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'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' nostalgia recap: Dynamic duo

Season 1 | Episode 5 | “Shadow Games” | Aired Feb 19, 2010

A lot of Spartacus‘ fifth episode is excellent payoff—of relationships, character motivations, and new opportunities for its characters. And it delivers in spades.

We begin with the Italian sun casting an unbearable heat upon the House of Batiatus. Training under the heat has made some of the gladiators lose their focus. Batiatus yearns for the gods to bring his ludus some rain and end the overpowering heat. While it isn’t rain, Lucretia does give him news that Magistrate Calavius (John Bach) is hosting his games.

After the attack on his life, Batiatus really needs good news (there’s a nice moment between him and Lucretia where she tells him he needs medical attention). With the games approaching, he sees this as an opportunity. Too bad his arch-nemesis Solonius will be hosting the primus with Theokoles (Reuben De Jonng), the undefeated Shadow of Death. But there is a way for Batiatus to be involved in the primus: Have Crixus and Spartacus team up to fight Theokoles.

Naturally, Doctore is concerned (since he is the only one to survive a battle with Theokoles), and asks Batiatus to send him instead. Though Batiatus refuses, he does ask Doctore to train Spartacus and Crixus. These training scenes are some of the best of the episode; they’re able to build upon the intense Spartacus/Crixus rivalry and create a new dynamic. Since Doctore has experience with Theokoles, he uses that to tutor and mentor the duo. This a more hands-on Doctore than we’ve previously seen, as we also find out more about him as a character (the scar scene, à la Jaws, is fantastic).

Trust is crucial between the two, even if someone like Ashur gives Spartacus a warning regarding Crixus’ true intentions in the arena.

Ashur warns Spartacus of Crixus

One of this episode’s subplots involves the return of Illythia. She comes bearing gifts for Lucretia in the form of a meeting with a medicine woman (in order to “cure” her infertility problem). Because of her gift, Lucretia decides to give Illythia a private audience with Spartacus and Crixus. After taunting Spartacus (in classic, twisted Illythia fashion), she decides to admire Crixus up close and seduce him. Lucretia’s face during this entire sequence is priceless—giving away that sense of possession that Lucretia feels she has over Crixus. But Viva Bianca absolutely steals this entire sequence.

Lucretia disapproves of Illythia seducing Crixus

Once the medicine woman arrives, she tells Lucretia that she is barren and that she must drink a concoction. Lucretia drinks it, and the medicine woman tells her that she must copulate within the hour—so she orders Crixus to visit her. Instead of pleasing her, Crixus tells her that he can’t, so Lucretia agrees. This is one of the few moments where Lucretia does something completely selfless in exchange for Crixus’ safety. It’s a major moment for her, and Lawless plays it beautifully, lending a sense of tragedy to Lucretia’s situation. To have her feelings for Crixus get in the way of having the opportunity to create life is a major turning point for her.

Throughout the episode, there are great scenes between Spartacus and Crixus discussing their team-up. Crixus loves glory and standing victorious at the arena, while Spartacus is only using the arena to search for his wife. One loves the thrill of the sport; the other doesn’t care for it. It goes so perfectly well with their mismatched pairing, and it adds to their contrasting relationship. The main theme of the episode is really to trust in each other, to let go of their differences and fight as one. Embracing that mentality is the only way they’ll survive.

There’s a great bonding moment between the two when they both talk about their worth: Spartacus asks Crixus if he has nothing else to fight for. There’s a great debate between the two about what “glory” really means and how that affects a person. That whole discussion comes back moments before the battle in a wonderful way, when Crixus tells him that perhaps Spartacus is right; perhaps there is something beyond glory.

Doctore gives Spartacus and Crixus one last lesson before their battle

But this episode is also concerned with paying off certain story arcs introduced in past episodes.

One of them is the reveal of who ordered the attack on Batiatus (he discovers that Solonius paid off Batiatus’ debts in exchange for Ovidius having him killed). This is where Batiatus goes really dark (he’s a monster in this scene) and threatens to kill Ovidius’ son (after having killed his wife). He has Barca kill Ovidius and his son (although we don’t see what happens to the kid). But this is one of the things that Spartacus does: Make its complex characters contain both light and dark.

Batiatus goes dark

The other major payoff is the relationship between Naevia and Crixus. After four episodes, Crixus finally decides to make a move and, after rejecting Lucretia, kisses Naevia. In a way, she gives him the inspiration to fight and to seek something beyond glory.

The battle with Theokoles battle is appropriately grand and brutal. The blond, albino giant warrior is the toughest opponent the series has shown (so far).

After Theokoles defeats Crixus (notice where Theokoles slashes him), Spartacus rises to the occasion. The momentum in this fight sequence is wonderfully executed, thanks to some great choreography and editing (and a rousing score by Joseph LoDuca). It really does feel like something monumental has happened when Spartacus decapitates Theokoles.

As the Shadow of Death falls, history has been made. The gods finally bring Capua some rain. The entire moment feels appropriately operatic, and much of what the season has been building up to (the heat, the Spartacus/Crixus rivalry, etc.) comes to fruition.

Spartacus-bringer of rain

This episode really takes characters into a new direction, primarily Spartacus and his glorious victory in the arena. Which is ironic, considering that Spartacus never cared for glory, and he’s the one who defeats Theokoles.

As the undefeated Gaul is no more, a new champion is born.

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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