- It may be raining in Paris but it's still time for a cold shower, because Athos and Sylvie have finally found a free moment for a quality bout of tonsil hockey. Athos is all wet and wearing the Black Shirt of Shaggability and has his hair in a sort of ponytail thing and frankly the whole thing's ON LIKE THE HOUSE OF BOURBON... aaaaand then D'Artagnan turns up to rain on Athos's parade and make him actually do some work for a change. Arghh. Still, at least Sylvie seems entertained rather than annoyed by it all. Presumably Athos lives in Treville's old rooms in the garrison now, not in his old flat with his bachelor bucket, so it must be tricky to bring a lady home without an accompanying chorus of "Athos and Sylvie, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G" from his oh-so-mature comrades.
- "What kind of a godless brute robs the Queen of England?" asks King Louis, since the Queen in question is actually his little sis and is now missing her stash of diamonds. The Muskeboys get the job of hunting the thief, but since they're good at multitasking, it doesn't stop them from taking the piss out of Athos's love life at the same time. I laughed heartily at Aramis winning the two-words game with "coitus interruptus", although if you're Aramis, the coitus is pretty much nonstoppicus.
- Of course, the thief in question is Emile Bonnaire from season 1's Commodities, who's taken to dressing like a cross between a peacock, a leprechaun and Gainsborough's Blue Boy. His scuttling skills can't help him for long, however, and before you can say "I'm a dandy highwayman", his wig's been returned to the wild and his ankles are getting the full Porthos treatment.
- Down at the Salon de Villainy, Grimaud turns up to tell Feron that his ship has quite literally sunk (if you're wondering who Feron would ship, it's himself/huge piles of cash, and the whole thing's on the rocks). Fortunately, "Not now, Georges" Marcheaux soon turns up and drags him to the
looLouvre, where the Queen of England (the one who was married to Charles I, history fans) is fretting about her lost jewels and overcompensating for being French by dressing like the 17th century's answer to Geri Halliwell, only without the platform boots.
London has fallen to that upstart Cromwell, you see, and she needs cash to fund a fight-back. But now her diamonds have been nicked, what will she tell the Dutch financier who was going to buy them? Step forward bastard big brother Philippe (whom Queen Gingerspice doesn't recognize at first, perhaps because he's not a real historical person), who offers to serve as a financial distraction for entirely above-board reasons, most of which are More Money To Spend On Drugs And Dressing Gowns™.
- Fascinatingly, this episode seems to have a random running subplot about Athos's sexual frustration bursting out uncontrollably all over the place. To support this assertion, I'm just going to leave this picture here and let you draw your own conclusions, okay?
- Anyway, while the Muskeboys are knocking Bonnaire around and trying to find out who he sold the diamonds to, Aramis spots one of his 57,019 exes, Pauline, who just happens to be wandering down the street accompanied by Paul McGann in questionable trousers. Disappointingly, Mr McGann's entrance did not require him to pop out of Cardinal Richelieu's secret cupboard, proclaiming that it's bigger on the inside...
- "One day you will write your memoirs and there will be a woman's name on every page", D'Artagnan tells Aramis, although he doesn't mention the worrying amount of deforestation it would cause, OR the fact that the most appropriate title has already been taken. Still, I suppose that Aramis could save on trees by writing his autobiography in musical form; it would probably be rather like this but with about 700 more verses.
- Time for the Muskeboys to go on a scenic day-trip to the countryside, albeit accompanied by a continuing stream of horseshit from Bonnaire. And to continue the theme of Athos flirting with bloody EVERYONE this week, I particularly adored his little eyebrow raise when he suggests using D'Artagnan as lady-bait.
Of course, this whole scene is comedy gold, with Lady Françoise's daughters quivering almost as much as her capacious cleavage at the sight of D'Artagnan in full Strategic Flirtation mode. And D'Artagnan gives great face, especially when he finds out Serena's an actual nightmare. Oops, sorry, I meant to type: an actual white mare.
- The giggles don't stop as the boys discuss social injustice while walking dramatically towards a horse's bum. And Serena the horse gives as good as she gets, almost driving Athos to an Indiana Jones-style just-shoot-the-bloody-thing moment until actual Disney prince D'Artagnan steps forward with his finely honed horse-whispering services, using a technique that could be best summed up as "rope-flicks and chill". Awww. Meanwhile, I've already started planning a spin-off cartoon series about Serena and Roger the Horse. It could run and run... or at least canter and gallop.
- Then it's generosity all round. While Porthos is practising redistribution of wealth by flinging jewels into a field, Sylvie's giving rousing speeches to the peasant masses and refusing dodgy hand-outs from the lurking Grimaud. Bonnaire gets a thump where it hurts from Constance, and Aramis gets permission from Athos to go and hang out with Pauline and he doesn't even have to be forced into a chastity belt first. Will wonders ever cease?
- Pauline's VERY excited about owning Pretty Stuff™, but she still needs Handsome Stuff™ to help her out because she's being blackmailed. She also needs Constance randomly appearing as an excuse to explain her backstory for the audience: she and Aramis grew up in a brothel, where Aramis's mum worked. For a moment here, I started wondering if they were retconning Aramis's youth by shoehorning in another first love before his previous first love, Isabelle (a.k.a. Sister Hélène the dead nun). But no, the other stuff happened later, after he went to live with his dad, and besides, Pauline is apparently more of a sister figure to him.
- Luckily for Feron, it turns out the Red Guard massage parlour and spa also incorporates a hot tub, opium den/chill-out room and a range of other keenly priced entertainment options for dodgy Dutchmen. Whatever will they add next week? Eyebrow threading? Colonic irrigation? Karaoke?
- A trip to see Bonnaire's contact results in a painful defenestration and a lot of banging in the night. Bonnaire wakes up to find himself on an episode of The Great French Sewing Bee, not as a contestant but as an embroidery project. Porthos makes up in enthusiasm what he lacks in stitching skills, but given that his technique involves marinating both himself and Bonnaire in wine first, I fear he may have got confused and thinks he's on Masterchef.
- While Bonnaire passes out, Athos meets up with Sylvie for round 2 of Snogfest 1643, or at least, that's his plan. Her plan, on the other hand, is to invite him to her consciousness-raising meeting. Alas, these plans are not romantically compatible. I suppose you've got to admire the woman: Athos is offering quality booze, is flatteringly lit by flickering firelight and speaking in the Sexy Growl of Ultimate Phwoarness, yet STILL she is able to resist him. All I can say is that Sylvie's knicker elastic is a damn sight more principled than I am. Of course, the plot is that she is ready for an actual relationship and he isn't, probably because he hasn't got over snogging his not-dead wife in a cupboard four years ago. Still, it's a bit unfair to blame him for being concerned about diamonds: he's tracking down a thief as a part of his day job, not forcing orphans down a mine for funsies. I'm sure it'll all sort itself out eventually, but for now, Athos faces yet another night of brooding and self-pity with his bucket of man-pain. Awww.
- Aramis visits Pauline's fairytale mansion, where she has everything a fashionable society wedding needs: pretty horsies, a Barbie Dream Coach, flower-flinging maids, Paul McGann needlessly oppressing the lower classes (boo!), and a servant chap giving Significant Looks and wanting to turn the whole thing into an episode of Don't Tell The Groom. Oh, and there's also a bemusing buffet of peculiar wedding dishes, including what looks suspiciously like ORNAMENTAL CARROT PURÉE.
Okay, I may be wrong, but in the absence of any other dangling veg this season, I choose to believe that these are covert carrots. Yes, even though that seems like a weird choice for wedding catering. I dunno, maybe the vol-au-vent hasn't been invented yet? Anyhow, Aramis investigates Corelle the starey servant in the stables and by a cunning process of elimination works out that he's the only other actor in the castle with a speaking part and therefore must be the blackmailer. (At which point, the carrot purée breathes a sigh of relief.)
- By amazing coincidence, the other Musketeers turn up for Pauline's wedding, not to be bridesmaids (boo, I would have loved to see THOSE outfits) but to find the last stolen diamond, which happens to be Pauline's wedding ring. There's a face-off with Paul McGann and his questionable wedding trousers, Aramis tries to get in the way, Athos tries to roll his eyes and aim a gun at the same time, Porthos storms off in a huff and it all gets a bit awkward. Perhaps they were trying for some kind of parallel with Athos threatening to shoot the horse earlier, but the Muskies having an ACTUAL confrontation over this seemed a bit unlikely. I did enjoy Athos and Porthos's exchange afterwards, however: "Aramis is my penance." / "Mine too." OH MY BOYS.
- Having surrendered her wedding ring, Pauline slops off to the stables to stab Corelle, whose motivation seems to have been a passionate love of Paul McGann – well, fair enough I suppose. Sadly she also slips off the edge of sanity, failing to realize that a bloodstained wedding gown always puts a bit of a damper on the ceremony, especially when you haven't even opened the booze yet so you can't blame it on red wine. Alas, yet another page of Aramis's autobiography comes to a messy end, as Paul McGann looks startled in the courtyard and wonders how soon he can put the Barbie Dream Coach up on eBay.
- Bonnaire's final attempt to escape lasts about 20 seconds and he gets dragged up before the royals for the denouement. Amid some majestic eyerolling from most of the cast, it turns out he's the Queen of England's gardener AND married to her lady-in-waiting, but somehow he manages to blag his way out of trouble by Actually Loving His Wife, aww. All that remains is to find his ill-gotten gains... and "remains" are the operative word, since they're stashed somewhere in a mass grave, urgh. Still, at least it gives the Musketeers a chance to model their new Scarf-slash-Face-Mask collection: stylish yet sensible stench-blocking for the amateur gravedigger-about-town! (Warning: contains no medical protection whatsoever.)
- Last and least, Feron and Grimaud get together to grumble about not having been in this episode much. Still, at least Feron's paid off his debts with a payday loan from QuickQuid Van Laar, and gleefully tells Grimaud what he overheard last week: Louis is dying! Now they must raise an army and Feron has a very audacious plan...
- In conclusion: While I don't find Bonnaire quite as hilarious as I think I'm supposed to, his return was an excellent excuse for lashings of intentional silliness and tongue-in-cheekery of the kind that's been in relatively short supply this seriouser-than-usual season. The whole cast got to practise their most exasperated expressions, James Callis did that thing he does where his voice sounds like it should be coming out of a much bigger body than he's got, and everyone had a pretty good time, including me. Well, I never did.
In the ongoing game of Hunt-The-Musketeers that has become a key part of the BBC's summer of sport, I see the next episode is on Sunday 3rd July, which (as I write this) is merely hours away. So look out for an episode review from me at some point during the week that follows...