‘Rome’: Party down!

Everyone is looking for the approval of the gods in this week’s “Rome,” but only Caesar seems to understand that the wheels of fortune can be greased.

Also! James Purefoy is stark naked. You’re welcome!

You don’t need any greater invitation to dive in.

In “Stealing from Saturn,” the fourth episode of the first season, original airdate Sept. 18, 2005, written by series co-creator Bruno Heller and directed by Julian Farino, Atia (Polly Walker) and Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) both decide to hold parties to curry favors.

Atia seeks to welcome back her uncle Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) – and to put Servilia (Lindsay Duncan) in her place.

Vorenus is looking to make something of his post-military life by becoming an importer – of slaves.

First, he must hold his tongue, somehow, when Mark Antony (James Purefoy) challenges his abandonment of the 13th Legion.

It must be noted that Mark Antony is outside being scraped and rubbed down by a servant and is standing naked in all of James Purefoy’s brazen glory.

It doesn’t look like it was a cold day.

Full-frontal male nudity – and it doesn’t get any more full-frontal than this – remains something of a novelty even today, but this is HBO, dammit, home of quality television, where there are no taboos, certainly not to the glory of James Purefoy, and now you can understand how James Purefoy became an international star.

Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) seems impressed. (Photo: HBO)
Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) seems impressed. (Photo: HBO)

Let’s keep it moving, or we’ll break the streaming service.

Atia does her best to keep Servilia, already nervous about reuniting with Caesar, off-balance.

“Whatever misfortune befalls you, we’re still friends,” she says, exchanging air kisses.

Then, “complimenting” her to Caesar’s wife, she says, “Isn’t she beautiful, Calpurnia? She has none of the goatishness you normally see in women her age.”

Bruno Heller should have been writing for “Absolutely Fabulous.”

At the feast for the god Janus outside their apartment, the extent of Niobe’s betrayal comes into focus: Her ex-lover and the father of her son is Evander (Enzo Cilenti), the husband of her sister Lyde (Esther Hall).

Lyde can’t bear to see Evander and Niobe together with their child, and drinks herself blotto. When Evander tries to get her to leave, the two struggle, and they knock the statue of Janus to the ground, shattering it.

You don’t need to be an augur to know that’s a bad sign.

Vorenus is convinced his new venture is doomed.

Quintus Pompey (Rick Warden) and his men mean to doom Vorenus and Niobe, too, if they don’t get that cart of treasury gold that was stolen and then went missing.

Vorenus has no idea what he’s talking about, and just when one of these thugs is about to ventilate Niobe’s throat, who pulls up on a litter but Pullo (Ray Stevenson), dressed in colorful robes and tossing coins as if they were confetti.

Pullo and Vorenus make quick work of Quintus and his men, and Vorenus orders Pullo to make things right and return the gold and Quintus to Caesar.

Caesar, diverted from the party, is thrilled that fortune smiles upon him. He sends Quintus back to Pompey’s camp with an offer of a truce – an offer he knows full well Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) cannot accept. The offer, as Caesar knew it would, leads to dissension among Pompey’s supporters.

Octavian’s (Max Pirkis) chat with Caesar about his strategy is derailed when Caesar suffers a terrifying seizure.

Posca (Nicholas Woodeson) hustles them all into a pantry until the storm passes.

“No one can know for no one will follow a man Apollo has cursed,” Posca says, swearing Octavian to secrecy.

Unfortunately, a servant has overheard Caesar’s grunts and moans and later spies Caesar and Octavian (but not Posca) leaving the pantry. That’s going to lead to one salacious rumor.

Caesar reunites with Servilia.

Octavian finds his mother in a mood he’s never seen before. She’s vulnerable.

“I’m all alone,” she sobs.

Beware Atia's (Polly Walker) death stare! (Photo: HBO)
Beware Atia’s (Polly Walker) death stare! (Photo: HBO)

Niobe swears to Evander on the lives of her children that she loves Vorenus.

That might settle things, except their conversation is overheard by Pullo, who is not nearly as slow as others think.

At the city temple, Caesar’s bribe pays dividends: The staff release pigeons into the sky, signaling the gods’ approval, and the crowd outside cheers.

He has won the people. Can he hold the city?

Next: “The Ram has Touched the Wall”

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