“Left Behind” was a super-sexy, rampantly rape-y episode, but if you managed to survive it without crushing your pearls to dust you probably noticed Megan Follows is truly at the top of her game. Like, get out a shopping cart and go around to the Emmy voters and the Golden Globers and just get those awards together, because Follows, a.k.a. Catherine DeMedizzy, won them all last night. She volleyed so quickly between a sinister villain and fragile maternal figure and rallying archangel, and I bought all of it thanks to her commitment. Well done Your Majesty!! She is just on fire right now, reminding me of the stellar turn Madeleine Stowe did as Victoria Grayson in Revenge Season 1. Just bitchy and emotional and sympathetic and then sociopathic. I’s wonderful. Tell your friends.
But maybe you were distracted from Follows' performance by the looming threat of rape?! My good dear Lord, but the threat of rape hung over this episode like a soupy Scottish fog over the Stirling moors! I get very squeamish about rape scenes no matter how veiled, so if you’re like me, let me just say this before we start talking: thankfully no rape actually happened! Phew. But the French Court, which we’ve already deduced has the same level of security as a Taco Bell bathroom when the manager takes lunch early to smoke meth in his car, was TAKEN OVER by an angry Italian Count and his legions of swashbuckling henchmen! And then Mary and her ladies were invited to a late night dinner, and it was just so terribly Mysteries of Udolpho.
The episode opened with Catherine taunting Mary that Francis wouldn’t just hook up with any old ho, he would only bed a woman he loved and therefore loved Olivia, which is a tit bit more than a mom should know about her son. But then we found out from Olivia that at the moment of the completion of his passion (giggle) Francis had called out Mary’s name!
Yowza! Can I just say this is the most creative and weirdly effective device I’ve ever heard of exonerating a male character for cheating on a romantic interest? It’s like that question about a tree falling in a forest/does it make a sound: if your almost-boyfriend has sex with another girl, but then he screams your name in her face erstwhile, is it even cheating? Like, he was presumably fantasizing about you the whole time!? Can I call a Worldwide Council of Women to officially legislate on this? Speaking of worldwide female issues, shout out to Reign passing the Bechdel test for 7 out of 7 episodes! The Bechdel test, for those of you who don’t know, essentially means two main female characters talk about something other than a guy in a tv show or movie. And yes, female disfigured faux-ghosts count. But I’m getting ahead of myself!
In a stunning lack of foresight, every able-bodied man in the castle except for Francis, Bash, and Kitchen Lad Leith left for 16th Century Boy Scout Jamboree/Lazer Tag right before an Italian Count came to visit and unpacked a full Louis Vuitton Fall Season of mental baggage: last year the French stole his son, ransomed the son for a small fortune, and then his son died on the way home after the money had been spent. And then his wife died. And then he spent the last three weeks camping in the woods waiting for King Henry to leave, which would put anybody in a tetchy mood. Basically it didn’t take Nostradamus to see that the Count was about to hold the castle and the 14 people in it for ransom as retribution for the loss of his son.
Since we’ve brought him up, this was a lot of egg on the face for so-called seer Nostradamus: you see everything but this?! The whole castle’s lives being endangered? I don’t know man, I don’t know. Catherine had a great solution for the Count’s problems: kidnap Mary, take her away, marry her maybe. Just take her and go. Should they maybe box her up in a large chest with some gift wrap? However Francis courageously offered to leave with the Count in Mary’s place as the ransomed party, essentially trading his life for hers. If you were still mad at Francis for sexing Olivia this is where all that anger may have gone out the window. Just truly a ton of redemption for Francis this episode.
Meanwhile, Bash’s mom was telling him about the new fad of bastard royal sons becoming legitimate Princes via Papal legate and he was having NONE of it. Whether this was a genuine loyalty to lil’ bro Francis, or a fear that conspiracy would land both him and his mother on the literal chopping block, or just a super-mature rejection of noblesse oblige, that was what Bash was doing all episode: restraining himself.
While Catherine and Francis struggled to figure out which royal person to offer the count, Mary was already thinking outside the box, barging into her bestie Clarissa’s living room (a dark dripping stone hallway) and asking her to help with a rescue mission. Obviously Clarissa totally came through. Honestly, Clarissa and Mary are becoming my OTP on this show.
Mary and Catherine also joined forces to brainstorm up a scheme on how to get everyone out of the castle in another brilliant moment of bitches setting aside issues to get shit done, but then made the critical mistake of having Olivia be the lynchpin of their plan. Mary asked Olivia to stand behind a panel that concealed a secret passage and open it first for Francis and the two little Princes and then herself and her many braid-y ladies. Olivia was like “Do I really have to open the panel for you though? It will involve moving my arm out of this delicious Bear Fur Snuggie and really, haven’t I been through enough?”
Even Mary’s waiting ladies were loathe to play their part in the scheme. Lola, showing her general sense of decorum, started screeching at Her Royal Majesty the Queen of France that French court was full of back-stabbing ne’er-do-wells and at least the men holding them captive had the honesty to threaten them openly. In response Megan Follows unleashed on us a scene of such poignancy and fervor that her agent better have gone out and bought her a bottle of champagne. Describing her own besieged upbringing and triumphant rescue from a captured castle by a Pope Himself, Catherine rallied the girls and told them she would be their bodyguard, she would be their long lost pal, she would call them betty they could call her al etc. Essentially she promised she would get them all out of the Evil Italian dinner party hymens intact, except of course for Kenna whose maidenhead was now nothing more than a troublesome stain Leith had treated the week before.
Speaking of kitchen staff, how adorable were Greer and Leith? Omelet flipping? A plainclothes date hiking up to the hot springs? I kind of thought Greer looked even more gorgeous in her Cinderella get-up than in her lacy gowns. (Good thing one in exactly her size was just lying around? Sure it was.) And just the moment I thought Francis’ determination to put himself at the mercy of the Count to protect Mary was the most romantic gesture I’d see all episode, Leith did something even more profoundly generous: when Greer hit an Italian ruffian upside the head with a cast-iron skillet, Leith slit his throat so she wouldn’t feel responsible for killing someone. Two things about this: I don’t know that I’ve seen this device before, and it was both gory and seriously touching. I like that the show continues to emphasize murder never being okay and always being this horrible burden to the people that commit it. Also I love that the moments Francis seems most attracted to Mary is when she displays powerful leadership.
So the game was afoot: the Scottish ladies and Catherine would entertain the Italians with a trunk of gold coins and their best knock-knock jokes while the French royals fled, then Mary and her ladies would follow when the moment allowed. And keep in mind all of this cloak and dagger scheming was contingent on: the trail-blazing skills of a ghost and the loyalty of a hussy.
How heart-wringing was it that Francis instructed his brothers not to look when he killed a guard? How painterly were the scenes where the royals were escaping and Catherine and the Italians were feasting? Mary pulled a very smooth move with her old “Yikes GTG need to slip out of this corset routine” but, as all of us kind of already knew, Olivia was NOT at the panel to help her escape from the castle. Olivia and her Bear Fur Snuggie were too busy looking after Numero Uno and I think were shortly thereafter eaten by Clarissa.
When Mary returned to the room looking glum, Catherine saw a wrench had been thrown in the works and decided no time like the present to convince the Italians to rape all the Scots and their Queen.
I was openly screaming at my television, but we would realize later she was frantically stalling for time until her poison worked it’s effect. EVEN SO: this choice kind of totally turned around Catherine’s brief shining moment as a maternal figure to the Braidies. I mean, was it really necessary to prod the guys into accosting Mary and her waiting besties for the remaining 3 minutes before the poison kicked in? She couldn’t think of a quick shadow puppet routine? She couldn’t while away a few moments with a quick rendition of “Is You or Is You Ain’t My Baby” to confuse them?
Luckily before things got any more emotionally disturbing or sexually explicit, the poison kicked in. Catherine de Medici had poisoned the trunk of gold she’d offered the men! Poisoned gold, diabolical! Since the Italian Count had not grabbed a handful, Mary stabbed him with a fork before he could lunge at Catherine!
So Mary managed to be suave, soft, seductive and also stab this guy with a protean fork. I love it. And then Francis ran in and all the girls were okay, and once Kenna had been taken to the infirmary (aka Nostradamus getting high in the basement and a cot) Mary very sensitively deduced Catherine’s tale of miraculously surviving her own seige during childhood had been fabricated as part of a pep talk. Catherine had actually survived some seriously dark stuff. Does this make it more problematic that she put the girls at risk the way she did? As she confessed herself, she had no guarantee the poison would work. Still, if we’re going to agree Catherine is officially the worst, the dove-tailing fact is that Megan Follows is the best, and how awesome are characters who live in that duality.
The super sexy, love-makin’ heart-shakin’ thaaaang that went down this episode though was that Mary and Francis celebrated being alive by deciding to go go go al the way-ay-ay. Nevermind the intricacies of their royal persons being inextricably bound to matters of state: it was time for celebratory boots to knock. Were you dumb founded? Were you overjoyed? Did Mary forgive Francis too easily? Or would anyone who’d been through such a life-threatening ordeal act the same way?
Hasten ye with yon ponderings.
... Frances calling out Mary’s name during giddyup times with Olivia: makes everything okay or nope nope nope?
... Catherine: love her, hate her, hate that you love her, or love hating her?
... Bash legitimized: without consulting Wikapedia, do you think it will happen?
... Would Lola have been tarred and feathered in the actual 1600s for constantly giving lip to her betters?
... Leith: Would you give up a fortune to flip omelets with him?
... What do you think happened to Olivia? Will we see her again?
... What did you think of "Left Behind"?
AIRED ON 5/15/2014
Season 1 : Episode 22