The episode starts off with Claudius remembering a family dinner that took place while he was still a young boy.  While Horace recites from his latest opus, Livia watches Livilla hungrily eye Postumus from across the room. Claudius is seated at the "kiddieclinium". He is clumsy and an embarrassment to everyone present.  After the "children" leave, Augustus and Livia briefly discuss whether Claudius will sit in the imperial box at the upcoming Drusus Memorial Games.  As Augustus says his good-night, he is interrupted.


A soldier from the 19th legion enters bringing horrible news from Germany.  His legion along with two others has been massacred by the Germans.  Augustus is furious about what has happened. He brings Tiberius and the soldier into his study to discuss the situation and sends for Germanicus and Postumus. In the dining room, a bewildered page asks Livia about Postumus' whereabouts. Postumus, it seems, cannot be found in his own chambers. He was last seen headed toward Livilla's apartments. Livia files this under "A".

In the stacks of the library, Pollio and Livy frantically search for a commentary on Polybius' Military Tactics. After a librarian takes over their search,  they come upon Claudius reading. Recognizing young Claudius, Livy comments on his studiousness and asks what he is reading. After Pollio quips that it must be some romantic rubbish which young people these days read, we find that Claudius' reading material is in fact Pollio's History of the Civil War. "It's rubbish alright,"Livy jokes. When Claudius tells Pollio that he is one of Rome's two greatest historians and names Livy as the other, Pollio presses Claudius to choose one as "two greatest is just shilly shally apart from being an abuse of the Roman tongue." Ever the diplomat, Claudius responds by saying that it depends on what he is reading for.  He would read Livy for beauty of language and he would read Pollio for interpretation of fact.  Livy, upset at this appraisal, starts to leave as the librarian returns. Unable to find the requested scroll, the librarian suggests that Livy might be confused about which library owns the work. Livy, insulted by the questioning of his scholarly acumen, reaches the breaking point when Claudius, correcting him on the scroll's title and author tells Livy on which shelf he might find it. As Livy leaves in a huff, Pollio continues his conversation with Claudius. He is surprised to find that he is talking to 'that Claudius' whom he had heard was a half-wit. When Claudius tells him that he is doing research for a history of his family, particularly his father and grandfather who were republicans, Pollio says "yes, that's why they were poisoned". Claudius is stupified. Although Pollio is reluctant to identify the culprit, he does give Claudius some good advice. If Claudius wants to live a long and useful life, then he must exaggerate his limp and his stammer, let his wits wander and play the fool as much as he likes.

In the peristyle as Augustus picks a fresh fig for Postumus, a disembodied voice mysteriously echoes "Poison".  Augustus lectures Postumus on his rakish behavior. As Augustus' only surviving grandson and intended successor, Postumus needs to be cognisant of his responsibilities.  When Postumus asks about Tiberius, Augustus says he adopted Tiberius out of respect for his mother (an amazing woman), but in his estimation Tiberius lacks the right stuff to rule. Livia overhears this conversation and undetected withdraws with a stony gaze. She then summons her granddaughter Livilla to her chambers.  In a masterful piece of manipulation, Livia coldly accuses Livilla of adultery with Postumus and threatens her with a fate like Julia's. Livilla hysterically confesses, promising never to see him again. Now with Livilla in her clutches, Livia comforts her with grandmotherly affection and ego strokes. Livilla returns the flattery, remarking that Livia was once the most beautiful woman in the world. Ever modest, Livia admits she was but one of two, the other in Egypt didn't last as long. Asking Livilla if she can speak to her as a grown up woman, Livia gives Livilla a crash course in real politik. Outlining her own efforts to stave off civil war and to secure political stability for Rome, Livia asks Livilla if she wants her husband, Castor to become emperor. Livilla eagerly answers "Yes". Livia tells her that for this to happen, his father Tiberius must succeed Augustus. When Livilla naively asks about Postumus, Livia, praises her new protege, "you've put your finger on it, as always we come back to Postumus."


Livia finds Augustus in his study fuming over a dispatch from Tiberius. Augustus is tired of Tiberius "sitting on his ass on the Rhine" He wants his eagles back. When Livia tries to make excuses for Tiberius, Augustus having none of it, announces that he will send Postumus to Germany with reinforcements. Livia takes the oportunity to trash Postumus, advising against sending him since he has no real military experience. Since there exists a history of rivalry between the two men, Tiberius would see Postumus more as a spy than as a support.  She recommends Germanicus, Tiberius' nephew, be sent instead.  "I make the military decisions, not you, " Augustus erupts. But in the end he agrees to send Germanicus.
    Continuing their spat, the coversation turns to a manuscript Livia's slave placed on Augustus' desk. Livia describes it as a subversive biography authored by her idiot grandson Claudius which praises his father's only fault- his republicanism. Augustus brushes this aside, it's harmless enough. Speaking of Drusus, Livia wants a decision about Claudius' presence in the imperial box at the upcoming games. Livia, embarrassed by Claudius' quirks, counsels that he not be allowed to attend.  Augustus reminds Livia that with Germanicus sent off to the Rhine, one of Drusus' sons should be present. Claudius should be there but at the back. The discussion deteriorates to bickering over who is paying for the games. Once assured he's off the hook, Augustus picks a fight about Claudius' marriage. Livia assures him that it's all arranged and warns him to back off, "You've left these matters up to me for thirty years, are you going to start interfering now?" Augustus continues to argue. Livia tells him everyone is noticing his irritability which gets worse everyday. "I think you could do with a rest... a long one," she snaps as she storms out. In frustation Augustus bellows, "QUINCTILIUS VARUS, WHERE ARE MY EAGLES!".

Enter our hero, who receives the arena's applause in the wrong seat. His mother, Antonia, is disgusted by his clumsiness and runny nose. Seated next to Herod Agrippa, they engage in an ethical debate about gladiatorial games. "It is to honor the dead" instructs Claudius. "By rendering more men dead?" Herod quips. Meanwhile Livia gives a pep talk to the combatants. Beginning with "You're all scum and you know it", she admonishes them about the increasing use of professional tricks to stay alive. She wants her money's worth or she'll break up the guild and pack them off to the mines in Numidia. The crowd goes wild when Augustus and Livia take their seats. Claudius falls off his seat. The games begin. As the camera pans over the imperial box, individual reactions speak volumes : Augustus' love for gambling, Livia's coldness, Antonia's stoicism, Herod's thorough hellenization, Livilla's bloodlust and Claudius' weak constitution. After fainting Claudius is carried out of the games with Herod and Postumus at his side. A slave girl intercepts Postumus, who with knowing glances allows Herod to escort Claudius home. Postumus returns to the arena for his wife, Domitia. Livilla bites her lip in anticipation as Postumus takes his leave.


Later, in Livilla's bedroom, Postumus responds to her invitation. After kisses mingled with assurances that Castor will be away for the evening, he wisks her to the bed.  In this almost X-rated scene, as the fires of their passion ignite, Livilla yells rape. Guards enter and arrest Postumus.  Next Postumus is brought before Augustus who is furious.  A disheveled Livilla cowers next to her enraged husband. Postumus, angry at Augustus' obtuseness, accuses Livia of the murders of Marcellus, Agrippa, Gaius and Lucius, even of her own son Drusus. She wants to clear the path of anyone who gets in the way of her son Tiberius' succession. Augustus folds like an accordian, but then rallies to Livia's defense.   He accuses Postumus of feigning madness. Pinning him against the wall with his own dagger, Augustus says killing Postumus would be too good for him. He will be exiled to a small island, just like his mother Julia.  Augustus and Livia comfort the "violated" Livilla. As the guards take him away, Postumus somehow escapes. 

Postumus startles Claudius in his own room.  Postumus tells him of the plot against him and that his grandmother put Livilla up to it.  He wants Claudius to tell Germanicus.  Postumus then gives advice very similar to that which Pollio had given Claudius in the library.  Postumus leaves through the window. Sounds from outside signal Postumus' recapture.

The episode concludes with the marriage of Claudius to Urgulanilla.  Claudius awkwardly enters the room, limping as he pays his respects to the two families. He takes his seat next to his bride, nervously clasping her hand. Gazing at her through her saffron veil, he seems surprised at her comeliness. When the priest begins the ceremony, the young couple rises. Urgulanilla stands head and shoulder above Claudius. The families erupt in cruel uncontrolled laughter.