This was a strange episode. This was some kind of ADD in television form. I hoped that, with the end of the whole Skerrett storyline, things would get more focused, but man did this episode prove me wrong.
This was all over the place. We jumped from story to story without anything being properly developed or set up, which just left me scratching my head and thinking, ‘The heck did I just see? Is half of this ever going to be relevant again?’ I’m guessing not. I mean, is the Palmerstons’ open marriage arrangement really going to have any impact on the story going forward? Bertie’s abusive tutor? There was too much jammed into this, and none of it felt satisfying at all.
Let’s break it down.
While out in her carriage with two of the kids and Sophie, Victoria is on the receiving end of an assassination attempt. When she learns the man was an Irish rebel, she asks Abigail, her new maid, what the deal is with Ireland. Apparently Abigail is an expert in all things political now, at least as far as political dissatisfaction goes, and she tells Victoria that the Irish aren’t happy, even if they are no longer starving to death. I find it hard to believe Victoria wouldn’t have already known this.
Victoria’s solution to this is to propose a trip to Ireland. Everyone’s reaction to this ranges from ‘…’ to ‘are you sure that’s a good idea?’ She thinks it’ll be fine, because Palmerston has an estate in Ireland, and surely he can magically keep her safe? Palmerston agrees not only to accompany her, but also to host her and the royal party for a few days, smirking that his wife ‘would be cranky if he didn’t.’
As they’re getting ready to go, Victoria notes that Sophie’s looking a little glum. Lady Portman confides that Sophie and her husband are on the outs, so Victoria’s brilliant idea is to insist that the duke come along on this trip as well. She’s just full of great ideas this hour, isn’t she?
Oh, here’s another one: Albert brings in a tutor for Bertie, a young man he found up at Cambridge. Victoria’s entire interview of this guy consists of, ‘Do you plan to beat my kid? No? K, you’re hired.’ And it seems like it’s going great for a while there–the guy seems fun and manages to find a way to do the impossible: teach Bertie his times tables! But then, after the royal parents depart, Bertie starts getting really withdrawn and doesn’t seem to like lessons. And even Vicky decides, out of nowhere, that she doesn’t like this new tutor.
Why not? This was a great example of a storyline that was not properly developed at all this hour. The relationship between student and tutor went from BFF to utterly miserable and abusive completely off-camera and in the space of, like, a week in show time. The hell happened here? Does this tutor have rage issues that he manages to hide really well? How is he keeping Bertie quiet about this? It was really, really odd.
Meanwhile, the grownups land in Ireland. And the welcome, for the most part, is rapturous because Palmerston got there ahead of time and made sure they were all surrounded by friendlies. There are a few people who shout abuse at the queen, but they’re quickly drowned out.
Off to the Palmerston estate, then, to relax ahead of a trip to Dublin and to meet Lady Palmerston. Lady P, by the way, is the late Lord Melbourne’s sister. She’s pretty cool! She and her husband are clearly crazy about each other and have arranged their relationship in a way that works for them, maintains trust and respect, and allows them both to pursue their various interests. Good on the Palmerstons!
But the Monmouths, of course, are super miserable. The duke is so horrible to his wife at dinner that Palmerston straight up calls him an asshole right at the table. (I mean, he uses more polite wording since there’s a queen there and all, but we all know what “ungallant” means, right?)
Sophie escapes both house and husband for a bit by heading down to the nearby beach, where she finds Joseph. It’s super contrived that they would have brought Joseph along on this trip. Palmerston would have his own footmen. But it does allow the duchess to get a little sexy time down by the shore.
Palmerston sees both her and Joseph returning to the house later and draws his own conclusions. He finds her alone at the breakfast table and gently tells her he knows what’s up and he just wants to warn her to be very careful.
He’ll need to be careful too, because once they’re all back in London, the duke catches his wife sighing over some sand she finds caught in the hat she was wearing and jumps to the conclusion that Palmerston is sleeping with Sophie. He confronts Palmerston at the club and Palmerston calmly tells him he’s not hooking up with Sophie at all, and maybe if the duke were less of a hateful, drunken prick he wouldn’t have this sort of problem. The duke gets mad and challenges him. Or something.
But I’m a little ahead of myself. Ireland! Victoria is astonished to hear from Lady P that the Palmerstons basically have an open marriage. Later, when speaking with Albert, she kind of dances around it but seems, almost, like she’s putting out feelers for something similar? Or something? But Albert is still super priggish and just sniffs at how gross he thinks Palmerston is for his liaisons.
Albert’s a bit distracted, because being so hands-on, he went out to see where the tenants live. He found the houses in really poor repair and no tenants to be seen.
He confronts Palmerston, accusing him of keeping his people in deplorable conditions and then hiding them away when the royals were visiting. Ever unflappable, Palmerston replies that he paid for the tenants to move to New York during the famine. Most of them were quite happy to leave, and so grateful they still write him letters. How charming. And oh, yes, how nice that the only English landlord Victoria seems to have contact with while in Ireland is supposedly one of the good ones. In reality, most landlords like Palmerston hardly ever set foot in Ireland, and cared very little for their tenants or the state in which they lived. It’s pretty much why the Irish people hated the English and wanted to be independent. You know, the whole reason Victoria thought it’d be a good idea to visit Ireland in the first place
It’s time to move on to Dublin. Before they go, Lady P tells Victoria she really needs to get the Cardinal on her side, because a kind word from him will basically make all the Irish people fall in line. Such sheep, those Irish Catholics, right? A word from a single cardinal and all the problems go away! It’s why we totally didn’t have 150 years of violent struggle!
Victoria duly meets with the cardinal and charms him, and he gives her a dove and she sets it free and now Ireland loves her. Mission accomplished!
They all head back to England, where Feo has been left in charge of the kids and household. She’s been ignoring the children, of course, and discovered that she can basically sell favours and appointments. A cleric comes to her and asks her to use her influence to get him the deanship of Ely. After she gets it for him he sends her some nice pearls. Palmerston, who apparently has nothing else to do other than arrange social visits and warn women to watch their backs, warns her to take it easy with that stuff, because it can backfire.
Victoria notices that Bertie seems a bit off, and he has a rash on his arm that he won’t explain. She mentions it to Abigail, who tells her the household is concerned about the prince. They are? Why? What have they seen that we haven’t?
Victoria marches to the schoolroom, where she finds the tutor giving the kid an Indian burn (is that still the term for it? Surely there’s a more PC name now?).
Victoria screams at the man to get the hell out immediately. The tutor takes a step towards her and Bertie screeches that he will not strike his mamma. The ruckus brings Albert running in.
So, what happened here, exactly? Why and how did this guy go from patient, creative, and effective to cruel and abusive at the drop of a hat? This whole thing has me so confused.
The tutor is dismissed, naturally, and Albert feels terrible for having hired him in the first place. He worries that he’s messing up their kids and expresses relief that they won’t have any more. How are you going to make that happen, Albert? Are you saying you and your wife will go celibate?
Too late anyway: Victoria’s pregnant again. Number seven on the way (hi, fetal Prince Arthur)!
So… yeah, we had the abusive tutor, a few words about Ireland that were so shallow they were insulting, Feo selling favours, Sophie and Joseph hooking up, lengthy discussions of the Palmerston marriage, more of Sophie’s miserable marriage, a duel challenge (maybe?), and a new royal pregnancy. Plus, Victoria and Albert still squabbling, because Feo’s poured all this poison in his ear and now he treats his wife like she’s some kind of idiot. Yeah, that’s far too much for one episode. It jumped all over and felt overcrowded and just unsatisfying, Sorry, but thumbs down here. Focus, everyone! And get rid of Feo. She’s not as interesting a character as the show seems to want her to be.