You know how you can think you’re doing fine … until your mom asks you how you are, and suddenly you’re dry-sobbing in the middle of the sidewalk, realizing that your life is in shambles, you might be unlovable, and you’re also fairly certain you have strep throat? Well, that’s the overall vibe of this episode of Ladies of London. Moms — excuse me, mums — are on the loose, and everyone’s feeling just a little fragile.
It’s actually very sweet, not a word usually used in the near vicinity of an Andy Cohen production. There’s hardly anything in the world more emotionally complex than family dynamics, and the ladies are pretty transparent about their familial struggles and triumphs. It’s vulnerable, it’s relatable … and then you see a flashback to teenage Caroline Stanbury cutting a cake decorated in the fashion of what is undoubtedly a blurred-out Marlboro Reds box, while she drinks tea and eats on her parent’s glorious estate in present day. It’s enough to make you think, “Huh, maybe I’ll never really understand this rich-English-people thing at all.” And that’s why Ladies of London is the best.
The episode kicks off as any day should, with Caroline Fleming visiting the local fishmonger to find supplies for a lobster salad recipe for her cookbook, which she invites Marissa over to taste test. Marissa has had a rough go of it lately, but today she’s lending support to Caroline, whose father is in the hospital. Even though Caroline’s family is very private, Marissa wants her to know she can always talk to her. Caroline furrows her brow behind her readers, takes the offer into consideration, then gets about two inches from Marissa’s face and says, “There’s a part of me that’s very frightened to open up to you.” Funny, there’s a part of me that wonders if I would be very frightened to meet Caroline Fleming in person.
Cue the inevitable scene of Caroline telling Marissa, “Well, it’s got back to my parents,” because we’ve flashed back at least 1,000 times this season. But now Caroline is working to trust Marissa, just like Julie is working to find any reason to be mad at the flawless Sophie. Mid-makeover, Julie explains to Adela that she’s feeling hurt by Sophie because she won’t let her talk about Caroline Stanbury on account of their “We’re Family, Let’s Not Talk Shit About Each Other” pact. Adela asks, “Isn’t that a gift? If you don’t talk to Sophie about it, it won’t get back to Caroline.” Yes, Adela! That is correct and logical. I am very impressed by your beauty and your sobriety and your toned arms!
I am also impressed by this Adela comment: “Juliet makes me feel physically ill,” which might have elicited my biggest LOL of 2017. After that little run-in where Juliet called Adela selfish for having attempted to commit suicide during the lowest point in her life, Adela is wondering if perhaps the two should have a conversation about Juliet’s judgmental negativity. And what better place to do that than at the drunken bacchanal that is the Henley Royal Regatta?
Caroline Stanbury, however, is unable to attend because her father ended up in hospital. Earlier in the episode, we were treated to a tour of her parents’ estate, Southrop, which is somehow both decadent and quaint. They take tea outside and bond over how wonderful it is that both Caroline and her mother despise emotion. Caroline admits that she’s a daddy’s girl, though her mother has always thrown her wonderful birthday parties — cue the photo of that cigarette cake that I have oh, so many questions about.
Unfortunately, her father’s health has dipped since that visit, and now she’s back at home with her mother. Both valiantly try to continue acting like there’s no use bothering with emotions. Or, as Caroline puts it, “I just prefer that you not know I’m upset — that doesn’t mean I’m not upset.” As someone who has a tendency to also be this way, I can see how it might be bothersome to friends and family. They think you’re fine and then suddenly you’re raving about loyalty. But Caroline seems to be in a good place now. She even manages to touch her mother’s hand in comfort! For both women, it’s nearly too affectionate.
Back at the regatta, the other ladies are settling in for a day of drinking alcohol out of chests with extra-long straws. Much of the Henley Royal Regatta seems to revolve around straws: how long they are, and what weird things you can put them in. Much of the regatta also seems to revolve around Julie trying to bring the drama.
When Adela asks if she should confront Juliet in front of everyone — clearly new to this Bravo thing — Julie literally screams, “YES!” Juliet happens to come back at that moment, and Julie says, “Oh, were your ears burning?” so Adela is forced to tell Juliet that they were just talking about her. Without standing up for Juliet in any way whatsoever, I will say that this was the worst possible way to confront Juliet about her defensive nature. Arriving at a table to find that a group has been talking about you could make anyone defensive, let alone the personification of a screaming banshee Roomba.
Somehow, Juliet doesn’t freak out. She just says that she’s put up a wall because she was too nice when she first moved to London. (Okay, girl!) Now she’s realized she doesn’t need 100 friends or everyone to like her. (Congrats, girl!) Adela says that helps her understand, since she just didn’t want Juliet to think she was saying things behind her back that she wouldn’t say to her face. Once Juliet realizes Adela may have been talking behind her back, she nearly goes into full kamikaze mode, but Julie decides it’s her turn to be the annoying expat instead. As everyone agrees that they’d rather their friends express any annoyances directly to them, Julie screams, “Shut up! Honestly, people!” Ugh.
Julie’s whole thing is that she doesn’t think it’s “talking behind someone’s back” if you’re just expressing your feelings. Of course, her real thing is that she’s annoyed because “I can’t go to Sophie anymore and say how I feel about Caroline because they’re ’sisters-in-law.’” JULIE, YES. That is exactly right. You can talk shit about Caroline Stanbury to anyone else, just not Sophie. And Sophie, bless her heart, explains one (hopefully) last time that it’s a boundary she just won’t cross.
After her emotional time in Scotland, Marissa is finally heading to see her doctor, and man, this storyline really cuts deep. I got way teary when she talked about being conflicted about connecting with baby Sadie for fear of it hurting worse if she lost her. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it again, so I can understand why Marissa wound up crying herself. Her doctor is also very understanding, and I’d say he has about 120 percent more credibility than any other doctor I’ve ever seen on one of these shows. He tells her that everything she’s feeling is normal, but if she starts feeling as emotional as she was in Scotland, they need to keep an eye on it.
Thank goodness for a brief emotion-overload reprieve via Caroline Fleming, who brings her charming brand of crazy to Ravens Ait for her traditional Midsummer’s Eve celebration. A cute, unassuming event planner named Liam comes down to the water taxi to meet her and Juliet, but Caroline instructs him to “get on the boat for a minute.” See, a friend advised her that “when people clear their houses of spirits … this is the island that the spirits come to.” Liam sputters out, “That’s the first time I’ve heard that before,” and Caroline reasons that he must be doing alright because the spirits have chosen to come there and are therefore happy. Every second of the exchange is amazing, topped off by Caroline dousing everyone in holy water like the Young Pope she is. She’s really excited to host Midsummer on the island, but it’s also dredging up emotion, because it will be the first time she’s planned one since her mother passed. She tells Juliet that she feels ready to start her own traditions, but she also gets very emotional in that moment: “I’m not overwhelmed by my sadness anymore … it’s just very big right now.”
All of the emotions are very big right now! A few questions for the road: Were you on as much of an emotional roller coaster as I was? Did you notice that Caroline Fleming served Barefoot wine to Marissa, and were you surprised or impressed? On a similar note, did any listeners of a certain podcast notice a certain rosé-non-grata being served at the Henley Royal Regatta?