Mary's putting out fires, literal and otherwise.
Playing With Fire
Credit: John Medland/The CW
S4 E4
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A wedding, a proposal, and a royal hunt. Our ladies are really l-i-v-i-n these days. There are so many juicy developments in “Playing With Fire,” and I haven’t even mentioned the village fire, a shirtless and sooty James, the return of a fan favorite, or the Vampire King. Welcome to Reign, firing on all cylinders.

Because Queen Mary is our moon and sun, let’s start this party in Scotland. And a party it truly is, because guess what? Mary’s on vacation! Vacation for Mary consists of hanging out in the Scottish countryside with her horse dog and throwing berries into her BFF’s mouth. Queens are weird.

Both ladies are dealing with some love problems. Mary refuses to talk about Gideon. She had to do what she had to do, and now she’s just waiting for Darnley to appear. Greer, on the other hand, fills Mary in on the trouble at home with Castleroy. He’s a different man than he was before prison. He wants nothing to do with anyone and tells Greer to live a life away from him. She wants nothing of the sort. My fingers are still crossed for a Greer and James hookup before we put this show to bed. Get on it, beautiful people!

Turns out, Mary doesn’t have to wait too long for Darnley to show his face — or propose, for that matter. He interrupts her alone time in the fields and tells her it’s time they do this thing. He wants to join forces and make a play for the throne. Oh, and also have babies to continue their lineage. Please remember, this is their first time meeting. Seems like a real stage five clinger to me, but such is politics, I guess.

Marrying Darnley has been Mary’s plan all along, so obviously, she’s into getting this over with. Before they can make things official, she has another pressing matter to attend to: Foxy Knoxy is at it again. By which I mean, he is traveling to a peasant harvest festival in order to spread that word that Mary is a pretentious French lady who will let her people starve before helping them. She gets this intel thanks to her brother James, who has “entered the enemy’s camp.” Get your mind out of the gutter — he and Emily Knox only kissed, but he did get some alone time in Knox’s study and a look at his date book. James is like, really, really good at seducing naive women in terrible marriages in order to get information on their husbands.

So Mary, James, Darnley, and Greer head to the same festival in order to prove Knox wrong. Instead of just words, they give the people food. People love food! The PR plan works, Mary looks great, and Knox goes running. But not before he sets the little village on fire. You read that right. He does it in order to stop Mary’s Goodwill Tour, but it back-um-fires. She, James, and Greer spring into action and end up looking like heroes. Let the record show that James is a certifiable hottie. Without even thinking, he rips his shirt off to douse it in water and help fan flames. He also does it, I imagine, because he is ripped as hell.

Darnley’s first instinct is to flee. But when he sees the villagers fawning over Mary, he seems perturbed. Moments later, another fire starts, and almost immediately, Darnley runs out of the house with a child in his arms. He’s a hero now, too. It is all very suspicious, and James notices.

NEXT: Mary seals her fate

The engagement moves forward — though not without a minor hiccup. Darnley brings up the dreaded words “crown matrimonial.” Mary now knows for sure: This marriage is all business and ambition. She also tells Darnley that she’s been asked to hand over a crown matrimonial before, and that dude ended up with a huge piece of wood in his neck. Okay, so she doesn’t say that — but she does tell Darnley that she’s been over this before and the crown matrimonial is a no-go for her. Darnley gives up the fight. Little does he know that he should be begging to be on the queen’s good side. Later, Mary finds an anonymous (obviously, from James) note alerting her to the fact that Darnley set that fire himself so that he could look like a hero. Mary asks the question on all of our minds: “Who have I agreed to marry?”

France will see that proposal and one-up Scotland with an actual wedding.

Catherine and Narcisse are still dealing with Catherine’s troubled children. Poor Bianca has turned up after spending days out in the woods. She says that Charles took her out there to look at dead bodies — what a romantic! — and when she fled, she injured herself. The castle gossip mill is churning. Charles, still, wants no part of anything to do with his job — not even if it means he is putting the entire Valois line in jeopardy of being removed by the Vatican, which it does. No matter how many times Catherine reminds her son of that fact, the little dude just does not care.

Meanwhile, Catherine is alerted to another issue: Leesa has discovered that Claude is sleeping with a married man — she is easing her pain, people! — and has gotten her friends over in Rome to agree to send the girl off to a nunnery. They can do that, apparently.

But Claude needn’t worry; Narcisse comes to her rescue. Just kidding! Of course Claude should be worried if Narcisse is the one helping her out. He strikes a deal with Leesa: Rather than ship Claude to a nunnery, let her marry a Catholic noble of good standing and title. Someone like… his son, Luc. Here’s the thing: When Luc rolls up, he actually seems like a pretty nice guy. He tells Claude that he would really like to make this arranged marriage thing work, that he’ll be a loyal husband, and that he respects a girl with a lot of spirit. Claude realizes this is much better than the convent, but Catherine still warns her to be wary of a Narcisse. There is always some catch. That being said, Catherine pushes her daughter to choose marriage. “I may not be able to get you back from a nunnery,” she tells her daughter, “but when the time is right, I can make you a widow.” Dear lord, Catherine is the best. Even better, that bit of “comfort” is exactly what Claude needs to hear. She’ll always love Leith, but it is time to say goodbye. Marrying a Narcisse, it is!

It’s 100 percent certain that the Narcisse boys are up to something — the elder Narcisse looks way too happy about this marriage — but if nothing else, we should be thankful that it gives us an excuse to look at Claude’s stunning wedding gown. Also, an excuse to listen to an acoustic version of Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do.” This wedding may lead to some trouble, but man is it great television! Claude and Luc wed, Luc tells Leesa off, and the newlyweds share a lovely first dance. The dancing pair I’m more into, though, is Catherine and Narcisse. But alas, they are interrupted when Catherine catches a glimpse of Charles — who did not attend his sister’s wedding, mind you — skulking about as if injured.

NEXT: Meet the wedding crasher

When she catches up with him in the hallway, she finds his mouth covered in blood. He offers no explanation. So, first there are rumors the king is a necrophiliac, and now they’ll be saying he’s a vampire. Catherine is incensed. Unfortunately, so is Charles, and he pushes his mother directly into the wall. Physically, she’s fine, but nobody pushes around Catherine de Medici — not even a king.

Royals, I am most certainly NOT sorry to tell you that Charles’s antics are not the craziest thing going on in French court. While Claude and Luc are off officially consummating their marriage, a creepy-looking dude stumbles into the empty banquet hall. Before long, Narcisse and his soldiers are upon him. The man turns around… It is LEITH. You just knew this guy wasn’t dead, right? The only thing that has kept him alive is knowing Claude was waiting for him. Narcisse breaks the news. Leith thinks if he can get to her before she gets it on with her new husband, they can get the marriage annulled. But there’s no way Narcisse is letting that happen. Claude is married to his son, and it is staying that way. He has Leith hauled off. Evil Narcisse is back in full force.

Meanwhile, in England: Another day, another misogynist to put in his place. Elizabeth is in an uproar, yet again, about her Catholic nobles being wooed by the Vatican to back a Mary and Darnley marriage. Her first instinct is to have them all killed, naturally. Gideon tells her to slow her roll for a hot minute and maybe think about trying to work with these guys, rather than beheading them. Interesting idea, Gideon. She’s never thought of that before.

So, Liz calls upon the wealthiest of the Catholic nobles, Lord Maxford, who also happens to be a big fan of her father, Henry VIII, as well as a raging woman-hater. When he comes in to discuss defeating England’s enemies (currently: Spain), he only speaks directly to Gideon. He is The Worst. But Elizabeth has a plan: remind the guy whose daughter she is. As Maxford did with Henry, Elizabeth invites the guy on a royal hunt. Let him see firsthand that she is a natural shot.

Her scheme works perfectly. Maxford is very impressed by Liz’s hunting prowess (and, I assume, by her sick leather hunting pants). He’s even more impressed when Liz proposes that England beefs up its navy… by using lumber from Maxford’s land. In return for the generous deal from his queen and country, Maxford pledges his allegiance to the English crown. If the Vatican tries to get hold of him, he’ll totally be like, “New phone, who dis?”

Everything is great, right? Wrong. Elizabeth’s right-hand man, Gideon, is furious with his queen. Apparently, while he’s been out doing her bidding, he’s missed the fact that his daughter Agatha is gravely ill. There’s nothing the doctors can do for her, and he is torn up inside. Elizabeth promises to do everything she can to save his daughter, but Gideon is quick to remind her that her power does have its limits. So, Gideon is really not getting any kind of happy ending, huh?

Outfit of The Week: Don’t think you’re going to put a wedding dress into an episode and not get mentioned in OOTW. Claude’s floral applique gown is gorgeous. And that tiara? It wouldn’t go exactly as well with the salsa-stained sweatpants I’m currently rocking, but it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.

Episode Recaps

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