‘Rome’: Bloody hard truths

In this week’s “Rome” re-watch, Vorenus and Pullo almost kill each other crowd-surfing, while Mark Antony really hates Cicero’s Yelp review. Also: We see the origin of the phrase, “Don’t kill the messenger.”

Hang onto your head – and your stomach!

In “These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero” (original airdate Jan. 28, 2007), written by Scott Buck and directed by Alan Poul, Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), seething with rage over the death of his wife and (supposedly) his children, incites a mob war that roils the Aventine.

When Pullo (Ray Stevenson) tries to intervene, Vorenus turns on even him.

Shocked, Pullo reveals how he killed Niobe’s lover Evander for him.

Vorenus is enraged and orders him out. He later tells Pullo he forgives him, but he’s simply stewing on the seeming betrayal. When he thinks Pullo is questioning him, again, he goes ballistic, accusing him of having sex with Niobe.

Pullo swears on the bones of his mother that there was nothing between him and Niobe.

“I don’t believe you.”

The two men brawl in Vorenus’ in second-floor office.

This is no rough-housing between two brothers.

This is a battle between two men determined to kill one another.

Each gets in several blows, and then the two go crashing out the windows overlooking the tavern and right onto the heads of several patrons. (It’s an awesome stunt, and it would fit right in on “Bonanza.”)

Pullo and Vorenus race to the ground floor.
Pullo and Vorenus race to the ground floor.

Pullo has had enough. He and Eirene (Chiari Mastalli) leave.

After some prodding by Atia (Polly Walker), Mark Antony (James Purefoy) decides to change his post-consul retirement destination from Macedonia to Gaul. Now he needs the Senate to approve him taking the governorship there, and that means bullying Cicero (David Bamber) into making the proposal on the Senate floor.

‘Make your threats. I don’t submit to mere implication,” Cicero says.

When Antony suggests pouring molten gold down his throat, Cicero has heard enough.

On the day of the Senate meeting, Cicero is nowhere to be found – but he has left a message to be read into the official record.

Antony is pleased, figuring he’ll get what he wants without having to actually hear Cicero’s annoying voice.

Then the poor senator trusted with reading Cicero’s message begins.

“Please listen as if you were sober and intelligent, and not a drink-sodden, sex-addled wreck.”

Oh, yeah, that gets Antony’s attention, as the rest of the senators make for the doors.

The face you make when someone has left you a bad review.
The face you make when someone has left you a bad review.

Antony demands the hapless man continue.

“You have brought upon us war, pestilence, and destruction. You are Rome’s Helen of Troy.

“But then, a woman’s role has always suited you best.”

In a rage, Antony beats the man to death right there on the Senate floor.

He’s killed the messenger.

On the road out of Rome, Cicero dictates a letter to Octavian that he has exposed Antony and will now join him and his army.

Three months later:

Pullo and Eirene return to find their neighborhood now blighted by gangland violence and turned into a slum. Vorenus, they learn, left weeks ago to join Antony in Gaul against Octavian’s forces.

That beggar who accosts Pullo? That’s no beggar. That’s Lyde (Esther Hall), who escaped from the slavers, and has a message for Pullo:

“The children are alive!”

Random bits:

That’s a pre-“Downton Abbey” Allen Leech debuting as Octavian’s friend, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

Atia’s newest houseboy, Duro (Rafi Gavron), is a plant hired by Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) to kill her. The episode ends on a rare cliffhanger for “Rome,” with the impatient Atia sitting down to lunch and an unwitting servant bringing her soup laced with poison.

Next: “Testudo et Lepus (The Tortoise and the Hare)”