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'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' nostalgia recap: There is no choice

Season 1 | Episode 10 | “Party Favors” | Aired Apr 2, 2010

“Party Favors,” Spartacus‘s tenth episode, ranks as one of the series’s best, most emotionally grueling episodes. It’s a tense hour of television with strong character development and an incredibly devastating and powerful climax that stands as one of the series’s most unforgettable moments.

Let’s start with the opening sequence. After a noticeable absence in recent episodes, the arena returns. Spartacus and Varro are thrown into the arena as a team. Sure, Spartacus is the superstar to the crowd, but all of the training they’ve had is showcased to full effect. We see how well they work together as a team, and the action tells us about their relationship and how they coordinate together during a fight—we can see how close their friendship truly is.

Illythia has a mental breakdown following the death of Licinia

The main plotline kicks into gear with the revelation that Batiatus, in an effort to try to get into the Magistrate’s good graces, has decided to host a party for Numerius. Lucretia manipulates Illythia (who’s been having visions of the events with Licinia) into inviting as many high-status people as possible to the House of Batiatus.

In the training arena, we see that Crixus is still being taunted by Ashur, and even Spartacus. It’s interesting to see that during a dinner conversation with Varro, Spartacus reveals that he no longer desires to escape the ludus. He’s completely embraced his destiny as a Champion, which introduces a new dynamic. Now what? Now he must protect that title, and Crixus is certainly the one most anxious to take it away from him. One of the most compelling things about the latter half of the season is how Crixus must work his way up from the bottom. Square one, basically. And in this episode, he might finally get that opportunity to dethrone the new Champion of Capua.

Batiatus discusses the strategy with Lucretia

That opportunity arises with Numerius’s celebration. Batiatus selects Crixus and Spartacus to put on a show during the celebration. A friendly fight, which Crixus sees as a chance to recover the throne and show the audience who the real Champion is. One of the greatest aspects of this episode is that the character moments feel incredibly well-earned: For example, Batiatus and Spartacus’s discussion regarding Crixus’s fitness to fight. But without a doubt, one of the best examples can be seen in the strategy game scene.

Spartacus shows that he

In this scene we discover more about the history of Batiatus and Spartacus. The conversation about their fathers and different upbringings reveal that they have developed a bond of sorts. For example, Batiatus tells Lucretia that Spartacus is different from Crixus. He’s more of a strategist, and his military background comes through in the scene. It also shows how different Batiatus is from his father; he even makes a comment that his father was content with being a lanista. Not Batiatus. He is a deeply ambitious individual and he knows it.

As much as this episode concerns the relationship between Spartacus and Varro, it’s impossible to talk about it without bringing up Illythia’s pivotal role. Illythia, still angry at Spartacus, decides to take her revenge on him to the next truly malevolent level. Illythia has always had sociopathic tendencies, but it is in these past two episodes that she becomes a terrific villain for the series.

Illythia is confident of her master plan

It would be an understatement to say that Illythia’s master plan against Spartacus has “twisted” written all over it. She manipulates and seduces Numerius into changing the rules, which allows her plan to come to a grueling conclusion. During the party, Batiatus announces that Spartacus and Crixus are going to fight, but Numerius intervenes and shifts everything. Instead of Crixus, Spartacus must now fight Varro. This has a double effect: Crixus has just been humiliated, despite how hard he was trying to regain that confidence that he had in him; and Spartacus must now fight his best friend. The stakes have been raised significantly.

There is always a choice

This fight scene is breathtaking to watch; since they’re in a practical location the impact of the fight feels a lot more visceral. It’s wonderfully choreographed but takes a haunting turn when Numerius gives his verdict. He chooses for Varro to die and turns a friendly fight into something horrifying. The performances from Whitfield, Courtney, and Bianca are absolutely mesmerizing. Whitfield’s disbelief at what he’s asked to do to his friend (while the Magistrate tells Batiatus that he’ll replace Varro with money—it’s amazing how little they care for a life) is emotionally devastating.

This is where the show truly feels like it belongs to Joss Whedon’s oeuvre—you come to love characters, only to have them taken away when they’re at their happiest. It feels like even more of a gut-punch, considering that Varro had just made peace with Aurelia and was willing to take care of her baby.

The knife is twisted even further when Batiatus discovers that the Magistrate has no interest in making him a politician. Everything he did to please the Magistrate (including letting Varro die) was for naught. This episode has one of the most haunting final moments of the series, as Spartacus breaks down (and Joseph LoDuca’s score channels John Murphy’s intense work in 28 Days Later) and realizes that he has nothing; despite a beautiful bonding moment with Mira.

This hour, written by Brent Fletcher and Miranda Kwok and directed by Chris Martin-Jones, is truly one of Spartacus‘s finest. There’s a lasting emotional impact because of the excellent work done to flesh out character relationships.

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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