'Genius: Chapter Two' episode recap – Einstein meets his muse
Did you miss the second episode of the NatGeo series about Albert Einstein? Catch up here with this 'Genius' instant recap.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
'Genius: Chapter Two' / National Geographic Channel
Original airdate: 5.2.17 / Written by Angelina Burnett / Directed by Minkie Spiro
Episode grade: 4 out of 5 stars
Last week's premiere of the NatGeo series "Genius" produced by Academy Award winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer gave viewers a bird's-eye view of what the show hopes to accomplish. It bounced back and forth between a teenaged Einstein causing trouble at school and an adult Einstein presenting lectures as a world-renowned professor. (Read our recap of the first episode for all the details.)
This week's episode could be summed up instead as "Meet Mileva" as it mostly focuses on the backstory of Mileva Marić, Einstein's first wife.
The episode opens in Serbia, with a young Mileva showing a predisposition for the study of science. In 1891, Mileva's father tries to get her admitted into a boys-only school. At first, the principal scoffs. But then he engages her in conversation about electromagnetic theory and decides to break the rules for the young whiz kid.
This minor victory doesn't last long. When she starts attending classes, boys less smart than her cheat off of her work. When she tries to make friends, they all make fun of her limp. Her parents are worried that her intellect combined with a physical disability will prevent her from finding a suitable mate. "Don't worry, I won't need to marry," she tells them. "I want to be a scientist."
Flash forward to 1897 at the Zurich Polytechnic where a college-aged Mileva just met a fellow student named Albert Einstein. He attempts to make an impression on her, but she rebuffs his advances. "Einstein, are you attempting to flirt with me?" she asks. "I did not come to university to flirt, or to meet a man and certainly not to find a husband."
While working on an experiment in a lab, she's interrupted by Einstein playing the violin in a lab down the hall. "Apologies," Einstein says. "Mozart helps me think."
Slowly, Einstein begins to woo her and, thus, becomes distracted from his studies. Professors see Einstein skipping classes and call him an "idiot," "impudent" and a "lazy dog."
The principal goes on a walk with Einstein and warns him to stay away from Mileva and concentrate more on his schoolwork. "You give the impression that you think you have all the answers," the principal declares. To which Einstein replies: "The opposite in fact. I have nothing but questions."
Einstein ignores the warning and continues to pursue Mileva. Their relationship blossoms. Meanwhile, while all of this is going on, Einstein is still betrothed to Marie Winterler, a young girl he met in Switzerland in the first episode. When Mileva discovers this, she leaves Einstein in Zurich and heads to Germany.
It's now 1898, and a new school year has begun. Einstein – sporting a mustache for the first time – misses Mileva terribly and spends most of his time writing letters to her. She decides to write back. But these are not your typical love notes. They discuss science and physics and thought experiments. The discussions draw them closer. Their relationship is back on track.
When she discovers that the school in Germany will not grant her a degree because she is a woman, she moves back to Zurich where Einstein finds her in the library. He offers to help her through her coursework – "I won't distract you. I'll help you," he tells her – but that soon turns into a romance.
For weeks, they spend night and day together, often skipping school. "I'm head over heels in love with your mind," Einstein tells her one morning. "Isn't it a miracle? So many millions and millions, how ever did we find each other?"
One day, Mileva finds dozens of letters from Marie in Einstein's apartment. She smashes a teapot against the wall in anger, breaking it into pieces. "How could you be so careless with my heart? I knew this would happen. What an idiot I am! You've made me crazy! Do not speak to me ever again!"
Remorseful, Einstein pens a letter to the Winterler family back in Switzerland and tells them that he is no longer interested in Marie. "I hope she and you all can forgive me," he writes.
When Mileva finally resumes classes, she realizes how behind she is in the coursework. Einstein finds Mileva to apologize. "You were right, I was careless," he says. He tells her that he's now officially over with Marie. "It's done now. I've made it clear. And as unfair as I was to her, I've been 10 times more to you." He hands her course notes and an offer to help her study. "I hope that they will undo some of the damage that I have done." I will ask for nothing in return." He is truly contrite. She invites him to sit down, and they study together.
The day of the final exam of the semester arrives. Afterwards, Einstein approaches Mileva and says: "Be my partner – in life, in love, in endless scientific pursuit. Let's build a beautiful Bohemian existence together."
Mileva: "You and I – alone, together – we fit like pencils in the box. But out in the world, it's nothing but endless possibilities for us to crash into things, irreversibly."
Einstein: "People are not molecules, Mileva. Please, when I'm not with you, I feel that I'm not whole. Let's remain students as long as we live – alone, together."
The results from the test came back. Einstein passed the exam "by the skin of his teeth," but Mileva did not.
She travels back to Serbia where her father greets her at the train station. "I'm so sorry, Papa. I failed you." He encourages her to go back to school and try the exams again.
He hugs her and discovers that she is pregnant.
Recap of the recap: While the episode focuses mostly on Mileva, it gives great insight into the private life and motivations of Einstein. Actor Geoffrey Rush, as an older Einstein, is noticeably absent for the entire episode.
Best Einstein quote from the episode: "Physics is dynamic. You see knowledge as a baton to be passed. But scientific pursuit isn't a race. This should be an adventure."
Best cameo from this episode: Einstein's iconic mustache makes its debut.
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