A Sherlockian Synopsis – Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 2 “The Sign of Three”

January 26, 2014

Fool Me Once…
I must say, there was quite a build up this episode in order to illustrate just what a ridiculous man our Sherlock is. We watched a beleaguered Lestrade struggle for eighteen months to catch the Waters Gang only to have his crowning moment interrupted by panicked texts from Sherlock. Lestrade passed the arrest on to Donovan and rushed to Baker Street with maximum backup only to find Sherlock’s emergency, the hardest thing he’s ever had to do, was writing a best man speech for John. It was quite nice to see Lestrade be able to figure out a crime on his own – it’s comforting to know he can solve a case sans Sherlock. Too bad he’ll never get credit for it though. Maybe John failed to mention  the time during A Study in Pink when Sherlock’s urgent texts pulled John across town only to arrive at Baker Street to find Sherlock preferred to use John’s phone to send a text.  Well, I suppose Lestrade owed him one after temporarily losing faith in Sherlock when Anderson and Donovan started filling his head with doubts last season.

The Big Day
While Sherlock testily protested to Mrs. Hudson that marriage doesn’t change people, the pensive look he gave John’s empty chair as the light hit it bespoke of other concerns rolling about in his head. Next we saw another of John’s favorite misanthropes readying himself for the day, later revealed to be Major Sholto, John’s old commanding officer. And lest there be any concern that John and Mary’s wedding day would be an occasion not wont for deductions, Sherlock made himself very useful to Janine, the chief bridesmaid, in her search for a romantic companion. Which didn’t stop her from flirting shamelessly with an unresponsive Sherlock for the reminder of the day. As futile as her efforts were, they made for many a good chuckle.

And who knew Sherlock would make such a crack wedding planner? He also set his never wavering gaze upon Mary’s friend David. Upon meeting Sherlock to learn of his duties as an usher, or so he thought, David instead had his façade ripped asunder as Sherlock swiftly summed up all the evidence stacked against him and then summarily downgraded him from friend to casual acquaintance! David was hardly able to choke out a protest before bolting from Sherlock’s presence.

Maggots? Cool!

Surprises abounded as Sherlock also had a bonding moment with young Archie the ring bearer, and would-be mini-Sherlock. What an endearing site it was to watch Sherlock flip through murder pictures to entertain the young lad. A non-traditional method for getting a child to cooperate, but effective nonetheless. Perhaps Sherlock won’t make such a bad uncle after all!

Sherlock finally displayed some jealousy at the wedding – but not in the general direction of Mary as many had presupposed. He clearly never saw her as a threat, but witnessing John’s affinity for Major Sholto shook him up a bit. Mary took note of this and sweetly attempted to comfort him, Oh Sherlock, neither one of us were the first you know and he responded by ordering her not to smile and stepping away to phone Mycroft.

Naturally, Mycroft offered no comfort and instead taunted Sherlock with what he saw as Sherlock’s impending abandonment by John now that he has Mary. Who or what is “Red beard”; why did Mycroft’s mention of it enervate Sherlock so?

The Detective’s Speech

So…you mean…I’m your… best… friend?

For a moment Sherlock appeared lost in the introduction to his speech. Thankfully his discombobulation passed quickly, though the anticipation of awkwardness made seconds seem eternal. John jogged his memory of the telegrams. Sherlock made it through a few of them before positively gagging over such phrases as many big squishy cuddles and truncating the majority of the notes.

Sherlock then told the story of how John asked him to be his best man. Initially he assumed John was querying him re: who is the best man, so he named Billy Kincaid, the Camden Garrotter. Measured against lives saved by Kincaid’s charitable donations, Sherlock felt the impact of Kincaid’s gifts to society far outweighed the impact of his propensity to terminate lives via acts of strangulation. A peculiar deduction indeed.  (I wonder, could Sherlock’s skull named “Billy” be the remains of this man?)

Upon fully understanding the question, Sherlock went on to suggest Lestrade, and then Mike Stamford, before John cut him off and insisted he wanted the two people he cared about most in the world to be there with him.  So naturally he wanted Sherlock to be his best man. Sherlock experienced a myriad of emotions that he attempted to convey by staring at John in complete silence before slowly stammering, So…you mean…I’m your… best… friend?

Once Sherlock began his speech in earnest, I cringed with thoughts of how wrong it could go.  And as the incredulous gasps spread throughout the audience and wedding guests looked on aghast, I wondered how Sherlock would turn it all around in the end. Of course he did and it turned out to be one of the most lovely best man speeches we could hope to hear:

“I’m afraid John I can’t congratulate you. All emotions, and in particular, love, stand opposed to the pure, cold, hard reason I hold above all things.  A wedding is in my considered opinion nothing short of a celebration of all that is false and specious and irrational and sentimental in this ailing and morally compromised world. Today we honor the deathwatch beetle that is the doom of our society and in time, one feels certain, our entire species. But anyway let’s talk about John.

Brace yourselves, the best man’s speech is coming.

If I burden myself with a little helpmate during my adventures, it is not out of sentiment or caprice. It is that he has many fine qualities of his own that he has overlooked in his obsession with me. Indeed any reputation I have for mental acuity and sharpness comes in truth from the extraordinary contrast John so selflessly provides. It is a fact, I believe, that brides tend to favor exceptionally plain bridesmaids for their big day. There’s a certain analogy there I feel. And contrast is after all god’s own plan to enhance the beauty of his creation, or it would be if god were not a ludicrous fantasy designed to provide a career opportunity for the family idiot.

The point I’m trying to make is I am the most unpleasant, rude, ignorant and all around obnoxious arsehole that anyone could possibly have the misfortune to meet. I am dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the beautiful, and uncomprehending in the face of the happy. So if I didn’t understand I was being asked to be best man, it is because I never expected to be anybody’s best friend. Certainly not the best friend of the bravest and kindest and wisest human being I have ever had the good fortune of knowing.

John, I am a ridiculous man. Redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship. But as I am apparently your best friend I cannot congratulate you on your choice of companion. Actually, now I can. Mary, when I say you deserve this man it is the highest compliment of which I am capable. John, you have endured war and injury and tragic loss (so sorry again about that last one). So know this:  Today you sit between the woman you have made your wife and the man you have saved — in short, the two people who love you most in all this world. And I know I speak for Mary as well when I say, we will never let you down and we have a lifetime ahead to prove that.”

Since this is Sherlock, and he is nothing if not dramatic and verbose, he barely gave anyone a chance to wipe away the tears once he displayed his love, and the epic best man speech continued with more stories about John…

The Bloody Guardsman
This flashback showed us that not only is Sherlock London’s greatest detective, he is also a master at seating arrangements. As comes as no surprise, he can tell just by looking at an RSVP which members of John’s family hate Mary, and he provided this information to arrange the seats accordingly.

However, Sherlock wasn’t so good at spinning yarns to Mary. Unlike John, she can tell when he’s making something up, so she forced him to confess that he did not break an alibi via his extensive knowledge of serviette folding; he learnt said intricate folding techniques on YouTube.

I give this shot four thumbs up!

It was hard to tell who was fooling whom in this scene, but I would like to believe that Mary fooled them both into going off on a case. At the end of the day, it was what everyone wanted, so the manner in which it was executed matters not really. I did love the shot where she gives each man the thumbs up unbeknownst to the other.  But Sherlock did deduce that she was a liar in the last episode, so it could be that he just went along with her ruse.

With that, the boys were off to discern what has caused this grenadier, Private Stephen Bainbridge, to acquire a stalker. While waiting for Bainbridge to get off duty, Sherlock questioned John about Major Sholto. John told him of how Major Sholto took a group of new recruits on a mission that backfired and they all died but him. Thus the press and the families of the fallen soldiers turned on Sholto and he gets more death threats than Sherlock (allegedly).

John segued into a moving expression of his appreciation of Sherlock in his life. However, Sherlock missed it because he had silently departed from the bench he had been sharing with John to continue his investigation. Pity, I thought it was a lovely sentiment. Though at this point it appears Sherlock is fairly confident in his relationship with John and requires no further assurances.

By the time Sherlock and John found Bainbridge, he was bleeding from a stab wound in his stomach. Fortunately Dr. Watson was on hand to point out that he was still breathing in time to save the Private’s life.

The Mayfly Man – The game is….something

Your calculations will not protect you.

As we’ve well established, Sherlock is the non-traditional type, so when it came time to plan John’s stag night, he decided they should have a drink in a pub on every street where they found a corpse. He also enlisted Molly Hooper’s help in order to ascertain precisely how much alcohol he and John should imbibe and at what rate to ensure they hovered round that ideal sweet spot of pleasant light-headedness without descending into sloppy dog-sick drunkenness.

All was going well as Sherlock timed and measured the alcohol, 443.7 ml of beer to be exact, and tracked their consumption and elimination via his iPhone app. Then, of course, John ordered a round and decided to crank it to eleven by sneaking shots into their beers.  Next thing you know, Sherlock is getting into a heated altercation about the qualities of ash that nearly came to blows before he successfully dodged a swing and John hauled him out of the bar.

These are your deductions under the influence.

After two hours out on the town, John and Sherlock were curled up on the stairs at Barker Street while Sherlock ranted incoherently. The drunken shenanigans continued in 221B when the two friends switched to what looked like whisky or scotch and played a game of “Who Am I?” (Oh Sherlock, don’t you believe in the old adages? Beer before liquor, never sicker!)

They could barely keep their heads up when a client named Tessa arrived. As disoriented as they were, it probably worked out in her favor as I sincerely doubt Sherlock would have made it through the tearful retelling of a jilted woman’s story had he not been very much under the influence. His face actually displayed something akin to sympathy when she broke down as she got to the part where this mysterious gentleman never called her.

Not even one phone call?!

Having determined that the game is…something, a besotted Sherlock bumbled and tripped through the crime scene before vomiting all over the carpet and getting both he and John arrested. Lestrade definitely enjoyed giving them a rude awakening in the drunk tank that rough morning after.

Not deterred by the unfortunate events of the previous night, Sherlock was on the case working to determine the connections between all these disparate women and the “ghost” they think they’ve dated. The “ghost” has to be a real man, capably and cleverly stealing the identities of dead men, but why? (My query for this scene is why does Sherlock need all those laptops and all those windows open in Safari? Couldn’t he accomplish the same tasks by using one laptop and tabbed browsing? I always figured Sherlock for a Google Chrome user.)

Vatican Cameos
I guess you can’t invite Sherlock anywhere, even a wedding, without attracting a murder most foul! While Sherlock and the happy couple were planning and rehearsing a wedding someone else was planning a murder.

Sherlock had this epiphany as he was delivering his final toast – Tessa referred to John as John Hamish Watson. She also told Sherlock to enjoy the wedding. This could only mean that she saw a wedding invitation. Which in turn meant the Mayfly Man wasn’t assuming these guises because he was a bored husband, but rather was going to great lengths to find out about this wedding.

Then the heat and the game were on. His speech should have been over, but he had to extend it while simultaneously deducing which guest was the Mayfly Man and who was his intended victim.  It didn’t take Sherlock long to deduce that Major Sholto was the victim. Leave it to mini-Sherlock Archie to point to the obvious connection – the invisible man who attempted to slay Bainbridge could certainly handle murdering someone in public. But how? When?

With Sholto locked in his room holding a loaded gun and no idea how this murderer was able to walk through a locked door, Sholto, Mary and John put the pressure on Sherlock to add it all up. At last, he did.  By stabbing Bainbridge and Sholto through their tight high-waisted belts, the murderer was able to commit a “delayed action stabbing” that only ended the victim’s life once the belt was removed.

Don’t just stand there, bust a move
Whilst awaiting Lestrade’s retrieval of the Mayfly Man, none other than wedding photographer Jonathan Small (who, like Major Sholto, gets his name from Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four), Sherlock gave Janine some dancing lessons. Sherlock had moves to spare and confessed his love of dance to Janine, who seemed more desirous of Sherlock’s companionship than ever.

Jonathan Small’s brother was one of the recruits who died under Major Sholto’s command and so constructed and rehearsed this intricate plan to avenge his brother’s death.  After Sherlock broke it all down as only he can and Small was in handcuffs, it was off to the dance floor. Not for Sherlock unfortunately. Whilst he was making deductions – a groom, a bride and a baby makes three! – Janine found herself another dance partner, Jeff, the sci-fi geek that Sherlock pointed out to her earlier as a possible candidate for her affections. Ever the loner, while the others danced the night away, Sherlock strode off into it with his collar up.

Question of the week:  There were many “signs of three” in this aptly named episode. What are some that you noticed?

Sherlockian Sequiturs:

“What big day? Two people who currently live together are about to attend church, have a party, go on a short holiday and then carry on living together. What’s big about that?”

“There was one feature and only one feature in the whole of this baffling case and quite frankly it was the usual. John Watson, who while I was trying to solve a murder, instead saved a life.”

“Sorry, did I say murder? I meant to say marriage, but you know they’re quite similar procedures when you think about it. The participants tend to know each other and it’s over when one of them is dead. In fairness, murder is a lot quicker though. “

“Well you’re hardly going to need me around now that you’ve got a real baby on the way.”

And I would be remiss if I failed to note this one from John: “You’re not a puzzle solver; you never have been. You’re a drama queen! Now there is a man in there about to die; the game is on. Solve it! “

Watch Sherlock on Masterpiece on THIRTEEN Sundays at 10pm through February 2nd.  Or watch online at Thirteen.org/Sherlock – past episodes will be posted online after they air.