Last week, Eleanor hit her stride PR-wise when her fashion show went off without a hitch and she received glowing reviews about her next-gen sense of style. However, most of the favorable headlines were mummy’s doing (all hail Queen Helena!), and this week revealed the extent to which the Queen was willing to torture her daughter for the sake of putting on a good face for the public. Torture, you say?
That’s right—when Eleanor learns her mom has ordered she take a fairly innocuous tour of London-area charities, she goes pretty ballistic. (Well, with as much energy as she can give, the fact she’s in bed getting an IV drip after a night entertaining foreign dignitaries. “Who would have thought the crown prince of Liechtenstein could take them back so easily?” she wonders.) She calls her twin, Liam, for some sympathy, but he has his own problems. He’s currently aboard the royal jet with Queen Helena, Cyrus, and Gemma, whom the queen has recruited as her lady-in-waiting. “Not everything is about you and Ophelia,” says Helena at the suggestion she’s trying to meddle in her son’s love life. “I heard she rebuffed you by the way.”
Helena is on a roll, as evidenced by the photo she manages to snap of Gemma and Liam in the three seconds they happen to be side by side on the jet. “Make sure you Instagram that,” she tells her chief of staff. Wait, the Queen’s on Instagram? Does she ever share her OOTD on #tbt?
Social media plays a pretty big part in the episode when it comes to Ophelia and Nick. But first things first: Ophelia decides to actually see Nick. A date it is! Where should they go? The movies, a park, maybe dinner? Ophelia doesn’t even entertain any fun options and instead, invites Nick over to her pad, a.k.a. the palace. Somehow, Nick has managed to get lost in the palace (so much for Pryce’s high-tech security plan) and Ophelia finds him around the same time a mass of tourists does. Group date! Or not, since Ophelia decides to take Nick on a tour of the palace’s underground tunnels. She’s in the middle of explaining how the tunnels “go all the way to Hyde Park” when she gets a social media alert and sees an article accompanying the photo of Gemma and Liam that suggests he should propose. Sad face! But as anyone with a social media account knows, it’s not about reality as much as the suggestion of perfection, so Ophelia takes a picture of herself and Nick to post on Insta. (Her username is Ophelia1, in case you were wondering.)
Though Fe (as Nick calls her—so cute!) cozied up to her new man for the photo, she’s just not that into him, and he can tell. Back in her palace quarters over ice cream sundaes courtesy of the royal kitchen, Nick goes on the offense. “In order to make this a fair fight between me and the prince, I believe I deserve a home match. I’ll show you my piece of the world… If you let me do this and you’re still thinking about your prince, then I’ll back away. Deal?” It’s a deal.
Meanwhile, back on the royal jet, Liam is being given a lecture about the importance of his first-ever small-town tour.
Queen Helena: “I cannot overstate the significance of the next couple days. This is the first time the people will see you as the heir. You must stick only to the preapproved Stick to the script… We never talk about money, race, sexual identity, or religion.”
Liam: “What does that leave to talk about?”
Queen Helena: “Cheese.”
As one might have imagined, Liam finds it pretty hard to restrict his meet-and-greet chatter to cheddar aging technique and makes the mistake of assuming a slightly rotund woman is preggers. Helena is outraged, though less on behalf of the poor woman involved and more over the fact that Liam clearly went off script. That being said, Liam’s feeling pretty depressed—making it the perfect time for Gemma to swoop right in. To date, he’s done his best to ignore her sexual advances (“Make me proud, baby,” she said at the start of the tour. “Don’t keep this lady waiting too long!”) but he can’t resist when she strokes his ego just so. “You’ve got what most of us don’t have …Natural charisma,” she tells him. “People like you for you, that’s not nothing. I say just be yourself and stop trying so hard.”
Liam takes her advice to heart during his next tour stop, when he strikes up a friendly conversation with a villager about football. Within seconds, he has all the guys roaring with laughter and when he continues the banter in a local pub, he thinks he has a handle on the whole king thing. But just as quickly as one woman has built him up, another brings him down. Liam may be fun, notes a cute bartender who’s doling out pints of ale for the crowd, but that doesn’t mean he’s monarch material.
“That’s not what I want in my king. I want someone who recognizes when they have the power to make the world a better place. Someone who changes lives and inspires all of us to do the same,” she says. “Do that, and I’ll say you’ve done something. Do that, and I’ll call you my king.”
Though it doesn’t seem that Liam has taken her feedback to heart, what he does next proves he’s capable of carrying out good intentions. When he meets a frustrated fifth-generation saddle maker who’d prefer to make and sell boots, Liam gives him the encouragement he craves so badly. “The pressures of the family business,” he tells the young leatherworker. “I get that.” The sequence ends with Liam showing off his beautiful new bespoke boots to the press, who approve of his endorsement of local craftsmanship.
The press are also playing nice with Eleanor, whose two-day charity tour includes a retirement home, an animal shelter, and a children’s hospital. She’s been high as a kite throughout all of it, which she reasons, is the only way she can get through the dreadful experience of doing her hated mother’s bidding. Finally, she makes her last stop, a drug rehabilitation center that was Robert’s charity of choice. Drunk and depressed, she meets a recovering drug addict whose looks and demeanor eerily mirror her own. The girl blames her past for her demons: “Shitty mom’s my excuse. What’s yours?”
Much like her brother did minutes earlier, Eleanor proceeds to surprise us as she demonstrates a considerable amount of maturity and insight. “How your mother treated you, that’s not your fault. Maybe once you make the choice to let that go, it will get easier.” Will she take her own advice? Not likely—as soon as she heads back to the palace, she snorts cocaine and invites Jasper to her bed. “Is this what you want?” he asks. “We all have choices to me,” she says.
NEXT: Gemma makes a major mistake[pagebreak]
She isn’t the only young woman who confronts her past during “Sweet, Not Lasting.”
During her confrontation with Marcus, we learn that Gemma left Liam 18 months ago to chase after Ryan Reynolds in Madagascar. (Of course Ryan Reynolds—I bet writers were deciding between he and Ryan Gosling for this line.)
“And now you pop back up at a suspiciously coincidental time and expect him to hand those pieces back to you like nothing ever happened,” Marcus says while the two are on the royal yet. “Because you’re a good lay.”
“Not a good lay. GREAT lay,” says Gemma, who leaves the scene without noticing she’s left her gloves. (Which, I should note, Marcus scoops up—will they appear later at the scene of some crime? Hmm. )
While Liam’s had some success on the press tour, Helena has some of her own—though of an unexpected sort. She meets a little girl, a village resident whose mother couldn’t make the press event because she’s taking care of the family’s sick cows.
One wouldn’t expect this to spark Helena’s interest, but within a few moments, we learn that she grew up on a farm (OMG!) and with the little girl by the hand, she strolls onto the pastures of their family farm to investigate the matter. When Helena learns that a distillery is responsible for polluting the water that the cows drink, she decides to do what she does best: take charge. She marches straight to the whiskey producer and demands he change his production so as to avoid expelling pollutants. But—surprise!—he rejects her proposal, citing rising costs and “so damn much in taxes so the queen can buy all her fancy undergarments. So no, I don’t believe I’ll be taking orders from some vapid, archaic figure head with no real power.”
Helena leaves quietly, though you know girlfriend has a trick up her sleeve. And she does, we see later in the episode—she somehow arranges for the distillery to go up in flames. It’s clear Helena doesn’t shirk from doing dirty business, which makes her and Cyrus perfect partners in crime, as they commission a secret poll that reveals 45 percent of the public would vote to abolish the monarchy and that they’re also “on the fence” about Liam. “That’s why we can’t put all our eggs in Liam’s basket. He’s too much of a wild card,” Helena tells Cyrus. “We need to explore every possible option.” Does she mean literally? Because right after this, Cyrus runs down to the secret tunnels that Ophelia explored earlier with Nick—where is he going? Who is he going to find?
Though literal flames burned in the case of the distillery, sparks were definitely flying between Nick and Ophelia. A day of paella followed by a dance party seemed to fan the flames, though when he leans in for a kiss, she cuts him off—though not before a fellow raver shoots an Instagram video of the pair looking super cuddly. “I don’t want to take things too fast,” she says. Burn! He leaves and she does too, and heads back to the castle to pore over online stories further linking her Prince Charming to Gemma. (Who for the record, hasn’t successfully seduced Liam during the trip.) When the alert of the Instagram video goes up, she sees it more than evidence of her chemistry with Nick—she sees it as virtual bait, a wait to get Liam’s attention.
And it works—so she thinks. Liam definitely saw the post and once his jet lands back in London, heads to Ophelia’s living quarters. There’s a big charity masquerade coming up—she will attend? “Absolute,” says Ophelia. He presents two tickets. “One for you and one for your boyfriend. I’ll see you there.”
He leaves, shutting the door behind him. But by doing so, is he ending any hopes of a future relationship? Could this be the end of Lio (Liam + Ophelia)? What business does Cyrus have running around in dark tunnels after hours? Who will he and Queen Helena tap as a possible heir to the throne? And most importantly, what will everyone wear to next week’s ball?
Liz’s best lines:
“You used to love this annual tour. You must have sired children up and down the countryside.”
“Do not under circumstances, talk to any fat people.”
“Four minutes earlier, and she would have been the heir.”
“I helped the cows. My father had cows.”
Real-life royal reference score: 3 (Queen Helena’s white-trimmed black nighty looked a lot like the black off-the-shoulder dress Princess Diana famously wore to take a twirl with John Travolta a gala dinner in 1985; Eleanor’s visit to a children’s hospital was reminiscent of the numerous visits Kate has paid to young, sick children and Liam’s tour was just like every single one taken by every royal, ever.)