A wise man once said, "The enemy deserves no mercy. Mercy is for the weak." Oh wait, no, that wasn't a wise man. That was John Kreese in Karate Kid. The Kreese technique of handling one's enemies was used within the walls of Spartacus' city during tonight's episode of Spartacus: War of the Damned, fittingly titled "Decimation." It was not a good night to be a Roman, I can tell you that my friends. Spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet!
Who needs a war when there's plenty of in-fighting going on on both sides of this ongoing battle? There were already fractures developing among Spartacus' people even before Caesar managed to nose his way into the city and instigate a much bigger divide. While some people are supportive of Spartacus' fair but costly approach to handling the Roman prisoners, others think it would be much easier to survive the winter if they didn't have all these Romans to feed. I can see the argument to that, considering these rebels are mostly all freed slaves who spent their lives serving Romans against their will. But Spartacus' refusal to lower himself to the Romans' level by slaughtering them is also understandable. Of course, that means having to stuck up on a lot more food and supplies, which is what he spent the bulk of the episode trying to deal with.
When in Rome...
Caesar infiltrated the city under the guise of a slave who slipped in when some Romans attacked. After proving himself marked by showing off the cut on his leg (is that what that woman was doing to him a couple of episodes back?), he buddied up with Nemetes, who cautiously got to know him and eventually brought him him to Fabia, a former dominus who's being kept in a dungeon somewhere and subjected to torture and rape. Nemetes figured Caesar could prove himself one of them by joining in on the "fun" with a bit of alone time with Fabia. You stay classy, Nemetes.
As frustrating as it is to see Caesar sneaking around the city and causing problems, his reaction to Fabia and merciful approach to "freeing" her showed the man's compassion. Killing her is probably what Spartacus would have done. In fact, that's what Spartacus did do a couple of episodes ago when a slave was being slowly stoned to death. In absence of a way to help someone out, in this reality of slavery and war, sometimes the merciful thing is to end their suffering. Caesar and Spartacus aren't so different in that way.
Caesar's job of creating problems among Spartacus' army was made easier by Naevia, who killed Gannicus' friend Attius in the last episode. She thought Attius was the one hiding and feeding missing prisoners. But we knew that was Laeta, and that was discovered tonight. Oops, sorry Attius. Naevia and Gannicus got into an argument over that in the middle of Caesar and Nemetes' revolution-instigation attempt. And for a minute, as Gannicus and Crixus came to fisticuffs, I wondered if the fight would be enough of a distraction to stop the plan to kill the Roman prisoners. But then, after Naevia smashed a rock over Gannicus' head, and the last piece of vocal (and physical) opposition to the plan was down for the count, Crixus decided it was time to defy Spartacus' order and kill the Romans. And so, the slaughter began.
It's hard to tell if Crixus' motives are guided by Naevia more than his own opinions on the matter. She seems to be growing more and more aggressive and impulsive when it comes to Romans, which isn't entirely hard to understand, given what she's been through. And we know Crixus would do anything for her. But if Naevia weren't a factor, would Crixus have defied Spartacus? At the start of the episode, Spartacus basically said Crixus would assume his role as leader if anything happened to him, and Crixus responded by calling him brother, which - when you think about it - is such a stark contrast from where these two guys were in Blood and Sand. Seems like a lifetime ago.
But Spartacus sort of took that back when he returned to stop the massacre (or what was left of it). Spartacus' arrival happened just in time to save Laeta's life, even after he found out she was the one sneaking food to the hidden Romans. Considering Spartacus sort of tasked her with taking care of her people, it would've been a bit contradictory for him to punish her for it, even if she was being a little deceitful in the act.
Spartacus saving Laeta may have been an act of mercy and refusal to do as the Romans do, even if it might have meant uniting the rebels after this recent divide. But she's actually proven to be really useful to him so far. Not only did she get him that seal, but tonight we saw her help Spartacus fill in some of the gaps of this whole Crassus situation. During a conversation with Laeta, Spartacus figured out that Crassus' letter was intercepted intentionally so he could assume the role of Imperator. That information may be to too late to be much use but it does help him understand the way Crassus thinks. In the future, if something happens a little too easily, Spartacus might question it before reacting.