A celebratory feast gone horribly wrong, 16th-century-style gladiator fighting, and a swoon-worthy admission of undying love all made for one of the best episodes of Reign this season. See what happens when you shed a too-talky plot about evil archbishops? So many good things!
Mary and Catherine are both in need of some cash for an army — Mary for her return to Scotland and Catherine to quash the Red Knights. The good Catholic queens decide it’s time to hit up the holy ATM, and ask Archbishop Ridolfi for a little financial assistance with their causes. Since the Vatican is still angry with Catherine for sending Gideon Blackburn back to England, Ridolfi has nothing to offer Catherine, but for Mary he’s like a dad who can’t say no to his teenage daughter. He cuts her a big ol’ check and tells her to buy whichever army she wants. Thanks, Daddy!
Alas, where does a young queen find an army these days? There’s not, like, a catalog for this sort of purchase. Thankfully, she has her good friend Bash to point her in the right direction. He takes her to a group of available mercenaries. Before Mary hands over all of her gold, she wants to give the guys a test run. Mary, ever the multitasker, has just the mission for them: She’s trying to mend fences with Greer, and what Greer wants more than anything is a respectable last name to give her baby; she needs a husband. (Oh, right! Mary knows Greer is knocked up. Mary deployed the only move one can against someone who is ghosting — the surprise pop-in.) Mary reminds Greer that she already has a husband: Lord Castleroy. Sure, he’s in prison for treason, but that’s a minor detail. So Mary charges the mercenaries with breaking Castleroy out of jail.
As Mary and Bash nervously wait for the mercenaries’ return, they share a quiet moment alone. Man, I’ve missed these two working together! And from the look of that smile that spreads across Bash’s face as he reminisces about the time they tried to make a run for it together, he has too.
Before too long, the men return with Castleroy in tow. Let’s not beat around the bush: The dude looks terrible. Mary gets him fixed up before she and Bash bring him to Greer’s tavern. The estranged husband and wife’s meeting doesn’t go as smoothly as Mary had been hoping. Castleroy wanted to see Greer before deciding to take her and her child on. Before the rage of injustice sets in, let’s skip to the part where Mary reminds Castleroy of how intensely he loved Greer at one time. Love like that doesn’t go away; there are always embers left. Castleroy and Greer end up reconciling, but more important, Bash can’t take his eyes off of Mary during her speech.
Mary hands Greer some papers that will help her and Castleroy start over, far away from French Court. And so, we say goodbye to the last lady-in-waiting. Mary’s pretty torn up about it, but Greer just talks about how friends grow apart. Have some sense of occasion, lady. Thankfully, Bash understands how hard this is for Mary. He holds her as she cries and decides to come clean: He wants to help her face whatever hardships await her in Scotland. She should have at least one person next to her whose love she never has to question…and that person is Bash.
Bash still loves Mary, you guys!
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More specifically, he tells Mary that those embers she spoke of to Castleroy, he has them for her. He goes on, “Those embers, they keep me warm, and they will for as long I am lucky enough to serve you.” MY KNEES ARE BUCKLING. That is just so swoon-worthy. Sure, nothing is going to happen long-term since Mary needs to marry a royal and Torrance Coombs has already announced his departure from the show, but I live life one episode at a time. I’ve always enjoyed the Mary-Bash pairing, so I choose to bask in the glow of this development. Bash loves Mary!
Mary has her army, but what of Catherine? She too pays a visit to an ex-lover: Narcisse. The crown needs money, and it needs it fast. Catherine’s general made it clear that if she couldn’t pay his soldiers in the next two weeks, they’d be deserting to go work with the Greeks. When Narcisse’s first plan backfires — he forces the peasants to pay another tithe, which of course they can’t afford and it only angers them — little King Charles steps up with an idea to make some money: To the casino!
Charles and Narcisse hit up a high-end casino in the foothills of the Alps that Charles used to frequent. He’s confident he can solve their money problem with just a few rounds of knucklebones. Charles is so good that he’s up a lot of coin pretty quickly, but against Narcisse’s advice, the king goes all in – and loses everything. Men, am I right?
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It looks like their mission is a failure until Narcisse asks to get in on the real action. By which he means he’d like to enter into the underground gladiator fights their having below this very reputable establishment. Does every casino have this happening under the floorboards? Do people know about this? I don’t think I’ve been living my best life.
But when Narcisse removes his shirt before he steps into the ring, it’s very clear that he is living his. No wonder Lola was so conflicted when she found out about the rat bath! Everything makes sense now. Turns out, Narcisse is very adept at underground fighting. He uses some Wolverine claw-like weapon and fairly easily takes down the undefeated champion. Charles thanks Narcisse for saving France, and to show her gratitude, Catherine grants him the position of Lord Chancellor once again. Is a rekindling of the Catherine and Narcisse romance in the near future? Fingers crossed.
With the gold acquired, Catherine and Charles host a dinner with all of her generals. They’ll be paying the soldiers today and are ready to face the Red Knights. As the men toast their new business venture, Catherine is pulled away. Someone’s dropped off a gift for her to use at the celebration. She finds a note that reads “History repeats itself” and a box containing the Red Knights’ mask of choice. Worst gift ever. She trucks it back to the dining room, only to find Charles weeping over the bodies of all the generals — poisoned to death. When word of this gets out, everyone will think the royals killed another group of soldiers they were unable to pay. The army will rise up alongside the peasants. All in all, not a great dinner party.
Meanwhile, in England: Elizabeth’s having some mommy issues. It’s the 50th anniversary of King Henry VIII’s coronation, and as Elizabeth uses this time to remind England that she is Henry’s daughter in every sense of the phrase, she understandably has her mother’s execution on her mind (and in her dreams). It’s about time Reign discussed Elizabeth’s parents. It’s been a bit glossed over, but having your father slander and then behead your mother must have some effect on how you turn out as a human. I’m just guessing.
Lizzie’s ready to enact some revenge for what befell Anne Boleyn. Anne’s best friend, Beatrice Somerset, who testified that Anne engaged in incest, among other things, will be attending the jubilee celebration. Liz wants Lola to help her frame Beatrice for stealing jewelry. This way, Liz can fine Beatrice and take back the Boleyn lands King Henry granted her for her testimony.
Not even Elizabeth’s to-die-for collar can keep this plan from going awry. As Lola tries to stuff the queen’s pearl necklace in Beatrice’s bag — in broad daylight, surrounded by dozens of people — it gets caught and spills everywhere. Elizabeth has no choice but to have both women arrested. While behind bars, Lola spins a tale about a man bribing her to put the necklace in Beatrice’s bag. Beatrice opens up to Lola immediately, and tells her that she was coerced into testifying against Anne Boleyn. A chambermaid said she had seen Anne and her brother together, and King Henry forced Beatrice to tell the story; it would have more weight coming from a trusted friend.
Elizabeth finds that maid still working in the palace and demands her to confess to her lies. She’s like 150 years old, so what does she really have to lose? She can’t make that confession, though, because it wasn’t a lie. The maid goes on to tell Elizabeth what she saw that night — and that it wasn’t Anne’s fault. Anne was terrified of Henry. She was desperate to give him a son, so desperate that she turned to the only man she could trust…her brother. Anne was so traumatized, though, she couldn’t completely go through with the plan. Elizabeth is still horrified, as is, I assume, most of the audience.
Elizabeth pardons both ladies, and Beatrice gives the Boleyn lands back as a peace offering. But the best thing to come out of this whole outrageous ordeal is that Liz is so pleased that Lola remained loyal to her, even while imprisoned, she allows Lola to see her son. Just because she’s holding Lola hostage doesn’t mean Liz doesn’t care about her, you guys!
The Queens’ Corner of Harsh Lady Truths:
“I know how you like to stay indoors during tax season.” —Narcisse understands Catherine’s tenuous relationship with her people.
“I lose everyone I love.” —Mary’s tears are the most heart-breaking of all.
“This jubilee needs to remind people that I am the great King Henry VIII’s daughter, not Robert Dudley’s mistress.” —Elizabeth is the freaking Queen of England, yet she still needs to be defined by a man. The rage is coming back.
“We will burn.” —Oh, Catherine. Always so dramatic.
Outfit of the Week: Although Catherine presents Mary with an entire winter wardrobe for her return to Scotland (no wonder the Queen Mother is low on funds!), I gasped aloud when Mary showed up to meet her mercenaries in that fabulous red coat. Hey, maybe that’s why Bash couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Me, too, Bash. Me, too.