Baker Street Wiki
Baker Street Wiki

"Dirty Laundry" is the eleventh episode of season one of Elementary. It first aired on CBS on 3 January, 2013.


Sherlock and Joan investigate the murder of a woman who managed a high end Manhattan hotel. At first, there seems to be no shortage of suspects. Her husband had been laid off from work and was sleeping on the couch. A neighbor claims that a strange man kept coming by the house. A group of prostitutes had been frequenting the hotel and using it as their base of operations. When all of the leads dry up, however, Sherlock is left with an odd but irrefutable hypothesis – the victim's family life is a ruse. The victim and her husband are actually Russian spies.


Part One[]

At the Brownstone, Joan Watson is appalled at the state of the kitchen; there are virtually no clean dishes, not even a mug from which to drink her tea. Sherlock offers his own, out of which he is eating pasta. He defends the mess as "the sign of an active mind," naming many historical geniuses who have drawn inspiration from chaotic surroundings. She warns him that she only has ten days left as his sober companion, and worries that many of his bad habits will outlast their time together. Sherlock, meanwhile, seems to be counting the minutes until they can say goodbye.

In the basement of an upscale New York hotel, two maids are bickering about one eating the other's lunch, when they hear a clatter coming from inside one of the jumbo washing machines. One of them opens the door, revealing a dead woman inside.

Part Two[]

Captain Gregson conducts Holmes and Watson through the crime scene. The dead woman is Teri Purcell, the general manager of the hotel. The preliminary medical exam indicates that she died of blunt force trauma to the head, then her killer stuffed her into the washing machine to get rid of forensic evidence. Holmes notes that the security cameras monitoring the hallway leading to the laundry room are not working, and Gregson says they already checked that with the maintenance staff, who say that the cameras have not been working for weeks, despite being repaired several times. Besides the body, the police also found bed sheets, and a fountain pen, snapped in half. Yet Holmes sees no ink stains on the body or the sheets.

In Teri Purcell's office, Holmes sees family pictures, awards from various charities - everything jibes with the portrait provided by the hotel's staff, that Ms. Purcell was a wonderful person, and everyone loved her. Holmes observes that few people are as good as they appear on the outside. He also points to a bloodstain on the corner of Purcell's desk, and deduces that this is where the altercation started.

In a New York suburb, Gregson and Co. interview Teri's husband, Oliver, and her teenage daughter, Carly, both of whom insist that Teri had no enemies, and they have no idea who would want to hurt her. Holmes observes clues that Oliver has recently been sleeping on the couch, and using the guest bathroom, and wonders aloud if he and Teri were having problems after Oliver recently lost his job. Oliver replies that Teri knew he had lost his job, though they were keeping the fact secret from Carly; he was sleeping on the couch because he was suffering from insomnia and didn't want to wake Teri.

In the kitchen, Watson is helping Carly pour water for the "guests," and notices an acceptance letter from the University of Michigan, granting Carly a full athletic scholarship. Carly admits that she suffered a bad knee injury in high school, and was addicted to painkillers for a while. Watson reveals her experience as a sober companion, and invites Carly to call her if she ever needs to.

Outside the house, Holmes grouses that the orderliness of suburbia drives him crazy, and tends to conceal any useful clues. Watson points to a neighbor woman who is trimming her hedge even though it is early winter, and shrewdly identifies her as a prime source of neighborhood gossip (the gardening is just a convenient excuse for her to hang out on the street and watch her neighbor's comings and goings). In private, the woman excitedly reveals her suspicion that Teri was having an affair, since a certain handsome man dropped by the house when Oliver wasn't there. The neighbor even took pictures of the man, including a shot of his car's license plate.

The man, Geoffrey Silver, administers a charity that helps dismantle unexploded land mines around the world. He tells Holmes and Watson that Teri was heavily involved in the charity work, but denies any improper relationship with her, citing Oliver as a mutual friend. As to his whereabouts the night before, he says he was having dinner with friends, whose names he is happy to provide.

As they exit the interview, Holmes is unsatisfied; everyone they have talked to thus far indicates that there is nothing to hide, which Holmes finds impossible to believe. Then Detective Bell tells him they have a new lead: Teri Purcell banned a series of prostitutes who frequented the hotel, and later received a series of anonymous death threats, probably from their pimps. Bell invites Holmes and Watson to accompany him on a visit to the Vice Squad, but Holmes says he and Watson have "a thing."

The "thing" turns out to be sipping coffee in the lobby of the hotel, where Holmes predicts the prostitutes will be returning now that Teri Purcell is dead. Holmes quickly identifies one lone woman, Harmony, as a "working girl," and asks her about Teri, and whether any of her or her colleagues' "managers" had a grudge against her. Harmony says, on the contrary, her and her colleagues all adored Teri, because she made it that much easier for them to work at the hotel: she helped arrange their appointments, and sneaked them in and out of the hotel as needed. The "ban" Teri imposed was just for show; after some guests at the hotel complained, Teri helped them to keep a lower profile. After imparting this information, Harmony gives Holmes a card, suggesting that if he (or Watson, or both of them) would like a date, then "we could have some fun."

Part Three[]

The NYPD Vice Squad questions several prostitutes who work in the neighborhood of the hotel, and all of them confirm Harmony's story: Teri Purcell was a prime "facilitator" for their work at the hotel. She even sabotaged the security cameras in the basement, to give the girls a safe corridor for entering and leaving the hotel. The strange part, Gregson says, is that Teri never took a cut of their earnings, either from the girls or from their pimps, all of whom adored her. "You're saying she was a volunteer madam?" Watson asks in disbelief.

Holmes asks about the anonymous threats Teri received, and Gregson says that Teri did have to ban one woman from the hotel, after she got high and made a scene in the lobby. That woman made the threats, but she is currently in jail for drug possession, so she can't be the killer.

Watson can't understand why Teri Purcell would risk her career for nothing, and Holmes decides that a second inspection of her office is in order.

While he is examining Purcell's desk, Holmes suggest that Watson stay on as his apprentice, rather than move on to her next companion job; if she feels it necessary to claim that she is still his companion, he will support whatever fiction she decides to tell his father. Watson says she is not a detective, and their time together will be over soon, and Holmes finds it hard to believe that her next client will bring her profound professional satisfaction.

Contrary to his expectations, the desk has no hidden compartments, but while he is emptying one of the drawers, he finds a curiously heavy powder compact. Inside a false bottom, he finds a wireless router, linking Purcell's laptop to a private network. The content of the network is the feeds from a series of hidden cameras installed in the hotel's rooms.

At the precinct, Holmes theorizes to Gregson that Purcell was blackmailing guests at the hotel, which is why she arranged their dates with prostitutes, and why she never took a cut of the money. Gregson laments that Holmes's theory widens the net of possible suspects, and it will take a team of detectives days to sift through the footage. Holmes says not necessarily. That evening, Holmes is parked in front of his seven televisions, each of which is running the footage from a different camera. The odd thing, he remarks to Watson, is that most or all of the footage is "prostitute free" and there is nothing incriminating on it.

While he is doing this, Watson takes a call on her cell phone from Carly Purcell, who says she needs someone to talk to, because she has to admit that her mother, Teri, was not the woman everyone thought she was... but she hangs up when she sees Oliver looking over her shoulder.

The next morning, Holmes has finished examining the videos, and moved on to a series of photographs on Teri Purcell's laptop. The photographs themselves are innocuous family snapshots, but Holmes has noted the odd fact that each image occupies more than a gigabyte of memory on Purcell's hard drive. Holmes recognizes it as steganography - the encoding of data in plain sight. With a decryption program sent to him by a contact in London, Holmes decodes the pictures into more video footage from the hidden cameras. Again, there are no prostitutes: instead, there are foreign gentlemen conversing intently, either on the phone or with each other. Holmes calls Gregson, saying they need to return to the Purcells' home immediately.

Holmes and the police confront Oliver Purcell as he is carrying out his garbage, and Holmes congratulates him on the success of his "cover identity." His English is flawless and without accent, but Holmes noticed several cultural tells that indicates an upbringing in Russia. Oliver and Teri are both Russian sleeper agents. The police have already investigated Oliver further, and found out that he didn't lose his job, he quit - the financial consulting firm he worked for acquired a contract for the Department of Defense, that would have required all employees to pass a background check. Teri, meanwhile, used her position at the hotel to make it popular with international businessmen and diplomats from the United Nations (hence her facilitation of the prostitutes), and used the cameras to learn their secrets. Oliver demands a lawyer.

Part Four[]

At the precinct, Holmes is chafing because the FBI has taken over the case, and forcing the NYPD (and him) to wait for them before they can interrogate Oliver. Watson appears to calm Holmes down, asking if Carly has been found, since she wasn't at the house when Oliver was arrested. Holmes says no, and they had better find her soon, especially if she was an accomplice to her parents' espionage. Watson impatiently says that Carly is a confused teenager, not a sleeper agent, and she needs help because "she's all alone." Holmes realizes he has missed a vital connection: "spies are never alone..."

Holmes and Bell confront Geoffrey Silver at his office, where Holmes likewise compliments Silver on his lack of accent, and his successful concealment of his role as the Purcells' handler. Silver denies it, and Holmes looks on his computer and finds any encoded images have been deleted. They are interrupted by a call from Gregson, who says that Oliver Purcell is willing to talk, and the FBI has invited them to sit in.

With his lawyer present, Oliver admits that he and Teri were both agents for the Russian SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service). Being a couple was just part of their cover identity, but Carly is their biological daughter; after settling in America, Oliver and Teri were ordered to conceive, in order to improve their image as a "real American family." Oliver said that he and Teri never loved each other, but they both loved Carly. Holmes points out that the SVR invested a great deal in the Purcells' cover, and they must have had plans for their daughter as well. Oliver admits that they did, but he disagreed. Oliver wanted more for his daughter than for her to waste her life "serving a lie" as he and Teri had. Teri disagreed, and wanted to initiate Carly as a spy, but Oliver threatened to expose the operation to the U.S. government. Oliver says he doesn't know who killed Teri, but he will tell the FBI everything else he knows, in exchange for their written assurance that Carly will be left alone. Oliver also confirms that Geoffrey Silver is their handler.

During the interrogation, a distressed Carly calls Watson's cell phone, and asks to meet her. When Watson meets her, Carly says that she saw her father being arrested, and believes that Oliver is being suspected in her mother's murder. Carly says they can't, because she is the one who killed Teri.

Part Five[]

In Gregson's office, Carly confesses: the night Teri died was the same day Carly received her letter of early acceptance from the University of Michigan. Carly was so excited, she told her mother first - and was surprised when her mother wasn't as thrilled as she was. Teri called Carly to meet at the hotel, where Teri told her the truth: that Teri and Oliver were Russian spies, and that Teri intended Carly to follow that path. Teri insisted that Carly attend Georgetown and eventually get a job in the U.S. government - something that Carly, as a naturalized U.S. citizen, could do where Teri could not. Carly was shocked, confused, and angry - her lifelong dream was always to play soccer in college, for which she had recovered from a near-crippling injury. She refused to follow her mother's plan for her, for a country she had never seen. Carly started to storm out, but Teri grabbed at her, and Carly was so angry that she pushed Teri away, causing her to hit her head on the corner of her desk. Then Geoffrey Silver arrived, saw what had happened, and told Carly to go home while he disposed of the body. Silver warned her that there were people who could hurt her and Oliver if their secret got out, and now she had no choice but to spy for Russia. Carly rushed home and tried to put the evening out of her mind.

Silver is arrested, but says he cannot confirm anything Carly may have told them. Gregson says they now have proof of his involvement in espionage, and he will be in prison soon. Silver just laughs, and says that spies don't get imprisoned, they get traded; right now, the U.S. is probably browsing a list of political prisoners in Russia who could be exchanged for him. Gregson is stymied, and says they will simply let events take their course. "You ruined that girl's life," is Watson's goodbye to Silver.

At the Brownstone, Holmes enters Watson's bedroom to find she has created her own "evidence wall" in the fireplace grate. He says he is flattered that she is copying his methods, but wonders why, since the Purcell case has been solved. Watson is not satisfied with this solution, however, saying Carly does not deserve what has happened to her. "How do you deal with cases not working out the way you want them to?" she asks morosely. "The only promise a puzzle makes is an answer," he replies, "liking that answer doesn't factor in. In our line of work, it mustn't."

However, Holmes has entered her room with a parcel that was just delivered: Teri Purcell's autopsy report, which Watson requested from Gregson's office. The first thing she notices is an x-ray of Purcell's hand, showing a boxer's fracture in her finger bones. Yet Carly never said anything about Teri punching her. Looking again at the evidence board, Holmes remembers a detail that has been nagging at him from the beginning: the fountain pen found with Teri's body.

The next day, at the precinct, Holmes and Gregson, confront Geoffrey Silver in a conference room. Holmes says that Silver must be looking forward to going home, but Holmes, mock-apologetically, says, "I'm about to bollocks that all up for you." Silver has denied being at the hotel, or seeing Teri Purcell on the night she died, but Holmes has a new theory.

If Carly is telling the truth, Silver sent Carly home, then dragged Teri's dead body down to the laundry room and placed it in the washer. What Carly didn't know is that Teri wasn't dead, only knocked out, and she regained consciousness in the laundry room. Holmes explains that Silver had a big decision to make: Teri was a loyal, long-serving agent of the SVR, but her death was the leverage that Silver had just used to convince Carly into joining "the family business." Carly may be a teenager, but her long-term potential as an agent was staggering, and much greater than Teri's; as a natural-born citizen, she could grow up to be President of the United States one day. So, Silver decided to "retire" Teri, and bludgeoned her to death. Teri fought back, fracturing her hand in the process, and tried to stab Silver with his own fountain pen, but only succeeded in breaking the pen in half.

The proof: the pen was actually filled with invisible ink - an old trick, but still very much in use among spies. An ultraviolet light has revealed that the sheets in the washer and Teri's clothes were liberally stained with the ink - as is the Zegna shirt that Silver was wearing on the night of Teri's death. Also visible on the shirt is Teri's handprint. Silver can say nothing, and Holmes casually informs him that, while the U.S. might trade a spy, it will not trade a murderer, and Silver's "stay" in America will likely be extended for at least twenty years.

Outside Gregson's office, Watson comforts Carly, telling her that Oliver is being given immunity in exchange for his testimony, and both he and Carly will be placed in the Witness Protection Program. Carly tearfully says that, even though Teri wanted her do a terrible thing, she was still her mother and Carly loved her. Watson reminds Carly of the advice that Teri told Carly a long time ago, that Carly repeated on the day she and Watson first met: "tough times don't last, tough people do." Bell appears to take Carly to see her father. Carly thanks Watson for all her help, and says she knows who to call whenever she's in trouble.

On a bench, Watson sits next to Holmes, who congratulates her for her doggedness and says he looks forward to teaching her everything he knows about detection. Watson interrupts and says she has already been engaged by her next companionship client, and they will be saying goodbye in a few days. Holmes is shaken, but only (he claims) by having his deduction proven wrong. Uncertainly, she asks, "are you all right?" He replies, "my dear Watson, whenever am I not?"

Behind the scenes[]


  • When interviewing supposed love interest, a woman in a purple business suit goes from walking towards the main cast to sitting and on the phone mid-sentence.



Guest stars[]

  • Mark MosesOliver Purcell
  • Melissa FarmanCarly Purcell
  • Jake WeberGeofrrey Silver
  • Cynthia DarlowMrs Dean
  • Leigh Ann LarkinHarmony
  • Jennifer Regan – Agent Claudia Camden
  • Shirley RoecaEstella
  • Natalie ToroMarisol
  • Simon Jutras – French businessman
  • Arash Mokhtar – Middle Eastern diplomat #1
  • Al Nazemian – Middle Eastern diplomat #2
  • Sam Freed – Oliver's lawyer

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