Lucrezia’s getting ready to join Alfonso in Naples, leaving the baby behind, because I guess he was just getting to be too much of a bone of contention with her new in-laws. She breaks briefly, as her mother carries the crying child away, and Alexander dries her tears and gently reassures her the child will be all right.
Forli. Busy place these days. Ruffio shows up and reports that Gonzaga’s not going to join them, but he’s made a special contribution nonetheless.
That ‘special contribution’ is currently in the bath with Alexander, which seems like an unconscionably stupid move on his part. The woman’s husband just implicated you publicly in his wife’s adultery while he was asking for an annulment of his marriage, Alexander! For heaven’s sake, cool it with this woman until the scandal dies down!
Apparently, his idea of toning things down involves naked time and telling her she’s going to have to go back to her husband and make up with him. I believe that ship has seriously sailed already. She refuses, because she’s rather enjoying her time in Rome just now.
Caterina has her new allies gathered around her while she goes hawking. She proposes an alliance, although I was under the impression this had already been settled. What have all these guys been doing all this time? Maybe these are new guys. They do tend to run together after a while. One of them scoffs at the idea of following a woman, but Caterina is unconcerned with the sexism and reminds them that she’s the one with the arms and money. One of them comments that Cesare’s a much more able adversary than Juan, but again, Caterina is unconcerned, because she knows Alexander hasn’t even given him the papal army yet and has instead sent him off to France. She thinks the Borgias are squabbling amongst themselves and are weak.
She strolls off and the men chat. They’re a cautious lot, more interested in sitting back and seeing how things spool out for now than getting entangled in a war.
Cesare and his party arrive in Avignon and are greeted by a bishop, who does not seem all that happy to be welcoming a bastard son.
Alexander finishes having sex with Bianca and tells her he needs some sleep. Once he’s a-snoozle, she gets up and starts wandering around, babbling what sound like bible verses, finally finding herself in Giovanni’s nursery. Oh, God. She goes to pick him up, but the nurse comes back from some errand, so she hides herself and then steals away.
Cesare has a visitor: Machiavelli, who has business in Avignon. Cesare asks if he has any tips and Machiavelli advises him to keep to the rather sober black clothes Cesare favours, because the French are suspicious of the Italians and anything flashy offends their rather martial nature. Really? The French court is offended by flashy clothes? Is Machiavelli setting him up to fail here? Cesare asks if he has advice on anything other than presentation, and Machiavelli says that presentation is everything. That sounds about right. Not setting him up for a fall, then. He goes on to confide that the French king wants Milan about as much as he wants Naples, not that the info came from him, of course.
Micheletto, meanwhile, escorts Lucrezia to Naples, and she admits that her heart is breaking being separated from her son. He’s sure she’ll find a way to win King Ferdinand over so the child can join her.
They ride into the courtyard to a fanfare and Alfonso helps his wife down from the horse and carries her up to the door. She curtsies to Ferdinand and inside they all go.
Back in Rome, Alexander is still trying to convince Bianca to go home, but she’s stubborn, and apparently also pregnant. Great. How long has she been in Rome at this point? I find this very suspicious. Even more so when she tells Alexander that her husband knew about the child and tried to get her to have an abortion, which suggests that the baby was conceived back during the campaign against the French, which must have been months ago by this point. I think Bianca’s just crazy. Alexander doesn’t greet this news with unmitigated joy, to put it mildly.
The Bishop shows Cesare in to see the king, giving him some last-minute pointers along the way. Cesare asks if the queen’s still about and hears that she is, which is awkward, since he has the annulment right in his front pocket. He’s announced and bows low to king and queen. By the way, the queen? Poor casting. She’s not ugly at all, just a bit older than the king. Quite a bit older, but certainly not unpleasant to look at. Tudors casting. She asks how Cesare went from being a cardinal to a duke, and he pointedly says he saw fit to divorce himself from the church. The king comes and kisses his cheek in friendship while the queen presents a few of her ladies for Cesare’s examination.
Alexander’s doing some damage control, now trying to get Bianca to go stay at a convent for a while, which does not go over well at all. In fact, she starts to get downright menacing at the mere suggestion of it.
In Naples, the young couple is being entertained with an elaborate banquet, which Ferdinand praises as a new alliance between Rome, Naples, and Spain. Lucrezia loudly says that she has a child and he should hear these words someday. Ferdinand plays dumb, asking if this child is her husband’s, and she says that if he is hers, he must be her husband’s as well. Ferdinand says he would welcome any fruit of their union, but anything else is best forgotten. Point to him, but I wouldn’t count her out just yet. And Alfonso’s a complete pussy, just standing there looking embarrassed.
At another banquet in France, Cesare apparently hears my complaints and comments that the queen is actually quite comely. His companion says she’s barren, so the king wants to be rid of her. The bishop turns his attention to Cesare’s marital prospects and says they can scare up a nice, rich bride for him, as well as a duchy. Cesare says that what he really needs is a serious army, and he has a lot to offer in return for it.
Cesare joins the dancing and winds up partnered with the queen, who, after some back and forth, offers to find him a good bride if he’ll persuade her husband to bathe more often. Maybe now we know why they don’t have any kids. Cesare promises to try, so she hands him off to a young woman named Charlotte, whose banter suggests she’d be a decent match for Cesare. She’s not sure she could live in Rome, though. Cesare tells her she wouldn’t have to.
The Nepalese court, plus Lucrezia, go on a boar hunt through the woods, but Lucrezia peels off and stops to chat with an old woman out foraging nearby. She warns Lucrezia to mind where her horse is grazing, because there’s something growing there that’s poisonous. Lucrezia asks if she has a use for it and the woman says she has a use for everything—some bits are killers, others cures.
Bianca lies in bed, having just been examined by a physician, who reports to Alexander that she’s not pregnant, but apparently she was, at one point, and the subsequent termination kind of broke her mind. The man advises rest, tranquillity, and prayer for her. She looks up from the bed and waves to Alexander, smiling cheerfully.
In Naples, Lucrezia asks Micheletto if he ever had a child. He hasn’t, but if he did, he would never let it go and he’d make anyone who tried to part them very, very sorry. He adds that it rather breaks his heart to think of Lucrezia’s child being kept from her. Aww. Lucrezia asks who would succeed Ferdinand if he were to die. Alfonso, as it turns out. But Ferdinand’s death is unlikely, as he’s strong, and comes from a rather long-lived line.
Hunting’s going on in France as well, and while the men shoot, the king and Cesare talk marriage. If Cesare disentangles him from his marriage, the king will give him Charlotte and the rich duchy the bishop mentioned. Also, the Order of the Golden Rose. But no army, because, as Cesare guesses, France needs it for Milan. Louis is surprised that Cesare knows about that. Cesare reminds him that the last French invasion of Italy went very poorly, but if he let Cesare lead the next one, it could be different. Louis says that this could shake the foundations of the Italian City States, but Cesare’s fine with that, as long as he gets his army. And the bishop’s already on board with the plan, because he’s been promised a cardinal’s hat. This family just hands those out like Halloween candy, don’t they?
The queen has apparently gotten word of the annulment, and she is seriously pissed off. She finds Cesare and starts slapping him around and telling him to rot in hell, but he grabs her hand and tells her there is no hell or heaven, only this earth and what we make of it. She rushes off, leaving Cesare to mutter ‘bitch’ behind her, while Charlotte watches all this and laughs, because she hates the queen for reasons unknown.
‘So, this is the beast they would betroth me to?’ she asks playfully. Cesare, also playfully, tells her not to be too hasty, because negotiations are still ongoing. She says she’d say yes, just for the pleasure of having witnessed that scene alone. Also because Cesare’s hot, presumably. They kiss, and then rush off to find someplace more private.
In the dead of night, Lucrezia steals into the woods and finds the poisoned mushroom the old woman showed her earlier. She’s startled by the sudden appearance of Micheletto, who asks if she plans to do some cooking. She tells him to call it husbandry, but he knows what this stuff is for and warns her not to do this. He advises her to bide her time, and what she wants will come. She hands him the mushroom and returns home.
Back in Rome, Bianca’s pigging out, still convinced she’s pregnant with a son. Alexander’s looking a mixture of bewildered and heartbroken. He tells her he’s tired and hugs her, as a few nuns come in to take her away. He gently says that they’re from a place nearby, and she’ll be safe there. She doesn’t go happily or quietly, sobbing the whole time.
While having sex with her, Cesare tells Charlotte that negotiations have been completed, so their marriage can go through.
The sisters walk Bianca through the Vatican, but she breaks away from them, runs away, and locks herself in a room. Armed with a knife, she goes in search of Giovanni (I guess she locked herself in the nursery). Alexander comes running, busts down the door, and finds her standing over the child’s bed with a cut on her throat. He catches her as she slowly collapses to the floor, and soon after Sforza comes running in, assess the situation, and tells the nuns to get lost and say nothing. He tells Alexander to let him handle this.
Cesare and Charlotte get married while some woman VOs about what love is, and what love does not do (think evil, rejoice in iniquity, etc.) The couple are escorted to the marital bed and start stripping each other while members of the court watch and giggle. Man, and Lucrezia though she had it bad. Once they’re alone, Charlotte asks Cesare to tell her about love and whether he was ever in love before. He says he was. Ahh, Ursula. Or maybe he’s talking about Lucrezia, which would be creepy. Let’s stick with Ursula.
Sforza goes to Gonzaga and tells him that they’ll need a statement from his wife in order to issue a papal annulment. Unfortunately, nobody’s claiming to know where she is. That’s because she’s been returned to Gonzaga’s home and stuffed into a bath, where Sforza now pretends to find her. He tells Gonzaga to beg for forgiveness for the ice in his heart. Gonzaga just looks confused.
The French army assembles, while Cesare checks them out in the company of the Bishop/Cardinal, who asks him why he chose to give up the church. Cesare tells him he just lost his faith.
Ferdinand’s out boar hunting again, and Micheletto’s in the party. Their boar goes to ground near a river, and Ferdinand and Micheletto hunt it on foot. The boar gets an arrow, and Ferdinand gets a knife to the gut, from the looks of it, and is tossed into the river, where the boar is also struggling. Man and beast die together, while Micheletto quietly rejoins the hunting party.
Alexander wanders the halls of the Vatican, looking sad.
Ferdinand’s body is brought back to Naples, as Lucrezia and Micheletto watch from a balcony. She wonders if she should even bring her child there, to such a cruel place, and he says that at least the choice is all hers now. She seems satisfied with that.