With Gail’s news, however, Getty learns that his instincts have not betrayed him. Instantly, his ego is restored to pre-kidnapping proportions, maybe larger. He does a little tap dance to “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” but it’s more self-congratulatory than a celebration for Paul’s safety. Sure, he might be a cold father; he may not have attended his son Timmy’s death bed, as Paul II shares in this episode; he may have been more ashamed that his son, George, killed himself than he was devastated by the death; and he may have approached his grandson’s ransom negotiations as a business deal. But now none of that matters. What matters is that he is the richest man in the world, and once again he was right.
Everyone else, who had been grieving over Paul, begs to differ. Getty’s son Paul II goes on a grief-driven heroin and coke bender and shows up to Sutton Place to call his father a murderer. Penelope, Getty’s top girlfriend among his harem of four, is beside herself at Getty’s lack of remorse, and won’t let him off so easily. As he flits around to Irving Berlin, she rebukes him: “You could have been wrong; you should have been wrong.”
Getty, unbothered, reminds her. “But I wasn’t wrong.”
“Such a bastard,” she admonishes him, exasperated.
“Bastard”— he refines her insult — “who is right.”
It is the maddening experience of confronting the consistently norm-defying personality in your life — thinking that this time, maybe, a breaking point has been reached — only to find that this person is still the same. If an experience like this hasn’t changed Getty, probably nothing will. Still, that doesn’t make his lack of feeling any less shocking to people who experience feelings regularly, and that includes the Calabrian bandits holding Paul.
Getty asks them to reopen negotiations at the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa, a country residence for the Roman emperor Hadrian. Angelo’s burned corpse has done its intended job. (Almost marveling, Getty calls it an “Interesting negotiating tactic” to Don Salvatore, speaking in Italian: “A dead body certainly focuses the mind.”)