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'Hotel Portofino' Recap: Season 2 Episode 2

Daniel Hautzinger
Two women in flapper dress and glasses look up while one holds a Pomeranian dog
Every guest could be a travel inspector, so even terrors like the Dodsworth sisters merit stellar treatment. Credit: Eagle Eye Drama

Hotel Portofino airs Sundays at 7:00 pm. WTTW Passport members can stream the whole show now. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Surprised by her estranged husband Cecil’s appearance at the train station, Bella left him to find his way to her hotel on his own. She avoids him for a whole day, locking her door to him when he comes to her room and entreats her to speak with him. 

She’s not the only one offering Cecil a frosty welcome: the porter Billy is also cool to him, as is Cecil’s own son. Lucian is especially sharp when Cecil asks him about the troubled marriage Cecil pushed him into. Only Count Albani displays some warmth towards Cecil.

Claudine Pascal’s arrival is much more welcome. She comes by boat to sneak in the back way, lest gossip photographers are waiting at the gate. She’s having a fling with the engaged co-star of her latest film, and the newspapers are all over her, so she’s hiding out at the hotel. 

Other guests are less fun, but they’re all treated exceptionally, lest they be inspectors for a travel guide. Constance suspects the Dodsworth sisters are the inspectors, testing the staff with their Pomeranian, vegetarianism, and prickly disapproval. Lucian warns one guest, a snooty young writer, that the staff might suspect him, but the snob rebuffs Lucian’s attempt at friendship. 

In the nine months that Cecil has been away, Bella has begun an expansion of the hotel under the architect Marco. Marco has also served as Bella’s sounding board for hotel ideas in Lucian’s absence, and his closeness to Bella leads Cecil to disparage him when they meet. 

Cecil has returned to Italy because his enemy-turned-conspirator Danioni called him there on behalf of their American business partners. Danioni doesn’t know why, he tells Cecil when the Englishman brings him a bottle of Scotch and his share of profits from their business illicitly shipping Scotch to Prohibition America via Bermuda and Canada.   

Cecil also asks Danioni about Marco and learns that the architect’s father was a socialist teacher. Marco’s wife died in childbirth eleven years ago; he has no kids. He sold his practice in Milan and moved home when his mother was dying, but – as he tells Bella – he hasn’t been able to get much work because Danioni disapproves of him – not that Danioni says anything of the sort to Cecil. Bella’s construction work is thus important to Marco, but she is running out of money and might have to forestall any more renovation. 

Lucian coolly approves Marco’s plans for the renovation, but he is distracted. He has asked his friend Anish to stay at the hotel for a bit and allay his loneliness, but Anish has telegrammed to say he can’t come. He is in Turin with his boyfriend Gianluca, who’s planning an attack on a high-ranking Fascist. Anish is wary of violence, however, and worries about the collateral damage of the Fascist’s driver. Gianluca suggests that Anish is too sweet-hearted and should go to Portofino after all, until the attack is over. 

Lucian has at least renewed his acquaintance with Constance, having been sent by Bella to Genoa with her to run errands. The former lovers have a delightful time together, and return late after missing their train back. 

Cecil forces Bella to renew their acquaintance by waiting for her in her room. She has just received a letter from her pen pal lover Henry, who says he is traveling to Genoa as a tutor to a family and would like to see her. Cecil tells Bella he despises himself for his treatment of her; he hasn’t given her the marriage she deserves, and he is a lesser man without her. Bella asks how she can trust him; he responds with the same question. But he promises he will do better. 

Betty tells Constance she could do worse than Bruno, one of Marco’s dishy construction workers. Constance thinks Betty might have an eye for the older construction worker, but Betty denies it – she’s constantly infuriated by their noise and dust. Bruno seems more interested in the maid Paola, anyway, although she starts to cry after spending an afternoon with him. 

Betty is trying to get Constance to marry an Italian and settle there, so that she can bring the son she had out of wedlock over from England and raise him without disapproval. She can simply pretend her child’s father died in the war. Betty is concerned for the child’s future because Constance’s mother, who is raising him, has written that she is in ill health. Her death will force Constance to either return to England and raise her son as a single mother or put him up for adoption.

There is a man who is interested in Constance, but he’s married. Lucian tells her the afternoon they spent together in Genoa brought up suppressed feelings, before kissing her. No matter that he’s married; he must follow his heart. Constance pulls away from him and leaves.

Cecil tries to ingratiate himself with Bella by offering to finish funding her renovations. She needs to be ambitious in order to pay back the money her father loaned her to start the hotel. She tells Cecil that he can’t buy his way back to her.

But she’s secretly intrigued by the idea, and pitches it to Marco. He’s skeptical, and doesn’t want Cecil to become his boss or Bella to be indebted to him, but Bella dismisses his concerns. Cecil owes her and isn’t interested enough in the plans to interfere with them. 

Claudine asks Bella to unload about her marriage, easing the sharing with some Negronis. Bella doesn’t want to take Cecil back, but fears the disapproval a divorce would bring to a woman running her own business. Plus, she and Cecil bonded over the loss of one of their children, and there used to be passion. Her pen pal lover Henry was just a port in a storm; she hasn’t written to him in months. She just needs to decide whether taking Cecil’s money is worth whatever he will expect from her in return.

Plenty sloshed, Claudine and Bella raid the kitchen and find the Dodsworth sisters’ Pomeranian there. Bella decides to set him free outside the hotel, laughing. 

Anish wants Italians to live free of Fascism. When he sees soldiers beat a beggar, he tries to intervene and receives a punch in return. He walks away disgustedly and goes to Gianluca to tell him he will help in his assassination plan. When the fateful night comes, he signals his comrades to ride past the Fascist leader’s car and drop a grenade – but then a woman begins walking towards the car with a baby. 

Anish steps out of the shadows and tries to stop his comrades. Gianluca appears and begins shooting to distract the Fascists. The comrades drop the grenade near the car, and Gianluca screams at Anish to run. He starts to just as the grenade blows up near his feet.