Mary befriends a pirate, Catherine befriends the Queen of England.
Credit: Sven Frenzel/The CW
S3 E1
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Welcome back, friends of the realm! Was your summer severely lacking in sexual intrigue, castle ghosts, religious uprisings, and killer tiaras, too? Trè​s sad. Luckily, Reign‘s season 3 opener didn’t waste any time in getting back to business.

When we last saw our young monarchs, Mary and Francis — but mostly Mary, let’s be honest — had stopped Condé​’s play for the French crown and had exiled Catherine from court after, oh, you know, kidnapping Lola and baby John in order to make Francis believe his son was dead. Moms, am I right?

With that pesky rebellion out of the way, Mary and Francis find themselves back in each other’s arms; their relationship is better than ever. Mary’s learning new dances in the palace gardens! Francis is building a boat! They’re practicing the ancient art of afternoon delight! Good for them, you know? After the doom and gloom of last season, they deserve it. But while Francis is leading the charge on enjoying the simple pleasures of life (of course, we know this new outlook is due to the knowledge of his impending death — of which he has yet to tell Mary), Mary is quick to remind her husband that they are in fact the rulers of France and they have responsibilities. Wives, am I right?

At the moment, most of these responsibilities revolve around the on-going crisis in Scotland. Lord Narcisse, still cleaning the remains of his favorite horse from his teeth, arrives with intel from his contacts abroad. Scottish lords who were once Catholic allies have been turned against them, and without more French resources, Scotland will be lost to the Protestants. The only problem? France has no more resources to give. But Mary has a plan: pirates!

Enter Martin de Lambert, a very successful, very handsome pirate with a penchant for exotic animals, including a tiger he’d like to gift to Mary, and high-born women, including Greer, who he’d like to marry. Surprisingly, our favorite madam is up for the challenge.

Greer agrees to an engagement with the pirate for the good of Scotland and reminds Mary that she only needs to stay engaged until Martin holds up his end of the bargain. If she has to sleep with him before he takes off, so be it. Thanks for taking one for the team, Greer. We know it’s such a hardship to sleep with a sexy pirate. Later, Greer comes to find she may be out of her league. Martin says all the right things to get Greer into bed and legitimately contemplating a sweet pirate-brothel keeper union, only to discover Martin says that to all the girls; He never had any intention of marrying her. Greer says she’s outraged, but we all know that once you go pirate, you never go back — er, something like that.

Regardless, thanks to Greer placating Martin, Mary’s last ditch effort to keep the fight alive in Scotland is in place. Little does she know, her public enemy number one is working on her own plan across the English Channel. That’s right, people — we’re going to England!

Post-exile, Catherine sets herself up with a decoy in France and hightails it to English court to see if that old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” adage holds any truth. Lucky for Catherine, it does. After a short time in the ear of Queen Elizabeth, Catherine has made an ally. Maybe it’s because Elizabeth so desperately wants to destroy Mary, or she’s aching to prove herself as a legitimate European power, or heck, maybe the gal is just grateful to have another fearsome woman around, but regardless, Elizabeth welcomes Catherine’s guidance. Where Elizabeth’s stodgy privy council, led by a fiery but practical William, wants her to stop her crusade in Scotland and focus on nabbing a husband, Catherine encourages Elizabeth’s hatred for her cousin.

Catherine knows Elizabeth has two big problems, Mary and marriage, so she hatches one plan to tackle them both. Introducing Catherine de Medici’s Two-Pronged Plan to Destroy Mary Stuart and Maximize Queen Elizabeth’s Power:

First, destroy Mary’s standing with the Catholic Church by revealing her affair with Condé​ to Rome. Second, have Elizabeth marry Prince Charles, Francis’ little brother and the next in line for the French throne. Charles is so young that he’ll be no threat as a ruler or as a husband—ensuring that Elizabeth has years to do whatever she’d like with her childhood friend and secret lover (but not actual lover because, guys, she’s a virgin queen, remember?), Robert Dudley. Everybody wins!

Can we take a slight detour, friends? We have to talk about the heat between Elizabeth and Dudley. It is palpable. If this forbidden and somewhat masochistic love affair is what we can expect from English court, then I am in. She can’t truly be with him because he’s married and she’s the Queen, but she refuses to let him go (and he continually asks). If he left, who else would brood in the back corner during privy council meetings? Anyway: HOT.

NEXT: Francis breaks all of our hearts

Back in France, Catherine’s plan completely unravels. Mary and Francis receive a letter from Elizabeth asking for permission to marry Prince Charles, which implies a truce in Scotland. Mary wants to take the deal if it means peace, after all, Mary will still be the one married to a king in this proposed alliance, right? WRONG. As Mary pushes for Francis to agree, he finally confesses that he’s dying. Charles will soon take the throne — there’s no way they can let Elizabeth marry him. Mary is blindsided. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

The two share a really powerful scene in the chapel. Sitting on the floor, like the two teenagers they actually are (don’t you forget sometimes?), Francis comforts his lady love and Mary is in disbelief at how strong he’s being. He just wants to enjoy what little time he has left (BUT HOW LITTLE, YOU GUYS?). Now, the shirking of kingly duties, afternoon romps, and the boat, oh the boat, all make sense. Francis promises to make political preparations so as not to leave Mary unprotected when he dies. You being super thoughtful only makes this harder, Francis!

At least Mary gets a reprieve from grieving a bit later when she’s informed that Catherine de Medici killed herself after her Monk lover died from a lumber mill sex injury (it’s no humping a woman out of the window, but what is, really?). Mary and Francis immediately know the woman’s a decoy — Catherine taking her own life out of guilt is laughable. When Narcisse reports back that a delegate of Frenchmen were just assassinated in Rome for trying to get the word out on Mary’s affair, they quickly connect the dots and realize Catherine is in England feeding Elizabeth information.

Before you go thinking Narcisse broke free from the shackles of Catherine’s love just to become an errand boy, you should know the man we all love to hate (hate to love? BOTH?), is still in hot pursuit of Lady Lola. Lola, understandably, is still angry over bath-gate, and also, very understandably, fears Catherine’s wrath. But when Lola hears that Narcisse formally asked Francis’ permission to court her, she’s intrigued. And once Francis forbids the courtship (He’s trying to protect John from growing up with Narcisse as his father figure. He’s dying, you guys! I’m still in denial.), Lola pays a little visit to Narcisse’s bath tub. Now that she knows she can never make the mistake of marrying him, she’s cool with keeping things casual. Narcisse takes offense and promises to prove her wrong: Marrying him would be no mistake.

Also dealing with a stage-5 clinger is resident CSI, Bash. Bash has been trying to track down Delphine, ever since she bound the two of them with blood magic, seemingly murdered a servant pagan-style, and ran off after the castle guards tried to burn her at the stake. Typical. The binding worked: Bash finds rope burns on his wrists that coincide with reports of Delphine being tied up in a nearby village and later, he can sense her near the castle (all those dead crows are kind of a giveaway, too). One night, Delphine pays Bash a visit in bed to deny she killed the servant and also warn him of the real culprit. Whoever he is, he’s a monster and he will kill again. Bash must stop him. Thank god, otherwise what would Bash have to do?

Speaking of surprise visitors, Elizabeth and the entire castle guard, apparently, sit atop an English cliff waiting for Mary and Prince Charles, who have supposedly agreed to a meeting with the English queen. When Elizabeth sees an empty ocean horizon, she knows she’s been tricked — the French have come for Catherine. With an unguarded castle, there’s no stopping the invaders. Elizabeth is livid. When she gets another lecture from William about slowing her roll on destroying Mary and simply evening out the playing field through marriage, Elizabeth does the unthinkable — she finally puts her hands all over that sweet, sweet Dudley.

While Elizabeth is busy making herself a virgin queen in name only, Catherine is drug out to the middle of the forest and accused of treason by her son and daughter-in-law. Her punishment? Mary has Pirate Martin toss the Queen Mother in his movable prison, where she meets her new cell mate: Martin’s tiger. Catherine screams for her life, but no one can hear it over Mary’s sick burn: “It’s hard to say which of you needs thicker bars, but I know he’ll suffer more.”

Outfit of the Week: The gown Mary wears when she learns Francis is dying. The sleek bodice and long sleeves are perfect for reading letters sent from your archenemy, while the luscious tulle skirt was basically built for soaking up tears on a chapel floor. Beautiful and functional—the best kinds of dresses always are.

The Queens’ Corner of Harsh Lady Truths:

  • “Men don’t like taking orders from women. They can barely stand speaking to them.” —Catherine laying down truth tracks in England
  • “They tell me to rule my heart, but what they want is a man to rule me. I won’t have it.” —Finally, Elizabeth gets it
  • “I am England’s queen and those who seek to replace me will suffer my wrath.” —No, Elizabeth really gets it

Episode Recaps

A sexy, historical fiction CW take on the lives of Mary, Queen of Scots and her royal court.
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