The Borgias: No Pigeons

Previously on The Borgias: Alexander brokered peace between his two sons, which lasted all of 10 minutes; then decided to return Rome to its glorious, Imperial, hedonistic past by throwing a huge party for the whole city. King Charles of France managed to track down Alfonso of Naples and tortured him to death.

Paolo, Lucrezia’s former lover and father of her child, is making his way to Rome on a donkey. He stops to ask some peasants for directions, and they point him in the right direction, talking the whole time about how awful Rome is.

In the city in question, everyone’s getting up and nursing their hangovers. Servants shuffle around the pope’s bedroom, where he’s curled up in bed with Giulia and Vittoria. Vittoria slips out of bed and hurries away while the servants pretend they didn’t see a thing. They’re definitely angling for increased Christmas bonuses this year.

The pope wakes and tells Giulia that he dreamt they were “a trinity” the night before. She tells him it was no dream at all, and furthermore, that particular wicked wickedness was her idea. I think he’ll forgive her. She suggestively asks if she’ll be whipped for her offense. You know how that turns him on.

Cesare takes a field trip to the convent he’s patron of, where he’s having a ceiling fresco of their patron saint, St. Cecilia done. This, as you’ll remember, is the same convent where his former lover, Ursula, has taken the veil. Sigh. I had hoped we were done with this whole plotline, which was easily the dullest, most annoying one in all of season one (for me, at least). Ursula is shown into the room and Cesare asks her to pose for the fresco as Cecilia. She doesn’t want to do it, but he insists, getting rather rough and violent towards her, which seems really out of character for him. Yes, he can be a violent person, but I don’t remember him ever manhandling women before. He usually treats them with gentleness and courtesy. He basically throws her around the room, to such an extent that even the painter’s like, dude, tone it down.

Naples. Alfonso is strung up, ready for embalming as the doctor (who probably, at the very least, knew Alfonso from childhood if he didn’t actually assist at the young man’s birth) stands by looking sad and the taxidermist gets to work. Taxidermist is clearly hardened to his task and asks the doctor how many times he had to revive young Alfonso during his tortures. Seven, apparently. Lovely. Taxidermist talks easily about that sort of pain, and then slices Alfonso’s face right off. Egh, thanks for that, show.

At the convent where he’s hiding out, della Rovere’s now refusing food (understandable, considering what happened the last time he ingested something). Mother Superior asks him to just eat, already, because the food’s safe, they make it all themselves. Ahh, but they don’t provide the ingredients themselves, he reminds her. She asks what they can do and he says he might eat if he had a monkey. Ha! Never say the guy doesn’t learn from others’ mistakes.

Paolo arrives in Rome and is immediately accosted by a prostitute, who asks if he’s looking for a lady. He says he is and acts so polite towards the woman she tells him she’ll help him find his Lucrezia.

Alexander finds Vittoria, back in her man-drag, hard at work somewhere in the papal palace. He asks her if she knows the crappy areas of the city, and the common people. She says she does, because she’s one of them. He wants to get out of his gilded cage and see what real life is like and he needs her help to do that.

Their interlude is interrupted by the arrival of Sforza, who seems unimpressed by Alexander’s building project, because he’s a bit worried about the Vatican finances at the moment.

Paolo’s new friend takes him to see a few of her friends, who all teasingly say that they can be Lucrezia for him, if that’s what he wants. He says he’s looking for Lucrezia Borgia and they cackle.

Back at the Vatican, Sforza tells Alexander that his party cost them a pretty penny. Alexander unhelpfully tells him to find more money, then, because he has so much to do for the people. Sforza eye-rolls that Alexander knows nothing about the common people and Alexander lies that he was born amongst them. No, Alexander, you weren’t. Sforza says as much, and when Alexander suggests they take a walk amongst said common people, Sforza says that and this renewal project are both impossible.

DR has gotten his monkey, to the amusement of the nuns, and he’s decided to call him Julius. Now that he has a little taste tester, he can eat again.

Paolo sulkily stomps through the streets, still trailed by that one prostitute, who must have had a good week, if she can waste time with a non-payer like him. She apologizes for all the misunderstandings and, at his question, says she has no choice but to do what she does, because a girl’s gotta eat. Paolo’s apparently new on earth and doesn’t understand uneven wealth distribution, despite the fact that he was clearly born to the lower classes and then worked a lowly position in the home of an aristocrat. He can’t believe people can be hungry when there’s so much wealth. Really, Paolo? Cheeky Prostitute says the poor starve while Lucrezia Borgia dines off silver platters with a fork of solid gold.

Which is something she does, indeed, have and she’s using it to spear a delicacy while dining with her father and brothers. She congratulates her dad on his successful party and Juan says the mob does like its bread and circuses. He clearly thinks very little of the people of Rome, like that’s in any way surprising. Alexander says Juan would be one of the mob, if he hadn’t happened to be born lucky. Juan shrugs that there’s a natural order to things: rich over poor, men over women, etc. Alexander’s of the opinion that there’s not much difference between them and the common people. He asks the kids if they would go with him if he took a field trip to the rough parts of town. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t get any takers; in fact, the boys try to talk him out of it, saying he’ll need protection and can’t just go walking amongst the rabble, even though Christ did.

Alexander won’t be deterred, and later he joins Giulia and Vittoria—both dressed as men—on a tour of some of Rome’s hellholes. One woman begs Alexander for money to feed her baby, but he realizes the child she’s holding is dead. So, she asks for money to bury it. This woman really works every (horrible) angle. Giulia reminds him that the Roman emperors had their faults, but at least they provided their people with clean water and sanitation. Alexander complains about the pigeons everywhere as he and the ladies enter the ruins of a bathhouse where the homeless now sleep. Alexander says there’s a whole branch of the curia devoted to charitable works. Shame that cash never seems to reach the people who need it most. Alexander promises to look into it.

They leave the bathhouse and go to a tavern or something and watch Vittoria play a gambling game. Alexander tells Giulia he wants her to look into this matter of the money not getting to the poor. Meanwhile, he’s going to try to get rid of the pigeons. I’m not really sure which of those tasks is harder, to be honest. Neither does Alexander. He places a bet and wins.

DR’s hitting the road with one of the nuns, heading to a nearby monastery, where the monks will arrange his passage to Rome.

Back in his fancy papal garments, Alexander sits down with Cardinal Vesucci, the man in charge of the Office of Public works. Alexander observes that the man’s been in charge for 20 years, during which time the orphans of Rome have starved and this guy has built himself three palaces. The guy says that the poor will always be with them, just like the pigeons Alexander hates so much. Alexander’s pissed and fiercely tells the man that money destined for the poor should go to the poor, not to this guy’s pocket. He ushers him into a nearby room, where Giulia’s waiting for him, ready to start going over the books. Vesucci’s outraged by the idea that a woman should have access to curatorial accounts, but Giulia wastes no time owning him by telling him about a new method developed by Florentine bankers for tracking missing funds. Vesucci has no choice but to accept her help.

Alexander leaves them and goes to fetch some falcons, which he’s releasing into the city to hunt down the pigeons. He really, really hates those pigeons.

On the road, DR’s chilling in the back of his cart, carving a stake (does he think he’s going to run into Dracula on the way?) to pass the time. Two men clearly up to no good accost the nun, pull her veil off, and go around to see what she has in the cart. This prompts DR to put his stake through one’s throat and then to throw the knife through the other one’s chest. Damn, looks like someone took a level in badass during the hiatus. What’s he been doing, practicing knife-throwing skills at that nunnery to pass the time? Not that that isn’t a great idea when you’re being hunted by dangerous people. Unlikely though that was, it was also pretty awesome. He apologizes to the nun for the spectacle.

Paolo and his new friend are hanging around the front of the Vatican, waiting for Lucrezia to emerge, and she finally does, accompanied by Juan. Great. She goes to a nearby fountain to make a wish, and Paolo appears beside her. She’s shocked to see him, but before they can really say much, Juan runs over, grabs Paolo, and threatens to kill him for daring to look a pope’s daughter in the eye, or something. Lucrezia desperately begs Juan to let the man go, and when he disgustedly asks her if she knows him, she lies that she doesn’t, he just seems like a nice guy, is all. Juan lets him go and Paolo apologizes and asks if there’s anything he can do to make up for his offense. Lucrezia tells him to say a prayer by the fountain at midnight.

Paolo finds his buddy, who’s just finished up with a priestly client. She observes that he looks happy and he tells her he just saw heaven. “So did I, from a different angle,” she says, observing her payment. Ha! He’s deep in lovesick puppydom and rapturously tells her about seeing Lucrezia, though he leaves out the part where her brother almost killed him. Probably for the best.

Alexander finds Cesare and tells him he’d like to have an ear to the ground in Naples, because he thinks Charles will have to clear out sometime soon and he wants to be the first to know when he does.

Lucrezia leaves her cute baby with his nurse for the evening and goes to meet up with Paolo. Unfortunately, Juan sees her go and doesn’t look too happy about it.

Lucrezia and Paolo meet at the fountain and embrace happily. They cutely say how much they missed the other and are so happy it clearly can’t last long. She tells him that it’s impossible for them to be together for long, but I guess they want to make the most of the time they have together and start making out. Paolo’s buddy and another woman watch the couple from the shadows. Lucrezia asks Paolo why he came and he tells her he wanted to see his son. That and make out with Lucrezia, presumably. She smiles happily and tells him the baby’s beautiful, but he needs to be careful, because his life’s in danger while he’s in Rome. He begs her to let him see the baby before he leaves. They make out a little more and the prostitutes watching melt just a little, for a second. Lucrezia promises to let Paolo see the baby once, but then he’s got to get the hell out of Dodge. He promises to meet her by the fountain again the following night.

Paolo’s prostitute friend goes strolling over to a cloaked and hooded man and offers him some business. It’s Juan, of course, come to spy. He asks who the two people at the fountain are and the woman foolishly tells him it’s Lucrezia Borgia and some country bumpkin who fathered her kid. He gives her some coins and asks her to follow him that night and the night after. She’s pleased by the idea she won’t have to lift her skirts for a little while.

Lucrezia returns to her room to find Cesare waiting for her. He guesses she has a lover, but she tells him she went out to meet Paolo. Cesare thinks that’s unwise of the man, because he knows Juan’s a bit of a psycho. She says that, considering the beating Paolo got on her behalf, the least she can do is let him see his kid. Cesare realizes she loves this guy and offers to help her, because he’s the good brother. She begs him to find her a place where she and Paolo can spend one night together. Cesare tells her to go to their mother’s house the next night and leave the rest to him.

The following evening, Micheletto finds Paolo beside the fountain and freaks him out a bit before telling him to come along to Lucrezia. Paolo, being the trusting type, goes with him. His prostitute friend follows at a distance.

Lucrezia arrives at Vannozza’s, accompanied by Cesare. Vannozza knows exactly what’s going on, but because she’s a good mom, she promises to keep this all a secret. She takes off to dine with Cesare, who confirms that she even sent the servants away for the evening. Wow, they really had this together, didn’t they?

Micheletto shows Paolo in through a back door and asks him what it feels like to be in love. Aww, that’s kinda sad. Paolo says it’s pretty great. Micheletto sends him on his way with blessings. At the top of the stairs, Paolo meets Cesare, who steps aside so Paolo can run over to Lucrezia and hold the baby. Cesare joins his mother, who says she feels sorriest for Paolo.

At the Vatican, Alexander’s showing Juan portraits of a bunch of prospective Spanish brides, none of whom seem to please Juan just now, though I feel like nothing would please him this particular night. He asks his dad if he’ll be marrying Lucrezia off again as well and Alexander says he will, eventually. “To a nobleman or commoner?” Juan growls. Alexander doesn’t know what he’s talking about and tells him to stop drinking and make a choice already. Probably good advice no matter what Juan’s doing.

At Vannozza’s, Paolo and Lucrezia get down to the sexy sexing. Juan, meanwhile, goes to his sister’s room, sees that she and the baby are both gone, and calls her a slut. Nice.

Micheletto finds the prostitute outside Vannozza’s and she tells him to get lost, because she’s spying tonight. Oh, you idiot. Don’t you know that the first rule of being a spy is not telling anyone you’re a spy? Welcome to the idiot brigade, lady. Micheletto takes all of three seconds to find out she’s spying for Juan, who’s walking towards Vannozza’s now. Micheletto kills the woman.

Juan hammers on the door, startling everyone inside. Cesare goes to meet him and tries to hustle him back out the door. Juan drunkenly says he wants to talk to their mother about this peasant who’s had his way with their sister. He wants to make sure mom doesn’t let the guy into the house. Cesare continues to try and get Juan out of there, and I start to wonder where Micheletto is. Getting rid of that body, I guess. Though you’d think he’d run inside and help out with this situation first, since the streets are pretty deserted at this hour of the night.

Lucrezia and Paolo get back to the sexing as the baby starts to fuss.

Juan hears the baby and asks if that was an infant crying. Cesare quickly lies that it was just his doves making noise. Except those doves are all dead, thanks to his dad’s damn falcons. I’m sure that wasn’t symbolic at all. I wonder why Cesare chose to lie at that point instead of just saying that Lucrezia and the baby came for a visit and were spending the night. What’s the harm in that?

The brother Borgia head out into the quiet streets and Juan asks Cesare if he loves him. Cesare reassures his brother that he loves him more than his own life (which I kind of doubt, but fine, we’ll go with it, he’s probably trying to talk his crazy brother down).

Early morning. Micheletto drags the body down to the river, while back at Vannozza’s, Paolo prepares to leave. Lucrezia shows him to a back door and he says he’d gladly die for her and the baby. Lucrezia says she knows and promises to write, forgetting that he can’t read. With one last, long look he leaves and Lucrezia weeps. Vannozza watches him go through a window and looks a bit sad.

Paolo makes his way through the streets, but he’s very obviously followed by a couple of threatening-looking, cloaked men. He finally gets wise to them and tries to run, but he’s cut off by Juan, and Juan’s two goons catch up with him. Together, the three men string Paolo up to make it look like he died by suicide. So, Vannozza was right, this did end up being harder on him. Poor Paolo, he seemed like such a nice guy.