Some of history’s biggest international conflicts have stemmed from cross-cultural strife heightened by competition and a natural desire for claiming stake for one’s territory. Major wars meet this category and by definition, so does the catfight that takes place in the second episode of The Royals, which features a major face-off between Ophelia and Gemma, Liam’s ex. (Named after her family’s gem trade fortune. Modest, right?)
The royally divisive drama starts at the top of the episode, where Liam and Ophelia are exchanging compliments and sweet nothings—you know, like new couples usually do. It’s their third coffee date, but as Liam points out, “Coffee I endure—It’s the company I like.”
Their chemistry is great, but the queen’s obvious displeasure over the match colors the whole thing with just the right shade of illicit pleasure. In any case, things between the two of them are going well—that is, until the new couple heads over to Liam’s room, where the surprise appearance of his ex in skimpy lingerie doesn’t go over well. Though Gemma (Sophie Colquhoun) is no longer on the royal admittance list for palace access, she’s managed to get inside—though she’s struggling to justify her presence in the royal chambers to Marcus. No matter, Gemma smells fresh meat and makes sure to introduce herself to Ophelia.
Gemma: “I’m Liam’s girlfriend.”
Gemma: “Why do you have to say such hateful things?
Liam: “Because they’re true.”
Ashok—Liam’s BFF—strolls in and does his comedic best to break the ice, but there’s no denying it—this situation is totes awkward. And then, Gemma goes for the jugular.
“I actually will fight the bitch,” she politely informs Liam about waging war for her prince, despite having “disappeared” from his life 10 months ago. Man, this broad is classy.
She puts on khakis (Really? Who wears khakis anymore?) and continues: “I made mistakes with you, but I’m going to fix them. And you’re going to let me.”
At this point, Ashok’s done what any wingman would do—he’s taken the volatile matter out of missile range. Ophelia and Ashock head out to get—yup, you guessed it, coffee!—and Ashok tells her she’s totally Liam’s type. “Let me guess …Dance? Art history.” Yes and yes. “You’re also, stubborn, competitive, and a little bit awkward.” How does he know all this? It’s because Liam told him all about his new gal pal—a sign that no matter what Gemma may have meant to him, he really does like Ophelia. Truly, madly, deeply! Then, Liam shows up and extends Ophelia an unexpected invitation. “Want to go with me to the royal garden party?” Guess someone’s gotta go shopping for a fascinator!
Queen Helena’s garden party is to honor the military—and it’s her way of presenting a royally unified front to the public. There’s a lot at stake given that her husband will present his plan to end the monarchy in front of Parliament any day now, so she’s taking extra care to make sure every detail is just right, but she also has to do some damage control. Forget about death threats and violence warnings from Mr. Pryce—there’s another bomb she needs to diffuse. “I’d prefer it if your daughter wasn’t blowing my son,” the Queen tells Pryce. “But we can’t always get what we want, can we?”
What, giving up so easily? Not so fast—she has a secret weapon and it’s called Gemma, whom she’s invited to the party. Despite her dysfunctional family, it’s clear Helena prides herself on keeping the appearances intact. Dressed in a form-fitting emerald cocktail dress and fascinator to match, she leads the family outside to meet the masses. But within seconds, Eleanor—who is understandably still smarting over the fact that her bodyguard Jasper is using their sex tape as blackmail to control her—immediately starts smoking a gigantic hand-rolled cigarette (let’s be honest, it’s probably weed) and swigs champs from a massive bottle.
Helena sees this and literally has a mini heart attack, which prompts Liam to distract the crowd from the Princess Eleanor by crowd surfing, mosh pit style. He’s being clapped for and whistled at like a rock star while in a different area of the party, Ophelia is having a groupie moment, going shot for shot of what looks like Jim Beam with Gemma. It’s stuck up bitch vs. girl next door with Ophelia proclaiming, “I’ve never been on a yacht. I switch hands with my fork and I have a terrible habit of looking people in the eyes… so no, maybe I can’t hang in your world, but I have been in Kentucky. They make bourbon there. Welcome to my world.”
Meanwhile, Queen Helena extends a polite “How do you do” to Captain Lacey, who responds with a throaty “It’s my pleasure to serve the queen.” He gives off just the slightest of naughty vibes and while this is going on, Eleanor meets Andy, a sexy Olympic swimmer. Though Helena has made no secret of her distaste for Eleanor’s wild ways, this moment serves to show that this mother-daughter pair might have more in common than we previously thought.
NEXT: The queen’s secret proves she’s no saint[pagebreak]
But it’s not all sexy tension and royal tête-à-têtes—Ophelia loses the drinking contest. After all Gemma has had a lifetime of “Bloody Marys in the morning, mimosas for brunch, expensive wines by the barrel and bottle service in the clubs.” Losing means that Ophelia’s lost her man and she’s trying to tell Liam as much when words simply fail her and she projectile vomits in his direction as he’s walking her to her attic lair. Keep it classy, San Diego, er, Kentucky. But armed with some liquid courage, Ophelia uses the opportunity to tell Liam he’d be a really good king. Sweet, right?
Elsewhere in the palace, Queen Helena heads off to her rooms were a delightful surprise awaits—that hunky war hero, Captain Lacey. She acts appropriately shocked but within moments, these two begin necking like two teenagers. WHAT HAVE WE HERE? Before things can escalate, Helena tells him to go—but not before they exchange tender “I love you’s.” And he calls her Ellie! MIND BLOWN. To make things even more deliciously scandalous, he leaves her room via a secret passageway. Something tells me this is isn’t their first rendezvous.
Meanwhile, creepy Uncle Cyrus has gone to bed with a member of Parliament named James as a way to secure his vote against abolishing the monarchy. Surprise, surprise.
It seems like on a nightly basis there’s a number of sexual encounters in the palace, and just down the hallway, Eleanor tries to break free of Jasper’s blackmail by seducing Andy. That is until Jasper—whom we’ve discovered has been hiding an American accent—mysteriously offs him just moments before he heads into Eleanor’s room.
“I’m not going to have another day like we had today,” Jasper warns Eleanor ominously. “Because if we do, I’m releasing the video.” Her clever response: “No, you won’t. Because if you do, all this goes away. Don’t make false threats, Jasper. It makes you less interesting.” Has Eleanor finally gained the upper hand? One would hope—I for one prefer to see Eleanor’s antics unfold without her being prey to disturbing sexual blackmail.
She’s not the only sibling who’s making her intentions clear in the final moments of the hour. Liam and his father have an honest heart-to-heart while gazing at an impressive wall of princely portraits, the type of quality time which seems to be all too rare within their family.
Liam: “Sorry about the crowd surfing.”
Dad: “It looked fun. Besides, there are some monarchs on these walls who have done worse.”
Liam: “And one in this room who has done much better.”
Dad: “Not always.
Liam: “Dad, I’ve been thinking about the monarchy, and my place in it. All that I ask is that you give a little time before you go to Parliament. Time to find a different side of me …You told me to find my own path and not the throne. But I have a purpose now—I didn’t have before. And why should I have to choose? Isn’t it possible that I can have both? Love and the crown. It has to be possible, dad. I’ve been told I might make a great king one day. Just give me a chance.”
There’s a lesson to be learnt here: sometimes, all you have to do is ask.
Liz’s best lines:
“Good morning, daughter who hates me. (Sniffs). Smells like sex in here.”
“Why can’t you drunk text by a normal person?”
“I expect we’ll move to America. What a shame the wedding will have to take place in the Hamptons.” —Making a sarcastic comment in reference to the millions of pounds generated for the economy by royal weddings in England.
“Men have reached great heights with wounded hearts.” —On her reason for discouraging a relationship between Liam and Ophelia
“You’re no longer of any service to me. But don’t take it personally, Mr. Pryce. Sadly, not many can.”
Real-life royal reference score: 2 (Gemma, with her blonde good looks and party-hard habit, is a dead ringer for Prince Harry’s ex, Cressida Bonas. And Queen Helena’s oversized sapphire and diamond ring is an exact copy of Princess Diana’s engagement ring that Duchess Kate now wears.)