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Rome Fodder

Rome 2-3F: "These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero" Full review

Rome: 2-3F "These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero" Full Review

The previouslies lead us through an out of sequence rehash of everything that’s gone before. Antony and Octavian fight, Octavian’s letter, Timon and Levi reunite, Evil Businessman Erastes Fulmen gets his, Lucius Vorenus takes over the Aventine, Atia’s party, Brutus gets sent away to inspect grain.

On to the episode. Niobe appears, and repeats her balcony plunge, but it’s not a previously – Lucius Vorenus is dreaming and awakes grimy and gritty in his office. Outside, there appears to be trouble in the bordello. There’s fighting. But no, there’s applause as well, it’s a girl-fight that greatly amuses the customers. Supervisor Gaia, looking as delectable as last week, breaks up the fight to raucous applause, earning a fanny-slap from Mascius. She swings to slap him, but Mascius, with a soldier’s reflexes, intercepts the slap and turns it into a grasp. She kisses him passionately to the cheers, jeers, and leers of the crowd, then stands and gets in that slap after all, to further applause. Titus Pullo looks bemused, Eirene, apparently doing scullery maid duty, looks on, not happy.

Lucius Vorenus appears and a hush falls over the crowd – the don approaches. Vorenus asks for the news from Ostia. The answer is that three grain ships have arrived. Vorenus direct that they “take 25, no less” and “give the lading to Ajax” Guess long shore work was corrupt even then (and a big shout-out to the first season of “Wired”). Mascius suggests that [someone] will complain. “If he does, cut out his tongue.” Wow, tough boss.

Pullo starts to tell Vorenus to cool down a little, but thinks better of it. Gaia announces that Memmio is here for a visit. Out on the street, Vorenus and Pullo sit down to a meeting with Memmio and Carbo, his sub-thug. Memmio is the EBEF-look-alike noted last week, and Carbo is the leather-clad barbarian who had to be reminded of his truce manners at the original Aventine collegium meet. Seems one of his sub-thug’s nephews, ‘only 12’, has been used in an inappropriate way by an upstanding Aventine citizen, one Quintus Bubo. Carbo wants permission for revenge. Quintus Bubo, however, paid the nephew for the privilege, which to Vorenus signals ‘commercial transaction’ and no on revenge. Pullo tries to put in a word for the thugs, “perhaps a moderate punishment” and is harshly rebuked for questioning Vorenus’s judgment. The thugs are unhappy with the decision but depart professing respect. Gaia stops by to lay a bowl of food and a sympathetic word on the boss. “Hard being the boss, eh?”

Next we’re at Atia’s house, where Octavia is taking a lesson in hemp-smoking from some bright Roman yutes. (That’s ‘yooothes’, Judge.) Atia appears and, on learning the female yute (name Jocasta) picked up the hemp in Macedonia, makes inquiries about the climate, which the yute assures her is terrible, and the culture as well. Jocasta’s accent seems to be a cross between valley girl and English monied snob. Atia sniffs a little dope herself, then sniffs at Octavia’s bringing home a merchant’s daughter, then retires to her chambers where she receives Timon, but dismisses him immediately – “Changed my mind.” Timon breaks a little crockery on his way out. We see Castor making the beaten-boy from last week remember his promise. His name is Duro and he doesn’t appear to be enjoying it.

Cut to Timon’s house, where Levi is teaching the children Hebrew. Timon skulks to the corner and drinks.

Short scene of the Voreni clan cowering in a dark slave crib somewhere.

Antony and Atia are breakfasting. It becomes clearer that Antony is sharing Atia’s quarters. She grouses about Antony coming in late last night - and drunk. Atia asks Antony to at least wake her before mounting her when he comes in, so it will be “a little less alarming”.

Now we see why Atia was interested in the Macedonian weather report. She tells Antony she doesn’t want to move there. Antony, now appearing to actually be planning to retire at the end of his consulship (remember how we scoffed about that last week?) says, well that’s where he’ll be the governor of after his term is up. Atia, showing more political acumen than we’ve previously seen in her, tells him “You have a wolf by the ears, you can’t let go of him now.” By which she means if he’s no longer in Rome to dominate the senate, Brutus and Cassius will come storming back to turn everybody against him.

Next we are in the streets and see Antony mounting up (a horse, you dirty minded person, you – no not that way, sheesh), a scowl on his face.

Elsewhere, Timon sees Levi talking to a suspicious person – at least Timon is suspicious. Confronted, Levi claims the man was ‘a saffron trader’.

A screaming man is carried into Vorenus presence, a weeping woman with him. For a second, I thought maybe we were continuing the Jewish theme from the previous scene, and the man was a convert and the moyel made a little slip, because the lower front of his robe is covered in blood. But it turns out to be Quintus Bubo, the same whom Vorenus had forbidden touching and he’s been touched in a very serious spot, indeed. Vorenus is incensed, and Pullo tries to calm him down. Pullo volunteers to “go talk to Memmio and sort out a compromise”. Vorenus isn’t having it.

Pullo says no sense starting a gang war over this ‘trivia’. Not so trivial to Bubo, I expect. Vorenus sends Pullo to deal with Memmio and Carbo, but Pullo refuses “this isn’t the mumpin’ legion, and I take orders from no man.” Vorenus sends Mascius instead. “Will do, captain”. And asks 'How high?' on the way up.

Vorenus says Pullo needs to learn his ‘place’.

“My place, well f*** you, you miserable bastard, I’m the one trying to keep you alive. You'd like nothing better than a gang war eh? Get yourself killed and be done with your misery. Take half the city with you...It won't bring back Niobe. Or the children. Or Caesar."

“You’ve never helped me.”

“Have I Not? Who saved your life a dozen times, who took care of that snake Evander, who…” (realizing what he’s just said, and hesitating now) carried you home when you were… drunk?”

Vorenus is not slow on the uptake. Getting all grim, “What do you mean, took care of Evander?”

Realizing what he's revealed, Pullo finally admits to knowing about Niobe's child, and to killing the man who fathered him. "She loved you. You were happy together," he says. "What was I supposed to do? If I'd told you...you would have killed her." Vorenus throws him out.

As a slave fans them, Antony and Cicero are exchanging small talk. Cicero speaks of Octavian’s ‘considerable army’. Antony says buying up all the fools and cripples in Campania hardly constitutes an army. “You are right, says Cicero, but many veterans, also, VIIIth legion men, VIIth legion…”.

“But I didn’t bring you here to talk of children.”

“Indeed, I await your pleasure.”

Antony jumps up abruptly, causing Cicero to almost spill his wine as he cringes. But Antony crosses to the potted plant next to Cicero, raises his tunic, and pisses in the plant, meanwhile informing Cicero of his desire to change his retirement governorship from Macedonia to Gaul (a decision that will please recappers everywhere, since “Gaul” is much easier to type.) Antony lets on it’s all about the climate, but Cicero (correctly) senses the senate will worry about the nearness of the legions available to the governor of Gaul as opposed to Macedonia. Cicero sets down his wine cup as if Antony had pissed in it. Antony perseveres, insisting that Cicero make the motion in the senate. Cicero resists, saying everyone would know that he proposed such a thing only out of fear of death.

“I understand”, says Antony, “you do not want to seem cowardly. Well, tell them I bribed you. Would you? Accept a bribe?”

“I would not.”

“You leave me only one option then,” meaning the necessity to threaten Cicero to get his way. Cicero says he’d prefer the threat to be made overtly rather than by implication, just to make it official. Antony leans forward, getting another flinch from Cicero, and reminds Cicero of his old friend Crassus, captured by the Parthians. “Is it true they poured molten gold down his throat?”

Cicero thanks him for the threat, then sniffs “It is dreadful, as you say, the weather in Macedonia.” Sending the Greek Tourist board to crank up their email clients.

Back in the Aventine, Pullo and Vorenus kiss and make up. Well, not actually kiss. Pullo says maybe they can still head off a war with the Caelians (Memmio’s bunch). “Too late”, Vorenus says. Elsewhere, Carbo enters a public toilet with two henchmen, tossing all the citizens out and choosing the best throne for himself. He’s immediately followed by Mascius with four henchmen, who knock out the two Carbo henchmen, then suspend the struggling Carbo head down in the toilet. Then Carbo gets a message, delivered anally, about respecting the don’s decisions.

Back at Atia’s house a visitor arrives. It’s a very young Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. He’s the same age as Octavian, about 20 at this point, not yet the famous general, but starting to make his name in the Macedonian legions. As he awaits the mistress of the house, he follows his ears to a lute-playing Octavia. Well, she’s completed the trilogy now, sex AND drugs AND rock and roll. They engage in a little small talk about Octavian, who has built his own personal army of 10,000 men.

Atia appears. Agrippa says Octavian sends “his respect and fidelity”, at which Atia spits. Atia accuses Octavian and Agrippa of being traitors, and threatens to tell Antony of his presence. Atia starts to send a return message, then thinks better of it. After Agrippa departs, Atia sends word to Antony of Agrippa’s presence in the city. Octavia reminds her that Agrippa is her son’s friend, after all. Atia says “I have no son.”

In the kitchen, beaten-boy Duro flirts with a big-breasted female servant, Althea, who is apparently the chief food server, then slips from the house, only to turn up at Servilia’s house. Duro’s manners are quite fresh for the likes of a hired assassin. He backsasses Eleni, and refuses to talk to anyone but Servilia. When she shows, he says. “So you’re the great Servilia”. Servilia coolly says “Address me by my name again and I’ll have your tongue nailed to a wagon wheel.”

Servilia want to know why Atia’s not dead yet. Duro says it takes time to work the poison in, especially since Atia always dines with Octavia, so unless she wants Octavia to die, too…? Servilia doesn’t, so Duro will have wait for his chance. He takes the opportunity to demand more money, which Servilia provides, but then demands a kiss as well. The patrician Servilia is all ‘I think not’, but pressed, reluctantly provides a very cold-blooded kiss.

The scene shifts a l-o-n-g way to a tent in Bithynia, which the captions kindly inform us is Eastern Turkey today. Brutus scowls and gets drunk from the sordidness of it all, while Cassius negotiates with a local chieftain for soldiers to use against Antony. The chieftain is not rejecting the idea, but demands for his price to see a Roman woman do a very rude thing with a baboon, which he understands to be a standard entertainment back in the city. Cassius says it’s not so much an entertainment as a punishment, and besides it’s merely a matter of training the baboon. The chieftain says there’s a distinct local shortage of both Roman women and baboons, and holds out for his price. Brutus is talking to a Bithynian soldier, describing the killing of Caesar. The soldier disses Brutus for cowardice for knifing Caesar last. It’s the defining moment of Brutus’s life, and here it’s being taken as an example not of courage but of cowardice. Brutus is ready to fight, but Cassius pulls him away.

Back to Rome, and Atia is bathing in a flower (lotus?) laden pool. Antony joins her and Atia asks if he got her tattle on Agrippa, and if so, how many pieces is Agrippa in? Antony says he knows exactly what Agrippa is up to and is keeping him under surveillance for now. In a short burst of motherhood, Atia asks for and receives Antony’s promise not to harm Octavian.

It’s night in the slave quarters somewhere, and Lyde is breaking out of the cage, despite Vorena the elder warning ‘we’ll be crucified if discovered’. Lyde tells Vorena to pass Lucius to her if she gets through. She gets a wooden bar worked loose and slips out of the cage, but before she can carry through with the plan somebody (a guard?, another slave?) yells “Hey, stop it!” and grabs the boy by his feet, pulling him back into the cage. The girls cry, and Lyde runs, slipping away in the dark.

We're back in the Aventine bordello, and Eirene is on a piss-bucket emptying detail and discovers the body of a minion, one Appius, hanging by his heels, a Caelian coin in his mouth, and the gang-wars are on. Vorenus and Pullo and Mascius plan a war, but Vorenus and Pullo quarrel. Vorenus accuses Pullo of being in league with Memmio, then of having sex with Niobe. Pullo is all ‘how could you’. Vorenus says he’ll believe Pullo if he denies it. Pullo denies it. Vorenus doesn’t believe him. In a heat, Pullo then says all right, I did it, everybody did it “whenever you were away, bang, legs open, line at the door!”, and the fight we’ve seen building up is on. Kicks are thrown, heads run into walls, we have bites, judo throws, rolling on the floor, punches, gouges, a full on, no-holds-barred tussle. The fight ends with the same scene we’ve seen in a million western movies, as the combatants crash both through a window and across a balcony, breaking the banister and plunging onto a table, and a crowd, in the saloon below. Vorenus picks up an iron implement but collapses before he can swing it. Nobody really wins the fight, but Vorenus ends up crying on the cold stone floor of the bordello/tavern telling a sympathetic Gaia “don’t touch me”, while Pullo is helped out into the street by Eirene and making plans to split for he-doesn’t-know-where.

Cut to a barely recognizable Brutus looking hung-over, or maybe depressed, and decidedly more masculine than usual with a full beard, moustache, and long hair, alone and riding his horse up to a river. Brutus dismounts, then disrobes (full sidal nudity, girls!) and wades into the water. He pleads with ‘divine Janus’ (god of beginnings) to cleanse him and let him be “born again”. I check my timeline to be sure this is really Brutus and not John the Baptist. Nope. LXXII years or so too soon for JtB.

Cicero is in an LX model sedan chair/SUV getting out of Dodge, er, Rome.

In the senate, Antony shows up late, but observes Cicero is even later, and wonders where he is. A clerk tells him Cicero is taken ill, but has sent a scroll to be read to the senate. The clerk, who’s not up on his Greek history, and has also not previewed his speech scroll, begins to read: “These being the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero” and our episode has its name.

Cicero is very brave in absentia, and the words continue "When I was a young man, I defended our state. As an old man I shall not abandon it. I give sincere thanks to Mark Antony, who has generously presented me with the most promising theme imaginable. I address you directly, Antony. Please listen, as if you.. " The clerk begins to choke when he sees what comes next.

“Go on.” Antony prods.

“…as if you were sober and intelligent, and not a drink-sodden, sex-addled wreck." The senators, being better Greek scholars, begin to drift out of the chamber. The clerk trembles. "'You are certainly not without accomplishments. It is a rare man who can boast of becoming a bankrupt before even coming of age.”

The clerk has the look of an engineer staring at another train coming down the tracks toward him, with the brake lever come loose in his hand, but can’t seem to make himself stop reading. ”You have brought upon us war, pestilence and destruction. You are Rome's...Helen of Troy." The sweat is streaming down his face as fast as the senators are streaming from the senate. “But then… but then…”

Antony demands the clerk continue, as the senators continue to scurry out.

"But then a woman's role has always suited you best." The reader’s tragically poor Greek scholarship becomes evident when Antony cuts the speech short by beating the messenger to death with his scroll as the senators, far better Greek scholars, have slipped away, leaving Antony in an empty chamber with the clerk’s body.

In his getaway sedan chair, Cicero dictates a letter to Octavian, (whom he addresses as Caesar) requesting that Octavian bring his army to defend Rome against Antony, whom he (Cicero) has so bravely exposed.

***

It’s three months later, and a great deal of action gets condensed into a few words as the town crier dude informs us that the rebel Antony is in Gaul laying siege to the city of Mutina, and the senate has sent two generals plus Octavian to crush (great hand gesture here) the rebels.

Pullo and Eirene return to Rome from Massilia. Pullo feels the gods are directing him to make up with Vorenus. They find the Aventine collegium is a smoking ruin. They encounter Mascius, who tells them Vorenus has gone to Gaul with Antony. Pullo puzzles why the gods would send him this way when Vorenus is not here. “Well, if he’s not here, he’s not here. I can leave him a letter.”

Eirene composes, “Dear Vorenus. I don’t f*** your wife.”

“Something like that,” Pullo agrees, and they share a chuckle.

A raggedy beggar woman approaches and Pullo reaches into his pouch for a copper, only to have the woman say “Pullo, don’t you know me?” It’s Lyde, and the tears liberally flow from all as she collapses, and then relates that “the children are alive!” Guess Pullo’s found his mission, and the gods are on topic after all. We next see Pullo riding a horse at a gallop, hell bent for somewhere.

We’re at Atia’s house, and the big-breasted slave, Althea, is fixing dinner, while Duro flirts some more. The BBS takes the first course out to Atia, who is dining alone today (uh-oh), as Duro adds some ‘special spices’ to the stew that’s still cooking. Atia rejects the first dish, and the BBS returns for the stew. We see the bowl being carried in as we fade to the closing credits.

Next Week: Somebody’s been poisoned, but we can’t see who. Duro runs. Castor runs. Servilia is the captive of somebody. The great Octavian/Antony fight is on. Pullo finds Vorenus. Vorenus finds… something.

Previous Episode: 2-2F: “Son of Hades”

Next Episode: 2-4F: “Testudo et Lepus (The Tortoise and the Hare)”


- Cecil

Click here for complete "Rome" broadcast schedule, including reshow days, times, and HBO Channel


Posted by Cecil on January 27, 2007 8:04 PM
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