“And You Sir, Are No Peter the Great” is the first episode of The Great so far that makes Peter seem sympathetic. Sure, he’s a homicidal tyrant who sleeps with anything that moves and loves partying more than ruling, but he’s also the son of a great Emperor who he constantly feels he can’t measure up to and who definitely created some anxiety for him as a child. Daddy issues: the common thread between every villain ever. As we see more of Peter’s emotional side this episode, we also get Catherine experimenting with taking a lover and more of Grigor’s growing discontent. Read on to find out what happened as Peter prepares to honor his father and Catherine plans to have some fun for a change.
Orlo and Catherine discuss the ideals behind their coup as a bored Marial listens. She intentionally drops the tray she’s holding, telling them their ideas are boring and not enough to unite Russia behind the coup, noting, “is this a coup or a f*cking book club?” Meanwhile, Peter is preparing to give a speech in memory of his father, who was apparently a great ruler admired by all. As Arkady reads the first draft to him, Peter appears disgruntled and tells him to shut up. It appears he doesn’t like being compared to his father. Grigor and Georgina reassure him that his father’s glory will reflect positively on him as well, but he’s unconvinced.
Leo arrives, looking like he’s ready for the 18th century equivalent of a job interview. And it turns out, it is a job interview … kind of. Peter asks him to drop his pants and he does, with Georgina gasping and Grigor and the other men literally applauding. It turns out Peter was serious about getting a lover for Catherine, and he thinks Leo will be perfect. Back in Catherine’s rooms, Marial wonders why they don’t just kill Peter and be done with it. Orlo cautions that they need the church to approve Catherine as the new ruler, and if Ivan is alive they need the military to be on her side as well. Who is Ivan? It turns out Peter has a younger, illegitimate half brother who could rally support if Catherine doesn’t pull off this coup carefully. Marial scoffs that no one even knows where he is. Orlo worries that they’ll need at least a year to pull together their ideas into pamphlets, and Marial quips, “it’s no wonder you never f*ck anyone.” Orlo bristles at this, but before he can really argue with her, Leo stumbles into the room.
He’s accompanied by Peter, who tells Catherine his plan for Leo to be her lover. Peter did surprisingly well at thinking of what Catherine might want: Leo is smart, well read, entertaining, and most importantly to Peter, is reasonably well endowed. And, according to Peter: “another advantage, had mumps as a child and so is sterile. Huzzah!” He leaves, and Catherine tries to send Leo away. But he asks that she least pretend to be satisfied so Peter doesn’t execute him. She tells him to sit before leaving. Marial and Orlo are outside, having heard it all. Marial says Leo would probably be great in bed since the men in his family are legendary for their sexual prowess. Orlo is paranoid that somehow Peter knows of their plan and is using Leo as a spy, but Catherine doubts Peter has the brains for that.
Peter is getting ready for the unveiling of the statue of his father. Staring at it with Bet, he wonders if he really was as great as the statue and speech indicate. Bet enthusiastically says he was the best sexual partner she’s ever had, which slightly disturbs Peter as Bet was his father’s sister-in-law. He says he knew this as he was in the room when it happened, playing soldiers in the corner (this kid’s psyche never had a chance). He worries about measuring up to his father, especially when his father didn’t seem to think he ever would.
Peter and Catherine talk, with her trying to find a way to get rid of Leo. She says their trysts satisfy her, and Peter displays a shocking level of self awareness when he says, “our f*cking is about as interesting as a beaver chomping on a log.” He says having a lover will make her happy, mentioning in front of Grigor how happy being with Georgina makes him. Just then, the generals enter for the ceremony honoring Peter’s father. He gives a toast to him but is obviously insecure about his legacy. Grigor, Peter, and Velementov discuss Leo, with Velementov offering himself as a replacement if he doesn’t work out. This inspires fits of laughter from Grigor and Peter, considering Velementov is old enough to be Catherine’s grandfather. Velementov pretends he meant it as a joke as Peter laughs harder at the mental image of the general being Catherine’s lover.
Catherine goes to the garden to sit with Bet. She asks who Ivan is, and Bet is shocked she’s heard of him. But sensing adventure, Bet takes Catherine blindfolded to a room within the palace, heavily guarded and locked. They open the door to find Ivan, who it turns out is a small child. Ivan seems to be a little … off, with childish pictures of bloody violence adorning the walls. He asks if Peter will see him, saying, “I won’t stab him! I haven’t even hidden a knife anywhere.” Bet and Catherine leave, with Bet saying he’s a danger to all of them and they should probably have killed him by now, but he’s family and she’s sentimental. Plus, now that Catherine’s here to have Peter’s children, Peter will have an heir and Ivan won’t have a claim to the throne. Peter and Velementov are attempting to lead a strategy meeting, but all the generals want to do is reminisce about the old days and talk about their recent battle victories (which it seems are few and far between). Peter is frustrated. He only started this war because his father also fought the Swedes and he wanted to outdo his success. He proposes a terrible strategic plan that Velementov humors, and it’s clear Peter is painfully out of his depth. You almost feel sorry for him.
Catherine gazes at Leo from afar as Marial approaches. She suggests Catherine take advantage of his presence before sending him away, but Catherine refuses as Marial says, “being Empress is wasted on you.” Catherine tells her about Ivan and says they will definitely need someone from the military on their side, suggesting Velementov. She goes to Leo and asks him about his “qualifications” to be her lover. He is very sweet, but it turns out the rumors of his abilities have been greatly exaggerated. He’s only had sex once before this. But they get along, and Catherine says he can stay the night on her lounge chair. She’ll lie and say he was fine, then they’ll never have to see each other again. Leo approves.
Catherine “accidentally” stumbles on a very drunk Velementov. Knowing he has a crush on her, she flirts a little, trying to see if he’d be a good candidate for their coup. He drunkenly tells her she’s “luminous with luminosity” (great start) before she begins to talk about the military and its obligation to lead. He’s not listening at all, focusing only on her. He makes a misguided and gross pass at her before she kicks him away, yelling “f*cker” as she exits. She makes her way down the hall, yelling at the generals throwing things at her footmen. Meanwhile, Orlo begins to tell the generals about how Catherine is an inspiring leader, offering to set up introductions.
Grigor and Georgina are in bed, discussing the summer home they are renovating. Grigor wants to ask Peter if the two of them can get away for a few weeks, but Georgina is pessimistic that he’ll let them. Peter barges in, looking for comfort. He gets in bed between them and falls asleep, ruining whatever mood the couple had going. The next morning, Grigor wakes to find that his bed is empty. Going to Peter’s room, he finds Peter up and getting ready, with Georgina naked in bed. Georgina says they didn’t want to wake him, which Grigor sarcastically says was “kindness itself” (though not so sarcastically that Peter would pick up on it). Peter asks for a hug from his two best friends before his big day, and all three awkwardly embrace. Grigor and Georgina ask to spend a few weeks at their estate, and Peter distractedly says that would be fine (thought he seems sad at the thought of losing them both). Catherine is writing a letter as Leo wakes up. Vlad, Catherine’s puppy-like servant, enters and accidentally spills the tea he brought for Leo. Instead of being upset, Leo instantly makes Vlad feel better by making him laugh. Catherine notices this, and it seems to make her think twice about dismissing Leo. She says she’ll speak to Peter and make sure he knows Leo was satisfactory. Leo proposes they put on a show for Peter to convince him it went well. Catherine doesn’t like all the lying at court (a little late for that considering you’re actively committing treason, Catherine), but Leo convinces her it will only help her.
They pretend to laugh outside Peter’s chamber, making it look like they had a great evening. Peter dismisses Leo to talk to Catherine. She says she spent a pleasant night together, but Leo can go now. But it seems she misinterpreted Peter’s gift; it was meant to be an ongoing affair, not a one-night stand. Now Peter thinks Leo has displeased her in some way and hits him before Catherine intervenes. She pretends to be delighted that she can “keep” Leo, thanking Peter profusely for “gifting” Leo to her. This puts Peter in a better mood, and he leaves. Leo cheerfully sits to eat his breakfast, and Catherine wonders how he can be so calm. Leo says it’s the only way to live his life at court. He has no control over his situation, so he might as well be happy. He tells Catherine that he “will not let fear take my life from me.”
Catherine, Leo, and Marial go to the ladies’ tea, which makes Marial deeply uncomfortable. It soon becomes clear this was a plot by Catherine to get revenge on the lady who ordered Marial’s beating. She’s chosen a dress for her that matches the tent, making her the laughingstock of all the noblewomen assembled. Marial smiles to herself. Meanwhile, Orlo is continuing to try to garner support for Catherine among the generals. He’s doing well, until the general’s wife exits the tent calling Catherine a “b*tch.” It’s Antonia, the lady who was just humiliated by Catherine, and all Orlo’s hard work has been undone. Later that night, he worries about the consequences of Catherine’s trick. He’s a wound up ball of energy, and Catherine says he’ll need to gather more courage as they continue planning. He continues to wonder if Leo is a spy and if they should just let Peter kill him, which Catherine dismisses as unnecessary bloodshed.
The next day, Catherine walks with Leo, who asks what it is like to be Empress. She says it’s complex, and Leo asks for permission to speak freely. He says she doesn’t know how to have fun, and she says fun is not in the cards for her. Grigor and Georgina also speak before Peter’s speech, with Georgina revealing that Peter has decided to invite himself along on their holiday. Before Grigor can respond, another one of the ladies goes to Georgina, gossiping about the trick Catherine played on Antonia. Georgina says it was funny enough and Antonia deserved it, but the other lady says they tried to be nice to Catherine, and she is about to regret being rude to them.
Catherine joins Peter on the balcony for his speech. He’s nervous and admits that the reason is that it makes him emotional. His father was a great man, and he doesn’t want to cry in front of these generals. Catherine tells him there’s no shame in showing a little emotion, but Peter dismisses that idea. Once he begins talking, however, he loses it. The generals react much like he told Catherine they would, with one calling him a “f*cking baby.” He stops and demands the general who said that to step forward, challenging him to a fight. The general does, and Peter stabs him repeatedly. He announces to the generals that they will follow his battle plan now, since theirs consists mainly of reliving the glory days. In shock, the generals agree. At the party that night, Peter says he was too rough on Leo. If Catherine wants to choose her own lover, she can. He mentions Velementov’s joke about offering his services (which Catherine doesn’t find funny after the incident earlier, but she plays along). Peter says if she finds someone else, Leo is free to go.
But when Catherine tells Leo about it later, she fibs that Peter said he couldn’t leave. It seems she’s grown to like Leo after all. She says under their arrangement, if she kisses him he wouldn’t have to kiss her back unless he wants to. Cut to Leo and Catherine passionately making out in her room, asking Marial to undo her dress. They have sex, and the next day she goes to Orlo with her written treatise. He thinks it’s good, and she tells him Leo is staying but that he will never know of their plan. She swears a blood oath (which Orlo could do without). She tells him danger will be a part of this plot, and he’ll have to live with it. As “Free” by Cat Power plays, she goes back to Leo, ready to have sex again.
The Great is available now on Hulu.