Bridgerton Recap: A Lost Cause

by 24USATVMay 16, 2024, 3 p.m. 19
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Many thanks to Bridgerton (and specifically Sarah L. Thompson, who wrote this episode) for the full-on rom-com goodness we’re getting here. Nicola Coughlan is nailing the comedy (no surprise for our Derry Girl, but it still must be said) and Luke Newtown is nailing the art of the swoon — and I simply cannot wait until Colin and Pen are nailing each other. Of course, we are well aware from seasons past that the anticipation is part of the fun. Sure, we’re only two episodes deep, but thus far this season is really bringing it in terms of carefully pushing our leads closer and closer to the moment we all know they’re headed for, of letting us see the wheels turning in Colin’s head as he slowly starts to see Penelope in a different way.

Newton especially has a tall order to fill at this point in the story. Although TV Colin and Penelope’s storyline is played out much differently from the book version (the TV version has much more urgency, and having Colin mentor Penelope was such a smart move), we’re still getting some iconic book moments that stay true to the heart of fan-favorite scenes even if the details have changed. We get two such scenes in this episode. Two scenes in Romancing Mister Bridgerton are at least partially told from Colin’s perspective, delivering some important character interiority that just isn’t possible in the same way on screen. These two scenes — the cut hand and the kiss — are wildly important beats in Colin’s arc and his realization that maybe he’s never taken the time to see Penelope for who she really is. We obviously can’t read his rapid-fire thoughts about some surprising feelings bubbling up, nor is he ready to talk about those feelings with anyone — this is all face, baby. And Luke Newtown delivers. We know exactly what he’s thinking without it being over the top. I knew Coughlan was born for this part, but Newton is no slouch either. Should we get into the nitty-gritty of it all? Let’s promenade, people!

Colin Bridgerton’s Charm School kicks off immediately — no, seriously: When Colin and Penelope purposefully cross paths while promenading, Pen asks if they’ll start with some charm-based reading materials (so Penelope), but Colin says, oh, no, they’re diving in head first (so Colin). She’s got a fan, she has eyelashes to flutter, and she’s going to flirt with a group of eligible bachelors right now. Wow, wow, wow, babes, it is such a disaster. Coughlan is so funny here, floundering in spectacular fashion. When they meet a second time, Penelope is sure Colin’s going to call the whole thing off. She’s a lost cause, she says. But Colin doesn’t think that’s true at all. He just wanted to see what he was working with before he got deeper into these lessons. He knows she can be charming because he’s seen it. The very first time they met — when her yellow bonnet flew into his face and knocked him off his horse into a puddle of mud (we don’t get to see it, but what a meet-cute) — she was endlessly charming as she teased him. It’s very sweet that he recalls this whole thing, and while it’s clear Penelope has come to grips with needing to move on from her unrequited crush, you know it feels good for her to hear this. Colin retains a vivid memory from when they first met years ago, and my dude is skipping out on his regular threesome to meet up with her? He may not be able to admit it yet, but come on, this guy already has it bad.

He thinks Penelope’s problem is that she is worried too much about what others think. That’s really rich coming from a man who can literally do whatever and act however he wants with little to no consequences, but sure, Col, Pen will work on that. He has an idea: He wants Penelope to practice some flirting in an atmosphere where she’s already comfortable in order to get her out of her head. That place happens to be the Bridgerton House drawing room. Netflix released this scene of Penelope’s practice flirt with Colin getting way too real early on during its marketing for the new season, and it was at that moment I knew we had nothing to worry about in regards to this season. These two ooze chemistry even when — especially when? — not saying a single word. And now, in context, this scene really hits.

Before they can be too embarrassed about it, they hear Eloise coming home early from the Modiste. Colin may not have any idea why Pen and his sister had a falling out, but he certainly doesn’t want to upset either of them, so he has Penelope hide in the study until the coast is clear. Once there, Penelope promptly comes across Colin’s journal from his travels and she is a human being, so she reads it. It’s quite sensual. This kid may have a future in writing romance novels! Tell me more about starlight on skin, Number Three. Talk to me about your sad boy musings about being intimate and distant at the same time. By the time Colin walks in, aghast that she would read his writings, Penelope is flustered, she is breathless. The two argue about the breach of privacy, there is some comotion, and Colin winds up cutting his hand on some glass from a candle holder.

Has Colin ever been more vulnerable in front of Penelope than in this moment? She is tending to his hand; they are crouched down, eye-to-eye, and he knows she’s read his very personal writing. When she, barely making eye contact, tells him how good it is, he’s taken aback. Nothing gets an aspiring writer more hot and bothered than when someone compliments their work (I told you this season is for the writers!). You see it in his face: He is taking in Penelope anew. He is noticing things he’s never noticed before.

Once again, these two break their little spell like the good rom-com characters they are, realizing they are on the brink of having to be real with each other. Penelope is off! Of course, she doesn’t get out of the house without accidentally running into Eloise. This becomes a point of contention later, when Colin and Eloise are in the same carriage on the way to that evening’s ball. Colin’s still trying to put the pieces together to figure out why these two aren’t friends anymore — he’s especially confused when Eloise purports not to want to speak to her but also wants to know if she’s doing okay. Colin tells her that Pen is just fine, that she wants to find a husband this season, and that he’s helping her do just that. Eloise reminds him how damaging that could be to the two of them if that info got out which, you’re right, is definitely foreshadowing for what is to come!

It’s a shame because up until that point, the evening is going so well. And I mean that both for Penelope’s flirting skills but also for Colin and Pen’s deepening relationship. Neither has to try to be charming around the other; they are just themselves, and it is so, so lovely to see. But things turn sour when Eloise blabs about Colin helping Pen to Cressida and another one of the ladies nearby hears it … and well, gossip is meant to be spread right? Later, Eloise reams out Cressida for spilling her secrets, and Cressida has to put Eloise in her place and … I can’t believe I kind of feel for Cressida Cowper in this moment? A wild turn of events!

Anyway, back at the ball, everyone is pointing at and whispering about Penelope because these people have absolutely zero chill. Case in point: When Colin demands to know what they’re whispering about, one of the mamas (!!) says that they’re just wondering “why an eligible gentleman such as [him] would help a spinster find a husband?” Like, go jump in the Thames, lady! And so we get our second ball that ends with Penelope leaving in tears and Colin trying to run after her.

Penelope is no dummy, so she knows that Whistledown has to write about this lest she give herself away, but boy, is she awfully cruel to herself. Writing about how Penelope Featherington will have zero prospects, that she has no hope whatsoever. We get an interesting scene with Penelope and Portia once the gossip sheet goes public: Portia is livid that her daughter would be such a fool and that she is “being unreasonable about what [she] can achieve” as far as her marital status. These are harsh words from a mother to a daughter (par for the course with these two but still), but there is an interesting moment right before Portia leaves. Her face seems to say that she does see that her daughter is hurting and she does want to do something to comfort her; she just doesn’t know how. Portia is such an interesting, complicated character and I’m hoping that Penelope getting the spotlight this season means their relationship is too. What a world of difference from the mother/child relationships going on over at the Bridgerton house.

Speaking of, Violet is still trying to figure out how to best handle Francesca this season. She expresses concern to Lady Danbury that Francesca could very well just settle for the first adequate match that comes along. She is dead right and doesn’t even know it. We’re privy to a conversation between Eloise and Francesca in which Fran tells her sister that she mostly just wants to get this whole marriage thing over with so she can move on from the chaos of the marriage mart (and Bridgerton House if she’s being honest).

Lady Danbury’s advice to her friend is to perhaps let Francesca simply be herself and see what happens. Technically, Lady Danbury doesn’t have a job, but let’s be for real here: Her job is definitely getting hot people in the ton married, and goddamn is she good at it. In an effort to let Francesca be herself, Lady D leads her to an empty room with a piano and gives her time to go at it; it is her happy place. Meanwhile, she’s telling the Queen, who is still open to selecting a diamond of the season as long as someone is worthy of the title (and won’t embarrass her in Whistledown), to come check out a painting in the same room. Queen Charlotte is incredibly impressed with Francesca when she finds her at the piano — and not just with her skills. It’s more the fact that Fran is obviously playing, not as an act to get the Queen’s attention, but because she loves to play, that leaves a lasting impression. She all but declares her the diamond then and there. We’ll see what kind of prospects that throws into Francesca’s orbit and if she is even interested in entertaining them.

At the moment, however, we have more pressing matters to attend to! Once again, Colin decides he must go see how Penelope is doing in the face of such embarrassment. Only this time, he arrives at her garden gate at night, and he pays her lady’s maid to give them some privacy. I wish Colin had one real friend because that friend would look at these choices and be like, Dude, sir, you have it so bad for this woman and you don’t even know it.

It’s okay; Colin’s about to realize that all on his own.

When he finds her at the gate, she is not okay. She calls herself a “sad, stupid girl who believed she might have a chance at love.” Colin can’t bear to hear her talk about herself this way. But, like she said as Whistledown, she has lost all hope. She doesn’t believe it will ever happen for her and that’s why she decides to ask Colin to kiss her. It won’t mean anything, she tells him, but she knows she will likely never be kissed and she doesn’t want to die not knowing what that feels like. Can we talk about this moment right here? Coughlan and Newton are so good. Penelope looks so desperate for this — not in a pathetic way, but in a way that is screaming how much she needs this. Colin just wants to find a way to help her and make her feel better. She wants this, and he wants to give her whatever she wants. So they kiss. It is soft. It is romantic. It is very satisfying to watch as a viewer!

Penelope, true to her word that this wouldn’t mean anything, says “Thank you” and runs off. But she only promised it wouldn’t mean anything to her. That look on Colin’s face as he processes what happened? That looks says it definitely meant something to him. All this time, Penelope has declared herself a lost cause, but I’ll tell you who’s a lost cause — this dope, trying to convince us he isn’t madly in love with his best friend. We see you, Colin Bridgerton. We see you finally seeing her.
• I mean: Do we really need to see Colin rolling around with two women? I still don’t fully buy this cavalier, do-whatever-I-please, I’m-enjoying-my-freedom-however-I-see-fit type of swagger Colin’s brought back with him from his travels. Although, perhaps that is the point? That this isn’t the real Colin? That this is an act he’ll need to drop before he can really fall in love?
• Philipa Featherington having no clue how sex actually works is hilarious but also kind of terrifying! Why didn’t Portia go over any of this before she got married? I hope this new generation of mamas are much more forthcoming with their daughters about sex. Except for Philipa, no one should ever get lessons from her on anything.
• Eloise and Benedict are my Bridgerton sibling jam, but damn if Eloise and Colin aren’t giving them a run for their money. It’s all the same money, I suppose, so it’s fine.
• The Mondriches attend their first ball and are terrified of doing something wrong, but wind up getting some Mayfair 101 lessons from Benedict. Honestly, that man is the last person I’d take advice from on the rules of the ton, but he isn’t wrong when he informs them that, actually, don’t worry about the rules — they are already married, they are free from the rules. Go forth and sleep in the same bed and don’t feel obligated to wear ugly dresses or whatever!
• Benny boy has made it repeatedly clear that he is not looking to court anyone this season and you know that means the clock is ticking on this guy. Masquerade Ball when?!
• Oooh, Lady Danbury receives word that someone is coming for a visit and she does not seem pleased about it!
• In case you were wondering: We get a shoutout to Edwina, who has apparently made a good match abroad. She deserves all the good things!
• “I do enjoy a good turn!” Eloise dying inside whilst attempting to fit in this season will never not be funny.

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