How Sherlock Survived; A Walk-through for Kara

One of the last times that I was talking to my fake baby-sister Kara she had asked how Sherlock could have survived jumping off the roof of St Bart’s hospital.  Time passed, but I remembered that she had asked while I was watching the last episode today, so I’m writing a kind of walk-though for the last 20 minutes of the episode that *should* explain it well enough.

While the audience is figuring things out as the episode unfolds, it is important to remember that we are talking about Sherlock Holmes.  To set all of this up, the viewer first has to recognize that Sherlock starts to plan the end of the episode after he and John leave the reporter’s apartment.  To be more clear, at the moment that Sherlock leaves to find Molly at the hospital and Watson leaves to confront Mycroft.  It was during this dialogue that Sherlock realizes that the last act of Moriarty’s plan is for Sherlock to commit suicide.

Realizing this, we now jump ahead to Sherlock getting rid of Watson by having someone fake a paramedic call.  Moriarty is waiting on the roof because Sherlock texted him the exact meeting place. So we end up on the roof, and Moriarty states that he has spent his entire life looking for a distraction from ordinary people, and expresses his disgust that Sherlock turned out to be another boring, ordinary person.  Two things here.  First, Moriarty is doing the typical evil genius thing and monologue-ing here.  Secondly, he is playing to another bad-guy stereotype by being the lonely genius who creates havoc to try and force an equal to find him (V’ger from Star Trek The Motion Picture, Samuel L Jackson in Unbreakable, etc).  Anyway, since Moriarty is monologue-ing a bit here you have to assume that Sherlock is interrogating him as well.  From some carefully worded questions, Sherlock realizes that there is no code – at least not a computer code – that runs the world.  Since they didn’t come out and say it, however, it should be pointed out that the code that allowed Moriarty to do all of this things is IOU.  He did give the code to Sherlock in the apartment – verbally and left written in the side of an apple.  It also appears as a reminder throughout the episode.  By pulling all of these various strings, all of the crimes in the series were because these baddies all owed something to Moriarty.  The cab driver needed Moriarty’s money.  The Chinese gang needed assistance to set up shop in London and get their item back.  So on and so forth.  But Sherlock knows that there is no code.  If he can manipulate everyone’s cell phones in the very first episode, how can he not decode binary?  He can’t not.

Back to the episode, Moriarty tells Sherlock that a need for everything to be clever is Sherlock’s weakness.  While this is true, remember that being able to pull every string and know the outcome ahead of time is also a weakness for Moriarty (the spider reference from the trial earlier in the episode).  Hold on to that one.

Sherlock feigns realizing that Moriarty’s plan is for Sherlock to commit suicide – again, he figured that one out the night before.  Sherlock wasn’t lucky in choosing a tall building.  He choose a building he had intimate knowledge of and was able to set up the mechanisms of his plan.  Sherlock looks over the side of the building – to the viewer, it appears that he is contemplating the jump, but what he is actually doing is checking on the progress of his plan.  Timing is crucial for him here. While he is looking over, note that there is a rectangular pattern in the bricks below.

Just as a fun thing here, as Watson calls a cab notice that the graffiti on the side of the building is “IOU.”  Moriarty was quite the smart ass; while he was taunting Sherlock with his threat of owing him a fall, he also pretty much gave the code to the assassins for free – they just didn’t realize it.  Again, he isn’t in it for the money.  It’s about the game.

Back to the rooftop interrogation (complete with tough guy holding Moriarty over the edge of the building.  Can you imagine Cumberbatch dressed as Batman right now asking Moriarty “WHATS THE CODE!?!”)  Anyway, Moriarty admits that he has people following all of Sherlock’s friends.  It’s important for Sherlock’s success now to see if Moriarty is on to him.  He names Watson, Mrs Hudson, and Lestrade, and Moriarty gives away too much by saying that there will be 3 victims.  Molly was left out, which goes back to what she was saying about her not counting or mattering.  Sherlock of course went to her for help because she is the person that even he would overlook, which leaves her free to secure a look-alike body,  a truck, etc.   Moriarty also lets slip that he can call off the gunmen (of course he can; they owe him), which was more for the sake of the audience.  Sherlock drives the point home by exploiting Moriarty’s weakness – not knowing what would each strand of his web is capable of.  Sherlock points out that Moriarty’s life is a weakness that Sherlock can exploit (“I don’t have to die if *I’ve got you.*”) Which is some nice theme conclusion from earlier in the episode when Sherlock states that you cannot kill an idea once the seed has been planted in your head. Moriarty is now doubting that he can live and still win.  There was also some nice book-ending right here – Moriarty yelling “What’d I miss?” mirrors the scene in the first episode where Sherlock asks Watson the same thing in regards to Watson’s brother actually being his sister.  Which reminds me; you got the reference with the burnt gingerbread man, right?  The part at the end of season 1 where Moriarty says that he will burn Sherlock?  The show seems like it was written so that they could have ended it after the second season if they needed to.  Insert trope of crazy bad guy realizing that he isn’t alone,  blah blah blah.  Anyway, Moriarty realizes that he underestimated Sherlock and that he has to die to stop Sherlock from winning.  When they are close together and Moriarty goes to shoot himself, notice that Sherlock pushes away instead of trying to stop him.  If Moriarty living was the only way that Sherlock’s friends can live, and we know from previous episodes that Sherlock is an expert at hand-to-hand combat, then Sherlock could have saved Moriarty if he wanted to.  But this ties it up so much neater.  Sherlock just has to act shocked, since he knows from the monologue that Moriarty’s people are watching.

Now that we’ve covered how Sherlock defeated Moriarty, we can move on to faking his death.  As Watson arrives by cab, Sherlock calls him and directs him to turn around and stay on the other side of the low, red brick building.  After all, Watson is not safe if he acts in a way that suggests he knows Sherlock is alive.  He instructs Watson to tell everyone he was a fake, and names Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, and MOLLY.  It’s another clue for the viewer, and also a small way which Sherlock can show off that he out-smarted Moriarty.  He goes through the phone call suicide note to help convince Watson that Sherlock is jumping, and more than likely to also cover his bases – if his apartment was bugged, why not his phone?  He instructs Watson to keep his eyes on Sherlock – which is similar to a magician saying abracadabra.  Watson is not paying attention to things on the ground right now.  There’s the jump, but from Watson’s viewpoint he can’t see Sherlock hit ground.  The viewer sees a body hit, but we’ll get back to that.  As Watson runs around the building, there is a red truck with what appears to be dozens of bean bag chairs in the back of it that starts to pull away.  Just then a bicyclist runs into Watson, and he hits his head very hard.  So hard, in fact, his vision is blurred.  This is by design.  Just as Moriarty had henchmen, Sherlock has his army of helpers.  They’re the same, remember? Someone had to place the fake paramedic call to Watson earlier, as well.  Now that Watson is emotional AND impaired, how can he make a proper ID of the body?  Of all the people present, Watson was the only person who could look at the body and see that it wasn’t Sherlock.

But wait, what happened?  Simple.  The truck parked over the white outline, which Sherlock must have calculated was the furthest distance that he could jump outward from the building.  Sherlock jumped onto the bags, and someone threw the re-purposed dead guy over the side of the truck.  That’s it.  I’ve seen posts with people theorizing different ways he survived the fall, but here’s the beauty of it; it’s simple.  Moriarty’s claim that Sherlock needs everything to be clever was wrong, or perhaps Sherlock was more able to adapt and change is methods to catch Moriarty off guard.

So there you have it. One of my coworkers theorized that Sherlock was working on how to fake his death from the beginning, and pointed to the head in the fridge which Mrs Hudson mentions again at Sherlock’s funeral.  I would have to go back and watch them all to check on that.  I did enjoy a fun moment that was probably unintentional; Watson says that Sherlock was “the most human” and gets choked up, which is the line that Kirk choked up on when Spock died at the end of Wrath of Khan.  Cumberbatch was then signed to play Khan in JJ Abrams’ remake.  Just a bit of fun.

Oh, and if you hadn’t got the IOU thing, it’s one of the last things Watson says to the gravestone.  “I owe you so much.”


Solve for Why

I get bored rather easily.  It isn’t for a lack of anything better to do; my house is filled with half completed projects, thousands of unread books (no, seriously.  Thousands), and enough reference material to write a few decent books.  If I could only be bothered.  This wouldn’t seem unusual except that the most entertaining thing that I could think to do right now would be to stand in a stream in Erie from sun up to sun down.  Stand there completely still, without speaking to another soul or listening to music.  Just to hold a fishing lure in the same ten square feet of river.

I’ve had a few people ask why I’ve become so “obsessed” with fishing.  I’ve always struggled to explain why (or neglected to attempt to), because it was never something tangible.  I usually pass through a couple different phases a year, where I obsess over a topic, spend hours doing internet research on it, buy books from my store to learn how to do it myself/better, and then buy supplies for it in bulk.  Just to move on to something else.  But if the weather is right for it, I’ll be out fishing without a doubt.  As best as I can figure it, the reason I’m still out there casting to fish instead of scribbling down notes or learning to play that bass guitar I bought years ago is because that fish has a brain, and I can’t figure it out.

I love being presented with a problem to solve.  People generally like brain teasers, but if you give me something to figure out I am in my element.  Why isn’t this working?  Design or create something for this contest.  How can I get this to be just right?  I love those sorts of problems.  I could (and usually do) have twenty other things that I should be doing instead, but if you give me a problem to obsess over you will have my undivided attention…for now.  Take that away, and I become a bored couch potato.

Fishing gives me a reliable and steady outlet for this sort of behavior, because the fish presents an unknown variable into the equation.  There is a lot of science behind fishing.  Your choice in clothing is decided by the amount of wind and sunlight, as well as the depth of water you’re fishing.  The type and thickness of line dictated by the size fish you are after and the clarity of the water.  There are even charts to show you what color baits work best when cross referenced with water color and the amount of sunlight.  Where to place your bait in the water can be charted out on a map cross referenced with water temperature.

But the fish.  You can do everything correct, have a textbook example of a successfully planned outing, and not catch a single fish.  I have tossed bare hooks in and caught fish.  The problem becomes trying to outsmart a creature with a brain that is smaller than the fingernail on your pinky.  And on many days that fish will outsmart you, and figuring out why and how becomes the obsession.  You adapt your camouflage to the surroundings and move slower so it doesn’t see you and spook.  You try different baits and lures.  Sometimes this experimentation pays off.  Other times it only serves to drive you deeper into madness.  “These damn fish can’t outsmart me.”  But they will.  And they do.

Even if you manage to figure out the fish in any given situation, you are working in an environment that is constantly changing.  The stream moves branches and rocks around, and different pools and eddys form.  A front moves in, and the water temperature changes too quickly.  Thousands of mayflies hatch, and the fish are full from feeding on them. So many things can change the perfect fishing day you had yesterday into a frustrating skunk of a day today.  It takes a lot of experience, gear and stubbornness to try and find what things changed and how to adapt to them.  Which is probably why I have five tackleboxes of gear right now.

Hey, you’ll never know when you might need something in the middle of a lake.

The Perils of Late Night Netflix

I was going through some of the random documentaries on Netflix tonight, and ended up watching one with baby sea turtles. I had taken in the correct amount of caffeine and alcohol so that when they had the inevitable scene of baby turtles running for their lives – you know, the one where hoards of birds eat them willy-nilly and large crabs abscond with baby turtles still flailing – that I had a great idea.

Someone needs to edit some footage or animate the baby sea turtle beach escape to make it look like the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Instead of having the landing doors drop and soldiers are thrust either onto the beach or into water over their heads, open with the turtles bursting through their shells onto the beach. The mass then makes a run across the open terrain, with various beached flotsam acting as German anti-tank devices along the Atlantic wall. And the entrenched Germans manning that wall? Crabs with their little burrow-huts. Artillery can be played by sea birds swooping in and eating the turtles. After making it across the beach the survivors are then confronted with a cliff face, which in this feature will be played by ocean surf trying to toss the turtles inside-out.

If you do this right, and play it in enough elementary schools, you’d never have to worry about fundraising for marine sanctuaries again.

So this is January?

The end of the Shopping Season is now at hand, as brought to a head by me working on New Year’s Day while the Penguins got their butts handed to them by the Caps in the Super Bowl of hockey, hosted right here in my adoptive city. What’s most miserable about it is that now that the cycle of illness and work is broken, I am totally ready to sit back and enjoy Christmas. Continue reading

Remember when MCP was a chess program?

Lately there has been quite a bit of buzz about the Tron sequel. Before I go any further, I would like to go on the record as saying that I am completely stoked about it, and can’t wait to go see it. So perhaps I am a bit biased. But the one thing that I wouldn’t have even considered previously was the amount of dirt being thrown on the new movie (before it’s release, no less) for being a sequel of a flop. Tron? A flop? Continue reading