Previously on The Borgias: Well, let’s see. Juan got so out of control that even Lucrezia wanted him dead, but it was Cesare who finally succeeded in offing him, mostly to save his own family. Caterina Sforza refused to knuckle under, and has sworn to bring down the Borgias. Micheletto’s gay, and just as badass as ever; Lucrezia chose a new fiancé; and last but not least, Della Rovere hatched a plot to poison Alexander that may have succeeded.
We pick up right where we left off, with Cesare screaming for help. People come running—Giulia sweeps a table clean for the pope to be laid on, and Vannozza hastily covers the dead taster’s body with a cloth. A doctor is fetched from his bed, but he only takes one look at the pope before declaring him a goner. Lucrezia, meanwhile, is dousing the flames in a brazier and frantically scooping the coals into a bowl. As she mashes them, she tells the others she’s read about charcoal being a cure for poisoning, but she’s never seen it actually used. She adds water to the bowl and tells Cesare to open their father’s mouth. He obeys, as her fiancé watches from a distance, held back by guards along with the rest of the crowd. She tries to get the charcoal down her father’s throat, but the useless physician hisses that this is witchcraft. Yes, curing a dying man is clearly the dark arts, you idiot. Also, that seems like a pretty stupid thing to say to the pope’s daughter no matter what the man’s condition. Lucrezia’s not done being awesome, and she grabs a dagger and tells the guy this is science, and he’d better move his ass. Cesare backs her, and the doctor grabs a feeding tube, which he uses to administer the charcoal.
Micheletto comes in and shows Cesare a bible or something he found in the dead kid’s cell. Cesare recognises it as Dominican, then tells the ladies he has to leave for a bit.
He and Micheletto and a few men gallop off towards the Dominican priory. Back at the Vatican, Lucrezia starts to get anxious and is comforted by her mother.
Cesare and his men burst into the priory and start dealing violently with anyone who gets in their way. One of the monks protests that this is a house of God, and Cesare tells him God’s pretty pissed off tonight. Monks die, many at Micheletto’s hand. Cesare finds Della Rovere’s rooms and asks one of the monks who lives there and where he is. The monk claims not to know where DR is, but he finally talks when Cesare threatens his life.
The charcoal is all administered, so all there is to do is wait. Sforza says they can’t leave him there in the dining room, so they get ready to move him to his room. As they go, all the cardinals follow and start planning for a future sans Alexander. Jesus, guys, can you not at least wait until the man’s dead? They all seem to agree that a Roman pope is now called for.
A monk shows Cesare a tunnel Della Rovere escaped through, and gets knifed in the belly for his pains. Cesare observes that DR could be anywhere by now.
Luckily, DR’s anywhere is the Vatican, which he’s now strolling into in all his cardinal red magnificence. Well, he made that easy for them. What an incredibly stupid thing to do, showing up before he even knew for sure the pope was dead. He greets the other cardinals and claims he came running as soon as he heard of the pope’s death. Sforza knows that’s bullshit and tells DR that he’s a bit premature on that front. He, Sforza, and the other cardinals go into Alexander’s room, where they find the ladies and the doctors attending to him.
Cesare and Micheletto return to the Vatican, and as soon as he sees DR, Cesare draws his blade and lunges. Vannozza throws herself in between them and tells Cesare that the least disturbance could mean the difference between life and death for Alexander. He sheathes his knife and heads out with the ladies following behind. Out in the hall, Vannozza urges him to think of what will become of all of them if Alexander dies. She’s canny enough to know that they’re surrounded by enemies and any friends they have will abandon them quickly. Cesare promises to ensure their safety.
Morning. The cardinals, while gathered around Alexander’s sickbed, continue to plot. One of them figures the Borgia family members will be dead soon after Alexander and tells one of the others he wants land and the treasury. What a charmer.
Vannozza stops by Lucrezia’s room, where the baby’s fussy. She tells the maid to take him home to her palazzo. Lucrezia tells her fiancé to leave as well, since she doubts it’ll be safe in Rome for him. He’s not keen on leaving his bride-to-be in such a volatile situation, but she stands firm and promises to send for him when it’s all over. After he reluctantly leaves, she lies down on the bed, while her mother kneels and begins to say a rosary. I wish I looked half as good when I’m dressed up as Vannozza does in her gorgeous bathrobe.
Micheletto, the maid, and half a dozen men walk through the streets to the palazzo, with Micheletto carrying the baby. That seems pretty dumb. Wouldn’t he want both hands free to grab a weapon or something, should the need arise?
Back at the Vatican, Cesare pulls Sforza aside and asks him what everyone’s saying. He wants all the info: who’s loyal to whom, who wants the papacy, and who just wants to be rich. Sforza says he has all the information, in note form, back in his rooms. Cesare sends him to fetch them.
When he arrives at his room, Sforza finds a surprise: a man, lurking there, sent by Caterina. He’s someone Sforza knows, too. We don’t find out until later that his name’s Ruffio, but I’m going to use that from the get-go, because it’s shorter than calling him Sforzassassin or something. Sforza tells him he’s not welcome, but Ruffio’s unruffled by this chilly reception. Sforza asks if this is his doing and Ruffio says it isn’t, but something much like this has been in the planning for a while. Now that things have been fast-tracked, they want Sforza to fall in with his family and help them out. Sforza asks what’ll happen if Alexander dies—will he be made pope? Ruffio—who very distractingly looks a lot like Juan—tells him that Caterina has plans he shouldn’t ignore. The whole Borgia family is currently living on borrowed time.
Cesare is now sitting by his father’s bedside, giving the cardinals a beady eye. DR starts gathering a little coterie, promising them power and whatever they want if they stand behind him and make him pope. Right on cue, though, Alexander wakes and begins thrashing around a bit. He’s given water, but as soon as he drinks it, he vomits black sludge all over the nearest cardinal. Heh. Now looking slightly more himself, he glares right at DR, who wastes no time getting out of there. But, of course, as soon as he goes to exit, he finds himself face-to-face with Cesare’s dagger. Did Cesare just apparate down there? Because he was still sitting beside his father when DR left the bedroom. That was fast. DR is surrounded by papal guards and he’s taken prisoner.
Vannozza and Lucrezia have been summoned to Alexander’s room and joyfully greet him. He tries to speak but Lucrezia tells him to rest up, because his throat’ll be pretty beaten up by the charcoal. He manages to get some water down and croaks that he saw the face of death. He asks how long he was out and who was responsible. Answers: a day and a night, and DR. Cesare reports that they have him in custody, and he’ll get him talking soon enough. Alexander observes that the cardinals circled around him like crows, and he could hear them. Vannozza gently tells him they’re gone. Alexander asks how he lived and Cesare says it was all Lucrezia’s doing. She adds that God helped out a bit. Yeah, but it was mostly you, Lucrezia. Take the credit, it’s due. Alexander, still kind of out of it, asks where Juan is, and off of the heavy silence that meets his question, he starts to remember what happened. Cesare backs out of the room and leaves the women to it.
DR is thrust into a bare room with nothing but a small bench for comfort. He does get a window, though, so he can admire the view while he’s in there. He lies down prostrate on the floor and weeps.
At the Borgia palazzo, the maid totes some laundry, nodding to guards as she passes them. She leaves the basket in the laundry room, puts on a cloak and slips out.
In the busy street, she’s met by a man who asks her for the info he’s after. It quickly becomes clear that this man’s holding her family hostage to get her to cooperate. She tells him where all the guards are at the house and says the family will return when the pope is well. He tells her to leave the window to the laundry room unlatched when the family returns. Before she goes, she begs him not to harm the baby, who’s an innocent in all this. He promises not to hurt him. He’s totally lying.
In another part of the city, Sforza, moving incognito in a nondescript brown cloak, finds Ruffio and tells him Alexander’s still alive. He tells Ruffio he has to call off this whole plan, but Ruffio says that ship has sailed. All the Borgias die that night, and there’ll be a new pope on the throne by the end of the month. In order to get the job done, though, he’s going to need Sforza to take care of Alexander personally. There’s a dagger cleverly hidden in a crucifix in Alexander’s room. This is starting to sound a bit like a game of Clue.
Cesare goes to Della Rovere’s cell and tells him Alexander lives. DR takes the news fairly calmly. Cesare tries to shake him up by telling him he’s going to be seriously tortured. DR wastes no time offering to join Cesare’s side and help him out. Cesare refuses to believe that DR would ever stand by that promise. DR says he’s no use to Cesare dead, but Cesare smiles and says he has no intention of killing him. Yet.
Back in Alexander’s room, Alexander tells Vannozza he was very afraid, because he didn’t see the face of God when he was about to die. How would you even know, Alexander? What, exactly, do you think God looks like? He weeps and turns his attention to the cardinals who were all actively praying for his death. Nothing like swearing some revenge to forget how empty post-death is. Vannozza urges him to rest. Cesare returns and asks Lucrezia how he’s doing. She says he’s fretting, and a little feverish. Cesare tells her and Vannozza they should go home and try to get some rest. The ladies depart. Once they’re gone, Alexander makes it clear that he remembers Cesare confessing to Juan’s murder, right before the poisoning. He tells Cesare that a terrible crime like this must be seen to have a punishment, so they need to find a scapegoat. Wow. Not that I should be surprised, but that was really cold. As for absolution, well, Cesare’s going to have to go elsewhere for that.
The Borgia ladies head home, accompanied by Micheletto and his guards (members of the Band of Badass, perhaps?)
One of the cardinals arrives to speak with DR, and immediately tells him he’s securing DR’s freedom. In the background, the cardinal’s men slaughter the guards on DR’s cell. He tells DR he’s not to forget this rather enormous favour. DR promises not to.
Night, always an ominous time on this show. Sforza makes his way to Alexander’s room, submitting to a patdown before he’s allowed in.
Cesare makes his way to DR’s cell, finds the guards dead and DR gone, and calls for guards. He orders them to search for DR.
The maid leaves the laundry room window open.
In Alexander’s room, Sforza finds the crucifix and pulls out the knife, while the pope sleeps, blissfully unaware. I’d have thought that someone would be sitting up with him at all times, considering the circumstances.
At the Borgia palazzo, the maid runs into Micheletto on the stairs. He asks her why she’s not attending to the crying baby, and she stupidly tries to run past him. He grabs her, and she whimpers that she had no choice. ‘You had every choice,’ he says before bundling her back up the stairs.
The assassin steals through the window and starts getting rid of guards.
Sforza circles the bed, considering what he’s about to do, and undoubtedly weighing the danger of making an enemy of his family against making an enemy of the Borgias. Just as he raises the knife, Cesare bursts in and announces that DR’s gone. Sforza hastily conceals the knife, and after a moment, he confesses the whole plot to Cesare, who rushes out to save his family, sending in a contingent of guards. Sforza tells them not to leave Alexander’s side and not to let anyone else in, as he rushes out in Cesare’s wake.
The assassin at the palazzo—one of them, at least, it seems that there are suddenly two or more—sneaks up on a cloaked figure, ready to strike. But then the figure reveals itself to be Micheletto, who beats the man to death with a heavy candlestick. The head assassin, meanwhile, makes his way into one of the bedrooms and starts stabbing a figure in one of the beds, only to find it’s the hapless maid, who was already dead. Micheletto finishes off the other guy and leaves the room, just in time to see the main assassin try to make a break for it. The guy reaches the stairs and finds Cesare, who stabs the man and tosses him to the bottom. Micheletto tells him that the ladies and the baby are in Lucrezia’s bedroom. Not the best place to hide them, methinks, but I guess everyone was in a rush. Cesare bursts in, and Lucrezia hands the baby off to Micheletto—who’s covered in the blood of a man he just beat to death, mind—so she can embrace her brother. Micheletto looks rather tenderly down at the baby for a moment, before Vannozza takes him back.
Ruffio reports Sforza’s betrayal to Caterina, who immediately starts considering another plan. Not assassination this time, but alliances with all the families who hate the Borgias, especially any disgruntled younger sons and cousins and such who don’t have much else to do besides join useless causes. They didn’t consider this before? Wouldn’t joining forces with others have been a better plan before you went the assassination route? Why not make sure you’ve got the others on your side before you take such a stand? What if you had succeeded and then only found that everybody hated you afterwards?
The dead guards and assassins are taken from the Borgia palazzo and removed from the city.
At the Vatican, there’s a service of thanksgiving (presumably) being said. Cesare finds Sforza there, hanging at the back. Sforza asks if he was on time and Cesare says he was. Sforza’s happy to hear it. Cesare hisses that they were looking at a serious bloodbath and that there’s someone thinking far ahead and tying up all their loose ends. They don’t really seem to be thinking that far ahead, if you ask me. They didn’t even have a contingency plan for if any of these other plots failed. It all hinged on Sforza’s loyalty to his family, which turned out to be pretty tenuous. Sforza tells him about Ruffio, who’s attached to Caterina’s household and whom he’s known since the guy was a kid. I’ll bet he was the kind of kid who used to torture animals. Sforza tells him that this guy is basically a doctorate-level assassin, so they’re unlikely to be able to find him. Oh, I think we’ve got a good matchup with Micheletto, then. Sforza goes on to say that the man came to him and told him to choose a side, and he chose Rome, because he’s no traitor. He asks where DR is and Cesare admits he’s gone. Sforza swears he knew nothing of that escape plan, and Cesare seems to believe him.
The cart piled with bodies reaches the outskirts of the city. The man pulling the horse inspects the bodies for valuables and finds a giant ring on the hand of one of them. But when he goes to pull it off, he finds the hand is attached to one very not-dead Della Rovere.
Cesare reports the news of the attack to his father, reassuring him that everyone’s fine. Cesare says that all these recent developments have rattled the grass and all the snakes are coming out now. He adds that Caterina was behind the attacks. ‘That bitch,’ Alexander growls before wondering who’ll protect the family, if not Cesare. Further discussion is curtailed by the arrival of Vannozza and Lucrezia, who embrace him happily. He’s relieved to see them safe.
DR makes his way, on foot, to wherever he’s going to hide out now.
Vannozza warns her family that they’re not safe, which I’m pretty sure they’re aware of at this point. Alexander adds that they’re at war.
Unbeknownst to them, Caterina Sforza stands outside the Vatican, looking up. She turns and walks away with a slightly twisted smile on her face. Damn, this season’s gonna be awesome.
All images courtesy of Showtime