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Rome: 2-3 These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero - Capsule Review

Rome: 2-3 "These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero" Capsule 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 for the customers. Eirene, apparently doing scullery maid duty, looks on, not happy.

Vorenus appears and dispatches 25 thugs to a grain ship. Guess longshore work was corrupt even then (and a big shout-out to the first season of “Wired”).

Now we’re in a street of the Aventine, and near EBEF look-alike Memmio wishes to consult with Vorenus on a ‘family matter’. Seems one of his sub-thug’s male relatives has been used in an inappropriate way by some citizen and the sub-thug, Carbo, wants permission for revenge. The citizen, however, paid for the privilege, which to Vorenus signals no dice on the revenge. The thugs are unhappy with the decision but depart. Pullo tries to put in a word for the thugs, and is harshly rebuked for ‘questioning my judgment’. Gaia stops by to lay a sympathetic word on the boss.

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 picked up the hemp in Macedonia, makes inquiries about the climate, which the yute assures her is terrible, and the culture as well. Atia sniffs a little hemp herself and 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.

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. 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 (something we scoffed about 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.” 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 merchant’.

A 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 the upright citizen Vorenus had forbidden touching and he’s been touched in a very serious spot, indeed. Vorenus sends Pullo to deal with Memmio and Carbo, but Pullo refuses and Vorenus sends Mascius instead, ordering Pullo to “Get out”.

Antony and Cicero are ‘discussing’ Antony’s 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. Antony perseveres, insisting that Cicero make the motion in the senate. Cicero resists, but Antony says “it’s come to this, 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 inference, just to make it official. Antony complies, reminding Cicero of a torture used on an old acquaintance.

Back in the Aventine, Pullo and Vorenus kiss and make up. Well, not actually kiss. Elsewhere, 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 starts to send a return message, then thinks better of it. After Agrippa departs, Octavia reminds her that Octavian is her son, after all. Atia says “I have no son.”.

In the servants’ quarters, beaten-boy flirts with a big-breasted female slave who is apparently the chief food server, then slips from the house, only to turn up at Servilia’s house. There we learn his name is Duro, and his manners quite fresh for the likes of a hired assassin. 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 Bythenia, which the captions kindly inform us is Eastern Turkey today. Brutus scowls 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. Later Brutus is talking to the chieftain, who disses Brutus for cowardice for knifing Caesar last.

Back to Rome and Atia’s 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 warnings she’ll be crucified if discovered. She tells the children she’s going for help. The other slaves raise a ruckus, as she slips away in the dark.

Back in the Aventine bordello, a minion is discovered hanging by his heels 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 alright, I did it, everybody did it whenever you were away, and the fight we’ve seen building up is on. Nobody really wins the fight, but Vorenus ends up on the cold stone floor of the bordello/tavern telling everybody “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 Brutus looking hung-over, and decidedly more masculine than usual with a full beard, standing alone beside a river. Brutus removes his robe (full sidal nudity, girls!) and wades into the water, and in a sort of self-baptism asks to 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 a coach 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 senator tells him Cicero is taken ill, but has sent a scroll to be read to the senate. A senator who’s not up on his Greek history begins to read: “These being the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero” and our episode has its name. Cicero’s words are very disrespectful of Antony (full text in the full review). 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 other senators have slipped from the chamber – evidently being better Greek scholars.

Next a great deal of action gets condensed into a few words as the town crier dude informs us that Antony’s in Gaul raising an army and is considered a rebel, whom Octavian and crew will oppose.

Some time later, Pullo and Eirene return to Rome. Pullo feels the gods are directing him to make up with Vorenus. They find Vorenus’s house (or is it the Aventine collegium? - hard to tell) 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. A raggedy beggar woman approaches and Pullo reaches into his pouch for a copper, only to have the woman say ‘don’t you know me?’ It’s Lyde, and the tears liberally flow in all directions as she relates that the children are alive! Guess Pullo’s found his mission, and the gods are on topic after all.

We’re at Atia’s house, and the big-breasted slave 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: The great Octavian/Antony fight is on. Pullo finds Vorenus.

Previous Capsule: 2-2 “Son of Hades”

Next Capsule: 2-4 "Testudo et Lepus (The Tortoise and the Hare)"

Full review now available HERE.

- Cecil

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

Posted by Cecil on January 27, 2007 7:57 PM
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