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Recap: Sherlock S 02 E 01 A Scandal In Belgravia

"You could have chosen any random number and walked out of here today with everything you worked for. But you just couldn’t resist it, could you? I’ve always assumed that love is a dangerous disadvantage. Thank you for the final proof."
Sherlock Holmes

The story starts off with the cliffhanger of series one: Moriarty's got multiple snipers trained on John and Sherlock, who's aiming John's gun at a Semtex-laden coat at Moriarty's feet. And then Moriarty's phone goes off to the sound of "Stayin' Alive". After ranting a bit, he calls off the snipers and leaves Sherlock and John, having received a better offer from someone else.

But who was that someone else? Cut to a woman in a lacy thong putting away an expensive phone, picking up a riding crop and entering a bedroom containing a woman tied down to a bed. "Well then, have you been wicked, Your Highness?"

Sherlock and John return to solving cases, with Sherlock shunning the boring ones and John blogging about their adventures. This gains the duo notoriety, and according to John, attracts clients.

John is called to the countryside to investigate the death of a hiker, while Sherlock is at Baker Street, surveying the landscape with his laptop. Both of them are called separately to Buckingham Palace, where Mycroft is waiting for them. Mycroft and his employer tell Sherlock about Irene Adler, a dominatrix who has pictures of an important female person in compromising positions and which Mycroft fears can be used for blackmail, and asks Sherlock to help him.

Sherlock goes to Adler's residence, but his cover story is promptly blown when Adler appears naked in front of him, stunning him and flummoxing his Sherlock Scan. Throw some CIA spooks into the mix with a hidden safe, a locked phone and a booby trap, and Sherlock realises that there is more in the phone than just compromising pictures. However, Adler drugs (and whips) Sherlock and gets away with the phone.

What then follows is an adventure where Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes match their wits, and deal with their intellectual attraction to each other, while Watson acts like a Deadpan Snarker watching from the sidelines, and Sherlock is right; there is more to the phone than meets the eye.


Tropes present in this work include:

  • And Starring: Lara Pulver as Irene Adler gets this distinction in the closing credits.
  • Arc Words: The password screen on Irene Adler's phone: I AM - - - - LOCKED
  • Bait and Switch: John's got awfully used to Mycroft having him put into an unmarked car and driven to an undisclosed location for a chat. Only this time, it's Irene Adler. Who's supposed to be dead.
  • Batman Gambit: Irene sets one up so well that not even Mycroft, let alone Sherlock, has any choice but to surrender. Until Sherlock figures out her weakness.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Irene Adler and Jim Moriarty
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sherlock's ultimate Eureka Moment — he correctly deduces Irene's password, thus depriving her of her only bargaining chip. Even Mycroft admits that Sherlock has saved the day.
    Sherlock: There you are, brother. I hope the contents make up for any inconvenience I may have caused you tonight.
    Mycroft: I’m certain they will.
  • Brains and Bondage: Irene Adler. "Brainy is the new sexy."
  • Brick Joke: Relatively short for the pay-off, but Holmes did end up stealing an ashtray.
  • Cargo Envy: The infamous sheet.
    • Sherlock's coat, depending on who it was wrapped around at the time.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: When Sherlock departs 221B for the airport, Irene stays behind in a bathrobe in his flat, only to greet him at the airport in full evening dress and with her hair and make-up done.
  • Companion Cube: Irene's phone is her life.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Played with. After subduing the American Mook who'd roughed up Mrs Hudson, Sherlock phones Lestrade for an ambulance and starts casually describing the victim's injuries: "A few broken ribs, fractured skull, suspected punctured lung. He fell out of a window." Subverted with a Gilligan Cut to the man actually hitting the bins outside 221B, and then doubly subverted when the police arrive:
    Lestrade: Exactly how many times did he fall out the window?
    Sherlock: Oh, it's all a bit of a blur, Detective Inspector. I lost count.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Plenty of them, as is the standard for this show, but John takes the cake while breaking Sherlock and Irene's Held Gaze.
    John: Hamish. John Hamish Watson. Just if you're looking for baby names.
  • Destination Defenestration: The fate of the American Mook who threatened to shoot John and beat up Mrs Hudson. Multiple times over, if Sherlock is to be believed.
  • Did You Actually Believe?: Subverted when Sherlock proves Irene's infatuation with him was real.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: John, naturally.
    • Irene, to her detriment. While attempting to seduce Holmes, she lets him hold her hand and look intensely into her eyes, enabling Holmes to detect her elevated pulse rate and dilated pupils and deduce that she is in fact infatuated with him. And he uses that to figure out her password.
  • Dominatrix: In all senses of the word. Irene loves to control.
  • Eagleland: The American agents in this episode are very much a Flavour 2.
    • The lead agent seems to think that he would be given a medal to killing Sherlock. It's not exactly clear how the murder of a British police consultant helps American national security.
  • Eureka Moment:
    • Subverted when Sherlock seems to have this when he notices the counter on John's blog is still stuck, and thinks it's a message about the passcode to Irene's phone. It isn't.
    • Played Straight later when he does figure out what the password is.
  • Evil Brit: The CIA Agent Neilson and his cronies invert this, as they are villainous Americans in a British setting.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The terrorists in Pakistan fail to realize that the guy they have execute Irene Adler is not one of them.
  • Fanservice: Plenty. Both Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes are naked.
  • Faking the Dead: Irene Adler. Twice.
    • And then a whole Boeing 747 full of dead bodies, used by the government to fake a terrorist attack.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Sherlock's first reading of Irene only gives him "???????". He glances over at John and is able to deduce how he spent his night just fine, but Irene leaves him absolutely flummoxed.
  • Geeky Turn-On: When Sherlock tricks Irene into typing her password onto a replica of her camera phone, Irene doubly tricks him by typing in a wrong password so that he in turn errs in his penultimate attempt to break into her real phone. This leads to an exchange of compliments and a very long Held Gaze between them, which starts Watson thinking of baby names.
  • Gilligan Cut: "He fell out of a window." Cut to John patching up Mrs Hudson's injuries when something falls from the direction of Sherlock's window with a loud WHUMP.
    Mrs Hudson: Oh! That was right on my bins!
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: John's apparent reaction to learning what Irene does for a living. Sherlock has to remind him to put his teacup down.
  • Held Gaze: Between Irene and Sherlock in the space of two very short scenes, leading to John's Deadpan Snarker moment above.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Sherlock for about five days, after identifying Irene's body at the morgue.
    • Later, Sherlock appears to have another one for a short while after realising that he has jeopardised national security by falling in for Irene's Damsel in Distress ploy. However, he recovers pretty quickly to save the day.
    • Mycroft gets a major one after receiving Moriarty's text message. He is so upset he actually takes off his jacket.
      • Especially since the message is pretty vague. Moriarty rightly knows that only someone like Mycroft would understand exactly what it is about.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: Sherlock asks John to punch him in the face, as part of his disguise on first meeting Irene Adler. When John hesitates, Sherlock provokes him by hitting him first. John responds by flooring him, then putting him in a headlock and reminding him that killing people used to be part of his profession. This is all surprisingly hilarious.
    Sherlock: Yes, punch me, in the face. Didn't you hear me?
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming
    Mycroft: Oh, shut up, Mrs Hudson.
    Sherlock: Mycroft!
    [John and Sherlock glare]
    Mycroft: [reluctantly] Apologies.
    Mrs. Hudson: Thank you.
    Sherlock: Though do, in fact, shut up.
  • Ignore the Fanservice:
    • Although Irene shows up in her "battle dress", Sherlock seems more perplexed that this makes his Sherlock Scan difficult. Instead he calmly calculates her exact body measurements and uses them to deduce the combination for her safe.
      • Although, the deduction happens after she puts on a coat and gives him a slight hint.
    • He figures out a world-baffling code in a matter of few seconds, with Irene drawing in for a kiss all the while. When she does kiss him on the cheek, he only gives her an unreadable sideways glance.
    • Just when it looks like Sherlock is beginning to reciprocate Irene's advances, namely by holding her hand and looking intensely into her eyes, we learn that he is actually measuring her pulse rate and observing the dilation in her pupils to deduce that she is genuinely infatuated with him.
  • Impairment Shot:
    • Sherlock's POV right after Irene jabs him with a sedative.
    • When Holmes walks back to Baker Street just after learning that Irene isn't dead, the world appears to be rather hazy in his POV. It seems like he is in a state of shock from a whole range of feelings.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: "If I wanted to look at naked women I'd borrow John's laptop."
    John: You do borrow my laptop.
    Sherlock: I confiscate it.
  • Ironic Echo: When revealing that he's deduced the password to Adler's phone, Sherlock repeats her line about how every disguise is a self-portrait, no matter how hard you try.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Sherlock's treatment of Molly Hooper on Christmas day. It then turns into a Pet the Dog moment when he realises his mistake and apologises.
    • How Irene treats Sherlock in the climax before he figures out her weakness and turns the tables on her.
  • Love Is a Weakness: This time, Sherlock's proven right.
    I've always assumed that love is a dangerous disadvantage. Thank you for the final proof.
    • Which provides some very ominous foreboding for events in The Reichenbach Fall.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Irene Adler not only has a large house and enormous wardrobe, but her smartphone is a Vertu Constellation Quest, with a price tag of £17,300. She wasn't fighting to get it back just for its contents.
    • And yet Sherlock can afford to buy an identical phone to try to get her to type in her code despite the fact that he never gets paid for his services.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Irene Adler. Mycroft too, before Irene turns it back on him.
  • Mata Hari: Irene's line of work has apparently made her privy to state secrets from all over the world. She uses them as "protection".
  • Meaningful Echo: Mycroft: "It would take Sherlock Holmes to fool me, and I don't think he was on hand, do you?"
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Sherlock, of all people. Not that he's had sex or anything, he's just too lazy to put some clothes on — even when summoned to Buckingham Palace.
  • Mood Whiplash: The pool scene had been the source of huge amounts of excitement and speculation for a year and a half. In the opening scene, the tension builds to enormous levels… and then the Bee Gees start playing. Yes, seriously.
  • Moral Guardians: The Daily Mail newspaper protested Irene Adler's nakedness...by printing large images of it.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: John H Watson finally reveals his much-speculated upon middle name: Hamish.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The title itself is a reference to the original story "A Scandal in Bohemia". The early minutes of the episode go through a proper Hurricane of Puns over the names of many of the original stories: The Geek Interpreter, The Speckled Blonde, The Navel Treatment...
    • The blog post about the case of the dead guy who was supposed to be dead somewhere else is entitled "Sherlock Holmes Baffled", the title of the very first Sherlock Holmes movie, even if it was In Name Only.
    • In references to the original plot of "A Scandal in Bohemia", Sherlock disguises himself as an injured clergyman to be allowed access to Irene's residence, and Watson sets off a false fire alarm to trick Irene into revealing the hiding place of the photographs.
    • Sherlock's analysis of tobacco ash on his website — in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery," Holmes remarks that he has "written a little monograph on the ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar, and cigarette tobacco".
    • The severed thumbs in the fridge are a nod to "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb."
    • The bit of dialogue where Sherlock asks "And my client is?" and the government official answers "Illustrious" is another reference to a story title, "The Illustrious Client".
    • At Buckingham Palace the government official tells John that his employer likes his blog, "particularly the one about the aluminium crutch". In the stories, one of Holmes' early cases before he met Watson revolved around an aluminium crutch.
    • Sherlock's remark that "I'm used to mystery at one end of my cases; both is too much work," is lifted straight from "The Illustrious Client".
      • He was also wearing a sheet — well, sheets — at the beginning of that story.
    • Many of the details of Sherlock and John's first meeting with Irene Adler (the priest disguise, the fire alarm ruse, "Goodnight Mr Sherlock Holmes") are the the same as they were in the original story.
    • In the end of the original story, all Sherlock asks for payment is the photo Irene left of herself. Similarly, in the end of the episode, he asks to keep her phone.
      • Unlike the picture, though, he could sell the phone for quite a lot of money. Not only for its contents but for the fact that it costs £17,300.
    • "Vatican cameos" is a reference to a throwaway line in The Hound of the Baskervilles about a case Holmes had worked on.
    • The bit where Moriarty scores a victory, and announces it with a cryptic, gloating message saying "Dear me, Mr Holmes, dear me" is directly from The Valley of Fear.
    • Sherlock's remark that "the wheel turns...nothing is ever new" is reminiscent of Holmes saying "There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before" in A Study in Scarlet.
    • Really obscure one: John's blog counter is broken, and always says 1,895 hits. The last line of the poem "221B" by Sherlockian Vincent Garrett is "And it is always eighteen niney-five".
    • And the most obvious of all. When leaving a crime-scene and trying to go incognito to avoid press, Sherlock grabs hat for himself from an actor's dressing room - his Iconic Item Deerstalker hat.
    • John's middle name being Hamish alludes to the hypothesis used by Dorothy L Sayers to explain why Watson's wife kept calling him James in the original stories (Hamish is Scottish variant of "James").
  • Naked First Impression: Irene's 'battle dress' renders the Sherlock Scan useless… until he figures out the password to her safe from her measurements.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In wanting to one-up (or show off to) Irene Adler, Sherlock accidentally wrecks an MI6-CIA joint counter-terrorism operation. Moriarty was certainly thankful, though.
  • No Sell: Irene, being naked, can't be "read" by Sherlock, and he in turn is resistant to her full-court press of seduction. Still, her naked body does make an impression on him, and if the viewer watches closely, he does manage to insult her while he's explaining the crime.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Sherlock departs for the airport by official transport, leaving Irene Adler behind in a bathrobe in his flat. When he arrives, Irene is already there, in full evening dress.
  • Ominously Open Door: At 221B Baker Street.
  • Orwellian Retcon: To Watson's blog. That brief final post before they leave for the swimming pool, and all those replies by Harry and Sarah wondering what had happened to them? Well, since nothing happened to them, that post and its comments never existed.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Sherlock apologises for once. To Molly Hooper, of all people.
    • Sherlock treats Mrs. Hudson incredibly gently after her ordeal.
    Sherlock: Mrs. Hudson leave Baker Street? [Putting an arm around her and drawing her closer] England would fall!
  • Precision S Strike: Mycroft calls John on Christmas Eve, after Sherlock has just left him to return home to Baker Street. There's a cryptic conversation about John and Mrs Hudson not being able to "find anything" in any of the usual places, and "it looks like he's clean". John then asks if Sherlock "took the cigarette". When Mycroft says he did, John's response is "... Shit." It's the only instance of the word in the series so far, and a stand-out line from a character who managed to not swear even when he found a human head in his fridge.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Firstly to Sherlock from Mycroft's men (politely) and Mycroft himself (not so politely). Secondly to Irene from John.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: Sherlock describes the injuries a Mook will sustain, explains that those injuries are from getting chucked out a window, then chucks the Mook out the window.
  • Previously On: The second season begins with a montage of clips from the pool scene in "The Great Game" with juxtaposed voices.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Implied. The Pakistani terrorists are armed with guns. They still lose when Sherlock charges at them with a sword.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Molly Hooper, at the Christmas party. John is visibly impressed... and Lestrade's jaw hits the floor.
  • Shirtless Scene: Sherlock gets an accidental one in the middle of Buckingham Palace, thanks to Mycroft's vindictiveness.
    Mycroft: This is a matter of national importance. Grow up!
    Sherlock: Get off my sheet!
    Mycroft: Or what?
    Sherlock: …Or I'll just walk away!
  • Shout-Out The flight number from London to Baltimore? 007. Explicit In-Universe, as Sherlock makes the connection by recalling Mycroft referring to it as "Bond Air".
  • Took a Level in Badass: Mrs Hudson, of all people.
  • Totally Radical: Invoked. By Sherlock. In Buckingham Palace.
    John: And that's as modest as he gets. Pleasure to meet you.
    Sherlock: Laterz.
  • Tranquil Fury: Though Sherlock's expression barely changes when he sees the CIA operative has beaten Mrs Hudson, his eyes reveal that he is seething. Tellingly, his Sherlock Scan suddenly shifts to all the places on the operative's body he can break or make bleed.
    Lestrade: Exactly how many times did he fall out the window?
    Sherlock: It's all a bit of a blur, Detective Inspector. I lost count.
  • Understatement: Mrs Hudson's reaction when she finds out that Irene changed Sherlock's ring-tone to an orgasmic moan:
    "It's a bit rude, that noise..."
  • Underdressed for the Occasion: Sherlock shows up at Buckingham Palace of all places wearing only a Modesty Bedsheet — and declines to change into a more appropriate outfit, just to twit his brother.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Sherlock himself becomes one to Irene and Moriarty by giving away the details of a counter-terrorism operation.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Mrs Hudson hides Irene's phone from the Americans by slipping it down her shirt.
  • Villainous BSOD: Irene sinks into one when Sherlock simultaneously exposes her true feelings towards him and figures out her phone's password.
  • Visual Pun: When John is complaining about Mycroft's penchant for sending anonymous black cars to take him to meetings in strange places, he accuses Mycroft of having a "bloody stupid power complex". Cut to the location of the latest meeting: Battersea Power Station.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Of course not.
  • Wham Line: Near the very end: *moan*
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Molly gives Sherlock one after he's terribly rude to her in public, again. He actually apologises.
  • Worthy Opponent: Irene to Sherlock.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit:
    • Sherlock of all people tries this on Irene to gain entry into her house. Of course she already knows who he is, what he looks like and was expecting his arrival anyway.
    • Mrs Hudson is adept at this tactic, keeping the CIA heavies from discovering the location of the camera phone by faking a lot of tears and distress after they manhandle her for information.
Sherlock S 01 E 03 The Great GameRecap/SherlockSherlock S 02 E 02 The Hounds Of Baskerville

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