- Jailbreak time at the Châtelet prison! The prisoners are revolting! Well, some of them are, although their teeth remain notably white and shiny in most cases. The outside world isn't much better, however, since the Red Guard are on hand to shoot them indiscriminately, while the less-than-motivated Marcheaux is distracted by pretty fabrics he could make glitzy new jackets out of.
- Then the Muskeboys turn up for the riot and halleluyah, we have the first CONFIRMED CARROT SIGHTING of the season! Porthos's horse seems almost as happy about it as I was.
Fans of Paris's most shamelessly dangly market will be pleased to see that the candle stall is right next to the carrot stall, as is traditional, although the sausage stall wasn't in evidence this time around. Still, we have several episodes left for the stallholders of Paris to work themselves up into a fully Freudian frenzy for the finale.
- We're also introduced to the most relevant prisoners to this week's tale: Joubert, a misunderstood locksmith, and Borel, a gleefully stabby fellow with delusions of kingliness. Grimaud's task is to rob the King's gold reserves with the unfortunate Joubert's help; meanwhile, mean old Uncle Feron will be attending a six-year-old's birthday party and NOT enjoying it... well, not unless there are opium-laced fairycakes. And all of this before the opening credits. I can barely keep up, viewers.
- Oh, and since Marcheaux has to spend the episode doing something more in line with his skill level (e.g. organizing a piss-up in a brewery), the Muskeboys get the thankless task of rounding up the rest of the prison runaways. Still, at least they've got carrot-spotting to keep them interested.
- "We must transform this little palace into a magical fairyland!" announces King Louis, who probably wants to be the sparkliest fairy of them all but may be compensating for the size of his wand. Meanwhile, grumpy old Uncle Feron feels more like a pelican, because whichever way he turns, he's got a massive bill in front of him (© Blackadder the Third). And with Van Laar the Dutch financier coming to the party, his rate of interest is falling fast, despite what he says to Treville. "There are dangerous criminals on the streets of Paris while you plan party games", Treville reminds him, although he neglects to lend Feron the Approved Garrison Games Guidebook, featuring such jolly japes as Athos Bobbing, Pass the Porthos, Truth or D'Art, and that old favourite, Pin the Blame on the Aramis.
- "If we speak together, surely the King must hear us", says Sylvie to her activist chums. Nice sentiment, hampered only by the fact that the King wouldn't know a reasoned argument if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord, singing "Reasoned Arguments Are Here Again" (© Blackadder's Christmas Carol). Anyway, the jailbreak gives Sylvie plenty of opportunity to practise her three favourite hobbies: peddling sedition, thwacking wrong-doers over the head, and getting hot and bothered with Athos. Gruffly gorgeous and hairily heroic though he continues to be (swoon), he's still a bit of a disappointment to Sylvie, especially since she's worked out that he gave up being a comte not because he's principled and righteous but more because he couldn't be arsed.
- "We're sorry to hear of the Ambassador's incapacity", says Treville to Van Laar, causing me to imagine some sort of tragic Ferrero Rocher avalanche. Treville is discombobulated to hear that Feron's secretly taken out a loan for TWO MILLION LIVRES. Accounting for inflation, this is probably enough cash to buy Belgium, and still have change left over for a lifetime's worth of haircare products.
- While Grimaud's threatening Joubert's wife if Joubert doesn't open a fancy lock that he designed himself, Feron begins rising to a zenith of anxious twitchiness, kindled by the revelation that Treville knows about his debt problems. He sneaks into the King's rooms to snaffle the incriminating paperwork but is foiled by the strange symbiotic lifeform that is his bewigged nephew. (Is Lil' Louis controlling that wig himself, or does it control him?)
- Constance and Aramis, meanwhile, are a lot more excited at the chance for an action scene (calm down, D'Artagnan, it's not THAT sort of action), and stage a daring rescue of Joubert's wife. In the process, Constance finds out she has "the scent of the garrison... in a good way". Hmm, I know Aramis already has his own fragrance, but I'm not sure that Scent Of The Garrison will be a big seller at Christmas, unless lots of people dream of smelling of unwashed cadet with a tang of pony poop.
- "I'm lonely." Aww, poor Queenie. Come on, Constance, get out of that garrison and give your BFF some support, girl! Meanwhile, the ailing King keeps making not-so-veiled comments about knowing all of Queenie's secrets. This must mean Aramis, right? But why does he believe that now? Has he rewatched season 2 on DVD and realized what he was missing the first time? And also, how can he be this obsessed with his son and yet not question his paternity? Or maybe he does question his paternity but thinks it doesn't matter since he's the one who's bonded with the baby? I have many, many questions here, but I hope we won't have to wait too long for the answers.
- Suddenly there's a rush of entries for Most Momentous Mistake of the Week. Grimaud sends a henchperson to tell Feron to delay the return of the prisoners... but MISTAKE: Feron's distracted by a Dutchman and doesn't really listen! Feron decides to devise his own plan for dealing with debt... but MISTAKE: it's just a little TOO cut-throat! (Never have I identified more with Feron than at his total blank-out in the face of insuperable housework issues.) D'Artagnan leaves King Borel the Deluded with some nuns... but MISTAKE: Borel has a violent and traumatic past that possibly involves cannibalism! The Red Guards turn up to take the prisoners back to the prison... but MISTAKE, because Feron forgot to delay them! Marcheaux turns up to help his boss... but DOUBLE MISTAKE: he uncovers a gaping void in the evil workflow structure AND has an unexpected corpse to clear up! It's all go, innit?
- Joubert finishes making a fancy key for his fancy lock so Grimaud can get into the fancy vault with the fancy gold, but the scheduling cock-up means the prisoners come back early AND the Muskeboys have worked out what's going on. Amid the chaos, Grimaud manages to sneak out in his covert cloak of grubbiness, conveniently worn over a hugely tasteless getaway outfit that makes him look like a cross between the Laughing Cavalier and a Neil Diamond tribute act.
- So the nice Joubert is okay but oops, the nasty Borel hasn't behaved himself in the convent and now there are dead nuns EVERYWHERE. Poor D'Artagnan is heartbroken and even Athos gazing sexily at him can't help. Still, there's no time to angst – they've got to rush off to the Dauphin's party and stop the after-dinner entertainment from getting too stabby, while simultaneously keeping Aramis's groin as far away from the Queen as is practical. Never let it be said that these boys can't multi-task.
- Aramis is understandably sympathetic to D'Artagnan's nun-killing woes, although his own convent-based mishap involved spilling bodily fluids of a totally different variety. Meanwhile Borel's mucking around in the King's rooms, burning his paperwork and being more sinister than you might think was possible in an ill-fitting poodle wig. And amid the feathery palm trees and massive piles of fruit, the King decides to make everyone swear loyalty to the Dauphin, because as every party hostess know, there's nothing like the threat of execution for treason to whip up your guests' appetite for jelly and ice cream. Feron takes a nasty tumble but fortunately the Dauphin has definitely inherited his bio-daddy's relaxed attitude in the face of mayhem. Aww.
- Hold on a minute, how the heck did Marcheaux get that corpse out to the garden without anyone noticing? Is there a secret tunnel somewhere, or did he tell people it was a sack of emergency party poppers?
- Time for a dramatic climax, people! The Queen's attempt at having a relaxing lie-down is foiled by Borel the Not-King who's gone a bit Travis Bickle. Cleverly she convinces him to go for an ominous walk outside, and due to Musketeer intervention, she manages to have a lie-down after all, albeit on the ground with Aramis on top of her... AND everyone standing around watching, so it's not as good as it sounds. In the hilariously awkward aftermath, Louis's crappy reaction to having his party interrupted is no surprise, but it's a reminder that the actual King is also a strange obsessive with a tenuous grasp on reality, although fortunately a bit less bloodthirsty than his stalker fan. That poor Queenie, though. You might as well date her, Aramis, her life couldn't really get much worse.
- As Treville and Feron come to a mutual assured shutting-up agreement, I found myself suddenly pondering a new potential meme: Otters Who Look Like They're About To Strangle Governor Feron. What do you reckon?
- Back at the garrison, Athos has a chat with his BFF D'Artagnan in his BSS (Black Shirt of Shaggability).
"Why do I feel like I'm fighting for the wrong side?" says D'Artagnan, and suddenly the little brain-wheels under Athos's luxuriant locks click into place: yes, social consciousness and romance DO go together, and he's been behaving like an idiot! So he rushes off to see Sylvie and tell her so, using his tongue. A lot. Yay!
- And now, the minutes from the Season 3 Bad Guys' climactic conspiratorial crisis meeting. Grimaud is cheesed off at Feron; Feron blames the Musketeers. Grimaud wonders how they're going to afford an army now; Feron says they've still got ginger weasel Gaston and his insurgent chums. Grimaud threatens to do bad things to the four Muskeboys; Feron smirks devilishly. But never fear, viewers! Behind a nearby bit of architecture, Daddy Treville has overheard every villainous word and will surely have something to say about it…
- In conclusion: Wowzers. It started off relatively tame, but as the stakes gradually climbed higher and higher, I found myself rather gripped. Almost everybody got something interesting to do (maybe not Porthos, poor sweetie), and there are plenty of irons in the fire for the weeks to come. Still not mad about Grimaud, I must admit – he's basically just a scowl in a cloak – but I love/hate Feron more and more each week. He has the relish a proper baddy ought to have, yet with a tiny seasoning of sympathy for the devil. More of this sort of thing, please. More!
Alas, we are HALFWAY through the season now, and this thought makes me sad. Still, the next episode (BBC One, Saturday 9th July, 8.30pm) is supposed to be a really good one so let's hope my mitherings can do it justice…