The Borgias 2.02—Paolo

Remember Paolo? Lucrezia’s baby daddy? I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say he’s involved in tonight’s episode given the title. I’m thinking there might be a little baby mama drama this week. Ooh, and in the previouslies we’re reminded of Ursula Bonadeo too. And looks like we’ll get a bit more of the Vittoria/o storyline and the teasing of Lucrezia/Cesare. So join me as I indulge again this week…

We start this week with Paolo on horseback and a bunch of sheep being herded down the road. The shepherds inform Paolo that he can find his way to Rome by the stench of it.

In Pope Daddy’s apartment we find him sleeping in the middle of his bed with Julia draped over his left side and Vittoria slipping out of bed on the right. *sigh* Pope Daddy wakes and tells Giulia that he dreamed there was a trinity in the bed last night and Giulia poses the question, “What if there was no dream and we were three indeed?” Pope Daddy was deep into his red Solo cups at the party and his memories are a little foggy; he doesn’t know if the threesome was at his invitation, Giulia’s, or theirs together. She admits it was all her and suggests she should be “whipped” for her offense. Bound and whipped and ravaged. “Often.” Mmmm. Visions of sugar plums are dancing in my head.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Borgia is at his nunnery, thumping a stringed instrument. Sister Martha (aka Ursula) is brought into the room where we see there’s scaffolding set up for the artist painting a fresco of St. Cecilia. As the nunnery’s patron and man who is paying for the fresco, Cesare gets what he wants here and what he wants is for Sister Martha to pose for the painting. He roughly and rips her veil and wimple off revealing her shorn head as the painter looks on and my heart breaks for this woman not for the first time. He just can’t stop humiliating her.

Speaking of torture… Prince Alfonso is stretched out, bound, and hanging from a rack. There’s blood all over his body from where he’s been cut and slowly bled. From the look of his face and the lack of movement I’m not sure if he’s simply unconscious or already dead. And then our plastic surgeon-turned-torturer starts to CUT HIS FACE OFF at the jawline. Lovely.

In a different nunnery (the one from last week), Della Rovere sits outside. Remember how he was poisoned last week and Cesare said he’d live? Well, he’s still alive but he’s only drinking rainwater, refusing any food. Nothing but the rain can be trusted. He does, however, request a Capuchin monkey. Yeah… I don’t know either. (A quick search on wikipedia tells me Capuchins were discovered by Europeans in the early 15th century and got their name from their resemblance to the hoods Franciscan monks wore. And while Della Rovere was a Franciscan, I’m not really sure this explains much.)

Anyway… Back in Rome Paolo strolls through the city being followed by a colorfully dressed woman (by which I mean a whore) who asks if he’s seeking a lady. He tells her yes, that he’s seeking Lucrezia. Our unnamed whore knows many Lucrezias. And I’m betting a few ladies who would let him call them Lucrezia.

Over in the Vatican’s restoration room, Vittorio kneels working on a piece of sculpture. Pope Daddy crouches behind her and asks where she sleeps at night. She tells him she’s a commoner and I think this is the first time class issues catch Rodrigo’s attention. Cardinal Ascania Sforza enters the room behind Pope Daddy as he presses a kiss to Vittorio’s cheek. It’s hard to read his expression, but it doesn’t really look like he approves of the pope touching a young man. But he’s got more important things to worry about—they have grave financial matters to discuss.

Out in the streets, Paolo has been led by his new friend to the outside of a house of ill repute where several ladies are offering to be his Lucrezia. And I smile for calling that one. Not that it was hard. But then neither is Paolo; he’s too focused on his one true love. He says he’s looking for his Lucrezia and when they ask for a second name they laugh at his response of “Borgia.” Poor boy, he’s soooooo out of his element.

Back to Pope Daddy and Sforza… It seems all this partying is draining the Vatican coffers. The finances are getting a little thin and it’s Sforza’s job to mind Vatican funds. I’m not sure how he’s going to manage things when Pope Daddy keeps spending without care.

Still sitting outside at the nunnery, Cardinal Della Rovere is now eating. With a monkey on his arm. It’s more clear now in purpose—he feeds the monkey food before eating himself. (I’m still not sure why it needs to be a Capuchin monkey and not some other animal or even sharing food with the nuns, but whatever.) He’s named the monkey Julius (interesting as he will become—in real history—Pope Julius II). He seems a little out of his mind here and I hope this means he’s going to become a more interesting and fun bad guy. After all, he’ll one day be known as “The Fearsome Pope” and “The Warrior Pope.” Seems like he should get to be crazy for a while, right?

Continuing to walk the streets—though not in the same way as his companion—Paolo gets a lesson in class differences in Rome (and that seems to be the real theme this episode) and learns about a new invention known as a fork. Our working girl explains that the commoners of Rome are starving while Lucrezia Borgia probably eats from a gold fork.

Cut to the Borgias dining in luxury. With forks. They’ve got a nice spread before them and Pope Daddy’s gnawing on a turkey leg like he’s at a RenFest. Juan is being an ass as usual. Pope Daddy turns the conversation, asking who would join him if he were to go out and walk among the common folk. Cesare says he’d need protection while Juan flips out saying he CANNOT go. Rodrigo says Jesus walked among the people and Juan reminds him that Jesus wasn’t the Pope. (Even stupid jerks have moments of wisdom.)

***

Pope Daddy, Giulia, and Vittorio are dressed in plain clothes and head out to walk through the streets among the poor. At night. With no guards. There’s almost a small attack, but Daddy’s got his sword out. (Not that one, an actual one. Made out of metal.) Then a woman comes up asking for alms to feed her child. Her dead child. Vittorio points out that while the Roman emperors weren’t the best, they maintained order and provided basics like water for the people. We see a broken aqueduct above them before they enter a ruined bathhouse that’s now a squat for orphans.

It’s not pretty and Pope Daddy doesn’t understand how this can be since there’s a specific church fund for charitable works. According to Vittoria that bounty never reaches the people. And looky who’s sleeping on the ground as they pass by… our lovely Paolo.

Next Vittoria takes them to a gaming house. As they wager at a table, Pope Daddy says he’s going to have Giulia go through the accounts and see that the money for the poor actually goes to the poor. Also he wants to rid the city of the pigeons. (WTF?) So they shall have a wager between them to see whose task is more difficult—poverty or pigeons. (As someone with a social services type job, I can tell you it’s much easier to get rid of the flying rats.)

***

Cardinal Della Rovere has been loaded into a cart pulled by a mule and led by a nun. He’s being taken to a monastery and from there the brothers will get him to Rome.

Meanwhile Pope Daddy meets with Cardinal Versucci who is apparently responsible for the Office of Public Works and has held said position for twenty years. He now owns three palaces while orphans live in that crumbling old bathhouse. “The poor will always be with us,” the Cardinal says. And again Pope Daddy brings up getting rid of the pigeons.

Pope Daddy guides Versucci to a room where Giulia is seated at a desk and informs our old Cardinal that she will be reviewing twenty years of books with him. Versucci is not amused. This is not a role for a woman, it seems. Not because she can’t count (he assures her that women are capable of counting their children, a misogyny… how some things never change), but because a woman should not have access to curatorial accounts. Perhaps he’d rather have some former Anderson Accounting people come in and shred the books for him? Our dear Giulia, however, is not only able to count, she’s learned in the Florentine bankers’ new system of double-entry bookkeeping which is wonderful for showing discrepancies. She smiles at Versucci and leads him to the desk as I once again marvel at how fucking awesome Miss Giulia Farnese is.

Back to those damn pigeons. A birdman has been brought in with two falcons (one who rests on Pope Daddy’s gloved hand). And wow… as soon as that bird’s hood is removed and he’s released the pigeons on surrounding rooftops take off. The falcon snatches up some dinner and Pope Daddy says he wants “a battalion of those birds.” Me too; it was really kind of awesome.

***

On the road to the monastery, our sweet little nun leads her cart (with Della Rovere sharpening a wooden stake behind the drawn canvas walls) through a vineyard where two men step out to confront her. One has a knife and they ask about the value of her cargo then approach and pull her veil off leaving her looking frightened and as pale as her wimple. (And what’s with removing the nuns’ headpieces this week?)

Della Rovere has a bit of a Micheletto moment when he stabs one guy in the neck through the curtains around him and then throws his knife into the other one. The poor nun is a bit freaked and then he lifts the curtain to say, “Forgive me, Sister. Sometimes goodness needs the help of a little badness.” I just got turned on. That’s the Colm Feore I’ve been waiting for. Damn. And if this is the Della Rovere we get to see this season, I cannot wait for next week.

***

Paolo’s and his lady friend are outside the Vatican. He’s watching for signs of his love while lady friend’s trying to catch the attention of a religious man. And then Lucrezia walks out on Juan’s arm. Paolo ducks behind post as he follows them, unable to shift his gaze away as they move through a marketplace and stop at a fountain where Lucrezia tosses in a coin and makes her silent wish. When she opens her eyes she says “Narcissus” as she see’s Paolo’s reflection in the water (and remember she was Echo for the party last week). Then BAM!  Juan comes on the attack, shoving Paolo’s head into the fountain then pulling him out and roughing it up. Lucrezia’s words spare his life although she denies knowing who Paolo is. She tells him he may make amends by saying a prayer by the fountain at midnight and Juan seems too stupid to get the hidden message there.

Paolo meets up with his lady friend who just saw a different sort of “heaven” and earned some coin. She seems genuinely happy for him that he’s seen his love and has arranged to see her again.

***

So tortured boy? Dead. And I wonder for a moment if Prince Alfonso will be taxidermied and placed in that Judas chair. Perhaps that’s what the face cutting was about? Pope Daddy tells Cesare they have allies in Naples and will be the first to know if and when King Charles leaves.

***

Lucrezia, dressed in finery and covered in a cloak leaves Giovanni with the wet nurse and slips out into the night. We get our first clue that Juan might not be as stupid as we thought, because he’s watching her cross the plaza from a window above.

Paolo awaits her at the fountain, flipping a coin. They embrace and both declare how much they’ve missed one another, but she reminds him that their being together is impossible. As they talk, Paolo’s lady friend and another whore watch from around a corner. Uh oh.

Paolo wants to see his son. He would see his boy before he dies and Lucrezia reminds him his death is likely if he remains in Rome. He insists on seeing his child and then they’re kissing and the whores watch on wondering if that’s what love is like. (Oh ladies…)

Lucrezia pulls back and says “one night” as long as he promises he’ll then leave. They will meet at the fountain the following night.

Our other whore wonders over to where Juan hides and watches. She’s looking for a client but he has other ideas. He plays innocent, asking who the lovers are. For payment she tells him that the boy is a country bumpkin and father of Lucrezia’s child.

Uh oh!

Lucrezia returns home to find Cesare watching the baby. He confronts her about her having a lover and reminds her that such knowledge is not good if Juan finds out. She agrees: while Sforza whipped the boy, Juan would flay him. Cesare asks if she loved Paolo and she says she did, maybe still does. He encourages Lucrezia to see him. Once. And he will help her. He’ll find them a room for one night. He tells her to go to their mother’s house the next night and leave the rest to him. I can’t help but wonder if he plans to take the boy to her or to kill him instead.

***

The next night Paolo waits by the fountain and Micheletto comes to lead him to his love. Micheletto clearly frightens the boy at first (rightly so), but then he’s quiet and gentle and I remember there’s a heart in there somewhere. And look, somebody is hiding and watching again.

Cesare and Lucrezia are at Mama Vanozza’s house with the baby. Lucrezia wants to keep this night a secret and Mama agrees; she also agrees Paolo can only see his child this one time.

Micheletto arrives at some door with Paolo and before Paolo enters, Micheletto asks him to tell him of love. Paolo says it hurts. “Ahh. Like life. Like Micheletto.” (Oh baby, I can show you love.) We can’t tell at first if Paolo’s been taken to Mama’s house or somewhere else, but then there’s Cesare at the top of the stairs and Lucrezia just down the hall.

Mama and Cesare watch on and agree to keep the secret.

Meahwhile at the Vatican Juan’s faced with a selection of portraits of potential wives. He asks if Pope Daddy would marry Lucrezia off again. And if so, to royalty or to a commoner. Juan is fucking pissed off and storms out, going to his “slut” sister’s room to find her bed and Giovanni’s cradle empty.

Back at Mama’ house, the lovemaking commences and it’s lovely and hot.

And there’s our observer. The other whore. But no worries, Micheletto’s there to take care of the problem. She tells him spying pays better than fucking. He asks who she spies for and it’s gets a little tense. Then Juan walking across the street toward Mama’s place. Micheletto asks if she spies for him. Then he strangles the poor dear.

Back to our hot young lovers going at it and there’s a banging on the door. Mama’s not expecting visitors so Cesare goes to the door with sword in hand. Juan wishes to speak to his mother about a peasant “who’s had his way with our dear sister” and he warns that if he finds the dog sniffing around he’ll neuter him. Nice image there. Cesare manages to keep Juan distracted, telling him their mother is sleeping and directs him to leave. He’s drunk and easily led, but before he gets out the door Giovanni cries. Cesare says it’s one of his doves, which Juan has woken.

Cut back to the hot lovemaking. Damn, baby.

Outside Juan asks Cesare if he loves him. As he loves himself, he says. Juan says that’s not much these days, but that Cesare loves his family and his family’s name. (Ain’t that the truth.)

And then Lucrezia is leading Paolo out through the back door. Oh sweetie, my heart aches for you. Paolo says he’d die for her and their baby, but she would have him live. She will write him. Oh, but he cannot read. She says he must learn then. (And we have another glimpse at class issues.) I don’t see why they can’t hire him to be a stable boy or something and sneak him in at night. It’s not like the men don’t have their own arrangements. Her pop is the pope; that comes with perqs, right?

As Paolo moves through the streets in the predawn light, two cloaked men with swords follow him. We cannot see faces, but I fear it’s Cesare and Micheletto making sure that after one night with the love of his life there will be no repeat event. And then there’s another dude and Paolo is surrounded. And thankfully it’s not Cesare. Unfortunately, that means it’s Juan and two of his men and they speak of suicide.

Micheletto dumps the dead whore in a river while back at Mama’s house, Lucrezia nurses Giovanni.

Finally we see Paolo hanging from a beam. Damn.

Next week: tensions mount between Pope Daddy and Juan and we get the return of King Charles. Yay!

Check out behind the scenes info and video clips on the Showtime site.  And tune in next week to party with me.

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  • Darnaguen

    The monkey thing is a reference to the first episode of S1 where Cesare entered Cardinal Orsini’s banquet with a Capuchin monkey which played the same role as Della Rovere’s. So Della Rovere took tips from Cesare.