The Great Recap: Love Along the Volga

The Great

Animal Instincts

Season 2

Episode 5

Editor’s Rating

5 stars

The Great

Animal Instincts

Season 2

Episode 5

Editor’s Rating

5 stars

Photo: Gareth Gatrell/ HULU

Catherine awakens to a half-nude statue of herself carved from butter, and I mean, who among us. Peter sent it because “you melt in my mouth,” which, gross, but also free butter.

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I know Peter’s relentless pursuit of Catherine is technically not great since she does keep telling him how much she hates him and he will not accept it, but!! The power dynamic is so flipped this season that it keeps him oddly endearing. If he annoys her, she can command soldiers to take him away. Surely the fantasy of many. He lays out rubies in the shape of a heart on the palace grounds for her to see from her window. He tries to write her a poem but can’t find a rhyme for “indescribable lust” other than dust (must, trust, sussed, c’mon, my dude).

This episode is all about the Church, Catherine’s hold on the throne, and furthering Catherine and Peter’s weird and delightful relationship. Also, there is a crocodile. And it turns out, Sunduk not only had his head cut off, but Arkady and Tatyana stuffed the treaty proposal in his neck-hole. Subtlety is not the name of the game here or anywhere in The Great. Catherine sends the sultan a carriage full of gold bullion. We don’t hear anything from the Ottomans this episode, but this must all lead to something.

Speaking of murder, you probably picked up on the unsettling trend of murdered animals if you watched season one. It happened pretty much every episode. This season is not a big exception, and I worry daily for Catherine’s bear, who is somehow still with us. I mention this early on because the crocodile meets an extremely disturbing fate towards the end of the episode. If you are upset by violence towards animals, you should skip ahead when they catch the crocodile and present it to the court. In brief — the crocodile dies. I cannot make jokes; I was v upset.

But back to before, when the crocodile was alive and roaming the palace! At first, everyone thinks it’s a dragon or a lizard (I looked it up, and no, crocodiles are not lizards). The court is pretty sure that no matter what it is, it’s definitely an omen. No one’s quite sure where it is, though, which is how it gets into Elizabeth’s apartments, bites her on the leg and eats her mouse, Orestes. Elizabeth recognizes it as a crocodile because she reads books.

We have to talk about it: Basil, whom I love very much, has taken a turn. He tells the court that the crocodile very well may be an omen, even if it seems like it might be real and not a demon. BASIL. You read the Diderot pamphlet! You were the only one who did the homework! Who then should sweep in to save Catherine from the restless throng but Archie, who tells everyone that he’ll find the crocodile and discover if it is an omen. Someone in the crowd literally has a pitchfork.

Archie did it. Archie loosed the crocodile on the unsuspecting palace dwellers, leaving it to eat Orestes and who knows how many other mice (at least 34, but that’s later). The crocodile is a shortsighted plan by Archie, whose position has remained precarious. He wants Catherine to not kill him, get rid of Basil, stop wanting religious freedom, and to meet God. Easy peasy. However, he did not think through how he would get rid of the crocodile after he had released it.

Before they proceed with catching it, Catherine is still unsettled by her overwhelming sex drive and pull toward Peter, evoking a closeted-me in college being attracted to my Russian (relevant!) TA Katya and trying to rationalize it. Catherine says it is “a rational response to a confluence of circumstances.” Catherine’s going to wake up one day and realize she’s gay for Peter.

MARIAL + GRIGOR ARE MY NEW OTP. Someone make me a fancam or whatever the children do now. I have not been overwhelmed by the chemistry between characters like this in a long time, despite whatever my past recaps have said. This is different. Which is coincidentally something Marial will say in my 70,000-word fanfic entitled “Love Along the Volga.” May they maintain this tension for as long as possible, amen.

This episode really does solidify my three ships, all of which are great for different reasons. You have Peter making sincere speeches to Catherine and holding her hand while they hunt the crocodile; Marial and Grigor standing in the same room, which is all they need to do because the tension; and Orlo and Schoolteacher Katya, as he flirts for the first time and is extraordinarily cute about it. I love them all. This is an impressive number of good pairings. Don’t KILL any of them, show. We don’t have any more expendable Leos sitting around.

How are Catherine and Archie going to meet God? By eating mushrooms. I am the opposite of drug savvy, and in my notes, I wrote, Archie gives her some bread, I think. Then that seemed wrong, so I had to backtrack and look more closely. It does not look at all like bread. I went to a Christian high school in the Midwest and spent college debating whether the 1995 or 2005 Pride and Prejudice is better (’95, come on, people). But I am aware that hallucinogenic mushrooms exist! As is the way of when people in film and television do drugs, Catherine and Archie lie on the ground, staring up at the sky and discussing what they see. Catherine sees a bright shining light and realizes we are all a part of love. Archie sees an old man with a beard. If this drug experience achieves anything, it makes Catherine aware of how much her people love God and how she, therefore, needs Archie. I’m glad! I like Archie. He and Catherine share Marial as a best friend, and I trust Marial’s judgment.

Catherine lays a trail of 34 opium-filled mice for the crocodile to ingest. It does, she presents it to the people, and then, as mentioned, they kill it in a horrifically violent fashion. Everyone yells huzzah for Catherine the Great. This is probably some tie-in with the end of the season premiere and her gaining the throne while holding Leo’s head in a sack, but honestly, the crocodile death upset me much more.

We end with Catherine once more trying to pretend that oral sex from Peter is a mechanical experience, but he asks her to dance with him first as he hums music for them. It’s very cute. She looks concerned.

• Is Georgina coming back? She has to! You don’t just leave Charity Wakefield off-screen.

• How many opium-filled mice would it actually take to knock out an average-size crocodile?

• What if God is an old man with a beard, and then we all look foolish for mocking that idea? Makes you think.

The Great Recap: Love Along the Volga

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