With The Collection's collection come and gone, it's time for the series to ratchet up the drama in order to keep us watching.
Touvier: Impressive set of wheels. New purchase?
Paul: Yes, indeed.
Trouvier: Lovely. I thought you would have held off until the next collection.
So, here you are. You're a TV show, where your major plot point, in fact, *the* plot point, has come and gone. The triumphant glow is over. And yet... you have three more episodes to go. What can you possibly do? In the case of The Collection, you have everyone (and I mean everyone) take a weekend in the country, Downton Abbey-style. Because there is nothing more dramatic than rounding up every last character and cooping them up in a mansion for the weekend where they can't get out of each other's faces.
Let's review: Trouvier, our cotton king, is the one throwing this weekend, at the house so he can invite Contessas and Ladies and Duchesses and the like to rub elbows with Paul Sabine and bring in even more clients. Paul is bringing along Helen, of course, and also wants Nina to come too, both of whom will wear nothing but the New Look for the weekend. That means Billy is also tagging along, to take photos of Nina in the countryside.
Prior to leaving, Trouvier's airheaded daughter Cecile insists on also getting a set of New Look dresses to wear for the weekend, so she's running around their offices after hours looking at clothes. During her time there she spots (and instantly is taken by) Claude, and insists he must join in the fun too. He might have turned it down, but the chance to piss off Paul is too delicious. With Claude's hotheaded self now going, Paul informs Yvette she'll attend too, to play babysitter. And if that's not enough, Cecile also - and for reasons no one can explain - randomly invites Paul's second in command (and secret mistress) Charlotte.
If this weren't enough! Upon arrival, Mr. Rossi, the terrible American reporter who is determined to dig up Paul's German traitor secrets, has gotten himself an invite as well. Moreover, when things start to go south (as they quickly do!), Claude decides to call Caesar, his new boyfriend, to come rescue him. Meanwhile, back at home Paul sets Victor to absolve himself by figuring out what Dominique is up to since her compact was found in his office.
Claude: You must be mistaking me for someone who likes people like you.
Trouble already started before the weekend began, when Helen, who is no fool, despite the way her husband treats her, puts 2+2 together that Charlotte is his newest conquest. It's about time Helen was given something to do around here (she's played by Meryl Streep's daughter for heaven's sake.) Over the course of the weekend, we learn that she actually divorced her first husband to be with Paul, and though she's pretty sure he only married her for the money, she's damned if she'll be treated like furniture. She's the one trying to help Billy find the negatives and everything.
Paul sits down and agrees there will be no more lies between them. In doing so, he decides to use this moment to warn Helen about Rossi, who's been buttering her up like a piece of fresh toast the entire time. Helen is horrified that Rossi is trying to dig into Paul past but... well as far as she sees it there's nothing for Rossi to find, right? Right, says Paul. No more lies, indeed.
Helen's first (and really only) demand is that Charlotte is sent home immediately, and fired before Monday morning. Paul of course agrees. The sad truth is, Charlotte really thought Paul would leave Helen for her, and practically throws herself at him. More's the pity, didn't she understand he has to live the conservative upright life, because if he doesn't, who will? Certainly not Claude...
Helen's not the only one in on it. Yvette also wants her gone. (We learn later that she conned Cecile into inviting Charlotte so this plan could be carried out.) Why? Something about Charlotte being a comfort woman to German soldiers during the occupation, I believe, though it's never really spelled out. By nightfall, Charlotte is on the train home.
Claude: I can't be two people!
Caesar: Oh, relax your crack! It's called being an adult. Everyone is two people. Hell, I've been six in one weekend. Stop fighting it, man and enjoy it! Marry the girl if you have to. I am.
While Helen and Yvette are working to remove Charlotte, Claude is quickly moving to remove himself. He has zero interest in Trouvier's daughter and is trying to silently scream at Nina from across the room to rescue him. It doesn't work. Nina's not Claude's beard anymore, now that she knows the truth about him, and frankly, she's appalled at what she sees as him stringing the next one along.
The slowly dawning clue above Claude's head only sets him to try and run away. (Because that's what he does when there are problems.) But if he thinks Caesar is going to whisk him away, he's about as blind to his new lover as he was to Nina's emotions. Caesar grew up going to house parties, he wants to steal Trouvier's best cars and joyride. And he thinks Claude should actually be doing what Nina accuses him of, string women along while you get it on with men in the shadows.
Claude is horrified by this, completely and utterly. The break up that follows is probably one of the most shocking on PBS in a while, though also entertaining as hell. (That wasn't the sort of thing that happened on Downton Abbey anyway!) Suffice to say that no one will be getting what they want out of Caesar after this, not Claude's ride home, and not Paul's hope to have the father's perfume company find Charlotte a position.
That puts Claude and Charlotte on the last train to Paris together, and both ready to lash out. And with no one home at the office when they return, a little breaking and entering never hurt nobody...
Rossi: You're a genuine fake
Paul: Aren't we all?
As for Mr. Rossi, everyone seems to be fine with threatening him to go away, but no one seems very inclined to make it happen. Paul's in his face, Billy's in his face... But in the end, it's Nina who has him removed, by telling Trouvier Rossi is insinuating she's sleeping with Paul when it's just not true. Nina? Really? Why? Because she and her mother are terrified when they learn there's a reporter poking about into Paul's war dealings. Because it turns out, those war dealings included keeping both Mama and Nina from going to a concentration camp. (It wasn't until this moment I realized her mother was cast to look Jewish.)
So much for juicy German sympathizing. Paul Sabine is basically trying to hide he's a Schindler style hero. Awkward. Of course, this confession only brings Billy to her tighter. And if Helen finds out, she'll spin this so fast Rossi won't know what hit him. At least, by the end of the episode, we learn her hunt for the missing film is over. It was Dominique who stole them, trying to get one over on Paul and company for passing her over for Nina. Perhaps it would have worked too if she hadn't thrown them in Victor's face, and then proceeded to get killed by an oncoming car.
Next week, Paul and company will return home to discover Charlotte's sabotage, Claude on her side, demanding his due and yet another dead body. At least this time, no one named Sabine was (literally or figuratively) driving the car. Maybe with Dominique dead, Victor might finally notice Juliette's interest in him too.