The episode opens with Bash and closes with Bash. In the first frame he's sweaty and terrified, dreading the sacrifice demanded of him, but willing to make that move to protect Mary. By the closing shot Bash has grown past that fear, but to what end?
When Mary wakes up in the beginning of the episode, she finds the stag necklace of the pagans, placed carefully near her pillow. She initially thinks it's a love token from Bash, but when she confronts him about it he pulls aside her and Francis, discussing the deadly implications. Throughout that confrontation (and the entire episode), Francis sulks like a preteen school girl, passive aggressively digging into Bash and Mary, whining about the amounts of secrets between them, while casting a thin-lipped, bug-eyed accusatory stare. He knows, and they know, but they don't know he knows, you know?
While Francis is woundedly swanning about (with a predatory Olivia keeping an eye on him from the sidelines), Bash is busy deciding what he needs to do to save Mary's life. He needs to sacrifice someone to the pagans or she will suffer the consequences of his indecision, but like most people he doesn't really want to kill someone in the woods. He goes to the only pagan he knows for information--his mother, Diane.
Diane's return from France helps solve the mystery of Bash's pagan connections, but also throws a wrench in slutty LiW's machinations to be the king's mistress. Slutty LiW wants to be the only one and throws a fit, so the king writes her name in fireworks because that is literally the least permanent sign he could do. The sign is seen as a cheap ploy by literally everyone but slutty LiW, who buys it and runs into Henry's arms. He swears to her that's she's his mistress, and yet the next shot is of him and Diane going at it. Because of course that is what happens, everyone knows it, and everyone is tired of this obligatory sexy subplot.
But back to Bash. He does take a poor, innocent thief from the jails and leads him out to the woods. It's revealed that the thief was being used as bait, to trap the blood priest and use him as the sacrifice instead. But as the blood priest dies, he casts a dark omen on Bash, declaring him full of bloodlust now. And though Bash balks at first, he soon falls victim to dark lighting and ominous music. His slanted shifty eyes show that something has changed, that the act of killing has made him different. And if the shifty eyes didn't indicate that appropriately enough, Bash throwing the innocent thief off a cliff as they return to the castle sure does.
That is exactly what Francis feared. Francis, who has been incredibly busy this episode feeling superior to everyone because he halfway told Mary that he kissed Olivia, and Mary and Bash aren't telling him about their own drunken macking. He warned Mary that the man who returned from the woods wouldn't be the same man his brother was, and then feels all smugly justified when he turns out to be right. In a needlessly dramatic scene, Francis confronts Mary and Bash with the truth he saw, pouts again about how he and Mary are rulers and can't follow their heart, and then releases her to be with other men until the day they are wed. It's mostly a ruse so he can feel all morally righteous as he hooks up with Olivia, but hey, if he lifts his chin high enough it means that he's in the right. As Francis releases Mary, Bash stands straighter. There's a glimmer of hope in his eyes. That hope is dashed as Francis walks out, looks Bash in those optimistic eyes, and says "any man, but not my brother." Bash hardens into defiance as Francis leaves, and Mary is left confused and heartbroken.
-I'll admit it. I totally thought that Mary and Bash should have made out at the end, just to teach Francis a lesson. But despite the CW-ness of it all, I suppose this show has some standards.
-In rooting out the pagans, Evil Anne Queen and Mary temporarily join forces. It's a wonderful moment to contrast the two ruling styles. Mary promises mercy and compassion to servants who give information. Evil Anne Queen threatens to burn down their villages. Guess who's more effective?
-Speaking of Evil Anne Queen, watching Megan Follows sink her teeth into this deliciously snarky role is a delight. There is one point where she dismisses Mary and Francis's relationship with an eye roll and a purred "feelings, honestly," and I wanted to cheer.
-Reign goes through shocking lengths to explain the story's anachronistic aspects. With the Tomas plot, it ends with English envoy Simon saying that history will not even remember this episode. Very obvious cover there. Here, Diane and Bash commiserate over their illegitimate status, Bash saying "there are those who will be remembered, and those who will be forgotten." Bash, it's OK that you aren't remembered. This is the CW. No one expects to quote this in an essay.