|The Fourth Step|
|Season 1, Episode 4|
Last time on Marco Polo, Marco (Lorenzo Richelmy) was bitten by a snake. Is he dead? No, he’s shirtless again and on top of Kokachin (Zhu Zhu). It’s very dreamy and romantic, which means that he is probably hallucinating. And indeed, he is bedridden and Hundred Eyes (Tom Wu) is helping him heal from his snake bite. Prince Jingim (Remy Hii) checks in on Marco and once more threatens him. Prince Jingim has two hobbies: wearing gold and threatening Marco Polo’s life.
Elsewhere in the palace, Mei Lin (Olivia Cheng) is giving Kublai Khan (Benedict Wong) a head massage. That’s not a euphemism. She is gently rubbing the great Khan’s temples while he has an important war meeting with Prince Jingim and Ahmad (Mahesh Jadu). It seems that someone in the walled city has called for a parlay. It also appears that Jia Sidao’s plan worked. Mei Lin is in. Later we find out that she has a man with a horse in the Mongol city. He is there to pass messages along between Mei Lin and Jia Sidao (Chin Han). Speaking of Mei Lin’s scheming brother… He is back in the walled city, flirting with his sister’s friend, and watching Ling Ling play. The Dowager Empress asks Jia Sidao, “Where the hell is Mei Lin?” Well, she doesn’t say that, but she implies that she knows that Mei Lin is probably in trouble. Our adorable idiot hero, Marco, bursts into Kokachin’s home and tells her servant dude that she is in danger. He responds by peeing in front of Marco (and revealing that he is castrated). Marco is understandably put off by this. Prince Jingim gets yet another pep talk and then we go into Kublai Khan’s war council. Everyone is arguing over whether or not they should take the parlay. After deliberation, Kublai Khan declares that Ahmad will lead the parlay, but then a minister suggests that Prince Jingim should oversee it. Jingim is psyched to be in charge for once, but then Kublai Khan reminds him how much he messed up the last time he was in charge. Kublai Khan is not a very supportive dad, you guys. Speaking of shitty fathers, Niccolo Polo, aka Marco’s deadbeat dad, returns to the Khan’s court and he brought a present! An ostrich! For Kublai Khan! Oh, not for Marco. In fact, he doesn’t even ask about Marco. Kublai Khan calls him out on this bullshit in front of the court. Once they are alone, Daddy Polo makes a snide remark about how Marco is dressing like the cool, rich, and powerful people he has been hanging out with. Daddy Polo also says that Marco is going have to trust him and just stay put in the Khan’s palace for a little while longer. Marco isn’t feeling it, so he peaces out. As soon as he’s gone, his dad and uncle start sneaking shit into Marco’s floorboards. I really dislike the Polos. Consumed by lust for the Blue Princess, and almost completely ignorant to the ways of Asian culture, Marco goes back to the seedy bar and uses his Kung Fu to shake down the seedy guy who’s buying Kokachin’s trinkets. He actually gets some intel. I guess he’s learning. But then, while he’s interrogating Kokachin’s trading partner, he gets arrested.
It turns out that Daddy and Uncle Polo were smuggling silkworms. That might sound like nothing, but the silkworm is native only to Eastern Asia and the key to Eastern wealth. Marco finally realizes that his dad isn’t a great and noble adventurer; he’s a lousy piece of crap. The parlay between Prince Jingim and the emissaries from the Walled City goes pretty well. For once, Prince Jingim’s “Chinese-ness” pays off. However, Jia Sidao gets Mei Lin’s message about the parlay before the truce is settled. It turns out the Dowager Empress set up the parlay, and Jia Sidao is not happy about this. After tearing into the Polos in court, and speaking to Marco alone about the content of his father’s character, Kublai Khan decides that Marco had nothing to do with the silkworm theft, but Marco is not getting off that easily… Meanwhile, it turns out that Kokachin is in love with the bald guy she’s trading trinkets with. So, bummer for you, Marco Polo. Your girl’s got a guy. They talk about patience and war and how her heart only belongs to him, but it’s hinted that she might be falling for Marco after all. Empress Chabi (Joan Chen) lets Kublai Khan know, in her own way, that she is jealous of Mei Lin. She offers to find Kublai Khan a different concubine, but he likes Mei Lin. However, he also likes Chabi more. He calls her his “devotion.” It’s kind of sweet in a polygamous sort of way. And then the worst thing ever happens… Jia Sidao is pissed off that Mei Lin didn’t tell him about the parlay until it was too late. So, he takes it out on Mei Lin’s daughter, Ling Ling. He starts off by gentling telling her about how women used to bind their feet so they would be more beautiful. He intricately and delicately walks her through this. And then, he brutally breaks her feet and binds them. Mei Lin’s friend is horrified to watch this, but what’s interesting is that she isn’t horrified by the concept of foot binding, but by the fact that Ling Ling was too old for it.
While this happens, Ahmad and Jingim bro out over how great their parlay went. Little do they know that Jia Sidao has arranged for the Chinese emissaries to be murdered on their way home – in the hopes of undoing the temporary peace and sparking war. Oh, and Chabi decides to give Mei Lin some sapphic private tutoring. I would say that they are developing a lesbian affair, but it’s clear that this is more of “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” kind of thing. The episode ends with Marco and Kublai Khan playing chess. The Khan explains that Marco has to decide his father’s fate. It’s a test, obviously. Will Marco spare his father or abide by the Mongolian code of justice? We’ll have to wait until the next episode to find out… [