Churchtime! At St. Peter’s, a mass is underway, watched by Lucrezia, Giulia, and Vannozza. Lucrezia observes the crowd and likens the church to both a bank and a theater, noting that the greater the spectacle the more the penitents seem to pay into the offering plates. Giulia wonders if the cardinals can be made to see the light and Vannozza says they all have their secrets, they just have to find them. Oh, and they shall. I need to come up with a cool name for this trio of great ladies. Any suggestions?
Still on the battlefield, Alexander notes that they’ve gotten rid of one enemy and now they need to get rid of another: Catarina Sforza. She’s returned to her castle with a bunch of French cannon and Alexander wants her to come to Rome and beg for forgiveness. Cesare asks to be the one to issue the invitation and Alexander agrees, as he hits the road to Florence to put Savonarola in his place. It’s so busy, being pope.
On their own road, Cesare asks Micheletto if he knows anyone in Forli, where Catarina’s holed up. Micheletto says he knows everyone there, because he was born there. Yeah, that might have been good info to offer up to begin with, Micheletto. Cesare chuckles at the thought of Micheletto having ever been born, which is fair enough, because the guy really does seem like he was never young or innocent at all.
Florence. Alexander and Cardinal Sforza listen in on a Savonarola speech, disguised as plain men. Sforza urges Alexander to leave, because if they’re discovered, they’ll be torn apart by this crowd. Alexander stands his ground, because he wants to get to know his enemy. Or enemies, it seems, because Della Rovere’s just arrived as well.
Micheletto and Cesare arrive at Forli and seek out Micheletto’s mom, who’s played by Barbara Flynn, an actress who shows up absolutely everywhere. Like most moms, she’s delighted to see her son, and he’s embarrassed by her affection. She asks if Cesare’s Micheletto’s dottore, and we learn that Micheletto hasn’t been exactly truthful in telling his mom what he does for a living. She seems to be under the impression that Micheletto’s learning medicine. Quite the opposite, lady. Cesare plays along, though, because he’s not in the business of disabusing moms of their notions of their sons. Micheletto’s been stuffing his face, and his mom hilariously wipes his hands off like he’s four years old.
In walks some tall, dark, and menacing type mom greets as Augustine. Brother, perhaps? There’s definitely some tension between him and Micheletto. Mom gossips about Augustine’s fiancée and her good childbearing hips and Cesare quickly excuses himself and Micheletto. Mom tells him to come back for some stew before he leaves town and Cesare promises to bring him back.
Off they go, Cesare lightly teasing Micheletto for his deception. Micheletto humorlessly says it’s best to leave his mother to her fantasies, another of which is that her husband dropped while working in the field. He didn’t—Micheletto killed him, for many reasons, apparently. Ok, then.
DR meets with Savonarola and tells him he can no longer serve the pope. Savonarola tells him his past plans to get rid of Alexander failed miserably and DR acknowledges it, saying he has a new plan: to just kill Alexander off. He wants Savonarola’s blessing before he moves forward, and Savonarola gives it, urging him to ride out, like death, on a pale horse. DR looks like he can’t quite believe it was that easy.
Alexander’s moving through the city’s streets uneasily, looking over his shoulder, as well he should. He has no friends here, does he? He and Sforza arrive at the Medici Palace, where he’s greeted by Machiavelli as Medici hurriedly packs away some papers.
Forli. Micheletto and Cesare check out the castle and note the cannon. Cesare says there are too many of them and asks Micheletto to keep the horses saddled.
Cesare is presented to Catarina and her son, and she correctly guesses he’s come with a message from his father. Cesare tells him what Alexander wants, but Catarina is not at all prepared to bow to the pope, because she bows to nobody. But there are other forms of obeisance. She does invite him to dinner, which is nice, though I’ll bet Cesare wishes he’d brought a monkey with him.
In Florence, Medici tells Alexander he lives locked in his palace, surrounded by zealots on all sides. Poor baby. He quotes Savonarola, who rails against the system of using money to pay for things. Commerce is for the weak and unholy. Sforza asks what would happen to the church’s money in the Medici banks, if Savonarola had his way, and Medici answers that they’d be scattered to the winds. Alexander thinks this might be a good time to bring his cash back to Rome, and buy off Savonarola while he’s at it. The others point out that it’s hard to bribe someone who hates money and position so Alexander’s going to have to figure something else out.
Castle Catarina. Her teenage son is entertaining his mother and guest by singing. Cesare observes that the young man has an excellent voice. Meanwhile, outside in a graveyard, Augustine finds Micheletto, who’s evidently prepared for this. Both men start to strip and…ok, I guess Augustine isn’t Micheletto’s brother. At least, I hope not, because this would be pretty effed up otherwise. Completely naked, the two men start to make out.
In the castle, Catarina takes Cesare through some family history that basically boils down to: we’re badass, and we don’t give in. Ever.
Cesare is taken to his rooms, looking as nervous as his father did on the streets of Florence. He finds no assassins inside and starts to undress for bed, but then Catarina comes in and tells him he’s in her room. He informs her he was led there by her servant and she mildly says she ought to have the man whipped. Cesare grabs his knife and points it at her and she threatens to scream, even though this was clearly her design all along. Cesare puts the knife aside and kisses her. Looks like everyone’s getting laid tonight. Enthusiastically, too. Catarina’s got herself quite the appetite.
Post-sexing, Micheletto tells Augustine his marriage will be a lie and invites him to come to Rome instead. Augustine says he knows what Micheletto’s life is like in Rome, and that, furthermore, Micheletto frightens him. Sensible man.
The next morning, Catarina wakes Cesare and tells him she knows the cannon were fakes. She says that’s the trouble with the Borgias: nothing is what it seems.
Alexander and Sforza get on the road and discuss how to get Savonarola to Rome. Alexander thinks a cardinal’s hat might do it, proving that he doesn’t understand Savonarola at all. Sforza doesn’t think it’s a good idea to have Savonarola as part of the College of Cardinals, but Alexander has no intention of seeing the installation through. He just wants to tempt Savonarola to Rome so he can have him arrested for heresy. Sforza asks if he intends to do the same to Catarina, but Alexander plans to befriend her instead. Off they go, their entourage observed by DR, who’s heading back to Rome himself.
Back in Rome, Giulia, Vannozza, and Lucrezia wander into a brothel, where whores are plying their trade and nobody gives the three well-dressed ladies a second glance, which seems unlikely. Vannozza finds a cardinal’s stocking and then spies the cardinal it belongs to, just rolling out of the bed of one of the ladies. An extremely helpful prostitute greets them and Lucrezia claims they’re the committee for the betterment of the Roman Ladies of the Night, and they have the blessing of the pope himself. That impresses the prostitute enough to introduce them to her madam
The madam falls all over herself with hospitality, saying they never have ladies there. Giulia notes that she doesn’t count her girls as ladies, then, and the madam says she doesn’t, because no prostitute brings herself up to be a lady unless she has a wealthy patron, as Vannozza did. Vannozza says she was a courtesan, not a streetwalker, and believe me, there’s a big difference between the two, and furthermore, the conditions in the whorehouse are pretty bad. The madam asks if she plans to better their lot and Lucrezia says they’ll better hers as well, if she helps them out. They’ll pay for the refurbishment of the brothel in return for the details of the cardinals’ visits. Madam considers for a bit.
DR returns to the monastery and tells Partner that Savonarola’s given them the go-ahead for the assassination. He’s got a plan, too, of sorts: poison. In particular, the awful cantarella.
It’s dinnertime and Cesare’s dining with Catarina and her son. Cesare tells her she has to go to Rome or she’ll be dragged there in chains. Catarina, of course, is unbowed and tells Cesare she’ll give him her answer at breakfast. As they head upstairs, he guesses her answer is no. Really, Cesare? What would give you that idea? She seems so pliant. She asks who would chain her—Cesare? Juan, who’s all bluster and no substance, like the plaster cannon? I’m not really doing her justice here, I have to admit, but she plays really well off of him. Cesare’s finally met a worthy match, and I don’t think I’ve ever liked this actress so much as I do now. Way to keep the historically kickass women kickass, show. I salute you for that.
DR is describing the horrors of cantarella to the other monks, one of whom tells him the pope has tasters for his food and wine. DR knows, which is why he wants one of them to get a job as one of his tasters, and thus sacrifice his own life for this cause. Unsurprisingly, nobody scrambles for the honor. Honestly, I’m surprised everyone’s so laid back about the idea of committing a cardinal sin just because some other monk—and a pretty crazy one at that—gives them the ok. And apparently they’re not all that laid back about it, because one by one, they get up and leave the room.
In Forli, Cesare’s sporting with Catarina, who tells him he should put aside his cardinal’s robes, and Micheletto’s getting dressed after another tryst with Augustine, who tells him they can’t meet again, because same-sex relationships were, well, frowned on, to say the least. Micheletto gets the man in a headlock and tells him he’s killed many with just such a grab. But he doesn’t kill Augustine, just pushes him away and tells him to go forth and get married, then, if he must, because St. Paul says it’s a good thing and all. As Augustine goes, Micheletto sadly turns away.
Having worn Cesare out, Catarina leaves her bed and finds Giovanni waiting for her in another room, having been summoned to Forli. She tells him to join her for a walk while she lays out their options.
In Rome, a young—like, teenager young—monk finds DR and tells him he’s willing to be the collateral damage in the murder of Alexander. DR tells him it’s not a nice way to die, but the boy thinks he’ll be quickly welcomed into heaven. Were the 10 commandments somehow confusing to these people? Thou Shalt Not Kill! Not ambiguous!
Alexander celebrates mass at St. Peter’s while Cesare breakfasts at Forli, alone. But then he’s joined by Giovanni, and he realizes just by Giovanni’s presence that something’s afoot here. Giovanni takes the opportunity to insult Lucrezia, which is stupid to do in front of Cesare, but instead of gutting him on the spot, Cesare holds back and just verbally warns Sforza to shut the hell up already.
Catarina finally joins the gentlemen and tells Cesare her answer is officially no. She won’t be traveling to Rome and bowing to the pope anytime soon. Chains it is, then. Giovanni flings some attitude around, so Cesare pulls a knife and starts a good old-fashioned brawl.
In Rome, the ceiling of St. Peter’s suddenly begins to collapse as a storm outside rages. Alexander and the others scream and try to flee the building.
Cesare gets the upper hand pretty quickly in the fight with Giovanni and tells him he promised Lucrezia he’d bring his heart on a dinner plate. He stabs him in the neck, and then a few times in the gut, commenting that he can find no heart there. The maidservant comes in and freaks out, screaming that there’s been a murder. Cesare flees as Catarina runs in and calls for guards.
In Rome, Alexander tries to corral a couple of altar boys, but one is felled by falling stone. Alexander hurries over to him, lifts the stone and beams off with the aid of Cardinal Sforza, and pulls the whimpering child out of the wreckage, cradling him tenderly, like a dad.
Cesare fights his way out of Forli Castle and calls for Micheletto, who comes riding up with the two horses who’ve been saddled for, what, two or three days now? Poor creatures. Men fire crossbows at them as they gallop out of the city, but they fail to kill either man. Once there’s a fair distance between themselves and Forli, Cesare tells him they should split up for a bit. He hands Micheletto the knife he used to kill Giovanni and tells him to give it to Lucrezia.
Alexander carries the injured altar boy out of the church as Sforza unearths the Host from the wreckage. Outside, Alexander tells the gathered crowd that there are more injured inside and he needs help getting them out. Nobody moves.
In the woods, Cesare takes a moment to absorb the fact that he just killed someone, fairly brutally, although you’d think this would have sunk in after he murdered Ursula’s husband last season.
Alexander sits in the ruined church, looking dazed and grief stricken, as a couple of people tend to the wounded and dead. Sforza picks his way over to him and Alexander asks if this was a sign from God. Sforza says it was just a bolt of lightening, but Alexander thinks otherwise and says he needs to atone for his sins through fasting and prayer until God smiles on him again.