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COMMENTARIES ON
THE WAY





COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by Deb E McGhee
COMMENTARY 3 by Xorys
COMMENTARY 4 by Missy Good
COMMENTARY 5 by Videntur
COMMENTARY 6 by Beboman
COMMENTARY 7 by Jill Hayhurst

COMMENTARY 1:

03-28-99. Commentary Beth Gaynor.

Great opening dialogue. "You shoot me down while I'm doing my philosophical stuff." Not only was Xena's takedown dead-on, but Gabrielle wasn't taking any of it too seriously. I enjoyed that little tradeoff. And it had such a wonderful payoff in the final "Thanks for not mentioning dams" line.

"Maybe violence isn't the answer to anything" says... Xena? And right before she skewers an evil eel? And speaking of which, how did she know that eel was evil? My Xena Reality Editor on my shoulder says that Xena must have detected it using her Ares willies. Who knew that would come in handy all the way over in India?

Check out the hop-n-whack Gabrielle gives her Power Ranger demon. A totally unnecessary move; she hops and then gives the whack at about the same height her shoulders were at in the first place. But it looked good, and that's what counts in a fight, right?

I love this show SO much. When the Power Ranger Demons were beaten and only the bug was left, I actually shouted at the screen "Stomp it! Stomp it!" "" "Yeah!" Sometimes I think they make this show just for me.

Eli calls Gabrielle and Xena "old friends"? He knew them for two days. This guy has a goofy sense of time.

Even the episode's disclaimer notes that Hanuman looks like he stepped off the Planet of the Apes, so I can't make that crack. I'm going to call him the Yeti, instead. And the Yeti was worse than useless. For someone whose way is loyalty, his loyalty doesn't buy much help. He arrived a day late and a dollar short in all the fights. I kept waiting for Xena to scream to him "WHY are you here, exactly?"

When we see Gabrielle from above, running from Indrajit on his carpet, she's running like a tenderfoot, not really digging those bare feet in. Which isn't really a continuity error - it works fine for someone just getting used to an outfit without boots... or an actress who doesn't usually go barefoot. It was just funny to watch.

Xena prays in, from what I can remember, only the second time in the course of this show (first time was in Return of Callisto). And both times were for the sake of Gabrielle. There are no atheists in foxholes or around endangered sidekicks.

The effect of rolling Gabrielle and Eli out of the magic carpet was very cool! I'm still not exactly sure how the editing was done from the small, wrapped-in-carpet pair to Eli and Gab actually spinning across the floor. (That must have been a fun day on the set: "And lights... camera... roll 'em! Oh, I'm sorry, I couldn't resist!")

Exactly how does the way of love/nonviolence keep Eli from trying to escape? Non-violence does not mean non-action. As Gabrielle points out quite well, that's not too realistic. I think there's also an important difference between a way of non-violence, which is what Eli usually talks about, and a way of love, which is what everybody calls Eli's way. Didn't these pre-Mycenean people ever hear of tough love?

Krishna was an impressive casting - and makeup - choice. A mix of male of female and a great "I really DO know it all" attitude that none of the Greek gods usually show. Pretty neat!

I'm assuming that Eli is supposed to be a Jesus figure, although the show keeps that verrrry unclear. He mentioned "going home" prominently, twice, and yet neither Xena nor Gab asked the obvious "Where IS your home?" question. Why not settle that? We're trotting Krishna across the screen, but we're not identifying this mysterious person who will go teach his people about love? I guess XenaStaff is less worried about the possible Hindu protests than the Christian Coalition.

I'm going to tackle the topic of religion in this episode once and then be done with it. I'm surprised that the XenaStaff, who have been dodging and ducking the controversy of the "are they or aren't they?" question for four seasons now to avoid alienating anybody, made the attempt here to roll Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, and Pantheism all into a single "Find your own way" message that will probably offend followers of all of the above. This show loves to test boundaries and push envelopes. It's one of the things I enjoy about it. Every once in a while, that means pushing too far, and I think this one pushed too far.

That was a mondo gruesome vision of the tortured Xena on the throne, but it was worth it for the mean-and-nasty look with Indrajit's voice after Gabrielle falls for the vision.

The fight between Xena and Indrajit wins the award for the grossest yet, hands down. (OH! I'm sorry, I couldn't resist that joke.) Hands stepped on, arms and heads chopped off, bloody bites, and daggers through hands and faces. Xena with both arms lopped off was pretty horrendous stuff. YUCK!

Somebody tell me WHY Xena waited so long to call on Krishna? Why not do it the minute the fight started, or as soon as she hit trouble?

Gabrielle thinks she's watched Xena gets killed by Indrajit, and her response is to throw herself into a suicide fight against him. Was this another example of Xena and Gabrielle choosing to die together?

The director apparently loved Xena's Kali makeup job as much as I did - we got about a half-dozen shots of those blue eyes piercing out of that black face makeup. But the arm effects didn't do much for me. They both still mostly use the top arms. If you've got em, folks, use 'em.

That final scene quietly, gently, has the power to bulldoze mountains. Both Xena and Gabrielle spend most of it with tears in their eyes and catches in their throats as they take a long, hard look at whether they can stay together... and decide they can. For once, nobody was trying to sneak away from the other for their own good or any such nonsense; they had an actual conversation and came to a real decision.

Gabrielle gives up her staff and, presumably, fighting in general. That sucks. Let me clarify that opinion very carefully. The decision does not suck. The characterization and the writing do not suck. It makes perfect sense for Gabrielle, it's how her character started, she's coming back full circle to what she's been considering for a long time now. It sucks because I love it when Gab kicks ass. Here's hoping for a lot of backsliding!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Eli talks about stopping the cycle of violence in the world. Exactly like Gabrielle told Xena, waaaayyy back in the episode Callisto, that there was only one way to break the cycle of hate. That's how Gab knew that Eli's way was the way of love. Major continuity kudos. And I adored the way Renee O'Connor delivered the frustrated, almost angry "Love! I know that!" line. Come to think of it, I enjoyed Gab's attitude throughout that scene. A little bit of the old kid pounding away at prison doors, a little bit of the new woman arguing from her heart. That's m'Gab!

  • "I'm just an angry, ass-kicking -" "Warrior." Xena in ten words or less, at least according to her. (I think Gab would protest whether that's all there is to her.) But Xena finally gets the message she's been yearning to hear all along - she was born to be a fighter, and that's OK, as long as she's fighting for the right things. What a benediction, and it rocks Xena to her core. Gabrielle's choice of her way has more obvious and direct impact on her character, but I think Xena's is the more emotionally impacting one. While Gabrielle has been searching for her way all this time, Xena's been fighting hers. What a relief to not have to do that any more.




  • COMMENTARY 2:

    Commentary Deb E McGhee.

    03/02/99. SOUNDBYTE SUMMARY. An action-packed episode that nevertheless managed to include substantial, meaningful dialogue and soul-searching between Xena and Gabrielle (and a few mentors, too!), The Way concludes the India arc on its strongest note -- and leaves us with several weeks of reruns to wonder what the hell is going to happen now. Overall rating: 4.5 quills.

    ANALYSIS-REVIEW. I cannot remember ever being so moved by an episode of XWP. Yes, I've laughed, cheered, obsessed, kicked and screamed, and even shed the occasional wee tear or two, but never have I been left at the end of an episode longing for the comforts of the womb. The Way engaged me to the fullest extent for all of those too brief 44 minutes because it addressed important questions with a tight story, substantive and natural dialogue, excellent acting, strong direction, crisp editing, and all the trimmings done up just right. I may not agree completely with the choices made by Gabrielle and Xena on a philosophical level, and I could probably do a fair job challenging the story on both moral and logical grounds, but all of that is secondary to the truth of the episode, and that is that it made me *completely believe in the inevitability of its outcome*.

    For three plus seasons, we have watched Xena and Gabrielle on their individual and conjoint journeys as they have tried to find inner peace and meaning in life. We have watched this most unlikely pairing of the life-weary and guilt-ridden warrior and the knowledge-thirsty and optimistic bard strengthen and deepen through all manner of triumph and tribulation. After season 3's "Bitter Suite", episodes like "One Against an Army" and comments from staffers along the lines of "the rift is over and they've moved on" seemed to suggest that the angriest and saddest period of G&X's life -- borne from fundamentally different life priorities -- was all for naught -- that the two would continue on emotionally almost as if nothing had happened. That has not been the case, however: Despite curious lapses from time-to-time (e.g., the odd handling of X's dragging of Crassus and G's non-reaction to it in "When in Rome", the poor Gabrielle-side resolution of her seeming plunge to death and subsequent return), XWP for the most part has sustained its attention on how events in their lives reflect and impact on G&X's divergent outlooks and, in turn, their emotional well-being. Individual differences aside, Xena and Gabrielle have been for the past year troubled, confused, worried, sad, edgy, and disturbingly under-communicative.

    Then along comes "The Way" with Xena and Gabrielle walking along the banks of the river (Ganges?) in all their resplendent, contrasting glory: Xena trussed up in dark leather and armour; Gabrielle draped in flowing bright silks, highly deocrated, and noticeably barefoot. The bard speaks of metaphysics and flow; the warrior reminds her of materials and obstacles. Then comes the clincher exchange:

    G: Why do you do that?
    X: Do what?
    G: You shoot me down when I'm doing my philosophical stuff.
    X: As a matter of fact I've been doing a lot of thinking about reincarnation since we came to India.
    G: You see, maybe being a warrior isn't the right karma [sic] for you. Maybe you should look to peace.
    X: Hmm -- maybe violence isn't the answer to anything.
    [proceeds to stab what she ESP-ly knows is not a fish]


    Contained within that relatively brief bit of dialogue are a number of important character and story points.

    First, G stands up for herself (her "Way"), yet doesn't say directly that turning from the warrior path is what *she* needs. We know from earlier episodes like "A Good Day", "Crusader", and "Paradise Found" (the only other episode in the India arc that actually had much to do with G's spiritual quest) that Gabrielle is looking for something more or something different, but we also know that Gabrielle has preferred to stay with Xena on her path rather than separate. Gabrielle's challenge, then, marks a critical step toward "moral" independence, while not going so far as to make it jarringly out of character.

    Second, we find out that X *has* been questioning her own lifestyle, and that she has gained something from this journey to India. That is, Xena has not simply been a grudging and passive tag-along. Furthermore, X *explicitly* 'gives' rather than being the immovable stoic, yet -- by her aggressive action with the fish-demon -- affirms that she is still a warrior at heart.

    Though these are not wholly new behaviours or insights, they are necessary for introducing the story and (hopefully) getting all of the audience up to speed. It is established that Xena and Gabrielle have their own ways of believing and doing, and also that they are committed to one another. The exchange is so delightful and perfect because all of this is done without diminishing either character and without being sappy, unreal, or heavy-handed. The sense that one comes away with is that the characters are at a critical change point. Indeed, following the first fight scene, the rest of the episode is a walk through that change.

    Following comes one of those Stewart-patented campfire scenes, but before we get to that we have a fight scene that is not just a kick-ass display of heart-pounding action, and not just a way to introduce the adventure aspect of the ep, but also another opportunity for character study -- due in large part John Fawcett's direction. Besides the usual looking out for one another that X&G do, within the fight is contained the antithesis to the first scene. Here, Gabrielle the peacenik whacks serious demon butt and it is *she* who notices the bugs turning into demons (hence the "Xena!"), while Xena, who has just moments ago displayed her skills at vigilance and a somewhat flippant attitude about the necessity of violence, loses focus and hesitates to make the kill. It is as if at that point, Xena and Gabrielle have reached "critical mass" and are primed for major changes.

    When the sun crept down below the horizon, I must confess, my heart rate increased significantly: I fear those campfires and I wasn't emotionally prepared for one so early on in the ep! Anyway, that scene has one goal: to bring into sharp relief what has occurred just prior. First, it expands upon the "context" for how X&G will be discovering or re-affirming their Ways. That is, Stewart could have placed the "what problem will we solve today?" fight scene upfront (as in "Between the Lines"), but that very well could have obscured the Main Point of the story (as it did in Lines) which is G&X, not Eli & Indrajit. Second, we get more explication of the Central Issue and the unexpected bonus of insight into why Xena's been so frequently and roundly beaten in fights recently: Xena's lost focus not just because she's been extra-concerned about Gabrielle's welfare (as the director Fawcett helped to remind us in the previous scene), but also because she has been questioning her actions. This is the principal internal conflict, and we might just as well apply it to Gabrielle as to Xena.

    And here is what makes this episode so beautiful: All of the above happened before the opening title sequence, with not a wasted bit of film to be found.

    Now, much as I love this episode, I do believe there is a critical flaw in the campfire scene -- not only for this episode's story but also for the series since (at least) season 3. It has long puzzled me why Gabrielle is such an enigma to fans (including myself at times), especially considering that her way and her value system, on the face of it, so mirror the average person's. Let's face it: Don't most of us at some time wonder about The Truth or The Meaning of Life? Is wanting to do the "right" thing (whatever we feel in our hearts that that is) really such a strange motivation? If we are guarded and more likely to affect an offensive rather than defensive problem-solving strategy, do we then poo-poo and reject as friends those who take a complementary approach? Therein lies the crux of the "Gabrielle Question", and part of the answer can be found in the campfire scene of The Way.

    As described earlier, we are allowed into Xena's mind during this scene. We know what is going to be driving her in this episode, and possibly what has been at the core of her hesitations throughout earlier episodes. What we fail to get is an *explicit* mirror to X's musing (about whether the current path is right) from Gabrielle. When we consider: (1) that X's worldview and style constitute the default POV, and (2) that Gabrielle has placed herself in X's world even though that clashes with her 'core' philosophy, it *behooves* the writers to be clear about Gabrielle's motivations. This is not to say that everything need be spelled out in excruciating detail, but the disparity is especially salient when Xena, who most of us already get on some level or we wouldn't have started watching the show in the first place, comes out of her normal reticence and lays it on the line. Moreover, in this particular campfire scene, Xena the Doubter is mulling over spiritual concerns and we hear not a word from Gabrielle that she herself is destined to be a career warrior in the next life!

    I've gone into such detail on this because I am so obsessed by the question of why Gabrielle feels like an enigmatic flake to so many. I mean, how can we watch Gabrielle for the majority of 22+ episodes look confused and haggard and talk about "needing something" and then have *Eli* come along later and echo *almost verbatim* *Gabrielle's* words from the INFAMOUS campfire scene in "Callisto", but then wonder why she re-affirms her commitment to the Way of Love?

    As I said earlier, from my point of view, the outcome of this episode felt right as rain and as inevitable as the sea, but this lack of parallel attention to motivation, especially in an episode which is constructed as a focussed comparison & contrast study, is glaring even to me. Frankly, I'm rather tired of caring. At this point, writing Gabrielle off as an enhanced plot device is looking mighty appealing.

    But now...back to our story...which was beautiful and lovely and flowed and felt oh so good, even when it hurt. The work done by everyone on both sides of the camera was extra special, and the few niggling bits were quickly set aside for later.

    The supporting cast were near-perfect in their roles. I honestly remarked aloud that Indrajit was a "baaaaad man" (not unlike a 7-year-old might exclaim). The makeup & costuming for Hanuman was excellent and the actor's portrayal nicely understated. Lord Krishna (whose accent and manner reminded me vaguely of Boy George) rocked my world. His aura, combined with the convincing script, was what sold me on Xena's willingness to listen to and trust him.

    The only character I had significant problems with was "Eli", and this was due not so much to lingering "Devi" resentments nor to the actor's portrayal, but rather more to the scripting and direction of the character. I got the very real sense that "Eli" was modelled on the "Last Temptation" Christ. That's fine as far as it goes, but it tended to muddle two very disparate issues: "Eli's" Avatar-angst[tm] and the practice of pacifism. That is, a common complaint levelled against pacifism is that it is passive and ineffectual. Therefore, when we see "Eli" telling Gabrielle to be patient or standing open-mouthed and paralysed as Indrajit chokes Gabrielle, it comes across as "what a pacifist would do" ("Eli" is our only model within the show) -- rather than as (in the 1st case) an affirmation of one deity's certainty in dealing with another or (in the 2nd) a young man unsure of himself.

    I can only hope that this muddy depiction of what pacifism means as a way of life is confined to this episode, because I have strong concerns about how this will play out in future scripts. This should mark the return of the fast-talking and even faster-thinking persuasive bard, advocate and diplomat, I would assume. It is going to be tricky no matter what to keep the perky, petite, and blond confirmed pacifist walking alongside the confirmed warrior in a land of warlords a viable and strong character; less-than-adequate exploration and development of this worldview and lifestyle will only make things that much more difficult. This character development, along with the side-by-side validation of two very different spiritual philosophies (even tho one is labelled The Ultimate), are bolder-than-bold steps. Yet, I have faith, and look forward with great anticipation.

    LL and ROC were as good as ever and I do believe they keep getting better. LL appears to have regained her upward stride sometime around "Paradise Found" (I've forgiven the human rabid rabbit thing as "not her fault") and it's a joy to watch. Her portrayal of Xena has gotten back on track, evened out, and feels much more natural. Her best scene, in my opinion, was the chat with Krishna: If there's one thing we know about Xena, it's that she's mistrustful of gods but, remarkably, I felt no sense of disbelief that Xena would be as reasonable and open as she was during that conversation. Again, much of this goes to scripting and what has lead up to this from previous episodes, but a big part goes to LL giving Xena that just-right mix of wisdom, desperation, and healthy skepticism.

    ROC also finds the right mix for Gabrielle as she struggles with understanding "Eli's" way and assimilating that into her own experience up to this point. I'm not one who typically sees Gabrielle as overly-trusting or naive, but I could see in this episode that the pacing was slow enough to give G's increasing respect for "Eli" a chance to develop (and it didn't hurt to have introduced the character in a previous episode, to have him be Clearly A Good Guy, and most importantly for some, to have the Xena Stamp of Approval). ROC could have easily slipped into the mode of one of those starry-eyed followers, but she is too in tune with her character, I believe, to make those sorts of mistakes at this point. Kudos also to director Fawcett and editor Field for strong shot selection, especially in the sorts of places that have gone under-attended to in previous episodes (e.g., paying specific attention to Gabrielle's reactions and need and desire to go to Xena when X has been downed by Indrajit).

    Finally, I must say that ROC and LL gave their finest joint performance in the crucial final scene. The emotion, the pacing, the body language -- all came together to pull everything into place for the resolution. I am not ashamed to say that I started crying at the beginning of that scene, both for its beauty and its bittersweetness, and I didn't stop til long after the credits rolled. Xena and Gabrielle have, at least for the time being, re-affirmed their life paths. These paths are incredibly dissimilar, yes, but they lay side-by-side. Lawless and O'Connor must have felt the magnitude of that scene deep in their souls, and they imbued it with such vividness, layering, and honesty that I felt it impossible to deny its Truth. I think I could be in love with this show again.

    VARIOUS AND SUNDRY.

  • Hair Wars: Growing out bangs has got to be the biggest pain in the world, but I didn't really mind Xena's hair at all. I like it when it looks real and natural and as if it belongs to a wandering warrior. Gabrielle's new 'do took about 2.3 seconds to get used to (and I will go to my grave saying that the final scene of Lines was still a wig, unless I hear otherwise from a xenastaffer directly). Rest in peace, Goldenes Vlies.

  • Usage note: In this ep and the previous one, the term karma is regularly misused. A quick rule of thumb is to try out the fit of the word "effect": If it fits, then chances are karma is appropriate; if not, substitute either "dharma" (role/duty) or destiny.

  • Most surprising, yet affirming-of-my-belief-in-RJ Stewart, line: Xena saying she "doesn't get" The Way as it's been previously described.

  • I've not had the opportunity much to see multi-limbed gods portrayed onscreen, so I have no standard by which to judge, but I thought the work for Indrajit and Xena as Kali the Destroyer was very, very good. I noticed the limbs worked both in concert and somewhat independently, and there's even a shot where one can see Indrajit's bottom set lying at rest against his thighs.

  • Speaking of limbs: Hello in Hellmouth Award for the visual effect of 0-armed Xena. Yikes.

  • Speaking of Kali: noted mythologist Barbara G. Walker has this to say of her: "Though Indian patriarchal thinkers tried to replace the female trinity of Kali with a male trinity, she was not eradicated in India, as she was in the West. Kali [is] complex, subtle, swift-acting, given to acts apparently cruel but logically necessary in the overview." I must say, however, that I never imagined Kali to be a screecher.
  • QUOTE-A-RAMA!

    Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life...."
    -- John 14:6

    Shootin' at the walls of heartache
    Bang, bang, I am the warrior
    Yes I am the warrior
    -- "The Warrior" (Gilder/Knight)

    "But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt."
    -- Luke 6:27-29

    "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down one's life for one's friends."
    -- John 15:12-13

    Hm, my lord (hallelujah)
    My, my, my lord (Hare Krishna)
    My sweet lord (Hare Krishna)
    My sweet lord (Krishna Krishna)
    My lord (hare hare)
    -- "My Sweet Lord" (Harrison/Mack)

    For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
    -- Matthew 7:14

    Where do we go from here?
    This isn't where we intended to be
    We had it all, you believed in me
    I believed in you

    Certainties disappear
    What do we do for our dream to survive?
    How do we keep all our passions alive,
    As we used to do?

    Deep in my heart I'm concealing
    Things that I'm longing to say
    Scared to confess what I'm feeling
    Frightened you'll slip away

    You must love me
    You must love me

    Why are you at my side?
    How can I be any use to you now?
    Give me a chance and I'll let you see how
    Nothing has changed
    -- "You Must Love Me" (Rice/Webber; Madonna)

    LINKS TO LEARN MORE

    A Condensed Re-telling of the Ramayana:
    http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/maxpages/special/ramayana/RAMA.html

    Mohan's Hindu Image Gallery (incl. Kali, Krishna, Hanuman, and Rama):
    http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/6834/index.html





    COMMENTARY 3:

    Commentary Xorys.

    03/02/99. Well! Where do I even start with this ep?

    It doesn't help that the controversy about it is now distracting from the ep itself. Various Hindu groups have protested about the ep, and the ep was pulled from the air by the main station showing it in my local market (Toronto, Canada) on the grounds that its excessive violence was not suitable for the Saturday afternoon slot in which they air the show. The ep *is* probably the most gory the show has ever seen. I don't think the complaints of the Hindu groups against the ep are particularly justified - if they want to speak up, they are of course entitled to do so... but there are in my opinion no grounds at all for attempting to suppress the broadcast of the ep. I think I will leave it at that for discussion of the controversy here - this commentary is not really the place for a detailed discussion of the controversy... which doesn't really have much light to shed on the actual content of the ep.

    So, apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln...

    There's so much going on in this ep that it's hard to have a single reaction to it, especially since different aspects of it pull me in violently different directions. I think that it was a remarkably ambitious piece of television (almost unbelievably ambitious), and that in large measure it was successful in what it attempted. So I have considerable admiration for it. I was fascinated by it, and deeply moved at times. And yet when it was over it left me disquieted and depressed. Why? Essentially because of where it left Gabrielle, and Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. I was left feeling that the Gabrielle I knew was dead, that the relationship I knew was gone, and that perhaps the show I knew was gone as well... at best its future looks very uncertain. One of TPTB (I think it was Rob Tapert) was quoted, in one of the Xena mags, I believe it was, as saying something about how certain species of shark die if they don't keep constantly moving, and how a television show was like that, in that it had to constantly change or die. And I think we're certainly seeing that in action - they seem truly determined, one way or another, to dismantle everything that they've made. We've seen it already, in the rift, in the death of Iolaus on HTLJ... and we're seeing it again here, I feel, as they remake Gab almost entirely, and remake her relationship with Xena and the whole fabric of the show in the process. And whilst I don't want to sound like a reactionary stick-in-the-mud, I still find it hard to be happy about it. I feel about Gab's 'conversion' rather the way I'd feel (have felt) about the conversion of a close friend to a new 'way' - I hope it's the right thing for them and will make them happy, but I can't help feeling that somehow they've turned off part of their humanity, and that the person I knew just isn't there any more. Frankly "The Warrior and the Flying Nun" just doesn't appeal to me as an idea. I don't see it working well as a basis for future eps at all. And dammit yes, what bothers me most is that they seem to have deconstructed the relationship! I don't know that I can bear to go on watching Xena and Gab if the human closeness between them is lost...

    However, let's turn back from these sorry and painful feelings to the rest of this ep. The themes and borrowings being thrown around in this ep have so much background that I think I'd better try and go over the basic elements first, before we attempt the usual wander through the ep itself. This ep borrows essential elements from two major religious epics, and then throws in substantial elements from another religious tradition entirely, and echoes of the teaching of another 'great soul' as if that weren't enough! One thing the people who make this show certainly don't lack is ambition!

    The story essentially utilizes central elements from the Bhagvad Gita and the Ramayana. It then throws in a figure who we are presumably supposed to identify with Jesus, and teachings which sound more than anything else like those of Mohandas Ghandi. So let's attempt to run through these in order, noting briefly the nature of the original, and the place of the borrowed elements in the ep.

    The Bhagvad Gita I did discuss somewhat last week when writing about Between The Lines, since I felt it was obliquely relevant there. This week however, rather than its being obliquely relevant, very substantial elements of the ep are taken more or less directly from the Bhagvad Gita. The Bhagvad Gita actually exists within the context of a much larger Hindu epic called the Mahabharata, which essentially tells a (*very* long) story of a war between two branches of a family... I saw a film some years ago which retold the story of the Mahabharata as a modern story in terms of industrialists and gangsters (a bit like that film with John Turturro and Peter Boyle that redid Macbeth as gangster story) - I believe the film was called Kalyug... but I guess it was made in Hindi, and I'm not sure if an English version is available. There was also a version of parts of the Mahabharata available on videotape, I believe, based on a stage adaption done by a famous English theatre director. And there's an endless serial version done for Indian TV. In any case, I digress. The focus of the Bhagvad Gita itself is on a warrior called Arjuna and his charioteer, who is the god Krishna, incognito. Arjuna questions whether he should continue to fight, especially given that the enemy he will be fighting against are his kinsmen, and Krishna convinces him that he *should* fight, because that is his dharma for this life, that is his 'way'. Well... you can see what they did with this - basically they retold the core of it with Xena as Arjuna, and Krishna as himself (although no longer actually incarnated on earth and no longer incognito). However instead of setting the doubts and the god's advice within the context of a war between kinsmen, they set them in the context of an entirely different story, taken, basically, from the Ramayana.

    Now we've already heard about the Ramayana. Tataka, the demon who possessed Gabrielle, was in fact a she-demon who was defeated (and killed) by Rama fairly early on in the Ramayana. The Ramayana is the epic which tells the story of the life of the god Rama. Now both Rama and Krishna are avatars (forms, presences in the world) of the god Vishnu, the Preserver. Vishnu is one of the three "great movers" of Hinduism: Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiva, the Destroyer. These three represent, in a sense, the central principles of Hinduism - to some extent Brahma is like yang, Shiva is like yin, and Vishnu is kind of a third principle in between, which sustains. Vishnu is generally supposed to have ten 'avatars' during this world... the last, who is yet to come, will be Kalki, who will bring about the end of this world, whereupon Brahma will create a new one. Rama was an earlier avatar of Vishnu than Krishna. Various events are recounted and discussed in the Ramayana, but one central episode recounts how Rama's consort Sita is kidnapped and taken to Lanka by the demon Ravana. Rama, aided by the monkey god Hanuman (and an entire army of monkey soldiers, actually), then journeys to Lanka and wages war upon Ravana and his demons. Ravana is aided in this war by his son Indrajit, who serves as his chief lieutenant. Rama and Hanuman and the monkey army suffer many setbacks, but ultimately they triumph, killing first Indrajit and then Ravana himself, and rescuing Sita. Clearly then, a substantial element of the plot of The Way is taken from the Ramayana, with Xena (with Krishna's help) playing the role of Rama, Gabrielle (and Eli) playing the role of Sita, and Indrajit playing the role of his father Ravana (which is a bit odd, since he actually gets killed in the original story - I guess they like borrowing dead characters from the Ramayana, since Tataka fell into this same category). Hanuman plays his own role in this part of the story, and the monkey army was omitted (well, I guess special effects budgets only go so far...)

    Now the third important element in the plot of the ep is the 'avatar' Eli. As we already mentioned, an avatar is a form or physical presence of a god in the world. It seems fairly clear that Eli is intended to be the 'avatar' generally referred to as Jesus Christ. 'Christ', of course, is not a name at all, but comes from the Greek word meaning 'anointed'. 'Jesus' *is* a name, although 'Yeheshevah' is probably a closer approximation to what might have been recognisable in the man's own time and tongue... on the whole I prefer to use 'Yeheshevah Bin Yusef of Nazareth' when attempting to refer to the historical personage, and reserve 'Jesus Christ' for the cultural construct. However, let's compromise and use 'Jesus' here, to avoid confusion. I don't think there is much doubt that the ep was deliberately written so that we would conclude that Eli was Jesus, although they did take care to avoid committing themselves on the issue. Still, apart from anything else, if you're looking for an 'avatar' around that period, there isn't really much competition. The only other possible candidate I can think of is Gautama, the Buddha, who lived around 500 BCE. Datewise, this certainly doesn't rule him out, since we've seen events on XWP which took place earlier than this (Altared States was *way* earlier, if you assume that it was about Abraham and Isaac, and Giant Killer would have been several hundred years BCE as well). The Hindus generally consider Gautama to have been, like Rama and Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu. However there are distinct problems with trying to equate Eli to Gautama, notably that his life story doesn't seem to match at all - Gautama was an Indian prince, who turned away from his princely life, and ultimately achieved enlightenment through meditation. Eli, OTOH, appears not to be Indian, and never to have been a prince. Also the Buddha would presumably have been known as Gautama or Siddhartha, whereas Eli seems at least a halfway reasonable name for a Jew in exile. And Eli said that he was taking a ship back across the sea to bring his message to his 'own people' who he thought would be 'most receptive'.

    However Eli's message doesn't really seem to correspond very exactly with that of Jesus (basing our sense of Jesus' message on the gospels, which is pretty much all we have to go on, even if they were all written some time after his death). It's true that Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek if one was struck, and it's also true that when Peter drew a sword to defend him and struck off the ear of the High Priest's servant, Jesus told him to put up his sword for 'those who live by the sword, die by the sword'. However Jesus' main message does not appear from the gospels to have been one of absolute non-violence. And the churches founded in his name have certainly, for the most part, followed policies very far from that. Even Jesus himself, according to the gospels, showed violence on occasions, for example, taking up a scourge to drive the money-lenders out of the temple. It's true that Jesus said 'Love thy neighbour as thyself'... but this was the *second* part of his 'new commandment', the *first* part of which was 'love the lord thy god with all thy heart'. Eli, OTOH, whilst preaching the 'way of love', seemed conspicuously silent about the need to love a single 'father god'.

    Despite his obvious association with Jesus, Eli's message seemed rather closer to that of Mohandas Ghandi, who was known as the Mahatma (meaning 'great soul'). Ghandi started life as a British-educated lawyer, working for a while in South Africa. However on returning to India he became increasingly committed to following and preaching the 'way' that he had found. The word most commonly associated with Ghandi's 'way' is 'ahimsa' which is usually translated into English as non-violence (although it could arguably almost be translated 'non-action'). However, whilst Ghandi preached, as Eli did, *complete* non-violence, *never* under any circumstances use violence, no matter what the circumstances or the provocation, he certainly did not advocate lack of action. Rather he wished to campaign against injustice through passive resistance and disobedience. He is, of course, primarily identified with the struggle for Indian independence from British Imperial rule - a struggle which was ultimately successful, although only at the cost of the country being torn violently in two, with the accompanying deaths of many, many thousands of people. Ghandi was deeply saddened by all this violence, and campaigned strongly to try to bring an end to it. He was himself assassinated by a militant Hindu not long after Indian independence. Ghandi was a Hindu, and a promoter of the Hindu faith. However, he was also a reformer, preaching against the injustices practised in the name of Hinduism... he especially campaigned for the betterment of the 'untouchables', those most severely victimised by the caste system, and it was he who attempted to change the perception of them by dubbing them "Harijans" (meaning god's children).

    You can of course, take it how you like, but it rather felt to me that Eli represented an attempt to graft something of Ghandi's teaching onto a figure nominally associated with Jesus.

    Oh well, enough of background (perhaps too much...) Let's take our wander through the ep.

  • The opening music that we hear, over the shot of the snowy mountain top, sounds like the introduction to a ghazal. The ghazal is actually originally a Persian poetic form, subsequently also used in Urdu, the principle language of Muslim India. In India the tradition was developed of singing ghazals accompanied by music based on the Indian classical tradition. For me this is one of those wonderfully fruitful blendings that sometimes happen between cultures, and the result, the sung Urdu ghazal, is one of my absolutely favourite art forms, combining a subtle and rich poetry with amazingly deep and resonant music. A ghazal consists of couplets, and most of a ghazal will be sung one couplet at a time, usually with repetition, to rhythmic music based upon a raag; however the singing of a ghazal is usually introduced, as the singing of a raag is usually introduced, by a kind of alaap, a section sung in free style, without fixed rhythm or accompaniment by drums. The verses sung in the introductory section in fact quite often are from an entirely different poem to the main ghazal which they introduce. What we hear at the start of this ep sounds like such an introduction to a ghazal. The words we hear sung are:
    Maut mujhko gawara hai lehkin
    Kya karun dam nikulta nahi hai.
    Taal do apne aajal(?)
    And I couldn't hear the rest, because the sound of the waterfall becomes too loud, and then they talk over it. These words mean, approximately: Death would be preferable to be, but / What can I do, the breath is not out of me? / Postpone (your or my action, possibly... this isn't clear). After due consideration, I don't think this really has anything much to do with the content of the ep...

  • 'There's a certain inevitability to a river - nothing stops it from finding it's way" "Ever hear of a damn? Beavers?" "Why do you do that?" "What?" "You shoot me down when I'm doing my philosophical stuff..." Now I'm sorry, but this leaves me really p**ed off with Gab. What? It's ok for her to rabbit on, but Xena isn't supposed to say anything? And what kind of "philosophy" is resistant to dialogue, debate, enquiry? Gab's idea sounds more like totalitarian dogma than philosophy to me! And on a purely personal level this "Stop being you, because it's interfering with my scope to be me" attitude is just about the *worst* possible one for anyone in a close relationship to take... unless the other person is an absolute masochistic doormat, it pretty much inevitably spells the doom of the relationship, so far as I can see. I mean, if you can't tolerate any response, any independent thought, from the other person, why the heck are you talking to them in the first place? Why the heck are you with them?

  • "Maybe being a warrior isn't the right karma for you. Maybe you should look to peace..." (*Total* misuse of the word 'karma' here again - but we went into that at length last week...) "Maybe violence isn't the answer to anything... YEEARGH!" I've got to say, I like that. In fact I'm severely tempted to give it a place as one of my Windows sounds - maybe 'critical stop'... Your program has encountered a fatal exception. "Maybe violence isn't the answer to anything... YEEARGH!"

  • And that fish / demon that Xena speared was really *very* forthcoming, wasn't he? He seemed positively anxious to explain what he was up to and who his master was!

  • Gab's first action when the demon grabs her is to yell "Xena!" But since Xena is otherwise occupied, she has to fight it herself. So what's she going to do if this happens in the next ep - just fold her hands and let the demon kill her? This could make for a *very* short career, given the kind of people and creatures they tend to run into...

  • I notice that Gab's still wearing the Mehndi (which looks way too dark for real mehndi) - but it didn't show any signs of having any 'power' in this ep. How come?

  • I'm not at all wild about Xena's new hairstyle - if this is permanent, I shall mourn the loss of the bangs. It reminds me of a seedy pool shark or a stressed out nicotine addict or something!

  • That demon that came up behind Gab at the end of the fight was sort of doing its own version of Xena's warcry, wasn't it? Although perhaps it was bit closer to yodelling. (Maybe these were "Swiss demons", sort of working for Indrajit on a mercenary basis, like the Swiss Guards in the Vatican...)

  • How come when Xena gets wounded, it's almost *always* on the upper left arm? I suppose it would be an obvious point of exposure to a right handed opponent...

  • I had to laugh at Xena's squashing of the bug after the end of the fight. Well who could blame her? I'd take a pretty tough line on bugs too if they started turning into demons and attacking me!

  • Incidentally, I wonder how people took to these 'demons'? Personally I have no problem at all with accepting guys in scary masks as 'demons'. And I really liked the masks themselves. I believe they were ultimately based on designs from the Indian Kathakali theatre, which is a highly stylised form of theatre using masks and elaborate costumes to present mythological stories. Such masks are also used in mythological Indian movies, and similar effects are seen in statues and illustrations. I thought the masked 'demons' made a pleasant change from the regular thugs and CGI monsters, and connected the show with Indian traditions.

  • "We've got to beat Indrajit to this avatar, whatever that is..." One thing about Xena, she's certainly game for a challenge - all it takes is a few demons trying to stop her doing something (which she'd never thought of doing in the first place), and she's "got to" do it!

  • And Xena explains her doubts about her role and her hesitation in the fight with the demon: '...but either way, a warrior cannot ask these questions in the heat of battle - when the kill is there, you have to take it! If I can't do that... I can't be a warrior any more." As soon as I heard this speech, I just *knew* we were going to get a reprise of the Bhagvad Gita in this ep! Which I must say, I was very pleased about, since it's *so* appropriate to the show, and of course, tremendous material. What *didn't* occur to me at this point was that they wouldn't be content with 'merely' trying to adapt the essence of the Bhagvad Gita to a 40 minute TV ep, but would also throw in a large chunk of the Ramayana, and the whole 'avatar of ahimsa' thing!

  • So, Eli is now not a 'devi' but an avatar... And is wandering around preaching that people must cast all hate and violence from their hearts, and 'turn the other cheek' etc. He seems to have progressed real fast in the two weeks since we last saw him.

  • "Have you treated her with the proper herbs?" "I... I have done all that I can." This sounded a bit of an odd question for an avatar - as if he was going to disqualify the guy or something if he said no. And the guy's response had something of the "I'm dying, and he asks me riddles" tone about it.

  • Still, there's no denying the terrible sadness of the sickness of a child, and the poignancy of the healing of a child... especially enacted lyrically and accompanied by beautiful classical Indian vocals, as this was. It was a very effective way of establishing Eli in his role as the avatar of peace. (Although I thought Xena's "Come on Eli" broke the mood somewhat...)

  • Interestingly, after the girl is healed, whilst the Indian vocals continue, faded slightly into the background, the new music which comes in is *not* Indian, but uses conventional western orchestral instruments (strings, clarinet...)

  • So, since we met him last, Eli has seen the Truth. Is this the same Truth that is "in the Mehndi"? Or are there multiple Truths?

  • Eli gives his speech about how having the power to give people hope terrifies him - I never did quite understand why? The way he was talking, it almost sounded as if he was leading up to saying that the Truth was that the world was doomed to a horrible fate or something... But then the rest of the ep didn't seem to justify this at all - indeed he just seemed to dump this sense of foreboding and become quite serene later on. So what was with the mood in this scene? Why introduce this stuff about being terrified by giving people hope?

  • Anyhow, Xena wasn't listening to him at all, because we got some sitar music and a couple of whooshes, and her 'super senses' picked up that something was following and watching them. Not only that, but she could tell that the 'something' wasn't human! How does she do that? Just sort of another version of her old 'Ares radar', I guess. Still - a very useful skill to have.

  • I still quite liked Timothy Omundson as Eli in this ep - he seemed natural and convincing in the role, and had an engaging manner... for example the way he smiled and shrugged and said "Come on then" when Xena insisted on going with him, and asked how he was going to stop them. For me he managed to make his transition to an avatar fairly believable and acceptable, without being stiff or portentous about it.

  • Xena really should study the local culture a bit before she starts punching people in the nose! And you'd have thought Eli would know better, having been in India for some time, and seeming quite familiar with the cast of characters (to say nothing of being an avatar...) I recognised Hanuman, the monkey god, as soon as he appeared - from Hindu pictures and mythological movies... so I was busily yelling, sotto voce, "Slow down, slow down Xena!" And then poor old Hanuman gets a hold on her and regards her seriously... And what does she do? She nuts him! (Or gives him the 'Glasgow kiss' as it's known in some parts...) Talk about 'respecting the gods'!

  • "I don't need any help." "Most young avatars say that." "You've known others?" "Only one." Er... excuse me... how do you get to "most" from a sample of two?

  • I liked Hanuman actually - I thought they did him very well. And the actor himself did a fine job... He came across as dignified, believable and likeable, completing avoiding, for me, seeming freakish, grotesque or absurd, as he could so easily have done.

  • However I really objected to them having him say that Krishna was the "supreme personality of the godhood" - this is simply incorrect and confusing (assuming we're talking Hinduism here, which apparently we are). Krishna was an avatar, just like Rama, the other avatar Hanuman mentioned... indeed they were both avatars of the *same* god, Vishnu, the Preserver, and so, in a sense, just different forms of the same essence. This "supreme personality of godhood" stuff sounds more like ISKCON (the International Society For Krishna Consciousness, perhaps more commonly known as the "Hare Krishna" movement) than mainstream Hinduism... well I suppose TPTB can't really be blamed if they want to take part of their version from ISKCON.

  • The shot they used for the sun rising (after the night during which Hanuman appeared) was just the same shot they used earlier for the sun setting (after the initial fight with the demons) played backwards and zoomed in. This is astronomically incorrect, since if the sun sets in the evening descending diagonally towards the horizon from upper left to lower right, it can't rise in the morning, in the same general area, from lower right to upper left - not unless the earth has reversed its direction of spin between the setting and the rising!


  • "I assisted Rama when Rama killed Indrajit's father." Well yes. But according to the Ramayana, Indrajit got killed himself *before* his father Ravana was killed. Which makes his appearance as the villain in this ep a little odd...

  • "To bring peace to this world I have to teach mankind a reverence for life." "So... if someone were to walk up to you, and knock you down...?" Huh? Excuse me? He said "a reverence for life" - so why is she babbling on about knocking people down? If he'd have said that to me, my first question would have been more along the lines of "So should people not eat meat, or kill bugs?" How do you get from "reverence for life" to "what if someone knocks you down" for Zeus' sake?

  • Anyway... now we segue into a doctrine of complete non-violence: "Under no circumstances would I fight back". This, as I said in my introduction, sounds more like Gandhi than anything else to me. The principle of ahimsa and non-violent resistance worked against the British in India (ultimately). How well it would work against an enemy who was prepared to just kill the non-violent resisters without question is another matter. Of course, if it's a spiritual principle, I suppose it doesn't have to "work" in the sense of achieving practical ends. Although if it's going to "redeem the world" it kind of needs to catch on, rather than just getting its believers killed. One thing's for certain, if Eli was trying to redeem the world by bringing it the message of complete non-violence, avatar or not, he most definitely failed totally and miserably. Indeed if you do identify him with Jesus, then that failure is particularly extreme and ironic, since more people have probably killed and died in wars believing that their cause was that of the Christian god than in any other belief, and people continue to kill and maim in the name of Christianity throughout the world today. I guess the message didn't get through...

  • "For each person there can only be one way." This is very much the concept of being true to one's dharma which I discussed when I was writing about Between The Lines. This serves to move along again the thread of the ep which is taken from the Bhagvad Gita, with Xena as Arjuna questioning her destiny and how she should rightly act.

  • When they arrive at the temple, the crowd all run up saying "It's the avatar!" How do they know? I mean, it's not as if they'd have seen his picture on the TV news. Or is the *same* crowd that they were with before? But then how did the crowd get to the temple before them, if they were hurrying through the woods? Oh well, perhaps they doubled back or something...

  • Lovely vocals again for the crowd scene. I'm certainly going to miss this music when they leave India! But still, I've always admired Loduca's music for XWP anyhow... I think the atmosphere he creates contributes a lot to the show.

  • "The only reason I've been able to help you is that because in your hearts you're as innocent as children." I must say this struck me as a rather pompous and asinine comment... this random crowd have all gone through their lives never growing up or fighting for anything - is that what he's saying? And people who do grow up, who aren't innocent as children, can't be helped? Or aren't worthwhile? Or worthy? (And the "that because" in the middle of the wording is redundant...)

  • How come all the extras in this ep wear nothing but brown? Pretty odd really - Indians are usually more colourful!

  • And Hanuman says yet *again* that Krishna is "the ultimate manifestation of the supreme deity" - which is *plumb* *wrong*, assuming we're talking standard Hinduism. Krishna is *an* avatar of Vishnu, just as Rama was. He isn't the "ultimate" avatar of Vishnu (that would be Kalki). And Vishnu isn't "the supreme deity" anyway... although he is one of the primary triad. But still... I guess Hinduism isn't exactly doctrinally unified about this kind of thing, and plenty of people who call themselves Hindus would probably accept this wording quite cheerfully.

  • "His way is the ultimate way - few can follow it. Those that do, truly walk with the spirit." So now we have an official declaration from a trustworthy seeming god that absolute non-violence is the ultimate way. Not a way, interestingly, that Hanuman himself seemed to have adhered to, since, according to legend, he spent much of his time fighting.

  • It seemed a bit unreasonable to me that the healed girl's father changed into a demon. Was the demon supposed to have taken over the actual father, or what? (I mean, the guy's idea of acting was pretty strange - but this seemed a bit thick...)

  • And how come these demons got the drop on Xena so easily? She seemed to deal with the first lot ok.

  • Why did Eli run out of the temple when he sensed that Xena was in trouble - since he won't, according to his principles, do anything about it anyway?

  • So when Indrajit did his diving flying-carpet attack, was that him doing the warcry? But it didn't really seem to go with the chuckle he did next...

  • And why were Eli and Gab having a tug of war? He was saying "Let go!" to her... which of them was trying to do what to the other? It sort of looked as if she was trying to stop him running towards Xena, but I don't see what sense that makes...

  • Where the heck was Gab running when Indrajit came after her? I thought she was standing just by the temple doors and that the temple was supposed to be safe from Indrajit - so why didn't she just go inside, rather than charging all over the place?

  • BTW, the final vowel in Indrajit's name is long, as in "feet", not short, as in "fit", which was the way Xena insisted on pronouncing it throughout the ep, for some reason...

  • So anyway, Indrajit kidnaps Eli and Gab, and takes them off to Lanka, like Sita before them...

  • "What Krishna needs is for someone to call upon him who doesn't respect gods, doesn't trust them, doesn't like them." Err... *why* does Krishna 'need' this? Sounds a bit arbitrarily contrary to me...

  • I still haven't quite figured out how they did the effect of Eli and Gab rolling out of the carpet. My guess is that they somehow blue-screened Eli and Gab rolling and then combined that with the shot of the 'demons' unfurling the carpet. One thing you'll notice, if you take your eyes off Gab's legs, is that her staff bends and then straightens again during the roll - I guess they must have used a rubber one or something (which makes sense... you wouldn't get me rolling around at high speed nursing a hard wooden staff!)

  • Hanuman's mutterings about Krishna as some sort of omnipresent spirit who 'is not like other gods', but is in every living being seemed like... I don't know, an attempt to take Krishna and graft onto him some concept of 'god' from a different tradition entirely. Krishna is in many ways the most 'personal' of the Hindu gods, and his followers have emphasised a sense of relationship with the god, and also the idea of love as a path to enlightenment... so comparisons between Krishna and Jesus, for example, would not be unprecedented. But they might still be misguided, if taken too far...

  • Getting at people by threatening to hurt others they care for has always seemed to me about the most cowardly and despicable thing that can be done. Of course, I suppose Indrajit *is* supposed to be the ultimate evil (when it isn't Dahak - maybe they sort of take it in shifts)... Still, I'm certainly glad they didn't take the 'torturing Gab' thing too far. And is standing by non-violently and doing nothing whilst others suffer *really* that morally superior to trying to do something about it? As you can presumably tell, I'm not at all convinced. Which is why I didn't really accept is as valid to say that Gab had 'failed' because she tried to go to the aid of Xena in pain - in that case, give me failures, I say!

  • So Xena's first action with Krishna is to pull a sword on him - a real diplomatic manner this woman has, eh?

  • Krishna seemed slightly effeminate, which is wholly appropriate. He is usually described this way. There is even a tradition (although it is not exactly the 'mainstream') that relates Krishna and Kali, the black mother goddess, as alternate forms of each other...

  • Anyway, on the whole, I thought the portrayal of Krishna, a *very* tricky thing to pull off, was quite successful.

  • Xena has "heard about the way in Greece, Chin, Anatolia and now India". Anatolia is part of modern Turkey right? Which eps were supposed to have taken place there? Or is she referring to events we haven't seen in eps? Were the Ewokzons supposed to be Anatolia? (For some reason, I got the idea that they were supposed to be in Siberia, although I don't think it was ever said explicitly *where* they were...)

  • "I'm just an angry, butt-kicking.." "Warrior" This got to me! The first time I watched this scene I think I laughed, or at least smiled, at that line. The second time, taking it more slowly, and riding more closely with Xena's feelings, I cried. It's a bit hard to say why, exactly. Xena's feelings about herself are so real... she knows her own dark heart, and it's dangers, and although she's well aware of her own many skills, it's hard for her to see much admirable about herself. Which is why I think Hanuman was slightly wrong when he said she was 'proud' - it's not so much 'pride', as a stubborn isolation in dealing with things that are hers alone to deal with...

  • And Krishna's answer is essentially taken directly from his answer to Arjuna in the Bhagvad Gita (although massively shortened and simplified)... the individual should aspire to perfectly follow the 'way' that is appropriate to them in each life, their dharma. If it's your destiny to be a fighter, then do it properly. Here Krishna says to Xena "You *must* not be hesitant to fight in a just cause." Actually I think in the Bhagvad Gita the message is a little more complex than this - since I believe it is accepted that soldiers fighting on opposite sides in the same battle can *both* be properly following their dharma... so it's not just a question of picking the right side in your fights - it's more a question of doing what you must, your fate, your duty, and doing it wholeheartedly and well. "When you ride into combat, act without attachment, and carry with you the confidence that you are fulfilling your calling in this life... Then you will know the way." This is taken almost verbatim from the Bhagvad Gita... and it has always given me the chills. I must say, it seems supremely appropriate to hear Krishna saying it to Xena.

    "All is clouded by desire, Arjun: as
    fire by smoke, as a mirror by dust."

    Desire clouds everything,
    said Krishna to Arjun
    on the battlefield,
    and you must act
    but act between it,
    like a swimmer poised
    between the
    ebb tide and the flood,
    moving neither
    in nor out....

    ... and after all
    he is alone
    on his chariot,
    the battle
    raged and gone, the
    fire burnt out, the
    mirror cracked and
    tarnished.
    He calls out to that
    mad, blue boy to
    come and answer him

    But none returns.
    The chariot is
    solitary on the plain
    over which
    the wind moves
    ceaselessly.



  • Isn't the voice of the singer we hear when we cut back to Eli and Gab in contemplation in Lanka just tremendous? A great Indian singer like that seems to be able to do something with their voice where is has a depth and resonance to it that seems almost beyond what you'd believe any single human voice could achieve...

  • However, I've already commented to the effect that I thought the 'temptation' of Gab scene which followed was stupid, and I flatly reject the conclusions and values it projects.

  • There seemed to be something distinctly "English upper crust" about Indrajit's diction - I think he must have gone to a 'good school' in England or something...

  • For a Demon King, he seemed *very* upset about having his hand chakramed off!

  • The music for the big fight was interesting - sort of a variant on the basic Xena warrior themes incorporating the shehnai (double-reed pipe) which, as I pointed out last week, Loduca *definitely* seems to associate with warriors and danger.

  • Seeing Xena get her arms cut off was *really* disgusting! I think it's definitely the nastiest thing they've ever shown. Medically speaking though, I noticed when we got a close-up of Xena's face afterwards that she still seemed to have a good colour... which is surprising, since you'd have expected her to go into shock.

  • Incidentally, why did Xena wait until *after* her arms had been chopped off to call on Krishna?

  • And Gab dropped her non-violence again after Xena fell, to have a go at Indrajit. Was anybody blaming her?

  • I thought blue, six-armed Xena looked *most* impressive myself (even if the extra arms did look a bit fake at times - hey, they were way better than most efforts at this kind of thing that I've seen). I loved her face with the dark makeup and the nose ring. And *nobody* can glower like Lucy!

  • OTOH, I thought the fight itself arguably went on a bit too long. And even apart from the preliminary amputations, I think it would still have to take the prize as the *nastiest* fight in the Xenaverse - gouging, biting, and a very emphatic concluding decapitation. I was thinking when I watched it "I bet that gets trimmed a bit, when it gets onto UK TV, for example!" Little did I think that one of my own local stations would decide not air the ep at all, "because of the violence". I must say, I sort of suspect they used the excuse of the violence to pull the ep in light of the controversy generated by the complaints from Hindu groups - after all, if the violence was their only concern, they could have always done what is done in the UK, and edited out the more explicitly gory shots.

  • Eli's speech at the end seemed a bit inconsistent - he starts out by saying to Gab that the way of love is hard and 'may not be for you'... and then he goes on to tell her to stick with it, and concludes 'in the end, we'll redeem the world'.

  • And Eli is going 'home' on a ship to take the message to his 'own people' who he believes will be 'more receptive'. It really does seem that they want us to believe that he's Jesus, although they carefully avoid committing themselves (and his message seems more Gandhi than gospel).

  • I was *MOST* unhappy to see Gab toss away her staff. And I found this whole conversation between Xena and Gab very disturbing. They sound almost like strangers, I just don't get any feeling of intimacy between them at all. And Xena *looked* awful as well. I don't like this new hair whatsoever - it looks sort of seedy and doesn't flatter her face at all... And then she was looking sort of miserable and blotchy. I felt like putting my arms around her and giving her a good hug - which Gab conspicuously failed to do!

  • So... this whole scene left me with the feeling that the Gab I know is dead, the relationship I know is dead, and so presumably the show I know is dead. Ambitious and wonderful as this ep was, it just left me depressed. They seem to have dismantled the show's human core. And for me piety is a poor substitute for humanity. I just don't see where they're going to go from here, and I find it hard to imagine it as at all a happy journey...




  • COMMENTARY 4:

    Commentary by Missy Good.

    03-02-99. Wow.. I have to say, this was an interesting episode, not so much for Gab's decision, but for the resolution provided for Xena. I think she was profoundly relieved to have her life's choice validated, and be told for once that being a warrior wasn't a disgusting job, but rather something Krishna admired. I think that's what enabled her to accept Gab's choice at the end, and to offer to part ways, to allow Gab to find her way, because Krishna said that Xena herself was within a hair's breath of achieving her own way. So, what he's saying is that Xena's a lot closer to following her true way than Gab is, and I think Xena's afraid that by traveling with her, she'll make it harder for Gab.

    And it will make for some pretty intense conflict - if Gab's going to refuse to fight anyone, anywhere, anyhow.. but emotionally it makes sense for her character. Instead of being a junior Xena, she becomes a true partner, and really Xena's other half. They together make a complete picture, though I think there'll be backsliding in both directions. (Eli alludes to this)

    I really liked the end… Xena's acknowledgment of, and apology for leading Gabrielle away from her center was delivered with some real emotion - Xena's very close to losing it, and you can read that in Lucy's face and speech. Gabrielle's immediate rejection of the thought of traveling with Eli rang true also but you can see by Gab's face she knows this is going to be a tough path to walk. However, the apology did bother me in one respect, in that it seems like Xena lured poor Gab away from her bucolic life in Potadeia… and I think this does Gab a disservice, because putting herself on Xena's path was her choice all the way, not Xena's. GABRIELLE chose to walk the warrior path, and she has to take the responsibility for that on her shoulders as well.

    To Gab's credit, she wants to keep on with Xena anyways. It would be much easier for her soul for her to go with Eli, and be part of his crusade to his own people - she would learn a lot, and get a lot closer to her path, and probably be in a sense a lot happier by going with him, but I don't think she even seriously considers it. I just hope she finds a way to get attacking baddies to run past her and slam themselves into trees, and it doesn't make her become a peaceful damsel in distress in subsequent episodes. I can see her refusing to fight and developing techniques to make people defeat themselves being kind of fun, if they go that way.

    I have a mental image of her having to explain all this to Ephiny and the Amazons, though. We're going back to the first season of - "I talk, you fight" , essentially. Maybe Gabrielle will even get to tell a few stories now and then.



    COMMENTARY 5:

    Commentary Videntur.

    03-02-99. OUCH! Talk about a hurting episode. My heart really went out to Xena in this one. First she has her arm cut open with a sword at the beginning of the episode and then a knife driven into her hand followed by the detachment of her left arm followed by the detachment of her right arm (not mentioning the smacks and hard knocks rendered to her body in between). But its nice to know Eli didn’t get a scratch and best of all, at the end he made sure to give thanks to Gabrielle for being the first one to understand him. You know Xena, sometimes I wonder why you do it.

    Enough cynicism, let’s start the analysis. In this episode you have both of our main characters searching for the “Way”. The nice thing is, this episode didn’t leave you with a cliffhanger because both found what was the right “Way” for them.

    Gabrielle has chosen the “Way” of love. Eli is her first true mentor in achieving this way of life. However, let’s take a look at Eli. His actions at first seemed a little inconsistent, he tells Gabrielle that under no circumstances would he fight back since that would be perpetuating the cycle of violence. Yet, in the temple when he sensed that Xena was in trouble, he ran out of the temple as if he had the intentions of fighting back - the only thing or person stopping him was Gabrielle. Subsequently throughout the remainder of the episode you have Gabrielle wanting to do the fighting while Eli was trying to stop her. I found that I liked the cycle of peace that Eli wanted to create but I found it distasteful that he would watch loved ones die without lifting a finger to help them. Also, can you have true peace and non-violence without violence to help maintain it. Look at Yin and Yang. The opposites are needed to maintain balance in the world. If you take away strength, violence, the warrior - can you truly have peace. I don’t think so, because when evil comes into the picture (and it always does) who is there to stop it if no one will lift a finger to fight against it. I think that what Eli taught could be practiced by a few but those few who practice it would always have to have strength of a warrior with them to maintain it. Eli has Hanuman and Gabrielle has Xena. - again Yin and Yang. Yet if we look at the symbol, a little of Yin resides in Yang and a little of Yang resides in Yin. This would mean that Gabrielle (who is completely mortal) will never achieve 100% of pure peace (like Eli who is a deity in human form) but will always have to give into the “fighting spirit” when necessary if balance is to be maintained.

    Gabrielle has come a long way since the little girl image that we saw in the first season of Xena episodes. She has matured, has questioned, and has found what she was looking for. It should be interesting to see how many times she will be sorry that she threw her staff in the water and how many times she will have to obtain a weapon to fight. In the first season, of course, Gabrielle didn’t fight much either, but she had the spunk and spirit and when she could help she most certainly did. A warrior needs someone to watch her back and in Gabrielle’s new role I wonder just how this will be achieved without fighting. Even in this episode we saw times when Gabrielle lost her patience with Eli’s inactivity. The first time was when Eli refused to help her try to push the doors open so that they could escape, the second time was when Xena (or Indrajit portraying himself as Xena) was in the chair with chains being tortured and Gabrielle ignored Eli and went to go save Xena. The third time was when Xena had both arms chopped off and Gabrielle had had enough and even though she knew she could not defeat Indrajit, she would rather die than to sit and do nothing after being a witness to the death of her best friend. Personally, I liked this attitude in Gabrielle and found myself becoming more and more irritated with the passiveness of Eli being able to watch his friends being tortured.

    I’d like to see a test episode, it would be one in which Xena is either injured or comes down with a very high fever. It would require Gabrielle nursing Xena throughout the episode (like Xena did for Gabrielle in “One Against an Army”) and in this episode Gabrielle would be basically left to fend for herself and yet protect Xena at the same time. It would be interesting to see just how long Gabrielle would go without picking up a defense weapon if it meant saving the life of Xena who would be totally dependent on her (Gabrielle) for survival.

    Krishna was a cool god. His voice was always soft and he never lost his temper with Xena despite her very flippant answers. He definitely placed her on the right path which if Xena was to survive, had to be done very quickly. Several statements by Krishna achieved this:

    “You will never achieve your other life if you don’t follow the way you’re on now”; “it is better to die following your own way then to live someone else’s.” Xena has recently been trying to live the way that Gabrielle wants her to live - without the warrior side. In the beginning of the episode Gabrielle states to Xena: “See, maybe being a warrior isn’t the right karma for you-maybe you should look to peace.” Xena is a warrior and if she continues to question this in battle, she will eventually be killed, even Xena knew this when she stated: “But either way a warrior cannot ask these questions in the heat of battle-when the kill is there you have to take it.” Krishna confirmed this by his following statement to Xena: “When you ride into combat-act without attachment and carry with you the confidence that you are fulfilling your calling in this life then you will know the way” However, in this statement he is also implying that one flaw Xena has in battle is her constant fear of Gabrielle getting hurt - thus her attachement (her flaw). This even came out in the episode “Crusader”. It is Xena’s constant fear of the crucifixion scene and Gabrielle being nailed to a cross that interferes with her current focus at times when she is fighting. Until the crucifixion scene is resolved can Xena really ever fight with the full focus that she needs in order to maintain the strength of the Warrior. I tend to think that Xena will see many more injuries until the crucifixion event is over. Another question I had, Krishna stated to Xena: “..and if you’re following the path of the way-call my name and the strength to defeat Indrajit will be given to you.” Is this a one time event or can Xena call upon Krishna whenever she runs into trouble with any evil God including Indrajit (who I just have this feeling will definitely be back).

    Xena - what can I say. Excellent acting on the part of Lucy Lawless. I felt the pain when Xena’s arms were being detached and when the knife had gone through her hand. When Xena turned into the goddess with 6 arms, she did it very well and it was very believable. When the fighting was over, Xena seemed almost like she was in shock (and happy to have her arms back where they belonged) - you notice the hug that Xena would normally give to Gabrielle was missing. Xena just walked beside Gabrielle as if she still could not grasp the events that had just taken place. I’m glad that Krishna set Xena back on the path of the Warrior. Its odd, at the end of the episode, Xena apologized to Gabrielle for leading her away from her path for so long. To me, Gabrielle also owed an apology to Xena for trying to change her. Both Xena and Gabrielle are good in their own “Way” and so its best that it was resolved. I was very happy when Xena suggested to Gabrielle that she should perhaps follow Eli for a while and Gabrielle answered:” No, you and I stay together” afterall, that is what makes the show great is the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle and the excellent acting on the part of both actresses (although major kudos goes to Lucy Lawless for putting her body through some major physical activity to give the audience a good show). Also, good consistency in the way that Xena shows no fear of any gods even those in other countries.

    All in all, I loved the episode but found myself longing for an episode where Gabrielle is dressed in her regular skirt and top and boots and her and Xena are having the old kind of interaction that they use to have in the past. I find that the writers are too bent on making Gabrielle look glamorous and saintly (which usually the two don’t go together). Lucy Lawless is wearing less make-up while ROC is dipping heavy in the cosmetic counter. Now that they have each found “their way”, let’s just get back to the old Xena and Gabrielle with the stress being placed on their friendship, interactions and adventures.



    COMMENTARY 6:

    03-28-99. Commentary Beboman.

    This episode is a double WOW. I have not been able to stop watching it, although I have to agree with others: this episode is a bit more violent than other XWP episodes. Still, this was a very good episode. One of the things that makes this episode stand apart from any other episode is the realization by both Xena and Gabrielle that no matter what their individual “way” in life is, they will walk together.

    It is so hard to accept those we love for who they are without trying to change them and continue to love them no matter what. That is what both our main characters did in this episode. They accepted each other for what they were, even though they realized that each other’s way was leading in different directions. This was a hard decision, but they made it and they will be better for it.

    What made this episode interesting is that it took our leads such a long time to realize they both had been on the road toward their “way” since the beginning of the series. Didn’t Gabrielle tell Xena in “Callisto”, “There’s only one way to end this cycle of hatred and it’s through love and forgiveness.”

    Xena has been a warrior since day one. Her way has always been “The Way” of the warrior. Wasn’t it Lao Ma who wanted Xena to be her Warrior Princess in the New Kingdom that she was going to form?

    Up to this point, however, neither of our characters had accepted what their path in life really was. They were both, in their very particular way, looking for what was right in front of them all the time. (Isn’t that the way it always happens)?

    Let’s take a look at the road our main characters had to walk to understand what was their way. Xena always understood she was a warrior. She tells this to the Fates in “Remember Nothing”. She also realizes it when she first meets and helps Gabrielle and her village against Draco. All through the series, it is very obvious to us, the audience, that Xena is destined to always be a warrior and she is good at it.

    For Gabrielle, the process was not that easy. When we first meet Gabrielle, as she leaves home to follow Xena, she tells her sister she wants to be a warrior like Xena. Later, she wants to be an Amazon and then a Bard. During the second and third season, Gabrielle is unsure of who she is or what she is looking for. That is what leads her on this search, a search she shares with Xena. What has always united these two characters is the love they share for each other. As Gabrielle tells Xena at the end of this episode, she could not have found her way if it had not been for the unconditional love they shared.

    For me, as an audience member, this was a very powerful episode, but there were some scenes that hit home more than others. For example, the campfire scene (and in Xenaland all the campfire scenes are excellent). But this one stands on its own because this is the first time Xena openly questions if her way as a warrior is the correct one. Also, it is in this episode that we, the audience, are finally given the reason why Xena has had such a hard time defeating adversaries this season. In the past Xena has been able to defeat greater adversaries, such as Callisto and Aries. As Xena tells us: “But either way, a warrior cannot ask this question in the heat of battle. When the kill is there, you have to take it. If I can’t do that, I cannot be a warrior any more.” Very strong words, but very true.

    Another great moment was when Xena and Hanuman climb the tree. This was a true Xena moment, a moment in which she could not avoid showing off. This reminds me of “Sins of the Past” when she is going to fight Draco and jumps on the scaffold. Following that same line is the scene where Gabrielle and Eli are locked up in the room and Gabrielle is trying to get Eli to help her. She realizes he is not going to do it. The interaction between these two characters was great.

    Xena needed someone to tell her she was on the right path. This is the moment when Krishna appears to Xena and tells her, “You must not hesitate to fight for a just cause. It is better to die following your own way than to live following someone else’s. When you ride into combat, act without detachment, and carry the confidence that you are fulfilling your calling in life. Then you will know The Way.” Those were some very powerful words from Krishna to Xena.

    The scenes that follow were hard for me, as an audience member, to watch. To see Eli do nothing while Gabrielle is almost killed at the hands of Indrajit was very hard. Still, it was even worse to see Xena mutilated. The worst thing that could happen to a warrior is to lose their arms. Xena not only got beaten in this first fight, she was savagely mutilated.

    Then came the final fight, the hardest and most meaningful of all; the fight between good and evil. This is a fight that only a soul destined to achieve total purity and goodness could have fought and won. In the end, we, the audience, as well as our main characters, were drained. There was nothing else there but a realization that good had triumphed.

    But the writers were not through with us yet. They had taken us, from the beginning of the show, on a roller coaster of emotions which ended with the last scene of the show, which was the kicker. Both of our main characters realize they have different ways in live, but make the hardest decision; to stay together, even though they realize it is not going to be an easy road to walk. In the end, they will still be together. (Did I cry at this time; Yes!)

    The special effects in this show were great. The flying carpet that took Eli and Gabrielle, the multiple arms of both Indrajit and Xena, and the armless Xena were very well done. Also the bugs turning into demons, the demons turning into bugs and especially the eel turning into a demon with a stake in it were quite good.

    The script for this show was superb, the photography excellent, the music uplifting, and the direction was outstanding. The acting by the two leads was better than ever. The chemistry between the two actresses became very evident during this episode.

    This episode was a great ending to the India trilogy. It answered some of the questions the characters, as well as we, the audience, were asking. It also left the door open for many more questions. This episode ties together, in a true Xena way, all the elements that have made the program so great. It gave us a look at the depth of the friendship and love between the main characters and how painful and exhausting it is to find The Way. Both characters face great pain in their struggle to find their way, but in the end that struggle is what brought them closer together, even though they walk two different roads.



    COMMENTARY 7:

    02-07-00. Commentary Jill Hayhurst.

    Well, now they've gone and done it. Two different versions of the same d*mn ep. We got THE WAY, we got THE OTHER WAY, and supposedly the only real difference tween 'em is that one's got a tad more headbutting and t'other's got PSAs.

    Given my druthers, I'll yaw towards the headbutting. And since it's my furkin' dime, I'll be sure to pay Special Attention in a little bit to that five seconds or so of film footage calculated to send billyuns and billyuns of maddened religious fanatics rampaging through the streets and maybe turning all blue and growing a couple extra sets of arms apiece.

    THE WAY opens with stunning, breathtaking shots of snowmelt in the mountains dripping and slipping and sliding (I'm feeling a need to fan myself, here) into rushing torrents and waterfalls and burbling brooks and then wide, placid rivers flowing through the plains, making their Ways to the sea, while Gabrielle in voiceover makes profound observations on the nature of rivers and the inevitability of Life. Xena, like any bright, practical person, challenges Gab's sweeping statements, whereupon Gab takes the low road with an ad hominem rebuttal. Tsk.

    Instead of calling her on it, Xena tries to change the subject, but that won't work, there's a certain inevitablity about this ep and the need to tie together some of the stuff that's been going on since A Good Day, where Gab found out she can't throw a javelin worth squat and they set out on this whole Spiritual Journey thing. So that's what this ep's gonna be about: how to chuck responsibility for one's actions and inclinations onto the shoulders of some inchoate Kharmic Destiny (oooh, can y'all tell I'm an uncouth Westerner, here? Dis, dis, dis, that's all I do). And all that while getting to kick butt, too! There must be an 'all expenses paid Caribbean cruise' offer in there somewheres.

    (Sorry. I'm still feeling pissy about that ad hominem thing, not to mention Bangless Xena, I really need to get over it, I know. Specially since this was such a way cool ep, with scads of special effects and featuring my all time fave furry walk-on, Hanuman, who's much cuter than Hercules, and Xena doesn't sleep with him, so it's just jam all around, know what I mean?)

    Where was I? Oh, yeah, Gab's suggesting that maybe Xena should go with the Mother of Peas flow that was such an incidental part of BTL, and stop disemboweling strangers, or at least not enjoying it so much, well maybe only during Ramedan, and Xena's agreeing with her but only cos her mind's on business, there's summat Not Quite Right in their immediate environs (they're walking along a river, bet you guessed that) and next thing we know, she's used her walking stick to impale an eel.

    You know, it's hard to spear a fish. Has to do with The Way of light in water, which is so very different from The Way of light in air. Just goes to show ya how spiritually evolved Xena is already.

    So she flings this beastie onto the bank and as it hits it turns into a demon. Still impaled, of course, and in a terribly silly mask, but I don't want to hold that against it; it's so very cooperative about answering, truthfully yet, all questions Xena asks it. Without even needing to be Pinched. Like it took some kind of Demon Scout oath or something. It says it's been following them to keep them from reaching the avatar, then it puffs on some beetles on its palm and they turn into demons too. This must mean something to somebody. Don't mean fuck all to me, but I'm just a bikerchick, I'm happy if there's a decent amount of buttkicking at regular intervals, not to mention a glimpse or two of warrior thigh and a few bardly snuggles round the campfire under the omnipresent full moon... where was I? Oh, yeah-- the buttkicking's started!

    The demons are all wearing Masks of the Mayan Gods, think there was a sale on at pbs.org, and it's no trouble at all for Xena and Gabrielle to take 'em out, even though Xena does get slightly distracted once and picks up a nick on her arm, and when they've done for the demons (who exit this world even more arbitrarily than they entered it, vibrating at about 3000 rpms, I'd say) Xena interrogates the demon-on-a-stick and learns that it's someone named Indrajit, the King of Demons, the Prince of Darkness, the Earl of Misdemeanors and the Lord of Minor Traffic Offences who sent them.

    Later that eve, relaxing by a campfire (under a NOT-FULL MOON, eek! they must be in a furrin country), Gabrielle stitches up Xena's owwie and they have a sensitive chat about Indrajit and avatars and we find out what an avatar is, thank heavens, Gab knows, it's a diety in human form, sort of like Ares, except possibly not so much a hunk, and then while Xena goes to curry Argo, sorry, that's just me being wistful, I miss Argo, heck, I miss Ares, anyway, Xena starts to wonder about whether or not her future life destiny as an old woman hobbling around on a stick and having to face down Alti with naught more'n her wits and whatever she's stored away in her cheek pockets will be undone by her continuing to off bad guys and spin-kick the Face of Evil. Well. At least she's gone off worrying about snowy Romans for the time being.

    Anyway, that there's this ep's big crux-- if Xena can't kick butt and take names, cos she's worried about her kharma, then she can't be a warrior, she'd have to do something else, this is a real issue since Xena: Mother of Peace Princess is, frankly, a ratings disaster.

    So, we're up to the titles and car commercials, which gives us about five minutes to ponder on how the bangless look does nothing for Xena's closeup appeal, before we find out why she's sporting it: Eli the Magician is back, with long black hair and no bangs, it's a visual bonding thing, still wandering the countryside, only this time it's a solo act, he paid Vanna off in the last village and is now preaching to the multitude and snuggling tiny childrens. He's apparently graduated from being a devi to being an avatar, wonder what the orals were like? and he's just overjoyed to see Xena and Gab on the outskirts of the crowd around him and runs away from them as fast as he can down the path, calling out how glad he is to see them, let's do lunch sometime, but they catch up and insist on hanging with him and they all head off down the road.

    That night, while there's still a bite tooken out of the moon, Eli is awakened by a Creature bending over him, looks like a giant flying monkey, or maybe a Wookie, and as he starts up Xena hurtles out of the bushes and punches the monkey in the face four or five times, then knees him in his side before he pins her arms and lifts her from the ground. Then she headbutts hims.

    [That's the big scene, folks. Y'all might want to avert your eyes, cos simply watching this one causes Lord Krishna to doubt his own existence. Me, I can't help but think any diety what can be mortally disrespected by a headslam ain't, in the long run, worth two monkey butts. Certainly not two flying monkey butts.]

    So, back to the story (it's just a story, folks, like Little Red Riding Hood or the Ramayana), the Furry Wonder asks Xena politely to chill, he's on their side. Turns out he's Hanuman, and his vocation in life is to be an avatar groupie, protecting young avatars from demons and teaching them to be snappy dressers, like him. And such a life it's been! Hanuman's been around simply forever, which might explain his resemblance to earlier forms of humans and just goes to show ya, Evolution is the Way.

    Lesson there for the Kansas kidlings.

    Next day they're still wandering through the forest when Hanuman senses danger, it's either a demon attack or Joan Rivers with her new line of swimwear, so he tells them all to take cover. He leaps vertically about fifteen feet into a tree as Gabrielle hustles Eli off into the bushes. Xena follows Hanuman, and that sets up the bit where we have sensitive chats in stereo and Xena finds out from Hanuman about how the Way of the Warrior is actually pretty cool, and beats hell out of the Way of the Flipflop, and Gabrielle finds out about the Way of Wimpiness from Eli, only he calls it Love, and she buys into it cos he's got that bangless look just like Xena and she gets a little confused.

    The Way of Love, according to Eli, mandates that its adherents do nothing violent, even if attacked. Apparently, the Cycle of Violence is the reason why the world is in such a muddle, and the only way to stop it is through not being violent oneself. Gabrielle asks what happens if someone whups up on you, while you're hanging around being peaceful and suchlike, and Eli says that you keep on being peaceful and that this is some kind of winning strategy, though how you know you're winning when you're all busted up and rats're gnawing at your entrails is something he doesn't really explain, maybe he ran out of time, cos just then Hanuman blows the all-clear (Indrajit was spotted flying around in the wrong direction about a half mile away) and they get on with walking... where? Oh, they're going toward a village with a mondo temple to Krishna, where Eli will be safe from Indrajit. Since apparently the Way of Love only really works if one is indoors and protected by an all-powerful diety.

    So they keep on, and it gets quite crowded as they near the village, everyone wants to see the avatar ("Look! It's Indrajit's Breakfast!") and they get right up to the temple where all the villagers want to fight for Eli but he tells them to get on home and not screw up their kharma by fighting for the Greater Good, since they're innocent as children in their hearts and fighting an evil demon would destroy this innocence of theirs, so next time a demon tries to take my soul, why, I'll just go on and let it. Wonder what the next change up from bikerchick is, and if it's anything like sidekick to a hot warrior babe? Though with my luck it's probably one of those really colourful poison treefrogs, and I'll spend my next life grousing about putting up with indigenous South American warriors scraping their darts across my back and being pooped on by canopy monkeys.

    Goodness, that was a tangent and a half. Now all of you know the extent and nature of my secret anxieties. Damn. Now I'll have to kill you all, and spend my next life as a sea louse.

    So Our Heroes (minus Xena, she stays outside, make that Our Co-star plus Guests) make their way into the temple, at the little half jog all interior scenes start with, and there, directly ahead of them, in the center of the hall, is a statue of Boy George. All painted blue and bedecked with flowers and playing a flute pointed the wrong way. Gabrielle and Hanuman continue down to the statue, leaving Eli to sign the guestbook in the entrance. Once there Hanuman lets on he knows about the Way of Love line Eli was feeding Gab with, and she's simply astonished, guess she doesn't know about how monkeys can hear really well, and he tells her that Eli's gig is the Ultimate Gig, which few can follow, since obviously not that many people have a strong compulsive death wish, and then the scene switches to Xena outside.

    A slew of the nice innocent people outside have suddenly taken to wearing the Masks of the Mayans and trying to do damage to Xena, and while she's detailing the Way of the Warrior to them, Eli and Gab dash outside to help. Or something. Look like bait, maybe. Indrajit's coming in behind his ground troops, on a flying carpet, and we finally get a good look at what's been frighting everyone since the top of the ep.

    Now, I ask you: have you ever in your lives seen anyone who looked *less* like a bank teller? That demon-king is *so* establishment it makes you realize just how subversive this show really is. I'll bet Rob Tapert was turned down for a loan in his youth.

    Anyway, much confusion and running hither and thither, Xena kicking butt with a precision and looseness that indicates she's at peace with her destiny, then Indrajit swoops down on the Gab/Eli knot and snatches up Eli before he can so much as turn the other cheek. Gab takes out a masked demon as Indrajit positions for another pass, then Xena sees the danger and shouts for her to run away! run away! which she does, except in the opposite direction from the temple (aka 'safety', it's ten yards away, bard, the bazaar you're running into ain't got near as much spiritual credit built up) and moreover, that saffron hip wrap she's been so keen on since DEVI is just not built to allow a runner to stretch her stride at all, which is not doing a thing to make me cheerier about Hindu culture, do you bind their feet, too, boys? and so of course Indrajit captures her too, and stuffs her in his magic carpet with Eli and they fly off to the hills leaving Xena shouting "Gabrielle!" forlornly in the distance.

    Xena is not a happy camper. She might try to give away her bard two, three times a season, but she don't like having her snatched away by evil bank tellers. Hanuman convinces her to pray to Krishna, saying she's just his type, having practised dissing gods since she was just a young punk ransoming Caesar, and Krishna likes attitude, he sees so little of it normally, and while she does so, we cut away to see Gabrielle and Eli in the palace (them bank tellers do awfully well in India) alone, and Gab wants to fight their way out and Eli's just sitting back, being smug and saying they'll do fine, or rather, *he'll* be just fine, if they do nothing. Gab doesn't notice the qualification and settles down to meditate with him.

    Meanwhile, back in the temple, the statue comes to life and its resemblance to Boy George intensifies. He reiterates the stuff Hanuman spouted 'bout the Way of the Warrior being the goods, and that if she commits to it wholeheartedly, why, he'll hang right there with her as she decapitates and burns all in her path and will even manifest in some kinda practical fashion if she calls on him to do so.

    You know, if she'd known this stuff back in Chin, she'd probably have been able to take the entire Tien clan and likely done for Lao as well. Then she and Lao Ma could've got all snuggly on more equal terms (I think equality is so essential for a relationship to go long-term, don't you?) and done a fast Borias-drag on the way to consolidating her position as the Top of Asia. Not that that would have helped her stock in Greece, it's so hard to impress the folks in your home town, Cyrene especially would likely still have given her the cold shoulder, so I guess things did work out for the best.

    Meanwhile, Gab and Eli are peacefully ignoring the posturing of Hell's Banker, until he cloaks his gnarly self in an illusion of a mortally wounded Xena. This punches ALL of Gab's buttons, it would mine, too, and she comes up swinging. Laudable though this reation is, it just gets Gab caught up in a tootsies-swinging choke-hold, just like Alti, and Indrajit taunts Eli with Gab's predicament to come out and fight like a demon.

    Eli is saved from having to do more than murmur "no" by a chakram trimming the arm holding Gab. Indrajit's hand hits the deck about the same time as Gabrielle's gasping self. Indrajit screams in outrage, his ability to enter debits and credits in the Great Ledger irrevocably compromised, and turns to face his new nemesis: Xena.

    Anyone else would be scrunched up on the dais, watching their life's blood spouting out in quickstep, but Indrajit is, after all, a demon. He ain't got no blood, just oozing ichor, and so he makes like a cockroach and grows another hand, as well as a couple extra sets of arms. Xena courteously hangs back while he's doing this (and arming himself with stuff on the walls) instead of slicing and dicing while he's preoccupied, and then the battle is joined!

    It's hard to fight a six-armed opponent, your whole stance needs to be different, and Xena is likely not the first to realize this too late. Bet if she'd paid more attention to Herc when he went on about how he took out the Hydra, she'd have lasted longer, but then, having your arms cut off by Indrajit still beats having to listen to Herc retell his monster battles.

    In quick sucession, Indrajit disarms Xena, and then dis-arms Xena. This is way gory, and I recommend all you kidlings out there should play Mortal Kombat instead. At this point, with her dying breath, Xena first whimpers "Gabrielle" and then "Krishna". Gab's ready to take Indrajit on, she's a fiesty one, but the Krishna incantation does it, Xena starts growing arms her own self and next thing you know, it's one of those big fights like what the Japanese used to do with Jet Jaguar and Godzilla and that giant moth thing.

    Except more realistic. As it were.

    Xena's totally blued out and buggy, not to mention bedecked with weird-ass nasal jewelry that nicely mimics Indrajit's banker mustache, and since his walls are just covered with extra weaponry, all cleaned and sharpened, she has no trouble gathering a variety of metal accessories with which to take on her opponent. She lures him to the back of the hall, where there's all kinds neat scaffolding and stuff and places to hide, and they go at it, bashing and thrashing and whacking and hacking, climbing over stuff, hiding behind pillars, lopping off body parts to land with a squishy thud on piles of faux fur carpet remnants.

    (Is there anyone besides me who thinks that Xena going after Indrajit sounds a lot like an alley cat getting a bit in the wee hours of the morning?)

    Eventually, Xena beheads Indrajit, and returns to normal as the spirit of Krishna's Revenge exits her mortal self. Luckily, Krishna thoughtfully reattached her arms and returned her sword to its scabbard and she and Gabrielle can renew their bond as Eli and Hanuman stand by.

    (Hanuman, btw, was busy guarding Xena's rear and taking out minor demons. What Eli was doing that was so bloody useful is not readily apparent, but in the final scene he does thank Gabrielle for being the first one to understand him. And says he won't forget that. I am so over Eli, I'd almost druther see Joxer. *That*, friends and neighbors, signals the end of the world. But if any of the PTB ever chance to read this (tee-hee) before we all go down in fire and brimstone and alien invasion, I'd really druther see Salmoneous. I don't CARE how difficult Robert Trebor may be to work with, the results are worth it. Comedy scenes that are funny over and over and over-- you can spend all the spiritual coin you have praying to any god you like, it ain't no substitute for knowing what you're about, the way that man does. So there.)

    Anyway, Gab, being all overcome with it all, the Way of Love and Feeling the Burn and Going For the Gusto, launches her staff into the Ganges as Xena watches, dismayed, the best throw Gab did was in TGG, her first, and no coach she's had since can sort out what's wrong, so maybe laying off for a while is really the best course.

    And then Xena apologizes for taking her into a life of violence and leading her into the path of evil and all like that there, and Gabrielle, who ain't so shallow as you might think from the way she fell for Eli's line, says that if it weren't for Xena and all they've been though together, she wouldn't have even got to this point in her Spiritual Journey. Gab's gonna give this Love/Nonviolence thing a try, but that don't mean she doesn't want or need her warrior princess around.

    And Xena's cool with that; hey, if my soulmate wanted to try the way of the Poison Skinned Treefrogs, then whatthehell? it's fine with me, honey, see where it leads. Those of us who have lived through watching daily footage of Tianimen Square might have our doubts as to the effectiveness of the extremely narrow and naive view of the nonviolent life as Eli espouses it, especially since it only appears to work if conducted en masse, however, if Gabrielle wants to give it a go, who's to say it won't make a difference?

    Not me, by golly. Though I do wish she'd lose the saffron hip wrap thing. If ya ain't gonna fight, you gotta be able to run.




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