Welcome back from hiatus, Royals! Anyone find a 16th-century sex apparatus under the tree this holiday season? Well, I guess you just weren’t on the naughty list. Though we as viewers may have enjoyed Mary and Catherine’s experience with the Spanish Prince’s favorite toy, the two ladies won’t be asking for another demonstration any time soon.
Lest you forget: The last time we were at French Court, the Prince of Spain was wandering around the castle with a piece of sex horse in his head, while Mary and Catherine were brainstorming ways not to be implicated in the inevitable scandal. As the old saying goes, nothing brings a woman and her daughter-in-law together quite like tag-teaming on some royal S&M – and the ladies are really a unified front in the face of multiple crises throughout the episode. You guys, they even hold hands at one point. Francis would be so proud!
Obviously, the first crisis they need to tackle is the whole “accidentally impaling the heir to the most powerful country in the world” thing. But the status of Don Carlos will have to wait. Just as Catherine is ironing out an alibi for her and Mary – they played chess all night and Catherine won, naturally – the newly minted regent, Narcisse, swings by to remind Catherine of that other scandal she’s involved in: those pesky accusations that Catherine poisoned Francis.
Narcisse informs Catherine that the evidence is stacking up against her; it’s pretty damning that right before his death, Francis had his mother imprisoned. Catherine points out that this imprisonment only further clears her name – how could she have poisoned her son if she was locked up?
That’s when Narcisse reveals just how low he’s willing to go in order to keep his power. Remember Rat Bath-gate? Lola believes it was Catherine who planted the rodent in her bath, and if she could threaten Lola while in jail, who’s to say she couldn’t also commit regicide? Catherine outs Narcisse as the real rat culprit in front of Mary, but Narcisse continues to deny it. The guy is such a good liar, he may actually believe he didn’t trick his wife into marrying him. You know who doesn’t believe him? Mary’s eyebrows. Those babies were so incredulous they almost went vertical. Regardless, with Lola’s testimony, Narcisse will only need a little more evidence to get Catherine tried by the high court in Paris.
Mary is obviously Team Catherine and agrees to have a chat with Lola about what Narcisse has been up to – but Mary makes it very clear to the Queen Mother that she’ll only go so far as to tell Lola about the rat and being manipulated into marriage, she crosses the line at dropping the bomb that Narcisse is also still sleeping with Catherine. Mary’s such a good friend!
Unfortunately, Lola refuses to accept that her husband could be so evil because Lola is blinded by love and Narcisse’s sweet new haircut. She testifies that Catherine had the means to do as she pleased while in prison. While doing so, however, Lola realizes she has no real proof and begins to reconsider Mary’s theory.
Before Mary can come up with a new plan for proving Catherine’s innocence, she’s saddled with yet another dire problem: There’s a barley shortage in Scotland and people are starving and English troops stole some barley and some Scots tried to take back the barley and those Scots are being held hostage. Pull it together, Scotland. Mary’s dealing with both regicide and a sex horse injury today, sister has no time for your barley problem!
Except of course she does, especially once she finds out that the hostages include Lola’s father and brothers – and Elizabeth will let them all go if Lola comes to live at English Court. Narcisse is swinging his weight around as both regent and husband here, and immediately wants to send in the Scots Guard, a Scottish military unit in service of France. Mary tells him to slow his roll. She doesn’t want to take Elizabeth’s bait, and would rather try for a diplomatic resolution. Oh, and also, the Scots Guard will always remain loyal to her since she’s, you know, THE QUEEN OF SCOTLAND.
Narcisse may have the title of most powerful man in France, but even he has to realize that Catherine and Mary won’t go down without a fight. Perhaps that’s why he’s being even more ruthless and desperate than usual. In order to finally get this regicide inquest tied up and Catherine’s fate handed over to the Parlement de Paris, Narcisse plays his trump card: Claude.
NEXT: Escapes! Engagements! Embalming!
Claude doesn’t want to play Narcisse’s game. Unfortunately, Narcisse has Claude’s diary and begins to read the entry from that time Catherine went all The Sixth Sense on her daughter and slowly poisoned her by way of soup. In all fairness, Catherine was being poisoned herself – she was hanging out with her ghost children, it was a simpler time – but the damage has been done. If Catherine is cool with poisoning one of her children, she’s certainly capable of doing it again.
Catherine knows it’s do or die time. Thanks to Mary and a flea-infested disguise (“That sock just moved.”), Catherine escapes the castle. Before she can get into too much trouble, Bash, who, at Mary’s request, has been helping Catherine investigate (of course) the accusations, arrives with some news.
After paying a visit to Francis’ embalmer, Bash realizes the guy was paid off and fled so quickly, he never actually embalmed Francis. This means Francis’ body is still intact and there’s no way the poisoned liver Cardinal Morel brought to court could actually belong to the dead king. The only way to prove this, however, is to exhume Francis’ body. Sounds like it’ll be a super fun time for Catherine and Bash.
Speaking of dead bodies, after Lola suspects that Narcisse’s secretary, Cedric, is the same person who wrote the threatening note left with her bath rat, Narcisse takes Cedric for a long walk off a short pier – well, actually, it’s a big shove off a castle wall, but you get the picture. Cedric the Secretary is the one loose end in Narcisse’s rat cover up, so, naturally, the poor kid had to go.
Later, Narcisse spins some lies about Cedric’s disappearance, but Lola begins to connect the dots. Narcisse tries to explain it away by telling his wife that he “would do anything to keep [her],” but, like in a creepy way, not a romantic way. So, a heart-broken Lola declares their marriage dead and plans to head off to English Court in order to save the people who actually matter to her.
Narcisse is having a rough day, huh? He loses his secretary, his wife, and finally, his grip over Catherine. Catherine and Bash arrive with Francis’ exhumed body and reveal (thankfully, not to the audience) the physical proof that she’s been framed: Francis’ liver is still there, so the poisoned one is a fake.
Catherine, out from under the weight of regicide, has fire in her eyes again – and she’s coming for Narcisse. She vows revenge if she finds out he had anything to do with the accusations.
As it turns out, framing Catherine for murder is the one horrible thing Narcisse hasn’t done; the whole scheme was put into motion by Cardinal Morel, who was acting under the orders of a very nefarious looking dude. You know he’s a bad guy because when he finds out the plan to oust Catherine has failed, he immediately slits the Cardinal’s throat and has him tossed in the river. Seems like an appropriate reaction.
With that whole mess cleaned up, what of Don Carlos? If it were up to Catherine, they would ensure he never wakes up from his head trauma (possibly by cloth suffocation). Mary, though, has a soft-spot for the guy, whips and all. He was kind! His beard was top-notch! He made fun of French people with her! I get it.
Another reason in the pro column for The Beard pulling through, is so France and Scotland might avoid suffering the wrath of Spain. The Duke of Alba, Don Carlos’ right-hand man, makes it very clear that King Philip would not handle the details around his son’s death well, and they would most certainly blame the whole sex horse thing on the French. In fact, the Duke even calls Mary out for having Madam Greer at court. Mary quickly shoos her friend out of the castle, but I think Greer would’ve been just fine – I mean, the girl can convince relatively smart people that her (secret) pregnancy glow is actually just from wearing a new dress. I know Mary is busy but, like, open your eyes, dude.
Well, Mary can cross “avoid the wrath of the Spanish King” off her to-do list, as Don Carlos (whose beard still looks fabulous, by the way) miraculously wakes up. There is one downside: He is severely impaired. In fact, all he can really say are things like “Mary,” “pretty,” and “pretty Mary.” He does not remember the S&M impalement, so I guess we’ll count this as a win. The Duke of Alba also admits that he’s known about The Beard’s sexual proclivities for a long time, and will continue to lie about it to King Philip, now that Don Carlos is at least alive.
One would think Don Carlos’ current mental state would render him useless in Mary’s quest to secure a strong alliance through marriage, but one would be wrong. Catherine insists Mary still accept his proposal. Spain is the greatest ally she could hope for, plus now Don Carlos won’t be asking her to do weird sex stuff anymore. Spain will approve because The Beard’s going to be a hard sell, and Don Carlos will be safer with Mary than King Philip, who will probably just stash him away somewhere. It’s a win-win-win.
Mary doesn’t think it’s right to take advantage of Don Carlos, but she changes her tune once she sees the horrors happening in Scotland first-hand. Some Scots decide it would be a great idea to force a bunch of starving Scottish children to travel to France and meet their queen. It’s horrible, but effective. Mary can’t sit by and let her people die, and she knows that an alliance with Spain would mean immediate food for Scotland. Once again she makes a tough choice in order to save her country: Mary will marry Don Carlos.
Outfit of the Week: Though my head knows that Mary rocked some serious gown game this week (and tiaras!), my heart says to go with Catherine’s pauper disguise. There’s no other woman in all of the realm that could wear that hat and still instill so much fear. As with all things on Reign, the heart wins.
The Queens’ Corner of Harsh Lady Truths: