‘The Crown’ Season 2, Episode 10 Recap: Philip & Elizabeth’s Final Straw
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
Can you believe we’ve reached the end of season two? Neither can we!
Season two, episode ten begins in April 1962, and as if the writers of The Crown knew exactly what we’re going to miss most, they take us through Philip’s (Matt Smith) daily exercise routine. But as he stretches and does sit-ups, he seems to have pulled something in his neck and accompanies every move with a groan or a sigh. (It’s OK, Phil, we’ve all been there.)
Refusing to see a professional, he decides to crack his own neck, which of course ends with his neck in a brace...and having to see a professional.
The osteopath, Stephen Ward, goes to town on the duke’s neck but says that, while he can help with the symptoms, the underlying cause is usually something else: Emotional strain. Unresolved conflict. The treatment, says the doctor, is changing one’s lifestyle.
Philip says he used to have a guy who made sure there wasn’t too much tension in his life: Mike Parker (Daniel Ings). The doctor knows him well. It has even been suggested he could fill Mike’s shoes and take the duke out on the town. Ward enjoys, uh, putting people together. Like, for example, with Christine. And Mandy. You know, ladies with no surnames.
One year later, Christine (Gala Gordon)—her last name is Keeler, by the way—is being interrogated by, presumably, British intelligence about her relationships with Soviet naval attaché Eugene Ivanov and British Secretary of State for War John Profumo (Tim Steed). A photo from one of Ward’s parties reveals the back of a head that the authorities are trying to identify. You already know whose slick head of hair it likely is...
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (Anton Lesser) decides to chat with Profumo, mano a mano, and despite his wife’s suspecting that the war secretary is the mystery man in the photo, Macmillan goes out on a limb for his colleague and shows his support for Profumo in a press conference.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth (Claire Foy) is told she is expecting another child but needs to take it easy as her iron levels are low.When she goes to announce the news to Philip, she is told he’s away at a last-minute house party for the weekend. (It’s Wednesday...)
There’s just no way this is going to be an easy pregnancy for Elizabeth. Ward has confirmed that he introduced Profumo to the call girls and Russian spy, but while Profumo has admitted to an affair, he swears he is not in the picture. Margaret (Vanessa Kirby), though, seems to be in the know, having heard a rumor about that photo. Elizabeth seems to immediately understand what Margaret is implying.
With the prime minister having vouched for Profumo’s innocence, he feels he needs to resign so the integrity of the government will no longer be compromised. Elizabeth refuses his resignation, saying he must go on. She doesn’t have time for this, she’s got other crap to deal with, namely her pregnancy and her problem-causing hubby.
After Ward stands trial for his crimes, rather than being convicted for living off immoral earnings, he ends up taking his own life. As the authorities comb through his office, sketches of the duke are discovered. Michael Adeane (Will Keen)—again—has the unenviable task of informing the queen of this unpleasant piece of information. A connection between Ward and the duke has been confirmed by eyewitnesses, and now there is concern that the portraits may fall into the wrong hands.
Side note: It is going to be so sad when Claire Foy is no longer portraying the queen. The way she conveys concern, disappointment and strength without saying a single word is masterful. All hail, Claire Foy!
Poor Macmillan, this time being wheeled out on a hospital bed after having a tumor removed, is determined to resign. Elizabeth lays into him, letting him know that in the ten years she’s been queen, she’s had three prime ministers who didn’t last the course because they were too old, too ill or too weak. (It’s hard to determine which category applies to whom, as Churchill [John Lithgow], Macmillan and Eden [Jeremy Northam] fall under all three.)
“A confederacy of elected quitters,” she calls them, before walking out.
Elizabeth leaves for Scotland, and Philip—finally sensing that he may have taken his careless behavior too far—follows her up to Balmoral. She’s (understandably) not thrilled to see him, and Philip looks really worried that their relationship might be beyond repair.
The next day, Philip finds Elizabeth in her study and tries to express his understanding of all the things bothering her, effectively listing everything except himself. He asks her if truly, among all the madness, she realizes there are people who are there for her, no matter what. Seriously, Philip?
“If only,” says Elizabeth.
Philip asks that she come right out and accuse him if she has something to say.
“All right. Stephen Ward,” counters the queen, merely raising an eyebrow.
Philip looks as if he’s been caught, but plays it off as if he has never heard of this man. Elizabeth points out that there are portraits of him in Ward’s office that were found after he took his life.
Philip then tries to play it off as if the man he only two seconds ago claimed to have never heard of has only treated his neck. That, even if Ward may have invited him to visit for the weekend, he never went. When Elizabeth asks point blank if he is the mystery man in the photo, he tells her not to be ridiculous.
“I am not ridiculous,” she tells him. “You are a mystery man to me.”
Burn. You tell him, Eliz.
She tells Philip that she can handle the truth. She just needs to know the truth. She finally confronts him about the photo of Galina Ulanova that she found in his bag way back in episode one.
Philip stares at the picture, then stares at his wife. As the long silence seems to confirm her worst fears, she looks like she is about to burst into tears. Philip closes the drawer and starts to head out of the room. He stops.
“There are two types of people in life. Those whom one imagines to be trustworthy and reliable, who turn out to be treacherous and weak, like Mr. Macmillan. And those who appear to be complex and difficult, who turn out to be more dependable than anyone thought. Like me,” he says.
Philip says he knows what his job is. She is his job. She is the essence of his duty.
The most vulnerable we’ve seen her yet, Elizabeth tells him that they’re both realists. She understands that he sometimes needs to do what he needs to do and can look the other way if needed. But Philip disagrees and says she’s already turned looking the other way into an art form.
“You can look this way,” he says. “I’m yours. In. And not because you’ve given me a title, not because we’ve come to an agreement. But because I want to be.” Dammit, Philip, you’re tearing us apart! Ugh, we’re not crying, you’re crying.
“Because I love you,” he says softly as they quietly embrace, and we all get to sit in this complex, uncomfortable, unconventional marriage and let all the emotions sink in.
This time, as Elizabeth gives birth, Philip is not away playing racquetball, but at her side. He looks at her as if she’s just performed a miracle. Were we totally wrong about Philip all along? Or is this simply a turning point for a man who has mostly looked out for number one because no one has demanded anything different from him?
Lest we allow ourselves to believe The Crown has turned into a Disney film, we end on the making of a family portrait—a scene more reminiscent of Modern Family than Snow White. Yes, these people are all combative, petulant and somewhat spoiled. But above all, they’re human. And we’re going to miss them. A lot.