I CAN’T EVEN GET THROUGH THE “PREVIOUSLY” WITHOUT WAILING.
Late night, and a small squad of Roman soldiers are roasting a hare over an open fire, out in the middle of nowhere. The leader dude grumps about having to share one small animal between 6 men for dinner, but dude, I assure you that this will shortly be the least of your problems. One of the other soldiers glances out into the pitch black night surrounding their tiny fire and tells the first dude to lower his voice. Leader Dude will not be silenced! He is no whimpering child, to be afraid of the darkness!
Well, you see, soldier dude – it’s not the darkness you should be afraid of. It’s what the darkness conceals.
In the distance, they spot a small torch wavering. Everyone leaps to their feet and draws their swords, and Leader Dude shouts out a challenge. This challenge is met by the torch flying through the air and embedding its pointy arrow’s head in Leader Dude’s chest.
The inevitable savage attack follows, cunningly from the opposite direction as the flung torch. Naturally none are spared. Between Gannicus and Spartacus and their swords, and Lugo’s massive war hammer, the Roman soldiers are dead before they even finish piddling themselves with fear. Saxa arrives, breathless from her run, and laughs at the scene before her. She’s disappointed that her long-distance torch ruse kept her from being able to kill any more soldiers, and demands that next time, someone else be responsible for the bow.
Sparty tells everyone to get started with stripping the dead soldiers for armor and weapons. As they work, Gannicus comments that the soldiers came from the north, not from the south where Crassus’ legions are camped. Sparty looks a bit closer and notes that Crassus’ insignia is that of the bull – these dead soldiers wear a different sigil on their armor, and are clearly not Crassus’ men.
Upon return to camp, Sparty enlists Laeta’s assistance in identifying the sigil – she’s certain that the eagle and dolphin are the mark of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, aka Pompey. Laeta remembers hearing many times from her late husband Ennius that Pompey is noted as one of Rome’s greatest warriors, and Sparty grumpily interrupts her, as he’s heard it all before. He’s also heard that Pompey is spoken of as a rash, adolescent butcher on the war field. Gannicus interjects that he’d thought Pompey was still stuck in Hispania, warring against the rogue Consul, Sertorius; in fact, his absence was the initial reason that the Senate approached Crassus to go up against Sparty’s rebellion.
Everyone knows that the presence of Pompey’s men back on Roman soil can only mean that the man himself is either already here or is soon to follow, and this will surely not work out well for the rebellion. There’s no time for further planning or worrying, as Nasir brings word that a single rider approaches from the south.
Everyone hurries outside, and Spartacus gives terse orders to prepare for a possible attack. As he reaches the edge of the camp with Nasir, Gannicus, Saxa, and Lugo, Sparty realizes that this isn’t a distraction or an attack after all. Even though the single rider is wearing the cloak of a Legionnaire, it’s no Roman soldier.
As the exhausted rider falls to the ground, we see that it is Naevia. And in a sack carried in her arms holds Crixus’ head.
WOW 4 MINUTES IN AND I AM ALREADY SUPER DEPRESSED. This is like a new record, thanks Spartacus.
Inside the HQ tent, Naevia sits, clutching the sack and staring off into the distance. Sparty pours her a cup of wine but she doesn’t want to take it, telling him not to waste it on the dead. Gannicus meebles awkwardly in the background, miserable over the loss of his old friend but unable to articulate it. Sparty tells Naevia to stop with the I’M DEAD INSIDE business, but she is utterly miserable and unwilling to be consoled even mildly. AS AM I.
As she finally weeps a little, quietly, Sparty gently removes the sack from her arms. Gannicus hesitantly asks if Crixus’ death was as he’d always dreamed it would be – did he die in glorious battle? Naevia confirms that it was in battle, but she’s not sure how glorious it was. Sparty prompts her to give them more details, and Naevia relives the whole ghastly scenario – the initial victories, the final attack outside Rome thwarted by Crassus, Crixus’ fight with Caesar, and Tiberius’ attack on Crixus’ back.
Gannicus looks half depressed and half outraged that someone like Crixus would meet his end at the hands of a horrible shitty little child like Tiberius, and everyone looks pretty vengeance-lusty. Nasir, having slipped quietly into the tent during Naevia’s story, nervously asks about Agron. Naevia’s only response is to bite back more tears, and Nasir needs no further explanation. He does some tear-biting of his own, and hurries out of the tent to wail out his misery in private.
Naevia pulls herself together and reminds Spartacus that the only reason Crassus spared her life was to taunt Sparty with the details of Crixus’ death. Sparty and Gannicus both know that this was done in the hopes of prompting Sparty to lose his temper and attack Crassus’ legions hastily and unwisely. Sparty admits that if he didn’t have an entire rebellion to worry about, he’d probably do just that, but they have more important things to worry about right now. If they get caught between Crassus’ army in the south and Pompey’s army in the north, they are screwed beyond belief. And when the scouts don’t return, Pompey is sure to send more.
In fact, that appears to be exactly what is happening. A pair of soldierly riders approaches Crassus’ encampment later that evening.
Inside the HQ tent, Crassus and Tiberius are discussing the torture of the rebel prisoners. No one who accompanied Crixus and survived is willing to give any information to Crassus’ men, despite some rather enthusiastic questioning. Crassus decides that there’s no time for more intense measures, because he wants to get everyone moving at dawn.
Tiberius has one small matter of concern, however; raising his voice slightly to make sure that Caesar, lingering nearby, is able to hear, Tiberius tells Crassus that there was a ghastly brutal murder in the follower’s camp the night before. It appears the Egyptian prostitute, Canthara, was found gutted like a trout, and no one seems to know who the culprit was. Crassus seems to find the name somewhat familiar, and asks Caesar if he knows anything about it. This is the first Caesar’s heard anything about it, and from the icy look he bestows upon Tiberius, he knows exactly who is to blame.
Once again, Crassus inexplicably misses their entire unspoken interplay, and instead grumpily lectures them on the need for order and reason in the follower’s camp. Tiberius promises to make sure everything is okay, and Caesar also promises to look into things. As usual, they both mean very different things.
A soldier approaches with the news that two riders bearing Pompey’s sigil have arrived and wish to speak with Crassus. Tiberius and Crassus look irritated but unsurprised, and Crassus asks that the riders be sent to his personal tent, his pratetorium.
Once inside, Crassus glares down the two nervous men until one of them cautiously addresses him – it appears that Pompey is offering his support in Crassus’ campaign against Spartacus. Crassus affects surprise, as everyone knows that Pompey doesn’t support anyone or anything but himself. The increasingly nervous and sweaty soldier apologizes to Crassus, protesting that he’s only the bearer of the message. He continues with his message, saying that Pompey requests a meeting with him.
Tiberius asks why Pompey isn’t there himself if he wants to be so helpful and supportive. Caesar, giving the soldier an extremely thoughtful look, says that Pompey is not foolish enough to walk into his rival’s encampment, now is he. Crassus adds that he himself isn’t foolish enough to go meet Pompey in Pompey’s own camp, nor does he plan to “bow and scrape” before someone who thinks himself above the House of Crassus.
It seems that everything is at an impasse, until the nervous messenger soldier explains that Pompey intends for them to meet on neutral ground – each man will be attended by 20 men, no more. Crassus agrees to consider the terms, and dismisses the messengers, telling his own men to see them fed and rested.
As soon as they’re gone, Tiberius immediately insists that Crassus not consider a damn thing – he’s sure that this is some sort of trap for Crassus, so that Pompey can seize the attack and steal all their glory by defeating Spartacus himself. Playing on his blackmail material, Tiberius addresses Caesar, pulling him into the discussion to support his own position. Caesar takes a moment to think about it and says that he shares Tiberius’ concerns, but offers more considered advice – since Pompey has just returned from Hispania, entirely celebrated and victorious, they should be careful not to do anything that would seem like a blatant insult against him.
Caesar further argues that with Pompey attacking from the north and Crassus attacking from the south, they could seal off all chance of the rebellion’s escape over the mountains. Crassus admits that he doesn’t want to see that happen. Tiberius counters that Crassus can’t go to the meeting, as it would appear that Pompey has the right to command him to do so. Caesar is prepared for this argument as well, saying that of course Crassus himself shouldn’t go – instead, someone who stands high in his regard should take his place and take charge of the negotiations.
Tiberius sneers at Caesar, immediately assuming that Caesar means to go himself. But no, Caesar thinks Tiberius should go. After all, he is the second-in-command, isn’t he? Crassus is hesitant to send Tiberius, and says that against an opponent as shrewd as Pompey, he’d rather have someone with more experience. Caesar argues that Tiberius has proven himself a worthy adversary, and that his youth will make Pompey let his guard down. Tiberius, who is an idiot, immediately agrees with Caesar and insists that he’s ready for the job, and Crassus is swayed. He tells Tiberius that they’ll wait for his return, and not to give any ground to Pompey.
Once he’s gone, Crassus comments to Caesar how much Tiberius has grown. Caesar agrees, and says that he hopes Tiberius gets everything he deserves.
Kore is washing her face at the side of the camp when Naevia stumbles over, still in shock from the shitshow her life has become. She addresses Kore, asking if it’s true that she was once Crassus’ personal and favoured slave; when Kore admits that she is, and that she was with Crassus the very night she fled, Naevia asks why she didn’t take the opportunity to kill Crassus before fleeing to the rebels. After all, Crixus and everyone else would likely still be alive now if Kore had done so.
Kore says that she’s moved by Naevia’s loss, but it’s unfair for Naevia to hold her responsible for it. Naevia counters that everyone needs to take responsibility for their actions, or for the things they’ve failed to do. Kore tells her that they can’t go back in time to change things now, and Naevia agrees, but insists that they have to now prepare for their uncertain futures, and wait for the best moment to strike and gain vengeance. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be Naevia threatening Kore or not, but Kore looks worried nevertheless.
Tiberius and his 20 men approach the neutral ground camp arranged by Pompey’s messengers. There doesn’t appear to be any more men than permitted lurking in the shadows, but the men that are present seem highly alert and ready for anything, enough so that Tiberius tells his personal escort to stick close by at all times.
Tiberius enters the tent with his personal guard, announcing himself and saying that his honored father regrets being unable to attend in person, but he’s cut off halfway through his prepared and somewhat sarcastic speech. The man standing in the middle of the tent says that the regret is, in fact, all his.
This is because it’s Spartacus waiting for Tiberius, not Pompey at all. And he is awfully disappointed to not have the chance to kill Crassus immediately.
Oh, the look of shocked betrayal on Tiberius’ pretty little princess face! It is glorious to behold. Tiberius stands frozen in shock until the sounds of the struggle outside pulls him back to sanity. Sparty doesn’t even have to draw his sword before Tiberius turns tail and flees. He just barely makes it to his horse, leaping onto its back like a rodeo clown, but Sparty yanks him off the saddle by his cape before he can get very far.
Gannicus can’t figure out why Sparty’s keeping them alive, so Sparty explains – he’s going to use the soldiers to give honor to their dead. Historically speaking, I AM EXCITE FOR WHAT IS COMING.
Back in Crassus’ camp, a pretty blonde girl is crying alone in her tent. At the sound of someone entering behind her, she leaps up waving a small knife in front of her; she’s clearly terrified. It’s Caesar, who tells her she has nothing to fear from him, as he had nothing to do with her friend Canthara’s death. He also tells her that the person responsible will never again cause harm. This unnamed person – who we all know is Tiberius – is referred to as a cowardly little shit who thought he could play with the big boys and was sadly mistaken, and who was cunningly maneuvered to his own death.
BECAUSE YES. AHAHA. YES YES. CAESAR TOTALLY RECOGNIZED THE MEN SPARTY SENT AS FAKE MESSENGERS FROM POMPEY. He recognized them and didn’t say a fucking word oh my god Caesar you glorious bastard. YOU MONSTROUS FIENDISH GENIUS, you deliberately sent Tiberius off to his death, and I salute you, good sir.
The crying girl says fiercely that she’d love to see him suffering, whoever he is, and Caesar tells her that in order to fully celebrate being alive, they should totally do it. So they do. A lot.
Tiberius and his men are dragged through the rebel camp in chains. The assembled crowd is jeering and shouting and throwing garbage and rocks and generally enjoying their capture. Off to the side, Kore watches with a sort of nervous satisfaction.
Laeta asks Sparty what’s going on, and he says that their plan to trap Crassus didn’t exactly work out as they’d hoped, but it may prove to be just as satisfying. He shouts to the assembled crowd to lay off the Romans, because he’d hate to have any of them die so easily. Their deaths are going to be much worse.
Spartacus speaks with Naevia alone, explaining that they’re going to hold games of bloodsport and force the prisoners to fight for their lives against the gladiators. He then hands over Tiberius’ sword, and Naevia recalls seeing it in Crixus’ hands, and then in the bratty little boy’s hands before he killed Crixus. Sparty tells her three important facts: the little boy’s name is Tiberius; he’s Crassus’ eldest son; and he is now their prisoner. Oh, and Naevia can face him in single combat and kill him if she wants. In fact, that’s the only reason Spartacus has allowed Tiberius to remain alive – for Naevia’s vengeance.
They’re going to build a huge pyre in the middle of their imaginary arena and pay tribute to “the undefeated Gaul,” which is how Sparty will always remember Crixus. And then, it’s time for Roman blood and fun times.
Naevia broaches a sort of apology to Spartacus, as she feels partly responsible for pushing Crixus to break with Sparty’s half of the rebellion to go off on their own. Spartacus doesn’t even want to hear it, as he doesn’t blame her for anything. ONCE AGAIN THIS IS A HUGGING MOMENT OKAY.
But no hugs are to be had. Instead, Naevia grips the fancy sword in her hands and is super excited for slaughter.
In the prisoner’s corner of the Roman encampment, the scene is awfully grim. The rebel prisoners are mangled and bloody and huddled in their own filth, and most of them look like they don’t even need to be chained up – they wouldn’t be able to stumble 5 feet if they tried to flee.
A guard throws a bucket of filthy water into a prisoner’s face; as the man jerks awake and glares up at his captors, we see that it is Agron. ALIVE! Battered to hell and back, festering wound on his side and on his chest, one eye swollen completely shut, but ALIVE.
As the random guard smacks him about a bit more, seemingly just for the pleasure of doing so, Crassus arrives with Caesar. Caesar is happy to identify Agron by name and as one of Sparty’s right-hand men, equal only to Gannicus and Crixus. Crassus is unhappy to hear that Agron has not yet been made to give them any useful information, aside from his usual vicious insults. Caesar’s all for beating Agron til he gives in, but Crassus is too impatient and too brutal to bother. His solution is to instead have Agron crucified as an example to the rest of the prisoners. Agron stops his sneering laughter rather abruptly.
The guards bind Agron’s arms to a wooden cross, easily overcoming his struggles. Agron snarls at Caesar that he’ll have his head one day, a taunt which Caesar finds hilarious. Caesar has a plan for that too, apparently – instead of crucifying Agron in the correct, through-the-wrist-bones way, Caesar drives the nails directly through Agron’s palms, specifically so he’ll never be able to hold a sword again.
Oh god that’s a lot of screaming.
Crassus and Caesar find the resulting Jesusy scene terribly satisfying, and Crassus comments that he hopes to nail up all of Sparty’s followers in a similar fashion. We’re saved from hearing any further gruesome plans for future mayhem, as a solider scurries over to inform them that an envoy from Pompey has arrived at the camp. Crassus immediately asks if Tiberius is with them, and the soldier hesitates momentarily before saying that Tiberius isn’t with them.
Crassus struts up to the envoy, with Caesar right behind him, and glares him down imperiously. The envoy is barely two words into his formal greeting when Crassus interrupts, demanding to know where his son is. The envoy’s face is a picture of pure befuddlement; he very clearly has no idea what’s going on. He looks Crassus right in the eye and tells him, with obvious honesty and confusion, that he knows nothing of Tiberius’ whereabouts, nor of any other envoys sent by Pompey previously; as far as he knows, he’s the sole envoy to Crassus. Caesar and Crassus share a startled, disbelieving look.
Crassus loses his temper immediately, raging that the previous messengers were there wearing Pompey’s sigil just a few days before. The envoy looks like he’s catching on to something, and tells Crassus that there indeed were other envoys dispatched… but not to Crassus. In fact, a small group of men were dispatched to the south, to Latium, have failed to report back.
Simmering with the outrageous knowledge of just how fully he’s been duped, Crassus dismisses the envoys and proceeds to flip the fuck out. Crassus muses aloud that the previous messengers were surely Sparty’s men, dressed as the dead envoys. Caesar smiles a tiny little private smile of epically smug satisfaction at Crassus’ back. He quickly slips his face back into its mask of concern as Crassus turns on him to bellow about how Caesar should’ve recognized them, having spent so much time in Sinuessa amongst the rebels.
Caesar counters that there were thousands of rebels in the city, so how could he be expected to know them all on sight? Crassus isn’t really willing to listen to reason, and is even more angry when Caesar points out how lucky they were that Crassus himself didn’t fall to Spartacus – Crassus doesn’t even want to suggest the possibility that Tiberius might be dead already. Besides, Tiberius is a valuable bargaining chip, and surely Spartacus can recognize it.
Caesar is startled that Crassus thinks his son might still be alive, but gamely suggests that they wait and see what Sparty’s next move will be nevertheless. Yeah, no, dude. Crassus isn’t going to sit around with his thumb up his ass waiting to see if his son is murdered or not. Instead, they’re going to send a handful of men to attempt a trade. Caesar quite logically points out that Sparty will kill Crassus on sight, no matter what the cost to himself.
Oh Caesar, you poor fool. Crassus knows that already, so your offer of sending your own men to take care of it isn’t going to fly. You see, Crassus wants someone who already knows very well how Spartacus and his allies operate. And that someone is YOU, Caesar.
Caesar asks point blank if Crassus is deliberately sending him to his death, and Crassus responds with his usual brutal honesty – he doesn’t think Spartacus will kill him outright, but if he does, well then Crassus will just have to mourn Caesar as well as Tiberius.
The rebels appear to have found an old, disused arena somewhere nearby their encampment. This is, without question, the single most entertaining usage of handwavey hilarity to date on this show. (I will die if this is historically accurate. Not the “force the Romans to die in gladiator combat” thing, which I know is accurate, but the “we lucked out and found this old arena!” thing.)
The rebels are tidying up the old arena – it’s really just a broad open cliffside faced by a huge open half-amphitheatre. Tiberius and his men are chained up in the hypogeum tunnels leading into the small arena, and he’s consumed with bitter self-recriminations and regrets over having been so easily manipulated into his own doom by Caesar. Tiberius has already realized that Caesar must have recognized the false envoys as Spartacus’ men. Tiberius instructs his men not to participate in the games, even if it means dying immediately and undefended; he refuses to consider himself or any of his men having to fight against mere slaves.
Kore then surprises him, having slipped up unnoticed in the middle of his rant, to point out that right now, they’re all no better than slaves themselves. After all, they’re chained up and condemned to the whims of someone above them. Tiberius sneers at Kore, telling her that she herself was never chained up, but really, she might as well have been, considering the way he treated her.
Tiberius desperately promises to reunite her with his father if she’ll unchain him and help him escape. Kore’s unmoved until Tiberius tells her that Crassus still loves her, despite what he sees as her betrayal – she can’t believe Crassus still cares about her, and the knowledge makes her smile.
After a moment of reflection, Kore tells Tiberius that she’ll return at nightfall. His entire face lights up with hope and relief until she continues on, mercilessly, telling him that she’ll be front and center to watch him die. She looks him right in the eye as she dashes his last hopes, and then turns her back and walks away, proudly.
The former gladiators prepare themselves for the upcoming games with grim enthusiasm. As the rest of the rebels assemble on the seats of the theatre, Sparty stalks out onto the sands with Naevia and Gannicus at his side, followed by Saxa, Lugo, Nasir, and a handful of other old friends who I am embarrassed not to be able to name. They’re old familiar faces, seen in the background of various first season training montages, seen drinking alongside Crixus and Rhaskos and the rest of the Gauls – I think that’s Rabanus? – , seen in the final slaughter at the ludus.
The crowd of rebels is wild with excitement at this reversal of fortunes. Sparty steps forward and the crowd silences. As he raises his hand and lets some sand drift down to the ground, he reminds everyone that it seems an entire lifetime since he stood on the sands as a gladiator, something he never wanted in the first place. And since Rome forced this on him and all his gladiator brothers, it seems only fair that they return the favor, while honoring their dead with Roman blood.
WILD SCREAMY CHEERING.
The first soldier is led out – it’s Tiberius’ right-hand man, Large Nameless Thug. Sparty taunts him, asking what kind of challenge he’s going to be without his legions to back him up. LNT just glares at him angrily as Sparty calls for the fight to begin. LNT glances over at Tiberius one last time, and, noting Tiberius’ agreement, tosses his sword aside, refusing to fight, even when Sparty arrogantly turns his back.
The crowd boos LNT viciously, so Sparty simply turns on him and cuts his throat immediately, to the gleeful shrieks of the crowd. Gannicus is in the very first row seated next to a pale-faced, horrified Sibyl; as soon as the first soldier dies, he laughs and applauds with genuine amusement. Sibyl gives him a little side-eye.
Spartacus announces that every single one of the Roman prisoners will either fight or die where they stand, to the crowd’s hearty approval. In fact, if one man is too scared to face Sparty alone, he’ll fight two, just for the lulz.
Two soldiers are dragged out of the tunnel and handed swords. They appear nervous but still have that edge of soldierly arrogance, despite all they’ve seen of the rebellion. They are, of course, no match for Spartacus. He toys with them for the pleasure of the crowd, echos of his old showmanship shining through in every casual, almost lazy parry of their wild jabs. Even when they attack him together, they can barely get a hit in. One of the soldiers suddenly takes first blood, catching Sparty high on the side of his face, and the crowd hisses their disapproval.
Down in the front row, Sibyl tells Gannicus, wide-eyed and nervous, that she’s never seen the games before, and Gannicus gives her a fond little chuckle before explaining that what they’re seeing is a pale, tiny shadow of the true glory of the arena. Since he’s barely looked away from the fight throughout their conversation, Gannicus misses the sharp and judgmental look Sibyl levels at him for this comment. She’s not too pleased with the thought that he sounds awfully like he misses his days as a champion gladiator.
Oh Sibyl. You really don’t know him at all, do you. Gannicus laughingly tells her that he has no desire to be a slave again, of course. Before she can feel any kind of relief, he continues, saying that he absolutely feels drawn to fighting on the sands, and having a clear purpose in life.
The fight before them grows more intense, with even more of Sparty’s trademark fancy footwork and asskickery. Gannicus’ smile grows broader and Sibyl’s hurt disapproval shines more brightly.
Sparty cleverly kills the first man by throwing him throat first onto the crossed swords planted in the sands, and then turns his attention to the remaining soldier. Both of them now weaponless, it’s just a flat-out brawl, and Sparty is dominating aggressively. As the second soldier hauls himself to standing for one last hurrah, Sparty yanks the swords out of the sand and buries them in the back of the soldier’s head, with the points protruding from his eye sockets. ICKY.
The bloodthirsty crowd is delighted.
Sparty yells out that they’re going to need a whole lot more blood to properly honor Crixus and everyone else who has fallen to the Romans. So naturally this means that it’s Gannicus’ turn upon the sands. Gannicus prances into the arena and shouts that 2 soldiers didn’t give enough of a show for him, so he’d like to fight against 3 instead.
Sparty heads up into the stands and sits down by Laeta, who gives him a huge, gorgeous smile. She asks if Gannicus is doing this just to best him, and Spartacus rolls his eyes a little – all gladiators are always looking to be better than everyone else, because that was the only way to survive in the arena.
Bfore them, the fight begins, with all three soldiers attacking Gannicus simultaneously. Even with this concentrated effort they are no match for him even on his worst day. Up in the stands, Sibyl looks excited despite her best intentions to disapprove. Nearby, Spartacus explains to Laeta that out of all the gladiators in the rebellion, Gannicus is the only one who ever won his freedom upon the sands. This only serves to confuse her even more – if Gannicus is free, then why did he choose to join the rebellion? Sparty recounts the tale of Gannicus’ devotion to Oenomaus and his determination to join the rebellion in honor of Oenomaus’ death.
Down on the sands, Gannicus has effortlessly tossed one of the soldiers over the cliff and guts the second a moment later. He then slices open the third man’s sword arm, forcing him to drop his weapon. Laeta turns her face away from the bloodshed for a moment, prompting Sparty to ask if it’s hard for her to watch her people die. Laeta tells him, firmly, that they’re not her people anymore, and that while she might turn away from the actual bloodshed, she won’t turn away from the meaning and reasoning behind the bloodshed.
Upon hearing this calm pronouncement, Sparty looks like he wants to make out with her wildly right there in the stands. Meanwhile, Gannicus has ended the third soldier by whacking his head off and flinging the gory trophy into the stands.
What follows is a complete massacre. While the soldiers are definitely fighting for their lives, they can’t really match the rage and skill of people who have spend most of their lives fighting for their lives, or training to do so. All the former gladiators are fighting in their former gladiator styles – one man (I think it’s Pollux, actually) is even wielding the weighted net and trident of a retiarius. Lugo is giddily swinging his massive war hammer and smashing people to bits; Saxa is dripping with the blood of her opponents and gutting them happily; everyone is having a simply splendid time. I can’t decide which is more enjoyable – the murderous giddy ragefaces of the gladiators, or the wild-eyed bloodthirsty expressions of the individuals in the crowd.
Okay, actually the increasing despair on Tiberius’ face is my favourite thing.
Nasir is the next to fight. He taunts his opponent for being only one man and thus not truly being worthy of honoring Agron’s memory. Nasir then proceeds to school the poor unsuspecting soldier, easily a full foot taller than him, on misjudging your enemies. Armed only with a light spear, Nasir presses his attack so boldly and so savagely that the soldier spends more time desperately trying to get up off his ass than he does defending himself. Up in the stands, Castus alternately cheers his approval and grimaces with worry.
Naevia has sat quietly on the sidelines throughout each tournament. Sparty joins her and asks if she’s ready for the final contest against Tiberius. Instead of answering directly, Naevia recounts the story of her very first meeting with Crixus, when he awkwardly boasted to her of being a gladiator and loving the bloody games. She, in turn, told him that she didn’t care much about gladiatorial games at all; not the most auspicious first impression for either of them. But now, the games are all Naevia longs for.
Sparty grins at her fierceness and reminds her not to lower her guard. A few levels above them, Gannicus is taking a message from the rebel formerly disguised as Pompey’s messenger, and with a significant look from Gannicus, Sparty joins them. It seems they have a visitor who will require Sparty’s personal attention.
Over in the rebel HQ tent, their visitor awaits… Caesar. He carries a message from Crassus: if the rebels return Tiberius, alive, Crassus will release 500 of the rebel prisoners. Gannicus’ only response to this offer is to punch Caesar in his face and then kick him across the floor when he falls. Sparty is willing to listen to the offer, but Gannicus is outraged that he might even consider trusting Caesar’s word. Caesar is surprised to hear that Tiberius is still alive, but it’s likely not for long anyway.
Caesar and Sparty exchange some snarky quips, the substance of which is that the offer comes from Crassus himself, not from Caesar. He further insists that Crassus isn’t playing them; he truly wants his son back safe and sound. Caesar, however, would be fine if he was dead.
Back out in the arena, Nasir finishes off his opponent, much to Castus’ relief. Nasir stops in front of Naevia, who tells him that he honored Agron well. Nasir replies that he’s sure she’ll do the same for Crixus, and then it’s time. TIME FOR TIBERIUS TO DIIIIIIIE. I hope.
Saxa drags Tiberius out by his hair, and she and Lugo dump him in the center of the arena to face the hate-filled, jeering crowd.
One simple, insignificant taunt is all it takes for Tiberius to attack hotheadedly and unwisely. He lunges at Naevia, waving his sword stupidly, and she fights him off with ease, dodging or parrying his every wild blow. Naevia catches his arm on one of his overhand swings and sends him off with a headbutt, casually turning her back on him to walk away.
Tiberius taunts her, asking if she still thinks he’s a little kid, and she says that he’s a bit more than she expected. But probably not much, from her expression. They meet again and again but so far no one has taken first blood. Naevia’s vicious elbow to the back of his head is countered by Tiberius’ sword hilt knocked against her temple. Eventually she holds him still before her and thanks him for not dying too quickly.
Tiberius stumbles back from the force of her punch, and taunts her that he’s going to kill her just like he killed her boyfrand. Tiberius, you silly child. She’s not going to be taunted into losing her temper as easily as you were. As Tiberius lunges at her, Naevia delivers a series of crippling hits to his sword arm and shoulder.
Bloody and wounded, Tiberius drops his sword.
Up in the stands, Kore smiles, cold and satisfied. Naevia’s next swing takes Tiberius low across the stomach, and though his armor protects him from the full killing slash, he doubles over, breathless. Naevia kicks him onto his back easily, and stalks over to him victoriously.
Naevia grabs a fistful of his hair and drags Tiberius up to his knees, laying her sword at the side of his throat. She smiles down at him and tells him she’ll be returning his sword to him now. Naevia raises her arm to whack his head off like a goddamn boss, but of course Sparty stops her just in time. NOOOOOO.
Sparty joins her on the sands and asks her to hold off for a moment while he explains Crassus’ offer to the assembled rebels. The responses from the stands are mixed, but many call for Tiberius’ death regardless. Naevia asks if it’s just another Roman lie, and Sparty says that he doesn’t believe it is, but that the choice remains Naevia’s alone.
With Tiberius sniveling pathetically at her feet, Naevia holds the sword to his throat a few moments longer, trembling with rage, until she finally smashes him in the face with its hilt instead. As Tiberius whimpers on his back, Naevia tells him that she wants him to live the rest of his life knowing that she held his life in her hands, and that one day, she plans to take it back.
Up in the stands, Kore looks a little disappointed, and very thoughtful.
Sparty and Naevia are leading Tiberius through the rebel encampment towards Caesar and tradeover freedom. The assembled crowd is jeering angrily and shouting for Tiberius’ immediate death. Caesar glances over at Tiberius with a small, satisfied grin, and asks for a moment to speak with Tiberius before they leave. Tiberius limps over to Caesar and they meet in the center of the screaming crowd.
Caesar grins a larger and even more satisfying grin at Tiberius’ accusations that he knew all along that Tiberius was heading into a trap, and all but laughs in his face at his threats to tell Crassus. You see, Tiberius, it’s going to be a long and dangerous road back to Crassus’ camp, especially for someone who needs to be taught a lesson as badly as Tiberius does. Yes, Tiberius, he is threatening to do the same to you as you did to him.
As this realization sets in, Tiberius stumbles a few steps back from Caesar. As he does, Kore lunges from the crowd, screaming, and stabs Tiberius in the back before anyone can stop her. Sparty and Caesar pull them apart, but it’s too late, and Tiberius falls down dead.
Caesar is outraged, and screams madly at Kore. Spartacus is more quiet and measured in his disapproval, telling her that she’s cost them 500 lives. Gannicus, however, is the most practical of the bunch, pointing out that they might as well kill Caesar now too. Oh Gannicus. Stop always being my favourite, I’m still mad at you!
Kore says that she can make sure Crassus still keeps his bargain with them, and thus stays Gannicus’ hand. She offers herself in exchange instead.
At Crassus’ encampment, Tiberius’ body is laid out on a table. Caesar explains that Tiberius was killed by a random rebel slave on their way out of the encampment. Crassus is furious that Caesar kept the bargain anyway, and Caesar says that he knew Crassus would be destroyed by his son’s death, and so took the opportunity that presented himself. At his words, Kore enters the tent, and Crassus freezes. He thanks Caesar, and tells him that he’s now the second-in-command. Caesar is to prepare the men to march at first light towards Spartacus and the rebel army.
When Caesar leaves, Crassus walks slowly over to Kore and tells her to look at him. She looks up at him nervously and says his name, Marcus, and he drags her in for a desperate kiss and tight hug. As they cling to one another, shaking, Crassus tells her quietly that she will call him dominus from now on.
The rebel camp is a mess of busy confusion as the 500 released prisoners are led or carried back amongst their friends. Most of them can’t walk on their own, and bear marks of terrible suffering. Nasir and Castus wander over to stand with Naevia, and Nasir says that he wishes their loved ones were among them.
It’s Castus who finally sees, and he points it out to Nasir wordlessly. Far across the throng, Spartacus is helping someone into the camp… Agron. Nasir looks almost terrified to believe that it’s true.
Nasir shoves his way through the crowd (and hi this is like almost the exact same score to which Elias died in Platoon) and grabs Agron’s face, staring at him in awe. He’s barely able to keep it together, and tells Agron that the gods themselves have returned him to Nasir’s arms. Agron’s also about to sob like a giant sobby baby, and tells Nasir that he was a fool to ever leave.
Behind them, Castus watches their reunion a little sadly and then walks away.
Later, the rebels have set up a giant pyre with Crixus’ head on it, along with his favourite shield and some of his other old belongings. Naevia whispers her goodbyes and stands next to Spartacus. He tells the assembled rebels that they are celebrating the reunions of those that they thought were lost to them forever, and honoring all those who died at Roman hands.
Naevia lights the pyre and names Crixus. Soon the rest of the rebels begin calling out the names of their dead: Sparty names Sura, Varro, and Mira; Gannicus names Oenomaus; Sibyl calls out Diotimus’ name; Rabanos names Rhaskos; an unseen person in the crowd calls out to name Sanus, and another, Fortis; Lugo names Donar; Agron, his brother Duro; a former slave girl from the House of Batiatus tearfully shouts out Liscus’ name. The crowd continues, naming all those lost to them, until as one, they begin cheering for Crixus. Even Laeta.