We’re moving away from the after-effects of the blackout and towards better times on this week’s episode of The Royals with Helena’s birthday. The airing of family drama is practically a requirement at the Henstridge parties regardless of how many guests are in attendance, so you know we’re in for some high quality royal spectacle.
Before the Party
The duchess visits Helena in her room on the morning of her birthday, causing the queen to block her door and claim a hangover to hide her most recent conquest. The duchess is here to ask if Helena is going to wave to the people on her Birthday Vigil Night, a stately responsibility that Helena doesn’t seem too keen on; it’s an old tradition, and besides, the people will soon have a new queen. Suitably bummed, she returns to Sebastian. They discuss Helena’s issues with her mother (explaining her tendency to self-medicate with champagne and men) and confirm that Sebastian is just friends with Eleanor–kudos to Helena for sort of thinking of Eleanor’s feelings, even if it was after the fact. Character development, damn it!
Willow apologizes to Robert for saying maybe to his marriage proposal. This scene is out of character for Willow, who is generally very rational and wanted to make sure she married for love. That person probably wouldn’t describe herself as a “disaster” for taking time to think about a proposal from someone they kissed for the first time last episode. Robert doesn’t mind; he tells her to take her time and invites Willow to Helena’s birthday dinner as his date.
Liam invites Kathryn to dinner, insisting that it’s better to surprise his family and face the awkwardness head on. Liam promises that everyone will be on their best behavior for Helena’s birthday–ha! He’s met his family, right? Ultimately, his wishful thinking persuades her to join.
Robert interrupts Eleanor and Jasper being painfully cute in their room, unhappy to see them laughing with each other in their underwear. He asks about their joint gift for Helena and after Jasper’s health, causing Jasper’s mood to take a turn for the worse. He crankily visits his dad to demand that he leave. He’s unimpressed by his father’s concern for him, citing an example of a childhood spelling bee to prove that his father is never actually there when he needs him.
Willow visits Helena bearing a thank you present to report on Helena’s social media birthday wishes. Helena is distracted and suffering from the birthday ennui, asking Willow whether she thinks Helena has mattered as a queen. Willow gives an answer in the affirmative and turns the conversation towards advice for herself: if Helena could do it all over again, would she? Helena’s positive answer gives Willow a boost, leaving her to look at Robert’s music box fondly as she gets ready. She asks Robert to talk before dinner.
The Party Proper
At pre-dinner drinks, it’s Sebastian’s turn to interrupt Eleanor and Jasper being cute. He lets them know that Robert invited him, which Eleanor doesn’t take well. She’s convinced that he’s done it in an attempt to mess up their relationship. Jasper is unconcerned, citing the possibility that Robert and Sebastian are friends. Helena freaks when she sees Sebastian, but Eleanor doesn’t notice. “If you really wanted to get even, I could always sleep with him!” Helena half jokes over a tequila shot. Eleanor is bemused, but ultimately distracted with annoyance at her older brother.
Helena’s mood is immediately lifted when Prince Hansel (played by Elizabeth Hurley’s son) from her favorite royal reality show walks in as a present from Eleanor and Robert. Dick move, Eleanor and Robert–I know you haven’t been on the best of terms with Liam, but why did you completely leave him out of the gift situation? Liam arrives with Kathryn, and there’s that awkwardness he was talking about. “I haven’t been this surprised since you pulled a gun on me!” Robert says jovially, causing Liam to roll his eyes. “This is better already! Let’s add alcohol and blow this shit up,” Hansel says, predicting the very near future.
Dinner is an escapade of snark and family drama with a heaping dose of comments like “At least I don’t sleep with the help, like some people around here.” Eleanor uses the time to get a few digs in about Robert’s too-intense interest in both her and Liam’s love lives. When Jasper tries to stop his father (still masquerading as “Count Bellagio”) from participating in the conversation, the duchess delivers yet another great line: “Count Bellagio is royalty, what does your father do?” she says with an air of dismissal. The irony certainly isn’t lost on Jasper. Earl takes his one last shot to reconnect with his son to explain how he did attend that spelling bee Jasper referenced earlier, only he was hiding in the shadows so that the other parents didn’t see him. He asserts that he loves his son very much and takes his leave to check on the duchess.
The royal children resume fighting. When Willow backs up Robert on his call that Liam bringing Kathryn was inappropriate, Eleanor points out that it’s inappropriate for her to be participating in the conversation. I’m with Eleanor here, this blind support and adoration for Robert isn’t a good look on Willow. When Robert calls his younger siblings disappointments, Helena demands that he leaves. He tries to pull rank on her, calling himself “the goddamn king,” but she says that he’s still her “goddamn son” and she’s going to tell him to “goddamn walk away” as she pleases. Helena gets a gold star for telling Robert to get royally screwed, basically. Bonus points for throwing her wine at him. Suitably insulted, he gets up from the table and announces his engagement to Willow as they both leave the room. “Willow and I are getting married. Happy birthday, Mother. And God save the queen.” Helena certainly won that argument, but extra points for style on that exit line.
The Party Proper, Part Two
Robert apologizes to Willow for the way he announced their engagement. “You’ve seen the worst of my family, you and I will make the best of it,” he promises, causing a nice round of eyerolls from the audience. He coaxes her out for cake. Meanwhile, Earl comes to talk to Jasper, who claims his presence at the spelling bee doesn’t make up for all of the other absences. After his father emphasizes that he meant what he said, Jasper meets him halfway and opens up about what’s bothering him. He explains his suspicions about Robert having him killed. Earl refutes the claim, explaining that he was the one who shot Jasper to help him become a national hero and get Eleanor back. Jasper is understandably angry, as the bullet missed his heart by an inch. “I meant to miss it by two but I left my glasses in the car,” he explained sheepishly. Jasper is incredulous, but not angry.
After their cooling off period, Helena and her guests reconvene in the dining room for cake. She gives a speech about the importance of family, extending a welcome to her future daughter-in-law, Willow. Liam stands up to give his own speech, explaining that he wants to mend the sibling relationships he’s been destroying over the past few months, quoting Robert’s “If you’re strong enough to destroy something, you’re strong enough to repair it.” Everyone is in better spirits.
After the Party is the Palace Lobby…and the Balcony…and Helena’s Room
Despite the drama, Kathryn had a great time and agrees that Liam was right to force the awkward so they could all get past it. They kiss as Robert’s portrait looks on creepily. On her way out, Robert stops her for a brief chat. Helena and Sebastian are flirting, but she insists that she can’t take the risk of sleeping with one of her daughter’s friends. Citing her birthday, she reconsiders and hooks up with him with the promise of stopping tomorrow. Eleanor and Liam smoke up together and re-bond as siblings.
An unhappy Robert finds Earl sitting in his office chair. Earl has dropped his Count Bellagio act, and reveals himself to be Jasper’s father. He reminds Robert of their Christmas deal, in which Robert gave Earl the Eleanor/Jasper story to sell to the tabloids, which ultimately caused them to break up last season. Earl knows now that the reason Robert hates Jasper is that he doesn’t want his sister dating a commoner, so he provides a solution (or as we call it, “blackmail”): Jasper, or Earl will tell the tabloids all about Robert’s terrible behavior towards the princess and her very popular bodyguard. Robert tries to reassert dominance, but fails–and boy, is it great to see someone get the upper hand on that petulant royal.
The duchess walks in on Helena dressed in a maid costume and handcuffed to the bed. Where is Sebastian? After unlocking Helena’s handcuffs, the duchess explains that she and the count are going their separate ways. She knew that he wasn’t a count, but was willing to just go with it for the sex. On a nicer note, she genuinely wishes her daughter a happy birthday and offers some nice words. “I’m proud of you, and you’ll always be my queen, no matter what anyone says,” she says. With the nice message from her mother and a pep talk from Prince Hansel, Helena goes to greet her public.
Jasper recounts his last conversation with Earl to Eleanor, explaining that his dad was the gunman and apologizing for thinking that it was Robert. I see what he’s doing and appreciate the level of honesty between them, but even if Robert didn’t have him shot he is definitely involved in some nefarious nonsense that needs to be stopped. Eleanor admits to her nightly Robin Hood activities, explaining that she kept it a secret so he wouldn’t worry. Robert once again disrupts them being cute (DOES ANYONE ON THIS SHOW KNOCK? CAN THEY LIVE?) to announce that he’s making Jasper a knight. “I can’t have my sister publicly dating a commoner, so I’m making you a knight. There will be a small ceremony–none of your family are invited. You’re welcome,” he announces in what might be his funniest moment throughout his tenure on the show.
When he returns to his office, he finds another uninvited guest. This time it’s Cassandra, who has arrived in black lingerie to talk about why Robert cooled off on her. She guessed correctly that it was Willow. Robert tells her to leave, but before she does, she explains how much she’s learned about him from their limited interactions–he doesn’t like Jasper, there’s a rift between he and Liam as a result of girl drama, he thinks he’s messing with Willow but she’s actually messing with him since she’s not in love with him. She closes with “Some night soon you’re going to want me–you’re going to need me.” I’m not a fan of Robert, and I’m about 50/50 on Cassandra, but there’s something so great about the two of them interacting with one another. Just saying, if Robert wanted to continue manipulating the whole of England, Cassandra would be able to pull her weight.
Not On the Guest List
Meanwhile, Cyrus wakes to gunfire in a terrible room at the Venezuelan embassy. He complains and harasses the desk attendant, who explains that the gunfire he heard is a video game being played by the other political refugee they’re housing. He also receives a rude awakening regarding the hospitality when she tells him to label his champagne and put it in the fridge himself. He does, and it gets stolen anyway. While stealing money from a Caracas charity to fund his vending machine visit, Cyrus meets the other political refugee–a man that went into hiding as a result of his short reign as king. Spoiler: these two are not going to be friends.
This week’s episode of The Royals was the perfect amount of drama and resolution. I’m particularly impressed by Earl’s arc on the show; rather than draw out his secret identity for the whole season and overstay his welcome, he stuck around just long enough to stir the pot, forming a good relationship with Eleanor, mend his relationship with Jasper (a bit), and piss Robert off immensely. Speaking of the petulant King, I truly hope that Robert and Willow don’t live happily ever after; their preview as smug marrieds was insufferable, and I want better for Willow than being bobble-headed support for a sociopath. As stated before, Cassandra is a better match for him, though that might just be the dread I feel over Willow being trapped with him. The writers have done a great job with the characters this season…with the exception of Cyrus, who feels more and more like an afterthought every episode.