Holy mother of crab, what an episode this week! Not since 'Party Favors' has this show been so emotionally devastating. This particular episode cast a gloom of some serious foreshadowing that we haven't seen since the early episodes of the first season. Within ten minutes we not only see that Caesar had infiltrated the rebel camp, but Agron is now officially Sparty's bodyguard - somewhat of an ominous job considering the fate of Barca and many other former bodyguards. 'Well, Agron isn't Barca,' you can say. That's true. Barca was the Beast of Carthage while Agron's claim to fame is 'Angry Boy'. Not a promising sign for the former gladiator. We also see a matchup between Gannicus and Caesar that was brilliantly choreographed and a promise from the future emperor that there will be a rematch 'upon a day' - and not a sexy contest either. Caesar has a very telling discussion with Nemetes, a flimsy member of the rebel army.
Spartacus also calls upon his favorite damsel, Laeta, who tells him a story that reveals Crassus' true cunning nature. Naturally, Sparty uses his intellect to connect the dots and realizes he fell straight into a long term, well thought out trap. This makes him even more determined to beat the man. No doubt there will be some slash fanfiction about these two in the future.
But poor Tiberius isn't having such a great time facing his father, who is furious about his son's disobedience. To make amends, Crassus demands a decimation of the men who survived - and fled - the disastrous battle, including Tiberius' best friend who had saved his life. Being a teenager sure sucked back then.
In a brief but funny moment, Spartacus and Agron enter a makeshift brothel and get hit on by a woman. Caesar is also there with Nemetes and the two new friends discuss Spartacus and past victories. Nemetes is not just wasted space in this episode. He is a vital clue as to how the rebel army is feeling, even the ones who have been with Spartacus longer than most. This is proven in the scene when Gannicus interrupts two soldiers beating a Roman who had only inquired about his sister. It seems Gannicus is the only one out of Sparty's men who understands the burden placed on the leader and is determined to help him. He also receives word from Sybl, the slave he rescued and turned down for sex (still mind boggling), about something she saw: Laeta carrying loaves of bread. We know from the last episode that Laeta was the one who had saved a few fellow Romans - something that cost Gannicus' friend, Attius, his life due to Naevia's paranoia. Does anyone even like her anymore?
This episode clearly shows the shifting loyalties in the rebel army as well as the horrific treatment that the Romans are receiving at the hands of rebels such as Nemetes who are sick of seeing prettier people than them. When Caesar kills a former domina to release her from the pain of the torture she had endured, his mask slips and he tells Nemetes that he is there to help the Romans. Weirdly enough, Nemetes laughs (maybe it was the hunger?) and welcomes him into his own rebellion.
On the Roman front, we see what decimation includes: the soldiers are taken and placed in groups of ten. There is only a single white rock placed among black ones. Whoever picks the white rock gets beaten to death by his fellow soldiers. Crassus demands Tiberius take his place among the troops since he led the battle. Tiberius is one of the lucky ones but Sabinus is not. Tiberius is literally caught between a rock a hard place: if he doesn't do the beating, he dies; if he does, he has killed his best friend. He chooses the latter and rejoins his father a changed man.
This brutal life lesson is intercut with the the slaughter of the Romans in the rebel encampment. This happens because Gannicus finds Laeta's group and learns that Attius was murdered by Naevia in cold blood. When he confronts her, a breakdown between Crixus and Gannicus happens as the two battle it out. Naevia tries to intervene but is knocked down by a justifiably angry Gannicus (well, she wanted equality. She got it). Caesar meanwhile kills another Roman to save Nemetes, who had been attacked by the brother of the Roman woman that was killed. Naevia saves her man by knocking out Gannicus with a rock. Can Crixus please have a serious fight that doesn't involve him looking like a wuss? We haven't gotten one in a while.
The chaos continues as Caesar makes a brief statement that stirs the rebels. Hey, remember when Andy-Spartacus could do that? Good times. Crixus of course sides with Naevia and commands the rebels to kill every Roman, thus bringing Spartacus to the scene, saving Laeta and her group yet again from certain death. Everything is explained to a very confused Sparty as he is pressured to kill Laeta. But Spartacus shows that he ain't no one's bitch and decides to remove his trust from Crixus, who doesn't take it well. Gannicus sides with his bestie, Spartacus. We see Caesar smiling as the foundation of the rebel army has finally cracked beyond repair. In an ironic twist, it was Spartacus' effort of trying to save his army's humanity that turned everyone into bloodthirsty animals.
Though not nearly as vicious in the conventional sense as other episodes, the sheer brutality mixed with the emotional lows and stirring music makes 'Decimation' one of the most disturbing episodes in Spartacus history. Kudos to the writer, Seamus Kevin Fahey for a brilliant show.