The ‘Young Pope’ Popedown, Episode 7: The Pope Smells His Mom

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. This week in Vatican politics

Lotta stuff going on behind the scenes in this episode. Lotta scheming. Some fake parents, too. But we’ll get to that.

The biggest development, politically, is that Lenny’s plans to make the church mysterious and restrictive has worked too well, and now the membership is dwindling and the cardinals are pissed about it. Lenny isn’t too happy either, and he’s moping around the gardens and discussing what a failure he is. It’s all kind of a bummer, to be honest, and something that developed really quickly, seeing as he was just smacking down the Prime Minister in a power play last week. The gist of it all is that the cardinals are trying to figure out how to oust him and install Spencer, who gets a handful of really great “devious puppet master” shots this week. Also, Voiello owns a soccer jersey with his own name on the back. This has nothing to do with anything, but I wanted to make sure we all saw it. Classic Voiello.

The other big political development this week was Tommoso getting fed up and a) telling Sister Mary that the Pope doesn’t believe in God, and b) telling Lenny to go screw when it comes to delivering secret intel from the confessional. Look at you, Tommoso! I love it. I hope he goes full supervillain now and tries to bring Lenny down from a lair under the Vatican.

4. Don’t sleep with a Honduran drug lord’s wife, even if you are the Pope’s friend
Not a great episode for Andrew. You could even call it “bad.” Let’s run down the highlights:

  • He was drunk and distraught about the suicide of the hopeful priest that ended the previous episode
  • He got propositioned by a wealthy woman in a bathroom and started cackling like a lunatic
  • He jumped in the pool with his clothes on
  • He got sexually assaulted in the back of a luxury sedan and dumped onto the streets of Rome in his underwear
  • He decided to flee Rome and return to Honduras
  • Immediately after getting there, he was picked up by a drug lord and driven out into the barren hills because — surprise! — the woman he had the threesome with the other week was the drug lord’s wife
  • He was murdered, apparently, and left on the side of the road

Like I said, not a great week. And if he’s really dead, it’ll be a shame, because it was all a very rushed, sloppy way to go. Especially the ending. Dude went from “I should go back to Honduras” to dead in field in a matter of minutes. Feels like that could have been stretched into another episode or two. And the drug lord never ever told him they weren’t that different. Like he gave him a whole speech before killing him and never said. What the heck? I thought I knew you, The Young Pope.

3. This was a great episode for high-ranking Vatican officials wearing sunglasses

2. “My… endless love”

The best thing happening on this show by a long shot is that Voiello and Sister Mary are now carrying on what appears to be a secret, sexless love affair that occasionally involves a rendezvous in a Roman bamboo jungle to plot against the Pope. This made me so happy. Look at them. Like two teenagers who are trying to bring down the most important figure in the Catholic Church. Kids these days.

And it gets better. Their plan, the one to save the church, has two steps. STEP ONE: Distract the Pope by hiring people and having them pretend to be the parents who orphaned him all those years ago. STEP TWO: While he is distracted, slide a resignation letter into his paperwork and trick him into signing it. That’s their plan! Perhaps you’ve seen it before on every teen show from the 1990s, when a character needs to get their parent to sign a permission slip or failed test, except replace the fake parents with some other ruse. Voiello is basically Zack Morris.


They forgot to consider one thing. The Pope can smell his real mom.

This is all incredibly strange, even for a show that has a kangaroo bouncing around the Papal gardens. He figured out it wasn’t his mother by smelling her, like he’s a dog or something. Like she couldn’t have just changed perfumes. It makes no sense and I adore it. The best part is the lady’s face. Picture her telling this story over wine a few years later.

“So I was hired to trick the Pope into thinking I was his long lost mom, and they brought me into the Vatican, and the Pope smelled me for, like, a long time and then kicked me out.”

And what if the plan worked? Then these two are stuck pretending to be the Pope’s parents for the rest of their lives? No one thought this through. I’m ecstatic they didn’t.

1. Happens