The Borgias: Family Ties

Previously on The Borgias: Lucrezia was married off to Giovanni Sforza, who turned out to be, well, ungallant. Cesare met a beautiful woman at the reception who begged him to free her from her brutish husband.

Lucrezia lies dead, drowned in the bottom of a tub. Very Ophelia. Alexander reaches into the tub and pulls her out, begging for her forgiveness. Dead Lucrezia floats toward the ceiling, intoning: “God may forgive you, father, but I never will.” She takes a position in the roundel painted on the ceiling, and Alexander wakes himself from the nightmare, shouting her name.

Lucrezia, meanwhile, is not dead, but I’m guessing she wishes she were. She’s lying curled up in bed as her husband says she didn’t snore, but she cried all damn night, and that simply has to stop. She’ll probably stop crying when you stop raping her, jackass. Sforza rolls out of bed and tells her they won’t have to see each other much, so no worries. He leaves and she starts crying again.

Alexander’s in bed, being attended by physicians and speaking with Cardinal Sforza, his vice-chancellor. He asks Sforza to reassure him Lucrezia’s being well treated (her husband is cousins with the cardinal). Sforza says Giovanni will be putty in Lucrezia’s hands, because he’s kind of weak. Riiight. Somewhat appeased, Alexander moves on to other matters, asking for Sforza to promise Giovanni won’t join forces with his other Sforza cousin, the Duke of Milan, and double cross the pope.

The blonde noblewoman from last week, Ursula, joins Cesare in a confessional. Cesare’s surprised to see her, but she’s not surprised—she requested him. She wants him to promise not to fight her husband, because she’s afraid her husband will end up killing him. They flirt and admit they like each other. There’s actually something kind of hot about this scene. Cesare promises not to put himself in harm’s way, and Ursula takes off.

Cesare pays a visit to his mother and admits he’s fallen for someone. A married someone, and he’s suffering for it. He wishes he could get rid of her husband, and Vannozza suggests he do so and leave the church, displeasing his father. Clearly, she hasn’t gotten over that wedding ban. As we know, Cesare would be perfectly fine with that.

The next day, Cesare takes a field trip to a convent, where he finds Ursula handing over a delivery of bread. He rides back with her, trailed by her two guards (her husband insists), and he admits that he searched her out. After some more flirting, she tells him that the fact he’s a cardinal makes her both happy and sad: happy because she feels she’s safe with him and he won’t take advantage of her because of the whole celibacy deal, but sad because of the whole celibacy deal. Cesare tells her he’s talking a day off from being a cardinal, and she smiles that her heart’s in danger, then. He says he’d never harm it.

At night, Lucrezia lies in bed, listening to her husband’s footsteps draw closer, shaking and gasping for air in a panic.

The next morning, she’s taking a bath, attended by the maid, Francesca. She sadly asks Francesca what she knows about marriage, and Francesca responds that she knows it shouldn’t be like this.

In Rome, Micheletto hands Cesare the knife that was used to stab their friar/spy in Florence. Cesare gets pissed that della Rovere’s gotten away again and he threatens to put out Micheletto’s eye as punishment. MIcheletto calmly says he’ll still serve Cesare, even with only one eye. Damn, this guy’s devoted. He does, at least, know that della Rovere’s on the way to Milan, which probably saves his sight.

Cesare reports back to Alexander about della Rovere’s whereabouts. Juan thinks they have enough men to withstand any army della Rovere could throw at them, but Cesare knows the cardinal’s probably going to France, and they can’t withstand an attack by French soldiers hardened by 100 years of war with England. Juan foolishly thinks the Duke of Milan wouldn’t let the French through, due to his relationship with Lucrezia’s husband, but once again Cesare’s the canniest man in the room and says the duke would betray them in a second if he thought his dukedom was in peril, and he’s already paranoid enough about that to keep his nephew locked up in cellar. Alexander tells Cesare to go to Florence and tease out their intentions. He offers to excommunicate and burn Savonarola, the thorn in the Medicis’ side, if they support Alexander’s papacy.

Della Rovere arrives in Milan, where he gets to have a nice dinner with the duke. The duke is not a pleasant fellow, to say the least, and he does, indeed, have his nephew locked up underneath his banquet room. As in Florence, della Rovere asks him to look the other way as the French march through.

The duke decides to taunt his nephew for a little while, shouting down at the lad to identify him. The kid’s defiant and refuses to recognize him as Duke of Milan, because he claims the title for himself. So, the duke pisses on him. Della Rovere looks the tiniest bit disturbed by this, but after what he saw in Naples, nothing seems to shock him now. Once he’s had his fun, the duke promises to consider della Rovere’s proposal.

Cesare, dressed as a civilian, arrives in Florence and goes to hear Savonarola speak to a packed church. Machiavelli makes his way through the crowd to Cesare’s side and introduces himself. Cesare comments that Savonarola’s a bit of a pain, and Machiavelli calmly agrees. They agree to a meeting to discuss the situation.

The two men leave the church and talk about della Rovere’s recent visit. Machiavelli readily admits that della Rovere wanted free passage for the French through Florence, just as Cesare had guessed. Cesare asks Machiavelli to reveal Florence’s response to della Rovere’s request, in return for getting rid of Savonarola. Seems Florence’s response to the request was: “no.” Machiavelli also warns him that the coming months are going to be messy.

Sforza estate. Lucrezia watches the cute stableboy bathing at the well for a while, then makes her presence known and gets a tour of the stables. He also shares his name: Paolo. Lucrezia starts to get really flirty fast, and tells him to call her Lucrezia, instead of the more formal “my lady.”

Back in Rome, an ambassador from the kingdom of Navarre is proposing a marriage between the king’s niece and Juan. He unveils the portrait, and both Juan and Alexander get “oh, God, no,” written all over their faces. Alexander manages to cover, and then has to prod Juan to do the same. They both promise to think the matter through.

Lucrezia’s getting her tour of the stables and meeting the horses. She continues to flirt with Paolo, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Djem. They end up playing a childlike clapping game that’s a lot like patty cake, and then they hold hands for a bit as he looks confused and a little scared.

At the Vatican, Juan bitches that this latest potential bride is ugly, like many of the others, and he doesn’t want a niece or any other second-string royalty. He should get the starters! Juan floats the possibility of marrying little Jofre to the King of Naples’s illegitimate daughter, Sancia. Alexander seems to seriously consider it.

That evening, Alexander interrupts Cardinal Sforza’s tryst with his cousin (twice removed!) for a chat. The woman excuses herself and Alexander gets right to the heart of the matter: della Rovere’s heading to Milan, and Alexander wants Cardinal Sforza to threaten his cousin, the duke, with the possibility of the pope recognizing that nephew as the true Duke of Milan, if the current duke doesn’t play ball and refuse della Rovere’s request.

Lucrezia’s in her bath again (apparently this is historically accurate—she took baths a lot) with Francesca helping her. Francesca gently bathes Lucrezia’s nasty bruises (inflicted by her husband) and starts doling out some advice to the poor girl: do what you can to get Giovanni off, so he’ll leave you alone. She also advises the girl to count sheep, presumably to keep her mind off of things.

Alexander asks Giulia what she knows about Sancia. Giulia says Sancia’s beautiful, in that dark, Neopolitan way. He brings up the possibility of marrying her to Jofre, which surprises Giulia, since he’s just a boy. She realizes Alexander won’t stop until he’s ensnared all of Europe in his family. “What else are families for?” Alexander asks before commencing the sexing.

Also sexing are Giovanni Sforza and Lucrezia, who’s actually counting her sheep out loud. This just seems to piss him off, and it doesn’t deter him. Paolo and Francesca listen sadly outside the door until the sounds inside end. Paolo wonders if Lucrezia can sleep now, and Francesca says she hopes so.

Cardinal Sforza arrives in Milan to meet with his cousin. The Duke is not happy with the threat Sforza brings with him, and Sforza’s calm just gets the wild duke angry. He knocks Sforza’s hat off and throws him down on top of the grate over his nephew’s cell, crowing that the boy finally has a champion. The duke tells Sforza to release the nephew so they can dine with him that night. He asks the kid what he wants to eat and the boy answers that he’s been craving pheasant. This is not going to go well for him, is it?

Later, Sforza and the duke watch the nephew wolf down pheasant after pheasant. As the boy starts to choke, the duke tells Sforza to tell Alexander to shove it. Sforza’s not listening, because he’s realizing the kid’s been poisoned. He races over to the table and tells him to spit out the pheasant, but it’s too late. The nephew expires as the duke bellows that he’ll welcome the French with open arms if it gets Alexander’s goat. So, if this nephew was such a risk to the duke, why didn’t he poison him before? Why wait for a witness?

Cesare, cloaked, makes his way to the marketplace, where he finds Ursula buying her own bread. He asks why she doesn’t get a servant to do it, and she explains that there are some things she likes to do herself, like buy the bread for the convent. She tries to put him off, but before she can escape he notices a bruise on her cheek. She tells him it’s  just what husbands do, which is such a sad observation. He hit her because the grooms told him about Cesare joining her on the ride the other day. Cesare pulls her into a nearby doorway, away from the crowd, and urges her to free herself. How, Cesare? It’s not like one could get a quickie divorce back then. Ursula tells him her husband’s leaving for a couple of days, then she kisses him and hurries away.

Cesare repairs to a very post-modern space to wait for Micheletto to show up with some rapiers for a fighting lesson. Cesare tells his favorite assassin that he’s gotten rusty since becoming a cardinal, and he needs the practice because he promised he wouldn’t put himself in any danger. He urges Micheletto to fight his best, and they start to tussle. Both men are clearly good at what they do, but Micheletto’s a bit better. He gives Cesare some pointers, and Cesare gets ready to start again.

Paolo takes Lucrezia out for a ride in the woods. She admits that her husband makes her suffer on a daily basis, and Paolo bursts out that it must stop, because it’s a crime against her beauty. He sweetly says that if he could write, he’d send the pope a letter about it. Aww. Lucrezia’s touched and gets down from the horse so she can walk beside him. Paolo eyes the horse and says he could “adjust” her husband’s saddle. Lucrezia indirectly gives him permission to do so, and then they flirt some more.

Alexander and Cesare discuss the debacle up in Milan. The story going around is that the kid died from gluttony. Suuuure he did. Alexander sighs that only Florence will stand in the way of a French army, and Florence just isn’t enough. They’re going to need Naples on their side as well. You’d think Naples, being the target of the French, would be on their side by default, but what do I know about Renaissance politics? Alexander’s ready to get back into wedding planning mode.

Lucrezia’s still counting, and it’s still pissing Giovanni off. Honey, just count in your head! Not hard! Meanwhile, Paolo does something to Giovanni’s saddle. The next day, Giovanni mounts up and rides off for the day’s hunting, watched by Paolo.

Ursula’s husband leaves orders that his wife is to receive no visitors while he’s gone. He rides away, observed by Cesare and Micheletto. Micheletto asks Cesare to let him handle this guy, but Cesare won’t let him, since the man did insult Vannozza and all.

Giovanni’s horse comes trotting into the stableyard, conspicuously without a rider. Francesca reports Giovanni’s accident to Lucrezia. Neither woman can contain a smile.

Cesare steps into Ursula’s husband’s path, and the guy stupidly insults Vannozza again. Cesare quickly gets him off his horse, and either Ursula lied about her husband’s abilities, or Cesare’s a much better fighter than we all thought, because he gets a knife in the guy’s throat in about 30 seconds.

Micheletto comes flying out of the shadows and helps Cesare lift the body so they can dispose of it.

Giovanni’s got a nasty broken leg. He’s laid out on a table in the kitchen, being attended by a physician, who tells him he’ll live, but this is gonna hurt. Lucrezia comes in, all wifely concern, but she clearly takes a bit of angry pleasure in counting down the seconds to his leg being violently (and painfully) set.

Micheletto and Cesare dump the body in the river, and Micheletto tells him he did a good job on the kill. Cesare tosses the man’s rapier into the river, watches the corpse float away, and savors his first kill.