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The ‘Young Pope’ Popedown, Episode 3: Diane Keaton Is Awful At Basketball


The Young Pope Popedown is a list of the five craziest and/or most notable things that happened in each episode of HBO’s The Young Pope, ranked from least to most crazy and/or notable. Like a countdown, but with popes.

5. The Pope is a just sad little boy with a fancy globe

You see, the problem with giving a fear-mongering homily while backlit like Prince at the freaking Super Bowl is that it’s gonna raise a few questions and lead to a few concerns. Those are the issues facing young Lenny Belardo in this episode, the first season’s third. (It’s worth noting here that the ten episodes of this series are titled “First Episode,” “Second Episode,” “Third Episode” and so on. There’s something kind of perfect about that. The show that utilizes non-stop crazy and dramatic visual flair also has the most boring episode titles possible. It’s the little things.)

In dealing with his usual adversaries (a snooping Voiello, a dismissive Spencer), we learn a little more about our mysterious new pontiff. For example, he’s just a sad little boy, really, and he appears to be taking the hardships of his youth out on the one billion members of the Catholic Church. Also, some of what he’s doing appears to be for show, which we learned shortly after his narcissistic “I was praying so hard I nearly shit my pants” monologue on the roof, when he more or less recanted it in private. And we learned he considers himself to be more handsome than Jesus. Maybe. But keep that to yourself.

But mostly, we learned more about something we already knew: He’s vindictive as all heck. Voiello raised his voice in anger (after being provoked almost constantly), and is now facing potentially serious consequences, even though he revealed to Lenny that it was his machinations that swayed the election (whoooops). And Spencer had his job offer revoked after chewing Lenny out about the homily. Actually, “chewing out” might not be taking it far enough. He literally said “You’ll be a terrible Pope. The worst,” which makes sense in the context of the show, I guess, but is also a very fun collection of words that I’m not sure anyone has ever said in that order. We’re breaking new ground every week here. First the kangaroo, now this.

Other notable Vatican-related things:

– Lenny sent Sister Mary on a kamikaze mission of a press conference, in an attempt to explain — or, to be more accurate, not explain — his homily. The timing on this, given Trump’s first weekend in office and Sean Spicer’s own kamikaze mission press conference, was almost eery.

– I like that Lenny has that ominous glowing globe in his office and that he’s using it to banish people to frozen tundras. He’s basically a supervillain.

– At one point one of the cardinals literally said “We’ve got a young pope” and I started cheering. I love a good “someone says the title of the movie or TV show inside the movie or TV show” scene.

4. Kangaroo update: NIGHT KANGAROO

The Papal Kangaroo only appeared for a second this week, as it poked out from behind a tree while Lenny was out on a soul-searching night walk after his disastrous meeting with Spencer. But even in small doses, it’s a lovely part of the show, the fact that a kangaroo could just show up at any second. It could hop into Lenny’s office. It could spring out from behind a bush and drop kick the old chainsmoking-cardinal. It could sit on a bench and smoke a cigarette. And if you think I’m exaggerating, please note the explanation Paolo Sorrentino gave to Vulture for introducing it in the first place.

It seems crazy, but in reality it’s not. When a pope is elected, he receives presents from many world leaders. It’s almost like they compete to please the new pope. They send all kinds of extravagant presents, from exotic trees to cars. So I imagined, why not a kangaroo from Australia?

“Why not a kangaroo?” It’s profound, in a way.

3. Hey girl, you like juggling?

The bigger story here, plot-wise, is the thing where the Pope appears to be developing a crush on Esther, the wife of a Swiss Guard who also sometimes gets felt up by Father Valente in Vatican alleyways. That seems important. As does the thing where the Pope faints into her arms like an overheated Southern belle within about five minutes of meeting her and then zips off into a fantasy world in which his hippie parents abandon him via boat. But I have a feeling we’ll have plenty of time to discuss this in future episodes. Right now, I want to discuss the juggling.

So Lenny is walking through the gardens with Gutierrez (the only person in Italy he likes, it seems) when the conversation turns to past, pre-priesthood loves. This causes Lenny to tell a story about the time he met a young woman on the beach and wooed her through the magic of juggling. Like he does in that GIF up there.

Two things.

One, imagine being some nice young lady at the beach, lounging out on your towel and getting some sun, when all of a sudden some orange-lugging dope moseys on up to you, shouts “HEY CHECK THIS OUT” and then begins juggling like it’s the most amazing this anyone has ever done. Imagine your reaction to that, honestly. Because it’s very weird.

Two, point one is probably moot because just about anything is an effective, charming pickup move when you look like a young Jude Law. I like that he chalked it up to his juggling prowess, though. It’s kind of adorable.

2. Diane Keaton is really quite awful at basketball

As great as the kangaroo is (very great), I think my favorite largely unexplained running bit on this show is Sister Mary’s love of basketball despite being really, really bad at it. The first glance we got was last week, when she attempted a free throw with some of the worst form you’ll ever see…

…and then this week we got to see her heave up a shot that even the most devout Catholics in the Vatican would have to describe as hopeless.

It’s all very weird and delightful and I hope this all culminates in her and Voiello playing a tension-filled game of H-O-R-S-E in which the loser has to leave the Vatican forever, and I hope the match lasts an entire episode because it takes them a full hour to make five shots.

1. Voiello the GOAT

If you’re gonna blackmail the Pope’s trusted confidant into playing double agent for you, you really should try to do it with a stuffed deer in your lap. That’s the most important takeaway from this episode, I think.

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