Hercules S1E02 : Eye of The Beholder
The sand beneath foot fall. A lone man running. But running from what? His boots rising and falling with the sound of his breath. Breath, hiss, step. Breath, hiss, step. Thick leather-braided breeches. The camera pans up- why yes, it’s our hero: Hercules (Kevin Sorbo). And he’s running from 50 sisters that want to forcibly have sex with him because their father wants that.
Hercules helps people all across ancient Greece with their problems, but he has so many of his own. Wrathful gods. Demons and monsters. Family killed in a fireball. Yes, even being too desirable can be a problem for him. In this episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, we ask, “If pleasures can be problems, can problems be pleasures? Can a true monster become a true friend?” Friends or enemies. Pleasures or problems. By the end of this episode, perhaps we will find that the distinction truly lies in the Eye of The Beholder.
Hercules has escaped the scantly clad women, clutching at their breasts (for now) and finds himself in a local tavern enjoying a beverage and discussing his predicament with the tavern owner. It turns out that King Thespius wants all 50 of his daughters to have a child by the humble but mighty pænis of Hercules himself. The tavern owner assures Herc, “Hahaha, no problem, you take care of ’em easy!” but this does almost nothing to quell Hercules’ concern. Hercules doesn’t appreciate being pursued on foot by a band of 50 princesses who want to grab him and take turns on him in an open field or beach or forest or where ever they catch him. Now: it is well below any respectable writer of this day and age to call someone a “homo” or assert something like, “Dude. That’s badass as hell. F*ck. What r u gay?” So I won’t. At any rate, Hercules is put off by being attacked by a large group of people looking to quickly use his privates, no matter how hot they are.
“I’m a one woman man,” Hercules annoyingly says but the conversation doesn’t end there and neither do his problems. An older man stumbles up to the pair and, clearly in his cups, manages to ask, “Hey, Hercules, what are you going to do about that cyclops at Trachis, huh?” The tavern owner asks him to give them some room and tells Hercules, “That guy had a run in with a lion a while back. He’s been a wet brain ever since.”
As a side note: in ancient Greece, run ins with lions often drove men to more than just drink. It wasn’t rare that a man would be attacked by a large, predatory cat, evolved over millennia to jump on 2,000 pound buffalo and eat them alive, then spend the rest of his life taking party drugs or gambling between horrifying bouts of depression. It’s why these animals can be so dangerous.
When the man tells Hercules the cyclops is terrifying a village just to protect one of Hera’s vineyards, Hercules has heard enough. He’s on his way to Trachis.
And so is someone else. On a bright sunny day, a traveler in a lavender toga whistles and walks down a dirt road. But he doesn’t get far. Freezing in terror and dropping his bag, Salmoneus (Robert Trebor) stares up in disbelief. “FAR ENOUGH, LITTLE MAN,” grumbles The Cyclops (Richard Moll) three times taller than any man stands. “But I’m just a pumble heddler, uh, uh, a humble p-pe-peddl- I’m on my way to Trachis,” stammers Salmoneus in an exaggerated cross between a trembling man and Porky Pig settling for a new retort when his first attempt doesn’t come so easily. The cyclopian giant tells him he will not pass through Hera’s vineyard, but this man is at a loss. “There is no other way to Trachis,” pleads Salmoneus. “YES. THERE. ISSSSSSSS,” is the only reply he receives before he’s plucked up and kicked several miles into the air.
The human body is capable of amazing things. We grow from but a single, fertilized cell. Our hearts never stop beating during our entire lives. Women give birth to other, live human beings then feed them with their own body. Men can do outdoorsy stuff. Also, think of all the body hair a man has. Of all the amazing things a human body can do or withstand, being able to survive being kicked more than a few yards isn’t one of them. Being able to actually, physically be kicked, without the foot smashing right through the flesh and bone of the human body, more than fifty feet or so is also not one of them. That’s why I’m glad they did it in this episode. It’s ancient Greece. Cyclopes are real. The gods are real. And cartoon rules for physics.
Now flying in, perhaps a bit late, we see the opening credits.
On that same bright, sunny day, Hercules is walking through the woods on the way to Trachis when we see a familiar light purple toga.
Salmoneus is hanging in a tree and, while he can’t see Hercules, he does hear someone. He calls out to the traveler behind him, “Alright, I admit it: I look like a stuffed owl. Now could you just get me down.” Hercules wasn’t thinking he looked like a stuffed owl. No one was. It’s not what he looked like. He did not look like a stuffed owl. Before Herc can help, Salmoneus falls to the ground and explains how he got there. When Hercules replies that he is to confront the cyclops, Salmoneus exclaims, “Who do you think you are!? Hercules!?” A good flick on the biceps and he answers his own question. Salmoneus introduces himself as a traveling toga salesman and invites himself along to see Hercules take care of business.
Some distance away, three men are fake-pushing a styrofoam boulder when they feel and hear the great trembling of The Cyclops’ approach.
The Cyclops sees the men are trying to divert the river towards their village that it originally provided water for… and away from Hera’s vines. He tells the men to stop or die. One of them sizes up the creature before him and makes the simple deduction that, “You’re not going to kill me you one-eyed freak,” and, if this statement wasn’t bold enough, follows it up with chucking a rock at The Cyclops’ head.
Read this closely: in any fight, it’s the guy who is willing to die who is going to win. The size of this giant doesn’t matter. The villager has virtue and principle on his side. He needs this water to provide for his children. That’s what matters. He draws his dagger and moves forward to victory on the mighty wings of valor and justice.
The other guys run away.
After running for several miles, they run right up to Hercules and Salmoneus on the road and explain that The Cyclops just killed one of the villagers. Hercules tells them, “Catch your breath. He’s not following you now.” They are relieved at this news. The gigantic cyclops that you can hear coming hundreds of yards away like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park wasn’t chasing them and they couldn’t be happier to learn that, at this moment.
The men explain why they were at the river in the first place, telling Hercules that they rely on that river for their water and crops. Hercules has questions. “Look how green the land is around here. There must be other rivers?” A fair question: do you really need this river? It appears you don’t.
It’s also a good question for the writer to include because it wasn’t on the audience’s mind until Hercules asks it. The men reply the other rivers are “too far away” but this good-question-for-the-writer-to-include stays on the audience’s mind throughout the rest of the episode, unable to be diverted from, even by the movement of a big foam rock.
Hercules promises to help even though he maybe doesn’t need to.
Back in a cave, The Cyclops is eating giant Flintstone ribs. A man who’s face is stuck in a permanent snarl and can only speak through gritted teeth, Castor (Michael Mizrahi) approaches him. We find out that Castor runs the vineyard and pays The Cyclops to protect it. The Cyclops’ allegiance also lies with him because he was the only one who was ever nice to him. The villagers always treated him with disdain.
And we cut to night. A mysterious dog uncovers something buried by a building in the village. The quick flash of it as the dog carries it off doesn’t quite revel what it holds in its maw.
We never see the dog or the thing it uncovers for the rest of the episode.
In that same village, people are celebrating in a local tavern. Among them are Hercules and Salmoneus. One of the boulder pushing men from before tells Hercules that he is the first sign of hope they’ve had in a long time. Hercules replies that they should hold off celebrating until he deals with the cyclops. Something in the man’s eyes wants to say, “Oh, no, I was just thanking you. Everyone comes out to this tavern every night. Wait, we’re not all here just to throw you a party- is that what you think this is?” but he decides not to.
We see this man is also among the crowd.
Could he be a spy?
“Hey, you men!”
And in walks what can only be described as The Queen of Thespius’s daughters followed by her many sisters (who want to have sex with the same man at the same time and place.) “We’re looking for Hercules,” she projects to the entire room. Hercules drops to the floor and starts to crawl away. Again, I won’t comment on how infuriating it is to not want this type of forced sperm retrieval to happen to your body.
As he crawls away to leave, he runs into a woman, Scilla (Kim Michalis). She says, “I thought you were leaving?” He was leaving so he says, “Yeah.” It’s a meet-cute without the meeting and no cuteness: only slight confusion for the two people involved and the viewer at home.
The next morning, Scilla, still clad in the costume of Nala from the Broadway production of The Lion King, is picking flowers in a field.
The Cyclops approaches, but she seems unafraid. The giant booms, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” She flatly responds, “I’m not bothering you… The river is yours. The vineyard too. Can’t you let us have anything?” This isn’t how you speak to a murderous giant; he chases her off back to the village.
Upon her return, one of the men accompanies her to Hercules and says, “Hey! Now The Cyclops is attacking our women!”
Film Fact: this specific phrase about “attacking our women” is actually part of a deal between unions and studios for the benefit of period/fantasy actors. In any short, feature, or series, at least one man who’s been cast as a villager is entitled to say, “Hey! Now [bad thing] is attacking our women!” It’s an emphatic and drama-soaked phrase that never gets old and is great for a reel.
As Hercules tries to gather the details, another man present has a problem with Hercules’ “manhood” because he didn’t have any sex with any of the daughters which is what he would’ve done and he wanted that for Hercules. He further proves he wants Hercules to be sexually satiated by challenging him to a head butts-only fight wherein, if this stranger wins, he’s going to give Hercules to these women and get him laid real good.
A fight ensues then ends with Hercules the victor. No sex for me today stranger: so, so, strange for you to care.
We saw some in the first episode, but we now cut back to more of the greatest ugliness of the ancient world: white slavery. We see wine being made by these slaves, as Castor watches. He is a accompanied by- my god, the hair stands on the back of my neck as I type but - he’s accompanied by the rat man and…
He was a spy.
Castor runs into the cave of The Cyclops to enlist his help in defeating Hercules. Hercules is traveling there to defeat The Cyclops anyway so Castor’s intervention is pointless. One thing we do find out though, is that The Cyclops found Scilla’s scarf and treasures it dearly: something that Castor doesn’t fail to notice or ridicule him about. He did fail to notice that this scarf had grown to the size of a few large blankets by now, a terrible side effect of a giant’s touch.
Back with Salmoneus, Hercules walks through the woods on the way to confront The Cyclops. The daughters show up again and give chase to both of them. They catch Salmoneus and give him “the treatment.” The viewer can’t really tell what that means, but they tear his clothes off and do things to his body.
As Salmoneus gets his belly slapped or butt jangled or balls pickled?, Castor stands before a shrine where his overly intense, skull-popping scowl and furious growling become more unnecessary by the second. He tells Hera that The Cyclops is going to kill Hercules when a guy we don’t know shows up; we’ll call him “Wayne Newton Gene Simmons” (Ray Woolf). Wayne Newton Gene Simmons explains that if The Cyclops doesn’t do the job, Hera is sending her Executioners; of which, we also know nothing. Finally, Castor says, “Not The Executioners,” but we don’t find out why he cares that there is a back up plan or that The Executioners may try to help protect his vineyard.
It’s a lot not to know.
Anyway, Hercules and The Cyclops finally fight in an open field. It’s touch and go for a while and Hercules must’ve brought along two pots and a stack of rocks with dry ice in it (which I wouldn’t do), but its hard to question the guy’s methods when a jump punch out of left field brings the giant down.
The biggest surprise? Hercules just wants to talk. After school special-style, they “rap” with each other back in The Cyclops’ cave over a ladle of water the size of his naked and screaming friend he left in the woods. Hercules finds out The Cyclops has no real devotion to Hera but rather works for Castor, the only man who treated him halfway decent while the villagers called him a “geek” and a “freak.” Hercules tells him by not killing Hercules, the giant is now in the crosshairs of Hera and Castor. The Cyclops and the villagers will need to work together.
Back at the village, the villagers congratulate Hercules on his victory. One of the villagers says, “We can get our lives back to normal now that The Cyclops is dead,” to which Hercules responds that he had no intention of killing the giant. Apparently, he intended to just have a step-dad talk with him all along. He tells the villagers, “He’s got no fight left in him,” and reminds them he might not have had any fight in him to begin with if they hadn’t always treated him like an outcast.
The next morning, Thespius’s daughters are back at it. Before, they can approach too close or get a word in, Hercules says it’s his turn to talk. He gives them a short, position speech on forced group sex he really could’ve given anytime before this.
While many of these sisters are disturbingly young, they all seem pretty open and receptive to his ideas of marrying and having children out of love. Among themselves, they even give him some very natural and subtle praise.
Sometimes it’s tough to wave goodbye to a B-plot but at least you know why it won’t be giving you children.
Castor is back in the cave, yelling at The Cyclops bemoaning with fear the fact that The Executioners will be taking over the job of getting rid of Hercules. I cannot imagine why he is scared or thinks this is bad. Good news for the viewer though: we’re about to see what an Executioner is.
Better news for the viewer: Castor runs full speed, right up to the things he has no discernible reason to fear but expressed he does multiple times now. He gets stabbed to death for absolutely, no reason.
Back at the river, Herc is helping the villagers with his shirt off. It has to be off. The shirt would’ve been torn to shreds if it was on. You really don’t know what you’re talking about. The friction is too high with a rock that size. It’s too high and it’s an awkward angle.
Anyway, as they are trying to get the river running back in the right direction, The Cyclops approaches. All but Scilla and Hercules yell and throw rocks at him so he runs off with Scilla in pursuit. Everyone seems concerned for Scilla, but not enough to go after her.
Hercules does eventually and he, Scilla, and The Cyclops have another rap sesh back at the old cave. The Executioners are out now and they seek to get the river back and destroy the village. Time for a Herc/Cyclops team up and they head back out of that damn cave again.
Ready or not, they meet The Executioners (no, not The Executioners) on the field of battle. The Executioners aren’t great at fighting so Hercules and The Cyclops take them pretty easily. Wayne Newton Gene Simmons almost gets away though so they have to do this.
After the final showdown, the whole village celebrates. They are still pretty shitty to The Cyclops but reluctantly agree to “try” to be nice.
Oh and, being so moved by Hercules’ speech from before, Thespius’s daughters come back and decide they’ll settle for having incestuous group sex with Salmoneus. Monster to friend. Great hero to stuffed owl. It truly does lie in the eye of the beholder.
What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below, and please no spoilers for any new viewers!