GUEST STARS, CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
SYNOPSIS 1 by Bluesong
SYNOPSIS 2 by Shana
COMMENTARY 1 BY Beth the Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 BY Beboman
COMMENTARY 3 BY Josh Harrison
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Written by Liz Friedman and Vanessa Place
Directed by Mark Beesley
TV GUIDE PROMO
On their way to deliver the Helmet of Hermes to Thebes, Xena and Gabrielle save the young virgin Genia (Katie Stuart) from being sacrificed by religious zealots. Renee says this was kind of like A Day In The Life. A comedy with Alex Tydings as Aphrodite. There's a tip of the hat to the musical that never was in this episode. From Creation Entertainment.
Gabrielle and Xena prevent a group of religious fanatics from sacrificing a virgin and teach her the ways of the world. JamTV
This synopsis is by Bluesong.
Tomorrow is Gabrielle's birthday! Xena teases Gabrielle as the bard tries to guess what her present will be. Then Gabrielle asks Xena not to do the practical jokes. But Xena says it's tradition. Gabrielle says please, Xena. Xena promises, no jokes, but her fingers are crossed behind her back. Xena takes a spy glass from the horse's backpack, and looks through the wrong end. Gabrielle says here, give me that. She turns it around and looks. She sees nothing. Xena snickers. When Gabrielle takes the glass away, there is a black ring around her eye. Xena says they have to head to Thebes and that they are delivering the Helmet of Hermes to some kind along the way. Gabrielle wonders if her present is in Thebes.
Zealots perform a ritual sacrifice at a cliff. They ask their god to protect them from the evil warlord in exchange for this virgin. They place a girl on a contraption designed to slowly throw her over a cliff. The head dude raises his sword to cut the last rope. Xena's chakram flies through the air and cuts the sword in half. Xena tells him to put the girl down. He says you are interrupting a religious ceremony. Xena says "forgive me father" and kind of flips him off as she goes to save the girl. Xena and Gabrielle fight the zealot followers. During the fight, the rope is broken and the girl goes over the cliff. Xena grabs the helmet and jumps over the cliff. She puts the helmet on as she falls, and catches the girl. She flies up and over and lands in a clearing. The girl, Jenai, mistakes Xena for a deity at first, and wants to worship her. Then, when she realizes Xena is normal, she pouts and is angry at being saved. Gabrielle runs up. Xena explains to Gabrielle that Jenai has a problem; she thinks she is supposed to be a virgin sacrifice. Xena wants to introduce her to some of the gods they know to show her what she would be giving up her life for. Someone watches from the bushes.
The zealots want to find the girl.
The watcher runs into a cave. He is a warlord's son. He tells Dad that a dark beautiful woman swooped down and rescued the virgin. Dad realizes it's Xena, the warrior pain in his butt (or something like that). Dad decides Xena must have the Helmet of Hermes. He wants it. He sends his son out to do something for him.
Xena, Gabrielle, and Jenai arrive at a waterfall. A beautiful spot. They make camp. Xena and Gabrielle go swimming. Jenai does not go, but she keeps peeping at the naked women through her hands. Later, as they eat, Jenai makes some comments about never feeling so satisfied before; Xena says yeah, and so quickly too (or something like that). Then Jenai realizes she ate fish and says she must do penance and sleep on the ground without cover. Xena says if they weren't supposed to eat fish, how come they taste good? Jenai accepts a blanket. Xena tells Gabrielle they should get some rest; they have a big day tomorrow. As Xena and Gabrielle lay beside each other, Gabrielle begins to giggle. She tells Xena to stop it. She says "get your cold clammy feet off of me." Then Gabrielle realizes there is an eel or snake or some other creepy slimy thing at her feet. Xena snickers. Gabrielle declares war. Xena smiles.
Next morning, Xena bathes beneath the falls. Jenai wakes up. Gabrielle tells her that Xena is never to be bothered while she bathes in the morning. Xena emerges from the water. Her clothes are missing. Gabrielle tells Xena they are right under her nose. Xena looks and finds her clothes partially hidden. She grabs them, and when she does, a bucket of fish guts falls on her head from the tree. Gabrielle is a little stunned. She tells Xena she was sure she would have dodged those fish guts. Xena didn't see that coming, apparently. Gabrielle looks a little nervous.
Xena and Gabrielle take Jenai to Aphrodite's temple. Xena calls for Aphrodite, who pops in with two half-naked guys. Xena introduces Jenai. Aphrodite is impressed; she didn't think there were any more virgins around. Jenai says Aphrodite is just an evil myth. Aphrodite tells "Gabby" happy birthday, and gives her a hug. Xena invites Aphrodite to Thebes. Aphrodite says Oh! You got tickets to see Sappho! Gabrielle is excited; so this is her birthday present! They all head off to Thebes. They stop for water; Gabrielle refuses to drink when Xena hands her the water bag. Gabrielle is waiting for Xena's revenge for the fish guts. Jenai says Aphrodite isn't a god. Aphrodite does some tricks but Jenai isn't impressed. Aphrodite asks Xena why they don't just let her pop them into Thebes. Xena says she wants Jenai to spend time with Aphrodite. They continue on their journey. Gabrielle says she just knows Xena is planning her doom.
They arrive in town. Aphrodite takes Jenai off to look around. Gabrielle keeps expecting the worse from Xena. Warlord Boy sees Jenai, and they exchange glances to sparkly love-sounding music.
Gabrielle, in a tavern, has her head down. Seems they missed the show; Xena had the times wrong. Xena says someone has been following them. Xena leaves Gabrielle the bag with the Helmet of Hermes in it while she goes to get another drink. Aphrodite tells Gabrielle that Xena switched bags with them back in the market. The Warlord Dad comes in. "Xena" he hisses. He wants the bag. Fighting ensues. Xena yells for Aphrodite to get Jenai and the bag out. Aphrodite goes "poof" and they are in the street. Jenai said, Oh! You are a goddess.
Xena and Gabrielle fight the bad guys. The bag Gabrielle has flies around the room. The warlord gets the bag and leaves. Xena says that wasn't the helmet, anyway. Gabrielle says yes it was. She thought Xena was trying to play a joke on her so she switched the bags back with Aphrodite while Xena was getting her drink. Xena yells for Aphrodite, who pops in with a wildly dressed Jenai. Jenai is now dedicating her life to Aphrodite. Aphrodite tells Jenai to pick a guy, any guy. Jenai picks Warlord Boy. Aphrodite casts a love spell on them. Warlord Boy asks Jenai to marry him. She says okay. They run off together. The zealots seem them go.
The Warlord Dad flies around his hidey-hole. He has the Helmet on his head. Xena and Gabrielle watch. A doorbell rings. Warlord Boy comes in with Jenai and introduces her to his father. Aphrodite pops in behind Xena and Gabrielle. She's surprised to find out Warlord Boy is ... Warlord Boy. She begins to undo her spell but Xena stops her because that would befuddle Jenai. Xena says she has an idea.
The Warlord Dad's doorbell rings again. A disguised Xena and Aphrodite come in. Xena introduces herself as "Anthrax," Jenai's father, here to see who his daughter is marrying. Then Anthrax says the wedding planner has to be consulted, and in comes "Belle" aka Gabrielle. Aphrodite takes Jenai for a conference and takes the spell off of her and explains things to her. Xena comes around and tells Jenai to stop living her life for other people. Xena goes away. Then Aphrodite poofs Jenai into town -- directly into the hands of the zealots who are looking for her. Gabrielle, planning the wedding, tries to get the helmet off Warlord Dad but fails. Anthrax tells Warlord Dad that being a warlord ain't so hard; let me see your scars. Warlord Dad starts showing off his scars, finally removing the helmet to show one on his head, given to him by Xena. While the helmet is off, it is switched, leaving the warlord with a different bag.
Xena learns that Aphrodite poofed Jenai into town, with the bag with the helmet, and freaks a little. They can't find Jenai; the zealots have her. Xena returns with one of Jenai's new shoes and figures the zealots have taken her to their temple two miles from town.
The warlord realizes he was scammed. One of the zealots goes to the warlord to arrange a deal.
The sacrifice begins. Jenai is all wrapped up and this big block with spikes on it is going to be dropped on her. Xena interrupts the religious worship. The warlord flies in; he has the helmet. He agreed to stop Xena in exchange for the helmet. The zealots fight Gabrielle while Xena fights the warlord. One of the zealot lights a rope holding the big spiky thing. More fighting. The rope begins to burn through. Xena does a ladder dance and ultimately gets the helmet from the warlord. She tosses it to Gabrielle. The spiky thing falls. Xena stops it, sets Jenai free. But, the head zealot has Gabrielle with a knife by the throat. He also has the helmet. He puts the helmet on and plop, he falls to his death. Gabrielle says it was a fake helmet; they did another switch.
Warlord Boy comes in to save Jenai. Jenai says sorry, I can't marry you, I'm off to convert my convent into a shelter for poor needy people. Xena tells Gabrielle they have to leave; maybe there's another show.
By the sea, with the sun setting, Xena apologizes to Gabrielle because they missed the Sappho show. Xena asks Gabrielle to close her eyes; some tender teasing; Gabrielle closes her eyes. Xena gives Gabrielle a present. Gabrielle finds a scroll with a poem written by Sappho. She reads it aloud; it is a beautiful love poem. Xena puts on the Helmet of Hermes, grabs Gabrielle, and they fly off together. "Happy Birthday, Gabrielle."
This synopsis is by Shana.
All right...confession time...I had seen the previews for this one and was a little leery as to how this episode was going to play out. I enjoy a good comedy, and several of the Xena comedies rank very high with me, but I don't like it when our heroines are made to look like fools, and I was afraid this episode was headed that way. It turned out to be not what I expected at all. In fact, this episode was a rather pleasant surprise, and I suspect a glimpse into the personas of Lucy and Renee as much as Xena and Gabrielle. As I get to the details, perhaps this will become clearer as I write.
I was caught up in this episode from the first seconds. It almost looked like it could be a continuation of the final scene in Last of the Centaurs, with Xena good-naturedly teasing Gabrielle. The first line of the episode was enough to raise my normally sedate eyebrows..."How big is it?" It is Gabrielle's question, to which Xena responds, "It's huge." They are walking through a sunlit woods, Xena leading Argo II who looks fairly loaded down. Gabs wants to know if it is too big for her to carry, and Xena replies she can slip it in her pocket. Gabs demands "Tell me!" and Xena starts in with a taunting "No! No!" She pokes her fingers in the bard's shoulder for emphasis, "Because then it won't be a birthday surprise, will it...You'll find out tomorrow." I had been wondering all week long about the title of this episode, and now I realize what it was in reference to.
At any rate, Gabs doesn't seem to be terribly happy about her impending birthday. This is the second time her birthday is celebrated on the show...2-0, Gabs Vs. Xena...what gives? Gabs raises her hands bemoaning, "Another year older, but wiser,? No!" Xena just chuckles her throaty chuckle and continues with that mysterious grin, "Anyway, you can't find out till after you-know-what." After reading all week about Lucy and Renee's convention descriptions of trying to out-prank each other on the set of Xena, I was pleased to hear Gabrielle tell Xena "Not the pranks!". Apparently, it is a birthday tradition in the Xenaverse to play pranks on the birthday boy or girl. Gabbers is definite..."Xena, tradition or not, no practical jokes this year, all right...Not at all!" She pounds her index into Xena's breastplate animately, then as Xena reacts to the abuse adds a much softer, "Please?...Please?" Xena gives her that look and purrs, "Oh, you're gonna have to do better than that." Gabs tries one more "Please?" and gives a little dance to accompany the final one. Xena hides a smile and replies, "All right, no practical jokes." She places a casual hand on her hip, and the camera zooms in to see she has her fingers crossed. Some traditions transcend time. Xena has been carrying a barely noticeable bag, and now she squints off into the distance, then removes it, asking Gabrielle to hold it a moment. As Gabs struggles under the bag's weight, Xena moves to retrieve something from Argo's saddlebag. Gabs thought the Helmet of Hermes would weigh less, and Xena finds that a great time to let us know why she'd be lugging it around. "Promised King Thoas we'd drop it off to him for his coronation, since we were going that way anyway." Gabs eyes Xena with a grin, "Does that mean my present is in Thebes?"
Xena doesn't answer...she has taken a collapsible telescope out of Argo's bag. She stretches it to it's full-length (I know that may not read the way I intended), and proceeds to look though the large end of it. Gabs notices, and falls for the oldest trick in the book. "Give me that," she says laughing at Xena's apparent ignorance, and holds the telescope up to her own eye. Xena seems more interested in watching Gabs than the action in the distance, but keeps her face the mask of innocence that she uses so well. Gabs hems and haws and says she doesn't see anything, but when she pulls the telesope from her eye, yep, it leaves a black shoe polish circle. Not exactly the most original trick in the book, and I swear my first thought was she looks like Petey the pup from the Little Rascals. Xena sees the black circle, knows her work is done, but never so much as cracks a smirk. "My mistake," she comments, and turns her head in the opposite direction, as sounds are heard.
It's some kind of beach ceremony, as some zealots, as they will be identified later, are praying to some god. They are offering a soul of unmatched purity and are requesting sanctuary from a warlord. The sacrifice is a young girl, wrapped in white, and laid on a contraption that when cranked, will move outward over a cliff and drop the girl to the rocky shore below. As the leader of the zealots proclaims, "Oh mighty master, save us from disaster," and it is repeated by his flock, we hear the familiar whirr of the chakram which cleaves the short sword the leader is holding aloft. Now I have just GOT to say this...for two weeks now, I have been studying the 5 more episodes to go preview, because there is a shot of Xena catching the chakram with Gabs standing behind her, and I have been SO distracted by Gabs appearance. It is a long shot, and I could have sworn it looked like Gabs was wearing some kind of eye glasses. I didn't bring it up to anyone, because I didn't want to be declared insane...it was just too bizarre a thought. Now I realize I am not as certifiable as I thought, as Gabs still has the black circle and that's what I was seeing. Thank the gods I'm not as nuts as I thought I might be! Well, at least in regards to that, anyway!
The chakram has returned to its owner, and the leader of the zealots barks at Xena she's interrupted his religious ceremony. Xena touches her forehead, in a smirking act of piety, and quips, "Forgive me, Father," before the leader yells "Stop her!", and the first fight is on.
Gabs uses her sais, and Xena uses the bag containing the weapon as they take on the bunch of shaven-headed or turbaned zealots. I swear I saw one of these guys at the airport looking for donations! The leader watches the men getting their tails kicked, and yells for one of them to help him pull the lever loose, so the sacrifice can plunge to her doom. Xena sees what's going on, disposes of a couple more of the attackers, and pulls the helmet free from its confines. The rope holding the contraption in place has tangled itself on the helper's hand, but Xena gives out a battlecry as he pulls it loose finally, and the sacrifice starts the fall to the ground. Xena dives over the edge of the cliff, and on the trip down, puts on the helmet, which looks identical to her helmet from the Ring trilogy. There is a long shot of her plummeting to earth with the helmet obviously NOT in place, but I guess it's just an out--of-order shot, as during the closeups, she definitely has it on. Xena gives out a long continuous yell, but over that the sound of her flying is identical to the sounds Christopher Reeve's Superrman flying made. Xena catches the girl and smiles down at her, "It's all right, I've got you." That's a line directly from Superman, and it might as well be Lois Lane in her arms as they start moving upward. The girl's mouth is covered by the shroud, but if it were uncovered, I'm sure she would have said, "You've got me...who's got you?" Heh heh. Xena even looks up as Superman did in the first movie. For anyone who's seen it, you'll know exactly what I mean.
Either Xena was enjoying the flying, or she just wanted Gabs to have to fend for herself for a while, but she doesn't land the girl anywhere near the beach scene...instead they come to rest in the forest. Xena unwraps the girl, asking if she's all right. The girl gets the puppy dog eyed (not Petey the pup!) expression and clasps her hands together, "O Divine Presence, as you have made yourself manifest, take thy humble servant Janiah to thy bosom." The young blonde then grabs Xena's shoulders and presses the side of her face to Xena's breastplate. Xena pushes her back immediately with a nervous laugh and indicates her chest, "Whoa...this is spoken for." My mind reeled at that line...who is speaking for it? Okay, never mind, the girl is on her knees now, bowing down before a befuddled Xena. "Now, what are you doing?" she asks, now getting a little impatient.
The girl looks up with a wide smile, "Praying to you, O Flying One." Xena realizes her mistake, and removes the helmet. "No, no...it's just a hat. Look, I'm not a god; My name is Xena." The girl wants to know if she's still alive, and Xena gives her a warm smile. "You're still alive," she confirms. The girl doesn't believe it, but Xena is feeling all heroic. "Think nothing of it," she smiles casually. The smile rapidly faces when the girl confronts her angrily..."You ruined my sacrifice!"
After the commercials, Janiah is stil chastising Xena about ruining the sacrifice as Petey...err...Gabrielle finally runs up. Xena wants to know why she'd give herself up and as Janiah continues, she's obviously distracted by Gabs' odd appearance. Her voice trails off as she finally just stares at Gabs with a "What is on your eye?" Xena goes into a faux seizure as she turns her back to Gabs with a finger to her lips. "It's a birthmark...we don't talk about it...shhh." Janiah is trying to make sure Xena isn't a god, as Gabs touches her eyes, realizes what's afoot and shoots daggers with her eyes at Xena's back. She laughs then, "There's nothing divine about Xena. If she were a god, then I couldn't do this...or this..." She tweaks Xena's nose, then pinches her posterior. (I'm not kidding here!) Gabs is enjoying this. "Or this!" She swings a fist at Xena, who stops it in mid-trajectory. "All right, you've made your point!" "Okay!" Gabs squeaks, as Xena turns back to Janiah. If her god is all-powerful, maybe he sent Xena to save her. Xena's confidence is crushed again as Janiah smiles back. Maybe he sent Xena to test her faith. Janiah decides she's going to be a two year old and "hold her breath and sacrifice myself." Xena doesn't even blink, "Good one," she replies and steps aside with Gabrielle telling her the "kid" needs their help. Gabs says they should introduce her to the "gods we know" and Janiah will see the gods aren't all they are cracked up to be. Xena doesn't think that's a bad idea, and behind them, Janiah collapses. She's been holding her breath now for...oh...about fifteen seconds. This girl needs to work on lung capacity! Xena agrees, apparently, "Come on, Janiah, quit goofin' around...We've got someone we want you to meet."
Meanwhile, back at the beach, the leader of the zealots declares they must get the virgin back. Now we come to the worst point of the episode for me...the warlord Varagas. There have been some hammy actors on Xena before, but this guy whens the prize for the most overblown, overdone, overlystupid, overlyugly bad guy. I won't even attempt to describe his exaggerated characterization...it will annoy the viewer enough enough on its own. Varagas is in his hideout carrying on, when a young man approaches him with news from the zealot camp. After much blustering, the young man, Frankas, tells Vagaras, who is his father, that a woman stopped the sacrifice. Frankas describes Xena as "dark, beautiful, dressed in leather." Varagas throws a piece of meat he's been holding and an off-camera voice cries out, "Ow! My eye!" Meanwhile, Frankas has a dreamy look on his face as he looks as he describes Xena's rescue. Varagas carries on and breaks some stuff and then delivers his only truly funny line...."Xena....The Warrior Pain in My Ass!" But he doesn't know how even Xena can survive falling off the cliff. Frankas tells about the helmet, and Varagas realizes its the Helmet of Hermes. Varagas has a job for his son.
We're back in the woods, and after all my complaining this season about a lack of campfire scenes, I was thrilled beyond measure by the next scene. The threesome make their way near a waterfall, and Janiah falls in love with the scenery. Gabs is still wiping the black from her eye, but asks Xena in a strangely sarcastic tone, "Nothing like sleeping under the stars, huh, Xena?" "Mm hm," Xena repiles oblivious, but Janiah is going on about being locked in a convent from sunset to sunrise. Gabs apparently doesn't know what she's been dealing with, as she asks Janiah if she was raised to be a priestess. Janiah beams at her and tells her she was raised to be a virgin sacrifice. Gabs gives her the once over, but Xena doesn't react, instead pitching something at Janiah, "Here, make up your bedroll." The next part did my heart good. The camera focuses on Janiah blissfully laying out the furs to make her bed, we see single shot of Xena and Gabrielle exchanging grins, and then a few more seconds of Janiah's work. Janiah stands up with a "There we go; is there anything else?" and looks back to where Xena and Gabs were supposed to be. We see they have already made camp...their bedrolls are laid out, Argo is unsaddled, and a campfire is flickering merrily with a cooking pot suspended above it. Xena's voice is heard from off camera (and directly out of fan fiction!). "Last one in is a centaur dropping!"
Xena gives a warcry and there's a shot of her and Gabrielle's (or at least their doubles') naked behinds as they dive into the pool. The twosome frolic in the water, as Janiah covers her eyes in shock...and, of course, immediately peeks through them. (Who wouldn't?)...Amidst the splashing, Gabs disappears under the water for a second, and when she comes up for air, Xena gasps, "I can't believe you did that!" Gabrielle tries to convince Janiah, who is still trying to shield her eyes, to come on in, but Janiah won't hear of it. "No thanks, I'll just stay here and look at...the bushes." Xena delightfully laughs and I did too, at the unintended pun.
It's nighttime now (and of course, the perpetual full moon...this is the Xenaverse, remember?) , and Xena is watching open-mouthed as Janiah finds the fish finger licking good. "I have never experienced such pleasure!" Janiah declares. "And so quickly too," Xena deadpans. Janiah suddenly realizes she's eaten one of her god's creatures and declares as penance, she has to sleep on the cold hard ground. "You know, a better penance would be to clean the frying pan," Gabs comments, struggling to scrape it clean. Janiah doesn't respond...she has settled herself down on the ground, her arms crossed, to go to sleep. Gabrielle smirks, "O Virgin One!" and tosses a blanket at Janiah, telling her the ground gets awfully cold. Janiah pushes the blanket aside. Xena eyes her, then Gabs, and said, "You know if the gods didn't want us to eat fish, then how come they made it taste so good?" She and Gabs exchange raised eyebrows at her clever thinking. Janiah doesn't answer, but after a beat, she pulls the blanket over her. Gabs watches her with a satisfied smile.
Xena is all stretched out in her bedroll, while Gabs sits beside her. Xena turns on her side, and tells Gabs she should get some rest. She adds in a menacing tone, "It's a big day tomorrow." She closes her eyes and Gabs stares at her, her brow wrinkling in concern. As she slowly turns her head, Xena's eyes open again. Uh oh...
It's later that night...the fire has almost burned down, and Xena is sitll sleeping on her side. Behind her, Gabrielle is giggling wildly, thrashing her feet around. Amidst the laughs is a "Stop, Xena," then after more giglling, "Would you get your cold clammy feet off me!" Uh...unless Xena is a contortionist, there's no way she could have had her feet back there. Xena awakens and barely glances over her shoulder. "I don't know what you're talking about." Gabbers sits up and realizes Xena is not in her proximity and looks down at the blanket which is...uh...moving. She pulls up the blanket and a big fat ugly snake begins to slither off as Gabrielle freaks out accordingly. Eesh! This isn't a pleasant sight! Gabrielle jumps to her feet and thumps Xena hard on the head with her blanket. Xena's hands come up to protect her head as Gabs declares, "You're not going to give up, are you? I hope you know, Xena, this means war!" As Gabs stalks off, we see Xena's face, still framed by her hands, and a very smug smile on Xena's face. This is apparently just the reaction she was trying to get.
The sun rises, and Xena is back under the waterfall, enjoying the river. Janiah wakes up, declares it's a beautiful morning, and looks over at Gabs who is still steaming by the fire. She asks Gabs if she slept well and Gabs sneers, "Not particularly." Then she smiles, "You know, if you wanna travel with us...a few things I should tell you. Never...under any circumstances...interrupt Xena when she's having a morning bath." Hmmm....sounds like it took the bard a few tries to learn that one!
Xena has moved to the shore, and seems to be missing...something. "Gabrielle?" Gabs cups a hand to her ear, and smiles back, "Yes? Xena?" Uh oh, she's up to something...Xena's clothes are missing...does Gabrielle have an idea where they are? Gabs is trying to mask her smile. "Uhm....I think they're right under your nose." I have no idea why I found this exchange so hysterical...it's just so...light. Xena looks around and then smiles, "Oh, it's all right...here they are." She grabs her leathers, which are hooked on the breastplate, which is caught on something. High above her in a tree, a bucket overturns and with a resounding splat, Gabrielle's expression changes from smugness to a brief look of panic. Xena slowly rises and her head is covered in a silly string looking mess that is slimy and most disgusting. Gabs can't stand it and lets out a giggle, then quickly clamps a hand over her own face. Xena is not amused as she holds up a piece of fish entrails. Janiah is watching all this action in amazement as Xena continues to glare at Gabs who jumps to her feet and struggles for words..."I uh...I thought...I mean, Xena, you can catch arrows....I thought for sure you could catch a bucket. Of fish guts."
Xena is still checking out the goop covering her, but she looks up at Gabs and with no expression says, "Happy Birthday, Gabrielle." Gabrielle is still looking a little nervous. "This means that we're even now, right?"
"Oh, even?" Xena replies, her face twitching to keep her from doing something evil. She pulls some of the glop from her head. "No, I think we're just getting started." With one last menacing glance, she turns to jump back into the water, leaving the bard to stew. And stew she does, Gabs realizes she may have bitten off more than she could chew, and tries to steel herself for the upcoming rampage.
I loved this scene from beginning to end! It's so great to see Xena and Gabrielle just interact, and even though Janiah was there, she remained quiet during the important parts. The music during this whole episode is perfectly suited, serious during the brief somber parts, but for the most parts bright and playful.
Xena cleans up, and now we're inside a temple. Janiah refers to it as a pure and holy place. Xena looks like she's wearing a bandolier, as the bag is slung over her shoulder. She and Gabs smirk at Janiah's naive reference to the love godess's temple. Janiah drops to her knees, her hands clasped. "Perfect be god, and all god's places....Perfect be god, in all god's graces." Xena and Gabrielle try to disguise their amusement as Xena glances at Gabs, "Boy, is she in for a surprise," before calling out for Aphrodite.
Aphrodite appears on the couch before them, perched on the lap of two nearly naked studs. She's caressing the face of one, while the other gives her a foot massage. She giggles at the trio. "Well, if it isn't my favorite girl group." Xena introduces Janiah to "Aphrodite, goddess of lo-o-ove." Love has suddenly become a three syllable word with Xena's pronunciation. Janiah's innocent face studies the sight before her as the scene fades.
After the break, Xena finishes the introduction as Aphrodite approaches, "Meet Janiah, the Virgin." Aphrodite gasps and stops in her tracks. "I don't believe it!" Janiah manages, and Aphrodite quips back, "I don't either...I thought you guys were extinct!" Janiah informs Aphrodite that the goddess of love is an evil myth designed to strip women of their virtue and men of their pride. Behind her, check out the amused looks on Xena and Gabrielle's faces...they are enjoying this very much! Aphrodite just laughs..."Well, you got the stripping men part right, honey." She ignores Janiah grin, knowing it's someone's birthday. With a big smile, she hugs Gabs. "Happy Birthday, Gabby." Gabs returns the hug, but Aphrodite pulls back, wrinkling her nose. "What is that awful smell?" One of the few running gags on XWP that I was never amused with were the hygeine references in The Quill is Mightier, and I did not want to suffer through that again! But after an uncomfortable look from Xena, it's all forgotten, thankfully, as Xena asks Aphrodite if she wants to join them on the trip to Thebes for Gabs' birthday.
Aphrodite grins at Xena, "You got Sappho tickets?" Xena gives her an ixnay on the tickets look, but Aphrodite demands to know "What row?" Gabs whole demeanor changes as she grins in surprise at Xena, "Xena... Sappho tickets? Oh, I love her poetry!" Xena just looks crushed in Aphrodite's direction. "Surprise," she says flatly, looking dejected.
Outside, Xena pulls the waterskin from Argo's back. She approaches Gabs who raises her fists quickly. "Here, want some water?" "Oh, no!" Gabs replies, suspicious, but Xena just shrugs, "Suit yourself" and takes a long drink. Gabs gives a "Curses, foiled again!" guesture as Xena passes the waterskin to Janiah. Janiah takes a drink as Xena turns innocently and walks back by Gabrielle who feels the need to duck...for no apparent reason. Gabs comes up with one of her sais in hand. Janiah offers Aphrodite a drink, but is told goddesses don't drink. But Janiah doesn't believe Aphrodite is a goddess.
Xena watches with great interest as Aphrodite replicates the bag containing the helmet, and then creates a rose right before Janiah's eyes. But Janiah thinks a goddess uses her powers to reward the faithful and punish the sinners, not do party tricks. Gabs is scratching her head with her sai as Aprhodite approaches Xena and asks if she can't just pop them to Thebes. But no, Xena wants Janiah to spend time with a real immortal. "That's you," she says, patting Aphrodite's shoulder. Then with a glance over her shoulder, she adds very sweetly, "Come on, Gabrielle, the sooner we get to Thebes, the sooner you get your present." "Uh huh," Gabs replies to the retreating figure, then she whirls on Aphrodite with a frightened look. "She's planning my doom...I know it! I can feel it." Aphrodite pauses before following. "This is going to be a fun trip. Come on, you unfaithful." Janiah brings up the rear of the procession.
Thebes has a brightly covered marketplace with lots of activities abound. People are bustling everywhere, there's a juggler and a sword swallower with a guy standing nearby imitating with a banana...a bizarre image to be sure. Janiah is wide eyed as she takes it all in. "The virgin in the city...that is so cute...you come with me," Aphrodite gushes. Behind them, Xena offers Gabrielle a piece of fruit from one of the stands. Gabrielle dodges like it's a flaming torch..."Xena! It's the forbidden fruit gag, huh?...No, you've probably laced it with chile powder...or arsenic...or maybe not." She stares as Xena shrugs and eats the fruit, then reaches for another piece. Janiah is checking out a shoe display, but suddenly before her she spots the handsome young Frankas, who has been spying. He looks back at her, surprised. Meanwhile, Xena is still chewing as she says, "Come on, girls, we've got a show to catch" before walking away with an evil laugh. Gabs snags a piece of fruit behind her before following.
The next stop is a tavern, and a blonde head laying face down on a table. A moan of anguish rises up. Xena's arm is patting the head, then shaking the shoulder. "Gabrielle, I'm sorry....look, I don't know how I could have gotten the times wrong." Something in her expression says she isn't quite telling the truth. Gabrielle finally rises her fists slamming into the table. She's angry because they came all that way just to miss Sappho.
"Just relax...have a drink." Xena has poured her a mug of suds, but Gabrielle eyes it. "Oh no, Xena," she grins triumphantly. "No dribble cups today." Xena shrugs again (lots of shrugging, huh?). "Suit yourself." She removes the bag and tells Gabs to watch it while she rustles up some food. As Xena disappears, Gabs wonders why Xena had her keep the bag when she could have just as easily taken it with her. Aphrodite and Janiah tell her that Xena switched bags with them in the marketplace, without giving any reason. Gabs pokes at the bag...."Huh....really?....hmmm." She hugs it to her as Xena reapproaches. As Xena sits down, Gabs has her face propped up on one hand. "Hi Xena...still just sitting here...watching your bag," she says a litlle too casually. Xena barely pays attention. "Yeah, thanks." She asks where the other two are and Gabs tells her they went to freshen up. All business now, Xena tells Gabs they have to keep an eye on Janiah, as they were being followed in the marketplace. Gabs asks if it was the zealots and Xena tells her that's possible.
Cue Viagra...err...Varagas who tries to make a forceful entrance only to be knocked from behind by his own men. Xena doesn't even turn to look at him until he hisses her name, then she slowly rises and turns to look at him. "Varagas." He's impressed she remembers him, but she tells him (from the previews) "It's on your belt buckle." He isn't amused, telling her he wants the bag. Xena doesn't bat an eye. "It's not for sale." Varagas tells her he wasn't going to pay for it. "Oh, you'll pay," she purrs and the fight is on.
Aphrodite and Janiah crouch behind an upturned table during this melee, but Xena and Gabs are right in the thick of things. Gabs actually struggles for a while, as thugs keep trying to rob her of her cargo. "Get your hands off my bag!" Meanwhile, Xena gleefully takes on the attackers. One of the barmaid reacts to one of Xena's more colorful moves, and the girl resembles Willa O'Neill, the actress who plays Gabs's sister Lila. As the fight continues, Xena yells for Aphrodite to get Janiah out of there, and "take the bag with ya!" Aphrodite responds with, "Duh! Like I'd leave behind a new handbag," before popping out of the scene holding Janiah's hand. They reappear in the marketplace, with Janiah's eyes wide. She now believes Aphrodite is really a goddess. Aphrodite chuckles affectionately. "What took you so long?"
Inside the tavern, the brawl continues as the music kicks into overdrive...it's the same whimsical tune from the fight scene in A Solstice Carol, minus the Jingle Bells, of course. Gabs is now using the bag as a weapon as Xena tries out some new moves on Varagas and his spiked club. One of the moves is very cool. as she twists his arm between her calves and clouts him in the head with his own club before swiping the weapon and using it in more traditional ways. Xena grabs a chandolier to swing from as Gabs tussles with a thug for her bag, which ends up flying in the air. Varagas has been sent flying himself, but Gabs makes a dive for the bag and it ends up being catapulted upward again. The bag lands in front of Vagaras, who laughs, grabs it, and runs out of the tavern double time. All Gabs can do is yell out her frustration.
Xena takes out the last bad guy ( I originally wrote "bag guy"), and grabs the bottle from his hand with a "thanks" as he collapses. She takes a long drink as Gabs runs up. She tells Xena they have to go after Varagas as he now has the helmet. "Nah, Aphrodite's got it. We switched bags in the marketplace." She takes another drink as Gabs clenches her temples, "I switched them back." Xena's reaction is the classic messy spittake before regaining her bearings, "What?" Gabrielle shuffles uncomfortably. "I thought you were trying to get something over on me, Xena," she offers, looking up at Xena hesitantly. Xena just nods, looking in a different direction. "I asked for that." And indeed, she did.
Outside the tavern, Gabrielle is trying to figure out Xena's reasoning..."Unless...you knew that I'd be suspicious...and so you'd switch the bags..." She trails off as Xena glares at her. "I'm not close at all, am I?" she admits. Xena just barks for Aphrodite who appears with Janiah who is now dressed in pink pj's like the love goddess. She even has on flowered shoes and her hair is cut in Aprhodite-style curls. Xena and Gabs just stare as the giggling twosome clink their coconut shell cups together. Aphrodite informs them her new disciple calls her "Mighty Aphrodite", and that's what Xena and Gabs should call her. Xena and Gabs continue to stare open-mouthed as Janiah tells them she is now dedicating her life to Aphrodite, but finally Gabs breaks the trance. "That's not exactly what we had in mind." "We'll fix that later," Xena adds, "Right now we've got some baggage to claim, come on." Gabbers follows her, but Janiah and Aphrodite don't.
Janiah wants to know how she can worship Aphrodite if she's never experienced love. Aphrodite agrees and tells her to pick a guy, any guy. Strains of guitar music from Old Ares Had a Farm rise up as Janiah surveys the marketplace. She doesn't want the guy who is exposing half his crack as he bends down, nor does she want the guy who's overly concerned with his own body odors. Can't blame her for that. Then she spots Frankas, who is still spying from afar. "I'll take him!" Aphrodite clutches her heart..."Good girl, bad boy...I love a classic" before sending the love darts to Frankas, then Janiah. The twosome beam at each other, then rush to hug the other, declaring their love for each other. Aphrodite wiggles her joy at "love at first sight, my specialty" before disappearing. Frankas proposes to Janiah, who accepts, and as they run off, our spotted by some of the zealots, including the leader. "That man's got my virgin!"
At his lair, Varagas has tried on the helmet, and is flying around, beating up on his own men. Xena and Gabs have concealed themselves behind some rocks from a distance, and Xena doesn't look amused by the spectacle before her. She raises her chakram telling Gabs "What goes up...must come down." Before she can throw though, there's the sound of a bell being rung. "Since when do warriors get company?" Gabs muses. Xena watches in shock as Frankas and Janiah enter, and Frankas introduces his new love to his father.
From the rocks, Xena and Gabrielle growl in unison, "Aphrodite", not knowing the Love Goddess has appeared behind them. "Down in front, I can't see!" she says, prompting Xena to jerk her down to a more covert position. Gabrielle tells her she put a love spell on Janiah and as Aphrodite confirms and muses about the sweet virgin falling in love, Xena's open mouthed eye shift made me break out in laughter. Aprodite is still pleased with herself until she realizes Francas's father is a gulp...warlord. But no fear, Aphrodite will fix it all. Xena stops her, telling her if she releases Janiah, she'll throw her for a loop. She has a better idea and the others should follow her lead.
I wasn't prepared for the next part...I really wasn't. Varagas is sitting on his throne, enjoying a cigar. The young lovers are before him sharing a bite to eat. The door chime sounds again. In walks Aphrodite dressed as a common folk, her arm hooked with someone who at first glance looked like John Stamos. I never would have believed it was Lucy in that getup until she started talking. Her turbaned head showed wild curly hairly tumbling out from underneath it, and she'd stuffed a pillow under the man's shirt to simulate a pot belly. The goatee and moustache completely disguised her features, and she really was unrecognizable. She does some fast talking, introducing herself to Frankas, after warmly clasping his hands. She calls herself "Anthrax" and introduced the wife, "Spitunia." (Once again, I'm not kidding here.) She puts her hands in her belt, "We just wanted to know what kind of family our little girl was marrying herself into." Frankas turns with a bemused smile as Anthrax plants an arm around him and directs him toward Janiah. He tells her her parents are there, and Janiah almost blows the cover. "My parents are dead" Spitunia takes over, "Dedicated to making sure you have the best weddin' ever, Pookie." Anthrax pops Frankas' stomach. "That's right!" Spitunia climbs on Varagas lap, drawling in her Southern accent about how hard weddings are to organize. "Which is why we've brought some help," Anthrax adds.
Cue Gabs, who enters looking very much like...Gabs. Her clothes are different, but her blonde head isn't disguised in any way. After the fight in the tavern, it is inconceivable that Varagas, Frankas, and his men wouldn't recognize her, but they didn't get suspicious at all. Gabs affects another Southern accent, which is probably closer to Renee's native Texas, and she is dressed in a flashy robe. "I put the "ding" in wedding." She emphasizes her statement with a hip move as Anthrax adds off-camera, "Yes, you do, Sister." The wedding planner climbs up on the other side of Varagas lap, musing about what colors should be used at the wedding. Janiah wants to pick out her own outfits, but Spitunia herds her off, telling her the expert can worry about that. Gabs settles herself down with an enticing wiggle as Xena, her arm around still around Frankas declares, "Well, why don't you fix these two fine fellows up with some new duds while we go have that long overdue talk with Janiah about her...conjugals." She raises her eyebrows at Frankas, releases him, and moves away. Gabrielle smiles at Frankas..."Now I see before my eyes...harem pants."
Spitunia...errr...Aphrodite has gotten Janiah to a relatively safe spot and removes the spell. Janiah wants to know where she is and Anthrax...err...Xena, who is at their heels tells her they're in Varagas's lair. Janiah squints..."Xena?" "Yeah!" Xena responds, as if she doesn't know why Janiah wouldn't recognize her. Janiah doesn't know how she got there, but Aphrodite reminds her it was so she could experience love. Janiah remembers then, and Xena begins her "believe in yourself" speech. She reminds Janiah she was willing to give herself up for a blood-thirsty god, and tells her she can't just give up her life to any deity that comes along. Aprhodite adds her two dinars, "It's true, Sweetpea; we're not all we're cracked up to be." Janiah doesn't understand how she can make her way without someone to lead her. Xena gives her an impassioned, "You've got to stop following...maybe you can be your guide. Janiah, haven't you ever felt happy just to be yourself?" Janiah thinks about it and beams she has the last few days with her and Gabrielle. Xena is pleased. "That's a start. Now we're gonna get you out of here." Aphrodite gives Janaiah a "Stay!" command, and follows Xena...err...Anthrax back to the main action.
Gabs now has Varagas decked out in some gold decorated tunic, but he doesn't like it. It's too "girlie" for him. Gabs doesn't agree..."Oh no, Honey, not with those shoulders!" "Now for the final touch..." she adds, reaching for the helmet with an expression I've only seen on Xena's face before, but Varagas grabs it and growls that the helmet stays. Gabs turns to the inlaws with an exasperated look, and Anthrax takes the cue. Anthrax works Varagas like a puppet. After confiming he's in the "warlord business," she asks if he has any scars. He reveals a gaping scar, telling Anthrax it's where a guy took out his spleen. Anthrax isn't impressed, "Who needs a spleen?" Varagas points to his neck, "A guy got me with a short sword!" "Lucky it wasn't a long one," Anthrax quips back, still unfazed. Anthrax and the wedding planner watch as Varagas raves about showing them scars before removing the helmet and placing it in the bag. He leaves the bag laying on the ground (not your brightest move here, Varagas), so he can show Anthrax the scar given to him by Xena, the Warrior Princess. "Let me take a look at that,"Anthrax replies, and with a glance over the shoulder, tells Aprhodite and Gabs, "I don't remember." Heh heh. Rather fortuitious that the scar was on his head, and Xena takes said head under her arm. I thought she was going to give him a noogie, but she just wants to check out the damage. "Oh yeah...that Xena really is something. She nearly split you open like a coconut!" While Anthrax distracts Varagas, the other two swap bags. Anthrax gives Varagas's head a hollow thump, then releases him, only to put an arm around him telling him they're going to get Janiah out of there. "Doesn't do for the bride to be exposed before the big day. Plenty of time for that afterwards, know what I mean?" Gabs is standing behind Anthrax, and her expressions at Xena's hamming are priceless. Anthrax leaves, and Varagas moves to retrieve the bag, but Gabs stops him with a laugh. "Now, about my bill..." she begins.
Meanwhile, Aphrodite uses her powers to zap Janiah out of the lair. She sends her back to the marketplace, directly into the path of the zealots. As she is grabbed, leaving her shoe behind, the leader clasps his hands skyward, "Thy will be done," he intones as the scene fades.
Outside the hideout, Xena and Gabs are removing their disguises as they approach a happy Aphrodite. Xena wants to know where the bag is, and Aphrodite tells them Janiah has it. All that's left of Anthrax is the moustache, and Xena angrily rips it off when she hears Janiah has been popped into the marketplace, in case she wanted to do any shopping. Gabs is just fuming quietly as Aphrodite tells them they don't have to thank her, "It's a god thing." Xena angrily tells Aphrodite the zealots are looking for her there, and as Aphrodite doesn't quite get it, Gabbers adds, "Robe. altar, human sacrifice." Aphrodite is shocked as she stares at Xena..."That was a true story?" Xena gives a frustrated "Arghhh!" waving her hands in front of Aphrodite in an effort not to actually strangle the naive goddess, then dashes away.
Meanwhile, Varagas is going to put on his beloved helmet, only to open the bag to find...the contents of a goddess's handbag. The lighting is dark, but among the contents are some lacy pieces, fruit, jewlery, and errr..manacles. Okay! As Varagas throws a tantrum, he is approached by the leader of the zealots who thinks he might be of some assistance. He's holding the other bag, the one Janiah had when she was taken. Varagas opens the bag, finds it empty, and demands the helmet, but the zealot wants to make a deal.
In the marketplace, Aphrodite and Gabs haven't located Janiah anywhere. They take turns blaming themselves, Aphrodite for casting the spell, and Gabrielle for switching the bags. Gabs chides herself for being so suspicious, but who could blame her when Xena was being so secretive? Xena runs up yelling out Gabrielle's name, and from behind her back pulls a flowered shoe, the one that Janiah left behind during her abduction. Aphrodite assumes she's been sacrificed, but Xena isn't so sure. She tells them there's a zealot temple two miles down the road (must be by the city jail!), and Xena thinks they'll do it there. Aphrodite immediately wants to help in any way...."I can cast a spell!" Xena and Gabrielle's hands shoot up in the "no thanks" guesture, then Xena's eyes narrow. "Actually, there is something you could do." Aphrodite beams.
At the temple, Janiah has been wrapped in the shroud again, and is laying on an altar. Above her is slab of wood laden with spikes, ready to drop at any time. The leader is praying as Xena and Gabrielle burst in. The leader turns to face them, asking Xena if she's ever heard of religious freedom. Xena sounds very Warrior Princess-like as she snarls back, "Freedom has nothing to do with sacrificing Janiah or anyone else, and neither has religion. This ends here." The leader smiles confidently. "We'll see." One of his men moves to set a torch under the rope restraining the slab, and as Xena moves to stop him, in swoops Varagas with the helmet on. Xena tells Varagas to stay out of it; she'll deal with him later. But he doesn't think so, as he's struck a deal. Gabs asks a good question. "Since when do warlords keep their promises?" Varagas's answer..."Since I wanted to kick your butt anyway." The fight begins.
Gabs does a much better job here, as she takes on bad guy after bad guy at ground level. Xena is concentrating on Varagas, who is using the helmet to his advantage. But, of course, Xena is capable of short flights of her own, and manages to move to any height Varagas goes for. She has a better senese of balance too, and sends Varagas spinning out of control so she can dispense of a few of the other men, some of them zealots and some of them Varagas's henchmen. Varagas may be able to fly, but he's a lousy fighter. After trying to taunt Xena, "Losing your touch?" she sheathes her sword, grabs a ladder, and plunges it over his head and shoulders, trapping him. She swings the ladder back and forth, trying to knock some sense into the idiot, and finally grounding him, temporarily. Gabs handily dispenses with another zealot as Varagas breaks free, and flies back up to meet Xena who is now on another ladder and swings outward to knock some more henchmen down. On the return trip, she grabs the helmet from Varagas with a "thank you." Varagas hits the ground hard, and stays down. Meanwhile, Xena throws the helmet to Gabrielle.
Gabbers catches the helmet, then takes off out of the temple in a dead run. Xena assesses the situation with Janiah, then makes a wild dive. Just as the rope snaps from being burned through, she grabs it, and using her body weight, slowly the slab moves back into place. Xena ties it off, then frees Janiah with her chakram. She immediately bellows for Gabrielle, and a voice calls out, "Up here!!" Xena and Janiah look up to see Gabrielle has been captured by the zealot leader. He's holding a knife to her throat. He rants at Xena about she may have been successful in stopping this sacrifice but there will always be others. He puts on the helmet he has wrestled from Gabs, and takes a step off the ledge. He plunges immediately to his death. "Or not," Xena adds, looking down at him. Janiah doesn't understand, "He was wearing the helmet." "He was wearing A helmet," Xena corrects and Gabs tells Janiah that Xena had her switch the helmets, just in case. Janiah wants to know where the real helmet is, and Aphrodite pops in, holding a bag. "Right here, Sweetpea."
The foursome watch the leader carried out of the temple as Janiah says she can't believe she almost gave up her life for them. Frankas approaches then, the love spell firmly still in place. Janiah tells him they can't be together. Frankas thinks it's because of his father, but Janiah says it's because Xena has taught her she can't live her life for others. But they can still be friends. Xena watches the young man's crushed expression with a hand on his shoulder, and gives him an affectionate pat with a sympathetic look. Janiah then tells Xena and Gabs they are going to have to go along without me. "Oh, you're sure?" Xena asks, trying to look disappointed. Janiah is smiling sweetly as she tells them before they met, she was bent on throwing her life away, but now she's found something to live for. Xena asks what, and Janiah replies she's going to turn the convent into a shelter for those who need it. Xena thinks that's great, and gives the girl a hug. "Good for you," Gabs adds, and she gives her own hug. Aphrodite has been smiling away during all this, and now hands Janiah a flower, which Janiah gives to Gabrielle. "Happy birthday." "Speaking of which," Xena continues, putting her arm around Gabs who raises an eyebrow as she is pulled away, "we've got a show to catch. Bye bye!" Aphrodite calls out for them to have fun before turning to Janiah and Frankas. She can settle with them being friends. But Janiah's whole retro-sacrficial outfit has got to go.
Now for the final scene...possibly the best scene of the whole episode. Xena and Gabrielle are seated on a couple of rocks, near a lake. The setting sun is shining down on the calm water behind them. Xena apologizes to Gabrielle, telling her she didn't realize Sappho was in town for only one performance. She pours herself and Gabs a glass of water. "It's the thought that counts, Xena," Gabs says in return, brushing a hand along Xena's arm. She admits she would like to hear Sappho's poetry someday. Gabs wants to know how Xena didn't fall for her fish guts gag, but Xena just mutters, "I dunno," before taking a drink. Gabs is still thinking, "You know I'd go crazy waiting for you to get even," she says, holding the cup to her own lips. "I didn't see it coming," Gabs admits, before taking a drink. Xena has been watching all this soberly, but immediately breaks into a happy grin as water spills down Gabrielle's chin. "Nor that," she says with a shake of her head, "Now, we're even!" Gabs laughs and wipes her mouth as Xena takes the cup back. "I want you to close your eyes." "No," Gabrielle responds immediately, and something in her expression looks much more like Renee than Gabrielle. And Xena suddenly appears much more like Lucy as she laughs, "Trust me, please," to another giggling "no" from Gabrielle. Finally they grow serious, and Xena whispers "close your eyes". Gabs finally does, a small smile flirting her lips as Xena gazes warmly at her for a second, then turns to retrieve something. She turns back and lays a scroll in Gabrielle's lap. Gabrielle's eyes finally open and she looks at Xena. "What is this?" Xena smiles tenderly at her, then the smile disappears. She shrugs. "Open it." As the bard does so, Xena can't keep her secret hidden anymore. "I have Sappho jot something down for ya." Gabrielle opens it and sees it's a poem. She can't believe it. She looks up at Xena. "Xena, you had this planned all along didn't you?" Xena's head is lowered slightly, and she's looking up toward Gabs with a soft expression. She shrugs gently, as if she doesn't trust her own voice right then. Gabs begins to read, "There's a moment when I look at you..." and Xena is studying her face with a most adoring look, "and no speech is left in me. My tongue breaks, then fire races through my skin and I tremble." At this point, Xena is looking a little taken aback, and I fully expected to hear her say "That doesn't rhyme," but she stays quiet. Gabs continues to read, her voice filling with more and more emotion. "And grow pale, for I am dying of such love, or so it seems to me." Gabs is obviously overcome with this, but Xena has moved from the mushy stuff to an exaggerated headshake and a fake look of heartsickness that makes Gabrielle burst out with laughter. "It's beautiful, " she tells Xena, who is back to the gentler expression. Gabrielle stands up with her hands outstretched. "This is the best birthday I've ever had." The two hug, and over Gabrielle's shoulder, Xena says, "Of course, it ain't over yet", before slipping on the Helmet of Hermes. With a short warcry, they take to the skies to fly off over the water, one arm around the other's waist and the other outstretched. They're flying off...directly into the sunset. Xena calls out, "Happy Birthday, Gabrielle!" and as the shot fades, something else is said, but I can't quite make it out. It almost sounds like Gabs saying, "You're going down," but I'm not sure...Maybe someone else can figure it out. The final moments of this episode are wonderfully rich and poignant, funny and at the same time, heart tugging. The pefect ending for the final Xena comedy.
This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.
Ever since A Day in the Life, a half-dozen or so Xena comedies (including Many Happy Returns) have been described by XWP staffers or actors as "It's like A Day in the Life." In the past, it hasn't been very true. But this time, they really did hit similar notes. Despite a lot of goofy stuff going on in the episode, the main theme is Xena and Gabrielle's interactions. The eel makes a return appearance. Not one, but two splashy baths are included. The virgin and the kid are no Hower and Minya, but we make up for that by throwing in Aphrodite. The jokes are sexy, the innuendo is none too subtle, and we're heavy on the sound effects. Many Happy Returns isn't as funny as A Day in the Life, but it's close enough to make me laugh at a LOT of jokes along the way.
Xena is VICIOUS on those word games. "How big is it?" "It's huge." "So big I can't carry it?" "Nah, you can slip it in your pocket." Gab doesn't have pockets, of course, but other than that it's a tricky but fair description of tickets to a show. Of course, if Xena really did plan to never catch the show, she cheated.
These zealots worship the god of generic-ness. He's just "Almighty" and "Lord," and the worshippers are called "the zealots." I'm surprised they don't wear black and white and that Genia didn't have "SACRIFICE" stamped in monotype font on her.
In case you didn't know in the first five minutes, this episode is a comedy. You can tell because even the bad guy cranking the altar hams it up. I don't much care for it when Lucy plays Xena on the hammy side, but she kept that to a minimum for this episode and just had fun the rest of the time.
Xena is guilty of being unoriginal with the blackened telescope, but it's redeemed by the sight of Gabrielle in a fight scene with an eye like the Little Rascals' dog.
Superman alert: when Xena swoops down to grab Genia and tells her "I've got you," I fully expected Genia to reply with "You've got me? Who's got you!?"
Xena shouldn't act so shocked when Genia is upset about being rescued. The same thing happened with that damn fool Dahak cultist Seraphin. Virgins seem pretty intent on being sacrificed 'round here.
There's a convent that produces sacrificial virgins? Sounds like the next stop on the Xena and Gabrielle Butt-Kicking Tour, until Genia decides out of the blue to reform it herself. That works, too.
My favorite thing about Aphrodite is how sweet she is on Gabrielle. I got a kick out of a god making a fuss over a birthday. You'd never catch Ares doing something like that over Xena.
Xena and Gabrielle have their routine down cold! In three seconds they have their bedrolls spread out, the campfire lit, the pot cooking, a sitting log pulled over... and are stripped down for some skinnydipping.
Judging by the sign, the tavern Xena and Gabrielle enter must be called something like the Soused Pig. Charming.
Wow, picking up Gabrielle and holding her in the air really works... until she finds a big enough thing to whack you on the noggin with.
NIFTY move from Xena of twisting the legs with the bad guy's arm trapped between them so he bops himself.
Dumb fight alert: If you don't want someone to take your flying helmet, put it on and FLY AWAY.
I liked Aphrodite's mad scrambling when she realized she had hooked up Genia with a "cutest little son of a... warlord! OK, OK..." this is now the second comedy that we've forbidden Aphrodite from casting any more spells to mess things up worse - and therefore neatly extended the plot an extra fifteen minutes than it would have lasted if Aphrodite could have just zapped it solved.
What on earth was Ferragus smoking in his cave? It sure was making him happy.
Check out Xena in SERIOUS drag! She even has five o'clock shadow and a beer gut. Take away the beer gut and she's pretty dashing, though. Lovely "Anthrax and Spitunia" names. Gabrielle doesn't get as nifty a costume, but she gets to have fun with accents again.
Dumb fight alert, part deux: When you have a flying helmet and want to keep a spiked board from falling on someone, FLY OVER AND MOVE IT.
Funny how the bad guys are STILL trying to hold knives to Gabrielle's throat. The only difference is that now it only happens when she lets them do it.
Pity the poor warlord's kid. Aphrodite unzaps Genia, but leaves the lad smitten and unrequited. He even gets dumped with "Let's just be friends." That's harsh!
Genia goes through major character makeup: the drastic changing of a character's look to match her changes of heart. Her face goes from a drab virgin to a dolled-up Aphrodite-lover to a mature shelter administrator in the space of about 24 hours. She must have a trail of Mary Kay and Avon representatives following her every move.
In Pasadena, Renee O'Connor said that she considered the poem she read in this episode to be the perfect goodbye poem for Xena and Gabrielle, and she reads it with all the heart to match. For those of you who were too distracted by the gorgeous soft lighting and puppy dog eyes (I was the first half-dozen times or so):There's a moment when I look at youTranslations of Sappho poems vary widely: this is very close to an actual Sappho poem, although different enough to not qualify exactly, I think.
And no speech is left in me.
My tongue breaks, then fire races under my skin
And I tremble,
And grow pale,
For I am dying of such love.
And to cap it all off, our duo tops a boring ol' ride into the sunset by flying into the sunset. Not a bad birthday for the Gabster.
Favorite lines of the episode:#1 in a heartbeat: "These are spoken for."
"I can't believe you did that!" (After Gab makes a dive in the water and Xena hits a new octave. Awright, Gab!)
"Come on, you unfaithful."
"It's on your belt buckle." (BIG belt buckle!)
When Genia wonders how she can worship Aphrodite and be a virgin: "You're right, that does make you kind of a poser."
"I put the DING
"It's a bit... girly!" "Oh no honey, not with those shoulders."
"That was a true story?!?"
This episode features the Battle of the Adorable Pleases. Gabrielle takes an early commanding lead with her attempts to sweet-talk Xena, including a hopping please for extra-cute effect. But Xena wins the battle with a "Please. Close your eyes." that must have had people slamming their eyes shut for miles in every direction.
This commentary is by Beboman.
So, after this episode we only have three more to come to the end of the series. I know that many have wondered why did TPTB do a comedy at this time, but after last week's episode, I really believe we needed a tension breaker. That is what this episode was, a tension breaker.
This episode gave us some easy insight into those everyday moments between Xena and Gabrielle. Not the dramatic and death threatening moments where they find themselves making drastic decisions, but those easy moments, very much like "A Day in The Life".
SO, once again it's Gabrielle's birthday, and Xena is not going to let it go by just that easy. There is a tradition that has to be maintained and no matter what, she will maintain it. I love that determination of the Warrior Princess, but I also sympathize with Gabrielle. I would hate to be in her shoes at the time.
Now my only question at this time is why haven't we celebrated Xena's birthday during the run of the show. We have celebrated two of Gabrielle's birthdays, but we haven't celebrated one Xena birthday. Is it that the Warrior Princes does not know the date she was born? Maybe after all these years together, she has not told Gabrielle when her birthday is? Or is it just that Xena sees her birthday as another day in a line of many days? If it's the latter, why does she put so much emphasis on celebrating Gabrielle's birthday? I guess this is a question that will never get answered, so I will drop the subject and move on.
A friend of mine told me when we were talking about this episode that the good overtakes the bad, and I have to agree with her. The bad here is the bad acting by the guest cast. It felt like the home team was in the 7th inning winning by a vast margin, so they put the beach warmers on the field to play knowing there is no way to lose.
In a way, TPTB were right. The parts of Xena's and Gabrielle's everyday life were more than enough to make up for those moments of bad acting and I'm not including in the guest list Alexandra Tydings, since I consider her a regular. Besides, as always, she did a super great job as Aphrodite.
I could not stop laughing when I saw Xena dress up as a man. In that outfit, Xena really did not make for a very desirable man, but it was still funny and I did enjoy it.
The bucket of fish guts reminded me of the ending scene in "One Day in The Life" when at the end Gabrielle finally scores a punch (well really a staff hit) on Xena. Xena's reaction to it was very close to the one in "One Day in The Life".
I don't know if it was part of the script or it just happened and they decided to leave it in, but when Xena and Gabrielle are taking their bath in the pond by the water fall, we hear Xena tell Gabrielle, "I don't believe you just did that" or something to that effect. This really sounded more like LL telling that to ROC and I got a big chuckle from it. Once again, I could be really wrong, but that scene was really a good one.
Another thing I liked about this episode (did I mention before that I really liked this episode) was the fact that even though both Aprodite and Genia were there with Xena and Gabrielle, the interaction between Xena and Gabrielle was never distracted by their presence.
Well, this episode did satisfy all those of us who have said we needed more fight scenes. We had plenty of fight scenes and some good new moves. I am not sure, however, if the fight scenes were used to cover up some really bad acting by the warlord and his troops and the zealot and his followers or they were meant to satisfy the critics who wanted more fight scenes. Whatever the reason, I did enjoy them.
The final scene of the episode was very touching and interesting. Xena had her final prank on Gabrielle and gave her a very emotional and unforgettable birthday present. Not only did Gabrielle get a poem written and signed by Shappo, but she also got to fly into the sunset with Xena. Loved that ending. I have to say that we have seen our heroines twice fly or ride into the sunset together in the last two episodes. Not bad.
I have to say that it was nice to see in the credits that Liz Friedman was one of the writers of this episode. It is always good to see familiar names we have missed come back. She and Vanessa Place did a good job with this episode.
All things considered, this was not a bad tension breaker episode. It definitely fulfilled the desired purpose to entertain and make us laugh. There were no hidden agendas, no twisty plots; just a straight up, entertaining episode.
This commentary is by Josh Harrison.
We now return to "Under the Bar with Jay and Horslowski", already in progress.
Jay: Our next feature is the Xena episode, Many Happy Returns, directed by Mark Beesley from a script by Liz Friedman and Vanessa Place. It is clear that as the series winds down the producers are really scraping the bottom of the barrel for story ideas. This is a confused m‚lange that throws a dozen things at the screen, hoping at least one sticks.
Horslowski: While I will agree that the story has far too much going on, I found this episode to be a goofy way to kill an hour. The presence of Aphrodite is always enjoyable, and it is obvious the cast had a lot of fun with this episode.
J: Please! You've got a band of zealots trying to sacrifice a virgin to some unknown deity, a band of warriors causing trouble, a magic helmet, the Goddess of Love, an unexplained war of pranks between Xena and Gabrielle... just where is the coherence?
H: It's called farce for a reason, Jay. The genre relies on broad characterizations and overly complicated plots. It's a tradition that goes as far back as the Italian commedia dell'arte...
J: Which doesn't make any sense either.
H: Let's not go insulting classics of the theatrical form.
J: You're just sore because I panned Cats.
H: There are many elements of this episode that serious students of the show will appreciate. The opening sacrifice (and Genia's initial reaction to it) reminds me of Renee O'Connor's first appearance in the Xenaverse - Hercules and the Lost Kingdom.
J: Right, Renee plays a young sacrifice that Hercules saves, and she gets upset with him. The change that happens to her character is the same development that happens with Genia - she becomes an independent woman, who no longer blindly swallows what she's been taught all along.
H: You have been paying attention.
H: The battle of the practical jokes is a secret nudge to the fans, who know that Lucy and Renee have pulled countless pranks on each other over the last six years.
J: But it comes out of nowhere! There has been the occasional joke or two pulled in the show, sure. But it was usually by Gabrielle, and it was back in the days when she was still young and innocent. Why is Xena suddenly so playful? It all seems manufactured as an excuse to have this convoluted subplot surrounding the multiple bags and helmets.
H: I told you...
J: It's called farce for a reason. Yeah, yeah. But they gave such a lame explanation of the pranking tradition. This is the second birthday we've celebrated on the show. Where were the pranks then?
H: Joxer was in that episode, wasn't he?
J: -sigh- And where did the helmet come from? Xena's delivering it to some king we've never heard of. There's just a bunch of stuff here.
H: I don't expect this episode to achieve greatness in the Xena canon. Still, you have to respect this episode for what it is...
H: Excuse me?
H: You need to suspend your disbelief, and accept each episode on its own merits. Expecting any kind of consistency from this show is ridiculous, especially this late in the game. Why get yourself all worked up over this light-hearted goof of a story?
J: Because many of the performances were horrid? Renee does a good job, as does Alex Tydings. But Lucy seemed two steps away from mugging for the camera. Hori Ahipene is incredibly over the top as the warlord.
H: Didn't he play Blackbeard on Jack of all Trades?
J: Yeah, and Ferragus is a barely disguised version of that character. At least on Jack everything else was over the top as well.
H: I'll never understand why you liked that show.
J: Two words. Bruce Campbell.
H: It goes back to the tradition of farce - the warlord is a broad caricature of a stereotype.
J: That's supposed to be a good thing?
H: In this case, yes.
J: All right, I'll grant you that. Katie Stuart was cute, if empty, in the role of the virgin Genia. But the rest of the supporting cast? Yawn city. Frankus was a snooze, and the leader of the zealots was trying to be menacing, but came off more ridiculous than Jeremy Irons in the Dungeons & Dragons movie.
H: It's all part of the fun, and I had a lot of it watching this episode. The humor was wonderful.
J: If you enjoy recycled gags from grade school and lesbian innuendos. Nothing fresh or original there.
H: It doesn't need to be fresh or original - the joy of comedy like this is that it is comfortable. The viewer doesn't need to work to understand it.
J: Because he's seen it all before.
J: It reminds me of Anna Karenina.
J: The opening like of the book says, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Xena comedies are all alike - recycled gags and ribald jokes delivered by cardboard characters in absurd settings. Dramas, on the other hand, are individual gems with distinct feeling and nuance. They must be savored and digested like a gourmet meal.
H: You continue to amaze me. If that's the case, why didn't you like the sixth season premiere, Coming Home?
J: Because it was a mess that never found the feeling at its core.
H: I thought so. And what about For Him the Bell Tolls?
J: It's a wonderful homage to a classic film that showcases the talents of the incredibly underrated Ted Raimi.
H: I think you're upset that you enjoyed it as much as you did. Didn't I see you tearing up at the end when Gabrielle was reading that poem?
J: -hrm- No. I was feeling the effects of my jalapeno dip.
J: Oh, come on. You know that legions of subtext fans are going to take that scene as proof of Xena and Gabrielle's "intimate" relationship. It was pandering, pure and simple.
H: And that's a bad thing? The producers have always said you can take whatever meaning from the show that you want. Sappho's poetry speaks to love in its purest, spiritual form. We're not talking about the horizontal mambo here.
J: -glare- Now it's time for final thoughts. This episode was a convoluted mess that easily passes for comedy in this age of Tom Green and MTV's Jackass. Multiple cardboard characters and ridiculous situations abound, making suspension of disbelief - let alone enjoyment - impossible. I really expected more from Liz Friedman. I give it a D-plus.
H: The cast and crew had a lot of fun making this episode, and it showed. I was infected with their sense of play and enthusiasm, and felt the whole episode fit wonderfully in the rich tradition of theatrical farce. It isn't the finest comedy this series has done, but it is a long way from the worst. Considering the final three episodes are likely to be dramas, this isn't a bad comedy to end on. I give it a solid B.
J: One final thing. Was it just me, or was there a cameo appearance by Willa O'Neil during the bar fight?
H: You know, I thought the same thing myself.
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
03-20-01. This is a comedy with Alexandra Tydings. It was a replacement for LAST CHANCES when production fell through right before filming was to start.
I was intrigued about the Sappho poem at the end of the ep, so I looked in my trusty Sappho book to check it out.
Here's what Gabrielle read (courtesy of Beth's transcription--thanks!)There's a moment when I look at youThe "original" is Sappho's second longest surviving work; only the Aphrodite ode, her single extant complete poem, is longer. Apparently a scholar at the Alexandrian library collected and published ten volumes of her work but they were lost by the Middle Ages.
And no speech is left in me.
My tongue breaks, then fire races under my skin
And I tremble,
And grow pale,
For I am dying of such love.
Translating poetry is tricky, particularly Sappho's because we only have bits and pieces. http://www.sappho.com/poetry/historical/sappho2.html uses OUR very poem to show how different translations can be.
The first translation is by Josephine Balmer, whom I like because she tried to keep as close to Sappho's original language staying away from the flowery words other translators tend to emphasize because that's how women write, ya know... [keep in mind that there is an abrupt ending because we lost whatever came after it. It's interesting, me thinks, to compare them.
Translation by Josephine Balmer
It seems to me that man is equal to the gods,
that is, whoever sits opposite you
and, drawing nearer, savors as you speak,
the sweetness of your voice
and the thrill of your laugh, which have so stirred the heart
in my own breast that whenever I catch
sight of you, even if for a moment,
then my voice deserts me
and my tongue is struck silent, a delicate fire
suddenly races underneath my skin,
my eyes see nothing, my ears whistle like
the whirling of a top
and sweat pours down me and a trembling creeps over
my whole body, I am greener than grass
at such times, I seem to be no more than
a step away from death;
but all can be endured since even a pauper...
Translation by Mary Barnard
He is more than a hero
He is a god in my eyes--
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you--he
who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing
laughter that makes my own
heart beat fast. If I meet
you suddenly, I can't
speak--my tongue is broken;
a thin flame runs under
my skin; seeing nothing,
hearing only my own ears
drumming, I drip with sweat;
trembling shakes my body
and I turn paler than
dry grass. At such times
death isn't far from me
Translation by Willis Barnstone"Seizure"
To me he seems like a god
as he sits facing you and
hears you near as you speak
softly and laugh
in a sweet echo that jolts
the heart in my ribs. For now
as I look at you my voice
is empty and
can say nothing as my tongue
cracks and slender fire quick
under my skin. My eyes are dead
to light, my ears
Translation by Jim Powell
In my eyes he matches the gods, that man who
sits there facing you--any man whatever--
listening from closeby to the sweetness of your
voice as you talk, the
sweetness of your laughter: yes, that--I swear it--
sets the heart to shaking inside my breast, since
once I look at you for a moment, I can't
speak any longer,
but my tongue breaks down, and then all at once a
subtle fire races inside my skin, my
eyes can't see a thing and a whirring whistle
thrums at my hearing,
cold sweat covers me and a trembling takes
ahold of me all over: I'm greener than the
grass is and appear to myself to be little
short of dying
But all must be endured, since even a poor [...]
Translation by Diane Rayor
To me it seems
that man has the fortune of the gods,
whoever sits beside you, and close,
who listens to you sweetly speaking
and laughing temptingly;
my heart flutters in my breast,
whenever I look quickly, for a moment--
I say nothing, my tongue broken,
a delicate fire runs under my skin,
my eyes see nothing, my ears roar,
cold sweat rushes down me,
trembling seizes me,
I am greener than grass,
to myself I seem
needing but little to die. But all must be endured, since...
Translation by Paul Roche
"I More Than Envy Him"
He is a god in my eyes, that man,
Given to sit in front of you
And close to himself sweetly to hear
The sound of you speaking.
Your magical laugh--this I swear--
Batters my heart--my breast astir--
My voice when I see you suddenly near
Refuses to come.
My tongue breaks up and a delicate fire
Runs through my flesh; I see not a thing
With my eyes, and all that I hear
In my ears is a hum.
The sweat runs down, a shuddering takes
Me in every part and pale as the drying
Grasses, then, I think I am near
The moment of dying.
Having read some of these offerings, I like the Friedman/ Place version EVEN BETTER now!
From Alexandria North's _Lesbian Poetry_ website
Her "Sappho in Translation" page, http://www.sappho.com/poetry/historical/sappho2.html
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These things are by Beth Gaynor.
Listen for the by-now-required "Ow! My eye!" when Ferragus tosses the chicken leg over his shoulder.
Watch when the gang enters town: there's a sword swallower with a guy right next to him attempting the same trick with a banana.
Callisto's cave has been reoccupied by Ferragus! And in homage to our dearly departed Callisto, we have a fight on ladders while a torch burns a rope. Familiar territory in more ways than one.
Watch Aphrodite's bag when Ferragus roots through it. There's some naughty items that the warlord tosses around while he's looking for a helmet!
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
06-14-01. From Moth. It's a wonder that Xena could have a telescope, since it was invented in the 16th or 17th century by a Dutch man called Lippershey (the invention is also attributed to Galileo in the same years). Maybe the 25 years in their ice-sleep was not the only time travel they did!
06-05-01. Candy. The Temple of the Zealots looks like it was created from the "shaft" set from Cleopatra 2525.
email@example.com. 06-05-01. There were some familiar faces in "Many Happy Returns". Latham Gaines, who played the priest Zarat, was Minius (Diana's intended) in "Warrior....Princess", Kastor (one of Nemos' men) in "Cradle of Hope", and the rich guy in "Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire". Hori Ahipene, who played the warlord Ferragus, was Blackbeard in a couple of Jack of All Trades episodes, "The Floundering Father" and "Shark Bait".
jbuckner. In the marketplace scene when Gab and 'Dite are discussing who's to blame for Genia's disappearance, there's a cut to a two-shot of Xena moving past a guy and pushing him out of the way. She is waving or dangling Genia's fuzzy pink sandal (the one she lost when the zealots grabbed her). Then there's a closeup of 'Dite's head turning toward the direction from which Xena is coming, then a cut to a distance shot of Xena coming toward the camera. Note the change in camera angle and the change in the sandal position. In the first shot of Xena with the sandal, she's flailing it in front of her as she pushes past the man. In the second shot, from farther away, she's apparently just started running off camera and holds the sandal behind her until she reaches Gabrielle & 'Dite.
jbuckner. God Props. In the scene where Zarat and a few zealots go to meet with Farragus after 'Dite has done the god thing and whisked Genia to the marketplace, notice the staff Zarat's carrying. This staff bears a marked resemblance to the staff of Hermes known as a *kerykeion* in Greek and in Latin as the Caduceus (thanks to John Altoon for the hedzup on this latter bit). This herald's or messenger's staff is part of the iconic trappings associated with Hermes. For some images see, for example:http://web.uvic.ca/grs/bowman/myth/images/haifa/h168.jpg and http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.1149. Looks like TPTB are toying with us yet again.
Click here to read a transcript of MANY HAPPY RETURNS.
No fish guts were harmed in the making of this motion picture.
Screen grabs from MaryD and Carol and the gang