This episode is a doozy. Traumatic flashbacks, pall-mall(!), and a final scene that strays considerably from the book (and in my opinion, for a good reason). Let’s get into it!
We start with a flashback to ten years prior. Teenage Anthony, who sports curly hair that looks like a Regency e-boy’s haircut, is stag-hunting with his dad, Edmund. It’s prime father-son bonding, and we’ve never seen Anthony this happy and at ease. He clearly worships his dad and suggests nothing fazes him, but Edmund says his wife would disagree — and that “you cannot show someone your best without allowing them to see your worst.” Food for thought, Anthony!
As they head home, Edmund decides to pick lilacs for his wife from their garden but is stung by a bee — a seemingly innocuous occurrence unless you’ve seen My Girl. Suddenly he’s gasping for air and on the ground. Anthony shouts for help, a super-pregnant Violet runs out, and Edmund dies in her arms. Anthony’s mother yells at him to make sure his siblings don’t see the traumatic scene he just experienced firsthand.
Flash-forward to a much happier present day. The Sharmas and Lady Danbury are en route to Aubrey Hall, the Bridgertons’ ancestral home out in the country. Anthony’s invited them to stay over before the rest of the ’ton arrives for a party. A possible proposal to Edwina is in the air, and Kate has promised to be amiable.
When they arrive, Anthony first approaches Kate, who admires the picturesque estate and its climbing plants. “I see my plan to win you over is already working,” he says, noting her smile. And then: “Mark my words, Miss Sharma. By the end of your stay, your opinion of me will be much improved.” Daphne interrupts this scheduled foreshadowing to introduce herself, thinking Kate must be Edwina, which Anthony hastily corrects.
Outside, Daphne gives the Sharma girls a crash course on pall-mall, a croquetlike game that the Bridgertons play with warlike intensity. While the goal is to send your ball through every wicket, players can choose (and, at chez Bridgerton, are encouraged) to knock an opponent’s ball off course instead — an allowance that bewilders Edwina but fires up Kate’s competitive streak.
Kate chooses the ominously titled “mallet of death” — Anthony’s usual go-to. Adding salt to the wound, Kate jumps at the chance to send Anthony’s ball sailing deep into a thicket, much to the delight of his siblings. But then Colin knocks Kate’s ball in the same direction, so she and Anthony storm toward the wooded area alone together while Daphne watches them with intrigue.
Both balls land in a muddy marsh. Kate wades in ankle-deep and whacks hers out, mucking up her dress in the process. After an indignant Anthony rescues his own ball, Kate realizes she’s stuck. She holds out her hand, asking for his help, and after a few tugs, they both go tumbling into the sludge and eventually succumb to laughter. It’s cuuuute. And I’m not sure we’ve ever seen Anthony laugh like this?
Absolutely filthy but in good spirits, Anthony asks how he can finally win Kate’s approval. Kindly, she explains she’s not being spiteful, just protecting her sister — as he does for the women in his family. A truce is called, though only when it comes to Edwina; Kate playfully hits Anthony’s ball farther away. When he sees where it lands, though, his face falls and he trudges back toward the house, where Daphne’s won the game. Kate goes to retrieve the ball and finds a memorial monument for Edmund.
Throughout the episode, Anthony’s haunted by more memories, each one conveying how he’s had to grow up too fast — making his father’s funeral arrangements and being thrust unwittingly into the role of viscount. Later, another memory surfaces where he’s asked to choose whether his mother or her baby should be saved during labor (thankfully, both survived). The man has experienced and stifled a whole lot of trauma. It’s no wonder he’s so counter-dependent and disconnected from his needs. I feel bad for laughing at him last episode.
Thankfully, this episode isn’t all doom and gloom for Anthony. He and Edwina share a sweet, flirty, and honest conversation where she references poet Mirza Ghalib; he admits he only has time to balance books, not read them; and they discuss how their dynamic might play out long-term. Later that night, Edwina gushes about the chat to Kate, whose face reads wistful.
Meanwhile, a skeptical Daphne prods Anthony about his impending proposal. She doesn’t have any objections against Edwina per se but wants to make sure Anthony weds someone he loves passionately — someone he burns for, to borrow a phrase. Anthony copies and pastes everything she just said: Yes, this is how he feels. However did she know?
This whole time, Benedict’s been anxiously waiting to hear about his application to study art at the Royal Academy Schools. To help him relax and clear his head, Colin gives his brother drugs he picked up during his travels. It does seem like it could help; if you can’t go to art school, bring art school to you! But in a rookie move, Benedict bogarts the powder, emptying all of it into his tea.
Anthony visits his dad’s grave, and another memory is triggered — this time of witnessing his mother’s debilitating grief well after Edmund’s death. The memory’s interrupted, though, by present-day Violet. She’s noticed he seems weighed down and she points out that his familial duty and a true-love marriage aren’t mutually exclusive. Have your cake and eat it too, Anthony! But Anthony believes that by eschewing love, he can avoid the intense heartbreak he witnessed growing up. He refers to her absence after the tragedy and says he never wants to be responsible for such pain.
At dinner, Benedict’s tripping balls and spilling drinks while Daphne’s hip to Anthony’s clear chemistry with Kate, though he plans to propose to her sister within moments. When he’s asked to provide a toast, he starts strong but then locks eyes with Kate mid-speech (he should know better than to look at her by now). So, of course, he flakes when it comes to asking for Edwina’s hand. Kate exhales with relief, but Edwina’s shook up.
Later that night, Kate tenderly gives her heartbroken and embarrassed sister an oil champi — an Ayurvedic practice (from which the word “shampoo” is derived, FYI). It’s a quick but lovely scene between the two. Distressed at the sight of Edwina’s pain, Kate says she knew Anthony would hurt her. She wipes Edwina’s tears, reminding her that she’s still the season’s diamond and has tons of prospects.
That same night, Benedict receives good news from the Royal Academy Schools and, still blitzed, tearfully practices an acceptance speech. Eloise calls Colin out on being insufferable since returning from Greece. So to counter her accusation, he does what all very chill, non-annoying people do: he brings up his ex! Colin asks if she’s corresponded with Marina Thompson, the reason he disappeared in the first place. Eloise hasn’t been in touch with her but mentions she leaves nearby.
The next day, Kate spots Anthony by the gardens. He explains he still intends on proposing to Edwina, and Kate accuses him of toying with her sister’s emotions. Do we get another epic argue-fest? We could — we should — but suddenly Anthony sees a bee hovering by Kate’s collarbone. He urges her to stay still, but it stings her. Poor Anthony starts to spiral, frantically asking if she’s hurt and whether she can breathe. She notices his frenzied state and insists she’s fine. She places his hand on her heart and hers on his, trying to ground him. His panting slows, their noses brush together, they gaze at each other’s eyes and lips. (Are panic attacks supposed to be hot? I’m so conflicted.) A horse neighs in the distance and brings them back to earth. They run away from each other, overwhelmed and startled. What just happened?
This pivotal moment plays pretty differently in the actual book: Kate gets stung and Anthony desperately tries to express the bee venom, pinning Kate down while she asks him to stop, pressing against her breast with a handkerchief, and then, worried he didn’t get it all out, attempting to suck the venom out with his mouth. (The aftermath is different too, but getting into that feels spoiler-y.)
Tit-sucking aside (and okay, yes, that’s a big aside), the book’s sequence of events isn’t overtly sexual; Anthony is 100 percent panicked, certain he’s about to watch Kate suffer the same fate as his father. Still, I imagine the book’s version might’ve come off as too comedic or over-the-top with real visuals provided. Plus, knowing how much Kate protests, and considering Bridgerton’s tenuous relationship with matters of consent last season, the current approach seems way more ethically responsible, not to mention plausible. And honestly, there’s something so sweet about Kate intuiting that Anthony needs her help to calm down and then reversing roles so that she makes a physical gesture to help save him. Oh my God, will these two just get together already?!!
• Newton does not like Anthony, which is obviously funny since Kate says he’s a good judge of character, but it is also a tiny bit sad. It’s not his fault he’s the way he is, Newton! Teach him your ways; teach him what it means to love!
• Lord Featherington officially has his eyes set on Cressida Cowper, which makes Lady Featherington worry about her family’s future. So, of course, she decides her daughter Prudence should seduce and marry him — her cousin — instead: “It is not odd to marry one’s cousin. It is regal. Just look at the royal family.”
• We get to see Daphne’s gorgeous baby son, Augie.
• Of course Anthony wants to pick pall-mall mallets based on alphabetical order.
• As they play, Kate mercilessly tells Anthony his “follow-through seems widely off course,” which certainly feels like foreshadowing — we’ll see!
• “Cousin Jack did not glance once at my bosom.”
• I loved seeing Kate’s sachet of spices to make chai on the go — those who keep hot sauce in their purses can probably relate.
• Iconic entrepreneurs Madame Delacroix and Penelope Featherington are secretly joining forces! Who run the world?