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.
- Accidental Misnaming: Sherlock calls Jeanette Sarah at the Christmas party, before he manages to remember her actual name. Also a Continuity Nod, as Sarah was John's first love interest in the series.
- Adrenaline Time: During the scene when Sherlock opens Irene's Booby Trapped safe and they take down the evil CIA agents. note
- 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
- Artistic Licence Gun Safety: Sherlock summons the police by stepping outside (in a populated area) and casually firing a couple of pistol rounds into the sky.
- Badass Fingersnap: At the start of the episode, Moriarty calls off the snipers with one of these as he leaves the pool area.
- 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.
- Battle of Wits: Sherlock versus Irene Adler. In this episode Sherlock eventually beats Irene Adler (The Woman) and solves the case. In the books, Irene Adler is actually the only person to ever outsmart Sherlock Holmes before he can solve the case, after which he kept a photo of her in his wallet to remind himself of her wit.
- Berserk Button: Mrs. Hudson for Sherlock. When Mycroft tells her "SHUT-UP," he makes Mycroft apologize, genuinely. When the American agent actually hurts her...it doesn't work out quite as well.
- 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: Im certain they will.
- Booby Trap: Irene's safe is equipped with a spring-trapped gun.
- 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 from the Buckingham Palace.
- Brief Accent Imitation: Sherlock changes his accent briefly again, taking leave of his brother and other government functionaries in a more common accent and slang ("Laters!") and later pretending to be a priest who has just been mugged. Toward the end, he briefly adopts an American drawl to mock a CIA agent.
- 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 his flat wearing only a bathrobe. Shortly after he arrives at the airport, she suddenly appears behind him in full evening dress with her hair and make-up done. How she had time to get dressed, find a taxi, and still arrive only a minute or two after Sherlock did is not explained.
- Chekhov's Skill: Sherlock's sociopathy. Because it's the only advantage he has over Irene Adler when Love Is a Weakness.
- Cigarette of Anxiety: It is a sign of how anxious Mycroft is that he smokes a cigarette.
- Cliffhanger Copout: Season 1 ends on a Mexican Standoff between Sherlock and Moriarty. This episode picks up right there but the situation is quickly resolved by Moriarty getting a phone call and leaving for reasons unknown.
- Companion Cube: Irene's phone is her life.
- Compromising Call: A crowning moment at the end. Irene texts Sherlock to say goodbye as she is about to be executed. A few seconds later she hears the text message tone she put on his phone for her number. This makes her realize he is with her in the room. Cue a Big Damn Heroes moment as Sherlock blows his cover and frees Irene from her captors.
- Concealing Canvas: Irene's safe is hidden behind a mirror.
- Contrast Montage: Used to compare Sherlock and Irene. Thoroughly. First they see each other's pictures, then they prepare to meet each other, and when they finally end up in the same room one is dressed as a vicar, and the other is not dressed at all.
- Counting to Three: The CIA agents threaten to shoot John on three if Sherlock doesn't provide them with the combination to Irene's safe. Cue Sherlock getting his "Eureka!" Moment Just in Time.
- Covert Distress Code: "Vatican cameos." John explains to Mary that it means "battle stations, someone's going to die."
- 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." Cue the man actually hitting the bins outside 221B: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.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Moriarty says, "I will turn you into shoes!" Well, first he'll find you and skin you, then he'll make you into shoes.
- 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.
- Death Glare: Sherlock pulls off a truly epic one. Upon arriving back at Baker Street to discover evidence of Mrs. Hudson being held by CIA agents, he fingers the scratches in the wallpaper, plays out what happened in his mind... and then quietly looks up the staircase with eyes that say "People are going to DIE". Cue Extreme Mêlée Revenge.
- 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 They or Didn't They?: Not in the episode itself, but following the ending: Benedict Cumberbatch and Steven Moffat funnily enough have different ideas about what happened between Sherlock and Irene after he saved her. Moffat says his idea is that after the terrorists were dealt with, Irene held Sherlock at gunpoint to make him strip out of his clothes so she could escape wearing them, while Cumberbatch outright believes they had sex instead.
- 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.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Irene introduces herself naked to Sherlock to make him uncomfortable, and upon learning he stole her camera phone, drugs, hits and whips him to get it back. What follows is Sherlock taking a liking to her.
- Dreaming of a White Christmas: Snow indicates a Time Skip to Christmas half-way through the episode.
- Eagleland: The American agents in this episode are very much the gung-ho guys with guns variety.
- Embarrassing Ringtone:
- The Mexican Standoff at the end of the previous season is ended by Moriarty's "Staying Alive" ringtone. It's hard to be menacing with The Bee Gees providing a bouncy little riff.
- Irene Adler replaces Sherlock's ringtone with the sound of her orgasmic groaning. Sherlock actually isn't bothered by it but Mrs Hudson is.
- Epic Hail: Sherlock considers firing a gun into the air a perfectly reasonable method of summoning police.
- Establishing Character Moment: Irene Adler gets an particularly memorable one. The audience sees her debating a variety of dresses to wear for her eventual run-in with Sherlock, only to be sitting completely naked when he finally does show up. In addition to establishing her as The Tease, it shows her as smart enough to realise that by giving him absolutely nothing to read, she could completely throw off his Sherlock Scan altogether. Furthermore, when they're later held hostage and Sherlock is forced to figure out the code to her safe at gunpoint, he does so because she knew that he'd size her up, the code being her measurements.
- "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.
- Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Sherlock gives this to Neilson after he and his agents interrogate Mrs Hudson to see if she has Irene's phone. He throws Neilson out of a window so many times he lost count, though we only see it once.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In John and Sherlock's Christmas party, when Sherlock does his Sherlock Scan on a Christmas present that Molly brought, smugly trying to explain what was on Molly's mind when she wrapped it. Then he realizes who she brought it for.Sherlock: Oh come on. Surely you've all seen the present at the top of the bag. Perfectly wrapped with a bow. All the others are slapdash at best. Must be someone special then. Shade of red echoes the lipstick. Either a subconscious association or one that she's deliberately trying to encourage. Either way, Miss Hooper has love on her mind. The fact that she's serious about him is clear from the fact that she's giving him a gift at all. That all suggests long-term hopes, however forlorn. And that she's seeing him tonight is evident from the make-up and what she's wearing. Obviously trying to compensate for the size of her mouth and breasts.
[Sherlock sees the tag on the present, which reads "Dearest Sherlock, Love Molly"]
Molly: You always say such horrible things. Every time. Every time...
- Failed a Spot Check: The terrorists in Pakistan fail to realize that the guy they have execute Irene Adler is not one of them.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: The last scene fades to black when Irene is about to be beheaded... but instead of the closing credits Sherlock's Embarrassing Ringtone comes on and the scene fades back in for a final Big Damn Heroes moment.
- Faking the Dead:
- Irene substitutes another woman's body for her own, with the help of a coroner who's also a client.
- And then she does it again at the end of the episode, with Sherlock's help, and is so convincing that even Mycroft buys it.
- A whole Boeing 747 full of dead bodies, used by the government to trick a terrorist cell. Making them believe they killed a lot of people so as to keep the fact they are listening in on them hidden while at the same time saving many lives.
- Fanservice: Plenty. Both Irene Adler and Sherlock get naked scenes.
- Fat Idiot: When the detective on site takes Phil the driver to be a suspect in his passenger's murder, Sherlock dismisses him as an idiot, apparently with a first impression to go on; then, when Detective Carter starts treating him like a plotter who got overconfident in his impossible crime and called the police, Sherlock answers:Did you see him? Morbidly obese, the undisguised halitosis of a single man living on his own, the right sleeve of an internet porn addict and the breathing pattern of an untreated heart condition. Low self-esteem, tiny IQ and a limited life expectancy — and you think hes an audacious criminal mastermind?! (to Phil) Don't worry — this is just stupid. (Phil: "What did you say? Heart what?!")
- Femme Fatale Spy: Irene's line of work has apparently made her privy to state secrets from all over the world. She uses them as "protection".
- When we learn that Irene's body was found, Mycroft notes that only Sherlock could fool him about it not being Irene this time. Guess what happened.
- Towards the end of the episode, Mycroft tells John that when Sherlock was a child he wanted to be a pirate. This statement is followed by a loud gust of wind. This scene directly foreshadows the events of "The Final Problem" in Season 4.
- Most of the interviewees early on are actually connected to the CIA plot of stuffing dead bodies into an airplane.
- Friend to All Children: Averted when Sherlock tells two girls that people are "taken to a special room and burned" when they die.
- 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.
- Gender Flip: The King of Bohemia becomes an unnamed female British royal.note
- Gibberish of Love: Sherlock does this when Irene says brainy is the new sexy. John's face after Sherlock's verbal keyboardsmash is priceless.
- Girl of the Week: Irene Adler. Her disappearance from Sherlock's life at the end of the episode is more out of a desire to adhere to the source material than a firm belief in maintaining the status quo.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Possibly a reason that Irene Adler was revealed to be a lesbian. Throughout the episode, the only person she is shown to be sexually interested in (outside of her work, of course) is Sherlock. Played for laughs when Mycroft explains, while John drinks tea, that Adler has compromising photos of herself with a young, royal, female person:Sherlock: And I assume in a number of compromising scenarios.
Mycroft: An imaginative range, we are assured.
Sherlock: John, you might want to put that cup back in its saucer now.
- Groin Attack: Irene disables one of the CIA agents by kicking him in the nuts.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: John to Irene. Although he finally gives up that ghost an episode later.
- Held Gaze: Sherlock and Irene share intense, passionate gazes with each other at least twice in under five seconds, causing John Watson to snark out, as a reminder of his presence.
- 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?
John: I always hear "punch me in the face" when you're speaking, but it's usually subtext.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The hiker is accidentally killed by his own boomerang when he takes his eye off it (thanks to the backfiring car) for a second too long and it hits him.
- Hypocritical HeartwarmingMycroft: Oh, shut up, Mrs Hudson.
[John and Sherlock glare]
Mycroft: [reluctantly] Apologies.
Mrs. Hudson: Thank you.
Sherlock: Though do, in fact, shut up.
- Idiot Ball: Mycroft picks up a big one. Despite sending Holmes to investigate Adler knowing there are also CIA operatives after her, he does not inform Sherlock of this nor provide any explanation after the fact, causing Sherlock to trust Adler when she seeks his aid claiming it's against the CIA, and this gets the joint American-English operation foiled. All Mycroft had to do was tell Sherlock "we're in a joint operation with the Americans in a matter of national security, do not obstruct them" or something similar, and Adler and Moriarty's plans would have been ruined. Sherlock and John even point out it was stupid of Mycroft to direct them to Adler without warning them about the CIA, and Mycroft has no response.
- If It's You, It's Okay: The episode runs on this. Not only are these explicitly the feelings of self-identified lesbian Irene Adler toward Sherlock Holmes, there's also the insinuation that John's feelings toward Sherlock are comparable to Irene's.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Immodest Orgasm: Irene Adler gets a hold of Holmes' phone and sets this as her text alert. It's heard quite frequently thereafter.
- 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.
- Improvised Weapon: Sherlock uses an aerosol can as an impromptu weapon.
- Incompatible Orientation: This episode turns into a weird love triangle because of it. John is heterosexual (insistently so) but is in a long-term something-or-other with Sherlock, despite the fact that Sherlock is otherwise a Celibate Hero. Irene Adler identifies as lesbian but she and Sherlock share a mutual sexual fascination. The improbability of this allows her to see and accept that John and Sherlock are in love but not sexually involved, rather than assuming they're boyfriends like most people.
- 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 Cut: When John is picked up in a black car by a woman he thinks is Mycroft's assistant, he says, "You know, Mycroft could just phone me, if he didnt have this bloody stupid power complex". The scene cuts to the empty shell of Battersea Power Station, which is in fact the biggest power complex in the neighbourhood.
- 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.
- Instant Sedation: Averted. Irene Adler surprise injects Sherlock with some sort of sedative she normally uses on her clients. Although Sherlock is almost immediately physically compromised, he remains conscious and lucid for quite a few seconds, arguing with her even as he sinks to the floor and adamantly refusing to hand over the phone she wants until he finally drops it because, due to his sedation, his fingers can no longer grip it. He ends up on the floor on his back, but is still semi-conscious and keeps trying to get up, albeit unsuccessfully. Eventually he slides into a weird dream coma and wakes up in bed some time later, so he did finally lose consciousness, but John mentions that he "wasn't making much sense" and that Lestrade had time to film some of his inane babbling on his phone, despite the fact that Lestrade was presumably on his way at the time that Sherlock was drugged, implying that Sherlock was still partially conscious and animated (if completely confused and spouting gibberish) for several minutes after the injection.
- 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.
- Kubrick Stare: Sherlock deduces that Mrs Hudson has been attacked. In a few seconds his expression moves from "Bad stuff happened" to "Oh God, he's actually going to kill someone."
- Lipstick-and-Load Montage: Irene Adler goes through one as she is waiting for Sherlock to arrive in "A Scandal in Belgravia". Juxtaposed with Sherlock's own, more unorthodox, preparations, which involve getting John to punch him in the face.
- 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.
- Love Makes You Dumb: Sherlock states this outright. It is directed at Irene Adler who has just finished tearing into him about his apparent asexuality, something repeated throughout the episode.
- Manipulative Bitch: Irene Adler. Mycroft too, before Irene turns it back on him.
- 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. Though the more likely explanation is that Mycroft provided it for him.
- 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.
- Moment Killer:
- Mrs Hudson comes to interrupt Sherlock and Irene getting close in front of the fireplace.
- Sherlock is trembling on the verge of treating Molly like an actual human being, and then one of Irene's texts interrupts and he's back to normal.
- 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.
- My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That:
- When Sherlock deduces that Molly clearly has a crush on someone. Taken to hilarious / heartbreaking levels when the otherwise perspicacious Sherlock completely fails to realise that the person she's crushing on is him.
- Sherlock realizes that Irene Adler's feelings for him are genuine because he Sherlock Scanned her biological reactions to him (pulse and pupil dilation) on multiple occasions, which allows him to finally figure out the code on the phone.
- 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" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Irene Adler has compromising photographs of herself with a royal person, 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. The taunting "Goodnight, Mr Sherlock Holmes" also appears in both. In the end of the original story, all Sherlock asks for payment is the photo Irene left of herself; 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, even without its contents: that model costs £17,300. Also, in "A Scandal in Bohemia," Sherlock asked for the picture in place of a monetary reward, which he didn't do here.)
- The other half of the plot is from the movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.
- 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.
- 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". 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 same story. He was also wearing a sheet — well, sheets — at the beginning of that story.
- 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.
- "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 and "The wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up again" in The Valley of Fear.
- 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 Starrett 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").
- A real-world example, John is tempted to nick an ashtray from Buckingham Palace. Apparently visitors to the palace are frequently tempted to pocket something small as a souvenir and ashtrays are a popular target. Sherlock actually does.
- Naked First Impression: Irene's 'battle dress' renders the Sherlock Scan useless until he figures out the password to her safe from her measurements.
- Near-Villain Victory: Irene manages to have the entire British government by the throat at the end, thanks to Sherlock doing her job for her. Mycroft is left begrudgingly acceding to her demands as he and Sherlock stew over how they got played. However Sherlock manages to reverse their fortune by making a last-second deduction before her plans can be brought full-circle, leaving her with absolutely no recourse.
- 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 Celebrities Were Harmed: Mycroft's associate at the palace refers only to "my employer" never outright naming her as being the Queen and Irene's client is someone young, female and of importance to "my employer" but is carefully left vague.
- 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.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Mrs Hudson pulls this off with magnificent aplomb. Yes, she's absolutely fucking terrified — a man has a gun to her head — but she still manages to snatch Irene's phone out of "the pocket of [Sherlock's] second best jacket", hide it in her bra, fake having no knowledge of it's whereabouts and then smuggle it out when the CIA thought she was "having a good cry".
- Oblivious to Love: Sherlock not realizing that Molly is in love with him.
- Of Course I'm Not a Virgin: Sherlock claims "I'm not afraid of sex", somewhat unconvincingly.
- Ominously Open Door: When returning home Sherlock notices scratch marks on the front door of 221B Baker Street which prepares him for the baddies upstairs.
- OOC Is Serious Business: When Sherlock meets Irene Adler, she says "Brainy's the new sexy" and his normally perfect enunciation fails for a second and he mumbles his next sentence. John's expression shows how big a deal this is.
- Open Mouth, Insert FootMolly: How's the hip?
Mrs. Hudson: Oh, it's atrocious. But thanks for asking.
Molly: I've seen much worse. But then I do post-mortems.
- 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.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Sherlock Holmes himself is overshadowed by the awesome that is his older brother Mycroft. Here, and in one scene in particular, he's reduced to a "naïve, lonely man desperate to show off", revealed to not be Moriarty's main target at all, played for a sucker with a classic Damsel in Distress ploy that Mycroft describes as "textbook" and referred to in all sorts of ways that range from the dismissive to the insulting: "Mr Holmes, the Younger", "Junior", "the clever detective in the funny hat", "The Virgin". Heck, even a case he spent some time on was solved by the brilliant Mycroft in seconds, and another case, that of the Düsseldorf air crash and the missing victim, was actually part of something orchestrated by Mycroft. This is on par with the books, where he is described (by Sherlock himself) as Holmes' much smarter brother.
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish":
- Irene Adler comes up with a four-digit password that stumps Sherlock for months. It turns out to be SHER with the critical clue actually included on the "locked" screen. Sherlock lampshades this, noting that if she had just chosen a random alphanumeric code, her plan would have gone off without a hitch. Interestingly, he previously tries a password related to him ("221B"), which fails.
- She also has her safe passcode as her body measurements. Sherlock works it out partly because she hints at it, and partly because he can tell what some of the numbers are based on the key usage. In any case, it's a blind as the safe contains a spring-trapped gun along with the actual valuable. Luckily Sherlock works that out as well.
- 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!
- Pistol Whip: Irene does this to one of the CIA mooks.
- Please Put Some Clothes On: Firstly to Sherlock from Mycroft's men (politely) and Mycroft himself (not so politely). Secondly to Irene from John.
- 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.
- Pre-emptive Declaration: Sherlock describes to Lestrade the injuries a Mook has sustained and explains that those injuries are from getting chucked out a window, and 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.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mycroft gives one to Sherlock:Mycroft: That's all it takes. One lonely, naïve man desperate to show off, and a woman clever enough to make him feel special.
Shelock: You need to screen your defence people more carefully.
Mycroft: I'm not talking about the M.O.D. man, Sherlock. I'm talking about you! [Sherlock stares at him] A Damsel in Distress. In the end, are you really so obvious? Because this was ' textbook'': The promise of love, the pain of loss, the joy of redemption, then give him a puzzle and watch him dance.
- Red Herring: The episode starts out looking like a fairly faithful update of "A Scandal in Bohemia", with the only real changes being that Irene Adler is a lesbian dominatrix, and that the MacGuffin is a cell phone filled with compromising photos of a member of the Royal Family. Then it turns out that the case has nothing to do with compromising photos, and Adler's BDSM hobby is just a cover for her other job—international espionage. The phone actually contains evidence of a secret Ministry of Defence ploy to save a group of plane passengers from a terrorist attack.
- Reflexive Response: Sherlock is looking for Irene Adler's cell phone, which has incriminating pictures on it. While he talks to her, John steps outside and lights a magazine on fire, triggering the smoke alarm. When Irene hears the alarm, she instinctively looks at a mirror on the wall that conceals a hidden safe, pointing Sherlock directly to the phone.
- The Reveal:
- Irene's cellphone contains evidence of a secret Ministry of Defence ploy to save a group of plane passengers from a terrorist attack. Mycroft wants to replace the passengers with stolen corpses so that the terrorists don't realize that Military Intelligence has cracked their codes.
- Irene's four-character phone password is "SHER", which causes the phone's lock screen to read "I AM SHER LOCKED".
- Rock Beats Laser: Implied. The Pakistani terrorists are armed with guns. They still lose when Sherlock charges at them with a sword.
- Scenery Censor: Done when Irene Adler decides to receive Sherlock and John naked.
- Seamless Scenery: A scene transitions fluidly from Irene Adler's apartment to some remote outdoor location as part of Sherlock's recap of how the crime was committed.
- Self-Destructing Security: Irene Adler's phone, containing lots of politically-sensitive data, contains miniature explosives that will destroy it if anyone attempts to physically remove the hard drive. Upon learning this, Mycroft immediately states they deliberately trigger it, and thus deny anyone access to the data. Irene counters she might have information the government needs as well as data they want hidden, and she refuses to say which, so they actually shouldn't do that.
- Sexy Secretary: Irene Adler's PA Kate.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Molly Hooper, at the Christmas party. John is visibly impressed... and Lestrade's jaw hits the floor.
- Sherlock Scan: Subverted to the point of parody when Irene Adler flummoxes Sherlock by giving him nothing to scan. To add to the humour, Sherlock immediately looks over at John and confirms he's not going insane by scanning him effortlessly (the subtitles point out "new toothbrush" and "going out on date tonight"), then he glances right back at Irene's mischievous smile... and all he can get is "??????"
- Because he wants to show off and impress Irene, we see his Sherlock Scan enter Bullet Time, breaking the combination of a safe in under 8 seconds! She later references the act as proof of his abilities, so he succeeded in impressing her. And he realizes the combination is her measurements—so he did pick up relevant information on her after all, he just didn't know what it was relevant to until he was told to open the safe.
- The scan is used to highlight Sherlock's hidden anger, as it becomes a litany of ways to inflict pain and injury on the operative who had worked over Mrs. Hudson. Notable in that instead of the usual Fun with Subtitles, we see crosshairs marking vital points to strike on his target's body.
- Ship Tease: Sherlock and Irene, complete with Gibberish of Love, Held Gazes and Irene's very unsubtle overtures. (Though nothing actually happens save for a kiss on the cheek, and Irene vanishes from Sherlock's life at the end of the episode, ostensibly forever.)Irene: I would have you right here, on this table, 'til you begged for mercy twice.Sherlock: I never beg.Irene: TWICE.
- 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!
- Short-Distance Phone Call: A short-distance text in Sherlock. Irene texts Sherlock to let him know that she's alive. A few seconds later she hears the text message tone she put on his phone for her number. Obviously, the message was redundant. In another episode, Sherlock calls a woman as he's walking up to her.
- 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".
- Sherlock's line to Irene Adler of "When I say run, run." is a reference to a line used on Doctor Who. Not surprising, given that Steven Moffat works on both shows.
- Single Tear: Irene after Sherlock finally figures her out.
- The Snack Is More Interesting: A rather tense scene has just played out at Baker Street (Mrs. Hudson was attacked by CIA agents — Sherlock took care of them). Mrs. Hudson is rather upset, John is confused, concerned and trying to comfort her, and Sherlock... is eating a mince pie he got out of Mrs. Hudson's refrigerator.
- Speak Friend and Enter: The passcode to Irene Adler's mobile phone. After finally realizing that Irene is genuinely attracted to him, Sherlock types in the correct passcode of "SHER". It Makes Sense in Context. The lock screen reads "I AM ___ LOCKED", so with the password in, it reads "I AM SHER LOCKED".
- Spot of Tea: John and Sherlock drink tea at Buckingham Palace with Mycroft and a client he is introducing to them. Mycroft is "mother", and Sherlock makes a joke about Mycroft's Self-Promotion to Parent.
- The Spymaster: Mycroft hires Sherlock to take care of an delicate case regarding the Royal Family, Sherlock snarks "So why don't you have one of your men take care of it?" Mycraft casually points out that they are all untrustworthy since "They all spy on people for money."
- Straw Loser: Sherlock says that he cuts an impressive figure in the media by taking "the precaution of a good coat and a short friend," much to John's annoyance. In reality, nobody who knows John thinks he is anything less than a Badass Normal.
- Stripping Snag: Playfully invoked by Mycroft who steps on the sheet Sherlock is wrapped in at the Buckingham Palace which almost renders the latter naked.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!:Jim: [on the phone, perfectly genial] Hello? Yes, of course it is. What do you want? [short pause] SAY THAT AGAIN! Say that again, and know that if you're lying to me, I will sssssssskin you.
- Tap on the Head: Sherlock, John and Irene knocking out the three American agents at Irene's apartment. They stay that way for minutes on end.
- Tempting Fate: While at the plant, John inquires Irene's assistant if perhaps they can meet someplace like a cafe, believing Sherlock isn't following them or anything. Turns out, after the reveal that Irene is not dead, who comes out of hiding than Sherlock himself.
- Terrible Interviewees Montage: Early on we see Sherlock interviewing clients and none of their "silly" stories catches his interest in the slightest.
- 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.
- 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: (In a calm but edgy tone) It's all a bit of a blur, Detective Inspector. I lost count.
- Travelling at the Speed of Plot: 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.
- 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.
- 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..."
- Unstoppable Rage: Sherlock attacked a man and threw him out of a window so many times he lost count for breaking into 221B and interrogating Mrs Hudson. We never see this onscreen, just a body crashing to the ground once.
- Unwitting Pawn: Sherlock himself becomes one to Irene and Moriarty by giving away the details of a counter-terrorism operation.
- The Vamp:
- Irene is like this towards all her more influential clients (from whom she gains confidential government and MI6-related secrets during the course of "recreational scolding"), as well as the titular hero. It's not a personal vendetta: she is in cahoots with the "consulting criminal" Moriarty, and plays off of Sherlock's lack of sex knowledge to get him to do whatever she wants. It somewhat backfires in the end, though Sherlock is so impressed by the fact that she managed to fool him for so long that he compliments her — in a manner of speaking — by saving her life.
- The notable thing about Irene is that she does, in fact, develop genuine feelings for Sherlock somewhere along the line; however, she doesn't so much as consider affecting a HeelFace Turn like in a typical example of the 'villainess' who falls for the hero, instead fully intending to see her mission to thwart Sherlock and his brother Mycroft through to the end. This makes her an unusual cross between The Vamp and a Femme Fatale.
- 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.
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: Sherlock makes a number of mistakes, practically commits treason, and is taken in by Irene Adler.
- Virtue Is Weakness: Discussed with Sherlock asking Mycroft if his lack of caring about others is a good or bad thing.Sherlock: Look at them. They all care so much. Do you ever wonder if there's something wrong with us?
Mycroft: All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock.
- 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.
- We Have Ways of Making You Talk: Mycroft does this to Irene Adler but phrases it rather more politely. "You have a passcode to open this. I deeply regret to say, we have people who can extract it from you."
- Wham Line:
- What the Hell, Hero?: Molly gives Sherlock one after he's terribly rude to her in public, again. He actually apologises.
- Will They or Won't They?: Of course not.
- 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.
- You Just Told Me: How Sherlock learns where the photos Irene Adler keeps are.