Reign recap: 'A Better Man'
There's a new prince in France, and he looks like le trouble.
Make waaaaaay, for Prince Henri! Okay, so neither Catherine nor Narcisse dress up as a blue genie to welcome Henri back to French court, but there is, in fact, a new prince in town. And from the looks of it, Charles’ younger brother is going to spell trouble.
Here’s the sitch: Catherine’s learned that our dear Leesa has gone behind her back and sent a letter to Henri — currently off fighting the Turks — informing him that Charles is unwell and he needs to return to France ASAP. There’s a throne to be protected! The news pushes Catherine and Narcisse’s Plan to Make Charles a Suitable King into hyperdrive.
They get word that some Protestants are holding a group of Catholics hostage until the crown releases some other Protestants they currently have imprisoned. Like, I’m sure Catherine feels bad for those Catholics, but mainly she sees it as a potential PR win. If Charles takes swift and strong military action against those Protestants, he’ll show everyone — but mainly Leesa — that he is a protector of the Catholic faith. Only problem is Charles hates taking swift and strong military action. Remember that time when being responsible for people’s deaths turned him into a cave-dwelling squirrel eater? #MistyWaterColoredMemories
Their only hope in convincing Charles is to, well, convince Nicole to convince Charles. Which, of course, means Narcisse needs to step up his seduction game. His first pass with Nicole fails. He offers her a wonderful home far, far away from court if she can persuade Charles to abdicate the throne and join her in that home. There’s one problem: Nicole doesn’t want to be hidden away from court. She wants to live that sweet court life, and she wants to do it with Narcisse. She’s in love with him, apparently. This all feels very forced and the sooner we ditch Nicole, the better.
Narcisse’s second attempt with Nicole yields much more success. He and Catherine now want Nicole to get Charles to make a move on the Protestants. Instead of promising Nicole money and lands, Narcisse shows his “vulnerable” side. The reason he’s been so hesitant to fall for Nicole is because he feels it would be a betrayal of Lola. But the heart wants what the heart wants (also, Catherine wants what Catherine wants, ya feel me?). He and Nicole go to Royal Pound Town.
Narcisse is, of course, quite upset that this whole charade has forced him to use Lola’s memory in such a way, but the play works. Before they know it, Charles is ordering troops to free the Catholic hostages. Catherine couldn’t be prouder — and she can’t wait to inform Leesa and halt this crazy plan of having Charles abdicate and putting Henri on the throne. Unfortunately, they’re too late. Henri arrives, gives mommy a hug — and a disconcerting look to the camera. Catherine might inform him that Charles is fine and dandy, but Henri doesn’t care. He has his eyes set on that throne.
Per usual, Mary’s throne over in Scotland is being threatened, as well. I mean, it is a Friday, after all.
Mary has invited Lord Hamilton to the castle. This is news for several reasons. First, Hamilton (raise a glass!) is a powerful Protestant in Scotland, who also has some claim to the throne. If Mary can somehow convince him to support her and Darnley, it would go a long way in strengthening her reign and uniting Scotland. Problem is, Hamilton had wanted to marry Mary and there’s also this little, minor blood feud with Darnley’s family. Hamilton’s grandfather murdered Darnley’s…it’s this whole thing. The two dudes do not get along. And also, Hamilton is BFFs with Knox. So, yes, getting this dude to support Mary might be a hard sell.
Mary tells Darnley to be a better man and take one for the royal team (in his defense, he does seem sincere when he tells her he is trying his best). He needs to welcome Hamilton with open arms. Technically he is very nice to the guy, but he also attempts to get him to drink some poison so, it’s a two steps forward, one step back kind of situation.
Meanwhile, Mary also wants James to make sure Hamilton isn’t doing anything shady behind her back…like colluding with Knox to take the throne. Since no one knows of Emily’s fate just yet, Mary sends her brother off for another “informational meeting.” Before James heads off though, he has a run-in with Greer. A RUN-IN WITH GREER, PEOPLE.
Greer wants to know what James’ damage is. She basically gave him the green light to make a move on her during Mary’s wedding festivities, but since then he’s been cold and distant. Is he uninterested or playing hard to get? You know those ex-regents love playing hard to get. James is honest with her: He didn’t mean to offend, his life is just a little crazy at the moment (cough Emily Knox cough), and he doesn’t want to involve Greer in that. But his feelings are just as strong as hers. He walks away, but quickly comes back to her and the make out we’ve (I’ve) been wanting all season long happens. It is glorious. Then he tells Greer to “be patient” with him. You guys, we are one rowboat ride away from a Nicholas Sparks novel here.
Unfortunately, like a Nicholas Sparks novel, Greer might be waiting a very long time for something real with James. Oof.
James goes to Emily and she tells him Knox knows all about them. She wants James to help her get far away from everything. If he does, she’ll provide him with some top-secret information about a certain person planning an assassination on a certain queen. James promises her whatever she wants and Emily tells him all about how Knox and Hamilton are working together to kill Mary while Hamilton is a guest in the castle. James rushes home to inform Mary and they all come face to face with Hamilton and his men, who refuse to drop their weapons. A battle ensues in which James basically becomes a ninja and kills all of Hamilton’s men, including Hamilton. Before the VIP croaks, though, he tells James that Knox warned him Mary might try to have him killed (which is why his men wouldn’t disarm). Mary and James quickly surmise that Emily fed James bad intel. Now it looks like Mary lured Hamilton to the castle to have him murdered. So that’s not great.
Any way you slice this, it’s terrible PR for Mary, Queen of Scots. She’ll have the Protestants at her door seeking revenge in no time. But, since James is an honorable, sweet brother, he offers himself as a scapegoat. They can blame the entire thing on James — it was completely his idea to off Hamilton — banish him from Scotland, and Mary will still look strong and innocent. No one wants to do this, but they must. They make a big public show out of Mary stripping James of land and titles and kicking him the heck out of Scotland. It’s so sad! She can’t help but give the guy a hug before he gives Greer one last look of longing and rides on out of town.
Greer gives Mary the business over her letting yet another person take a hit for her, and Mary looks like she knows it’s true. In the end, no one is happy: Not Mary, not Greer, not James, and certainly not Darnley. Darnley has watched this whole thing go down and realized Mary doesn’t want one bit of help from him. He reminds her that he’s her husband, the king (consort), and now, the father of her child. I don’t think he’s going to stand for being shut out much longer.
Meanwhile, in England: It’s Elizabeth’s birthday! This means lots of eligible bachelors are stopping by in an attempt to woo the most powerful woman on the planet. All she wants, though, is to have her boy toy Gideon feed her cake in bed. Queens — they’re just like us!
Liz and Gideon are hot and heavy these days, and although they both swear this whole thing is only temporary and that they both understand Liz needs to marry, does anyone really believe that? Gideon is the first to break. As Elizabeth goes on and on about how it would be totes kewl if he knocked her up because she could find a husband in like three seconds and say it was his, Gideon gets upset. He’s not some prized stud to test out her fertility and never know his own child. So yeah, this is real for him.
It doesn’t take long for Elizabeth to follow suit. After meeting a whole slew of reject suitors (some are blatantly misogynistic, some just lumpy), Elizabeth admits the only man she wants is the one she has. Gideon says he isn’t like Dudley, and loving Elizabeth in secret will be enough for him and all seems well once again. Something tells me it won’t be like that for long.
Outfit of the Week: Yes, Elizabeth’s party dress does have feathers on the shoulders, which is delightful, but a boss lady collar will always win OOTW. Especially when said collar is around Mary’s neck while she’s dropping truths to Darnley about making sacrifices for the crown. A boss lady collar for a true boss lady.