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COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by Jill Hayhurst
COMMENTARY 3 by Xorys
COMMENTARY 4 by Beboman
COMMENTARY 5 by Videntur
COMMENTARY 6 by Benoclesczar
COMMENTARY 7 by Philip Teo

COMMENTARY 1:

Commentary Beth Gaynor.

This was deep. And strange. And gorgeous. And broke land speed plot records that left me spending most of my first viewing muttering "Hang on, wait, does that mean... why did... hold everything, how does that..." After watching it again, I got a better handle on what was going on, although I think we clocked past a few important plot explanations in favor of getting this story told under the 45-minute-mark. But wow, look at what territory we DID cover!

For the first time since the Xena Scrolls episode, we have another mention of scrolls about Xena - a "Blue Scroll." I can't think of anything about an ancient scroll that would be blue, so maybe it's so called for Xena's blue robes.

Xena and Gabrielle, after last week's tourist trip, decide to go native... and go shopping. I liked Xena's final test of her new outfit. But where's their old clothing? In the final scene, Xena's toting a bag that probably contains her leather dress, but if she just changed into the blue at the market, what did she wear INTO the market? "Xena, stop complaining about this new look... it's better than the Lady Godiva act you were just doing."

Xena and Gabrielle's trips through the Stargate are kind of interesting. Xena's trip showed us:

Somebody looking kind of Horde-ish and attacking
A bunch of crosses (but no mountain like the vision)
A cross, from its foot (still no mountain or snow)
A flash of light, a new baby
Somebody getting found and skewered in a box
Another flash of light, another baby
Armies and Artimnestra
The scenes until the first flash seem to be in first person (through Xena's eyes?), then becomes third-person perspective, as if watching what's happening.

Does this mean we've gone two lifetimes in the future? That would gel with the fact that we don't seem to be TOO many years forward - everybody's still using swords and catapults, and the spear from Xena's fight isn't dust yet.

And do we now know that Xena will die on a cross? It didn't look like the cross of Alti's vision, but that sure seemed to be the implication here.

Gabrielle's Stargate visions were very different. Gab saw:

Gab at a horse, with the short hair, still
in India garb but in what looked like Greece,
calling an alarm to Xena
Gab donning the mask of the amazon queen. (This was a shot from The Quest, but since these were supposed to be flash forwards, was this supposed to be in the future? If so, her hair grows back!)
A snowy cross, like Alti's vision
A flash of light
Herald horns blowing and Gabrielle's face (looking kind of like it did on the wheel in Illusia)
Shakti
All of Gab's visions were third person. The best indication of Gab's death is that she really could die on the cross of Alti's vision, except that we never see a new baby. With only one flash, does that mean we're only one of Gab's lifetimes in the future? And what was up with the royal horn reception for Gabrielle?

My intelligence is officially insulted: Naima tells us she's sending Xena into the future. We see Xena go through the Stargate through lives. And then when she arrives, we get a big fat label that says "A future life"? Please. I think I got the hint.

Neat overlay effect of the old and new faces that's used on Xena and when Alti and Gabrielle are revealed.

I **love** the faith of the bard:

This karma that you're talking about: can you see mine? Can you see how much Xena is a part of it?

Karma? Lifelines? Dunno what it is, but whatever it is, if it's important, Xena's and mine MUST be linked. Gabrielle is THAT sure of how much she and Xena belong together. And listen to Naima's response - "Yes. In many lives, past and present." Plus Naima's final line:

You both walk a path together. Think of yourselves as lines in the mehndi. Separated, but forever connected.

After the word "destiny" has been bantered around in so many episodes, it seems we've found a bit of it at last. Xena and Gab really did have a connection from the moment they met in Poteidaia, and that connection's going to continue on in future lives and has carried over from past ones. And one last note: watch Gabrielle lean closer against Xena when Naima says that line. Awwwww.

Just to add to the proof that Xena and Gabrielle are karmically bound, from the moment he arrives, Xena can't be pulled away from Shakti. Of all the people in the fight, she wants to know who he is and refuses to leave the scene until he does, too. His primary goal is protecting Artimnestra. They're the two heroes of their time. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? There's some serious role reversal in these lives, but the roles are very much like they have been before.

Gabrielle's an INCREDIBLY fast learner - and teacher. An hour, maybe two, of spirograph tracing, and Gab's ready to make her own magic lines and use them in action poses. I have NO idea what Gabrielle learned and how it was supposed to work. Is the mehndi a power of its own? Were the action poses a way to activate the mehndi? I wish we had been given some more clues about exactly how the mehndi's power worked.

Kudos to the guy who played Shakti for that hysterical quick covering of his chest. And double-kudos to him for his body language and line delivery as he puts on the shirt and asks about Kindin (tall, black hair, war cry?); that was done EXACTLY like I would have pictured Renee O'Connor giving the same line.

Lucy's finest moment of the episode: her bemused amazement as she explains to Gabrielle her role in this lifetime. It spoke WORLDS - who would think the Destroyer of Nations is now the Mother of Peace? Certainly not Xena.

Also in the "nice touch!" department, watch Lucy's body language, especially her hands, when she's in the body of Artimnestra. She's weak, shaky, and hunched over. I especially like the way she holds her walking stick when they're about to attack the village that Kindin has taken - her hands are gnarled around the stick.

Interesting note about Alti's crowing that the people in India have more lifelines for her to chow down on: We've already seen that Greeks end up in Tartarus or the Elysian fields - no reincarnation there. But in India, apparently everyone is reincarnated. Different rules depending on where you live? And if so, why are Xena, Gabrielle, and Alti reincarnated?

Xena doesn't get any sword work in this episode, but Alti and Gabrielle do - there's a switch! Both do a nice job, and Renee swings that sword as if she's been waiting four seasons to give this a try. I hope it was fun! I noticed, though, that Shakti's killer fighting style changes to mostly smash-and-bash instead of edged attacks when Gab's at the wheel.

Alti has tripped a few lifelines, but still has raccoon eyes. I guess over-mascara-ing was REAL permanent back then.

And speaking of black makeup, Gabrielle goes nuts with the fat magic marker on herself and Xena! She gets the hands, the arms, the stomach and chest, and has a grand ol' time making Xena's back into her own Sistine Chapel ceiling. How much of that stuck? Mehndi usually is applied thick like we see, then when the paste is removed, the henna tattoos left behind stay around for a couple of weeks. Will the tattoos we see at the end of this episode - Xena's chakram on her foot, Gab's hand and throat lines - only last for a little while? Or are they permanent? Since Gab's hands had the mehndi lines on them in Alti's vision, this is a REALLY important question.

Note to Xena and Gabrielle: the next time Naima proposes a plan to you, kick her in the butt and make your own plan. She had Xena and Gab bring Alti back to the current life, where Alti was even more incredibly powerful, and when she's defeated, her soul is still free to wreak as much havoc as she wants and Xena and Gab will have to keep fighting her. With friends making schemes like that, who needs enemies? Why not just have Gab/Shakti skewer Alti/Kindin and deal with a lot less pain?

Gabrielle sees the cross vision at last... and sees that Xena is getting crucified, too. Had Xena told Gab that part? Is that why the warrior princess gets SO cheesed off? Or is it because Alti lays the blame for the scene on Xena, which is Xena's worst fear about it, too? I'm voting for a combo of the two, and it merits a long, slow, screamed "You bitch!" for it. Such language, Xena!

One small (but very significant) addition to the vision: when Xena saw it, her hands were spiked, but we never saw Gabrielle get hit with spikes. This time we got treated to Gab's hands and feet getting run through. THERE'S something I don't care to see again.

Xena got hit by her own chakram! Talk about adding insult to (horrendous, gut-wrenching) injury. Both of our heroes got their clocks cleaned most nastily by Alti... yeeeee-owch!

But Naima changes the balance. Alti tries to take care of her, too, but she doesn't have a bit of power over the darsham, and instead ends up dealing with feedback.

The division of power when they take out Alti makes wonderful sense: Naima and Gabrielle use mehndi action poses to hold Alti down, then Xena creates mehndi chakrams (with spirographs on them!) to take her out. Xena looked a bit surprised - and terrifically pleased - to see her mehndi action pose form a chakram.

The long-anticipated short locks for Gabrielle have arrived. Wow, what a change. I liked Xena's quick ruffle of Gab's new feathers as she asks how it feels. It's going to take me a while to get used to the new look. It's cute, but I can't decide yet if it's too cute. I'll let it settle for an episode or two before deciding that one.

Side note: In Santa Monica, Lucy Lawless joked with the crowd that she's the one who cut Renee's hair with her chakram - or at least at the time, it seemed like she was joking. Holy cow, she was SERIOUS!

I love Xena's foot tattoo of the chakram. Was that one of the ones that Gab originally drew, or was it added when the mehndi action took off the paste and left them with the tattoos? And check out Xena's addition to the chakram - a cross, making the symbol for woman. There's a few layers of meaning to that. "This way, no matter how we look, we'll always remember the women we were." Does this mean that all future Xenas will have that symbol on their feet? And how will future Xenas know future Gabrielles? It was a neat gesture, but I dunno how it actually solved the problem.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Gabrielle's reaction as she goes to find Xena and watches Naima pick dust motes out of the air is priceless: This woman's totally flipped. Part of the fun of the episode is watching a lot of people have that reaction to this whole reincarnation gig. My favorite was Alti's henchman: while Alti rants about getting Xena's soul at last, he does a great side-to-side "is anyone buying this?" look.

  • The mehndi "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" action poses of Xena and Gabrielle may be one of the coolest things I've seen on TV. That looked SO neat! They were in perfect synch, even when they weren't facing each other - tough to do. And have mercy, Renee was flexing those buff arm muscles big time. I'm going to wear out my rewind button on those five seconds of footage.




  • COMMENTARY 2:

    09-15-99. Commentary Jill Hayhurst.

    [A Low Rent Review] Didn't Janis Ian come out with a mega-sucessful album with this title? Full of angst? And hurt/comfort? And doesn't that sequiter have sod all to do with everything in this ep, from the teaser on?

    So let's just lose *that* thought, shall we, before I become so overcome with the hopelessness of it all I stop watching tv and instead go play on the interstate. All right, then. Happy happy joy joy, Xena's on and I'm right there, glued to the tube, wriggling like a kid at Christmas, spilling popcorn and fighting with the dog over sofa space.

    Wait a minute... "What we sow in this life, we reap in our future lives. This is our karma."

    That crashing sound you just heard was jill, confronting her current Victory Garden. And being simply staggered by the size of the snails chomping on the lettuce.

    It's not often, friends -n- neighbors, that you'll see me bowed under with the weight of the world... b*tch*ng about sh*t, you bet, I can complain mightily until the cows of India crucify themselves for Jesus, but not bloody often will you see me in despair. Mainly cos a quick ride home to Mama's and a few days spent being pampered and fussed over will do a lot to cheer any grrl.

    But even so, that kinda screenshot at the top of an ep is like a Trump of Doom to any chile what has spent time in lands saturated with the Babtist Way. Ah reap whut Ah sow? What'd Ah sow lately, say, last Saturday night... Ah'm goin to hell.

    [a brief pause for existential whimpering]

    Okay, I've had a nice chat with Nola and I feel better now. Today's ep opens with our fave duo in an Indian bazaar, in a different Indian village than last week, I'm mentioning this just in case you didn't catch the enormous differences in colouring and composition of major set pieces that distinguish *this* week's An Indian Village from *last* week's An Indian Village. For some reason Xena's trying on a new outfit. Why, I dunno. Not like she's felt any compulsion to change her clothes for four winters now, so what's... oh. Got it. Gabrielle. Nuff said.

    There's some kind of commotion going on in another part of the square they're in, seems some guys are carrying out a woman perched on a palanquin. It's very peaceful and orderly, she looks quite calm and unworried, bright-eyed, alert, old enough to buy beer or vote or go home with whoever the heck she wants to... so X&G follow it cos they just know something's up, and they're right cos the chair's following along behind some guys carrying a... fiberglass mummy case?

    This is downright weird, it even beats last week's display of casting the demons out. Just as X & G reach the edge of the crowd, the guys with the mummy toss the whole thing on top of a bonfire, it bounces hollowly, and this is just plain wrong. You know it, I know it, and Xena knows it. Fiberglass and fire do NOT mix in populated areas.

    So when they start to follow the mummy case with the woman on the chair, Xena steps in, citing EPA regulations and pointing out, in her inimical warrior princess fashion, that the woman is still alive and thus not proper fuel for a bonfire. The dudes in the headwrappings beg to differ; they think fiberglass, wood and living flesh make a dandy mix and besides, it's a religious custom, it don't have to make sense.

    Y'all may have noticed how, in the last couple eps, there was what you might call a dearth of b*tt-kicking. Well, you are not alone. Xenastaff noticed it, too, and in this ep, they've decided to make up for it. In the midst of the India arc, it's back to basics. Xena and Gabrielle immediately set to rescuing the marshmallow woman (she's draped head to toe in red silk, embroidered in gold thread, how's that for a costuming choice? Subtle, huh?), and this involves, naturally, a fair amount of headbanging and kicking and staffwhacking and at one point (this is important to the overall plot, so pay attention) Xena snags a spear and stabs a huge phallic symbol with it (must be a phallic symbol, it's just too damn big to hitch Argo to, y'all remember Argo, right?) and then uses it for her freestyle parallel bar routine, garnering a swift 9.4 from the judges and a 2.3 from the lone geometer in the crowd, who can't figure how a 5 foot spear with only 2 inches of its point affixed inside a giant dildo can possibly bear the weight of one strapping warrior princess (even if she ain't preggers already).

    Amidst eloquent and timeless cries of 'Get them!', 'Stop them!', 'There they are!', X&G propel Red to safety, well, it's actually a tiny room off an alley with no other exits and they're all trapped there by the mob of barbeque enthusiasts, but it does beat burning alive. During this whole daring rescue, Red, aka Naima, exhibits about as much presence as a Woodstock attendee on the third day of the festival. She barely looks at Xena or Gabrielle, or at the mob, instead focusing (if you can call it that) on the air around them, on the sunlight striking a bit of metal, on ways to end all war through nonviolent protest, on anything but what's going on right now. Suddenly, while Xena's hunting up a way out and Gab's piling everything that's not nailed down in front of the door, Naima wakes up, looks at Xena meaningfully and starts taking her clothes off.

    Well, okay, I'm sure we can all understand this reaction, but it does seem a bit out of place, considering that the door's taking some serious hits from outside. I'm not the only one that thinks so, either, Xena's not too sure about this whole thing, I mean, Gabrielle's right there in the room still, but then Naima starts in forming light bubbles and shooting off sparkly things, and Xena just looks on, wondering what she's done to deserve all this, first it was Eli the Great and Terrible Humbug and now apparently Glinda, the Good Witch of the Ganges, she's gotta be a little bit concerned about what it's all leading up to, but that's okay, the flying monkeys aren't till next ep, which gives her a bit of breathing room in between. All's she's gotta cope with right at this very minute is being shot through with sparkly stuff and astrally projected into some kinda C.B. deMille epic on fastforward.

    "Courage, Xena!" exhorts Naima in voiceover, just like that would help, and when next the tape slows to normal, Xena's face is morphing into that of an older Indian woman. This is apparently A Future Life, says so right there on the screen, in case one of those demographically crucial 14 year old boys yawned or something. The older Indian woman is standing in front of a ragtag mob talking to... Alti? Huh. It *is* Alti. Shucks, she don't look a day older than when she gave Pretty Baby to Evil Xena, back when she was pregnant with Solon. She must got her portrait stuck away in someone's attic, by golly, along with a few statues and a couple daguerreotypes.

    Xena sorts out where she is when she sees the spear stuck in the dildo off to one side, and who she is when she catches her reflection in a handily placed highly polished bronze shield (all armies have tons of these, they're lying around all over the place, and they never get dusty or bloody or even dented), and is a touch disconcerted. Seems Future Xena is in the middle of crucial negotiations when the soul train comes to a halt, which kinda puts a crimp in her bargaining skills, but no matter, time to roll titles, and a good thing too, else we'd likely be wondering why Xena's different and Alti isn't, much, and what happened to the old woman's conciousness when Present Xena moved in, and all kinds of stuff like that and lookit there... the first commercial out of the box, I swear to god, says "Xena is brought to you by _The Corruptor_".

    You know, I just don't think I want to go there.

    Back to the action, then-- Alti tires of chitchat and gives the order to attack. Big fight, with fiery catapults and much smoke and confusion and Future Xena hobbles around, her every effort to take an active role thwarted. Her side is obviously getting the worst of it, and then Shakti (Indian for "Small Prince Who Should Not Try to Grow a Beard") rides onto the scene and takes command, trying for an orderly retreat. Alti skewers him with a handy crossbow (he's not dead, just got an bolt in the shoulder, this is almost as important a recurring theme as the Pinch) and then Future Xena gets in Alti's face, which seems to have some effect on that hidden portrait since Alti's features shift into that Wicked Witch countenance we all love to hate. She recognizes Future Xena and is simply thrilled to find a familiar face after all this time, and tries to make a date for lunch later in the week, but the two are swept apart by the battle and then FX is hauled off by a loyal follower (My sword for you, Devi! These guys are so sweet, ya know?).

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, absolutely no time has passed so Gabrielle hasn't even noticed that Xena's not there no more, not even her lifeless body or those pretty new clothes. She finishes stacking stuff against the door (furniture tally: an occasional table and an old-style icebox next to a largish hat box, balanced on top of a headboard, a twin, I'd say, all late Federal period). Naima, though, is there, as much of her as can be said to be anywhere, and after unsuccessfully asking Gab for an autograph, she begins pantomiming peapicking, while Gabrielle looks on, wondering if maybe the guys outside had the right idea with the bonfire after all. Then Naima does her shining lights thing and before Gab knows it, she's surrounded by a screensaver.

    (In the future, Alti's growling and swaggering and torturing peasants with visions of Roman diplomacy. She wants to be the Destroyer of Nations, it's taken her how many lifetimes to get to two-bit warlord status in the Indian backwater, and Xena only took maybe three winters or so to cinch the title, I think Alti may have a little iss-ewe with her personal self-worth.)

    The light show's over, and Gab says it's the most beautiful thing she's ever seen, guess she ain't seen flying toasters yet, and Naima's therapy finally kicks in and she comes out of the trance and explains about the mendhi and the terrible evil that wants Xena's soul, which is why she had to send Xena off to the future so fast she couldn't even pack a toothbrush, so's she could fight it off. Gabrielle wants to go after her and Naima says okay, but she'll need to learn about the mendhi and the kharmic cycle stuff, do a little field research and maybe write a thesis, might take a while, but that's okay, it's only heros that have to do the express route-- sidekicks can take their time.

    Just as the door's about to be broken down, Naima packs a lunch for Gabrielle and sticks it in the wall for her to find when she gets to the future. Then Gab's off, and next thing she knows, she sitting in Shakti's tent, in Shakti's body with Shakti's wound (FX pulled the bolt and bandaged it up, used the Pinch and everything, she'd already inspected his army and scouted the area, no wonder she made DoN so young, Alti really should just give it up) in Shakti's clothes... well, not quite enough of Shakti's clothes for her own peace of mind, but no matter. She and Xena recognize each other right away and catch up on what's been going on while they were separated for a couple centuries that morning, and start working out a plan.

    Back in town, Alti's blustering and swaggering and torturing innocent peasants, nothing's changed, and it seems the Plan is for FX to distract her while Shakti-Gab leads a diversion to free the captives (did I mention the captives? did I have to? aren't there always captives, including sweet innocent girl toddlers held at knifepoint?) and one of their followers is supposed to retrieve the mendhi lunchbox from Naima's hiding place. That all goes splendidly, except for the part where Future Xena and Shakti-Gab are captured by Alti and the devoted follower takes a crossbow bolt in the gut, but he's fetched the box so that's okay. It's another mondo big fight, more fiery catapulting and Gab's really cute as she whirls and spins and kicks and punches her way down the street and Future Xena's not let to kill or even spit effectually cos it would destroy her kharma or something, guess she's already killed her quota for this millenium, and the two end up captured in Alti's tent and Alti leaves them there together, alone, cos they have to have time to work up an escape plan, and they're not tied or gagged or knocked unconcious cos Alti's the bad guy and therefore stupid, all she does is gloat about her imminent ultimate victory and taunt them with being staked out to die horribly, woman never ever learns.

    So while Alti's Boys are building these whopping stakes and digging firepits for the fish fry, Gab and Xena draw all over each other with puff paints and Naima's ('member Naima? She's, like, the Grand Architect of this whole thing, a Darsham, I'm learning so many new words, devi and darsham and karma and mendhi, wonder if PBS will ever pick up X:WP for its afternoon educational timeslot?) escorted back to the bonfire, it's all beautiful and timeless and images melt into each other, good and evil and soft-focus bodypainting, those two act like they have all the time in the world to explore each other, it's all merging and splitting and Naima's been tossed onto the flames just when Future Xena and Shakti-Gab finish up and Alti comes back into the tent and they slam her with their mendhi lights and then themselves, and emerge back in the present bursting out of the bonfire with Naima in a neato bubbly effect, not at all what the bonfire guy was thinking of when he chanted "your spirit will rise like smoke from the flame", and there's all kinds chaos and people running around and Xena's back in her own self, so's Gab, when Alti, who never changes cos she's evil, follows them out and slams Xena to the ground with visions of Painful Episodes in Xena's Past, cackling about regaining her shamaness powers while Xena lies there making notes to pick up a sports bra next time the bazaar opens.

    This is what, our third, fourth buttkicking scene? It's the big one, though, Xena's taking some serious hits, she's got a Past someone like Alti can pick and choose from. Just when Xena's down and down hard, Gabrielle comes running back on the scene (for whatever looney reason, she was supposed to be taking Naima to safety, think the road must've led round in a circle, cos here they both are again) and charges Alti. Gab's future being ever so much more interesting than her past, Alti snags her up by the hair and it's Romans and mallets and snow and "You're the best thing in my life, Gabrielle" and nails through hands and feet and that rouses Xena to send her chakram through Gab's hair and break the spell. Alti's pissed now, she ain't had a blonde by the hair since Pretty Baby, and she smacks Xena with another Vision and makes her miss the returning chakram! yikes, that's gotta hurt.

    Just then Naima strides confidently onto the playground, it's the OK Corral and she's Wyatt Earp, and when Alti tries her tricks on Naima, she's slammed back on her tush without Naima even breaking a sweat. Before Alti can get up, Naima starts picking peas again and the mendhi lines on Gabrielle and Xena start glowing golden. First Gab shoots Alti's body full of happy light, and Xena forms chakrams out of her mendhi and tosses them like clay pidgeons from a skeetshooter until Alti disintegrates and her disembodied and way ugly spirit self shoots off into the ether.

    The Xena drags herself over to where Gabrielle's collapsed and they hug and caress each other and the villagers come out and kneel around them in homage as Naima thanks them for taking care of Alti and gives them the lowdown on their kharmic destinies before climbing into her Glinda bubble and floating off in the sunlight. I guess that's one Indian village that'll think twice next time about tossing widows into the funeral pyres of their dead husbands.

    Next day or a few hours later, X&G are all healed and Gab's got her haircut cleaned up, it's really cute and begging to be ruffled and they head out of the village. Gabrielle asks how she'll recognize Xena in a future life and Xena adds a cross to the chakram-mendhi on her foot, it's really meaningful and deep and symbolic and reassuring and essentially nonsense, but that's okay, cos nonsense is at the root of all wisdom.

    So there.



    COMMENTARY 3:

    Commentary Xorys.

    OK, I fear I have to start this week's maunderings with no less than *three* personal disclaimers...

  • Firstly, a repeat of last week's: my family is part Indian (Muslim though, not Hindu), so India is sort of an alternate homeland to me, and when dealing with things Indian I tend to meander around dispersing sundry (and possibly irrelevant information) even more so than is normally the case.

  • Secondly, I'm afraid I didn't like Between The Lines very much - it seemed to me like a lot of convoluted plotting and technical flash with very little heart to it... so if (as many people seem to have) you thoroughly enjoyed this ep, you may find my views a bit of a downer.

  • And Thirdly - I've had the flu all week, and am now on some medication that stifles the pain in my sinuses but makes me rather groggy... so I may be less cogent than normal (although I'm not sure how cogent that is anyhow, sometimes...) It's possible that being quite sick whilst watching and thinking about this ep may have coloured my view of it somewhat... but quite honestly I really doubt that I would have felt very positively about this ep, whatever my state of health.
  • So - did I like the ep? Well, I've already said that I didn't. Why not? Well there just wasn't a lot to like, for me. Even with last week's ep, Devi, although I quite liked it, I did complain that I couldn't really see it as approaching being a great Xena ep because nothing in it really moved me. But at least Devi had several positive things in its favour -

  • beautiful costumes

  • lovely music

  • a central idea that was somewhat intriguing and raised some genuinely interesting points about the characters (Gab's desire to make choices, and to achieve and be recognised in her own right vs Xena's suspicion, and her dread of hurting Gab)... albeit it didn't really develop these themes very well, since the demon possession thing confused and ultimately pre-empted the whole issue; but still there was something of genuine character-based interest there, even if it was a bit repetitive of things in earlier eps

  • an interesting and well acted secondary character in Eli.
  • As against this, what did Between The Lines have to offer? Well I'm afraid the answer, for me, is pretty much:

  • beautiful costumes

  • lovely music
  • and that's it. The plot struck me as a bunch of convoluted game-playing, basically, with very little connection to anything of any real human significance. I also didn't particularly care for its use of Indian cultural elements, which were either muddied and confused, or treated frankly absurdly. And the main secondary character was Alti, and I'm afraid I thought Claire Stansfield was *awful* in this ep - I thought she was fine as the shamanness in the context of Adventures In The Sin Trade, but here she just seemed to be a stereotypical overacting villain. Actually, there were a couple of other minor points in the ep I felt positively about:
  • the actor who played Shakti was good - I wish we'd seen a bit more of him

  • the *idea* of Xena and Gab meeting in different incarnations in another life is full of potential, and we did get a little inkling of that when they first met up in the future; unfortunately it went nowhere, since they had to move along rapidly with the silly plot, which offered no scope for character-based development or exploration

  • the thing about walking down the same road many times, in the chat at the end, had an interesting resonance to it.
  • But that really is it, for positive things I can say about Between The Lines. The ep didn't move me at all. It annoyed and confused me a lot. And the odd little bits that started to interest me were all brief flashes that went nowhere.

    So... I hope that doesn't put everyone totally off from taking a wander through the ep with me. I'll try to keep my carping under control, and I certainly do have quite a few informational odds and ends to discuss, since many things are brought up in this ep, without an awful lot of light be shed on them. Shall we go...

    I wondered rather why the promo / preview for this ep included shots of both Callisto and Hope. Callisto did appear (very) briefly in shots used in Alti's 'battle of the clips' fighting technique. Hope didn't appear at all, so far as I could see. I can only suppose that they were both thrown into the preview to try and keep us guessing about who the 'resurrected' enemy that Xena was going to be facing was... but even though I *try* as hard as I can to avoid advance spoilers, I knew darned well it was going to be Alti. In fact I was half expecting the spirit possessing Gab last week to turn out to be Alti in another form...

    "What we sow in this life we reap in our future lives. This is our karma." >From the Xena "Blue Scroll" author unknown... So now we're getting Xena scrolls which *aren't* written by Gab? In any case, this is a *fairly* reasonable statement of the principle of karma, although it already has slight seeds of misunderstanding in it. Karma is not some sort of celestial bank balance that can tinkered with, or stolen. Nor is it a person's soul, or their fate - as the usage of the word at some points in this ep would seem to imply. Karma is basically a *principle* of cause and effect - each thing that you do will effect the future progress of your soul through this life and through other future lives. It's quite an elegant principle, which seeks to find a certain fairness in the universe, and to account for differences in people's stations and success in life without resort to an acceptance of capricious chance. I am not a Hindu myself, and I do not accept the principle of karma as a matter of faith... but I do see a certain grace and profundity in it - and I found the treatment of it in this ep confused, confusing and unconstructive.

    More nice Indian music in the opening - a chord on the sitar followed by a vocal 'alaap' accompanied only by tanpura (drone lute) and finger chimes. The 'alaap' is an essential part of Indian classical musical performance - it is the normal opening of any exposition of a raag... a free exploration of the tones of the raag, with no rhythmical measure (and hence unaccompanied by drums). An alaap can go on anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, leading, with the introduction of the drums, into the next, metred section... in most performances there will be a slower metred section, followed by a concluding faster metred section in a different 'taal' (roughly equivalent to a western time signature). In this case, after the fairly brief alaap, we hear the start of a metred section with tabla and sitar.

    "You know what they say: 'When in Rome...'" "Oh, please!" "OK, different analogy..." Yep, I guess asking Xena to "do as the Romans do" might not be the most tactful thing, eh Gab?

    "There's a lot to be said for immersing yourself into the culture of a new land." Well given what is introduced immediately afterwards, I imagine a certain degree of irony is intended in these words... and that's fair enough - there's a lot to be said for being open to the culture of a new land, but that doesn't mean to say we should set aside all our own values in order to fit in. But we must be prepared to question our own values - especially if we expect others to question theirs. There's no simple answer to problems of moral cultural relativism (basically, when do we have the right to say that something another culture believes in and practises is 'bad'?) - but equally we can't afford to stop asking the question. We need to be sensitive to and appreciate the background and traditions of others, but sometimes we also need to stand up for what we believe is right, even if it does offend cultural sensibilities - the recent French law case on the issue of female genital mutilation would be a strong case in point of this kind of issue.

    Hmmm.... wandered a bit OT there again, didn't I? Oh, before I leave that quote - the grammar of it is wrong... it should be "immersing yourself *in* the culture of a new land", not "into"!

    The music when the procession approaches reintroduces to us the bansuri, the Indian bamboo or cane flute, which we first heard in Paradise Found. The style of playing was a little different here though - two bansuris, one higher pitched, one lower, are heard playing in mournful dialogue. I almost said "counterpoint" there - but in fact Indian music does not use polyphony in the western sense, that is of multiple voices heard simultaneously performing different melodies so that the blended notes of the voices produce changing harmonies. This technique has no part in classical Indian music, which is essentially monophonic, i.e. using only a single melody (albeit often very complex, in both melodic and rhythmic terms). Where two or more voices or instruments *are* heard together in Indian music, as here, they generally follow a 'call and response' method, tossing the melody back and forth between them, and if they are heard for a spell together they usually follow the same melody, separated by a fixed interval.

    So, what we are seeing here is a Hindu funeral. The body is, as shown here, usually wrapped in a winding sheet and burned on an open wooden pyre. However the body is not usually 'tossed' onto the pyre as was done here... and frankly this 'body' moved more like a log of balsawood than a dead person. The pyre would not be set up, usually, in the centre of a town, as it was here, but rather on the banks of a river, wherever possible, so that the ashes could be scattered into the river afterwards. Availability of sufficient wood for funeral pyres, and pollution of rivers as a result of funerals are both significant problems in modern India. The practice of a widow burning along with her dead husband was called 'suttee' and was widespread in India, probably for many centuries. There is considerable controversy about the history of the practice. Some commentators will insist that there was never any obligation for a widow to burn with her husband, and that it was entirely a case of faithful and devoted wives *voluntarily* throwing themselves onto their husbands funeral pyres (the Hindi word is actually "sati", which means, basically, "faithful"). I'm afraid I tend to take this explanation with large amounts of salt... 'voluntarily' doing what there is enormous social pressure on you to do is not really much of a choice at all, even if actual forceful compulsion was never used. The British, in their time in India, made some fairly strong efforts to stamp out the practice, and in modern India there are laws, I believe, prohibiting it, just as there are laws prohibiting the demanding of dowries upon marriage... the demanding of dowries is, however, still routine, and widows burning upon their husbands funeral pyres, whilst far from routine, is still heard of from time to time. In general to say that widows were not regarded highly in traditional Indian society would be a gross understatement - they were expected to dress for the rest of their lives in white (the colour of bereavement in Hindu tradition), and to live as virtual recluses (with their husband's family - a woman moved permanently from her birth family to her husband's family upon marriage). There are certainly some notable exceptions to this in modern India - Mrs. Indira Ghandi, for example, was a widow (being the daughter of independent India's first Prime Minister, Jawarlal Nehru, and having been married to a Mr. Ghandi, who was I believe some kind of merchant, and who died before his wife's rise to political power). It's curious that Naima is shown here wearing red, which is the colour of a bride in India, rather than white, the colour of a widow.

    And what was Naima's view of this whole process supposed to be? After all, she was obviously a very powerful woman in her own right, and she seemed quite content to let herself be burned. How did she feel about being "rescued"? It would really have been nice if this had been clarified for us a bit!

    "Our custom has been passed down, and can only be changed by a darsham, an enlightened one..." Well that was what it sounded to me as if he said. And the word was used in two other scenes in the ep, and every time it sounded like "darsham" to me... which was driving me up the wall, because I couldn't figure out where they got it from. There is no such word as "darsham" in modern Hindi (well I've never heard it, and it's not in any of the four Hindi dictionaries I own). There *does* appear to have been a word "darsham" in Sanskrit, but I'm not clear what it meant, although it appears to have been related to the common modern Hindi word "darshan". Also several Tibetan Buddhist sages appear to have "Darsham" as part of their name, so it might mean something there... In any case, I finally checked the ep on my son's TV, which has CC, and the CC says "darshan". There and again, "darshan" is hardly the most obvious Hindi word to use for "an enlightened one"... it basically means 'experiencing the presence of', so it can refer to anything from having an interview with a person to seeing a vision of a god, or visiting a shrine... it can also be used abstractly to mean, roughly, "vision", or even "philosophy". I've not myself heard it applied as a title to a person though. Nor, for that matter, have I ever heard or read the idea that Hindu traditions are subject to be revised by "enlightened ones". I think this is mostly another example of TPTB making it up as they go along...

    Now I've heard of using a wet cloth as a weapon (maybe even done it, in my time...) - but forming one into a rigid staff the way Xena did in the fight at the funeral would be quite some trick! Maybe she took a few lessons from Eli before he wandered off...

    The things that Xena stuck the spear into was a "lingam"... this is basically a giant stone representation of a penis (no, really...) erected as a religious symbol of fertility. It is a sacred representation of the god Shiva, in his aspect of the creator and begetter. What we are supposed to make of Xena sticking a spear into it, I don't know (other than, possibly, a sympathetic "ouch"...)

    Naima just seems to passively allow anyone to do anything with her, without expressing any feelings at all about any of it. I've a nasty feeling that this is basically because she is a plot device rather than a character, and so doesn't actually have any feelings about anything or any motivations of her own...

    Where do Xena and Gab leave their luggage when they're up to all these shenanigans - at the hotel? I mean, they do presumably still own things besides what they stand up in - their regular costumes, kites, frying pans, portable showers, etc.... And for that matter, what's happened to Argo - she wasn't present at all, even when they left town at the end... did Xena park her somewhere, rather than bringing her to India? (And didn't she say she'd never do that again after ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE and ISAIH?)

    OK, the six pointed star (the star of David, if you will) *keeps* popping up. It was carved conspicuously into the back of the niche in the wall of the house that Xena and Gab and Naima holed up in, with candles burning around it, like some kind of shrine. I can't imagine anymore that we're supposed to see it as indicating a Jewish connection... but if it has a significance in Hinduism, I'm afraid that I don't know what it is (but then I'm not a Hindu... and Hinduism uses so *many* symbols that it wouldn't surprise me at all if some significance is attached to the six pointed star).

    So... instead of doing anything a human being might do, Naima generates a light show and beams Xena into the future. "A journey to save your karmic soul..." This whole thing didn't make much sense to me - but then plots that involve time-travel rarely do. And "karmic soul" is redundant - you have a soul, karma is a principle which is (if you believe in it) involved in the progress of your soul... I don't see that you have a "karmic soul" as distinct from some other kind of soul. That is, assuming Naima even said "soul" - it wasn't very clear...

    And one of Xena's future lives (as they felt the need to tell us on the screen, just in case we were getting confused... and no wonder) is as "Arminestra, the mother of peace". I wondered if the name Arminestra had any significance... it sounds vaguely familiar, but I haven't been able to find anything about it.

    Wasn't the first shot of an incoming "fireball" borrowed from Past Imperfect - the one where it's sort of coming down a wall directly at the camera?

    They certainly didn't want us to miss the fact that Arminestra was the "mother of peace" did they? Almost every character refers to her complete with this description at least once!

    I actually liked the first woman who played Kinden *way* better than Claire Stansfield - who I thought overacted egregiously in the role.

    When we first return to Gab and Naima in the house, I believe this is the first time we hear a female classical Indian vocalist - all the preceding Indian vocals, back to Paradise Found, were done by males (there *were* female vocals in Devi, but they weren't Indian in style...)

    Naima offers Gab a piece of paper and says "Make moves, sweet thing..." Huh? I have *no* conception what this was supposed to mean. And does Naima make a habit of addressing women she hasn't been introduced to as "sweet thing"? It reminds me rather of annoying cowboys in bars - but I guess that would be "sweet thang"...

    I'm sorry.... but whilst I found Naima attractive, and her motions were appealing (they were based on Indian classical dance moves - I'm assuming she was a trained Indian classical dancer), still, on the whole, I found her enigmatic "wise one" routine rather annoying. (It reminded me a bit of the Blackadder routine: "Two things ye must know of the Wise Woman. Firstly, she is a woman...")

    OK, a free hint for TPTB - if you are going to have a character say "That is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!", then *don't* show the phenomenon in question to the audience in the form of a cheesy CGI light show...

    More shehnai (double-reed pipe) music when we cut away to Alti. Loduca seems to associate the shehnai with warriors and danger - he first used it to introduce Najara, and then we heard it last week in Devi when Xena woke the sleeping Gab just before she was unmasked in full blown Tataka mode. I can sort of see his point... although the more traditional Indian association is actually with celebrations, and especially with marriages.

    Why does Alti feel obliged to tell the prisoner she is questioning a little story: "There once was a powerful shamanness named Alti..."? I sort of half expected her to continue "... and she lived in the Dingley Dell, underneath the magic Quango Tree..."

    And how come all the bits of this captured soldier's "thousand life times" all come from eps of X:WP?

    I don't know.... I found this whole thing about Alti capturing Xena and taking her timeless power so she could become the Destroyer of Nations... how should I put it? ...altogether too "Superman / Kryptonite" for my taste. I find it very hard to *care* about mad villains trying to rule the world via some cheap (and generally totally implausible) trick. And I still think that Claire Stansfield hammed shamelessly, even for a mad villain!

    This next conversation between Naima and Gab really started to muddle up the whole concept of karma to the point where it gave me a headache. A "great evil" is hunting Xena in the future - so Naima sends Xena's present essence into the future, to take over from her future essence (but why would the present essence be better?), and to try and stop this "great evil" so that Xena's "karmic cycle" isn't ended and the good of her future live's "lost". (Well apart from anything else, the whole basis of the principle of karma is that nothing is lost...) And then Gab says Naima must send *her* present essence into the future too, because of how much her Xena is part of her karma. I'm sorry, but I find this annoying gobbledegook... and the concept of karma is getting twisted to the point where it becomes next to meaningless. (See discussion of "karma" near the start of these maunderings...)

    And Xena and Gab are together in "many lives", eh? Sounds a bit like uber fiction, doesn't it? But somehow I have the feeling that Steven Sears' version wouldn't be much like uber fiction at all... for one thing he seems to have a deep seated belief that erotic tension is base and low, and somehow beneath the elevated roles he has in mind for his characters. Interestingly, whilst many modern Hindus might agree with him (assuming I'm correct about his view...), there is a strong current in the history of Hinduism which is directly contrary to this view, and which sees erotic tension as a very important manifestation of divine energy...

    Naima says that she is going to give Gab the weapon she could not give to Xena. *Why* couldn't she give it to Xena? Xena was going to miss her bus to the future or something? Xena was going to arrive *late* in the future? Why do I just get the feeling that none of this makes any sense at all?

    The name of Gab's future incarnation is Shakti. I do know what this name means... it basically means "energy", and it is also the name of a Hindu goddess - indeed the goddess Shakti is essentially the ultimate Hindu mother goddess, the consort of Shiva (he of the lingam - which of course corresponds to her yoni), and of whom Kali ('the black one', often interpreted in western material as evil) is one form. I used to know a woman called Shakti (although I've never met a man called Shakti...perhaps not surprisingly). The phrase used in modern Hindi for "atomic energy" is "anu shakti", "anu" meaning tiny particle, or in modern usage, atom.

    Then we get this whole "The key is the mehndi" thing - which is basically just another "Superman / Kryptonite" element, so far as I can see. Plus what Naima and Gab had on them was definitely *not* mehndi. Mehndi is simply the Hindi word for the henna plant. The leaves of the plant are dried and ground into a fine powder. This powder can be used for various things - for example, Indians often wash it into their hair, which if you have thick black hair (as almost all Indian's do) will just condition the hair and give it reddish highlights (on the other hand, if you have ash blonde hair it will produce a shade anywhere from a sickly pink to a glaring red, depending how well it takes). Skin decoration with mehndi is practised mainly by Indian women for weddings, although it is also used at other festivals, and by dancers. To decorate the skin, the powdered henna is mixed with water, and then the thick green paste which results (looking indeed much like the paste seen in this ep, and smelling rather like a bad drain) is applied in patterns to the skin. However the intended decoration is *not* the thick dark-green paste itself... rather it is the effect the henna has of dyeing the skin itself. The paste is left on for hours, usually overnight, then washed off, and where the paste has dyed the skin a pattern will be seen, varying in colour from pale orangey yellow to a deep yellowish brown, depending on the strength of the henna, how well it has taken, how long it was left on, and the skin of the person in question. I have heard people say "Well you can get black henna and blue henna etc. as well" - strictly speaking, you can't. It's true that powders are marketed calling themselves "black mehndi" etc... but actual mehndi, i.e. henna, only produced shades in the reddish-orange-brown area - so called "mehndi" which produces radically different shades generally contains synthetic dyes. What we saw on the skin of Naima and Gab looked more like some kind of decals, coloured roughly similar to the dark green of the henna paste, and looked nothing like the actual dyed-into-the-skin patterns of true mehndi decoration. And I've definitely never heard any suggestion in India that wearing mehndi conveys magical powers - if this were believed, you can be sure that it wouldn't only be women wearing it!

    We hear some more bansuri music as Naima gets ready to send Gab into the future.

    "Mehndi is the path to enlightenment." Oh, come one! And nail polish and incense are the path to everlasting grace...

    Obviously the mehndi drawing tool Naima has (sort of like a bingo dabber) is very magical... normal mehndi paste has to be used right after it's mixed, before it dries up, but this can sit in a hole in the wall for life times and still be nice and moist and ready to use!

    Those guys certainly took their time getting "into position" before breaking the door down, didn't they? We should all be chased by such a dilatory mob (if we must be chased by a mob at all...)

    "Tell Xena the evil can only be destroyed here, where she is still powerful." Hmm... another completely arbitrary and essentially nonsensical rule, which seems to have little to do with what actually happens at the end. I suppose, charitably, you could say that present Xena plus present Gab plus mehndi defeated Alti eventually. But why should we *care* about all these convoluted rules that seem to be being made up as they go along?

    More light shows and fragments from past and future eps as Gab is "projected". This *constant* use of clips from other eps is another thing that I'm getting tired of, to tell the truth. I had nothing at all against the original "clip show" concept, and indeed I thought Athens City Academy Of The Performing Bards and The Xena Scrolls were exceptionally well done. And I was ok with the use of clips in Adventures In The Sin Trade for Alti's special "mess you up by projecting you" fighting technique. But now it just seems to be getting tired... almost every ep has clip montages, as if they're not confident enough that the current ep will actually hold our attention, and they feel they have to keep throwing in teasers...

    I quite liked the way that the guy who played Shakti handled the confusion when "present Gab's essence" was supposed to have just arrived and taken over. I thought that this whole thing - Xena and Gab meeting in different roles in a different time - was by far the most promising element of the ep. But essentially it was just thrown away... it didn't really go anywhere, because they had to get on with the "kidnap Alti and get the kryptonite... sorry, mehndi" plot. And the thing about suttee didn't go anywhere either... Naima had no character anyhow, and the issue just wasn't pursued. It was used as a setup and to force our initial involvement and then discarded - a narrative technique which Sears seems to be becoming increasingly fond of, and which I think amounts to wasting time and potential in the ep, and showing disrespect to the audience.

    So Gab looks in the mirror and says "This is my karma?" No, it isn't Gab! But I suppose she might be forgiven for being completely confused by this point in the ep, since most of the audience probably was too...

    When Shakti and the others overpower the guards we get a little tabla solo (the Indian drums playing on their own), and then the Shehnai returns for Alti's threatening Xena. Loduca definitely seems set in this warrior / danger association for the shehnai. BTW, rewatching on my son's TV I noticed that the CC called it "middle-eastern style music". The CC also spelled mehndi "mandhi", which is closer to the Hindi word for "market".

    Alti says "Every person here has generations of power." So are we supposed to take the implication that reincarnation applies only in India? But is Xena and Gab are going to be repeatedly reincarnated in India, how can some other idea of afterlife also apply to them? And does anyone who *goes* to India get reincarnated, or just people born there? (In which case, why Xena and Gab?) Or could it be only people who *die* there?! Does this mean current Xena and Gab are going to die in India? But I thought they were supposed to get crucified under Claw Mountain? And does *any* of this actually make any sense?

    And we get another variant of Sears' favourite "blood innocence" theme in this ep... in this future it's ok for Gab to kill, but not for Xena. Why? Does it depend what colour square you land on, or something - some lives it's ok to kill, some lives it isn't? Actually this corresponds almost exactly to the Hindu concept of dharma, which is just as important as karma in the Hindu world view, if not more so. Dharma could roughly be translated as "fate", or even "duty". The basic idea is that in each life you're born into a particular role, and it is your duty in that life to follow that role properly. So if you were born to be a warrior, then that is your dharma in this life, and of course it is perfectly correct for you to act according to your dharma and to kill. But, OTOH, if your dharma in this life is to be a peacemaker, then to kill would be a violation of your dharma... and violating your dharma is the one thing you *don't* want to do (it's very bad for your karma...) On the whole, I have to say that I'm not all that keen on the concept of dharma myself... it sounds a bit too much like the sort of thing that the fat cats who are getting all the pie make up to ensure that nobody rocks the boat (if you'll pardon me mixing my metaphors terribly...) But if Steven Sears does believe something of this sort (which would certainly help to make sense of the whole "blood innocence" thing), then I wish he'd be a bit clearer about it.

    However Xena's comment "You were protecting my soul... otherwise Arminestra's - my karma would have been destroyed." Is fairly nonsensical. One thing you *can't* do to karma is "destroy" it - it's an ongoing process, a sum, an accumulation, and all you can do is add to it, possibly changing the balance and swaying the future effect. So killing Alti might have been bad for Arminestra's karma (presumably because it was a violation of her dharma), but it certainly wouldn't have 'destroyed' it.

    I really thought Claire Stansfield was pretty dreadful in this ep... but then no doubt her performance must have been encouraged by the director - and it's not as if the character as written really offered an awful lot of possibilities.

    What Xena and Gab were applying when captured by Alti *did* look like mehndi... but, as discussed above, applying it the way they did, and getting the results they did, makes no sense even on the purely decorative level, quite apart from the magical element.

    Whilst they were applying the mehndi and Alti's men were setting up the stakes we got to hear a style of Indian music called "jugulbundi", where two or more voices or instruments dialogue and intertwine about a raag... if you listen closely, you'll see what I mentioned above about polyphony - the voices basically answer each other, and if they do overlap, they're generally both singing the same melody with a fixed interval between them.

    How come when Gab applies the mehndi she seems to be back in women's clothing? Isn't she still supposed to be in Shakti's body?

    I notice when Xena and Gab do their little dance and then blast Alti with the mehndi the two mehndi symbols on either side look kind of like snowflakes, but the middle one is... the star of David again! They're hitting us so often with this that I assume they *are* actually going to make some point about it eventually.

    When Naima is cast onto the pyre, why does it make noises like a very bad digestion before Naima and Xena and Gab emerge?

    And why is Xena still saying "Get Naima to safety!" when apparently Naima is more powerful than Xena is in many respects?

    So who does Alti use against Xena this time? Milo! Then Calli. Then the arena guys from When In Rome. Then the Deliverer (I think). And Gab's staff gets broken (again...) And of course we *had* to have that d*** crucifixion scene again!

    I'm sorry, but this "battle of the clips", including the famous haircut, just didn't engage me at all. Alti was merely tedious, as mad, overacting villains tend to be, and ultimately, especially on multiple viewings, I found the whole thing tiresome.

    When Alti walked towards Naima saying "I'll have Xena's powers..." I flashed on her adding "...and her little dog too!" The Wicked Witch of the Future, indeed..

    "Gabrielle! Naima's not Alti's enemy! It's the mehndi!" Excuse me - *what* sense is this supposed to make? This henna paste is an animate being? What in Tartarus is Xena talking about?

    Xena, however, clearly prefers familiar weapons - since given magic goo, what does she do but make magic goo chakrams out of it - two at a time, when one won't do!

    And the we get another speech from Naima about how Xena has to spend umpteen lifetimes meeting Alti's evil. And how Xena and Gab are like lines of henna paste, separated but forever connected. And how henna paste contains truth. (Yeah, and probably vitamins too!) Am I succeeding in communicating any sense of *why* I just feel like saying "Oh p*** off!" by this point?

    Then we get another female classical vocalist (plus some sound effects) to accompany Naima's ascension.

    Gabrielle's 'Indian' costume seems to be getting odder - her 'skirt' is looking more and more like the way washerwomen tie up their saris, but she's wearing the upper piece of cloth more like a Muslim 'duputta' than the top of a sari. And Xena's 'Indian' outfit looks almost entirely Muslim in style (placing it, like the Indian Muslim architecture we saw last week, something like 1,500 years out of its time).

    I'm not sure what to make of the final chat. I certainly agree with Gab that there are lots of questions I could have asked Naima about what all this meant. As for the rest... well "Maybe it's not the first time we've walked down this road, huh?" "Maybe it won't be the last..." does have a certain resonance, possibly even a genuine profundity. But does the question "How will we recognise each other?" make any sense? - If you can't remember your previous lives, you can't remember to look for some sign you've agreed on, can you? And as for Xena combining the chakram and the cross to make the sigil of Venus as 'their' sign - was this just meant to be cute? And what relevance (if any) should be attached to the fact that we saw the sigil of Venus painted on a wall earlier, in the house, where the mehndi was hidden? Should we take that as a sign left by some earlier Xena or Gab incarnation (it was pretty faded) that this pair missed? Does this train of thought actually go anywhere...



    COMMENTARY 4:

    Commentary Beboman.

    Wow, what an episode. After last week’s episode, I thought the writers would not be able to outdo themselves, but was I ever wrong. Thank the Gods for commercials. This episode was just excellent. “Between the Lines” had some really great writing and some excellent directing. The special effects were just great, and the acting, by the gods, was just superb. Our leading ladies gave the audience some of the best acting so far. The supporting cast was just outstanding, especially Alti and Naima. This episode gave the audience everything a Xena episode could give and just enough more so as not to overdo it. It started light, it took us the audience to a high, then it bought us back and left us with a feeling of ease. The movement between the present and the future was very smooth so as not to confuse the audience.

    The opening scene when Gabrielle and Xena are out shopping was very good. It showed both of the characters at ease with each other, in a very real and simple moment. There were no hidden agendas; just two people who enjoy each other’s company out for a day shopping. A great beginning, it set the pace for the rest of the show.

    Xena’s desire to help make a wrong right is still her driving force. But in this episode, once again her deductive ability and power is what helps them throughout the adventure, as well as Xena’s physical and mental strength. Xena’s special power is her deductive ability; her great subtle sense of caring for the weak and her strength to face evil in whatever form it may take.

    Xena’s journey is not only a spiritual quest like Gabrielle’s, it is also a fine-tuning of her already gained powers, the powers Lao Ma saw when she first met Xena and the same ones Alti wants to destroy. Each journey takes Xena closer to obtaining the greatness she is capable of gaining in this, the character’s, life.

    One thing I would like to know is how in Tarterous was Xena able to make a staff out of a wet cloth. That was quite a neat magic trick.

    The fighting scenes were incredibly well done; the frustration in Xena’s face at the inability to fight and the realization that killing would result in losing her Karma. The final fighting scene with Alti was just great; you could almost feel the pain Xena felt after each blow from Alti. It was as if each blow was delivered ten times harder than the first time. I hurt at the moment when Xena’s legs were once again broken. I cried with Xena at the pain she experienced. (This was the first time that we the audience were shown a weak Xena.) Her pain at seeing Gabrielle hurt by Alti was so real and touching. A very gutsy move from Gabrielle to face Alti, and a very real demonstration of concern, caring and love from Gabrielle when she saw Xena crying out in agony and pain. Gabrielle finally experiences the pain of the crucifixion.

    I found it very strange to see Gabrielle using a sword. It was like I was seeing someone totally different and at the same time completely familiar.

    Did everyone feel the power and the strength that was there when Alti and Xena first met. I found it very interesting. Their recognition of each other was just great. When Alti was talking about evil, did anyone think Hitler. That’s what came to my mind. An evil so pow erful it would destroy nations. By the Gods, that was just a totally uncontrollable evil.

    There were some really touching moments for me: When Naima is showing Gabrielle the lines of the universe and says, “It’s the beauty of the universe, each line has its place, each has a meaning, each growing on the other to complete its totality.” What a true statement.

    When Xena realizes that Shatzi was Gabrielle, the look on Xena’s faces was just outstanding; her soul mate was back with her. (Taking about soul mates, does anyone remember the story that Gabrielle told Iolaus in Prometheus, about finding your soul mate?)

    Loved it just before Gabrielle went out with her army to fight Alti for the first time:

    X – It’s funny here you are the warrior, the hero.

    G – Xena, in this lifetime the Mother of Peace would be a goddess to me. That’s a hero.
    (For Gabrielle, Xena is still her hero; nice touch.)

    The intermixing of the mendi painting with the building of the stakes and the preparation to send Naima to meet her husband was so smoothly done. That just captured me.

    Talk about physical and mental strength. It took all Xena had to get to her chakram and free Gabrielle from Alti (at the cost of Gabrielle’s hair). You could feel the pain in her face at the suffering Alti was putting Gabrielle through.

    Alti made one major mistake: Don’t mess around with Gabrielle. It was the wrong thing for Alti t o do showing Gabrielle the crucifixion scene. That really got Xena extremely angry.

    Loved those spiritual chakrams of Xena, and the physical and mental strength all three ladies used to defeat Alti. (But that evil power will be back.) After that fight, the crawling of Gabrielle and Xena toward each other and the emotions displayed at being able to reach each other was so well projected. There is love there.

    Most of all I loved Naima’s parting words to Gabrielle: “And you Gabrielle, you both walk a pa th together. Think of yourselves as lines in a mendi, separated but forever connected. Mendi contains truth.”

    Really loved the ending. It has been a long time since our two leads have been so relaxed with each other, so at peace and so sure their lives together will transcend time.

    Was there something about this episode that I didn’t like? Yes, somethings. Am I going to touch on them? No, the small things I did not like do not compare with all the things that made this one such an excellent episode. Would I watch this episode again? A million times more.

    After I finished watching it the first time I ran to the phone and called my best friend of 23 years to make sure she was alright. Woke her up, but I wanted to make sure our bond was still there, just like the one between Xena and Gabrielle.



    COMMENTARY 5:

    Commentary by Videntur.

    One Word: WOW!!!! Major thought: Magic Chakrams - Xena's power - Awesome!

    All throughout the Xena episodes, everyone has known that Xena must have some type of mystical power that is not quite human. No person could fight the way she does, with the power that she has and survive all the attacks that she has survived. We have sensed that Xena is part God with the question of Ares being her father still lurking about and we have always known that there was definitely something mystical about that awesome chakram. This episode confirmed several of the suspicions but still does not answer the questions pertaining to Xena’s parental heritage, how she obtained the chakram or where her powers originate. It does confirm that she does indeed have powers and that the chakram and Xena are mystical, powerful and remain undefeated. After watching this episode, there is no doubt that no one could play the part of Xena like Lucy Lawless whose acting is always awesome. The way Xena (Lucy) moved her hands, opened them to form the power then closed them quickly only to reopen them and form the chakram and as if that wasn’t awesome enough, once the chakram formed Xena had that “Xena look” and you knew Alti was a goner. When Xena formed the double chakrams I was out of my seat by then. The special effects were fantastic. Another way that you know Xena has special power, is when in the beginning she wrings the water out of a rag and makes it as stiff as a staff and the way that she catches the spear and is able to drive it through material that men who are considered strong could not do-this is all quite possible if your powers are not quite human.

    In the beginning of the episode you have Xena and Gabrielle shopping for clothes for Xena. I enjoy these parts of the episodes because it shows that down to earth everyday life happenings like you saw in “A Day in the Life”. As always Xena surveys what is happening in the environment around her and becomes curious about the procession taking place. Again Xena never shows fear when it comes to jumping in to wrong a right and let’s give credit to Gabrielle who is right by her side. When Xena is sent into her future, the special effects were nicely done. You knew that Xena was seeing herself in the body of Amenestra but you the audience were still seeing Lucy Lawless (this is how it was done in the science fiction show: “Quantum Leap” ). When Alti and Amenestra touched and their spirits recognized each other, it was great. Next, was when Gabrielle let Naema know Xena’s karma was a very important part of her karma and asked Naema to send her into the future. It was funny the way you automatically knew Gabrielle had entered the body of Shalti when she covered up her/his chest. Then when Gabrielle and Xena touched each other it was neat the way the recognition was done. My next favorite scene was when you could see that Xena was hurt that Gabrielle was the warrior and she was an old woman. This definitely showed that Xena always wants to be thought highly of by Gabrielle who nicely comes back and tells Xena that the Mother of Peace to her is like a Goddess. You could tell this made Xena feel much better about being who she was and the importance of the job of “peacemaker”.

    My next favorite part was the painting scenes which I thought were very well done- but when they finished and Alti came in- the way Xena and Gabrielle were in unison in their steps to perform magic - Great! Again showing that Xena and Gabrielle are a team who together compliment each other. Xena definitely possesses a strength all on her own that is strong enough to stand the challenge of any enemy but Gabrielle compliments and adds to that strength. Then the fun began when Alti (who by the was is another good actress) was brought back to the present and had to fight Xena the Warrior, the Mystical, the Destroyer of Nations.

    A word about Alti - does this woman fight unfair or what? She doesn’t have to lift a finger but by making you relive your worst moments in fighting, she can destroy you. Claire Stansfield was good. Her voice was evil, her movements were evil, she portrayed ultimate evil. Notice that all throughout this episode, there is mention of Xena’s power and Alti mentions how she wants to possess that power. Again, we realize that Xena is not quite totally human. I liked the way that Gabrielle, sick of seeing Xena being physically abused by Alti jumped in (although we know that if Xena was being kicked about by Alti - what chance did Gabrielle have-but you have to give Gabrielle an “A” for courage). We see more of the crucifixion scene taking place. We have seen the nails driven into Xena but we never have seen them driven into Gabrielle - here we do. We see Xena’s chakram cut Gabrielle’s hair in order to release Gabrielle from Alti’s hold and power of relaying pain. We finally see Naema interfere and come between Alti and the now physically abused Xena and Gabrielle duo. You couldn’t help but ask, Naema, where have you been since this fight began and why didn’t you interfere sooner? You see how Gabrielle and Naema hold Alti but that the power needed to destroy her is possessed by our hero, Xena. As mentioned in the beginning of this commentary, this part of the episode was fantastic and awesome.

    The ending of the episode left you wondering if Gabrielle’s hair would grow back before season five begins (she looks cute with the haircut but I like her longer hairstyle better) and greatly hoping that Lucy Lawless and ROC will decide to do a season six. However, it mainly left me wondering if we will ever be told how Xena obtained the chakram, the origin of Xena’s powers and the truth behind Xena’s parental heritage. It was nice to know that Xena and Gabrielle are forever connected to each other. This is not hard to believe- how many times do we look at someone and take an automatic liking or disliking to that person without even knowing them. Is this because we really do know them from a previous life. Does it also mean that sometimes when we say that we know that person from somewhere but can’t quite place them mean that they existed for us in some other life. Also, how many times do we experience “deja vu” and know that we have performed a certain routine or lived a certain moment before. Does the fact that this episode tends to say that we come back in different bodies prevent us in our future lives from totally remembering our past lives and when we finally do come upon that person that makes us complete, we know it. Do we know it because subconsciously our souls recognize each other from our past lives. This also touched upon the story that Gabrielle told to an injured Iolaus in the first season episode “Prometheus” where she mentioned everyone being born with two heads and four legs and lightning bolts splitting us so that everyone now had one head and two legs but spent their lives searching for the other half of their soul that would make them complete. When we find that other half, I truly do believe we will and do recognize them. And notice, Gabrielle is a peacemaker in this life but learns how to fight -result: Warrior in her future life- and vice versa for Xena who is a warrior in this life who went about making peace-result: peacemaker in her future life.

    The symbol of the chakram that Xena had on her foot at the end - when she drew the cross under it, the result was the biological symbol for female. Also, the chakram represented Xena’s weapon, the straight line represented Gabrielle’s weapon (the staff) and the cross line completed the unfinished symbol for female - meaning that together they make one person, one woman, one karma.

    I am very much looking forward to future episodes to see if the questions posed above pertaining to Xena are answered. The show is definitely beginning to delve into the questions that we have been having since Xena began and definitely showing us the power that Xena possesses. Kudos to ROC and to Claire Stansfield (Alti) and also to the actress who played Naema. Major Kudos to Lucy Lawless who plays the role of a woman that possesses power, handles it well and definitely makes Xena a show that will always be number 1 on my rating list.



    COMMENTARY 6:

    01-28-00. Commentary by Benoclesczar.

    When I watched this episode, it had been several weeks since Xena had been sshown on T.V (the last Ep bieng DEVI ). And I was awestruck. Why? I`ll tell you why. The story starts with a small passage from a Xena Blue Scroll. Was it written by Gab?, and why was it Blue? Anyway, X & G shopping for clothes (which is nice and realistic.Their costumes would not fit in!)

    Xena`s hair has changed and looks beautiful!

    They watch a public burning, disagree and intervene. One of the things I love about Xena:WP is the fighting and the Xena flips.And man alive was it a good one. The wet towel was great, and is shown to be as deadly as any metal weapon. (Although, were is Xena`s sword and charkram?)

    They save the woman (revealed to be called Naimi) and hideout in a hut.(Had it not been for her and her abilities, I don`t think there would be a story like it was).Beautiful special affects later, Xena is sent into the futuresight wormwhole (seeing Kali, several crucifications and babies, hinting of what to come), Xena is sent to `A Future Life`, were it is a war ravaged India and Xena is an old crippled woman.( Playing/Bieng one in THE DEBT Xena/Lucy has got it to a perfection!)

    Already faced by an enemy, they are all soon under attack.The Xena finds out that the female warlord she had just encountered, is Alti! WOW! (and what a clever choice of a returning villan).They then retreat.Back in the present, Naimi is showing Gab the meaning of the universe, and all its line and stuff. Back in the future we finally see Altis Amazon fighting training come in handy (seen in battle), and for a while, not her spiritual/magical abilities. Soon enough Gab is flung into the future (seeing her possibly returning to the title Amazon Queen, her death, fighting a demon in THE WAY, and some trumpeting?). So now Gab is a guy (Shakti) in the future. And kills. I thought that was kind of bad, then thought that since it is a new life and body then if it was meant to be, it was meant to be. It appears that Alti and this Indian female warlord are bonded to a evil type entity-evil of the earth-. Alti soul was reincarnated along with the evil, but possibly washed of her past lifes memories?! It makes me think, what if 10 years ago, Xena went to the limit and became like Alti, using spiritual force to conquer. She`d be like Alti now.

    Anyway, Xena is the Mother of Peace, while Gab is Indian Warrior of Light.They are redy to battle Alti. Confrontations and a battle later, the good guys are captured. Also, the first time Alti meets Gab. She appears to have no interest.

    In the future, Mehndi body painting, and stakes risen for execution while in the present Naimi is been prepared (again) for burning. Then X & G trap Alti through the magical mehndi and all are flung into the present, and Naimi is freed from her burning.

    For me this is really were it starts. As if chaos itself has arrived on earth, Alti arrives all powered up.

    Suddenly Alti makes Xena relive the impact of the tree that hit her in DESTINY, in the chest. Ouch. Alti`s here Xena, and she`s not going to let you of easy.

    Then, possibly the greatest fighting scene ever on X:WP. In the face of doom itself, Xena believes that good will triumph and she will `win` as usual. How very wrong. Xena attacks, preparing to do a helicopter move (last seen in DEVI ), but it is hit and tripped up, by a memory of a fight against Milo in DofP. The front of her body is torn along the floor. Soon enough Xena gets up, and says one word. DIE! (Wow I say). Head punches and a run up Alti later, Alti blocks Xena and relives her memory of a battle with Callisto in, well CALLISTO, and then a wallop from a roman gaurd in WinR. Xena goes flying. Another hit from a Roman Gaurd, Milo and two from the Deliverer from THE DELIVERER. Xena is bloody and beaten. And not a finger laid on her, by Alti. Just the power of the mind. Brains over Brawn. (Note: The music through this is wonderful. All hail Mr.Lo Duca for his skills) Gab arrives, and despite Xena`s defeat, goes up against Alti. Silly Girl. Seconds later, her staff is broken in two and the two peices used to beat her badly. Xena awakens. Hair pulled back, Gab is shown by Alti, Xena`s vision of them both dying and bieng crucified. Now she believes.

    ( The next bit was cut from Australian T.V but luckly I downloaded it!) Xena curses Alti-You BITCH!!-(instead of SON OF A BACHAEE!). Alti replies and Xena is relived of her most horrble memmory. Her crucification by Caeser (in DESTINY). Xena wails in pain. ( And me, jaw open, is shocked). Gabrielle is pulled up by her hair and experiences Stigmata (these are wounds inflicted by Christ`s crucification. Interestingly Xena is set in B.C and Jesus` death was in A.D).

    Gab screams in pain, with each nail driven, Alti wanting to absorb her pain. Viewers of this must feel for Gab and Xena. Xena can`t stand it and uses her charkram. It cuts Gab`s hair in half, freeing her from Alti`s grasp, and upon waiting the Charkrams return, relives a blow from Callisto in MI and is unable to catch it, cutting Xena`s throat pretty badly.

    WHOA!

    No victory, just bloody defeat. But not death so Xena and Gab can still await the pain of their upcoming crucifications. What a mean Bitch Alti truly is. And she laughs at the whole situation.

    Naimi arrives. She propels Alti backwards via a surge of power. Gad and Xena`s Mehndi drawings begin to glow. A coarse throat Xena tells Gab to use the power against Alti. Through Gab`s nailed hands, the power is released and traps Alti. It appears Nimi is a `battery` of power for Xena and Gab use as a source. Xena (justs) get up, and creates Charkrams out of pure spiritual power. ( Xena thought what weapon could she use from a distance. A sword? No. A whip? Maybe. A Charkram? Yep.)Two Charkrams later Xena decides two at the same time is better, and implodes Alti, releasing the evil within. X & G reunite. Both still bloody and beaten. Naimi thanks them, tells them their souls are destined to be together forever, Alti is defeated but not dead (as later revealed Season 5-TBTB), and heals all thier wounds. Naimi then leaves. New hair cut Gab (beautiful) and Xena, walk down a road. The viewers realize that they could of not only existed in the future but the past too.( Theres an idea for an episode!). A nice lovetalk between the two, a womans symbol is drawn and that is that.

    Two things to point out. Viewers state that since X & G are Greek, how can they be reincarnated and in India? Well, in parts of Greek Culture, it states that some, believed that people were in a cycle that exists after death.

    Secondly, did anyone realize that Xena must die before Gab (whenever that may be!) because the Mother Of Peace is considerably older than the young indian warrior? (being reincarnated at different times!)

    Anyway, I give this episode 10 out of 10, and it is defenitly in my top five favourites.



    COMMENTARY 7:

    04-18-00. Commentary by Philip Teo.

    This was a rather much anticipated episode as we see the return of Xena's newest foe, Alti. A rather special character is also introduced in this episode. She is Naima, some kind of Indian goddess?

    I speak the following comment with reference to the entire episode. How did Naima know that Xena and Gabrielle will rescue her? If she was some kind of deity, wouldn't she have freed herself? As revealed later, Naima is a darsham, some kind of god? And from the expression on Xena's face, it appeared that she knew Naima was mumbling silently a cry for help.

    I love the fight scene. Xena was really impressive with the way she twisted the cloth into some kind of stick after dipping it into water. It was impressive but a bit too dramatic. And Gabrielle gave the guys some good beating too. This would be the second last episode we would actually see Gabrielle fight with her staff, thus I cherished every moment of Gabrielle's fight scene.

    In the room where Naima sent Xena into the future, I was a little surprised that Xena made no move to dodge Naima's magic. She seemed to trust Naima and appeared shocked only because of the impact of the magic force that propelled her into the future. Wonder why?

    It was kind of ironic for Xena to find herself in the body of Amenestra, the mother of peace. Here, she needed to be rescued by a young prince, Shakti. Alti took care of Shakti quite easily. I could see that Shakti fought quite well, but he certainly had no idea that Alti was aiming an arrow at him.

    Naima appeared a bit eccentric as she showed Gabrielle the magics of the universe, until Gabrielle insists to know what is going on and that she needed to join Xena to help her. Why was it so important that Naima helped them? Was Naima chosen to help protect Xena's karma?

    In the future, Xena certainly did not lose her skills in removing arrows from people as we see her remove it skillfully from Shakti. Despite being old and weak, Xena hasn't lost those skills.

    It was quite amusing to see Gabrielle find herself in a man's body, and her attempt to quickly cover up herself. Here we see Gabrielle explaining to Xena that mehndi is the only way to defeat Alti, but Xena appeared quite skeptical about it. Why can't she trust her best friend for once?

    It was nice to find Alti being intimidated by Xena when Xena gleefully asked Alti whether she wanted to know who sent them(Xena and Gabrielle) into the future. Alti knew she lacked this information and had to play by Xena's rules for the time being.

    It was quite refreshing to find Gabrielle fighting with a sword for a change. However, we didn't really see Gabrielle slashing at any guards. Most of the time, she just kicked them aside. Why was Gabrielle pausing in the middle of the fight? Because of her hesitation, she was knocked out from behind. When Xena and Gabrielle were captured, I was wondering what did Alti intended to do with them. Why did she allow them to be alone? This gave Xena and Gabrielle ample opportunity to apply the mehndi and use it against her.

    When Alti was brought back into the past, she seemed to instantly realise that she got her powers back. How did she know that? Why did Gabrielle and Naima run away? Naima could have stayed and helped. Why did she allow Xena to get beaten up so badly? Was this supposed to be a test for our warrior princess? Alti showed her multiple visions, and Xena finally lost the strength to get up after a while.

    Gabrielle displayed great courage in attacking Alti. We all know Gabrielle is no match for Alti, even in terms of physical combat. Alti could still defeat Gabrielle even without using her powers. But I was a bit appalled that Gabrielle's staff could be broken so easily by Alti's bare hands. Remember how well Gabrielle's staff was used in "The Dirty Half Dozen"? Everyone's weapons broke during the fight against such powerful metal, but Gabrielle's staff was the only weapon that survived the attack. How was it possible that Alti could break it so easily this time?

    Xena aimed her chakram to release Gabrielle from Alti's hold. Why then didn't she aim the chakram at Alti herself? We saw that Alti was initially not aware of Xena throwing her chakram and was surprised when she lost hold of Gabrielle's hair. Xena could have slashed Alti with her chakram if she wanted to, right?

    I thought it was rather hurting to have her own chakram slash her own neck. It must have really hurt for Xena when she failed to catch her own chakram back due to Alti's vision.

    Naima finally appeared. Despite knowing who Naima might be, Alti still appeared conceited and confident that she could defeat Naima. But how wrong she was! All it took for Naima was to grab Alti and fling her back! Great going, Naima!

    How did Gabrielle know how to use the mehndi's powers against Alti? She was aiming both her hands at Alti, expecting some kind of power to emit from her hands, which of course, it did.

    Could Naima have defeated Alti on her own? Did she really needed Xena and Gabrielle's help? Why did Gabrielle have to trim her hair in the end? I thought she looked ok with that new hairstyle of hers, not too long, and not too short.

    And did viewers ever question how did Gabrielle get her staff back? We could see that by the end of the episode, Gabrielle was walking with her staff again, still in intact. Apparently, with the destruction of Alti, Gabrielle's staff returned to normal. Was Alti just some kind of illusion or spell? As long as she was gone, everything returned to normal? Does it meant that everything she wrecked would be gone once she was destroyed?

    I loved Naima's closing lines towards Xena and Gabrielle. "Separated but forever connected." This is quite in context to the life of Xena and Gabrielle. Great episode once again, well done.




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