The Borgias 206—Day of Ashes

Last week ended with Pope Daddy declaring “we must atone for our sins.” Good thing it’s Lent then, the perfect season for atonement.

We open with Pope Daddy smearing ashes on peoples foreheads (something that freaked me out the first time I saw it, which was in college— I grew up around Southern Baptists. No ashes, just full body immersion baptisms. I don’t know which is creepier.) “Dust thou art, and to dust thou shall return.” There’s a very old woman there and the pope kneels before her and washes her feet. In the back Della Rovere, the unnamed Friar, and the soon-to-be-taster watch the spectacle, calling it out as a show. Della Rovere points out the pope’s current taster.

In Florence at our Crazy Friar’s place, a whole courtyard of men flagellate themselves while others watch and listen to the crazy ranting. Cardinal Sforza watches from the crowd. A well-dressed woman goes up onto the stage and kneels. She repents and gives her life to Christ and Crazy Friar whacks off all her beautiful hair (and the final look is way to chic for the hackjob that he was doing). During all this the flagellating continues. Crazy Friar asks others if they will give up their riches and dedicate themselves to Christ and to the “destruction of the red hall of Rome.” And then the Medicis walk through the crowd and have stones thrown at them, proving that math smarts don’t equal street smarts.

Della Rovere teaches future taster boy about proper dosing of cantarella to either kill or make stronger. He says he is now stronger for having been poisoned. He asks the boy if he has faith. The boy says yes, and Della Rovere gives him a cup from which to drink. And he does before falling to a bed and having a seizure. Apparently the Medicis aren’t the only stupid people in Italy.

Pope Daddy sits in the confessional freaking out a bit. He has no one to take his confession so he may be washed clean. (Must be rough.) While he’s in there, Cesare shows up asking Pope Daddy to take his confession for the sins of murder and lust. Ooooh, lust. He confesses killing Giovanni Sforza as a manner of honor. And then confesses to sharing Catherina Sforza’s bed. Pope Daddy asks if she begged him after to be their friend and come to Rome. While I laugh at the snark, Cesare says no, she remains their enemy.

Pope Daddy reluctantly grants absolution then tears out of the confessional, Cesare on his heels. Daddy’s pissed that Cesare went on a diplomatic mission and managed to start a war with the Sforzas. (That’s my boy, raising hell and taking chicks to bed.) Daddy brings up God striking the basilica again. Cesare says if he gets control of the papal army he’ll march north and take care of the problem. But they don’t have the money or the men for that. They’ll need another alliance and Pope Daddy figures Cesare can be the one to inform Lucrezia she must marry again. (Speaking of marriage alliances, are we ever going to see little brother Gioffre and his hot cougar wife Sancia again? I want to see her train him in the ways of love.)

Ah the Cardinals and Pope Daddy are enjoying a fine Lenten dinner. (Having been to a Lenten dinner I can tell you that it’s… simple.) Pope Daddy declares that instead of feasting in their homes, the Cardinals shall stay there and fast between or enjoy traditional Lenten fair. What’s on the menu? Sardines. (gag) The papal taster is there and Pope Daddy laughs at the notion of his sardines being poisoned, but taster dude is all about his job. It’s still the old taster though, so all is good for now.

Crazy Friar (whose name we learn is Giorlano Savonarola, but we’ll stick with Crazy Friar because it’s easier to remember) is kneeling before an altar praying when Cardinal Sforza shows up and introduces himself. He’s come to tell Crazy Friar he’s a zealous worshipper (I think he already knows that) and that Pope Daddy has heard he claims to get his prophecies directly from God. His holiness wishes Crazy Friar to come to Rome and speak to him further about this. The response is pretty much an F-you. This dude’s work is to rid Florence of the sodomites and blasphemers and he won’t leave “until the last sodomite is burning in hell.” (He must still be there.) But then Sforza brings out a red cap. Holy shit, they’re offering him a position as a cardinal. Crazy Friar climbs the altar and throws the cap back at Sforza saying, “No man can put a price on salvation.” (And for once I agree with a religious statement on this show. Woot!)

Cesare visits Lucrezia and her sweetly sleeping baby in their rooms. “I promised you a heart, sister.” He’s come to present her with a blood-stained knife which she accepts, though she says she’d rather have her innocence back. You couldn’t cut the sexual tension in the room with that knife; only an interruption by Pope Daddy can cool things here. He asks if Cesare has yet told his sister she must remarry. Lulu’s pissed, especially since the last “alliance” she got them didn’t secure shit. She refuses to marry. Pope Daddy says it’s her duty and this girl is even more pissed. Pope Daddy tells Cesare to keep his mouth shut, he can hear him thinking from across the room and apparently that’s enough.

Pope Daddy goes straight to his baby mama, walking in on Vanozza in the bath. He wants to know what she told Lulu about marriage. Vanozza said nothing, but she understands… the Vatican needs to refill it’s coffers. (Damn. She don’t pull no punches.) Vanozza reminds Pope Daddy that Lulu fell in love and her child reminds her daily of that love. Then Pope Daddy tells her that Cesare killed Giovanni Sforza. This “accident” as he calls it has left them in a bad situation. The Doge of Venice’s nephew is coming and Pope Daddy wants Vanozza to vet him as a suitor for Lulu.  She kicks him out as her bath water has grown cold. Before leaving he gets all flirty and she dismisses him with, “Have you not forsworn intimacy for Lent?”

Cesare welcomes Machiavelli to Rome, asking of news from Florence. Apparently the Medicis wish to travel to Rome because they don’t feel safe, due to the stone throwing that continued at their home. Cesare says they’ll need Borgia protection even in Rome. Machiavelli brings a message: that every penny of Vatican money could be lost. What money that remains is “on the move” but not to where it belongs. Cesare doesn’t seem to like this news, but wants more complete information before making any decisions.

Vanozza visits Lulu, stating that Pope Daddy says she’s opposed to marriage. Vanozza reminds her that it’s Daddy’s prerogative to marry her to whomever he chooses and then says she’ll be vetting potentials. Lulu threatens to drown herself in the Tiber but Mama reminds her that she previously took a lover and that she could again. “All is not lost.”

Taster boy lays sweating and half conscious as Della Rovere presses a cloth to his head. He’s coming back to awareness and says he dreamed things “not of this world.” Yeah… hardcore drugs will do that to you.

It’s another Lenten dinner of sardines, with taster (Brother Bernadino) at the waiting. He says if it were poisoned, he would die happy in service of the Lord. Pope Daddy restrains from rolling his eyes, I’m not so kind.

Cardinal Sforza brings news to Pope Daddy that Crazy Friar turned down the hat. No one turns down the cardinalate. NO ONE!!!!!!!! Pope Daddy wants “this yapping dog” to be silenced. Della Rovere too while they’re at it. Sforza says Crazy Friar claims angels put visions directly in his head and Pope Daddy cheers that because now they can charge him with heresy. Huzzah!

Our trio of ladies meets three Cardinals (one is Versucci, the dude responsible for the charity funds) at an abandoned building. They want to remake the space to house the poor—they simply need the funds. From the Office of Public Works. One Cardinal claims it’s been empty since they started their projects and Giulia proclaims it was emptied long before that. Vanozza makes a very clear threat about Giulia reviewing the books and that she could delve into the Cardinal’s palace if they like. There’s a few jabs about their affection for whores thrown in as well. You go girls.

So what do the old guys do? They run to Cardinal Sforza like three-year-olds tattling on their mean older sister. Sforza tells them to suck it up, restore the ruin, and pay for it themselves. Huzzah!

Pope Daddy has charged Cesare to go to Florence. Crazy Friar must be silenced. And we get one of my favorite conversations the two have had so far:

Pope:  You will travel to Florence and you will ban him from preaching the word of God.
Cesare:  He will laugh in my face.
Pope:  Of course. Then we will charge him with heresy.
Cesare:  He will laugh in your face.
Pope:  Of course. Then we will excommunicate him.
Cesare:  He will deny your right to do so.
Pope:  [softly] Of course. And then… we will burn him.

Ahh. The sweet aroma of flesh burning on a stick. I can’t wait!

Machiavelli returns with more information for Cesare. There’s still gold, not the full amount, but some. Machiavelli has a map with the route of where to go and what to look for. The gold is hidden on wagons carrying Alum ore.

Cesare takes news to Micheletto that he shall make a gift to his father of gold. Medici gold. He gives him the directions and says they’ll need their friends for this. Micheletto says if there’s gold in them thar hills, the men will be there. Pope Daddy doesn’t know of the plan yet, but Cesare hopes for a reward: for the protection of Rome and the Church he wants command of the papal army. He says Micheletto will wear armor and be his captain, but Micheletto declines saying his place is in the shadows.

Vanozza brings word to Lucrezia that the Doge’s nephew is coming. The Doge is very rich and very fond of his nephew. Lulu asks if he’s fond of war. Vanozza asks her simply to take a peek at him and she agrees to watch as Mama goes and talks to the man. Ooh, he’s brought her a gift.  It’s a wolfhound and he’s pretty adorable. (I would totally accept that gift.) Lulu peaks from above and Pope Daddy comes up asking what she thinks, “Impressive?” She says no to the man, but yes to the dog. Then on second thought no to both. Vanozza gets the headshake from Pope Daddy and politely dismisses the dude who is a little shocked by that. Apparently he thought he was quite the catch.

Cesare speaks to his mercenary army, explaining they will be rewarded in gold for this mission. The Medicis are robbing their own bank, so these Merry men will rob the robbers.

Next day Vanozza comes in with a box of coins that was left on the doorstep. The trio toasts each other and says, “Let the work begin.” I guess the old dudes ponied up. Good on ya, dudes.

Senor Medici stands before the Pope explaining that his family was driven from their home. Pope Daddy asks if they’ve brought his gold with them or if that has gone up in flames like their palace. Medici says the gold is on the move to be kept safe. Medici wants Pope Daddy to do something about Crazy Friar and Pope Daddy says it’s being taken care of. However, the Vatican wants their own bank and Medici to teach them anything they don’t already know about the business. (Dude. That’s bold. Go down to your local bank and say you’re taking out your money but you want them to tell you how to manage it.) I think they should just put Giulia in charge and all will be good.

Crazy Friar leads another service when Cesare (in his red robes) enters with four papal guardsmen. He brings an edict censuring Crazy Friar and ordering him to cease his sermons lest he be charged with heresy. Crazy Friar says he accepts the edict, he’ll use it to “wipe [his] ass.” Haha! Nice one. Cesare warns him he’s standing too close to the fire and may be burned. (hint, hint) Crazy Friar says he’s the hand of God and it’s the Borgias who will burn.

Della Rovere’s playing with the cantarella again. He’s giving the boy a larger dose this time. Poor kid. The crazy things people do for faith. He drinks and this time the reaction is delayed for a second and then the seizure is worse than before. And oops… he might be dead this time. Della Rovere checks his pulse and the scene shifts to a crowd stoning a bunch of supposed sodomites. They’re acting under instruction of Crazy Friar.

A child confronts Cesare in this crowd of chaos, ordering him to remove his ring (cause they’re all “riches are bad”) and when Cesare refuses, the kid calls him a sodomite. (God, I wish. I’ve been waiting for him and Micheletto to get it on forever.) Micheletto does NOT like this and charges through the crowd leading the men away. The Bat Family rides out of Florence on their mission for gold. The men set upon the wagons and it’s all too easy. Yep… There are soldiers hidden in the wagons who come out at the last minute. The battle is awesome and Nightwing Micheletto is amazing. They slaughter everyone and then Cesare digs under the Alum and finds gold coins.

Vanozza advises Lucrezia to marry someone already and get a bedchamber of her own with a strong lock on the door. (Now that’s some good advice.) There’s a new boy suitor—Calvino Pallavicini—but Lulu’s more interested in his younger brother Raffaello di Genova. He smiles at her up in the balcony and I think we know who her next lover will be.

Cesare tells Pope Daddy that Crazy Friar is resistant but that he’s brought a gift for Papa to make up for the bad news. Medici Gold. Cesare says if they can track down the rest of the gold they can defeat anyone. Oh yeah and he wants to be a soldier. Pope Daddy laughs in his face and asks who would advise him then. Would they make Juan a Cardinal? No. What Cesare wants is impossible.

And then Pope Daddy drops a bomb on all of us—Juan is coming home with Spanish conquistadors; Daddy wants Cesare to “welcome him a brotherly embrace.” Cesare is all “Pshaw, I don’t think so.” Daddy’ll have to do the welcoming on his own, since Cesare will need to attend to Church business back in Florence. Oh baby… It’s better to keep your secret identity. The world needs more Batmans than General Schwarzkopfs.