'Sherlock': Holmes' wedding speech in 'The Sign of Three'

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Almost all of the "Sherlock" episode, "The Sign of Three" takes place during the wedding reception of John Watson and Mary Morstan. All of the action, in fact, becomes part of Sherlock Holmes' rather extraordinary wedding speech.

By the time Sherlock finally lets the crowd drink a toast, the detective has recounted two prior mysteries and deduced a new murder is coming. A few minutes later and those crimes are all connected.

Oh, and then Sherlock figures out that John and Mary are about to become parents. Holmes really does know how to make good use of his time at a wedding, doesn't he?

The elephant in the room, but not 'The Elephant in the Room'

First, let's get this out of the way: Dr. John Watson does indeed get married in "The Sign of Three." The ceremony ends before most of the episode even begins, with all of the action proceeding at the reception and in flashbacks.

John and Mary are also unexpectedly expecting a baby, so this relationship isn't just going to disappear. Sorry, Johnlock shippers!

Aside: Why doesn't Mary have any family? Is that a mystery Sherlock will need to solve in the final episode of the season?

First case: 'The Bloody Guardsman'

After a shaky start ("Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends ... And ... others. Also ... "), Sherlock gets through his best-man speech by recounting a recent case in which John has a chance to shine. The case concerns a member of the Royal Guard named Bainbridge. While wearing his big hat and standing at attention despite the tourists, Bainbridge has noticed a man photographing him.

Unfortunately for Bainbridge, Sherlock and Watson arrive to investigate on the very day when the stalker turns stabber. The soldier is found in a locked shower stall, leaking blood from a stab wound. Fortunately for Bainbridge, the wound proves non-fatal, thanks to the medical expertise of Watson.

Sherlock, however, can't figure out the crime.

Second case: A drunken Sherlock chases a mayfly

Sherlock moves on in his speech to a second case, this one meant to embarrass Watson. The mystery begins on Watson's stag night. Despite beer measured at exactly 443mL in graduated cylinders, Sherlock and John get wasted. This is probably because Watson added shots to many of the rounds.

When a new client, a nice young lady named Tessa shows up, Sherlock takes the case -- even though he can barely remember is own name at this point. It seems that Tessa dated a lovely man, but then the guy disappeared. She tried to track him down, only to realize that her date's residence was owned by a dead man.

Did Tessa date a ghost? If so, why do a bunch of other women have a similar story?

Sherlock and John do figure out that it's a living man -- a con artist who uses disguises and the homes of the recently dead to keep things to one night -- but they don't have much of a reason for it all. The best either can come up with is an ashamed, married man.

Third case: At the wedding

If you thought Sherlock would be too nervous to think during his best-man speech, you would be wrong. The man is always thinking. In fact, he is thinking so much that strange connections start to become clear.

For one thing, the detective realizes that Tessa the client knew John Watson's hated middle name (Hamish) and that the doctor was about to get married. He then realizes that all of the targeted women worked for one man, a guest at the wedding named Major James Sholter.

Sholter is something of a tragic figure. John's one-time military commander, Sholter had his career and life destroyed when he led a group of recent recruits into battle. They all died. He did not. Now he gets death threats. Watson's wedding is one of the man's first public appearances.

While Sherlock knows that Sholter is the target, he still doesn't know how or when it will happen. A young fan/ring bearer solves that puzzle by reminding Holmes about the mysterious stabbing of the Royal Guardsman.

It's all happening again.

'You were killed several hours ago'

The key to both the stabbing of the Guardsman and the impending murder of Sholter is a belt. In both cases, the men were stabbed long before any bleeding begins. The military belts are so tight that the wound stays closed until clothes are removed.

For Bainbridge, his duty to stand at attention caused the delay. In the case of Sholter, he just figures it's his time to die. The military man only consents to live when Holmes points out that dying at Watson's wedding would be rude.

So whodunit? That would be the wedding photographer: The young man, who merely used Bainbridge for practice, wanted to kill Sholter to avenge the death of a soldier brother. It doesn't work out that way, and the photographer just goes off to jail.

His first and last vow

His best-man speech over (in the most spectacular of fashions, by the way), Sherlock gives one more short little announcement after playing the violin for his friends:

"My first and last vow: Mary and Jon, whatever it takes, whatever happens, I will always be there ... for all three of you ..."

The pregnancy news sort of distracts the attention here, but it's important to point out something important -- the final episode of "Sherlock" Season 3 is called "His Last Vow." Does this simple sentence imply some sort of coming danger?

Alas, the answer has to wait another week. In the meantime, the second tear-jerking moment of the night -- the first coming when Sherlock talks about his reaction to being anyone's "best man" or "best friend" -- ends the episode. Sherlock leaves the happy party behind and walks away, not even an appreciative bridesmaid around to ease the loneliness.

Don't worry, Sherlock! John still loves you too!

A few final bits and pieces

  • "Your mother has a lot to answer for." - Mrs. Hudson
    "I know ... Mycroft has a file." - Sherlock
  • Sherlock can dance. Sherlock likes to dance!
  • "Mr. Holmes, you are going to be incredibly useful." - Bridesmaid
  • Every bridesmaid should have someone like Holmes at a wedding.
  • "Mary, when I say you deserve this man, it is the highest compliment to which I am capable." - Sherlock
  • Sherlock knows how to fold napkins into amusing shapes.
  • "That just sort of happened." - Sherlock, having made many napkin sculptures
  • Irene Adler apparently pops into Sherlock's head when he's not paying attention.
  • "What's wrong? What happened? Why are you all doing that? Did I do it wrong?" - Sherlock, when he makes the wedding cry

Photo/Video credit: PBS
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