There's a random Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows spoiler towards the end of this post, so watch out if you haven't read it yet!
We open with Spartacus in such a bad mood he's even being mardy with Neighbours Reject, and are thrown immediately into the arena - so I'm guessing we're in for more blood, fewer tits this week.
The old white haired guy who's been hanging around for a while is arranging a celebration for his son, who is turning 15 (and, I think I remember rightly, putting on his manly gown - they keep saying he will become a man so he must be). A brunette friend of Xena's is starting to wonder where Crassus' cousin is, and Xena explains 'she has been feeling unwell'. 'Nothing serious I hope' says the friend, and Brother replies 'Just... lack of a face.' (Then he said 'she couldn't face it'. He should write Christmas cracker jokes). (Actually, they may have been talking about Paris Hilton, I still haven't worked out everyone's names). Brother also doubts whether, in reality, you could pop someone's head off with a chain, but it's a neat move and Spartacus and NR seem to be very popular, though Spartacus is getting all the credit.
Nasty little goatee guy is trying to get at Crixus, who is resisting so far but may crack soon. The slave girl sent to Spartacus has found NR's wife, who has done for the man who raped her herself (I like her!) and she and NR have a genuinely sweet reconciliation. He has realised he was an idiot and come to terms with the whole thing, and is back in my good books. (I should have seen the end coming at this point).
I'm even feeling sorry for poor old Paris Hilton, who is still feeling pretty rotten about killing Crassus' cousin (and so she should. This feeling will not last long). Xena now feels so powerful in comparison, she hasn't even bothered to change into the blonde wig, but is sticking with her own preferred red while telling PH what to do.
Spartacus and Crixus have to fight each other (though John Hannah impresses upon them that they are not actually supposed to hurt each other, it's only for show - which is good for the story and allows us to see an aspect of Roman gladiatorial games that is hardly ever shown on television or film, show fights in which no one is actually supposed to die or be seriously injured). JH is getting very over-exicted, which can't be a good sign.
Crixus' unfortunate girlfriend is in trouble following her theft of the cell key last week, while JH and Xena actually look like they might have sex with each other for once. I like the board game JH and gnomy guy are playing - I've no idea how accurate it may or may not be, but it's cool.
Crixus is now planning to kill Spartacus, which is really annoying, really stupid and not going to help them make friends. He is out of my good books. Gnomy guy catches Crixus and his girlfriend at it - I'm sure he would have done anyway, since they were at quite close quarters, but really, if you're having clandestine sex in a cell, why remove all your clothes?!
The Crixus fan club
The conversation between Xena and JH about whether or not JH should have been drinking with Spartacus is interesting, and shows up some of the complexities of a master/slave relationship. If Xena and JH agreed on a favourite slave, they might occasionally talk with them, or even offer them a drink (and if you really liked a slave, you could free them). But there are some lines that can't be crossed, and then there are the lines that will cause trouble if you have different favourites. Xena deludes herself that she has some kind of relationship with Crixus because she forces him to sleep with her, but will never share a drink as equals, while JH, who prefers Spartacus, is happy to share a drink but quick to remind everyone where the power lies if Spartacus displeases him. And they would all get on better if the owning couple had the same favourites. One of the problems with studying slave conditions in any society is that conditions vary so much according to personality and situation, and this is neatly summed up here.
Spartacus catches the unpleasant guard attacking his slave-girl friend (partly because he thought she stole his keys) and JH has to break them all up and yell at everyone (except the girl, who gets sent off sharpish). Then back to party planning - 'This night will be etched in the memories of all in attendence' says JH cheerfully. Oh John, John. Have you never read a book or watched TV? That's like that bit in Titanic where Ismay says he wants Titanic's maiden voyage to make headlines.
The guy with the titchy little dreads has been egged on by Spartacus to refuse to surrender and look! Drill Sergeant Guy is hanging around in the background! He's still alive then. He waits long enough to separate Crixus and teeny dreads guy, though apparently letting Crixus mash up his face a bit has earned him the respect of his fellow gladiators.
Paris Hilton declares that 'tonight Numerius becomes a man' and then - ewwwwwwwww. Nowadays that would be statutory rape. (And, as Brother notes, she's had a rather drastic mood swing). Rome did this whole 'the boy must have sex to become a man' thing and it was bad there too, though somehow Octavian having sex with a prostitute was slightly less icky than PH's seduction of a kid not mature enough to shave yet. (Possibly because the prostitute, as far as we know, had no ulterior motive other than money).
Neighbours Reject has actually noted aloud that Spartacus has only one friend, so at least they're both self-aware. Xena, meanwhile, seems to be trying to taunt PH into some kind of screaming flashback to the whole unfortunate murder thing. White haired guy and gnomy bearded guy are plotting about something, but I've lost track of what - Brother thinks JH may be planning to kill White haired guy, but I thought he was talking about the eventual inevitable death of Crixus, so we've not idea what's going on. You have to feel sorry for Crixus, though, when the spotty kid demands Neighbours Reject instead of Crixus for the show fight. JH still doesn't seem to have noticed his wife's extreme preference for Crixus, which makes him a bit slow.
Neighbours Reject and Spartacus are gleefully drawing blood and Mum, Brother and I are agreed that we fear some kind of Hamlet-style sword-poisoning incident. But there's no need - the hideous spotty kid demands death, put up to it by Paris Hilton. JH quite rightly objects, since this was not supposed to be a fight to the death, but no luck, white-haired guy insists and we're back at the traditional gladiator-ordered-to-kill-his-best-friend plot. Spartacus just stands there for ages while NR nobly insists he has no choice and they're surrounded by soldiers, until eventually poor old Neighbours Reject shoves the sword into his own shoulder and begs Spartacus to look after his family (who have gone to Sicily). So Spartacus finishes him off, though he weeps in a manly way as he does it, looking a bit like Aragorn. And JH doesn't even get his political contacts, as white-haired guy has no intention of supporting him because he's too low status.
Apocalypse Now, as Spartacus tears apart his tiny cell in grief (he is comforted by the slave-girl, but this is not a lot of help). The vital difference between this and the many other examples of the gladiator having to kill his friend trope is that this is the only example I can think of where the gladiator actually goes through with it. This episode packs a real emotional punch and deals with some of the realities of life as a gladiator and a slave well, and we all agreed that it was very sad, but very good. I never thought I would feel so sad at the passing of Neighbours Reject, but like Dobby the House Elf, he must have grown on me. And we can really start to see the trajectory towards rebellion now, with only a few episodes to go. I just hope there are enough characters, preferably likeable ones, alive at the end of it to keep us going into series 2!
Alas, poor Neighbours Reject. I knew him, Horatio.