Previously on War and Peace: Andrei realised he’d been treating his wife really horribly and felt badly about that, but before he could really make amends she died in childbirth. Pierre got married, and his wife started having an affair pretty much as soon as she could, enraging her husband to the point of challenging her lover to a duel.
The duel is going forward, and it’s clear that Pierre is really regretting this. His second, Denisov, gets him into position, and Pierre basically asks him how duels and guns work. Denisov realises he’s gotten involved in even more of a horrorshow than he knew and tries to talk Pierre out of it, but Pierre says they may as well go ahead, since they’re all gathered. That’s a good reason to get shot, Pierre. Denisov gives him some pointers and the thing begins. The two men advance on each other and Pierre freaks out and fires a bit early, somehow managing to hit and wound Dolokhov. Dolokhov tries to keep going to take his shot, but he’s too badly hurt and is bundled off to the waiting carriage by Andrei. He and Andrei are friends? Since when?
Pierre staggers home, where he finds his wife cavorting with her brother. Anatole makes himself scarce and Helene starts bitching at Pierre for making a spectacle. She claims to be innocent and starts insulting her husband, calling him a drunken oaf. Pierre suggests a separation and says he’s going to St Petersburg. She agrees, because she basically has no choice, but she yells after him, as he goes to leave, that he’ll only be exposing himself to more ridicule and he’ll have to give her a fortune if he busts up the marriage.
This is a step too far for Pierre, who’s already pretty tightly strung by this point, and he loses his mind and starts screaming about killing her as he throws the tea table around. Helene flees.
Pierre returns to St Petersburg, because going there worked out so well for him in the past. Along the way, he stops to change horses at an inn and has to wait for a little while. He goes to warm up in the parlour, where another gentleman already sits. The man knows who Pierre is and says he’s sorry for Pierre’s recent misfortune. Pierre notes the man’s Mason ring when they go to shake hands and admits he’s an atheist. The man insists Pierre doesn’t believe in God because he doesn’t know him, and that’s why he’s unhappy. Religion always makes people happy, folks. The man asks what Pierre has done with all his advantages and suggests Pierre needs to purify himself and ask himself if he’s content with himself and his life. Pierre admits he hates his life and himself. The man is pleased, telling Pierre he’s taken the first step.
Andrei’s son is baptised while Andrei looks on, sadly. Afterwards, he takes a walk with his father and tells him that he intends to leave the army and tend to affairs closer to home. His father’s glad to hear it and suggests he build himself a house on one of their estates so he can have his own place. Andrei’s delighted. Well, as delighted as Andrei ever is.
It’s now autumn 1806. Ilya’s meeting with his accountant, who’s urging him to make some economies. Ilya carelessly promises to watch his spending, and not ten seconds later hands over 2000 rubles to Niki, who wants it to help out Dolokhov. Niki also asks to invite Dolokhov to stay and Ilya happily welcomes the man.
Dolokhov, looking pretty well recovered, joins the family at dinner. Natasha refuses to be charmed by him, though he very obviously leers at her for a moment. There’s some talk about how well Natasha’s doing at the mazurka, which is apparently a specialty of Denisov’s. Dolokhov turns to Sonya and starts flirting with her a little.
That night, Natasha asks Sonya if she feels uncomfortable, being stared at by Dolokhov. She does, but she says it won’t change anything, because she’s definitely not running off with him anytime soon. Natasha wonders how she’ll know she’s in love, the way Sonya does.
Natasha tells her brother she’s not a fan of his friend, who seems cruel to her in a way she can’t put her finger on. She warns Niki that Dolokhov is trying to steal Sonya and tells him Dolokhov doesn’t really seem to like him. Niki refuses to believe any of that.
The boys practice their swordplay and Dolokhov nearly splits Niki’s head in half. Afterwards, he talks about how much he admires Natasha and Sonya, because their innocence and purity appeal to him.
Natasha tracks down some mazurka music and convinces Denisov to put his money where his mouth is. He does, dancing very well, to the delight of everyone. Afterwards, flushed with his success, he proposes to Natasha, who’s startled but manages to gently turn him down. He takes it quite gracefully, to his credit, laughing it off as a moment of madness.
Pierre joins the Freemasons, going through their whole elaborate swearing-in ritual.
Helene has returned to St Petersburg, apparently because Pierre has left it. She goes to a party at Anna Pavlovna’s, where she hints that she’s having an affair with the emperor. She notices Boris and decides he’ll be her next conquest.
Andrei runs into Dolokhov, looking like a thundercloud, and wonders what’s going on. Natasha comes in and tells her brother that Dolokhov proposed to Sonya but she turned him down. She says their mother isn’t pleased with Sonya for turning down a viable match, but of course Natasha’s happy about it. She runs off to send Sonya to talk to Niki.
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Sonya says she’d rather remain single forever than marry Dolokhov. Good call, Sonya[/cryout-pullquote]
Sonya confirms that Dolokhov proposed and Niki sort of hints she should go ahead and accept the proposal after all. Sonya, confused, says she can’t just go and tell the guy she was only kidding and really wants to marry him after all. Also, she’d rather remain single forever than marry Dolokhov. Good call, Sonya. Niki admits that he loves Sonya, but he falls in and out of love fairly easily. Also, his mother is unlikely to consent to this match, and Niki can’t make her any promises. She doesn’t care. Niki calls her an angel and kisses her.
Pierre is making a tour of his estates, just like he planned. He talks about improving some of the cottages and building a school on one of them, which shocks the two guys touring with him.
Boris reports to wherever Helene is staying and is greeted by the lady of the house in her robe and nightgown. He was under the impression this was going to be some sort of party, not, you know, a ‘party’, but he gets the idea pretty quickly and follows her upstairs.
Niki goes to some club or other and meets Dolokhov and some of the other officers. Dolokhov pressures him into playing cards, warning Niki that he’ll lose, which, of course, only makes Niki want to play more. Dolokhov wins. Again and again and again. And Niki keeps betting bigger and bigger because he’s either an idiot or an addict.
They play all night, with Niki running up massive debts and somehow failing to figure out that he’s being cheated.
He finally returns home, goes to his father, and shamefacedly admits he needs more money. Lots more. Like, more than 40,000 rubles. Holy shit, Niki, you idiot. His father blanches and quickly tries to figure out exactly how they’re going to come up with such a massive sum in a hurry. He mumbles about closing up the Moscow house and retiring to their estate. Niki bursts into tears and begs his immensely patient father to forgive him, which, of course, he does.
Niki and Denisov rejoin their regiment, which Denisov thinks will be good for Niki, who clearly needs something to occupy his time. Unfortunately, Russia makes peace with Napoleon, so there won’t be any battling after all.
We move on to spring 1809. Andrei’s at his estate, looking at trees and such and being all one with the earth again. Pierre stops by for a visit and the men embrace. It’s been a while since they saw each other. Pierre’s still touring his estates, which suggests he moves really, really slowly. Either that, or he owns more of Russia than the tsar.
Over lunch, the men talk about what they’ve been up to (these old friends haven’t so much as exchanged a letter in three years?) and whether it’s ever right to take a man’s life. You know, typical catching-up talk. Andrei talks a little bit about how awful he still feels for having treated his wife so unkindly, and now he can never make amends. Pierre urges him to remarry, but Andrei doesn’t think that’s the best idea.
Later, Pierre talks up the Masons and urges Andrei to keep living and loving and just grab life by the horns, dammit! Andrei basically just seems to be counting the days until he’s dead, but he rallies enough to invite Pierre to the main house to see his family.
They pay their visit. Andrei’s son is a cute little moppet now and Andrei’s very affectionate with him. Marya admits to Pierre that Andrei worries her. Pierre agrees he’s clearly unhappy.
Over lunch, Bolkonsky casts doubt on the most recent peace treaty, which he doesn’t think will last. He then turns to his son and tells him he has to go talk to Ilya Rostov, who’s not holding up his end in the local militia. Pierre talks up the family.
Off Andrei goes, and on the way he sees Natasha dancing with some other girls in a field. He stares at her as he passes.
At the (very nice) house, Ilya promises to do more with the militia, then awkwardly talks about how much entertaining he’s had to do since he moved to the country. Andrei tries to excuse himself and Ilya apologises and invites him to spend the night, then calls in Natasha so he can introduce her to Andrei. Andrei actually smiles!
They sit down together and talk about Pierre. He tells her that Pierre’s doing much better these days. She’s glad to hear it, since she wants him to be happy. Andrei comments that she seems to have a gift for happiness. Just what he needs! I’d get all excited about this, but I feel very much like Lise was probably like this at one point, which makes me leery here. Lise, too, seemed like a rather sweet but not particularly interesting girl, just like Natasha. I find it hard to believe Andrei won’t notice that too, after a while.
That night, he listens to the girls singing a song on the balcony outside their room. He probably also overhears them talking about how big a crush Natasha has on Andrei now.
He returns home and hangs out with his tree again, and actually looks happy.
Back to St Petersburg for the winter of 1809. Pierre reports to his Mason buddy that he feels better about himself but still isn’t happy and is having trouble sleeping. The man suggests Pierre is changing his world but not himself and says he needs to try and forgive those who have hurt him.
Pierre reconciles with his wife, who’s still carrying on an affair with Boris. She tells Boris the marriage is just for appearances’ sake. They gossip a little about the Rostovs being back in town and we learn that he needs to marry an heiress and everyone’s going to the tsar’s ball.
Natasha climbs into bed with her mother and admits she’s really nervous about the ball. Her mother reassures her she has nothing to be nervous about,but this is an important night for her and for Sonya, so she needs to keep her wits about her and not fall for the first boy she dances with. Natasha hopes Andrei will be there.
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Nobody did overblown grandiosity like the tsars of Russia[/cryout-pullquote]
The ball is, of course, an immensely grand affair, because nobody did overblown grandiosity like the tsars of Russia. I don’t think they ever met a surface they didn’t decide to gild. Natasha and Sonya are amazed. The tsar comes in and collects Helene right off her husband’s arm, parading across the room with her. I find that a bit unlikely, to be honest. Poor Pierre stands there looking sad and lonely. Happily, he spots Andrei, who is pretty much dressed as Prince Charming, which is appropriate in any number of ways, and notes that Andrei seems much better. Andrei asks Pierre how he is and Pierre evades the question.
Nobody is asking Sonya or Natasha to dance. Aww. Natasha especially is looking disappointed, and then Boris wanders by and clearly avoids her, which is douchy. Finally, here comes Andrei to save the night. He asks to dance with Natasha and is accepted, of course. Her mother couldn’t look more pleased. Pierre watches from afar, looking even sadder and lonelier. Natasha and Andrei dance and talk and have a wonderful night.
Later, they begin dating. He takes her for a walk in the snow and they get playful and fall over and then he kisses her.
Afterwards, he joyfully tells Pierre he’s in love with her and he is so, so incredibly happy. He’s pretty adorable here, to be honest. Though it’s clearly a little difficult for him to say, Pierre urges his friend to go propose to her, because Natasha’s amazing, and she loves him. After he leaves, Pierre sadly sinks into a chair.