PREVIOUSLY ON SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE! Slaves freed! Alliances shunned! Badasses betrayed! AND THE RETURN OF ASHUR!
A heavily guarded covered wagon rolls through the forest, full of naked slaves on their way to the mines. Since the show is never particularly clear about what mines they’re talking about, I always assume it’s the Mines of Moria. I find this assumption terribly amusing, and will spend the rest of the episode waiting for someone to yell “FLY, YOU FOOLS!”
The convoy stops suddenly, confusing the lone guard inside the wagon. He then makes a terrible decision that anyone with half a brain can tell will end badly — he puts his eye right up against a tear in the wagon’s cover to peek outside. Is it any wonder that he’s summarily skewered through the head by Sparty’s sword? No. No it is not.
Sparty throws the wagon door’s keys through the bars, telling the slaves to free themselves, and leaps back into the ongoing battle. His leap is not nearly as impressive as Crixus’, though, and I am momentarily stunned by Manu Bennett’s glorious thighs. Good lord.
We cut between Sparty, Crixus, and Agron dispensing their usual brand of whup-ass among the wagon’s guards, but this time they’re accompanied by our new friend Nasir, who has clearly been paying attention to his asskickery lessons. Agron compliments his smooth moves, and Nasir blushes like a schoolgirl. I think maybe we’ll be taking the brotherly love to a whole new level here. A Winchestery level, if you will. WOOT.
When the last guard is felled, the freed slaves quickly move to strip the bodies of clothes and weapons. Crixus takes advantage of the downtime to inquire for news of Naevia. As soon as the slaves hear that he’s looking for a woman from the House of Batiatus, they go all adorably star-struck, assuming he’s Spartacus. Last season’s Crixus would have bridled at the error; our older, wiser Crixus simply tells them his own name and points out Sparty standing next to him. Now it’s Sparty’s turn to blush like a schoolgirl.
On the other side of the wagon, Agron and Nasir are coming down from their battle high and seeing off the wounded guards. One last man, overhearing the talk of Naevia, calls out weakly that he has information and will share it if they spare his life. Agron’s not about to make any deals with any Romans, and kills the man upon receiving his information. He and Nasir look grim and resigned as they walk over to Crixus, and for good reason — Naevia’s dead.
OH CRIXUS YOUR SAD PANDA FACE I CANNOT TAKE IT.
The rebels move on to an abandoned villa on the coast, accompanied by the newly freed slaves. Crixus is shuffling along like a zombie, and finally has his rage-filled sobby breakdown when he reaches the overgrown impluvium. Rhaskos and Liscus tackle him for some comforting bro-hugs while Agron recounts the dead guard’s tale to Mira and Sparty — apparently Naevia died on her way to the mines in Lucania, from her many injuries received at the hands of rapey nobles. And it seems that the mines are even more horrible than we’d expected, as Mira calls Naevia’s death “a kindness.”
Back in Capua, Oenomaus is being put to some less than friendly questioning by Glaber’s men down in the ludus. They’re totally frustrated by his refusal to make even a single noise, much less give up any intel on Spartacus and the rebels. Ashur, ever helpful Ashur, points out that it will take a lot more than just physical pain to make Oenomaus betray men he sees as his brothers, and volunteers his own considerable talents at mindfuckery to help move things along.
Glaber’s not entirely ready to trust Ashur, because let’s face it – surely everyone on earth knows what a shifty bastard Ashur is by now. Elderly yak herders on the Mongolian steppes have probably heard of him and his crafty ways. Ashur protests that any crimes he committed against Glaber and Glaber’s interests were at the behest of his dominus, so the blame should clearly rest with Batiatus and not with himself, and insists that he will serve Glaber as loyally as he served Batty.
Glaber decides to put this alleged loyalty to the test, and throws down his challenge – Ashur still bears the branded mark of the brotherhood on his forearm, “B” for the House of Batiatus, and Glaber wants it gone. He hands over his belt knife to a momentarily speechless Ashur and waits expectantly.
Just the other day I was telling someone that this season wasn’t quite as egregiously gory as last season, so I feel somewhat ridiculous in that assertion when, in the very next scene, ASHUR PEELS HIMSELF LIKE A GRAPE, complete with horrible accompanying squishy noises. *flails*
Glaber stalks grumpily through the villa, bitchface firmly in place, with Lucretia at his side. She’s trying and failing to reassure him that Oenomaus will certainly give them the information that they want, because the gods will it so. Glaber has had it with these motherfucking gods in his motherfucking revenge plots, y’all. And to top off his already shitty day, another indignity awaits — Varinius.
Varinius and Albinius, actually. Even worse, Varinius is being a little too friendly with Ilithyia, resting his hand on her pregnant belly and laughing with her in an intimate fashion. Glaber no likey. Hell, I don’t like it either. BACK OFF MY WOMAN.
In a totally bizarre moment of OOC friendliness, Albinius seems genuinely pleased to see Lucretia, and greets her as an old friend. I assume it’s politically motivated, but oh man, I would love it if they were somehow scheming together too. I can’t help but imagine that at the series finale, Lucretia will be the last one standing, triumphant and covered in the blood of her enemies.
Varinius is in town to sponsor some games, “blood and sport,” to take the city’s mind off the lack of progress with Spartacus. Albinius expects Glaber’s men to formally present themselves in the arena, which Glaber finds ridiculous — his men are far more useful in their current location, hunting down the rebels. He innocently suggests that Varinius use his dear friend Seppius’ men instead. But no, what Albinius wants is the glory and spectacle of Rome, and he sends Ilithyia and Varinius off with Lucretia and the slaves so he can berate his son-in-law about this more privately.
Albinius reminds Glaber that Varinius is a Big Name Praetor in the Senate, and that Glaber should show more respect. And yes, while Glaber himself is also a Praetor, the Senate still sees him as a fool, only holding that title as a favour to his father-in-law. Glaber somehow manages not to bitchslap Albinius, and his silence is taken as agreement that he will do as instructed.
Spartacus and Agron are planning their strategy with the help of a large map. Spartacus intends to move their camp east, towards Vesuvius, until Agron reminds him of the port of Neapolis to the northwest, a notorious slaver’s port where prison ships unload their cargo. Agron has plenty of personal knowledge about Neapolis, as that’s where he and Duro were first sold into slavery, and he promises Sparty that the port will have plenty of strong men captured in foreign wars, just like himself. That’s all Sparty needs to hear, and he leaves to discuss the plan with Crixus.
Oh Crixus. Sitting all alone in a drunken, tearstained heap on the floor. He’s reliving all his tender moments with Naevia, and omg, I forgot they recast her for this season! They’ve been super thorough as well, reshooting all the memory scenes with New!Naevia for continuity. Well done indeed.
Sparty sits down next to Crixus and inexplicably does not offer sweet mancuddles as consolation. This is an outrage, my internets friends. An outrage and a tragedy.
Crixus wants to know how the fuck Spartacus was able to survive after Sura’s death, and Sparty admits frankly that the man he once was didn’t actually survive, and that bloody revenge keeps him going these days.
Crixus can’t get that excited over blood and guts, though — he’d rather wallow in his tears and recriminations, blaming himself for pursuing Naevia in the first place. Come the fuck on, dude. You gave Naevia what was probably the only legit happiness in her entire life! But no, Crixus is determined to post endless emo poetry to his LJ, and goes on meebling miserably throughout Spartacus’ patented Dramatic Inspiring Words of Freedom.
Sparty, my man, it’s great that you have a cause now, but let’s remember how much you didn’t want to hear about brotherhood and honor from Crixus when you first became a gladiator, shall we? Instead of gaining perspective, Sparty leaves Crixus to his manpain with a parting shot about how he doesn’t want anyone else like Naevia to die in slavery.
Nasir has been lurking quietly in the shadows at the end of the scene, and looks completely depressed. When Agron steps up to stop him from bothering Crixus, the reason for his misery is revealed — Agron and Nasir are keeping a terrible secret from Crixus, one that might cost them all their lives. Ruh roh.
Back at the ludus, Oenomaus is chained up in the courtyard after a long day’s torturing. Ashur strolls over to taunt him a bit and begin his scheme of crafty mindfuckery, wondering aloud about Oenomaus’ reasons for seeking out his own death in The Pits. Was it the fact that he betrayed his dominus? Was it the men who he trained using that training to turn on their master? Or was it his failure to kill Ashur during the rebellion? Oenomaus doesn’t take the bait.
Ashur’s next move is to try to break Oenomaus’ spirit by forcing him to ask for water — plot #2, failed. Oenomaus just smirks at him, like a goddamn boss. Ashur loses his temper and turns on him with his own whip. Oenomaus merely grits his teeth and stares off into the distance, because he is the most badass of mofos.
Upstairs, Ilithyia and Glaber are getting ready for bed. Glaber is still feeling pissy that Illy didn’t warn him of Varinius and Albinius’ arrival earlier that day, and her smiles and reassurances that no harm was done go entirely unheeded. Glaber’s halfway to tantrumville by the time Ilithyia cleverly distracts him with naked funtimes, and stops only to tell her, very seriously, that he didn’t like seeing the other man’s hands on her one goddamn bit. PREACH.
We are then treated to a long, loving view of Glaber’s seriously magnificent ass as he and Illy get busy. Alas, he’s too distracted to continue, claiming that “pressing concerns pull mind from task.” OH HELL NO. “Task”? Ilithyia is as outraged as I am by this damnfool statement. It is not some kind of goddamn hardship to bang your glorious wife, you jackass. HDU.
Glaber slinks off to plot with Marcus instead (naked? who plots naked?), leaving my precious darling Ilithyia standing alone with the most epically crushed look on her face. I want to slap him with my internets glove and demand satisfaction for this heinous offense.
Back down south, the bored gladiators are fighting amongst themselves. Spartacus breaks them up, and explains his plans to move their camp to Vesuvius, and from there, to attack Neapolis to find more men to add to their army. The Gauls aren’t willing to commit to anything without hearing from Crixus first, though, and he hauls himself out of the shadows to address them.
Crixus has finally accepted his sad and lonely Naevia-less fate, and throws himself and his considerable influence wholly behind Spartacus and his plans. Hooray!
Ashur’s still going at Oenomaus with the whip, apparently not even having stopped for tea. When the pain in his newly-peeled forearm becomes too much to carry on, he turns to good old-fashioned angry bellowing. Oenomaus’ only response is to spit blood in Ashur’s face, and Ashur snaps. He beats Oenomaus with the whip’s handle until Lucretia interrupts from behind the ludus’ gate.
Now, Ashur might be crafty but he’s a babe in the woods compared to the finely honed cunning of Lucretia. She advises him to look to the gods for inspiration, a suggestion that Ashur roundly mocks. It wasn’t the gods who found her alive after the massacre, nor was it the gods who sewed up her ghastly wounds and made sure she had clothing and food. And it sure as fucking shit was not the gods who brought Oenomaus from the Pits. No, that was all Ashur.
Lucretia does not give one single fuck about your tantrum, Ashur. Pay attention to the master and learn — Lucretia may not have a lot to say on the subject of physical torture, but she certainly knows a thing or two about psychologically traumatizing someone. She reminds Ashur that there are many secrets still to be revealed, and that one of them may very well affect Oenomaus very strongly indeed. OSHI-
Spartacus is standing watch over the sleeping gladiators and freed slaves, and Mira comes to coax him off to more pleasant bedtime pursuits instead. The conversation takes a serious turn when Mira tells Sparty flat out that she intends to stay fighting by his side, no matter what the danger, because she has no plans to die helplessly as Naevia did. Spartacus, like all right-thinking people, can’t resist a strong and kickass woman, and it’s off to bed they go.
Early the next morning, the rebels rush around the villa, packing up as many supplies as they can carry. Rhaskos’ blonde slave girl — who finally has a name, Chadara — teases Nasir that he’s not going to be able to carry the entire villa in one trunk, even with his BFF Agron’s help. She’s noticed the way Nasir looks at Agron, and the way they’ve been spending so much time together lately. Nasir tells her she’s mistaken, but looks secretly delighted nevertheless.
Chadara tells him to go ahead and make a move on the hotass Agron, and that she’d do it her own self if she thought he was even remotely interested. She’s only with Rhaskos because he is Crixus’ right-hand man, which gives her both protection and position. Ouch. The hard-learned pragmatism of the slaves has always been an important theme in this show, but it’s still hard to hear, especially when, as with Chadara, it’s delivered in such a matter-of-fact way.
Nasir struggles with the heavy chest, dragging it through the halls, and Crixus stops to assist him. Nasir is clearly uncomfortable with the situation and struggles to retain his cool, but Crixus is feeling chatty. He tells Nasir that the main reason he didn’t want Nasir training with them was not because of the attempt made on Sparty’s life — because seriously, how many times did Crixus try that himself — but because Nasir was Syrian. And Crixus has a whole lot of history with a certain notorious Syrian we all love to hate, as did Naevia. Crixus feels that Naevia wouldn’t want him to hold Ashur’s actions against Nasir, and holds out his hand to shake with Nasir.
This show of humility, trust, and brotherhood is all it takes for Nasir to crack.
Crixus hurtles out of the villa into the impluvium and tackles Agron in a crazyfaced rage. It takes three men to pull him off, and Spartacus thinks he’s lost his goddamn mind. And thus is all revealed — Naevia is alive and suffering in the mines, and Agron is a lying liarface who lies.
Spartacus is appalled that Agron would fuck around with someone’s life like this, but Agron defends his actions by saying that too many men would die in a rescue attempt on the mines. An awful lot of rebels seem ready to agree with Agron, and even Spartacus muses aloud that the lie was told “for the greater good”. This thought is immediately followed by a wicked right hook to Agron’s jaw, and I regain my faith in Sparty’s overall goodness. How would Agron feel if it was Duro alive in the mines, eh?
Sparty promises to stand with Crixus and work to rescue Naevia, and Agron’s had enough of this foolishness. He announces that he’s leaving for the proposed campsite at Vesuvius, and more than half the rebels move to join him.
Ashur’s taking a snack break in the shade from his long afternoon of torture, and notices that Oenomaus has finally regained consciousness. As a company of Glaber’s soldiers arrive in full armor, Ashur launches into his most insidious attack yet. He happily details the many secrets he’s been keeping all these years: catching Crixus and Naevia in the midst of their assignations; conspiring with Batiatus to kill off Magistrate Calavius and pin the blame on Solonius; and finally, watching Gannicus fuck Oenomaus’ late wife Melitta, as entertainment for Varis the creeper.
At last, something has a noticeable effect on Oenomaus. He’s not about to let anyone say shit like that about his beloved Melitta, and dismisses it as a lie. Ashur twists the knife by reminding Oenomaus of many things that Oenomaus himself had noticed at the time: how Gannicus’ attitude had changed dramatically, which Oenomaus had attributed to his elevation to Doctore; how Melitta spent so much time worrying about Gannicus; and, most damningly, how odd it was that Melitta was somehow poisoned by wine that had been meant for their dominus Titus, when she was known neither for stealing nor for drinking alone. DUN DUN DUUUUN.
Despite his best intentions to ignore Ashur, Oenomaus is left considering all these true facts and drawing conclusions that start to blow his goddamn mind. Each thing individually had seemed reasonable, but taken all together… well. It’s not looking good, is it? Overcome by all this rage and emotion, Oenomaus accidentally lets it slip that the men are seeking Naevia, and once again, Ashur is momentarily speechless. This is definitely not what he was expecting.
It’s not what Glaber was expecting, either, and he doesn’t seem very willing to believe Ashur’s information. Let’s face it, it has to sound pretty silly to him — the rebellion is riding off to rescue a damsel in distress? But both Lucretia and Ashur know Crixus well enough to recognize this as the absolute truth, and furthermore, Lucretia knows exactly where Naevia is. You know. In case Glaber’s maybe interested in setting a trap? Of course he is.
The gladiators are preparing for their rescue mission by getting naked together, because this show is fucking awesome and loves me with all its heart. As Rhaskos gives Chadara a parting shag up against a column, she laughingly demands that he take care not to die, since she’d have to find another cock to take his place. Rhaskos is amused by this threat instead of being pissed off as I’d expected. Apparently he has hidden depths, who knew?
Agron is also preparing to depart with his men, and tells Spartacus to meet up with them later at Vesuvius, if any of them survive. Nasir decides at the last minute to stay behind with Sparty, as he’s been to the mines before with his late dominus, and Agron lets him go without even a hug. Bad Agron, no biscuit.
The gladiators are back on the road to the mines, disguised as slaves and guards on the wagon. As they arrive at the huge open pit, Nasir plays the part of the slave trader, ordering Rhaskos the fake guard around with arrogant confidence. The filthy pit boss berates Nasir for arriving two days later than expected, and demands to know where the usual slave trader, Ferox, is. Nasir knows that the best lies contain a measure of truth, and says that Ferox is dead at Spartacus’ hand.
The pit boss is full of questions and complaints, and things start getting tense. Sparty is about to make a move when Mira steps forward, asking if she’s meant to present herself now. Damn, girl, you brave. Nasir takes the opening and runs with it, telling the pit boss that she’s a special offering to apologize for their lateness, and the man is effectively distracted.
Filthy Pit Boss drags Mira off to his shack for an afternoon of rapey horrors, but the idiot’s completely underestimated her. As soon as he gets his pants down, she goes for his belt knife and threatens to hack off his dick unless he gives her the information she’s after — the location of Naevia. FUCK YEAH MIRA. Filthy Pit Boss is far too fond of his cock to argue, and he tells Mira that Naevia is still there and alive, and he can show her location on a map.
Outside, things are taking a turn for the worse. One of the mine guards has recognized Sparty from his time in the arena, and there’s nothing left for the men to do but attack. A few moments are all the gladiators need to slaughter the remaining guards.
Meanwhile, Mira’s distracted for half a second when Filthy Pit Boss reaches for the map, and it’s just enough time for him to get away from her knife. He goes for her throat, once again underestimating her. Mira delivers a vicious kick to his groin before fileting him like a trout, and grabs the map on her way back outside.
Sparty leaves two gladiators behind to pose as the dead mine guards, and leads the rest of the men into the mines, following Mira’s map. How excited is Crixus? SO EXCITED.
Back in Capua, Ilithyia and Seppia are up in the pulvinus of the arena with Glaber, Albinius, Seppius, and Varinius. Seppia is devouring some sort of ghastly Roman delicacy, but Ilithyia’s morning sickness prevents her from joining in. Seppia’s grossed out by the whole idea of motherhood and childbirth, neither realizing nor caring that she’s offending Ilithyia and Lucretia with her pronouncements.
While the start of the games is announced, Seppius pulls Glaber aside to needle him about having his men on useless display as Seppius’ men hunt down Spartacus, but he doesn’t get the expected response — Glaber seems to have other things on his mind. Varinius stands to give the crowd a rousing speech about how goddamn awesome they all are, but the crowd goes from cheers to boos awfully fast when it appears that Glaber’s men are not there to parade around like peacocks. Oh snap. Glaber’s tiny smile of barely suppressed victory shows that this is all part of his cunning plan.
A company of Glaber’s men arrive at the mines with Marcus in command. They question the disguised gladiators, taking them for the genuine guards, and are disgusted and disappointed when there’s apparently no news of any attacks by the rebels. Unluckily, Ashur has accompanied the soldiers, and recognizes the two guard-impersonating gladiators. Before anyone even realizes what the hell is going on, Ashur attacks and kills both men. The mark of Batiatus on their arms proves Ashur’s story as correct, and the soldiers charge into the mine after the rebels.
Glaber stands in the pulvinus to address the angry crowd, confidently announcing that his men are moments away from apprehending Spartacus. Varinius, Seppius, and Albinius all share a moment of reluctant, grumpy admiration for Glaber’s successful ploy as everyone and their pet goat cheers for Glaber and the glory of Rome.
Soldiers and rebels alike are wet, filthy, and lost deep inside the mines. Spartacus is all sadface and woebegone that he can’t stop to free every single slave they pass, but he knows that Crixus is right – it would draw too much attention to their presence and compromise their mission. This seems odd, as Crixus running through the mine shaft bellowing NAEVIAAAAA at the top of his lungs is also surely drawing an awful lot of attention. There’s no sign of her anywhere, and Mira’s starting to worry that the pit boss lied about Naevia’s location. BUT THEN! *dramatic swelling music*
Nasir spies a tattoo on the shoulder of a frightened woman huddled in the dirt, and shouts for Crixus, who runs over with Bambi eyes of pure excitement. DRAMATIC MUDDY REUNION! Naevia seriously cannot believe her eyes, and who can even blame her? Their loving moment is ruined by the arrival of Glaber’s soldiers, of course. Stupid soldiers.
Sparty sends Mira and her map to flee with most of the men, and hangs back to kick some soldier ass. As Crixus hurries Naevia off to safety, he’s paralyzed by the sight of Ashur fighting alongside the soldiers. HULK SMASH!
In the midst of all this escaping and panicking and fighting, everyone’s got themselves all turned arsey-versey, and Mira’s suddenly not at all sure they’re headed in the right direction. A few wrong turns and a dead end later, she’s finally got a handle on things, and leads them to a locked gate guarded by a single man. He’s dead on the end of Sparty’s sword before he even realizes he’s in danger. Naturally, he drops his keys on the wrong side of the locked gate, and the soldiers are closing in. OHNOES.
Crixus throws Naevia into Sparty’s arms, shouting for him to see her to safety, and runs towards the approaching soldiers, armed only with his crazy fucking rage and his hotass bemuscled self. Naevia is not down with this plan one single fucking bit, and struggles to run after him. Mira’s got the keys in hand at last and unlocks the gate, and Sparty drags a screaming, struggling Naevia through.
Unarmed and outnumbered, Crixus still has the upper hand, and looks reasonably close to defeating the soldiers all by his onesie…. Until Ashur picks this moment to arrive and attack Crixus from behind, because Ashur is a bad person who does bad things and should feel bad for his badness. And then, omg you guys. AND THEN! Sparty grabs the keys to lock the gate and cover their retreat, leaving Crixus behind. Ashur raises his sword high above his head AND I FLIP THE FUCK OUT BECAUSE SRSLY NO I WILL NOT HAVE IT.
Luckily for my continued sanity, Ashur just bashes Crixus on the back of his head with the hilt, in the most cruel and unnecessary cliffhanger ever.