This episodes blew me away. And, as usual, SPOILERS.
In an attempt, perhaps, to make up for the excessive female nudity last season, though, it has now switched to excessive male nudity. However, it wasn't all without purpose. I think it did a particularly good job of illustrating the social role of sex and rape and the dynamics male/male relationships.
I'm not even sure where to begin with the spoilers, though!
We'll start with Pullo and Vorenus. Vorenus continues to be a major ass. He and Pullo argue because Vorenus makes an asshole decision about one of his men having raped the nephew of another man. Vorenus' decision is going to lead to gang war, and Pullo is actually trying to prevent the chaos. Vorenus' man is hurt, and Vorenus decides to establish his power by having the other man raped. In a later argument, Pullo reminds Vorenus he's his friend and that, among other things, he took care of Evander. Vorenus asks him about this, and Pullo realizes he slipped up and has to confess that he knew about Niobe and killed Evander. Vorenus accuses Pullo of having slept with Niobe, and they fight. In the end, they break a wall and fall into the other room. Eirene helps Pullo up, and they walk off. Vorenus is left on the floor sobbing.
Meanwhile, Antony is trying to get the province of Gaul when his term is up as consul, claiming, of course, that he likes the weather there better. He brings in Cicero to propose it to the senate. Cicero, however, knows this routine all too well. He claims the senate will think Antony plans to set himself up like Caesar, and Antony says he's only left with one choice. Cicero says that it always comes to this. Antony agrees, since he won't take bribery--and then asks to be sure. Cicero says no, of course. Antony dances around the threat, and Cicero finally says he won't capitulate unless the threat is actually made. Antony gives one of his usual detailed threats, and Cicero looks properly threatened. And at some point in all this, we see Antony pissing in a plant pot right next to Cicero with the later looking on in horror. A remarkable scene, to be sure.
Agrippa has also come to town bearing news about Octavian for Octavia and Atia. Agrippa first sees Octavia playing the lyre and looks smitten. Octavia (who has a new friend Jocasta) wishes he would write more often, and Atia denies having a son in front of Octavia and Agrippa. She also sends a message to Antony that Agrippa is in town. Antony, when he returns, says he already knew about it and doesn't care. In front of Antony, however, she is clearly worried about her son and makes Antony swear he won't hurt him.
And during all this, Servilia is not sitting on her ass doing nothing, of course. She has plans to poison Atia. She's hired a boy (the same one who's taking it from other men, I believe) to infiltrate Atia's house and have her poisoned. He comes to Servilia's house wanting more money, which he gets. Then he demands that if Servilia wants Atia dead, she will kiss him. Surprisingly, she submits (I was really expecting her to trick him and slap him or something, but I guess she's that desperate). He also tells her that it's taking so long because Octavia dines with her mother every day. It would be easier if she wanted Octavia dead too, but Servilia (possibly because she does have some feeling for Octavia?) won't have it.
We also see, at some point, a brief scene of Vorenus' children and Niobe's sister cooped up. Niobe's sister manages an escape but is scared off before she can help the children out.
Meanwhile, back in the senate, Antony comes in and Cicero, apparently, has decided he's ill. Another senator reads something Cicero has written--basically calling out all of Antony's faults in a brilliant and shocking manner and, finally, calling him a woman. Antony attacks and kills the other senator (the one who's reading, of course). Cicero, meanwhile, is running away to Brutus et al.
Three months later, Pullo returns with Eirene to Rome because the gods told him to seek out Vorenus. He finds the place a wreck and Vorenus' gang in need of people to help them fight off the other gang (they've been at war since the guy got raped by Vorenus' men). Vorenus, he discovers, has left the city with Antony. He's about to give up and go back when Niobe's sister finds him and tells him that the children are alive.
Brutus, whom we'd seen earlier drunk, boasting about killing Caesar, and about to get into an argument with the Bithynians they're trying to recruit (the Bithynian king, by the way, wants to see a Roman woman fucked by a baboon--don't ask), is now baptizing himself--ok, not really, but it sure as hell looked and sounded like a baptizing, with the exception of a prayer to Janus. He wants to be reborn and, presumably, wash away the guilt of killing Caesar.
We then see that Octavia has finally gone off to dinner with her friend Jocasta, and Atia is finally eating alone. The boy Servilia hired has been flirting and pretending to be in love with the kitchen girl, so he has plenty of reason to be in the kitchen (where we saw him earlier). So he slips the poison in, and the last thing we see is the girl carrying the poisoned stew to Atia.
I hope I didn't miss anything important. It is a bit out of order, but the last scene is correct. Wonderful episode, and I can't wait until next week!