“Swish” should have been titled something along the lines of “The One Where All the Secrets Come Out” because really, that title does not set up the amount that happens in this episode or how it makes anyone feel. This one’s a tough one to cover. Sometimes while you may feel one way about an episode, others feel differently—we don’t all read or watch the things the same way, but there are somethings most of us can collectively agree on being right or wrong. At the same time, where fiction especially is concerned, we can like something even while we fully acknowledge that it’s problematic. And there are more than a few things in this episode that are. But nevertheless, it isn’t lacking in beautiful moments and it thematically brings to light what we’ve been saying all along, which is that transparency matters, and it particularly matters in relationships—romantic or platonic.
The newlyweds start off thriving in Clyvedon while the Bridgertons are met with surprising news at an afternoon garden party. “Swish” starts off with a lot of laughter and ends with tears, which is somewhat fitting since we’re almost close to the end–and things must get dark before they get better.
That said, let’s get into it with Colin and Marina, and the amount of drama this has caused. Proposing without telling your family is one thing, announcing it publicly is another, but Colin Bridgerton has a lot to learn and perhaps Anthony yelling at him isn’t the way to go about this. It is however, more than anything just a fascinating distinction between men and women, for it once again reveals that where men are expected to have screwed around, women would be scorned for life if that were the case. It’s a clear reminder of the patriarchal society we’re in and a rather obvious display of the double standards. Colin shouldn’t marry not because he hasn’t had much experience, but because he doesn’t know the woman he’s marrying, and hasty marriages only work when two people have been caught in a compromising situation. But since they have not made the effort to show the friendship between Colin and Marina, we as viewers could decipher that this isn’t the case either. This isn’t love–even without spoilers from Romancing Mister Bridgerton, it’s evident to the audience, especially knowing what we know, that this is based on a lie.
We’ve been writing about the importance of using someone’s full name and the formality behind it since the beginning—Anthony is so often referred to as My Lord by Siena while on screen (behind closed doors could look different) and Benedict is Bridgerton to members outside of his family. That leaves Colin, and Marina using his name for the first time this week set us off a bit. We’re only a little salty, we’ll get over it in time. But the lack of formality behind it, the lack of acknowledgement on its importance does make us feel better a bit. Also, placing the clear distinction between his choice to call Penelope Pen is the darling showcase of friendship—the one thing that’s important with endgame couples. (We’re all mostly saps here, don’t blame us.)
After Marina voices her concerns that she doesn’t feel loved by anyone, including the Featheringtons, including her own father, Colin proposes going to Gretna Green—no marriage license necessary, no questions asked. But this all comes after Penelope’s attempts to warn him about Marina’s heart belonging to someone else. We have a lot to say on Penelope and her actions that’ll mostly be addressed in the season finale review, but for now, more than anything, more than her own love and agenda concerned, she is looking out for Colin.
Penelope telling Colin doesn’t come from malicious intent, but rather she reveals it to protect her friend. She later tries to tell Marina about the fake letters in order to reveal that George does likely still love her. But we get it, Marina can’t afford to wait in her condition; however, what she is doing to Colin, what she and Lady Featherington have planned is still wrong. All around, desperate times call for desperate measures throughout this episode.
That said, Penelope learning about their plan to go to Gretna Green made for one of the most heartbreaking scenes because this is where Marina realizes Penelope loves Colin, and instead of understanding the woman she wanted as her friend, deems her love for Colin as nothing but a childish crush—compares her to Eloise, or even little Hyacinth. (This one. This one really riled me up.) If Marina really wanted Penelope as a friend, if she acknowledged everything she’d done for her in the beginning, this scene would have looked differently. But Penelope’s friendship is of little importance right now–her only concern is marriage for the sake of the baby. Are Penelope’s actions in revealing the pregnancy okay? Far from. But she had no other option. There was no other way to save Colin especially knowing they were leaving the next morning. It puts both families in jeopardy, but she took matters into her own hand in the best way she knew and good lord, does it break her.
Remember when we said in “An Affair of Honor” that Nicola Coughlan as Penelope is the one character who’s bound to always make us ugly cry? That’s certainly the case in “Swish.” The way Coughlan delivered the scene with Penelope breaking down in Eloise’s arms was nothing short of harrowing—brilliantly evocative and poignantly distressing. You felt the crushing weight of Penelope’s world come undone. You felt the utter heartbreak in her demeanor. This wasn’t an easy task for her, it was without question, the hardest article she had to write–it’s the one that took everything out of her. And the only person who could be a comfort to her at that moment, in spite of not knowing what was hurting her, had to be Eloise. There need not be words, just a best friend who’d be there without question.
And that final Whistledown article frames the turmoils of not just one character, but two of them thus, making the series that much more riveting in how it is approaching situations that are wrong.
As much as this episode is the outcry for transparency, it’s full of a lot bliss too and some of most tastefully done sex scenes to grace our TV screens. I said what I said. Catering to the female gaze and female pleasure is severely lacking on television, but when there are series written by women for women, we shouldn’t be surprised that it’d translate on to screen gorgeously.
Simon and Daphne’s honeymoon montage to Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” was an absolute delight to watch. From the library to the rainy pavilion, what a treat to see two people genuinely smitten by one another—laugh together, bask in one another, and be one with each other. Can we blame the servants for eavesdropping? No. No we cannot, not even a little. We’d do the same. And that scene in the field? The one we’re using as the image this week? I dare someone to say they’ve seen anything more stunning in 2020. That’s it right there–that’s the most beautiful shot of the year.
What we can also do is talk about her little bow upon saying “your grace” followed by his “your grace.” Excuse us while we bask in the cute. This moment was adorable, and we can’t stop thinking about it—eventually we will, but not today, for now, we’ll just marvel in Page and Dynevor’s infectious laughter as Simon and Daphne hung on to the gorgeous moments of their marital bliss.
“Swish” is also the episode where Daphne learns what it means to be a duchess and Simon sees just how good she is with children. (That conversation in the field broke our hearts, as did the little girl running to her. Some women are just so good with kids, it almost seems unreal, but I know more than one in my own life.) And even as she screwed up with the pig race, she made matters right upon learning the truth. She spoke to people, she got to know the ins and outs of Clyvedon, and she learned a lot about what the marriage bed entails.
I feel like I’ve avoided discussing this scene anywhere because while the discourse around it is completely understandable, I don’t feel equipped to address how it should be interpreted. It’s one of those moments where even being objective and using my critical thinking skills could still mean someone else was understandably triggered by it. So this is my best attempt at trying to work through it thematically with what the series has shown us up until this point.
The fact is, book readers hate it—this isn’t a surprise to anyone; collectively I feel we all made the assumption that it would hopefully be scrapped entirely. But Simon and Daphne’s conflict is not an easy fix, I suppose—what he was doing had to be revealed, and if they could not find any other way around it without this scene, then I’m glad it wasn’t as jarring as it is in the books. In the books, this took me out completely. I had such a hard time finding anything to hold onto with the love story and especially with the lack of remorse from Daphne’s end. With the series however, because we are able to see performances and we are able to see expressions, it’s something that can be taken as a lesson learned.
As we have been saying in all our episode reviews prior to this one, transparency matters—honest communication with one’s spouse or even family members matters. And as the series kept showing, this is not only lacking, but it is attempting to blatantly illuminate the importance of it in its absence. With Simon and Daphne especially while so much of their friendship came easy, Simon’s inability to tell the truth about his vow didn’t. He has a right to this—it’s his choice and it’s his heartache to disclose, someone has to be ready to do something like this. But we also can’t fault Daphne’s anger, which so much of her frustrations are rooted in how little she knew of intimacy and sex. The detail that she had to go ask Rose how a woman comes to be with child because Violet couldn’t do better than basset hound metaphors is already telling of how little she knows. And Simon, as intelligent as he is should have realized how inexperienced she is when he’s the one who taught her about masturbation. We could give him a pass for assuming she’d learn right before their wedding because really, how much do men even know of what women are taught. But what could have been a clear sign for him was when she asked if it hurt upon noticing when he was pulling out without entirely understanding that’s what he’s doing (pavilion rain sex.) Daphne’s concern in that moment was a clear showcase of her innocence, referencing the idea of it him possibly being in pain should have revealed that she still doesn’t understand what he’s doing. (Which he later states he believed she understood. Clearly, there’s still a lot to learn.)
If it weren’t for the tissue, she likely wouldn’t have gotten suspicious until some other married person openly discussed sex with her or blurted something about sperm and eggs. Who knows. And how long would that have taken? Daphne’s innocence has been alluded to constantly and rather obviously. Is what she did correct? Absolutely not, she should have talked to him instead, but anger and betrayal often make people do terrible things. As Whistledown states—desperate times may call for desperate measures. Daphne’s intent wasn’t malicious, Phoebe Dynevor’s tearful delivery of Daphne’s betrayal makes it rather evident that she was hopeful she would have been wrong. She believed, wholeheartedly, that Simon wouldn’t lie to her. Additionally, Simon being entirely sober and consenting prior takes away a large part of the book’s grossest detail. He’s fully conscious, he’s fully relishing in the act, and up until he realizes he’s lost control, the moment is consensual.
The conversation following and the return of Simon’s stutter is probably the darkest part in all of it, and it’s a rather obvious ode to the detail that neither of them were fully transparent with one another. I don’t know how Simon didn’t sense her innocence, but I suppose men need things written out in stone for them, and I can’t blame Daphne for not understanding that he was pulling out. I also suppose I cannot blame him for not understanding that cannot and will not are two different things. Simon professing that he would have rather died than to take away the one thing he knew she wanted most is perhaps what makes the moment so dark as well—he would have, without question, because that’s how much he loved her. But specificity matters where intent is concerned. Human beings cannot expect to understand other human beings when there’s room for interpretation.
In an episode full of gorgeous sex scenes, this wasn’t one of them, we could all certainly agree on that. And what the two of them will learn is that part of marriage is opening up about everything. She is his wife and yet so much of his past is hidden from her—so much of his darkness is concealed. He believed he was trapping her into a marriage and yet didn’t specify why he would rather die.
Point being, it should not have happened—neither of them are innocent in the situation. The series, through Whistledown’s voiceover acknowledges that none of this is right. Conversation, as we’ve been saying would have solved the matter, but while sometimes it’s all talk and no action, other times, the act happens instead. This is one of those instances where no one should love this scene or take notes from it, but what should be taken away is the understanding that transparency in any relationship is key. If only Daphne had to gone to Rose before their first time, but she was led to believe that her husband would guide her through it—if this was modern times, a scene like this would’ve been much more worse, there’d be no excuse not to understand what’s happening, but in 1813, it’s a bit more understandable. It’s believable. And as much as we all hated it, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re two people who truly love each other.
It’s also necessary to note Daphne’s physicality at the end of the episode—her position on the bed and the heartbroken expressiveness Phoebe Dynevor wore. Daphne wasn’t proud or happy with what she had done—it devastated her and while I would’ve loved to have gotten an apology, this at least tells the audience that’s she’s hurting, too.
“Swish” I suppose is just that. A swish in all the wrong directions, but the next episode leads us to some necessary conversations and we’re then that much closer to making a breakthrough.
Afternoon Tea and Reflection
- Rose and Daphne have such a sweet relationship, and as I’ve been saying I’m glad we get to see more of them this season. Do any of the Bridgerton siblings other than Anthony and Eloise have friends? So this is an interesting little to note that Daphne and Rose are friends. She’s more than just her lady’s maid, she could trust her wholeheartedly and go to her with whatever need be.
- The series giving Benedict friends too is great as well.
- How is it possible for Simon and Daphne to both just look so good once they’re ready for bed? Can we please talk about Simon’s robe?
- Can we also talk about that dinner scene and moving her chair to be closer to him!? Honeymoon stages are the cutest.
- Thank heavens for this costume department and constantly putting Simon in red because it’s absolutely my jam. The man looks good in red, and what a joy for us to see it.
- Is there anything more awkward than forced dinners where people just really don’t want to be there?
- The scene between Marina and Madame Delacroix with Marina calling out the faux French accent was fan-freaking-tastic! It’s always so fascinating to point out when she drops it and when it’s her armor.
- I was very offended by how good Benedict and Anthony looked at that garden party. And little familial moments with Gregory running past them. Cutest.
- There’s also the precious scene where Colin needs to talk Violet alone and Benedict’s trying to manage the kids while Eloise has an entire pear in her mouth. A whole mood. It’s the little moments, it really is. (But also, Benedict’s face didn’t do much this week, so that segment is sadly absent. We felt it. The absence. No thank you.)
- That scene with Violet is so crushing, does Colin really believe no one takes him seriously? It’s going to be so interesting to see how he is after he’s traveled, and this really sweet moment countered by the one with Violet giving him the latest Whistledown was just … a lot.
What are your thoughts on Bridgerton’s fifth episode? Do tell us in the comments below.