Early on in “No Way Out,” our dear Queen Mary has an important realization: Even to an ally as strong as the Vatican, she is merely a pawn. Mary’s always been a pawn, really — to her mother, to Henry, even to Catherine. But Mary’s proven repeatedly that she’s more than willing to play the game, too. If season 3 of Reign is hurtling toward a showdown between Mary and Elizabeth on Scottish soil, tonight’s episode is all about setting up the players across the chessboard that is their rivalry. Mary is nobody’s pawn, son!
Mary makes this fact clear right from the get-go. She returns from her trip to the Vatican only to be immediately greeted by Gideon, eager to both relay some important “previously on Reign” exposition to the audience (Mary wants to build a Catholic army to fight the Scottish Protestants! Liz will be very mad about it!) and find out how Mary’s mission went. According to Mary, the Vatican respectfully declined her request for back up as she returns to a hostile Scotland. She’s all alone in her attempt to regain control of her country. Gideon’s bummed that his girl is in serious trouble, but he also has to inform his queen.
And that is exactly what Mary was hoping he’d do! As it turns out, the Vatican completely backs Mary’s plan — they desperately need to keep a Catholic monarch in power. However, Mary’s plan will only work if her secret army remains, well, a secret. She has to keep Gideon in the dark. She downloads all of this to Catherine, who finds that’s all well and good but doesn’t think it should stop Mary from sleeping with the guy. Mary’s talking about basically declaring war on England, and all Catherine cares about is Mary finally getting some. Is Catherine the truest friend Mary has even known? Discuss.
With news from Gideon that Mary’s grip on Scotland and Rome is slipping, Elizabeth begins to implement a plan of her own. Her privy council has been nagging her to name a successor, what with all the poisoning going on and all, so Elizabeth does. She names Mary, Queen of Scots as next in line to take her crown. If record players had been invented back then, you can bet there would’ve been a big ol’ record scratch in that council meeting.
Unfortunately for Liz, she’s surrounded by men who just aren’t on her level and she has to do some quick queen-splaining: If Mary accepts the position, which in light of the current political situation in Scotland, Liz is sure she will, Mary’s admitting that her own claim to the throne is invalid. In return, Elizabeth will demand that Mary marries an Englishman of her choosing. Thus, Elizabeth will be removing any last play for power Mary has left. It’s a pretty ingenious plan, except for the fact that, you know, Elizabeth’s acting on bad intel. Mary’s not desperate for a handout just yet.
Mary learns of Elizabeth’s offer quickly and creepily, by way of a shady Archbishop lurking in the shadows outside of Greer’s Tavern. He informs Mary that the Vatican wants her to accept Elizabeth’s offer. Mary wants the archbishop to back up a little. All Elizabeth is doing is stripping Mary of her power. Rome doesn’t care. They’ll do whatever they have to in order to put a Catholic back on the English throne. In this case, that means that as soon as Mary accepts Elizabeth’s offer, the Queen of England will be taken out. I told you the guy was shady!
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So, Mary’s not in a great spot. She’s not in the business of killing monarchs, plus she knows that if Elizabeth were assassinated, she’d have a big target on her own back. As Catherine points out, though, one doesn’t simply say no to the Vatican, and Mary needs that alliance to return to Scotland. In an effort to save both her own reign and Elizabeth’s life, Mary turns to Gideon.
Gideon does some actual ambassador-ing, and brings Mary the official offer from Elizabeth. Although it won’t do him any favors in his next employee review, Gideon begs Mary not to accept. He, too, knows it’ll only weaken her. Plus, he doesn’t want to see her marry another Englishman. It’s actually a pretty slick line, except for the whole treason thing.
NEXT: Mary and Gideon form an alliance, in more ways than one