Sherlock: The Adventure of the Combover Monster

John has a new shrink. Maybe Sherlock ruined the old one for him. He’s parked his daughter with friends because he can’t deal. Babies are notorious show killers, so let’s hope we won’t be seeing much of her. Then again, if Americans have learned anything from Downton Abbey, it’s that British children are not meant to be seen or heard, except except maybe for an obligatory ten minute period every other week, between tea and supper.


Mary’s ghost lingers—literally. She’s sitting right there urging John to tell the nice new doctor all about her presence, but he won’t. The therapist—who, like Sherlock, is observant—notices John keeps looking to his left and calls him on it, but he deflects.

Sometimes the elephant in the room is a ghost.

She asks him if Sherlock Holmes has been in touch. John tells her Sherlock has locked himself in his flat, but if he did try to make contact, John would notice because Sherlock would do it in some typically dramatic fashion. Then on cue, a red sports car pulls up with helicopters trailing.

After the opening credits, we’re introduced to Culverton Smith, the villain of the week, whose face was featured on an ad seen at a bus shelter in last week’s episode. He’s an egotistical billionaire with unlikely hair who sucks the life out of everything, cannot praise himself enough, and is a whore for media attention. Very scary!

We see him at night in a conference room with some cronies. He explains in that way villains always do who all the people in the room are: his daughter Faith (with whom he seems to have a creepy relationship like some billionaire-daddies do), a policeman, a judge, a broadcaster, a couple of sycophantic employees, etc. Are the lights about to go out? Will there be a body when they come back up? Because this certainly sounds like the set up for a a hoary locked room mystery, more Agatha Christie than Arthur Conan Doyle.

But it’s saved by the twist. Nurses in caps and white dresses which is maybe still a thing in the UK or the showrunners just liked the look, enter with portable IV poles for everyone.

You get an IV! And you get an IV! And you!

Smith’s company makes a medication that will erase everyone’s memories for a very short time, allowing Smith to share a “a dark secret” with his “friends.” His daughter scribbles as he talks, and keeps writing even while she’s under the influence. He tells them he’s needs to kill someone. He takes the note from her. She’s upset, and he tells her, not to worry, in five minutes she won’t even remember what he said.

Faith arrives at Baker Street weeks later and is describing all the above to Sherlock. She manages to produce the note, but she doesn’t know who her father is going to kill, how, or when.

Faith wears glasses, walks with a cane, and has a limp. Sherlock deduces a whole bunch of other things, including that she cuts herself. Speaking of self-destructive behavior, there’s a hypodermic lying around, and his favorite pharmacologist from last season seems to be living in his kitchen.

24 hour service.

Sherlock’s more manic than usual, but also manically correct about all his deductions. However, he finds this case “too weird” and tells Faith to go to the police. He tosses her bag at her, and sends her out in the rain. Would he really have thrown the bag at the girl with the limp?

Not to nitpick, but how did her bag wind up on the other side of the room?

After she’s trudged down the steps he deduces their was a gun in the bag, and that she’s going to kill herself. Can’t have another dead woman on his conscience! He goes after her.

Mycroft has his network watching his brother, and is informed that Sherlock has left the building. He calls John asking him to call his brother, and also manages to drop another cryptic clue about the possibility of an additional Holmes sibling, which seems kinds of sloppy given that keeping secrets is his job.

Sherlock and Faith spend the whole night out walking and talking. She’s still trying to remember the name, and he’s still trying to solve the puzzle. He gets her to give him her gun, and he tosses it in the river. Then it looks like he might toss himself in the river but he doesn’t. When he turns back, Faith is gone. How could a woman with a limp get away so quickly? It’s almost as though she were never there.

Then he gets it. When Smith said “someone” he didn’t mean anyone in particular. He meant anyone. He’s a serial killer.

Now we’re back where the episode started – at John’s new shrink, only it’s not Sherlock emerging from the red sports car, it’s Mrs. Hudson, who recounts in flashback her tale of woe. Sherlock’s not only been obsessed with Culverton Smith and built himself a Carrie Mathison crazy wall of photos and clippings, but he’s also running around with knives and guns, and even his drug dealer has fled in horror. Plus he got on the twitter to  accuse Smith of being a serial killer. She tells John that Sherlock needs him and she cries. Ghost-Mary is watching. John finally agrees to examine him as a doctor. Mrs. Hudson opens up the trunk (or as they say in Great Britain, the boot) and delivers up a handcuffed Holmes.

John is surprised since Sherlock had no way of knowing he’d switched therapists or where his new shrink was, but Sherlock explains how he deduced it. And this will be the theme of the episode – how Sherlock’s so far ahead, he’s practically psychic except when he misses the really big part of the big picture. John gets a call from Culverton Smith, the man himself, telling him the car is coming to pick him and Sherlock up to take them to lunch. Smith says he wants to straighten things out after the twitter episode, and sounds reasonable.

John doesn’t want to go out detecting with Sherlock, even if Ghost-Mary is encouraging him. Sherlock insists that Smith is evil and must be stopped because serial-killing, narcissistic businessmen with bad combovers are a bigger menace than dead-Moriarity. Clearly, Sherlock is irrational. What does he think could happen? The guy’s going to get elected Prime Minister or something?

John wants Molly to examine Sherlock because he wants a second medical opinion. Why exactly does he ask for a pathologist’s opinion? Not sure, but Sherlock knew he would say that, and Molly pulls up with an ambulance, and tells Sherlock he’ll be on a slab in two weeks if he keeps going the way he is.

But what surprises John most of all about this interesting afternoon? He can’t get over Mrs. Hudson’s having an expensive sports car.

To be fair, it’s a beaut.

Mrs. H has to explain for the “last”time that she is the landlord and not the housekeeper. Let’s hope this really is the last time! It was funny the first hundred times because of the ambiguity of Mrs. Hudson’s role in the Conan Doyle stories, but like the gay jokes about Sherlock and John, it’s time to let this one go.

They arrive while Smith is filming a commercial with the tagline is: “I’m a cereal killer.” Get it? A CEREAL killer. As Sherlock says quoting Homer Simpson, “It’s funny because it’s true.” He’s taken Sherlock’s potentially damaging charge, turned it into a slogan, and won the news cycle – what a genius – kind of like I dunno … it’ll come to me.

Winning the news cycle!

Smith wants Sherlock and John to cheer up some sick kids in the hospital he sponsors.We’re back to jokes about no one knowing who John Watson is. It’s really old home week, and we could forget about John’s recent bereavement, if not for the ghost trailing him..

John is skeptical about Sherlock’s suspicions, but soon comes around when he sees how creepy Smith is. Unafraid of being politically correct, the billionaire and King of All Media decapitates a Barbie while speculating about whether the Queen herself might be serial killer. This occurs during Sherlock’s Q&A with the children, who nobody seems to think about except one nurse, but then Smith threatens in a not so subtle way to fire her.

But Smith’s just getting started. Next up, he take the boys to see the morgue, which he also bullies staff to let him into. He plays around with a corpse, not in a skull-fucking way, but enough hi-jinks to make John want to seriously slap him. Sherlock appears to be in withdrawal.  Culverton is messing with Sherlock about the serial-killer thing. Sherlock is counting down the minutes waiting for something to happen, and then it does: Faith enters the room. But surprise! She’s not the woman who came to Baker Street. All women with long hair, coke-bottle glasses, and canes look like.

This completely throws Sherlock who realizes that neither the drug dealer nor Mrs. Hudson actually saw her, so she must have been a hallucination. Culverton becomes relentless, in his teasing almost as if he expected something like this to happen. Sherlock grabs a scalpel and goes to stab Culverton, and then we get a flash-forward to Lestrade interviewing John, and we see the rest of the story. John disarms Sherlock, and beats him up. The orderlies come to take Sherlock away. When they get John off of him, Sherlock tells them to let him do what he wants, and adds, “I killed his wife.” John agrees with that assessment. Can this not-a-marriage be saved?

Some time later, John is visiting an unconscious Sherlock at the hospital. He leaves his walking stick – as “a parting gift.” (John used the stick in the first episode until Sherlock “cured” him by putting him in the kind of dangerous situations that John craves.) As John is leaving, Mycroft calls to tell him there’s a car waiting for him. Said car takes him to Baker Street where Mycroft’s spooks are going through everything because Mycroft wants to know what set his brother off – why the obsession with Smith. We see the note from the allegedly hallucinatory woman, but the spooks don’t notice it or get its significance.

Smith has snuck into Sherlock’s room through a secret passageway because that’s a thing super-villains do.  He sits down in a chair and waits for Sherlock to wake up.

Back on Baker Street, John, with Mary’s prodding, asks Mycroft about that thing he said that hinted at their being another Holmes or as Mary says, a “brother locked away in a tower.” Mycroft says he “mispoke,” and Mary tells John he’s lying. Mrs. Hudson calls Mycroft an idiot for being so baffled by why Sherlock stabbed Smith. Sherlock, she explains, is emotional. If he doesn’t understand something he stabs it. This leads John to notice the envelope containing Mary’s DVD, pinned to the mantle by a knife. which he plays. Mrs. H kicks everyone else out, including Mycroft whom she has to shame into leaving.we see more of the DVD than we did last week. Mary doesn’t just tell Sherlock to save John, she lays out a plan.

Sherlock and Smith are having a conversation about his imminent death, which will come by overdose of whatever’s in his I.V.  Of course, even after Smith fiddles with the machinery, it’ll be a slow enough process for them to have a nice chat. Smith doesn’t want to rush things because he’s a villain on a television show and they never do, which always trips them up.

John races to the hospital in Mrs. Hudson’s fast car, which she’d previously told him she’d never let him borrow. He’s heard the rest of the DVD, including Mary telling Sherlock that the way to save John was to trick him into saving Sherlock. Sherlock would need to “go to hell” and look like he meant it. John realizes the drug use and recklessness have been a trick, but is he too late to save his friend?

Since we all know the answer is going to be no, there’s not much suspense.

When John is finally able to break down the door of the hospital room with a fire extinguisher, it’s in the nick of time. Quel surprise! Smith, tired of waiting for Sherlock to OD, had started to suffocate him. Turns out Sherlock had the nurse switch out the medicine in the IVs for less dangerous saline, and he’d put a bug in John’s walking stick week’s before because he knew John would leave it there.

Does this actually make sense if the first time he began to suspect Smith was when Faith came to see him?

Smith is confessing so much that Lestrade is getting sick of the confessing. Smith thinks he’ll be notorious enough to be bigly famous in America, which we all know is the only fame that’s not overrated. #Sad.

A while later, back at Baker Street, Sherlock is explaining everything to John, and Ghost-Mary is there helping. But Sherlock is still troubled by the hallucinatory visit from what John calls “a magical woman who tells you things you didn’t know” and in case we miss the irony given John’s situation with Mary, Mary points it out for us. John wants to get going because he’s got Rosie back, and the sitter won’t be there forever. Mary urges him to stay or at least to say something more to Sherlock, so finally John tells Sherlock that he didn’t kill Mary. She made a decision to save his life. Sherlock replies, “In saving my life she put a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.” The line sounded so literary that your humble recapper googled to see if it came from one of the original stories. It didn’t, but it’s moments like that which make up for the not-so-occasional corniness and endless referencing of the series.

In the remaining minutes we get a series of confessions and revelations, or possibly just red herrings, including the reveal that Irene Adler is alive, and that it’s Sherlock’s birthday. John urges his friend to go after “the woman” because he might not get another chance. John also confesses his text romance with the redhead to Ghost-Mary, who is wise and not the jealous type because magical dead-women who only exist in your brain are far superior to the messy living ones.  This also leads Sherlock, of all people, to give John a hug.

So not canon!

Then John and Sherlock go off to meet Molly for some birthday cake. (For the record, Conan Doyle never stated when Holmes’ birthday was, but fans have picked January 6th based on less evidence than Buzz Feed would consider acceptable.) What’s up with all the hugging, warmth, and even growth in characters who in their original form never changed over decades?

But wait, there’s more. Some time later, Sherlock discovers the note that magical-Faith gave him while John discovers that his new shrink is not his new shrink. She’s magical-Faith – who’d gotten the real letter (somehow) from Culverton Smith, and added some things for Sherlock to deduce although he didn’t get “the big one” which we see Sherlock getting when he views the note in a dark room with a special light and can suddenly make out the words, “Miss me?”She’s also the red-head from the bus, and in real life Sherlock Holmes’ smarter secret sister. Then she pulls a gun on John and even shoots it, but Sherlock will probably be there any second, so let’s hope she misses. (Speculation: I’m pretty sure John will live, and he and Mary will not be playing George and Marion Kerby to Sherlock’s Topper.)

Then again, maybe it’s time for a remake.

This Sunday is the season finale, which could be the series finale given the lead actors’ schedules. Meanwhile, feel free to theorize and speculate in the comments below.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: Sherlock

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