The Tudors Season 1 Episode 6 recap: Cardinal Clueless

Previously on The Tudors: Henry decided to jettison Katherine and promised Anne he wouldn’t sleep with her until they were married. Speaking of marriage, Henry’s sister Margaret married his buddy, Charles Brandon, and got herself banished from court as punishment. Henry got tired of his alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor and got back into bed with the French. The Emperor got annoyed and sacked Rome, taking the pope hostage.

At Hever, Anne’s reading yet another sappy letter from Henry aloud to her father and uncle. It gets awkward when Anne gets to the part about Henry wanting to kiss her breasts, but they get past it. Boleyn, finally acting like he cares about his own child, asks her how she feels about all this, and Anne admits she wasn’t happy about it at first, but it seems she’s starting to develop actual feelings for Henry. Norfolk advises her not to fall for her own masquerade but to use the king’s love to get rid of Wolsey. Her father tells her Wolsey’s standing in the family’s way and it’s her job to make sure he’s gone.

Wolsey’s about to go off to France to meet with King Francis about the new treaty. He informs Henry that, while he’s there, he plans to summon the French cardinals together and persuade them to grant him the authority, now the pope’s locked up, to dissolve Henry and Katherine’s marriage. Henry sends him off with his blessing, but as Wolsey goes to leave, Henry tells him to take the poet Thomas Wyatt (who was once in love with Anne Boleyn) along with him. Henry doesn’t like him because he “once possessed a jewel [Henry] would have.”

As Wolsey leaves, he runs into that very jewel, who curtsies and tells Wolsey she has an audience with the king. Wolsey wonders what a silly girl like her could have to say to the king. Is Wolsey an idiot? Why does he think she wants to see the king? I find it hard to believe he’s not aware of their flirtation, since he seems so well informed about everything else. Plus, he knows Henry plans to remarry and already has a girl picked out, so I’m sure he would have put some effort into finding out who that girl is. Dumb move, Wolsey. Very dumb.

Anne heads into Henry’s room, where he greets her with a bright smile, a hug, and a pretty hot kiss. By the way, they’re wearing matching outfits. How cute! Anne asks Henry to reassure her that Wolsey will get the annulment, and he does. She doesn’t seem too appeased, though, and muses that it doesn’t seem like such a great idea to trust such a big deal to one man. Henry hushes her condescendingly, and she ruefully says she’s talking about things that she shouldn’t. Henry tells her he wants them to always speak freely with one another. It’s too bad she couldn’t get a recording of that promise, back then.

Katherine enters a room where Mendoza, the Emperor’s ambassador, is waiting for her. In Spanish, she asks him to take a letter to the emperor, since Wolsey reads all her mail, and she suspects he’s turned some of her ladies against her. Aghast, Mendoza asks how he managed that, and Katherine guesses either through money or sex. Woah, I find it rather hard to believe that a woman as devout as Katherine would have said that about a cardinal, even if she didn’t like him. Mendoza asks how he can help, and Katherine asks him to tell the Emperor that Henry’s planning to divorce her. She knows Henry wants to keep it secret, but she also knows that Wolsey’s already initiated the proceedings, and she needs help from her nephew. Mendoza promises to let the emperor know what’s going on.

Oh, God, another Tallis scene. You know what? I really don’t like this character at all. There’s nothing interesting about him in the least. He’s not even good looking, which might have at least distracted from his lack of personality and the storyline that puts me to sleep. And this whole affair with Compton is just stupid, and I’m not saying that because it’s a homosexual affair. I’m saying that because these two have absolutely zero chemistry, and there’s no historical basis for it whatsoever, so it’s like the writers just wanted to try to be all shocking and with the times and ended up failing miserably.

Anyway, Tallis is out in the country with Compton, who approaches with a really, really fake looking painting of a large manor house in the background and asks Tallis what he’s thinking. Nothing, Tallis tells him, and that I’ll believe. He was listening. Eh, whatever. Compton asks if he’s working on something new, and then tells Tallis he loves him. Tallis asks about his wife, and I think he knows that the poor woman doesn’t factor in here.

Tallis informs Compton that he’s going to France with Wolsey, which disappoints Compton. He does get a consoling “I’ll miss you” from his reluctant lover, but Compton actually does think every once in a while and knows the deal. He knows that Tallis will soon enough find something else to distract him while he’s away. Tallis doesn’t deny it.

Wolsey’s hard at work when More comes into his study and asks him what his hopes are for this French trip. Wolsey responds that he hopes to end centuries of Anglo-French hostility and to create a new balance of power in Europe. So, no big deal, then. Just your average business trip. Wolsey also tells More about the conclave of cardinals he plans to call, but instead of mentioning the divorce, he says it’ll deal with church matters, like heresy and reform. More knows better and asks directly if the divorce will be brought up. Wolsey says it will. More asks if he thinks the cardinals will give him the authority to rule on the matter, and of course Wolsey does. So, More muses, he’d sort of be pope, then, wouldn’t he? And since the real pope might never escape captivity… Wolsey cuts him off, calling this idle speculation, and tells More to get lost.

Late at night, George Boleyn makes his way into Anne’s bedroom, where she lays on her bed, looking pensive and unhappy. He asks her what’s wrong, and she says he wouldn’t understand. He tries to draw her out, rather sweetly, but she refuses to share her secrets, telling him he’d share them. We have no evidence that that’s true, but ok, we’ll go with it.

Wolsey arrives at the palace of King Francis and is showered with confetti and applauded. He waves to the crowd like he’s on the red carpet as More follows, looking glum. Wolsey bows to Francis and his wife, Claude. Francis greets him warmly and Frenchly with a hug and kiss on both cheeks. Wolsey looks discomforted by this; even more so when Francis squeezes his shoulder and says he thinks of him like a brother. Wolsey’s frozen smile is kind of hilarious here—it’s like he’s afraid King Francis is going to start actively hitting on him soon. You’d think he’d be relieved to deal with a king who’s neither a child in a man’s suit nor a raging megalomaniacal psychopath. He manages to recover and responds politely to the king’s overtures.

Out in the audience, Wyatt sidles up to Tallis and asks him if he might be willing to set one of Wyatt’s poems to music. Tallis says he’d be honored and asks if he has one ready. Tallis answers that he’s working on one.

Francis’s son, the Duke d’Orleans, is brought forward to meet Wolsey, and he expresses quite a bit of enthusiasm over his engagement to Princess Mary. Looks like he’s more into the ladies than his brother was.

Wyatt moves on to More and observes he doesn’t seem to be a big fan of the French. More says he doesn’t mind them, it’s just that they’re so very…French. He delivers that with a disgusted sneer that’s very, well, English.

As ladies-in-waiting help Katherine dress for bed, she asks Anne if any letters came for her. Anne says no and goes to leave, but Katherine calls for her to stop. Katherine informs Anne that she knows what’s going on between her and the king (see? Katherine knows—so why doesn’t Wolsey?) and warns her not to try to take Henry away. Katherine tells Anne that Henry can’t really give Anne his heart because Katherine has it. Yeah, Kate, he really seems devoted to you. Anne just curtsies and leaves.

Cromwell brings Henry letters from Wolsey and news that the pope has escaped from the emperor by disguising himself as an old man and walking right out of his prison. He’s now hiding out in a small town elsewhere in Italy. This news makes Henry pretty happy, and he remarks that it would now be possible to send the pope a message. Cromwell acknowledges that this is true. Henry asks him how he knows all this, guessing it’s from Wolsey, and Cromwell explains that he has his own sources of information. Henry asks Cromwell if he knows someone who could carry the message to the pope, and Cromwell says he does. Henry tells him to fetch the man.

Thomas Boleyn is hard at work going over Wolsey’s books. Looks like something is rotten in the Archbishopric of York.

Henry kills some time playing cards with Compton, and losing to Compton’s two queens (oh, ha ha, show). Henry, of course, sulks and is a bad loser, whining that he hates cards and his court and everything in the whole wide world! Compton suggests they ditch court for a bit and go hunting. Henry agrees, but says Brandon can’t come along. Compton tries to intervene on Charles’s behalf, but Henry won’t have it, because Brandon insulted him by not asking permission to marry Margaret. From what we saw of Brandon’s and Margaret’s homelife last week, I think he’s being punished enough, not that Henry would care. Henry finishes up by saying that Brandon isn’t banished forever, just as long as he breathes. Compton chuckles like this is actually a clever thing to say, and he and Henry take off. Somewhere along the way, Henry collects Anne and they all go to Compton’s for a picnic. Anne’s riding behind Henry on his horse on the little road trip, while Compton sulkily follows, and Henry tells him things are clearly not as they used to be. Just in case we weren’t sure. Oh, and by the way, Anne and Henry are matching again. Both are wearing imperial purple.

At Brandon’s gorgeous country house, the lord of the manor’s writing a letter or something when Thomas Boleyn is shown in. Brandon doesn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat, although you’d think he’d be delighted to have other company besides his wife. Brandon asks Boleyn what brings him there, and Boleyn tells him that Norfolk sent him on this errand. Brandon can’t believe it, since snobby Norfolk hates him for being a “new man”. But Norfolk, like everyone else, has interests to protect, and sometimes he needs to deal with new men to do so. Boleyn reminds Brandon that there’s someone else Norfolk hates much worse than him—Wolsey.

Boleyn backs up and asks Brandon if he misses being at court. Brandon says nothing, but Boleyn and everyone else know that he does. Brandon cuts to the chase and asks what Norfolk wants. Boleyn bluntly tells him he wants Brandon to help them bring Wolsey down, and in return, Norfolk will intervene on Brandon’s behalf with Henry. Brandon plays things surprisingly close to the vest, revealing nothing of what he’s feeling. He merely thanks Boleyn, and Thomas is shown out. As he leaves, Margaret comes in from the adjoining room where she was skulking and eavesdropping. She asks Brandon what he plans to do, and he actually asks her what she thinks he should do. She reminds him that there were times when Wolsey was kind to him, but Brandon says he’s quite forgotten all that. Margaret looks amazed and horrified, which is a strange reaction for someone who’s as desperate to go back to court as she is. What does she care about Wolsey?

Off in the woods, Henry’s enjoying his picnic with Anne, a musician, several servants, and Compton, who’s sitting pretty far away from the happy couple and trying hard not to feel like the third wheel he is. No wonder he wants Brandon to come back to court. He observes to one of the servants that it looks like Henry’s in love. And, indeed, the two lovebirds are putting on quite the show, feeding each other and making out, oblivious to Compton and the others.

Looks like Tallis drew the short straw when it came to room allotments—he’s sleeping on a cot in some dank looking basement, which is where Wyatt finds him, wakes him, and shows him the poem he’s working on. He reads it aloud as we see Brandon sit down with Norfolk and Boleyn to drink wine from a double-handled chalice, which I guess is some sort of pre-cardinal-takedown ritual amongst the elite. Either that, or the dishwasher quit that day.

The poem, of course, is about Anne, although she’s never named. Wyatt bemoans the fact that he thought she loved him as he loved her, but she didn’t. Tallis has gotten a bit hardened since he came to court, and he scoffs that now, of course, she’s loved by another. Even he knows this is a trite turn the story’s taken. Wyatt informs Tallis that, although the subject is just a girl, she could easily set their whole country at war if she gets her way. Even he knows that Henry and Anne are an item! Also: clearly Wolsey’s tribunals aren’t as secret as he thinks. It seems like absolutely everyone in England knows about this whole affair. Except Wolsey.

Speak of the devil: In much nicer rooms, Wolsey’s working when a buxom serving maid brings him a snack and then waits expectantly. When Wolsey looks up at her, she tells him Francis sent her to take good care of the cardinal, and she starts to unlace her bodice. Wolsey waves for her to stop, crosses himself, and tells her, rather nicely, actually, that it’s a no go. She hesitates and then withdraws.

Apparently Katherine’s still living in Henry’s palace, despite the fact that he told her to clear out last episode. She makes her way through a throng of courtiers, who kiss her hand and bow to her, and she sweeps right past Anne, who curtsies deeply. George joins his sister as Katherine leaves the room and shows her a drawing of a falcon (Anne’s crest) tearing apart a pomegranate (Katherine’s crest.) Anne doesn’t seem to find this as amusing as young George does, and she crumples up the drawing and tells him this is a dangerous game they’re in now, not a joke. She stalks off and meets up with Cromwell, who fills her in on the fact that Henry’s dispatching a messenger to the pope, in the hope of speeding up his divorce. The messenger is one Dr. Knight, who also happened to be Anne’s tutor. As Cromwell says, all things connect.

George, meanwhile, is hitting on those two sisters who tried to sleep with Tallis a couple of episodes ago. He’s kind of cute in a frat boy sort of way, until he tells the girls to tell him who they’re sleeping with, and he’ll tell them if it’s a good idea or not. Rather than slapping his face, kicking him in the nuts, and getting the hell out of there as most self-respecting women would have done, Slut Sister #1 asks what he’ll want in return for this knowledge. Predictably, he tells them he’ll think of something.

Henry hands his letters to Dr. Knight and tells him to be very, very careful with them. Knight bows and leaves.

Back in France, both Wolsey and Francis sign the treaty simultaneously, and everyone applauds. As they shake hands, Wolsey suggests that all they need to do now is make peace with the emperor. Under the cover of giving Wolsey a hug, Francis hisses in his ear that that won’t be happening anytime soon, since the emperor held Francis captive, extracted a huge ransom for him, and is still holding his son the dauphin hostage. Looks like there won’t be a peace for a while.

Wolsey steps down from the dais they were on and joins More, who congratulates him. Wolsey confides that he’d really rather be home these days, instead of dragging from country to country at his age. He also admits he’s worried about Henry being advised by others while Wolsey’s gone. More tells him not to worry, they’ll be back in England soon enough.

Looking a bit lit, George Boleyn stumbles down a corridor and bursts into his rooms, where his servant is nowhere to be found and only a single candle is lit. He moves into the bedroom, where he finds the Slut Sisters naked in his bed, posed in a manner that evokes a portrait of Gabrielle d’Estrees and one of her sisters. Specifically, this portrait:

Gabrielle was the mistress of Henry IV of France, who wasn’t even born until 1553 (at least 21 years after the events happening on The Tudors now), and didn’t hook up with her until the 1590’s, which means the sisters are copying a painting that won’t even exist for another sixty years and is so obscure that I’m pretty sure only the people who happened to read Sex with Kings recognized it. What a totally bizarre anachronism. Anyway, it sufficiently titillates (sorry, couldn’t help it) George, who happily jumps into bed with them.

Henry enters one of the many rooms in the palace thronged with courtiers just hanging out, and finds Anne there, naturally. She curtsies with the others, but he raises her to his level, calling her Sweet Anne and looking like he’s going to make out with her right then and there, but then Katherine is announced and comes striding into the room from the other direction. Not wanting to make more trouble than necessary, Anne tries to leave, but Henry holds her back. She gives him a hard ‘are you serious?’ look and Katherine flees. Dick move, Henry. Not that that surprises me.

Henry ignores his wife completely and tells Anne he’ll be having dinner with her father and uncle that night. She’s modest and tells him it’s more than they all deserve, but Henry kisses her hand and gives her a glove or something as a token of his affection. Then he strokes her neck and tells her how much he loves it. Watch for the falling anvils, folks, they’re everywhere. Henry finally leaves and everyone stands back up from their uncomfortable bows and start to buzz, staring at Anne, who makes a hasty retreat. Once she’s out of the room, she opens the bag Henry gave her (ahh, not a glove) and pulls out a piece of pricy looking jewelry.

At dinner that night, Henry toasts to his divorce, which he expects any day now. Norfolk starts to get to work and says that Henry probably gets more info from Knight than he did from Wolsey. Henry asks what he means, and Norfolk comments that it probably wouldn’t be in the cardinal’s interest to see the divorce succeed. Henry can’t believe that, but Boleyn breaks in to say that Wolsey has some prejudice against Anne. Henry knows about the ‘silly girl’ comment and doesn’t seem too concerned. Honestly, I don’t know why the show didn’t  bother telling the actual story of what happened between Anne and Wolsey, which is that she fell in love with and got engaged to Henry Percy, a son of the Duke of Northumberland, but Henry spotted her and wanted her for himself and told Wolsey to break the engagement. Anne blamed Wolsey for everything and set out to bring him down. It gives a much more interesting (and cutthroat, Machiavellian) aspect to her character. Going after him because he called her silly (which is, in itself, silly, because why should someone of Wolsey’s stature bother with insulting a supposedly insignificant lady-in-waiting?) just makes her seem childish.

Anyway, Norfolk and Boleyn pull out the big guns and tell Henry that Wolsey’s been quietly appropriating Henry’s money in a pretty sneaky way. He’s closing down corrupt religious houses, but instead of sending the money to Henry’s vault, which is what he’s supposed to be doing, Wolsey’s keeping it for himself, funneling it into his own private foundations and putting it towards the foundation of his college at Oxford. Henry, not sounding shocked in the least, tells them he’s shocked and hurt, since Wolsey was such a good friend and close advisor. Boleyn acknowledges that friends are great, but can’t always be relied on.

Which brings them to the subject of Brandon, whom Norfolk now thinks to bring up. Norfolk tells Henry Brandon claimed he’d crawl on his hands and knees to gain Henry’s forgiveness. Yeah, right. Also, I thought Brandon was supposed to be doing something to help bring Wolsey down in order to earn his way back to court. What did he do?

Katherine is once again getting ready for bed (God, is that all this woman does? I’d turn this into a drinking game, but I’m afraid of being incoherent by the end of the recap.) and is making Anne wash her feet. Heh. Anne, being the way she is, is wearing the expensive necklace Henry just gave her, and Katherine calls her on it. Katherine calls Anne a whore in Spanish, I believe, which Anne speaks well enough to understand what was just said and to protest against it. Katherine’s eyes widen as she realizes another woman here might actually have been somewhat educated. Anne tells Katherine that she loves Henry and believes he loves her. Katherine scoffs and tells her Henry will get tired of her, just like all the others. Anne asks her what’ll happen if he doesn’t, and because Katherine has no response for that, she yells at Anne for speaking out of turn and dismisses her.

In the countryside near Rouen, France, Knight’s carriage is intercepted by a group of horsemen, who take him right to Wolsey. Wolsey’s pissed that Henry’s sending messengers behind Wolsey’s back, and he has, of course, now read the documents Henry entrusted to Knight. He asks Knight if he knows what the documents say, and can’t believe that Knight actually still agreed to carry them once Knight admits that he did, in fact, know what was in them. One of them asks the pope to give Henry permission to marry whomever he chooses, even if the lady would normally be forbidden because of a prior relationship with one of her relatives (this is in reference to Henry’s affair with Mary Boleyn). Wolsey’s shocked by this and demands to know who Henry wants to hook up with, and again, how is it that Wolsey is the only person on earth at this point that doesn’t know Anne and Henry are together? He knew about Knight secretly scurrying through France with letters to the pope but didn’t know the king’s worst-kept secret? It’s not even a secret anymore, they’re practically having sex on picnics in front of friends and servants. Wolsey’s spies suck.

He’s amazed to learn that Henry’s in love with Anne, and asks about this prior relationship. Knight reminds him of the affair with Mary. The second document asks the pope to allow Henry to take a second wife, even if he doesn’t allow Henry to divorce Katherine. That’s totally cracked out—why would Henry ever think the pope would sanction bigamy? Not that there isn’t biblical precedent for it, but come on, that was not looked on kindly in those days any more than it is now.

Pissed off, Wolsey refolds the letters, gives them to Knight, and tells him to be on his way, but not to expect a warm papal welcome.

In his throne room, Henry descends from his dais and tells Brandon, who’s kneeling below, that he heard Brandon crawled to court like a dog. Something like that, Brandon acknowledges. Henry snaps at him to hold his tongue, as he was “always too loose with it.” I’ll say. Henry asks if Brandon has come to beg his forgiveness, and when Charles says he has, Henry tells him to go ahead and beg. I bet Henry would be into some really strange, kinky stuff if he were around now. Hell, he might have been into some strange, kinky stuff during his lifetime. He certainly seems to have a liking for pain and humiliation. At any rate, Brandon begs away, as Henry watches coldly. I’m sorry, but JRM has the creepiest, coldest eyes I’ve ever seen in a human being who wasn’t an acknowledged sociopath. It’s why he was so good in Match Point—he looks like the type who’d blow away a pregnant woman. Henry stalks out of the throne room, growling for Brandon to follow him, and sits down at a table in an adjoining chamber. He strips off his jacket and holds up his hand in an arm wrestling challenge manner. Brandon sits near him, and Henry tells him that if he can beat Henry in a match, Brandon can come back to court. Having seen how Henry reacts when he loses, I would strongly advise Charles to get that in writing.

They start, and I think this was just an excuse to show off JRM’s bulging arm muscles. He starts to push Brandon’s arm down, straining ridiculously with the effort. It’s kind of hilarious, actually, because while Henry’s sweating, red faced, and straining like he’s giving birth, Brandon’s cool, calm, and looks like this isn’t a challenge for him at all. He finally manages to beat Henry, as the music builds to this huge crescendo like this is a major dramatic moment in the show instead of just another example of Henry’s childishness. Henry throws a mini tantrum, predictably, but then smiles at Charles and welcomes him back. Charles smiles in relief that he didn’t just have his arm chopped off as punishment.

Someone needs more fiber in his diet

Wolsey has told More about Knight’s letters, and More, naturally, is appalled. Wolsey asks him straight up if he’ll accept the judgment of the cardinals in France, and More points out that with the pope free, there’s really no need for a conclave. Wolsey insists that there is a need, since the pope is still in Italy and, therefore, still in the control of the emperor. More doesn’t look like he’s prepared to go along with this, so Wolsey tells More that if he’s not for him, then he’s against him. Um, yeah, obviously. And night follows day and all things come to an end, too. Thanks, Cardinal Obvious.

Wolsey stresses over Henry’s growing friendship with Boleyn and Norfolk, whom he knows both hate him, and he tells More that if he doesn’t help Wolsey, he’s helping them, which is similar logic to the “you’re either for the war or against the troops” nonsense notion from the early days of the Iraq war. I guess some things never change. Wolsey informs More that he owes all his advancement to Wolsey, which isn’t true at all, historically, and that they’re old friends who share the same ideals. More nobly and naively says that no earthly prince will ever persuade him to abandon his principles. How long has More been at court, again? How has he managed to retain this crazy purity there?

Wolsey comments that More clearly doesn’t want to get his hands dirty, but he’s just going to have to get over that. More waxes poetical and nonsensical in order to essentially tell Wolsey that he deals on a spiritual plane, which doesn’t corrupt the way politics do.

Later, Wolsey waits for the cardinals to arrive, but time passes and nobody comes. That’s what happens when you don’t advertise your event on Facebook.

Much, much later, Francis is shown in to tell Wolsey the obvious: the cardinals aren’t coming. There’s nothing Francis can do about that, they only take orders from the pope. Wolsey slowly sinks into a chair, no doubt envisioning the searing pain of Henry’s wrath when he arrives home with this news.

Wyatt’s back to work on his poem, reading it aloud to Tallis again. It’s actually not bad—I wonder if it’s one of the real Wyatt’s actual poems.

Wolsey returns to Whitehall to face the music. He sweeps through courtiers, blessing people, sniffing his pomander, and looking slightly stressed. Cromwell meets him outside Henry’s presence chamber and tells him the king is waiting for him, and that he’s not alone. Wolsey freaks a little more before entering the room. Of course, Anne is with Henry, and the king expectantly asks him how it went. Anne gives Wolsey a nice “gotcha” smile. Wosley’s not sure how to begin as Henry asks him if he has his divorce. Wolsey breaks the news of the conclave disaster as Wyatt continues his poem in voiceover and Anne looks from one man to another, her face inscrutable.

Previous Episode: Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Days

Next Episode: Bring Out Your Dead

5 thoughts on “The Tudors Season 1 Episode 6 recap: Cardinal Clueless

  1. Hahaha I love your comments about all of them. Lol for “That’s what happens when you don’t advertise your event on Facebook.” or “Henry’s sweating, red faced, and straining like he’s giving birth”

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