The absence of Joan Watson from last week's episode of Elementary gives one pause to consider the considerable strain the makers of that show have put on their Watson character. Without her, the story seemed comfortable simple. Kitty Winter's lack of backstory actually let her fit in more perfectly as an apprentice/sidekick to the show's star. Because Joan Watson just never has had the luxury of making sense.
Joan Watson was a surgeon. You know, someone who became a doctor, which takes much dedication and study, then goes through a lot more dedication, study, and trial to rise to the next level. It is a long, focused path. But someone dies during a procedure on Joan's table, and she gives it all up. Not just surgery, but medicine itself, unlike such TV medicos as Doc Martin, who just left surgery to become a simple country practitioner.
Perhaps it was just a matter of timing which led her to her next job in the controversial field of "sober companions." A very wealthy man, looking for such a caretaker for his formerly addicted son, might just recruit from able medical personnel who had recently given up their previous roles. Most sober companions are ex-addicts themselves, but Joan did not seem to be coming at it from that angle.
When she got laid off from her sober companion job, Joan Watson was hired by her former employer's wealthy son to be his paid apprentice. Consider that for a moment. Hired by an eccentric ex-addict to be his student . . . and this, a grown woman who had already graduated as an M.D., and then again as a surgeon.
Joan Watson's next step comes when she leaves that job because a.) She entered a relationship with her master's brother. (Hey, she's an apprentice, the word for him is "master.") and b.) the guy paying her left the country. She then becomes a consulting detective for the New York Police Department. Which has its own detectives on the payroll who probably were angry enough to have one "consulting detective" meddling in their investigation without his junior partner coming in to make up for their deficiencies after only about a year of training. (Sure, that is the way most companies in America hire their consultants, with the thought that anyone outside the organization must surely be smarter than anyone in it.)
Anyway, after a year of training as a criminal expert, Joan Watson is a free-lancer making enough money to survive in New York City. Six months from now, she's liable to be doing something else entirely.
Which makes me rather appreciative of Dr. John H. Watson, M.D. The doctor, the friend, the room-mate . . . the steady companion. Reliable, no surprises. And not the punching bag for Mr. Sherlock Holmes that some folks seem to think he was. Because the thing that makes the least sense about Joan Watson's career path is the unpleasant character her career choices seem to revolve around.