The Borgias 204—Stray Dogs

We open at the square of the Vatican and Vittorio explains to Pope Daddy that the cannons were plaster. PD then confirms that deception has a place in warfare… as in life.

Micheletto arrives with Bad news for his dear Cesare. He leads him off on horseback to a fire.  It’s St. Cecilia’s and while Micheletto wants to spare Cesare any pain, Cesare says he feels he should have foreseen this. There are bodies everywhere and then… there’s Ursula. Oh Cesare, baby. He’s stony, but you can tell he’s hurting. “She chose God, Micheletto. And God repaid her with mutilation.”

Cesare wants vengeance on those who did this. Mich picks up a flag from the ground—evidence that it was the French. He says there’s a group of soldiers who take souvenirs in the form of body parts after raping and pillaging. Lovely. Cesare asks Micheletto to gather a dozen other “stray dogs” to be schooled “in the art of vengeance.” Sweet!

Back at the Vatican Cesare meets up with Pope Daddy and Cardinal Sforza who has been informed about the cannon deception. Sforza has word from yet another cousin—Ludvigo—about forming a league to fight the French, despite cousins Catherina’s and Giovanni’s alliance with King Charles.

Micheletto’s hanging out in an alley as some rich people come riding into the city. He’s got his little army; six men follow him to an abandoned building to the accompaniment of some ominous music. These dudes don’t like each other very much, but Cesare tells them there’s someone they should hate more. The French. They’re gonna ride at night wearing cool masks, collecting booty, and getting Cesare his revenge. He’s like the Borgia Batman.

At the Vatican, Cardinal Sforza is there to greet the people who just rode into the city: Ludvigo Sforza, Duke of Milan, along with Francesco Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and Duchessa Bianca his new bride. He tells them he’s broached the subject of a league with the Pope and then takes them into the Pope’s throne room. Bianca would be the hot woman from Pope Daddy’s bathtub in the season opener (before Giulia came home).

The Duchessa is bored by political affairs, but assures Pope Daddy that her “husband’s affections” compensate. I’m not buying it though. Girl wants some Pope Daddy in her panties. Cesare shows up late to the show, but in time for Ludvigo to state their shared interest. Cesare challenges their motives. Ludvigo proposes that armies of Venice, Milan, and Mantua (20,000 troops total) will join forces under the leadership of Duke Francesco.

Cesare asks why not let the French limp home and Francesco says it’s about honor. Honor and his cousin Valor have killed many.

Pope Daddy doesn’t think the league can beat the French. Nor can the French beat the league. Who benefits? A weak Milan, Mantua, and Venice? Rome. Rome will benefit. As the guests leave, Bianca looks back up and I don’t know if she’s looking at Pope Daddy or Cesare. (Maybe both. Wouldn’t that be yummy?)

In the underground world, Micheletto is teaching the men about soft leather for silence and sneak tactics. Cesare is there to introduce them to new, quiet weapons: a batarang, crossbow, trident, Spanish garotte, paso doble (I thought that was a ballroom dance?), and a raven’s beak. Batman and his new Justice League will ride out at night and attack the French scouts.

Giulia!!! She’s looking over some books while the Vatican’s next Fashion Star fits Pope Daddy in a new robe. They talk of the plan for this League. “If the armies of men annihilate each other, what will be left but the army of God.”

Our brilliant Giulia has found more irregularities in the books and wants more access. Hmmm… I’m curious to see how that will play out in the long run.

Out in a village, Cesare and his men prepare for the French. Scouts come riding into a village that has been made to look abandoned, as though a wedding party just moved on. The men sit at the abandoned table and chow down. And then out slips Cesare’s army of masked men. Arrows fly, axes are thrown. Daggers and swords thrust. And then Cesare yells to show restraint. He wants the men alive. Ooooh. There’s gonna be some torture in the Bat Cave tonight.

Remember that falling down old bathhouse full of orphans? Giulia and Lucrezia are there and Giulia’s explaining the children’s situation and needs. Lulu says statues are easily restored, flowing water not so much. Giulia seeks Lulu’s assistance with the Cardinals and Lulu thinks it will be fun to outwit them. Giulia also wants Vanozza involved, insisting she and her man’s baby momma are beyond enmity now. Lulu doesn’t look to sure about that.

At Vanozza’s home things are civil though, with Lulu and Giulia explaining they wish to use mama’s wit. Giulia has already seen one bathhouse restored, it seems. So this is totally doable. There’s a small moment of tension, but Vanozza can clearly see how her experience as a courtesan will benefit them. Everyone knows the men of power in that city frequent the whorehouses.

Cesare has the captured soldiers tied up in a dungeon. He holds up a flag and asks if anyone knows those colors. “They were found at the sight of a massacre,” he says. There’s a guy with a necklace of ears. (He should have gone to Jarrod’s.) Cesare asks him who was at St. Cecilia’s and ear man begs for death. Cesare threatens pain; Micheletto can keep him alive for weeks. Cesare demands to know who was there and had a part in things. Micheletto starts torturing one guy until he confesses that ear man was there and that their actions were for sport. Our beloved Giovanni Sforza chose the place because it was under Cesare’s sponsorship.

Cesare wants more information though: troop movements, manpower, etc. He tells them the truth may set them free. I somehow think the only freedom they’ll get is death.

Pope Daddy kneels at his altar and then Cesare comes in wearing his Cardinal red. (How wrong is it that he’s hot in those robes?) Pope Daddy asks if he keeps secrets, says he’s heard of happenings at night. He reminds Cesare that he’s a cleric and offers to teach his son the art of vengeance. It should never been seen as such and rarely be public. “Vengeance is patience. It can wait a lifetime if necessary.”

Pope Daddy plans to ride north along with Cardinal Sforza for the upcoming battle between the French and the new league. He asks Cesare to join them, and Cesare asks who shall oversee things with them both gone. Pope Daddy’s got a plan to leave the Cardinals in the safe hands of the one person in whom they can utterly place their trust. Lucrezia!!!!!! (More women in power for the win!) Cesare enters the Cardinals’ chamber and there she is, sitting on the throne. (I am positively giddy with delight at this.)

Lulu asks to see her brother’s hands and asks if they are stained with blood. She rubs his hand against her face and says never before have they had secrets between them (and I want them to get down and dirty on that throne, ahem). She worries about him and the dark cloud over him. She shall save him. She smiles and holds out her hand saying he may kiss her ring, which he does as the other Cardinals file in looking quite disturbed by this turn of events.

“You may sit, Cardinals,” she says. They rise again when Pope Daddy enters the room. He asks for their prayers as he leaves with Cardinals Sforza and Borgia. He’s signed a Papal Bull to leave Lulu in charge in loco parentis. A Cardinal asks if this can be done and Pope Daddy looks at him like he’s a moron, explaining clearly it has been done before he leaves.

Cesare (in his red robes) makes a stop back at the Bat Cave. Ear man wishes to share information, but only with Cesare. The king’s gunpowder travels in the kitchen wagon disguised among the food. After a moment of staring at an ear, Cesare says “release him” then leaves. Micheletto draws his dagger, walks to the man, looks him in the eye, then moves in very, very close, thrusting his dagger slow and deep in such an intimate manner. (Can I just say Sean Harris is freaking amazing in this role?)

The Pope Mobile rolls through the streets and in the crowd Della Rovere and Friar Tuck kneel and watch. Della Rovere says Lulu has been left in charge. Friar Tuck looks slightly horrified by the news.

Meanwhile back at the Cardinals chamber, men carry in a table covered with a cloth. Lulu rises and reveals kitchenware and says they’ll get a lesson in cookery… or husbandry. She proceeds to demonstrate baking a cake. She begins by sifting the flour, and oh look! Good flour emerges and the chaff remains. She speaks of how they all indulge their sweet tooths and “eat cake.” A Cardinal interrupts to ask if there’s a metaphor here and she explains more clearly that the chaff is what’s left for the poor and that they lack water for the cake.

Next thing we see is water flowing out of the fountains at the orphans’ bathhouse. The children jump about splashing and cheering. (I want to be happy about this, but I can’t help thinking that as soon as Pope Daddy wants something for himself funding will be diverted.)

Out in the countryside, the pope mobile continues en route. Cesare is back onboard. They come to a stop—the King of France has sent messengers to request a meeting at a nearby church.

At the church Charles is looking rough. He’s requested a private audience, but not to confess his many sins. It seems he has too many even for the pope to forgive. He seeks Pope Daddy’s diplomatic skills to spare his men the upcoming battle. Pope Daddy says if Charles were to surrender his booty to the Church, he might be able to do something. Charles says he’s been fooled once, not again.

Charles is bitter. Pope Daddy will convey his request to be allowed to just pass through. If the league insists on battle, there will be crazy carnage. As he rises to leave, he hears rain. Pope Daddy asks if the King can fire his cannons in the rain. Charles says they know how to keep their powder dry. Pope Daddy counters that God knows how to make rain.

Pope Daddy arrives at Ludvigo’s tent to discuss the plans for the battle, and the rain has stopped. Pope Daddy conveys Charles’s wishes to pass through and Ludvigo replies that they’re there to take lives. He then gives confession before the battle. Honor and valor are brought up again. Oh but Ludvigo doesn’t just want forgiveness, he also wants Pope Daddy’s blessing. Of course, “God’s blessing comes with a price—the spoils of this battle shall go to the Church.

In some seriously fancy garb, Pope Daddy walks amongst the troops and blesses the soldiers before they battle.

Next thing we know Pope Daddy and Cardinals Sforza and Borgia are at Ludvigo’s home and Bianca the bathing beauty is coming down the stairs of the palace to greet them. They are to be blessed by her hospitality and she has not yet forgotten the pope’s earlier hospitality (Is that what they called it back then?).

At the dinner table, Pope Daddy leads grace, asking God for rain on the battlefield the next day.

Bianca asks if the win is dependent on rain. Her husband believes cannon to be a vulgarity. Cesare looks on, listening and no doubt picking up on details.

That night we see Cesare in his dark clothes, mask on head, slipping out into the night. He’s joined by Nightwing Micheletto and the others to ride off into the dark. Back at the palace Pope Daddy prays the rosary until he’s interrupted by Bianca coming into his chamber. She lets down her hair and he says she cannot, but she’s got unfinished business. She strips off her robes as he puts up a seriously weak fight. She wishes to pray with him by sticking her tongue in his mouth. Resistance is futile.

At the French camp, Cesare’s mercs sneak up and start slaying bodies. I’m thinking this is at the mess tent and they’ll be scoring some gunpowder.

Nice editing between theft of the gunpowder and Pope Daddy and Bianca doing the wild thing. A fuse is lit and the wagons explode as Bianca reaches her own fiery explosion atop Pope Daddy’s scepter. They hear a bang that Bianca says must be thunder, but there’s no rain to follow.

The next morning there’s silence, no cannon fire. Later Pope Daddy walks through the muddy battlefield blessing the dead.

Ludvigo is in the medical tent with an arrow through his side. “So many dead. So much glory,” he declares before taking a swig of something and having the arrow pulled out. Ludvigo tries to explain that the “thunder” of the night before was actually explosions. That the brave men of Rome destroyed the French and he vows all the booty from the battlefield to the Church. Pope Daddy doesn’t look too pleased by this news.

Charles is in his carriage being carted home. When his doctor gives him some medicine, he asks for a potion to give him eternal rest since half his army is dead. Dude is a bit crazed, but I get where he’s coming from.

Our final scene is Cesare telling Daddy that his holiness’s wish came to pass. When asked, Cesare says he has nothing to confess. They go about the whole Pope/Cardinal thing instead of father/son. Cesare says he slept the night of the just as he hopes daddy did. My hubby sums up Cesare’s thoughts: “In other words, while you got your wick wet, I saved your ass.”

Next week it looks like progress with Della Rovere’s plans.