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'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' nostalgia recap: Gladiator school

Season 1 | Episode 2 | “Sacramentum Gladiatorum” | Aired Jan 29, 2010

On Spartacus‘ second episode, writer Steven S. DeKnight and director Rick Jacobson present the absolute school from hell, otherwise known as gladiator school. Spartacus and some of the fresh recruits learn a new meaning to the phrase “school of hard knocks.”

We begin with a great dream sequence involving poor Spartacus realizing that he’s completely separated from his beloved Sura and that he’s a slave in the House of Batiatus. Officially, this is where his formation as a gladiator truly begins (there’s even a moment where Batiatus orders that his hair be cut), and things are not looking good for him.

This episode really delves into the interactions among the main characters, including those of Spartacus and his newest rival, Crixus. (A scene in the baths is a major highlight of the episode, with Spartacus learning about his new destiny.)

Speaking about the House of Batiatus (and this episode could be considered a bottle episode, because it is set entirely in the ludus), DeKnight does a great job of exploring the twisted, power-hungry relationship between Lucretia and Batiatus. A scene of the two discussing how Spartacus might be able to help them for economic purposes illustrates how the show handles exposition and character motivations through sex. Kudos to Hannah and Lawless for fully committing themselves to the part during these sequences; they’re full of great character moments.

Because the House of Batiatus is a gladiator school, you naturally need a professor to show students the way of the brotherhood. In this episode we meet Doctore (a commanding Peter Mensah), and Spartacus really learns the hard way that gladiator school is not going to be easy. Hard physical training (shown in a great montage accompanied by a standout Joseph LoDuca score) and discipline are a must for all gladiators. Anything can happen in the ludus and anyone can perish at any moment, a horrible realization that forces Spartacus to think twice about rebelling again (after defying Doctore moments earlier).

One theme of this episode is that everyone has debts, even the people with the most power. Batiatus needs patronage from Glaber to pay his gladiatorial debts; otherwise, it will get grim for him.

Batiatus contemplates his debts

Even Spartacus’ newest ally, Varro (a wonderfully sympathetic Jai Courtney), reveals that committed himself to the ludus voluntarily in order to pay for debts. Both Courtney and Whitfield are excellent in this scene, one of the rare moments in the show where characters are happy.

When Glaber finally returns to the ludus, he instantly angers two people: Batiatus, by not granting him patronage and sort of really dismissing as if he weren’t really important, and Spartacus, by just showing him how much of a monster he can be. The scene between him and Spartacus carries all the emotional baggage that one might expect; he basically ruined his life. And it’s even made worse by the fact that he tells horrible stories about what happened to Sura and how little he cares about the consequences. He also returns Sura’s purple cloth to Spartacus, implying that it forms some kind of bond between the two.

Before Glaber leaves though, Illythia returns! In addition to an extraordinary discussion about women’s proper behavior, Lucretia clarifies how far she is willing to go against what is accepted and how she’s subverting a lot of that behavior. It’s a great scene between these two women that shows how fascinatingly complex they are.

Lucretia and Illythia discuss the meaning of the word proper

One of the exemplary things that this episode does is showing Spartacus as a wild animal. Glaber even insults him during their meeting; Doctore and Batiatus comment on how undisciplined he is. The episode is really about Spartacus going from wild Thracian soldier into disciplined warrior that is part of the brotherhood.

But before that happens, he must control himself. When he loses his temper again during the training, he accidentally loses Sura’s cloth. Doctore sees that it is meaningful and smartly uses this to his advantage by letting Batiatus know about it.

Spartacus receives Sura

Batiatus and Spartacus are basically formally introducing themselves for the first time. Batiatus’ “I am a Lanista” speech explains his backstory, his profession, and why he has so much passion for it. And Batiatus, again playing up the charming card rather intelligently, tells Spartacus that he will reunite him with his wife if he is willing to “kill them all” (a great line returning in cyclical fashion) for Batiatus.

The final test scene, with great choreography and dynamic direction by Jacobson, gives Spartacus the chance to prove himself once again. After Varro is accepted into the brotherhood, by way of a tie, it is the match that everyone has been waiting for: Spartacus against Crixus.

First of all, the surprise element that allows Spartacus to claim victory is handled expertly but the proclamation of the sacramentum gladiatorum is so wonderfully done. These two episodes see him go from Thracian warrior to defiant slave to Brotherhood member. And that victory gives him that commitment to fight and to hope that he will one day be reunited with his wife.

Spartacus defeats Crixus


There is a subtle hint that there might be something going on between Crixus and Lucretia.

Doctore’s lines of dialogue in this episode were great, including his monologue to the fresh recruits.

Ashur’s (the extraordinarily fun Nick Tarabay) introduction and subsequent conversation with Spartacus are some of the best moments of the episode.

The entire Spartacus saga is available for streaming on Netflix.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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