GUEST STARS, CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
SYNOPSIS 1 by Bluesong
SYNOPSIS 2 by Shana
COMMENTARY 1 BY Beth the Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 BY Shelley Sullivan
COMMENTARY 3 BY Beboman
COMMENTARY 4 BY Josh Harrison
COMMENTARY 5 BY S. L. Nelson
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Written by Katherine Fugate
Directed by John Fawcett
TV GUIDE PROMO
The return of Karl Urban as Julius Caesar and Claire Stansfield as Alti! Could Xena's life have taken a different turn? What if Xena and Caesar had become allies? Creation Entertainment
Xena finds herself empress of Rome when Caesar chains the three Fates and cuts the strands of time. JamTV
Xena finds herself empress of Rome when Caesar (guest star Karl Urban) chains the three Fates and cuts the strands of time. ClickTV
After escaping from Hades, Caesar takes control of the Fates' "Loom of Life," which he uses to splice the past with a new future---a future in which Xena becomes his wife and Brutus remains his loyal aide. In the rearranged world, Gabrielle is a playwright for whom Xena feels an intense attraction. Sensing their bond, Caesar charges Gabrielle with being an assassin, and orders that she be crucified. TVGuide.com
Xena becomes the Empress of Rome with no recollection of her past when Caesar (Karl Urban) chains up the three Fates and cuts the strands of time to alter his destiny. The return of Karl Urban as Julius Caesar and Claire Stansfield as Alti! Could Xena's life have taken a different turn? What if Xena and Caesar had become allies? Creation Entertainment
This synopsis is by Bluesong.
Scenes from "Destiny" when Xena's legs are broken on the beach. Someone says no, back it up. Then an image from Destiny when Xena is seducing Caesar and wanting to join forces with him. Caesar stands before the loom of the Fates. He has the Fates chained up. He reviews the loom. The Fates tell him he can't change things. He says he can. He didn't like his destiny the first go-round, and since Hades isn't in the underworld, things are a bit out of control down there, letting him find his way to the Fates doorstep. The Fates tell him if he changes Xena's line, it changes the lines of everyone, the destiny of countless others. Caesar cuts the line, and it begins to weave itself into the loom.
A new fate. Brutus comes to Caesar. He says Lao Ma's peace makers are near. Suddenly a masked woman on horseback comes through the gate. She cuts down soldiers, does the Xena yell, flips off the horse. Shoots arrows at Caesar. She stands before Caesar and takes off her helmet. "My Emperor," Xena says. "My Empress." Caesar replies.
In the throne room, Caesar tells Xena that he brought in a play from Athens especially for her. The Chin representatives arrive. They give Caesar a scroll. He says he accepts the offer of an alliance with Chin. Then Alti, the High Priestess of Rome, comes in. She kills the Chin representatives by showing them visions of their life. "A lifetime of pain in one moment," Alti says. Caesar notes that Xena is right; Alti is ambitious.
They go to the play. Xena enjoys it very much. The play is called "Fallen Angel." At the end of the play, the writer is introduced. Gabrielle (with long hair) takes the stage. She and Xena exchange looks. Caesar looks a bit concerned. Alti notices.
At the after-the-play party, Caesar talks to Alti, who wonders what is going on between Xena and Gabrielle. Xena and Gabrielle talk animatedly about the play, what inspires Gabrielle, etc. Gabrielle notes that Xena is loved by all of Rome. Brutus interrupts Caesar; he has found the dead Chin representatives and says assassins will be on their way.
Xena and Caesar are in their chambers. Caesar leaves to take care of business. Xena goes out on the balcony. She sees Gabrielle across the way, on her balcony. They see each other. Gabrielle bows her head and leaves. Alti appears behind Xena. She said she had a vision about Xena and Gabrielle. Alti tells Xena she saw the way Xena looked at Gabrielle during the play. Alti tells Xena that she is in the way. Alti and Xena fight. Alti gets Xena by the throat. She shows Xena scenes from Ides of March and other eps where Xena is killed or wounded. Alti says Caesar and Rome will be hers.
Brutus and Caesar come in and pull Alti off Xena. Caesar wants to kill Alti right then, but Xena says no, let me do it in the public forum. Gabrielle comes out on her balcony again and sees Caesar hugging Xena and comforting her.
Next morning Caesar sends the royal guard to arrest Gabrielle. He tells Xena that Alti said the playwright was in league with her; he calls Gabrielle an assassin. Gabrielle is led away, protesting her innocence. One of the guards is Joxer.
In the dungeon, Gabrielle's hair is cut off. Joxer gets Xena, telling her that he owes her because she allowed her personal physician to treat his daughter last year, saving her life. He takes Xena to Gabrielle. Xena has everyone leave. She and Gabrielle talk. Gabrielle says she's never harmed anyone in her life. Xena says she knows and believes Gabrielle, not Caesar. Xena says Gabrielle believes love is worth dying for; no one who believes that could be an assassin. In the background, the sound of crosses being nailed together.
Joxer then takes Xena to Alti. Alti says she didn't implicate the playwright. Xena wants Alti to do more memory stuff on her; she wants the knowledge and insight. Alti says free me, and I will show you things. Alti grabs Xena and shows her scenes where Caesar is bad and mean to Xena. Also shows her Gabrielle and Caesar cutting the string of the Fates. Alti says the images aren't from this life. Joxer comes and says "Empress, they've taken the playwright."
Gabrielle is tied to a cross. Caesar watches. Xena comes out and yells for them to stop. Xena tells Caesar she knows what happened; she's seen the truth. She knows Caesar tampered with the Fates and the loom. She tells him to let Gabrielle go or she will devote her life to changing things back. If he lets Gabrielle go, things will continue as they are and they will be emperor and empress of the world. Caesar releases Gabrielle. Xena goes to her and helps her up off the cross, telling the soldiers to get their filthy hands off of her. Xena tells Gabrielle that she isn't Gabrielle's empress, she is her friend. She tells Gabrielle to go back to her vineyard by the sea and write all of those great plays.
Gabrielle tells Xena that she writes of love but she's never felt it before. Xena tells Gabrielle that Rome isn't safe for her. Leave now. Xena sees Caesar talking to the guards.
Alti is in Caesar's room. He isn't too surprised to see her. Alti says Caesar needs a more loyal partner than Xena. Caesar says okay, prove you're loyal. Go kill Gabrielle.
Gabrielle rides away. Alti appears to her (moving quickly, at super speed). She grabs her, shows her visions of the "real life". Xena arrives. She shoots an arrow at Alti, who vanishes. Gabrielle is a little comatose. Xena and Alti fight. Roman soldiers come, and Xena fights them, too. Gabrielle finally stands up and staggers around. Xena is shot with arrows in the leg and arm. Gabrielle tries to go to Xena, but Joxer grabs her. He tells Gabrielle she can't help Xena, but he can help her.
Xena tells Caesar that he betrayed her again. Xena is thrown to the ground and her feet tied; she is dragged off (think Gabdrag/The Bitter Suite). Alti laughs.
Brutus comes to Caesar. He says the troops are muttering about Xena; they like her. She's very popular among the men. The troops look up to her. Caesar says Alti will be the new empress. Then Caesar stabs Brutus, all the while telling him he loves him.
Joxer takes Gabrielle to Xena, who is lying injured in a cell. Gabrielle tells Xena that Alti showed her visions. Gabrielle says that when she is with Xena, the emptiness is gone. She asks what is going on. Xena tells Gabrielle that Caesar changed our fate. Gabrielle says she can't let Xena die. Xena says some things are worth dying for, sacrificing all for love. Everything happens precisely as it should. Xena tells Gabrielle to go. Xena tells Gabrielle she will love her forever. Xena is taken away, and she tells Joxer to get Gabrielle out of Rome alive.
In the rain, Xena is led out to the cross. Caesar and Alti watch. Gabrielle rides away. Xena sees Alti and Caesar kiss. Xena is tied to the cross. Gabrielle rides away. Joxer watches. Alti and Caesar screw, Alti on top. Xena is nailed to the cross. Alti stabs Caesar. Caesar dies as Xena is nailed in place. Gabrielle rides to a vacant temple. Xena is crucified. Gabrielle goes into the temple and sees the loom. It is a big mess. The Fates, still chained, said they couldn't do anything except watch the threads tangle up and create chaos. Gabrielle grabs a torch. Alti laughs at Xena on the cross. The Fates beg Gabrielle not to burn the loom; it will destroy everything. "So be it," Gabrielle says. The loom destroyed what was meant to be. Gabrielle sets the loom on fire. Alti, laughing at Xena, vaporizes and turns into a skeleton. Xena on the cross says, "I love you Gabrielle." Lots of fireworks, and the solar system explodes.
Gabrielle walks through a forest. She hears hoofbeats. Xena (on Argo?) rides up. "You brought the world back to us," Xena says. "I like this one better," Gabrielle says. "Even if you're not a famous playwright?" Xena asks. "Fame. Who needs it?" Gabrielle replies. She climbs on the horse. They ride off.
This synopsis is by Shana.
The episode starts out with Xena's crucifixion from Destiny. What is it with Send in the Clones and this one that TPTB feel the need to show us the most painful moments from the show's history? It's got something to do with the presence of Alti, I guess, and these clips certainly serve to stir up a mixed bag of emotions in me, rather effectively. Anyway, just as Xena cries out from having her legs broken, a familiar male voice says, "Stop, back it up." We watch the footage run backward in triple time until we're in Xena's cabin on her ship, and watching her seduction of Caesar. The voice watches up through the kiss, then calls out to stop again, approving much more of this footage.
It is Caesar himself, as we soon learn, and he is standing in front of the "loom of time", holding one of the strands. He ponders over how one strand can change all of history. We see the three Fates standing quietly in a corner...all chained up with no where to go. Caesar muses "Had I not betrayed Xena I'd be ruling Rome today. Instead I get stabbed in my back by my good friend Brutus while Xena gets to ride off into the sunset with her girlfriend. Hardly a fitting end to Julius Caesar." I'd like to read as much into this as possible, hoping that's how the series will end if Caesar's plan doesn't work, but that's wishful thinking. With this single utterance, I learned a lot about what was to come. Caesar's motives for altering history had nothing to do with his love for Xena...instead it had to do with his dream of fulfilling his destiny with Xena at his side, robbing her of her greatest love. Apparently, he realized that as long as Xena wasn't with him, she would find a way to destroy him.
The Fates tell him he cannot change his destiny. But Caesar walks toward them, holding one of the strands from the golden loom. Instead of a spinning wheel with strands that look like yarn as seen in previous episodes, the loom is now a intricate pattern of golden strands. As Caesar walks, the strand he holds slides out of the loom. He wants to tell the Fates about his destiny. He tells them that since Hades is dead, underworld security is "rather lax." That's why he can get a hold of this strand which he calls "this defining Xena moment." He holds it up and peers at it as if it is a piece of film, saying "mysterious...romantic...good lighting." He takes a pair of scissors and snips the strand in two, then takes the first part of it and turns his back to the Fates, as he places it in the loom. He's still wearing the white robe he wore when he was assassinated, the blood marks clearly evident. The Fates get all tense as he moves, telling him what he is doing will change all history, not just his destiny. He turns back and smiles at them as the strand winds itself through the loom. "Oh, I'm counting on it," he tells them with confidence.
Suddenly we're in Rome, and Caesar is wearing royal robes, telling his men the grain must be allocated so the people can eat. Into the scene walks Brutus, played by David Franklin, who was my favorite of all the Brutus's. Brutus and Caesar step aside, and Brutus tells Caesar the Chinese emissaries have arrived. Forgive me, but since when was the word "Chinese" used on Xena? First it was the "Elijans" popping out of nowhere, now it's the term "Chinese". Oh well, Julius is pleased with this, as he wants to make a peace treaty with Lao Mao. Yes, apparently she is still very much alive in this world, and apparently ruling Chin. Brutus is pleased too, and warmly accepts Caesar's thanks and embrace of friendship. Behind Brutus's back, we see Caesar say "my good friend", his voice sounding sincere, but his eyes saying something else. As they separate, a call is sounded out, "Open the gates!" and the twosome turn to see who's entering.
This person sure knows how to make an entrance! As the gates are open, a single black horse stands tall, the rider on it even taller. It's a female, dressed all in black, with a gladiator helmet masking all her features save her eyes. She sits for a moment, as Caesar's men draw their swords and take defensive positions, then gallops into the courtyard with a battlecry. She does some trick riding...must be part Indian, and takes out the soldiers with kicks to the head. Then she draws her trusty...bow and arrow, and fires a shot at Caesar. Brutus is looking rather nervous during all this, but Caesar just smiles as the arrow narrowly misses his head and implants itself into the wall behind him.
The horse locks its forelegs and the rider somersaults over its head to land at the bottom of the steps Caesar is standing on. I'm sure you know by now, it's Xena, and it's kind of cool to see a quill of arrows on her shoulder, rather than a sword. I'm not sure what the reason for the weapon change is, but it doesn't matter. She walks up the stairs and as she approaches Caesar, removes her helmet (absolutely the best one I've seen her in) to reveal the haughty warrior princess attitude. I really like the duds she's sporting, long tight black pants, and a black tunic decorated in golden medallions. She walks closer to Caesar, then purrs, "My emperor." He smiles back, "My empress." She breaks into the big grin, but there's something almost sinister in what is usually a very beautiful expression. She chuckles, almost giggles, as we fade to opening credits.
I noticed this Xena has longer hair as the next scene opens and Xena and Caesar are walking through a palace, their arms interlocked. Caesar tells her he's arranged for some entertainment for her return. "A new wrestle (sic) from Thrace?" she asks, but he tells her no, it's a playwright from Athens. He thought she'd appreciate someone from her own culture. Xena laughs, "More drivel from old men with tricky names...that was very thoughtful of you." Her delivery is sarcastic, light, and adorable. One thing that is quite obvious is this is NOT Evil Xena, the Xena of the past that we've seen so often. The episode never touches on why she is the way she is, but I guess since the first crucifixion hasn't happened in THIS world, Xena stayed on her path to protect her homeland, not become a killing machine. That's my theory, anyway. She's in character for ambitious Xena before she became Evil Xena...now I'm confusing myself.
Brutus enters with two men from Chin, who Caesar refers to as "honored emissaries." Xena smiles pleasantly at them, then tells Caesar the senate is voting on acquiring new weaponry for "her" men, and she feels she should be there. Caesar excuses her, and Xena bows to the emissaries before she exits. They return the bow, and Brutus watches all of this, rather startled. The emissary on the right of the screen looks uncannily like Daniel Sing, the actor who portrayed Ming T'ien, but his name wasn't in the credits. He even talks like Ming T'ien. Caesar conveniently asks Brutus to accompany Xena, and once he and the emissaries alone, Caesar exchanges bows with the servants, and wants to know what they've brought him from Lao Mao. Emissary #1 presents a scroll, "directly from Lao Mao's hand". Caesar takes about two seconds, and accepts Lao Mao's offer of peace, telling the men her reputation for fairness is well deserved. He bids the men to accept his offer of hospitality for the evening. The two men bow, pleased, but it's fleeting as they're grasped by the back of the neck. "May I introduce Alti?" Caesar sneers as the two men are lifted by their heads in either of her hands.
Alti looks good in Roman finery, a cheetah fur draping her upper half. She smiles at her two parcels as Caesar finishes the insidious introduction, "The high priestess of Rome." The pleasure is all Alti's as she uses her mind tricks to make the emissaries see visions of torture and brandings, explosions and mayhem. Their feet are dangling from the floor, blood seeping out of their mouths and ears, and then the struggle is over as they both die and are thrown to either side.
"A lifetime of pain in one exquisite moment," she chuckles, moving to Caesar so she can stroke his face. Caesar tells her Xena was right, Alti is ambitious. Alti just stares menacingly off-camera as the scene fades.
Now we're in a playhouse. Xena and Caesar are in a balcony, watching the action on the stage. Xena has her hair up, decked in gold jewelry, and is looking extremely beautiful. She seems to be drinking in every word of the play, leaning forward in her seat, while Caesar looks bored, stifling a yawn. Alti is watching from the floor, looking slightly more interested than Caesar. It is the end of the play, and the young lovers on stage are speaking of being together for eternity as their love is strong enough to transcend all. As the play ends, Xena claps enthusiastically, beaming at Caesar, who is clapping as well. Alti obviously doesn't feel the need to applaud.
Xena is discreetly wiping her eyes with a handkerchief, but looks up when the actor playing the lover stands forward to introduce the writer of the play... which is entitled "Fallen Angel." What a stroke of brilliance to give the play such a familiar name!! "Gabrielle, the visionary voice of Athens." Xena is on her feet applauding immediately, but Caesar is slower to rise, his gaze switching between Xena and Gabs. This is obviously not something he had planned on, and he's looking for recognition between the twosome.
Gabrielle comes out on stage, her hair very long and well-coiffed, dressed like a goddess in a flowing light-colored gown. Xena throws a rose to her, and others throw flowers on stage as Gabs graciously smiles and bows. She picks up a bouquet, then gestures towards the royal balcony with another bow. As she rises, her smiles falters as she locks eyes with the empress who is also no longer smiling. This moment absolutely gave me goosebumps, even as the smile returns and Gabs turns to look in another direction. Xena just continues to stare, her eyebrow rising slightly.
Now it's the cast party, or the Roman equivalent, and Caesar is staring from across the room at Xena and Gabs. Xena is telling Gabs, "I found your play very moving." Alti appears like the devil on Caesar's shoulder and whispers in Julius's ear, "What do you suppose the empress and the writer are discussing? Horse riding...sword play?" Caesar starts to answer her, but Brutus cuts in, telling Caesar he needs to speak with him immediately. Caesar tells him it's a bad time, but Brutus brings up the emissaries, and Caesar agrees, leaving Alti to eavesdrop.
Xena is asking Gabs what inspires her. Gabs tells her the words come from somewhere else, "I just write them down." She'd rather talk about Xena, referring to how "all of Rome talks about you...the country thrives...the people adore you." Somehow, Xena doesn't look comfortable with that, even as Gabs is telling her the army would follow her through the gates of Hades. Xena takes a drink and replies, "Well, everything has its price, Gabrielle." The name flows from her lips as if she's been friends with this woman for a very long time, but it's obvious though they feel comfortable with each other, they've never met before this. Xena notices Caesar and Brutus whispering along an outside wall. Julius has confirmed he had the emissaries killed, and Brutus warns him Lao Mao will send assassins. Caesar doesn't seem to have a problem with this.
Meanwhile Xena is discussing the third act of the play with Gabbers; she's asking about the hero throwing himself over a cliff with no fear of dying, all for the love of his woman. Does Gabrielle believe that kind of love really exists? Another stroke of genius on Katherine Fugate, the writer's part for this one. How did the third act (or season if you will) of Xena end? With Gabrielle throwing herself off a cliff to save Xena from dying for killing Hope. Caesar is walking toward them slowly as Gabrielle and Xena stare into each other's eyes, and Gabrielle replies with a soft smile, "It's what we all dream about, isn't it? For someone that looks so deeply into our soul that they find something worth dying for." Why does Gabbers look so much younger with long hair? Xena is still staring, obviously searching for a response, then notices Caesar at her side. He tells Gabs her play was "riveting." "Well-done...thank you," he adds as she lowers her eyes toward him. Then he turns to Xena, telling her the army is expecting them first thing in the morning. Xena nods and smiles warmly at the playwright. "Thank you, Gabrielle, for honoring Rome with your play...Good night." Gabs's eyes follow Xena as the couple walks off, Caesar asking Xena if she enjoyed the evening. The music is sad, bittersweet, and Gabs sad expression is run in slow motion, which is effective here.
Next scene is in the bed chamber, with Xena unplaiting her hair, her back to Caesar. He has changed clothes, and wants to know what Xena and the playwright were discussing. "Her life...she interests me..." she replies. Caesar runs his hands up and down her hips, then leans in to kiss an exposed shoulder. "It's been a long time," he whispers. Xena smirks and pats his hand, "It's been a long day," she tells him. There is nothing friendly about it at all. She is surprised though, when he turns away, wanting to know where he's going. Since he's not needed here (translation...not getting any tonight), there's a matter he has to discuss with Brutus.
Xena watches him leave, then goes out on the balcony to stare at the night sky. Directly across from her is another balcony, and guess who should choose this moment to walk out, but the young playwright herself, now dressed in blue and clutching the front of her gown. Xena looks surprised, then retreats to the shadows. It's very odd...I don't know why she's playing peek-a-boo, because she slowly steps forward again, staring plaintively at Gabs as their eyes meet. Gabrielle bows slightly, looking embarrassed, and retreats back into her apartment as a voice sounds behind Xena. It is Alti, who tells Xena she had a very interesting vision tonight about her and the writer. Xena gives an evil smile, and sounds very much like her usual self, when she states, "You take liberties, Alti...The high priestess has no business in my bed chamber." Alti is nonplussed, reminding her it's Caesar's bed chamber too. Alti smiles pleasantly and tells Xena, "I saw the way you looked at her tonight during the play." Xena has the stoic mask firmly in place as Alti continues,"Wouldn't Caesar give anything to have you look at him that way?" Uh huh...read into that what you will. Xena's tired of this, demanding to know what Alti wants. Alti tells her she's in the way. It's time she did something about that.
Alti strikes first, and the fight is on. Xena gets some good shots in, but eventually Alti grabs her by the throat, telling Xena she can see into her soul. Xena struggles for breath, her eyes wide in pain and fear as Alti hisses about having the ability to show Xena where she has been and where she is going. The flashbacks start...Xena's back being broken in Ides of March, her arms being amputated in The Way, her being struck down in the Roman arena in When In Rome...Cut back to Alti asking Xena if she can feel the pain and terror in her soul...It's obvious Xena can as the clips continue, Xena quivering without her arms in The Way, her face as she's trapped under the ice in Coming Home, her lifeless body in the casket in The Quest. Alti is still talking..."Know this, Xena...Caesar, Rome, all of it...will be mine!" Blood trickles out of Xena's mouth as she still struggles for air as the scene fades to commercial.
Finally Alti lets go of Xena's throat, and the high priestess is grabbed by Brutus as Caesar, who is also there, asks Xena if she's all right. Xena stands beside him, and as Caesar turns on Alti. he asks if there's a single reason he shouldn't kill her right now. Xena interrupts, already looking much recovered, "Yes...because I want to do it...in the forum, before the public." Caesar likes that, and tells Brutus to have Alti interrogated in case there are others. And make sure to warn the guards about her powers. Yeah, like that will do a whole lot of good.
As Brutus does his bidding, Caesar pulls Xena to him for a hug. Gabrielle slowly walks on to the balcony again, and this time, her eyes temporarily lock with Caesar (gee, there's a lot of eye-locking in this one, isn't there?). Once again, Gabrielle looks away, and Caesar loses interest in the bard, as Xena pulls from him and walks back inside the bed chamber.
The next day, Caesar is sitting in his...office....(did they have offices then?), and Xena approaches, pausing to watch Brutus and some men leave. She asks Caesar where Brutus and his Royal Guard are headed. Caesar tries to be casual as he tells Xena they are going to arrest the playwright, as Alti has confessed she is in on the assassination plot. He has been writing, but he glances up at Xena..."Hope you weren't too fond of her." Xena gives a little smile and shake of her head, but as he leans back over the desk, her expression fades to tell a different story.
I'm not sure if Alti's visit to Xena was a plot she had hatched up beforehand with Caesar to get rid of the bard. He may have simply used the situation to his advantage, as we gradually learn Alti wasn't aware at first she was in another timeline.
Gabrielle is protesting her arrest, declaring she hasn't committed any crimes. She is being escorted to the dungeon. A guard slowly turns and faces the camera, and by the gods, it's Joxer! I let out a sigh of relief...I cannot believe how much I have missed Ted Raimi! This Joxer has a scar on his right cheek, but his character...well...I'll leave that until a little later. He follows the group of soldiers, a few paces behind.
Gabrielle has been placed in a garment exactly like the ones she and Xena were crucified in. She is sitting on a bench, tears on her cheeks as once again, her golden fleece is being shorn. What's that, three haircuts for the bard this season? This one is the most painful of all though, as the barber guard is being none-too-gentle with her. Gabrielle looks devastated, but suffers through in silence.
Down the stairs toward the prison comes a flash of thighs attached to a royally garbed Xena. Joxer is at her heels, telling her its' a great honor. She once did a favor for him. Xena seems distracted but responds, "Oh, I did?" Joxer confirms telling her his youngest daughter was very ill and Xena allowed him to take the girl to her own physician. "You saved her life, you know?" He opens Gabrielle's cell, but Xena hesitates and tells Joxer, "I'm pleased," her voice breaking. She enters the cell and barks at the barber guard, "Leave us!", then turning her head to Joxer says in a much more gentle voice, "you too." Joxer pulls the door shut, telling her he can't leave the prisoner unguarded. He then walks away, leaving them in privacy.
Gabrielle stands, and says, "Empress," but doesn't lower her eyes this time. Xena says Caesar has called her an assassin, and wants to know if it's true. Gabrielle tells her, "I've never harmed anyone in my life...But why should you believe me instead of your husband?" As Gabs slowly sits back down, Xena says with much conviction, "I believe you." Gabs obviously wants to know why, and Xena tells her, "You think that love is worth dying for. " She moves to sit beside Gabs adding, "That's not exactly the path of an assassin." Gabbers breaks into an incredulous smile, and then hears a sound off-stage. "They're building crosses." Xena hears it too. "Yes...you can't have a crucifixion without crosses." She drops her head as if she can't believe she just said that. She asks Gabs why Caesar would want her dead. "I don't know," Gabs replies, "I'm a playwright...I live on a vineyard by the sea...I have a simple life." Wow...that statement really made my head gears turn. Is that how Gabrielle would have turned out if she hadn't teamed up with Xena? She asks Xena what possible threat she could be to Caesar and Xena replies she doesn't know. But she intends to find out. She calls to the guards and looks back at Gabs one more time before leaving the cell.
Joxer is the one who unlocked the cell, and Xena tells him to go with her. They approach Alti's cell now. Xena tells Joxer to unlock it. Joxer starts to protest, "But Caesar said," "To enrage the empress until she beats the tar out of you?" Xena finishes, sounding very much like our Xena with Joxer. This Joxer has good sense. "No, must have missed that; I'll open the door." He does so, and Xena tells Joxer to get out as she enters the cell. Joxer locks the door behind him.
Xena tells Alti she implicated the playwright as an assassin. Alti chuckles, "The playwright? Are you kidding me?" Xena isn't looking amused. Alti asks what Xena wants. Xena wants "Your hands on me." Whoa...my thoughts went a little bonkers there, but Xena continues, "like they were last night. You gave me insight and knowledge. These are things I value greatly." "And why would I do that?" Alti wants to know, as she stands. Xena gives her the Warrior Princess sneer..."Then rot," she snarls and turns away. Alti stops her though. She caresses Xena's face and offers a bargain. "Free me and I'll show you things." Xena reminds to keep in mind what her "husband" will do to Alti if she harms Xena. "Your husband?" Alti echoes, as she puts her hand to Xena's throat again.
It doesn't seem as physically painful to Xena this time, but the clips certainly are. There are shots from Caesar in his glory, the kiss from the beach in Destiny, then a night time scene in Caesar's bed chamber where Alti is astride his hips, making love with him as Xena looks on in shock. The pain starts back in then, as Caesar gives the infamous, "Break her legs", and Xena relives the pain. Then it's Alti in Sins of the Past, demanding to know who the blonde woman is. We see shots of Gabrielle, from One Against an Army, The Abyss, and shots of the crucifixion scene from Ides of March with Caesar intoning, "You can't have a crucifixion without crosses, Brutus." No wonder Xena was so horrified by her own words earlier! The clips continue, the shot from the beginning of the episode with Caesar holding up the "defining Xena moment," shots from the prison in Ides of March, another bed chamber writhing, and finally Xena being raised on the cross in Ides. Alti finally releases Xena from her grip, and Xena drops to the floor. She's on her feet quickly though, and clutches at the cell's bars for support.
Alti seems as shook up as Xena. "Those images," the high priestess muses, "they're not from this life...there's something...more." "Yes, much more," Xena agrees, still gasping with her back to Alti. But Alti tells Xena that Xena is part of the bargain now. Xena listens and tells her the hammering has stopped, and Joxer appears outside the cell again, telling Xena they've taken the playwright.
A terrified Gabrielle is hauled outside the prison, calling out "No please!" a couple of times, but stopping as she is laid out on the cross. I tell you, I will never get used to these brutal scenes. The camera hovers above Gabrielle's sickened face as the episode fades to black and later, previews that look like it's going to be a much happier episode next week.
But I digress...Caesar walks outside and barely masks his pleasure as he watches the piece of wood being laid on Gabs's hand and the spike held in place. The hammer slowly rises, and I was really waiting for a chakram blow at any moment, but we never see the chakram in this episode which leads me to believe Xena didn't receive it until after her complete transformation to Evil Xena. Digression aside, Xena suddenly steps outside and proclaims "Stop!" which the guard with the hammer does. Xena stalks up to Caesar, telling him she knows the truth. "I know who I was...I know who you were." Caesar tries to laugh it off, "What on earth are you talking about?" "Crucifying me on the beach was drastic...I must have been your worst nightmare," Xena replies. Caesar doesn't like this taking place in public and urges her to walk back inside with him, admitting he's had "better experiences with women." Xena is no longer calm, declaring he betrayed her. Caesar says he had regretted doing that, and wanted to give them a second chance. Xena tells him she knows he tampered with the loom of the Fates. Caesar puts his hands to her face, then her shoulders as he tells her their army is preparing to conquer the kingdom of Lao Mao, the richest provinces of Chin. They will become the emperor and empress not just of Rome, but of the entire world. Xena reacts with her eyes to his announcement about killing Lao Mao, but listens as he rants about "their" destiny. She glances again at Gabrielle, then tells Caesar it can still happen. If he will set Gabs free, "I will be your empress and we can conquer the world! But if you kill her, I will dedicate this life to changing things back to the way we were. And I can do it...because as we both know I have many skills." After I laughed heartily at that closing shot, I started thinking. Was Xena telling the truth? Was she really willing to go along with Caesar's plans for their destiny as long as he saved Gabrielle? Nothing in her delivery indicated she wasn't telling the truth. Hmmm...
Caesar stares at her haughtily for a couple seconds, then wilts. "Release the prisoner!" he orders. Xena rushes from him calling out Gabs's name and shoves a couple of guards aside, barking for them to get their filthy hands off Gabrielle. She helps Gabs to her feet, asking her if she's all right, but Gabs won't look her in the eye. She says, "Thank you for saving my life, Empress. I'm in your debt." in a tone that suddenly made me remember that although Xena now remembers her other life, Gabrielle still doesn't. Xena gently touches Gabs's face, raising it to look into her eyes. "I'm not your empress," she husks, and removes her cloak to wrap it around Gabrielle's shoulders. Xena's outfit underneath is reminiscent of her halter top in The God You Know...apparently, Empress Xena and Charioteer Sabah shop at the same place! Xena smiles a soft smile, and tells Gabrielle, "I'm your friend." Gabrielle glances at her, but just can't continue the eye contact. Xena calls for someone to bring Gabs a horse. Gabs is crying now (as was I) as Xena tells her to return to her vineyard by the sea. She hugs Gabrielle and whispers for her to be happy and "write down all those great plays you've got inside you." With one final sad look, Xena turns to walk away.
Suddenly, Gabrielle calls out, "Xena...Xena!" Great job by Renee here...I didn't realize she must have been using a different tone of voice earlier in this episode because when she calls Xena's name, I now realized she sounded like OUR Gabrielle. Xena notices it too, and stops, her back still to the bard. "When I thought I was going to die, it all became so clear," she tells Xena. "I was empty, despite my success...I write about love, but I never felt it before..." Her voice trails off as Xena turns and approaches her. Xena reaches up and wipes a tear from Gabrielle's cheek, telling her Rome isn't safe for her...she needs to leave. The pain in her eyes is heart wrenching. Gabs is staring into those eyes as she whispers, "I will never forget you." Xena gives her a half-smile, and then urges her to leave, which Gabrielle does. Xena watches her for a second, then locks gazes with Caesar, who has been watching all this from a distance. She glances back towards Gabs one last time, then walks toward Caesar.
It's dark in the room as Caesar enters his bed chamber to see Alti seductively curled up on his bed. He seems a little startled but she tells him "Your wife freed me." Caesar isn't that surprised, knowing Alti showed Xena visions of her former life. Alti tells him Xena will never "play the good empress now." She has someone more loyal in mind. Hmmm...wonder who that would be? Caesar tells Alti he doesn't trust her, but Alti says she loves Rome as much as he does. The visions make her much more strong. Julius wants her to prove it by finding Gabrielle and killing her.
Gabrielle is riding away on the horse Xena supplied her with, and is startled by a figure in the distance. Alti does one of her quick slide moves and is suddenly in front of Gabs. She nods her head and Gabrielle goes flying backward off the horse. Gabs has procured herself a new dress, a blue and gray combo, but is still wearing the cloak Xena gave her. It falls off as she tries to scramble away, only to have Alti appear before her and grab her by the throat. It's time for Gabrielle to see her own visions. "Such a pretty girl," Alti purrs. "You know what a fate worse than death is? It's dying before you get a chance to know who you really were." Gabrielle sees herself and Xena in Sins of the Past, telling Xena she's not cut out for this life. Then there's Xena lifting her behind her on Argo, then Gabs's defense of Xena in The Greater Good. There's the hug at the end of A Tale of Two Muses, the embrace at the end of the fight scene in Between the Lines, then clips of the actual fight with Gabs taking a beating from Alti. Gabrielle's nose is bleeding now as she relives the toilet paper tube being shoved in her mouth in The Abyss, then her strangling at Alti's hands in Them Bones, Them Bones, then her own cross being raised in Ides of March. The last shot she sees is reaffirming though, Xena's fingers intertwining with her own as Xena tells her, "Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you."
As Gabrielle twitches, her eyes looking disturbingly lifeless, Xena rides up onto a hill and sees what's going on before her. She's dressed again in the black gladiator outfit from the beginning of the episode. She cries out Alti's name, and begins to gallop down the hill. Alti lets go of Gabs, but as Xena shoots an arrow from horseback, does the quick slide away from the field of attack. Xena somersaults off her horse,and lands near Gabs. Xena pulls the blonde to her knees, placing her hands to her face, but Gabs can't respond, her eyes vacant and her body still twitching unnerving. "What has she done to you?" Xena whispers, then she stands bellowing, "Alti!" As the camera circles dizzying around Xena, we hear Alti's voice, telling Xena her powers are even stronger. Her glimpse into Xena's soul showed Alti the other world. Thanks to Xena, she's just hitting her stride. You know, I learned a long time ago not to try to make sense of Alti's logic, so I didn't even bother with it here. It makes for a better episode for me. Xena is trying to pinpoint Alti, and calls out, "This isn't about you, Alti." But Alti disagrees as she stops moving to end up on a hilltop. She tells Xena, "Your story will end with your playwright unable to save her Fallen Angel." Her voice is almost childlike in its giddiness.
Alti flies, Superman style, toward Xena who launches into her own Superman leap to kick Alti in midair. Alti hits the dirt, and Xena is on top of her. One hands grasps the high priestess's throat, and Xena gives her a solid punch. Gabrielle jerks and falls backward, as if the spell is being broken. Xena has both hands around Alti's throat, growling at Alti, "This is where your memories end, Alti...Get up!" Xena hauls her to her feet, but as Roman soldiers begin to rush her, Xena gives Alti another sound punch, knocking Alti back to the ground.
Xena easily takes on the soldiers, grabbing one of their swords early, and killing most of them before leaving the sword plunged into the body of one of them. A fresh group of soldiers arrive and Xena grabs a spear from midair, and dispenses of most of them too with one of those "grab hold of the spear and run around in midair circle" moves. It's brief thankfully, but as she lands, Xena sees that two guards have a hold of a more aware Gabrielle. Caesar is approaching on a chariot, flanked by several men with crossbows, and as Xena screams out "Noooo!" she is shot in the upper right shoulder and the upper left thigh by arrows. I cringed at the realism, but could let out a slight breath of relief as I realized Joxer was one of the guards who had a hand on Gabrielle. He pushed the other guard aside, to take care of Gabs himself.
Xena is on her knees, gasping in pain, but puts up a struggle when two of the guards try to grab her. Gabrielle screams out Xena's name, but Joxer has a hold of her. He whispers that Gabrielle can't help Xena, but he can help Gabrielle. Gabrielle watches as Xena is brought to her feet, a sword pressed firmly against her chest and Caesar, Brutus, and Alti approaching her. Caesar is just too smug as he delivers, "You just couldn't let it go, could you?" Despite her pain, Xena assesses the situation, noting Gabrielle and Joxer's location and then sneers at Caesar, "You betrayed me again, Caesar. No matter what life you'll live, you'll always be scum. Not even the Fates can change that." Her hands are being bound as Caesar tells her words that aren't identical to the words he told her in Destiny, but close enough to instill shivers out of me again, "Your death will not be in vain, Xena...because you'll always hold a special place in Rome's heart...amongst Caesar's conquered." Xena spat at him in unison with me...Gods, I despise this man!
The arrow is ripped from her shoulder and the horror continues as Xena's hands are released, her feet are bound and a rope is tied around a saddlehorn. Yes, she is going to be dragged, and Alti laughs merrily as Xena is dragged away across the countryside. It's a horrifying sight, needless to say, and Gabs opens her mouth to call out, but Joxer pulls her away. Thankfully, we don't see the drag in detail, but Caesar turns to smile at Alti, pleased with what he has done.
It's dark in the office, as Brutus enters to stand before Caesar. Caesar wants to know how the legions look, and Brutus assures him they're looking excellent. Brutus tells Caesar there is some concern about the empress, but Caesar says she defied his orders and attacked Roman troops...which are acts of treason punishable by death. Brutus reminds the snake that Xena is very popular..."the troops look up to her." The way this episode is moving, I knew the next bit of dialogue before it was spoken. Caesar wants to know how Brutus feels about Xena. "Do you also look up to Xena?" Brutus doesn't vocally answer, but his eyes do. Caesar continues, telling him Alti will be joining them as they head east as his new empress. Does Brutus have a problem with that? Brutus, ever the tactician tells Caesar, "If I speak out, it's from concern...it doesn't mean I'm any less loyal to you." Caesar's response is once again very familiar, "Don't misunderstand, it's not that I love you less...it's that I love Rome...more." There's the sound of a blade as he speaks the last word, and he stabs Brutus in the gut. As Brutus drops dead at his feet, Caesar finishes, "And I am...Rome."
Oh gods, get out the Kleenex now. Xena is in a prison cell, laying down, but she turns her head to see a familiar blonde and a familiar guard approaching. She is dressed in the crucifixion gray wrap. Joxer tells Gabs, "I can't believe they were going to kill you for writing that bad play." Gabs looks at him, and Joxer nods. "I saw it..." He opens the cell door and lets Gabs in while adding, "It could have used a few more fight scenes." Gabs smiles softly and answers "I'll keep that in mind." Another nice homage to Rob and Lucy, as Lucy has said that's a common complaint with them at the movies...the films can always use more fight scenes. It seemed odd that Joxer would say it, but oh well...heh heh.
Joxer gives an odd little look, but walks away as Gabs approaches the bruised and very battered Xena. Xena tells Gabrielle she shouldn't have come, as Gabs kneels beside her. Gabs tells her that Alti showed her another world, another time. I thought it was fascinating that Gabrielle recognized her love for Xena when she was about to be crucified, without really being able to remember their other life. Xena says that doesn't matter now, and places her left hand on Gabs's shoulder, sitting up with an extended grunt of pain. "I'm sorry," Gabs's tells her, and Xena smiles, "It's okay." Here we go...Gabrielle: Xena, when I'm with you...this emptiness that I have felt my entire life is gone.Gabs moves to sit beside Xena who has tears rolling off her cheeks, by now.G: You have to tell me what's going on.Gabrielle is crying with her now, and nods slightly.
X: Caesar changed our fate...giving us this god-forsaken world.
G: There must be something I can do.
X: No, what you can do is get out of her alive. I have to go through this alone.
G: I can't let you die.
X: Some things are worth dying for. (Xena gets that little girl sweet expression)
X: Isn't that what your play was about? Being prepared to sacrifice all for love?G: For love.They stare into each other's teary eyes.
X: In that other world my destiny was linked to Caesar...that cross...I hated them both. But now I realize...everything happens precisely as it should.X: Precisely...Gabrielle has a comforting hand on Xena's back as guards move down the stairs. Gabrielle stands and turns to lean toward Xena. Xena moans from the pain, and lifts hazy eyes toward Gabs, telling her to go now...get out. Gabs tells her no and puts her hands to either side of Xena's face. The expression on Xena's face is identical to the shot of her in Ides of March when she is being cradled in Gabrielle's lap. Gabs whispers "no", but Xena is insistent. Joxer tells the empress it's time, but Gabs doesn't want to let go. She continues to stroke Xena's head. Xena smiles sweetly, and tells Gabs confidently, "I'll love you forever." The guards grab Gabrielle, pulling her away even as the bard is telling them not to take Xena. Xena is pulled out of the cell, not protesting, but she turns a quick head to Joxer on the way out, "Get her out alive."
Gabrielle stares in sorrow, as Joxer looks to her...and the scene fades. And I have to wipe my eyes.
While the commercials roll, let me say that there is no way I could ever do the depth and emotion of this scene justice. Obviously, it hearkens to mind the prison cell scene from Ides of March, but this is a different Xena and Gabrielle in the sense that they have been together so much longer. One will have to see it to understand what I mean...but this scene will go down as one of the more beautifully haunting scenes in the entire series.
The last time it was snowing...this time it's raining, as Xena is led outside to her crucifixion. Caesar stands under a blue canopy, watching as she is led past him, her face stoic. Alti stands beside Caesar, dressed in a skimpy outfit, not bothering to hide her smile. There is a shot of Gabrielle, on horseback, galloping away from the scene. Xena is slowly led to lay the cross, and Alti leans in to whisper something in Caesar's ear. Xena turns to catch a glimpse of Alti moving in to kiss Caesar, then Xena is forced to lay on the cross. Her skin is mottled with bruises and bloody welts. Joxer stands and watches as one of the soldiers steps on Xena's forearm to keep her from moving. Caesar gives Alti a return kiss, then with one last glance at Xena, goes back inside with his new empress.
The scene is in slow motion...Joxer's sorrow filled face, Gabrielle's retreat out of Rome, and most of all Xena's grimaces and gasps as she is bound to the cross. Caesar and Alti have retreated to the bed chamber, and Alti is riding Caesar erotically as he groans his pleasure. The spike is held into place on Xena's hand, and we see Alti pull a knife from somewhere. The hammer falls, Xena screams out in pain, and the knife plunges into Caesar. Their screams are in unison, and the brutality of this scene is too horrific for me to describe. Every time the hammer strikes, Alti stabs, and the injustice as one undeserving death as opposed to the other ties me up in knots. Once again, Caesar is murdered at the same time Xena is, but this time...Xena is going through it alone. She clenches her teeth, then cries out again, but Caesar is already dead. Alti climbs off him, leaving his bloody chest and lifeless eyes behind.
I must confess I was confused and disappointed about Gabrielle's seemingly desertion of Xena during this scene. But I should give the bard more credit, for now we see she wasn't riding away from Rome, but toward the location of the Fates. Don't ask me how she was able to get there...that doesn't really matter....the point is she DID get there. She opens the doors with purpose, and soaked to the bone, stares at the loom, which is a chaotic mess. We are forced to see Xena's battered legs again, and her mouth wide open in pain expression as the cross is slowly lifted. Gabrielle looks extremely p*ss*d as she stalks to the loom, and the cross is almost in place.
"It's horrible," Gabs manages, and the Fates, who she hadn't noticed till now speak. They tell her that since Caesar chained them, they couldn't tend the loom and the world is now in chaos and confusion. "We're stuck in this world...because of you?" Gabrielle demands accusingly. In a sense, I guess they were, but it was really Caesar's fault. In the courtyard, the cross is finally dropped into its hole and Xena screams out again in torment. Meanwhile, Gabrielle deliberately reaches above the Fates and takes a torch from the wall. This is the angriest I can ever recall seeing Gabrielle. Xena gasps on the cross, as Alti walks out, to stand under the canopy, and laugh tauntingly at Xena.
"No... burning the loom... will destroy everything," the Fates warn. Gabrielle doesn't hesitate. With a feral smile and a hissing voice very reminiscent of Xena, she responds, "So be it." She walks forward, and with another shot of Xena's tortured face, Gabrielle concludes, her eyes bright..."Your loom...destroyed...what was meant to be." She chucks the torch into the loom, and it goes up in flames. Gabrielle watches, taking a step back and dropping to her knees. Alti, still outside with Xena, cries out, then we see swirls of flame sweeping out from the loom to whips around Gabrielle. Above Xena's bent head, the sky is suddenly blue. even as the rain continues to fall. Xena raises her head to see Alti writhing as her body is vaporized into nothingness. Gabrielle is watching the flames continue to engulf the loom, but Xena seems to have regained some of her strength, as if she knows what's happened. Her head turns and she whispers into the air, "I love you, Gabrielle". Gabrielle has fallen to her knees as the flames overwhelm her, and we see Xena on the cross, a joyful expression on her face. There's a shot of the planet Earth seemingly speeding away from us and exploding, then...
It's a sunlit forest...And there's a fog all around Gabrielle as she walks forward, her eyes searching. This is OUR Gabs, dressed in her regular clothing. The music is mysterious, yet beautiful, as Gabs slowly walks, apparently looking for something...anything. There is the sound of a quickly approaching horse, and Gabrielle turns in time to see Xena approach, also dressed in her usual garb. She's on Argo II. She stops behind Gabrielle, who is staring, mouth agape. Xena tosses her head back with my favorite Xena greeting, "Hey." "Hi," Gabrielle returns, her face still expressionless. Xena glances at their surroundings. "You brought the world back to us," she says. "I'm glad," Gabrielle answers, "I like this one better." Xena smiles slightly. "Even though you're not a famous playwright?" she asks. Gabs smiles a bit now..."Fame? Who needs it?" She walks toward Xena. Xena reaches down with a hand pulls Gabs up behind her. As Gabs settles in, she asks, "Did you really like my play?" Xena, her face stern, replies, "It was all right." As they ride off, Xena's voice is heard..."Maybe it could have done with a few more fight scenes." It DID sound so much better coming from Lucy! "Everyone's a critic," Gabrielle says happily as the episode ends. They aren't riding off into the sunset, sorry to say...it's more of a mist, which they ride through to travel across the same wildgrass field from last weeks's Last of the Centaurs. Despite a lack of mushy emotions, I found this ending very, very satisfying. I'm sure the two will have a lot more to talk about concerning this episode, probably not for our ears, but it's obvious they've slipped right back into their present-world roles...very much together.
The disclaimer was "As the Fates would have it, Caesar was once again harmed during the making of this motion picture."
This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.
Hol-ee cow. Now THAT was an episode for the record books. A little microcosm of its own (except for some questionable effects on the future) akin to Remember Nothing, a really cool and interesting "What if?" experiment, and a darned thought-provoking look at the characters and their whole story. Plus a neat little story within it all, awesome costumes and acting, a cool fight or two... and welcome to happy Xena heaven.
When Fates Collide really made me take another look at Xena's life story. I realized I had never really given her encounter with Caesar enough credit. Sure, it was a neat story and a Bad Moment in Xena's life that she harbored a serious grudge about. But when I started to wonder why this alternate Xena was so calm and collected and not really evil at all, it pointed to Caesar's betrayal as the catalyst for pushing Xena from flirting-with-nastiness to completely-over-the-edge-homicidal. I had always credited Ares and some general mayhem for that, but this episode begs to differ. Apparently in this lifetime, Xena never even takes Ares' particular notice (or if she did, she must have told him to take a hike long ago). Without the bitterness and just plain insanity of the crucifixion, Xena is still wild, but a fair and well-loved ruler.
One other note: Xena doesn't have her chakram. I guess without Ares's attention, she doesn't get the chakram. She should have the neck pinch, since she was learning that while she was hooking up with Caesar, but we don't see it here. Still has that cool "many skills" line, though!
Love the nifty touch of the bloody stab marks on the front and back of Caesar's tunic. Can you imagine how drafty and smelly those would be after a couple of dozen years?
AltXena asks if her entertainment for the night is going to be "a new wrestler from Thrace." She's a WWF fan? Ew, no wonder that world gets called "godforsaken."
In The Debt, Lao Ma was still hiding her power under her husband's name. But in this timeline, she apparently has decided to shake off that pesky coma dude. (And must have somehow given the Green Dragon the slip.)
In this timeline, it looks like when Alti was kicked out of the amazons, instead of holing up like the wicked unabomber of the east, she headed straight for Rome. And got appointed High Priestess, with lots of pretty clothes, much less eye makeup, and a lot fewer cigarettes and whiskey to ruin her voice. She's still pathologically power-hungry and a really nasty customer, but she's smoother and even trickier than before. NOT somebody you want to meet in a dark alley (or even a well-lit alley).
AltGabrielle's writing plays based on RealTimeline episodes. I wonder how she explained Married with Fishsticks?
Awesome reaction from Caesar when Gabrielle is introduced. He tries to hide how astounded he is that this dratted woman would show up again, and quickly checks Xena's reaction for any signs of recognition.
"Someone who looks so deeply into our soul that we find something worth dying for." Xena and Gabrielle rise to that lofty description in this episode. In that first meeting at the play and on the balconies, the looks they exchange are devastatingly soulful. I could have fried bacon on my TV.
In this alternate timeline, while Gabrielle is still visionary, she seems to be the one who's more emotionally closed off. It's Xena who is actually in touch with her feelings. (Gasp!) They both feel the wallop when they meet, but Gabrielle is disturbed, confused, and longs for more contact so she can figure out what's going on. Xena doesn't need much of anything else; she seems near-obsessed from the first moment Gabrielle's introduced, and before you know it she's spouting love three or four times over to Gab. Gab manages only to echo an obtuse "for love" back to Xena. That's one of the few things that are consistent between Remember Nothing and When Fates Collide: in both, Gabrielle's openness and trust in people was nowhere to be found. Fragile thing, that openness.
Caesar got the timeline he wanted, but all is still not well for him. Apparently his marriage is on the rocks and has been for a while. Judging be how much her people reportedly love her, is AltXena becoming too morally high-minded for Caesar? She's warned Caesar against Alti, but Caesar seems to be listening to Alti anyway. That'd put a crimp in anyone's relationship.
Alti kills the ambassadors of Chin with a "lifetime of pain," but that's nothing compared to what she latches onto with AltXena: the RealXena has a lifetime of deaths to draw on!
AltJoxer is probably the only one who fared better in this timeline. He's gainfully employed as a soldier (that's kind of a warrior), is married with kids, and isn't even much of a dimwit, even if he's still woefully out of the loop. Sorry Joxer. (That was a strange return for Ted Raimi - we haven't seen him in nearly a year, and he pops back up for about seven minutes of not very vital screen time. Weird.)
"What do you want?" "Your hands on me." Now THERE'S a pair of lines that sound a lot dirtier out of context!
Two questions about the flashbacks Xena sees in Alti's cell:
We see AltXena watching Caesar in bed with someone else. The bed scene looked like the one we get of Alti and Caesar, but it could also have been from Caesar's dream of Xena in Ides of March. But neither had the AltXena there. All the other things we see are the memories from RealXena. What was that shot?
Along the same lines that it seems like these were supposed to be memories: Xena wasn't around for the "can't have a crucifixion without crosses" line, or for Caesar cutting the Fates' thread. Why was she seeing those as memories?
I love Alti's line, as she's trying to seduce Caesar into allying forces, "I love Rome as much as you do." This is the man who, in the last world as well as this one, declares "I am Rome." They both want power for themselves and will use Rome as the name for it.
If you have stereo on your TV, listen to it closely as zippyAlti gives her "my powers have evolved" speech as she circles Xena. The sound circles, too. Nifty! I was so interested in what my speakers were doing that I almost forgot to chuckle that Alti said the line "It's all about me!"
Caesar's line "Your death with not be in vain, Xena. Because you'll always hold a special place in Rome's heart; amongst Caesar's conquered" (and Xena's responding spit) is a duplicate of his line in Destiny... and he knows it when he says it. He's just committed the same act that got him in so much trouble last time.
Small sleight-of-hand by the episode: why does Joxer tell Gabrielle he'll help her (except perhaps just because he saw how much she meant to Xena)? And is his idea of helping her taking her into the dungeon? Didn't Caesar think to ask that Gabrielle be obliterated?
AltXena hits a very deep-thinking note when she says that all the bad things in her realLife happened "precisely as it should." She doesn't finish the sentence, but presumably the rest of it was "so that I could find you." All the bad stuff (and Gabrielle reaches the same conclusion about losing her dream of being a playwright) was necessary for their own Greater Good; being happy together. Heavy, dude.
In spite of creepiness of the whole crucifixion-and-betrayal, I must make the smart-aleck remark: Goodness, Caesar likes his women on top, doesn't he? He and Alti are in a near-duplicate clinch as his Ides dream of fooling around with Xena.
Though Caesar loses in the end, he's incredibly smart. His main focus for the first three-quarters of the episode is keeping Xena, which he sees as his key for success. He tries to get rid of Alti and Gabrielle in one fell swoop to lock Xena onto him. When that doesn't work, he has to go to plan B: don't make an enemy of Xena. He even calls her "my love" and agrees to the damage control of not overtly killing Gabrielle in order to keep Xena by his side, no matter how much of a farce it is. But he also knows by that point that there's no avoiding Xena and Gabrielle coming together, so he enacts plan C, and tries to kill Gabrielle covertly. This plan turns out to be a no-lose situation, since even when Xena thwarts it, he can now accuse her of treason (plan D), put her on the cross, and hook up with Alti as his power buddy. Poor Caesar - too bad plan D didn't account for the fact that Alti doesn't share power with anyone.
The Fates are officially wimps and their security sucks. They've stayed bound in chains that look like they'd fall to the floor if the Fates didn't hold onto them, and now both a guy from the underworld and a playwright have marched into their stronghold at will. What wusses!
Do not p*ss off the playwright. She decides she'd rather have nothing at all (and the whole world go with it) if she can't have Xena. "So be it!" Gutsy.
The end confused me - and it looks like it confused Xena and Gabrielle, too. Are they back to the same world as before? Costumes and Argo are the same. They both remember what happened, though. Where Xena was the killer of the gods, is Gabrielle now the destroyer of fates? Does whatever world they returned to still include Fate, or no?
I liked the cute "So did you like my play?" banter at the end.
So the episode's final destiny-not-fate tally is:
NOT DESTINY:Lao Ma and the green dragonDESTINY:
Xena and Ares
Alti's death (it doesn't happen until the world is destroyed)
Caesar's betrayal and death
Xena's betrayal by Caesar
Alti vs. Xena
Xena and Gabrielle (awwwwww)
Gabrielle's near-crucifixion is painful to watch, to see the reactions of someone who can't believe this horrendous thing is happening to her. Ouch ouch ouch.
This episode is scorchingly romantic. Lines like Alti telling Xena about her discussion with Gabrielle "Wouldn't Caesar give anything to have you look at him that way" sets up a pretty vicious pair of love triangles. Xena proves darned eloquent about her choice with "Some things are worth dying for. Isn't that what your play was about? Being prepared to sacrifice all for love?" And the last moment in the jail cell is enough to leave the soft-hearted swooning: both Xena and Gabrielle are worried solely about the other. Xena espouses undying love and gives one last order to Joxer to get Gabrielle out. Gabrielle stays even as the guards who just tried to crucify her swarm around them, and gives a pretty useless "Don't touch her!" as if she could somehow try to protect her.
The intercutting of Xena's crucifixion and Alti's seduction-n-betrayal is brutal. In the end, as each hammer blow mixes with each stabbing, they even sometimes put Caesar's screams over shots of Xena. I was thoroughly creeped out by the end of it.
Great lines of the episode:"More drivel from old men with tricky names: that was
thoughtful of you."
"It's Caesar's bedchamber, too." (Meow! Subtle.)
"Get out of the way! Get your filthy hands off her." (delivered with some SERIOUS power of conviction)
"I can't believe they were going to kill you for writing that bad play." (Ahhh, Joxer, Joxer)
"Fame. Who needs it?"
And the all-time best exchange of lines in the episode (I had to stop the tape to give myself more time to laugh):"Unlock it."
"But Caesar said-"
"-to enrage the empress until she beats the tar out of you?"
"I must have missed that I'll open the door."
This commentary is by Shelley Sullivan.
Okay, let's get the bad and the ugly out of the way before the good.
Hmm. Karl Urban has maybe taken some acting classes, cause he's not sounding too bad in the first scene. Of course, it helps that he's opposite the 3 Helpless Ladies. Previously, The Fates always projected a sense of being outside of mortal considerations, which makes sense when you figure that they *know* what's going to happen. Alas, there was no sense of that here: The Fates are way wussy, with no sense of powerful beings who have real concerns about what could happen. They're also laughably chained together with what looks a bit like galvanized tow chains, but hey, I can work with it. I laughed again when I saw the loom for the first time. It looks like a big IC chip, and the strand of Fate looks like a leather strap from a bridle or something. There aren't many people alive, cause there aren't that many. So maybe there's only strands for significant people. Although it did allow movement right into the story, some explanation of how C,JC had managed to find chains hanging about the Temple of the Fates would have been welcome. I was willing to go with it to get rid of The Wussies.
I understand that LL has voice problems but the breathy whisper almost all the time got on my nerves. I found myself wondering how the Hades she ever made her orders clear on a battlefield if, indeed, she was leading troops. There were scenes where it was really appropriate and conveyed a sense of intimacy, but otherwise it bugged me. Gotta go with the flow, though, because that's a physical difficulty that the actress has and not a performance choice. I would have liked to have seen more of a sense of command from her, but that's hard to do with whispers.
Hmm, we're back to Karl "2x4" Urban. Pretty wooden for the rest of the ep, with flashes of the commanding presence Caesar must have been in order to become emperor. Urban's performance immediately suffered for me in the first scene after the teaser because David Franklin was back as Brutus and did a great job.
I'm guessing that all Xena did was play around with the army and maintain the funding, because Caesar seemed to be the only one actually involved with statecraft. And although there was plenty of talk about how the army and the people loved Xena, the army was plenty quick and awfully quiet about attacking and then crucifying her. Not a peep out of them. I decided that all the soldiers involved were palace guard types and loyal to Caesar, and were therefore not soldiers in the combat sense.
Joxy's guard character was way too familiar in the presence of the empress and took too many liberties to be believable. I think they wanted to have a connection to Joxy The Clown. It was distracting but didn't go on long, fortunately. His best scene? When he was standing in the rain with his mouth shut, watching Xena being crucified. For a moment, he did look like a guard.
Didn't like Xena's spaghetti strap halter bra when she saved Gab from the cross. Is this regular leisure wear for Empresses? It was a bit disconcerting, but minor. Didn't care for the ringlets, either, but I could deal.
Alti was terrific in the leopard skin, very cool. Same complaint about the halter top thingie. It was interesting how quickly Alti picked up on the alternate timeline/life thing when she showed Xena more visions when they were in the jail cell. It was also cool how there was no good choices for Xena..Alti had already tried to kill her (although not all that seriously on the balcony, I don't' think) and had stated that Xena was in her way, so Xena knew it was just a question of time before Alti made another play to take her out.
Weak point: Caesar knew how important Gab was to Xena. So in the alternate timeline, since he'd kept his memories of the "real" timeline, it seemed unbelievable to me that he wouldn't know the identity of the Greek playwright he'd invited to Rome for performances. Maybe he did and it was some sort of test for Xena, but with only one viewing of the ep, he looked surprised to see her. I would have thought that, at the least, he'd have appreciated the irony. Alti certainly did, once she realized what was going on.
Kudos to LoDuca for the music whenever Xena and Gab had scenes together. If I remember right, it was the reedy flute-type music playing when they first talked after the play, an instrument I always associate with the Xena/Marcus makeout scene in MORTAL BELOVED.
The pacing was good and the story moved right along. There was a good balance of scenes with the various players, with nobody dominating the story. The lighting was good, and although I'd have to watch again, the director seemed to do a good job. The aerial attack between Xena and Alti was a bit much, but what the hey.
Xena made her deal with Caesar, she'd help him conquer Ch'in if he spared Gab but I don't think for a moment she thought it would come to that. Not that she out and out lied, although Xena has engaged in situational ethics before, but with Alti lurking around just waiting for another chance to get rid of her, she must have been sure that Alti or Caesar would pull something. I think she followed Gab out of Rome after Gab was freed from the cross because she knew that the two soldiers Caesar was having a quiet word with were being sent to off Gab. Alti got there first, but Alti wouldn't need a bunch of soldiers to kill either one of them. Caesar was covering all the bases.
Kudos to LL and ROC for solid performances. LL was "in the ep" for the whole ep, focused and doing a wonderful job of portraying a far less jaded Xena. She even looked younger, and at times was almost girlish, which was a touch disconcerting. :) ROC varied her voice, giving the sense of youth and innocence that Gab has lacked lately. That wasn't really apparent until the last scene, when ROC's voice became harder and firmer. Nice way to show the toll that life with the WP has taken on her. I think Xena didn't know what sort of Gab she was going to be met with, hence the "hi", which was terse, and the rest of her lines, which carried a bit of hesitation.
I'm not sure how the lines by Xena in the jail cell play out, about everything happening precisely as it should. It could refer to Xena somehow knowing that Caesar will die with her, and that's necessary, or it could refer to Xena being outlived by Gab for a reason. It just seemed an odd line at that point, and I'm not sure quite what it refers to. Might be clearer on another viewing, but from Ms "We make our own destiny in this family", it was a strange thing to say. I clung grimly to my "the Fates set up all Xena's suffering for a purpose" theory for so long, I'm reluctant to let it go.
Gab torching the loom was cool. At one point, she was actually leaning her body forward as she walked towards the Fates, and that, as much as anything, showed how angry this time's Gab was at loosing Xena. The Fates warned her that firing the loom could destroy everything, so Gab had no assurance that there *would* be any other existence when she torched the loom. Oblivion could have resulted, for all she knew. And has Gab just given Mortal Man the gift of true free will?
Another weak point: Gab, freed under duress by Caesar and having escaped 2 attempts to kill her (Caesar's soldiers and Alti) just walked back into the jail to see Xena and no one said anything? There were guards standing just outside that cell.
The scenes between Xena and Gab were very well done. I liked the initial balcony scene, with Xena drawing back into the shadows and then moving forward. Very "first love" teenage, I thought, because Xena wouldn't have been that old in this timeline and this was..not shy, exactly, but a more hesitant Xena. It's hard to explain. :) Maybe it was almost a contrast. Xena understood the feeling she was having, but had trouble with the concept. Gab understood the concept very well, but had trouble understanding what she was feeling. Not that she was unfeeling, far from it, but it was Xena who put a name to it.
As Anita said, this time, when Xena said "I'll love you forever", I believed it.
One shot/scene really stands out. When Xena is being led down the stairs to the cross, it's raining and the shot is tones of grey. It's a slo-mo sequence, and for a moment, we get a glimpse of The Warrior Princess, hard, resolved and grimly resigned. One of LL's finest moments.
Geez, I really rambled on. :) Bottom line: I liked it and I'll watch it again. It's not the quintessential Xena for me, that would be THE PRICE if I was stranded on a desert island and could only take one ep, but it's a keeper and far better than last week's ep.
This commentary is by Beboman.
This episode is one of the best episodes so far this season. It had everything we have wanted and hoped for and loved about Xena episodes; plenty of subtext (which was moved to text), good fight scenes, excellent script and superb acting.
The bottom line in this episode was that what is meant to be happen will happen no matter what. Xena and Gabrielle were meant to be together, Caesar was meant to die a violent death and Alti was never meant to have more powers and control the world.
There were many points about this episode that I liked and after seeing it several times, I will like to tackle them one by one. I don't know if I will be able to do justice to this episode, but I will give it my best shot. If I forget something, please forgive me.
First of all, there was the Xena Empress: This is a different Xena than we have seen before. She is in control, but not the stoic control of the Xena we have learned to love. There is maturity in her, a control of someone who grew into the role of Empress, a control that earned the respect of her people and her troops. This is not the angry Xena we have known from her past stories, that bloodthirsty warrior who had no respect for life after Caesar's betrayal. That Xena had an insatiable thirst for blood and vengeance. The Xena we saw in this episode was poised, secure, in control and very much aware of that which was important for her.
This Xena was a perfect mixture of what Xena might have become had Caesar not betrayed her and had she met Lao Ma right after Caesar left her before the crucifixion on the beach.
Ms. Lawless' portrayal of this Xena was timely, strong, and very precise. From the moment Xena the Empress makes her entrance to the moment she walks into Alti's prison cell we know this is a woman of strength and conviction, with respect and caring for those around her and a great appetite for knowledge and truth.
When Xena the Empress looks into Gabrielle the Writer's eyes, she knows and understands that there is a bond between them, that there is something which pulls them together, even though Xena the Empress cannot explain it.
The attraction of Xena the Empress to Gabrielle the Writer was soft and unpretentious. It was something real. There was no searching, no struggle; just a true knowledge that the person in front of her should be an important part of who and what she (Xena) really was.
Watching the transition from that Xena the Empress to Real Time Xena was interesting. It was a very smooth, fast transition from the time she realized Caesar had tampered with the Fates to the time she confronts him with her newly discovered knowledge.
The Xena who confronts Alti in the prison cell is not the same Xena who confronts Caesar to stop Gabrielle's execution. From that point on, Xena makes some very drastic choices about love and caring. Her love for Gabrielle is so strong and so deep that she preferred to send her off with the knowledge that Gabrielle was going to be safe and doing what she was meant to do rather than drag her into this new world created by Caesar.
With one look into Caesar's eyes, Xena knew that Caesar was about to betray her again, and she was going to make sure Gabrielle was safe, even if keeping Gabrielle safe meant her own life.
When Xena sends Gabrielle off after stopping her execution, she knew that both their lives were going to be in danger, but she was ready for that danger and ready to protect Gabrielle's life, no matter what it took.
The power of Ms. Lawless' acting in this episode was riveting. She gradually grasped our hearts and drew us deeply into this story line, giving us some great moments of despair, passion and love.
When Xena faces Alti in the open field, she is totally aware of what is about to happen. She wants to make sure Gabrielle is safe from both Alti and Caesar. That is why she followed Gabrielle.
But Xena is not one to give up easily. Even when she has been bound and tied, she still continues to fight.
The prison cell scene with Xena awaiting her execution was one of the most touching scenes we have been offered this season. Xena acknowledged her love for Gabrielle and the ties that bind her to Caesar. In this scene, we see a raw Xena. There is no stoic stances, no recriminations about things that should have been. We are privy to tears from Xena. These are not tears of guilt or tears of betrayal, but tears of realization that her life and all that is or was important in her life have been stolen from her "in this forsaken world".
This was such a tender and touching scene. Both actresses were very powerful and in control of their characters during the scene.
Once again, we see Xena taken to her death, but the power of this scene was not the thought of death for Xena, but the power that Xena had over herself. She knows the truth, she understood that to save the one she loved, she had to walk this road alone with only the knowledge that Gabrielle was going to be safe.
Xena understood very clearly that what was meant to be would be. She was to suffer Caesar's betrayal again and once again she was going to die at the hands of Caesar. She faced her death with pride and strength.
The scene in which Xena is being crucified and Caesar stabbed at the hands of Alti was very powerful. Each nail hammered in and each stab was a true reminiscence of another life and a similar situation.
At this time, I have to make a very important sidebar: I have to say that Ms. Lawless is one of the few actresses today, in my very humble opinion, who has the ability to truly express pain, all kinds of pain. From the first time I saw her get physically hurt in "Chariots of War" to this episode, Ms. Lawless' ability to express pain is unbelievable.
In this episode it was so much more palpable. We see her pain when she is sending Gabrielle away from her (both times), that spiritual pain that holds your heart so tight you cannot even breath. Then she expresses the physical pain of being nailed to a cross. You can see it and you can feel it.
Another great scene in this episode was the one in which Xena is led to her crucifixion. That is a very gray, dark moment. The rain makes it a still more painful, dreary moment. Xena walks to her death with dignity, pride and strength. When she walks past Caesar and Alti, the look she gives them is one of contempt for their actions. Then when she stands by the cross and looks down on it, it is a look of resignation to her destiny. This was a very powerful scene and Ms. Lawless did a magnificent job in it.
Ms. O'Connor's portrayal of Gabrielle was also very timely and powerful. This Gabrielle was more understanding, more determined and willing. She had a mixture of the naivete of the first season Gabrielle with the understanding and maturity of this season's Gabrielle.
This Gabrielle also understood from the first moment that Xena the Empress was connected to her in some way, that there was more than just the admiration for the writer. She sensed there was some kind of special bond that linked them together.
This Gabrielle was not in a search for anything. She knew, she understood, and she realized what was at stake here. At first, when Gabrielle first saw Xena, she felt there was some type of attraction, that there was something more than met the eye. But when Xena saved her from death, she knew there was a lifetime of feelings between them and those emotions were going to be impossible to forget.
Once Gabrielle saw the images of her true life and realized Xena's dedication to her, Gabrielle understood the enormity of the love that was there.
Once again that prison cell scene between Gabrielle and Xena, in which Xena is waiting for her execution, becomes a very riveting moment in the lives of both of these characters. Gabrielle understands the magnitude of Xena's love for her and also understands that their future is in her hands. Gabrielle's softness and tenderness for Xena in this scene is very moving.
We have seen Gabrielle be tender toward Xena before, but this time around Ms. O'Connor gave Gabrielle an extra softness, both in her voice and in her actions, making the scene even more dramatic and, at the same time, touching.
When Gabrielle enters the Temple of the Fates, there is no doubt in her mind why she is there. There is no possibility of a long chat about what is right or wrong. She has a grim determination in her stride, in her face. This is not the desperation of saving Xena we saw in "Ides of March". This is a determination to regain what was stolen from her at any cost.
So we are faced with Alti once again. Ms. Stansfield did an outstanding job with Alti in this episode. Alti was sensual, sexy, conniving, opportunistic, cunning, manipulative, ambitious, cruel and ironic.
I enjoyed the looks Alti gave both Gabrielle and Xena at the theater, and the look on Alti's face when Xena was being taken to her death. She enjoyed every moment of it and Xena did not give Alti the satisfaction to seeing her weak or vulnerable.
There is a very strong chemistry between Xena and Alti. From the very first moment Alti is introduced, there is more than just a love-hate relationship between these two characters.
By Alti giving Xena more knowledge of what has taken place, she also obtained an insight into what had really taken place. This gave Alti a stronger stand against Xena, something Alti believed might be able to help her get closer to Caesar and, by doing so, finally eliminate Xena.
Alti's thirst for power was greater than ever in this episode. She eliminated Caesar in the belief that now that Xena was on the cross and with Gabrielle gone and Caesar dead, she would obtain total control and finally be able to rule the world.
Once again, however, someone underestimated the power of the bond between Xena and Gabrielle. Alti underestimated the determination of the bard and, by doing so, her plan failed once again.
It was great to see the look Alti gave Xena on the cross after she had killed Caesar. It was a look of total satisfaction and accomplishment. But the look Xena gave Alti from the cross at the moment Gabrielle started to burn the cloth of time was even better. The satisfaction on Xena's face with the knowledge that Alti was going to die was just outstanding.
Ms. Stansfield kept Alti under control all the time during this episode, giving Alti a perfect mixture of the previous Alti and the Alti in this new world created by Caesar. The looks, the smiles, the voice all gave this Alti a newness and an attraction that was not there before, but without losing the essence of what Alti was really made of.
I have to take my hat off at this time to Ted Raimi. His Joxer in this episode was so totally different from the Joxer we have known for the last six years. It was an excellent performance. But to tell you the truth, I miss the old Joxer.
This Joxer still had a few lighthearted moments that made us smile, but this was a salty Roman soldier who has seen a lot and has lived a lot. He was grateful to his Empress of what she had done for his family and he was a true ally to both Xena and Gabrielle.
This Joxer knew his place in the relationship. He was there to serve them and help them, a task he tried to accomplish to the best of his ability. It was a hard task nevertheless, considering the two women he was to serve and help.
For Caesar, in this episode basically nothing changed. He tried to change what was mandated, but he couldn't. He took a second stab (no pun intended) at life, but once again came up short. His ego and his selfishness got the best of him and once again he was betrayed, stabbed and ended up dead at the same time that Xena was dying on a cross.
Caesar has never come to realize the powerful love there is between Xena and Gabrielle. He just wanted to change his and Xena's fate. He did not realize that Xena's fate was very completely intertwined with that of Gabrielle.
When he realized Gabrielle was a threat to his desires, it was too late. Instead of letting things be, he tried to force a winning hand and ended up on the sharp end of a knife.
Once again, Caesar's life was linked to his betrayal of Xena and her crucifixion. (I guess that some lessons in life are very hard to learn).
I have to say that the music in this episode was great. The photography and the costumes were also excellent. The outfit Xena the Empress wore as a warrior was beautiful and the other costumes Xena wore throughout the show were just perfect. Also extraordinary were the costumes of Alti and Gabrielle, especially the one she used when she was introduced as the writer. Gabrielle looks so "Greek Goddess" in that scene.
The script was outstanding. It dared to push the envelope without being too blond. It had just the right mixture of subtlety and boldness, allowing our imagination to wander.
As a friend of mine told me after seeing this episode, she wished this were the last episode because the ending was just perfect, with Xena and Gabrielle riding off together on Argo, especially with that last line. After Xena says the only problem she had with Gabrielle's play was that there should have been more fight scenes and Gabrielle answers, "Everyone is a critic".
Well, Gabrielle, I'm honored to be a critic, especially of this show and this episode. This is one of the best episodes this season so far.
SO, once again, I say that I loved this episode. The performances in this episode by both Ms. Lawless and Ms. O'Connor were powerful and moved me to no end. The director and writer in this episode were able to mix all the right ingredients to create a great episode. I just hope the last few episodes are just as good as this one.
This commentary is by Josh Harrison.
The past three weeks on Xena have been a kind of old home week. In Send in the Clones we had visits from Claire Stansfield, Alison Wall, and Polly Baigent. In Last of the Centaurs we had Danielle Cormack and Marton Csokas. In this week's episode we have Karl Urban, Claire Stansfield (again), Ted Raimi, and David Franklin. It is wonderful seeing these talents return to the series. They have all been missed.
This was an excellent episode, scripted by Katherine Fugate and directed by John Fawcett. It plays like a dark mirror to season two's Remember Nothing. In that episode, the Fates showed Xena how things would have been different if she had never picked up the sword. This time, we see what might have happened if Caesar hadn't betrayed Xena (as shown in the episode Destiny).
This "what if" scenario allows the cast and crew to tell a very engaging story - one that deals with themes played out in countless examples of fan fiction. (Most notably, the idea of Xena and Gabrielle as soul mates.) Ultimately, the message of this episode is that you can't avoid your fate - you can only put it off for a short period of time. Despite his machinations, Caesar still dies at the hands of an ally. Alti may hold the blade instead of Brutus, but Caesar's just as dead.
This episode shows a wonderful awareness of Xenaversian history. If Caesar doesn't betray Xena, she never travels to Chin and corrupts the Green Dragon. As a result, Lao Ma is still alive and offering a treaty to Rome. This is only one of many changes that flow naturally from the single question the supports the whole plot.
This historical awareness does raise some interesting questions. First and foremost, how did Alti become high priestess of Rome? If Xena never traveled east to Chin, she never would have met the evil shaman; when did the relationship between Alti and Rome develop? This seems to be the only questionable feature of the new world, as everything else makes sense.
A common idea that accompanies the theme of fate (or destiny) is that certain things are meant to happen. Another idea is that certain people (let us, for the sake of discussion, call them heroes) shape the warp and weft of destiny by their very presence. Robert Jordan uses the term ta'veren in his Wheel of Time series. Stephen King uses ka and ka'tet in The Dark Tower. Other fantasy and science fiction writers have played with similar ideas.
With this idea in mind, Alti and Xena were destined to meet. Since the "proper" meeting (as depicted in Adventures in the Sin Trade) failed to occur, Alti was drawn to Xena and became High Priestess of Rome. It seems a little bit strange, I'll admit, but since Alti's power is the key to the whole plot, I'm willing to accept it (besides, I've always enjoyed Alti's presence - she is evil and loves it).
Of course, Fate draws other characters to Xena as well; Joxer is present as a Roman guard. And (of course) the famous Greek playwright Gabrielle finds herself curiously drawn to the Empress of Rome.
I was initially unsure that Caesar knew about the changes he had made in history. When Gabrielle showed up, however, it became clear. Caesar clearly knows that Gabrielle will change Xena, and he does everything in his power to prevent that from happening; he accuses her of being an assassin and sentences her to death.
By the way, is there any doubt at the acting ability of either Lucy or Renee? There are several moments where neither speaks a word, but their communication is clear.
Only one real question remains in my mind, and it deals with the climactic moments. Gabrielle throws a torch on Fate's loom, destroying the tapestry of life. How does this restore the world to normal again? I would have thought it much more effective to simply release the fates and have them repair the damage done (based on Remember Nothing they have power along those lines). I guess they had some spare pyrotechnics lying around they wanted to use up.
Come to think of it, why didn't Xena just die when Caesar cut the thread? Isn't that what happens when a life thread is cut? And just how did Caesar capture the Fates in the first place?
In the end, these are really minor quibbles - the power and drama of this episode, as well as the performances turned in by Lucy, Renee, and the rest of the cast are among the best ever. These are the same characters we've known all along - and yet they aren't.
This is one of the finest episodes this series has ever produced (questions about the Fates notwithstanding). It is made even more enjoyable by myriad references to previous events that hard-core fans will pick up on. It earns a solid "A" in my book.
This commentary is by S. L. Nelson.
TIMEUnfathomable Sea! whose waves are years,--PB Shelley
Ocean of Time, whose waters of deep woe
Are brackish with the salt of human tears!
Thou shoreless flood, which in thy ebb and flow
Claspest the limits of mortality
And sick of prey, yet howling on for more,
Vomitest thy wrecks on its inhospitable shore;
Treacherous in calm, and terrible in storm,
Who shall put forth on thee,
Gabrielle skips lightly across this mere mer.
"Xena and Gabrielle" transcend destiny, because a universe exists AFTER the destruction of fate and both X&G remember the previous reality. The fact that Xena _remembers_ the alternate reality even though it is Gabrielle who destroyed that reality links her more to Gabrielle than anything else in this episode. Xena and Gabrielle overpower Destiny herself.
Sanskrit terms would work better here. `Between the Lines` drew on Indian philosophical sources for it's mysticism about the interlocking mendhi lines of X & G's. The Indian nomenclature works best, but, I have insufficient familiarity with the underlying subtleties to use it. Sticking with Occidental terminology, then, here goes!
Because Gabrielle destroys fate and the whole universe determined by fate, I see X&G linked Providentially. Each layer of reality has it's own entelechy, or method by which possible things become actual things - in most cases we're familiar with, this is cause and effect. Within the normal Xenaverse (and within our Realverse), all events have prior causes. This chain of causation requires Time. If something stands outside of time it's one of these choices: 1) utterly impossible to describe, or 2) is irrational chance, or 3) represents a higher order of intelligibility than what happens within Time. Cases #1 & 3 can be described as Providence. The Xenaverse gets to specify, and has specified case #3, mostly, except maybe in a comedy episode or three.
Here's the passage from the Stoic/neoplatonist Boethius [480-524] that sets out exactly what I'm trying to mean:[the] undivided pattern of events as they unfold constitutes Providence, whereas Fate is the movable nexus and the ordering in time of what God's undivided nature has planned to be carried out.-- Consolation of Philosophy 6:15-17
Hence all that is subordinate to Fate is likewise subject to Providence, to which Fate itself is subject; but there are some things under the aegis of Providence which transcend the chain of fate. Such things are planted immovably close to the supreme Godhead, so that they lie outside the regime of changeability managed by Fate. Imagine a series of concentric circles revolving round the same axis; the innermost one lies closest to the single nature of the central point, and itself acts as a sort of axis round which the other circles lying outside it can turn. The outermost circle travels round in a wider circle, and the further it departs from the undivided middle point, the more widespread is the area over which it extends. Should anything ally and attach itself to the mid-point, it is absorbed into its undivided nature, and it ceases to separate and to spread in all directions. Similarly, whatever distances itself further from the highest Reason becomes enmeshed in the broader chains of Fate, whereas the closer to the axis of the world which a thing approaches, the freer it becomes from the control of Fate.
If in fact a thing clings fast to the unchanging nature of the divine Mind, it becomes motionless, and also passes beyond the necessity imposed by Fate. As the power of reasoning relates to the intellect, as becoming is to being, as time is to eternity, as a circle is to its mid-point, so is the shifting chain of Fate related to the unchanging oneness of Providence.
Or as Lao Ma said, empty yourself of desire and understand the great mystery of things.
Although many linked Eli's god to this Providential divinity, I didn't see it. Everything we saw of Eli's god filtered through the actions of Callisto, Eli or the ever-klutzy Michael.
Krishna, Naima & Solan seem closer to the axis that Boethius writes of. Eli's god, sucking puissance from Xena, managed to convince many of the Olympian gods to destroy themselves. I hate to say that's very close to Providence, myself!
[digression --- because of Christianity, crucifixion ended as a means of execution. When the time came to carry out Boethius's death sentence (in 524 CE), the executioners bound his head with cords so tightly that his eyes were driven from their sockets, then the executioner cudgeled him to death. Much less vicious than crucifixion, NOT. I relate this story only because filming for Xena has ended. Mr. Tapert doesn't need any ideas for ways to torture our heroes!]
The division then, is between Fated events, which occur within time and the chain-of-causation, and Providence, which "happens" outside of time. There aren't enough words for this purpose - "happens" has a temporal element to its definition - as mentioned, Sanskrit terminology works better.
Some have suggested that the "soulmate" concept as played out in this episode means that Predestination rules X&G's interactions.
Well not Necessarily. Miracles, you see, happen because the Divine is bored with normal causation.
Also, sometimes, things get out of whack. In that case, any well-designed universe will have a reset button. Universes that try to rely on predestination run up against the Goedel incompleteness problem and so destroy themselves when a paradox arises. Any universe that lasts a long time must allow for a Gabrielle to shut the damn thing off and reboot.
Gabrielle has Providential powers - although only when she doesn't think she does. (the rule against hubris circles even closer to the axis that Boethius writes about!)
Nietszche made a guarantee with his "eternal recurrence" that destiny and providence did not differ - that this dichotomy is false. I interpret Stewart's script for `The Furies` as rejecting Nietzsche. There's no going Beyond Good and Evil. A line of `Fallen Angel` spoken by Demon Xena supports this as well -- Demon Xena succeeded in her plan to steal away Gabrielle, but the universe hit the reset button *then* as well.
Wise men relate events to the Platonic realm of Story. Where does that lie relative to the axis of Providence? How is fiction possible? Gabrielle knows.
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
09-10-01. DragonCon 2001 took place over the Labor Day weekend (Aug. 31 - Sept. 3) in Atlanta, GA. Katherine Fugate was a panelist. During the con she stated that she wrote the script with the mind that Xena and Gabrielle were lovers. She also explained that in her parable, it was her intent to show that although Xena and Gabrielle were given what they most coveted in life (fame, power, riches), they both discovered that it all meant nothing without each other [awww]. Finally, at the con, there was mention of a kiss that was written into a later draft of WHEN FATES COLLIDE by order of Rob Tapert, but then removed by the same in a later script.
02-15-01. Claire Stansfield at a convention in Seattle in February 2001 said that FATES was the favorite of the episodes that she has done. She also said that the writer, Katherine Fugate, had asked her for input with regards to how Claire would like to see Alti portrayed. The episode takes place in an alternate timeline. It basically explores the question "What would have happened if Caesar didn't betray Xena?" Alti of course is in the episode, as is Xena, Gabrielle, Caesar, Brutus and Joxer. The episode is very serious and dramatic in tone and there will be X/G subtext. The characters will all be portrayed a bit differently since things went different in all of their lives in this reality. Alti is more Claire this time around, she doesn't have what I call the Alti campiness, i.e. the voice, the dark eye make-up, really over the top evil. She's still bad, but Claire said she tried to portray her in this episode so that if you watch it, you may understand why Alti became the way she did and did some of the things she did. She said that she felt in this timeline things took a different turn so whatever trauma that happened to Alti to make her go nuts and become really really evil and make her voice get like that didn't happen. Alti's also very sexy in this episode. Reported by Michael Oliva.
02-06-01. WHEN FATES COLLIDE has just wrapped unit 1 photography.
01-18-01. Caesar and Alti cook up a scheme to change the timeline. What would happen if Caesar didn't betray Xena? This episode explores the possibility in an alternate timeline.
01-09-01. Claire Stansfield on the The Beth Lapides Experience on Comedy World Internet Radio on December 20, 2000, stated that Alti will find herself in a different realm.
11-19-00. At first we thought this was the new name of STICKS AND STONES since they both kinda sorta deal with time travel and that pesky soulmatedness between Xena and Gabrielle (can you say UBER?). But apparently, this is a different episode from STICKS AND STONES. FATES appears to be more along the line with REMEMBER NOTHING where the action derives from an alternative timeline as opposed to just being more adventures about the ubers of Xena and Gabrielle. Also, because of this "changing the past" concept, this might be the episode where the XENA SCROLLS timeline is brought into sync with the current XWP timeline.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These things are by Beth Gaynor.
A bit of a quibble to start off the episode: The whole thing starts with Caesar telling the replay of Xena's crucifixion "Stop. Back it up." Who the heck is he talking to? He's chained up the Fates and is examining the threads alone. Apparently 26 years or so in Hades will leave one talking to oneself.
Here's a question that's bugging me: what time did they all end up in? Obviously it's been quite a while since Destiny, so they didn't go back to that moment. But if they went back to the "current" moment in the alternate timeline, they'd all be about 36 years older, and they're definitely not showing that age.
As Xena recovers from her prison visions, she grabs the cell bars to pull herself to her feet. At every shot from her front, her wrap is across her shoulders. At every shot from behind, the wrap is down around her waist. (Nice back muscles!)
Caesar's taunt "And what about you, Brutus?" is ALMOST a duplicate of his gasped "And you, Brutus?" when Brutus stood among the assassins in Ides of March. Both are pretty fair equivalents to Shakespeare's "Et tu, Brute?"
Also in the "literary literacy" realm, Caesar's line "It's not that I love you any less, but that I love Rome more" (and, of course, he's Rome) to justify killing Brutus is a mirror of Shakespeare's line that Brutus gives to justify killing Caesar: "Not that I love Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more."
In the nifty-if-gross shot department, check out the blood flowing through the mud as Xena's cross is lifted.
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
05-30-01. From Mel Green. Gabrielle the playwright is described as having a vineyard by the sea - which corresponds pretty closely to Sappho's bio. (Her father and two of her brothers are believed to have been prosperous wine merchants in the town of Mytiline, near the Mediterranean on the Isle of Lesbos.) I wondered if this was a tip of the hat to the Sappho episode, which we will sadly never get to see.
05-16-01. From Nusi. when Xena gets shot with the arrow, we see her get shot in the shoulder and another arrow in the thigh. After that, however, the thigh arrow wound is totally forgotten!! They show snapping the arrow shaft off (which means part of the arrow is still in her shoulder, right? Then tying Xena's feet with rope, before the famous X-drag. But there is NO ARROW IN HER THIGH! Later, at the jail, we see the shoulder wound, but as X is being led out to her crucifixion, there is no evidence that an arrow was there at all! No blood running down, no wound, no limp, nothing shows in the extreme close-up of her thighs as she's being tied to the cross. Did they just forget about the thigh wound, or what??
05-13-01. From Bret Rudnick. In the "transition" scenes, where people are walking back and forth in Rome, they are walking to and from blank walls.
05-13-01. From Bret Rudnick. The "tent" that Xena walks under in the rain on her way to being crucified is one of the tents the crew normally uses when on location to shelter the camera/playback equipment -- it's where the director usually sits.
05-13-01. From Bret Rudnick. When the sky is seen in the rain scenes, it's blue and sunny with only patchy cloud -- hardly the stuff of rain storms!
Click here to read a transcript of WHEN FATES COLLIDE.
As the Fates would have it, Caesar was once again harmed during the making of this motion picture.
Review by Bridget Patrella
Can't quite figure out that ending? Check out writer Katherine Fugate's spin.
Jeff Lundrigan's review
Interview with script writer Katherine Fugate
Some buzz about script writer Katherine Fugate