The frigidity within the Buccaneers friend group doesn’t melt during the entire duration of the 53-minute “Women or Wives” (Episode 2), which takes place entirely at a rented cottage in the countryside town called Runningmeade. Nan arrives from Cornwall and the debutante ball is formally over, though the courtship rivalry between Lizzy, Jinny, and Richard’s brother James is far from done.
Nan is understandably icy towards her sister Jinny after the revelation that they are only half-sisters, and Jinny spends much of the early goings of the episode begging for both forgiveness and Nan’s silence. In turn, Conchita is icy towards Nan for missing the birth of her daughter and despite Nan’s many attempts to explain where she was, Conchita seems content to believe the narrative she’s spun in her head.
This weekend at the country cottage is Conchita’s plan to get some time away from Richard’s family, and she even devises a way to get him, his brother and a few friends to arrive at the cottage to party with the girls. The girls happily let loose—especially Jinny, who helps herself to quite a bit of champagne and attempts to flirt with James, who is turned off by her impropriety. Scheming, he turns his attention to Lizzy and courts her for the day. When the group decides to play a game of “Sardines” aka hide-and-seek in which Mabel is the object to be found, James and Lizzy traverse the home together and sneak into a room alone.
Lizzy, desperate for any type of attention from James since the ball, seems ready to have sex with him and at first it seems like James wants that too. He asks—no, demands—that she disrobe and lay on the chaise while he sits from afar and just watches her. Her body, on display, at his beck and call. When he leaves the room, he tells her not to move and she remains naked on the chair for hours until one of his footmen enters the room and announces that he’s gone to bed and will see her at breakfast. Intercut with this is Mabel’s conversation with Richard and James’s sister Honaria, who quickly names him a monster who doesn’t deserve any of the women vying for his attention. The plot thickens.
When breakfast does come the next morning, Conchita overhears Richard saying “there’s a difference between women and wives,” and she storms off in a huff before hearing him exude his love for her. Nan runs after her and they finally have the heart-to-heart they’ve needed to have since the beginning of the episode: Conchita says she knows Nan would’ve been there if it were up to her and shares more doubts about her future with Richard’s family. Alisha Boe’s line readings here felt a bit stilted — it feels like she’s the only one employing some sort of Victorian accent and dialogue, which is especially apparent when she’s opposite the more naturalistic Kristine Froseth.
Meanwhile, James barely looks at Lizzy, instead resetting his eyes on Jinny. In front of everyone, he compliments the fact that she’s back to her normal self today and then gets down on bended knee to propose to her. Instinctively she asks if this is real before accepting the proposal, all while Lizzy looks on somewhat horrified. Later at the creek, Lizzy stops short of warning Jinny, instead asking if this is what she really wants. Jinny, selfish as ever, asks Lizzy not to spoil the happy occasion for her.
Usually it’s Nan that spoils things for Jinny, she says, but her little sister has had a day of her own. Conchita has invited the handsome suitor from her wedding named Guy to the weekend’s shenanigans and when he arrives, he’s the only one who has been able to tell that her vibe is off. Despite Jinny’s pleas to keep it a secret, Nan immediately confides in him about her parentage and he’s supportive about the revelation.
The next day, just as her sister is being proposed to, Nan roams the gardens and spots Theo (aka the Duke, aka her artistic friend from the beach) approaching the home. He admits that he’s come all the way just to find her, enthralled by essentially only the fact that she doesn’t know he’s a Duke and still enjoyed his company. It’s a low bar to clear but something that Nan does with flying colors, and just like that, the other St. George sister has a man on his knees. The Duke proposes to Nan and everyone—including Jinny and Guy witness it—and the episode cuts before we get her answer. We can be sure the love triangle doesn’t end here (we have at least 6 more episodes of it), but even more harrowing than the confusion of two suitors is the wrath Nan will surely receive when her proposal receives more fanfare than Jinny’s.
Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Paste Magazine, Teen Vogue, Vulture and more. At any given moment, she can ruminate at length over Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You may call her Rad.
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