Neither Kenna nor Bash has gotten over their sudden marriage that was forced by an increasingly mad King Henry. While Kenna is upset that she got a man whose title didn't bring about the money/status she was looking for, Bash being strong-armed into marrying one of his father's mistresses is tough for him to stomach. However, he believes that despite how self-centered Kenna may be, the two of them have to begin to like one another if this marriage is going to be anything less than painful. Meanwhile, at a gathering in the castle, Francis receives the gift of an Arabian thoroughbred from the Sultan of Constantinople and bats back against Henry's madness, which has channeled itself into infatuation over Penelope; Catherine has diverted letters that come to the castle and handled castle business herself, but how long can she keep up the charade that Henry is himself?
Lola fills Greer in on the lovely time she's been having with Lord Julien, all skating and laughing and bonding, and the fact that he seems reticent to propose. Since she should be showing in a few days, Lola decides to take matters into her own hands and get Julien out on the dance floor. Once in his arms, he tells her that he likes how unusually clear she is about what she wants; however, he worries about not being husband material due to his first two wives dying in childbirth, something that has made him swear off having kids. Before Lola can find it within herself to say something, Julien drops to one knee and proposes to Lola in the middle of the party, to which she says a quick yes. Elsewhere in the party, a servant named Charlotte "inadvertently" runs into Mary and spills wine on her dress, giving her the excuse to pull the queen away from a much needed aside. Charlotte is a member of the Flying Squad, a group of Catherine's women who she orders to sleep with important men and obtain important political information. While Charlotte was all well and good with the arrangement before, she had to take a step back when the queen enlisted her to seduce Henry and turn the king's attentions away from Penelope, seeing as how Catherine would be able to control Charlotte much easier than she would Penelope.
But Charlotte knows how mad Henry is and she doesn't want to put herself in the position to end up list his past victims, so she's decided to leave France and asks Mary for her assistance. In exchange, Charlotte tells Mary about a secret clause in her marital contract that would give Scotland to France if an heir is not produced from Francis' marriage. Mary rushes to tell Francis about the clause, hidden in a lengthy and labyrinthine contract, and how the king now has a way to murder her without recourse. If she fails to claim the English throne like he wants, he could opt to cut his losses, murder her, and use Scotland as a way to leverage Francis' next wife onto the throne of England, so the plan is to now find the original copy of the contract in Henry's chambers. For that, Mary enlists Kenna, who reluctantly agrees when she finds out her country's fate is up in the air; she finds what turns out to be a copy of the contract that lacks any signatures and gets forced into fooling around with the king to keep his suspicions off of her.
After pouring over the copy, Francis informs Mary of a payment to Marie de Guise on the ledger following their wedding; in short, she thought she could make some money for her rule by including the clause in the contract and that Mary would get pregnant quickly, never to know that Scotland was used as a bargaining chip. Mary then sets up the next part of her plan - she wants to use the Protestants pressure on her mother against her, leaking word of her agreement with France and disregard for the health and well-being of the country. She'll have to publicly distance herself from the idea and burn her copy of the agreement as a result, which would lead to Catherine and Henry doing the same to avoid suspicion. To help this plan along, Mary throws a party for every Scot within a hundred mile radius, all for a chance to speak to Lord McKenzie, in the country on a mission to sell wool to the French military. He fought alongside Mary's father against the English, meaning that she thinks she could have an in with him and use him to spread the word of her mother's betrayal in Scotland, though Francis is unsure their tenuous connection would prove to be beneficial.
Once she inquires about the whereabouts of Charlotte to Mary, Catherine learns from Penelope that Henry is adding diamonds to her royal crown and gets hit on by one of the dozen men Lord McKenzie brought with him to the castle, a stopover on his journey to Paris. The Scot believes that Catherine is one of the queen's ladies rather than the queen herself, having never been to French court before, and Catherine plays along with him. Elsewhere in the party, Henry approaches Bash and asks how marriage is treating him, using the opportunity to poke at his bastard son regarding his recent encounter with sexually voracious Kenna. He leaves Bash with the thought that his first born could be a king's son, something of a belated wedding gift.
Mary gathers Lord McKenzie and the entirety of his men in a room and asks him about what it was like fighting with her father and whether his heart died along with the former king. She informs them of the clause in her contract and strongly encourages them to tell Lord Hardy, leader of the Protestants, about how little Marie values Scotland. After telling them she would not risk Scotland's freedom and asking them to give up their comfort for the good of the country, the men bow and place their swords of the ground in honor of their queen. While an exhilarated Francis calls Mary her people's liege lord, Mary still shaken by the idea of going from a chess piece to someone with tangible power, Catherine spends time on the balcony with her Scottish admirer, who brings her wine. She inquires about Scotland and he pulls her in for a kiss, just as Bash confronts Kenna about spending the afternoon in Henry's quarters. She sets him straight, though, with her true reason for being there, how terrified she was to be alone with a man who's clearly mad, and her disappointment that he would never jump to his feet to be the true, gentle knight that he's been for Mary since she arrived in the country.
Lola confesses to Julien that she's pregnant and that she doesn't want the father of her child to know about his impending arrival, though she does assure her fiancée that she cares about him. Rather than getting angry, Julien comforts Lola and pledges to still marry her, as she's the most beautiful girl he knows. Meanwhile, following a sexual encounter with the Scot, Catherine reveals her true identity by putting on the queen's robe and showing him that she knows the layout of the queen's chambers. She encourages him to keep this quiet, only for him to mention Lord McKenzie's private session with Mary that afternoon and how they were to go straight from the castle back to Scotland, foregoing their planned time in Paris. That night, McKenzie and his men (except for Catherine's lover) head to the village whorehouse with plans to sail in the morning. However, since Catherine sniffed out that the men know about the clause and would be spreading word when they returned to Scotland, she hires a crew of men to kill every Scot (including her lover) so that word of France's agreement with Marie would not reach Scotland, with several untrustworthy prostitutes ending up as collateral damage in the attack.
When Mary finds out about the slaughter of a dozen of her men, she storms into Catherine's chambers and slaps her. However, Catherine says that France cannot afford to take part in a war and warns her that this is what being a queen is about - knowing the losses you face and still making certain decisions. She says that since Mary is young and beautiful, she'll have men falling all over themselves to please her and that her only option at this point, aside from embracing what it means to be a queen, is to give up. Henry has a hallucination in the middle of the day and rushes to Kenna to find comforting, telling her that he finds her innocence soothing and putting her hands on his head. Bash gets him off of her, though, and when the two are alone, he tells his wife that he's always going to protect her. Later, Mary bursts into Catherine's chambers and plays her last card; she threatens Catherine with outing Henry's mental condition, something that would make the castle even more unstable. Really, it would cause a French civil war and Mary claims to have sent three riders out with letters means for two Dukes and the Vatican, letters that detailed the agreement between Henry, Catherine, and Marie. She successfully stares Catherine down, as the queen burns the original copy of the contract and effectively removes the sword dangling above her head.
Once in their room, Francis learns that Mary wasn't bluffing. If the choice comes to France and Scotland, she is always going to side with her country, marriage or no marriage.
Additional thoughts and observations:
-We're all in agreement that Lord Julien is not who he seems, right? The "both of my wives died in bloody childbirth" thing felt rather suspicious (could he have been behind both deaths?), as did his unwillingness to talk about his past, while how easily he rolled with Lola's bombshell made me think he would have married her regardless of how beautiful he found her or how well they got on. Which circles back to the possibility of him being gay - Lola already being pregnant is the perfect cover for him, seeing as how he gets an heir without having to have sex with her.
-There's also the matter of him doing a very public proposal to reaffirm his sexuality and show how in love with this woman he supposedly is. And that forced her into saying yes to avoid embarrassing him, since he knows of Lola's kind heart.
-I love seeing Mary embrace her power. For much of the season, she's been a pawn for her mother or felt pressure from Henry, but here, she showed that she's not one to be messed with and that she could easily go toe-to-toe with something as politically skilled as Catherine de Medici. I buy the suddenness of the transformation, seeing as how she's been preparing to ride into her queendom since birth and how her country being threatened expedited any growing pains, and the sight of Lord McKenzie and his men bowing before her was quite impressive. I only worry, though, that this could turn Catherine into the show's heel, that every time she takes a step forward, Mary will be there to knock her three back. That wouldn't be dramatically interesting and it would diminish one of the more complex characters on the show, so hopefully we see Mary work herself into being something of an equal to Catherine rather than blowing past her further growing into her power.
-So, being involved in the Flying Squad doesn't sound so bad. You're protected by the queen; you have an importance that goes beyond being a servant; and you might find some handsome dignitaries from time to time. I did laugh, though, at Charlotte having to leave the country to get away from Catherine, rather than simply going to another city.
-So, when Bash and Kenna were put together, part of me was disappointed at the show beginning to morph into sophisticated fan fiction; the arrangement of two very different personalities was interesting and the marriage itself felt true to the plot, given the time period and Henry's withering mental state, but it felt like no one knew what to do with these two characters, so why not slap them into a relationship together. I'm pleased to say that I'm kind of digging Benna (Kash?), with the writers giving Kenna some previously unforeseen depth/patriotism and Bash being allowed to step up and show that he's capable of being protective of someone other than Mary. I like the idea of two opposites finding common ground in a situation beyond their control and I think that they can balance each other out, but for right now, I'm hoping that their friendship/connection gets solidified before we head into anything resembling romantic love.
-The turn that Catherine's plot took this week? Amazing. I thought it was going to be this adorable little side story about Catherine finding the affection from another man that Henry hadn't given her in years, recapturing the feeling of being the center of attention that Penelope stole from her when she usurped the throne. Catherine got to put her problems aside for a while and simply be in the moment, something she's not gotten to do arguably ever; however, her order to kill her lover and every other man in Lord McKenzie's company showed just how much of herself she's had to sacrifice to be queen and how normalcy, even fleeting moments like she got, has no place within castle walls.
-Submitted for your approval: Catherine de Medici from Reign and Mellie Grant from Scandal are the same character. Go.
-The slaughtering of McKenzie's men was pretty brutal for a CW teen drama, no? Especially one that's had to do some extra cutting of "sexually explicit" scenes in the past, to the point where two versions of one episode were posted online. Something something double standard something something.
-I preferred Henry this episode to the others that emphasized his declining mental state. Here, you knew something was up, but he was lucid enough (beyond the strange hallucination) to where he wasn't as distracting as he had been previously. For example, I could easily see him dropping the line about giving Bash the gift of a king's son (some pretty good shade, as King Henry has been wont to throw) earlier in the season.
-So, hey, you guys. Last week was our last repeat of the season and we'll be barreling through the final run of episodes from here on out. I'm elated that you've stuck with me thus far, so let's finish this thing out right, okay?
-Next week on Reign: Mary's brother visits and asks her to return to Scotland, while Penelope takes command as Henry's mental instability progresses and Lola grows skeptical of Julien's marriage proposal.