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The Rat Race

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"The Rat Race"

Season 1, Episode 4

The-Rat-Race
Air Date 25 October, 2012
Writer Craig Sweeny
Director Rosemary Rodriguez
Viewers 10.31 million (U.S.)[1]
Previous "Child Predator"
Next "Lesser Evils"

"The Rat Race" is the fourth episode of season one of Elementary. It first aired on CBS on 25 October, 2012.

Summary Edit

After a teaser that reveals Sherlock tied up in the back of an SUV, we flash back to two days earlier when Gregson calls him in to consult on a case. A Wall Street executive has gone missing, and even though Holmes despises financier types, he is still eager to solve the mystery. Sherlock uncovers the executive's shady dealings and finds that he died of an apparent heroin overdose. But even though the police have all but ruled out foul play, Holmes suspects that someone at the victim's firm may be killing his way to the top.

Plot Edit

Part One Edit

Watson approaches Captain Gregson and Detective Bell at the precinct, admitting that she has not heard from Holmes for several hours, and is worried about him. Gregson says he wouldn't be worried, and Watson, uncomfortably, says he is not supposed to be unreachable at any time. Gregson says that sounds like a strange relationship for a personal assistant and her boss, and Watson, even more uncomfortably, admits that she and Holmes live together. Gregson thinks he understands, but Watson hastens to add, "it's not like that." Gregson asks what is going on, and Watson admits that she is a sober companion, hired by Holmes's father to help him through his post-rehab experience. That information is confidential, and she is only sharing it with Gregson because she is genuinely afraid that he might have relapsed.

Elsewhere, Holmes regains consciousness to find himself in the backseat of a car, with his ankles zip-tied together and his hands cuffed behind his back.

Part Two Edit

TWO DAYS EARLIER

Watson is having lunch with her old friend, Emily Hankins, who confesses that she has arranged an "ambush set-up," inviting over her friend, Aaron Ward. Though Watson hasn't dated for quite some time, she can't deny that Aaron is attractive, so they begin to converse. They are interrupted by a terse text message from Holmes, saying he needs Watson right away.

At the brownstone, Holmes is dressing hurriedly, saying he and Watson have been summoned to a meeting of the board of directors of Canon-Ebersol, the mammoth investment firm. Holmes honestly doesn't know what it's about, only that Captain Gregson recommended his services to them. Watson asks Holmes whether he should wear a suit to such a formal environment, and Holmes says he detests bankers - a gang of amoral crooks who put on suits and ties to convince other people that they are respectable citizens.

Jim Fowkes, the company's Chief Investment Officer, says that their Chief Operating Officer, Peter Talbott, has disappeared, after failing to appear the day before for the company's quarterly call with its institutional investors. Captain Gregson says the NYPD cannot investigate until Talbott has been missing for at least two days, but the company needs to find him quickly, lest their investors start to worry. "When these people whisper, Mr. Holmes, millions of dollars disappear." Holmes, unimpressed by the corporate setting, agrees to take the job, provided the company will pay his normal consulting rates, times twelve. To prove that he's worth it, he makes a few casual observations about the other board members at the table - for instance, two of them are having an affair with each other, and a third (a man) recently removed ladies' nail polish from his hands - and Fowkes quickly agrees to his terms.

Fowkes's secretary, Donna Kaplan, ushers Holmes and Watson into Talbott's office. Holmes notes that, as he expected, Talbott has a row of books on his shelf, the spines of which have never been creased - except for one, inside which Holmes finds a little black book with a "menu" of high-class prostitutes. Deducing that Peter Talbott needed a way to hide the monies he spent on such pursuits, he opens the contact list on Talbott's email account and finds two accountants listed - one belongs to a large, respectable firm, the other is an independent, Martin Rydell.

At Canon-Ebersol's expense, Holmes invites Rydell to lunch with him and Watson at one of New York's most expensive restaurants. Watson asks him whether he sees any hypocrisy in his behavior, and Holmes retorts, none at all: if he's going to work, even at a distance, with such despicable people, he will do everything he can to "redistribute" their dirty wealth, and make sure their wallets are lighter at the end of it. In addition to lunch for himself and Watson, he also orders a bottle of the restaurant's most expensive wine, as a gift for the young couple at the next table, as Holmes has deduced that the man is about to propose to his girlfriend.

Rydell arrives and is distressed by Holmes' initial questions. He gets up to leave, but Holmes offers to telephone the New York Post and splash his secret work for Talbott (and, likely, plenty of other Wall Street big shots) all over the front page. Rydell sits back down and admits that he set up a dummy corporation, and a secret slush fund, allowing Talbott to divert a portion of his paycheck for his private activities. Holmes asks where they might find Talbott, and Rydell admits that the dummy corporation rents an apartment in Tribeca. They are briefly interrupted when the woman at the next table joyfully accepts her boyfriend's marriage proposal, and then Holmes asks for the apartment's address.

Walking to the apartment, Watson is furious to hear from Holmes that Aaron texted her while she was in the ladies' room, inviting her to dinner, and Holmes already accepted on her behalf. Holmes asks what her objection is, since they both know that she finds Aaron attractive. Watson says he doesn't know that at all, but trails off as Holmes rings the doorbell of the apartment building and, using a fake Brooklyn accent, tells the superintendent they are detectives with a warrant to search one of the apartments.

Inside the palatial apartment, they find Peter Talbott, lying dead in an easy chair, with a syringe sticking out of the crook of his elbow.

Part Three Edit

Talbott's disappearance is now a police matter, and Gregson and Bell are on the scene. As Holmes watches, Watson gently asks whether the mere mention of heroin is threatening to trigger a relapse in Holmes, but he says he's fine - he's on a case, and his feelings don't enter into it.

Bell says the scene fits the picture of an accidental overdose, but Holmes objects. The apartment is much too neat and tidy to have been used by a junkie, and Talbott has no needle tracks on his arm. Bell says that there are no signs of a struggle, so it is extremely unlikely that someone could have forced Talbott to shoot up against his will. Holmes agrees - instead, it is much more likely that someone drugged him into insensibility, and then stuck him with the needle. Since any drug other than heroin would show up on toxicity screens, Holmes points to a half-eaten salad container on the kitchen counter and suggests that they test the dressing for traces of heroin. Gregson agrees, then says they need to break the news to Talbott's widow. Holmes asks to come along, since the wife of an adulterer is always the prime suspect in his murder, but Gregson tells Holmes to observe and keep his mouth shut.

At the police station, Talbott's widow, Alyssa, says she knew about her husband's past activities with prostitutes, but believed he had given it up long ago. As for drug abuse, she swears she had no idea that Peter did any such thing - although she admits that she can't say she's very surprised. She explains that Peter was only recently appointed COO, and has been under tremendous pressure lately. According to her, he used to joke that the last COO dropped dead just to get out of going to work in the morning. Holmes speaks up, asking how the previous COO died. Confused, Mrs. Talbott said the man was deathly allergic to peanuts, and died after a Chinese restaurant carelessly slipped peanut oil into one of his takeout meals. Gregson hurriedly thanks Mrs. Talbott for her time and ushers her out, before he and Bell round on Holmes. Holmes says two deaths of Canon-Ebersol's COO, in less than a year, cannot be a coincidence.

That evening, Holmes finishes a phone call in semi-fluent Mandarin with the chef of the aforementioned Chinese restaurant. According to the chef, Canon-Ebersol's previous COO, Gary Norris, was extremely careful about avoiding peanuts, that he always ordered from the same restaurant, and that his meals were always personally prepared by the chef, who is positive that no peanut oil got into the dish that ultimately killed him. Holmes is sure that both Norris and Talbott were murdered.

As she pours tea, Watson asks Holmes if there is anything he wanted to say at Peter Talbott's apartment. Holmes admits that he had forgotten the smell of heroin, and it brought back bad memories. At Talbott's apartment, Holmes insisted that heroin users are found in squalid places because they use the drug to escape their surroundings, and Watson could tell he was speaking from experience. So what, Watson asks, was Holmes using heroin to escape? Rather than answer, he reminds her that she had better start getting ready for her date. She says she will stay with him that night, but Holmes says he will be fine, though he will take a drug test upon her return if that will satisfy her doubts.

To her own surprise, Watson has a good time out with Aaron, but once she returns, she confesses to Holmes that she suspects Aaron might be lying when he claimed to have never been married. She confesses that it is not the sort of thing she would have noticed before she started working with Holmes. Holmes gaily produces his phone and does a quick search of the city's marriage records, despite Watson's objections that she is not a "cyberstalker." But she is furious when Holmes's search reveals that not only did Aaron lie, he is currently married to his wife Grace.

Meanwhile, Holmes has identified no fewer than four other "accidental" deaths of high-ranking executives of Canon-Ebersol over the last ten years, and says they will be calling another meeting of the company's board of directors the next morning.

At the meeting, Holmes details the careers, and deaths, of the five persons, noting that, in each case, the person's death cleared the way for someone else. Fowkes says Holmes did his job by finding Talbot, and that is all. Holmes wonders aloud why they're not more disturbed by the fact that there may be a cold-blooded killer among them, since the murders are much too calculated to be the work of a random psychopath. Holmes demands access to their company's personnel files, and Fowkes refuses absolutely, saying those files contain confidential details of accounts worth billions of dollars. Holmes scoffs and said he shouldn't have to look too hard or too long: all he is looking for is someone who worked in Denver, Houston, and finally New York during the years when the other victims died. Fowkes impatiently says that Holmes shouldn't have to look at all, because the only such person is himself! Fowkes says the idea of him being a murderer is preposterous, yet Holmes just stares, and the other board members begin to shift and whisper.

Act Four Edit

The next morning, Fowkes appears at Holmes' home to deliver his consulting fee in person. Fowkes is furious because, at a cutthroat institution like Canon-Ebersole, even the whisper of suspicion Holmes pointed at him has effectively killed his chances of succeeding Talbott as COO. Fowkes freely admits that he is everything Holmes despises about bankers - greedy, ruthless, amoral, manipulative - but he is no killer, and he can prove it. At the time the first of the so-called murder victims died, Fowkes was in the hospital, recovering from cosmetic surgery. He shows Holmes the records. "You think there's a sociopath working for us?" Fowkes sneers. "Let me let you in on a little secret, Mr. Holmes: we're all sociopaths." With that, he leaves.

That evening, Holmes is obsessively bouncing a basketball on the floor. When Watson complains about the noise, he says that as long as he's thinking about the case, things won't be getting any quieter, so she may as well accept Aaron's later invitation to coffee. Watson, trying to resolve Holmes's dilemma, theorizes that the first murder was a crime of passion, rather than opportunity. Holmes concludes that the first murder fits the pattern of the rest, but since no one other than Fowkes could have benefitted from the string of murders, and he has proven that he didn't do the first one, Holmes is stymied.

But as soon as Watson has left, Holmes looks again at Fowkes's hospital records, and notices who signed him out.

In the parking garage of Canon-Ebersol, Holmes confronts Donna, Fowkes' secretary, who has been with him since the beginning of his career. Holmes admits that he was wrong to think that Fowkes was the only person who benefitted from the string of murders: every time he rose, Donna rose with him, getting increased pay, better benefits, pension rights, prestige, etc. Holmes congratulates Donna on her audacity: she is a "corporate killer" in the truest sense of the word, doing what is necessary to safeguard her own position and improve her lot with the company. Donna scornfully says that she has seen a hundred people like Holmes come and go at Canon-Ebersol: "a little bit of brains, and a whole lot of ego." If Holmes wasn't so enamored of his own success, she says, he would have known better than to confront her, alone, in an empty parking garage. With that, she pulls a taser out of her purse and stuns Holmes into unconsciousness.

Part Five Edit

Holmes regains consciousness in the backseat of Donna's car. From the driver's seat, she informs him that she is driving to Fowkes's country home, where she will bury his body. Fowkes will take the blame, and his competitor, Dan Cho, will likely need an experienced secretary to watch his back while he climbs to the top. Holmes congratulates Donna on her calculation, and suggests, facetiously, that Canon-Ebersol should make her Chief Operations Officer instead. She scoffs that they don't have the imagination. During this conversation, Holmes palms a binder clip from a pile of documents on the seat, and starts to pick his handcuffs.

After meeting with Aaron, Watson texts Holmes several times, and is worried when he doesn't reply, leading to her going to Captain Gregson. She admits her true relationship to Holmes to Gregson, and confides her worry that Holmes's brief exposure to heroin at Talbott's apartment may have triggered a relapse.

Donna, seeing the texts on Holmes' phone, returns a bland response to keep Watson from getting suspicious. Gregson, seeing the message, tells her everything must be fine, but Watson is unsettled.

At Fowkes' country estate, Holmes refuses to dig his own grave, and Donna says fine, it's not supposed to be deep anyway. As she presses the gun to the back of Holmes's head, he invites her to share how she started her "career" as a corporate sociopath. After all, he says, Holmes will not be telling anybody, and it must rankle Donna to keep her actions a secret, when she is clearly smarter and more audacious than half the men who hold high positions at Canon-Ebersol. Donna begins to explain how, while she was working for Fowkes in Denver, while he was a bond salesman, the company was about to downsize his job, when... a police car rolls up, siren blaring, and Holmes takes advantage of Donna's temporary distraction to disarm her and knock her out, having finally picked his handcuffs.

As dawn breaks, Watson approaches Holmes as he is being treated by paramedics. Holmes guesses, correctly, that Watson could tell the text message Donna sent from his phone wasn't from him, since it lacked his style. After that, it was a simple matter for Watson to have the police triangulate his phone's location. Holmes starts to explain how it was all "part of his plan" to save himself, and Watson asks, with wry amusement, if he is taking credit for her saving his life.

Then Watson admits that, in her concern for his safety, she admitted her true role to Captain Gregson, and Holmes should probably have a talk with him.

An unusually diffident Holmes trudges into Gregson's office and tries to explain himself; at first, he convinced himself that it was best for both of them, if Gregson didn't know he was using a recovering drug addict as a consultant. But the harsh truth is, Holmes was embarrassed; Gregson has always admired Holmes and his abilities, and Holmes was more vain about that, and more afraid to lose that esteem, than he cared to admit. But in retrospect, Holmes has decided that Gregson deserves to know.

To Holmes's surprise, Gregson says he already knew. He may not be the genius Holmes is, but he's not an idiot and he does his homework on his consultants. Gregson admits that he was unhappy that Holmes couldn't be honest with him, but will attest that Holmes's abilities haven't slipped one bit since they worked together at Scotland Yard. Holmes is unusually gratified. Gregson lowers his voice and says not everyone will see things the same way, so, for both their sake, this will stay their secret.

The next morning, while she is preparing for her jog, Watson gets a text message from Aaron, declining her invitation that they go to Emily Hankins's party together. Watson admits to being stung by the rejection, and also admits that this makes no sense, since she really doesn't want to be in a relationship, much less with a married man seeking a green card. Yet it seems that Aaron believes that Watson was in the wrong, by looking him up online.

Holmes muses that developing one's powers of deduction has its costs; once one learns to see the puzzle in everything, he or she learns that people are the most fascinating puzzles of all, yet they seldom appreciate being seen as such. It is, Watson and Holmes sadly agree, a lonely way to live.

Cast Edit

Regular Edit

Guest stars Edit

Season One navigation Edit

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 Edit

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