‘The Merchant’s Son’

Complete Series Episode Summaries 1-22

Written by T. E. Roze

Episode 1 – ‘Lady Luck’ – 1874 - Winter

Scene opens up in the Bavarian district of Ulm, Germany. The year is 1874. The landscape is quiet, pristine, blankets of snow across a sleepy town. Enter the sounds of chalk on a chalkboard and clanking metal… (See Pilot for full Script)

Episode 2 – ‘Electric Lights’ – 1880 - Summer

The episode opens with the death of Pauline’s mother Jette. After series intro, we move to Ulm and the happy home of Hermann, Pauline and their son Albert Einstein. Hermann is a doting father and takes great interest as Albert is learning to walk and memorizing things remarkably quick. He is already persistent and aware; watching, learning, and mimicking with striking perception. Pauline receives the news of her mother’s death and the family takes leave for Cannstaat to attend the funeral. Despite his greatest efforts and a generous loan from Pauline’s father, Hermann is overcome with stress as Sontheimer and Sons Feather Tick Shop begins a steep decline. Things get worse when Hermann begins taking time off to be with his mourning wife and new son, Albert. The Einsteins take a family trip to the Munich countryside where Hermann’s brother Jakob tries to convince Hermann he should quit his job and be a partner with him in the new and exciting electricity trade. Tensions are high when a large feather tick shop opens nearby and Mose Sontheimer loses his temper, causing Hermann to walk away from the partnership. We see hints of Albert’s beautiful creativity as the child-wonder tries desperately to cheer up his parents with laughter and a developing wit. We witness already the way he is shaping to be a clever and determined child. Pauline finds she is pregnant again. Her father Julius holds no fault to Hermann for his failing shop and persuades Hermann it is best he moves Pauline and Albert to Munich to work in the electricity trade. He will happily supply Hermann another loan, this time for the ‘Einstein Electricity Company’. The episode ends with the Sontheimer feather tick business officially closing shop and the Einstein family making the move to Munich, where the first electric lights have come to Germany. In the closing scene, things are looking brighter as we see young Albert Einstein’s eyes light up with his first view of an electric light.

Episode 3 - ‘A Sister is Born’ – 1881 - November/December

It is 1881 and the family is adapting to life in the city of Munich where they are living very well with Pauline’s fathers’ generous loans. We begin getting to know the comically inclined Munich Einstein clan. Albert has taken to his uncle Jakob, who finds the child to be a very unique 2-year-old. The family glimpses the first signs of his prodigal mind when he begins arranging blocks and cards in fantastical form. He can get himself out of his playpen using meticulous methods and strategies and he has taken to laying with his ear to the floor while his mother plays piano. Hermann is happy to be in Munich with his brother and Albert enjoys the attention from his extended family. After Albert begins speaking his parents are thrilled, but to his mother’s great concern Albert begins to show autism when he repeats things and will not answer when spoken to. He is very stubborn and shines already as an overly thoughtful boy. Pauline and Hermann are exceedingly patient, even when others have plenty of opinion to hear on Albert’s behavior. When looked at by a doctor Albert will not do what the doctor is asking him because he believes he is being spoken down upon. The more they beg him to talk, the more he refuses to say a word. The new family electric business is thriving and Pauline makes a friend of a gossiping neighbor who is quite the character and one of Albert’s favorite family friends. The episode ends with the birth of baby Maja and Albert finally putting his mothers concerns to rest when he speaks a very humorous and brilliantly intelligent line upon her birth.

Episode 4 - ‘The Compass’ – 1884 – Spring

During garden parties 5-year-old Albert is not interested in playing with his cousins and children his age. He is always wanting to read, do complicated puzzles, build things and tinker with engineering tactics. He has full and impressing conversations with adults. We see him often isolated with his thoughts, watching carefully the beetles on branches. We introduce the first of many trademark sequences viewed through Albert’s eyes, revealing the imaginative way that he will forever see the world. Hermann and Jakob’s new company is doing very well and he and Pauline now entertain with some of the finest families in Germany. Pauline greatly enjoys the new social life but Hermann is concerned for the way they must keep up financially with those around them. Albert, already a young genius, begins developing questions and curiosities that arise as he studies the defying physical capability of insects and elevators. A new tutor is introduced and while he believes Albert is a remarkable boy, he also gets the short end of Albert’s defiant temper. In the climax of this episode Albert grows very ill and suffers hallucinations. When he comes to, his father gives him a compass and explains how it works. This compass will come to be Albert’s first physics thought provocation, leading him to his scientific destiny. From the frailness of being ill Albert is humbled and we see his temper begin to disintegrate. Hermann and Pauline discuss their fears and dreams. They are blissful and in love, despite the imminent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

Episode 5 – ‘House of Cards’ - 1885 - Albert is 6 years old – Fall

Open with the Munich Oktoberfest where the Einstein Electric Company as well as all their employees and family celebrate the company’s great success. Hermann is ecstatic to have such a successful company and beautiful family. He and Pauline have never been happier. They are responsible for bringing the very first electric lights to Munich and to the festival itself. Albert has made a full recovery, though his illness has resulted in Pauline developing an over-protectiveness towards her son that backfires when Albert’s temper flares up at her in a public outing. Albert has grown to be a defiant child, strong-willed and insightful. He questions things deeply where other children do not concern themselves. Hermann’s brother Jakob offers Albert restitute at home when he introduces Albert to his first scientific readings. Albert devours the texts and shocks friends of the family with his retained knowledge of the subjects at only 6-years-old. Maja has become a consistent source of laughter in the household. As the toddler grows, she learns the many ways she can catch a smile from her doting family and uses them without restraint. Her and Albert grow very close over the summer as he begins to feel a protectiveness for her that mirrors the best in his mothers for him. Hermann shows Albert how to build castles with cards. The child in turn shows his first signs of genius by building a 14-story house of cards that baffles his family. When Hermann worries about Albert’s stutter Pauline decides that Albert must learn an instrument to calm his mind. She settles on violin to accompany her piano playing. After a taunting from Maja and great struggle endured, the little boy finally overcomes his habit of impatience. Pauline and Albert play a beautiful duet for the family. Jakob delivers some bad news to Hermann about product manufacturing. Hermann must tell the Italian partners the news.

Episode 6 – ‘Summers End’ – 1885 – Albert is 6 – August

Never a dull moment in the Einstein household, things are chaotic as the family settles into their busy schedules. Hermann confesses to Pauline that he misses their intimacy and they have a spontaneous night of fun together after researching a school for Albert. After weeks of deliberation they conclude that a Catholic School is the best choice for Albert, despite their Jewish heritage and the rising of anti-Semitism. A moment of autistic behavior embarrasses Albert in front of a family friend and he finds solace in the music of Mozart. Hermann has sound advice for overcoming what others think of you. Pauline and Maja see Albert off on his first day of school. The episode ends with Albert’s stark realization that he is very dissimilar of his peers in both exterior and interior form.

Episode 7 – ‘Trouble at school’ – 1887 – Fall

At 8-years-old Albert has spent two years in a Catholic School as a Jewish boy. He is teased and made to feel an outsider. Coupled with his worsening stutter Albert finds himself bullied relentlessly. He is furious at his parents as they will not heed his pleas to leave the school. They argue that it is the best education in the area and that is what matters to them. Both Pauline and Hermann work hard to gain Albert’s forgiveness and see that his home life makes up for the pain his fellow students cause him. Hermann finds that Albert has far surpassed his own knowledge of mathematics and encourages his brother Jakob to teach Albert further. It is known to everyone now how young Albert’s thirst for knowledge is insatiable. Children often tease him about his nose so frequently in a book. Pauline’s nightmares and visions return and she suddenly asks for the family to observe some of their Jewish traditions. She wants to host Sabbath dinners but Hermann is resistant so they settle on a compromise instead. The family will host a poor medical student for dinner every Thursday night. On one such dinner we meet the handsome and hungry medical student Max Talmud; whom becomes a regular and most welcomed guest in the Einstein household. Maja is smitten with the strange doctor and Albert grows very curious about Max’s medical knowledge as well as his Orthodox faith. Towards the end of the episode Max introduces young Albert to the Scientific Method for the first time.

Episode 8 - ‘Light Speed’ - 1888 – Winter

The family is falling on hard times. The new business is in a down spiral and Grandfather Koch’s generous loans have depleted. All the same, Hermann and Pauline pull their sources and 9-year-old Albert is sent to a private high school for enlightened math and science children. In this episode Albert is heavily influenced by Max Talmud, who often ignites scientific discussion and introduces the blossoming young genius to the theory of light speed. Maja has her first crush on a neighbor boy who is nothing like her ‘odd family’. She experiences her first young kiss in a snowy garden. Albert begins to develop his own religious rituals and delve into his Jewish heritage with passion. Pauline aims to do Hanukkah big this year and bring everyone’s spirits up. This results in hilarious mishaps with lights, cooking, and traditions. Albert draws tears with his rendition of a favored high holiday hymn. Even with uncertain times, Hermann is coming around to the family’s new exploration of faith.

Episode 9 – ‘As the Frost Melts’ - 1890 - Albert is 11 - Spring

We see Albert sitting among the countryside and visualizing theories from his notes. Using the trademark style, we peek into the prodigy’s vivid mind as images of the train and bullet comparison launch his quest for the physics of time. Pauline begins to hear rumors of women’s rights forming and is given a pamphlet from a woman who holds a management position and inspires her. Hermann and Maja have a heart-to-heart at a father/daughter dance and Maja is able to use her charmed wit to make her father admit to her that he is not feeling well. Hermann is stunned to learn his daughter knows more than she leads on about reality in general. Albert is growing exceedingly curious about existence itself coupled with the universe. After a frustrating time of questioning faith in the face of his peers, he has a deep conversation with his mother who patiently gets him to admit there is God outside religion. Albert finds himself feeling a “profound reverence for the harmony and beauty of the mind of God, as it is expressed in the Universe and its Laws.” A flame ignited; Albert is free to explore boundless curiosity for the exploration of the cosmos. Episode ends with summer unfolding and a reason for hope in a brighter year.

Episode 10 – ‘Options and Opportunity’ - 1891 – Summer

The family is put into a scary state when Hermann has heart trouble and is seen by a doctor who declares he is overburdened and must rest. Pauline insists the family go on a vacation where he is away from work. At 12-years-old Albert has mastered arithmetic and aims to take on geometry and algebra two years before his class. His parents buy him text books to study the subjects and he delves into them all throughout the family vacation to the Alps. Able to rest, the family comes alive and has a wonderful summer. However blue skies turn grey upon returning home, as Hermann’s financial problems are waiting for him. Uncle Jakob pushes Albert on his algebraic theories, often giving him equations, he playfully doubts he can solve. He is confounded to see that Albert not only solves the equations but also thinks in pictures. Albert spends a majority of his time in private either playing violin or deeply engrossed in his notebook where he is creating his own theorems. The episode ends with a serious discussion between Hermann and Jakob, where the truth is told of the family business’s financial state and options are laid on the table.

Episode 11 – ‘Certified Genius’ – 1893 - Albert is 14 – Fall / Winter

Albert has mastered geometry two years ahead of his classmates with only a few months study. He now surpasses even Max Talmud’s mathematical knowledge. Even while the bullying continues, Albert is a star student to his teachers. After much deliberation the Einstein Electrical Company must finally close its doors in Munich and move to Italy to gain new partnerships. Pauline and Hermann insist Albert not leave his schooling while they all make the move to the Alps to try and resettle. Albert’s mother finally persuades Albert to move in with an aunt whom he generally loathes in order to remain at the school and finish his education. Pauline is terribly sad to be leaving her son, but none are more shaken of the idea then Hermann, who finds leaving without Albert unbearable. The episode ends with the Einstein family boarding their train, leaving a sorrowful young Albert waving them off.

Episode 12 – ‘Into His Own Hands’ - 1894 – Albert is 15 - Winter

Albert keeps to himself at his aunt’s home. He does not agree with either the military style of his German school or the training of worship of authority in general.Something his aunt does not see eye to eye with him on. Albert is miserable and lonely but his books and theories keep his mind occupied. Despite the exquisite beauty of the land, the Einstein family is finding a difficult time settling in the Alps. The Einstein brothers try to build a smaller engineering company with Italian partners and find the partnership both troublesome and one-sided. Pauline becomes depressed; homesick for her mother and son. It is up to Maja to keep the peace and happiness alive in the family. She becomes a light to everyone, even her brother through her clever penmanship. Albert has a bad encounter with a teacher who considers him lazy and he becomes depressed at being constantly misunderstood at school. With some extra cash in hand from his Uncle Caesar, he comes up with a clever plan to leave for the alps to be with his family by the holidays. By the end of the episode he is on a train to the Alps with the first of many bright smiles to come.

Episode 13 – ‘A New Leaf’ – 1894 – Albert is 15/16 - Spring into Summer

Happy as he’s ever been now that he’s back with his family in Italy, Albert seems to be coming out of his shell. Pauline gives Albert a little trouble for leaving school, but everyone’s spirits perk up now that Albert has returned. His father and Uncle put him to work at the new company and Albert learns all there is to know about patents, coils, magnets, and electricity. Life in the Alps seems to be doing everyone a great deal of good health and the family is thriving in their individual ways. Maja has forgiven her parents for moving her away and Albert is getting handsome and witty, having developed a sort of style all his own. He is muscular from his great desire to spend time outdoors among the mountains. He enjoys helping around the property and goes about fixing things in 15 minutes that workers have been at for days. The whole family is finding joy in the little things. Even Albert has become eager at the chance for a joke with his family. Loud laughter soon becomes a trademark part of life for this developing genius. At the end of the episode Pauline wakens from a nightmare and soon takes great interest in the female suffrage movement in Amsterdam. Hermann encourages her to follow her heart.

Episode 14 – ‘Back to School’ - 1895 – Albert is 16 - Summer into Fall

Pauline and Hermann insist that Albert go to Zurich Polytechnic to continue his schooling once the new semester begins. They try everything to get him in, but at 16 Albert is two years below the entry age for university and tests show that while he excels at math and science, he is not ready for university yet in other areas. Albert is unbothered, enjoying his time off from school and thriving as a young man. He enrolls at a local school for the year in Aarau. In the meantime, rather than choose isolation as he always had, Albert now prefers to remain around his family even when lost in his studies. Maja is inspired by her mother’s newfound dedication to the female suffrage organization and takes to an independence all her own. The family has a comedic evening out where they see the magic of a moving picture for the first time. Things are well as summer turns into fall and Albert is excited to leave for school only a couple hours away at Aarau. He and his father meet with the Winteler family who Albert will board with while at school. Both feel the Winteler family are a perfect match for Albert. At the end of the episode Albert says goodbye to his family with a much lighter heart this time.

Episode 15 ‘Childhood Curiosity Renewed’ – 1895 - Fall

Albert is loving his school almost as much as his time boarding with the Wintelers. He has deep conversations with Papa Winteler who is a liberal man. Honest and edgy, he helps to re-shape Albert’s social philosophies. Papa’s grandson Paul becomes fast friends with Albert and his granddaughter Marie is Albert’s first love interest. Back home, Jakob and Hermann’s newest business plan flounders, leaving Hermann to question his abilities as a provider. Maja and Pauline remind Hermann how lucky they are to have him with a holiday surprise. Albert is happy to be free of the strict discipline and military lifestyle of Germany. He becomes passionate about individuality and peace. Visual conception becomes a significant aspect of his evolving genius. He finds an old notebook and it inspires him to begin again taking feverish notes on lightening strikes, moving trains, accelerated elevators, and falling painters. The questions of his childhood become scientific theories he can now find solutions to. Towards the end of the episode Maja comes to visit and Albert delights to show her his newest ideas and all-around Aarau. His friend Paul and Maja take to each other right away. Albert is faced with a difficult decision and decides to renounce his German citizenship. He goes about this decision with the grace, charm, and help from Hermann. Albert also finds a welcome distraction in flirtations with the lovely Marie Winteler, but she cannot hold Albert’s attention long enough to gain any real affection from him. The episode ends with papa Winteler telling Albert that wisdom is only as good as the man who craves it. Pauline and Hermann are happy to find a letter from Albert upon Maja’s return, in which he promises them a visit and pours gratitude for the encouraging parents they have always been.

Episode 16 – ‘Riding a Light Beam’ – 1896 - Winter into Spring

Albert celebrates his 17th birthday surrounded by his charming sister and the wonderful Winteler family. He is doing phenomenally in school, where his teachers encourage him to visualize and nurture his individuality. After many tried attempts to gain his attention, Marie Winteler becomes Albert’s first girlfriend. He writes home to Pauline frequently about her and Pauline thinks she is perfect for him. Albert is more energetic than ever and has become a “head-turning teenager”. He is magnetic, aloof and brings a smile to everyone he meets. We watch as he engages in a thought experiment in which he rides alongside a light beam, a visualization that will largely help him become the greatest scientific genius of all time. Hermann and Pauline insist he be tested again for early enrollment at Zurich Polytechnic. Their efforts prove that the 17-year-old Albert is now ready. After being offered acceptance he professes his love for Marie and finds old adventures and new beginnings to be bittersweet. Hermann could not be prouder as Albert ends his time in high school with the second highest marks in his class and then returns home for the summer before heading to University.

Episode 17 – ‘The Simple Moral Fact’ – 1896 - Albert is 17 – Summer

Hermann and Pauline are thrilled to have their whole family together for the summer, but Hermann is anxious over the state of the Einstein Electricity Company. After it fails, Albert finds himself angry with his father for another failure and begins making hurtful comments to Hermann about his disappointments. In a very tense moment Albert brings his father to the edge with his sarcastic comments and the two grow distant for a while. Paul and Marie Winteler come to visit the Einstein household where things are not as cheerful as usual. Paul reveals to Albert that he plans to marry Maja someday and Albert teases him about being taken with his sister, but thrills at the idea of having Paul as a brother someday. Pauline is inspired by free-thinking women making the paper and finds an old notebook in which she confessed her dreams of becoming a nurse in America many years ago. She immerses herself a little more deeply in the cause of the women’s right movement and finds that she is a magnet for leadership. To the insistence of Hermann, Albert finds the time to write and publish his first scientific paper. Albert apologizes to his father and the two make amends over a sunrise cup of coffee. Pauline takes Albert shopping for university and he takes to wearing a grey felt hat, his bright brown eyes taking in the world feverishly from under its brim. At the end of the episode, the family says their goodbyes as the teenager heads to his new life at Zurich University.

Episode 18 – ‘The Freshman’ – 1896 - Fall / October

Albert adjusts to student housing life in Zurich University, not an easy task as he is the youngest in his class. He escapes his shyness by playing violin for his friends, who become greatly impressed with “the fire in his playing”. Always a smile on his face and ready for a joke, Albert does not try to impress anyone and in response draws much attention to himself. He bores in math class as he already knows the material, but becomes a star in primary physics. Back home the Einstein family takes a trip to see the new Edison Kinetoscope picture ‘Record of a Sneeze’. Hermann and Maja take to dancing in the streets where newsstands warn of coming war. Pauline finds herself dreaming of life beyond motherhood and at Maja’s insistence takes up a vacation with her bohemian friends. She gets advice from a loud and bossy elder woman who becomes a welcomed regular in the Einstein household. Hermann aims to keep a happy home, while secretly anxious about the continuously growing expenses, especially now with Albert’s tuition and Pauline’s trips. Albert and Marie Winteler continue their courtship via letter and surprise visits, though Albert discovers as a young and popular student at Zurich University, catching the attention of females comes surprisingly easy to him.

Episode 19 – ‘Iced Coffees and Pipe Tobacco’- 1896 – Winter

Albert is excelling in university life and to his parents’ great pride his teachers write that he is doing phenomenally in physics. Even while he arrives to class late and leaves early to spend time lounging around with his favored classmates, he still receives the highest marks in his class. At only 17-years-old he has blossomed into a dark-haired beautiful boy who prefers drinking iced coffees in the cool Switzerland spring air, smoking pipe tobacco with his young friends, and staying up late in thoughtful scientific discussions with both professors and peers. He begins hanging around coffee houses and attending musical soirees with bohemians. He asks many questions and inspires by the lively world around him. It is here that we begin to see Albert as the “superior being” so many claimed him to be at this age.

Episode 20 - ‘An Unexpected Gift’- 1896 - Albert is 17 - Winter / Spring

On a trip home for the holidays Albert learns that Hermann is trying his hand at yet another business venture in Milan. Hermann expresses excitement in his latest dream and tries to persuade Albert to be a partner with him. It is the final straw for Albert who yells at his father and accuses him of embarrassing the family. Albert then goes to his grandfather and asks that he not give Hermann any more loans. Julius tries to get Albert to understand the kind of man Hermann is but Albert admits he sees Hermann as only a failure. The stress carries with Albert back at school and he grows agitated, picking a fight with a professor because he refuses to teach modern science. Albert causes an explosion in class and severely burns his hand. He cannot play violin and grows depressed, his self confidence wounded. The explosion however, brings an unexpected gift as it weds him to the decision of being a theorist and not an experimentalist. Emotions come to the surface in a deep discussion with Albert’s best friend Michele and Albert is forced to face the way he has treated Hermann and finds much regret in his actions. Albert returns to school from the Zurich hospital desiring to make something more of himself as a man. To walk the talk and take the humbleness he has found as a gift. He accomplishes this by igniting a renewed passion for theoretical physics and diving in entirely.

Episode 21 – ‘All That Glitters’ – 1896 – Spring

Albert is thriving at school but suffering great racism from professor Phillip Lenard, an anti-Sematic teacher who is cruel to Albert on purpose. In one particular moment the teacher tells the class Albert will never amount to anything. To the contrary Albert begins having his first taste of fame as he catches recognition of not only senior professors and scientific journals, but of every girl along the way. However, the high life comes to a halt when Albert receives an urgent letter that Hermann has had another heart attack. Albert’s guilt grows deeply and he begins to feel overwhelmed by the attention he is constantly receiving. He seeks more solitude and begins delving even deeper into music. He plays violin with a pianist and ignores letters from Marie. He takes up sailing isolated in the alpine lakes, thinking and returning to his childhood habits of free note-taking. He writes to his mom that he will return during spring break to visit his ailing father and she writes back that perhaps it is best he stays at school for now. This saddens Albert and he returns to Aarau to speak with Papa Winteler about his troubles and end things with Marie. Albert makes up his mind that he will never let his father’s failures happen to him and Papa Winteler tries to explain that not all who wander are lost. Albert is finally able to admit that his judgment of his father is reflective of his own fears of failure.

Episode 22 – ‘Series Finale’ – 1897 - Summer

Spring has sprung in Zurich, Switzerland and Albert is turning 18. Things are looking bright in the Einstein household as Hermann’s latest business has done exceedingly well so far. Pauline teaches Maja how to woo Paul into a proposal and the two bond over laughter and Maja’s first love. Albert is now a star student and known by all for his brilliant smile and light-hearted demeanor. When he leaves University for the summer and returns home, he uses his wit and laughter to cover his tension about seeing Hermann for the first time since their explosive argument. Hermann could not be happier to see his son. He insists that he and Albert take a camping trip in the mountains so they can reconnect. On the trip, when everything that can go wrong does, the two find tensions disintegrate between them with humble hilarity and a lot of rain. Around a campfire Hermann has a truthful discussion with Albert about his choices in life, his love for Pauline, and why he would not change a thing. Albert is deeply moved and finds a newfound respect and understanding for his parents that brings him to terms with his own fears of failure. Albert pens a letter to his friend Marcel and speaks about how his father has given everything so that Albert might live a life better than his own. He finally understands the incredible way his parents put his future first, how they knew he was different and dreamt of a certain kind of life for him. A life full of choices and opportunities. His father’s dream and hard work have been the source and inspiration for everything that he has become. And so, in the series finale, Albert finally has the realization that while he may become a great many things, to become a man anything like his father would be the greatest honor he could obtain.