Mary and Francis are forced to rely on one another when the castle is taken hostage, and Catherine shocks everyone when she makes a surprising proposal to try to save their lives. Meanwhile, Bash’s mother Diane tells Bash of her plan to have him legitimized.
Ah, overly dramatic voice over. How I have missed your dulcet tones. Two weeks was far too long for me to be parted from your “BUT. THERE ARE. FORCES. THAT CONSPIRE. FORCES OF DARKNESS. FORCES OF THE HEART.”
Jokes aside, this week’s episode has some pretty serious bizniz going down. All the King’s men are riding off to shut down a minor peasant uprising. Because it’s the custom for every able-bodied man to join the King, that means the castle is currently populated by mostly women and children (and, as we later find out, Francis, who has to stay behind to greet a diplomat, and Bash, who has elected to stay behind for his own reasons.)
This unfortunately also means the castle is open to attack… but we’ll get back to that tidbit later.
Catherine continues her scheme of getting Francis to stay far away from Mary by encouraging Olivia to keep Francis in her bed. Olivia, however, has accepted her loss; Francis is in love with Mary, and he’s not likely to fall out of it anytime soon.
Mary isn’t aware of his supposed undying love, though. She goes to confront him about sleeping with Olivia again, only for Francis to tell her “to stay sane, we must stay apart.” The side-eye Mary gives him when he breaks out that line is priceless.
Greer and Leith are hanging out in the kitchens as Greer scans a letter her father sent her. “He asks if I’ve met any agreeable men,” Greer reads aloud, and a beat later clarifies, “A fortune.” When Greer tells Leith that all she’s been raised to do all her life is dress prettily and smile at men, Leith offers to give her a cooking lesson, which is about the cutest thing ever. Leith also asks Greer to go on a date with him to the hot springs near the castle.
Catherine and Francis go to greet the Italian Count Vincent and his people. Catherine has their weapons taken from them – as a formality – but obviously that’s not going to do much. Elsewhere, Bash’s mother Diane tells him of her plans to have him legitimized, knowing that if King Henry dies Catherine will throw Diane out on her ass, and Bash could very well be killed himself if his brother Francis’ favor were ever to turn.
Since Bash got a glimpse of that favor turning last episode when Francis expressed his jealousy over Bash’s feelings for Mary, he’s plenty aware of how precarious his situation is. Still, he knows that if he’s legitimized, the line of succession will change from Francis to Bash, the King’s firstborn, and that such a suggestion could be considered treason. The scene also takes the opportunity to name drop “the bastard Elizabeth who might take the throne in England,” which was fun.
The meeting between Count Vincent, Catherine, Francis, and Mary isn’t going too well. The Count seems pretty adamant on taking offence at everything the others say and do. We find out that’s because not too long ago, his son had been taken hostage on French soil and the Count had to pay a hefty ransom to free him. He’s obviously still holding a grudge against the French for this, and seeing as how Mary, Francis, and Catherine trade awkward glances all throughout this scene, they’re well aware of this.
Remember how Leith invited Greer out of the castle for the day? Yeah, that little date isn’t happening, Someof Vincent’s men swarm in and order them back to the kitchens, saying “no one’s leaving the castle today” as they lock the gates. As Bash and Diane continue to argue over his legitimization, Vincent’s men swarm their rooms as well.
Meanwhile, Count Vincent tells Catherine, Mary, and Francis the truth of what happened to his son; the ransom was paid, yes, but since the conditions in which Vincent’s son was held were not ideal, his son died of dysentery on the trip back home. Vincent’s arrival in France is not a diplomatic visit. He intends to get “satisfaction” for his son’s death, and is taking the castle hostage to ensure it.
Later that night, Mary’s friend Kenna is harassed by some of Count Vincent’s soldiers. Using her quick wits and manipulation, Mary is able to convince Vincent to let her and her ladies-in-waiting return safely to their rooms. Of course, once she and her ladies get to her room and she’s sure her friends aren’t in danger, Mary decides that her own safety is overrated and runs off to find Clarissa.
Mary asks Clarissa to draw her a safe path through the tunnels from which they can leave the castle. Clarissa seems to accept, because she takes the chalk that Mary left for her.
Catherine and Francis offer Count Vincent ten times the amount of money that the Count had paid for his son’s life, but it still isn’t enough to satisfy him. Catherine decides to kill two birds with one big, evil stone by offering to Count Vincent an unmarried, virgin bride who could give him many new sons. Yeah, you read that right, she totally just offered Mary up to the wolves.
Francis doesn’t accept this, and instead offers himself up for ransom. This is the deal that Count Vincent ends up accepting, much to Catherine’s dismay.
Mary visits Catherine to see how the negotiations are going, and discovers that Francis has given himself up to the Italians. She and Catherine resolve to stop this from happening. Catherine expands on Mary’s plan to escape through the tunnels by creating a distraction for Count Vincent: if they all attend the Count’s feast, that will give Francis time to escape and get the women, children, and servants out of the castle safely. Once that’s done, Mary and her ladies will leave the feast – and Catherine will stay behind to avoid arousing suspicions. Oh em gee!
Mary goes to Francis to tell him of the plan. Francis refuses to leave her behind, until Mary tells him that they must trust each other to do what is necessary. That part of the plan complete, Catherine and Mary get Olivia to guard the passageway that will get the people out of the castle, then go to prepare for the feast.
Back in Mary’s rooms, Catherine gives an emotional speech to Mary and her friends about what happened to her when she was a little girl – she’d been taken hostage by some rebels who had stormed the palace, killed her parents, and kept her locked up for years, soldiers laughing about passing her around to be “shared.” The Pope and his army had rescued her in time. Catherine swears to the other women that they will be safe, so long as they have faith.
As the feast begins, so does Francis’ part of the plan. He escapes the room he’s been holed up in and, carting his younger brothers behind him, manages to fight his way to the passageways. The servants, minus Greer and Leith who stay behind to keep up appearances, meet Francis at the tunnels and he leads them out. Olivia, frightened of the dark and of getting caught, tries to leave with him – but Francis orders her to stay, or Mary and her ladies’ lives will be at risk.
Once enough time passes, Mary makes her excuses to the Count and leaves with her friends. Unfortunately, Olivia is spooked by the guards who keep passing by the passageway, and has run – leaving them with no way out. (She gets her comeuppance, though. Olivia doesn’t know the way out of the passages, and ends up running right into Clarissa.)
Things aren’t going so well down in the kitchens, either. A guard enters looking for Greer – the “kitchen girl with the soft hands” – and sees that all of the servants have disappeared. He pulls his sword out, intending to scurry back to Vincent and tell him what’s up, but Greer and Leith manage to kill him.
One of Count Vincent’s men happens upon Mary and her ladies knocking at the panel trying to gain access to the passageway, and brings them back to the feast, where Catherine is shocked to see them. She rushes to make one last request of the Count to let her children go. When he denies her that, she again offers up the girls’ virtues – and the Count finally owns up to the fact that nothing Catherine offers to him will be enough, not unless she can give him his son back.
Vincent and his soldiers rip Mary and her friends from each other. Catherine waits until the sands of the hourglass wind down, and, secure in the knowledge that her children are safe, stops the men from their assault. She orders Vincent to leave now, and she will let him live – and right on cue, Vincent’s soldiers drop dead around him, poisoned by the gold she handed out at the beginning of the feast.
Vincent pulls a sword on Catherine, intent on killing her. Mary saves her by lodging a sharp fork firmly into the man’s throat, and Francis arrives just in time to cut off Vincent’s sword hand. “Your son awaits you,” Francis says darkly above the Count’s dead body. Blood! Gore! Chopped off hands! When did this turn into an episode of Game of Thrones and why do I love it so much?
Francis takes Kenna, who has suffered the most injury out of the girls, to the infirmary. The other ladies follow, leaving Mary and Catherine to talk privately. Mary asks Catherine why she didn’t let Vincent go through with his rape, since it would have given Catherine grounds to stop Francis from marrying Mary. Catherine tells her what really happened when she was young: the Pope’s men didn’t come in time after all, but she kept the truth of what happened a secret.
In the morning, a newly freed Bash talks with his mother and confirms his own suspicions about her; Diane had been the one to tell Count Vincent and his men when King Henry would be away, so that they could storm the castle. If Vincent had been successful in kidnapping Francis, Bash would be the next in line, being the only son of Henry’s who is of appropriate age to wed Mary. That is sneaky, Diane. Downright nefarious, that is.
Mary goes to Francis’ rooms to yell at him for coming back for her when he could’ve been killed. Francis sweeps her into a kiss and tells her he loves her. They then, quite literally, fall into bed. All is well, at least until the next time something disastrous happens.
Catherine: Men must find something to kill from time to time. It’s a pity they can’t live harmoniously, like women.
Mary: Harmoniously? Like you and me?
Mary: I am in a nunnery of one, listening to your mother crow over me!
Catherine: They’re taking Francis. He gave himself up to save you. And the rest of us.
Mary: He would.
Catherine: Yes, his integrity can be annoying.
Catherine: I love my son. I will go into hell for him, how far will you go?
Bash: Why aren’t you killing me?
Guard: Your mother’s paying me to look after you.
Bash: Yes, apparently she’s good at bribes.
Mary: It’s difficult to breathe.
Count: Are you ill, your grace?
Mary: No, my lord, it… [whisper] it’s my corset.
Count: [staring] …Perhaps you should retire… until the… crisis is averted.
Count: Give me your heart, then. Carve it out and hand it to me so that we might understand one another. That is diplomacy, to understand my loss, to carry the weight of a dead heart with you every night and day until you find your grave. Roberto. Give me Roberto, and I will let your children live.
Catherine: Poison is an art, and the essence of art is surprise.
Catherine: The first lesson I ever learned was never wait for a man’s rescue. History is written by the survivors. And I am surely that.