As Sherlock approaches his one-year-of-sobriety milestone, he is enlisted to help when Alfredo’s sponsor, Ken Whitman, becomes the victim of blackmail.
Ken’s daughter Eva had been drugged and raped by a man named Brent Garvey some years prior. Eva was just starting to get her bearings back when a video of her rape was delivered to the Whitmans’ home, with a demand for money. If the payment wasn’t made, the video would be released on the Internet. Ken made the payment quietly, but then another demand was made. Sherlock enthusiastically accepts the case, citing a disdain for blackmailers that rivals his disdain for murderers.
Sherlock traces the emailed demands to the home of Charles Milverton. Sherlock and Joan stake out the place, and when Milverton leaves, he breaks in and finds several more videos, like the one of Eva, on his laptop. Milverton returns too quickly for Sherlock to get out of the house, so he is there to witness the Milverton’s murder at the hands of an unidentifiable suspect.
Because Milverton had made it clear that he had an accomplice who would likely release all the videos in the event of his demise, Sherlock goes to Gregson and asks that they keep the murder under wraps until Sherlock can find out who Milverton’s failsafe is. Sherlock and Joan visit Brent Garvey in the prison hospital ward (Garvey’s charges of sexual assault have made him a deserving target for the other inmates). Garvey admits to a visit from Milverton, but claims that he was a blackmail victim too, rather than an accomplice.
Alfredo has been watching Milverton’s place and calls in when someone in a suit and cowboy boots stops by. He leaves before Sherlock and Joan arrive, but Joan is able to deduce that the man was Duke Landers, aka Sheriff Duke of Duke Law Offices.
Landers, who had gotten Milverton off of a DWI charge, turns out to be another blackmail victim, rather than the accomplice. Facing another dead end, things only get worse when Anthony Pistone, the father of another girl who was blackmailed like Eva Whitman, is caught dumping Milverton’s body. Now that the public knows that he’s dead, there’s nothing to stop the accomplice from releasing all of the blackmail videos.
But the videos don’t go out immediately, giving Sherlock and Joan time to keep looking. They connect the codename Henry VIII to a man named Stuart Bloom, who has won multiple lawsuits under different names. But it’s another dead end. Bloom is found dead in his bathtub, with the floor of his home coated with cat litter to hide the stench of decomposition.
And yet, blackmail demands are still being sent out. The cat litter indicates that Milverton killed Bloom, as it is the same kind that he used for his cats. Finally, it all leads back to Pistone. Pistone had tracked Bloom down after the blackmail demand and beat him until Bloom offered to give Pistone a cut of the money he was getting. But then everyone involved got greedy, so Milverton killed Bloom, and Pistone killed Milverton, leaving the blackmail business to Pistone and his brother.
All the while through this case, Sherlock (who, by the way, we now know is quite the tattoo artist, as if genius detective wasn’t enough) has been brushing off plans to celebrate his first year of sobriety. Alfredo has had enough of his behavior and tells him he should consider the other people his success affects. Finally, Sherlock drops the apathetic act and explains to Joan that his one-year date isn’t his actual one-year date. The day after Sherlock was admitted into rehab, he snuck out and got a fix. Of course, Joan assures him that one day doesn’t make a difference, but it’s been eating away at Sherlock, because he considers it a great personal failure.
He does tell Alfredo the truth, but still declines any tokens or gifts or celebration. But Joan can’t help giving him one simple, but powerful gift: the words of Robert Frost set in a simple frame.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And with mentions of Moriarty in next week’s episode, it’s likely Sherlock will be sleeping very little.