“Bridgerton” season 3, part 2 recap: Mirror mirror on the wallflower

Penelope faces a bounty, a betrayed husband, and an imposter on her way to happily ever after.

Congrats on surviving the excruciating month-long wait for Colin “Two Fingers” Bridgerton to announce his engagement to Penelope “What? No Secrets Here!” Featherington.

Did our patience pay off? In abundance, I say. Let’s recap the final four episodes of Bridgerton season 3!

Episode 5: “Tick Tock”

Following their Pitbull-backed carriage encounter and Colin’s (Luke Newton) surprise proposal, a shocked Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) walks beneath the wisteria into Bridgerton House like she’s underwater, all slow time and indistinct voices and Colin’s warm eyes on her.

When he announces their engagement, his mother and sisters are momentarily shocked, but that immediately changes to delight that their years-long friend is about to become a family member — except, of course, from Eloise (Claudia Jessie), who leaves the room without a word.

When Penelope catches up with her, Eloise insists that Colin can’t truly love her if he doesn’t know her secret, which explains the tears in her eyes as she writes about the happiness of the newly affianced couple for tomorrow’s Whistledown. And when we cut to the tree in the opening title card, a vicious wind is tearing at its petals and leaves. It’s distressing!

Word of the engagement spreads quickly. Benedict (Luke Thompson) learns about it in Lady Tilley’s (Hannah New) bed, while Penelope enjoys listening from the hall as her sisters spit out their tea at the news.

Kate (Simone Ashley) and Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) have been back in London for all of 20 seconds when Hyacinth (Florence Hunt) shouts it out, which for the time being overrides their own happy news: they’re expecting! But as elated as Anthony is, he sets it aside so he and Benedict can interrogate Colin.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton.

The third Bridgerton admits that he’s probably always had feelings for Penelope, not that he’s actually told her so. Anthony orders him to handle that ASAP, leaving him and Benedict free to quietly lose their minds over this turn of events once Colin's out of the room.

At the Cowper residence, Eloise is pacing and ranting about Penelope using her to get to Colin while Cressida (Jessica Madsen) — you know, Eloise’s supposed current best friend — can barely get a word in about being forced to marry a man her great-grandfather’s age who is, alas, in perfect health. But she manages to stiffen her upper lip by picturing the money, freedom, and social clout she’ll enjoy as Lady Ancient von Geriatric.

As for Portia (Polly Walker), did you think she’d be happy for her daughter? LOL no. She’s upset that Pen threw away Lord Debling and used her wiles to entrap the neighbor boy whose family shunned them during the Marina situation.

Thankfully, Colin arrives at the Featheringtons’ in time to overhear this and coldly tells Portia he proposed to Penelope out of love. “In the future, I advise you to not sully our Bridgerton name by suggesting otherwise.”

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Someone defended our Penelope! And not just someone, COLIN! I’m elated for her.

Penelope's shaken because no one’s ever stood up for her like that, so when Colin whisks her away to the spare Bridgerton mansion where they’ll live, he sets out to convince her that he’ll always defend her.

Turning her to face the room's full-length mirror, he stands behind her and catalogs all of her best qualities. Her cleverness and bravery. Her hair, her eyes. Her lips, her skin, her breasts. He touches every part of her as he talks, and we watch the wonder on her face as she takes it all in.

But Colin’s not done, and with her breathless consent, he peels away her clothes layer by layer, exposing all of her beauty to him and showing her in the mirror how desirable every lush inch of her is.

She then watches avidly as he undresses — hello, female gaze! — and joins her where she’s reclined on a chaise lounge like the heroine on a classic romance novel step-back cover, all soft curves and glowing skin.

“You are so beautiful,” he murmurs, inviting her to put her hands on him and returning the favor before carefully, reverently introducing her to lovemaking. (Not my favorite word for the act, yet it's the most accurate description!)

Not only is this whole interlude tender, romantic, and hot, it’s also one of the best page-to-screen translations of sex in historical romance novels that I’ve seen — yes, even better than Daphne and Simon’s from season 1.

It’s there in Colin’s explanation about the potential for pain and the care he takes with her, and it’s in Penelope’s alarm when he’s fully naked in front of her and the discomfort that slowly turns to pleasure. It’s also in the way he checks in with her, the way she moves with him, in their kisses and their eye contact and their soft laughter once it’s done. It is, as Penelope puts it, perfect.

Afterward, in dialogue lifted straight from the book, Colin agrees that Penelope’s a mess, but she’s his mess. And when she frets about her inexperience, he assures her that none of his previous experiences compare.

During their postcoital glow, he agrees to let her read more of his journals, and she starts to confess her secret, but the arrival of the Bridgerton servants interrupts her.

Good thing, too. Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) has decided it’s time to finish the job on Whistledown and sends her royal messengers to blanket London with fliers like some kind of Regency England Twitter, announcing a £5,000 reward to anyone who unmasks Lady W.

Colin’s delighted by the news, while Penelope deflates. Per the Bank of England calculator, that’s roughly £370,000 today, which is going to motivate a whole lot of people.

Tucked away in a different bedroom, Kate tells Anthony that they need to keep her pregnancy secret a little longer to avoid pulling focus from all the courtships around them. (IMPORTANT: Newton has a bed fit for a king on the floor of their room, as is his right.) Kate then leaves her husband and her dog to start work on the betrothal party.

As she makes plans with the staff, she encounters a morose Eloise, and in a nice callback to their season 2 conversation, Eloise admits that she’s hurt Colin didn’t tell her about Penelope and bummed that everyone around her is pairing off. Kate, who herself seems a bit more pensive since her pregnancy, encourages her to be honest with Colin about it.

So that night, Eloise and Colin finally talk. He tells her that he loves Penelope and reminds her that she once did, too. He asks for (but doesn’t receive) Eloise's blessing to marry her former best friend, then hands over the paper with the information about the queen’s bounty, which Eloise knows could be bad news.

Related: Bridgerton star Jessica Madsen says she's 'in love with a woman' as she celebrates the start of Pride Month

Cressida’s also thinking about the reward as Lord Crypt Keeper lays down the laws for their marriage. She’ll dress in grays and browns, attend one stodgy ball a month, avoid music and other “modern filth,” and, oh yeah, provide him with four or five babies. If £5,000 could prevent all of that, whomst among us wouldn’t do a little scheming?

Penelope’s certainly not taking this bounty lying down and writes a column mocking the queen and criticizing Portia for sucking up to Violet (Ruth Gemmell) now that their children are engaged.

To be fair, Portia is in full suck-up mode, in part because that solicitor’s still sniffing around to refute Cousin Jack’s bogus inheritance letter and she needs respectability now more than ever. She even shuts down Prudence (Bessie Carter) and Philipa (Harriet Cains) when they openly speculate about how Penelope trapped Colin, reminding them that Featheringtons support one another. Penelope speaks for the audience when she scoffs, “Since when??”

Portia then tells her oldest daughters that they’ll be staying home from the engagement party to reflect on their bad behavior. I’d love to say “better late than never,” but it’s really more like “there’s gotta be something better than blatantly attaching yourself to your at-best neglected, at-worse abused daughter like a lamprey in order to curry favor with your popular in-laws-to-be.”

Engagement party time! The place is hopping, with Portia complaining to Pen about the drab decor yet gushing about it to Colin and Benedict introducing Tilley to Kate. Will (Martins Imhangbe) and Alice (Emma Naomi) Mondrich arrive, and Gregory (Will Tilston) runs off with Baron Nicky (James Bryan) to check out his new bow and arrow.

Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) applauds Pen for catching a husband by being herself but raises a displeased eyebrow when she learns that Violet invited her brother, Marcus (Daniel Francis), to the fête.

Agatha needn't worry, though. Violet has her hands full with Francesca and John (Victor Alli), who had a sweet conversation earlier agreeing to get married. Francesca encourages John to get to know her family and friends by sharing his funny story about muddy boots, but he ends up helplessly flailing until Francesca whisks him away. The politest thing anyone can say is that her choice of beau is surprising.

Still, I’d spend hours listening to John stumbling through the world’s most boring story if the alternative is spending time with Cressida, who invited herself to the bash. She tries to enlist Eloise’s help in ending her engagement to Lord Mothball McBadbreath, but Eloise is laser-focused on giving Penelope until midnight to tell Colin or she’ll do it herself.

So that’s where this episode gets its title. Tick tock, Penelope!

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix </p> Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich in Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich in Bridgerton.

After the toasts (Colin’s is marvelous, Eloise’s is vaguely threatening, and Portia’s is cringey), the party moves on to desserts and games, where Penelope and Eloise dominate the riddle-solving challenges despite Anthony shouting out answers in full pall-mall competitive mode.

During a break in the action, Cressida finally catches Eloise’s attention by announcing that she’ll use the Whistledown reward to get a flat in Vienna, but Eloise says there's no way Cressida's smart enough to ferret out Lady W’s identity. And yet again, I’m left feeling bad for Cressida. Cressida!

John, meanwhile, has better luck telling his muddy boots story when it’s just Anthony, Kate, and Violet. The story itself is nothing special, but it ends with a lesson about not missing what’s right in front of you. Looking meaningfully at Francesca, he says, “Her, I saw straight away.” And like that, he wins over the people in the room who matter the most.

With less than an hour before Eloise’s midnight deadline, talk turns to Whistledown. Benedict calls her vulgar, Alice says she’ll ruin her family, and Colin agrees that no one will want to marry her. At a quarter to midnight, Pen bolts from the room to have a wee little breakdown.

Cressida, meanwhile, tries to join the Whistledown conversation, but everyone speaks over her about the power, freedom, and money Whistledown must enjoy. We watch in real time as an idea forms in her mind.

At midnight, Penelope edges back into the room and is greeted by Colin, who’s worried she’s having second thoughts about marrying him. Eloise heads their way, causing Penelope to start hyperventilating, and as Kate and Anthony are announcing their pregnancy news to Violet and Lady Danbury, Cressida steps forward to declare, “I am she. I am Lady Whistledown.”

Penelope responds with a full-blown my corset’s too tight, damsel in distress, someone fetch the smelling salts swoon.

On dits

  • Pour one out for Gregory Bridgerton, who never got to go tavern-hopping with Colin while he was single.

  • It’s tough to be 100 percent angry at Cressida as she deals with a worst-case-scenario marriage and zero support from her parents or the one friend she thought she had. It’s villain behavior, sure, but born of desperation rather than pure evil. Still, it's going to complicate so many things for Penelope!

  • Is it a little odd that Colin and co. believe Whistledown is young and/or single? I assumed everyone in the ton hears Julie Andrews’ voice in their heads when they read her columns, just like we do.

  • Netflix, if you sell a replica of Colin and Penelope’s blue sex blanket, I promise you, we will buy it.

Episode 6: “Romancing Mr. Bridgerton”

As you may have imagined, Penelope did not take Cressida’s announcement well.

When Colin pays a call to slide the engagement ring he had commissioned onto her finger, she's covered in ink from her many attempts at drafting an angry rebuttal column. (She blames it on the letters she’s writing about their engagement).

Colin also mentions his surprise over Cressida, saying, "I always imagined Lady Whistledown might be more clever." This is the highest possible compliment he could pay Penelope (and yes I'm fully aware that in the same breath, he referred to her as twice as beautiful as her engagement ring).

After he leaves, Pen stares at the ring and considers the decisions she has to make. But good news, at least the title-card tree looks healthy again!

Romance is in the air at Bridgerton House as Marcus shows up to claim the hat he “forgot” at the engagement party. (Oldest trick in the book, Marcus!) As pleased as Violet is to see him, she also wants to know why his relationship with his sister is so strained. John blames it on his father's favoritism and says he hopes to make amends. Yeah, Violet should maybe ask Agatha, too, just to get both sides.

Elsewhere, John struggles to catch the attention of Francesca’s happily squabbling siblings — loudly announcing that he has the plague doesn't do the trick — but with a little help from Francesca, they share the news of their engagement. Everyone’s excited, if a little less exuberant than they were for Penelope and Colin.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix </p> Victor Alli as John Stirling, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Victor Alli as John Stirling, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in Bridgerton.

Speaking of, Colin’s got some questions for Eloise about Whistledown, starting with, “Did you know?” Eloise does some artful dodging. “Not about Cressida,” she says before promising to speak “with the scribe herself.” It’s truthful; it’s just not the full truth.

Hearing Colin say he doesn’t care what happens to Lady Whistledown because Penelope’s well-being is what matters now convinces Eloise that he’s better off never knowing. Not only would it destroy his happiness, but he’d find out that she’d been lying to him, too.

Penelope, however, isn’t willing to let Cressida frickin' Cowper take credit for her life’s work. “It would break my heart,” she tells Eloise. But her former (current? hopefully future?) best friend says Penelope can’t be both Lady Whistledown and a Bridgerton. “It is just gossip,” Eloise says. “Let it go.”

Cressida isn’t having a terribly good time since her announcement either. Lord Octogenarian Nosehairs has rescinded his offer of marriage, her father (Dominic Coleman) plans to send her to live with her aunt in Wales, and her mother (Joanna Bobin) says she’s not clever enough to pull off this lie, so maybe she should tell everyone she was drunk. And that's all before the queen’s men arrive to escort her to the palace.

Queen Charlotte — wearing a wig with what I believe are hydrangeas in the hollow center, which I think we can all agree is the correct choice for this occasion — asks Cressida what she needs with £5,000 if she’s got all that Whistledown money. Cressida, not a great liar, claims she didn’t want anyone else taking the credit for her work.

“What have you observed in your life other than yourself?” the queen sniffs before demanding a fresh issue as proof. If not, Cressida will be banished from her court. Not such a great idea now, is it, Cressie? At least her mother reluctantly agrees to help.

Francesca’s day is going only slightly better as Violet suggests she and John slow-walk their wedding until the end of the season. But Francesca asks her to speed things up by speaking to the queen on their behalf. Unenthusiastic but unable to say no, Violet weakly agrees.

Across the street, Portia wanders by to pile more stress onto Penelope’s shoulders by reminding her that “Ladies do not have dreams. They have husbands.” (Harrison Butker, is that you?) Portia says Colin and their future children should be Penelope’s focus now. And yet again, Pen’s left staring at her engagement ring and the gains and losses it represents.

In other gains-and-losses news, the Mondriches have decided to sell the club. A relieved Lady Danbury advises them to throw a ball to celebrate their full immersion in the ton. While Alice gets to work, Will invites Benedict, Colin, and John to help him drink the last of the good liquor before the new proprietor takes over.

Related: Penelope struggles to keep her identity a secret from Colin in tense Bridgerton season 3, part 2 trailer

Taking a page from Notting Hill, they compete over the last glass by sharing sob stories. For Colin, it’s the trouble he’s having turning his journal into a book. For Benedict, it’s the lack of direction in his “floating, purposeless” life. (Colin reminds him that he’s actually got a great thing going with Tilley, which shuts him up.)

John wins the game by spotting an unopened bottle, clearly relaxed and comfortable around Francesca’s brothers in this setting, which is lovely to see. When they raise a glass to Mr. Mondrich’s fine club, Will looks around at what he’s giving up, obviously not at peace.

That Sunday, everyone heads to church to hear the banns being read for Colin and Penelope. After the congregation files out, the two of them linger in the aisle and Penelope confesses that she’s loved Colin since the moment they met. He vows to spend a lifetime begging her forgiveness for not seeing her sooner, and they share a dance in the aisle of the church where they’ll exchange vows in three weeks.

Outside, Lady Danbury’s playing anti-wingwoman for Violet by presenting one of her widowed friends to Marcus, and Francesca watches as Penelope and Colin are greeted with hugs and happy chatter about their engagement

Cressida’s there too, trying to blend into the post-church crowd to ask Eloise for help writing a Whistledown column. (Hilariously, her stealth outfit is a vivid pink, but bonus points for never compromising her style.) Eloise feigns shock that Cressida would ask for her help after Whistledown published those awful things about her last year. Ha!

Cressida accuses Eloise of being jealous that she’s made something of herself, and Eloise, who’s starting to understand what drove Penelope to create Lady Whistledown in the first place, ends their friendship for good.

That night, Penelope makes up her mind and tosses her stack of Whistledown columns into the fire, obliterating all traces of her work. The next day she basks in Portia’s excitement as they discuss wedding plans.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton.

But wedding dress shopping at Madame Delacroix’s (Kathryn Drysdale) reminds her of what she's walking away from when Genevieve questions why Pen’s letting Cressida take credit for her work. Penelope insists that she’s happy with her love match, leaving Genevieve to say that she could never give up the satisfaction of creating the perfect dress for a client. Point well made, Madame.

Time for the Mondrich ball! And no, I have no idea how they put together this elaborate party so quickly. Portia’s still fluttering around her new favorite daughter while John chats with the Bridgertons and Violet watches Lady Danbury introduce even more eligible women to Marcus.

The queen arrives and pronounces the affair lackluster at best until a footman turns the crank on the large structure in the center of the dance floor, which unfurls prongs of floral decorations that spread in all directions like the fold-down tissue-paper turkeys your grandma used to put on the Thanksgiving table. Queen Charlotte changes her assessment to “not bad at all” and gives Alice a pleased nod.

Now that the queen has been mollified, Francesca suggests Violet go talk to her, but Violet lets it slip that she’s afraid her lack of enthusiasm will ruin things. Francesca's had enough and tells her mother off (in her gentle Francesca way).

Violet leaves the ballroom in tears, but when Marcus tries to follow her, Lady Danbury hisses, “Must you take everything from me?”

And now we get to the true cause of the bad blood between them: Agatha planned to run away the night before her wedding to Lord Danbury, but Marcus found out and told their father, ruining her chance to escape.

He's surprised by this and starts to call her Soma, her childhood name, and the West African inflection of her birthplace creeps into Agatha's words as she tells him that he can’t right those wrongs. Then she pushes past him to go after Violet.

Before we wrap up the Mondrich ball, let’s take a side trip to Lady Tilley’s place, where she’s arranged a gathering so Benedict can meet her dear friend Paul Suarez (Lucas Aurelio), who’s… well, he’s young and handsome, and their dinner conversation starts to feel a little “we saw you from across the bar and liked your vibe.”

Benedict is surprised to hear that Paul feels judged by society, leading Paul to joke that Tilley must not have shared all of their stories.

She most certainly has not, and this becomes clear to Benedict when he walks in on Paul telling Tilley that his suspicions were correct before kissing her. They invite Benedict to join them upstairs, and he responds by practically pulling a Kool-Aid man through the wall in his haste to leave.

Let’s… let’s assume we’ll be revisiting this in a future episode, hmm?

Okay, back to the Mondrich ball! Colin and Penelope are dancing when the Cowper women stroll in looking like colorful dinosaurs that escaped from Jurassic Park. (This description is correct, and I will not be elaborating on it.)

Related: Bridgerton star reveals her motorized wig took 2 years to design so it didn’t blow up or electrocute her

“It’s Lady Whistledown!” someone whispers. A woman uses BSL to tell her daughter not to speak to the devil, and Portia sniffs, “A scandal writer for a daughter. Can you imagine?” A few people threaten to leave, but nobody wants to miss the drama.

Cressida’s brought “proof” in the form of a short Whistledown installment promising a full issue to come. No surprise, it’s not her, but Lady Cowper who’s covered in ink. Cressida really is a terrible writer.

Penelope looks ready to commit a murder when she reads the sheet’s closing line: ”Yours truly, Lady Whistledown. Or forever now, Cressida Cowper.”

She pulls Eloise out of the ballroom, and in private, Eloise blames herself for befriending Cressida, then insulting her intelligence and putting a target on her family’s backs, to say nothing of the reckless behavior Penelope wrote about last year.

Pen, meanwhile, realizes she should've been using her Whistledown power to help people without any, and she has that chance now — assuming she can beat Cressida to print. She hastily scribbles away in a carriage and, in her Irish maid persona, hands over the column for rush service.

But her relief shatters when she turns to see Colin walking toward her and he asks in disbelief, “You are Lady Whistledown?”

On dits

  • Did you ever think you’d hear Dame Julie Andrews say the word “succubus”? Thank you, Bridgerton.

  • Man, Lord Debling really exited stage left, didn’t he? And to think, he could’ve stuck around, married Cressida, and saved everybody a lot of trouble.

  • Before things went to hell at the ball, Colin turned down Penelope’s offer to help turn his travel diaries into a publishable book because he wants do it solo and prove his worth. Just flagging it as a reminder of how Colin turned down help from his wildly talented fiancée.

  • Before things went all kinds of awkward at the dinner party, Benedict told Paul that he doesn’t have any particular creative pursuits. Just flagging it as a reminder that Benedict’s a talented painter who’d likely find purpose if he picked up a brush again.

  • For you non-Julia Quinn readers, this episode’s title is also the title of Colin and Penelope’s book: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton.

Episode 7: “Joining of Hands”

Welp. The wind-tossed title-card tree is back.

And how could it not be? Colin just learned that the woman he loves is the author of so much misery for him and his family, and here he’s been blaming himself for the tension between him and Penelope.

Still standing in front of the print shop, he tells her he followed her from the ball because he was afraid her carriage driver had kidnapped her. Instead he uncovered her lies. “I will never forgive you,” he says, a tear shining on his cheek.

But he probably ought to be a little grateful after Cressida’s fake Whistledown hits the streets. Its focus is on why so many Bridgertons have rushed engagements and whether some of Violet’s children might be of dubious parentage. THE AUDACITY, CRESSIDA. OR, MORE ACCURATELY, CRESSIDA’S MOM.

Thankfully, Penelope’s version is also circulating, and have you ever been more relieved to hear Julie Andrews reading you gossip? Her issue identifies a man who refuses to pay his debts, a woman who fired her maid for requesting a day off, and a husband who’s abusive to his wife. Voice to the voiceless!

“The true Lady Whistledown is always paying attention,” Julie Andrews says, “Something that I believe Miss Cowper should try to do a little more.” And that’s curtains for Cressida’s lies. To Wales with you!

Although Eloise is trying to stay out of the Colin/Penelope drama, she and Colin have it out about keeping secrets: her about Whistledown's identity and him about falling in love with her former (current? hopefully future?) best friend. Although she’s ready to forgive Pen, Colin isn’t there yet.

He's not there by a long shot, actually, and things are so tense that Pen asks if he wants to call it all off. He says no; he’s too much of a gentleman to have sex with her and then not follow through with the marriage. He is not, however, too much of a gentleman to avoid insinuating that she used that ploy to trap him. Not cool, Col.

He then asks Pen if she'll stop publishing as Whistledown. She says she's not sure, he replies that he’s not sure what kind of marriage that’ll leave them with.

Poor Violet’s dealing with so much engagement drama that when Marcus pays a call to ask if she’d be interested in pursuing a relationship with him, she suggests they get their houses in order first. But she’s so adorably flustered by his visit that it’s clear she’s amenable to his suggestion.

This pushes Marcus to tell Lady Danbury what really happened the night before her wedding: he told their father about her escape plan because he was 10 years old and scared for her safety alone in the world. He’s always admired her courage, but has been too intimidated by the persona she’s created to tell her any of this.

Agatha — Soma — admits to being hard on him, too, and he promises to be part of the joy in her life moving forward, not the cause of her pain. Progress!

More progress: Benedict agrees to let Tilley explain what went down at the dinner party, which is pretty much what we all figured out: Mr. Suarez sleeps with men and women, and she sometimes joins in because sex is natural and doesn’t need to abide by society’s rules.

Benedict tangles his fingers together as he admits he’d never been tempted by a man before. Tilley leaves it up to him to decide how (or if) he’d like to proceed, although referring to Paul as “Mr. Suarez” throughout this conversation is a weird way to make Benedict comfortable with the whole idea. Unless being called Mr. Suarez is Paul’s thing??

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton in Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton in Bridgerton.

It’s on Benedict’s mind the night of Colin’s stag do, when they’re joined by Will and John. The latter is drinking because his future mother-in-law doesn’t like him. Benedict suggests he do something foolish and bold to declare his feelings, like throwing rocks at Francesca’s window. (Colin, who’d been nodding along in drunken agreement, seamlessly pivots to shaking his head “no” at the rocks idea.)

While John ponders how to be spontaneous and Will heads home for a break from his busy social schedule, Colin and Benedict avoid talking about the Big Life Things they’re grappling with.

Penelope chooses to spend the night before her wedding with Madame Delacroix, aka the only person who truly understands her dilemma over Colin and Whistledown and meaningful work for women in the early 1800s. Genevieve offers up some golden advice, telling Pen that ignorance of the power she wielded as Whistledown doesn’t excuse her unwise choices, and all she can do now is own her mistakes and do better.

When Penelope confesses to feeling like she's losing part of herself by not publishing, Genevieve offers up a second gold nugget of advice: if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? (You CAN get an amen, Gen!)

So that’s on Penelope’s mind when she leaves the dress shop and bumps into Colin on the way home from his bro-hang. They snap at each other about their secret dealings, then Penelope thinks about Madame Delacroix’s advice and apologizes for the things she wrote about the Bridgertons. And yes, she should’ve just told Colin she was concerned about his personality change, but she didn’t have the confidence to do that until his love helped her find it.

Colin says he’s humiliated that he talked to one of Mayfair’s most famous writers about publishing his little diaries, which probably touches on a truth he hasn’t fully admitted to himself, and overall he’s frustrated that his wildly accomplished fiancée doesn’t seem to need him for anything.

Well. There is one thing. She loves him and she wants him, and they end up making out against the side of a building until a passing horse pulls them apart. Incidentally, has anyone else noticed Penelope’s hair slowly turning into Jessica Rabbit’s?

When Colin gets home, Kate and Anthony are waiting up to offer relationship advice. Kate suggests that he not let one mistake change the way he feels about Penelope after their years of friendship and, more recently, love.

Related: Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan has cheeky response to being told she's so 'brave' for getting naked on screen

On the one hand, Kate’s right that Colin needs to weigh everything he knows about Penelope, including how difficult coming clean would’ve been for her. On the other hand, it’s not like they’re fighting because she spilled wine on his favorite cravat or something. This is way more than a single mistake!

Anthony’s main contribution to the conversation is protesting when Kate implies that their marriage is anything but perfect, leading her to lovingly sigh, “You are wearisome tonight.” He also suggests that Colin try the three-raw-egg hangover cure in the morning. (I would choose the hangover.)

The pews are full of their family and friends at the church the next morning as Penelope walks down the aisle to a cover of “Yellow.” When it looks like she might turn and flee, Colin holds her gaze and gives her a tiny nod and a smile, and it’s the encouragement she needs to keep moving toward him.

As they exchange their vows, the anger and nervousness fall away, and there’s only the love and the joy that they’ve found in each other, and when they join hands and kiss, Eloise isn’t the only one wiping away a happy tear. Yes, Penelope made her share of mistakes, but I’m so happy to see her so happy.

The wedding breakfast afterward is packed with well-wishers; even Prudence is sincere in her congratulations to Penelope. Lady Danbury lets Violet know that she and Marcus have cleared the air, although this leads Anthony to glare at the man for making eyes at his mother until Kate tells him to knock it off.

Benedict finds Eloise eating her feelings over losing yet another friend to marriage, and he reminds her that love isn’t finite. He then sets down his wine glass and leaves, apparently taking his own advice.

Tired of lingering on the edge of the room, Penelope asks Colin to dance even though this Is Not Done at wedding breakfasts. He complies, and they sway to Duomo’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong with Me."

They’re soon joined by other couples, including John and Francesca. This is his bold declaration, and for them, it’s the perfect one... at least until the queen shows up.

Charlotte’s studied the competing Whistledowns and come to a conclusion: the real Whistledown published in order to defend the Bridgertons from Cressida. Ergo, Whistledown is a Bridgerton.

She kicks out all of the non-Bridgertons (Pen herself tries to leave until Colin reminds her of her new last name) and waits for the secret keeper to step forward.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton.

After a beat, Francesca announces that she wants to marry Lord Kilmartin, but the queen already knows about this union and says it doesn’t require her blessing. Great news for Fran and John, but the queen's here for Whistledown.

Anthony hotly denies the involvement of anyone under his roof — technically true! Pen lives across the street! — so Charlotte gives them until tomorrow. It’s pretty obvious who the culprit is, though; Penelope’s the only one who looks ready to vomit.

Also obvious? Benedict’s absence. A mandatory royal audience is a wild way to get busted for skipping out of your brother’s wedding celebration to hook up with your hookup and her hookup.

Because that's exactly what he's doing. When Paul and Tilley walk through her door, Benedict shoots to his feet and hungrily kisses both of them, first Tilley and then Paul. WE DID IT, JOE! Lots of viewers clocked the idea of a queer-coded Benedict way back in season 1, and I apologize to the Bridgerton showrunners for my skepticism that they’d ever embrace this storyline.

Anyway, back to the not-so-happy couple. Once the queen is gone, Colin thanks Penelope for staying quiet and suggests this is a sign for her to shut Whistledown for good. But Penelope isn’t interested in losing that part of herself so she’ll be acceptable to the rest of the world. Frustrated by their disagreement, Colin icily tells her that he’ll sleep on the couch that night.

Cressida, meanwhile, has some regrets. Being so cruel about the Bridgertons is one of them, and another is turning on Eloise, the only friend she’s ever had. Her mother reminds her that the Bridgertons needed knocking down a peg, and other women are competition. Geez, Cressida never had a chance, did she?

Still, with another week before her aunt arrives to haul her to Wales, Cressida visits print shop after print shop until she finds one with an assistant who mentions Lady Whistledown’s red hair.

Yes, alarm bells should absolutely be going off in your head over what Cressida might do with that knowledge.

On dits

  • The only positive thing I can say about Cressida’s plan is that it reunited Peneloise, which almost — almost — makes it all worthwhile.

  • Edwina update: her new husband’s a reader who’s taught her to love the outdoors. Who’da thunk?

  • One more important thing happened at the wedding breakfast: Anthony noticed Kate hasn’t quite been herself, so he suggests they travel to her hometown in India where she can give birth and he can learn about her culture. He wants their child to understand both their Bridgerton and their Sharma heritage. Kate’s overjoyed by the offer, which is a fantastic development for their characters and, presumably, a tidy way to explain things if (God forbid) Bailey and Ashley aren’t available for future seasons of the show.

  • Nicola Coughlan should only ever wear that wedding dress for the rest of her life. Gorgeous!

Episode 8: “Into the Light”

Whether we like it or not, we’ve hit the final episode of season 3. *sobs* But the title-card tree is healthy once more, so let’s breathe a sigh of relief and dive in.

Pen emerges from the bedroom the morning after her wedding to nervously greet her new husband. The big baby did indeed martyr himself by sleeping on what looks like a very uncomfortable couch last night despite their home probably having a dozen other bedrooms available. You just know he’s gonna complain about his stiff neck at some point.

He hurts Penelope's feelings by going to breakfast at Bridgerton House alone. Then a maid announces that Pen has a visitor without specifying that it’s not Portia, as Penelope expects. Instead, it's Cressida. Noooo!!! That’s shockingly bad maid-ing. Give a girl a heads-up, yo!

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix </p> Jessica Madsen, Nicola Coughlan

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Jessica Madsen, Nicola Coughlan

Cressida knows that Penelope is Whistledown and sneers that of course it would be someone so forgettable. She demands double the queen’s bounty for her silence, then proves how believable her story is by convincing a newly arrived Portia of the truth with only a few hints.

Portia’s furious that Penelope’s been undermining her efforts to save their family from ruin and urges her not to tell Colin about the blackmail. At this point, he just might demand an annulment.

Penelope's done keeping secrets from him, so she and Portia head to Bridgerton House, where Eloise has just counseled Colin not to throw his marriage away. Here’s to finally having Eloise on Team Polin!

Everyone’s mind is blown when Penelope says her Whistledown earnings can cover Cressida’s £10,000 blackmail, especially Portia. Shoulda behaved better, Lady F. Pen probably would’ve helped with your money troubles if your feral parenting style hadn't driven her to pick up her pen in the first place.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix </p> Nicola Coughlan

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Nicola Coughlan

In this instance, though, Portia was correct about maybe not telling Colin quite yet. He cuts Penelope out of the process and confronts Cressida himself, asking for her mercy because Penelope was influenced by the same social cruelty that Cressida herself experienced. He says things will die down and her family will eventually welcome her back into their loving embrace.

This is emphatically not the argument to use on Cressida. She accuses Colin of being jealous of Penelope’s success (accurate! Whistledown-level observation skills!) and doubles her blackmail ask.

Penelope and Eloise are collapsed on a couch awaiting Colin’s return, chatting like the best friends they always should've been. Pen gets El to admit to a tiny bit of pettiness in befriending Cressida, although Eloise says she truly did enjoy her at the start.

That fades when Colin walks in to announce, “It seems I have made everything worse.” Yes, duh. Let your wife handle her business! The deadline for delivering £20,000 — a sum that neither Penelope nor Colin has easy access to — is now the Dankworth-Finch ball.

Yep, Penelope’s sisters are fed up with not being the center of attention and have decided to throw a lavish party. The theme is purple and orange and crystal and gold and flowers and, at Philipa’s insistence, bugs. Hundreds of bugs. Portia gives them the long-suffering Varley (Lorraine Ashbourne) to help stretch their budget, which Penelope secretly contributes to.

This is gonna be a trainwreck. I can’t wait.

Related: Bridgerton showrunner spills the tea on that popped question, the Lady Whistledown of it all

As the blackmail drama’s been going down, so have things at Tilley’s, where she, Benedict, and Paul have spent what seems like hours making the beast with, in this case, three backs.

During a break in the action, Benedict sprawls across his partners in a tangle of limbs as they joke about attending a ball together. A funny look crosses Tilley's face when Benedict says he’s now partial to parties of three, but it vanishes just as quickly.

Elsewhere in London, Violet has moved on to planning the next Bridgerton wedding, and she, Francesca, and John are doing so at Gunter’s, the scene of the famous season 1 spoon lick, to prove to the ton that they have nothing to hide.

This means Violet is very much in public when she’s rocked by the couple's news that they want a special license so they can marry quickly and move to his primary estate in the Scottish Highlands.

When a dismayed Violet tells Lady Danbury, Agatha tries to spin it as Francesca finding her inner courage and suggests that Marcus will support Violet through the transition. Then she brings up her long-ago relationship with Violet’s father, which Queen Charlotte’s viewers know all about and which causes Violet to almost spit out her tea.

She recovers quickly and says that what matters is that her father was a good man, and Agatha’s been a good friend. Agatha feels the same way about Marcus and Violet, although she warns that she’ll pick her friend over her brother if things go sour. The camera then pans across a well-preserved handmade birthday hat sitting on a table in Lady Danbury’s house, and I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Lady Danbury also has a sentimental (ish) conversation with the queen as they play chess and discuss her majesty’s plans once she unmasks Whistledown. Agatha says Whistledown’s writing suggests that she’s not powerful in her own right but might be a vulnerable member of society trying to stay in the game, which is something the queen herself can relate to.

“Perhaps a long time ago,” Charlotte acknowledges, watching as Agatha avoids checkmate so their chess game can continue.

Colin’s still playing the “sleep on the couch” game despite being distracted by his wife’s bare shoulder as she prepares for bed. (He’s sleeping in full Seinfeld puffy shirt, trousers, and socks, although I honestly took him for a nightshirt man.)

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix </p> Victor Alli, James Duke, Hannah Dodd

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Victor Alli, James Duke, Hannah Dodd

The morning of Francesca’s wedding, Penelope leaves early to avoid them having to share a carriage. Poor Pen, especially when Colin doesn’t even try to stop her. After she’s gone, he ignores the travel diary he’s stuffed into a drawer but pulls out her old letters to him, smiling as he rereads her clever turns of phrase.

Penelope’s definitely not smiling when she shows up at her mother’s in time to hear the solicitor looking into Cousin Jack’s affairs tell Portia that he knows she’s using money that Jack’s defrauded from the ton and is going to recommend the Crown transfer the Featherington title to a less criminal family.

Portia has the gall to suggest that her actions and Penelope’s are the same, although Pen rightly points out that Portia’s actions were, ya know, illegal. Portia says she didn't see any other choices after a lifetime of being taught that men hold all the power.

The conversation ends in a semi-positive place when Portia acknowledges that she overlooked Penelope for too long. “If we survive this round,” she says, “we must do better.”

Across the street, Francesca, in the second gorgeous wedding gown we get this season, assures Violet that the peacefulness of Scotland will allow her to find herself and ultimately be closer to her family. Violet in turn says she better understands the beauty in a quieter approach to love.

Then Francesca Bridgerton and John Stirling marry in a small at-home ceremony, with the officiant binding them together “until your dying breath.”

Afterward, John raises a glass to his beautiful wife but quickly turns his attention to the rest of the family, praising Benedict’s openness, Colin’s charm, Eloise’s wisdom, Gregory and Hyacinth’s brightness, and Violet as the remarkable woman who raised them all.

This whole scene is full of Bridgerton family goodness as they laugh at Violet’s attempts to duet with Francesca, tease Eloise about being next on the marriage mart, and speculate about Marcus’ intentions toward their mother.

Is it any wonder that Penelope pulls Colin aside to say she won’t let him lie to his warm, wonderful family for her? She also says he can stop trying to prove that he’s worthy of her. “Just being you is enough, Colin.”

He acknowledges that her secret is what’s keeping him from joining her in the bedroom (in all senses of the word). But she's got a plan to fix everything, and it starts with sending letters to the queen and Violet, who definitely has a tone when she summons her third son for a chat about what his wife’s been up to.

We also learn what’s going on with Tilley. When Benedict hopefully asks if Paul's going to join them that night, she admits that she's caught feelings and wants to get serious. But Benedict’s newly out and open and, despite her warning that sex without commitment can grow tiring, he wants to explore what the world has to offer.

He then joins Eloise on the swings for another of their backyard heart-to-hearts. She’s done trying to fit in and wants to see the world so she can help change it someday. Benedict, too, is open to new experiences (um, obviously!), and they agree to more regular swing meetups so they can be confused about life together.

Okay, the time has come to reveal the miracles that Varley performed for the Dankworth-Finch ball. It’s stunning, actually! Soaring columns, ostrich feather arrangements, sumptuous food, an eight-piece ensemble, all done up in purple and orange and gold and lavish excess. (There are no bugs in sight, thankfully.)

Although Penelope paid for it, she lets Portia take the credit as an elated Prudence and Philipa squeal in gratitude. Portia tells her girls she’s proud of them, then quietly thanks Pen for giving them the night of their lives. I don’t care how realistic these new, slightly softer Featheringtons actually are, I love to see them doing a better job of lifting each other up.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix </p> Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton

The partygoers have a grand old time until the queen arrives and commands the musicians to stop playing so she can call forth the true Lady Whistledown to plead her case. She then points her royal finger at Penelope.

The unmasked Lady Whistledown steps forward to explain that she didn’t expect to be taken seriously at first and was careless with her power. But she now understands that it takes courage to live openly, and that gossip can forge bonds. (True, by the way!) Penelope then pivots to thanking the queen for forcing her out of the shadows with her cunning scheme and vows to be more responsible as her penance.

After a dramatic pause, Charlotte declares, “She seems humbled," and although she warns that she’ll be watching, she concludes, “What is life without a little gossip?”

There’s a beat where it’s unclear how the crowd will react until Philipa charges across the dance floor shouting, “Now, Varley! The bugs!”

I’m relieved to report that said bugs are actually swarms of butterflies, which delights the crowd as the sisters happily dance off with their husbands. Good work, Varley!

Following her big reveal, Lady Danbury tells Penelope that she always suspected she was Whistledown, and Portia thanks Penelope for allowing her to tell the solicitor that she'd been using Whistledown money all along, which will save the Featherington title.

Penelope’s most important conversation, though, is with Colin. Knowing this could still reflect badly on the Bridgertons, she offers him an annulment. But after rereading her letters, he finally realized there’s no separating her from Whistledown. They always had one voice, Penelope’s voice, and it’s bloody brilliant.

He also admits that he has been jealous of her success, but he’s now perfectly satisfied to just be her husband. “How lucky I am to stand by your side and soak up even a little bit of your light.”

That night, they finally consummate their marriage and, one hopes, Colin finally falls asleep in bed next to his wife — and not in pants and a puffy shirt.

We now get the final Whistledown voiceover of the season as the author apologizes to her readers for the harm that she’s caused and the show ties up loose plot ends.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix </p> Will Tilston, Florence Hunt, Luke Thompson, Ruth Gemmell, Luke Newton, Nicola Coughlan

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Will Tilston, Florence Hunt, Luke Thompson, Ruth Gemmell, Luke Newton, Nicola Coughlan

Cressida leaves town to live with her aunt in Wales, which sounds like a cold, lonely, restrictive punishment. I'm as shocked as you are that I wouldn't mind seeing her return in a future season.

Eloise is also leaving town, having gotten permission from John and Francesca to move into a wing of their literal Scottish castle. Operation See the World is officially underway!

Along for the trip is John’s cousin, Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza), a gorgeous young woman who leaves Francesca gob-smacked and tongue-tied at first sight. That is… interesting.

Benedict and Eloise agree that they'll see each other at their mother’s masquerade ball. Masquerade ball, y’all!

We then experience a time jump as the three Featherington sisters peer down at their babies, two girls and a boy. The new Lord Featherington is Penelope and Colin’s, and we learn that with his wife’s help, Colin has published his book of travels.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix </p> Polly Walker, Ruth Gemmell, Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Polly Walker, Ruth Gemmell, Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton

As Violet and Portia coo over the grandbabies and Philipa suggests her daughter will become a great writer without needing a husband, Hyacinth arrives with the newest issue of Whistledown. It’s now written by the “previous wallflower, current columnist, observer, wielder of a quill” Penelope Bridgerton.

As Penelope kisses her husband, the voiceover transitions from the Whistledown narration we've always heard to Penelope herself. She's stepped out of the shadows and now lives in the sun.

On dits

  • Season 3! How are we feeling? Were you well fed by the wealth of new string quartet pop covers and glorious dresses and journeys of self-discovery and queer Bridgertons and tantalizing glimpses of the stories yet to come? Not to bark orders like Queen Charlotte, but bring us season 4!

  • Wait, this probably means no more Julie Andrews, right? I’ll miss her!

  • Seriously, though, every episode of this season brought us dresses made with increasingly eye-popping patterns and sparkles and bangles and beads. I DIE. What a visual feast this show is.

  • Book readers, I beg you to find me and other readers on the socials because I'm dyingggggg to talk about the stuff I can’t really discuss in this recap because spoilers but I need you all to join me in shrieking OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD over and over until it’s out of our systems.

  • Maybe you’ve known and loved Penelope in book form for almost a quarter of a century. Maybe you met her for the first time as a Netflix viewer. Whatever the circumstances, I hope that watching her fight for her happily-ever-after with Colin left you as blissfully weepy as it did me. Cheers to the love stories we love!

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.