Peter’s mother issues have long been on display, but it turns out Catherine has some of her own when her mother Lady Joanna Elizabeth comes for a visit.
I have no idea what sort of title this woman has, but she’s played by Gillian Anderson, so I don’t much care. Gillian Anderson is awesome.
Catherine, see, is bummed because her goal to free the serfs didn’t work. Granted, she seems to be blaming everyone except herself, including Orlo (who had to surrender plans at gunpoint), Velementov (who is in a deep funk because he had to kill other Russians to put down the rebellion), and even Aunt Elizabeth (whose practical advice was ignored because Catherine thinks she knows best). The only real solution to Catherine’s woes may be that Russia is hosting a science exposition. Maybe they can submit something cool and impressive!
Well, one guy invented the stapler. A doctor got the forceps to help with childbirth, but it didn’t go well with the test melon. A noblewoman invented Velcro, but it looks like it can remove dresses a little too easily. And then one guy has the exhiliarator. It’s a tall tower that uses momentum to plunge a cart full of people down a steep incline…and off a ramp to their deaths. That’s the point. It could be used for executions or suicides or whatever.
Catherine opts for the stapler.
But then her mother shows up…her hypercritical mother who wanted to marry all of her daughters off to the kings of Europe, and had France lined up for Catherine’s younger sister until news came out that Catherine overthrew Peter. Apparently, the deal was off. So, Lady Joanna ain’t happy or impressed with Catherine. Catherine’s accomplishments mean nothing, especially as her mother found out what had been going on with a little casual court gossip. Catherine, it seems, just really wants to please her mom.
Her mom also isn’t pleased to learn Catherine overthrew her husband but kept him alive for some reason. She dismisses Marial as a commoner, insults Aunt Elizabeth, and says she would prefer Peter not talk at all as he explains that, well, he decided he’s actually happier without the power after all.
Lady Joanna comes back to try to seduce Peter later, and he actually turns her down. Aunt Elizabeth is pleased by that and advises him not to screw around on Catherine with her mother even if it worked in the past. Catherine’s not that kind of girl.
However, then the great moment happens. Peter had attempted to steal the Norwegian entry to the science expo for himself in the form of the refrigerator, but everyone found out about it anyway, but it seems Catherine’s speeches on serf freedom did have a positive effect on one serving woman. She has an idea to make the exhiliarator better, mostly by closing the loop and making it a lot less deadly. And for the first time, Catherine hears “This is Russia!” and it’s a good thing when her people all decide that instead of using a small model, they should just build the thing life-sized overnight. Velementov can lead, he and the serving woman will exchange a hug afterwards, and Russia has something Catherine is sure will have a lot of scientific and beneficial uses: the roller-coaster.
Everyone does seem impressed…except for Lady Joanna, but you can’t please everyone, and she was kind of awful anyway.