Elizabeth steps up to be Queen while Churchill flounders
Credit: Robert Viglasky/Netflix

Knowledge is power. That’s this episode’s title when translated from Latin to English and it certainly serves as the overwhelming theme.

We open with little Elizabeth taking private queen lessons at Eton. She learns about the balancing act between the government and the monarchy, a.k.a. “the efficient and dignified.” When Elizabeth asks why she isn’t learning what the other students spend their time on, her tutor tells her it would be, “undignified.”

Jumping to the present, Elizabeth still feels she lacks the necessary education to be Queen and gets into an argument with her mother. “I know almost nothing,” she says. The Queen Mother claims she thought she gave Elizabeth the education she needed.

We see Elizabeth’s lack of knowledge in her session with Churchill when she asks the P.M. to refresh her memory about atomic bombs, Soviet Russia, and U.S. President Eisenhower as Anthony Eden flies to America to speak about what they should do about Russia. Sidenote: We get a corgi sighting! Can we please have more corgi sightings?

In private secretary drama, Tommy is retiring and Elizabeth wants her old secretary Martin to take over. Martin always seemed more warm and friendly when he was Elizabeth’s secretary before her ascension to the throne. It all sounds like a great idea and Martin accepts the post, despite being the Junior Private Secretary at Elizabeth’s urging. During their conversation, she asks Martin to find her a tutor. That’s something I doubt she would have ever asked Tommy for.

Meanwhile both Eden and Churchill are in bad health. Eden will have gallbladder surgery in Boston, which outrages a bedridden Winston. The two have a hilarious exchange over the telephone as Eden makes Churchill praise his abilities and how much he values Eden as all those operators listen on. It’s tickle-ishly funny.

Elizabeth has her first meeting with her new tutor, a flask swigging Professor Tonk. He tries to get an understanding of Elizabeth’s education level, but she had never even take a standardized test much her to chagrin. “I can’t keep up,” she admits and constantly feels like she’s playing catch up with every person she meets.

Immediately Elizabeth goes and gets in another fight with her mother. “How could you let me down like this?” While the Queen Mother fires back that she thought they were past fighting before she goes after Elizabeth’s parenting abilities. “We all have to accept our limitations in life,” she says. Ouch, way harsh.

Churchill refuses to accept his failing health and is hiding his stroke(s) from the Queen at the encouragement of Lord Salisbury. So instead, they tell her he has the flu and can’t make it in for their weekly meeting. Churchill gets the palace to invite Eisenhower, which quickly sends the Buckingham Palace staff into a frenzy. Elizabeth finds herself in a similar state of panic trying to read up with the help for her tutor.

NEXT: Elizabeth rules

I rather enjoy the scenes between the Queen and Professor Tonk. It’s one of the rare occasions where we see Elizabeth let her guard down. He tells her while she feels inadequate about her education, no one knows more about the constitution than her, which is how she knows that Churchill and Salisbury keeping her in the dark is not okay. She worries about how it will go over and Tonk tells her to “give them a good dressing down like children.” Still not convinced, Elizabeth asks why they would ever allow her to do that, to which Tonk replies, “because they’re English, male, and upper-class.” Boom.

Tommy is also not bowing out of his post gracefully. He bullies Martin after hearing that he accepted the post and is planning on cutting down the tree in his front yard when he moves in. The horror. Poor, sweet Martin gets told to decline the offer so Michael Adeane can take the job.

Elizabeth kindly gets Martin to fess up why he is turning down the position, and the lady is ready to let her Queen flag fly. I was positively gleeful watching Claire Foy stomp through Buckingham Palace to go tell Tommy what’s what. Elizabeth says her peace, but Tommy comes back with a rebuttal. She has to accept Michael as her private secretary — for the sake of the monarchy! At first, it sounds completely ridiculous, but Tommy explains how he watched Elizabeth’s uncle as king. He got what he wanted. He would put his personal desires ahead of what was expected of him. “It’s in the small thing the rot starts,” Tommy warns. Sigh. Elizabeth concedes.

Her battle with Tommy turned out to be a warm up for the main event: the Queen vs. her Prime Minister & Co. Elizabeth’s takedown of Lord Salisbury does not disappoint. I mean any scene that includes the phrase, “bamboozled proper function of the crown,” I count as a takedown. Elizabeth is resolute and an absolute QUEEN. She owns her position and does not allow Salisbury any wiggle room before dismissing him with a “you may go.” Watching Salsbury slink ashamed into the hallway without so much as a word to Churchill was so satisfying.

When Churchill entered, I thought Elizabeth was about to give him the same treatment that Salisbury got, but she proved herself even more of a Queen. She showed him compassion. She pulls out her notes from her childhood lesson and gently lectures him. Then Elizabeth asks an ailing Churchill if he is still fit enough for office and when he opens his mouth when she’s barely done talking she chides, “I would ask you to consider your response in light of the respect that my rank and my office deserve not that which my age and gender might suggest.” Spoken like royalty.

Churchill says he will soon step down as he sees Elizabeth as nearly prepared to go on without him before he slowly makes his way out of the room.

Elizabeth returns to her rooms victorious where she finds yet another problem in need of her attention: her husband. Philip is dressed in his finest in preparation for the state banquet with President Eisenhower, which was canceled what feels like ages ago. Philip is skating on such thin ice with Elizabeth. You can see she’s so clearly pissed, but Philip alleviates the tension with an offer for some alone time. Elizabeth ditches her first appointment with Michael Adeane as her private secretary (bye, Martin) in favor of her hubby.

Episode grade: A-

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