The Borgias: The Trouble with Juan

Previously on The Borgias: Juan continued to be a screwup, lying about how the siege of Forli went and becoming a junkie. Lucrezia, on the advice of her mother, decided to go ahead and agree to marry Genoa the Elder while sleeping with his younger brother. Cesare made some trips to Florence, where Savonarola continues to be a pest, and Della Rovere’s protégé got started on his mission by getting rid of the competition.

Lucrezia wakes and seems surprised to find herself in bed alone. She’s also surprised to see the caged panther at the foot of her bed.

Genoa the Elder, meanwhile, intercepts her father and tells him he can’t marry Lucrezia after all. Alexander asks him why not and, by way of answer, Genoa gestures to his brother, who’s clearly spilled the beans. Alexander knows exactly what happened here, but he refuses to consider Younger’s marriage proposal, because he’s just a younger son.

For some reason, Cardinal Sforza chooses this moment to tell Alexander that his taster is dead, drowned in the Tiber while fishing. Sforza seems convinced this was an accident. Alexander shouts at the brothers Genoa and goes about his business.

That business includes going to yell at Vannozza for giving her daughter terrible advice. She tells Alexander that Lucrezia will love where she chooses, because she’s a Borgia. Speak of the devil: in sweeps Lucrezia, who is entirely unconcerned by the departure of the Brothers Genoa or by her father’s anger.

Cesare, Machiavelli, and Micheletto wander about in the ashes of the Bonfire of the Vanities, which apparently burned for days, according to Machiavelli. Cesare wonders how the people of Florence can continue to follow Savonarola, even after he costs them everything. He realizes that, if he’s going to break Savonarola, he has to break his spell first.

Back at the Vatican, Sforza offers to serve as the official taster until a replacement can be found. Alexander’s fine with that and tells Sforza he’ll personally review the finalists. On to other business: Alexander’s going to be holding an official excommunication of Savonarola in the Vatican in the next few days, while Cesare’s up in Florence rounding the man up.

The people of Florence tromp out to the middle of the countryside, some holding up homemade banners and dead crows on sticks and things. Charming. Cesare, Machiavelli, and Micheletto join the parade as Machiavelli tells them that Savonarola’s power is partially due to fear: he puts the fear of hell into people’s souls. Also the fear of witches, apparently, because they’re all heading out to watch a good old-fashioned burning. The woman being burned begs to be untied and released, even as the flames begin to lick her skirts. The people around her urge her to burn in hell. Well, if she does, she’ll be seeing every last one of you there, I imagine. Honestly, what is so ambiguous about ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’?

Savonarola’s preaching away, same old, same old. Cesare, carrying a torch and dressed in his full cardinal’s getup, enters the cathedral and formally charges Savonarola with heresy, ignoring Savonarola’s jabs at his illegitimacy. Savonarola says his authority comes straight from God, so Cesare suggests they put it to the test with a trial by fire. If Savonarola can walk through fire untouched, then Cesare will follow him through. Savonarola’s face very clearly says, “oh, shit.” Like he didn’t see something like this coming? What an idiot, if he thought the Borgias were just going to back down while he repeatedly slapped them in the face.

In Rome, Juan’s having a conversation with his penis, as you do. Apparently, little Juan’s not cooperating at the chamberpot. Juan gasps in pain, probably wondering which is worse: suffering the disease, or the cure.

While Cesare prepares the gauntlet of fire Savonarola will walk through in Florence, Alexander excommunicates the monk in Rome, in front of all the cardinals. Of course, Savonarola walks into the flames and gets burned to a crisp, stumbling out the other end in a big fireball as the people of Florence instantly turn on him. Fickle crowd. Of course, if I’d listened to this guy and burned my Botticelli I’d be pissed off too. Savonarola is dragged away by a couple of monks, looking confused while Cesare looks triumphant and tells Micheletto to get Savonarola and take him to Rome.

DR’s giving Poisonous Protégé some last-minute instructions that essentially boil down to: don’t mess this up. I think the kid’s committed, DR. DR measures out some cantarella and hides the vial in the spine of a Bible before sending the kid on his way with a blessing.

Juan’s back at the opium den, getting high and enjoying it, as you do. While under the influence, he babbles that Cesare is sleeping with Lucrezia.

Juan finally makes it home, all drug hungover, as Cesare returns from Florence and takes in the sight of his brother stumbling about and being helped upstairs by a couple of guards. Cesare bypasses him and tells Alexander that Savonarola’s been disgraced by the people of Florence and is on his way to Rome. Alexander’s happy to hear it, but says they need a confession or it’s all for naught.

Next, he goes to interview the three finalists for the taster position. The first one has hands that are too dirty, the second is a member of Savonarola’s order, but the third one (PP, of course) is juuuust right. He’s hired. Lucky for the other two—I doubt this guy would have hesitated to murder them as well.

Savonarola arrives in Rome, under guard. Micheletto remarks that the man will never break, no matter what they do. Cesare says they have to try, and then greets Savonarola, sardonically welcoming him to Rome. Savonarola plays it tough, but Cesare figures they’ll break him eventually. After all, he does have Micheletto on his side.

The cardinals gather for dinner, and Alexander tells them that, although Lent is over, he’s chosen to continue fasting. Which means they are all pretty much pressured into having to continue fasting as well. Sardines for everyone! PP starts his job, tasting the water and declaring it pure.

Late at night, Giulia—Giulia! Where’ve you been? I’ve missed you and your triumvirate of powerful ladies!—sneaks into Alexander’s rooms and whispers that she’s Thisbe, come to whisper her love. He reminds her that that particular story didn’t turn out so well for those involved but she shrugs it off. He sighs that his self-imposed abstinence is getting tiresome, so she suggests he give it up. After all, he’s done some good, godly work lately, mostly through her and Vannozza and Lucrezia. She thinks that should be enough for him to get laid again, and he seems to agree, but before they get started, she asks him to baptize Lucrezia’s son. Alexander agrees, seeming almost surprised to be reminded that the kid isn’t baptized. I can’t believe it either, considering the high infant mortality rate at the time and the fact that he’s the pope and has things like this on his mind. Why hasn’t the kid been baptized yet?

The next morning, Alexander finds LUurezia with the baby in the garden and tells her the baby’s going to be baptized and they’re going to have a big ol’party too. She’s overjoyed and asks to have Cesare as godfather. Alexander agrees.

So, Cesare holds the baby over the font while Alexander baptizes him, watched by Lucrezia, who smiles beatifically along with Vannozza and Giulia.

At the party afterwards, PP gets some water and dumps the cantarella into the jug. Down on the dance floor, Lucrezia proudly holds up the baby for the applauding party guests while Alexander throws rose petals down on them both. Vannozza smiles proudly, until she’s joined by Juan who’s looking rather the worse for wear and sneeringly asks why it’s taken so long to bless “this bastard.” Vannozza has no answer—which makes me think the screenwriters couldn’t come up with one either, which is sloppy—and instead introduces him to the concept of pot and kettle. He sniffs that it’s her fault he’s a bastard himself, which is stupid, and then decides to try rubbing some salt in by asking what Vannozza’s doing there, since his father discarded her ages ago. Juan, you’re going to get your ass kicked in a minute. Vannozza admirably refuses to take the bait and instead just wonders aloud what happened to him, since he used to be such a lovely child.

Up on the balcony overlooking the ballroom, Alexander asks PP to bring him some wine, since this is a celebration. PP, disappointed, spills the tainted water on purpose and Alexander scolds him mildly before urging him to drink some wine. Lucrezia appears with the baby and Alexander drinks a toast to him. Lucrezia hands the baby to his nurse and leads her father to the edge of the balcony so he can watch a dance featuring lovely young ladies that she’s planned for him. Alexander is pleased. Lucrezia waves at Cesare, watching from across the way. Juan’s across the way too, looking sullen and all alone. Cesare joins him and asks if it’s true that Catarina said she could produce ten more sons if she had to. Apparently that’s become some kind of chant, and Juan doesn’t like it. He threatens Cesare with his cane—yeah, real scary, old man—and says Catarina cost her son his life. Still sticking with that, Juan? Cesare snorts and tells Juan that the son lives, had a meeting with the pope, and is now back in Forli. Juan pushes Cesare against a wall and growls that he knows that Cesare wants Juan’s life in armor, but he’ll never have it because daddy loves Juan best. He stomps off and Cesare exchanges a meaningful look with Micheletto.

Juan goes to Lucrezia’s room, where he gets a frosty reception, so he tells her that everything he’s ever done has been for her. Yeah, right. She brings up Paolo and coldly asks if he did that for the good of the family. He admits he did, and furthermore, he’d have tossed her kid into the river at birth, if he could have. And just to solidify his asshole status, he picks up the baby and dangles him over the edge of the balcony for a little while, totally freaking Lucrezia out. Cesare sees this, and his face hardens in such a way that you know Juan has very little time left. You DO NOT upset Lucrezia and get away with it.

Juan goes out to the courtyard, where the young ladies from the dance are frolicking around the fountain. He leers, creepily.

Cesare joins Lucrezia at her son’s bedside and she wastes no time asking him to tell her about poison. He obviouses that it kills, quickly. She says she’d happily kill tonight, but he reminds her that doing so would break their father’s heart. They agree that love is blind, deaf, and dumb. Their father’s love is, surely. Cesare meaningfully tells her that hearts may yet be broken, but not hers.

Juan interrupts the ladies’ frolicking and they excuse themselves and dash inside. He blocks the exit of one, grabs her, and shoves her against a wall.

Alexander is now with Lucrezia and Cesare while Cesare lays it out—Juan’s a problem and needs to be dealt with. Alexander says that Cesare must love Juan and Cesare asks if that’ll really make him a better man. Alexander councils him to not let envy rule his heart, and furthermore informs Cesare that he’ll have to be his brother’s keeper. Let’s see how well that works out, shall we?

Out in the courtyard, Juan’s raping the young woman, throttling her, and making her keep repeating “ten more sons” for some reason. Micheletto intervenes, telling him this is unwise because he has no way to get rid of the body. Juan tells him to get lost, but Micheletto, knowing his position’s pretty safe, takes the opportunity to show Juan just where he should be applying pressure if he really wants to kill the girl quickly and quietly. Juan backs down and takes off, leaving Micheletto with the girl.

Juan limps out of the palace and meets Muhammad, unaware he’s being followed by Micheletto.

Juan gets high, while outside the opium den, Micheletto intercepts Muhammad and asks if there’s a man named Juan inside. After some hesitation, Muhammad says there is, and Micheletto says his brother wants to speak with him. Muhammad goes to fetch him.

Juan finds Cesare outside and asks if he’s come to beg forgiveness. Cesare lies that he has and Juan says he’s already forgiven. Muhammad, meanwhile, is dispatched by Micheletto.

The brothers Borgia walk through the quiet, empty streets while Juan talks druggie talk about looking down a well into the world and seeing two brothers walking together. He stops on a bridge and talks about how great it is to be high, because there’s no pain, and he’s been in pain for a while, long before he got his injury. He knows Cesare has been in pain too. Cesare agrees and Juan asks if Cesare would end his own pain, as he embraces his brother. “Yes, and I would end yours,” Cesare answers, stabbing Juan. Juan stumbles away, but Cesare stabs him several more times in the belly and tells him that they’re Borgias, and they never forgive. Micheletto takes in the scene and tells Cesare that he stands in awe of him, despite being a patricide himself. The two men heave Juan over the edge of the bridge and into the Tiber. Well, that’s a shame.