PREVIOUSLY ON SPARTACUS: BLOOD & SAND! – Endless sweaty gladiator training scenes! Glaber was a douchebag! Batty revealed himself as a pantysniffer! Crixus’ cock was a superstar! Sparty made a deal with the devil! And Ilithyia jizzed in her pants.
Early in the morning, Spartacus is alone in his cell, dressing himself in his practice gear: a short leather manica over his right shoulder, and heavy cloth and leather ocrea on both legs. (daily dose of greaves fetish: satisfied.) He pauses for a moment to snuggle Sura’s purple garter to his manly bosom, before tying it to his forearm beneath his vambraces. Aww. Then it’s out to the practice sands, where Doctore is not terribly impressed with Sparty’s gladiatorial form while kicking Kerza’s ass. I am too busy staring at Sparty’s ass in his tiny little gladiator panties to pay much attention, as per usual. HOW PREDICTABLE.
Doctore’s got some good advice for Our Sparty – don’t charge without planning ahead to your next move, and furthermore, quit yo jibba jabba! Sparty the Prideful Jackass ends up thrown to his fine ass on the ground by a quick hipcheck from Doctore, who continues blithely on with his lectures. Obviously it’s his job to be Captain Hardass, which Sparty clearly resents, but you’d think Sparty would have enough foresight to realize that Doctore is the former champion of the ludus, and therefore just might know what the hell he’s talking about. SIGH.
Doctore’s rousing speech sends the men into transports of macho ecstasy, and they leap back into their training with renewed manly vigor. As the day passes, Spartacus is relentlessly swinging away at the wooden practice dummy all sweaty and bemuscled and quite frankly fucking delicious. This is easily the longest gladiator training montage of the season so far, and I fully admit I could watch another half hour of this without ever getting bored.
As Sparty finishes off his sparring with Varro, leaving his poor beffie on his ass in the sand, Doctore interrupts the men to announce that 20 of them will be chosen to fight in the upcoming Vulcanalia festivities: the first 18 to fight in pairs, with the final two in the primus. Spartacus and Varro, gossiping like two old biddies, glumly conclude that Crixus will certainly be chosen for the primus, so what does it even matter who fights against him? (Technically, I think Crixus and his cock count as two separate gladiators. You know I’m right.)
Later that evening, up in the villa, Batty’s having a good whinge about how his gift of 20 men to the Vulcanalia has gone unnoticed and unthanked by Magistrate Calavius. Calavius has compounded his cruelties by declining to attend Batty’s reception on the eve of the games, choosing instead to dine with Batiatus’ archnemesis and ex-beffie, Solonius. I feel it important to point out that the entire time Batty is talking, he’s having a piss into a sand-filled pit while his body slave holds his toga up. Batty, you lazy bastard.
Lucretia, in the next room, is preening with a new wig and new tiara for the reception, and Batty, typical man, starts grouching about the expense of such fripperies and the drought and the mean meanieface Magistrate, and how Lucretia has the patience for his crap I shall certainly never know. She gently points out that you have to spend money on a fantastic reception in order to attract the attention of potential wealthy patrons, something she learned from him in the first place. It’s scenes like these that make me adore them as much as I loathe them, because they’re so very obviously wildly in love, and have always been so. Does it excuse their vile treatment of every single other human being on earth? And more importantly, do I actually care? Hm.
Anyway, speaking of wealthy patrons, Lucretia already has cunning plans in motion – Ilithyia, deliciously bitchy Ilithyia, is soon returning to Capua for the upcoming games, minus her bothersome husband Glaber the Jerk. It seems our spoiled little princess Ilithyia has developed quite the interest in gladiatorial games of late, and Lucretia intends to feed that fire with as much sweaty manflesh as it takes. I APPROVE.
Back downstairs in the ludus, the gladiators are taking a break from training to eat some bread and gruel, while Barca and Pietros canoodle in the corner with their cage of pigeons. Sparty, in a snarky reminder of Ashur and Dagan last season, thinks the pigeons would be far more valuable in their bowls, at which Varro scoffs – Barca would kick their asses, he’s sure of it. Sparty’s not scared of Barca, though, thinking he’s all mouth and no trousers, but Varro is quick to set him straight. Barca, the “Beast of Carthage,” is legendary for his savage battles in the arena, made all the more horrible by his most famous fight, where he killed his own father. Spartacus is reluctantly impressed.
The rest of their manly gossip is interrupted by an offscreen Batiatus telling the guards to open the gates and prepare for King Batty to go about his merry way. Spartacus leaps up to catch Batty for some quick convo before he’s gone – he wants news of his wife, of course. And Batty has news to deliver! He’s discovered that Sura was actually sold to a Syrian, as Glaber taunted. Sparty is aflail with glee, but Batty shoots him down with the info that Sura’s likely at sea, heading away from Capua to points unknown. Batiatus tells Sparty to chillax and kick some serious ass in the arena, because the search for Sura and the price of her freedom will likely cost a fuckload of coin, which Sparty is going to have to pay back. Ruh roh.
Up in the villa, Lucretia is looking over a selection of jewelry brought by a local merchant – mama needs a new necklace to go with her purty new hairs. Luce sprawls out on a couch while Naevia models each piece, but it’s not until the merchant whips out a triple string of emeralds and gold that Lucretia shows any actual interest. Unfortunately, the quoted price of 30 denarii is much less to her liking. Honey, I know the feeling. (See also: Miu Miu red polka dot platform heels, aka my summer nemesis.) Lucretia casually asks if this piece is the sort of thing that Ilithyia might favour, and the merchant unctuously concurs that it is, adding that Ilithyia is known for her fine taste. After some brief haggling, they agree to the purchase price of 28 denarii. As a Jew, I am appalled by Lucretia’s ineptitude, but she seems to think she’s made an excellent bargain. Oh sweetie, no.
Naevia, still topless and wearing the emerald necklace, looks out over the ludus to see Crixus staring up at her with the piercing gaze of a lust-addled maniac. Instead of flinging herself off the balcony directly upon his erect cock – as would any right-thinking human being – she adjusts her dress nervously and scampers off after Lucretia.
Doctore has remaining 5 recruits lined up to practice the gladiator attack formations, and as he moves down the line, he notices that Spartacus is distracted, fiddling with Sura’s garter tied to his wrist. I think we all know Doctore isn’t going to stand for this shit. He stops the recruits to give Sparty a bit of a dressing-down, and as per usual, Sparty’s pride gets in the way. Doctore tells Sparty that his mind needs to be focused on fighting and gaining skill, but Sparty’s dead sure that just by being a Thracian, he’s got that shit under control. Oh hale no, is Doctore’s reasoned response. He demonstrates his high regard for Thrace and Thracian warriors by pissing on the sand at Spartacus’ feet, and ordering Sparty to kneel in the piddled sand. Yes, surely this will end well.
Spartacus reluctantly kneels down in the wet sand, and Doctore takes a moment to deliver yet another lecture on how they have to leave all their former lives behind them and concentrate on their fucking training. He wraps up by kicking Our Surly Hero facedown into the pee, while the rest of the gladiators laugh obnoxiously. I can only assume that wedgies are next. Crixus, never one to let the opportunity for smartassery pass him by, stops to share some bitchy snark with Spartacus, but before they can get naked and rassle sweatily on the ground as I’m hoping, a guard comes to fetch Crixus away to the villa.
Naevia is waiting to lead him upstairs, and Crixus immediately engages her in awkward, earnest small talk, despite her obvious embarrassment. See, the only thing Crixus really knows how to talk about casually is gladiatorial shit. He wants to know if Naevia enjoyed his most recent gory victory in the arena, wittering on artlessly about how hard it is to sever a man’s head, and Naevia struggles to come up with a response that doesn’t involve epic facepalming.
Instead, she admits that she’s not really interested in the games, which startles Crixus into laughter – he finds it odd that a slave in a ludus would be so disinterested in the games in which their collective fortunes – and lives – are made or lost. Naevia, now quite flustered by his questions, flails a bit and reminds him that their Domina awaits their arrival, sending him on his way, and Crixus sulks off to go get laid.
Let’s pause here a moment to admire the singular and unmatched glory of Manu Bennett’s thighs, shall we? Good fucking god. My naked rugby men calendar is put to shame.
Lucretia teases Crixus about being too slow to come when he’s called, and slinks out into the cubicula wearing a sheer tarty red robe, the emerald necklace, and very little else. They exchange some lusty banter, although Crixus seems to be performing by rote, and are soon rolling around on the bed sweatily.
Outside in the ludus, Gnaeus is roughing Kerza up in a demonstration fight, while Doctore explains the use of the traditional two-fingered signal of gladiatorial surrender, the missio. A whispered aside from Spartacus to Varro on the sad nature of begging for one’s life is, OF COURSE, overheard by Doctore, and soon both recruits are banished to The Hole – a pit literally full of shit – aka the villa’s primitive septic tank. I’m so glad our many technological advances do not include smell-o-vision.
Spartacus and Varro stand waist-deep in shit, as slaves above pour in the contents of a few more chamber pots and slimy wads of kitchen garbage. After some pointed glares and chilly silences from Varro, Spartacus meekly confesses that perhaps he may have possibly maybe spoken slightly out of turn. Maybe. Varro isn’t having any of that halfassed apology crap, and goes off on a magnificent rant about Sparty’s bullheadedness and the inexplicable nature thereof. After a bit more snarky prodding, Varro gets Spartacus to finally reveal his motivations: Batiatus’ promise to find Sura and reunite them at last. Varro’s glad to have some insight into Sparty’s ridiculous and contrary behavior, and the two men moon giddily over their love for their respective wives. It would be adorable if only they weren’t smeared head to toe with shit.
Later on, as they’re cleaning up in the baths, Varro gives Sparty an incredulous people’s eyebrow – he’s totally baffled as to why Spartacus is wasting his precious water ration to wash a scrap of faded purple cloth. Before Varro can get to the bottom of this foolishness, Doctore enters the baths to announce the scheduled pairings for the Vulcanalia. Crixus is to fight against Gnaeus in the primus, which does not suit Spartacus one tiny bit. Ashur is left with the list of the remaining pairings, and the gladiators fall upon him like the Golden Horde on medieval Astrakhan. Barca prevails, snatching the list away, and passes it around to the rest of the men. (How bizarrely inaccurate is this scene, oh my god. I mean, srsly, how likely is it that all of these slaves and captured barbarian warriors can read? On the other hand, they’re all naked, so why am I even thinking about this?)
Spartacus grabs the list from Kerza, discovering that he and Varro will not only be fighting against one another, but that they’re fighting in the lowest-ranked fight of the day: the very first match. Because apparently spending the afternoon waist-deep in shit just isn’t bad enough. Spartacus is initially not as put out as Varro, but is soon well and truly pissed when Varro explains how small their winnings will be in comparison to the rest of the fights, the primus in particular. Sparty’s outraged, foolishly equating his lucky win against Crixus in the gladiatorial test last week with demonstrable skill in the arena.
Crixus, Barca, and the rest of the usual suspects are too far away to overhear Sparty’s whining, so no wedgies are imminent, but Ashur the eavesdropping sneak can’t help but interject with a cautionary tale – Crixus first gained his legendary status in the arena fighting against two barbarian raider brothers, who had previously destroyed all takers. After a long and messy fight, Crixus was victorious, and the new darling of the arena. Spartacus stubbornly refuses to believe that Crixus is worth all this fuss, and says so loudly and derisively, because that’s how you make friends and influence people.
The next morning, while the recruits are sent through a Rube Goldberg-esque training machine of swirling swords and swinging spears, Sparty concocts a halfassed plan to enrage Gnaeus into a brawl. His bitchy taunts prove inflammatory, and Gnaeus lunges at him like a drunken goat. Naughty Sparty skips out of the way at the last moment, and Gnaeus smashes headfirst into a wooden post, bloodily knocking himself unconscious. When Doctore stomps over to see what the hell is going on, Spartacus and Varro quickly blame the heat of the day and the accompanying dehydration for Gnaeus’ wacky actions. Doctore’s mama didn’t raise a fool, and he’s rightly suspicious about their story, but sends everyone back to work, and Gnaeus off to the medicus. Barca gives Sparty an extremely suspicious glare, but stays silent.
As Barca and Kerza carry a dazed Gnaeus inside, Crixus catches sight of Naevia standing out on the balcony. Cue the moony looks and romantic music. Crixus calls Ashur over and reluctantly asks him to do him a favour… inside, and away from sneaky eavesdroppers. Silly Crixus, you’re talking to the most sneaky sneak of all.
Later that evening the gladiators gather in the bathhouse, and Varro’s finally noticing all the dirty looks they’ve been getting. He quietly berates Spartacus for his ridiculous scheme trying to get rid of Gnaeus, to take his place in the primus. In the middle of Sparty’s lame-ass self defense, Doctore arrives and informs the men that the reception is about to begin, so they’d best pretty themselves up and get moving.
Upstairs in the villa, a loinclothed and oiled Crixus stands on display, and Batty’s guests are all eyes and hands, inspecting the goods on show. Batiatus smarms away with a local moneybags, Mercato, convincing him to engage Crixus and a number of other men in his upcoming games. Lucetia, meanwhile, is strolling around with my beloved Ilithyia, who is as spoilt and delectable as ever. She gives Lucretia a deliciously backhanded compliment on the very emerald necklace that was bought to impress her, leaving Lucretia epically nonplussed.
Batiatus calls for the guests’ attention, gathering them around the atrium to leer at the oiled gladiators as they strut into the room in their tiny leather panties. Within moments, there are a half dozen women crowded around poor bemused Spartacus, cooing over him and his firm oiled manbreasts. Doctore and Batiatus take note of their interest, discussing how best to exploit it for the benefit of the ludus. Batty muses that perhaps the public’s interest would be best served by using Spartacus as Gnaeus’ replacement in the primus! OHOHO. Doctore is most certainly not in agreement, however, again insisting that Sparty is too much of a loose cannon to be trusted in an important fight, and Batty concurs with regrets. ONE DAY.
Ashur the jackass limps up to Crixus, handing over the favour Crixus requested earlier – it’s something small and mysterious, wrapped up in a cloth, which Crixus immediately jams down the front of his manties. LUCKY. He then glares at Ashur til Ashur goes away. Hee!
And none too soon, as Lucretia and Ilithyia swan over to admire Crixus’ many large and manly attributes. Lucretia pridefully agrees that Crixus is the hottest piece of gladiator ass ever to hotass, but her smiles quickly turn to injured jealousy when Ilithyia reaches out a dainty hand to stroke Crixus’ gleaming chest. She is so obvious about their affair, argh.
The girls move on to Spartacus, and Ilithyia is gobsmacked and rather put out to see that he’s still alive. Soon enough, Ilithyia is showing signs of spoilt brat boredom, pouting about the wine, and hints that she’s thinking of going home, so Lucretia springs into action. There is, perhaps, one other thing she thought Ilithyia might enjoy seeing….. something a bit more naughty.
Lucretia commands Varro to join them, and moments later he is on display in a secluded back room, taking a squealing slave girl roughly from behind. The assembled crowd is watching avidly, some even placing bets on the length of his, um, performance. Ilithyia stares with wide-eyed and ecstatic delight, visibly salivating, and strokes Varro’s sweaty chest as he pounds away at the slave girl. Lucretia eggs her on with sweetly whispered commentary about the unimaginable pleasures afforded by the thrusty loins of a gladiator, and Ilithyia is hooked, breathlessly demanding that Varro do it again and again. *hearteyes*
Somewhat later, a sweaty and exhausted-looking Varro returns out to the gladiators assembled in the atrium, and tells Spartacus that he’s overheard Batty and Doctore discussing the primus – Hamilcar is to fight in Gnaeus’ place in the primus. This certainly doesn’t fit in with Sparty’s ridiculous plotting, so he rashly decides to take matters into his own hands. Varro already knows that look on Spartacus’ face, and cautions him to quit his tomfoolery, but it’s too late. As Batiatus prepares to announce the fighters in tomorrow’s primus, Spartacus throws himself at Crixus and knocks him to the floor, where they commence to rasslin’. Doctore moves to break it up, calling for the guards, but Ilithyia shrieks for them to be allowed to continue this sweaty display of testosterone.
Batiatus, correctly assessing the crowd’s extreme interest, lets the men have it out on the floor a few moments longer, before letting the other gladiators pull them apart and loudly announcing that this fight is only the briefest taste of what all will see the next day, when Spartacus will fight Crixus in the primus! YAYS. The drunken guests cheer wildly, and presumably many pants are thoroughly jizzed.
After the guests are long gone, Lucretia is ranting and raving over Spartacus’ foolish behavior, and over what she perceives as her husband’s terrible decision. She’s practically stamping her feet and holding her breath, Ilithyia-style, and I adore her for it. (wtf self y u have a bitch fetish.) Batiatus defends himself with the obvious truth – right now, the crowds love Spartacus and his story and his manufactured confrontations with Crixus, so that’s where the money is. Lucretia can’t really find fault with this logic, but remains adamant that Sparty is an unreliable nutter, and believes nothing good can come of trusting him. Let’s face it – she’s also worried that her precious Crixus might get hurt, but Batty laughs off this fear as the height of ridiculousness. As they prepare to argue long into the night, Lucretia angrily sends Naevia off to the storeroom for some wine.
Downstairs in the storeroom, Naevia is minding her own business and picking up an amphora of wine, when Crixus the idiot reaches through the gate from the ludus to touch her shoulder. Naevia, quite naturally, is startled shitless at his grabby badtouching, and drops the amphora, shattering it on the tiles. WAY TO GO, CRIXUS. Crixus apologizes both for sneaking up on her now, and for his lame attempts at small talk earlier that day, but Naevia’s having none of it: she’s nearly in tears with worry that Lucretia will find out that she dropped the last of the wine. Crixus, who has always been a mostly nice guy at heart, offers to take the broken shards of pottery and fling them over the cliff; of course, he takes that opportunity to sort of awkwardly hold her hands for a moment. Hee.
Before Naevia can return upstairs to the villa, Crixus hands her the mysterious package he received earlier from Ashur, and then scampers off before she can open it – it’s a beautiful opal necklace. Naevia looks equal parts baffled, touched, and concerned.
Varro and Spartacus are huddled in their cell in the gladiator’s insula, arguing about the culmination of Spartacus’ ridiculous plan to fight in the primus. Varro patiently tries to explain that no matter what Sparty thinks, there is a real and demonstrable reason that Crixus is a legend in the arena – it’s because he’s a fucking awesome gladiator, ffs. COME THE FUCK ON SPARTY. I love you but you are being a twit right now.
Kerza, in the next cell, laughs at Spartacus’ confidence, and wonders aloud if Sparty believes he’d even beat the great Theokoles, the “Shadow of Death”. Both Kerza and Varro are incredulous when they realize that Sparty doesn’t even know who that legendary gladiator is. Even worse, Spartacus is ignorant of the fact that the only man to face Theokoles and survive is their own glorious Doctore, and it took him almost a year to recover.
The next day, the Vulcanalia arrives, and all of Capua is cheering at the arena. Sparty and a bloody but successful Varro stand together watching the other men fight as the primus draws closer. Spartacus remains arrogantly sure that he will prevail and kick Crixus’ ass all over the sand, and Varro’s concern is no match for that kind of confidence. Much matey backslapping ensues.
Up in the pulvinus, Batty is smarming all over Magistrate Calavius and his wife, Domitia, while Lucretia charms a pouting, hungover Ilithyia. Ilithyia hints that she was delighted by last night’s gladiator fuckfest, and that she’s very interested in seeing much, much more, and Lucretia is predictably giddy with delight. AS ARE WE ALL.
Moments later, the primus is announced. As annoying as Batiatus is, he has a fantastic sense of WWE-style showmanship. His introductions for Spartacus (fighting thraex-style, lol) and Crixus (fighting murmillo-style) whip the already excited crowd into a shrieky, tit-shaking frenzy. Even Ilithyia is excited, showing particular interest in Crixus as Lucretia looks on with suspicion.
Crixus is basically The Rock of Capua – he’s got even more epic, fine-tuned showmanship than Batty does. Crixus plays to the crowd, encouraging their cheers and adulation, loving every single moment of it. In contrast, Sparty just kind of stands there gormlessly, seeming dazed by the heat and the noise. Sigh.
BUT NO. It is all a cunning sham! Sort of. As Batty is in the middle of announcing the official start of the fight, Spartacus attacks Crixus’ turned back. Scandalous! The entire pulvinus is in an uproar; Lucretia and Calavius are particularly irritated. Ilithyia remains delighted, because she is perfect and wonderful in all ways and I adore her forever. SO THERE.
Spartacus attacks again and again, relentlessly, and almost seems to have the upper hand. But Crixus is barely breaking a sweat – he’s fighting off Sparty’s most determined attacks almost casually, not even bothering to press his own attack. Crixus lets Spartacus exhaust himself flailing away again and again, and finally knocks him to the sand with his shield, laughing all the while. Ruh roh.
Supremely confident, Crixus turns his back on Spartacus and takes off his helmet to play to the crowd, letting them know that the real party is about to get started. Crixus waits for Sparty to haul himself to his feet, and then proceeds to kick his ass ALL OVER THE ARENA. Spartacus doggedly gets up again and again, and Crixus knocks him back on his ass every time like it ain’t no thang. And when you’re Crixus, Champion of Capua, it really ain’t.
One final wicked blow to Sparty’s face sends him flat onto his back, helmet knocked clear across the sand. Crixus drags him up by his hair and inexplicably does not make out with him, locked in a passionate manly embrace. SIGH. Instead, Crixus puts his sword to Sparty’s throat and awaits the life or death command from the pulvinus.
The ever-changing moods of the crowd have swung in Crixus’ favour yet again, and they’re all cheering for a kill. Spartacus stares down at Sura’s garter tied beneath his manica and realizes that he has to do anything he can to stay alive for her. And so, finally swallowing his idiotic and destructive pride, he looks up to the pulvinus and gives the missio. O SNAP.
Batiatus is startled as all hell – this is surely the last thing he was expecting. Down on the sidelines, Varro looks scared and resigned, but Doctore…. Doctore finally looks like he might have the tiniest most miniscule glimmer of respect for Spartacus.
Lucretia and Calavius are appalled, and Ilithyia is just confused, but Batty, in one of his extremely rare moments of actual honor, gets to his feet with a smile, imploring the crowd to acknowledge that Spartacus fought bravely and well. His words are greeted by neverending boos and general outrage, and for a moment, Magistrate Calavius looks as though he might supersede Batty’s command to let Spartacus live.
Crixus throws Spartacus to the sand in disgust, and fights begin breaking out in the stands. Calavius storms off in a foul sulk, brushing off Batty’s apology, which surely will not bode well for the future. Ilithyia flounces away in a similarly disappointed huff. Meanwhile, Sparty is still laying in a heap on the sand. Crixus should clearly be cuddling him tenderly. I AM VEXED.
Later, back at the ludus, poor gimpy little Sparty removes his armor like an arthritic old man, and admits to Doctore that he’d been wrong all along: Crixus’ reputation as a champion is indeed well-earned, and lo, Sparty is humbled. NOT HUMBLE ENOUGH, says Doctore. There were at least a dozen points where Spartacus could have taken the advantage, had he only attended to his training instead of acting the arrogant fool.
Spartacus insists that he’s a big boy now and will train ever so hard, for reals! Doctore is not impressed. Too little too late, sweetie.
NEXT WEEK: from the title of the episode, I assumed Spartacus was going to battle the Sarlaac. I am perhaps a tiny bit disappointed. NEVERTHELESS: MESSY FIGHTS TO THE DEATH ABOUND! Crixus and Naevia pass notes in study hall! And Solonius returns in full smarm.