Note: While this is another brilliant episode of The Great, there are mentions of some gory violence and dark humor depicted during the episode. We advise those who don’t feel comfortable to not read beyond this point.
With Peter seeking to negotiate peace with Sweden, Catherine’s plans for the coup collide with her desire for peace. If peace is brokered, the people will love Peter and not support the coup. But to not reach a peace accord will sacrifice thousands more to a pointless war. As Catherine and Peter travel to meet their Swedish counterparts, will Catherine be able to convince Velementov to join her? And how will Grigor and Leo deal with the absence of the emperor and empress? Read on to find out what happened in “Meatballs at the Dacha” …
Catherine misses breakfast, which confuses Peter. He had hidden a diamond in her roll for her to find, and he wants credit for it. He brings it to her and tells her it is from Siberia, which excites her since she’s been learning about it in her studies on Russia. He perceives her coldness towards him, and in a tone someone might use describing a minor disagreement he says “you’re still mad about me burning the serfs, aren’t you?” He can’t have her disagreeing with him publicly. Catherine agrees to be united with him in public, and he leaves happily. Leo goes for a run to clear his head and runs into a depressed Grigor. He laments his situation, and Leo encourages him to commune with nature to help his mood. Grigor shoots a bird instead, saying that makes him feel much better.
Orlo tells the council that the Swedes are sending an ambassador. This could mean peace, but Peter seems disinclined. He thinks a better move would be to cut off the ambassador’s head and fill it with meatballs to send back to the Swedes, which gets a better reaction from Arkady and Grigor. Catherine goes to Velementov to discuss the war after an encounter with Bet has her fearing for her place at court without a pregnancy. She had Marial paint a “birthmark” of Russia on her thigh, using his lust for her to get him to see it while she claims it must be a sign from God. She then asks him for help, but before he can respond another general arrives to discuss Peter’s meatball plan. Catherine leaves Velementov, promising to talk with him later. At the party that night, Catherine tries to manipulate Peter into negotiating peace with the Swedes, saying she will be “awed” by his power if he ends the fighting. Peter calls off the plan just in time. After dinner, Catherine goes to Leo. They talk, but there’s an awkwardness between them. Something is on his mind. Meanwhile, Georgina, Grigor, Tatyana, and Arkady are in Peter’s chambers. Georgina praises Peter for his negotiation to end the war. Grigor gives Peter the bird he shot as a gift. It seems he’s losing his grip, and Georgina is worried.
The next morning, Catherine tells Leo she is attending the peace talks with Peter. She invites Leo, but he’d rather not go. He leaves, but does say he loves her before he goes. Velementov is asleep in Catherine’s bed. Marial suggests she have sex with him to bring the military to their side, quipping “you could have the military and Velementov by 9:15. It might not even take that long, maybe 9:05 including foreplay.” But Catherine understandably refuses. Orlo notes that ending the war could give Peter more support and hurt their coup. Catherine wants to tell Leo about the coup, but Orlo is still convinced Leo is a spy for Peter. She gives her promise not to tell Leo. As they get in the carriages, Catherine is stuck riding with Velementov while Orlo is riding with Peter.
Catherine tries to talk military strategy with Velementov, but he’s not listening to a word she says as he stares at her. Getting nowhere, she yells at him in frustration and slaps him. Stopping the carriage, Catherine demands to switch seats with Orlo and joins Peter in his carriage. They make the last leg of their journey by boat and meet King Hugo and Queen Agnes on neutral ground. It turns out Hugo is essentially a clone of Peter, and they get along splendidly. Agnes and Catherine also get along, with Catherine praising Sweden’s democratic norms. Agnes thanks her for the compliment, but says that it’s a double edged sword. Revolution is coming and will likely topple their monarchy. Agnes hopes the war ending will help them stay in power, and Catherine takes this information in stride.
Orlo rebukes Catherine for dismissing Velementov, but Catherine turns the tables on him by complimenting his looks without listening to a word he says. Velementov talks with the Swedish general about the horrors of the war. Catherine tries again with Velementov when the general leaves, and he generously says he’s given up the idea of being with her sexually. Catherine vaguely tells him of the coup, but Velementov stops her. He says she’s not a leader. He saw her when Peter was dying and knew she didn’t have what it took. He says he’s lost the idealism she still has. Anyone in court could turn on her, even him. Catherine says he won’t, but Velementov looks her in the eye and says “you just don’t know that.” He’s trying to warn her of the dangers, not wanting her to trust in the wrong person. It’s clear Catherine is thinking of Leo as Velementov leaves.
With Peter gone, Grigor is acting out. Georgina tells him she’s worried and that she’s sorry. Grigor says not to worry, but something is very wrong with him. Leo is also depressed with Catherine gone and seems on the verge of making a big decision. Peter and Hugo commiserate about their mutual daddy issues while Agnes and Catherine talk. Even Agnes has heard about the lewd posters being spread about Catherine, and she again cautions Catherine that often the first lie is the one that wins. Peter goes to Catherine, excited that they have made their first “royal couple friends.” Peter is sad his father isn’t here to see him end his first war, and Catherine comforts him.
At the peace talks, Hugo and Peter are laughing and seem to get the terms worked out … until Hugo asks for St. Petersburg. It was a Swedish city until Peter’s father won it in the last Swedish war. Hugo presses Peter, manipulating him by saying the city symbolizes his father’s power. He tells Peter he should go to Moscow and make that his capital instead to get out from under his father’s shadow. But Peter shoves pie in Hugo’s face. It seems he’s not the easy mark Hugo took him for. They fight on the table like children as the generals pull them apart. They go outside fighting as Agnes and Catherine look on. Peter tells Hugo they will defeat him however long it takes, declaring “We’re Russian! We don’t give a f*ck how many of us die!” Peter tells Catherine they’re leaving.
She tries to convince him otherwise, but Velementov loses it first and slaps him. He blames it on a mosquito on Peter’s face. Catherine talks to a sulking Peter, telling him if he goes back without peace he will go back a failure. Orlo questions why she’s trying to help Peter, but she just wants peace. Between her and Agnes, they convince Hugo to go back to negotiations with Peter. He apologizes to Peter as requested, and Catherine reveals her plan (ahem, the “dream” Peter supposedly talked in his sleep during, of course giving Catherine an idea she never would have thought of herself.) They will each claim a big victory, then announce a treaty. That way, both sides look strong and victorious. They shake hands on it, and they leave Sweden successfully. In the carriage ride back, Catherine tries once again to convince Velementov to join her. But after what happened with the negotiations, he’s concerned she’s a real threat. At first it seems like he’s leaving to tell Peter, but he’s just getting more vodka. He says he can’t help her, but will not stand in her way. Catherine tells him they have Orlo and Marial, and he’s less than impressed with the number. But then he says he’ll join her, exclaiming “why not?”
Leo is leaving a note on Catherine’s bed as Marial enters. He reveals he’s leaving, and in an attempt to stop him she tells him about Catherine’s plan. He’s stunned. As Peter arrives back in Russia, the court throws a party to welcome him back. They cheer when peace is announced, chanting Peter’s name. Peter quietly says “thank you” to Catherine, and when she asks what for, he knowingly says “I know I don’t talk in my sleep.” He smiles at her as he leaves, and she’s surprised at his reaction. But all the fun fades when Peter spots the beard Grigor has neglected to shave. Grigor simply shouts “huzzah” and walks away, not greeting him as he normally would. Catherine finds Orlo and informs him she will be telling Leo, unaware Marial already has. Orlo again urges caution, but Catherine stands up to him. Emboldened by her victory, she says she’s leading, and this is what she has chosen. When she arrives back at her chambers, Leo is waiting for her with the coup idea board uncovered. She nervously says “well?” Leo smiles and says “huzzah” as Catherine smiles back.
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