So this is what it's all been building up to. Vorenus and Pullo are basically rock stars after their exploits in the arena last week. Caesar is rejiggering the Senate to include Celts, Gauls, and our own Lucius Vorenus, who is too popular to punish for his disobedience and too much of a potential liability not to reward. But Caesar's real purpose is to have a famous bad-ass near him in the Senate chamber, where his guards can't protect him. Pullo's back under Vorenus's roof, hoping to get J. No to forgive him like Vorenus has. Servilia sits in on a meeting of the anti-Caesar conspirators, and learns that the would-be assassins are stymied by Vorenus's constant presence at Caesar's side. Luckily for her, she happens to remember where she's heard Vorenus's name before. So while Caesar's on his way to the Senate, she sends a servant to blab to Vorenus about the true parentage of Little Lucius (As you may recall, Evander told Octavian, who told Octavia, who told Servilia). Vorenus storms home to confront his wife, and Mark Antony is separately pulled aside, leaving Caesar to enter the Senate chamber unprotected. And then Caesar is stabbed to death by a handful of Senators while the rest flee the building like it's on fire. It's really quite ugly. Brutus strikes the last blow, and although Caesar doesn't say The Line to him, Brutus is riddled with guilt. As is Brutus's wont. Servilia breaks the news to Julii Cooper in real time, in that coldly polite way she has, before declaring her intent to make her rival suffer. Back at Vorenus's house, a contrite Niobe gets tired of waiting to see what her husband is going to do with that big knife he's holding. So she takes matters into her own hands, leaving Vorenus grief-stricken. And Pullo appears to win not only J. No's forgiveness, but her love as well, as the two of them hold hands and walk off together into the hiatus. So I guess that's good news, if you believe in love between a murderer and his victim's fiancÃ©e.
So remember how, last week, Vorenus jumped into the arena to save Pullo, and I wondered what kind of trouble he was getting into in the process? I suppose I never considered the possibility that maybe no one would notice.
And now it turns out that that's just as well, since the story has already been adapted for the Roman stage. We're watching another play-within-an- HBO-series-episode as the show begins. A pantomime of last week's arena scene is in progress before a cheering and cringing daytime audience that includes Julii Cooper and Octavia (although those two aren't so much cheering). The actor playing Pullo is actually a fair likeness of the one we know, but the special effects here aren't nearly as convincing. If these pantomime actors had any dedication to their craft whatsoever, they'd be flinging the contents of a butcher's castoff bin into the crowd. Amateurs. Not-Pullo pretends to beat down some not-gladiators while the crowd chants Pullo's name. Then a castmate comes out on another actor's shoulders to represent Gayliath, swinging a fake skull-shaped mace and everything. Not-Pullo goes down, which cues the entrance of the actor playing Vorenus, wearing a blood-red tunic and a huge curly wig in a hue that would be too garish for a fire engine. Not-Vorenus defeats Not-Gayliath and slides the mace-handle down the back of Not-Gayliath's tunic (much less screaming this time, but again, it's pantomime) then shares a joyous embrace with Not-Pullo. Julii Cooper comments to Octavia, "It's quite good, but they're far more handsome in real life."
Speaking of which, here's yet another attempt to capture Pullo's image. A bearded artist sits by Pullo's bed in a crowded, primitive hospital, sketching the ex-convict's copiously bandaged and sleeping head. But when Pullo abruptly wakes up, he puts a stop to that by grabbing the man and yanking him close to demand what the hell he's up to. The artist says he's only taking Pullo's likeness. Pullo obviously doesn't know what that means, and looks like he's about to demand it back. The artist manages to explain that he's been commissioned (by the Aventine Cloth-Dyers' Association, which means Vorenus's neighbors) to do a mural of Pullo and Vorenus in the arena. Pullo still doesn't get it, so the artist explains that Pullo and Vorenus are famous now: "The whole city loves you, sir. You and Magistrate Vorenus are symbols of brotherly love and redemption." He says there probably isn't a lady in Rome that Pullo couldn't have right now, if Pullo were in Rome, which apparently he isn't. Pullo's mood markedly improves, although he forgets to release his death grip on the artist's collar until the poor guy reminds him that he'd like to return to his own personal space, thanks very much. Pullo lets go of the artist, but holds on to the portrait a bit longer to admire it. It's a good thing he approves, considering that the artist is actually intimidated by a guy in a hospital bed.