‘The Young Pope’ Recap, Episode 6: Church vs. State

Jude Law as Lenny Belardo and Javier Cámara as Cardinal Gutierrez.

Jude Law as Lenny Belardo and Javier Cámara as Cardinal Gutierrez. Gianni Fiorito/HBO

Drew: This might be my favorite cold-open in the history of The Young Pope (all six episodes), and that’s saying something. We see a room full of Cardinals, getting their breakfast on, until the one African who we met in the pilot keels over into his eggs and drops dead.

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The other Vatican dining hall patrons– who all look like the sidekicks to Disney villains and/or Captain Hook pirates in highly specific and unique ways–do absolutely nothing and in no way seem upset, except this one guy who yells out “EDGAR!” and bangs on the table, like this is the biggest breakfast faux-pas he’s ever witnessed in his days as Monseigneur Rob Reiner.

Vinnie: Not to be disrespectful to the inner workings of the most sacred place on Earth (not including Disney World and Ruben’s Empanadas on Fulton Street), but judging by the average age of Vatican City’s assembled staff, I’m not even surprised at the lack of concern. Probably happens every day. Every time the nuns gather to play, like, bocce ball or whatever they probably lose at least two sisters.

Drew: The only other reaction is someone making a v. clever, v. TYP comment about how the guy died of the same thing as the Catholic Church: “Old age.”

Fun fact for the IMDB blooper page: It’s clear Edgar actually hit his head hella hard on that table between multiple takes, because a bandage mysteriously appears on his temple for the quick shot of him on the floor, and it’s not there earlier.

Vinnie: Straight up, I definitely wouldn’t feel even a quarter as angry if a crazy Italian filmmaker forced an elderly man in a priest outfit to repeatedly slam his head against a table as I did when I saw that video with the German Shepherd in A Dog’s Purpose. 

Also, A+ quippy line, Cardinal Joss Whedon, but aren’t the Vatican’s priests nervous about the Church’s welfare because of a…young person? Like, if he had said “the same thing as the Catholic Church…juvenile diabetes” or “the same thing as the Catholic Church…extreme sports accident,” maybe I’d understand this a little better.

Drew: CUT TO Nine months later! We see that Alaska is very cold and that one Cardinal the Pope sent out there, instead of swinging San Francisco, is NOT happy. Any chance that all of Alaska is going to revolt against the Catholic Church? I mean at this point, I’m assuming 90 percent of Alaska’s population is “angry priests.”

Vinnie: I’d be down for a horde of old, feral priests descending from frigid Alaska to sunny Rome looking for revenge. Because then this show would basically become Game of Thrones, which simultaneously features dragons and is more realistic than The Young Pope.

Drew: Voiello, who is now the world’s biggest Pope lapdog, but still can’t help being a party-pooper, is raising valid concerns to Lenny. Like how Catholicism is becoming as unpopular and broke as hell. He also mentions dangerous, fundamentalist, fringe groups that have formed since Lenny took over as Pope, and compares the current climate of the church to what happened with Islam.

Lenny counters that by wagging his finger in what is now a very familiar and prophetic way, saying “Islam has more followers than the Catholic Church.”

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Um…okay? That’s not really a rebuttal, but Voiello is past arguing at this point. Though he does seem to be genuinely asking (for a friend) when he steels his gonads to query: “Don’t you ever feel the burden of taking such risky and unpopular decisions?”

Lenny’s reply? “No.”

“Your holiness, who are you, really?” Voiello asks, and Lenny just nods, like “Hmmm great question!” If Voiello had followed up with a full-on Kelly Kapoor “How dare you?” I would be SO Team MoleFace right now.

I wish The Young Pope had come out in the states when it originally aired on Sky, because goddamn, does this show feel like it’s a sign of the times.

Vinnie: Watching The Young Pope is one of the most unique experiences of my life, in that right now, as I’m writing about it, I’m also living inside of it, only the dude screaming and terminating those who don’t swear fealty in real life isn’t even handsome.

Drew: It’s been nine months, and guess who STILL hasn’t been able to man up and leave the Vatican? It’s everyone’s favorite alkie, Gutierrez, who has been made Cardinal despite not even taking care of that New York priest rape case yet! TBF, he looks less like a man getting a God-promotion than The Simpson’s Gil Gunderson, which is not a GREAT sign.

Vinnie: Whoever cast Javier Cámara as Cardinal Gutierrez deserves an Emmy for finding an actor with the world’s tiniest, saddest eyes. Jesus, I always just want Cardinal Gutierrez to be okay. He looks like someone put a robe on a balding field mouse, and then gave that field mouse responsibilities it can’t handle. For the love of God, someone at the Vatican download Lyft onto Gutierrez’s phone.

Drew: Oh shit, Vinnie. Maybe Gutierrez is based on Sexton Mouse from Disney’s Robin Hood?

"Please don't make me go to New York. Pleeeeeease."

“Please don’t make me go to New York. Pleeeeeease.” Disney

I like the color scheme of this scene, where the Cardinals are all in red and the Pope and his Pope Boys (Vinnie, is this the official term? Get back to me!) are sporting emerald green. The Pope’s costumes are just so great. That hat looks so heavy, though. I wonder if Jude Law at any point sprained his neck while doing this show.

Vinnie: The official term is “God Squad”, or “Bro-sary Beads” in a less formal setting. This is stated quite clearly in the Bible; I believe the passage is Blayzit 4:20.

Drew: I know, criticizing the Cardinals in this show for being hypocritical is like shooting fish that have crawled out of the barrel, taken your gun and pointed it at themselves, screaming “JUST DO IT ALREADY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” but… that Cardinal Andrew orgy scene was just so unnecessary. I guess HBO refused to distribute this show unless they added one over-the-top sex scene, and this is where Paolo Sorrentino put it?

Vinnie: No joke,  I fully expected those brief flashes of the world’s sweatiest threesome to go unexplained for the entire episode. I thought Sorrentino was going to Tyler Durden us with subliminal Cardinal sex-flashes until all we knew was sex is gross, and it’s Honduras’ fault, but couldn’t quite say why. Honestly, would that even be in the top 10 strangest narrative decisions this show has made? Stranger than, say, the Pope high-fiving a baby into a woman’s stomach? Speaking of which…

Drew: Hey, Esther is pregnant! Since we confirmed last week that God does exist in sunshine and flowers whenever Lenny and the human body attending that one breast he touched spend time together, maybe I’m not that surprised. But good for her!

Vinnie: Not that I’d ever dare to guess where The Young Pope is headed–because like God, The Young Pope works in mysterious, sexy ways–but are we maybe, kind of leaning toward Lenny being an actual miracle worker? I mean, there’s that mysterious event that happened to him as an orphan he refuses to talk about, and as an adult the dude is commanding lightning storms and bending Australian jumping-beasts to his Papal will. It’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that Esther was definitely infertile, and Lenny definitely ordered God himself to give her a baby, and God himself definitely listened. Is this what faith is? Am I doing faith right?

And what exactly does that make Esther’s miracle baby? Jesus? The Antichrist? …Hellboy?

Drew: Technically, he demanded the baby from the Virgin Mary. Ostensibly because it’s easier to order women around than angry Gods who live above an auto repair shop. What do we think that Andrew just gets to dip out of Honduras with that smug little look on his face because he’s been called up to be the Pope’s bestie? And as much as I’d like to believe that Lenny’s fundamentalism and rigidity comes from a sincere faith that is as likely to be buoyed by ACTUAL miracles as it is from angry speechifying, his love for Andrew seems to be clouding his judgement here. Andrew apparently represents all that has been wrong with the church, in Lenny’s opinion: he’s lax about giving crime bosses communion and blessing their daughters weddings down in Honduras, so he’s just going to shove all that actual hard stuff–like standing up to the cartels–onto his replacement, who, fair enough, is way less Millhouse-y than Andrew.

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Get in line, perv. Is it also pretty obvious this guy was fucking a kingpin’s daughter? That’s who wears sunglasses in church, right? Drug kingpins.

Vinnie: Well, the only thing Andrew is guilty of, really, is being a little smarmy and breaking his vow of chastity, which is really only a big deal to other priests and that weird community on Reddit where dudes see who can go the longest without masturbating. Besides that, he’s kind of the Church’s best shot of reigning Lenny in; he stands up to the Pope’s awful command to root out homosexual priests with male prostitutes. Well, he stands up to the Pope for the little bit. Well, for like 15 minutes. Well, he definitely looked like he was going to stand up to the Pope before he went and did the male prostitute thing anyway.

Drew: The Pope shows up with Domen and a giant bouquet of flowers to Esther’s hospital room and…oh yeah? Who is the father?? Is it Esther’s husband or Domen or maybe even Lenny himself? (Or fuck it, I’m going to throw out a wild card and place my money on it being Andrew’s kid.) Either way, they named the kid Pius, after Lenny, who returns the favor by straight dropping the kid on its head.

Vinnie: Oh my God, he dropped the baby. Drew, the Pope dropped the baby. I don’t give a leaky Honduran threesome about any other single thing in this episode anymore.

Drew: But before that: if anyone out there is looking for an original and fun baby shower present, may I suggest Lenny’s gift of “a Bible that belonged to Thomas Jefferson…but he never opened it.” Because if I know kids, I know that they love nothing more than RELIGION and HISTORY.

Esther than casually bullies Lenny into holding her son, which is something he’s never done before, I guess, because the moment he does, he looks like he plans on stealing it. I got worried for a moment that the Pope was going to straight up SNATCH THAT BABY because it smells SO GOOD.

Vinnie: Literally none of this nonsense matters next to the fact that Pope Pius XIII straight up dropped a newborn child. The only thing, the one, single thing, that would have made this moment better is if one of the Vatican’s weirdly athletic nuns had dove to the ground and caught the baby like a football.

Drew: “It’s a pity we can’t remember what we smelled like as babies,” Lenny says, huffing that newborn like it was papal glue in a bag. “I do remember what my parents smelled like.” Everyone in the room’s reaction is 100 percent on point.

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Vinnie: Legitimately any other day I’d be obsessed with the fact that Lenny claims to remember his parents’ scent, and trying to guess what that scent might be (fine, it’s pot smoke and Old Spice beard cream), but no. Pope dropped the baby. Get to the part where the Pope dropped the baby, Drew.

Drew: Then Domen is like “Your Holy Father…” and Lenny straight up DROPS THE BABY. I’m really worried that Scandal might have to remove its tagline of “OMFG” and give the crown to this show, because that’s only like, the EIGHTH craziest thing that’s happened on this show so far. (Want a list? Okay:

  1. Cardinal Pouches
  2. Banksy
  3. Sexy and I know It/ aka THE POPE SONG
  4. God showing up.
  5. Baby mountain
  6. Cherry Diet Coke
  7. Dream homily
  8. IRL homily.)

This moment is the only one so far though where Lenny legit looks off-guard. He’s the Charlie the Intern of Popes right here.

You're blowing itttttt.

You’re blowing itttttt! HBO

Vinnie: I actually might think this might be the strangest moment of The Young Pope so far. Everything else–Cardinal Pouches, LMFAO, Shadow Pope Homily–felt like they were operating in the odd, almost dreamlike state Sorrentino likes to dip into. But this was real-life weirdness; it somehow jarringly humanized Lenny, while also further underscoring the fact that Lenny Belardo kind of doesn’t belong in real life. Lenny Belardo will don the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz to toe Cardinals in the face, no problem, but ask him to hold a human child and he becomes Ricky Bobby.

Drew: Of course, this is when Lenny is introduced to his new adversary, the Prime Minister, who is legit going to give Lenny a run for his money as the most attractive guy on this show.

It’s funny how Lenny tries to pull the same “fake sleep” trick on the Prime Minister, who is just cocky enough not to care. When Lenny tries to berate him, this guy is as cool as a cucumber, so Lenny is reduced to literal finger-wagging for the second time in 30 minutes.

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Vinnie: This dick-wagging contest between the Prime Minister and the Pope was long but so subtly acted and tightly scripted that it blew by like 10, hyper-tense seconds. Incredible stuff. With that said, though, a large part of me also wishes Lenny responded to any and all threats by saying “Dude I just dropped a baby, an actual baby, like a bad habit” and then winked at Sister Mary, who is standing in the corner wearing a novelty t-shirt that says “This is my bad habit,” with an arrow pointing up at her nun habit.

But yeah, no what we got was fine, too.

Drew: Lenny has a list of demands for the Prime Minister, although he’s really in no position to negotiate like a terrorist. But hey, here it goes: no gays, no abortions, all the money to the church, no taxing the church, oh and…no practicing Islams. The Prime Minister digs his own knife in by noting the main difference between the two of them is that he himself “was elected by 41 percent of the votes” while Lenny was voted in by just “God” (who may or may not exist).

…This show feels SO FAMILIAR, Vinnie! I just can’t put my waggy finger on it…

Vinnie: Seriously, though. Lenny Belardo is one embarrassingly long tie away from turning The Young Pope into the most terrifying American documentary since Making a Murderer.

Drew: The phrase “God and I are just dripping with imagination” is super gross. And again, this whole “Church vs State” battle just feels like Lenny’s way of getting back at his parents for being dopey hippies who abandoned him. Lenny’s anti-counter-culture stance looks less like true belief and more like the raging of an angry child that may or may not have been dropped on its own metaphorical crown one too many times itself.

Still, you have to admit, Lenny’s plan is as diabolical as threatened: if his demands are not met, he’ll reveal himself in public right before the election, for the very first time, and invoke this lost clause of the Holy See rulebook that forbids Catholics to vote in the Italian elections. Woof. Yeah, that would probably do it.

Vinnie: Something fascinating about this scene (and, okay, this whole show) is that it highlights how absurdly strange and slightly The Pope–like, the real-life Pope–is as a figure, even when he’s not insane. Like, a man with the direct phone line to God lives in his gold-plated, walled-off citadel in the middle of Rome, and holds the power to emerge any time he wants to influence the political machine as he sees fit, most likely wearing a four-foot-tall hat and wielding Aquaman’s trident as he does so.

Drew: I want to take back my previous point on that “dripping with imagination” line being the grossest. The Pope describing his own “soft, round mouth” makes me want to vomit in my own a little bit.

I think Lenny officially goes overboard when he claims he can be accredited as the literal second coming of Jesus. I mean, Jesus could make bread out of thin air, and Lenny can only make kangaroos jump occasionally on his command. (Also, look what happened to THAT guy when he went to Rome.) The problem is, Lenny probably does want to be martyred. At this point, being hung on the cross might be the only thing that could raise his popularity raisings from “Negative one baby.”

Vinnie: You take one second to think about how Lenny, who seems obsessed with telling people he’s way hotter and more swole than Jesus, would respond to someone suggesting he is “hung on the cross.”

Drew: I got legit goosebumps when Lenny has the Prime Minister look into his tiny hand mirror* and tells him “I see two media events. One that’s already taken place…that’s you…and one that is about to happen.”

(*An A+ way to make your hands look bigger.)

And hey, good for the Italian Prime Minister for standing up to the Pope. And shit, if that doesn’t show some of Lenny’s true colors when he claims to Voiello that he doesn’t care if all the Italian bishops go extinct because of church taxation. He literally says “What do we care? The Italian Bishops can take care of themselves.”

Yeah, I’m guessing they’ll fare about as well as Gutierrez trying to hail a cab.

Vinnie: You leave my sweet, alcoholic snowflake Gutierrez out of this.

Drew: It’s at this point that The Young Pope jumps the shark and Lenny–without turning to the camera and winking, mind you– starts in on his plan to build a wall around the Vatican.

Thank Christ, I think it’s just a metaphor.

Vinnie: Yeah, I think we should take Pope Pius XIII seriously, but not literally. Except for that jump the shark part. Take that literally. Pope Pius XIII is going to literally jump over a shark, most likely on the back of Cardinal Pouches, and probably to LMFAO’s “Sorry for Party Rocking.”

Drew: I don’t know how you predicted that Sister Mary shooting hoops in our recap yesterday, Vinnie. I’m assuming it’s because you are actually The Young Pope in disguise? Vinnie = Lenny. The sacred geometry works out! (Not as hard as Sister Mary, but still!)

Vinnie: Yeah I have it on good authority that next week’s Young Pope starts with Sister Mary nailing a bomb-ass kickflip down the Bramante Staircase.

Drew: Also, is it sad that I feel like it’s a little too optimistic to see EVERYONE turning against Lenny’s stridency, including his BFF, Andrew?  What does that say about our current state of affairs? JK, don’t answer this. It’s a rhetorical question. Still, even Andrew swallows his pride when he’s forced to sit by and watch a young man get turned down for priesthood because he’s gay. Also, if Lenny is so gung-ho about “draining the swamp”…I mean Church…of all the homosexuals, and seemingly omnipotent with his Pope Gay-dar, why doesn’t he force Andrew out first?

Vinnie: For now, like you said, I think Lenny is blinded by his little orphan memories of watching Sister Mary play sexy slow-motion basketball. That sole warm spot Lenny holds for Andrew is 100 percent going to come to a crashing end eventually, like, say, a baby being flung to the hospital floor.

Drew: Still, ballsy for that group of monks to ask for Lenny’s resignation only nine months into his reign of terror. And boy, do they get full temper tantrum Lenny. “I’m ready to wage a war without end!” he spits at the monks. I wish I could say that with each of these terror-strewn tanties Lenny gets more ridiculous, but in truth, each one ratchets up the amount of anxiety and tension in this show. He’s a narcissistic lunatic with– again, LITERALLY–a God complex, and  his finger on the metaphysical nuclear codes.

Vinnie: It speaks a lot to the magnetism of Jude Law’s performance that Lenny is just owning these poor shoeless monks in the most vile, mustache-twirling way imaginable and I’m still just chuckling to myself like he’s a harmless scamp. And, okay, wow, I now completely understand why America is the way it is right now.

Drew: I guess you were right, the Pope brigade actually went down to Pettola’s house to strong-arm him against claiming sheep were the Virgin Mary. Well, technically they threatened to throw him in quicksand.  (For those keeping score: Alaska is for actual priests, quicksand is for heretics.) But joke’s on them! Pettola’s family gotten the policia involved! Because Pettola is missing! I really hope The Young Pope just turned into Search Party: Vatican City.

I guess I’m legit confused, because…when did all these phone calls happen? The Captain is right: it doesn’t make sense that the Pope and Voiello crank-called this guy a bunch before showing up to threaten him with quicksand.

But oh my god…it took me a second to catch on, but did the Pope MURDER A GUY?

And I don’t just mean like, murder a guy with his intentions, like how that kid who wasn’t allowed into the church for his perceived homosexuality somehow scales the Vatican in the middle of the night and commits suicide (sorry, I needed to get to the end of this episode somehow!), or like “accidentally kills a baby with one too many whoopsies-hands,” I mean actually order a hit on Pettola?

It says a lot about this episode of The Young Pope that the idea of Jude Law straight-up strangling a crazy dude who thinks he sees the Virgin Mary in a flock of sheep seems not just  plausible, but highly likely.

Vinnie: To reiterate, the Pope did not just appear in Pettola’s apartment, he teleported himself and four Cardinals in full ceremonial garb into the room like some dark wizard. We’re still surprised at the possibility Pettola was murdered? Look at these guys.

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Forget strangling, I’m reasonably sure Pettola was dropped into the Sarlacc Pit underneath St. Peter’s Basilica. ‘The Young Pope’ Recap, Episode 6: Church vs. State