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I must say, Watson, I enjoyed catching a glimpse of you in your former element. Seems to me your friend was right. You were quite a doctor.

— Holmes

Lesser Evils is the fifth episode of Elementary's first season and the 5th episode overall.


Holmes tries to determine who has been killing weak and terminal patients at a hospital, making it look like they died of natural causes. Meanwhile, Holmes learns more about Watson's decision to walk away from her surgical career.


S01E05-Holmes choking body

"This is important work, Watson."

At the Chandler Memorial Hospital morgue, Holmes chokes a corpse to study bruising while Watson looks on. As they leave, Holmes notices a different corpse and asks the attendant, Bruce, how the man died. Bruce indicates recent heart failure and the man was suffering from terminal brain cancer. Holmes believes the man was murdered by epinephrine poisoning. After Bruce gives them the man's room number, Holmes bursts in and discovers a janitor inside. He throws water into the hallway so the janitor will exit to clean it up and then bars himself and Watson in the room. After Holmes shows Watson a photo of a wound on the man's body that proves he was poisoned, he examines the room. With security guards pounding on the door, Watson confirms that the IV machine's rate was lowered to prolong the poison's effect and Holmes finds several coffee cups in the trash with lipstick on one and a receipt. Security forces the door and Holmes politely asks to be directed to the hospital administrator's office.

A short time later, Captain Gregson is talking to the administrator, Richard Sanchez, and while Holmes and Watson are waiting outside, they meet Dr. Carrie Dwyer, an old colleague of Watson's. Dwyer asks if Watson is applying for a position at the hospital and Holmes discovers her suspension was only for a few months. Gregson calls them in to meet Sanchez and Dr. Mason Baldwin, the head of surgery. Holmes demands the hospital files but his rudeness results only in the body being released to the police, after he apologizes. Walking out of the hospital without knowing the dead man's name, Holmes fumes at the perceived injustice and tells Watson that they'll be seeing a barista named Dave who wrote his name and number on the back of the lipstick-smudged coffee receipt.

S01E05-With Jacqueline

"Seemed like the right thing to do."

While they are waiting in line at the coffee shop, Holmes points out that Watson deceived him in that she could practice medicine again if she wanted to, but Watson reveals that isn't true, as she let her license expire. From Dave the barista, they are given a description of the woman he served but, no name. However, they deduce from her wearing a white lab coat and heavy perfume that she works at a beauty shop in the area. They quickly find the woman, Jacqueline, and learn that she and the dead man, Trent Kelty, were neighbors. A good Samaritan, Jacqueline looked in on Kelty after he lost his eyesight as he had no friends or family that cared for him. From her subway ticket, they see she left the hospital well before Kelty died. Jacqueline also tells them that Kelty had terminal cancer and only a few months to live. She also says that his only other visitor was a man she presumes was a doctor, who conversed with him at night. Leaving the shop, Holmes theorizes Kelty was killed by an "angel of death."

Holmes and Watson reveal to Dr. Baldwin that Trent Kelty's autopsy revealed he was killed with epinephrine and a murderer is at work in the hospital. Holmes asks him for the hospital's records which Baldwin says he will get from Sanchez even if he has to threaten holding a press conference. At the 11th Precinct, Holmes pores over the records without success. He cannot find any instances where epinephrine went missing from the pharmacy when patients died of cardiac arrest. Watson shows Holmes another drug source, hospital crash carts. Working together, they find nine patients who died when epinephrine went missing from the carts. At the hospital, Holmes plans to meet Detective Bell to question the staff who were on duty when the nine patients died, while Watson is going to meet Dwyer for coffee and question her.

Holmes finds himself in an elevator with the janitor he met in Kelty's room the previous day. He apologizes for his behavior, which the janitor accepts. As the janitor leaves, he presses all the floor buttons. Holmes stops at Baldwin's office and lets him know he's discovered Baldwin is on probation for two surgical deaths. Baldwin denies any wrongdoing and shows he was on a train when Kelty died. He also says he's indifferent to patient suffering, which isn't what would drive the angel. Walking outside, Dwyer tells Watson she can't think of any suspects and invites her to a patient consultation. They examine a teenage girl, and Watson notices a hemorrhage under the girl's toenail. Bell and Holmes interview Dr. Cahill, who is visibly nervous until he learns their questions concern an angel of death. Holmes dismisses Cahill, who he believes is hiding something but isn't the killer. Watson tells Dwyer the toenail splinter may be endocarditis and convinces her to run a test to check for this.

Leaving the hospital, Watson explains to Holmes that she didn't keep in contact with Dwyer as she wanted to make a clean break from her past profession. She also tells Holmes about the endocarditis case and that the test for it was negative. Holmes convinces her to ask for a conclusive test as first instincts are usually correct. In the parking lot, Holmes see Cahill's car even though he was supposed to be off duty hours ago. With security guards in tow, Holmes comes upon Cahill in a patient's room, about to siphon off morphine. At the Brownstone, Holmes is angry with himself for not noticing Cahill's morphine addiction and having no suspects. Watson reviews the cases and notices one of the patients killed, Samantha Cropsey, didn't have a terminal illness. Gregson calls Holmes to the precinct where Cahill is being questioned. Cahill says that one night after he'd taken morphine, he went into the patient's bathroom to shoot up. While there, a doctor he didn't see or know came in and talked to the patient at length.

Elated that he was right about an angel, Holmes works all night at the precinct. Watson argues with Dwyer about ordering a conclusive endocarditis test for her patient. The next morning, Holmes shows Watson that the second victim was Ukrainian and spoke little English; however, someone helped her fill out consent forms. No hospital medical staff speak Ukrainian, but Holmes says, as Watson knows, not all doctors stay doctors. Later, Holmes and Gregson interrogate Danilo Gura, the janitor Holmes encountered several times. Holmes deduced Gura's background and his personnel file confirmed he was a doctor in the Ukraine. A search of Gura's residence revealed a detailed log on the nine murdered patients. Gura admits to being the angel and that he carefully studied patients who had no hope of recovery. When Holmes accuses him of killing Cropsey, who was recovering, Gura becomes angry and accuses them of lying.

S01E05-Baldwin green

Baldwin changing Cropsey's chart.

As Gura is arrested, Gregson congratulates Holmes, who is puzzled why Gura refuted the one patient's terminal illness. While looking through the evidence at the Brownstone, Dwyer visits and tells Watson that she was right, her patient did have endocarditis, but that an unknown person ordered the test in the patient's chart. Dwyer thanks Watson and hopes she comes back to medicine. This gives Holmes an idea why Gura killed the patient who didn't have a terminal illness. Questioning Dr. Baldwin at the precinct, Holmes says that Baldwin realized there was an angel at the hospital which he could use to frame if he made any more surgical mistakes. After leaving a surgical clamp in Cropsey, he altered her charts to read she had terminal cardiac cancer and lowered her pain medication. This made her a target for Gura.

Baldwin's confidence there is no proof evaporates when the surgical clamp from Cropsey's exhumed body and an original copy of Cropsey's charts, provided by Gura from a photo he took, are produced. At the Brownstone, Holmes watches the news coverage of Baldwin's arrest, remarking that the most satisfying moment is when the killer crumples under the realization he has been caught. Holmes also remarks that catching a glimpse of Watson in her former element was quite enlightening, and perhaps she will return to it one day. In her room, Watson browses through photos on her tablet of herself and her friends from when she was a doctor. She selects them all for deletion, hesitates at the confirmation prompt, and then presses "Yes."


Main cast[]

Guest cast[]


Main article: List of songs
  • Norah Jones's "Travelin' On" plays at the end of the episode.


Interesting that she didn't refer to you as her friend, probably because of your falling out. You call her by a familiar nickname, and yet you haven't spoken in a year and a half. What was it that drove you two apart? Man, job, failed sapphic dalliance? Fingers crossed for the last one.

— Holmes to Watson and Carrie Dwyer

These coffee orders. The Magna Carta was less complicated.

— Holmes to Watson


  • This episode was loosely based on a real Angel of Death named Kristen Gilbert.[1] She was a nurse who was convicted for murder of patients admitted for care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Northampton, Massachusetts. She killed her patients by injecting them with epinephrine, causing them to have heart attacks.[2]
  • The episode also appears to partly be based on Jayant Patel, a hired surgeon with significant records of reckless endangerment and grievous harm of patients during surgeries, both in New York and Australia. Patel had falsified records to cover up the crimes, but Australia eventually convicted Patel on charges accordingly.
  • The opening scene where Holmes is choking a corpse was inspired by a reference in Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet, where Holmes hit corpses with riding crops to study post-mortem bruising.[3]


In other languages[]

Language Title Translation
čeština Czech Anděl smrti[4] "Angel of Death"
suomi Finnish Pienempi paha[5] "The Lesser Evil"
français French L'Ange de la mort[6] "The Angel of Death"
Deutsch German Todesengel[7] "Angel of Death"
magyar Hungarian Angyalok és orvosok[8] "Angels and Doctors"
italiano Italian L'angelo della morte[9] "The Angel of Death"
日本語 Japanese 死の天使[10] "Angel of Death"
русский Russian Меньшее зло[11] "Lesser Evil"
slovenčina Slovak Anjel smrti[12] "Angel of Death"
español Spanish Mal menor[13] "Lesser Evil"
українська Ukrainian Менше зло[14] "The Lesser Evil"


  1. Elementary Writers (@ELEMENTARStaff). "This episode was loosely based on a real Angel of Death" November 2, 2012.
  2. "Kristen Gilbert". Wikipedia. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  3. Elementary Writers (@ELEMENTARStaff). "The opening was inspired by a reference in A Study in Scarlet: Sherlock hit corpses with riding crops to study post-mortem bruising." November 2, 2012.
  4. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Sherlock Holmes: Jak prosté (Czech). Wikipedia.
  5. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Holmes NYC (Finnish). Wikipedia.
  6. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Elementary (série télévisée) (French). Wikipedia.
  7. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Elementary (Fernsehserie) (German). Wikipedia.
  8. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Sherlock és Watson (Hungarian). Wikipedia.
  9. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Elementary (serie televisiva) (Italian). Wikipedia.
  10. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). エレメンタリー ホームズ&ワトソン in NY (Japanese). Wikipedia.
  11. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Элементарно (Russian). Wikipedia.
  12. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Sherlock a Watsonová (Slovak). Wikipedia.
  13. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Elementary (Spanish). Wikipedia.
  14. Wikipedia contributors (n.d.). Елементарно (телесеріал) (Ukrainian). Wikipedia.