The Young Pope Episode 6 Recap: Threesomes & Politics

Photo: Gianni Fiorito/HBO.
If you began watching The Young Pope's sixth episode and were left with a profound WTF feeling, you were not alone.

In the first few minutes, a priest drops over dead at the breakfast table, Esther (Ludivine Sagnier) gives birth to a baby (which the pope promptly drops), and Andrew (Scott Shepherd) is engaged in a sexy threesome with an unnamed muscular man and a rather busty woman.

It turns out we are now nine months from where we left off with the pope and his cronies sitting in the stigmata-having shepherd's kitchen, lit menacingly by candlelight.

We predicted after episode 5 that Tonino (Franco Pinelli) would be the new foil for Pope Pius (Jude Law), since Tonino's legend was only growing, and he was about to start his own church. But that was quite foolish on our part — an outspoken shepherd is like the buzzing of flies to the pope. He merely shooed the problem away -— or possibly killed it with a rolled up newspaper (but we'll get to that in a second).

The new foil for the pope actually turns out to be the Italian government. The prime minister of Italy (Stefano Accorsi) pays Pius a visit and the two spar over the PM's quite liberal agenda — recognizing same-sex marriage, abolishing the eight per thousand tax — but in the end, Pius emerges victorious.

You see, Pius realizes that the fact he has kept himself so hidden from the world means his legend keeps growing exponentially. So, he threatens the prime minister with the ploy of waiting until right before the next election and then making his first public appearance.

The pope says the eyes of the world would be on him, and he would then use that opportunity to decree "non expedit," a law first invoked by Pope Pius IX in 1874 (and later rescinded by Benedict XV in 1918) that forbids Catholics from participating in elections.

The PM does some posturing about how that would not affect his re-election, but he knows that the pope declaring “non expedit” very well could hurt him, so he takes to the press conference after their meeting to declare the pope a saint — though the prime minister does say they disagree on many things and he plans to keep pursuing some of his agenda.

It’ll be interesting to see if the prime minister actually follows through with recognizing same-sex, common law marriages or manages to abolish the eight per thousand tax. Also up in the air is whether the season will culminate in some kind of confrontation between the PM and the pope, or if this was merely a temporary irritation for Pius and nothing more.

But in case you were wondering, the eight per thousand tax is a part of Italian income tax that lets taxpayers designate up to eight percent of their annual income to organized religion, or to the Italian state. Taxpayers are not required to make a choice, so about half choose not to, and the money is then distributed among all possible recipients in proportion to what they receive from explicit declarations.

But among the half that do make a choice,anywhere from 76 percent to 86 percent of them have chosen the Catholic church since 1990. By contrast, the state has received anywhere from only seven percent to 22 percent. You can see why the prime minister might want to do away with this allocation of taxes, since the church is routinely receiving triple (or more) than what the state is receiving.
Abolishing it would greatly reduce the Catholic coffers, which in the world of The Young Pope is not something Catholicism can afford, since Catholics are fleeing Pius' ultra-conservative regime and taking their money with them.

But that’s not all the pope has to worry about, though he does not yet know about the other possible problem his administration is facing — the fact that Italian law enforcement is now investigating shepherd Tonino's disappearance.

A captain questions Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando), citing intel that the pope and his gang paid Tonino a visit before he disappeared and "threatened to throw him in quicksand."

That's ... oddly specific, but points for creativity, as far as threats go.

Not only that, but the captain has phone records of multiple calls made from Voiello and the pope's offices to Tonino's residence. Voiello puts on an excellent poker face, offering up explanations left and right, but something tells us we haven't seen the last of the investigator.

And finally, the pope's strict new Catholic attitude now has some devastating on-screen consequences, as a young man rejected from the priesthood on suspicion he might be gay— he flatly denies that he is — kills himself in St. Peter's square.

Andrew plays a large part in the boy being rejected, acting as an agent for the pope, which is an interesting contrast to both his earlier threesome with two members of his congregation in Honduras, not to mention the fact that he is later invited to a "party" by the blinged-out, cleavage-baring wife of an Italian general. Our biggest question is how did this sexy military wife find out about Andrew’s extra-curricular activities? Is there a Vatican phone tree?

Anyway, Andrew is having himself quite the sex life, all while being forced to reject so-called "sexual deviants" from the priesthood — it can only be a matter of time before this comes to a head and we suspect Lenny is going to be none too happy about it.

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