Spartacus is still clinging to the garter-thing as he atmospherically gets dressed for a training session, in which Drill Sergeant Guy has a go at him for not thinking things through properly. Then we get a montage! A training montage! Team America really has ruined the montage sequence for ever...
The Volcanalia is announced, described by Neighbours Reject as ‘a festival to ward off wild fires’, which is accurate enough, though Volcanus was god of destructive urban fires as well (and volcanoes, thoughI guess since Vesuvius hadn’t erupted yet volcanoes might not be the first thing that came to mind). John Hannah is worrying about money again, but Xena attempts to reassure him while trying on a new and remarkably blonde wig.
A gladiator walks past, showing off his package. Neighbours Reject explains that the big gladiator who’s been annoying Spartacus, Barca, is a Carthaginian who is the last survivor of his group, brought over as slaves after the fall of Carthage. Spartacus still expects John Hannah to actually find his wife, and John Hannah is still stringing him along. Xena buys some jewellery – which apparently involves inspecting her slave-girl’s breasts – and the slave girl seems to have some connection to one of the gladiators. Meanwhile, Drill Sergeant Guy is taking metaphors about piss a bit too literally.
The slave-girl and the gladiator she likes have one of those Tense and Meaningful conversations before he goes off to have sex with Xena. Spartacus still hasn’t learned to keep his mouth shut and gets both himself and Neighbours Reject thrown into a big hole full of shit, at which point Neighbours Reject finally snaps at him to please just shut up and get on with it.
Spartacus and Neighbours Reject are down to fight each other, because this is a gladiator story so, of course, our hero has to fight his only friend, and if he succeeds he may get to fight Crixus the toughest gladiator of them all (and honestly, I am now completely confused as to who is Barca and who is Crixus and who is a Gaul. I can only positively identify Neighbours Reject and the one who’s been allowed to keep his long hair for some reason). Spartacus gets one of the retiarii knocked out, apparently as part of a cunning plan to get himself facing Crixus sooner, while he and Neighbours Reject discuss the uncomfortable fact that they may end up killing each other and the one from earlier eyes up the slave-girl.
Haldir’s wife comes by for a party, complaining that Haldir is too busy with work and being snarky about Xena’s new necklace, which is apparently out of date. JH brings the gladiators in to show everyone in hopes of selling some. People are interested in Spartacus and JH wants him fighting the big guns, but Drill Sergeant Guy whinges that he’s not ready, still too ‘animal’. The guy I thought was Barca the Carthaginian turns out to be a Gaul, and Haldir’s wife sulks that Spartacus is still alive, so Xena has Neighbours Reject perform some live porn to cheer her up, while NR vaguely hopes his wife will forgive him.
OK, the guy who likes the slave girl appears to be Crixus – Spartacus attacks him in the middle of the party and Haldir’s wife demands that they be allowed to fight, as she’s rather enjoying it. Sparatcus gets what he wanted – he will fight the undefeated Crixus in the arena the following day, and he won’t have to fight Neighbours Reject. Xena is not happy, since she wants to protect Crixus, while Crixus himself gives the slave-girl a pretty necklace.
Another gladiator tells Spartacus the story of ‘Theocoles’, the shadow of death, a giant who apparently (according to the graphic) kills people by splitting them in half. The gladiators all insist that Theocoles is not legend and only one has survived him – so either he’s Voldemort, or they’re exaggerating. I'm not aware of any real legend like this, and 'theos' is simply Greek for 'god', so I think this is an invention of the writers - if it has any basis in the ancient world it's very obscure.
Next day, in the arena, Neighbours Reject has obviously survived his fight (he has blood on his face) and Spartacus goes forward to face Crixus. Xena has given up on fashion and gone back to red hair, but her porn show has managed to impress Haldir’s wife so she’s got what she really wanted. Rock guitar starts to play as Spartacus and Crixus enter the arena and Haldir’s wife gives away that she fancies Crixus too, at which Xena is less impressed. Spartacus doesn’t even wait for the starting signal before having a go at Crixus. Crixus so thoroughly bests Spartacus that our hero’s blood ends up artfully spattered all over the camera, but a glance at his wife’s garter-thing persuades Spartacus to surrender and ask for mercy, something that, at the beginning of the episode, he swore he’d never do and which doesn’t impress anyone in the crowd, who all wanted him to die. JH insists that Spartacus was expensive and is worth saving, but no one is really buying it, and it does seem a bit odd to be honest.
Drill Sergeant Guy points out it’s all Spartacus’ own fault for not training long enough and the episode ends, on a rather odd note. (By the way, the pic of John Hannah on the closing credits is really kinds freaky – he looks unusually evil!).
Another episode that felt like it was treading water, though at least Spartacus actually got into the arena this time. Trouble is, 1) I want Haldir to come back, I’m far more interested in him than his fashion-plate wife and 2) I’m already starting to feel like I want them to just rebel and go on the run already, since I know that’s where we’re eventually heading – at least I hope so, unless all of the actual slave revolt has been put off for a season 2 that may never happen...