The key moment in this episode comes towards the end, at exposition time, when Sherlock explains that the plot is “almost too deranged to describe out loud”. Well, yes; and not for the first time this season either. This one, though, really did feel like a game dreamed up in the writers’ room.
To start with, it’s relatively straightforward: USDA researcher Everett Keck is murdered while investigating the phenomenon of bee colony collapse. Sherlock suspects AgriNext – the big bad pesticide company which featured earlier in the season – of being behind the killing (human and bee), but then evidence emerges to suggest that Keck was actually introducing varroa mites to bee colonies, which gives any number of beekeepers a reason to kill him, assuming they care enough about their bees to actually terminate the life of a human being. (Motive remains tricky throughout this episode, it has to be said.) But then a second plot is introduced, in the shape of the possible kidnapping-for-ransom of a reclusive Arab sheikh. And the challenge for the writers is to connect the two arcs.
While that’s going on, there’s a subplot which, for now, goes nowhere: Gregson is offered a promotion, but wants to leave his team in good hands, so access Watson to check out his potential successor, Ann Vescey. Watson doesn’t come up with anything bad, but Greyson nonetheless opts to stay where he is for now, although there are clear hints that he might not be given the choice. ‘Absconded’ is yet another entertaining but forbiddingly convoluted episode, in which I didn’t ever really believe enough in the motivations of the key players, and thus didn’t get engaged with the plot as a whole.