Note: While this is another brilliant episode of The Great, there are mentions of some gory violence depicted during the episode. We advise those who don’t feel comfortable to not read beyond this point.
In this episode of The Great, Catherine’s dreams are on the verge of coming true, but not in the way she intended. The court is in chaos as Peter fights for his life due to poison, but who is to blame? And who will emerge victorious in the fight for Peter’s crown: Catherine or Peter’s half brother Ivan? This episode did a great job of setting up the stakes of Catherine’s coup, displaying that while Catherine may have great plans for Russia, those plans are useless until she truly knows the country she wants to lead. It also shows a new side of Bet, who is no longer the quirky aunt but a legitimate player in the fight for the throne. Read on to find out who lives, who dies, and who has a spectacularly bad sexual experience in “War and Vomit.”
Catherine and Bet are riding together in a carriage on their way to visit the soldiers at war. Conditions are bleak, and they are out of place in their fine clothes. All they’ve brought with them are three hundred macaroons, which aren’t helpful to the wounded and starving soldiers. Catherine is stunned by what she sees. But the men seem grateful for her presence, which can only help her cause. This is the first time Catherine has seen the result of her husband’s policies up close, and she is horrified. On the way home, Bet asks to stop the carriage. Walking into the woods, she lets out several loud screams to release the tension before walking back, calm and collected. Catherine argues with Bet that Russia has already paid too high a price for this war, while Bet seems to think war is inevitable. But Bet believes Catherine is finally becoming a Russian, which pleases her.
Catherine storms into Peter’s room, where he’s just finished having sex with Georgina. She begs him to stop the war, but Peter says those deaths are pointless if they do not win. He leaves, and Catherine storms out. Georgina is back in her rooms, looking at a bruise Peter gave her during their tryst. Grigor enters and is angry Peter hit her. Georgina reassures him she’s fine and tells him he can’t speak of this. Grigor throws some objects across the room to try to feel better, but Georgina wants him to get dressed for bridge tonight as planned and pretend like this didn’t upset him. But this has pushed Grigor over the edge. He spots arsenic in the kit a servant was using to paint the wall, and an idea forms. He sneaks a bit of the poison into Peter’s food as they eat dinner. He instantly regrets it, but it’s too late: Peter walks off to play handball while eating the poisoned dish. As they play, Peter gets sicker and sicker, and Grigor is progressively more guilty-looking and worried. The poison does its work in a gross and hilarious scene as Peter vomits, has diarrhea, and collapses while having sex with yet another lady of the court.
In bed with Leo, Catherine can’t stop thinking about what she saw on the battlefield. Leo reassures her that she gave the men hope, but Catherine feels like she didn’t do enough. Leo gives her some tough love, telling her that she is the foolish princess she called herself and that her righteous fury, while admirable, means nothing without action. Catherine bristles at this and says Leo sits and writes sonnets while men he’s known since childhood die in battle, but his point hits home. Just then, Marial enters. With a big smile on her face, she says, “The emperor is going to die!” Catherine goes to his chamber, where everyone is gathered. Archie tells them his best guess is that Peter has cholera from a “possessed badger” (ah, the 1700s and their questionable medicine). Grigor goes in to see Peter, which confuses Georgina.
Outside, Orlo talks about what this will mean for the coup. If he dies, Russia goes to Catherine, and Archie says they need to discuss succession in case Peter dies. Catherine tries to hide her happiness at this prospect, but skips through the hallways with Orlo when they are out of sight. Grigor talks to the doctors, who do not suspect poison. He also talks to a very ill Peter, who seems close to death. Grigor notices two claw marks on his chest: they must be from Georgina. Once again overcome with rage, he holds a pillow over Peter’s head. Georgina sees him and runs into the room, stopping Grigor. She whisper-yells at him, reminding him that with Peter their place at court is safe. With Catherine, all bets are off. She goes to Peter, fawning over him.
Marial and Catherine are preparing for Catherine’s talk with the royal advisors. Marial is already preparing a list of those who have wronged her, while Catherine focuses more on ending the war. Leo enters, and he says it seems she will win their argument after all. She says she’s still bitter about it, and Leo says he will always speak the truth to her even if there are consequences. Grigor and Arkady find the body of Peter’s dog, who ate from the same dish Peter did. The court now knows Peter was poisoned, and Grigor tries to act surprised.
Catherine gives an impassioned speech, disregarding all of Orlo’s advice to pretend she will stick to the status quo. It becomes clear she doesn’t know enough about the country she plans to lead as each advisor mentions an issue she’s never heard of. She tries to tell them her plans, but she comes across as an inexperienced outsider, with several men reminding the group that she’s more German than Russian. It’s exactly what Orlo was afraid of. As they leave, Arkady and Grigor tell Catherine, Marial, and Orlo that Peter was poisoned. Orlo realizes this could be very bad news for their coup — there could be another pretender to the throne. Archie confirms this when he reminds them that Ivan is still alive. Perhaps someone wants him installed ahead of Catherine.
Velementov arrives to take charge of the investigation into Peter’s poisoning. He tells Catherine and Bet to stay in Peter’s chamber for their own safety. Bet asks Catherine if she poisoned Peter, and she says she didn’t. Bet apologizes for even asking. She witnessed Catherine’s speech and says no one trying to stage a coup would be so ill-prepared for leadership (accurate, but ouch). Peter groans, and both women go to him. Peter lists his many regrets, one of which being that he never named the month of July after himself. Then, he tells Bet and Catherine that they have to kill Ivan. Bet goes to Ivan’s room with Catherine, hoping they can talk him out of his claim to the throne. Catherine tells Ivan about Peter and tries to get him to come to their side, but Ivan wonders if all the people looking for him will give him his own estate. He’s as cold-hearted and strange as ever, but he’s right. The people who want him on the throne have a lot more to offer than Catherine and Bet do. Catherine loses patience with the boy quickly as they both yell at each other (with Ivan letting loose some choice words for a nine-year-old, even a sociopathic one). Bet shows Catherine a knife, but Catherine cannot bring herself to kill Ivan and leaves as Bet stays with him.
Orlo and Catherine talk in the church, with Orlo urging her to kill Ivan. Archie is searching for Ivan and Velementov got here so quickly Orlo assumes he’s intent on staging a coup as well — and it may not be on her behalf. Panicking, Catherine makes her way back to her chamber while hyperventilating. Orlo goes to speak to Velementov to try to find out where his loyalties lie, but they are interrupted when a solider says they’ve lost Catherine. Catherine is in Peter’s chamber, telling him he needs to live. She’s not ready to rule. Marial is angry with her for her inaction and goes to kill Peter herself, but Catherine stops her.
Orlo, Velementov, and Archie enter. All eye each other suspiciously until Bet enters … with Ivan’s body. Bet orders it to be displayed in the hall as a warning. Catherine is disturbed, but Bet simply looks at Catherine and says “you’re welcome.” But all turn towards the bed when Peter rises. He says he’s feeling better, and the group collectively sighs in disappointment as “Nobody Really Cares If You Go to the Party” by Courtney Barnett plays. Better luck next time for our coup participants.
The Great is available now on Hulu.