‘The Buccaneers’ Episode 3 Recap: “The Perfect Duchess”
In “The Perfect Duchess” (The Buccaneers Episode 3), a few weeks have passed since the Duke’s marriage proposal to Nan. She’s still contemplating the decision, mainly confused at how the Duke can love her without really knowing her. But when she confides in her best friend Conchita, she’s waved off. “After the wedding is when the knowing happens,” Conchita says, suddenly wise about married life.
Nan and her friends (minus Lizzy, who has returned to New York after being humiliated by Lord James Seadown) have been invited to a private ball at the Duke’s home, providing the backdrop for the episode. James’s arrival at the castle is accompanied by news that he and Jinny have eloped, eschewing the traditionally large ceremony that was slated for New York. The Marable parents aren’t thrilled at this change in tradition, but he’s still married into money and that’s all that really matters to them. They’re quite miserable parents anyway, making snide comments to their daughter Honoria about how she’ll never marry and, of course, throwing shade at Conchita at every chance they get.
But the ball is a showcase for Nan, who has happily stepped aside for her friends and sister throughout the debutante season. When she arrives, she’s handed a letter from Theo and the two meet on the beach. He expresses that he wants the proposal to be “a pure question, unburdened by context,” though his life as a Duke has changed the entire equation. Theo understands her hesitations, not wanting to have the title himself, and tells her that she should call it off if she’s not interested in the lifestyle that accompanies it.
Being the guest of honor means she’s also summoned to speak to Theo’s mom, the Duchess, one on one—a manageable feat for the quick-witted and open-hearted Nan. They have an open exchange about life as a Duchess and his mother expresses her concerns about how little they know about her, though she’s sure that her son loves her just by his actions. Nan shares that she’s wearing a bluebell blue dress to the ball and the Duchess recounts that she, too, wore a dress that shade for her own debut—though she warns her to act differently than a bluebell and hold her head high. The Duchess later sends a necklace and earring set to complement her dress, subtly endorsing Nan as her daughter-in-law-to-be.
Of course, Nan’s other suitor has to make an appearance in what would otherwise seem like a fairytale ending. It’s revealed that the man she met at Conchita’s wedding is none other than the Duke’s oldest friend, Guy. Suddenly, Nan is terrified that Guy will spill the beans about her true parentage, which could damage her stead amongst the British elite. She approaches him cautiously, even somewhat rudely (like when he helps steady her horse) but the distance between them doesn’t last long; at the ball, they are paired together for a dance and Nan asks him why he left so quickly after her confession at Runningmeade. He admits he was scared but reassures her that he hasn’t told a soul. By episode’s end, he describes her as his “new friend” and tells her that she’ll be a great Duchess, simultaneously bowing out of the fight for her heart and promising that her secret is safe with him. So far, the plot of him marrying an American for money hasn’t reared its head since the pilot, so it remains to be seen if, when, and how he’ll sabotage Nan’s relationship.
The dance with Guy at the ball and the chat on the stairs after is enough to give Nan hope for the future with the Duke, and at dawn after the ball she accepts his proposal on the beach. But as usual, Conchita steals her thunder: all night she’s been sulking about her in-laws. It’s a valid thing to be livid about—they deny her accusations about her skin color being a factor and Jinny doesn’t help when she assures their mother-in-law that she’ll be “less of a peacock” than Conchita.
But for Conchita, her plight—which should not have been a major surprise given Richard’s vocal concerns—sucks up all of the air in the room, leaving little for anyone else, and Nan is over it. When Conchita runs off in the middle of the ball after the conversation with Richard’s parents, Nan, slightly out of character, tells everyone that she’s doing it for attention. Later, when Conchita comes back in one piece and giddy with Richard’s promise that they’ll relocate to New York, Nan lets loose about how everything revolves around her best friend. They yell at each other without really hearing the other person, and by episode’s end they’re still at odds with one another.
While all of this drama is happening, Mabel and Honoria get closer and share a rain-soaked kiss behind a stone wall. It’s been clear since they met that they are drawn to each other, and it’s always great to see a queer story receive some shine in a period setting.
After Nan accepts Theo’s proposal, she requests time to go back to New York to speak with her mom—likely asking for answers to the question of her parentage that has been looming since the secret left Jinny’s lips. To Theo’s credit, he’s excited to see where his bride-to-be came from but when he uses those words, it saddens Nan because she herself is now unsure of the answer. When she sneaks back into her bedroom and awakes a sleeping Mabel, her friend tells her that Guy did come back to Runningmeade the next day, meaning her assumption that he was so horrified by the truth that he fled was untrue. As Nan lies in bed that night, a look creeps across her face: what have I done?
Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Paste Magazine, Teen Vogue, Vulture and more. At any given moment, she can ruminate at length over Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You may call her Rad.
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