[For Mozart in the Jungle “Stern Papa” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Stern Papa. Rodrigo has doubts despite his success; Hailey seeks her replacement so she can focus on her substitute oboe position; Cynthia meets the orchestra’s new lawyer.
Here’s a brief Mozart in the Jungle refresher for those hazy on season one:
The show was created by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Alex Timbers after they got the idea from an oboist’s memoir of the same title with the titillating subtitle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music. The show doesn’t disappoint on any of these three counts. It’s a wonderland of artistry as well, which puts Mozart in the Jungle in a class all its own these days. It’s the story of an orchestra and their magnetic and eccentric conductor, Rodrigo, told through the perspective of a newbie oboist who gets her feet wet as Rodrigo’s assistant. With the fireworks of talent shooting out of every casting decision, this is a tough show to pass over once you’ve seen who’s in it.
Gael Garcia Bernal plays Rodrigo De Souza, a charismatic conductor and whirlwind of musical genius who invigorates the jaded orchestra he joins in New York City. Rodrigo’s a true iconoclast who sucks the marrow out of every living minute.
Lola Kirke plays Hailey, a talented young oboist who spends season one getting her bearings. After Rodrigo hears her play he declares she must be part of the orchestra because she “plays with the blood!” and thus she becomes his assistant. Though she has a boyfriend, Hailey’s heart belongs to Rodrigo… and they did kiss at the end of season one.
Bernadette Peters is a glorious vision in curls playing Gloria, the head of the orchestral board of directors in season one. We didn’t see enough of her last season but Gloria shines bright in season two.
Malcolm Macdowell‘s Thomas Pembridge, the former maestro of the orchestra before Rodrigo came along, is one of those characters that always says and does the most ridiculous things yet remains eminently believable.
Saffron Burrows plays the cellist Cynthia. Blindingly beautiful and talented, Cynthia gets caught up in forbidden sexual dalliances because it would be a crime to keep that stunning body clothed throughout even one season.
Episode one of season two, “Stern Papa” dances around the parenting theme in multiple arrangements. One of the least obvious examples is the first scene where we find Rodrigo in Los Angeles where he’s guest conducting the Philharmonic. He’s talking to his usual muse, the ghost of Mozart, and we soon see the conversation devolve into Rodrigo battling against that nasty doubting (often of parental origin) voice in every artist’s head that sometimes says maybe we’re just a fraud, or perhaps we’re just terrible, etc. So, of course spicy chili pepper Rodrigo will have none of this and shouts a storm at Mozart, scaring him away only to then immediately want Wolfgang back. And thus begins an episode packed with child/parent dynamics.
When he returns to New York and his home orchestra, Rodrigo finds his musicians playing softball, a game their previous maestro forbade them to play for fear it may impact their playing from injuries or even just the time suck. So, they’re a bit nervous when they see him coming on their playfield. But then he’s just their buddy their pal, mr cool kid Rodrigo so instead of forbidding their game he joins as pitcher and they play together. Hey guys, it’s fun daddy! Everybody loves fun daddy – right? In fact, they love him so much that at their first rehearsal they open with Take Me Out to the Ballgame. He’d instructed them to play Shubert but what’s a little joke among buddies who love each other – right? But the real love for Rodrigo emanates from Hailey, who can’t seem to stop her adoring Rodrigo gaze even as she admonishes him for bad behavior.
Speaking of which, Hailey chides Rodrigo when he quickly dismisses the replacement Gloria chose to become Rodrigo’s new assistant, Sarabelle Westmore. Rodrigo spends only seconds with her before finding her habit of stating everything in question form intolerable. In his defense, Sarabelle’s totally annoying and she arrives when he’s already at his limit. Gloria works his every nerve to get him to convince the orchestra to take the board’s new contract offering. Rodrigo doesn’t deal with red tape. He just wants to talk music and make the orchestra better – that’s all he cares about. Meanwhile Hailey just wants to find a replacement assistant so she can focus on the oboe… and possibly get into Rodrigo’s pants.
Which Cynthia reprimands Hailey for, setting up yet another “tsk tsk” parent/child dynamic, when she tells her that, “Triangle Tina saw Rodrigo kissing you at last season’s finale performance,” then warns her to focus on the oboe. She promises to tell Triangle Tina to shut her yap as long as Hailey keeps focusing on her own instrument rather than Rodridgo’s. Then in the very next scene we’re introduced to Cynthia’s season two love interest: The orchestra’s new lawyer, Nina, played by Gretchen Mol. Nina clearly has the hots for Cynthia from the get go. The symphony hired Nina because they think they’re getting a rotten deal and heard she’s a real shark. And when she zips into the story on her motorcycle with a fitted suit and instant Cynthia flirtation, we believe the “shark” comment. Nina quickly warms to all the players including Betty, the orchestra’s longest running member, consistently clad in Eileen Fisher and matching smug expression. She’s also the first chair oboe – which directly affects Hailey’s potential for advancement in the orchestra.
Rodrigo maintains a resonant concern throughout the first episode of season two. He ruminates about their imminent trip to Mexico when the orchestra will play for his mentor, Maestro Rivera. Because the symphony “stinks” Rodrigo fears embarrassment in front of his primary father figure. Meanwhile the douche board member, Biben, has it out for Rodrigo and wants to reinstate Pembridge as conductor. But Pembridge considers himself a composer now and won’t even consider the possibility. However, when Rodrigo asks Pembridge what he thought of the symphony’s welcome back performance he’s bursting with advice. This is where the episode gets its title “Stern Papa” as Pembridge suggests the orchestra lacks cohesion due to Rodrigo not being parental enough. He needs to be “Stern Papa,” like all the great conductors before, such as Pembridge himself. Then he asks for Rodrigo to take a look at the symphony he’s composing and says, “not to toot my own horn but I think it’s absolutely fucking brilliant,” and who can say no to that?
After leaving Pembridge’s pad, Rodrigo bikes to Hailey’s place at three in the morning and asks her what the orchestra thinks of him. She says they think he’s crazy but believe in him… and sometimes they think they love him. Then Hailey asks if he sometimes thinks he loves the orchestra and he says “not sometimes, all the time”. But he’s the conductor, he explains, and thus has to maintain some distance. It’s the classic parental push and pull between love and setting limits. Of course, they’re not just talking about the symphony but also each other. Then Rodrigo tells her he has to get to work and get this terrible orchestra on track while she has to find a replacement for herself so she can focus on practicing oboe. “The falconeer and the falcon must both take wing!” Rodrigo declares as he bikes away. Leaving Hailey on her stoop to wonder aloud if she’s the falcon – not yet realizing that if they both take flight it really doesn’t matter which is which. They soar together.