Versailles S2, Ep9 – The one with the sacrificing

Bonjour, amis! Before we start on this recap, there’s a few things I have to draw your attention to. It appears to me (correct me if I’m wrong) that Season 2 plays out over a few months. I mean, I don’t see any winter scenes/change of season, any person looking visibly older or any other indications of the massive passing of time. Cassel is slowly being poisoned, and Louis spent maybe 2 or 3 nights in the nunnery with William of Orange. Philippe and Liselotte are married and now they are pregnant…. so, a month or two of shagging, then minimum of eight weeks where the baby sprouts and no one knows until the piss prophet announces it. So, what irks me is twofold: 1) the Dutch War went on for years. Hell, just travelling from the front then back to Paris took weeks. But it appears that Louis and his guards have found some kind of time portal to whoosh them quickly back. Yes, I know showing every aspect of travel across the country is damn boring. But I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more indication of the time it took. Even just a brief mention in dialogue “you have been gone for months now, Sire…” blah blah. And 2) the Affair of the Poisons literally spanned decades. If you want to read more about La Voison (who I am assuming Agathe was based on) then check out this article. Or maybe just read Holly Tucker’s book). Decades. it was a major – MAJOR! – scandal, implicating some of the most well-known names in French nobility. And it did not start with Voison’s arrest, oh, no. There were other things happening that Louis knew about. So all those years have been crammed into these ten eps, and tbh I’m just a bit over the whole poisoning thing now. 

So, back to the story. We have left Montespan with creepy Father Etienne, who by his looks alone, is most definitely Up To No Good. We open here, with Montespan telling him he is not what she expected. He reveals that he is Father Etienne: “the church may have rejected me, but they cannot take away my faith.” She wants to know if he can do what she says she wants, and Etienne goes on a bit of a speech about harnessing nature, and not going against the natural order etc and coming from anyone else, it would be a cautionary monologue. but from him it’s downright ominous, words that are meant to challenge what Montespan wants, to see if she really wants them. Playing the devil’s advocate. Montespan rises to the bait: “in his soul he desires me more than anything.” Etienne wants to know if Louis is deserving of her love, and Montespan declares calmly and firmly that she would sacrifice her life for him. Ah, that should not be necessary, replies Etienne and now we hear the faint cry of a baby from somewhere in the creepy underground tomb/rooms. Montespan goes to look, then finds the baby, touching its cheek with a soft “she’s perfect” and that is weird and so out of character for her. Etienne replies that the world has no place for her, so “it falls upon me to find her peace,” then utters a prayer and a sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead and miraculously it stops crying. Montespan looks at the baby and yeah, I think she knows what’s going to happen. Etienne moves off, telling her of the duties she must perform before the ritual, certain rites, and Montespan is suddenly panicking, heading for the door and declaring that she is not sure she is ready for this. Etienne is a bit shitty: “Do you think this is a market place? That I am some simple merchant? Do you think this is some take-it-or-leave-it service to be dabbled in?” Montespan is scared, you can see it, but Etienne convinces thus: “Devote you and I to his service and your wishes will be granted.” Swear to the Bible or leave her fate to the mercy of the prevailing wind. The choice is hers. One guess as to what she does.

Play glorious INTRO-OUTTRO.

We are in a salon, with music playing and courtiers gambling and mingling, Louis is happy. Philippe gambles with some dudes and Thomas, and look, Philippe is victorious once again. Louis watches from afar and Philippe gathers his winnings to leave. Thomas leaves with him and they have a bit of a giggle. Oh, look, there is creeper Chevalier, looking morose and emotional from behind a curtain, watching them both. To his credit he is dealing with A LOT of emotional shit – he knows nothing of Louis’ request for Philippe to spy on Thomas and has already observed them being chummy prior to this, which prompted the catfight. He has seen Philippe in bed with Liselotte, willingly shagging. I assume Philippe no longer comes to his bed anymore.

And he is obvs still processing the pregnancy announcement. So with all that, WHY is he still staying? Because of the money? Sure. But does he think being this horrible and creeper-ish will win Philippe back? Okay, so we know that Philippe does still love him, so why cannot Philippe TELL HIM THIS, to reassure him that he is first in his heart? SERIOUSLY, this is basic storytelling stuff. If a conflict can easily be solved with two characters sitting down and talking about it, then it is not a sustainable conflict. I know Philippe has a thing about admitting stuff to the Chevalier – we see that in Ep2 when he reluctantly says “I missed you a great deal.” It is all so unnecessary and would make the conflict so much greater if the Chevalier KNEW about Philippe’s secret spy role with Thomas, knew that Philippe had to do it because the king commanded him, and then had to fake being angry/upset/jealous (or maybe wouldn’t have to fake it much) and stand back to watch the love of his life actively seduce Thomas. Now THAT would be conflict. (okay, I ran with this idea, and you can see my alternate Philippe-spying-on-Thomas suggestion at the end of this recap).

So, anyway, back to Morose Chevalier watching Philippe and Thomas chat, and Philippe smiling and touching and all “we make quite a team.” As the Chevalier creeps off, Philippe says to Thomas, “I’d call that a handsome morning’s work,” then gives him a pouch of his winnings with a smile. Then he turns away and his face drops so we know it’s all just a charming sham, but of course, the Chevalier is not there to see that so he cannot know. Pleased Louis is pleased, smiling as they walk: “It’s a convincing charade.” To which Philippe replies: “it’s easier when my orders rule up with my hobbies.”

Louis: At any rate, he seems to be falling for your charms.
Philippe: I’ve yet to meet a man who doesn’t.
Louis: Make sure you have his trust. You can then chose a moment to abuse it.
Philippe: (curtly) I must admit, I’m impressed, dear brother. You set a fine example on how to deny your passion in the service of your duty.

Then Philippe walks off and Louis is left with a little frown on his face. It seems to me that while Philippe would do anything Louis asks of him, this deliberate flirting and the subsequent pain he is causing the Chevalier is frustrating him. He is not pleased at all.

And now we are in Philippe’s rooms and the Chevalier is drinking and let us pause a moment to enjoy the furnishings before another argument will distract us. SO LOVELY. But now ominous music plays and the Chevalier is looking quite drunk/high/pained as he asks “where were you?” (ffs, you KNOW where he was!) And ugh, Philippe is all, “what business is it of yours?” as if he isn’t only THE LOVE OF HIS FUCKING LIFE. Can he not seeeee? Why would he think the Chevalier would be totally fine with him flirting with another dude?

The Chevalier: You’re fucking him, aren’t you?

Oh. Just… no, honey.

Philippe: (tightly as he pulls a pouch from his coat) we devised a deft game of cheating at the card table. (tosses the pouch on the table) That hardly constitutes consummation!

The Chevalier looks so very tired and worn, his little “I see” not really convincing at all. “You can’t even deny it.”

…wat?

He walks slowly to Philippe, says “I want to know exactly what you’ve been up to.” Philippe replies, “you’re drunk,” but the Chevalier hurls the money pouch away, growls out “don’t patronise me!” and looks spoiling for a fight.

Philippe: There are bigger things going on here (the Chevalier dramatically rolls his eyes and stalks to the window). You have no idea what this is about.
The Chevalier: (turns and yells) the whole fucking salon knows what’s going on. (pauses with a shaky breath) Do you have to rub my nose in it?
Philippe: (turns away, clearly torn) It’s complicated. I can’t explain it right now.
The Chevalier: (pulling out a musket, aims it at Philippe’s back) Maybe this will help you find the right words.

WAT.

THE.

ACTUAL.

FUCK.

No. JUST NO. This is just….. I CANNOT. Gimme a moment…… *hyperventilates, dragging in deep breaths*

Right. Okay. Back to this scene.

Philippe turns to see the musket pointed at him, looks angry and incredulous for a second then briefly nods and stretches out his arms. “You dare-” he whispers, “-threaten me?” The Chevalier lowers the gun, mumbles, “no…I have a much better idea.” And then…. OH THEN….. PUTS THE GUN TO HIS HEAD.

AAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH *RUNS INTO THE STREETS FLAILING*

We are all Philippe in this moment.

Okay, dear readers, if you’ve been reading my recaps since the start, you KNOW how I feel about the way the Chevalier has been written for the show. How it is completely the opposite of how the historical Chevalier de Lorraine would have acted when presenting himself, when reacting to Philippe’s other lovers, when handling the jealousy and competition. This scene, this moment, is so far from what I know and love about the Chevalier that it is actually painful for me to watch. I am screaming “NOOOOOOOOO” at the screen, much the same as I did the first time I watched it. So. Much. Soap. I cannot see for all the melodrama.

*downs copious amounts of coffee*

Right. Back to the scene. The Chevalier holding a gun to his temple and looking as if his world has crumbled before him and Philippe standing there going, “you’re bluffing. Don’t even know how to load it properly” (okay, stop RIGHT THERE. The Chevalier is a fucking war hero, and even though they don’t show that in the show, he knows how to load a bloody musket. He is A CHEVALIER, which means he’s served in the army. Fucksake).

The Chevalier then smiles, a kind of sad-joyous-heartbroken smile as he looks at the gun and lowers it as Philippe ignores him and pours wine. Then he starts to blubber and says, ”do you really want to know how much I feel for you?” Philippe slowly looks at him as he continues. “Do you want to know what’s really in my heart? Let me show you.” And he cocks the gun, places it in is mouth. Philippe rushes over, wrestles for the gun and it goes off behind the Chevalier’s shoulder, taking out a gorgeous mirror on the wall. They struggle a bit, look a bit incredulous at each other, then Philippe throws the Chevalier to the floor where he curls up in a ball and whimpers. Philippe says tightly, “I don’t recognise you anymore. You stay away from me!” Then the guards burst in and see the Chevalier sobbing on the floor and Philippe standing, who says, “he missed,” then walks off, muttering, “the story of his life.”

Okay. I just cannot say anything more about that scene, except to say that Evan Williams is such a fabulous actor. I have absolutely NO issues with that whatsoever.

Marchal. Marchal will calm me.

*deeeeep breath* Now we are out in the gardens, thank Christ. This will be at least calming, right? uhhhh. non. We see a fox scampering about and apparently it’s such an unusual sight that the gardeners stop to watch, then race over to where it had been sniffing/nibbling the ground. Of course, the poor gardeners discover fresh dirt and a baby skull in it. Now we see Marchal on the case, looking further into the dirt, then commanding them to dig it all up. Poor man, can he not mourn in peace? First dragged back into Versailles because of the poison thing on request of the king, now some creepy baby killers that we know Creepy Etienne has a hand in.

So now we are with Louis in his small chapel room thingy, with Bossuet chanting and Louis on his knees in prayer. Bontemps enters and Louis is annoyed, but he insists the king comes with him, that Louvois awaits him in the council room. Apparently a messenger has just arrived from the Palatinate, Liselotte’s home. Oh, shit. This is not gonna be good. They are all in the council room, with a map before them as Louvois speaks.

Louvois: We have killed hundreds. Possibly more.
Louis: And how many were soldiers?
Louvois: (takes a breath) None, Sire. They were all unarmed civilians.
Louis: (disbelieving) Our troops. Loyal professional Frenchmen have slaughtered innocent women and children.
Louvois: They were out of control. Drunk. Rampaging. They looted. Butchered. Raped. They say the world has never witnessed such barbarity.

Louis is horrified, as well he should. He asks how it could have happened, that his general, Marcheral Turenne is a man of restraint. Louvois replies: “he claims, Sire, that he had his king’s blessing.” (remember Louis’ “do everything necessary?” to Luxembourg earlier?) Bontemps and Louvois both look troubled. “he’s lost all reason,” Louis says as he rips up the missive. “War has destroyed his mind. Eroded his judgement.” Louvois nods. “it would seem so, Sire.” The Elector Palatinate was their staunch ally, but now no more. He has joined William of Orange against them. Louis is speechless, sits slowly in his chair. “I must seek guidance from above,” he declares. “Ours is a god of wrath and we have angered him much already.” Bontemps wants to know if he is going to share the news with Liselotte. “She will find out soon enough,” replies Louis. “if she has not heard already.”

The camera is now on a letter in Liselotte’s lap, and slowly pans out to show her horrified expression gazing in the distance, eyes full of tears, while Philippe stands silently in the background. “What of your family?” he quietly asks. Some are unaccounted for but she has friends and cousins elsewhere. So they might have survived? “They say your forces killed everyone in sight,” Liselotte replies. “My country will never be the same again.” Philippe goes swiftly to her, says, “My brother’s actions have nothing to do with me.” Then he leans in, places a gentle kiss to her head and my heart breaks for Liselotte as she sits there in silence, tears streaming down her face. 🙁 Philippe says, “I’m sorry,” and Liselotte finally looks up at him and says, “I am married to the family that has destroyed my people.” Philippe’s expression is a mix of sadness and anger.

*historical note. The sacking of the Palatinate was a black mark in history against the French. In Julius Ruff’s Violence in Early Modern Europe, he writes: “ Perhaps the most devastating such desecration of our period took place in the Palatinate of western Germany, a natural area for staging attacks on France. To prevent such a use of the Palatinate, French troops under Marshal Turenne devastated the region in 1674, and the impending War of the League of Augsburg prompted Louis XIV of France to order devastation of the Palatinate again in the winter of 1688-89. This later act was one of systematic destruction, based on a map of target sites prepared by the war ministers, and the French destroyed many of the significant towns in the region, including Worms, Spier, Bingen and Oppenheim. In Mannheim, the capital of the Palatinate, the French not only destroyed the city but also executed citizens who returned to the ruins.”

The goblet again!!

Next scene and Philippe swiftly enters Louis’ rooms as he dines, declares, “Everybody out!” Bontemps splutters about conventions to be observed, but Philippe claps back with, “I don’t give a shit. Tell them to leave.” Bontemps, replies, his voice a little higher, “I don’t think that’s apt.” Philippe doesn’t care: “If you don’t, I will.” Bontemps is doggedly sticking to his guns but Philippe stares at Louis and says: “I have things to say that can only be heard both those who shared a bloody womb.” Louis casually drinks his wine (FROM THE GOBLET) as Philippe turns to the audience and yells, “Go on! GET OUT! Or do you defy your king’s brother?” and they all shuffle out as Louis gives Philippe a look, delicately pats his mouth with a serviette then tosses it to the plate.

“Must you live your entire life in a melodrama?”

BEST. LOUIS. LINE. EVA.

Philippe doesn’t care. “You are a monster. What you did in the Palatinate makes you no better than a common killer.” So very emotional and you can see it, hear it in Philippe’s voice. Louis gives him a look then starts on the whole, ‘every war includes regrettable casualties’ excuse but Philippe is angry at the mass slaughter of innocent people and justifiably so. (I cannot help but draw a parallel between this scene and today’s conflict in multiple countries). Louis says it was out of his control but emotional Philippe scoffs at that: “Of course. It is always someone else’s fault, isn’t it? You’ve never said sorry in your entire life.”  (I am in two minds about this comment – Louis as absolute monarch would have not thought of apologising to anyone about anything. Yet this is his brother, and his brother is talking familiarly to him, like he always does. Philippe is allowed to overstep the boundaries of convention only because he is the king’s brother.)  Louis declares that Turenne was acting on his own initiative, but Philippe is having none of it. It could not have happened without Louis’ consent, therefore they are as guilty as each other. Louis angrily gets to his feet and boy, is he pissed. He has a spy in his palace, his troops are in retreat and half of Europe is out to destroy him. Philippe grabs Louis’ flailing arm, declares slowly that he has blood on his hands. With a disgusted look, Louis yanks away and Philippe sadly nods, his voice close to tears. “Maybe that’s your true legacy,” he says. “You don’t want to be loved. You want to be feared.” Then he walks out, leaving a stunned Louis in his wake.

Night falls over the palace now and a storm is brewing, and Louis is in his rooms, at an alter and kneeling in prayer. The windows burst open, sending correspondence flying and Bossuet hurries over to close them. Louis wants to know why he is still being tortured. Bossuet cannot say. He is frustrated – he’s crushed all carnal thoughts, destroyed his enemies and yet STILL God is punishing him with the massacre. Bossuet offers the usual “to pray is the only solution, Sire,” and yeah, Louis does not like that answer one bit. But apparently all answers will come to him through God.

We are back in Marchal’s dungeon/office where he is piecing together the baby skeleton, and one of his men enters, offering up the skull of another baby. Marchal looks grim – this is a pattern.

Cut to the chapel and Marchal approaches Bossuet, asks him about Saint-Geneviève’s, the refuge for lost souls, where babies of whores are taken. Bossuet says there is no such place. Marchal asks how he can be so sure. “Because,” Bossuet replies, “I have authority over all France. That includes you.” Marchal looks unimpressed/meh, asks him about Father Etienne. Nup, don’t know him.  Then as Marchal starts to leave, Bossuet replies, “Etienne… Guibourg?” Marchal waits. Bossuet adds: “If Guibourg is at large, you must stop him. Quickly.” *cue ominous music*

The Queen is at her toilette and Maintenon (formerly Scarron) enters with a smile. Oh, the Queen is asking her how she can become a better lover for her husband….. and Maintenon’s reply? “the profound love of wedlock can only come through God, Majesty.” OKAY THEN. But the queen wants to know more. How would Maintenon characterise her own marriage? “My late husband was very busy with his work. He was not one for… physical prowess.” The Queen is all ‘huh.’ and Maintenon adds, “although occasionally, my husband seemed to find me irresistible after I bathed in aromatic oils.”

*historical note: Paul Scarron was a poet and novelist in Paris, and met Françoise d’Aubigné, who had previously expressed her wish to join the church as a nun. They married when she was 17. He was 42. He was also crippled but details are unclear as to how – some accounts say he fell into icy water, some that he hid in swamp waters and others said it was the result of polio. Either way, he had a permanently twisted upper body and paralysed legs, so had to use a wheelchair and took opium for the pain. His salon was popular and frequented by the crème de la crème of Parisian writers and poets – Madame de Sévigné, Ninon de l’Enclos, Abbé de Choisy.   He also supported The Fronde (and lost his pension because of a ranty anti-Mazarin pamphlet) and their marriage yielded no children. You can read more about him here.  And with Maintenon here

A mademoiselle Solange then walks into the room, a former friend of Montespan. The queen would like to compensate the girl for her loss, by becoming a friend of the queen. She wants her to spy on Montespan: the queen does not trust ‘that harlot’ to keep her distance and she will make her pay if she returns.

I just have to interject here and show off some lovely earrings. Aren’t they fab? Click on them to zoom in.

Back now with a worried-looking Montespan in Agathe’s place, who hands her a note. Montespan asks if reading it is all she has to do; Agathe says Guibourg will explain the rest. But Montespan is not comfortable going against the teachings of Rome. “The Church,” Agathe sighs. “The Church likes to believe there’s nothing of spiritual worth before Christ. They try to deny the ancient wisdom. They cannot ignore it. To doubt is natural.” She takes Montespan’s hand, a gentle gesture that still feels quite malevolent , then hands her two wrapped bottles. Montespan replies, “I will stop at nothing to secure the king’s love.” This pleases Agathe mucho and tells her Louis’ sweat is needed to seal the charm.

Suspicious Marchal is suspicious

Now in a salon, with merry music playing and courtiers mingling. Marchal prowls about (that word suits him so much… PROWL) and spots a couple doing not-so-subtle suspicious things. The woman walks across the room, deposits a book on a gaming table, Odile the maid saunters past and picks it up. Meanwhile, Marchal’s man says they cannot find Etienne, to which Marchal says to find Mathilde the whore. She will know. Off Marchal now charges, after Odile, who is hurrying through corridors. She runs into Marchal but there is no book and she stutters. Gaston suddenly appears.

“Has Odile incurred your disapproval?” Ah, but Marchal is not having any of Gaston’s polite sly shit. He remarks on Gaston’s distinctive cloth of his coat.  “I’ll give you the name of my tailor… if you can afford him,” is Gaston’s reply. Marchal smoothly ripostes: “I prefer a less tawdry cut.”

Look at that lace! It better be French.

Gaston doesn’t like that, coming back tightly with: “some of us were born to set fashions. Others to merely follow them.” He leaves with his servant and Marchal prowls about the corridors a bit more, finds the book on the floor and sees that a hole has been cut in the centre. He knows and I am happy because Gaston’s time will surely come.

Night time now and Montespan is hurrying through the palace in a hood, a determined look on her face. She sneaks into Louis’ bedroom via the secret door, watches as Bontemps leaves, then pulls a pillowcase from the bed. She quickly leaves, through a less-pleasant passage way and gives the pillowcase a deep sniff. Poor Montespan, she is really feeling the loss of Louis and the romantic in me thinks she misses the man, not the privileges or the doors he opened for her Then she sees a door quickly close and it is poor Solange, the one who the queen told to spy on Montespan. “Where you spying on me?” Montespan says unnecessarily. “I thought you were my friend!” And Solange shoots back with “everything I learned of treachery, I learned from you.” So Montespan grabs her, drags her back into the passageway and….. Okay, strangles her from behind.

Right.

I have no words. Instead, I offer up this pic. >>>>>

We are now in Marchal’s dungeon/office and Mathilde is all a-huff as she enters, saying “I ain’t done nothin’ wrong,” in a cute but totally-out-of-place OIlver-Twist-gutter-English accent. Marchal needs her help to find Creepy Etienne and she’s shocked because the dude is a saint with all the whores. Marchal does his persuasive “if you care about the safety of your child, tell me all you know”.

Back to Montespan at Agathe’s and the woman is doing some ritual with the pillowcase and telling her to rub stuff on her skin and drink stuff that of course will be totally okay and legit. Montespan again expresses doubts and Agathe plays the most terrible of mind games, saying “I would not have invested in your future if I did not believe in you. And you know in your heart, you’ve already taken that first step.”

Too emotional. Do not want.

Montespan starts to cry, saying “she was my friend,” and I do feel quite sad for her. The look on Agathe’s face is frankly “ugh. Shut UP with yer moaning.” Clearly, Montespan with her FEELINGS and DOUBT and HUMANITY is harshing Agathe’s buzz.

Solange’s body has been found, and two men carry her through the corridor and everyone mills about, gossiping in shocked whispers. Finally, a death without poison. Sophie is sad and moves off, the queen looks at Louis then follows. Louis whispers to Marchal: “I can feel my enemy’s breath on the back of my neck. Find them!” Bontemps looks to Marchal, Marchal looks away expressionless, but his mind is no doubt furiously working.

Louis is pissed. He kneels in his little prayer room, scoffing at the effigy of Jesus on the cross, mocking him. “Here I am before you. A sinner. Penitent. Do you hear me? Do you see me?  You taunt me, is that it? I’m here for your amusement? Punish me if you must, but why should the people of France suffer for my sins?” Frustrated and angry, he paces, yelling about confronting his foes with God’s help, demanding it. Jesus on the cross stays silent as the ominous music swells.

We see Creepy Etienne exit his hobbit home in the woods with a bundle, mount his horse and leave, and yay! Marchal and his men are watching through the trees. To your horses, chaps!

Versailles at night again and Maintenon enters Louis’ little prayer room, to find him sat on the floor, looking drained and not looking at all King-like. He gave orders not to be disturbed, but apparently it’s okay to defy him because she came to pray. (such BAD protocol). What does she pray for? “For you,” she replies. He is a bit annoyed by that: “I am in no need of prayer.” Oh, but Maintenon disagrees. He needs it more than anyone because he carries everyone’s hopes, desires, dreams. But he is unimpressed. “I live a gilded life.” Maintenon replies: “Bearing the heart of France is a terrible burden. You must be stronger than all of us.”  And if he can’t find the strength, then God will help him. And now we see Louis starting to get to know her, a scene that would have played a lot more logically before he made her a Marquise. He asks how she finds her strength: she has lived a full life, has known sin and redemption, and has achieved inner peace. Louis laughs: he wishes it was so simple. Then she gets all pious and says he must confront his fear, confess his sins, blah blah. Unimpressed Louis yells at her but something is sapping the breath from him. Panic attack…..? Stress….? Maintenon tells him he’s a good man, that he isn’t alone…. and I has a bit of a cry as Louis does, resting his head in her lap as he weeps. Poor Louis. 🙁

Right. Back with Montespan, and she stands in a dark room with candles and a stone altar with a carved pentagram as Creepy Etienne chants Latin and four other caped dudes stand about. She agrees to “serve the Lord” and steps forward, removes her cape and lays on the stone, then parts her robe to leave her topless. A baby is brought in…. and now we see Marchal and his men galloping through the night, searching. They find stone archways… (the grounds of a church? Monastery?) and Marchal is off and running, sword fighting off one dude then another as his men follow. The baby is crying as Etienne is handed a knife, the blade descends and blood splashes Montespan…. but Marchal is suddenly there and Montespan legs it, Etienne holds out his hands in surrender and a guard swiftly takes the baby. The baby is only cut across the arm, Montespan grabs her clothes from another room and runs. The plan is thwarted.

*Historical note: So over the course of ten or so years, there were numerous poisonings and black masses rumoured to be held. Montespan was implicated in them, as was Olympe Mancini, comtesse de Soissons (former lover of Louis and sister of his first love Marie, and who left Paris before being named). It was said Montespan took part in these masses/orgies and babies were sacrificed over her naked body as she sprawled on a stone alter. She also was quite paranoid of losing Louis’ favour at court, which also meant all her friends and family would miss out, so over a period of time, she was adding a ‘love potion’ to the king’s food and drink. Poor Louis would get pains and headaches for no apparent reason and when he found out what she was doing and put a stop to it, they vanished. Guess it can’t be too good for the body to regularly ingest bits of ground up animal and plants.

So now we are back with Louis, waking in Maintenon’s lap. He says she helped him find his strength, but she counters with “you carry your responsibilities like a cross.” Louis is coming to the realisation that he is just a man –  weak, fallible, a mortal man, and Maintenon encourages him to see, to hear, to feel. And to breathe. She places her hand on his chest and they take deep breaths together… and yep, there is the kiss. So much for the sanctity of marriage and all that. But I guess maybe they don’t think of kissing outside wedlock as a sin? Those crazy 17th century nobles. Maintenon slowly pulls back, she looks worried. Then Louis says, “my heart beats again,” and it is all good.

We see a wide green shot of Versailles, then we are in the Duc de Cassel’s rooms and he does not look at all good, coughing and stuff, and he finds a note. From Thomas to Sophie, obvs. He puts it back as she enters the room, asks if something is wrong because she cannot read his expression. “I’ve spent a lifetime perfecting that particular skill.” What is he thinking? “A wife,” he says, “should never ask her husband that question. The answer will always disappoint.” He puts out a hand to her and she visibly flinches, and damn, I am not happy that it is clear she’s expecting to be hit. But instead he strokes her hair then walks away. She is suspicious and it appears she thinks he’s found her letter. “You frighten me,” she admits. “Oh, I am not the one to fear,” he replies. “A girl like you should be more careful in her choice of lover.” She plays innocent but Cassel goes on: “never trust a man who presents more than one version of himself. Or one who writes stories for a living.” Damn, Cassel. That is some spot-on philosophical shit. Is it possible to enjoy such a horrible person?

Louis and Philippe now (FINALLY PHILIPPE!!), standing in one of Louis’ rooms, at the window.

Louis: You’re sure Thomas suspects nothing?
Philippe: I have him eating from my perfumed palm.
Louis: then you will tell him tonight that the king is arrogant, pig headed and paranoid.
Philippe: Shouldn’t be too difficult. (Bontemps’ look LULZ)
Louis: You will say I am losing my grip on reality, rejecting all reasonable advice and that you wish to leave Versailles for good.
Philippe. Again, I think I can manage that.
Louis: And then, you will tell him that the war is lost, that my men are cornered, like rats in a trap. We cannot hold onto Utrecht another day. We will withdraw all our forces after nightfall.
Philippe: How can you be so sure this will work?
Louis (smiles): Because I have seen the light.

gratuitous pretty-faced Philippe pic.

Then he turns and strides off, Philippe gives Bontemps a look, Bontemps leaves too and Philippe sighs and goes back to whatever is out the window. 

Now, we all know that being so blatantly obvious in imparting information to a spy can only backfire. Just you wait.

Thomas is writing at his desk as Philippe creeps up and puts his hands over his eyes. “Is that the delicate touch of the duc de Cassel?” LULZ Thomas. So hilarious. Philippe says they need to go out and gamble and get drunk as he casually checks out all the papers on the desk. Thomas gets nervous and says it’s a play about the war he’s working on. Philippe nonchalantly lets drop that Louis is making a mess of the war, Thomas says he should be in the play and be the lead role. They have a bit of flirty banter as Philippe walks about, notices Thomas closing a folder. Philippe then drapes himself on Thomas’ bed, reading aloud the verses from the paper he still holds. Thomas casually lays beside him, says “try some more, this time with real feeling.” And his hand goes to Philippe’s breeches, pushing the coat aside. The look on Philippe’s face is a bit “ooookay then…” but he sinks down in the bed a bit and keeps reading, the paper in front of Thomas’ hands as Thomas continue to undo his breeches. Then Thomas smoothly straddles Philippe’s legs, and the camera pans up to Philippe’s face as his words falter and he groans a little and it is more than clear that Thomas is pleasuring him with his mouth.

Okay. I actually do not think this is that bad. Sure, I am feeling SO VERY BAD for the Chevalier. But historically, Philippe and the Chevalier had other lovers during the time they were together. Also – my alternate Philippe-spying-on-Thomas plot line at the end of this recap.

Now we are back with Louis, Marchal and Bossuet, and Louis is looking through the books they confiscated from Etienne. Bossuet says they deal in the devilish art of human sacrifice. “This unholy priest feels no remorse? No pity?” asks Louis. Marchal: “not yet.” (ahhhh, yessss!) Louis commands Marchal to extract the names of the village accomplices from him – one of them a woman – and show him “the full force of my justice.” This is what we love about Marchal – taking down names and getting shit done.

We are with Agathe now, and Montespan jump scares her, and the poor woman does not look good. Black mass rituals will do that to you. Also, she hasn’t had anything to eat, just some weirdo potion Agathe told her to drink before the baby-stabbing ritual. Then she sees the blood on her arms and frantically rubs at it, getting a bit hysterical, crying that she has sold her soul as Agathe tries to soothe her. What of Father Etienne, Agathe wants to know. Yeah, Marchal has him and what if he speaks? Agathe says he has never betrayed any of his followers…. and they hear footsteps, and just like that, Gaston walks in (DOES NOBODY KNOCK??) and says calmly, “Then he’s never met Monsieur Marchal.” Montespan looks all sad and forlorn and lost, wants to know what she should do now. “After the way the king has betrayed you,” Agathe says, “don’t tell me you do not seek justice.” Gaston gives a most excellent evildoer face and we all know what Agathe’s brand of justice means.

Next scene and we FINALLY see the Chevalier again, dozing at a window, then suddenly waking as a door closes and we hear a “until the next time,” from Thomas and damn, the Chevalier has a determined look on his face as he follows. YOU GO, HON! We see incognito Thomas in the village, passing over a note to a caped figure, then glances back to the Chevalier ducking into a doorway. Thomas whispers something in the man’s ear that sounds like “I’m being followed” then they split up and Thomas heads behind a wall. The Chevalier looks out, follows, ducks behind another wall, then draw out a …. wtf a dagger? (the man is a knight in the king’s army FFS. HE HAS A SWORD). He whirls to see a man in the distance, a hand goes to his shoulder, spins him about then punches him in the face.  

<<<<<< And I am left here with THIS expression.

NO. I refuse to acknowledge this terrible travesty. I know it is within the character of show Chevalier but this is… Lord. An insult. A warrior, a man versed in battle, a decorated soldier who knows how to fence and shoot and ride… uselessly waving about his dagger as he is being beaten up then robbed – ROBBED AND STRIPPED – by a handful of villagers.

GET IN THE BIN.

Oh, thank CHRIST we are back at Versailles now, with a view of the fountain in the morning. Can we have just some bit of sense, pleeeeeease? oh…… We see a pair of bloodied feet shuffling along the corridor, some coughing, someone being a bit startled…. it is the Chevalier returned, beaten and bloody as he opens the door to a dressed Philippe reading a book. His first words? “Look what you’ve done to me now.”

OH what the F—

Philippe is astonished as the Chevalier gets out, “compliments of your new lover,” and slams the door. Yes, it was Thomas although he didn’t see his face, because the Chevalier was following him. The first thing he does is grab the mirror (ahhh, that is amusing) and shuffles over to the desk to survey the damage. Philippe is all ‘whyyyy?”
to which the Chevalier tightly answers, “ because I wanted to discuss the weather over armagnac and macaroons, what do you think?” Philippe silently kneels before him, pours water and then gently pushes back the Chevalier’s hair, dabs a cloth into the water to wipe away the blood. The Chevalier screeches and grabs the cloth: “you’re making it worse.” And the look Philippe gives him… Kind of shitty but also just taking it.

Philippe: Why won’t you let me help you?
The Chevalier: Because this is all your fault! (slams the cloth down and rises) I’ll go ahead right now, kill him this time.
Philippe (grabs his arm) You can’t!
The Chevalier: I have my honour to think of. And so should you!
Philippe (sounding worried) : You mustn’t cause him any more trouble. We have to leave him alone.
The Chevalier: Why?!
Philippe: Trust me. It’s important!
The Chevalier: Trust you? Seriously?

Then Philippe kind of leans in, but the Chevalier slaps his hands away with a “get your hands off me!” And then… NOOOOOO Philippe, with tears in his eyes, says, “I love you!” and the Chevalier’s face freezes, stunned, but then Philippe ruins the potentially awesome “ILY TOO!” moment by adding, “but Thomas has to be left alone. We both… need to show a brave face. Can you do that? For me?” And the Chevalier briefly closes his eyes, looking all sad and bloody and UGH I need to give him a big hug because CONFLICT SO MUCH. He silently rolls his eyes then says quietly, “run me a bath,” and shuffles off and Philippe is left look all massive cry-eyes puppy dog sad.

*SOBS*

Me? Asking for forgiveness?!

Okay, now we are outside, Louis standing under a massive fancy canopy as he watches Maintenon stare broodily into the lake, then she turns and sees him and comes over. She seems preoccupied but it is nothing. He invites her to sit down (armless chair AHHHHH) and of course it’s not nothing because she now proceeds to tell him it is definitely something. About the Princess Palatine. Okay, Louis’ expression means he was most def. not expecting that. Liselotte has been in mourning and Maintenon is sure it is an oversight because a few words from him would ease Liselotte’s pain. Louis looks a bit irritated, then says she’s right, that he will express his deepest regrets but damn it does not sound as if he really wants to do that at all. Oh, yeah, Maintenon is not impressed and Louis can see that. Maintenon has something else in mind: asking her forgiveness. (insert SHOCKED LOUIS face here). “Confession is not the same as apology,” she adds.  He leans in, strokes her face (for anyone and everyone to see, I might add!) says, “why can’t my priest be more like you?” then ….

OMG he KISSES HER! What on EARTH is the queen gonna say when she hears about it?? Maintenon is subdued: he wants to know if he frightens her. Oh, no. “Only myself.”

The scene fades out, and then fades in to a teary Liselotte seated in her rooms, Louis standing as he says, “I want to show my appreciation and respect. You are a model of humility. And restraint. You have fulfilled your duty as my brother’s wife under trying circumstances…” He steps to her as she remains silent, a hand on her shoulder and I see they are using a particular filming technique. Liselotte’s face is clear and in shot, we see her entire expression and the tears on her cheeks, see her lips tremble. It is Louis out of focus, standing behind her, talking. It brings the viewer’s eye squarely to the most important person in frame – Liselotte. We have to see her pain and her upset. We acknowledge Louis only by his voice not his figure, so it is his words that matter, that speak for him. Louis continues: “and now you must feel great distress after what has happened in your country.” Liselotte still remains turned away from him as tears fall, says, “is that supposed to be an apology?” and now the camera goes to Louis’ face. “Obviously, I would let you return home were you not carrying my brother’s child.” Liselotte finally turns to look at him and now we also see Philippe in the room, out of focus and in the background. Liselotte replies: “my child will grow up in a family of murderers. I came here to discover a new life. Of joy. Of liberty.”   

The camera cuts to Philippe and there are his sad puppy eyes again 🙁 Liselotte rises, continues: “I am now your captive. You have complete ownership of me. I am at your mercy.” And she stretches her arms a little, palms up in supplication, and Louis is a little shocked, I think. A little taken aback. Then he sighs, says “I am sorry.” Then turns and walks from the room.

We are at nighttime now, and Bontemps is getting into bed, beside Louis’ bed. We see Louis trying to sleep, but he has visions of a blood-red pentagram and the priests around the stone altar, some creepy words and the baby sacrifice. Which is weird because Louis did not see this first hand. Then he wakes, thinks for a bit: something is troubling him. Bontemps swiftly gets up. “What ails you, Sire?” And next we see him striding into his little prayer room with Bontemps behind, where they meet Bishop Bossuet and Marchal, who hands him the book that Father Etienne had. Louis flicks through the pages, then finds a picture of a minotaur and the labyrinth. “I drew this in my own blood,” Louis says. “And now I recall where I saw it first.”

We see a flashback to Louis’ tarot reading, the Agathe turning the cards to reveal the same picture. “And now the Labyrinth returns to haunt me,” Louis finishes as Marchal silently looks at him. “The tarot sorceress may be part of this heresy too,” Louis tells him. They both look ominously at each other, flint jawed and serious, then Louis gives him a slight nod. Marchal leaves and Louis turns to the crucifix, gives the tiniest of smiles, a brief nod and makes the sign of the cross before he strides out.

We are in Marchal’s dungeons now, and a beaten up Etienne is stretched out on a cross a-fixed to a turning wheel, much like roulette. His soul is immortal, apparently. “Is that so?” Marchal drawls, not at all impressed, and wants to know who else is behind ‘this abomination.’ Etienne will not give it up and a few torturous moments on the slow spinning wheel are had, until he mumbles… “Claudine.” Oh, shit, he is baiting Marchal. “…so soft to the touch,” Etienne whispers. Marchal is expressionless as he turns away and Etienne keeps on his creepy pained whispering: “She cried for your help, you know. As she died. Like a lamb to the slaughter.” Marchal sloooowly turns back around. “it was gratifying,” Creepy Etienne keeps whispering. “taking her life force. For one so… so sweet…” and then suddenly Marchal goes all rage face and lunges forward with a yell and stabs Creepy Etienne in the belly. Yes, it is gross… not overtly bloody but we see Etienne’s face and his expression and it creeps me out.. And yes, Marchal keeps stabbing him in a rage, and Etienne is already well and truly dead. But it feels like that was Etienne’s intention, to rile up Marchal to get him to kill him. Marchal is breathless, leans on the hilt of the knife still buried in the now-totally-dead priest, then with a gasp he turns, casually yanking the blade out as he goes.

End of episode!

And now the BONUS….

So, I mentioned an alternate Philippe Spying On Thomas plot line. We have Louis needing Philippe’s help to spy on Thomas the traitor. Philippe has massive reservations but says yes. So the Chevalier sees Philippe and Thomas getting chummy in the salons and is understandably heartbroken, but when he confronts him in his rooms, he is so very cool and collected. Glacial.
The Chevalier: If you want me gone, I would just appreciate the direct approach.
Philippe: What are you talking about?
The Chevalier (casually drinking wine): Your little lapdog… Toby? Thierry?
Philippe: It is Thomas and you know it.
The Chevalier: Oh, oui. Him. (waves a dismissive finger) Well, if you do insist on trading down, then I shall take my leave. (makes a mocking bow, barely covering his hurt with a cold demeanour) With Monsieur’s permission, of course.
Philippe: (watches in silence for a moment) It is not what you think. It is… (clearly struggling) complicated.
The Chevalier (crosses his arms and raises an eyebrow): You know you are terrible at keeping secrets. Tell me.

So then after some coaxing (maybe even of the sexual variety because the Chevalier is not above using sex as a weapon), Philippe tells the Chevalier that Louis has commanded him, that Thomas is a spy and he has to get him on side so Philippe can spy on the spy. The Chevalier laughs, then realises Philippe is deadly serious and they discuss it, finally agreeing to do Louis’ bidding. And now the Chevalier has MAJOR CONFLICT because he has just given his stamp of approval for his lover to cozy up to another guy, to touch him, to flirt and stuff. Maybe even shag him. All in the name of loyalty and for the good of the country. And he has to reconcile with that, because his heart is torn. He loves Philippe and quietly rages inside because no one else can touch what is his. But knows how much Philippe needs Louis’ approval and how much this means, with Louis putting his trust in his brother and asking him for help. This is a Huge Deal in Philippe’s mind. So the Chevalier has to sit back, endure the gossip, the snide comments from his enemies who are suddenly seeing him publicly fall from Philippe’s favour. Worse, he has to see his lover with a traitor, in order to give Philippe what he needs… the approval and trust of Louis.

Merci for reading <3 

25 thoughts on “Versailles S2, Ep9 – The one with the sacrificing

  1. Praise!
    Can you write some more of this alternate plot?
    NEED it so badly!
    Love your reviews, by the way. They are funny and entertaining and educational at the same time.

  2. The passing of time is not handled well, I completely agree with you. The press material says the time period is 1672-1678, which means ten episodes are supposed to span six years. I certainly don’t feel it, expect in the first episode. There the first scene is set in winter, the next, when Fabien finds the Dauphin are clearly spring, and a scene, or two, later we have full blown summer, but, well, that’s about it. I felt very surprised when Sophie in a lter episode says her mother has been dead for a couple of years.

    And I’m even more with you when it comes to Philippe and Chevalier. The acting is top notch, but I know far too much about history to handle all the OCC very well. I still love this show so much, but there are a lot of things that I’m critical too in this season. This, and the way they handled Claudine exit- it annoys me that such a well-written character gets written out with the sole excuse to give Fabien some man-pain. And it felt so unnecessary too- given how loyal Fabien is, I think he would have returned happily when Louis groveled, even if Claudine hadn’t been murdered.

    1. I think you are right with Fabien, Lisa. It seemed so unnecessary to do away with Claudine, who is such a strong, intelligent woman in her own right without relying on any husband or ‘feminine wiles’ to be who she is or get what she wants. I would have loved to see her develop more, how she would clash and interact with the traditional men of the court, with the priests and with Louis. Such a shame.

  3. Thank you so much for these summaries. Regrettably I am stuck in America where we won’t see season 2 until I heard, October. Hence, I have found BBC2 streaming for them, which is unfortunately notoriously unreliable. It always seems to cut out at the worst possible moment. You fill in the blanks, and I want to say even the non-blanks so well it’s as if I miss nothing. Really enjoy your observations and commentary. Again, thank you.

  4. Thanks for that alternative version of the Philippe + the Chevalier x Thomas storyline! It maybe doesn’t allow for the gun scene but it’s much more in-character and therefore more forceful!
    I know the character of Thomas isn’t popular but leaving aside Chevvy ‘s distress l do find the whole Philippe – Thomas situation rather piquant.

  5. Awesome as always Jules. I agree with every word. When I was watching the ending scene with Etienne and Fabien and Eitenne started in about Claudine I said “Don’t listen to him, Fabien” – knowing he was just pushing his buttons. When Fabien stabbed him I said “Oh well, priest – 1 Fabien – 0. You lost that battle my friend. The priest got a quick death instead of the torture that was surely coming….exactly what he wanted. ” Again, what the writers have done with our Chevy continues to disappoint. I am so hoping for better things in Season 3. But again, I believe Evan Williams has done a perfectly wonderful job with what he has been given. BTW – loved your plot line….you should be writing for the show!

    1. The repeated mistakes by Fabien Marchal have me wondering why the king has such great respect for him as a great torturer when we see him commit mistake after mistake. That such a stoic character could be so easily trolled into giving the priest a quick death was disappointing. Yes, I understand Claudine was dear to his heart and she was my favorite character too. But the way to make him pay is to exact death SLOWLY and PAINFULLY.

      You would think as a seasoned torturer he would understand this very simple principle.

  6. OMG, I love your reviews since I read all yours a Aurora’s posts about Philippe and the Chevalier I had the same reactions as you! And this little headcanon of yours? Just PERFECT damn! I love it so much it would be amazing if it was true *crying over here* you fixed this crazy storyline (bad Chevalier writing from the show) and turned it in such a cool relationship thank you I didn’t know I need that, I already finished this season but I’m waiting very anxiously for your review abour the last episode. Merci et à bientôt 😉

  7. Praise!
    Please write more for this alternate plot! NEED it desperately!

    By the way, I really enjoy reading your reviews. They are funny and entertaining and educational at the same time.

    Thank you!

  8. Etienne’s scene was so freakin creepy
    I was really worried about the actor being upside down for that long as well, it looked like all the blood was rushing to his head ;w;

    I feel so torn about the chevalier after what you said! It seems a shame that such a talented man kinda got written into a petty boyfriend Lil
    But I also love melodrama soooo

    1. Yes, my despair at the ruination of his historical character was briefly cheered by Evan’s brilliant acting. He could have been such a Machiavellian character, so ambiguous and a foot in both camps, yet always returns to his love of Philippe. I feel the writers hit the evilness notes with some aspects of Cassel, especially when Cassel realises he’s dying.

  9. Let me start by saying that this type of bonuses should be attached to each of your reviews. Because it is more believable than the show, above all. We all know that Monsieur would have a problem with secrecy. Especially in the company of a certain Chevalier, when the latter uses all his charm ;). I don’t even want to talk about what the writers have done with the Chevalier in this episode. It is a crime. They decided this season to subject him to all possible humiliations in the conviction that it would prove that true love will overcome everything. Many people like it, not me. That’s why I like your reviews so much (yours and Aurora’s). When the Chevalier returns to grace (hopefully), it will be very difficult to validate his dignity, influence and esteem at court, because everyone will have in the memory a bleeding, dirty, barefoot prince robbed by ordinary thugs. I am convinced that if it really happened (I mean attack on prince), it would have been the topic of gossip for years and his reputation ruined…
    Fortunately, we have scenes with Louis and Philippe, with Fabien and Bontemps. But missing the most important element, MonChevy….
    Merci for the great review (and Bonus !!!). You should definitely publish a book “Versailles. An Untold Story” ;).

    1. Merci, Tess ❤️ I feel like I am constantly going on about “BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE WAS LIKE IRL!!” But I have to say it, because so many viewers out there watch a period drama then take the historical elements as truth. While fiction writing has a different purpose, I still truly believe that historical accuracy does not have to be sacrificed in order to maintain historical integrity. The bottom line is the Chevalier de Lorraine was a prince of the blood, a hugely important part of Louis’ court. A warrior, a knight, a decorated man of battle. Not the ragingly jealous, pouty, whiny man he was made out to be.

  10. I can’t seem to find your review of season 2 episode 10 ‘the finale’.
    Have you been waylayed by ruffians?

    Jan x

  11. Is the review for episode 10 available? I can’t find it anywhere.
    (Sorry for the comment here, but it seem the easiest option to get in touch)

  12. Echoing Andrea ^^, is there a review for episode 10? They’re brilliant reading and greatly extend the pleasure that’s watching Versailles

  13. I am also waiting for the review of episode 10. I love your reviews and frequently re-read them
    .i agree that the writers mixed up the chevalier’s character. To be fair they were maybe getting confused with more modern man would be devastated act stupidity. They certainly writing Monsieur more heterosexual.
    .whatever, the actors are all great and Alex is mesmerising
    .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *