Mary takes in a boxing match, while Catherine figures out what King Charles is doing on all those late night strolls in the woods.
Highland Games
Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/The CW
S4 E5
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The latest installment of Reign forgoes any time spent in England with Queen Elizabeth (she and Gideon needed a breather anyway) and instead gives us… a boxing montage. You cannot make this crazy up. All the talk about getting in the ring got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if Mary and Elizabeth could agree to just one boxing match, winner takes the English throne? Think of all the time, energy, and beheading axes they would save! Also, would they have bejeweled boxing gloves? This is very important, please discuss in the comments.

Even though we’re sticking to only two royal courts this week, there’s more than enough drama to go around. Let’s check in.

Welcome to the 500th or so Highland Games! From what I can tell, this is the time of the year when Scots get together to drink a lot and yell about how much they love Scotland… so, not much different from the rest of the year.

Mary’s excited about these games though; it’s the perfect venue to announce her engagement to Lord Darnley. She wants to ride the wave of goodwill after Darnley’s heroics — as manufactured as they may have been — during the harvest festival fire. James reminds Mary that she really doesn’t know Darnley all that well and she should be cautious. Are Mary and James the two best friends anyone could ever have or what? James even agrees to go make out with Emily Knox some more to find out if John Knox is the culprit behind the “loyal watchman” warning note Mary received telling her about Darnley and the fire. James is just always putting others first, isn’t he?

Unfortunately, when he goes to see Emily, she turns him away immediately. It is too sinful, and if he really cares about her, he’ll leave her alone. He does, and he seems genuinely sad about it. Does James have feelings for Emily? I’m not feeling this at all.

Mary’s plan isn’t going well, either. When she announces her engagement to the Scottish nobles, they’re wary of her choice of groom. Darnley’s father, Matthew Lennox, is known for one thing only: abandoning the Scots to side with King Henry VIII during a war. One noble, Lord Taylor, doesn’t think cowards deserve to sit on the Scottish throne, so he challenges Darnley to a boxing match. If Taylor wins, Darnley has to call off the engagement. If Darnley wins, Taylor and all the Scottish nobles will get on board with Mary’s pick for king consort.

Mary, speaking for all women, thinks this is very, very dumb. Darnley insists he knows how to fight but, more importantly, knows how to put on a show. It’s here that Mary confronts him about setting the fire, and he willingly admits to it. Sometimes you have to break the rules to win, he says. Only, that’s not Mary’s way — she wants an honorable fight and an honorable husband — and Mary’s in charge here. Darnley agrees to a fair fight. To keep Darnley true to his word, Mary has her fiancé train with James. Typically, I’d be all for a sweaty training montage, but no one really seems interested in being there. Plus, Darnley is pretty good and he knocks James out easily. But before Mary can think that Darnley is really willing to play fair, they run into Lord Taylor. He is not happy. He believes Darnley tried to poison him… and Mary immediately sides with Taylor. Darnley swears he didn’t do it, but what reason does Mary have to trust him?

Darnley goes to drown his sorrows at the local pub. And because there’s no one else for Darnley to have a conversation with, his mother is suddenly in Scotland, to take in the Highland Games and scold her son for falling back into his bad habits. Darnley has reasons for his drinking and fighting this time, though. The drinking is because he’s getting married to a judgmental woman to whom everything is black and white. The fighting is to win the love of the Scottish people — the only love that matters to him now. Things are BLEAK with Darnley, you guys. Even bleaker? As he’s sitting at the bar, one of Taylor’s goons comes by and smashes Darnley’s hand. So much for that fair fight.

The good news, though, is that Darnley finally has Mary’s support. She discovers that Taylor’s valet, whom Taylor believed had been mistakenly poisoned by Darnley when the valet took a swig of Taylor’s booze, actually has food poisoning. Bad venison, you get it. So, Mary makes a big apology, and Darnley lets her know that he’s no coward — regardless of his busted hand, he’s fighting. It’s like Mary is looking at this guy for the first time. She’s into him.

Speaking of, guess who’s back? Emily! She’s already had all these dangerous thoughts about James, and according to her, that’s enough to damn her soul. If she’s already going to hell, she might as well have some fun. They hook up, which is fine, but I am still pulling for a James and Greer love story. Especially now that Greer’s figured out Castleroy is in love with someone else, and she “releases him” from their marriage. Greer’s not Billy Zane in Titanic, you know? Fingers crossed James wises up.

Back to the boxing match. Darnley’s having a tough time fighting with only one good hand, so Mary calls a timeout and gives him a sack of coins to hide in his fist. That’s right — Queen Mary’s breaking the rules. She wants to give Darnley the chance he deserves. She wants to give them a chance, too. Darnley wins, Taylor takes a knee, and then Darnley and Mary make out. I’m happy to report: There is some real heat.

Meanwhile, in France: Apparently the villagers in France are also very excited about the live-action Beauty and the Beast film because the moment a child goes missing in the woods, they blame King Charles, who they all believe has turned into some type of beast. Kill the beast! Catherine and Narcisse convince Charles to do some damage control. They send a huntsman into the woods to find out what really happened, and he comes back with reports of the child’s remains in a bear cave and a dead bear carcass. So, that solves that, right? Wrong.

Charles goes out amongst the people to show them the real culprit behind the missing child, but the villagers don’t believe him. Instead, they straight-up Carrie the guy. They dump blood all over him, and Charles flees. Later, the king is located in a cave in the woods (WTF), but no one will go near him. Everyone’s scared, including your recapper. He asks to see Catherine alone, and she goes to her son. He’s still covered in blood and dirt and the shame of the fact that this story line is still happening. Charles finally explains just what he’s been doing out in the woods: reliving that whole time he had to survive in the woods on raw squirrels and dirt before his friend was captured and roasted alive in front of him. Sounds real chill.

Catherine tries to help him, but he insists this ritual of his is the only way he can find solace. Then he takes off again. Catherine runs after him, but she falls. And he’s gone. You guys, I’m all for the Reign crazy, but this whole thing is… a lot.

In less crazy but much sadder news: Luc tells Claude that Leith is back. Their reunion isn’t as emotionally moving as I was hoping. Sure, there’s kissing, but you can tell Leith is still a little sour over the fact that he beat death solely thanks to the thought of loving Claude for the rest of his life and she… married a Narcisse. Luc is very cool about the whole thing (there has to be something up with this guy, right?). When they realize Narcisse won’t let them get an annulment (he saw Luc and Claude post-consummation and won’t lie about it to the church, for his own greedy reasons, of course), Luc comes up with another plan. He and Claude can have an open marriage. He’ll be with whoever he wants, and Claude and Leith can secretly stay together. That way Luc will still get some royal heirs (yes, he wants two or three kids), and Claude and Leith don’t have to do anything rash like run away forever and possibly end up in prison or killed.

Unfortunately, Leith is not into sharing Claude. Claude knows it isn’t ideal, but at least it’s something. Leith just doesn’t think he can do it. What a conundrum we’re in! I fear this whole thing is going to end tragically.

Outfit of the Week: Forget dresses, you guys! We’ve got STATEMENT NECKLACES. Both Mary’s necklace and the one she tries to wrangle Greer into are freaking fabulous. Who needs a crown when you have a statement necklace? Just kidding — a lady always needs a crown.

Episode Recaps

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