Bridgerton Recap: the Penelope/Eloise Fight, Colin and the Ruby Mine Scam, & Cressida

Now Bridgerton season 3 has arrived, here’s a reminder of what happened in season 2.

Bridgerton Colin Penelope
Photo: Netflix

Warning: contains spoilers for Bridgerton season 2.

Of all the separations shown in Bridgerton’s second season, the finale bust-up between Penelope and Eloise was perhaps the most painful. The former best friends who grew up across the street from one another had once been book-loving accomplices. They’d found solace in each other’s company, away from the ribbons-and-marriage-filled heads of other girls their age. When Eloise told Pen that she never wished to see or speak to her again, they weren’t the only ones heartbroken about it.

That heartbreak continues in season three, the first four episodes of which are now streaming on Netflix, while the second half will follow on June 13. Months later, Pen and Eloise are still not speaking, while Pen is also keeping her distance from Eloise’s brother Colin, the man she secretly loves, after he unwittingly hurt her feelings at the Featherington ball.

Between that, Cousin Jack’s ruby mine scam, Cressida Cowper’s dashed marriage hopes, and Portia Featherington’s scheme to retain her family estate, there’s a lot to keep fresh in our minds for the start of season three. Let’s recap!

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What Did Lady Whistledown Write About Eloise?

In season two, Eloise Bridgerton’s curiosity and intellect led her to feminist literature and radical political meetings. At such a meeting, she struck up a friendship with printer’s apprentice Theo Sharpe. Despite their natural affinity, Theo was far below Eloise’s social class and could never be accepted as her friend, let alone her husband. When their friendship was exposed in the pages of Lady Whistledown’s scandal sheet, Eloise’s reputation was set as a “radical ruffian” – as the snobbish Cressida Cowper named her –, harming her marriage prospects and giving the Bridgertons yet another public scandal to live down.

Worse than all of that though, was Eloise’s discovery that she had her best friend Penelope to blame for her new notoriety. Eloise had been tasked by Queen Charlotte – who has an ongoing rivalry with Lady W – to discover the true identity of the anonymous scandal sheet writer. When she failed to do so, Queen Charlotte suspected Eloise herself of being Lady Whistledown. In order to protect Eloise from suspicion and save her from the Queen’s wrath, Penelope exposed the Theo Sharpe scandal to prove that El was not Lady W.

Job done, but feeling ashamed of the pain she’d caused with her pamphlets, Pen stopped writing. With nowhere else to go though, her talent for picking up gossip burst out of her while speaking to Eloise at the Featherington ball. El recognised Whistledown’s characteristic tone and searched Pen’s room. There, she discovered Penelope’s hidden fortune – earned through the sale of the sheets – and confronted her. Pen confessed to everything, both said some ugly things, and their years-long friendship was broken. In season three, it remains fractured.

Colin Unwittingly Hurts Penelope

Colin Bridgerton, with whom Pen is secretly in love, acted both heroically and clumsily in the season two finale. Heroically, he exposed the fraud being committed by cousin Jack, the new male heir to the Featherington estate, and clumsily, he was overheard by Pen telling Lord Fife that he would never court her in his “wildest fantasies”.

Colin’s rakish set had been teasing him about having danced with Penelope at her mother’s ball, and he denied having any intentions towards her in the strongest terms. Pen had previously been hopeful that Colin’s chivalrous confrontation of Jack was proof of his feelings for her, so when she overheard his protest, her hopes were cruelly dashed.

At the start of season three, Colin has once again been away travelling. Having no idea that Penelope overheard him at the ball, he can’t understand her new distance upon his return.

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The Featherington Ruby Mine Scam

After Lord Featherington was fatally poisoned by the men to whom he owed gambling debts in season one, Portia and her three daughters were left on shaky ground. Like the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice and the Crawley girls in Downton Abbey, the family estate was entailed on a male heir and would be inherited not by them, but by a distant male relative. For the Featheringtons, that relative was cousin Jack, who presented himself as a wealthy man who owned lucrative mines in the Americas.

Jack courted the wealthy Cressida Cowper, until Lady Featherington engineered a public scandal that forced him to break with Cressida and get engaged to her eldest daughter Prudence. Lady F thought that would ensure the family estate remained with her and the girls.

In truth, Jack was broke. His overflowing gem mines were empty and the rubies he’d been showing around London were mere paste. He’d pursued Cressida for her family’s money, and had fraudulently been taking investments from members of the Ton. When Lady Featherington discovered his deception, she had joined forces with him and colluded in the fraud, agreeing to abscond to America with him and the money.

Colin Bridgerton’s attempt to protect the Featherington women by exposing Jack’s scam ruined the whole plan. Jack tried to persuade Lady F to run away with him on the night of the ball, leaving her daughters behind. She turned the tables on him by taking the money, leaving him enough for his passage to America, and threatening to expose him at the ball in front of the many people he’d defrauded. Off he went, and she spread the story that he’d absconded in the night, taking the Ton’s money with him, when in reality, she’d kept it – and now has to come up with a lie to explain her sudden windfall.

Lady Featherington’s other masterstroke was in having housekeeper Varley forge Jack’s signature on a document leaving the estate to whichever of her daughters is first to produce a male heir. Problem solved, or so she thinks…

Cressida Cowper: Mean Girl

Gossip girl Cressida Cowper has a more prominent role in season three, so it’s worth remembering what she’s been all about, i.e. rivalry with other debs. In season one, Cressida and her ghastly mother were bitterly disappointed that Daphne Bridgerton, and not Cressida, was chosen by Queen Charlotte as her “incomparable”, the debutante of the season.

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Cressida revealed her cruel streak in season one, deliberately spilling a drink on Penelope Featherington in order to get Colin Bridgerton to herself. That ploy failed. She tried to secure the Queen’s nephew Prince Friedrich by fainting (another failed ploy), and when she spied on Daphne kissing Lord Hastings in the gardens, she threatened to destroy Daphne’s reputation, forcing Daphne and Simon to marry.  

In season two, Cressida came close to marrying the Featherington’s cousin Jack (who turned out to be broke and only after her money) but was scuppered in that plan by Lady F. Cressida has never had a good word to say about the Featheringtons, Penelope especially, and is always first to share a malicious rumor. All of which makes it strange that Eloise Bridgerton should choose her as a friend in season three. Unless there’s more to Cressida than previously thought…

Will Eloise Keep Lady Whistledown’s Secret?

Now in possession of the most valuable secret in London, will Eloise’s previous loyalty to Penelope mean she keeps her Lady Whistledown secret, or could the game be up for Pen?

Oh, AND…

Anthony Bridgerton married Kate Sharma after his wedding to her younger sister Edwina was called off due to Edwina realizing that he and Kate were deeply in love. It was a whole big thing and the focus of the entire season, but apart from being lovely and really quite hot, it isn’t hugely relevant to the new episodes.

Bridgerton season three part one is streaming now on Netflix. Part two arrives on June 13.