Reign recap: 'The Shakedown'
Scotland's all shook up after an earthquake, and so is Mary when she realizes her husband is colluding with her enemies
How do you solve a problem like King Darnley? The guy immediately makes good on his promise to drink and sleep his way through Scotland. As if his debauchery isn’t bad enough, Mary discovers her husband has sunk to a new low: He’s been stealing money from Scotland’s emergency disaster fund. It would mainly just be annoying if, you know, there weren’t some kind of emergency disaster happening in Scotland, like, say, an earthquake.
That’s right, you guys, Scotland is all shook up. Things are bad for the people there, and Mary’s ability to lead is fully on display. If she’s unable to provide for her ailing country, her people will turn on her. If she has to go beg the privy council for money to bail her out, she’s showing the most influential men in her country that she has a weakness. She only has one option: Mary needs to find her louse of a husband and get her money back.
Darnley’s been banished to his family’s estate so as not to cause trouble for Mary at court. He’s home getting drunk and making out with blondes while sitting next to a giant chest of gold, as one does. Oh, he’ll give Mary that money in order to help the people of Scotland, he’s no monster. But in return, he wants to be allowed back at court — he’s no angel either.
Mary has a pow-wow with Team Good Hair. No one, especially Bothwell, is happy about Darnley’s return, but they all know Mary needs that money. Mary isn’t dumb enough to trust that Darnley will keep good on his quid pro quo, so she hatches a plan. They’ll throw a welcome back party for Darnley (“roast pig seems appropriate,” says Greer), and while he and his king’s guard are living it up at the castle, Mary and Bothwell will head to Darnley’s house, take the money, and put it safely in a church fund where Darnley can’t touch it.
Obviously, it’s not going to be that easy.
At the great feast, Darnley hams it up for his adoring fans. He praises Scotland, he makes out with Mary, and does generally slimy things that disgust the Queen of Scots and give Bothwell a good excuse to get up from the table in anger and set the plan in motion. Only, when Mary and Lord Ponytail arrive at the Lennox estate, that chest of gold is now half empty. Darnley’s been spending that money at an alarming rate. Also alarming? Back at the party, Darnley catches on to the fact that Mary and Bothwell have been gone a while, even though there are heaps of important people milling about the castle — Mary would never leave important political figures unattended unless there was something important going on. Greer and Rizzio, though they be but pretty people, are terrible at stalling. Before long, Darnley’s on his way.
The sound of the king’s guard alert Mary and Bothwell, and he sends her off with the little money they found, volunteering to stay behind and deal with Darnley. Well, dealing with Darnley means revealing his true feelings for Mary and then getting the crap kicked out of him. It looks like it hurts…a lot.
Darnley returns and tosses Lord Ponytail in jail. Mary’s had enough of her husband’s shenanigans. She and Rizzio have worked out that the money is so depleted because he’s been buying property and using it to court some of Mary’s nobles who have some type of beef with the queen. He is actively working against his wife to bolster his own power. Mary’s got no time for that. She confronts him, they say terrible things to one another, and thanks to Mary’s reaction to his treatment of Bothwell, Darnley is now hip to the fact that Mary is in lurve with her bodyguard. A TALE AS OLD AS TIME.
Mary, now fully aware of how strong her feelings for Bothwell are, goes to visit him in prison. Even with a pummeled face, this guy is handsome! He’s also very doom and gloom: Darnley will always be a threat to Mary’s reign. They need to take him out. Mary’s not ready to order the murder of her husband…yet. Also, they hold hands! Talking about possible murder has never been so adorable!
Something tells me Mary might be singing a different tune about who she will and will not murder very soon. She knows Darnley is making friends with many of her enemies, but she doesn’t yet know that Darnley’s newest BFF is one Sir John Knox. Oh, it is so on, Darnley.
Things are equally as dire over in France. Catherine’s spell to make Charles a stronger king has worked a little too well. He’s shooting arrows at Henri and making terrible political decisions. For instance, he’s informed of two ex-pat English nobles living in France and refusing to pay French taxes. It’s a complicated situation because the men are also Protestant, and Protestants refusing to pay a Catholic king isn’t the best PR. The privy council is worried it would inspire an uprising amongst French Protestants (honestly, what doesn’t?). However, tossing two English nobles into debtor’s prison, like Charles wants to do, could cause an international incident. Thanks to the urging of Narcisse — who tells Catherine to clean up her mess — Catherine secretly has a friend negotiate with the English nobles. It all seems to go according to plan, and Catherine has saved the day once again.
Except it doesn’t go according to plan — things go very, very poorly. Charles was supposed to go out to see the nobles for a diplomatic meeting, only he returns with both nobles’ heads on spikes. Yeah, things have escalated quickly. Catherine and Co. are aghast at what they are seeing. If tossing two nobles in prison was going to cause an international incident, killing two of them and setting their heads on spikes, well, you get the gist.
Catherine confronts the king, who explains he had no choice; he wasn’t about to have his people or England see how weak he truly feels inside. Catherine blames herself for what she’s done to her son. You’re my girl, Catherine, but maybe next time pump the brakes a little on summoning the occult.
Speaking of pumping the brakes, we should talk about Claude and Luc. Claude is wandering around the halls of the castle feeling très guilty about the fact she promised Leith she’d never fall in love with Luc, but the girl can’t help herself. I mean, Luc does seem like the one decent man in all of France, so I get it. She thinks if she can get this whole “give Luc an heir” thing going, she can keep her promise to Luc and then go and run off with Leith, keeping that promise as well. So, she seduces Luc (it’s not difficult). He thinks they’re finally starting to have a real relationship, but Narcisse blows up that little fantasy by showing his son a letter he confiscated from Claude to Leith that talks about being reunited soon. The poor guy! His little heart is broken and he tells Claude that from now on, their marriage will be political only. If you’re keeping count, Claude is in love with two men, but has a relationship with zero. Times are tough for the Valois women!
Meanwhile, in England: Life’s a beach, man. Elizabeth is growing more paranoid and agitated by the minute — repeated threats of coups and assassinations will do that to a girl — and Gideon thinks it might be time for the queen to take some PTO. He has the perfect secluded beach cottage for a sexy weekend off the royal clock. Liz makes up some story about needing a sabbatical for prayer and reflection, and off she goes.
There’s lots of kissing, some light role-playing, that thing where couples chase each other on the beach and threaten to throw each other in the ocean, and then…there’s Jane. Of all the beach cottages in all the world, Elizabeth’s servant Jane, also on vacation, happens to bump into Liz and Gideon doing very naughty things for a Virgin Queen betrothed to an Archduke. Fearing Jane may out the secret lovebirds, Elizabeth takes a swift oar to Jane’s head. She’s seen too much, per Elizabeth. The girl has got to go.
Bless Gideon, because although he is very much against murdering young women simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, he’s still totally up for killing Jane if it will ease Elizabeth’s fears. Love is weird, you guys. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to do Elizabeth’s dirty work this time. Liz has a last-minute change of heart (thanks to the constant, burning guilt of Lola’s death) and sets Jane free with a warning that if Jane says anything to anyone Liz will hunt her down and murder her entire family. Elizabeth truly is a merciful queen.
Elizabeth is relieved for about three seconds. When she returns to the castle, who should be there but Jane. She had nowhere else to go and she wants to prove to Liz that she is a trustworthy servant. Elizabeth basically says, it’s your head, and lets her stay. You’d think Liz would be a little more hesitant to trust strangers, but sure. Just wait till she finds out Jane has ulterior motives — and getting the Queen of England to trust her via an elaborate scam is just step one. That oar to the skull was totally worth it.
Outfit of the Week: Don’t make me choose between the v-neck black gown Catherine sports as she discovers she turned her son into a monster and the mock turtleneck embroidered black dress Mary wears as she visits her secret soulmate in prison. A lady requires excellent sartorial support for both types of occasions!