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Rome

TV ONE

Ep 4: Stealing from Saturn


"Here we are, refugees in our own land," Cicero says to Pompey and his supporters, anxiously settling into their makeshift camp south of Rome. "We are not refugees, we are maneuvering," Pompey responds sharply, before explaining his strategy to the men: without gold, Caesar will have to resort to violence, and once the blood starts to spill, the people will turn on him with a vengeance. "While he is fighting mobs in the forum, I will be gathering an army the like of which he has never seen!"

Of course, there is still the question of who has the missing gold. Quintus Pompey, a squirrelly version of his father, has arrived from Brindisi to help track it down. With his gift for torturing the truth out of traitors, he delivers the information his father has awaited: the treasury has not fallen into Caesar's hands.

Yet Caesar has returned to the city and taken command, instituting Martial law to control the anarchy left in his rival's wake. His first mission is to win the support of the priests, and he asks that auguries be taken such that the people of Rome know that the Gods are on his side.

Despite the quiet that has befallen the city, Lucius Vorenus is anxious to start his new life as a merchant, and plans a party to enlist trading partners. He intends to import goods from Gaul - trading slaves, truffles, and wine - and to do this he must befriend local businessmen. As he prepares for his guests to arrive, Vorenus receives a surprise visit from Mark Antony, who confronts him about deserting Caesar's army. "I am no deserter! My time was served!" Vorenus insists. "Once over the Rubicon, Romans are citizens, not soldiers. I could not legally do other than I did."

"Foolish like a priest," says Antony, before making him an offer. If Vorenus returns to the thirteenth legion, he will be inducted into the Evocati as a prefect of the first grade, with a large signing bonus. Vorenus declines the offer, angering Mark Antony.

Across town, Atia prepares to host Caesar's homecoming dinner, a lofty honor that she attends to with glee. Her only apparent concern is her son's "distinctly feminine anima" and apparent lack of interest in sex. "When my mother's father was your age, there was not a slave girl safe," she boasts, forcing him to eat goat testicles.

Over at Vorenus's feast, Niobe's sister Lyde arrives with Evander the butcher, Niobe's erstwhile lover and the father of her infant son. "This is my husband, Evander Pulchio," Lyde says, introducing the tense man to an oblivious Vorenus. As other guests arrive, festively dressed merchants and neighbors, Vorenus tries awkwardly to make small talk, while the infant Lucius reaches for Evander, who cuddles with the child - tormenting his wife. Pouring down the wine, Lyde loses herself by dancing with a young man, until her husband tries to escort her from the party and she makes a scene. Terrified that Vorenus will see the spectacle, Niobe pulls a knife to threaten her. "What good is a knife when you've killed me already?" Lyde cries. As Evander tries to wrestle his wife out of the party, the two knock over a shrine to Janus, god of beginnings - a terrible omen that fills Vorenus with a sense of doom.

As Vorenus's party comes to a foreboding end, Atia's affair heats up. Caesar has greeted his guests warmly, assuring them that he will never give them a reason to regret his friendship, regardless of their past allegiances. As Atia holds court, she becomes preoccupied with Servilia's attendance, determined that nothing come between her and her powerful uncle. The presence of Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, who arrives on the arm of her husband, seems to concern her much less. While Caesar is genial, Calpurnia remains aloof and formal, obeying her role as the dignified wife.

The Chief Augur appears indifferent to Caesar and his guests, until Caesar and Mark Antony offer a large sum as a "birthday gift" to the priest's extravagant spouse. The Augur ups the ante before accepting the generous offer. "She would be under great obligation to you," he tells Caesar. "To think well of me would be her only obligation," he responds.

As Vorenus begins to recover from his hosting duties, he receives another surprise visit - this time it is Pompey's son and his men, in search of the treasury gold. Assuring them he knows nothing, they threaten him with swords, drawing blood from his throat. The standoff is interrupted by the sound of a raucous crowd outside Vorenus's courtyard. They are carrying a man who tosses coins at the beggars and urchins in the street. As the litter is lowered, we see that the man is Pullo. He does not see Quintus's men as he rushes to greet Vorenus. But when they descend on their now-obvious culprit, Pullo throws a bag of golden coins in the air, and the beggars descend in force - allowing Pullo and Vorenus to ambush their would-be captors.

With Quintus bound and gagged, Pullo hatches a plan to escape with the gold to Spain. Vorenus won't have it: "By sunrise everyone in Rome will know what you did, and where you are...My home was invaded and my wife near killed on your account." With this he convinces Pullo to hand over the gold to Caesar, and hope that offering Quintus will earn him mercy.

It earns him more than that, 100 gold pieces (Caesar "does not like to quarrel with Fortune, and clearly she has taken you for a pet."). Quintus is sent back to Pompey with a written offer of a truce, despite the misgivings of Mark Antony and even young Octavian, who speculates that the offering will divide Pompey from his men. This assessment pleases Caesar. Before he can explain his strategy, however, he is in the grips of an epileptic seizure. Posca and a shocked Octavian attempt to hide and restrain him until the violent attack subsides.

When he recovers, a pallid Caesar sends Capurnia home without him, and finds his way to Servilia's bedroom. The next day, with all the priests present, the Chief Augur makes his appeal to Great Jupiter, and in a display carefully orchestrated by his assistants, pigeons fly across the sky from left to right.

Outside the city, Pompey crumples Caesar's offer, at first hiding it from the others. When they learn the limited terms of the truce - legal immunity, mutual disarmament - Cicero, Scipio and Brutus ask Pompey to reconsider. "I must disarm? I am lawful Consul of Rome. He is a criminal. There is nothing mutual in it."

Back in Rome, Pullo returns to Vorenus's with his gold from Caesar, only to find Niobe and Evander in anguished conversation. Vorenus is elsewhere, prostrating himself to the city's Shrine of Janus, begging forgiveness.


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