Previously on The Borgias: Well, I actually missed almost all of last week’s episode, but from what I can gather, Cesare and Victor/Vittoria managed to fake out the entire French army with paper mâché cannon. And that’s pretty damn cool.
Alexander congratulates Cesare and Victor/Vittoria on their subterfuge, but Cesare doesn’t get to celebrate long: Micheletto appears and tells him the French came up by a road that took them past the convent where Ursula was living. The two men race there, but the place has been pretty much laid waste. The nuns have been slaughtered, and their bodies left underneath that recently completed ceiling fresco. Cesare moves past them until he finds Ursula at last and realizes her ear’s been cut off, as have those of many of the other nuns. And now Cesare’s really, really pissed. Man, I wished for an end to this subplot, but I didn’t want this for her. That sucks. Cesare vows vengeance on the French. Micheletto agrees with that because that’s the kind of thing he lives for, and he finds a French flag left carelessly nearby. Cesare tells Micheletto to start gathering up some stray condottieri that they can use to unleash some sweet, sweet asskicking on the French.
Cesare returns toRomeand is summoned to his father’s rooms, where Alexander is relaxing with Cardinal Sforza. Sforza has news of a relative of his, Ludovico Sforza, who has some ideas on how to defeat the French. Cesare remembers this particular Sforza as being one of the ones who stood by while the French marched right throughItaly, but it seems Ludo’s ready to join with his countrymen now. He’s even gathering up a league of other leaders to fight. Cesare doesn’t seem too sure about all this, but Alexander’s mind is made up.
Ludo arrives inRome, accompanied by some other guy and a lovely young woman. As they ride past the cheering throngs, Micheletto moves through the crowd, recruiting other men just by clapping them on the shoulder. That’s just how awesome he is. No words necessary, and suddenly we have the Band of Badass. And they really are a group of guys I’d never want to run into, even in broad daylight.
Micheletto leads BoB to meet with Cesare, who says he knows all these guys hate each other (very true) but they hate the French more (also true). Cesare’s learned from Juan’s mistake and knows they can’t defeat a whole army, but they can seriously freak it out by leading raids. BoB’s cool with that.
The Sforza party is shown in to meet the Pope. Ludo, a large bearded guy, goes first and introduces the other two: Francesco Gonzaga and his wife, Bianca. And Bianca? She’s the pretty woman who lost her red stocking in Alexander’s bed back in the season premiere. He recognizes her instantly and allows her to kiss his ring. Her husband doesn’t get the same courtesy. Cesare arrives, dressed in his cardinal red for a change, and immediately starts throwing attitude around as Ludo tries to insist he’s all pro-Italy now. Ludo pretty much ignores him and he and Francesco explain that they’re getting a giant army together to destroy the French, which will be led by Francesco.
Later, Cesare and Alexander watch them go. Cesare hates this, but Alexander realizes they need help getting rid of the French and getting the Milanese etc. back on their side. Politics, son. They suck, but there it is. Plus, all this fighting against the French will seriously weaken Venice, Milan, and Florence, which will make them less likely to kick up any more fuss over Alexander’s papacy. So, it’s really a win-win for him.
BoB gathers and is schooled in the art of stealth by Micheletto before they’re invited into the armory by Cesare, who shows off some seriously wicked weaponry. They’re going to start by attacking French scouts riding ahead of the army.
Alexander, meanwhile, is being fitted for some new traveling robes while Giulia works on the books. He’s off to watch the battle, and while he’s gone, she asks permission to deepen her investigations inRome. He agrees.
BoB are cooling their heels in a little village. One of them rides up and tells Cesare the scouts are on their way, so they clear out and lie low in wait. Soon enough, the French arrive and find the place abandoned, with a full-on feast set up in the middle of the village. They think it’s a wedding feast, and because they’re complete morons, it doesn’t occur to them that this is totally a trap. They sit down to feast, and while they’re tucking in, BoB attacks, and it’s as brutal as you’d expect when you’re talking about people using weapons with names like the Raven’s Beak. Many French are killed, but some are left alive, on Cesare’s orders, so they can be interrogated.
Giulia takes Lucrezia on a field trip to one of the poor areas—an old Roman bathhouse that now houses orphan children—and explains that the nunneries that used to care for the orphans there are starved of funds. The bathhouse they’re walking through is starved of water, too. The two ladies decide to set themselves to the task of restoring the water and getting the money out of the curia. Giulia suggests they recruit Vannozza as well. Hell yes, that’s an excellent triumvirate.
The two girls go to Vannozza’s, and after a little needling, she agrees to help them out. She tells the two gently bred ladies they’re going to have to seriously get their hands dirty. They seem game.
Micheletto and Cesare enter the torture chamber where the surviving scouts are being held, strapped to all kinds of awful looking machinery. Cesare asks for information on the raid on St. Cecilia’s and zeros in on one guy with a metal band around his head that Micheletto tightens. The guy says he doesn’t know anything, but the ear necklace he’s wearing tells a different tale. Ew. Wouldn’t that get pretty nasty really quickly? He moves on to some other guy, and Micheletto grabs some pliers and give the guy the worst purple nurple ever. The guy sings like a canary and tells them some other man was there. Also, Giovanni Sforza may not be on the level.
Alexander prays in his room, where Cesare finds him. Alexander asks about these rumors of Cesare leading the BoB, reminding him he’s a cleric, not a soldier. He tells Cesare that vengeance shouldn’t be quite so public, and furthermore he needs to learn patience. He invites Cesare to come north with him to watch the battle. He’s taking Vice Chancellor Sforza too, and leaving the curia in the hands of the one other person he can completely trust…
Lucrezia! Ha! Take that, Juan! I’m so glad they included this—Lucrezia actually did act as a sort of stand-in for her father when he went out of town. I noticed for the first time that she’s finally started wearing red, whereas last season she was the only woman in the cast who didn’t wear it often. She’s grown up. She’s sitting alone in the papal throne, waiting for the cardinals to gather. Cesare joins her there and she asks him, in a slightly roundabout way, if he’s leading these raids. They don’t have long for a heart-to-heart before the cardinals gather, followed by Alexander, who briskly announces that he’s leaving his daughter in charge. The men are shocked by this and one asks if a woman can really occupy the chair of St. Peter. “Well, plainly one does,” says Alexander, before sweeping out. Hee!
Torture chamber. Cesare pays one last visit before leaving and is told by Micheletto that one of the men is ready to talk. He tells Cesare that the powder for the cannon is stored in the cooking wagons, disguised as barrels of food. For his information, the man is granted a somewhat quick death at Micheletto’s hands. He buries a knife in the man’s stomach, and the look on his face is really amazing to me. It’s about equal parts grief and an almost sexual elation. Micheletto’s getting sort of fascinatingly creepy this season.
Cesare, Sforza, and Alexander head north in their richly appointed but uncomfortable looking carriage. Della Rovere and his newest friend watch them go and disgustedly observe that he’s left a girl in charge. DR’s friend promises to write to Savonarola in Florence about this latest outrage.
At the Vatican, Lucrezia gives the cardinals a lesson in baking. She starts by sifting flour, observing that the good flour comes out, leaving the chaff behind. She tells the cardinals that they’ve been indulging their sweet tooth a bit too much, hogging all the good flour and leaving only the chaff behind for the poor who need their help. Oh, and there’s also no water.
And just like that, pure water starts gushing out of the fountains in that old bathhouse. What, did someone just forget to turn the tap for the past eight or nine centuries? The orphan kids scream and laugh and play happily in the water.
On the road north, French troops approach and tell Alexander that King Charles has requested an audience and is waiting for him in a church nearby.
Alexander goes to meet Charles, who still isn’t looking so hot. He tells Alexander he’s still sick and thinks this battle may be his last. He’s not there to confess, though. He wants Alexander to use his diplomatic skills to end the battle before it starts. Alexander asks Charles to hand over all the booty he’s gathered during this invasion to the church, and then they can talk. Charles isn’t ready to play this game and tells Alexander that he just wants to lead his army back to France in peace. If they don’t let him do that, he promises to annihilate everyone around them and destroy Alexander as well. I can see why he’s not relying on his own diplomatic skills here. Alexander is uncowed and promises to deliver the message to the Italian forces. He pauses and listens to the thunder rumbling outside and wonders if the King of France can keep his cannon lit in the rain. He leaves, and Cesare, who’s been listening in, leaves too.
Alexander and his party reach the army encampment, where Alexander gloomily observes the rain has stopped. Francesco says armies can fight in the rain, and Alexander reminds him that cannon don’t light when it’s wet out. Francesco idiotically says they aren’t afraid of the cannon. Cesare tells him he should be. Seriously. Did he not hear about Juan’s disastrous battle? Francesco asks to confess to Alexander, who agrees. After the confession, Alexander asks him to promise to pledge all the spoils of this battle to the church. Francesco is reluctant to agree to that, but he has no choice. The church always comes out on top.
Alexander, in full papal regalia, blesses the army before withdrawing to Francesco’s castle for safety. He’s greeted by Bianca (dressed in red!) and the two make polite small talk before she takes him upstairs for dinner, trailed by Cesare and Cardinal Sforza.
At dinner, Alexander prays for rain, because that’s the only card he has left to play. They discuss warfare and Bianca observes that her husband thinks warfare is an art and cannon vulgar. But it’s a vulgarity that’s going to get him killed.
Later, Bianca heads downstairs in her nightgown, passing Cesare on the way as he secretly slips out to meet the Band of Badass. Hilariously, he very nearly rolls his eyes at the sight of her heading to his father’s bedroom.
Off rides the BoB, while Bianca makes her way to Alexander’s bedroom and quickly overcomes his objections to screwing her. You stay classy, folks!
BoB reaches the French camp, where they make short work of a few guards and locate the barrels of gunpowder in the kitchen wagons. They spill one along the line of wagons, light the gunpowder, and blow everything sky high. So long, cannon!
The next morning, Alexander wakes and finds it’s raining. He happily thanks God.
Apparently, the entire battle happens offscreen, because next thing we know Alexander’s picking his way through the bloody, muddy battlefield, crowing about how the marvelous, marvelous rain won the day for them. He heard the thunder the night before and everything! He finds Francesco in a surgeon’s tent, having an arrow yanked out of his side. Francesco talks about how awesome the battle was, but corrects Alexander’s belief he heard thunder. He says the munitions were destroyed by some brave Romans, and now he’s inRome’s eternal debt. Furthermore, he’s happy to pledge all the booty from the field of battle to the church. Well done, there, Cesare.
Charles is fleeing home, being treated in his carriage by the doctor from Naples. He asks the man if he has a potion that can grant him eternal rest, because his whole army is crying out for his blood now. I’m pretty sure the doctor can find you something, Charles.
Cesare finds his father in a tent near the battlefield and Alexander asks if he has anything to tell him. Cesare plays dumb and says he had a very quiet night, sleeping the sleep of the good and the just, as he’s sure his dad did. Ooooh, them’s some fighting words, Cesare!