February 5, 2023
Vienna Blood airs Sundays at 9:00 pm and is available to stream. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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A man prowls the wealthy crowd outside a silent film premiere, but chooses the wrong target. Oskar grabs the man as he attempts to pick his pocket and lets him go with just a stern warning, at the advice of his date, Therese. Max has invited them to the premiere—he knows Ida Rego, the film’s young, glamorous star. Clara is there too, trying to get a quote from Rego for a newspaper story.
The film is Dido, Queen of Carthage, and, like the heroine she plays in it, Rego meets a tragic end, gasping and choking before dying during the film. The coroner determines that she was poisoned by arsenic; it could have been administered an hour or two earlier. She also has a days-old bruise on her cheek, covered up by makeup.
Max knew Rego because she was treated at his hospital two months earlier. Neumann, the new head of neurology, presented her case to all his colleagues. While filming “Dido” at Vienna’s Koller Studio—she was originally from Budapest—Rego had a sudden onset of blindness. But she was physically fine; the cause was psychological.
Neumann invited Max to examine Rego in front of everyone. She told him she felt safe with him. He suggested she saw something she didn’t want to see, and it caused the blindness. He recommended a talking cure, to understand the underlying trauma and treat the symptom. But Neumann decided to use a placebo instead—it would be faster.
Indeed it was: Rego quickly regained the ability to see. But Neumann was not happy that Max questioned his methods in front of their colleagues.
Max had no other contact with Rego; she had a follow-up appointment with Neumann, then invited them both to the premiere. Neumann couldn’t come, so Max gave Oskar his tickets.
Oskar and Max search Rego’s apartment, which reveals that she dined—and perhaps slept—with someone else, who left a pin with an unfamiliar crest. Rego’s maid procured all the food, but the wine was a gift. Only one glass looks like it was used for wine. Testing reveals that the wine was poisoned—the arsenic could have been injected through the cork. Did Rego’s dining companion poison her? The maid was dismissed for the night, so she doesn’t know who it was.
Max’s parents have left for London, so his sister Leah is staying with him in order not to be alone. He comes home to find her laughing with Clara, who is waiting to try to get information about Rego from Max for the newspaper. He’s wearing the cufflinks she gave him. He shares a scoop in exchange for her sharing of a rumor that Rego had a lover with lots of influence.
Fraulein Lindner examines newspaper stories on Rego and comes up with numerous possible lovers—she was constantly photographed with men. But Max thinks the man who dined with her before she died was discreet and wanted to be under the radar, so the best candidate is an American senator from Pennsylvania, Paul J. Adler, who seems to have tried to avoid the press.
Adler is from a family that made their money from iron and steel, and visits Vienna frequently, called by “ancestral voices,” he tells Oskar and Max: he and many of his constituents have Austrian heritage. He says he barely knew Rego, and won’t answer any questions. He is a founder of the American Temperance Union, however, which means he wouldn’t have drunk wine, poisoned or not, with Rego at dinner—making him extra suspicious to Oskar and Max.
Rego inspired lots of admirers—and haters. At the film studio, Oskar learns that her bag was recently stolen, and finds stacks of threatening letters in her room. One is a picture of her with the eyes cut out; another says, “You will die screaming in agony the moment you appear on that screen”—a prophecy that came true.
Rosa Koller, the studio head, says there are always crazies around stars. But a lighting mirror did fall and nearly hit Rego during filming. Not knowing about the letters, Koller assumed it was an accident.
Perhaps the threats came from an admirer obsessed with another actress. Rego replaced Arianne Amsel as Dido in the film, and one of Amsel’s devotees may have taken it personally, given that the letters started arriving around the time she was replaced. The studio says Amsel left because of personal problems, but Amsel tells Oskar and Max that she was pulled from the project without any explanation. She clearly disliked Rego, and suggests that they find out who was financing the younger actress—she was probably sleeping with whoever it was.
Oskar assigns Hausmann to surveil Amsel, lest her fanatical admirer surface.
Oskar wants his best officer on that case, and for good reason. Other officers are not so trustworthy: Hofer goes through the papers on Oskar’s desk after he leaves for the night.
The pickpocket who earlier tried to rob Oskar finds him again in the street and offers him information on a crime, in exchange for money. Oskar refuses, and a woman with the pickpocket berates the pickpocket for failing to get help from Oskar.
Max has better colleagues, it seems. Neumann tells him that he was right about Rego; they should have addressed the deeper trauma. Max accidentally offends Neumann by implying that Neumann simply wanted quick results, then rectifies the slight by inviting him to dinner. Leah, to her surprise, has a great time with Neumann and the rest of the company; Neumann also finds Leah a delight.
At the theater where Arianne Amsel is rehearsing a play, she stays behind after others leave to run something alone. In the darkness of the seats, someone applauds.