This week on “Elementary”: A sleazy twerp trims his nosehair and lies to his wife over the phone that he’s working late when really he’s about to have a cheap motel tryst… But the twist is the actual victim, a Damian Novak, who is worse than Nosehair Guy: He got catfished by a seemingly underaged girl, and apparently met instead a serial vigilante who lures out sex predators and beats them until they admit their crimes online.
Detective Brooks: Brooks has doubts that Novak’s killer is the vigilante. The vigilante has released videos of five men so far. Each case took place in Brook’s jurisdiction in New Jersey: The men were all released alive, and none were threatened with a gun. But Sherlock has connected the cases because Novak’s wrists were bound with the same distinctive red ziptie the vigilante used, and thinks perhaps Brooks’ catfish has moved into deeper waters.
Stephanie Novak: The dead man’s tearful wife unsurprisingly denies to Watson and Detective Bell that her husband was a sex predator but she actually offers a compelling reason: Novak’s sister was sexually abused by a family friend as a teen, and Novak never got over it.
Garrett Lerner: Stephanie’s brother Garrett is less convinced of Novak’s innocence. He convinces his sister to tell the police she found pictures of young women on her husband’s laptop, and reveals she thought he was having an affair: Garrett even confronted him about it. Garrett is super helpful though, because when Stephanie tells Detective Bell that her husband’s computer is now password-protected, Garrett is able to immediately pull up the file of young women on his phone, because his sister sent it to him and he held onto it for … reasons? Good job, Garrett! You’re definitely not weird and creepy.
Zane Diller: The CEO of True Romantix, the dating website where the vigilante targeted predators, is guilty of many crimes (including having the name Zane Diller, and spelling Romantix like that). He refuses Sherlock access to the files of the men attacked by the vigilante and whoever they may have corresponded with, citing reasons like mistaken identity and right to privacy. Sherlock surmises that they really just care about protecting their reputation for being a discreet website for married creeps, a la Ashley Madison. Zane’s not interested in Sherlock’s logic or attitude and shuts him down. Just a garden-variety jerk, or someone with a vested interest in protecting sex offenders?
Molly Parsons: Sherlock lets Zane Diller off the hook surprisingly easily, but that’s because even while he’s involved in a heated discussion he has observed an employee making copies inefficiently — which leads Sherlock to conclude she dislikes Zane and wants to help. (Just go with it, it makes sense when he says it.) He notes that she writes code and takes anti-anxiety medication. She admits she hates her job and that her boss is like an actual comic book villain — which would explain why he’s named Zane Diller. She gets Sherlock’s email address and promises to get him the data he needs. She seems nice!
Everyone’s operating under the assumption that Novak was targeted by the vigilante, but the pieces don’t quite fit. When Molly sends Sherlock the data, it turns out Novak wasn’t registered on the website. Further, the vigilante set up different profiles to lure each predator, and used stolen credit cards for each profile, so he proves difficult to trace until Sherlock pulls up the phony accounts in front of Watson. She recognizes the photos right away: They’re the same girls in the pictures on Novak’s laptop that Garrett had on his phone. Novak wasn’t a victim of the vigilante: he was the vigilante.
The Investigation Continues
Working backwards, Joan and Sherlock identify three profiles still in use by Novak the vigilante. One of the phony girls, Kendra, was supposed to meet a target at the motel that night, but he’s the only person who is pretty evidently not Novak’s killer: It’s Nosehair Guy, aka Winston Utz, and Damian’s dead body crashed through his window. He’s devastated to find out his underage paramour was fictional, because of course he “loved” her, but he quickly gets over that and offers info, as long as they don’t tell his wife about the fictional Kendra.
Bell and Watson are disgusted, but Captain Gregson makes the deal. Turns out Nosehair Guy had set up a camera to record his tryst with his fake underage girlfriend, and it captured a white Toyota Camry speeding away right after the second gunshot. Nosehair Guy is the WORST… But there’s actually enough information in his statement for Gregson to arrest him on a Class E felony for luring a child. Guess his wife will be finding out after all.
Sherlock has gone back to the drawing board — the “pervert family tree,” as Joan dubs it — and posits that one of the men exposed by Novak may have sought revenge. One’s in a coma, one’s in prison, and two have fled the country, which leaves a Jack McGill — yet another uber-creep, in an episode full of them.
McGill lost everything after the vigilante video, including his kids, wife and job. He hides out on a boat which has been tagged with PERVERT in red paint. He still claims he didn’t have an account on True Romantix, though, and the one in his name was a setup. He was in the process of being sued for sexual harassment by an employee named Yvette Ingram when the video went public, and she ended up with a hefty settlement. McGill maintains Yvette set the whole thing up, and somehow engineered Novak into believing the fake account was really McGill.
Now we’ve got catfishers being catfished. What is the world coming to?
In the meantime, Novak’s laptop is finally cracked, both proving he’s the vigilante and unearthing a new fact: he had a ninth profile on a different website altogether, and this time he was targeting a woman. Yvette Ingram!
The new working theory is that Ingram somehow knew about Novak’s hobby, and created a fake McGill profile to manipulate Novak into ambushing him. But when McGill protested his innocence in the media and blamed Yvette for setting him up, Novak began to doubt he’d gotten the right guy, and tried reaching out to Yvette through a phony profile. The motive? Yvette’s ten million dollar settlement — only Yvette barely got any money from the settlement, because it was funded by a litigation firm, plus she has an alibi.
Sherlock does a little catfishing of his own to get a list of investors in Yvette’s case and he and Watson recognize a name: Garrett Lerner, Novak’s brother-in-law. When Lerner confronted Novak about whether he was having an affair, Novak came clean about his vigilantism, so Lerner used that knowledge to create the phony Jack McGill account and trick Novak into exposing McGill — so that Yvette would win her suit, and Lerner would recoup his investment. Another winner! At least he admits he’s despicable. However, he’s not the killer either, and he’s got an alibi to prove it. Which means we’re running out of suspects and it’s back to the pervert tree.
Joan has decided to dig back into the two men Novak exposed who had fled the country. One of them, a field hockey coach named Sean Fitzhugh, had been accused of repeated sexual abuse by a former student who was fourteen at the time. She came forward six years later and gave a detailed statement to police in New Jersey where it had happened, and talked about the regimen of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication she needs to be able to function.
Sherlock, crestfallen, has a realization: “Well the problem is I don’t just know who killed Damian Novak, Watson: I liked her.”
Detective Bell and Sherlock bring Molly Parsons into the precinct and Sherlock tells her he knows why she was so helpful: She wanted to know what the police had on Novak’s murder, because she was the killer. She owns a white Camry and a 9mm handgun, the same caliber that was used to kill Novak. The anxiety meds Sherlock noticed were the same ones described by Sean Fitzhugh’s now-adult victim. New Jersey police had been investigating her claims and had unearthed several other girls he had molested over the years, but before they could finish building a case, Novak exposed Fitzhugh online and he fled the country, meaning he likely won’t end up in jail for his crimes.
Molly dropped out of college and got a job at True Romantix to unearth the vigilante’s identity on her own, and waited for him at the motel where Novak was going to meet Nosehair Guy. She didn’t want to kill him: Just shame him, and make him apologize for what he had done. But when he looked at her, he wasn’t afraid. He said he was going to keep doing what he was doing, and said perhaps the worst thing you can say to a righteously angry woman: “I’m sorry you’re upset.” And in his own way, he victimized her all over again.
In an episode full of terrible, sleazy men, everyone pays in some way. Even Sean Fitzhugh, who has fled to the non-extradition jurisdiction of Indonesia will face a lifetime in jail courtesy of Sherlock, who arranges for a law enforcement contact to plant a kilo of cocaine at his house and arrest him under the country’s tough drug laws. It’s a touching gesture, and a necessary one because Sean Fitzhugh will keep hurting young girls: but at the same time it’s troubling because in a way it robs Molly of her agency in the manner that Novak did. She was victimized, and all she wanted to do was find her own justice and reclaim that strength. Sean Fitzhugh does pay, twice over, with his exposure and his upcoming life sentence but at the end of the day it was men making these choices and decisions and not her.
It’s not a happy ending, but its certainly an accurate one.
“Elementary” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. PT/ET on CBS.