At the top of the episode, Anthony and the Sharmas (Bridgerton’s newest band?) and Lady Danbury meet with the Queen to discuss the impending nuptials. Anthony suggests a modest country wedding, but Her Highness insists that she’ll host the big day in town (and show Whistledown who’s boss in the process). Meanwhile, Kate’s watching the wedding come together but still keeps fantasizing about her secret, private moments with Anthony.
One day, she comes home to find Anthony and Mr. Brookes, a food-freeloading jeweler, waiting to get Edwina’s ring fitted. As Mr. Brookes mows down some lemon cake, Anthony asks Kate what she thinks of the weather (?!?), and she calls him out on his sham engagement, pointing out that if anybody other than Daphne had seen them that night at Aubrey Hall, they’d be the ones forced to be married.
Satiated, Mr. Brookes has a stroke of genius: since Kate shares gloves with her sister, why don’t they use her to size the ring instead? Anthony and Kate both object big time, but once the ring’s on, they share a moment staring at it together. She comments on its beauty and he explains it’s the same ring his father offered his mother. He delicately holds her hand, using his thumb to graze the ring and runs it along her finger, but then Edwina and Lady Mary show up. Kate and Anthony separate abruptly, but it still feels notably awkward, especially as Kate struggles to pry the clingy ring off to give her sister.
Thankfully, Lady Danbury enters with a distraction, though it’s not exactly a positive one: the Sheffields — Lady Mary’s estranged parents — are in town and will be attending the upcoming engagement dinner. Awkward family dynamics aside, Kate’s especially thrown; she still hasn’t told Lady Mary and Edwina about the Sheffields’ financial arrangement.
Time to get some fresh air! Anthony takes Edwina on a promenade while Kate and Lady Danbury walk and talk behind them. A repentant Mr. Dorset appears, requesting a turn around the lake with Kate. Edwina comments on how good they look, suggesting Dorset might help convince Kate to remain in England after the wedding. Anthony simmers in a haze of jealousy, watching them get into a rowboat together.
Kate and Mr. Dorset have a very pleasant conversation with no arguments — if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. He mentions the tranquility he associates with India, and Kate admits she’s looking forward to going back, becoming a governess, and having an independent life. Dorset had assumed she would be staying in England with her sister, but then mentions he himself thought about making his way back to India to enhance his medical practice. Kate says she would be happy to show him around, and we should all be glad Anthony can’t hear any of this, because his beautiful head would probably explode.
In true teen girl fashion, Eloise has fed her family a lie about attending a lecture on flower arranging with Penelope. Instead, she drags a chaperone into the dodgy streets of Bloomsbury (and quickly ditches her) to catch an underground assembly on women’s rights. She spots Theo Sharpe, the printshop worker who provided — and even contributed to — the pamphlet that introduced Eloise to this world. They flirt and she mentions she has some notes for him.
But let’s get back to the lake! As Kate and Mr. Dorset finish their boat ride, Edwina and Anthony await them on land. The viscount shit-talks Dorset’s knot-tying skills and insists that Kate take his hand to get out of the boat. But when Anthony’s hand lingers too long, Kate pulls hers away, sending him flying backward. He trips over Newton (who’s a good boy?) and falls back into the lake, taking Dorset with him. It’s a delightful moment of physical comedy that ends with the Sharma girls ogling Anthony’s chest, his white shirt now see-through and clinging à la Colin Firth in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries. This is art! High art!
Before heading to Lady Danbury’s for dinner, Lady Bridgerton drops in on a much drier Anthony. Worried he’ll live to regret his decision, she urges him to pursue a love marriage instead. But Anthony says it doesn’t matter what he wants at this point; he can’t dishonor Edwina. His mother agrees that a gentleman cannot withdraw his proposal but offers the juicy tidbit that a young lady can. So you’re saying there’s a chance?
Kate tries to tell Edwina about her grandparents’ arrangement as they get ready, but Lord and Lady Sheffield arrive too soon. They gush over Edwina but pay little regard to their daughter, Lady Mary, or Kate. The pettiness carries into dinner and Lady Sheffield won’t let go of the grudge against her daughter. Lady Mary, who’s been pretty demure all season, speaks up and says she’s glad her daughters grew up away from people obsessed with money and titles. This, of course, tickles Lady Sheffield; she brings up the trust fund set up for Edwina should she marry a well-bred Englishman. Though this is news to Anthony, he jumps in as Lady Sheffield criticizes Kate for eluding the truth; he calls the Sheffields out on their bad manners and says the Sharma daughters are smart, kind, and loyal thanks to the upbringing of both their parents. He kicks them out — bye-bye, inheritance.
Kate catches Anthony as he’s about to leave. Anthony says he doesn’t blame Edwina for what transpired, but it’s best to call off the engagement. Kate asks him what Edwina has done to change his mind, but Anthony says it’s Kate who’s made the match impossible. Kate reminds him she’s leaving for India anyway, and he growls at her about how that’s still too close, that no corner of the Earth is far enough to stop his torment(!).
This conversation takes a very horny turn. He tells her he’s been raised to be a gentleman, but his honor is hanging on by a thread: “You are the bane of my existence. And the object of all my desires.” (Get you a girl who can do both, Anthony.) He walks toward her, saying he dreams of her night and day: “Do you even know all the ways a lady can be seduced? The things I could teach you.” She whispers back lustily how she didn’t ask for these feelings, to be secretly distracted every time he enters the room. He brushes back a tendril of her hair and cradles her head in his hands. “Then you agree. It is insupportable.” She nods: “Impossible.” They are basically whispering into each other’s mouths, and the tops of their lips graze each other for a millisecond, but it still doesn’t count, and ALL I WANT IS FOR THEM TO KISS.
Of course, this is when he shakes his head and steps back. He says if he got married to Edwina, he and Kate would be bound for eternity: “I will spend every day of my marriage wanting you, dreaming of you, dreading the day when my last thread of honor finally snaps.” He asks if that’s the future she wants for them or Edwina (which is a very fair, forward-thinking question) and leaves.
Next, Kate checks in on a tearful Edwina, who says she’d suspected Kate may be withholding the truth about something — namely the Sheffields’ deal. Kate apologetically explains she only did it with the best of intentions for the family. Edwina points out that she’s not a little girl anymore and that the viscount will likely provide for the Sharmas if the engagement remains. Edwina also drops the bomb that she loves Anthony — how could she not after seeing him defend her family at dinner?
The next morning, as a string version of “You Oughta Know” plays, Kate rides a horse, astride as usual, back to the woods where she first encountered the viscount. They meet here once more — neither could sleep. Anthony again says he thinks it’s best to end the engagement, so he and Kate won’t have to cross paths ever again. Kate says he can’t do that, and before he can protest, she insists that he can’t break Edwina’s heart. Kate couldn’t live with herself if she were responsible for taking away Edwina’s happiness and future.
Anthony points out that Kate has been against their marriage from the start, and Kate, for maybe the first time ever, tells him that she was wrong: “I will not be the cause of you losing your honor any more than I can stand to see Edwina in pain.” This selfless Queen.
She insists the passion between them will pass, and after much pleading — and even the use of his first name — he agrees. (By the way Anthony stares at Kate, intensely searching her eyes, you know he’s doing this out of love.) He tips his hat, mounts his horse, and rides away, leaving a weeping Kate — and yes, of course, she looks gorgeous even when she cries — alone in the woods.
• While the nod to Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy was obvious, I also loved this episode’s close-up of Kate and Anthony’s hands, which felt reminiscent of Matthew Macfadyen’s legendary hand-flex in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice.
• Benedict acts as muse in his own “draw me like one of your French girls” moment (and he gets laid too!).
• Lady Featherington’s getting creative (and/or desperate). She’s considering cashing in quality counterfeit jewelry while encouraging Lord Featherington to find local investors for his (worthless) mines abroad.
• Can we get a tally counter (or compilation video!) for each time Anthony says “I am a gentleman” this season? It seemingly operates less as a statement for others to hear, and more as a reminder to himself, but, either way, it hasn’t gotten old yet. Plus, I love that he believes in the power of affirmations.
• Penelope finds out she was used as Eloise’s alibi, and after some detective work, she discovers Eloise’s clandestine pastime. She does not approve.
• This episode ends in such a sad place (poor Kate!), so, instead, I leave you with this image: Anthony brooding in a tub.