On June 11, the evening of the event, the Count stands in suite 417 and ensures that all of the place settings are in order. Though the Count was excused from this duty, Andrey has been experiencing terrible tremors in his hand the day prior and so he asked the Count to assume his duties. Andrey told the Bishop that he already contacted comrade Propp, the liaison at the Kremlin, to confirm.
Andrey gets his and the Count’s assignments switched, and it is eventually revealed that Andrey did not in fact have tremors in his hand. Thanks to their close friendship, Andrey aids the Count in his plan so that he can be at the Presidium dinner.
Comrade Propp had been relieved to hear that the Count was overseeing the dinner. While he did not know the Count’s background as a former noble, he did know the Count to be a wonderful headwaiter. The two men had gone over the details of the dinner that morning. The only thing Propp did not give the Count was a seating arrangement, but Propp told him not to worry: there was no seating arrangement.
The interactions with Propp reveal how much the Count’s life has changed: since becoming a waiter, most people do not know his background or the details of his imprisonment. In one way, this is a testament to his ability to adapt, but in another way, this is a manifestation of the erasure of his past.
The Count was pleased to hear there was no seating arrangement, because the tables were arranged in a “U” shape, and to invite forty-six leaders to navigate seating without guidance would likely lead to some disorder. But in reality, the Communist party is what the narrator describes as “the hierarchy of all hierarchies,” and so when the guests arrived, the forty-six attendees would know exactly their place at the table. The seating arrangement would tell an observer all they needed to know about how Russia would be governed for the next twenty years.
The narrator points out another contradiction within the philosophy of the Party. For even though it purports to hold up equality and a lack of hierarchy, it is so rigidly hierarchical that people know exactly where to sit without being told (unlike, for example, the aristocracy, for whom the Count had to make extensive seating plans).
The doors are opened precisely at 9:00 P.M. The two center seats of the table are taken by Premier Malenkov and General Secretary Khrushchev. Over the next two hours, the men eat, drink, and raise toasts. Meanwhile, the Count, attentive as ever, overhears every private exchange made at the dinner.
As the Count predicts, the lack of seating arrangement reveals the true hierarchy of the Party, with the two people most likely to take up the Party’s reins sharing the head of the table.
At 10:50, at the end of the dinner, Khrushchev makes a speech. He says that the Metropol is no stranger to historic events, and tonight, the group gathered will have the privilege of witnessing another. Khrushchev tells the guests to gather at the window, because Minister Malyshev has a demonstration.
Khrushchev’s introduction of a “historic event,” as well as this lavish dinner in general, fulfill the prediction that the Count had many years ago that all leaders, regardless of political leanings, eventually enjoy a bit of grandeur.
Malyshev announces that a new power plant, which had started to be built nearly three years prior, became fully operational that week. He continues, saying that the power plant will begin providing power to half of Moscow in exactly two minutes. The guests watch as the lights flicker out in a wave across the city, until the lights of the Kremlin go dark, followed quickly by the Metropol. Then the lights revive, block by block, powered by the first nuclear power plant in the world.
Khrushchev’s exhibition of pomp is not only a gesture of power, but a shrewd way to adapt nuclear power (which was used in the ongoing arms race in America) to cast himself as a man of technological progress, which was a value crucial to the Bolsheviks. This would shore up his bid as the heir to Stalin.
Though it is an impressive demonstration of political power, a few of Moscow’s citizens are inconvenienced by this outage. Anna and her fellow actors performing The Seagull improvise when the lights go out. Two waiters collide in the Piazza; Webster, the American, is trapped in an elevator. But in the dining room of the Boyarsky, which is lit by candlelight, the customers are served without interruption.
This passage shows that sometimes there is an advantage to remaining traditional and keeping the romanticism of a time uncomplicated by technology, as the Boyarsky is the only place that is not inconvenienced by the brief power outage.