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'Sherlock' recap: Sherlock nails his best man speech at John's wedding

Amanda Abbington as Mary Morstan, Martin Freeman as John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in 'Sherlock' 3x02 "The Sign of Three"
Amanda Abbington as Mary Morstan, Martin Freeman as John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in 'Sherlock' 3x02 "The Sign of Three"
(C)Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE

"Sherlock" season 3 continued Sunday, Jan. 26, on PBS with episode 2, "The Sign of Three," and it wouldn't be a wedding day without some murder, mystery and mayhem.

A guardsman found nearly dead in a locked shower cubicle, no weapon to be found. Women who insisted they had dated a ghost. John and Mary's wedding day. Three things that could not possibly be connected, yet, they were in the latest "Sherlock" episode. After we thought the season premiere episode seemed a bit too disjointed at times, everything came together nicely in "The Sign of Three" to make for a very entertaining, very intriguing episode, (potential) murder case, and fun wedding day – and a heartfelt, touching, funny, and absolutely outstanding best man speech. There have really been few things better than Sherlock and John drunk.

Sherlock's best man speech, which ended up being very much like Sherlock (with the addition of a number of quite touching moments), lasted pretty much the entire episode, and of course, it all ended with a deduction that would change the lives of John and Mary (she was pregnant). It all began when, moments from catching a bank gang that had eluded the police for months, Lestrade received a text summoning him to Baker Street for help, and he took off with maximum back-up, including a helicopter. But Sherlock just needed help writing his best man speech, the hardest thing he ever had to do.

As revealed during the speech itself at the reception, Sherlock hadn't even realized he was John's best friend ("Of course you're my best friend," John told him) and therefore the only possible choice to be best man, but he did end up taking the wedding planning very seriously with Mary, helping with napkin designs, threatening one of her exes, and plying a kid with crime scene photos to make sure he did everything he was supposed to on the day.

It was during his speech that the two cases came up as he moved onto the funny stories by looking at John's blog, "the record of our time together," Sherlock explained, after he stumbled a bit, read a few telegrams aloud, talked about John asking him to be best man (while he was drinking tea with an eyeball in it, which was "surprisingly okay"), and moved all the guests with surprisingly touching words (see below for excerpts of the speech). The first case discussed was that of the Bloody Guardsman, a case they took because both Sherlock and John needed proof that things wouldn't change between them after the wedding. (Who else has loved seeing Sherlock and Mary getting along?)

A private in the Majesty's household guard had written about someone stalking him across the street from his post and taking photos, and when they went to investigate, he was found dead – or so they thought – of a stab wound in a locked shower cubicle. However, upon further examination, John discovered he wasn't dead, and he was able to save him, but that was one case Sherlock did not solve – nor did Lestrade or Tom with their theories. Instead, this was just one example of Sherlock trying to solve a murder while John saved a life.

Then came time for the embarrassing John part of the speech, which led to talk of their stag night, which lasted about two hours before they stumbled home drunk and were interrupted by a new client, Tessa, who insisted she'd had a date with a ghost. "The game is…something," Sherlock declared as they left to check out the home of this supposed ghost. "He's clueing for looks," John said to try to reassure the woman and landlord as a drunk Sherlock went around deducing (and if you love watching Sherlock's mind work, you had to love watching a drunk Sherlock's mind work). But the alcohol was too much for them, and the next morning, Lestrade let them out of a cell.

While John suffered through briefly hearing about Mrs. Hudson's marriage to a man running a drug cartel with many mistresses and who was arrested for blowing someone's head off before she began talking about their sex life, Sherlock was upstairs reading about John's former commanding officer, Major James Sholto, a war hero to some and hated by others for being the only survivor after he led a group of new recruits into battle, who received more death threats than Sherlock, but he turned back to the case of the woman who dated a ghost when John joined him.

Tessa wasn't the only woman who fell for this Mayfly man, who had also charmed four other women on separate nights and Sherlock couldn’t find one unifying factor between them. That too was a case Sherlock hadn't been able to solve before the wedding, but it was during his speech that he put the pieces together because Tessa had introduced them by their full names – including John's middle name, which he hated and had only been made public once, on the wedding invitation – and had told them to enjoy the wedding.

With Mycroft in his head to help him talk it out, Sherlock realized that the Mayfly Man was at the wedding and something was going to happen there: a murder, which was similar enough to a marriage, according to Sherlock. "The participants tend to know each other, and it's over when one of them's dead. In fairness, murder is a lot quicker though." But who was the Mayfly Man's target? It was someone who didn't get out much, a recluse whom it would be too difficult to get to in the privacy of his own home: Sholto. And for photos of a headless nun, the kid figured it out: the invisible man with the invisible knife from the Bloody Guardsman. Sherlock realized that the guardsman had been a rehearsal, and he, John, and Mary followed Sholto out to his room.

Sholto refused to let them into his room unless Sherlock solved the case first, and with the game on, it was time for the "drama queen" to do just that. With that, Sherlock realized that Sholto had been stabbed hours ago; someone came up behind him and stabbed him with a small blade through the fabric of his belt, and that belt had held his flesh together. So when the guardsman went to take a shower and took off the belt… Sholto argued that "if someone wants you dead, it's hardly good manners to argue," but it was Sherlock pointing out that since they were similar, like Sholto said, he knew he wouldn't do this to John on his wedding day. He was right, and Sholto let Dr. Watson give him the medical attention he needed. Once again, Sherlock solved the case and John saved the life. But who was the attempted murderer? That would be the photographer, whose brother had been one of the recruits who died under Sholto's command.

But it was bittersweet when Sherlock commented that they wouldn't need him around anymore with a baby on the way, with them getting all the practice they'd need with him, and then left, as everyone danced with their respective partners at the reception.

Excerpts from Sherlock's best man speech:

"I confess at first I didn't realize he was asking me. When finally I understood, I expressed to him that I was both flattered and surprised. I explained to him that I had never expected this request and I was a little daunted in the face of it. I nonetheless promised that I would do my very best to accomplish a task which was, for me, as demanding and difficult as any I had ever contemplated. Additionally, I thanked him for the trust he'd placed in me and indicated that I was, in some ways, very close to being moved by it. It later transpired that I'd said none of this out loud.

…I'm afraid, John, I can't congratulate you. All emotions, and in particular love, stand opposed to the pure, cold 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 death watch beetle that is the doom of our society and, in time, one feels certain, our entire species. But anyway, let's talk about John. If I burden myself with a little help mate 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.

…The point I'm trying to make is that I am the most unpleasant, rude, ignoring and all-round obnoxious arsehole that anyone could possible have the misfortune to meet. I am dismisses 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'm 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.

…It does help to further illustrate how invaluable John is to me. I can read a crime scene the way he can understand a human being. I used to think that's what made me special; quite frankly, I still do. But a word to the wise: should any of you require the services of either of us, I will solve your murder, but it takes John Watson to save your life. Trust me on that, I should know. He's saved mine so many times and in so many ways. This blog is the story of two men and their frankly ridiculous adventure of murder, mystery and mayhem. But from now on, there's a new story, a bigger adventure. Ladies and gentlemen, pray charge your glasses and be upstanding. Today begin the adventures of Mary Elizabeth Watson and John Hamish Watson.

...More important, however, today we saw two people make vows. I've never made a vow in my life, and after tonight, I never will again. So here in front of you all, my first and last vow: Mary and John, whatever it takes, whatever happens, from now on I swear I will always be there, always, for all three of you."

"Sherlock" season 3 airs Sundays at 9:58 p.m. on PBS. What did you think of episode 2 "The Sign of Three"?

© Meredith Jacobs 2014

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