Seems I was a bit premature in saying last week that the show had improved, because man, was this one a clunker of an episode.
Ok, Belowstairs Bullshit: Turns out Francatelli only came back because the queen made it known to his employers that she wanted him back, so they just fired him. Nice. But, I guess when the queen asks, you don’t exactly say no, right? It’s why people used to hide their knick-knacks when Queen Mary came for visits.
Also, Skerrit has hired a new assistant. The poor girl has the misfortune to be Irish, which means Penge, who can’t be bothered to do even the minimum amount of work his job entails, gets to be all racist towards her and assumes she’ll be stealing things. And it looks, for a little while, as if he’ll have good reason to suspect her, because things start disappearing left and right. Food, one of the queen’s petticoats, things like that.
Now, we, the viewers, know that the creep stealing these things is some urchin who’s just kicking around the palace by day, and snuggling up to Victoria’s underwear by night. His tendency to clatter about just out of eyeshot convinces our Irish lass there’s a ghost, because, you know, the Irish are all superstitious and stuff. I figured this was going to be some drawn-out thing where Penge thought she was stealing, but no, they realise fairly quickly that this kid’s wandering around the Palace at will. And they don’t seem all that committed to catching him, either. Whatever.
Upstairs, Victoria’s happy to be getting back to the business of queening, despite her father-in-law and uncle both leaning on her hard to keep filling up that nursery. Albert, too, keeps mentioning how he’d like a large family. She gets it, boys. And we get it too, show! Also, I find it amusing that Victoria’s presented as being quite busy a lot of the time, but two other rulers: Leopold and Albert’s father, have all the time in the world to just hang around in England and hassle her about reproduction. And Albert’s father also hits him up for money, presumably to keep things interesting. I realise Belgium and Saxe-Coburg weren’t quite as…complex and extensive as the British Empire, but still–do these two men really have NOTHING else to do?
Now he’s not running things, Albert needs a new hobby. Mathematics’ll do! He starts going around to the Royal Society, where he meets Charles Babbage and–OH MY GOD. Patsy from Call the Midwife is playing ADA LOVELACE! Squee! Albert’s super interested in their Analytical Engine, and he should be, since it was essentially the first computer.
Victoria is less excited by all this, because maths are really not her thing, but she’s trying to be supportive, so she suggests a big cultural soiree at the Palace. Babbage and Lovelace will be there, and when Victoria gets pouty at the thought of Albert spending so much time with Ada, she retaliates by also inviting Lord M. Aww, Melbourne’s back!
He’s reluctantly back. He seems about as excited to go to this thing as I am to listen to a lecture in Latin, but like I said: the queen asks, you answer. He drags himself along and Victoria’s soooo happy to see him, because she’s getting increasingly annoyed at Albert for being interested in what Ada Lovelace has to say.
This is where the episode really started to hit a wall. They were trying to force through this notion that Victoria was enormously jealous, but the question was: why? Did she really think Albert would cheat on her? With Ada or anyone else? If so, why would she think that? He’s never shown any interest in any other woman. There were some references to Albert’s father’s infidelities, and if she knew about those, than that might have fed her paranoia, but there was never any indication that she did know about them. Is she just mad that Albert’s not spending every waking moment with her? Then maybe she should give him something to do that keeps him close? I don’t know, this didn’t ring true for me at all. It felt terribly forced.
Albert expresses his opinion that it was a bad idea for Victoria to invite Lord M to the Palace, at which point Victoria gets completely frustrated, and I’m kind of on her side here. He’s not Prime Minister anymore. He’s not even in government anymore, right? So, why shouldn’t she invite him? Can she not have friends at all?
Never one to be told what to do, Victoria takes herself to Brocket Hall to seek Lord M’s advice on marriage. Even he’s like, ‘Uh, you know I’m not the best person to ask about that, right?’ (Also, Victoria was a bit mortified to learn, at the Palace soiree, that Ada Lovelace is the daughter of Lord Byron, also known as the man who ran off with Melbourne’s wife. Awk-ward. Although Ada was basically raised by her mother to be a super STEM girl because her mother HATED Byron so much she was determined their daughter wouldn’t resemble him in the slightest.)
Victoria still presses Melbourne for information, and he basically tells her to just chill, because Albert’s not the cheating kind. Yeah, anyone could have told you that, Victoria.
Eh, maybe she’s going a little nutty because she’s pregnant again. And she’s not happy about it, so soon after the last kid. Sorry, Vicky, but you’d better get used to this.
Back at the Palace, the Duchess of Buccleuch’s niece is flirting with Ernst, while the Duchess just seems determined to stir some shit up. She knows Victoria’s gone to Brocket Hall and tries her damndest to get Albert to ask her where his wife is. But Albert, rather awesomely, is so not playing this woman’s games. Leopold will, though! Leopold does not approve of his niece visiting her former PM.
Things really come to a head when Victoria and Albert get into this incredibly petty spat over dinner plans. Yes, really. Albert’s been invited to a dinner at the Royal Society and is all ready to go. Victoria tells him to stay, but when he determines that’s not an order, he goes anyway. She pouts through dinner, then sends some poor young footman running through London to fetch him back. Albert sends him back with a message: Is that an order? Oh, please, you two!
This poor kid is sent ping-ponging back and forth between the royal pair until Victoria stomps off to bed to spoon Dash and lock her husband out. But they make up, like, the next day, so…tension gone.
And that’s basically it. Victoria gets all jealous for no reason, she and Albert fight for not much reason, Victoria learns that Ada has kids which I guess makes her ok and not so scary now, and Leopold, being kind of an asshole, spills news of Victoria’s pregnancy to both Albert and Victoria’s mother before Victoria herself can tell them. Dick. Go on back to Belgium, Leopold. But leave Ernst here. We like Ernst.