits that he was helping Gerard with his investigation, blowing the whistle on the company's hazardous product. Gerard was angry with Hairston because he refused to testify in court, and that's what they were arguing about, but Hairston swears that when he left the hangar, Gerard was alive. During this interview, Hairston fumbles nervously with a bottle of pills, and Holmes abruptly terminates the interview and leads Bell out. Bell asks why, and Holmes explains that Hairston suffers from Type-2 diabetes, the side effects of which include very weak hand strength. Hairston's is so weak that he could barely open the pill bottle, and has to use special ergonomic office supplies. There is no way Hairston could have hefted the heavy wrench that killed Hank Gerard. Bell says, if that is the case, they have nothing. Holmes says, on the contrary, they have sand.

Watson appears at the restaurant and meets Mr. Holmes, a distinguished-looking Englishman in a suit who greets her warmly. She begins to apologize for Sherlock's absence, but the elder Holmes brushes this off, saying his son has always been perversely stubborn. Even as a boy, he refused to heed his father's warnings about playing on a fence, which led to him falling and suffering a compound fracture of his wrist. With a chuckle, Mr. Holmes says that Sherlock was so stubborn that he refused medical treatment for his fracture, setting the bone and bandaging the wound himself.

Watson is beginning to enjoy her conversation with the elder Holmes, when he asks her, out of the blue, if Sherlock is satisfied with the sexual services she is providing as his "companion." Watson looks askance, then swiftly realizes that she is being pranked. "Mr. Holmes" confesses that he is an actor, hired by Sherlock to impersonate his father, who, as Sherlock predicted, never showed up. The actor apologizes for tricking her, but encourages her to see the funny side: "If you could see your face right now..."

In the hangar where the crash investigation is being conducted, Holmes leads Bell and Molinari to the remains of the plane's fuel tank. Holmes explains that, after their conversation with Hairston, who says Carmanto Foods knew that their sugar substitute was deadly, despite looking just like real sugar, Holmes remembered seeing some unusual grains of sand on the beach near the crash site. The grains had not been weathered by the elements, meaning they were commercial sand instead of natural. At first, Holmes thought the city had dumped the sand on the beach to prevent erosion, but he confirmed with the Parks Department that this had not been done for a year. Holmes has realized that the plane was sabotaged: someone poured sand into the fuel tank, which would have initially settled on the bottom, but after the plane took off, would have been sucked into the engine turbines and caused the plane to crash. Hank Gerard must have surprised the saboteur in the act, which is why he was killed. Molinari follows the theory: if the saboteur's plan had worked, the plane would have crashed into the ocean on its way to Martha's Vineyard, and all traces of the sand would have been washed away; instead, the weight imbalance caused by Gerard's body in the cargo hold caused it to crash prematurely. Holmes reaches a gloved hand into the fuel tank and pulls out a handful of sand, confirming his theory. Now they know why Hank Gerard was killed, the remaining mystery is, who did it, and why did they want to bring down the plane?

Part Four

Holmes is looking over the case files at the Brownstone, when Watson returns home in a black mood. Holmes, like the actor, encourages her to see the funny side, and says she should have trusted him about his father, who, she confirms, has just emailed her to say he was called away on important business.

Holmes says he has found an interesting detail and wants to go interview a suspect. Watson says he will be doing it alone, as she is going to bed. Holmes says she has no real grounds to be upset, since she should have trusted him when he predicted his father wouldn't show up. Watson loses her temper, saying that trusting Holmes is impossible when they have lived together for five weeks, and he has refused to share a single detail about his past life: if he wants her to trust him, he has given her nothing to work with.

With Watson absent, Holmes and Bell interview Owen Barts, the air charter service's mechanic, at his home at night. Holmes says he hadn't realized Barts was also a pilot. Holmes has noticed the same mathematical error in the flight logs for Barts's regular flights between New York and Miami: the cargo weight and fuel imbalance were off by exactly 66 pounds (30 kilos) on every return flight. 30 kilos is a very popular weight for shipments of smuggled cocaine. Holmes theorizes that Joe Newell found out about the smuggling, and threatened to expose Barts, who engineered the plane crash to kill Newell. Barts says he has an alibi: Mr. Cooper's car stalled that morning, and Barts had to go to his home to jump-start it. Cooper will confirm that, and Barts bids the two detectives goodnight.

The next morning, Watson is startled awake by the sight of Holmes sitting in a chair in her bedroom. Holmes confesses that he has a certain preoccupation with plane crashes, though not for the reason she thinks. Holmes is not afraid of flying, per se, it's just that he sees so much whenever he boards a plane - the nervous tics of a pilot's hands, the unhappy shuffle of the mechanic's feet - that he can't help but imagine the plane going down. Holmes says he is attempting to demonstrate his trust in her by sharing something personal, but she finds it a pretty feeble confession. Then Bell calls, saying Charles Cooper is at the station.

Cooper admits that Barts called him the previous night, confessing that he killed Hank Gerard and sabotaged the plane, and pleading with Cooper to confirm his alibi. Cooper refused, and Barts said he was going to flee the country.

Going to Barts's home, Gregson, Bell, Watson, and Holmes find a heavy wrench in his garage, but no sign of Barts. They are fairly sure the wrench will turn out to be the murder weapon, but also agree that it is much too convenient for the wrench to be lying in plain sight. Holmes examines it further and finds traces of brackish water, indicating the wrench was recently retrieved from its hiding place and then planted. He further theorizes that whoever planted the wrench also killed Owen Barts. Bell asks what evidence he has that Barts is dead, rather than on the run. Holmes pries open the lids of a series of synthetic motor oil cans - a curiously expensive, high-end choice for use in Barts low-performance Toyota Camry - and dumps out fat rolls of money. He facetiously invites them to consider the odds that a man going "on the lam" would purposefully leave behind somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 of his ill-gotten gains? So, if Barts is dead, who is their next most likely suspect as the saboteur and the killer of Hank Gerard?

Part Five

Cooper is held for questioning at the precinct. Cooper is pale and sweating profusely, but he insists on his story: Owen called him, and fled after Cooper refused to support his alibi. While Holmes and Watson are watching the interrogation, Watson notices a scar on Holmes's wrist that is almost, but not quite, covered by his tattoos. Holmes shrugs and says he got it from a compound fracture after falling off a fence as a child. Watson suddenly remembers an errand she has to run, and excuses himself.

In the hallway, Gregson and Bell says Cooper won't confess, because he knows they have no proof linking him to the crimes. Holmes notices Bell filling Cooper's third glass of water from the cooler, and realizes how to trap him.

At a Manhattan bookstore, Watson confronts Alistair, the actor, who also works at the store. When they had dinner, she picked up a receipt that fell out of his book, with an employee discount on it. "You really have been spending a lot of time with him, haven't you?" Alistair says with amusement. Watson has realized that Alistair must know Sherlock well, since the story he told about Sherlock's childhood injury was true.

Over coffee in the bookstore's cafe, Alistair says he has been an actor for several years now, and first met Sherlock when the 10-year-old boy wrote him a fan letter to congratulate Alistair on his Yorkshire accent in a London radio play. "It was odd, but I was also very flattered." They became friends, and continued to correspond after Alistair moved to New York City. Watson says that Holmes doesn't have any friends, and Alistair chuckles, "not in the traditional sense, no." But he tells Watson not to expect Holmes to relate to her the way other people do. "The moment you do, he'll migrate out of your life, and you'll be the poorer for it." Watson asks if Alistair knows anything about Holmes's previous drug use. Alistair is uncomfortable at first, but then he opens up: he knew Holmes was dabbling with drug use during their acquaintance, but Alistair was confident he would grow out of it. Suddenly, a few months ago, Holmes showed up at Alistair's apartment, "so high he could barely speak." Alistair flushed his drugs down the toilet and sat up with him during the night. Alistair confesses that it was very hard for him, seeing a mind like Holmes's reduced to babbling idiocy, repeating the same name over and over again. Watson asks what the name was, and Alistair says it doesn't matter, he asked Holmes about it the next morning, and Holmes said it was just a nonsense word. But Watson presses, and Alistair admits that Holmes might have been lying, and Watson should know the name.

Under interrogation, Charles Cooper finishes a pitcher of water, and Holmes notes the strange fact that he hasn't asked to use the bathroom once. He also notes Cooper's sickly appearance, and the fact that he and his clothes are reeking of model airplane glue. Holmes has figured out that Cooper fought with Barts the previous night, and suffered a serious wound to his side before he killed Barts. Instead of going to the hospital, where questions would be asked, Cooper patched his wound with model glue (an old trick used by military field medics). He has been drinking water steadily to compensate for blood loss, which is why he has not had to urinate. Cooper claims that he cut his side open on a sharp piece of metal in the hangar, but was delayed from seeking medical treatment by Owen Barts's call.

Holmes and Gregson inform Cooper that they know from the wrench he planted that he likes to hide things in brackish water, and they also know that, because of his wound, he was in no condition to dig a grave the previous night. There are two local bodies of such water, which the NYPD is searching as they speak. Gregson says Barts's body will be found eventually, but Cooper could save them some time by confessing and telling them where to look. He could also give himself a chance to avoid the death penalty, since sabotaging aircraft is a federal crime frowned upon by the U.S. Government. Cooper wilts.

That evening, Watson returns home to find Holmes packing up his case files on the plane crash. Watson says she has a personal question for him, and Holmes cheerfully asks her to wait for him to go into his room and shut the door and ask it when she is positively sure he can't hear her. As he heads upstairs, Watson says, "I know about Irene." Holmes freezes on the stairs, and turns to Watson with an expression she's never seen before.

Behind the scenes

Music

Zoe Keating – We Insist

  • When Sherlock pieces together that murder victim was not on the plane.

Brad – Screen

  • When Watson mentions Irene at the end.

Cast

Season One navigation

Season One
#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

References

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