Readers! Are you excited? I am excited! It's shaping up to be an action packed episode: for those new to Atlantis (but I suggest you start with episode one if you are), all you need to know in order to enjoy this episode is that Jason is our hero, Hercules and Pythagoras are his loyal friends (even when that's a pretty life-treathening position to be in), Jason is epically in love with princess Ariadne and awkwardly professed this to her while he thought she was passed out. Ariadne's father, King Minos, is a bit of a tool, but he has a kind heart and no idea his wife and Ariadne's stepmother is a conniving witch (in the 'I-use-magic-to-get-my-way'-way) who would like nothing better than to have Jason dead so she doesn't have to deal with his interference in marrying her stepdaughter off to Heptarian, who seems to genuinly like Ariadne, but the power that comes with marrying her much more. In the non-Jason part of the Atlantis universe, Hercules screwed up horribly last week and tried to magic his beloved Medusa into loving him--which ended with Medusa nearly dead through magical illness, Hercules transformed into a pig, and with only one way out for Jason: agree to kill Ariadne's stepmother Pasiphaê in return for a reversal of the previously mentioned afflictions. Huh, I guess everything is about Jason after all.

We kick the episode off with a libation to Poseidon in the palace of King Minos. He is announcing Ariadne's betrothal to Heptarian--who tries valiantly to convince Ariadne this is a good thing. Ariadne looks about ready to cry. Minos announces 'a pankration' in honor of the two while Pasiphaê gives it the barest minimum of effort to convince Heptarian that Ariadne will come around. When his spirits don't lift instantly, she informs him that it doesn't really matter what Ariadne thinks, feels, or wants: this is happening. The queen is certain that Ariadne is isolated, without friends or allies, and by herself she does not have the strength to oppose her father (and stepmother).

Pankration, by the way, is a rough contact sport; a combination of boxing and wrestling. The only things you could not do were biting and gouging an opponent's eyes, nose, or mouth with fingernails. Everything else was allowed. Deaths happened. Pankration was not a free-for-all, though; fighters were in excellent form, and there were a large variety of fighting stances and techniques. In fact, many of these are still known, or have been reconstructed and especially in modern Greece, pankration is a sport you can take part in today. The terminology 'a pankration' is grammatically incorrect, simply because it would indicate one fight, not a competition. As a bonus bit of information: it is said that Herakles and Theseus invented pankration, and that Theseus used it to defeat the Minotaur. I see what you did there, Atlantis.

Anyaway... on the other side of town, in the oikos currently shared by Pythagoras, Hercules and Jason, Hercules delivers the good news: there will be 'a pankration', which means free food and booze! It's the happiest day of his life! Pythagoras--knowing full well what the ocassion is, and about Jason's feelings about said ocassion--tries to shush Hercules, but it's too late: Pythagoras is forced to break the bad news to Jason and Jason is heartbroken. This short exchange also reveals some of the 'Atlantis' rules of pankration: 'two bareknuckle fighters, one knife in the sand, and the first to draw blood, wins'. I have a feeling anyone practicing pankration today is not going to recognize anything of their sport in the coming scenes.

Hercules reminds Jason he is insanely out of Ariadne's league--to which I say: he is one to talk--before Pythagoras gets him to shut the hell up and ingages in some damage control with his friend. He's not very effective: there is not much to say, after all.

The next morning, Hercules awakes from hibernation to find Jason and Medusa exchanging a note in the agora. The note makes its way to Korinna, who takes the note to Ariadne, who is in her chambers. I'm happy to see Medusa and Jason are still talking, and also: yay, Korinna. Welcome back to my TV screen. Ariadne accepts and reads the note, asking if anyone else knows about this and Korinna says no one does. Ariadne hands the note back and whispers 'Jason wants to meet me' just as the queen enters the room. That was so close to being busted, it wasn't even funny anymore. Korinna tries to sink through the floor while Ariadne tries for normalcy, and Pasiphaê sees through the ordeal in a second. She demands to see what is in Korinna's hand, and the poor girl just about dies on the spot. She hands the note over to Pasiphaê--there is no other choice. Korinna gets taken into custody for treason and a tearful Ariadne tries to get Pasiphaê to show leniency towards Korinna. Pasiphaê says she will: if Ariadne cuts Jason out of her life for once and for all. It is not proper for a betrothed woman to skulk about with a boy like this. Ariadne is shattered.

That night, Jason visits the temple of Poseidon and the Oracle's right hand man--and priest of Poseidon--shows Jason to Ariadne. Jason fumbles through a declaration of love, which Ariadne cuts off, knowing full well what she has to do to save her friend, Medusa, and Jason himself. She cries as she tells him that she has a duty to her people and Poseidon, and Jason asks her if that duty is to marry someone she does not love. Yes, Jason. That's the way it was in ancient Hellas--especially for women, and especially for women of royalty. Ariadne tells him that she only agreed to meet him so she could try to make him understand that she has to bow to her fate as he should to his. Whatever the cost. In what is probably the sweetest declaration of love I have seen in a while, Ariadne tells Jason that 'if the choice had been hers alone, she would not leave him for one moment'. Yet, as it stands, the choice belongs to everyone but her and Jason, so she will do as she must. She tells him to leave, and tells him that if he truly loves her, he will not make this harder. He hands her his father's bull's horn necklace and she tells him she needs no token to remember him before accepting the necklace and running out.

Once she gets to her room, she breaks down into tears and cries into the door, only to be spooked by Pasiphaê, who was waiting for her to return. The queen is satisfied that Ariadne did the right thing, and promises to release Korinna right away. Ariadne fingers the necklace and cries. When Pasiphaê invites her into her embrace, Ariadne runs into her open arms and clings to her for dear life. Pasiphaê tells her it will get better, but Ariadne can only cry. As a personal note, I think Ariadne realizes her stepmother is right about one thing: as a princess, Ariadne is obligated to do what is right by her people, no matter the cost to her person. While she--and I--may not agree with Pasiphaê's choice of a husband (mostly because he is only there to ensure Pasiphaê will have an influence on the throne when her husband steps down or dies), Pasiphaê knows the rules of royalty well, and as a mother, it is part of her job description to teach these rules to Ariadne.

The next morning, Pythagoras tries to sleep through Jason's work-out. He eventually fails and goes into the living room annoyed, taking the knife Jason's been throwing into a table from him with a death glare. Jason takes it back after telling Pythagoras about the disasterous meeting he had with Ariadne. When Pythagoras says it's good that it is now a closed chapter, Jason throws the blade into the table once more. "Not yet," he says, and we cut to a bunch of impressive looking men dropping an olive branch into a bowl in front of the king and queen and swearing before Poseidon they will fight fairly and until the end. They get sprinkled with water--which I am just going to take as khernips--and King Minos accepts their pledge. It seems we are swearing in men to fight in the Pankration competition. I can see where this is headed, and indeed--there is Jason, making the same oath. Pasiphaê is worried, and pissed off.

Back at the oikos, Jason has told his friends what he has done, and they are far more worried and pissed off than Pasiphaê. They tell him this will not win him Ariadne, and that it might cost him his life. Jason explains he isn't doing this for Ariadne: he says he is doing it for the money. Pythagoras tells Jason the startling truth: Heptarian has been a pankration fighter since he was a little boy, and he has never lost a match--not one. That prize money (and Ariadne's heart/hand/rest of her body) is truly a long shot.

The friends agree that if Jason is, indeed, going through with this stupendoes plan of his, he will at least need the proper training. Out in the forest, Hercules throws down a knife and he, Pythagoras and Jason circle it. Pythagoras explains that the goal is to get to the knife first. Jason thinks this is going to be a cakewalk, but within seconds, he has had his hand whipped, gotten distracted by Pythagoras yelling to look behind him, and a swift kick in the groin by Hercules. While Jason sinks to his knees in anguish, clutching his privates, the two men stand by, worried about the 0-3 score Jason can note down. Before long, it's 0-9... but then he manages to at least get the knife once. Ten percent success is not going to be enough in the competition, though.

In the palace, an old man named Stymas (David Sterne) has a delivery for  Pasiphaê. You can tell this is not going to be a good thing by the fact that it is night. Also: just as a note, an Hellenic queen without her serfs or husband, meeting a man in her chambers would have been completely unheard of in ancient Hellas. Heck; her own husband would have most likely never seen the inside of her chambers whilce she was around. That's the least of my worries though--Stymas comes to deliver a slow working poison: one dose and within weeks, the subject will develop headaches, within months, hair loss and confusion, and eventually, an irriversable coma. Pasiphaê accepts the poison and makes sure Stymas will never, ever, tell anyone about this. I hate on Pasiphaê a lot, but Sarah Parish--the actress who plays her--is excellent. In this episode especially. She is making the stereotypical evil stepmother/queen into a three dimentional woman--and while part of that is thanks to the writers, most of it is due to Parish' acting abilities.

The next morning, the pankration competition starts. Medusa, Pythagoras, and Hercules are in the audience, but far apart. Pythagoras spots Medusa and waves, upon which Medusa leaves. Hercules is crestfallen. In the arena, lots are being drawn to see who will fight whom in the first round. A knife is placed in the center of the area and we get our first fight between Heptarian and an unnamed fighter. Heptarian is a good fighter, a strong wrestler and overall a smart opponent. When his enemy grabs the knife, he breaks his wrist and takes the knife. He stabs the poor sod and leaves the battlefield. Hercules calls him a cheat, and the audience clearly doesn't like Heptarian much.

In the second battle, Jason fights another unnamed fighter, who is stupendously fast. The man grabs the knife before Jason can even come close, and Jason has to pull out his best moves not to get cut. What follows is a struggle for the knife for Jason, and a struggle to keep it for the other man. Jason gets lucky; he manages to win... but then falls down in the sand with a badly injured arm.

Back at the oikos, Pythagoras tries to assess the damage when there is a knock on the door. Medusa is there with some herbs for Pythagoras to heal with. Hercules opens the door and it is awkward. Very awkward. Medusa is stiff and sad, and Hercules stands in the doorway like a mute fool, which only serves to make the situation worse. He does know how to fix Jason's dislocated shoulder, which earns him some credit with everyone, including Medusa. She does, however, make it clear that they are not on speaking terms yet.

In the palace, Pasiphaê and Heptarian are plotting Jason's demise and discussing today's pankration fight. The queen tells him to reign it in with the needless stabbing, but Heptarian doesn't seem too bothered. They happen upon Ariadne, who treats Heptarian with the respect a betrothed deserves, and Pasipaê tells Heptarian that she knew the girl would come around eventually. Now, if Heptarian will just get a grip on his anger and jealousy until he is king (read: until she has poisoned the current king into an early grave), their plan will work out just fine.

Pasiphaê brews Minos a death cocktail, which he drinks in one go while worrying if the people--and his daughter--are enjoying the pancration competition. Poor, naive, king... he thinks his wife is looking out for him. I actually feel for Minos.

At the oikos, Hercules takes care of a feverish and sleeping Jason, while Medusa keeps an eye out. The two bond over Jason's injury and his desire to fight. When Hercules tells her of Jason's delusion of winning Ariadne's hand through winning the competition, Medusa agrees that it's never going to happen. It's hopeless. Hercules says that when you are in love, there is no such thing as hopeless. Medusa--realizing this is no longer about Jason and Ariadne--shifts her weight and tone of voice, and tells Hercules to get some rest while she takes over. Hercules says he shouldn't leave him, and Medusa's spunk comes back a little when she questions if Hercules doesn't trust her. He quickly assures her that is not what he meant and she says she knows while giving him the first smile in days. Medusa decides to keep Hercules company if he refuses to leave.

Hercules covers Jason up and Medusa asks why he is doing all of this. Hercules says that when he was Jason's age, he thought he was the best, the fastest, the strongest... but he never was. Hercules says that Jason is actually the real deal, and he has to do everything in his power to ensure Jason lives up to that potential. It's a sweet moment, and Medusa obviously appreciates the honest and kind Hercules more than the jovial one.

The next morning, Heptarian kicks the living daylight out of another poor opponent, but manages to restrain himself from going in for the kill after he wins. He neatly cuts the man and then helps him up. The crowd appreciates it. Jason's next fight is a bit of a struggle, but he makes it through. Jason and Heptarian fight time and time again, and both continue to win. Jason's sore, though. Very sore, and Ariadne can see he's punishing himself. She goes to visit him in the dungeons under the arena. She begs him to bow out. She doesn't want him to die. He plainly refuses. Knowing there is nothing she can do, she tells him that she hopes the Gods will be with him and leaves.

In the arena, Heptarian is having a really, really, hard time winning his match. He makes it through, eventually, but is so mad at his opponent that he kills him on the spot. The crowd chews him out, while they love Jason. It's clear that in Jason's next fight, they are rooting for him. That said, Jason's opponent is huge and made of pure muscle. Jason is struggling--really, really struggling--but managed to get a cut in eventually. Hercules is overjoyed and hugs Medusa who is standing next to him. He realizes right away what he is doing and releases her. Hugging Pythagoras instead, Medusa looks a little wobbly.

In the arena, there are only two people left: a battered Jason, and an equally battered but much more prepared Heptarian. Both get purified with khernips and it is announced that tomorrow at dawn, the fight between them will take place.

At home, Hercules and Medusa make dinner while Jason and Pythagoras talk battle strategy--well, Jason talks battle strategy, Pythagoras tries to get it through Jason's thick skull that Heptarian simply cannot loose. Not because Jason can't win, but because Heptarian is the servant of Poseidon, and betrothed to the king's daughter. Yes, the prize is the hand of the princess--as is customary--but if Jason does not throw the fight, all of them will be dead before sunset tomorrow. This is a fight Heptarian was always supposed to win. There is no way Jason will be allowed to marry Ariadne; this fight was to show Heptarian's worth as a future king, nothing more. Jason must loose.

Ariadne is praying in the temple of Poseidon with Jason's necklace in hand. She comes upon the right hand man of the Oracle. I am starting to feel really guilty for having no clue what the character is called, but Ariadne finally inform us that his name is Melas (Ken Bones). At any rate, Melas asks Ariadne for whom she was praying and after a little fib, she tells him she was praying for Jason and asks him to do the same. He says he already has.

In the dungeons before the fight, Medusa and Pythagoras look on as Hercules helps Jason prepare for his final combat. Medusa smiles when she realizes Hercules really does care about Jason. Pythagoras agrees and they watch as Hercules gives Jason the last bit of mental preparation he can get in. Jason is looking a bit worse for wear, but shakes Pythagoras' hand, hugs Medusa, and steps into the arena. Ariadne looks like she is sitting on hot coals when the knife is planted and then they are off.

Jason literally bites the dust the second they come for each other, and endures a horrible beating at the hands of a far more skilled Heptarian. The adrenaline kicks in eventually, and he manages to overcome a shocked Heptarian. Instead of cutting him, though, Jason does what he knows is the right thing: he gets off of his opponent, drops the knife, and turns his back to Heptarian and his eyes towards Ariadne. Heptarian, enraged, grabs the knife, gets up, and longs to plant it in Jason's neck. Jason--rightfully so--says that if he does that, the crowd will hate him forever. Realizing he can't kill Jason, Heptarian drops the knife and raises Jason's hand in triumph. It's a draw.

Ariadne finally exhales the breath she has been holding in, Pasiphaê looks like she swallowed a bug, and it seems King Minos is finally realizing something more is going on than a nice contest of men beating the snot out of each other. Heptarian warns Jason that his luck will run out eventually and stalks off, leaving Jason in front of a confused king, an angry queen, and an overcome princess.

Thankfully he does not have to remain there for long: the next scene takes place in the dungeons and Jason is sitting on a bench, depressed, with his friends around him taking care of his injuries--Hercules the physical ones, Pythagoras the mental ones. Ariadne shows up to check up on Jason and the men make themselves scarce. She gives him back his necklace--because she must, not because she wants to. She questions why he did not kill Heptarian and thanks him once he explains. She says he has given her strength and kisses him fleetingly. It seems the next step is up to Ariadne--something foreshadowed at the start of the episode.

It's a step she takes right away: she visits her father, who is walking the halls with Pasiphaê and Heptarian. She comes out with the news: she can't marry Heptarian. She says the Gods made their will clear today. Pasiphaê tries to shush her, but her father lets her go on. Ariadne explains how losing a fight he was set up to win--with his experience, track record, and the favor of the Gods--showed that the Gods do not look favorably upon this union. Heptarian is livid but holds it in. King Minos asks Ariadne if this is what she sincerely believes. She says it is, and manages to keep a straight face through it. King Minos then says that they need to bow to a wisdom greater than their own: the engagement is off. Pasiphaê tries to sway her husband, but the role of women in ancient Hellas finally shows and the king brushes her off without a second thought. Right away, he goes to fetch the priest of Poseidon to make all of this right. Heptarian runs after him, but with his lower statues, I doubt he'll get much accomplished. This leaves Ariadne and a flabbergasted Pasiphaê in the hallway--a woman who has just seen her carefully laid plans smashed into smithereens. Ariadne looks a little pale. Pale, but happy. Ariadne warns Pasiphaê that she is not afraid of her, that she is not afraid of anyone. The queen calls her stupid--even more stupid than she had always imagined--and Ariadne walks off.

Jason, Pythagoras, Hercules and Medusa are walking home through the Streets of Atlantis, discussing Hercules' prowess as a pankration fighter. Pythagoras and Jason are convinced Hercules has never actually entered a fight, but Medusa is sure he has. She has heard many times of the strong, fast, and agile Hercules who won match after match and was the greatest fear of all the contestants. She grabs Hercules' hand and drags him off. Hercules says he doesn't deserve her and Medusa says "life's not fair, is it?" and does not let go of his hand. It seems those two are on!

In the palace, Queen Pasiphaê has taken her revenge on Ariadne: as Ariadne is drawn to the window by the sound of gathering people in the courtyard, she sees a group surrounding a figure on the floor. It's Korinna. Ariadne tries to hold back tears while Pasiphaê explains to her that Korinna took her own life. For a second, Ariadne believes her in her grief, but then her brain kicks in and she realizes that Korinna would have felt no guilt at doing what was the best for the woman she served. She would never have killed herself. Putting two and two together, Ariadne sets her jaw and walks off while Pasiphaê looks smugly out the window at the dead servant girl who I am really going to miss. Bye Korinna, you were really sweet, and loyal, and I am sure Ariadne and Jason won't let Pasiphaê get away with your murder.

Next week on Atlantis: we are in a desert, then a cave. We meet the Furies, and Pythagoras turns out to have a brother who does not look a bit like him.