- "We are in Buckingham Palace, the very heart of the British nation. Sherlock Holmes, put your trousers on!"
- ―Mycroft Holmes
A case of blackmail threatens to topple the monarchy itself, but soon Sherlock and John discover there is even more to it than that. They find themselves battling international terrorism, rogue CIA agents, and a secret conspiracy involving the British government.
This case, however, will cast a longer shadow on their lives than they could ever imagine, as the great detective begins a long duel of wits with an antagonist as ruthless, original and brilliant as himself: Irene Adler.
Jim Moriarty, whose snipers are aimed at Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson, and who has stated his intention to kill them both, is interrupted by a phone call. He leaves, having "received a better offer", letting Sherlock and John return to their flat at 221B Baker Street.
Sherlock Holmes solves a number of cases over the next few weeks, turning down several others because they bore him, including a man claiming his aunt's ashes are not hers and two girls not allowed to see their dead grandfather. Sherlock becomes a minor celebrity following John's blogs about his activities. One day, Sherlock's brother Mycroft has the pair brought to Buckingham Palace with Sherlock in only a sheet for a meeting when they are in middle of solving a case. The case involved the 'murder' of a man in an open field, witnessed by another man whose car had broken down near where the victim died. Mycroft and a Palace official explain that a female member of the royal family has had compromising photographs taken with dominatrix Irene Adler, and that she wishes for them to be retrieved. While Sherlock reviews photos of Adler, who is referred to as "The Woman", she looks at pictures taken of him.
Sherlock and John visit Adler's home, attempting to use deception to get inside. However, Adler is expecting them and after considering possible outfits, she appears fully made-up but completely naked. Sherlock is consequently unable to deduce anything about her. After several rounds of banter between Sherlock and Adler, John sets off the fire alarm and Sherlock is able to determine the location of Adler's safe, where a camera phone containing the compromising photos, as well as other valuable information, is hidden. Several American operatives appear and hold Sherlock, John, and Adler at gunpoint, demanding that Sherlock open the safe. Sherlock deduces the password (Adler's measurements) and opens the safe, which is booby-trapped with a handgun and kills one of the assailants. The duo and Irene disarm the rest of them. Sherlock acquires Adler's camera phone, but she attacks him with a drugged syringe and escapes through a window with the phone. During this time, John is in another room. Back at his apartment, Sherlock has a fevered dream in which he sees Irene returning his coat. He wakes to find that his coat has mysteriously reappeared, and Adler has added her number to his phone. She has added a personalised ringtone of a woman sighing erotically, which sounds whenever Sherlock's telephone receives a text message she has sent.
Six months later, whilst celebrating Christmas, Sherlock learns (via text message) that Adler has sent him the camera phone for safekeeping. Sherlock notifies Mycroft that he will shortly find Adler dead, knowing the value Adler put on her phone. Subsequently, the Holmes brothers arrive at St Bart's morgue where Sherlock identifies Adler's mutilated body. On New Year's Eve, John is contacted by an unnamed woman who has him brought to the abandoned Battersea Power Station. The contact reveals herself to be Irene, not Mycroft as John expected: she faked her own demise to shake pursuers off her trail. John urges her to reveal herself to Sherlock. She initially refuses, but is persuaded. The two then discuss the nature of their respective relationships with Sherlock; during this, Adler's personalised ringtone is heard from an adjacent corridor, revealing Sherlock's presence and his awareness of Adler's survival.
Back in 221B, Sherlock detects the signs of a break-in and finds the American hitmen from Adler's residence holding Mrs Hudson hostage. Sherlock immediately realises that the landlady has been tortured and plans extreme retaliation. During the stand-off, Sherlock demands two of the gunmen go away, leaving him with their leader. While the man frisks him, Sherlock maces the man, knocks him out cold, ties him up, and eventually throws him out the window (apparently several times).
Later on, Sherlock finds Adler sleeping in his bedroom. Irene reveals that she is still being hunted and asks Sherlock to decipher a code she stole from a Ministry of Defence official. He effortlessly cracks the code, revealing it to be an airline seat allocation number. Irene secretly texts the flight number to her contact, Jim Moriarty. He in turn texts Mycroft Holmes, revealing that he is now aware of the MoD plot to fool a terrorist cell that was attempting to sabotage the flight. Mycroft is visibly shattered by this development.
Adler's attempts to seduce Sherlock are interrupted by government officials who have come to collect him and deliver him to Heathrow airport. En route there, Sherlock remembers Mycroft mentioning Coventry on the phone and reminisces about the allegations that the British government allowed the Coventry Blitz to happen, so as not to alert the Germans that their military codes had been cracked. There, his suspicions that a similar situation is occurring are confirmed by Mycroft on board the airplane, which has been filled with corpses. The government had decided to fly a 'dummy plane', so as not to alert the saboteurs yet still avoid genuine casualties, which also explains the involvement of US agents. However, as Sherlock has unwittingly helped Irene, and, by extension, Moriarty, crack the code, the scheme is foiled.
Afterwards, the Holmes brothers and Adler sit down, while Adler reveals a list of demands, including protective measures for herself, against the release of further confidential material. Mycroft is helpless; however, at the last moment, Sherlock confronts Adler, deducing the password of her camera phone. Despite Adler's cold insistence that Sherlock meant nothing to her, taunting his lack of sexual or romantic experience, he has already concluded she is lying. He points out her dilated pupils and her elevated pulse during moments of intimacy – both indicators of her own attraction to him. He types S-H-E-R into the phone, which reads "I AM S-H-E-R LOCKED". Passing it to his brother, Sherlock walks out, ignoring Adler's pleas for protection. Without the insurance of the information she held, she is unlikely to outrun her enemies.
Some months later, Mycroft informs John that Adler has been beheaded by a terrorist cell in Karachi, but asks him to tell Sherlock instead that she has entered a US witness protection program. Sherlock appears to accept this and asks John to give him Adler's phone. John leaves, while Sherlock re-reads her multiple flirtatious text messages to him. The scene changes to a flashback of Adler's "execution" where Sherlock had infiltrated the cell, disguised as her executioner, and rescued her with seconds to spare.
Back in the present, Sherlock chuckles to himself, puts the phone away and says "The Woman".
Vatican Cameos is a code-phrase used between Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson. Sherlock uses it as a warning to indicate that the situation they are in at that moment is similar to one they have encountered before, presumably one where they needed to duck.
Vatican Cameos was used again in "The Sign of Three" when Sherlock says it during his best man speech to warn John about an impending murder. When Mary asks what it means, John tells her it means somebody is going to die.
The phrase is similar to the 'Headless Nun' ploy from the "Unaired Pilot", which appears to mean 'Throw me out (of the restaurant) while I pretend to be drunk'. Judging from Angelo's reaction, this had happened before.
- The episode is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "A Scandal in Bohemia".
- In the opening montage of stories that John is blogging about, all of the names are callbacks to Doyle's original stories.
- "So what are we going to call this one? The belly button murders?" Sherlock asks, to which John replies, "The Naval Treatment", referencing Doyle's "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty".
- "Oh for god sakes," Sherlock yelps, "the speckled blonde?!", referencing Doyle's "The Adventure of the Speckled Band".
- "What's that?" Sherlock asks. "It is the title..." John replies. "What does it need a title for?" The title was, "The Geek Interpreter," referencing Doyle's "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter".
- One of John's blog posts is titled "Sherlock Holmes Baffled", the same title as a 1900 silent film, the first depiction of Holmes on film.
- According to John, Sherlock enumerates 240 different types of tobacco ash on his website. This is a reference to The Sign of the Four, in which Holmes tells Watson that he has written a monograph in which he enumerates 140 forms of tobacco.
- Sherlock uses a deerstalker cap in an attempt to disguise himself from the media, a reference to the classic image of him created by illustrator Sidney Paget.
- John reveals his middle name to be Hamish, in accordance with popular supposition.
- Moriarty's text message to Mycroft of "Dear me, Mr Holmes. Dear me." is his note to Holmes in the epilogue of The Valley of Fear.
- The thumb in Sherlock refrigerator recall "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb".
- As Sherlock opens Irene Adler's safe, he says "Vatican cameos", a reference to an unpublished case briefly mentioned during The Hound of the Baskervilles. In that story he says "I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch with several interesting English cases".
- Sherlock's explanation of why he does not accept orders from anonymous customer, is also found in "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client".
- As, once more, an 'update' of a literary Holmesian trait, Sherlock's encyclopaedic knowledge of London trains appears here to have been transmogrified into total recall of, at least, all flights in and out of Heathrow, given the precision of his near-instantaneous analysis of Irene's purloined email.
- One of Irene's texts seen near the end of the episode reads "BBC1 now. You'll laugh". The date and time match when the episode was first aired.
- One of the newspaper headlines read "hat-man and Robin," a reference to the famous dynamic duo of Batman and Robin.
- "This is a six. We agreed I would not go out of the flat for anything less than a seven."
"We did we agree on that?
"I was gone last weekend. Do you carry on talking when I leave?"
"I don't know; how often are you gone?"
- ―Sherlock and John video chat
- "What are we doing here, Sherlock?"
"Here to see the Queen?"
(Mycroft walks in the room)
"Oh, apparently yes."
(Sherlock and John burst out laughing)"
- ―John and Sherlock wonder why they're in Buckingham Palace, then crack a joke about Mycroft
- "Is it too much to hope for you two to act like grown ups?"
"We solve crimes, I blog about it and he forgets his pants. I wouldn't hold out too much hope."
- ―Mycroft and John
- "You know what the problem with a disguise is, Mr. Holmes? No matter how hard you try, it's always a self-portrait."
"You think I'm a vicar with a bleeding face?"
"NO. I think you're damaged, delusional and believe in a higher power. Quite obviously yourself."
- ―Irene and Sherlock banter
- "Upon hearing a fire alarm, a mother would look towards her child. Thank you. (Reveals a hidden safe) Really hope you don't have a baby in here. You really should were gloves on when using these; heaviest oil deposit is on the first key, which is a 2. Can't be a your birthday. No offense, but clearly you were born in the 80s."
"I'd tell you the code right now. As a matter of fact, I already have. Think.""
- ―Sherlock and Irene
- "Brainy's the new sexy."
- ―Irene Adler
- "You know, I was wrong about him; he did know where to look."
"What are you talking about?"
"Should I tell him?"
(Drugged, Sherlock gives a look)
"My measurements. "
- ―Irene reveals how Sherlock figured out the code to her safe to John
- "John, we have a client."
"What? In your bedroom? Oh..."
- ―Sherlock and John find Irene has returned
- "This is your heart, and you should never let it rule your head."
- ―Sherlock deciphers the passcode on Irene's camera phone, after deducing her love for him
- "My brother has the mind of a scholar, yet he elects to be a detective. Well, as things go, it's an improvement; initially, he wanted to be a pirate."
- "Hated her in the end. Wouldn't even call her by name. Just "The Woman"."
"Is that loathing? Or a salute? "The Woman?" The one woman that actually mattered?"
- ―John thinks Sherlock detests Irene, while Mycroft thinks his brother truly felt something for her
- Sherlock briefly refers to the story of Enigma to Irene at 1:10:50. Benedict Cumberbatch, Holmes' actor, portrayed Alan Turing, the man who broke Enigma, in the biographical film The Imitation Game. Cumberbatch's portrayal earned him his first Oscar nomination.
- This episode covers the largest amount of time so far (roughly 11 months). It picks up on the last episode (April 1), and quickly moves through the entire summer. They meet Irene in September, and the episode continues through Christmas and ends in March of the following year. According to John's blog, the next case, "The Hounds of Baskerville", happens before 16 March.
- Subtle visual joke: 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 didn’t 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.
- According to the DVD commentary, Producer Sue Vertue was at a funeral when someone's cellphone went off. It was, most inappropriately, playing 'Staying Alive' by the Bee Gees. When her husband, Steven Moffat, heard this he decided it was the perfect ringtone for Moriarty.
- The beginning scene was shot 18 months after the earlier part of the scene in "The Great Game". On closer observation, it can be seen that Sherlock's face is a bit fuller and Watson is wearing a wig.
- John revels his middle name to be "Hamish". In the canon, the preface of the collection His Last Bow is signed 'John H. Watson, M.D', and in "The Problem of Thor Bridge", Watson says that his dispatch box is labeled 'John H. Watson, M.D'. His wife Mary Watson calls him 'James' in "The Man with the Twisted Lip"; Dorothy L. Sayers speculates that Mary may be referring to his middle name Hamish (an Anglicisation of 'Sheumais', the vocative form of 'Seumas', the Scottish Gaelic for James), though Doyle himself never addresses this beyond including the initial.
- "The Speckled Blonde", "The Geek Interpreter," and "The Aluminium Crutch" are documented on John's blog. 
- The deleted "Analysis of Tobacco Ash" can be seen in the case files of Sherlock's website. 
- "The Aluminium Crutch" is also seen as ongoing case on Sherlock's website. It is a reference to an unpublished case mentioned in "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual".
- John's blog counter has frozen at 1895. This is an allusion to a poem loved by the show's creators, "221B" by Vincent Starrett, one of the first Sherlockians. The last two lines are: "Here, though the world explode, these two survive / and it is always eighteen ninety-five." 1895 was the year in which Sherlock Holmes was at his prime, according to the original stories by Conan Doyle.
- According to the DVD commentary, Benedict Cumberbatch ended up with nicotine poisoning after doing the smoking in the morgue scene about 20 times.
- When Mycroft is pouring tea from a teapot, he says, "I’ll be mother." It refers to the old-fashioned superstition that only one person in the household – usually the mother of the family – should pour the tea.
- Sherlock steals a glass ashtray from Buckingham Palace. On John's blog about this visit, Mrs Hudson comments, "Is that where this ashtray came from?!", to which John responds "Remind me never to ask you for an alibi, Mrs H.".
- The code to Irene's safe is her measurements: 32, 24, 34.
- Irene deduces that Sherlock is "damaged, delusional and believes in a higher power". These first two things are explained in "The Final Problem": Sherlock suffered the loss of his best friend Victor Trevor due to his insane sister, Eurus, who tried killing Sherlock in a house fire. After Eurus was institutionalized, Sherlock "rewrote" his memories, turning Eurus into a ghost story and Victor into a pet dog. The "higher power", is explained by Irene to be Sherlock himself; likely meaning he thinks himself above humanity.
- Seats allocated on flight 007 were 4C, 12C, 45F, 13E, 13G, 60A, 60B, 61F, 34G, 34J, 60D, 12H, 33K, 34K.
- According to Sherlock, she was born in the 80s. This means (at the time of airing), her character was between 22 and 31 years old.
- A woman named Siobhan Whelan commented on John's blog "The Speckled Blonde" that "My husband died last week and they wouldn't let me see the body and I'm sure they're hiding something." and asked for Sherlock's help, which Sherlock dismissed on the "Hat-Man and Robin" blog post. Another hint of "The Coventry conundrum" Sherlock missed.
- In the scene where Irene whips Sherlock, Lara Pulver was trying her best to not hit Benedict Cumberbatch too hard.
- According to the ticket stub from the dead passenger, his name was John Coniston and he was flying on flight number 007 from Flyaway Airways.
- This episode provoked controversy due to Irene Adler's nude scenes. Purist and feminist viewers also did not approve of the portrayal of the character. However, the creators dismissed these allegations.
- The script for this episode was awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Award.
- In the credits of Sherlock on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS, some of the letters were highlighted red. Letters from this episode spells out T-H-E-W-O-M-A-N.
- In the opening poolside scene, John's jacket containing the explosives is constantly seen in different positions.
- At Buckingham Palace, Watson has just sat down next to Sherlock. There is a red pillow between them on the couch. It moves, sometime sitting straight and sometimes tilted, between shots throughout the scene.
- When John comes in from the rain and tells Sherlock about Irene, the damp patches on his jacket come and go.
- The morning after the Christmas party, John is shown putting on his jacket while speaking to Mrs Hudson, then putting it on again as Mrs Hudson leaves the room.
- Sherlock's bow movements and finger placements do not sync with the music he is playing on the violin.
- Near the end, when Mycroft is talking to Watson, he folds his hands and places his head on them. However, in the next shot, his hands are a couple inches away from his face.
- When Sherlock and Mycroft go to identify a body at St. Barts Hospital, they enter a door marked "Morgue". Like most British hospitals, Barts has a Mortuary, not a Morgue which is a mainly American word.
- In the first paper - with the headline "Hat-man and Robin" - there are two paragraphs of text, and then parts of that text is repeated to fill in the page. Also, on one of the later editions we see, words from that first newspaper are repeated almost verbatim.
- On a scene, reflection of crew is visible moving in the mirror on the wall behind and to the right of Mycroft.
- For all his concern about English grammar in the previous episode (S1,E3) Sherlock makes the typical grammar mistake caused by overcompensating when he said "...before you sent John and I in there". It should of course be "John and me", since the object of the verb to send should be in the accusative and not the nominative case, You wouldn't say " before you sent I in there".
- Despite making the appropriate grunting noise, Nielson does not physically respond to Sherlock macing him.
- In an earlier episode, Mycroft reveals he is watching both Sherlock and Watson at 'level three'; however, he appears not to know that Sherlock was in Karachi at exactly the time Irene Adler was 'beheaded' and says that it was unlikely that Sherlock was there.
- Sherlock Holmes – Benedict Cumberbatch
- Dr John Watson – Martin Freeman
- Mrs Hudson – Una Stubbs
- DI Greg Lestrade – Rupert Graves
- Mycroft Holmes – Mark Gatiss
- Jim Moriarty – Andrew Scott
- Molly Hooper – Louise Brealey
- Irene Adler – Lara Pulver
- DI Carter – Danny Webb
- The Equerry – Andrew Havill
- Neilson – Todd Boyce
- Jeanette – Oona Chaplin
- Timid Man – Richard Cunningham
- Married Woman – Rosemary Smith
- Businessman – Simon Thorp
- Geeky Young Man – Anthony Cozens
- Creepy Guy – Munir Khairdin
- Phil – Nathan Harmer
- Young Policeman – Luke Newberry
- Plummer – Darrell Las Quevas
- Kate – Rosalind Halstead
- Archer – Peter Pedrero
- Little Girls
- Honor Kneafsey
- Ilana Kneafsey
- Beautiful Woman – Thomasin Rand
- Lidster, Joseph. "The Hounds of Baskerville". BBC.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, "Dr. Watson's Christian Name," in Unpopular Opinions (London: Victor Gollancz, 1946), 148–151.
- Lidster, Joseph. "The Speckled Blonde". BBC.
- Lidster, Joseph. "The Geek Interpreter". BBC.
- Lidster, Joseph. "The Aluminium Crutch". BBC.
- Lidster, Joseph. "Case files". BBC.
- Lidster, Joseph. "Case files". BBC.
- Dr. ALEC GILL MBE. "STEEPED in SUPERSTITION".
- Lidster, Joseph. "By Royal Appointment". BBC.
- Lidster, Joseph. "The Speckled Blonde". BBC.
- Lidster, Joseph. "Hat-Man and Robin". BBC.
|Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) • John Watson (Martin Freeman) • Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) • Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) • Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves) • Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) • Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs)|
|Irene Adler • Mary Watson • Charles Augustus Magnussen • Eurus Holmes|
|"A Study in Pink" • "The Blind Banker" • "The Great Game"|
|"A Scandal in Belgravia" • "The Hounds of Baskerville" • "The Reichenbach Fall"|
|"The Empty Hearse" • "The Sign of Three" • "His Last Vow"|
|"The Six Thatchers" • "The Lying Detective" • "The Final Problem"|
|Unaired Pilot • "Many Happy Returns" • "The Abominable Bride"|
|"Sherlock: The Network" • Manga|