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'Hotel Portofino' Recap: Episode 5

Daniel Hautzinger
Julia Drummond-Ward, Melissa de Vere, and Lady Latchmere in Hotel Portofino. Photo: Eagle Eye Limited
The women at Hotel Portofino begin to assert themselves in the face of male cruelty and anger. Photo: Eagle Eye Limited

Hotel Portofino airs Sundays at 7:00 pm. WTTW Passport members can stream the whole show now. Recap the previous and following episodes.

Pelham Wingfield is hoping to avoid seeing anyone as he sneaks off for a tennis match in another city, but Bella is already awake and asks him to post a letter of hers when he gets there. Upstairs, Cyril is reading Bella’s letter to a lover, given him by Danioni.

The Italian is causing other problems for Bella: he appears with a health inspector, who declares the kitchen is unhygienic. The hotel will be shut down in two weeks—unless Bella restarts paying Danioni protection money, he implies.

Jack soon wakes the entire hotel with shouting: the Rubens painting has disappeared from its frame in his room. Danioni takes charge and insists that no one return to their rooms until the police arrive, even though most guests aren’t yet dressed.

Bella will send Billy for the police, but Danioni recognizes him as the boy who stole a bike—although Billy insists he meant to return it—and so Billy tries to run away. Jack grabs him, and Cecil insists that Billy be locked in the outhouse as the likeliest thief of the painting. Cecil’s butler is sent to get the police instead.

Billy pretends he’s having a medical attack, so Bella sends for Anish. Billy tells him that the anti-fascist pamphlets are hidden under Lady Latchmere’s bed, and the spare keys to all the rooms are in Billy’s room. The police will find it all.

Jack suspects Pelham in addition to Billy, given that the tennis star has left the hotel, although he’s meant to return—his wife Lizzie is still there. Jack is upset to learn that Claudine met Lizzie before going to bed, since she was supposed to be guarding the painting. He threatens her and tells her to take his side.

But when Cecil implies that Jack is lying about not letting the painting out of his or Claudine’s sight, he gets Claudine to admit to leaving the room to meet Lizzie. That means there was a period where the painting was alone, and also where Lizzie can’t provide an alibi for Pelham.

Lizzie is happy with how her evening went, despite the drama: with Claudine’s help, she finally got Pelham to take an interest in her in bed.

Before the police arrive, the butler sent to fetch them confirms with Danioni that the police should look under Lady Latchmere’s bed—he overheard Billy tell Constance about the pamphlets.

The police keep anyone from leaving and search everyone’s rooms. Lucian notices that Anish seems stressed and learns about the pamphlets. They both tell Bella and Alice, and they all run through options. Danioni wants the hotel shut down, so they can’t tell the truth. They can’t rely on the painting being found, because Lucian suspects Pelham left with it. Anish wants to martyr himself but Lucian won’t let him, and Alice wants Billy to take the blame.

Bella starts with warning Lady Latchmere, who has a solution: she’ll say the pamphlets are hers. She doesn’t like bullies like Mussolini, since her husband is a bully—he coerced her late son to enlist in the war. Bella admits Cecil did the same to Lucian. Later, observing the lack of love between Lucian and Rose, she tells Lucian not to feel forced into any marriage.

But the police don’t find anything other than the keys in Billy’s room. Billy swears to his mother he didn’t take the painting. She believes him, but he’ll still be taken in for questioning. The Ainsworths summon a lawyer for the boy, and the lawyer arrives with his son as a translator.

The son is Anish’s anti-fascist lover, Gianluca. Anish and Lucian offer to go into town with Billy, as does Albani. The count has learned of Danioni’s attempt to shut down the hotel via spurious health violation from Bella and offered to speak to Danioni, understanding that there is some other deeper issue between Bella and Danioni.

He chats with Danioni about the English, and asks him about the inspection and why Danioni is trying to have the hotel closed—especially since Albani has recommended the hotel to an important Italian politician. Danioni rips up the health inspection notice.

Gianluca apologizes to Lucian and Anish, and then sends Lucian to tell Billy that the pamphlets have disappeared: Lucian and Anish don’t know where they are. Gianluca says goodbye to Anish, as he’s off to fight the fascists in a bigger city. He warns Anish that the fascists will never allow him to live safely.

Albani also warns Bella of Danioni and his party: she is free from Danioni’s interference for now, but until she addresses whatever hold he has on her, he will keep coming back.

Albani is a good man, but his interest in the Ainsworths’ affairs is heightened by his love of Alice, who believes it is his son Roberto who has tried to court her. She offers to teach English to Roberto when she hears him compliment a “beautiful lady,” but as soon as Albani accepts for his son, she realizes that Roberto was talking about Constance, not her.

Constance is also clever: she is the one who moved the pamphlets, secreting them out of the hotel in a laundry basket. She returns them to Anish and Lucian. Perhaps Lucian will soon allow their relationship to blossom: his lover Paola has refused him and told him not to return, not without difficulty on her part.

Another relationship ends when Cecil accuses Jack of stealing the painting in order to defraud Cecil of his money in selling the painting jointly. Both men yell at each other that they will involve their lawyers, and Claudine refuses to go with Jack when he says he’s leaving. Go back to your wife, she says, receiving a stream of invective in return. The rest of the hotel guests, especially the women, defend Claudine and denounce Jack, who is kicked out.

It’s not the only accusation of self-dealing regarding the painting. Danioni implies that Cecil is behind the theft, and Cecil becomes enraged. He accuses Danioni of being in on some scheme involving the painting with the police. Bella overhears.

That night, she goes to tell Cecil of her affair and finds him reading her letter from Danioni—he already knows. He slaps her to the ground.