It's like SNAKES ON A PLANE, folks; as Samuel L. Jackson famously observed, either you want to see it, or you don't. You could be pardoned for wondering if Frank Miller had something to do with this one, from the title; he didn't, probably because this series is getting too batshit for him. In this episode, for example, the title refers to the hero, who is advised that he's getting pimped out as a male prostitute. He takes it well.
Quick recap: Ilythia introduced other noble Roman ladies to Lucretia's circle, and one of them is struck by a desire to boink a gladiator -- specifically, Spartacus. Lucretia and Batiatus are happy to arrange this, for a modest fee, because the client's family is insanely rich. As Lucretia explains, they go to great lengths to ensure discretion: the clients who get fucked come unattended to the house, so servants won't gossip, and are masked so the gladiator can't see who he boinks. But as the deal is wrapping up, Ilythia drops in unexpectedly and becomes privy to her friend's private scandal. Ilythia promises Lucretia it'll be their little secret. If you trust her, you have not been watching the show. If you think that now Ilythia realizes that fucking gladiators can *actually be arranged* she's not going to piss Lucretia off by arranging to fuck Crixus, you *really* have not been watching the show.
Meanwhile, Crixus makes his return to gladiator training in grand style, depressing Ashur, who wants to be a gladiator again but is denied because Batiatus finds Ashur's wits more useful. Ashur's reaction is, of course, betrayal, cueing Batiatus's foe in on Batty's assassination plot. Spartacus takes the news of his impending man-whoredom cheerfully enough, but Lucretia isn't convinced he's up for it, as he hasn't been laid in months, so she orders her #2 servant Mira to go for it. (This is set-up for Mira's existing down the road, because she's sort of pointless to this episode. They could have given the job to Naevia, which would have given Crixus and Spartacus further reason to be simmering with tension at one another.) Spartacus declines, but lets her sleep in his cell so he won't get punished, and enlists her aid in the search for Varro's wife, who has gone missing and may have come to harm.
The night of Spartacus's whoredom arrives. Naked female slaves strip him, paint his body gold, and put a golden mask on him, then send him to boink a similarly-attired client. It's like watching living statues mate, until Lucretia unexpectedly pulls back the curtain and has the expected client standing next to her, because, whoops, so sorry, a mix-up, Spartacus has been fucking Ilythia.
Spartacus freaks out and tries to strangle Ilythia before being dragged away by guards. The intended client laughs as Ilythia freaks the fuck out because she has been caught fucking the guy who nearly ruined her husbands career. And Ilythia, screaming, "STOP LAUGHING!" tackles her and smashes her friend's head into the marble floor over and over and over and over and over until teeth and blood and brains come pouring out.
Here are some of my live-tweets; unfortunately, Twitter has eaten every single one between 10:05 and 10:30, including the one where I called the first part of the end of the episode.
#Spartacus time is almost upon us! Huzzah! 9:58 PM Mar 19th via web
I am a little tipsy. Will this make #Spartacus more enjoyable? Could anything? 9:59 PM Mar 19th via web
Disclaimer: "Do not try this at home! We're what you would call professionals --" oh, wait, that's Mythbusters. #Spartacus 10:00 PM Mar 19th via web
Hey, Glaber's in the previously on! I almost forgot that dude was even in the show. #Spartacus 10:01 PM Mar 19th via web
Episode 9: "Whore." Opening? GLADIATOR TRAINING SEQUENCE. 10:01 PM Mar 19th via web
Naked women in masks! I swear I've seen this movie. #Spartacus 10:03 PM Mar 19th via web
OH YAY ILYTHIA #Spartacus 10:05 PM Mar 19th via web
[half an hour of missing commentary brought to you by Twitter. Among the comments I remember: "Oh, God, now that Ilythia knows she can fuck gladiators, *she'll never leave.*"]
GLADIATOR WRESTLING. IN THE TUB, TOO. WHY NOT. #Spartacus 10:31 PM Mar 19th via web
Also: GLADIATOR TRAINING SEQUENCE. #Spartacus 10:37 PM Mar 19th via web
Wow, #Spartacus is in an NC-17 Calvin Klein commercial. 10:41 PM Mar 19th via web
Oh, dear, this is going to be very bad. #Spartacus 10:44 PM Mar 19th via web
OH. CRAP. THAT WAS EVEN WORSE THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE. WTF, SHOW. #Spartacus 10:46 PM Mar 19th via web
Y'know what? If you're invited to the house of Batiatus, DON'T FUCKING GO. #Spartacus 10:48 PM Mar 19th via web
Wowsers. Another solid episode. Nice direction by Michael Hurst, BATSHIT INSANE scripting by Daniel Knauf. Good job all round. #Spartacus 10:53 PM Mar 19th via web
[My friend Jim opines that Spartacus is written as a series of dares.]
@jim_turnage There is a good chance you are not wrong. 10:57 PM Mar 19th via web in reply to jim_turnage
@MoTancharoen I predicted the bait-n-switch, but not the headbanger's ball afterward. 10:59 PM Mar 19th via web in reply to MoTancharoen
@laura47 You should watch #Spartacus, absolutely. There is *way* too much WTFery in this show for me alone. 11:01 PM Mar 19th via web in reply to laura47
I just realized: tonight's episode of #Spartacus totally features "aliens make them do it." #kinkbingo 11:45 PM Mar 19th via web
A couple of people have advanced the theory that SPARTACUS is actually written with kink bingo cards as a guide. That is looking more and more plausible. This episode alone contained "forced into prostitution" and "aliens [Lucretia] made them do it" along with "masked sex," "mistaken identity," "enemy sex" and "non-con by proxy." If there were a fandom for this show, Ilythia/Spartacus fic would be *exploding* right now.
"Whore" is a really strong episode for SPARTACUS, and I'd rank it with episodes four and five as the best to watch if you're a new viewer who wants to get an idea of what this batshit series is about. It features a number of the show's running plotlines and brings you up to speed with a lot of the characters. And, I can't stress enough this how important this is, *people actually say each other's names in conversation.* Great for new viewers.
Character development is a mixed bag. Ashur gets more screentime and a strong angle as the betrayer of Batiatus when he sells his owner out, but I'm not all that enthused over this development. Batiatus is too unsympathetic to elicit much pity at this point, and in any event I still want Ashur to pay for the death of Barca. The show is giving Ashur motivation for betraying Batiatus by having Batiatus renege on his promise to let the disabled Ashur return to the arena, but the problem is that we've seen that Ashur doesn't need much motivation for evildoing: he got Barca killed over a few coins. (I am starting to think that Ashur will wind up killing Varro, too, because Varro attacked Ashur on being informed of his (Varro's) missing wife and son, and we've seen Ashur react badly to being strong-armed before.) Ashur's evilness and machinations have been *incredibly* well-established, and giving him another, less stunning, angle undercuts the previous one. The dude has already murdered characters we cared about; we're not going to be shocked if he does the equivalent of kicking a puppy. And if his comeuppance comes because he kicks a puppy, that's shortchanging the characters we cared about. If you don't want us to see them avenged, why make us care about them in the first place?
Most of the other gladiatorial stuff is a wash: for an episode with a ton of Gladiator Training Sequences, the gladiators themselves aren't up to much. The Crixus/Naevia thing is mostly treading water, except we learn that 1) Crixus gets really jealous and 2) Naevia successfully stole the key to the ludus, meaning she and Crixus can screw, and more importantly *it is now possible for our heroes to leave the ludus when they want.* That'll be important later, I'm sure. We also learn that Doctore (who, remember, was playing detective about Barca's death), is rooting for Crixus to retake the title, which is a surprising bit of info. I wish Doctore would get more screen time, or a plotline of his own, because 1) Peter Mensah rocks and 2) every time he pops up, he does something surprising and interesting, so he has a hell of a batting average. But the big action is in the main plot, where Spartacus boinks Ilythia (!) and then Ilythia murders a Roman noblewoman (!!).
I've mentioned that the Ilythia/Lucretia scenes are the best part of the show. You never know who's going to wind up on top; at the moment, that's Lucretia, because my poor Ilythia is *completely undone* by the fact that she's bashed her friend's brains in, and so Lucretia invites her to move in and keep everything secret and safe. And she kisses her. "It'll be our little secret." That kiss is noteworthy -- not that they've never kissed before, but every other time Ilythia was the initiator. This time, Lucretia is In Charge. I'm really enjoying this, and am curious as hell to see how the season finale ends up.