OK, to be honest, I never expected this series to do anything with the American Revolution, but here I am.
So, an episode like this hits what I think is a great balance of showing Catherine advance her political agenda and expand her power, have Peter do something stupid while somewhat trying to assert himself into his former job, put in a darkly comedic subplot involving the other characters, and have Catherine come up with a novel solution that allows her to get more of what she wants while also doing something that is politically good for Russia.
Also, Peter is inventing flavored salts. If he didn’t have to sit with the ambassador’s wives at state feasts, he’d probably be a lot happier. But Voltaire came back and started a fistfight. I can’t complain too much there.
Essentially, there are two plots going on here with varying levels of connectedness. Catherine needs to decide whether to support England or the United States in what I know as the Revolutionary War. America is poor, but it has ideas and an ambassador that Catherine finds hot. England can actually give stuff and is a world power. England wants 10,000 troops to help finish off the Americans. America would like a loan. Going with Britain is the smarter move. But Catherine sure does like a country that is promising to start its founding document with “We the People”. She loves that stuff.
And in the silly subplot, Marial’s juvenile husband Maxim isn’t happy she’s fooling around with Grigor. Never mind that he’s a child of maybe 12. He won’t be a laughingstock, so he challenges Grigor to a duel that he can’t talk his way out of. Duels are perfectly legal in Russia as Catherine is dismayed to learn, and I don’t see why she should be surprised by all that. Sure, Grigor practices, but he keeps aiming too high to hit a child. And while Marial keeps expecting Catherine to listen to her, no, Catherine says they aren’t friends anymore.
Catherine is also wondering where Orlo wandered off to. Oh dear…
So, how can this end with everyone getting something of what they want or to grow as people? Peter’s one big redeeming point is he does seem to learn stuff. Well…Grigor can get a second to stand in for him, another child, and Maxim does apparently kill the kid off-screen. And Catherine learns the British are fighting a war of attrition and will probably have to surrender in eight weeks, so she makes the deal with the English ambassador, claiming she can have the soldiers he needs in America in nine. Then she gives the American guy a promise for money, there’s talk about how America and Russia will always be friends, and she and the ambassador have sex.
Yes, she tells Peter. He was being a bit awful letting women suck the flavored salt off his fingers.
See? It works out for everybody.
Except Grigor’s second. And, in the long term, the English. And the American ambassador since Peter attacked him as he was leaving.
But for everyone else, it worked out just fine!