The Borgias: Nice Day for a Spite Wedding

Alexander meanly bars Vannozza from Lucretia’s wedding and makes Cesare perform the service, so Cesare gets revenge by bringing Vannozza to the reception. Juan predictably screws up the entertainment, and the groom is so appalled by it all he takes it out on poor, sweet Lucretia.

Previously on The Borgias: Della Rovere ran around Italy, trying to drum up support for his deposition of Alexander. In Rome, the pope started interviewing prospective husbands for Lucrezia and secured her dowry by having his houseguest, the brother of the Sultan of Constantinople, killed by his sons.

Della Rovere arrives in Florence, where he goes to hear Savonarola speak hellfire and brimstone to a crowd in a church. He seems to like what he’s hearing.

Meanwhile, in Rome, Lucrezia’s in bed, sick with a fever, being tenderly attended by Cesare. She starts to talk about her dead crush, poor Djem, whom she’s heard died of a sudden fever. She’s also heard that his death paid for her dowry, which bothers her. Cesare manages to put off her questions and they chat a bit about her future husband, Giovanni Sforza. Cesare bathes her face and kisses her forehead, and it’s actually quite sweet and touching.

Elsewhere in the house, Alexander sits pensively, and he’s soon joined by Vannozza, who tells him Lucrezia will be fine and he shouldn’t worry. He seems somewhat comforted by that, but he’s brought right back to an uncomfortable state when Vannozza brings up the pleasure of both of them seeing Lucrezia parade up the aisle soon. See, Vannozza’s not going to be allowed to attend her own daughter’s wedding, because of her history as the pope’s courtesan. Vannozza gets rightly upset and begs him not to do this, because it’ll break her heart and Lucrezia’s. Alexander lamely promises to make it up to her, and she and I both ask: “how?”

Cesare leaves Lucrezia’s beadside and meets Micheletto and a cowled monk in the courtyard. The monk’s going to be sent to Florence to spy on della Rovere, since we already know Micheletto can’t go. Cesare lowers the monk’s hood and examines the nasty scars cris-crossing the guy’s face. He tells the monk, Giancarlo, to keep his hood up.

Lucrezia’s up and about and having her wedding dress fitted in Giulia’s presence. She tells Giulia she’s been having dreams about Djem, in which she kisses him. She asks if it’s ok to kiss a dead moor in one’s dreams, and Giulia says everything’s ok in one’s dreams. She invites Lucrezia to check herself out in the mirror, and Lucrezia’s happy with what she sees. She is, however, a bit worried about having to kiss a real, live, non-dream person, since she has no experience at all. Oh, boy, I think we all know what a line like that’s going to lead to…

In a nearby room, Cesare’s with Alexander, discussing the wedding and the Sforza family’s new additions to the papal army. Alexander wonders if della Rovere might go to France for support, which could cause some problems. He then switches gears and starts talking about strengthening ties with Spain, since they want the pope’s blessing for their explorations in the new world.

Back with Lucrezia and Giulia, the two girls are sitting close together, and Giulia’s getting down to some kissing lessons. She starts with a chaste kiss, the one on the cheek, and then, at Lucrezia’s request, she illustrates a less chaste peck, which doesn’t involve tongue or anything, so it’s not as titillating as one would expect. Way to show restraint, show, you win my applause once again, although this scene was totally unnecessary.

Lucrezia asks Giulia what color her dress for the wedding will be and learns she plans to wear Vannozza’s favorite color. She warns Giulia not to outshine her mother, and Giulia reveals that Vannozza’s not invited. Lucrezia’s upset to hear it and goes running into her father’s rooms to confront him. Alexander thinks she’s just come to show off her new dress, but she tearfully begs him to let Vannozza come to the wedding. Cesare has a slightly smug, “I knew this would be a problem,” look. Lucrezia begs and begs, but it’s no good, Vannozza’s not getting an invite.

Da Firenze. Della Rovere wanders the streets and passes by Giancarlo, dropping a few coins in his begging bowl as he goes.

Oh, Lord. For some reason, someone’s put Juan in charge of finding entertainment for the wedding, and of course he’s engaging the most lewd group of street players he can find. Is there anything this guy can do right?

Della Rovere’s having dinner and talking politics with the head of the Medici family (presumably Piero II) and Machiavelli. He claims to have no agenda, but he plans to go to France and ask the king to invade Italy, or the Italian states, as they were back then. He figures Alexander will use his kids to make a mess of alliances through marriages that’ll threaten Florence and the Medici in charge. Medici asks why the king of France would care about invading and della Rovere reminds him (and us) that France wants Naples. Machiavelli guesses that della Rovere wants a papacy out of all of this, but what does he want out of Florence? Della Rovere wants Florence to stand aside and let the French soldiers parade right through the principality, no doubt wreaking havoc as they go.

Vannozza wanders sadly around her lonely, empty house that night. A visitor arrives and she’s delighted to see it’s her discarded husband, Theo, who’s been spending the past several years on a farm the pope gave him out in the countryside. He heard she was upset, though, and thought he’d come to visit. They embrace warmly and she tells him about the non-invite to Lucrezia’s wedding. He knows how it feels to have Alexander bar one from something he loves, so he offers to comfort her. She rages a bit about Giulia being permitted to attend, and he reminds her that Giulia is noble, and the nobility has its own set of laws. She smiles and invites him to stay for dinner.

At the Vatican, Alexander and Cesare are working on a seating chart for the wedding. I guess when the Mother of the Bride’s shut out, the father of the bride has to do all this crap. Speaking of that, Cesare tries one last time to urge Alexander to allow Vannozza to attend, but Alexander pretends not to hear.

Back at Vannozza’s, she and Theo are having a good time drinking wine and reminiscing when Cesare shows up and immediately starts throwing around some attitude. Poor Theo gets all uncomfortable around Cesare, who finally starts to unbend the tiniest bit and wonders how different his life would have been if Theo and not Alexander had been his father.

Savonarola’s hard at prayer in a bare cell. A nun shows della Rovere in and he introduces himself. Savonarola recognizes the name as one that comes from the cesspit of Rome. Della Rovere agrees that Rome sucks now, but he wants to purify it. That gets Savonarola’s attention, and he shares a recent vision he’s had, of a great army from the north invading and slaughtering women and children as it races south, where it’s invited into Rome by a cleric in red. Sounds fun, where do we sign up? All della Rovere cares about is whether this vision includes the death of Alexander, and it seems that it does. Still, the horrible picture Savonarola paints doesn’t seem to appeal to della Rovere all that much.

Alexander’s enthroned in the Basilica, where a Spanish representative enters with some guards and a manacled Native American recently brought back by Columbus. Cardinal Sforza asks about the rumors of precious stones in rivers over there, but Alexander claims to care nothing for any of that, he’s just interested in the souls of these “savages.” One of the guards forces the Native to kneel and orders him to speak. The man starts parroting a Latin prayer, clearly totally beaten down. Cesare steps forward, pulls the man gently to his feet, and wonders aloud what Eden they’ve dragged him from.

The representative asks for the pope’s blessing for these endeavors in the New World, and in return Spain will fully support Alexander’s papacy. Alexander’s cool with that, but he wants to know where they stand on Naples. They want Alexander to support their traditional claim to the kingdom of Naples. We leave before we hear Alexander’s response to that request.

Della Rovere, like Savonarola, is at prayer, but in a slightly grander spot. He asks God for a sign that he should go forward and invite the French to invade. Giancarlo watches from the shadows, and then sneaks into the confessional. Della Rovere hears the sound of someone entering the confessional and goes over to make his own confession. Things start off ok, with della Rovere wondering if one can sin for the greater good. He admits he’s going to invite an army to march south, and that’s when Giancarlo screws up, asking for too much detail, and then calling della Rovere “cardinal,” even though he’s traveling incognito and not wearing his cardinal’s robes. Della Rovere realizes Giancarlo’s a Borgia spy, and he stabs him in the eye right through the grille of the confessional. Damn. I didn’t think he had it in him.

Back south, Juan’s attending play rehearsals and complaining that it’s just not trashy enough. He ends up changing some dialogue and baring the actress’s breasts, and declares it much better.

Aww, some father-son time with Alexander and little Jofre. Jofre asks how marriage can help anyone, and Alexander shows him a map of Italy and gives us all a quick lesson in Great Italian Families. Jofre cutely promises to marry anyone Alexander wants, if it’ll help him. Aww, that was actually a sweet little scene.

Sforza arrives, amidst much fanfare, and he’s played by Ronan Vibert, who shows up really randomly all over the place and whom I remember mostly for a role as a total idiot in Jeeves and Wooster. He’s welcomed by both Cesare and Juan, and Sforza gives a pretty rote reply. Cesare notes the man’s lack of enthusiasm.

"All right, let's get this over with."

Wedding! Lucrezia parades down the aisle, trailed by a bunch of attendants that include Jofre, Juan, and Giulia. Alexander’s enthroned, watching from the side, and cruelly, Cesare’s being made to perform the marriage service. He waits at the end of the aisle with Sforza. Vannozza is not there. Lucrezia offers up a quick prayer before she reaches her unsmiling husband.

At her home, Vannozza feeds the messenger doves, and then dissolves into frustrated, angry tears. Poor lady. I can only imagine how rough it would be to be kicked out of your only daughter’s wedding.

Cesare performs the marriage, and sweet little Lucrezia smiles and promises to take Sforza as her husband. Sforza doesn’t crack a smile once.

After the ceremony, Cesare retires to an antechamber to take off his robes. Like his mother, he’s angry, and he finally tears off his cardinal’s robes so roughly he sends buttons flying.

Dressed in civvies, he hurries to Vannozza’s house and tells her to put on her prettiest dress—he’s taking her to the reception, because while Alexander barred her from the wedding, he didn’t say anything about the afterparty. Heh.

At the reception, Lucrezia and her husband dance. She tries to get him to talk to her, but he won’t bite. Giulia, enthroned beside Alexander (guess they’re not even bothering to try to keep things low-key anymore, are they?) looks melancholy, remembering her own, unhappy wedding day. Alexander’s sure his daughter’s marriage will be much happier. Keep telling yourself that, Alex. Giulia doesn’t look so sure.

Cesare enters with Vannozza on his arm, and the whole room freezes. Alexander looks horrified and is about to tell them to get lost, but Giulia holds him back, asking him to sit tight, for Lucrezia’s sake. Cesare, unable to resist poking the bear just a bit, asks his mother to dance with him. Even Juan has an “aww, yeah, take that, dad!” look on his face. Alexander backs down, so the dance recommences, with Cesare and Vannozza now included. Lucrezia is delighted, as one would imagine. The dance is especially beautiful and intricate. I can’t believe these actors can do this and remember dialogue at the same time. My hat’s off to them.

During a partner switch, Lucrezia is paired with Cesare, and she admits her husband doesn’t seem terribly chatty, but she can deal with that, and maybe even teach him to be so. This poor, earnest little girl. During another switch, Cesare finds himself paired with a pretty blonde lady who looks familiar, like I saw her in the Tudors or something. Anyone else feel that way? He starts to flirt with her, and she flirts right back, even though she knows he’s a cardinal. She glances balefully at another one of the men dancing nearby, and Cesare guesses the man’s her husband. She kind of invites him to deliver her from her ungraceful, presumably unloved spouse. Damn, lady. Don’t speak lightly, this guy knows a kickass assassin.

Lucrezia and her mother manage to find a moment to chat during the dance, and Lucrezia tells her mother how happy she is that Vannozza’s there, and says that if she ends up half as lovely and graceful as her mother, she’ll be a happy and lucky woman. Awww, that is so sweet! Really, I’m not being facetious or anything! This poor girl just wants to please people, and she keeps getting screwed over, whether she knows it or not.

Back across the dance floor, Cesare’s partner’s husband can’t take it anymore, and he stupidly calls Cesare out for “bringing a whore to [his] sister’s wedding.” Ohhh, heeey now, moron. That was totally uncalled for. Don’t you know that this guy has a kickass assassin in his pocket? And that he’s fairly badass in his own right? You are sooo dead. Moron incorrectly calls Vannozza a Spanish courtesan (she was actually Italian), and Cesare calls him out and tells him to get lost. Moron tosses off a few more insults, then grabs his wife and takes off. She once again asks Cesare to free her, before she follows her husband out.


The entertainment Juan’s lined up is as bawdy as we’d expect, and the drunken, banqueting crowd is lapping it up. Most of them are, anyway. Lucrezia’s fast asleep on the table, and Sforza’s looking around at the other guests like they’re particularly slimy and unpleasant. Cesare notices Lucrezia’s condition and carries her off to bed, as the crowd gets more raucous and starts throwing nuts and sweetmeats and such to the actors.

Cesare gently lays Lucrezia in her bed, and there’s a slightly creepy few moments when it looks like he may go a bit further than is deemed respectable, but the camera cuts away and he returns to the banquet hall, where Juan’s getting drunk and feeling up the breasty actress, and Alexander and Giulia are headed for bed. Cesare sits down next to Sforza and pours him some more wine. They exchange a hard look, then Cesare tells Sforza his wife’s asleep, and he should let her rest, since it’s been a long day and there’s plenty of time for him to take his pleasure. Sforza agrees.

The next day, the newlywed Sforzas are riding to Sforza’s estate. He asks her if she slept well, and she replies that she slept like a child. “I don’t doubt it,” he sneers nastily. She looks crushed.

So, this is what my personal hell looks like

They arrive at the estate and are met by a band of dogs and a bunch of servants. Lucrezia’s helped off her horse by a cute serving boy she’ll totally be sleeping with in an episode or two, which means he’ll be turning up dead in about three episodes. She eyes him up, then goes inside to take a bath, aided by a serving girl. She asks the serving girl if Sforza’s nice and if he has soft hands. No and no. The serving girl says she’s felt how hard the man’s hands are when he beat her. Lucrezia’s appalled and insists there’ll be no more beatings now she’s mistress of the house. After the bath, the servant is released, and she hurries away from the bedroom, glancing worriedly over her shoulder.

Inside, Lucrezia waits for her husband, who comes in all attitude, despite her eagerness and smiles. He immediately starts insulting her family and talking about how disgusting the wedding was, like she had anything to do with it. You can see her shrinking a little with every word, unsure what to do, and then he reaches out, tears her nightgown, and then roughly consummates the marriage as Lucrezia cries out in pain and fear.

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7 thoughts on “The Borgias: Nice Day for a Spite Wedding

  1. ” like I saw her in the Tudors or something.”

    You totally did; she played Lady Emily Blount, and had King Henry’s first son, Henry Fitzroy.

    I honestly don’t see what Cesare saw in her other than that she resembled Lucrezia so much

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