Testudo et Lepus
Rome | Season 2 | Episode 4

Testudo et Lepus

TV-MA | 52 MIN

Directed by Adam Davidson
Written by Todd Ellis Kessler

Atia's kitchen slave, Althea, carries her bowl of stew from the kitchen, stopping to steal a taste before she enters the dining room to present it. Lacking company for dinner, Atia demands to hear music, but Castor and Merula inform her that the flute girl is sick and the lyre player has died. Learning that Althea sings well, Atia demands to hear "Crown of Sappho." The girl hesitates at first, but nervously follows orders, soon revealing a powerful, operatic voice. Just as she has everyone frozen in awe, Althea stops mid-verse, turns flush and collapses, gasping for breath. "Poison!" Merula announces, hovering over her. Castor catches a glimpse of Duro the slave boy darting out of the servant's quarters and heads after him.

Octavia and her friend Jocasta arrive home to the tortured screams of Duro. Outside by the stables, Timon is whipping and branding the boy with hot metal implements, as Atia and the other servants look on. "What have you been doing to the servants that they want to murder you?" Octavia asks her mother when she learns of the crime. Atia suspects Servilia; with Antony gone, she thinks she can do as she pleases. When she offers to spare the boy in exchange for a name, he confesses he is working for Servilia.

As Timon leads the boy down winding alleys, he begs desperately for his life and claims Servilia loves him like a son. "I expect she'll get over it," Timon responds before plunging the knife.

When Timon returns home soaked in blood, his brother is outraged. "Look at what you've become - you are an animal!" Levi yells. Timon turns to his wife, Deborah, seething. "Did he tell you of his righteous life back in Judea? Eh?...Thieving, gambling, chasing whores." Deborah is furious with Timon.

Levi insists he's changed his ways. "All Rome's wealth is not enough to buy what Ha-Shem has given me," he tells Timon, chastising him for forgetting he is a Jew. When Levi raises a fist to strike him, Timon pulls a knife. "I'm not your little brother anymore." His young son walks in to the sight of his father holding a knife to his uncle's throat, and freezes in fear.

In the Forum, the newsreader announces that a battle is imminent in the north: a "great army," under the leadership of Generals Hirtius and Pansa, assisted by Caesar Octavian, versus "the forces of the traitor Mark Antony." All citizens are requested to make "offerings" for the soldier's success.

By the time Pullo arrives in the north, there is nothing left but a smoldering battlefield of bodies and limbs piled atop each other. Searching for Vorenus among the fallen, he's interrupted by someone calling his name. He looks up to see Caesar's standard, and under it a rider on a white horse: Octavian, all grown up, and the clear victor in the battle. Pullo is unable to conceal his astonishment that the fragile boy he once trained has won his first battle, but Octavian humbly credits the legions, the generals, and his man Agrippa. Hearing the news about Vorenus' kids, Octavian points the way and gives him the Caesarian seal to help clear his path. Pullo heads straight for the hills, where Mark Antony and his wounded army have retreated.

Returning to their military tent, Octavian and Agrippa are greeted by an arrogant man reclining on a bed, gripping a quill. "Another brilliant poem, Maecenas?" Agrippa asks. "Victory is not victory until it has a song," he replies before delivering news about the Generals: they died from their wounds, but, alas, victory is "ours alone." He commends Octavian for teaching "the old bully a proper lesson" and paying him back with interest. "This was not a personal matter. It was necessary for the good of the Republic."

Ready to claim his victory, Octavian sends Agrippa to Rome to deliver the news - and asks him to visit his sister. Agrippa can hardly contain his excitement. Maecenas tells the commander it's time to make the speech about the money - their men are mostly soldiers for hire, and barely any Romans at that. With some hesitancy, Octavian stands before his legions to announce that Rome is in their debt, and they will head to the city to receive a "great deal of money."

In the hills above the battlefield, Pullo weaves in and out of beleaguered soldiers until he finds a battle-worn Vorenus, who's ready to pounce on his old friend until he hears the news. Higher up the mountain, a wounded Antony takes in a report of his losses: 8,000 men dead. Posca suggests they "offer terms." "Slave talk!" Antony fires back. Vorenus approaches to request permission to go in search of his enslaved children, and Antony acquiesces, realizing he's just one more loss. As Pullo and Vorenus prepare to leave, Antony gets some of his bravado back. "Tell everyone you meet that Mark Antony is not defeated. He will return! And all those who defied him shall pay. That f**king little brat Octavian shall be first."

In the Province of Asia, Western Turkey, Cassius helps Brutus suit up in a soldierly uniform with armor. He reads him a document: "Word from Patara is they have capitulated to our demands," sending talents and troops. With nine legions, 25,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry, they are "almost a match for Antony." Admiring how far Brutus has come, Cassius tells him he should have his portrait done. "It would please your mother." Brutus agrees.

Back in Rome, Servilia kneels before a statue of Isis and chants a prayer, as two priestesses attend to her. They're soon replaced by two shadowy figures who approach her from behind and drape her head in a dark cloak. When it's removed, she's kneeling in a dank, dungeon-like room with Atia and her henchmen all around her. "A slow and painful death, that's what you promised me," Atia taunts. "That's what you deserve," Servilia responds, only her heaving chest giving away her fear. At Atia's dare, she speaks her mind: "I think that you're a sad, lonely little creature," Servilia says. Atia tells her she will "kiss my feet" and beg for mercy before being killed. "You think it's me you degrade now, but it's not - it's you," Servilia responds. "As long as you live, you will feel degraded and defiled by this."

As Timon and his henchmen torture Servilia, Atia watches stoically. Convinced she'll beg for mercy, Atia interrupts and stands before her, only to have Servilia spit in her face. When Atia demands the torture continue, Timon's allegiance finally wavers. He cuts Servilia free, helps her up, and tells her to leave. Then he turns to Atia, grabbing her by the throat: "I am not an animal!"

Blood-streaked and stumbling, Servilia manages to drag herself through the city streets. At the sight of Timon's outburst, Atia's servants desert her, leaving her collapsed against her dungeon wall.

On their trek to find the slave camp, Pullo finally gets Vorenus to talk. He assures him he never had anything with Niobe - he just said it to make him angry. As for his kids, he warns him they're likely to be different after being in a slave camp, and he "best treat 'em gentle." As for the boy? "Honor demands that he die," Vorenus tells him. It won't sit well with the girls, Pullo says.

Back in her villa, Servilia's servants try to comfort her, but she recoils in terror, still traumatized by what she's just endured.

At Atia's, Marcus Agrippa arrives to find Octavia and delivers the news of her brother's victory and his plans to return to Rome with his army. "He will always protect you, but you must accept his protection and his advice." Octavia is disturbed. "He will look after me after I swear him my allegiance? I am not one of his soldiers!" Fretting over how much he's upset her, Agrippa begins professing his feelings for her, until she cuts him off. He quickly apologizes. "I'm sure when I know you better, we'll be good friends," she tells him.

Atia grips her chest when she sees the young soldier-general, fearful of the news. She exhales when she learns Octavian's alive, but she can hardly believe what she hears next: her young son has defeated her lover.

Finished with his first mission, Agrippa heads to the Senate house to meet with Cicero, who is thrilled with the news from the battlefield. His joy turns to alarm when he hears about the army Octavian is bringing to Rome. He's even more dismayed to hear the name he's using. "Another Caesar. Just what we need… I am so tired of young men and their ambitions." Agrippa tries to assure him Octavian has only the interests of the Republic at heart. "Oh I'm sure he believes that. I thought the same when I was a young man. But it is all vanity..."

Pullo and Vorenus arrive at a desert-like pit mine where emaciated, sunburned slaves carry heavy rocks and dig at cliffs as overseers whip at their backs. Worried about Vorenus's temper, Pullo insists he'll do the talking and bribes their way to the main office. When they meet with the camp's procurator, Pullo explains they're on official business for Gaius Octavian Caesar, they are to retrieve three runaways, private property of the man himself. The chief doesn't buy it, but Pullo moves in close with a menacing stare and the man leads them to some barracks to avoid conflict. Vorenus discovers the dead-eyed face of his youngest daughter and picks her up in a fierce embrace. Not far away, the boy Lucius hides behind a stall. Vorenus reaches for him and stops himself for a moment, then gathers him into an embrace. The procurator figures out they're not retrieving Caesar's servants; Pullo grabs him by the tunic and demands he take them to the older daughter. With no choice, he leads them past stalls filled with naked girls, the last one fronted by a man zipping up his pants. Behind this man, Vorena the Elder is recoiled on a cot, covered in a small cloth. In a fit of rage, Vorenus turns and slashes the procurator in the throat, then grabs his daughter to lead her out of there. Pullo scoops up Lucius and Vorena the Younger. The children are finally free.