That afternoon, while on a walk, Victoria and Albert run into Ernst. "Could it really be you?!" Yes, Victoria. It's really him. He literally shows up in every single episode.
Ernst has been spending time in Baden-Baden, a German spa town, on the recommendation of his doctors. "I enjoyed myself perhaps a little too much in Paris." Oooo, you know what that means! Gimme an S, gimme a Y, gimme a P, H, I, L, I, S!
Upstairs, while putting away Ernst's belongings, a servant accidentally spills a bunch of white powder from his suitcase. Turns out it's mercury chloride, a poison that people back in the day decided was a remedy for syphilis. Spoiler: it wasn't.
In Ireland, a bunch of important men meet to discuss what they should do about the potato famine. The quick consensus is: absolutely nothing! A man named Dr. Traill dissents: Um, letting millions die just 'cause they're poor and Catholic is kinda evil. Maybe we shouldn't do that? Everyone laughs at him.
Are you dying to know what Prince Albert's new pet project for this episode is going to be?
Well, I'll tell you anyway!
He wants to ..... *drumroll* ..... modernize the palace sewer system!
In another tedious storyline no one asked for, a random American woman tries to convince Hot Italian Chef to release a cookbook. How did we go from last week's exciting naked waterfall action to this mundanity? If we can't get more skinny dipping, at least give us a scene starring Dash's ghost. Throw us a bone, Victoria writers! (Pun absolutely intended.)
Without his poison... I mean, medicine, Ernst's syphilis is raging. He seeks out a new doctor, who has an even better remedy than mercury chloride powder. A steam room full of mercury vapor!
It does not go well:
Dear Victoria writers, sorry to bug y'all again, but if I was part of creating this scene, I would have included a cameo of a young, futuristic-speedo-wearing, slightly unhinged Sting:
And / or the aforementioned ghost of Dash:
I have plenty more ideas where these came from. Call me.
Back in Ireland, things are getting worse and Dr. Traill seems to be the only one who cares. When he tells his wife that he found a dead mother surrounded by five orphaned children, her response is: Ewwww, she was Catholic?!
Yikes! Dial down the evil just a smidge.
Days later, Victoria comes across an impassioned letter Dr. Traill wrote to a newspaper editor and brings up its shocking contents (corpses in the street!) to the Prime Minister. Before he can react, some random jerk we've never met mansplains why it's actually a good thing that the Irish are dying in mass numbers (population control is nifty, you see!). He also shares these bigoted gems: "The Irish as a race are prone to exaggeration" and "The Irish like to imbibe at funerals. Perhaps that is why they are incapable of digging a decent grave."
Down the hall, the Most Likely Gays run into each other, but hold your applause. There is a 0% chance of them getting into an sexy fun this time around 'cause the brown-haired one's energy has switched decidedly to no homo. Since video footage doesn't exist in this time period, quick, someone paint the waterfall scene from last episode and show him that, just a few days ago, he was very much in a yes homo state of mind.
To make matters worse, Brunette Most Likely Gay is siding with the Prime Minister about not wanting to send money or resources to all the dying Irish people. Because he isn't a monster, Blond Most Likely Gay is appalled.
As if this wasn't enough to really spoil the mood, Brunette Most Likely Gay decides to be sexist about Victoria wanting to prevent millions of people from dying:
Brunette: "Women are so damn emotional!"
Blond: "Women like your fiancé?"
Brunette: "She's insisting on setting the date right in the middle of the session... Sorry. You don't want to hear about that, do you? Goodbye."
Downstairs, an Irish maid is distraught about her family back home and asks for a wage advance to help them out. The head butler, who turns more into a Disney villain every episode, responds with a Muahahaha, never! This would be a great time for Dash's ghost to materialize and bite this dude's face off. Instead, we get a heartwarming scene of Hot Italian Chef giving Irish Maid his fancy gold pocket watch to sell.
After receiving a letter from the Queen asking to hang out, Dr. Traill heads to London, where he sees tons of food being exported to other countries. And none for Ireland, bye.
Upon meeting the Queen, he promptly asks: Uhhhh, what the hell??
Before she can attempt to explain, Albert comes in and regurgitates a Facebook post he skimmed once about how the Irish rely too heavily on one crop, so it's okay that they're all dying. Dr. Traill weighs uppercutting him versus calmly explaining how ignorant he is. Unfortunately, he settles on option B.
After her talk with Dr. Traill, Victoria holds up her new baby (who has apparently already been born even though she was just a cluster of cells at the end of the last episode) and asks the Prime Minister to think of the innocent Irish children. It seems to work, which I'm happy about... but I'm way happier that the show decided to spare us from having to watch another entire pregnancy and labor.
A few boring news bulletins for you lumped into one 'cause I can't even pretend to care: Albert installed a working toilet in the basement! Hot Italian Chef decided not to publish the cookbook! Victoria's bestie that Ernst had a thing for is now a widow, but Ernst can't have sex with her 'cause of his STD!
Okay, I do kind of care about that last one.
Back home, Dr. Traill tells his wife he intends to use their house as a soup kitchen. She hates this idea and threatens to leave him and never come back because she's the absolute worst. He decides that would be okay with him.
Abandoned by his bigoted wife and peers, Dr. Traill puts all his energy into giving the needy what little food he can scrounge up. Things are starting to look up! And then he drops dead of typhus fever.
After every episode, it’s only right to reward characters who’ve impressed and diss the ones that haven’t, so here goes:
PIECE OF COAL: Basically Everyone. Dr. Traill's friends. Dr. Traill's wife. Brunette Most Likely Gay. The Prime Minister and his entire party. The head butler. Albert. All of them deserve to be flushed down the palace's new toilet into a poop-filled sewer.
HONORABLE MENTION: Blond Most Likely Gay. Hopefully reincarnation is real so that he gets to come back a few centuries later and use an app to find the gay love he deserves.
BRONZE: Hot Italian Chef. Good on him for giving away his favorite fancy possession to make the world a better place. And another good on him for not putting out that cookbook, thus avoiding having to do one of those painful daytime TV segments where a celebrity chef is forced to make seven dishes in two minutes while being interrupted by a wine-drunk Kathy Lee Gifford.
SILVER: Irish Maid. This award is my way of saying sorry about her circumstances, and also sorry for never mentioning her in other recaps because I found her very boring. My bad!
GOLD: Dr. Traill. Way to drag your ass on the way to justice, arc of the moral universe. R.I.P. buddy.
Until next week! If you miss my thoughts on Victoria or pop culture in general, follow me on Twitter @xcusemybeauty, listen to my podcast The Cooler, or read all my other Victoria / Poldark / Downton Abbey recaps!
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