War and Peace: A Bloody Business

Previously on War and Peace: Pierre inherited a huge fortune and was trapped into proposing to Helene. Andrei joined the army on a suicide mission, leaving his frightened, pregnant wife Lise with his eccentric father and religious sister, Marya. Nikolai joined the cavalry after promising to marry Sonya…someday.

Big! Church! Wedding! As Pierre and Helene make it official, we get to check out the lavish decorations in this very fancy Orthodox church. All very appropriate for an episode that starts to bring the religious themes to the fore.

Then it’s off to Brunn, Austria, where Andrei has been sent to report to the Austrian Minister of War (who’s kind of a dick) to report on the action at Schöngrabern. It’s being counted a success, since it comes after a defeat, but it’s a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, now the French have taken Vienna. The Minister is unimpressed and Andrei seems disappointed not to be given a round of applause or something.

Pierre wakes up, all excited that there’s a girl in bed with him, and he didn’t even have to pay her! He gets all mushy with her, which is not at all how Helene rolls. Clearly already bored, she puts him off further sex, so Pierre starts excitedly talking about going to visit all his estates.

Helene: Peasants and farms? Sounds boring and smelly. You go, I’ll stay here and party, k? We should spend some time apart anyway.

Natasha sees her father go into his study with a letter and hears him begin to sob. She goes in and figures Niki’s dead, but he’s not. He’s been wounded and promoted, and her father’s actually crying from joy. They’re both excited, Natasha crosses herself and goes to tell Sonya, who also crosses herself in relief.

Niki, meanwhile, wakes in the bed of some prostitute, presumably in Austria. The other bed’s occupied by his commanding officer (I think) and another girl. That arrangement seems…awkward. Niki has to go have breakfast with Boris and asks the other guy to cover the girl, promising to pay him back. The guy tells him not to sweat it.

Niki meets Boris and introduces Captain Berg. Boris invites him to sit and tell them both about the battle he’s recently been in. While Niki’s talking, Andrei strolls in and is introduced. He urges Niki to continue, but Niki’s feeling like being a dick and vaguely accuses Andrei of avoiding action and staying back where it’s safe. Andrei offers to teach the kid a lesson, but says this isn’t the time for duelling, because they’re going into action again and they need all hands. He excuses himself and Niki blusters like the boy he is.

Vassily drags his son, Anatole, to Andrei’s family home so he can try and foist his son on Marya. Anatole pouts, asking if she’s super ugly. His father reassures him she’s just plain, but also really rich, so Anatole needs to be a good boy.

Andrei’s father, Bolkonsky, knows exactly what Vassily and Anatole are after, and he’s never liked Vassily anyway, but he’s going to play along.

Lise and the French lady, Mlle Bourienne, dress Marya up. Marya’s looking sort of terrified, so Lise gives her a pep talk and urges her to smile.

The Kuragins arrive and Marya is presented. Bolkonsky sneers at her for tarting herself up, prompting the Kuragins to jump in and defend her. Bolkonsky asks Anatole about his proposed service in the army, but Anatole’s so clueless he doesn’t even know what regiment he’s in. Bolkonsky takes off, and everyone else scatters so Anatole and Marya can have a moment. The two of them manage to break the ice over whether or not they’re abused children. These people are SO Russian.

[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Marya and Anatole break the ice over whether or not they’re abused children. These people are SO Russian.[/cryout-pullquote]

That evening, Marya entertains the company by playing the piano and singing in Italian while Anatole starts making the moves on Mlle Bourienne. She very quickly gets hot under the petticoats. Lise listens to the music and looks a little sad.

Vassily, meanwhile, proposes the match to Bolkonsky, who’s hard at work shaping some wood. Bolkonsky insists his daughter won’t be taken advantage of and he’ll ask her the next day, in front of Vassily, and let her make up her own mind. Vassily admits his son’s kind of an idiot but swears he’s a good kid and also ‘one of us.’ Bolkonsky repeats that it’ll be up to her.

Anatole bids the ladies goodnight, and as the maid closes the door behind him she gives them all the most AMAZING look I think I’ve ever seen. Even Violet Crawley would have withered under that glare.

Anatole goes to talk to Vassily and says that Marya’s dull as snow, but he could deal with her. He admits to having the hots for Bourienne and his father warns him not to do anything stupid.

Marya prays for guidance: should she marry or remain at home with her dad?

The next day, she’s summoned to Bolkonsky’s study. He bluntly tells her that Vassily has proposed the marriage and asks her what she thinks of that. She asks him what he thinks and Bolkonsky says it has nothing to do with him. Marya admits she does like the man and Bolkonsky pretty much tells her that Anatole will start sleeping with Bourienne almost immediately. Ouch, Bolkonsky. He backpedals, tells her to think it over for an hour, then report to the drawing room with an answer.

She goes for a walk, and when she returns to the house finds Anatole in the greenhouse, his hand up Bourienne’s skirt. Well, he made that easy, didn’t he? He tries to tell Marya it’s not what she thinks. How were you going to explain that away, Anatole? Were you looking for something you’d lost up there?

Marya, of course, goes to the drawing room and turns Anatole down, in the politest way possible. She says she never wants to leave her father, and Bolkonsky actually hugs her in gratitude (and some relief at not having to call the Kuragins family, I’m sure). Vassily tries to sway her, but she tells him that there’s no way she will ever, ever marry his son. Bolkonsky briskly sends everyone on their way.

The tsar has gone to Austria and is riding through rows of cheering soldiers, accompanied by Kutuzov. Kutuzov is advising retreat but the tsar wants to engage Napoleon the following day. Glory!

Kutuzov tells Andrei that the next day is going to be a slaughter. Andrei mentions Lise and admits he’s been a terrible husband and maybe should have tried a little harder. Kutuzov advises him to write to her that night, since it may be his last chance.

Andrei does so, writing her a really tender letter, which is sweet. He also sends a note to his sister, but can’t seem to think of anything to say to his father.

The next day, the battlefield is covered in a thick mist. Kutuzov wants to stay put and let the French come to them, but the tsar is apparently an idiot and orders the men to attack immediately. They do, but they can’t see the French, or anything else, it seems, until they’ve basically just walked straight into the French artillery. It is, indeed, a bloodbath. Still, the Russians put up a hell of a fight, and somewhere in there Andrei remembers that he really, really wants to die, so he races into the thick of it, grabs a fallen flag, and rallies some of the fleeing men. As he rushes forward, he’s stabbed in the side by a bayonet. Well, that’s him almost certainly dead. Those bayonets were no joke.

Napoleon, watching from afar, finally decides he’s had enough and tells his officers that’ll do.

Niki is sent to find Kutuzov but only spots the tsar, looking like he feels like sort of a jerk for all this slaughter.

Andrei is not dead, because this man is apparently a vampire or something, and lies there on the battlefield, looking up at the sky and thinking out beautiful it is and how tiny and insignificant they are compared to it. Napoleon rides by and tells him that’s a good way to die, carrying the standard. I’m sure he’ll appreciate that.

At Pierre’s unbelievably massive house in Moscow, Pierre goes up to Helene’s room and finds her getting ready to go out. She’s wearing this really odd lace cap thing that befuddles me, because I can’t imagine what its purpose is. It’s not to keep the head warm, because it’s lace and therefore useless for that purpose, so presumably it’s supposed to be just a pretty accessory, except it looks like one of those unflattering 1920s swim caps, so it even fails there. Odd.

Sorry, I’m easily distracted by costuming. Pierre suggests they have a baby and she tells him she’s not really maternal, so no. She then suggests he just take some other lovers and have children with them, as his dad did. He doesn’t want that. She doesn’t care. He tells her that his friend, Dolokhov, will be staying with him, freshly back from the war. Helene whines, because she hates him, but Pierre finally puts his foot down and tells her that the man’s his friend, and a war hero, so she’ll treat him as an honoured guest.

Niki, too, is home, bringing his fellow officer, Denisov, to meet his family. I’d just like to say that Denisov looks quite a bit like Dolokhov to me, and their names are fairly similar, which made the second half of this episode pretty confusing for me at times.

Niki’s family joyfully greets him and warmly welcome Denisov.

The next day, Natasha sits her brother down for a talk about Sonya. She asks if Sonya’s really the one for him, because she needs to know. He doesn’t seem so certain anymore, but he says he gave Sonya his word and he won’t go back on it. They agree that Sonya is a really good person and he promises not to break her heart.

Lise asks if there’s any word from the front and is told by her father-in-law that there isn’t, and she really should find something useful to do.

Dolokhov is presented to Helene, who is unimpressed. He’s pretty oily, and she can barely work up any civility as she welcomes him. But Pierre’s overjoyed to have one of his drinking buddies there.

The two of them start getting super drunk, and even Helene’s disgusted. She finds them in the dining room later and tells Pierre that his friend’s making a fool out of him.

A message is delivered to Bolkonsky, and after a while Marya goes to his study to ask what it was about. Kutuzov has written that Andrei died in battle. Kutuzov saw him fall while carrying the standard. Andrei’s name, however, is not on any of the official casualty lists. Marya begins to cry and goes to her father, who’s being very British about this whole thing. She urges him to let it all out, and he starts shouting that the army’s led by scoundrels who know nothing but slaughter. He shortly sends the girl away to break the news to Lise, and once he’s alone, he begins to cry, as the camera very slowly pans out and he gets smaller and smaller, amidst the clutter of his study. That was actually really affecting.

Marya goes to the sitting room, where Lise grabs her hand so she can feel the baby kicking.

Lise: Cool, isn’t it? Man, I love this baby so much. Why are you crying?

Marya: Because I’m worried about Andrei. Who is TOTALLY NOT DEAD! Nope! Not dead at all! I’m just worried generally. You know Austrian food gives him indigestion. I’m gonna go talk to my father.

She returns to the study and informs her father, who’s doing some more woodworking, that she couldn’t break the news to Lise because she was afraid of upsetting her, so close to her due date. He agrees that’s fine.

Dolokhov is eating his dinner in the grossest, most leering way possible. At one point, he reaches over and helps himself to some of Pierre’s food, saying it always tastes better from someone else’s plate. Helene looks like she’s going to be sick.

Pierre wakes that night and, feeling restless, goes to his late father’s bedroom. He notices the portrait of himself on the wall and looks somewhat guilty.

The next day, he goes to Natasha’s home for a visit and finds her dancing for her brother and Denisov, who looks quite charmed. She greets Pierre with a hug and Pierre meets Denisov and admits he’s a bit ashamed for not fighting himself. He rants against Napoleon, then gets invited to a dinner that Ilya’s hosting for the officers. Pierre sweetly tells Natasha that it’s so lovely to be with them again and she asks him why he’s so sad.

Probably because his wife’s being screwed by Dolokhov right on the dining room table, which is already fully set for a large banquet, for some reason. Tastes better from another man’s plate indeed.

Lise starts experiencing early labour pains and the ladies all jump into action, sending for the midwife while Lise starts to get anxious.

Pierre receives an anonymous note from a woman (according to the voiceover), telling him about his wife’s affair, which apparently is notorious. Natasha comes in, asking what’s bothering him. He lies that it’s nothing. She suggests he go to the men’s dinner that night, since his gross friend Dolokhov’s going. She kisses him on the cheek and leaves. He watches her go and collapses into a chair, looking like he wants to cry. Or vomit. Maybe both.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Andrei is clearly some kind of vampire or something[/cryout-pullquote]

Marya prays in her room while Lise’s cries echo through the house. The maid looks out the window and tells Marya that a coach is coming down the avenue. Thinking it’s the doctor, Marya goes out to meet it. It is the doctor, with a bonus: Andrei! This guy seriously is a vampire. She drags him inside and up to Lise’s room, where the woman’s reached the point in labour of not really knowing where she is or what’s going on anymore. That point kind of freaked my husband out. Freaked me out just hearing about it. Andrei looks like he feels terribly about this. The doctor rushes him out.

The labour continues, with Andrei, the maid, and Marya waiting just outside in the hallway. At one point, Andrei tries to get back into the room, only to be urgently told he mustn’t come in. That’s a bad sign. The cries abruptly cut off, and then after a little while, there’s the cry of a baby. Andrei looks like he wants to cry too. The door opens and the doctor comes out, shaking his head sadly. Andrei’s face falls and he staggers into the bedroom, where his wife now lies dead on the bed. Apparently people melted down over the amount of blood that was shown, which makes me think those people are complete wimps, because that’s not excessive at all. Looks like slightly more than you would expect from a non-fatal birth, honestly. Andrei kisses Lise’s forehead, and is then handed his son. He holds the baby and looks sad and helpless. Marya bursts into tears.

Speaking of sad and helpless, here’s Pierre, not at all enjoying his dinner. It also looks like he’s the only non-officer there, and he really stands out in a lavender suit amidst all the uniforms. Ilya proposes a toast to the emperor before introducing the choir. Dolokhov lifts his glass to the husbands of beautiful women, and the health of beautiful women, and their lovers. He then rudely snatches a booklet out of Pierre’s hands and Pierre loses his temper, yells at him not to take what’s his, and challenges him to a duel. Dolokhov accepts.

Pierre’s face: Oh, shit, I didn’t really think this through.



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