‘The Crown’ Season 2, Episode 8 Recap: The Kennedys Are Coming to Dinner
*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
In season two, episode eight of The Crown, Elizabeth (Claire Foy) catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and doesn’t like what she sees—like, at all. Continuing her masochism, she quizzes her mother (Victoria Hamilton) about when it’s time to start calling yourself middle-aged. The Queen Mother dismisses Liz’s question as nonsense, but not before making her feel even dowdier by marveling over how young Jacqueline Kennedy (Jodi Balfour) looks on TV. Subtle.
“I thought she was the same age as you,” the Queen Mother says to her daughter.
“She is,” mutters Elizabeth, totally taking QM’s overbearing bait.
The Queen Mummy’s words about the oh-so-fabulous Jackie have clearly gotten to Eliz. But so has Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s gushing over how Jackie had the French president eating out of the palm of her hand with her knowledge of French, philosophy and politics. She keeps this all in mind as she preps for the “small informal dinner” she’s hosting for the Kennedys at Buckingham Palace. Elizabeth painstakingly squeezes her post-baby body into a ball gown. Like the annoying cherry on top of her frustration sundae, Philip (Matt Smith) can’t seem to shut up about getting to sit next to Jackie at dinner.
“Could you be marginally less excited?” asks Elizabeth.
“No. It’s like royalty!” enthuses Philip. Har. Har.
The Kennedys royally mess up protocol in greeting the queen, but that seems to bother Elizabeth far less than Philip’s incessant flirting with the “divine and frightfully clever” American president’s wife over dinner.
“I hope my wife isn’t causing too much trouble?” JFK (played by Dexter’s Michael C. Hall) says to Philip in a manner that expresses he knows exactly how much trouble she’s causing.
“You do know you’re the luckiest man on earth?” asks Philip just as rhetorically.
Ugh, eye roll.
Elizabeth decides to take Jackie on a tour of the palace. Away from the crowd, the first lady opens up about being shy by nature and often wonders how she ended up living her life in a fishbowl. Her logic is that she sought out someone strong to protect her, and that person, her husband, thrives on a crowd and would rather be surrounded by ten thousand people than be alone with her.
Jackie’s idea of heaven is being by herself in the countryside. The two women bond over being happiest in the company of animals and having sisters who would have enjoyed their positions more than they do. Besties!
Speaking of sisters, Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) never misses an opportunity to undermine her sister and rattle her confidence. She’s heard through the grapevine that Jackie said some not-so-lovely things about the queen after her visit, like how she found Buckingham Palace second-rate, dilapidated and sad, like a neglected provincial hotel. Mrs. Kennedy didn’t stop there: The queen, she thought, was an incurious, unintelligent, unremarkable middle-aged woman. But God bless Queen Elizabeth’s sense of humor. “Well, we must have her again soon,” Liz says wryly.
Meanwhile, a serious situation is developing in Accra, Ghana, where President Kwame Nkrumah is intent on moving away from the Commonwealth and into the arms of the Soviets, who are hoping for a foothold in Africa.
Elizabeth, who has been feeling like a rather useless puppet this entire episode, wants to step up and actually engage in politics for a change. Against everyone’s advice, she decides to go to Ghana to defend the Commonwealth.
Once she arrives, Elizabeth discovers she is, as her advisers suspected, being used as a pawn in Nkrumah’s game of pitting the Americans, Soviets and Brits against one another. Realizing she has walked straight into this trap, Elizabeth devises a plan to participate in this game of his. Elizabeth orchestrates a dance with the president at dinner, and over the fox-trot it appears the terms of the relationship between these two nations are settled. Even Philip is impressed by his wife’s ingenuity.
The royal couple seems to be on solid ground again, unlike the “luckiest man on earth” and his wife. We see JFK giving a dinner speech about what it means to be American that fires up every guest except one, his wife, who stands by as he flirts with female guests.
After JFK’s dazzling performance, the couple shares a terse conversation in which Jackie asks her philandering husband not to humiliate her. He credits her insults of the queen for bringing back Ghana from the clutches of the Soviets. Jackie looks horrified that Elizabeth is aware of her mean-girl antics—to some degree because she will have to see the queen over lunch soon.
Realizing what a terrible person she’s been, Jackie requests to see Elizabeth before their meal. This time, Elizabeth pulls out all the stops, inviting her to Windsor Castle and putting on a show involving horses and guards.
As the two women come face-to-face, an embarrassed Jackie extends an apology for her foolish comments. The queen, going to town quite aggressively on a scone, assures Jackie that she believes no harm was meant. The scone might beg to differ.
Jackie explains that while it may have looked like the couple was riding on a high, she was suffering from postnatal depression and their relationship was beyond strained. While she had taken pleasure in being her charming self in Paris once again, she was punished behind the scenes for overshadowing her husband. A cocktail of drugs to lift her spirits loosened her tongue. Jackie admits to Elizabeth how much she admires her composure and dignity, and how what she did in Ghana was extraordinary.
“I should have said, ‘I felt utterly useless in comparison to you,’” Elizabeth relays to Philip later that evening. “But I didn’t. I just sat there.”
A few months, later Elizabeth is called back to the house, where she learns that President Kennedy has been shot. Elizabeth and Philip embrace each other when they realize JFK is dead, no doubt fearing their own mortality and realizing how lucky they are to have each other.
Seeing Jackie exit the plane, still wearing her bloodstained clothes, Elizabeth suspects her wardrobe choice is a deliberate one. She decides to break protocol and have the bells rung at Westminster Abbey for the fallen president—her gift to the woman the entire world considered American royalty.