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This week’s episode opens with Sherlock and Joan hanging out in a boxing ring, if the term “hanging out” applies to “Sherlock beats the shit out of his boxing partner.” Joan thinks Sherlock fights dirty (which he does) but Sherlock claims he fights without mercy – a thing that Joan needs to learn in case she comes up against bigger and stronger opponents.
Sherlock receives a call from one Mistress Felicia, a dominatrix friend of his who went to meet a client but found him dead on the floor. When the cops arrive on scene, Detective Bell goes to take Mistress Felicia’s statement while Joan and Sherlock do their thing. Sherlock notices a blue line around the victim’s lips, indicating that the victim, Titus Delancey, was poisoned.
Later, Sherlock receives a whip from Mistress Felicia as a ‘thank you’ for helping her. Sherlock and Joan discuss the details of the case. Knowing that Delancey’s body would be found at a dominatrix’s house, the killer didn’t just want Delancey dead – he wanted to humiliate him.
The team heads a sex shop that sells the type and size of suit Delancey had been found in. At first, the unfriendly sex shop owner refuses to tell Bell, Sherlock, and Joan who bought the double XL leather suit.
Joan,and Bell manages to get the shop owner to be a little more compliant by threatening to cart off thousands of dollars of merchandise and scaring off customers with police badges. The shop owner looks up who bought the suit, which leads the team to a Burt Jeffries (Paul Fitzgerald).
Gregson and Bell question Jeffries. Jeffries admits that he bought the fetish suit for his boss, Titus Delancey, and that he put Titus in the suit. But Jeffries maintains that he did not poison him. Delancey’s company contract contained a morals clause, so by putting Delancey in the fetish suit, Jeffries could save their company from paying a $125 million retirement package.
They rule out Jeffries as the killer.
While the police question Delancey’s wife, the nanny arrives and introduces herself as Anne Barker (Laura Benanti). Sherlock asks Joan to come outside, where he tells her about an old case involving a 15-year-old girl named Abigail Spencer who allegedly poisoned her father with nitroglycerin. She was ultimately acquitted and, afterward, she supposedly assumed another identity to start a new life for herself. Sherlock thinks the nanny is actually Abigail Spencer.
Gregson questions Anne back at the police station. The reason she changed her name is because people still thought she was guilty of her killing her father, despite being acquitted. Anne says her father was a cruel, abusive man, so she didn’t shed any tears for him after he died. Her lack of grief led people to assume that she must have been guilty.
When Gregson asks her about Delancey, and brings up how extremely coincidental it is that he died from the same poison that was used to kill Anne’s father, Anne says that she’s innocent of any wrongdoing. Her only alibi is that she was home alone the night Delancey was murdered.
After the trial, Anne lost all of her friends, so she mostly keeps to herself nowadays. Anne asks Sherlock how he was able to recognize her, when no one has been able to do so for 19 years ever since she got plastic surgery. Sherlock says it was the sound of her voice, which he remembered from all of the media coverage surrounding her trial.
Later, Sherlock tells Gregson, Bell, and Joan that he doesn’t think Anne murdered Delancey. Gregson points out that Sherlock was the one to point her out in the first place and Bell thinks the coincidences are too much to ignore. Sherlock theorizes that whoever killed Delancey recognized Anne as Abigail Spencer and is trying to frame her.
Back at the loft, Joan reveals that she noticed Sherlock was fixated on Anne’s tattoo when they first met, which is how he was able to recognize her – not because of the sound of her voice. Sherlock tells Joan about his fascination with the Abigail Spencer case – so much so that he began writing her letters under the alias Shawn Holmes (Sherlock says he was less self-assured in his teenage years.)
In one letter, she told him that she was planning on getting a tattoo of a phoenix on her inside wrist. Their correspondence gave Sherlock a real window into the mind of a murderer and he was able to deduce that Anne’s father was in fact abusive towards her and that she killed him. However, Anne was no threat to anyone except her father.
The next day, Sherlock goes to visit Anne. The media is parked outside her apartment building and she refuses to let Sherlock inside, until he reveals that she once knew him by another name – Shawn Holmes.
Anne tells him that she used to look forward to receiving his letters. She then apologizes, because she’s the one who stopped writing back – disappearing without a trace. Sherlock is understanding and tells her about his theory that someone is trying to frame her for Delaney’s murder.
Anne tells him about a brown sedan that kept following her around about a month ago. She shows him the license plate number that she copied down on her phone. As Sherlock is leaving, Anne tearfully says how she has no one to talk to. His letters used to get her through some very tough times, just like right now.
It turns out that the brown sedan belonged to a private detective hired by none other than Peri Delancey, the victim’s wife. Peri was hoping that her husband was cheating on her – that way she could divorce him and collect a large sum of money. So she hired a P.I. to investigate all the women in her husband’s life. The P.I. uncovered Anne’s true identity as Abigail Spencer during the process.
For two weeks, Peri knew about Anne’s real identity, yet kept her on as the family’s nanny. Bell thinks Peri snuck out in the middle of the night and poisoned her husband with the intention of pinning the blame on Anne.
Peri tells the police her alibi – she was meeting with a doctor who gives out illegal prescription meds. Peri’s lawyer says that she is willing to testify against the doctor if she can avoid an attempted murder charge. Peri admits that she bought nitroglycerin from the doctor with the intention of using it on her husband. However, she states that she never went through with it.
At the loft, Joan notices that Sherlock has made one of Delancey’s sons – the eldest, Graham – a suspect. He plans on confronting Graham tomorrow, which also happens to be Titus Delancey’s memorial service. Joan thinks it’s ridiculous that Sherlock is going to harass a teenage boy on the day of his father’s funeral.
Joan suspects that Sherlock had fallen in love with Anne back when they were writing letters to each other – which explains why Sherlock spent so much time at her place earlier, and why he’s so convinced of her innocence. Sherlock opens up to Joan about going off to boarding school, being bullied in his youth, and that Anne had been someone to talk to. Sherlock’s interest in her had initially been academic, but as their correspondence grew, he became more emotionally invested.
Anne/Abigail was Sherlock’s first killer. Without intending to, she allowed Sherlock to understand himself and his purpose in life better.
Graham is playing basketball when Sherlock and Joan go to interrogate him. Graham claims he’s innocent, but as Sherlock says, “financial gain has motivated many a murderous endeavor” – and Graham and his brother stood to gain a lot from their father’s death. On top of that, Graham’s alibi has been weakened with his stepmother’s confession that wasn’t home the night Titus was killed.
Graham filmed Titus and Anne getting into an argument before Titus was killed. Titus thought Anne had tried to steal his computer tablet, which may have contained information about Anne’s real identity.
Elsewhere, Sherlock reveals that he knows Anne killed her father. He’s known for 22 years. Anne kicks Sherlock out of her apartment without another word.
Joan shows off her Sherlock-like tendencies to Bell while they search Titus’ office for his computer tablet. They find it in a fake vent.
Joan calls Sherlock to tell him that maybe Graham did kill his father. The tablet contained videos of Titus sexually abusing Graham. He’s the one who tried to steal Titus’ tablet – not Anne. And Graham killed Titus in order to protect his little brother.
Joan and Sherlock try to convince him to confess to the murder, counting on the fact that Graham genuinely cares about what happens to Anne. However, before he can make a decision, Graham’s lawyer rushes in asking to speak to her client. Upon hearing what Titus had done to Graham, Anne had gone and confessed to the crime herself.
Sherlock says that Anne doesn’t even have to confess since Graham committed murder under “mitigating circumstances.” He would only have to serve 18 months in prison, which Anne points out is the same amount of time they spent writing letters to one another. It can feel like a lifetime.
Anne doesn’t want Graham to go through what she did – being labeled a killer for the rest of your life, especially the killer of your own father. She feels guilty for not noticing what was going on.
In Anne’s eyes, Titus got exactly what was coming to him – and now, so would she.
Sherlock gives Graham his contact information, offering to listen if Graham ever needs someone to talk to. Sherlock understands what being victimized is like – though not to the level of betrayal that Graham has experienced – and sometimes, talking about it can help.
Jeffries: If the charge here is that I’m a greedy jerk with really questionable morals, then I’m guilty.
Sherlock: Putting on a latex garment like this is a bit like putting on a swimsuit that’s two sizes too small and already wet.