One of the elements of a traditional monarchy that seems particularly outdated in 2015 is the rule of succession. As King Simon pointed out in his rather elegant speech last week, the centuries-old succession rule doesn’t award the best or the brightest; instead, the privilege of wearing the crown becomes a birthright, which is a problem when pretty much everyone in your family is an idiot either by nature or drug addiction.
So, when King Simon was found stabbed outside the palace gates, guess who had the most to gain? (Clue: Cyrus, Helena and Liam.) With that, the scene is set when the royal family—Queen Helena, Liam, Eleanor and Cyrus—are rushed into a dungeon. “He’s lost a lot of blood and it’s too soon to tell if he’ll live,” Pryce offers by way of an update to King’s health. Within seconds, Marcus brings down Ophelia to the safe room. Queen Helena raises an eyebrow at this, but Marcus says that ensuring the safety of the prince’s girlfriend is in keeping with standard protocol. (Is anyone else falling for Marcus? He always stands out as so suave and smart!)
“What does it matter whether Liam’s latest slut of the hour is here?” Cyrus asks. Way to put things in perspective.
While Eleanor is freaking out, the queen puts an icy hand on Liam’s shoulder. “Everything is different now …you are now the prince regent, you understand me?” Liam gets it, and then Helena lays it on extra thick. “You are the acting King of England,” she says. (Note that she’s wearing a fur shrug over a cream-colored sweater—it’s the closest thing to casual, comfy clothes we’ve seen her wear.)
Emotions really start running high when Liam starts beating himself over not having been with the king (remember, he was supposed to meet the king for a walk but was whooping it up with Ophelia instead), while Helena and Cyrus start questioning Pryce about why he wasn’t with the king at the time of the attack. “His Majesty and I had an understanding that I would look the other way for his occasional walk,” explains Pryce. “It’s an understanding I now regret.”
Everyone starts throwing shade about who’s responsible for the king’s attack, when Eleanor snaps back with “The only person to blame is the person who did it.”
So was it Cyrus? Or either Thing One or Thing Two, as Cyrus refers to the royal twins. He and the siblings are trading accusations about who might have actually committed the crime when Ophelia pipes up about having seen Cyrus slip out of the palace.
“Pryce, silence the only bitch you have left or I’ll do it myself,” Cyrus snarls. But Pryce doesn’t like threats, and whips out a gun to his head. It’s an utter madhouse, and surprisingly, the only one who’s calm is Helena, who looks as she’s going to find the truth in the bottom of her lip gloss tube.
Things are getting altogether too dramatic for poor Eleanor, who looks as though she’s about to have a panic attack. She begs to leave the safe room, a proposition which Pryce forbids since he still deems it unsafe. But you know, what the princess wants, the princess gets, and she’s allowed to go into the tunnels for a bit of air. Jasper—that creep—follows her.
NEXT: Eleanor takes a stand[pagebreak]
“My father has been attacked and someone in here is lying. And you have quite a track record, don’t you?” Eleanor asks of Jasper. Atta girl! Within moments, the palace is secured, which means everyone can get back to mourning (Eleanor), plotting (Cyrus), worrying (Liam) and doing damage control (Helena). It’s worth noting that as Helena is busy throwing directives about meetings with the prime minister and influencing the press, her bodyguard Lucius offers a strange assurance.
“The king has brought this upon himself. This tempest was inevitable,” Lucius tells her. “I am at her majesty’s service. Unequivocally.” Good to know, Lucius. The queen offers an “okay” as a response, which sounds a little informal for a queen who places so much emphasis on proper protocol. Hm.
In any case, Helena proceeds to arrange for a ceremony where Liam will be sworn in acting King of England. She walks him through the set up.
Helena: “You’ll kiss King James’s Bible. And you’ll officially become acting monarch.”
Liam: “Temporarily, until Dad is well.”
Helena: “Sweetheart, your dad’s condition is life threatening …The life you had is gone. You have a bigger responsibility now.”
While Liam is stepping up to the plate, Eleanor is seriously falling apart. However, a glimmer of hope arrives via a visit from Jasper, who announces that he’s been assigned security detail at the palace. He can get Eleanor in to see her dad at the hospital. Pryce sees them leaving and freaks out, “She’s not to leave the palace.” He issues a direct order to Jasper, but Jasper decides to play the hero and shrug off the rules. (Not like he really played by them anyway.)
In the following scene, Ophelia tells her dad she saw Cyrus “in the shadows.” Pryce says he saw the footage. “Just let me deal with this.”
Speaking of Cyrus, he’s busy putting together an alibi with the help of James Holloway, the Parliament member he has wrapped around his little …well, you know what I’m saying. He doesn’t agree right away, but then Cyrus pulls out his trump card. “You did lines of blow off my dick last week, Holloway. Don’t get all sanctimonious on me now.” Well, when you put it that way, what choice does he have?
During this tête-à-tête, Eleanor finds her dad hooked up to life support. So sad! And by sad, I mean that the hospital room is pretty crappy considering it’s for a royal—There’s not a stitch of red velvet in sight. “I’ll do better,” she tells her unconscious father. Haven’t we heard her say that before?
Meanwhile, Helena is giving a live televised speech to the country. “Today, as your king fights for your life, I speak to you about love of family and of country.” She calls for justice and unity, which means Pryce has to step up his game and figure out who’s behind the crime.
Moments after the speech, we see Helena and Liam join Eleanor at the king’s bedside. Liam immediately cracks. “I’m sorry I failed you,” he says, sobbing. “But I wont let you down again I promise. I’ll be everything you want me to be.”
NEXT: Helena acts the ice queen[pagebreak]
This was an opportune moment for the queen to offer both her children some sweet assurance—indeed, something Liam has asked his mother to do to help a grieving Eleanor since the top of the episode—but instead, she asks her daughter to step out so she and Liam can have a moment alone with the king. It’s just so cold of her. (Which is probably why she’s re-wearing that fur shrug she wore at the top of the episode.) She holds hands with the king and Liam, while her poor daughter is left on the outside looking in—literally. Eleanor heads back to her room, where Jasper follows her.
“You have to trust somebody sometime,” he says, breathing down her neck and touching her totes inappropriately. “Why are you here?” Eleanor asks. No really—how did he find himself in England? She pushes the panic button in her bedroom. “Did you attack my father? Are you in love with my mother so you tried to call my father? Did you? I don’t know anything about you, Jasper from Las Vegas.”
Then, Eleanor produces one of his cufflinks. “I found that in the queen’s bed, which is also the king’s bed. Off you go.” And with that, Jasper is hauled away by palace security. See you, Japer.
In another part of the palace, Cyrus is keeping busy by trying to intimidate Ophelia in her to shut her up about him lurking in the shadows and such.
“You need to shut your little whore of a mouth of yours before I shut it for good,” he says. Daddy’s nowhere to be found. “Just ask your mother,” Cyrus adds as a hint of what can happen if she’s truly left on her own. (On a side note, what does he know about her mother, anyway?)
She cries. “How can you be so horrible?” As opposed to what, being nice? Cyrus then asks her what she thinks she really saw. “Go on, cry wolf. When the real wolf is at your door, who’s going to save you then?” Ugh, he’s so nasty. I bet his breath smells.
Ophelia and Cyrus aren’t the only ones sparring. Eleanor and the Queen are at it too.
Eleanor: “Jasper has been arrested.”
Helena: “For what? Attacking the king?
Eleanor: “No, for screwing the queen.”
Helena: “Consider it a favor. There was something going on between the two of you, I simply exposed his true colors before you got too attached.”
Eleanor: “Well done, queen. Spin it. Make it seem like you were trying to protect me. Go on, pull Liam close and protect him too. You are reprehensible. I wouldn’t be surprised if you put the knife in dad’s heart yourself. You’ve been doing it for years.”
Ouch—but well, done Eleanor. She’s managed to bring up the real reason why she feels so frosty toward her mother: Though she may not know about Captain Lacey, she’s aware that her parent’s relationship has been damaged for a very long time, and most likely because of her mother’s doing. And Helena must have suspected that her daughter—who is more like her than either one would like to admit—understands her duplicitous nature more than anyone else in the palace.
Things between the two are escalating when Liam bursts in and basically tell Eleanor to back off. Really? Since when has Liam been on this mother’s side? I thought for sure that the queen’s manipulation had done a 180 on Liam’s personality until moments later, when Liam and Eleanor, ensconced her room, tells her he hasn’t actually lost his mind.
“Of course, I see it,” he says of Helena’s motive of pushing him to uphold the monarchy. “We can’t let her know that, though, can we? We have to be careful, at least until we know the truth.”
NEXT: A bomb goes off (Sorta)[pagebreak]
We learn that Liam intends to go ahead with his father’s plans to put forward a referendum after he’s been sworn in as the Acting King of England. It’s an awesome idea and I actually feel proud of him …until Lucius is seen eavesdropping. So much for good intentions—will he ruin the plan?
The swearing-in ceremony is about to commence when Ophelia and Liam have a rare moment alone. She tells him that the king’s injuries aren’t his fault. In fact, she blames herself for having kept Liam from the king’s side.
Then, the queen walks in. “Liam, it’s time.” A sweet peck and he’s off.
Helena decides that it’s the perfect time to shares some choice words with Ophelia. “Take a step back and ask yourself where your place is in all of it …Ask yourself where you belong. Regardless of the answer, he belongs to England now.” And with a flip of her perfectly curled hair, Helena struts out.
Everyone’s gathered for the ceremony—that is, everyone but Cyrus. Liam is in the middle of reciting his oath like the British schoolboy he is when Cyrus interrupts.
“The spare who would be heir,” he tells Liam, spitting out each word in the nastiest fashion. ”If anyone is a disgrace to the crown, I’m quite certain its you. Did you really think you would be King of England? You’re not intelligent. You’re not inspiring. You’re not even the king’s son.” There’s a collective gasp from the crowd gathered in the drawing room and Helena slaps him. “You bastard.”
“No, my Queen, that would be him, and her,” Cyrus responds, in reference to Liam and Eleanor.
“Mother, refute him, tell this room and the world and our father the king who fights for his life at this very moment, that these are desperate lies by a pathetic, jealous man,” Liam retorts.
Cyrus is just staring, smiling at Helena. “Yeah, tell us, Queen.”
The queen puts down her head. And now, Cyrus’ end game becomes utterly apparent. “These children are illegitimate. They are not the blood heirs of King Simon and so are not eligible to ascent the throne. I am the rightful heir to the crown. I am the next King of England.”
The aftermath: Ophelia is tapping away on her laptop at night. She wants to audition for Ballantine’s New York Academy. Liam is having blood withdrawn for a blood test. “It just can’t be true. Mum wouldn’t do that.” Eleanor’s response? “Mum’s a whore.”
Meanwhile, Marcus looks at security footage; he’s found evidence of someone standing outside the gates for hours…a face we don’t recognize and neither does Pryce. And in another part of the palace, the queen and Cyrus are talking over tumblers of scotch. Really? Wouldn’t she be mad at him for outing her children as illegitimate???
Helena: “He wasn’t fit to be king. It had to be done.”
Cyrus: “You didn’t have to slap me so hard.”
Helena: “It had to look convincing.”
Oh my gosh—They’re in cahoots. “To the next king of England,” toasts Helena. Cyrus responds: “Long live the queen.”
Liz’s best lines:
“We are under attack but eventually the door will open and the world will look at us. I suggest you all put your war paint on. This is mine.”
“Some people have the privilege of hope. We have the responsibility of being prepared.”
“Sweetheart, your dad’s condition is life threatening …The life you had is gone. You have a bigger responsibility now.”
Real-life royal reference score: 3 (Liam’s preppy oxford shirt-and-sweat combo is straight out of Will’s closet and I bet the royal safe room is spot-on. As for Helena and Cyrus slinging back scotch? Well, that one’s just obvious.)
This episode was insanely salacious and seriously good—everything it should have been from day one. What do you think is ahead for the next episode? Are Liam and Eleanor really illegitimate? Does that mean Captain Lacey is their dad? And while Cyrus’s motive is clear—he probably already had his fitting for a decked-out crown—what is Helena’s end game? Share your theories in the comments, or with me on Twitter.