'Genius: Chapter 6' episode recap – Einstein can't have everything
Did you miss the sixth episode of the NatGeo series about Albert Einstein? Catch up here with this 'Genius' instant recap.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
'Genius: Chapter Six' / National Geographic Channel
Original airdate: 5.30.17 / Written by Brian Peterson / Directed by James Hawes
Episode grade: 3 out of 5 stars
We just finished watching the sixth episode of the NatGeo "Genius" series produced by Academy Award winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer about the life of Albert Einstein. (If you're just catching up now, read our recap of the first episode, the second episode, the third episode, the fourth episode and the fifth episode for all the details.)
This episode begins in 1913 when Einstein and astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich hatch a plan to photograph a solar eclipse in Crimea. Einstein has long thought that gravity can bend starlight, and an eclipse would help prove his theory correct.
"My father once told me: Physics is not a vocation, and he was right," Einstein recalls. "For me, it's everything. General relativity, well, it's the most beautiful idea I ever had ... I want the world to finally see what I see, and marvel at the magnificence that God has created."
As we discovered at the end of last week's episode, Einstein has been offered his dream job – working for the prestigious Prussian Academy in Berlin – and decides to move his family there. As we also learned last week, Einstein is hoping the move allows him to spend more time with his mistress, Elsa. "With you, it's all sunshine," Einstein tells Elsa one day. "At home, it's just a cloud of anger."
Einstein's wife Mileva has been on a downward spiral the past few episodes, and the news that they're once again moving – this time to Berlin, a place she doesn't care for – pushes her over the edge. "How is it that you can grasp the most intricate concepts in science yet you pretend not to understand me?" she asks her husband. Einstein's carelessness in his personal life stands in stark contradiction to the intensity with which he attacks his scientific work, and that dichotomy is a recurring theme in the series.
Meanwhile, Einstein's plan to photograph the solar eclipse in Crimea is taking shape. He meets with the board of the Prussian Academy to explain the operation as if it's a heist. Pointing to Russia on a map, he declares, "There he will have approximately two minutes to complete his observations during the eclipse."
The Academy agrees to only fund a third of the expedition, leaving Einstein unsure if he should just scrap the entire mission. But Elsa, who would become famous for helping Einstein weave his way through high society, suggests that he asks a wealthy industrialist to fund the trip. She arranges a meeting, and the philanthropist agrees.
This is a real pivot point in the episode. What could've turned into a high octane, high drama sequence – something akin to "Breaking Bad's" brilliantly executed train heist episode – quickly devolves into soap opera territory.
People start gossiping about Albert and Elsa, leading her to give him an ultimatum. "I'm sorry Albert, but as long as you're still married, we cannot be together." Meanwhile, Mileva has an affair of her own with a Serbian mathematician.
Einstein and Mileva are constantly bickering. "When were you going to tell me about Elsa?" Mileva asks. "Are you in love with her?" Einstein wants a divorce but Mileva refuses – apparently out of spite. So Einstein instead asks her to sign a contract that compiles a list of demands – she will cook him three hot meals a day, she will not linger and talk to him, and so forth – all with the hopes of making her life so miserable that she will eventually agree to the divorce. To Einstein's surprise, Mileva signs the contract.
"Such theatrics can only be intended to incense me," Mileva says.
"You're forcing us to remain in this intolerable situation," Albert yells.
The action picks up again when Einstein's astronomer friend and his two assistants board a train headed to Crimea. During the journey, Russia goes to war, and by the time the train arrives on Russian soil, it's too late. Soldiers come on board and arrest the three astronomers, taking them to a prisoner of war camp. "You enter Russia from Germany with photographic devices and you want us to believe that you are not a spy!"
The eclipse happens, and the astronomers watch it from the window of their jail cell. There's nothing they can do. Eventually, the astronomers are let go in exchange for some Russian prisoners – but the time of action has passed. They have missed photographing the eclipse.
Meanwhile, Mileva and Einstein are insufferable – both to themselves and the viewers. She neglects to pass on potential career-saving information to her husband. "Yes! Somewhere deep inside me I wanted to see the look on your face when you experience real pain, disappointment, the harsh judgment of the world. I wanted to see those dreams crumble for you as they have for me."
"You hate me that much?" asks Albert.
"I don't hate you," Mileva replies. "I hate the person I've become because of you. We can't stay together any longer."
Mileva finally agrees to end things – a separation for now, but it's a start. While Einstein is telling Elsa the good news, Mileva is packing up the kids and taking them on a train to Switzerland. Perhaps the two train journeys – that of the astronomer's failed mission and that of Mileva moving with her sons – are supposed to parallel each other somehow. But, by this point, we were just counting down the minutes to the end of the episode.
Albert rushes to the train station and catches up with Mileva and his boys as they are boarding.
"I wanted to end my marriage," he says. "I didn't want to lose my whole family."
"You can't have everything, Albert."
Of the six episodes that have aired so far, this is by far the weakest one yet. We're looking forward to the final four hours when we start to see an older, more mature Albert Einstein (portrayed by Academy Award winning actor Geoffrey Rush). We have a week until that happens and, as Einstein himself knows, time is relative.
Want more Einstein? Check out our treasure trove of stories related to the beloved genius.
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