I believe the AV Club’s comments called this Chekov’s cock: what comes out in the first act must go off in the last act.
Anyhow, pour one out for Segovax, the Gaul whose major failings were basically Spartacus’ failings—a desire to be a great warrior and a hunger for freedom. And also his giant penis.
As the quick flashes of Spartacus’ many victories interspersed with Whitfield’s face turning into a quietly prideful grin demonstrate, we’re sometime after the last episode, and things have only progressed. Batiatus is the toast of the town, and he’s rich enough to shut his rival Solonius entirely out of the market for potential gladiator recruits, buying the aforementioned Segovax, as well as the German brothers Agron and Duro, and three more besides. The two trade some meaningfully veiled threats on each other’s lives just for fun before departing.
But while we’re introduced to some new and important faces (Agron! EVERYBODY, IT’S AGRON!) this episode is very much Crixus’. At this point, you might as well flash the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia title card whenever Batiatus says something. “I’ll get your wife back.” Spartacus’ Wife Is Dead. “I’ll give you your freedom.” Batiatus Cuts Barca’s Throat. Now it’s “Crixus will always have a place in this ludus.” Batiatus Tries to Sell Crixus.
A lot of this, admittedly, is Ashur’s doing, as he wriggles to outflank everybody. But Crixus is also in a heap of trouble. He’s slow to heal, costing Batiatus while earning nothing. He’s purposefully eroding Lucretia’s confidence in him by performing poorly in bed so that she loses interest in him. His place in the ludus has been usurped by Spartacus. When Doctore asks the new recruits “what are you standing on?” it’s Spartacus who delivers the “Sacred ground,” line from Episode 2. It’s Spartacus who controls the hazing, putting an end to Crixus’ attempts to starve the new gladiators.
And when, Naevia, overhearing Batiatus’ plan to sell Crixus, urges the Gaul to do something to prove his worth, it’s Spartacus who hands him his ass in front of the entire ludus, further cementing Batiatus’ plans.
The upstairs plot revolves around Illythia. Invited to buy herself a gladiator, she immediately chooses Segovax, as her own personal Gaul as a counterpart to Crixus. Lucretia then suggests she show him off to her friends, including Crassus’ niece. There are three of them, and they’re all just as wonderfully cutthroat as Illythia is. It’s an interesting dynamic to watch—Lucretia is usually Illythia’s punching bag, but here, because insults to Lucretia rebound on Illythia through proxy, she must defend the ludus’ domina. And Lucretia does her best, in turn, to defend Illythia from their barbs, but given that she doesn’t lie to protect Illythia’s reputation, it simply diminishes Illythia’s standing with the other women.
Further diminishing that respect is that Spartacus is brought up for the ladies’ inspection over Segovax, once they learn that Segovax isn’t a proper gladiator yet, having not earned his mark. A dispute between Spartacus and Illythia over Glaber’s betrayal of the Thracians, with Spartacus’ account backed up by Crassus’ niece, only serves to further diminish and enrage Illythia, leading to her promising Segovax his freedom if he kills Spartacus.
Following up on the last episode, Crixus has made a big deal out of the “brotherhood” of gladiators, (although in this episode he says that the reason Spartacus lives to be champion is because he didn’t kill Spartacus, which kind of undercuts that a bit, but I suppose Crixus draws a distinction between the arena and everywhere else). So it’s a good test when Segovax attempts to strangle Spartacus to death. Crixus reacts without thinking, charging in and disabling Segovax (Spartacus’ line says something like, “you’d killed another Gaul to save a man you hate,” which suggests that the first draft of this episode didn’t end with Segovax’s crucifixion and penis amputation). For Crixus, there are no more tribal allegiances—there are only people with the mark of Batiatus and those without. Spartacus is one, Segovax is not.
It’s a wonderful use of Crixus’ rather simple-mindedness when it comes to being a gladiator. He’s a true believer of the highest order. The only guile he possesses is when he’s deceiving Lucretia for Naevia. And that comes to an end when, to get Lucretia in his corner, Naevia begs him to perform vigorously in bed with her. Ultimately, it doesn’t mean as much as saving Spartacus, but both things work in his favor to keep him in Batiatus’ ludus, ready to fight another day.
There’s a pretty good scene with Lucretia and Crixus here, although most of its eroticism is built around Naevia watching from just nearby. There’s also a scene where Batiatus and Lucretia have the newly acquired recruits strip their loincloths to aid Illythia’s choosing in her Sponsor-A-Slave, although it’s all shot from the butt, except for Segovax, who I believe is wearing a prosthesis. Or CGI.
- Man butt: 6
- Lady butt: 0
- Frontal nudity (men): 1 (although, again, it’s not real)
- Frontal nudity (women): 15
- Varro’s gambling again, as well as using his arena winnings on prostitutes, but Spartacus puts him on the right path by telling him not to victim blame and cherish his wife. PROBLEM SOLVED.
- Solonius tries to bribe Ashur to inform on Batiatus while he’s in the market looking to unload Crixus, leading to Ashur’s most Iago-worthy line yet: “I am a villain…but not your villain.”
- Apparently the Romans had a legend that the blood of a champion gladiator (ideally deceased) was an aphrodisiac? Anyhow, Crassus’ niece wants a drop, which means that Illythia gets to drag a knife across Spartacus’ chest. She’s holding onto a lot of rage at Spartacus embarrassing Glaber back in the first episode by deserting. I’m not sure it’s an earned character trait, but Viva Bianca sells the rage.
- Illythia Putdown of the Week: A twofer of “these are proper Roman women; they only mix with families of equal standing,” and “I shall even help you with your hair, we must have you suitable for such elevated company,” serve to wipe the smile off Lucretia’s face at the idea of Crassus’ niece et al.