“Bridgerton” season 3, part 1 recap: If the carriage is a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’

You get a glow-up, you get a glow-up, everybody gets a glow-up!

Welcome to the first half of Bridgerton season 3, gentle reader! It’s Penelope’s time to shine, so let’s hope a newly tan Colin will prove himself worthy of her.

The Shondaland production is back under the direction of new showrunner Jess Brownell with four fresh episodes about seeing the people around you — and sometimes even yourself — in ways you might not have expected. That goes for the audience, too. Let’s recap!

Episode 1: “Out of the Shadows”

As is now tradition, the season opens with a Bridgerton family member preparing to be presented to the queen. This year, it’s Francesca (now played by Hannah Dodd), who’d be happier staying home with her piano and sheet music.

As is also tradition, Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) watches from across the street as the family gathers — including newlyweds Kate (Simone Ashley) and Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) — and are joined by Colin (Luke Newton), who’s newly returned from his grand tour of the Continent.

The prodigal son’s hair is curlier, his skin is tanner, and he’s gained a shiny new layer of charm during his time away. Pen’s jaw drops as he takes his place in the center of a gaggle of women, every inch the suave man-about-town.

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

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Luke Newton, Nicola Coughlan

In the carriage on the way to Francesca’s presentation, Colin’s brothers rib him about his glow-up, including sweet little Gregory (Will Tilston). Don’t miss that dual Anthony/Benedict (Luke Thompson) head tilt as Colin boasts about his time abroad.

At the palace, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is bored by the new crop of ladies in their pristine dresses until Francesca appears and Brimsley (Hugh Sachs) reminds her, “We have had good luck with Bridgertons.”

While Kate and Anthony look on like proud parents, Colin winks at his female admirers and teases them at the reception afterward about whether he’s ready to take a wife. Honestly, Colin’s bronzer era makes me ask whether there’s such a thing as too much self-confidence.

Enter the Featheringtons. Portia (Polly Walker) has let the ton believe that they’re financially solvent thanks to an inheritance from a dead aunt, although it’s actually the money Cousin Jack defrauded from their friends and neighbors last season.

Penelope, reluctantly trailing behind her family, tears her gaze away from Colin only to land on Eloise (Claudia Jessie). Since their awful season-ending fight, Eloise has befriended Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen), Penelope’s sneering bully.

Pen’s face reveals every one of her emotions as she grapples with the fact that her former best friend has taken up with her current worst enemy. As far as betrayals go, that’s almost as bad as… well, as secretly being Lady Whistledown and writing harmful things about your bestie for her own good.

Clueless Colin shakes off his crowd of admirers to ask Pen what’s up with the new Eloise/Cressida alliance, but she cuts their conversation short. (Remember, he doesn’t know that she was crushed when she overheard him telling his boys last season that he would never, ever court her.)

Penelope’s night gets even worse when Portia reminds her two married daughters that the firstborn male heir will inherit the Feathering estate — thanks to a document Mama F. forged — and the two of them joke about getting rid of Penelope’s books. Portia’s just grateful that Penelope’s a spinster and therefore available to be her mother's lifelong caretaker.

Those thoughts keep Penelope up all night, and the next morning she’s off to Madame Delcroix (Kathryn Drysdale) for a wardrobe that swaps yellows and oranges for greens and blues in styles like they’re wearing in Paris. (You know, where Colin recently was.) Time to ditch the citrus and catch a husband!

Alas, you can’t go anywhere in London without bumping into a Bridgerton, and Pen finds herself face-to-face with Eloise, fresh off of explaining to Colin that Cressida was kind to her after Whistledown almost ruined her.

As she tells Penelope now, she’s only keeping Pen’s identity as Whistledown a secret so she can move on with her life without her former best friend.

So these are the undercurrents as we head to the first ball of the season. Upon the Featheringtons’ arrival, Penelope dramatically throws off her cloak to reveal her new look.

And friends, it’s fantastic. Her hair is down and beautifully draped over one shoulder, and her sparkly peacock-blue dress is a knockout. Colin stops talking mid-sentence when he gets a glimpse of her, AS HE SHOULD.

<p>Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix</p> Nicola Coughlan

Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix

Nicola Coughlan

Although she takes up her usual position against the wall, a trio of eligible men approach her. She’s awkward, and the men beat a hasty retreat as Eloise watches worriedly from a distance.

But it’s Francesca who comes to stand with Penelope. Pen warns her not to get buttonholed as a wallflower, but that’s fine with Fran. All she wants is a peaceful life with a kind man, and she doesn’t enjoy all the attention on her.

The two bond over how different they are from their siblings, and when a man asks Francesca to dance, she tosses Pen’s words back at her: “It’s difficult to come off the wall once you are on it.”

Maybe, but when the eligible Lord Alfred Debling (Sam Phillips) chats up Penelope mid-ice cream brain freeze, it’s clear that he sees her potential in a way that the rest of the ton doesn’t. It takes one to know one, after all; he’s a naturalist whose vegetarian diet makes him an oddity among his peers.

Cressida then ruins the moment by placing her pointy heel on the hem of Penelope’s beautiful new gown, tearing it when Pen tries to move. Eloise stammers a horrified apology, and UGH, I need these two to make up already. This rift is breaking my heart.

When Pen flees the ballroom, Colin follows to ask what’s wrong between the two of them. After all, she didn’t respond to his letters, although, “Admittedly, very few did.” Ha!

Penelope unloads what’s been weighing on her heart since last season. It’s bad enough that she’s the laughing stock of the ton, even when she changes her entire wardrobe, but it was too much to learn that Colin could be cruel about her, too.

Then she heads home and starts furiously writing. Oh dear. Much like not grocery shopping hungry, it’s never advisable to Whistledown angry.

The next day, Cressida crows to Eloise about sending Penelope a message. Thankfully, Eloise clearly states that this was extremely not cool, and Cressida blames society for pitting young women against each other. (Good thing we’ve solved that proble— wait, what's that?. Darn.)

She then mentions Eloise rebuffing her attempts at friendship in the past, and how dare you try to humanize Cressida, Bridgerton? How dare you make me feel sympathy for a trapped mean girl with little agency and even fewer options in the early 1800s?

In other hate-to-love-them character news, Portia’s paid a visit by a lawyer who essentially says, “Nice estate you have here. Be a shame if I had to redistribute it because I was able to prove Jack’s document is a forgery before one of your ridiculous daughters can present a male heir.” So on one hand, Portia’s a mother of daughters doing her best under an oppressive, patriarchal system. On the other hand, be nicer to Penelope!

Speaking of Penelope, Colin pays her a visit to apologize for his hurtful words, telling her that she’s warm and clever and he’s proud to call her his “very good friend.”

Ouch on Pen’s behalf for that friend-zoning, and double ouch when he offers to help her catch a husband who is definitely not him. But she agrees, they shake on it, and after he leaves, her disbelieving laugh dies when she remembers the latest Whistledown installment.

Yep, Penelope Whistledown’ed angry. The latest edition questions Queen Charlotte’s lack of a choice for a diamond of the season, with Julie Andrews’ plummy voiceover asking, “Fortitude or fear? Your serve, your majesty.” WILD of Penelope to keep picking fights with the queen.

Related: Bridgerton season 2 binge recap: The viscount who smoldered at me

And then we come to Colin. Although Eloise amusingly tries to hide it from him (Claudia Jessie remains the funniest physical comedian on the show), her brother reads Whistledown’s thoughts on his much-changed personality: “One must wonder, is this new character the real him, or simply a ploy for attention? And does Mr. Bridgerton even know?”

Colin claims not to care what Whistledown says about him, but he threatens to ruin her for what she wrote about Eloise and Miss Thompson. “I will never forgive her.”

Those are the stakes, my babies! Off we go!

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Jonathan Bailey, Simone Ashley

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Jonathan Bailey, Simone Ashley

On dits

  • The showrunners heard your cries, Kanthony fans. The gorgeous couple are back from their honeymoon and adjusting to married life. Although there are now two Lady Bridgertons afoot, Kate assures Violet (Ruth Gemmell) that she’s in no hurry for her to move to the dower house. She’s also in no hurry for Anthony to go running back to the paperwork that’s accumulated in their absence, so they sweep it to the floor to make way for some afternoon delight.

  • The showrunners also heard my personal cry of “More Newton!” The very good boy stays in character by barking at Kate and Anthony’s closed bedroom door. Let’s hear it for Jonathan Bailey’s consistently excellent portrayal of a man who loves giving his wife that Bridger-tongue.

  • Of all the changes this season, Will (Martins Imhangbe) and Alice (Emma Naomi) Mondrich experience the biggest one when their son inherits a barony after the death of Alice’s great-aunt. Let’s see how easy it is for the former boxer and his wife to swap their gentlemen’s club for a castle.

  • Charlotte, Agatha, and Brimsley all hit a little different post Queen Charlotte, don’t they? So much backstory we’re now privy to, much of it sad and all of it deepening these beloved characters.

  • God, the cakes and biscuits and sandwiches and various snacks on this show always look amazing. Wait, am I recapping hungry? Time to fortify myself with some tea and dive into episode 2!

Episode 2: "How Bright the Moon"

See that guy over there? The one in bed with two women whose names we never learn? I’m not sure that’s the guy you want teaching you how to catch a husband. Yet there’s Colin heading straight for Penelope like a Regency-era Terminator let loose at the market, much to Eloise’s consternation.

Pen tries to apologize for Whistledown’s column without letting on that she actually wrote it, but Colin blows it off with cheerful Whistledown threats. *nervous laugh*

He then encourages her to practice flirting with a couple of hovering men, and it does not go well. She waves her fan and flutters her lashes and generally looks like she’s having a hot flash. (As always, though, the corset/neckline combo does great things for Coughlan’s cleavage.)

Afterward, Penelope calls herself unteachable, but Colin reminds her that she was utterly charming the day they met when her bonnet took flight and knocked him off his horse into the mud. He chalks it up to a child’s lack of self-consciousness, and similarly, going abroad gave him the freedom to become fully himself.

Incidentally, that hat/horse incident is how Penelope and Colin’s book, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, opens. Book-Colin laughing off the incident is the exact moment that book-Penelope falls in love with him, and I’m so glad the show included it.

Of course, this is Show-Colin, and he takes the time to ogle two passing women before telling Pen that she’ll only find a husband when she’s comfortable with herself. Unfortunately, Penelope’s most comfortable with herself during Sunday tea at Bridgerton House, which is no longer an option.

Yet again, Colin asks what happened with Eloise, and yet again he’s rebuffed. It is a nice little runner this season that he’s worried about this broken friendship. Not only does it show that he knows how close the women were, but it’s a tiny ticking time bomb reminding us of the potential fallout when he learns the real reason for their fight.

Eloise herself is at Madame Delacroix’s shop with Violet, who wants to dress Francesca to catch the queen’s eye. And although Violet encourages Francesca to keep her heart open to love, Francesca just wants to pick a husband and be done with it.

Alice is also at the modiste’s to get her late great aunt’s gowns fitted. She’s not loving life as the mother of a baron, particularly because tradition dictates that she and Will sleep in separate bedrooms. Madame Delacroix encourages her to embrace change, but Alice is reluctant to alter the old-fashioned gowns. She’s delighted by the inherited jewelry, though.

Colin, meanwhile, takes advantage of the women’s shopping trip to sneak Pen into Bridgerton House so she can practice flirting in a comfortable environment. Penelope’s jumpy, but being in Colin’s presence relaxes her enough to let her cleverness flow. The two lock gazes as she tells him that his remarkably blue eyes shine even brighter when he’s kind. Um, hypothetically, of course.

He’s shaken by her directness, but Eloise returns home before they can unpack anything, and he rushes Penelope to the study. Left alone, she finds Colin’s travel journal and reads an entry about Paris and the beautiful women who live there. She steps away from it for about two seconds before snatching it back up and eagerly continuing to read.

Naturally, Colin catches her and snatches it away, knocking over a lantern and cutting his hand in the process. Penelope insists on bandaging the wound, and he’s intent on her fingers as she tends to him.

She hesitantly tells him that his writing is good, and after a beat, he pulls away, undoubtedly ruffled when he realizes she read one of his sexier entries. Pen’s flustered too, and she flees the house like a thief. Eloise spots her but turns away without a word.

In the carriage on the way to the ball that night, Eloise complains to Colin about it. Again he asks what the heck happened, and Eloise clams up before stiffly asking, “How is she?” When Colin explains their husband hunt, Eloise urges him to keep their arrangement secret.

He and Penelope then proceed to aggressively hang out at the ball. She wants to read more of his writing, but he wants to see more practice flirting, sending her off with, “You are Penelope Featherington. Do not forget that.” Correct, Bronze Colin!

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Luke Newton

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Luke Newton

Unfortunately, she drives her first target to tears by bringing up his recently deceased horse, and as Eloise glares from the next room, she and Colin giggle about it. (Her mistake, that is, not the dead horse. They’re not monsters.)

Cressida notices Eloise’s distress and encourages her to pretend that Penelope is dead. That’s… not bad advice, actually. In turn, Eloise confides that Colin’s helping Pen look for a husband, which is certainly A CHOICE given Cressida’s constant tormenting of Penelope.

In Eloise’s slight defense, she’s hurt because she and Pen planned to be spinsters together, and after Eloise leaves, the rest of the group starts to gossip. Cressida keeps quiet, yet while Penelope’s chatting with an interesting man who quotes Whistledown to her (it’s very Jess and Marie!), whispers erupt around them.

Yep, the ton has learned that Colin’s helping the spinster Featherington find a husband, and the titters and jeers follow Penelope as she slinks out of the ballroom.

Colin yells at Eloise when she admits to telling Cressida, and Eloise then yells at Cressida, who, in this matter anyway, is innocent. (Someone standing nearby heard Eloise share the info earlier and is the culprit.)

Cressida suggests that Eloise figure out whether or not she wants to be friends with Penelope, and also, maybe Cressida’s not the only mean girl in their friend group of two. Harsh, succinct, and true — and from Cressida, no less.

Related: How Bridgerton transformed Luke Newton into hunky 'pirate Colin' for season 3

And now a quick intermission to discuss the importance of proper sex education.

Portia needs one of her married daughters to get pregnant tout de suite so they can keep the estate in Featherington hands. Alas, the eldest sisters are more interested in ordering new upholstery and hiring new housekeepers than in having sex with their husbands.

“It flattens my hair!” Prudence (Bessie Carter) complains, while Philipa (Harriet Cains) is confused about what a man inserts where for baby-making, because her husband keeps his breeches on while they’re kissing. Looks like Portia’s going to have to institute a breeding program like they’re giant pandas at the zoo. Of course, “A woman’s pleasure is somewhat more… subtle… than a man’s” probably isn’t going to do the trick with these two.

There’s no good way to transition out of that subplot, so let’s check on Francesca, who brings up the subject of chord progressions when a suitor asks about her passion for music.

Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) suggests sending Francesca off to play the piano, then maneuvers the queen into catching her solo performance. Charlotte applauds Francesca’s confidence. “Sparkling, one might say.” Danbury gives a meaningful cane tap.

Benedict, meanwhile, danced one dance with an eligible miss who’s now looking at him with “I’m not going to be IGNORED, Dan” eyes. He takes a break from avoiding her to greet a nervous Will and Alice, arriving for the first ball.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich and Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich and Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton

He tells them that married people of their new rank can flout society’s rules, so that night the Mondrichs agree to enjoy their new freedom by sleeping in the same room. Alice also decides to remake the clothes to better suit her, although she will be keeping all the jewelry. Ummm, anybody else worried about them being this happy by only episode 2?

Back home, Penelope cries as she writes the next Whistledown installment detailing her own scandal. Portia bursts in to yell about Penelope being reckless and thinking she could actually find catch husband. Geez, no wonder her safe space was at Bridgerton House and not here.

Later that night, her maid summons Pen to the garden, where Colin’s waiting.

He calls Whistledown beastly, and Penelope replies that it would’ve been suspicious if Whistledown hadn’t made a big deal about her downfall. Does Colin clock that odd statement and maybe file it away for later? To be determined!

Then Penelope throws him the mother of all curveballs by asking him to kiss her, just once, no strings attached. Her marriage prospects are ruined, so it’ll never happen for her if her old friend doesn’t do her this favor.

“Please, Colin,” she whispers. He’s helpless in the face of her quivering lower lip, so he steps closer and complies, gently brushing his fingers along her cheek and down her neck as they kiss. And kiss. And kiss a little more.

Mission accomplished, Penelope thanks him and heads back inside, leaving him gobsmacked in the garden.

On dits

  • “Let me teach you how to find a husband, and by the end of this, that husband will, inevitably, be me” is a classic historical romance trope, and although it’s a deviation from the book, I appreciate the way it throws Colin and Penelope together in flirty situations. And readers, we were well fed with that hand-wrapping scene, were we not?

  • File this away for later: Lady Danbury looks less than pleased to get a letter about a mystery visitor’s imminent arrival.

  • Who else is loving the disability representation this season? In addition to the eligible bachelor using a mobility aid in this episode, episode 1 had a debutante speaking in sign language. They’re thoughtful, world-broadening details, and I’m glad they’re there.

  • There’s no way Colin hasn’t been going around London pulling the ol’ Joey Tribbiani “I was backpacking through Western Europe” Mount Tibadabo story on every woman he meets, right?

  • I want to hear more about Edwina’s splendid match abroad. Does this mean she didn’t marry the queen’s blondie prince nephew? Boo! But tell us more!

Episode 3: “Forces of Nature”

Kissing an old friend is bound to upend the status quo, so it’s no surprise when we open on what’s clearly a dream, all gauzy robes and windswept hair and Colin kissing Penelope into a doorway after confessing that he’s obsessed with her.

But twist! It’s not Pen’s dream. IT’S COLIN’S. I was in shambles at this reveal.

The next morning, Colin loudly tells his siblings that he did! not! dream! last night. Then talk turns to Lady Whistledown, and everyone agrees that Penelope’s fortunate to have a friend like Colin.

Well, everybody but Eloise, who storms over to the Featherington house, where Pen’s been shut away for a week after her humiliation. Looking like she sucked a lemon, Eloise comments that it’s not pleasant to be the object of a harsh Whistledown column and takes responsibility for the rumor getting out.

Pen immediately accepts her apology and invites her to stay and talk about books. But Eloise is off to meet a friend — ugh, we all know it’s Cressida — although she does wish Penelope luck in her quest this season.

This gives Penelope the courage to venture out of the house, where she and Colin hide under the branches of a massive weeping willow to talk unobserved. Colin’s affably confused when Pen tells him they need to stay away from each other, and although he smilingly agrees, he’s clearly flustered in her presence. Aww, ya big dumb dummy! You kissed someone you like and respect, and now you don’t know what to do about it!

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Claudia Jessie, Hannah Dodd

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Claudia Jessie, Hannah Dodd

Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Okay, who’s ready for some hot air balloon madness? I certainly wasn’t, but what a perfect spectacle to center this episode around.

Lady Cowper has warned Cressida that if she doesn’t get wifed up ASAP, a husband will be assigned to her. Otherwise, she’ll be forced to re-wear her dresses this season. Escandalo!

Cressida sets her sights on Lord Debling, who’s about to be hunted like that poor deer whose head is mounted on the wall.

Pen gets there first and is so over being laughed at by eligible suitors that she converses freely with him. He doesn’t read Lady Whistledown and congratulates Penelope on her willingness to step away from the herd.

Colin watches in jealousy, acting more and more like a fidgety cat when Alice praises him for helping his friend on her husband search. He also breathlessly asks Eloise, “Did she say anything about me?” when she mentions talking to Penelope earlier.

The following day at the actual balloon launch, Colin follows Penelope into the snack tent and almost short circuits when she grabs a cake and licks the icing off her fingers. Gotta say, Luke Newton and the writers have done a lovely job showing the elation, confusion, and longing of a man who suddenly woke up and saw an old friend through completely different eyes. Now we need him to do something about it.

But there’s Lord Debling calling Penelope over to join his conversation with Eloise and Cressida, blissfully unaware of the feminine warfare swirling under the surface of this social interaction.

Eloise reluctantly agrees to help Cressida bag Alfred, even though she knows that Pen’s also interested and that Cressida’s idea of honoring nature is wearing fur. When Cressida tries to discuss Lord Debling’s passion for saving the endangered great auk, Pen awkwardly adds, “I love birds. As well.”

While she babbles about common sparrows being beautiful, Colin sullenly houses a cake and tells his bros he’s done marriage-whispering for her. Then he goes back to grumbling about what a weirdo Debling is.

Related: A guide to the Bridgerton cast, from seasons 1 to 3

Benedict’s still avoiding the overly attached debutante he danced with earlier, so he ducks into a nearby tent. He whispers a snide remark about marriage-minded women to the person next to him, but his neighbor turns out to be a smart, sophisticated woman who’s there for a lecture on the mechanics of balloon flight and has no patience for his single-guy antics.

Outside, the wind is picking up, and Prudence and her dim husband accidentally set it loose when they’re getting frisky behind a tent and jostle a tether rope.

The freed balloon bears down on Penelope like her own personal Hindenburg, and Colin races to save the day in the silliest, most heroic display possible. As he and a team of men haul the balloon back under control, Penelope stumbles, and Debling throws his body over hers to protect her from the approaching gondola.

Thankfully, the balloonist hops in and pilots his contraption safely into the sky, leaving Cressida to pretend that she needs Debling’s help walking after a rope hit her ankle. It sends Pen flopping onto her bed in despair.

Naturally, a balloon launch calls for a ball that night. When the Bridgertons arrive, Violet drops her glove and has it gallantly handed to her by a handsome stranger who leaves her flustered. And that man, friends, is Lady Danbury’s BROTHER! His name is Lord Marcus Anderson (Daniel Francis), he loves his kids, and he doesn’t mention a wife. I’ll keep you updated as more details emerge from this developing situation.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, and David Mumeni as Lord Samadani

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, and David Mumeni as Lord Samadani

As the queen’s favor now rests on Francesca, she sends her high-ranking husband candidate into battle. Marquess Samadani (David Mumeni) is handsome and polite, but he wants eight kids and a noisy house.

This massive personal red flag sends Francesca fleeing the ballroom, where she encounters a man (John Alli) who’s also outside for the quiet. They stand side by side and enjoy the silence together. (Book readers, zip it!)

Benedict’s pleased to find the woman from the tent, the widowed Lady Tilley Arnold (Hannah New), who makes it clear she favors brute strength over aimless talking and isn’t interested in acquiring another husband. Their chemistry’s great, and Benedict asks her to dance. (Book readers, zip it!)

Elsewhere, time slows as Colin ignores his throngs of admirers to lock eyes with Penelope, but she turns away to intercept Lord Debling as he’s bringing Cressida a lemonade. She confesses that she’s actually a reader and a gossip (oh, baby, you have no idea!) who prefers to experience the great outdoors from behind her drawing-room window.

To his credit, Debling just smiles and says he wants to court someone who embraces her own peculiarity the way he does his. Then he gives her Cressida’s lemonade, which literally made me fist pump in victory on Pen’s behalf.

Violet catches Colin mid-broody staring, and under the guise of talking about Francesca, he asks how Violet and Edmund went from friends to lovers. “He gathered the courage to ask,” Violet says. Then she follows his gaze to Penelope and understands what he’s really asking.

As Whistledown voice-overs that nature will always win out, Colin stalks across the ballroom toward Penelope, but he’s interrupted by Lord Debling coming to claim his dance.

Pen accepts his hand, and Vitamin String Quartet launches into “Happier Than Ever” as she and Alfred twirl onto the dance floor.

On dits

  • In the pregnancy race, Portia makes her older girls drink some kind of fertility concoction that I’m scared to learn a single detail about. It makes them both vomit, but the episode ends with Philipa puking at the ball much later. Could a little Lord Featherington be on his way?

  • My fears about Will and Alice’s happiness were founded. He misses his club, and she misses their home, so they skip the balloon ball and head back to their regular life. But a club patron warns Will that he’s got to choose between being a peer and running the club.

  • I’m sorry to report that the great auk went extinct in the middle of the 19th century. Shoulda worked harder, Debling! (I actually shouldn’t joke. The flightless penguin-looking bird was protected by some of the earliest environmental laws in existence, but it was too little, too late for a species used as food, fishing bait, and pillow down. It’s a bummer of a story, and I beg you not to Google for any more details.)

  • Enough sad birds! Let’s get back to pretty people falling in love.

Episode 4: “Old Friends”

If you’re watching Bridgerton with a member of the clergy or an easily shocked family member, it’s time to send them on an errand. The final hour of season 3, part 1 is about to steam up some carriage windows.

We open on a tour of a library where Portia hisses at Penelope to stop learning about the world through reading so Lord Debling can teach her everything she needs to know.

When the pair do start talking, Pen confesses that she loves love stories, and worries Alfred will think that’s vapid. But he wants a practical, happy wife with her own interests. Then he asks if, hypothetically, he should ask a young lady’s mother for her hand if her father isn’t present. Pen is thrilled.

Colin is not, and hits the town with his boys. But he’s just not that into it, and by “it,” I mean his two paid companions for the night. He’s still a gentleman, though, and agrees to watch them entertain each other.

Speaking of gentlemen, Queen Charlotte is clearing the way for Samadani to court Francesa, even giving the Bridgerton household the recipe for mille-feuille, his favorite cake. (Yes, GBBO has tackled this treat.)

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, and Florence Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, and Florence Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton

Yet it’s not Samadani who walks into Bridgerton House, but the man who shared that moment of quiet with Francesca. His name is John Stirling, Lord Kilmartin, and Francesca is pleased to officially meet him.

They sit in happy silence until Samadani arrives, and Eloise is awed by this new technique to scare off suitors. Later, Francesca bumps into John on a stroll and they strike up a conversation about the musicians playing in the street. But when she mentions the frustrating time signature, John strides off, leaving her miffed.

Cressida’s also having a bad day. She lives in an oppressive mausoleum, the opposite in every way to Bridgerton House, and her parents are pressuring her to marry an old man. When Eloise drops by to check on her, it’s the first time one of her friends has ever paid her a call.

It’s probably the last time, too, after Eloise overhears the Cowpers ordering her to cut ties with “that Bridgerton girl.”

After seeing the dark, dreary Cowper house, Cressida’s exuberantly bombastic hair and gowns are even more head-scratching. But I love them, and I hope they never change.

The object of Cressida’s cruelty is nervously pacing the hallway as Lord Debling speaks to Portia, and afterward, the two Featheringtons celebrate the power Penelope’s station as Alfred’s wife will bring them.

When Portia realizes that her youngest was wishing for a love match, she scoffs, “Do you know what’s romantic? Security. Be smart, Penelope.”

Society turns Cressidas into Portias, and if the Penelopes are lucky, they’ll make it out unscathed.

Debling’s proposal will happen at the ball tonight, and Colin begs off, claiming a hangover. Violet sees what’s happening with her happiest, most sensitive child, and urges him to take off his protective armor and go after what he wants.

Related: From spoon licks to wet shirts, the cast of Bridgerton recaps the first 2 seasons

At the ball, a pair of dancers perform a passionate pas de deux for the ton. While it moves Penelope, their state of undress scandalizes an older couple.

Tilley Arnold cheekily agrees that she’s shocked by the shirtless man while promising Benedict with her heated gaze that they’ll be naked together again soon. ‘Tis yet another reminder that Benedict, and I cannot emphasize this enough, enjoys the company of ladies. Forget what you thought you saw in season 1!

Tonight, Queen Charlotte's wig has a hollowed-out section with, and I cannot emphasize this enough, mechanized crystal swans pirouetting inside it. She’s pleased to see Francesca with Samadani and hopes this success will improve her standing with Whistledown.

John Stirling approaches Francesca with a new arrangement of the music they heard on the street, changed to meet her suggestions. Words aren’t his strong suit, but gestures are, and Francesca blows off Samadani and his lemonade to run home and play it.

While Violet never wants to disappoint the queen, she’s happy when her children are happy. She also looks happy when Marcus approaches her. He says that if Francesca doesn’t marry for love, she can still have a good marriage. That was his experience with his late wife, although he’d like a love match for his second go-round.

After this meaningful exchange, Marcus asks his sister to please meddle in his love life. Agatha thinks he wants her help raking about town (great expression!) but it’s pretty clear he’s actually out to pick some violets. Well, one Violet in particular.

Penelope’s shaken up after that passionate dance performance, and she plucks up her courage to ask Debling if might love her someday.

He’s honest that he’s not sure he can make space in his heart for anything outside of his work, which is why he appreciates that Penelope has her own interests. And hey, he calls her beautiful, which Penelope deserves to hear over and over again. Just, ya know, maybe from a guy who loves her.

Aaaaaand enter Colin. His bros laughed him out of the club for trying to speak honestly about his feelings, and while he’s brooding at home, he remembers Penelope tending to his cut hand. He races to the ball, accompanied by the Vitamin String Quartet version of “Snow on the Beach,” and cuts in, taking Penelope into his arms and leaving Debling with Cressida.

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Jessica Madsen, Claudia Jessie

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Jessica Madsen, Claudia Jessie

As they dance, Colin begs Penelope to see that marrying Debling is a mistake, but she’s determined, and when her almost-fiance stalks past her, she follows him out of the ballroom.

Alfred asks her point-blank if she sits at her drawing-room window to catch sight of her old friend Colin who lives across the street. (His dance with Cressida filled in some blanks for him.)

Penelope insists that Colin doesn’t see her that way, but Debling prefers not to marry someone who’s in love with another man. Penelope is yet again left crying at a ball. Asking for Colin’s help was clearly a mistake.

…Or was it? Penelope heads for home in the Featherington carriage, and Colin chases it down to climb in with her. Penelope accuses him of ruining her best chance at marriage by making Debling think he cares about her.

Then Colin sinks to his knees to confess that he does have feelings for her. They’re the sweetest torture, and he doesn’t want them to stop, no matter what society expects of him.

His face falls when Penelope says they’re friends, but she, too, finds the courage to tell him she wants more than that.

It’s the permission Colin needs to kiss her, to put his hand on her waist, to enjoy the feel of her fingers sinking into his hair. For him to slide her dress off her shoulder and drag his mouth over every section of skin he exposes.

Then his hands creep under her skirt, and with her breathless consent, he shows her how much pleasure can be had when two people are more than friends. He watches Penelope as she falls apart and kisses her as she comes back to Earth.

Then a knock interrupts. Colin breathlessly asks if they can just keep driving, and they laugh together as he sweetly straightens her gown and steps out of the carriage.

Still breathing hard, he offers her his hand — and I mean that both literally and figuratively.

“For God’s sake, Penelope Featherington, are you going to marry me or not?” he asks.

On dits

  • Penelope’s dreams are coming true! Colin’s besotted, they’re getting married, and it’s sunny skies ahead… except for her secret pen name. Eloise’s continued cold shoulder. A fraudulent Featherington inheritance document. So many unexploded bombs that could detonate and blow a hole in her future.

  • How are we feeling about Lady Danbury’s brother? In the plus column, Marcus enjoys entertaining Agatha’s household staff. In the minus column, his sister hints at something in his past that should be left there. And beyond that, Bridgerton series author Julia Quinn has long maintained that she won’t write a second love story for Violet, so I’m intrigued to see how the show might attempt it.

  • Sorry to keep sticking the Mondrichs in the notes section! Their storyline isn’t as connected to the mains' this time around. Although Will wants to keep the club, Lady Danbury warns Alice that the ton and, more importantly, the queen, won’t support it. If Alice wants to keep their new life, she needs to convince Will to give up their old one.

  • Much like Edwina last season, Lord Debling seems like a good dude who deserves a happy ending. He brought Penelope a houseplant so she could enjoy the outdoors in her drawing room! He just needs to learn that he can love nature and another person at the same time.

  • My heart ached for Pen when she worried that Alfred would think less of her for reading love stories. Veteran romance readers are aware of the bias against our genre of choice, but with every Bridgerton and Virgin River, a little more of that stigma chips away. I say this to encourage anyone who loves the show but hasn’t picked up a romance novel to take the plunge. Penelope loves love, and so will you.

  • See you back here on June 13 for the final four episodes of season 3!

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.