Reign recap: Fight or Flight
“What will you do next?” the newly minted King Charles asks his now widowed sister-in-law, Mary. It’s the same question we’ve all been mulling over since last week’s heartbreaking loss of Francis. Mary left Scotland for France when she was 6; it is the only real home she’s known. Without Francis, she’s simply the Queen of Scotland living in a country that doesn’t belong to her. Mary is an outsider with very limited options, mainly: Hightail it back to Scotland and line up an advantageous marriage. Well, our Mary isn’t quite ready to face her new reality, so instead she distracts herself by taking up the fight for Francis’ dying wish to see Catherine installed as Charles’ regent. Ignoring your problems by burying yourself in work? Royals: They’re just like us!
Guaranteeing Catherine will be voted in as regent by the privy council might be a harder task than anticipated. Francis’ death has seemed to spark a fervor in Mary, but it’s done quite the opposite to his mother.
Catherine has barely left her chambers in three weeks, which has allowed the privy council to meet several times in secret without the Queen Mother. Mary and co. have caught wind that the council is rallying behind Lord Grenier. Grenier owns tons of vineyards, which is a huge plus, but he also tries to humiliate Catherine when she busts into one of his “informal” council meetings by calling her a — gasp — woman. So, we hate the dude (but would still totally take some bottles of his wine were he to offer).
Catherine feels defeated (very unlike Catherine, right?), but Mary refuses to break her promise to Francis. If Catherine won’t fight for the regency, Mary will fight on her behalf. Man, Mary really doesn’t want to think about going home, huh? She’s so deep into the Catherine Regency Project, that she even borrows the CSI title from Bash. But this time, instead of tracking serial killers, it’s tracking nobles’ spending habits. CSI: Accounting — not as exciting, but just as sexy.
Mary takes a peek through a notebook of Francis’, which is essentially Microsoft Quicken for 16th Century Kings and Their Nobles, and notices that Lord Grenier has been selling off some of his vineyards. To find out just what Grenier needs that money for, Mary enlists Greer and her stable of working ladies. Rumor has it Lady Grenier might be willing to talk about her husband’s spending habits after a visit from one of Greer’s girls. Mary’s right! But, Mary, if you ever use the phrase “post-coital” again, I’ll stage a coup.
CSI Mary discovers that Lord Grenier has been using his vineyard money to purchase mercenary armies for the war in Scotland—and profiting off the death of his soldiers. When Mary and Catherine confront him, he knows he’s lost, but reminds Catherine that she has a lot of enemies on the council, and she hasn’t won yet.
Catherine hates to admit it, but Grenier is right. A regent must honor the will of the people, and the people of France want the war in Scotland to end. Because Scotland (read: Mary) was so important to Francis, Catherine could never break the alliance. She’s watched how hard Mary has fought to honor Francis, and she is willing to do the same — even if it costs her the regency. Mary refuses to stand by and let that happen. She’s willing to make the hard choice in order to ensure Catherine becomes regent and to protect France. It’s her home too, remember?
And so, Mary dissolves the alliance between Scotland and France. France has no obligation to fight on behalf of the Scots; they can bring their men home. It is Mary’s final tie to France, and she willingly lets it go for the greater good. She attributes the action to Catherine’s guidance on the matter, and it does the trick — members of the privy council are starting to seriously consider Catherine’s bid for regent. Mary’s job here is done.
In my favorite scene of the episode, Mary finally has to consider Charles’ question about her plans, and she does so through the comfort of Catherine. Mary knows she has to marry again for political reasons, but she doesn’t know who she is without Francis. So Catherine tells her, “You are a queen. You’re still a queen.” For the second time tonight, Mary makes the tough, but right choice. She sends word to Don Carlos: She’s in France (thanks to a heartfelt invitation to stay from Charles) and she’s ready to talk alliance. Gird your loins, people: THE BEARD IS COMING TO FRANCE.
Catherine has more than one reason to feel like a complete badass at the moment. Not only does she begin to turn the tide on the regency vote, but she also makes some um, headway, in the other endeavor close to her heart: completely destroying Narcisse and Lola’s happiness.
NEXT: Catherine takes Narcisse by… surprise
As Catherine predicted, Narcisse is feeling a little bored in bed with his less-than-adventurous wife. Narcisse wants Lola to be a tad more aggressive, but Lola is a lady, sir! And this make her very uncomfortable.
Riding a high from bringing down Grenier, Catherine pays Narcisse a visit to let him know that she’s feeling more powerful than ever, and she’s coming for Narcisse and his wife with the “supple cheeks and absence of wit.” Narcisse, thinking he has the upper hand, reveals that he’s recently acquired a seat on the privy council, and by his count, he’ll be the deciding vote on the regency situation. Catherine’s not scared, and she quite literally, grabs him where it hurts the most. Narcisse, obviously loving the pain, and tired of her threats, tells her to release her grip or finish the job. And oh boy, does she choose the latter!
Now that Catherine knows she has control over Narcisse again, she is feeling pretty good. The only wrinkle is that he still gets to go home to his young wife. Catherine decides to even the playing field. Earlier, she caught a very flirty castle fire attendant, Christophe, getting it on in Francis’ room with another servant. She summons him to her room and when he’s done working over the fireplace, Catherine informs him that she has “another fire that needs lighting.” Christophe obliges, repeatedly. What can I say? The guy takes his job very seriously.
I guess everyone in the castle is feeling a bit randy these days. After weeks of pining, Claude finally makes a move on Leith. When Claude discovers that Leith and her lady-in-waiting Alexandra have called it quits after Claude caught them in bed together, she wants to know why. Well, Alexandra found Leith’s feelings for Claude a bit distracting. But Leith knows his place, and he won’t pursue Claude. Claude offers to help though, and wants to set him up with an alderman’s daughter. This sounds like a terrible idea.
To prepare Leith for his dinner with the girl and her family, Claude puts on her best Henry Higgins’ face and takes her lowly guard through some high society training. Leith is a terrible student and decides it would be more fun to teach the princess how they dance down in the village. As with all things Claude and Leith related, it is completely adorable.
Even more adorable? Leith discovers that there is no alderman’s daughter. Claude made her up just to have an excuse to spend more time with him. She has feelings for him, and she knows he feels the same way. Leith is hesitant, he’s been down this road before. Claude reminds him that she’s not Greer, she’s not husband-hunting. She’s a princess who can follow her heart, and she’s just as scared that Leith will be her undoing. The logic isn’t that sound, but it leads to them kissing, so I’ll take it.
Meanwhile, in England: Lizzie is in a foul mood. First and foremost, she’s being hardcore ghosted by Dudley. He and Amy left court, and D isn’t returning any of Liz’s letters. To lure Robert back, Elizabeth summons Amy to court and offers her the very prestigious title of Keeper of the Swans. Amy knows she can’t say no, no matter how much she hates Elizabeth or swans. Elizabeth ends the job interview with a sinister “Welcome home, Amy.” Debate: Who’s the fiercest mic dropper in all the land — Elizabeth or Catherine?
The Dudleys return and Robert attempts to make it very clear that things are over between him and Elizabeth. Liz is pretty much like, “heard that before,” and the two end up having sex. Such is the merry-go-round of their affair.
Amy knows that as long as she’s at court, Robert is lost to her. She bribes her doctor (with sexual favors, obviously) to tell Robert that Amy has a tumor and the only person who can treat her resides all the way in Cornwall. Robert buys this because he is an idiot. He once again bids his great love a tearful farewell, but we all know it’s not going to stick.
Also not helping Elizabeth’s mood is the news that Mary has burned the peace accord and refuses to sign away her claim to the English throne. In retaliation, Elizabeth sends troops to march directly into Linlithgow, Mary’s place of birth. And since Nicholas couldn’t get the job done in French court, she fires him and calls upon someone even more mischievous than the former ambassador in her fight against Mary: Gideon Blackburn.
Gideon resides in the Tower of London. Elizabeth herself put him there after she rose to power and discovered that her sister Mary (of the Bloody Mary fame) used Gideon as a spy while she kept Liz in the Tower. Gideon befriended Elizabeth, and she almost fell for him. He’s the one who spilled on Liz’s feelings for Dudley and had the two ripped apart. She offers Gideon his freedom and a reunion with his daughter. In return, he must go to France and use his special talent: He must make Mary fall in love with him. See what I mean about the mic drops?
Outfit of the Week: All hail the accessories game! Elizabeth rocked not only a spider brooch, but a to-die-for pair of spider earrings. Are spiders in? Should I be wearing spiders now? Because I will, should my queen command it.
The Queens’ Corner of Harsh Lady Truths:
- “Either I’m a fragile, wilting female meant only to mourn, or a power-grabbing harpy.” —Catherine demonstrating that not much has changed in, well, centuries
- “I have another fire that needs lighting. Bring me back to life.” —Catherine getting hers