The Borgias: Vanities

Previously on The Borgias: Della Rovere got a dangerous protégé. Cesare got played by Catarina Sforza, but at least he managed to kill Lucrezia’s hateful ex-husband. Speaking of Lucrezia, she’s on the marriage market again, and she’s not at all happy about it.

Juan’s back and actually riding his horse through the halls of the Vatican, as if his douchebag status wasn’t sufficiently on show on a daily basis anyway. He’s presented to his father with a round of applause, like he’s done anything worthwhile lately, and presents a couple of gifts: a box for Alexander and a panther in a cage for Lucrezia. She approaches the cage curiously, but when it roars at her she wisely hands the baby off to her maid. Juan’s also brought a genuine conquistador—Don Hernando. Alexander opens his box and finds…turds. Juan explains that they’re actually cigars, an exotic new treat. While they’re discussing impending throat cancer, the panther roars again and Lucrezia cries that it bit her. Well, yeah, Lucrezia, it’s a wild animal. There’s a reason it’s in a cage. I thought she was smarter than that.

Florence. Machiavelli and Cesare watch from a balcony as a bunch of kids march past, dressed in black and singing. Machaivelli calls them Savonarola’s vermin. Back in Rome, Juan coaches his father in the fine art of smoking. This is not going to convince your enemies that you’re not an instrument of the devil, Alexander. The crowd in the room, however, applauds as he begins to exhale huge amounts of smoke, without the coughing I’d usually attribute to a first-time user.

Later, father and son are relaxing and smoking together and talking about Juan’s new wife, who’s proven pretty and is already knocked up. Alexander congratulates him. Juan’s sure it’ll be a boy, of course. It seems he might have turned over a new leaf—he turns down wine in favor of water. Alexander brings up Catarina and tells him he’s to take the Papal Army to lay siege to Forli and make her come to Rome. If she refuses, Juan gets to help himself to her estates. After their bonding time, Juan tries to take a piss, but it seems he’s having some trouble. Prostate issues or VD? We don’t know yet.

At the monastery, Della Rovere and Partner talk about how awesome Savonarola is and how awful the Borgias are to speak against him. DR tells Partner he might want to tell Savonarola to tone it down but Partner doesn’t seem willing to do so.

Lucrezia goes to see her father and asks if she can meet with the suitor from Genoa, the one with the cute brother. She asks about the cigar he’s smoking and tells him it both looks and smells like a turd.

Juan’s gone to the doctor, who tells him he’s got the Syph. And treatments back then were godawful. He gives Juan mercury and produces an instrument that, well, let’s just say I’ll bet Charles wishes he had one of these babies when he was torturing the prince of Naples. The doctor gives Juan a piece of wood to bite down on, and I think we’ll move on, now shall we?

Back in Florence, Savonarola preaches while Micheletto and others listen and Cesare and Machiavelli hang out outside the cathedral, next to a pile of vanities waiting for the bonfire. Machiavelli starts picking through the pile (which includes a violin, an instrument that hadn’t been invented yet) and finds a couple of things he wants to save. Micheletto emerges and reports that Savonarola is, in fact, still preaching, despite having been ordered to stop. Surprise, surprise.

Juan and the Papal Army approach Forli, where the guards shout a warning, prepare the cannon, and, oh yeah, shut the front door. You’d think that’d be the first thing they’d do. The army lines up and Juan rides out with Hernando to assess the situation. Juan doesn’t even know how many men are in the castle, but he’s sure his army will outnumber them because he’s an idiot. Hernando, who actually knows what he’s doing, suggests they speak with Catarina under a white flag of truce, but pull the army back to the woods for protection.

Genoa is presented to Alexander, and the guy looks kind of like a young Rufus Sewell to me. In other words, Lucrezia could do a LOT worse. Alexander greets him and then they all sit back to wait for Lucrezia to show up. The doors open, but it’s only to usher in her caged panther. The lady herself follows a bit later with a bowl of raw meat, which she feeds to the animal before greeting her father. He scolds her for taking her time and she innocently says the baby was crying. Sure, blame the kid. It’s like a get-out-of-doghouse-free card for her with Alexander. She turns and approaches her suitor’s cute brother, who presents Genoa. She curtsies to him and then turns to leave, but not before giving Genoa the panther as a gift, explaining it’s the only one of its kind in the land.

A soldier waving a white flag rides around Forli Castle before Juan emerges from the woods and Catarina rides out to meet him, accompanied by her son and some other guy. Juan tells her she’s to come to Rome and bend a knee to his father, but she’s no more excited by the idea than she was when Cesare brought it up. As she turns to go, one of Juan’s men steps forward and fires an arrow into Catarina’s son’s horse. It rears up, throwing him, and two more soldiers grab him and gallop away, taking a valuable hostage. Everyone returns to their respective sides and prepare to get mean and dirty.

At his camp, Juan asks the kid how old he is (15) and whether his mother loves him. The kid’s pretty sure she does and gives Juan a little lip, proving he’s really his mother’s son. Juan asks for information but the kid has none, so Juan commences with the torturing. I really, really hope he didn’t bring his doctor along for this.

Genoa the Younger walks through the Vatican halls with a bunch of scrolls under his arm, followed by Lucrezia’s maid. Maid reports back on the young man’s activities, which included drawing a picture of the Castell’ St. Angelo and not meeting with any other women. Lucrezia sends her out to buy some painting supplies. I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s a slightly weird lesbian vibe to the interactions between these two ladies in this scene. That, coupled with the later mention of Sappho, makes me wonder if we’re going to randomly go down that road with Lucrezia at some point.

Forli. Catarina’s lieutenant says he doesn’t know how many men the papal armies have. Catarina tells him to hold tight, because Ludovico Sforza will come to help them. As she looks out, Juan drags her son out and strings him up on a large tripod. Cesare coaches the boy to tell her he’ll be tortured. She shouts back that real men don’t torture boys. Juan tells her to give in and she’ll get the kid back. But even Fernando doesn’t have the stomach for this and thinks it’s a poor idea. Juan leaves him tied to the tripod. Catarina looks out and gets really, really mad.

The obnoxious Savonarola kids are pounding on people’s doors and demanding vanities. Why is anyone opening up? Cesare watches and remembers a time when it was actually fun to come to Florence. Machiavelli serves up wine and tells him Juan’s attacking Forli, but Ludovico Sforza’s marching that way too. Cesare wonders if a message could reach his brother in time and Machiavelli says it all depends on how fast the messenger chooses to ride. Cesare decides to leave his brother to his own devices. Ohhh, cold, Cesare.

Lucrezia shows up with her painting supplies at an oh-so-picturesque spot and, wouldn’t you know it, finds Genoa the Younger there, sketching away. She lies that she comes often to paint and he asks her about her artistic pursuits. She says she’s new at it and won’t show him her work, so he moves on to asking her who her favorite poets are. All of them, she says, singling out Ovid and Sappho. She asks about his painting and he says he’s really mostly a dilettante. As they settle in together, he asks suddenly if she’ll marry his brother. She asks him if the brother will make a good husband. He replies that he’s an honorable man, so yeah, he’d make a decent husband. Plus, he’s rich. She says rich doesn’t necessarily equal love and he agrees, and then they kiss. The wind ruffles some of his pictures, and we see one of them is of Lucrezia.

Machiavelli opens his front door to find some of the obnoxious kids outside marking crosses on his house and demanding his vanities. He claims not to have any, so they get pushy, like all annoying salesmen. Machiavelli retreats back inside and returns with a stuffed owl. Hee! I love him. Totally thrown, the kids depart, clutching the owl.

Sforza Kid’s still tied up, looking rather the worse for wear. He’s probably dehydrated as hell. Catarina’s lieutenant asks her how long she’s going to let this go on and she tells him that, if her son must die, he must. Jesus, lady, you can’t stay in there forever. Juan comes riding out to taunt her and Catarina asks her crossbowmen if they can kill him. They nod, so she tells them to do it. One fires…and hits Juan in the leg. Way to go, bozo. Juan limps over to Kid and threatens to slice off a finger for every man hit. He slices a finger right off for good measure, so we know he means business. Man, Catarina’s going to be dealing with some serious adolescent anger when she finally gets this kid back.

Vannozza goes to talk marriage with her daughter, who tells her she’s still in love with Paolo, but if she must marry, she’d rather it be her choice. Vannozza’s no dummy and knows her daughter has a crush on Genoa the Younger. She warns her against the choice, since he’s a younger son. What does it matter? They just want an alliance, why not let her marry the son she prefers? Vannozza tells her Alexander will never agree, so Lucrezia says she won’t marry, then.

Vanities are piled up in front of the cathedral in Florence as people watch. Machiavelli recognizes one of the people as Botticelli. Botticelli commits a terrible sin by putting one of his own paintings on the fire. This kind of nonsense really annoys me—what’s wrong with beautiful things? Come on, religious types, did God not inspire them? The bonfire is lit and the Botticelli consumed. Machiavelli kind of mourns it. Savonarola appears beside them and tells them they’re going to hell, etc. Nothing new here. Machiavelli and Cesare take off and Savonarola turns and sees Micheletto standing right behind him. He has the sense to look rather terrified. The owl, looking creepily like a human form, is consumed.

Della Rovere once again measures out cantarella for his protégé, telling him this’ll be the seventh dose. The kid tells him it feels like he almost crosses over every time he takes this stuff. Della Rovere holds it out and he takes it once again.

Alexander, Vannozza, and Lucrezia sit by the fire, discussing Lucrezia’s suitors. Alexander’s annoyed with her for failing to make a choice and letting her family down. Vannozza suggests someone else, but apparently that guy’s not interested in joining the Reject List. Lucrezia says there’s nothing more to be said and tells her father to sell her to the highest bidder.

Ludovico Sforza and his forces bear down on Forli. Meanwhile, Juan’s decided to just go ahead and hang Sforza Junior. The kid’s mounted on a horse, under the tripod, with a noose around his neck. Still, Catarina won’t give in, telling Cesare she can just pop out another son—10 more if she has to, like it was really that easy, especially back then. Juan gets ready to hang the boy, but then Ludovico’s forces attack the Papal Army from the rear, putting them in a really, really bad position. Juan orders them to hang the boy, but Hernando knows when a battle’s lost, and he jumps up and cuts the boy free. Catarina orders the forces in the castle to open fire, so now the army’s basically right in the middle.

In the woods, Papal soldiers are cut down with much gore. What’s it going to take for Alexander to stop putting Juan in charge of anything? This is the second time he’s gotten the Papal Army obliterated! Juan gallops away until a cannonball lands too close and his horse rears and throws him. Then, limping, he makes his way into the forest, turns to look back at the slaughter behind him, and flees for his life, like the little weasel he is. Juan sucks at life. Well, he sucks at his life.

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