'The Collection' Episode 4 Recap: After The Glow Is Over

Credit: Courtesy of Lookout Point and MASTERPIECE
Credit: Courtesy of Lookout Point and MASTERPIECE

The Collection's success has many authors, but Paul is determined to keep only himself as the star of the House of Sabine.

Claude: I just want a seat at the table
Paul: You never wanted that
Claude: I do now.
Paul: Be careful what you wish for.

Last week, The Collection's debut of the New Look collection was the hit Paul was praying for. The orders are rolling in. An invisible Rita Hayworth supposedly handed off her phone number on the first piece of paper that came to hand: Toilet. (Not to worry, she's made a real appointment. The always reliable Charlotte has seen to that.) Meanwhile, New York is on the line, with Harper's Bazaar trying to horn in on the action, much to publisher's Malet's displeasure and chagrin. She would like to keep this success in Paris, where it belongs. 

But success breeds resentment and Claude is suddenly seeing all the accolades he could ever need to feed his insecurities, his self-loathing and his self-doubts flowing in.... to Paul. Paul sees this as just as much protecting his brother from attention, which could easily breed scandal. But Claude is chafing hard against his cage. He wants, as he insists, a "seat at the table." It's "The House of Sabine." Why can't it be the "Brothers Sabine." Why does it have to be Paul?

Credit: Courtesy of Lookout Point and MASTERPIECE
Credit: Courtesy of Lookout Point and MASTERPIECE

Because Paul says the right things, smiles at the right time and flatters the right people. Claude has not only been protected from scandal, he's protected from having to learn to do that. Giving him a seat at the table doesn't bring him the accolades he thinks it will. It brings him disapproving glares when he tries to say things about the class system. It brings him confused glances when he gets upset at Malet's casual dismissal of Nina as a "working girl." It brings Paul trying to smooth everything over and just making him feel dismissed. 

Even Paul's new lover, who it turns out is the scion of that perfume company Helen brought in a couple of episodes back, is mystified by Claude's need to get noticed. (And PBS is mystified by the need for all the nudity around his apartment, censoring left and right.) Men of their position need to stay out of the limelight to have the freedom to be themselves. But Claude's mind is made up. 

Eliette Malet: Don't say yes until I've seen the ring. Anything less then ten karats is an insult.

Speaking of Nina and her "working girl" status, one of the most uncomfortable moments comes when Paul is credited for "finding" her when it's Claude who is inspired by her. But that's where things also go a little sideways. All this time, most have assumed her baby's father is Paul, despite her insistence otherwise. Paul is the type she wouldn't want to bother with her baby. It must be Paul, and she's lying, right? Nope. Turns out, the baby's father is... Claude. Claude?! Yes, Nina apparently fancies herself in love with him and everything.

It is a startling revelation, one her mother takes badly. She assumed her daughter was safe because he was "not into women in that way." To discover her daughter is passionately in love with him is too absurd, leading to one of the greatest lines: "What were you thinking? You can't possibly hate yourself that much?!" Well actually... she does. Enough to make a run at having Claude take her in, only to see the truth of the situation. It's genuinely awful. But not as awful as watching her desperately run into brick walls in search of her son. There's a sympathetic nun in her corner, but all that does is tell her everyone else is lying about her child's whereabouts. In terms of real info, said nun is apparently the world's worst spy and gets caught. Yet another dead end for Nina.

Credit: Courtesy of Lookout Point and MASTERPIECE

Nina's best hope for a guy who would actually want her in his bed is the American photographer Billy, who sadly has been busted down to "photography assistant" after Dominique used his light to burn the wedding gown. His assumption he was getting fired leads to an interesting development though. Louis Hayes (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) walks into his life. Hayes introduces himself as being from the Saturday Evening Post, but the job he's offering is at a newspaper startup. (The news industry is always dying and being reborn, no matter what the era.)

Hayes wants Billy to hook him up with a model, starting with Dominique, who has gone quite ugly-sour on Billy. He'll be no help there. Moreover, this startup is a communist-sympathetic paper, so J. Edgar Hoover is having Hayes followed. (As one does.) This leads to Billy's camera, and every roll of film he shot from the show (which he hasn't developed yet) being stolen. The camera eventually comes home, but the film's been confiscated. Billy, being dumb and drunk, thinks this is yet another plot by Paul to make him look bad. (After Paul stole the first photo and was seen sleeping with Charlotte, Billy finally is figuring out his boss is no saint.) But no, this time, it's that old red herring we know and love: communism.

Yvette: What future? How can they crown you if you don't have a head?
Paul: My head's not the one that's going to be on the block.

As for Paul being no saint, that matter of the dead body that hung over last week's proceedings finally comes to a head. (Or, perhaps, an arm.) The morning after the show, he spends interviewing with the Inspector, who is starting to ask questions no one wants to be answered. (Including rooting out that Paul is sleeping with Charlotte by mistake.) Paul smoothly insists that he bought the place but never goes there, anyone having a row there were not his people. He even gets his useless manservant to "come forward" and state that when he was readying the place for Yvette and Claude's visit, it looked like there had been people there. (That was the "I have some information" cliffhanger from last week, it turns out. Qu'elle Dommage.)

But the Inspector will not be deterred. As Yvette notes, he's smarter than he looks. He wants to question Yvette and Claude -- the latter of which Yvette wants to prevent at all costs because lord only knows what dumb thing her younger son will say. Instead, she throws herself at the inspector's feet as a sacrifice, in a scene that is one of the highlights of the entire series so far. She goes full "mad old eccentric french lady" insisting that "The walls have eyes!" "The spirit of that place was evil!" And the coup de grace "The cards never lie... the Tower card was Facing Up!" followed by pulling Tarot cards out of her purse and insisting on consulting them to help solve the case.

Yvette's strategy to be a complete nutter, combined with Paul's deviousness is a one-two punch the Inspector can't get around. Paul heads down to the cottage desperate for any ideas. Inspired by the little girl who called the dead body "her German prisoner" plants evidence that indeed the child was right. He takes a fountain pen of his own (German made, from his own collaboration during the war) and plants it as evidence the man was a deserter, hiding in their cottage all during the fighting.

"You were right Mama, the walls did have eyes," he says magnanimously as the Inspector declares the case is reclosed. We can all breath easier, at least for the moment, until next week's drama arrives, as the dresses start shipping out.