When an episode is composed of this much setup, there’s little to do besides wait for the fall.
Episode Specifics: Leaping in at the last minute, Albert is able to save the Count from Villefort’s assassination attempt (mostly, anyway), which ends with the former judge arrested. Maximillien reappears briefly to pick up Noirtier since he thinks Valentine will be happier if her grandfather is there. We never actually get to talk to Valentine about this, but fuck it I no longer have to think about this plotline in much excruciating detail. Caderousse approaches Beauchamp with a supposed big scoop about Fernand’s corruption, which Beauchamp seems prepared to shrug off until Albert reacts suspiciously to the informant’s name. And Andrea, now in Danglars’ favor thanks to lucrative tips he’s been passing on, announces his engagement to Eugenie.
While both young lovers are distraught, neither is able to reach the other and can only assume that they no longer care. Worse, Franz refuses to take Albert to Marseilles with him, hoping to protect his friend until he can learn the truth. Despairing, Albert agrees to accompany the Count on a trip into deep space, just as Haydee decides to crash Fernand’s rally.
Waiting is the name of the game here. All the pieces are moved into place, everyone in some way misinformed or disillusioned, with the weather a torrent of rain even though this is narratively the calm before the storm. Everyone’s inched their way to the edge of the cliff and is looking down – which is great for dramatic tension…and also means that by and large, this will be a shorter essay to make way for the deluge of discussion topics next time.
Character Spotlight: If you’ve peeked ahead to the next episode’s title, you’ll know that this one represents a hinge of sorts, and when combined with the next episode forms the nadir of Albert’s character arc. Not the depth of how much he’s going to suffer – God knows we’ve got a way to go for that – but the point at which he is most out of control of his own thoughts and actions, guided by invisible hands and people more powerful than him (with a lot of not-at-all coincidental shots of that pocket watch).
All Albert wants through this episode is a source of stability. One friend drives off into a very metaphorical sunrise while Albert watches, left behind; one brings up news of his father’s misdeeds, with a smoking metaphor I’m half-convinced is a deliberate play on “where there’s smoke there’s fire” (also there’s yet another sunset; changes of time and sad reprises are aaaaaall over this one), and he once more ends the night in those little apartments with Franz, in what ends up becoming his proverbial dark night of the soul. And all his talk about adulthood is, of course, nonsense – it only takes the smallest push for the Count to topple his defenses by seeming to care (and perhaps in some sense he does; we’ll come to that). Albert is systematically being stripped of his relationships and his illusions, in a precarious and despairing place indeed. And lo, someone too good to be true comes along with an offer to take him away from it. I see our character parallels continue.
Courtly Intrigue Update: The Villefort family is all but out of the picture in the wake of the arrest, with Heloise presumably dumped somewhere since she’s outlived her usefulness (we never see her again after the extremely Baby Jane-esque scene of her and Eduard on the beach), and both Noirtier and Valentine staying in Marseilles. Danglars is quite temporarily at the very top, trading massive amounts of money on stocks entirely controlled behind the scenes by the Count. Since the Count is feeding tips through Andrea, that gives the latter an in with the family and a role as Eugenie’s new fiancé. And while Fernand’s bid for election seems to be going well, the bubble is threatening to burst quite soon with rumors about his deceit during his military campaign.
Adaptation Corner: Flashy productions with all that newfangled light and motion are fine and well, but once in a while it’s worth looking at the basics. The Count of Monte Cristo is absurdly popular as an audiobook, with more versions to listen to (both abridged and unabridged, the former clocking in at about 18-20 hours and the latter at a whopping 52).
There are at least four “major” versions floating around of the complete text (by which I mean Audible picked them up, making them the most likely to be consumed by the audiobook-loving subset). That’s hardly the only available outlet, though. The edition narrated by John Lee, which won the audiobook equivalent of the Oscars back in 2009, can be snapped up for about a buck on Amazon if you download the book on Kindle first (a note: I’ve not tried this myself, so caveat emptor).
The Bill Homewood narration also has its defenders, going in for more of a storytelling, each character has their own voice sort of approach, though it’s a little pricier. And even among the small subset of people who care about these things, the other two editions don’t even seem to be worth mentioning.
Themes: As the title implies, this is an episode about isolation. We’ve seen episodes of people’s feelings being deferred, but here relationships are warped to the breaking point, over and over again. And with just a little knowledge of the book, the ways in which they’ve nudged it to this point are painfully clear. Because while most of the concrete events here do happen, it’s the way they happen that matters.
Beauchamp, for example, does come across rumors about Albert’s father…but he comes clean to Albert immediately and goes to great pains to verify the source, then comes to Albert again before proceeding. And Eugenie does acquiesce to being engaged to Andrea, but only because she thinks it will be practical and allow her to slip off unnoticed with her lover (and Albert’s not fussed about the engagement breaking up). And as for that getaway, it’s suddenly ten times more isolated and weighted by the fact that it isn’t just a retreat. Albert’s been cut off or willingly severed himself from every important relationship in his life over the course of this episode until all he has left is the Count.
It’s…well, it’s the textbook isolating behavior of an abuser, slowly funneling down the victim’s world until they’re forced to put their entire emotional wellbeing in the hands of one person, thus making them easy to shape. By the end of this episode, the Count has essentially won. And yet, at the very end of it, he gives Albert more of that genuinely valuable (by his standards) advice. What all of this means, we’ll have to save for next time.