‘The Young Pope’ Recap, Episode 5: I’m Sexy and I Pope It

Ludivine Sagnier as Esther and Jude Law as Lenny Belardo.

Ludivine Sagnier as Esther and Jude Law as Lenny Belardo. Gianni Fiorito/HBO

Drew: Right outta the gate, we KNOW something is spooky about this episode: it begins, like the pilot, with one of Lenny’s dreams…or visions? (Dude is sitting straight up in bed this whole time, so IDK.) No, not another Baby Mountain or “gay priests and abortions are okay JK PYSCH!” homily. No, this time we see Lenny, roaming streets so cold they fog his breath, despite the fact they are def in Venice, Italy during the summer. Lenny sees what we presume are his projections of his vagrant hippie parents–you know, your basic “fill in the blank” costume trope like white robes, long hair, big beards, chunky neck jewelry’– as they board a riverboat and sail away from him forever.

Then we carry this sad, somber music of Lenny’s childhood into the opening credits, and it really drags the mood. I hope this isn’t a Lenny being mopey episode. Even his wink seems sadder, Vinnie! His goddamn WINK!

Vinnie: I actually think it’s a cool, subtle little touch that Lenny pictures his parents this way. Pretty much all anyone’s told him since he was a little kid was that his mom and dad were “hippies,” so his little orphan brain just conjured up the $25 Party City “Free Love” couples costume and that’s what stuck. I’m just a little disappointed that none of the other orphans ever told little Lenny Belardo his dad was probably a “real weiner,” because then we’d get dream sequences of the Pope chasing Jonah Hill’s hot dog costume from Accepted through the streets of Venice.

Drew: Then, first scene Lenny is up with his favorite rube, Tommaso, telling him how God is all pissed and moved from his Heaven/Big Dipper duplex into…what appears to a James Ellroy novel? Seriously, this is what Lenny says:

“He’s angry. Not with you, nor for that matter with me. His angers keep from thinking objectively.  So in protest, he’s moved to a new place. He’s gone to the outskirts of town. A filthy, studio apartment upstairs from a tire repair shop. At night, God suffers from the heat. He can’t sleep, because he’s come to the conclusion that there is nothing he can do about human beings. He’s decided he’s lost the you. Now it’s up to you.”

Up to you to Tomasso to do WHAT, Lenny? Appear at the bottom of a celestial tire repair shop*  and yell up like God is Myrtle Wilson in the Great Gatsby? This seems way more like “Lenny feelings” than “God feelings,” although I guess the point of the Pope is that they are in constant communication via metaphysical Gchat. Ugh, Lenny and/or God is in SOME kind of mood! What could possibly be causing it, Vinnie?

*Do they have tire repair shops in heaven? The Drew Grant Story

Vinnie: Okay, I’m not surprised God is in a mood and gave up on humanity because it sounds like he moved into the apartment next to mine in Jersey City. Like ten minutes ago, right before I wrote this, I looked out my window and saw a homeless guy pissing into Big Lou’s Bail Bonds’ mailbox and thought “there is nothing I can do about human beings.”

Drew: I dunno how I feel about episodes THIS atmospheric. Like, Esther is walking by and suddenly a DEMON SCULPTURE starts bellowing out air? Why is there even a demon sculpture IN the papal gardens?

Vinnie: Yeah, Jesus, look at this thing. It looks like it’s killed more than a few amateur treasure hunters that didn’t know in the Latin alphabet, Jehovah starts with an “I.”

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Drew: Esther soon finds Lenny, chilling with his eyes closed like he’s got a migraine, but is probably just playing an epic hide and go seek with Cardinal Pouches. And since you know, the Pope is just a super approachable guy, Esther is like “I hear you are a Saint. Touch my belly and let’s pray together.” And Lenny looks…dubious? Like “where’s this going, oh wait, now she’s unbuttoning her shirt…don’t blow this, Belardo, don’t blow it! Keep it cool! That’s what a boob feels like, totally normal, no big deal…”

Vinnie: Serious, important question: How many Popes do you think have touched a boob? There have been 266 Popes, and more than a few have been horrifying tyrants. I’m gonna’ say 77 Popes, Drew. 77 Popes have touched a boob.

Drew: And boom, Voiello and his team of serpents are taking the LOUDEST camera shots from nearby, in an almost comical array of “sneaky bad guys.” “Bingo!” says Voiello, and goddamn it if I didn’t immediately think of Christoph Waltz. He’s also got that guy there that can read lips, which seems…slightly unnecessary in this situation? You’ve got the boob shot; you don’t need to hear conflicted Catholic guilt murmuring. And then what, it’s just a classic “He said; Pope said” scenario?

But the thing is, Lenny KNOWS that the rumors about him and Esther are swirling. He knows this has to be a honeypot. And yet what he tells Esther is the emo church boy’s lament “I love God because loving people is too painful!” Yo Pope,  Esther is CATFISHING YOU, DOG!

Vinnie: Or maybe it’s more? Like, maybe more than 100 Popes have touched a boob? Does the Vatican have a record I could look into?

Drew: “I am incapable of standing the heartbreak of love,” Lenny says, which is just like, the most swoon-worthy, romantic thing ever. “It would be wonderful to love you,” he says. “But I am not a man, I am a coward, like all priests.”

Oh shit, so maybe Lenny is actually on to this whole con??

Vinnie: 96! My final answer is 96 Popes have touched a boob. Wait, what were we talking about? Right, Young Pope, this scene. It’s hard to tell when Lenny is being legit in what he says and when he’s doing his sneaky Pope routine, but he definitely doesn’t buy what he’s saying here, right? I mean, okay, yeah, he does think OTHER priests are cowards. He makes that preeeeetty clear later on. But could someone whose life philosophy is “I love God because I’m too afraid to love humans” really be the same person who later basically announces “I AM GOD now kiss my slippers”? I fully believe Lenny doesn’t quite grasp the whole *being a human* thing, but it’s way less of an adorable puppy thing and way more of a “Westworld robot finding the center of the maze” thing.

Drew: We then take a little trip into Lenny’s past, when he and Andrew ran away from their parish for a day to…roam around the beautiful gardens and peep into windows where tubby boys take care of their ill mothers? And find cigarette butts to smoke on a dirt road (which is clearly how children become so addicted to cigarettes that they have to smoke in the Vatican, at all times). We seen Andrew as the “good” son that goes back from their mission to find Lenny’s parents (LOL), but Lenny, that young scamp, keeps wandering on.

I think this is supposed to be the show’s Stand By Me moment, but it’s a little Funny Games for my taste, especially because we’re in that weird, surreal false narrator territory, where we cut between Lenny as the Young Pope, having this flashback, but yet the flashback includes Sister Mary finding Lenny’s father’s pipe on the ground? He wasn’t there when that happened! Whose memory is this, anyway? (Also the name of my new Comedy Central pitch: watch for it this Fall!)

Vinnie: Okay, a few things. First of all, it’s crazy that they digitally created the young Sister Mary character using images of Amy Adams in Doubt. Technology!

But second of all…is it being hinted, both in flashbacks and modern day, that little orphan Lenny kind of, sort of performed some sort of miracle? Something about a sick woman on her deathbed, and an event Lenny won’t talk about because he doesn’t understand it. “Something extraordinary happened in that room,” Andrew says. Color me intrigued; the longer Lenny refuses to discuss whatever happened, the longer I’m going to assume it involved a bearded giant kicking down the orphanage door to tell Lenny he’s a wizard.

Drew: Now, as adults, Lenny and Andrew reunite. “Let’s smoke a cigarette!” Lenny says, and then they both say, at the same time, “Like when we were kids!”

Oy.

Vinnie: Maybe your hippie parents wouldn’t have left if you didn’t develop a smoking habit at 5-years-old, Lenny.

Drew: What do we make of that weird scene where Sister Mary shows up to Voiello’s place, and he introduces her to his “best friend,” the handicapped boy Jerome, and then starts…kind of hitting on the older nun by using Lenny’s words? He gives Sister Mary a thumbdrive, claiming he no longer wants to destroy the Holy Father, because…you know, he was just so touched by Lenny’s Sainthood. I call bullshit. No one with a mole that size can ever stop being an actual mole, you know?

Vinnie: I feel like Voiello’s relationship with Jerome echoes Lenny’s whole “priests are cowards” bit. The whole point there was that it’s easier to love God because God just sits up in his sweet sky castle drinking his son’s blood out of a box (it’s in the Bible) and doesn’t respond either way. Voiello tells Sister Mary that Jerome is a great friend because “he’s the only one who does not criticize me.” It seems he loves having Jerome around because the boy can only sit and smile, no matter what Voiello tells him.

As for Voiello suddenly becoming Vatican City’s thirstiest Cardinal when Sister Mary walked in the room…yeah, super sketchy. I don’t believe for a second that this life-long politician who revels in blackmail and double-crossing completely changed his spots because he heard the Pope say some pretty words from the rose bushes.

Drew: Also, I love the idea that Popes, like orphans, need to run away once in awhile. Good thing Lenny never put his face on any plates, that he can just run into town unnoticed if he feels like it. Buy some cigarettes, because apparently they just  ran out?

At the hotel where they try to buy cigarettes (not a thing), a woman in a bar invites them to sit down and says they look like a couple of priests.

“We’re not priests,” says Lenny. “Have you ever seen priests in track suits.”

To which she responds, no shit, “I’ve seen everything.” REALLY, lady? Really? You ever seen a goddamn disappearing kangaroo?? Or a nun wearing a shirt that says “I May be a Virgin, but blah blah blah” (I couldn’t read the rest.) She then manages to take a picture of Lenny on her iPhone even though apparently NO ONE HAS DONE THEN THAT EVER BEFORE.

Vinnie: Okay, a couple of things about this, too. First of all, this is Europe, it would NOT be that hard to find some cigarettes. Second of all, isn’t like 90 percent of this show’s point that Lenny Belardo doesn’t look like a priest? Like, can you imagine meeting Jude Law in a soft-lit Italian hotel and being like “get a load of this fucking priest over here.”

Third of all, if this was any other show I would predict that iPhone picture would come back in a big way after it spreads like wildfire across social media and reveals what the Pope’s face looks like. But, since this is The Young Pope, and The Young Pope is weird AF, I truly believe that young woman, who I think was a prostitute but also might’ve been a ghost, was just making a point about how God’s existence can be proved with Snapchat’s zoom function.

Drew: Also, love how Lenny is just straight-up trying to offload that prefect of the clergy job to ANYONE. Spencer, now Andrew. And Andrew’s relationship with his brother orphan Lenny is much sweeter than I imagined it to be. Like how Andrew never told Lenny about knowing what the Pope’s parents looked like, because he didn’t want to cause his friend suffering? Or that scene of Lenny and Andrew walking back, shame-faced, into Sister Mary’s embrace; intercut between them as children and them as men?

Vinnie: I never expected The Young Pope to be the kind of show to make me silly-grin over some truly adorable nonsense, but Sister Mary ushering Lenny and Andrew back into Vatican City like naughty schoolchildren was some next-level pleasantness:

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Drew: Like I earlier predicted, Lenny knows all about Gutierrez’s secret drinking. AND he knows all about Gutierrez snitching him out to Voiello when the Secretary of State threatened him with blackmail. But he doesn’t know this…other secret Gutierrez has, which may or may not involve nuns playing volleyball (Vinnie I know you loved that part), or a statue. If it’s another statue fetish….Jesus fucking christ.

Vinnie: Okay but why are the nuns always playing sports, though? At this point, I’ll feel cheated if every episode doesn’t feature nuns playing a different sport in the background. Like, behind a super serious discussion between Lenny and Gutierrez you see Sister Mary dunk over some fool on a basketball court.

Drew: And oh my god. That scene with Voiello, where he just gives the most brutal smackdown to that little snake of a man, revealing that a) he knows EVERYTHING the Cardinal has done to try to blackmail and humiliate him and b) says, at one point “I’M THE YOUNG POPE.” He said the title of the show! He said the title of the shooooow!

He said the title of the show! He said the title of the shooooow!

Vinnie: Like you said before, A LOT of strange technical choices by Paolo Sorrentino this week, but holy wow did I love his decision to shoot this conversation like Lenny is 15 goddamn feet tall:

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Drew: Was anything better than when Jude Law did a pre-Cardinal speech “makeover” to LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know it?” Like sometimes this show throws me SUCH a hard left that I think it’s genuine art. That’s what good art is, right? Being really confused.

Like having a scene where Lenny is thinking about his hippie parents and it’s interspersed with the most intense choir music, and then we’re back in the present in this giant chapel; the music cuts out, Lenny opens his eyes and….tells a knock knock joke.

This is some next level shit, Vinnie.

Vinnie: Like an addict I have come to both love and hate The Young Pope‘s jarring left-turns. And the pure, Breaking Bad blue-meth version of a Young Pope left-turn is to go from a song usually reserved for Sweet 16’s taking place in 2011 to the Pope being carried into the Sistine Chapel on a throne like the sort of God-emperor warlord Donald Trump pictures himself as in his wettest dreams:

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Drew: Apparently, Lenny was not even kidding about being the world’s most intolerant pope. It’s hard not to see some creepy parallels to the inauguration speech. My theory: it’s all about getting revenge on Lenny’s hippie parents for leaving him. That’s just plain Psych 101. But it’s also got a little bit of that “The only way people will want us is if we’re prohibited, like Banksy” vibe. I still feel like he lost most of his Pope cool points when he flipped out because of the laser pointer.

I mean, my favorite part of the speech was when he said “You can’t measure love with numbers. You can only measure it in terms of intensity.” Or the part where he falls asleep at one point? Or the tiny little door he shipped in? Or…the whole part where he’s basically Keegan Michael Key’s substitute teacher character?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd7FixvoKBw%5D

Vinnie: Love The Young Pope, hate The Young Pope, spend your nights confused about your sexual attraction to The Young Pope…whatever. But it’s scenes like this, and the performance like Jude Law is putting in, that I genuinely believe are going to turn Pope Pius XIII into a TV character that’s going to land on “Best Ever” lists for decades to come (pending a nuclear holocaust or two). He’s the type of complex villain Marvel wishes it could write. If anyone asks me what my favorite supervillain line is, I’m going to be overjoyed to tell them it came from THE POPE: “There is nothing outside your obedience to Pius XIII. Nothing but Hell. A Hell you may know nothing about, but I do. Because I built it.”

Drew: This pope does not negotiate! I want that t-shirt. Has HBO worked out their Vatican marketing strategy for this show yet?

When Spencer gets up and kisses Pope Pius’s feet, and then forces Voiello like a dog to do it…how fucking badass is this Pope?

Vinnie: Watching the faces of both Voiello and the other cardinals reminded me of anytime I turn on the news or log into Twitter these days, which is just like, “are there NO rules in place to do something about this?”

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Drew: Oh, and then to top this episode off, Esther and Lenny have a God-gasm together. Which I have no idea is better than sex or not, but involves finally making that damn Captain Pouches jump when he’s told.

Vinnie: Drew, you didn’t even mention my favorite part! Tonino Pettola returns to his modest apartment, only to find YP and the Priest Squad have broken in and are just sitting in his kitchen like Mafia strongmen.

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This is amazing, especially if you think about everything that had to happen immediately prior to this scene. Like, Pettola’s neighbors were probably woken up to the sound of “Sexy and I Know It” playing through a boombox. Then they looked out their window to see four cardinals and the Pope, dressed in full ceremonial regalia, trying to crawl through Pettola’s doggy-door. It’s the type of thing that makes you whisper “there is nothing I can do about human beings” and move into a sweaty studio apartment next to the tire repair shop.

Drew: My two-cents? They aren’t in Pettola’s house, but still at the Vatican, peering through that tiny Alice in Wonderland-esque door that Lenny showed all the Cardinals. I mean, why else would they all be crowding in a doorframe? And we’ve already established that Popes just can’t go wherever they want to. This is just some more trans-dimensional bullying, courtesy of….THE YOUNG POPE!

‘The Young Pope’ Recap, Episode 5: I’m Sexy and I Pope It