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Paris has come out for a glimpse of the King and Queen as they pass by in their royal carriage. The Musketeers are on guard duty, but while Aramis and Athos break away to help a man being robbed by thieves, the front of the procession is left open and vulnerable. The man who was robbed turns out to be Father Luca Sestini, but we’ll come back to that later. As the carriage passes, someone tries to jump onto it but the poor woman is thrown off and crushed under the wheels.
Far from an assassination attempt, the carriage jumper's mission was to deliver a petition for women’s education to the Queen. The Comtesse Ninon De Larroque, who was the original writer of the petition, pays the King and Queen a visit. The woman who died was a pupil of hers, a servant who she took notice of and decided to give an education. The King is confused, the Queen sympathetic, and the Cardinal believes France has more important issues to deal with.
So the Cardinal does what he always does—goes behind everyone’s backs with his own master plan. He enlists the help of Milady. Her mission? Find (false) evidence that Ninon’s interest in her female pupils is…inappropriate. When he has her out of the way, France can concentrate on more serious issues like its lack of funds and need for a navy. In other words, women’s rights are pretty much irrelevant.
Constance is in distress because her friend, Fleur, disappeared after the carriage fiasco that morning. At Constance’s insistence, The Musketeers head to Ninon’s to see if she knows anything of Fleur’s whereabouts. Ninon isn’t very pleased with the testosterone filled intrusion, informing them that Fleur’s disappearance probably has something to do with her family pressuring her to marry. Ninon doesn’t just teach women, she gives them a place to be free from the constraints of marriage, and encourages them to think for themselves.
We told you we’d come back to Luca Sestini. He has come to visit the Cardinal and he’s mad that France has Sweden as an ally. All those damn Protestants. Luca is not pleased and fears for the King’s soul, or so he says. Then in a truly manipulative move, he drops the bomb that the Pope is sick and the Cardinal may be next in line. If he deals with Ninon accordingly, that is.
At Ninon’s, Aramis tells D’Artagnan that he’ll give him a lesson in women but it’s Athos who ends up making out with Ninon in a random bedroom. She asks him to come back later for dinner. She should have planned the outing herself because Athos’ idea of a nice night out is bringing his date to visit the dead body of one of her pupils. He says he didn’t mean to upset her, but he was definitely doing it to see if she was guilty.
Apparently Ninon forgives him, and they continue their date with a stroll and talk of her “rebellion”, AKA her refusal to be essentially sold into a marriage. A Cardinal-sanctioned raid on Ninon’s home interrupts their progressive talk. After finding what they’d come for, Fleur as well as three other runaways, they arrest Ninon, dragging her off to await trial.
At the trial Ninon claims she never did anything wrong. All she did was teach the girls whom she brought under her wing. Fleur takes the stand and corroborates her story, though The Cardinal tries to twist her words. Then the Cardinal’s personal assassin, Madame de la Chapelle, or Milady, is called to the stand. She says Ninon gave her, and other women alcohol and drugs and basically sexually assaulted them. Athos, recognizing her voice, tries to intervene, saying she’s a liar and not who she says she is. But working for the Cardinal has its benefits, namely protection.
So Athos and Ninon can do nothing as Milady sweeps out of the room, a smug smile on her face. The Cardinal pronounces Ninon guilty but before she is taken away and burned alive, the Queen enters. She says the King wishes for Ninon to be spared unless she confesses of her own free will. Before the Cardinal can saying anything else ridiculous and completely untrue, he keels over, clutching his throat.
So someone poisoned the Cardinal, but whom? He has so many enemies that could be trying to kill him. The Musketeers rush to his rescue while the King stands around looking like a lost puppy. When the Cardinal finally awakes, it is Milady who is at his bedside. His first order of business after almost dying is to ensure the death of Ninon, after which all her money and property will be given to the State.
Milady, working on behalf of the Cardinal, blackmails Ninon. She threatens to kill all her pupils if she doesn’t plead guilty both to being a witch and to attempting to poison the Cardinal. Milady may be amoral but she at least can manipulate others morality for her own good.
When retrieving Luca’s bag from the morgue, the Musketeers find a bottle of poison inside, making him the Cardinal’s would-be assassin. As Ninon is readied for her execution, the Musketeers rush to save her and to stop the second assassination attempt that is surely under way. As they run into the Cardinal’s room, they find Luca trying to stab him in his sleep. How noble. A shot to the chest is all it takes and Luca is down for the count, the Cardinal safe once more. It’s hard to tell if the Musketeers all that happy about it since the Cardinal has tried to kill them on more than one occasion.
The Musketeers plead for Ninon’s life and the Cardinal, who has cheated death twice in the last few days, taps into his oft forgotten compassionate side, and agrees to let her go. Well, sort of. She still has to give all her land and money to the State. But the Cardinal is not a completely unreasonable guy; he gives her an allowance and forbids her from ever returning to Paris or to speak of what happened that day.
Just when you think the episode is over, the relationship that’s been teetering on the edge of romance finally kicks off. That’s right, D’Artagnan and Constance start going at it right in her kitchen. Good thing her husband is never around. Constance, you run an Inn, get a room!
image courtesy of Jennifer Graylock/INFphoto.com