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February 17, 2012 8:39 pm  #1


IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

Moriarty repeatedly reminds Sherlock "I owe you" verbally and there is plenty of visual indicators throughout the episode which promote this as being potentially important.

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So what can it possibly mean?

Firstly we should consider this as a rather obvious 'red herring' and one which is meant to baffle us into believing it is of importance and detracts from other 'clues'.

Approaching it as such is a cautionary way of allowing for good ideas to float to the top and not be niggled into overly zealous hopes or ideas which we are emotionally invested in. If ideas stand up to scrutiny then we have ourselves a decent theory to work with. That said, the writing team of Sherlock are of a ridiculous calibre and enjoy teasing viewers with all sorts of temptations and misdirections and it may be of absolute artistic and thematic importance are, if nothing else, fun to guess about. So here is my first theory upon the matter.

Traditionally an I.O.U is an informal credit note given from one person of trust to another for services or goods rendered. If we take Moriarty at his word then he feels he 'owes' Sherlock for something. What has Sherlock given him or done for him which would incur a debt? If we are looking for the vengeful motif which the episode seems to indicate then Moriarty would say to Sherlock "You owe me" for having disrupted or taken from Moriarty. The choice of syntax here is quite succinct. To my mind, and many others, the letters and their order may be of some use in determining what they are said for.

We know that I O and U are vowels and we know they are talk by rote with a little melody to match to form A E I O U.

A.E.I.O.U. was displayed by the House of Habsburg on buildings and many other objects and is reported to have meant "All the world is subject to Austria". However the Hapsburg's were well known for riddles, imagery and all things cryptic, as well as being the major dominant force across the 'civilised' world for centuries electing popes and kings, and so A.E.I.O.U may mean something altogether different as scholars on the matter occasionally testify. Being an all powerful secretive organisation which has been behind every single superpower might be exactly the sort of overall conspiracy which would have MI5 and the CIA letting a rogue member of that family go free or indicate a more diabolical strategy which Moriarty was trying to tell Holmes about in the least obvious way he could.

Sticking with the vowel theory we notice that A and E are not included. A and E together look like Æ. It is a Latin character which is a letter in many Nordic cultures. It is pronounced 'ash' in English (still to this day) and goes along well with the "I will burn you" phrasing that Moriarty used often to Sherlock. If we look at Sherlock's website we can see that he has deleted his 243 types of ash post from his blog, presumably after 'The Great Game' and before 'Scandal in Belgravia'. Odd that he would remove work which apparently doesn't offend anyone and leave up his other works. We know that Moriarty broke into 221b and let Sherlock know by hacking into John's blog. This would be the ideal time to store information amongst Sherlock's tobacco ash findings which has been withheld from us as the audience. Further hints towards this are the man who knows his Aunt's ashes aren't human and Sherlock telling the two little girls that people get taken into a room and burned when they die.

I'm sure there are many other ideas as to what IOU might mean, I hope my musings have been entertaining enough and can hold up to some scrutiny even if they are far from wrong.

Any and all thoughts upon my theories are welcome and please share your own theories upon IOU here.

-m0r


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February 17, 2012 9:04 pm  #2


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

He also used the phrase "I owe you a fall", which to me indicates a vengeful aspect - Moriarty wants revenge on Sherlock for getting in his way.

I've often wondered about the repetition of IOU and whether that was the "clue everyone missed".

The graffiti on the windows was obviously done by Moriarty or his crew as another little message to Sherlock - but do you think the graffiti on the wall was too?

I like your ash theory - it's pretty fancy! Although I thought Sherlock removed his study of tobacco ash because he said no one was interested in it (I read that on his blog).


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February 17, 2012 9:12 pm  #3


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

The fall thing might be of considerable importance too SH.

If Moriarty is/was suicidal then perhaps he had a limited time in this world anyway autumnal days often refer to the last days of life. In this case using the American 'Fall' instead of Autumn might be a way of saying he got to live longer and owes Sherlock the same (By perhaps telling him about things in advance via his deleted ash files).

Lots of fun this theorising malarkey eh?

-m0r


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February 17, 2012 10:54 pm  #4


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

While I do agree, it appears several times & I have wondered about its significance or its use as a red herring I think the ash theory is moving into conspiracy theory territory.

Like many theories, you can extrapolate any fact to a desired conclusion.
Sherlock deleted the Ash study because he's getting pretty cheesed off with the fact that people read John's blog more than his. It's the little petulant boy coming out in him. Another 'tantrum' if you like.

I think the play on words with 'the fall' is simply that people expect a 'fall' from a high place, just like in the original.
The 'fall' from grace was the twist, and one that had to happen in Sherlock's mind I am sure.


____________________________________________________________________________________________
Also, please note that sentences can also end in full stops. The exclamation mark can be overused.
Sherlock Holmes 28 March 13:08

Mycroft’s popularity doesn’t surprise me at all. He is, after all, incredibly beautiful, clever and well-dressed. And beautiful. Did I mention that?
--Mark Gatiss

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert McCloskey
 

February 18, 2012 2:14 am  #5


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

kazza474 wrote:

I think the play on words with 'the fall' is simply that people expect a 'fall' from a high place, just like in the original.
The 'fall' from grace was the twist, and one that had to happen in Sherlock's mind I am sure.

So you think Moriarty was refering to a metaphorical fall, rather than predicting the actual physical fall that happened? I've often wondered which was the case, and whether Moriarty knew they were both gonna end up on top of a rather tall building...


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February 18, 2012 7:49 am  #6


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

I’ve got a different – and rather daring - idea about IOU and the FALL.
As we know Moriarty is narcissistic and self-advertising. He makes this blatantly obvious by how he’s behaving in the Tower and the court case (crown, the "slipping your hand in my pocket" - thing, the arrogant grin). He’s the real Sir-boast-a-lot!

Moriarty carves IOU into an apple. Why an apple (in the intimacy of Sherlock’s flat o all!) and not just  - let’s say - spray it on 221B’s wall? Because the apple is a symbol for seduction. He tries to seduce Sherlock to FALL for him and hints that he’s going to do likewise: "I owe you a FALL…" Why owe it to him? Because he thinks of Sherlock and himself as one person. This FALL for him does happen the moment he says to Sherlock "You’re not ordinary, you are meeeee…" And by killing himself he holds that he’s destroying Sherlock as well. The Jekyll-and-Hyde-thing…


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February 18, 2012 10:08 am  #7


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

Just in addition to my previous thoughts:
Thinking about Narcissus (while cleaning my flat) - there's also a connection to the pool scene: Narcissus is so in love with his image that he drowns in the pool when trying to kiss his mirror image...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_%28mythology%29


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Mrs Hudson: "They don’t matter. You do."


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February 18, 2012 8:19 pm  #8


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

The Fall could also be referring to a fall from grace, as in The Fall of Adam and Eve and their ejection from the Garden of Eden. This is brought about through their eating the fruit of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, traditionally an apple. Perhaps no coincidence then that Moriarty chooses and apple to bite into and to cut out the IOU. Perhaps also this is a reference to Sherlock coming to know the difference between Good and Evil on a personal level. There is also a recurring reference to angels. Moriarty states that Sherlock is ordinary and boring because he is on the side of the angels. Perhaps Moriarty regards himself as being on the side of the Fallen Angel who was also expelled from a state of Grace and the Garden. In the final scene between Moriarty and Sherlock the former says 'bless you' and shakes the latter's hand:again, this has religious connotations. This follows immediately after Sherlock declaring that, whilst he is on the side of the angels, he is not one of them. In there a slight suggestion that this is all an age old fight between Good and Evil, this time being enacted through Moriarty and Sherlock's conflict and competition?


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February 18, 2012 8:22 pm  #9


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

Wow, you guys are good.


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February 18, 2012 10:59 pm  #10


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

Sherlock Holmes wrote:

So you think Moriarty was refering to a metaphorical fall, rather than predicting the actual physical fall that happened? I've often wondered which was the case, and whether Moriarty knew they were both gonna end up on top of a rather tall building...

Oh for sure Moriarty, and in the first instance Moftiss , meant the fall to mean 'from grace'. When the second series started being aired, they started promoting the rest of the series. After seeing what they had done with the other titles, when I saw "The Reichenbach Fall" I had this very thought of 'what other kind of fall is there?' So I wholly expected a fall from grace. Then seeing the shorts promoting that show, I KNEW I had worked that out before the show even started. ( I had a few people tell me I was nuts online when I mentioned it!)
I started thinking about the connotations of that before seeing the episode. "Sherlock wouldn't want to be in a position to fall from grace; he wouldn't care because he DOESN'T care what others think of him".
Watching the first few scenes frustrated the hell out of me. WHY? Why is he letting this happen???? I then started thinking " he must have a plan, this is NOT how he operates; this is NOT in his make-up to allow people to make him into a hero". Hence, I believe we see many smug looks from Sherlock at odd moments.

By looking at all the twisted meanings that Moftiss has given us thus far, I had no doubt there would also be a 'high point' that they met at, being that Moftiss twists and then untwists meanings with not-so-monotonous regularity.


____________________________________________________________________________________________
Also, please note that sentences can also end in full stops. The exclamation mark can be overused.
Sherlock Holmes 28 March 13:08

Mycroft’s popularity doesn’t surprise me at all. He is, after all, incredibly beautiful, clever and well-dressed. And beautiful. Did I mention that?
--Mark Gatiss

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert McCloskey
 

February 18, 2012 11:21 pm  #11


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

Yeah that makes a lot of sense...all that stuff at the beginning of people giving him tie pins and posing for photographs - it's very un-Sherlock...he must have known Moriarty would be watching him, reading all about it in the papers...they were both playing a game with each other, but Sherlock always had the upper hand because he started the game before Moriarty even realised it.


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February 19, 2012 12:37 am  #12


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

That's what I have been saying all along. The thing that Sherlock did that he didn't usually do - become a hero.

I remember a few puzzles I have done over the years. Often, after starting to solve them we get this 'clue' of 'look for what is different'. Now this usually makes it harder to work out, because people will go to the part of the riddle where 'most of the action is'.
eg. Let's look at a classic example of this:
As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Every wife had seven sacks
Every sack had seven cats
Every cat had seven kits
Kits, cats, sacks, wives
How many were going to St Ives?

To a first time puzzler, they'd be madly adding up numbers etc. Whereas they SHOULD be reading the words!

In this case(Reichenbach) it is the actual fall of a building scenario that people dissect, because that is what they assume the whole story is leading up to, so the deception must be there.
But you need to realise the whole story matters, not just the 'exciting parts', which is what the average mind will think. In reality the falling off a building bit is just the 'pretty stuff to entice the viewers in'/the necessary 'action' stuff. But it's not the cerebral core to the show.
So again I say, watch the show as if this could be the whole premise.
The sneers, the smiles at odd places (even for Sherlock) all make sense.

Last edited by kazza474 (February 19, 2012 12:42 am)


____________________________________________________________________________________________
Also, please note that sentences can also end in full stops. The exclamation mark can be overused.
Sherlock Holmes 28 March 13:08

Mycroft’s popularity doesn’t surprise me at all. He is, after all, incredibly beautiful, clever and well-dressed. And beautiful. Did I mention that?
--Mark Gatiss

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert McCloskey
 

February 19, 2012 1:07 am  #13


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

kazza474 wrote:

As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Every wife had seven sacks
Every sack had seven cats
Every cat had seven kits
Kits, cats, sacks, wives
How many were going to St Ives?

This is probably completely wrong but...there's the person who's telling the story (1)...the man (2)...the seven wives (10)...the seven cats (17)....the seven kits (24)....that makes 24 going to St Ives (that's if you include cats and kittens and not just people).

Is that right?!

BTW, if you know any more of those type things can you post them in the Science of Deduction section?

Now to get back on topic, I agree, people tend to analyse the fall itself and say "how did he fake it" and I guess that's why they get caught up in talking about leaping into dumpster trucks and throwing dead bodies over without really thinking about the whole build up to it...there's probably subtle clues right through the episode and maybe even clues in previous episodes that we haven't picked up on too - like Mycroft releasing Moriarty at the end of Baskerville...


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February 19, 2012 1:20 am  #14


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

Oh dear, you looked but didn't observe the facts you were given.

Only one was going to St Ives . (As I was going to St Ives ... )
Ok, sorry for the distraction.

Yes, similarly to the above, we need to focus on what we KNOW, what we have been given. The writers are appealing to a very large audience.
- First & foremost are those that want  good entertainment & a good detective story to solve. This HAS to be the major audience for them to gain maximum exposure. So things that relate to anything other than what we can observe for ourselves won't be the main underlying theme or they will lose new fans very quickly.
- additionally, those who have been fans all the way along get to find added 'hints' or call backs to other things & this increases the joy for them.
- finally the 'dyed in the wool' Sherlock/Conan Doyle fans get some extra surprises all of their own. A pleasing little addition for the purist Sherlockians..

So going outside of those boundaries is dangerous for the writers. They don't want to treat their audience like idiots. So when we get the theories that have major things that have nothing to do with THIS show, it's just too far fetched & too insulting to viewers.
Similarly, I read a theory that goes into the rooftops & geography of London. I discredit it for the above reasons and if that IS a big part of the solution I will probably not bother watching anymore.
Everything we need should be on that screen, and thus far I believe it has been.


____________________________________________________________________________________________
Also, please note that sentences can also end in full stops. The exclamation mark can be overused.
Sherlock Holmes 28 March 13:08

Mycroft’s popularity doesn’t surprise me at all. He is, after all, incredibly beautiful, clever and well-dressed. And beautiful. Did I mention that?
--Mark Gatiss

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert McCloskey
 

February 19, 2012 4:23 am  #15


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

kazza474 wrote:

Oh dear, you looked but didn't observe the facts you were given.

Only one was going to St Ives . (As I was going to St Ives ... )

Oh god yes! The man with all his wives and cats could have been going absolutely anywhere, it doesn't actually say they're going to St Ives. Genius - you got me...


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February 19, 2012 4:26 am  #16


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

kazza474 wrote:

Yes, similarly to the above, we need to focus on what we KNOW, what we have been given. The writers are appealing to a very large audience.
- First & foremost are those that want  good entertainment & a good detective story to solve. This HAS to be the major audience for them to gain maximum exposure. So things that relate to anything other than what we can observe for ourselves won't be the main underlying theme or they will lose new fans very quickly.
- additionally, those who have been fans all the way along get to find added 'hints' or call backs to other things & this increases the joy for them.
- finally the 'dyed in the wool' Sherlock/Conan Doyle fans get some extra surprises all of their own. A pleasing little addition for the purist Sherlockians..

So going outside of those boundaries is dangerous for the writers. They don't want to treat their audience like idiots. So when we get the theories that have major things that have nothing to do with THIS show, it's just too far fetched & too insulting to viewers.
Similarly, I read a theory that goes into the rooftops & geography of London. I discredit it for the above reasons and if that IS a big part of the solution I will probably not bother watching anymore.
Everything we need should be on that screen, and thus far I believe it has been.

Yeah, you couldn't have something completely random that we hadn't seen, been shown or at least been hinted at before...that would just be bad writing, it would break all the rules and confuse people.

The clues are all there...I guess we've all watched but not observed, lol...although maybe some of us are right, or at least, some parts of what we're saying might be right. We've got to have guessed at least one thing right surely..


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March 7, 2012 11:41 am  #17


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

Watching the episode again and specifically the tea scene I think Moriarty genuinely believes he owes Sherlock a fall of some kind. Sherlock takes up with the idea questioning Moriarty as to whether this is the way he is going to burn him. The idea of a literal fall is suggested by Moriarty's head movements and the noise indicating hitting the ground. He also says that it is just like flying except there is only one permanent destination.

The question is, what fall does Moriarty owe him? Where has Moriarty fallen badly in a way that he can blame Sherlock for what happened? He has been hurt I think in his reputation as a consulting criminal.


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March 7, 2012 11:45 am  #18


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

He's had falls in grace in the criminal circles due to Sherlock solving or thwarting his plans. He doesn't like that interference, hence he's offering some payback.
I mean when you consult an expert, even on crime you expect to get good results. Not have some 'boffin with a death frisbee' foil your good work.


____________________________________________________________________________________________
Also, please note that sentences can also end in full stops. The exclamation mark can be overused.
Sherlock Holmes 28 March 13:08

Mycroft’s popularity doesn’t surprise me at all. He is, after all, incredibly beautiful, clever and well-dressed. And beautiful. Did I mention that?
--Mark Gatiss

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert McCloskey
 

March 7, 2012 11:49 am  #19


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

I suppose he's enjoyed playing games with Sherlock but ultimately he sees him as a threat and someone who needs to be removed from the equation before he puts a stop to Jim's fun. I think he realises he's met a worthy advisory for once.


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March 7, 2012 5:17 pm  #20


Re: IOU and it's potential meaning(s)

But then Jim does say to Sherlock 'You need me. without me you are nothing' and that they are the same 'except you are boring...you're on the side of the angels'. This idea is repeated again in the scene on the roof of St. Barts. He also talks about solving 'the problem, our problem. the final problem'. Presumably here he is talking about the problem of staying alive in a world that is populated by ordinary people. Moriarty and Sherlock both suffer from extreme boredom. The consulting criminal and consulting detective want to avoid being bored.

Interestingly Sherlock, according to Mycroft , originally wanted to be a pirate. This would have been an interesting career choice. Adventure but also the idea of criminality and ruthlessness and violence. I wonder what Jim Moriarty had wanted to be?

At what was presumably a young age Moriarty realised that he could dispose of people who ridiculed him, like Carl the young swimmer who had laughed at him. So one thing we know about Moriarty is that he cannot bear to be laughed at or ridiculed. With Sherlock making him look a fool with the forged painting, the smuggling ring, the Reichenbach Falls painting, the kidnapped banker and the capture of Ricolleti, Irene Adler's photos, any or all of which could have had Moriarty's hand in them would be the motivation for wanting Sherlock out of the way but Moriarty says before most of these have happened that he will kill Sherlock one day but that he wants to burn him first. So whatever the motivation is, it pre-dates these events. He is already a 'fan' of Sherlock in the very first episode, so the crimes he had already solved, at least some of them, had Moriarty's involvement. Perhaps Moriarty's 'admiration' dates back to his murder of the boy who dared to laugh at him.


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