Previously on Atlantis, Jason searched for his father on the ocean floor and found a lost city, he met his two new best friends Pythagoras and Hercules, as well as a princess, and battled a minotaur, Satyrs and Maenads. He also freed a girl named Medusa, who at this time does not seem to be involved with snakes. Hercules would love to be involved with her, however.
In what is perhaps its biggest unintentional failure to represent history yet, Atlantis opens with Pythagoras and Jason asking Hercules--who is oogling Medusa from a distance--if the woman is not 'a little young for you'. I assume Medusa is supposed to be younger than the actress who plays her (Jemima Rooper will be 32 in two weeks) but even if she is supposed to be half her age, she would have been married in ancient Hellas.
At any rate, Hercules denies that they are age-incompatible as well as waste-line incompatible, and says their bond goes beyond physical appearance, even though Medusa seems to be oblivious to his affections. Their light banter halts when they come across a cart on the road which has shed a wheel, and a bully of a man who hits the elderly owner of the cart for it being in his way. Jason jumps up to defend the man and while he manages to win over the bully, he is also captured by city guards--along with Pythagoras and Hercules. Turns out the man he punched down to defend the cart driver is Heptarian (Oliver Walker), who has the 'protection of Poseidon'--which means he is wealthy, powerful, and the Queen's nephew. Didn't I tell you to watch out for her, Jason?
Before long, the three are on their knees in front of the king, his wife, his daughter, Lord Heptarian, and the entire royal court. Minos asks if Jason struck Heptarian and there is only one answer to give: yes. He's screwed, even more when Jason speaks up about the cause of the assault and Heptarian lies. Jason yells at him and Minos treathens to kill him where he kneels. Hercules--in his first heroic action yet--speaks up to remind the king of the Minotaur that Jason slew, and Minos decided that Poseidon will rull over their lives instead: they will be 'called before the bulls'.
Ariadne--as well as Pythagoras and Hercules--don't take the news well, and Queen Pasiphaê notices. She confronts her daughter about her feelings for Jason, but Ariadne denies them, and reminds Pasiphaê that she is, in fact, not her mother. Pasiphaê reminds Ariadne that she is, in fact, promised to Heptarian. Uh-oh. Ariadne tries to get Pasiphaê to speak to her father on Jason's behalf, but Pasiphaê says there is nothing she can do. His faith is in the hands of the Gods--and so Ariadne vows to pray for his well-being every day.
Pellos (Richard Dillane), master of the bull court, explains what happens next: the three friends will be trained as 'bull leapers', which means they will enter the arena with a very big bull in seven days. There will be a team of them--which we are introduced to after this dialogue--and only if all of them are alive at the end of the ordeal, will they walk away with their freedom. Pythagoras doesn't see this happening, and even optimistic Jason does not look convinced.
Time to meet the others. From left to right: Cyrus (Ciaran Griffiths), a thief, Elpis (Emily Taaffe), and Shabaka (Christopher Obi), a barbarian prince with three wives and seven children. They don't seem to get along, and Heracles eats their stew.
Queen Pasiphaê and Heptarian appear to have plans for the future; plans which involve Ariadne marrying Heptarian. She invites him into her chambers and warns him that if Heptarian can't get the job done of wooing Ariadne, she will find another in his place. Heptarian vows he will get the job done.
At the bull court, Pellos explains the rules of bull leaping, which are decievingly simple: the match ends when every person on the team has vaulted over the bull. If anyone dies, they all die. That is problematic. Hercules is told to jump the wooden training bull first but stumbles before he even gets there--to great amusement of the crowd. The King and Queen come to assess the team, looking to see if they should place a bet. Pythagoras reveals that Pasiphaê may possess the power of witchcraft, and an already weary Jason becomes even wearier of the Queen.
Jason vaults the bull easily, and even Pasiphaê is worried. She speaks to Heptarian in private, saying she does not trust the Gods to kill Poseidon, but must instead take matters into their own hands. The next thing we know, Elpis is sneaking up to Jason with a knife in her hands as he sleeps. She cuts a lock of his hair while Cyrus looks on. She passes the lock off to someone and it eventually ends up with Pasiphaê, who will use it to sabotage Jason during the competition.
As a bit of reverse motivation, the new team watches how a leaper from another team gets mauled by the bull. Jason says they must pull together if they want to survive, but Shabaka and Cyrus would rather throw insults at each other. Next thing we know, we are in a practice match between the team and the bull. Jason draws the bull away from Hercules and gets hurt while jumping it. Elpis makes a decission: she draws the bull away from the defenceless Jason and before long, everyone joins in distracting the bull; Pythagoras and Hercules get Jason out of the arena. It seems Jason is just fine: he faked getting hurt so the team would band together. Pythagoras seems impressed.
The group does seem to bond: mostly over Hercules' fear in the face of the bull. Hercules denies everything, of course. They go on to bond over missing wives (Shabaka) and lovers they did not visit again after a night (Hercules), and Jason goes to bring some food to Elpis, who is grateful to Jason, and being eaten by guilt. One look by Cyrus, however, and she quiets down. The power dynamics in this group are still a mystery to me.
Back in the castle, it appears that Pasiphaê is, indeed, a practicioner of some form of magic. She makes a 'voodoo doll', which is a practice native to hoodoo (not Voodoo), and if I remember well, only entered Europe around 1800-something AD. While I can't be sure some of the ancient Hellenes did not practice some form of sympathetic magic, I am quite sure 'voodoo' dolls were most likely not it. Katadesmoi would have been much more true to the time. At any rate, Pasiphaê rejoins Heptarian to tell him they are ready for their plans to move forward as soon as Jason faces the bull.
In the dungeons, Elpis is not sleeping. She's huddled in the shade, wondering if she can keep her mouth shut much longer. Cyrus goes to confront her. Elpis tries to run away, but realizes she has to come clean. Before she can, however, Pellos swoops in. Elpis fears him, but Cyrus trusts him; he tells Pellos what he saw, and gets a knife in the back for it. He's found in the bull's pen the next morning. Someone wanted to make it appear as if the bull attacked him when he went to bring it a treat. Elpis feels even guiltier, but Pythagoras doesn't believe it; Cyrus was lazy, he wouldn't have gone down to feed the bull at dawn. Something is up, and Cyprus just lost his life over it.
Jason goes to talk to a distraught Elpis. It seems she and Cyrus had a history; when they were taken as slaves and brought to Atlantis, they weren't cared for very well. Cyprus stole food for her from the guards. He kept her alive. Finally making a decission, Elpis tells Jason that Pellos most likely killed Cyrus, and that she stole a lock of Jason's hair for the Queen, through Pellas. Heptarian promised her her freedom if she did, but she says she does not want it if this is the cost. Jason comforts her, as a good hero should.
At meal time, Jason, Pythagoras and Hercules discuss the situation. Pythagoras guesses correctly what the lock of hair can be used for, and how she came to wanting Jason die. Jason is at a loss for words. Meanwhile, Heptarian again strikes out with Ariadne. His failure is even amusing to Pasiphaê.
Back in the group, everyone is now up-to-date. Pythagoras has a plan, and it's a crappy one. It's also the only one that seems to have any chance of succeeding. A former sweetheart of Hercules works in the dungeons, and Hercules must sweettalk her into giving Medusa a note. Medusa must then steal back the lock of hair so the Queen can't curse Jason during the bull fight, and in that way they at least have a shot at getting out there. It seems Medusa now works in the kitchens of the castle, and she does, indeed, recieve the note. She only has a short time to get the job done, however, and there is no way to get a message back to the group. As everyone prepares to face the bull, they have no idea if Medusa was successful or not. Meanwhile, Medusa is on a mission for a lock of hair and searches the Queen's chambers.
Elpis gets pulled aside by Pellos; whatever the outcome of the dance, she is free to go. All she has to do it keep herself away from the dance. Elpis' stress levels are almost as high as Medusa's. She can't find the lock of hair and she is running out of time and options. Before she can escape the chambers, however, the Queen and Princess come walking up. Medusa overhears their conversation, which comes down to Ariadne saying that she thinks Heptarian is a sadistic ass, and while she will show up to the dance as she is supposed to, she will not pretend to enjoy it for her stepmom's sake. Pasiphaê remains sweet and civil for a while but then reminds Ariadne of her impending marriage to Heptarian in a forceful manner. That will happen, after all. No matter how she longs for Jason.
In both the most stupid and the most brave thing a person can ever do, Medusa then followes Pasiphae into a hidden part of her chambers where she practices her magic. The Queen has started her chanting as Jason and the others walk to the arena. Medusa tries to decide what, by all the Gods, she is supposed to do now; what can she do to save her friends while keeping her life?
The arena is packed and Jason reminds the group to never show fear. Ariadne looks on dismayed as her father announces the coming dance, and the group performes a well-practiced feat of synchronised talking to proclaim that if they die, they are an offering to Poseidon. Then they find their marks and the bull is released. The Queen begins her attack on Jason and he falters. The group saves him by calling the bull and Shabaka is the first to succesfully jump the bull. Pasiphaê inserts the second pin and Jason cumbles to the ground. Hercules--miraculously and without grace--jumps the bull. Elpis sees the bull charging Jason once more, who is being helped by Pythagoras. She looks back at Pellos and then makes a choice: her freedom is not worth her newfound friends dying. She challenges the bull, rushes him, and jumps.
Three down, two to go. Bull leaping, by the way, was an actual thing in bronze age Minoan Crete. the rules were similar but differed a little in that the leaper had to rush the bull from the front, jump, grab the horns and let the momemtum of the bull throwing his head back propel him further. Alternatively, he was allowed to jump over the head, but had to land with his hands on the bull's back for a backwards summersault. Actually touching the bull seems to have been a requirement.
Anyway, now only Pythagoras and Jason are left, and Medusa really, really has to hurry. She buys them a reprieve by opening the door, worrying the Queen. Medusa sneaks past her to get the doll and when Pasiphaê sees a fire in front of her door, with the only fuel source being a piece of clothing, she realizes something is up. As she returns to her work table, she sees the doll missing, and Medusa escapes with the doll carefully in hand. Pasiphaê is furious, but Jason realizes he can breath again, and stand. It's time to leap a damn bull. Pythagoras goes first, and while it's not pretty, he makes it.
Heptarian is not pleased; he realizes what has happened. Jason doesn't care, though. All that stands between freedom and his friends is the bull, and he leaps it easily. Everyone is overjoyed and while we don't actually see it happen, the bull must have been returned to his pen, because no one gets mauled as they stand before the king who declares them free men and woman. He seems genuinly happy that Poseidon has spared them, and so is Ariadne. The only one not happy is Heptarian, but who cares about him, right? Medusa makes it to the games in time to call out to Hercules, who applauds her.
Pasiphaê and Ariadne meet up again in the castle. It seems Ariadne did not grant Heptarian an audience with her; she says this is true, because she went to the temple of Poseidon to give an offering of thanks. Pasiphaê warns Ariadne that the King must never know about her love for Jason, and Ariadne promises to give the King no reason to suspect anything. Pasiphaê tries to convince Ariadne that she is on her side and only looking out for her, but Ariadne is having none of it. Dejected, the Queen watches Ariadne stride away.
Outside the dungeons, the group hugs it out and says goodbye. Hercules is sure that Medusa's efforts mean that she has fallen for him as well, but the others remain unconvinced. She is still to young for him, they say, and too slim. Then they are on their way home, and it's all good, no matter Medusa's feeling and Hercules' waistline: they are alive and free.
Next time on Atlantis: Hercules almost kills a baby with a spear, Medusa's maternal instincts come to the surface, and somehow, the royal court is involved. Saturday on BBC One, recap on Monday.