GUEST STARS, CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
SYNOPSIS 1 by Bluesong
SYNOPSIS 2 by Missy Good
COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by Deb E McGhee
COMMENTARY 3 by Missy Good
COMMENTARY 4 by Xorys
COMMENTARY 5 by Videntur
COMMENTARY 6 by Jill Hayhurst
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
WHERE HAVE I SEEN YOU BEFORE?
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Mervyn Smith (Garr, the Caretaker)
Written by Chris Manheim
Edited by Jim Prior
Directed by Robert Tapert
THIS IS PARADISE--
(Gabrielle sniffs a flower.)
Gabrielle (to Xena): Where are we?
OR IS IT?
AN ALL NEW--
(Xena tries to use her neck pinch on Aiden.)
Gabrielle: Xena, no!
(Xena raises up a hammer.)
ON AN ALL NEW XENA--
(Gabrielle sniffs a flower.)
Gabrielle (to Xena): Where are we?
THIS IS PARADISE--
Aiden (to Xena and Gabrielle): Welcome to my home.
A MAGICAL EDEN, WHERE YOU CAN CLEAR YOUR MIND, AND HEAL YOUR BODY.
(Xena and Gabrielle perform meditation exercises separately.)
Gabrielle: Gods, this is bliss.
A HEAVEN ON EARTH.
Xena (to Gar): What is this place?
(Aiden turns around.)
OR IS IT?
AN ALL NEW--
Gabrielle: Xena, no!
(Xena raises up a hammer.)
TV GUIDE PROMO
Though Gabrielle finds peace, Xena finds violence on an idyllic estate inhabited only by its proprietor and crazy caretaker.
In a seemingly idyllic land, Gab finds peace and calm as Xena is beset by visions of violence.
Gabrielle finds inner calm, but Xena is plagued by violent images in a land ruled by a man who claims to know the true path to peace.
When Xena and Gabrielle fall down a cave on a holy mountain, they find a bucolic world of seeming peace, inhabited solely by the peaceful Aidan and his crazy caretaker. But as Gabrielle begins to find intense inner peace, Xena finds a darker force emerging from inside her. Will she give over to her dark side again, undoing all the good of her recent past? [From Mania.com]
It's "Xena in Wonderland," as the warrior princess and her companion, Gabrielle, fall through a hole to a surreal land with white rabbits and blue statues. There a New Agey guru, Aiden, teaches Gab about inner peace-and learns from Xena about going to pieces. Oh, and there's a scene where Xena and Gabrielle bathe together, and Xena gets up naked (discreetly), and another scene where Xena gives Gab a massage and...well, it all sounds less like Alice in Wonderland than the Playboy Channel. Must be Sweeps month. [From GistTV.com]
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
1st RELEASE: 02-01-99
An AA average of 4.1
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) (11) XFiles 5.7
(2) (13) Star Trek DS9 4.6
(3) (15) Hercules/ER 4.3
(4) (19) Xena 4.1
2nd RELEASE: 04-12-99
An AA average of ?
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) (11) XFiles 4.9
(2) (14) Star Trek DS9 4.1
(3) (15) ER 3.9
(4) (22) Walker Texas Ranger 3.4
This synopsis is by Bluesong.
Xena and Gabrielle take refuge from a storm in a cave. Xena has a large gash in her leg from a fight, which requires sewing. Through conversation we learn that they are on their way to India and were sidetracked by spiritual mountains. The dynamic duo argue over why Xena was fighting the bad men, and Gabrielle says maybe Xena only fights for good so she can beat people up. Xena has a vision of the cross scene while she's sewing her leg back together.
Gabrielle and Xena hear a noise. Gabrielle goes to investigate and disappears. Xena limps along behind and discovers a really deep hole. Xena jumps down the hole after Gabrielle. They wake up in paradise and find that Xena's leg has been mysteriously healed. The place reminds them both of Illusia without the music. They meet the servant, and then they meet Adin, the spiritual ruler of the place. He convinces them to stay the night.
Xena and Gabrielle take a bath together. The servant appears at the door, which Xena answers a-la-natural, causing the man to fall to the floor. Gabrielle takes breathing lessons from Adin while Xena goes in the garden and does Tai Chi. Gabrielle remembers Hope while she's doing her breathing. Xena's Tai Chi turns violent and she attacks a bunch of blue statues. Gabrielle trains with Adin, doing a lot of physical movement and breathing. Xena watches them as Gabrielle remembers lying to Xena about Hope's death, and Gabrielle starts to cry. Xena flees.
Xena and Gabrielle talk, and Xena agrees to stay another day. In the moonlight, the gash in Xena's leg appears and disappears. Gabrielle talks to Adin about Xena, because her dark side seems to be asserting itself. Gabrielle goes to check on Xena, who begins to have hallucinations about hurting Gabrielle. She imagines grabbing Gabrielle's hand and squeezing until Gabrielle cries out in pain.
Xena goes to Adin, who tells her the atmosphere is forcing her darkness to the surface and she must leave before she hurts Gabrielle. Xena writes a note but her nose keeps bleeding. Gabrielle comes in and Xena gives her a rub down. Xena's nose keeps bleeding. Xena remembers her cross vision. Gabrielle goes to sleep. Xena tells her goodbye. As she's leaving, she examines one of the blue statues, and then hunts down the servant. The servant says Adin "leeches" off of goodness, and the people he's sucking dry turn into blue statues.
Adin, meanwhile, puts Gabrielle into a deep trance. Xena gives over everything to her dark side so Adin won't be able to suck any goodness from her while she's saving Gabrielle. She confronts Adin and gets tossed around by his brain waves. Gabrielle starts turning blue. Xena picks up the servant man and Gabrielle comes out of her trance to stop Xena from hurting the man. Xena grabs up her sword and kills Adin. When Adin dies, the paradise disappears, and Xena, Gabrielle, and the servant end up the cave. The servant leaves to go find his wife and kids. Xena and Gabrielle continue toward India.
This synopsis is by Missy Good.
This was an interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes funny unintentionally ep. (g)
We start off in a cave. A nice, firelit, particularily fanfic'y kind of cave, where X and G are resting up following a battle with some thugs. Xena is stating going to India is a great idea, but why did they have to go the long route? Gab says these moutains are supposed to be very spiritual. Besides, she says, Xena had fun beating up the baddies. Xena protests. Gabrielle insists.. she says she thinks Xena likes fighting. (Hello, Gabrielle? After four years you are just now realizing this? Score a 10 on the DUH meter, kiddo..) I have to assume they're stating that for story setup purposes, because certainly, Gabrielle as a character, has realized her beloved partner does indeed enjoy hacking and slashing, if only from the joyful laughter that tends to ring out over the battlefield. I digress. Anyway, Xena got a cut on the leg, and it needs stitching.
Oh.. did I mention Gabrielle was buck naked during all this? And wet. It's raining outside the cave. Curiously, Xena appears dry, however. Surreal. Anyway, she's in a fur cape or something (Gabrielle I mean) and starts to sew up the gash, and they talk about Xena's dark side. This disturbs Xena, and she tells Gab to stop stitching.. that she has hands of a sailor. Gab gives up and takes her robe off, standing with her back to Xena as they discuss the situation, and she puts her bsbg on. (Tangent - ROC has a nice back)
Xena has a flashback to the vision. Gabrielle tells her to forget it, that Xena has always told her they control their own destiny. Then they hear a noise. Xena jumps up to investigate, but Gabrielle stops her, and tells her to sit tight, and not pull her stiches out. She takes a torch and goes off to see what's up.
Xena's "omigosh Gabirelle's in trouble' patented alert system goes off, and she grabs her sword to go see what happened. She finds no bard, but a large, twisting, winding, suspiciously looking like the lava pit from Sacrifice except cold and dark kind of hole.
So, of course, she jumps into it.
End of teaser.
They wake up in a garden, complete with canaries and bunny rabbits. And a turtle. It's got that overly colorful look that real gardens never have, and Xena is immediately suspicious. Maybe it's because she's found her leg healed. Illusia is brought up, but elicits no particular reaction from either woman, other than Xena commenting that the only songs she's heard is birdsong.
tangent - for something that must have affected both of them on such a deep, significant level, Illusia is treated rather shabbily, here..you almost get the impression that Xena, at least, doesnt' have much respect for it. /tangent.
They find a dude. He's your typical babbling, half armored, sort of grubby thuggy type and he tells them if they want to know what's goign on, they have to find Aidan, who's up at the 'house', and who owns 'the estate'.
So they do.. and the estate reminds me very much of a music video. Specifically, the one with Tom Petty in it, and Alice in Wonderland. Maybe you all will remember it.. but I got that feeling a lot during the ep. (G) Maybe it was the constant shots of the tortoise and the hare they kept interjecting, underlying our knowledge of the differences between X and G. (thought we'd miss that little allusion, didn'tcha, guys???) I keep wondering about the sudden appearance of rabbits in recent Xenas. Anyway.
They meet Aidan. He's nice, in a creepy sort of way, like the guys you meet in airport lobbies, and in cult villages. Xena takes a dislike to him... I think her cootie meter went off. Gab is intrigued. (there's a change) and wants to hang around, to find out about the 'inner peace' he's advertising. (there's another change)
They decide to stay the night, and of course, immediately have to take a hot bath. (giggle) And it's a nice one, Gabrielle is appreciating it thoroughly, but her grumpy partner is twitching. She pulls Xena into the water and gives her a back rub, which sort of works, but you can see Xena's paranoia sensors are going off full tilt. I half expected Gabrielle to pull a 'will you chill out already?' here. The dude from outside shows up with some new clothes for Gabrielle.. she's going to be taught Aidan's breathing method, which he says Xena's mind is 'too active' to attempt.
So, he teaches Gab how to breathe. She's enjoying it. Xena's off in the bushes practicing mantis stances.
That goes on for a long while. Gabrielle is getting more peaceful, and Xena's getting twitchier. Xena comes in while Aidan's working wtih Gabrielle, and Xena watchs her break into tears, as she confesses some of her inner pain as Aidan comforts her. Xena's taking a lot of guilt from this, and she starts tearing up too, then leaves them alone.
They meet up that night, and Gab tells Xena how wonderful she feels. Xena's busy doing situps.She questions Gab, accusing her of 'liking Aidan' (rather a jealous accusation at that, in fact) and says "I should have known."
Gab doesn't take offense, she kind of just smiles, and dismisses that with a "No.. it's not that." She seems a little amused (flattered?) at the comment, then says that Aidan has allowed her to come to terrms with some painful stuff, like her failure as a mother. Xena tells her she had no choice in what she did, and Gab doesn't disagree, but she says she's always borne the guilt from that, and Aidan has taught her to accept it, and let it go. She says she feels very light, and wonderful, and would like Xena to feel that way too.
You see conflict in Xena's eyes, her wanting Gab to have peace, and her cootie meter which is now off the scale fighting each other. She agrees to stay another day.
Next day, Gab goes back for more lessons, and Xena starts to go a little bananas, having flashbacks, and hallucinations of things. Aidan tells Gab that Xena could be in trouble..that this place brings out the bad in people, but that Xena has Gab to help her overcome it. Gab trots off to find Xena, who is taking a warm bath. She offers to help Xena, and warns her of what Aidan said. She wants to teach Xena what she herself learned, but Xena has a hallucationation of herself hurting Gab, and she tells her she'll be fine.
Gab seems troubled, and doubtful, and she keeps asking Xena if she's okay. Finally, she gives up and leaves.
Xena confronts Aidan, and is told if she stays, it's possible her emerging dark side will hurt Gabrielle, or worse. This is the worst (maybe best) thing to hit Xena with, because she knows how true it can be, and she decides to leave. She's writing a note in their room when Gab comes in (wonder what it said?) complaining of a backache.
tangent - just once, I'd like Xena to sit Gab down, and let her be part of this "i'm leaving you for your own good' decisionmaking process. This is twice now that she's made the decision herself. /end tangent
Xena finds a knot in Gab's back, and tells her to lie down. She procedes to fix the problem, then give Gab a full body workover, that puts the bard out like a light. (pull your minds out of the gutter, please...it's a massage.) however, Xena keeps having flashes of her hurting Gab, including her being the one to drive nails in Gab's hands at the crucifixion scene, and she also keeps getting nosebleeds. It's kind of surreal. She keeps a running dialog on how good Gabrielle is, and how no one should hurt her, and finishes up by telling her goodbye.
Again, I wish she'd have the guts to say that to Gabrielle while she's awake and aware of what's going on . Maybe she's just scared that Gabrielle might agree that it's the best thing for her to do. That would kind of hurt, I guess.
Xena leaves, but finds helper dude (sorry.. bad on names) talking to the statues. She figures out that the statues were once men, and helper dude tells her that Aidan sucks the good out of people and turns them into statues. Presto - we now see why Xena's cootie meter went off. (didn't we have this plot already this year? Crusader, wasn't it?) Anyway, helper dude tells her that Aidan will grab what good there is in her and use it against her, and Xena decides to let her dark side out, but makes a plan with helper dude.
Enter, Xena, Warrior Rabbit.
What's with the teeth? I laughed myself sick over that, though I'm sure it wasn't intended to be funny. It would have been lots more effective if Lucy had merely ducked her head and looked up at us with those eyes, and given us one of those evil Xena smiles. That gets across her dark side just fine for me, thanks.. I don't need wooden prosthetics and cats eye contacts.
Anyway. She goes bonkers, and heads off to Aidan's palace, where he's busy turning Gab into stone. (blue is not her color, mind you.. and the blue stuff looks a lot like the foot rot only it's blue, and not green) He and Xena fight, and Xena's getting her butt kicked (a seasonal theme this year) until helper dude shows up, and she body presses him over her head, then flips her sword up to impale him on.
Gabirelle, who has been in a trance the whole time, feeding Aidan's power, realizes her 'light' to Xena's 'darkness' is really, really needed, and breaks out of the trance, shedding her blue stone and yelling at Xena to stop. This also deprives Aidan of his power, and Xena spits him like a dog with her sword.
Then Xena goes over and butts heads with her, relieved. The world dissolves back into the cave, where Gab finds herself buck naked again. Helper dude is there, and she scoots behind Xena, as Xena explains she knew her attack on helper dude would break Gabrielle out of her trance.
Gab seems surprised at this.
Xena tells her she knew no matter what, that Gabrielle wouldn't allow her to take an innocent life, and helper dude states he was sure glad she was right.
Helper dude leaves. to returnt ot his wife and kids. Gabrielle thinks, then says "You know, I talk about your dark side like it's some kind of disease.. but if it weren't for that, we both woudn't be here. Ironic, huh?" (my vote for the single most goofy thing Gabirelle has ever said)
"Do I really have hands like a sailor?" Gabrielle then asks, having retrieved her fur cape.
Xena just smirks.
02-08-99. Commentary by Beth Gaynor.
WOW. OK, this was trippy and had some problems, but... wow.
I really liked this episode, and how it handled its plot. But jeeeee-miney, haven't we been through this territory before? How many times is Gabrielle going to follow whole-heartedly some spiritual guru who peeves Xena (but she falls for too), ends up threatening Gab, and Xena gets to pummel? We saw this same thing five episodes ago in Crusader (including Xena's "this is for your own good" attempt to leave). How about ol' Dahak's cronies in Deliverer? Fool Xena and Gab once, shame on you. Fool them twice, shame on them. Fool them three times, kick the writers in the butt, they're stuck. Since baddies can't hold a knife to Gabrielle's throat any more, they have to dupe our heroes.
Gabrielle gets the "I took the long way around to a clue" award for noting that maybe Xena enjoys fighting because she smiled when she battled some ruffians. Hello, Gab? Have you missed all the laughing and grinning she's been going for four seasons now? (OK, snarky comment aside, I think that was actually a setup for those of you just joining our show. But that was still a silly way to do it.)
Xena's never afraid to pitch herself - literally, in this case - into a decision. She sees a hole in the middle of a huge cave, decides "What is it with you and holes, huh?", and throws herself headlong down it. Now THAT'S dedication to an idea - and to Gab.
Xena and Gabrielle fall down a hole, end up in a colorful garden, and a twitchy guy shows up. I expected him to cry about being late for a very important date, or for Aiden to scream "off with her head!"
Gabrielle really leaps at that chance for a hot bath! Usually it's Xena who's the hot tub magnet, but I think Gabrielle has been sold on the merits of a good, long soak... took ya long enough!
Why did Gar bring clothes to Gabrielle? If he's been fighting Aiden all this time, why run an errand for him? What IS his gig around the estate? And for the payoff of the hysterical "sir" comment, Xena's "Do YOU see a 'sir' around here?" reaction, and Gabrielle's "nope, none that I see" look, who cares?
Aiden lays it out pretty flat for Gabrielle, although of course it doesn't really sound like it at first: "This place can help draw the goodness from you." Apparently, though, Aiden can only draw that goodness from someone being still and peaceful. Aiden can't get anything from twitchy Xena until she's been knocked unconscious - or fakes it, anyway.
"Here you become what you really are deep down inside. Everyone does." This doesn't really turn out to be complimentary for anyone. Gar is a twitchy, cowardly lunatic. Gabrielle is stoned. All right, bad joke: Gabrielle's good and peaceful, but naive and still-too-trusting. Xena gets the worst treatment of all, as she goes totally feral. After all this time, is this episode telling us that Xena really IS evil at heart, and her battles to be good are just fighting her true instincts?
One other very interesting note about Xena and Gabrielle's "core self, the real you": they're still integrally linked to each other. Feral Xena still wants to rescue Gabrielle, stone-d Gabrielle wants to do the same for Xena, and both will ditch their true selves for that cause.
Cool montage of Gabrielle and Aiden's yoga exercises against Xena's solitude. And while we're talking about people finally getting a clue after four seasons, XenaStaff seems to have fallen in love with Gabrielle's back in the past couple of episodes. Took y'all long enough.
I loved the phantom battle scene. Tai-Chi is a very calm meditation, but its movements are still based on fighting, which makes it oh-so-appropriate for Xena to use. And as the delusions and loss of control begin to set in, the movements become less and less meditational and more and more combative. VERY neat. And in the midst of the whole fight, and Xena's anger at the birdies and bunnies (and their later execution), the turtle stays safe and keeps plowing along. Is the turtle a symbolic Gabrielle?
Touching scene when Xena watches Gabrielle break down. She stops herself from going to Gabrielle to comfort her. Is some serious guilt kicking in, there?
The scene when Xena meditates, brings her wound back, and then it disappears again, is still confusing me. Xena seems to be looking around for Aiden. Did Xena manage to manipulate the reality in Aiden's estate? If so, why didn't she keep working to exploit that? Did the wound disappear again because Xena couldn't hold it, or because Aiden WAS watching and fighting it? Why?
The hamster-toothed Xena was... well, ridiculous-looking. It made me laugh when I think I was supposed to be horrified. And dammit, WHY did they do it? The dark Xena in the bathtub, growling that she's "Perrrfect" after Gabrielle's retreating back, sent chills down my spine. When you have an actress that projects dark menace that well, why use a ridiculous makeup job to torpedo it?
Why are all of Xena's delusions about hurting Gabrielle? Is that her true desire? The desire of her darkest side, maybe because it knows Gabrielle is the worst threat to it? The worst thing to do that she can conceive of? Her deepest fear? Her guilt run amuck? Her discussion with Aiden about it is interesting. At first, she tries to deny the visions, starting into "I don't believe..." before she breaks, can't finish the sentence, and pleads for something to do about it. She does try to protest once: "I would never hurt Gabrielle," but Aiden jumps right in with "You say that, and you even believe it. [She DOES?] But if the darkness in you wins, no one is safe." Remind you of any bard-draggings across half of Greece, Warrior Princess?
Aiden's attempt to send Xena away is the first sign that all is not well. Aiden claims to bring inner peace to everyone, and that even he had demons as terrible as Xena's, but then he tells Xena to leave and abandon the place and Gabrielle. Whoop! Whoop! We HAVE a mismatch, ladies and gentlemen.
Gab wins the "out like a light" award: I expected her to at least pop her head up at the end of the backrub scene with "Wait a minute - GOODBYE?" Narcoleptic much, Gabrielle?
Xena's plan kind of lost me. She said she was going to let go of all goodness to keep Aiden from getting it. OK, but then isn't the goodness still... gone? Is it really something you can just put down and pick back up again like a sack of groceries? Maybe Aiden's death made it easy to restore: as soon as he was gutted, Gabrielle's blue was gone and Xena was still mussed, but looked more normal again. (Side note: sweet head-touching and hand-holding after Aiden was skewered - awww.)
Was everyone in Gar's platoon good and pure at heart like Gabrielle? No one was dark and nasty like Xena? Out of a group of soldiers? What were these guys, Greenpeace? Interesting comment on Gabrielle, too, when Aiden says that after Gabrielle gets in touch with her stillness (and Aiden gets to suck up all her good-n-lightness), "they'll" change the world. An entire platoon didn't give him that kind of power. Says something for Gabrielle that her spirit alone has more kick than a dozen or so other people put together.
I liked the weird melting effect of Aiden's world-shaping disappearing. What WAS Aiden, anyway? And why did Xena and Gabrielle end up back at their campsite in the cave, instead of in that other part of it?
Lesson of the episode: when you're in some strange guru's estate, don't wear his clothes. Keep your own. Otherwise, if it all turns out to be his mind power, you're nekkid. Right, Gab?
Great ending! "Do I really have hands like a sailor?" Xena smirks, Gabrielle pouts. Ha!
THE most sock-knocking image of the season so far: Gabrielle in white on the white side of the yin-yang symbol, with Xena's place on the black beside her, empty, as the darkly-dressed Xena does frantic sit-ups on Gabrielle's side of the yin-yang. A few pages could be written about the symbolism in that shot alone. Xena captures the Line of the Episode with "Yeah, in that yucky 'I'm in paradise' kind of way." What cynicism! The backrub scene was astounding. Xena's frantic attempts to hide the blood evidence of her turmoil made a stark contrast to her soothing of Gabrielle (no hands like a sailor here!). Xena tells Gabrielle that she's taught her about "Kindness... and mercy... and love," but the word "love" is almost drowned out by the next drop of blood.
01-18-99. Commentary by Deb E McGhee.
SOUNDBYTE SUMMARY. Just when you thought it was safe to plunge into the dark pit of despair, XWP comes back with an all-around winner. Need a refresher course on what the series and characters are all about? You'll find it in Paradise.
Overall Rating: 4.0 quills (out of 5).
ANALYSIS-REVIEW. Gabrielle of Poteidaia is a clueless idiot. She is arrogant, self-involved, self-righteous, insensitive, unpredictably moralistic, blindly impetuous, emotionally and cognitively ill-equipped to recognise her own flaws, and perniciously naive. Indeed, I believe the only reason Gabrielle hooked up with Xena and stays with her is because she is a p-whipping, glory-seeking hypocrite with a messiah complex, who is so intent on finding status and keeping Xena under her thumb that she would endure even attempted murder and the lingering threat of further physical harm, so long as she eventually gets what she wants.
Xena of Amphipolis, on the other hand, could give Jesus of Nazareth a run for his money as Saviour of the World. She is deeply introspective, exceedingly just and fair, humble yet accepting of her talents, recognises and owns her mistakes, and has an ability to judge character that borders on prescient. Moreover, she is so in touch with herself that she is able to tap into all facets of her psyche -- dark and light -- as the situation requires. Xena's one real weakness is that she is often plagued with self-doubt (common with heroic persons) to such an extent that she irrationally gives Gabrielle a position of status.
Psych! I don't really believe either of the above paragraphs, but when I watch episodes like Paradise Found and others of its ilk (e.g., The Titans, The Execution, the "Hope" series, The Debt, Crusader) -- despite all other evidence to the contrary -- I have to wonder if that's not what xenastaff is trying to tell me. Sure, I see all of those qualities to some extent in the respective characters, but I also know that Gabrielle is supposed to be -- on the balance -- the "Light Bringer" and Xena is supposed to be the "Psycho-Hero" (my apologies, but "anti-hero" no longer captures the character for me). I also know that the writing staff claim that the series has shifted to focus on Gabrielle's heroic quest. So what's going on here that it takes so little effort to come to a reading of the characters (such as the one above) that is so at odds with the fundamental premises of the series as-a-whole and of specific episodes?
It all boils down, it seems to me, to a problem of plots conflicting with the story they desire to tell. That problem, in turn, arises out of the constraints of the action-adventure genre, and the trickiness of developing a two-hero narrative when: (a) there is technically only supposed to be one hero and (b) the heroes have fundamentally different worldviews.
Let me step back for a moment and explain what I mean by plot vs. story. The plot is the series of events that make up the narrative. A handy example for differentiating the two is the episode "If the Shoe Fits...". Gabrielle, Joxer, and Xena all tell the story of a young person who has a troubled home life from which she (or he) tries and eventually breaks free; however, they all plot the story a little differently. Gab's Tyrella conducts psychological intervention with her wicked steprelatives, Joxer's Tyro is rescued by the lovely fairy godsmother, and Xena's heroine bashes heads. Because the plotting is different, the take-home messages vary slightly, as does -- and this is critical -- what we learn about the principal characters (See also the three versions of _La Femme Nikita_ -- French, U.S., and television.).
What has happened in episodes like Paradise Found, episodes where Xena's and Gabrielle's beliefs clash and each character is supposed to be shown to have points both for and against her point of view, is that the plot has always been set up so that Gabrielle sides with the antagonist and the antagonist almost invariably turns out to be "bad". Thus, when it comes right down to it, a facile (yet fallacious) case can be made for the interpretation that Xena is right and wise and Gabrielle is wrong and naive.
It is just too easy to fall into the fallacy that "if my prediction comes true, then my initial reasoning must have been correct".
If the point of episodes like Paradise is character study -- rather than fault-finding -- then the obligatory "bad guy" that Xena must invariably defeat because of her title-hero status should be a fourth party (i.e., a secondary antagonist) who is independent of the relationship conflict.
One might argue that fault-finding is the goal, and that xenastaff really do, in their hearts-of-hearts, see G and X in much the way I have described above. The dialogue of Paradise Found does not support such a reading, however. Indeed, it is the focus on dialogue which most differentiates Paradise from earlier episodes.
First and foremost, Manheim uses most every bit of dialogue in Act I scene 1 (X&G arrive at Aiden's estate) to highlight X and G's fundamentally different reactions to the estate and, by implication, life in general. The quintessential exchange is:Gabrielle: It's beautiful.
Xena: Yeah, in that yucky 'I'm in paradise' kind of way.
This is very much reminiscent of their respective reactions upon first meeting Najara, but the critical difference is that the estate IS beautiful (the writer, director, set designer, John Hilton, and Maxfield Parrish all agree, I'm sure). That is, Xena's summary judgement of it as 'yucky' is a function of her own cynicism and distrust, and not previous experience with yucky paradises or false prophets; whereas Gabrielle's labelling it 'beautiful' cannot be chalked up to her being a rose-coloured-glasses-wearing fluffhead. Gabrielle might do well to be a bit more suspicious of paradises that appear at the end of rabbit holes, and Xena could still use some work on enjoying the scenery of life (cf. "Ulysses").
Furthermore, in contrast to the oh-so-slippery points of Deliverer that Gabrielle goes off with Khrafstar: (a) because 99.9% of the time she is assigned to protecting the non-fighters, (b) because she is also intrigued by his spirituality, and (c) because Xena is in her own little "get Caesar" world, in Paradise, Xena repeatedly expresses support for Gabrielle's quest and G explicitly describes why she wants to learn from Aiden. Moreover, G says on at least four occasions that she would like to share the yogic techniques with others: This is not a wholly self-centered mission Gabrielle is on, though Xena's begrudging attitude once they actually reach a specific place of learning, as well as the bemusing plot-point that Gabrielle only came out of trance for Gar but not when Xena was getting bounced about, points up how difficult negotiating this journey is and will be for the two of them.
In contrast to the aborted argument between X&G in Gabrielle's Hope regarding the possible nature of G's daughter, Manheim allows G to give rational and explicit reasons on more than one occasion for why she thinks the yoga practise is a worthwhile one, as well as express hesitancy about Aiden ("He is a bit odd."). Xena, on the other hand, has "been breathing on her own just fine" (but notice that she goes off and practises her forms anyway).
In contrast to The Debt I, where it was open to interpretation whether Xena never got to the critical part of her story of Lao Ma because Gabrielle was being difficult or Xena was being reluctant to divulge (or both), in Paradise we see X very definitely withhold information from Gabrielle about the pain she is experiencing -- not once but three times, and on one of those occasions G has explicitly come to her to make sure X is okay. Open communication can work wonders!
In contrast to Crusader, where Xena comes to a decision about Najara's trustworthiness through the weakly plotted point of trusting the word of a known criminal, Xena's suspicions about Aiden gain support from direct, empirical evidence (the illusion of the healed wound; more on this later, however) -- evidence that she fails to share with Gab. However, like the nebulous jinn of Crusader, the characterisation of Aiden's power suffers from some logical inconsistencies. It would seem that Aiden's power would have to be real (and, thus, it would be unreasonable and durn Xena-cynical to dismiss it out-of-hand), but I'm having trouble grasping why Xena's wound could be "unhealed".
Finally, and though there were definite weak spots, everyone from writer to director to the actors was on the same page in terms of character motivation. Tapert paid a lot of attention to the actors' faces and body language (as opposed to long or scenic shots at critical moments of dialogue), and neither ROC or LL seemed to be experiencing the discomfort with motivations that has plagued past performances (cf. Gabrielle's Hope, The Debts). The places where I thought things could have been tightened up included:
(a) Xena's comment about "what inner peace did for Lao Ma; Aiden's way seems so numbing" (was she saying Lao Ma's way was better or that inner peace/ passivity got Lao Ma killed? Hard to tell from context.),
(b) the first bath scene (perhaps it's just me, but trying to listen to the dialogue -- which was very important dialogue -- while distracted by nekkidness and those floating candles was rather difficult),
(c) the logic of Xena discovering Aiden's secret by "unhealing" her wound as well as the use of the word "delusion" ("urges" would have been a better choice; these both worked against the idea that Aiden had real power, which then seriously undermines the logic of the entire story),
(d) the direction of the fight scene (yes, I understood the point of Xena devolving, but really! and that bouncing was just too much!),
(e) the logic of how X defeated Aiden (if Xena attacked Gar "on purpose" with the intent of breaking Gab out of her trance, then she was NOT letting herself be completely evil; I suppose she didn't have to be but the logic still felt too loose for my liking), and
(f) that Gabrielle remained in trance until Gar -- but not Xena -- was threatened (very troubling: Is Xena really so objectified in Gab's mind? How does that fit with the "great bond" theme of the show?!)
To summarise, then, the major issue that XWP faces is how to tell the story of the bard's spiritual quest: (1) when this quest conflicts with the warrior & title character's worldview, and (2) in the context of an action-adventure show where the audience is already primed for accepting or preferring action-focussed means -- without turning the bard into a "bad guy" herself. Gabrielle continues to be a chronically open and optimistic seeker (the same traits that led her to befriend Xena), while Xena remains suspicious and guarded. Gabrielle has gotten to a place where her seeking is not so self-centered as it may once have been, but she has also grown so that her refusal to back down from doing what she needs does not come from a place of youthful bullheadedness (notice how firm she is even in her stillness during the bedroom scene). Still, though Gabrielle is sensitive and caring, and though it is not her responsibility to be Xena's eternally longsuffering emotional caretaker, sh e may need to watch her tendency to slight Xena's feelings. As for Xena, though she is supportive of G's quest, she does not allow Gabrielle "in" all the way regarding how Gabrielle's worldview and quest impact Xena, and X continues to make unilateral decisions in the name of protecting Gabrielle. X is making this harder on herself than need be by being so closed off. Finally, the opening dialogue about Xena's motives for fighting (enjoying one's strength and taking pleasure in defeating the world's baddies is NOT the same as enjoying beating the crap out of people because you can), Gabrielle's guilt over her experiences with Hope (THANK YOU, Xenastaff, for allowing G her pain), and Xena's vehement denial of ever hurting Gabrielle all point to a continuing problem of Xena intermittently repressing or denying her faults and Gabrielle tending toward self-blame. It strikes me that Gabrielle is becoming more independent and (actively) open, while Xena is becoming more dependent and closed. What X&G are lacking, obviously, is balance.
And this brings me to the main symbols used throughout the episode. First are the tortoise and the hare, which Tapert spends far too much time on for them to be unmeaningful. It would seem that they represent Gabrielle and Xena, but who is who? Xena is certainly twitching like the rabbit all through the episode, while Gabrielle is slow like the tortoise, and in the end, Xena kills the rabbit even as she becomes one. But don't rabbits have normal eyes? ah! Were those turtle eyes Xena grew?! What's more, Xena "uses" the tortoise in order to destroy the birds and the rabbit. Does this symbolise that Gabrielle will ultimately help her to defeat Aiden and Xena's own dark self? Besides the reptilian eyes that Xena grows, Xena resembles the tortoise in another way: brownish plate of armour (note the moment when Xena does a high, twisting jump and comes down with her legs on either side of the tortoise). So too, I'm guessing that the RGB colour codes for the rabbi t's fur and Gabrielle's hair are very close indeed (best place to see this is when they first wake up on the estate). What does this mean? Neither Xena nor Gabrielle are "completely" one thing or another -- each contains elements of the "opposite" (note also that Gar is dressed like the turtle (esp. with that helmet) but twitches like the rabbit: he proves to be the binding key in the final showdown).
This idea of complements containing one another, providing balance, and forming an ever-developing, ever-changing whole is the basic philosophy represented by the tai-ch'i (or taeguk or yin/yang) symbol. (Note: the tai-ch'i is of Chinese origin, but I figured since X&G were in the Himalayas and either in or very close to China, I could cut staff some slack.). We see this symbol displayed most prominently with the bed upon which Gabrielle lies. The white part of the symbol represents the 'yin', and can be interpreted as male, heaven, sun, day, expansion, goodness, and any of a number of other things. The black part is the 'yang' and represents female, earth, moon, night, constriction, negativeness, etc. Note that each side contains a bit of the other. I find it interesting that Gabrielle lies on the white part considering how often it is said that Gabrielle is the more 'feminine' of the pair, though I suppose they could have been appealing to the most obvious interpretation o f the symbol. What is even more interesting is the fact that Xena never lies on the bed at all. And notice that there is a gap between the two sides! I found myself wanting to yell at X&G to push the sides together and get Xena into bed (hey! get yer mind outta da gutter! this is symbology, here!), but I suppose that would have solved all their problems too quickly and might not have made it past The Suits. In any case, seeing the tai-ch'i FINALLY associated on the show with X&G made me do a happy dance, and this episode -- the start of their spiritual quest -- was a most fitting place for it.
All in all, despite the very odd final scenes, I found this to be a solid episode, especially as far as character studies go. I certainly didn't miss the usual 2-3 more fight scenes, and they probably would have weakened the story in much the same way other eps with similar goals have been weakened. Manheim's dialogue was superb, the principals did wonderful work, and Tapert was remarkably restrained and balanced for the bulk of the episode. Now that XWP has gotten these character points down that they've been trying to make for 1.5+ seasons, let's see where they go from here.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY
- It sounded like the first few lines of dialogue were looped in. I don't know why, but somehow that often sounds "off" or fake to my ears: the emotions don't seem authentic and I feel as if I'm being lectured to.
- Two words: ROC's back. Two more words: Bare feet.
- I was pleasantly surprised to see Jeremy "Aiden" Roberts. He is definitely one of my favourite xenaversian actors. His style is so subtle, nuanced, and natural.
- Idiom check: It's "don't stand a chance" or "don't have a prayer", but is there really such an idiom as "don't stand a prayer"?
- Was it my imagination or did Gar's excema disappear from one cheek?
- I really, really, really wish they would find other terms for "your spiritual quest" and "your darkside". Ugh, stilted! People do not talk like that!
- Stunt and Effect of the Year goes to Aiden leaping onto and standing on Gabrielle's upturned feet. Holy Hatha Yoga, how did they do that?! Speaking of which: Does ROC practise yogic postures? Damn, she was good!
- Didn't say this earlier but now I'm too tired to gracefully weave it into the main text: Xena's delusions of hurting Gabrielle caused me serious pain. I nearly cried for Xena, and I definitely wasn't having fun the first time through the massage because I was too fearful for the both of them. Ow.
"How can you get very far, If you don't know Who You Are?" -- Pooh; Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
What fear I then, rather what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: what hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?
John Milton, Paradise Lost (IX, 773-79)
Your reason for living's
Your reason for leaving.
Don't ask me what it means!
ABC, "The Look of Love"
"Kill the wabbit!" -- Elmer Fudd
Part of my Soul I seek thee, and thee claim
My other half: with that thy gentle hand
Seized mine, I yielded....
John Milton, Paradise Lost (IV, 487-89)
Through working in harmony with life's circumstances, Taoist understanding changes what others may perceive as negative into something positive.
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
This commentary is by Missy Good.
Interesting episode. Moral is - A little dark side is not always a bad thing, and if something's too good to be true, it usually is.I think it points out just how much more honest the two of them have become with each other - enough for Gabrielle to openly question Xena's motives, and for Xena to show jealousy at Gab's becoming involved with someone else. It pointed out Xena's unwavering faith in Gab's essential goodness, and in Gab's continued conflict over Xena's dark side.
It once again had Gabrielle diving into a philosphy that promises peace, and once again proved Xena's instincts to be right on the money in being suspicious of that. And it once more showed that Xena is willing to give Gab up to insure her happiness, even if that's not such a smart idea, and without really finding out if Gab would agree that the trade off is worth it.
We got not one, but two backrubs, a hot tub scene, lots of bare skin, and a view of a new emotional initimacy between the two of them that was really quite interesting.
I have mixed feelings about Paradise Found - or perhaps it might be more accurate to describe my feelings as not so much mixed as layered... I really liked the first two thirds or so of the ep, the part with all the questions and issues (and some fine atmosphere and acting too), but I didn't care at all for the last third, where the questions were all answered or dismissed, and a clumsy, jumbled, unconvincing and ugly resolution was effected. I shall content myself with mumbling about the issues as we wander through the ep...
So, we got an "official announcement" that the India trip is under way... Xena and Gab are travelling eastwards in pursuit of Gabrielle's "spiritual quest". Actually, I should have thought this would be a pretty odd thing for ancient Greeks to do... but then when have folks on the show ever behaved credibly like ancient Greeks?
And it certainly seems that Gab is setting the agenda these days - she feels "spiritually troubled", so they're wandering off several thousand miles to an almost entirely unknown sub-continent. I'm not entirely sure what Gab even means by "spiritual"... but it doesn't seem to have anything much to do with the various gods and other supernatural beings they're always tangling with (not that there's anything necessarily wrong with this - does spirituality have to have anything to do with gods?)
And they took "the scenic route" through mountains said by "local legends" to be "a holy place" - the Himalayas, I guess. They're most definitely scenic - crossing the Himalayas was probably the most heart-stoppingly spectacular thing I've ever experienced! But if you want to get to overland India from the west, the only alternative to the Himalayas is the Baluchistan desert, which I gather isn't much fun. Going south and then taking a boat might have been the easiest "non-scenic" way - but then we know how Gab feels about boats!
"Well I'd apologise - again. But the truth is, I think you enjoyed it." That "again" is interesting... Gab is getting pretty snippy these days. It's also fascinating that Xena and Gab are finally having this conversation - after all, we've been aware all along, haven't we, that Xena enjoys fighting... so is this still "dark", even if she's fighting for good? Definitely a question to be addressed, especially by Gab, who seems so concerned about violence... (although I still remember Gab leaping into the fray and bashing heads with her staff in A Tale Of Two Muses, yelling "Save some for me!")
And this is the first time we've seen Xena need stitches, isn't it? I can remember her stitching other people in various eps, but not herself (of course there was the arrow in Chariots Of War, but I don't recall any stitching there, and then various broken bones, etc. in Destiny...) I can't imagine this is the first time Xena's received a gash that needed closing, though - and she must do a *really* neat job with the needle too, since she appears to have no visible scars (perhaps someone more experienced than me could say - Xena said her gash took 12 stitches, but I should have thought a wound like that would have taken something closer to 30 if you wanted to close it neatly and avoid scarring...)
Actually I loved the dialogue in this little scene - it's so nice to see Xena and Gab apparently relaxed and open with each other, but also actually talking about things that matter and that divide them.
I liked Xena's "Give me that - you've got hands like a sailor!" Xena can't cook, but she's apparently the better surgeon (I guess her early training in embroidery must have come in handy...)
"I just wonder if maybe your fighting for good has more to do with the fighting part than the good part." "Ya think my fighting for good is a cover for something darker...? I dunno!" Well I can't believe it's taken Gab three and half years to get around to this... but better late than never, I suppose. I did just enjoy this scene - there was a comfortableness about it, despite the subject of the conversation... Gab getting dressed, whilst Xena sews up her leg.
And BTW, talking of getting dressed, the BGSB was back in perfect shape... in fact we got a particularly detailed look at that little flowered pattern on the back of it. So does this mean its being cut up for rope and a gag last week is just to be disregarded... or is this another case of them not bothering to show the eps in an order that would make sense?!
I am frankly getting plumb sick and tired of that darned crucifixion scene... to me it has become something overdone, that doesn't enhance the show. But then I generally hate "foreshadowing" in novels and movies... it has always seemed to me a cheap and irritating narrative technique.
So.... what? Gabrielle fell down that big hole without uttering a sound? - Doesn't seem too likely. And then missing Gab, for a minute or so, and finding a big hole in the ground, Xena just flings herself into the hole? Exqueeze me! This *really* doesn't appear an effective strategy! "My partner's wandered off for a couple of minutes. I haven't heard anything... Hmm, guess I'll just fling myself into this bottomless pit..." Come on! Even Alice had the excuse that she was following the white rabbit...
First Xena says that the "estate" (odd choice of word, really....) reminds her of Illusia... then we get the "entering Illusia" music as they walk to the house! There wasn't really any particular connection between Aiden's estate and Illusia was there, though - other than that they were both sort of "imaginary realms", created by the power of the mind.
"It's beautiful! Don't you think?" "Yeah... in that yucky, island paradise kinda way!" - So what gives here? Has Xena had a bad experience with a package holiday, or something?
A lot of Indian instruments and techniques showed up in the music for this ep, and I can't forebear to comment on them a bit, since I'm particularly fond of Indian classical music, and even play some of the instruments a bit myself. The instrument that we hear when Aiden first appears is the santur - a kind of multi-stringed zither (the name actually means "100 strings"), which is played by striking the strings with small sticks held in the hands...
I loved the way Gab asked about a warm bath, and then whacked Xena in the ass! But at this point I guess we're wondering (and meant to be) - why is Xena so keen to get out of this place as fast as she can? The place seems pleasant, Aiden seems plausible... but Xena never seems drawn in. It's interesting that this time, unlike with Najara, Xena seems to trust her own instincts, and is never majorly distracted or thrown off by issues of jealousy or thoughts of what might be best for Gab (not that both issues don't come up again - but they just don't seem to get to Xena the way they did in Crusader...) Xena let's herself be pressured by Gab into staying... but she never really acquiesces or lets down her guard.
Now of course the *really* interesting question in this ep (for me, at least) is who's right and who's wrong... not just in terms of the narrow circumstances of this ep, but in principle. On the one hand, much of what Aiden says or implies is certainly true - to find peace and harmony in our lives we need to come to terms with our demons and get beyond our egos. And the techniques he shows, which are clearly based on yoga, certainly can help. The thing that's shown with Gab breaking down and crying as she connects with the psychic pain within herself whilst practising the yogic breathing and posture techniques is absolutely based on fact, as many people who've practised yoga can attest. But on the other hand, getting beyond the ego and finding inner peace is all very good - but should you always trust someone who proposes to be a "teacher", especially when you know almost nothing about them? So is Xena's way narrow and suspicious and egotistical, forever shutting her out from the possibility of getting beyond herself and finding peace? Or is Gab being impossibly naive, chasing willow-the-wisps and putting herself into the power of knaves, exposing them both to danger? The interesting thing, for me, is that to a certain extent they're both right. You *do* have to get beyond the ego - if you place yourself as paramount, and never trust anything or anybody... then you may be hard to fool, but you may have completely fooled yourself already. But, OTOH, if you let go, resign your will, have faith in something... how do you know you're not being tricked or manipulated - or just fooling yourself again? These are obviously central philosophical and religious questions for all of us, and as long as it kept it's treatment of these questions open and in balance, I found this ep fascinating...
Back to the Indian music for a moment - the instrument we hear when Gab and Xena are bathing is the bansuri, or Indian bamboo flute (in fact often made of cane rather than bamboo), which is my particularly favourite Indian instrument, and the one I make most effort to play. It was lovely to hear it on XWP!
"You know I'm surprised at you, Xena!" "Why?" "For someone who's seen what Lao Ma and Alti can do, it's strange you're not curious about Aiden!" "I've seen enough to know that most people can't handle spiritual powers. And Aiden is *no* Lao Ma!" So - does Xena just have a blanket suspicion of spiritual people? Is she afraid of something? Rightly or wrongly? And is she right that "most people can't handle spiritual powers"? Many would disagree with her, and suggest that anyone can successfully follow the spiritual path. - Gab says, sarcastically, "That's mighty big of you, Xena!" *Is* Xena being small..?
Notice on the door of the bathroom the yin / yang symbol, which also, more obviously, forms the bed Gab is later seen reclining on... It's almost a little odd that they chose to associate this with Aiden, since so far as I know it originates from China, and is more commonly associated with Taoism, the way of Lao Ma (it's also known as the "symbol of the Tao").
"Lieutenant Garr reporting as ordered with clothes, sir!" "Sir?!" Hmmm... when a guy looks right up into your naked crotch and calls you sir... er... well either you've got a problem, or he has!
So what was Xena practising in the garden with all the birds and bunnies? It looked rather like Tai Chi - did she learn that when she was in Chin?
And that's the bansuri playing again at the beginning of this scene, and then a voice comes in, singing in the Indian classical style (North Indian classical, to be specific...) I absolutely *adore* Indian classical vocal music now (and incidentally, the voice here was clearly that of a highly trained Indian classical singer - it takes years, and immense dedication, to learn to sing like that)... however, I remember well that when I was first exposed to Indian classical singing I thought it was *very* strange - and in general I find westerners don't take very readily to it. So I'm sort of curious as to how other Xenites felt about the singing in this ep. BTW, what was being sung was just the two words "tere nain" over and over, which means "your eyes".
Did Aiden remind anyone else of T. Lobsang Rampa - especially with that "third eye" glued in the middle of his forehead? For those not familiar, TLR was a supposed "ancient Tibetan spiritual master" (I think, practically speaking, he actually came from Milwaukee, or Dulwich, or somewhere like that) whose books you used to see all over at one time. He (or those subscribing to his teachings) also used to advertise in magazines, about realizing your powers and opening your third eye. His photo was usually featured prominently, bearded, with an unworldly-looking, penetrating gaze...
I liked Gab's "Can I teach this to others?" Heck, she only started learning yesterday, and already she wants to be a teacher! Is this woman ambitious or what?! (Of course, you could say it's just her desire to help others, especially Xena...)
A neat display of flower killing and tortoise threatening by Xena there... and I wasn't sure whether she was actually yelling "Shut up!" at the birds or not - so I put on the CC, and sure enough "SHU-U-T U-U-U-UP! [SILENCE]"
So... Xena watches Aiden "teaching" Gab... and what? She looks moved. Does she decide that even though she (Xena) is wigging out *maybe* this really is helping Gabrielle?? If she did decide that, it didn't seem to last long. Maybe it was just Gab's pain about Hope that was affecting Xena...
And then we get Gab laying on that yin / yang bed (rather impressive I thought - kudos to the visual designer here) whilst Xena does sit ups at a ferocious rate. Someone commented that Gab was on the yang side of the bed... they mentioned that this seemed strange since yang is associated with the "masculine" and yin with the "feminine", and therefore they thought that Xena would have been yang to Gabrielle's yin. And in some senses, that might well be so. However in this case I think whoever set up this shot was simply going for the more obvious association where yang is the "light" and yin the "darkness" - hence Xena=dark=yin, Gabrielle=light=yang...
And Xena is *still* pushing to get the *heck* out! She toys with the idea of Gab being attracted to Aiden (not really that seriously, it seemed to me), and then she complains that "Aiden's way seems so numbing!" Is this a valid criticism as this point? I can't say that I really thought it was... I mean, I understand that it's *meant* to be true, in the context of the plot, but I didn't really feel that what we'd seen up to this point actually supported this assertion at all - although I can see that it might be a valid point against some "spiritual" paths.
I was interested that Gab said she felt "so clear" - I wonderer whether that was a deliberate reference to Scientology or just a coincidence... well, even the disciples of Ron couldn't sue anyone on the basis of that!
"I wish you could see how right this feels for me..." Now I started to get a really strong sense of deja vu here (not to say that I was oblivious to it before)... Does Gab *never* notice these things herself? I mean is she *utterly* unaware of the patterns she keeps repeating? Doesn't she ever say "Hey, wait a minute... haven't we been through all this before?" You'd figure there'd have to be something a bit pathological going on for her to be truly totally oblivious...
What was with Xena's wound coming back and going away again? Xena seemed pleased to see it - so was she sort of meditating, trying to overcome Aiden's powers?
And then Gab's being lectured by someone else about Xena's dark side, and flattered about her own goodness... Hello, Gab! This is definitely starting to feel BTDT - not to say that Jeremy Roberts as Aiden didn't do it quite well.
I thought glowering Xena in the bath looked superb! Just as well really, considering what they did to her in the rest of the ep!
I'm not so sure about that technique of showing us something happening, and then backing off to "no, that was just a delusion"... I suppose if you're deluded, it feels real at the time - but I'm not entirely comfortable with the camera arbitrarily becoming someone's deluded subjective view... There's a pretty thin line between this sort of thing and the "this whole thing was just a dream" school of story telling.
So then Aiden spins a line and tries to convince Xena to leave Gab behind. And she seems almost convinced - which I thought was kind of odd, given how sceptical she'd been throughout the entire ep, and given the fact that, to me, Aiden seemed most *un*convincing here, basically tipping his hand...
Well, we definitely got an answer here to a debate that cropped up on one of the lists recently - Xena clearly *can* write! And what was she writing - a farewell note?
And what about the massage / nosebleed thing? Interesting. In a way it was an effective device... playing the conflict out symbolically in blood and flesh like that was a powerful idea. Unfortunately the execution wasn't 100% successful, so far as I was concerned - I think mainly because the exaggerated CGI nature of the blood drops was just too distracting... they looked sort of like animated tadpoles, or sperm in a sex-ed film, and they spoiled the mood of the scene, for me.
The pattern that was clearly shown on Gab's hand when she was being tied to the cross looked like the kind of hand painting with henna that is common in India... whatever that may mean. Hands are decorated with henna for weddings, for example, and for other festivals - but this actually looked a bit restrained for that kind of decoration, which usually twines over the whole hand. I suppose it could also be a tattoo (of which Aiden seemed to have plenty...)
And we finally get to another "Goodbye, Gabrielle." This one didn't make me cry (unlike the one in Crusader)... I didn't really believe in it that much, because it wasn't so much a question of Xena struggling with herself and making a bad decision (as in Crusader), as just Xena being tricked and bamboozled, which I never really believed would hold her for long.
And it was basically from this point that the ep went rapidly downhill for me. As soon as Xena looked at that statue and said "A service medallion!" That in itself felt pretty hokey - heck, they're thousands of miles from home, but Xena instantly deduces from this piece of jewellery round a statue's neck that it used to be a soldier! What - soldiers in Tibet wore "service medallions" instantly recognisable to Greeks? And anyway, if the rest of the soldiers' clothing etc. got "converted" when they became statues, why did the medallion survive? And given that you recognised something round a statue's neck as a military insignia of some sort, would that really make you immediately assume that the statue was a soldier who had been turned to stone?
But nits like that don't actually bother me that much (just as well, really...) The reason the ep lost me from this point on was that it abandoned all its interesting questions in favour of one rather boring answer, and became a straight "get the villain" exercise, and not a very engaging, convincing or attractive one at that.
The whole "Aiden feeds on goodness" thing seemed a bit half-baked to me... there's a sort of vague stab at some sort of, perhaps Taoist, logic with the "goodness in a perfect place going to waste without evil to keep it alive and fighting" line... but basically this was just waffle - it reminded me rather of a bad Startrek TOS ep (I could just imagine Captain Kirk wandering in, declaiming "Aiden feeds on goodness...")
And the "Xena becoming totally bad so she can defeat Aiden" thing made *no* sense, either. How do you suddenly eliminate all the goodness from yourself? And anyhow, clearly Xena *didn't*, since she still pursued a plan designed to achieve a good end purposefully, rather than just "behaving badly".
And I know I said it last week, but I just *have* to say it again - what *is* it with these people and TEETH?!! They seem to inflexibly follow the equation that if your teeth look bad you're either moronic or evil! Are they under the spell of an evil conspiracy of orthodontists or something??
And the ultimate proof of Xena's absolute badness is that she kills the bunny wabbit? Puh-lease!
But gods, they certainly made Xena *look* bad!!
BTW, we got another Indian instrument during the fight scene - that buzzing, nasal wind instrument is called a Shehnai... it's a double-reed pipe, most closely related to the oboe, amongst modern western instruments, and it's commonly associated, in India, with celebrations, especially weddings. We've heard it on X:WP before - it was part of "Najara's music" in Crusader.
All that business of Aiden nodding and throwing "Ugly Xena" around made for a pretty unsatisfactory fight scene really... and there was no particular explanation of why Xena was suddenly able to beat him.
And then "The Plan" - Xena would try to kill Garr and this would be sure to snap Gab out of her trance, even if she *was* half turned to stone... well "tenuous" and "reaching" don't really cover it, do they?
And then Xena just kicks her sword into Aiden's stomach, and that's it? Hmm... I was underwhelmed, I'm afraid.
Why was Gab naked at the end? (Apart from the fact that she often is...) Were her clothes a figment of Aiden's imagination that vanished when he died?
"I sometimes talk about your darkness like it's some kind of disease - but without it, neither one of us would be here. It's kind of ironic." The problem I have with this.... well, it's quite true that they probably wouldn't be there if it wasn't for Xena's darkness - this was acknowledged as far back as Dreamworker, where Xena realised that *using* her dark self was "the key". In this ep, though, the point is specious - if you arbitrarily invent a trap that only a person who isn't "good" can escape from, then clearly having a person who isn't "good" around is useful.... but since the invention and definition of the trap was indeed *utterly* arbitrary, there's hardly much of a life lesson to be learned here... And whilst we're on the subject - I do *not* think that rain on your wedding day is "ironic"!
"Do I really have hands like a sailor?"
Very interesting episode and one in which we have back a relaxing atmosphere between the two stars.
In the opening scene we have Xena needing stitches for a wound in her leg. I found myself becoming irritated that Xena is sitting there with this wound and Gabrielle comes out with the crack: “you smiled” (repeated by her a number of times) - of course referring to Xena smiling when she was fighting off the men who attacked them. First of all, Xena always smiles when she’s fighting - its part of her personality. I for one think it throws the people she is fighting off guard. If you were getting ready to stab someone and they smiled at you - wouldn’t you become a little confused? Let’s face it, its a great weapon. Also, I think it was thoughtless of Gabrielle to suggest that Xena’s fighting for good is to cover up something darker. Instead of making that crack - she should have paid more attention to stitching up Xena’s leg.
It seems we are going in search of Gabrielle’s spiritual side - personally I’m pretty sick of Gabrielle’s spiritual side. I won’t hide the fact that I’m getting pretty sick and tired of seeing Gabrielle remain nice and clean during these episodes while Xena’s make-up man seems to have gone on a drug overdose. Both ladies are EQUALLY nice looking and it seems to me that the play is stressing not only on Gabrielle’s spiritual side, but on her body and beauty as well. Meanwhile for our hero, we portray her as so evil that her beauty is made hideous before the show is over. Enough is enough. Also, the crucifixion scene - Gabrielle is not the only one being nailed to a cross. Xena is also being nailed to one, but again, the stress is on Gabrielle. I don’t know about anyone else, but personally I feel just as bad if either one gets nailed to the cross- not just Gabrielle. I’ve digressed a little -so let’s get back to our analysis of the episode itself.
Aiden - certainly a believable character and so nice that “butter would melt in his mouth.” Aiden definitely had an answer for everything, including the healing of Xena’s leg. The place he had created is known to draw the “true you” out. I wonder if it is the true you or the true source of one’s strength. Certainly, Gabrielle’s strength would be her goodness and Xena’s strength does come from her “dark side” (which even a “good person” has). If this is the case, then maybe the reason Xena became “darker” was because as Aiden made a person like Gabrielle release all “dark” thoughts, this would increase the energy of the darkness that would have no where to go, thus increasing Xena’s darkside and adding to her strength. This would mean that its not the fact that Xena is intrinsically evil but that the evil being released by Aiden from Gabrielle and from others in the past was there with no where to go until someone with the strength of Xena came along.
Gabrielle was very gullible. Xena warned Gabrielle a number of times that you basically can not trust what you see, as always Gabrielle didn’t listen - however, as I said before, Aiden was a very believable character. Xena on the other hand, trusted her instincts. It was surprising to see Xena lose her confidence when she was talking to Aiden and asked: “Are you saying these delusions that I’m having are part of some kind of war going on inside of me?” “What do I do?” She (Xena) shouldn’t be asking the person who is causing the delusions how to solve the delusions because most likely he is not going to tell the truth. Great acting on Lucy Lawless’s part when she was in the tub and Gabrielle came to see if she was okay - Xena looked like she was the devil itself (and notice - you didn’t need “drug overdose” make up to get across the point that Xena’s “dark side” was increasing in power).
Garr made a very interesting point when he stated: “...goodness in a perfect place going to waste without evil to keep it alive and fighting.” This quote definitely suggest that if evil did not exist - goodness would not have a cause to exist and thus become like the statues that Aiden had created. It was Gabrielle’s need to stop the strength of Xena’s darkside from taking a life that gave her (Gabrielle’s)goodness a meaning and brought her back from non-existence. Even Gabrielle had to admit at the end that “...without it (speaking of Xena’s darkside) neither one of us would be here.”
Despite some of my gripes in previous paragraphs, I did love the episode; although, I don’t know if I would have jumped in a hole after Gabrielle until I was pretty darn sure that she had indeed fallen inside. Nevertheless, the episode had some pretty funny moments. The first time was when Gabrielle woke up after falling down the hole with Xena beside her and said to Xena: “What happened - Xena -I fell down a hole.” To which Xena replied: “Yea -what is it with you and holes?” Another time was when Gabrielle wanted to take Aiden up on his hospitality and whacked Xena on the back to let her know not to refuse. A third time was when they were taking a bath and Gabrielle pokes her head out of the water looking stress-free and relaxed and we see Xena’s hand impatiently moving its fingers wanting to leave. I also liked the scene when Gabrielle stopped Xena from killing Garr and the two placed their heads together thus showing that they indeed help each other to survive. I felt the acting in the episode as always was excellent on both the part of Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor; however, I still stress the fact that Xena should worry just as much about herself being crucified from a cross as much as she worries about Gabrielle - I for one don’t like the idea of either our hero (Xena) or her sidekick (Gabrielle) being nailed to a cross; although, in all fairness to the writers, Xena rarely does show concern for her own health.
Commentary Jill Hayhurst.
I dunno why, but I keep trying to type PARADISE BOUND and it's not like I don't know the Milton bits weren't titled "LOST" and "REGAINED", so I guess it's just one of those little mysteries of the human psyche that I *really* would druther not have analysed, thankyouverymuch.
Tonight's little gem opens with Sturm und Drang, which makes it danged hard to see the full moon, so you kind of have to just take it on faith that the moon *is* full, it's the Xenaverse, of course it is. Pan over to A Cave, past the rockslide where Callisto was buried, and into a nice, warm, cozy, yet surprisingly spacious and clean cave, with way good ventilation and possibly a hot spring in the back, no wonder the local legends say the place is holy; looks furkin' sanctified from where I sit.
The blessedness of it all is fully revealed with the sight of a damp bard dressed in drying furs concentrating on threading a needle by firelight. (hey, you try it-- takes serious effort and can make ya cross-eyed) and talking to Xena about a little set-to they'd had earlier with a band of thugs. Gabrielle approaches Xena with her threaded needle and commences sewing up a rip in the Warrior Princess' hose, across her left thigh. For a change, in this and subsequent scenes, they've actually got a paid continuity person who makes sure that it's always the left thigh that was hurted and not a little ping-pong coin-flip thing, depending solely on which thigh is most photogenic for a given scene.
Am I being tacky? Likely. Blame it on this nasty knife wound I've recently sustained in the act of subduing a vicious pork chop a couple evenings ago, and now I can't hardly type and lord! it's irritating. Just another push, and I'd start dissing my mama, that's how irritating it is.
Where was I? Okay, so Gab's stitching up this wound of Xena's (it's gross, too) and tweaking her about her attitude toward fighting (she likes it. so do we. keeps the ratings up, bard-- don't scare the cash cow, here.) and looking JUST LIKE HOPE when she does it. I had chills, I did. Goosebumps. Thought for a second Gab was possessed by sparkly things and Hope would take over and leap on Xena, wielding a lethal needle with Daddy dancing in the flames of their campfire.
Instead, we get a sensitive chat, cos it wasn't Hope after all. Just a trick of the firelight. Gab hints rather broadly that Xena has a *real good time* offing people and maybe the Greater Good isn't ALWAYS her focus in the heat of battle, this is, like, a huge revelation, right, sure... well, it is to Xena, who hasn't quite grasped that altruism is something to strive for, however impossible it is to attain, and she cops to the charge, sort of. You can tell cos she snatches the needle from Gab and finishes the job herself.
Then, while Gab's sloooowly getting dressed, she utters the plot synopsis line of the ep: "Instead of reaching out, maybe we should be looking in." Cue thunder... ready flashback... cue flashback. Maybe it's just me, but I think Xena might just be a tad obsessed with this whole BEING NAILED TO CROSSES BY ROMAN SCUM vision thing, I mean, if it were me, having been shown my impending NASTY, BRUTAL DEATH, I might find it hard to concentrate on the here and now (HALF-NEKKID BARD), but sheesh! Xena's got to the point of a puppy salivating at the ringing of a bell-- all ya gotta do is say something pithy and thoughtful about the Meaning of Life and the Universe, and off she goes to the land of snow and ethereal music and soldiers with whopping big mallets.
Apparently, Gab feels the same way I do about this whole psychic glitch of Xena's, she's the one on the spiritual journey here, dammit, and Xena doesn't even *blink* during her strip-tease routine, this relationship needs work, but before we can get to the really sensitive part of the sensitive chat sequence, where Gab kisses Xena's owwie and surrounding bits and the fire dies down slowly and Missy types '**********', Xena hears a noise. At least, she acts like she does and Gab plays along with her and goes off to investigate, since Xena's got a bum leg. (might have to be shot in the morning if it don't get better) A whole two seconds elapse before Xena becomes seriously concerned about Gab's well-being and limps after her. Right at the point where Gab went off-screen, Xena finds a big ol' bard-sized BOTTOMLESS PIT just opened up, twenty feet to the north and it would've swallowed them and their bedrolls and maybe even Argo, wherever Argo is, and she knows right off, cos heros are smart, that Gab didn't walk around the pit and down to the corner 7-11 for a six-pack and some smokes. So Xena tosses her torch down the pit to see if she sees anything bard-like clinging to the side, at least, I hope that's why she does it. Did I say heros were smart? Oh, well. Anyway, to show there's no hard feelings about the torch thing, Xena jumps into the pit her own self.
Next thing we know, someone's upped the primary colour quotient of the scenery and added a lot of chirping birds and budding trees and lots of happy little woodland creatures... okay, it's just a tortoise and a bunny rabbit. But you know, their very singularity (ain't that a high-toned phrase?) imbues them to the Plimsoll line with meaning and symbolism and all kinds of stuff like that there. ('Sides, the bunny rabbit's a blonde. And the tortoise is armored. Hm.) We can tell right off that this is gonna be one of the brainier X:WP eps, but there'll still be some butt-kicking, don't worry.
Xena's sitting up on the greensward, beside Gab, who's still groggy, (I think the torch missed her) and notices that her wound's gone, not even a scar, and this just ain't natural, it takes more than a few minutes and a dive into a bottomless pit to heal these things, I know cos of my recent epic struggle with that killer pork chop, not that I dived down any pits or anything, there's none around here. I did jump off a curb, though. Okay, it was more of a hop. Didn't help.
They get up and look around, Gab wondering, Xena suspicious (lookit, Ma-- character summaries in one word apiece!) and remark on how it looks like Illusia (to bring the point home, Lo Duca mixes in a few phrases from BT), except without the singing and Rushing Waters and lip-locking with Callie and naked Gab (maybe that's why Xena was so indifferent in the cave earlier; you know, for a nice, well-brought up girl, that bard's been shucking her duds every opportunity she's had for the last few eps. Maybe it's that shrinking BGSB. Maybe it *is* enchanted.)
While Gab sniffs flowers and tries to learn the language of the birdies, Xena pulls her sword and flushes a mad hatter out of the brush. This guy's a real nutcase, but he does know where they are and directs them to the main building on the campus, where if they hurry they can register for night courses. Once they get inside, they find the main hall's been decorated by the kind of statuary you know was selected by an art committee, after much wrangling and back-biting and the forced resignation of two of the members. Their advisor, Aiden, comes in while they're looking at the statues (they're blue. and faceless. more symbolism.
butt-kicking, anyone?) and he's dressed funny and talks funny and Xena isn't happy at all with him, but the courses are free so she simmers down a bit while he goes on about inner peace and beauty and harmony. And, of course, hot tub privileges.
Gab eats it all up, and signs on immediately for the full program-- Breathing 101, Meditation 103A, Babbling 301 (she placed out of the first year), anything, just lead her to the baths, it's time to get naked and wet again, must've been what? 20 minutes since her last shower? Faced with a bard pining for warm scented pools, Xena can't do anything but root through saddlebags for the soap, and the result is the hottest bathing scene ever.
Gab luxurates and Xena crabs, then Gab pulls her grumpy old warrior over to where she can rub the kinks out of her shoulders. There's actually some dialogue in here, but I do confess it took several run-throughs for me to follow any of it. Seems that, despite her earlier gung-ho attitude, the bard doesn't trust Aiden entirely, but she is intrigued by what he's apparently accomplished, esp. the part where Xena's leg was healed, and wants to learn how he does what he does.
Xena's still skeptical, but she gets into the shoulder thing. At least, until there's a noise at the door (a huge yin/yang round thing, can't get enough symbols this ep). Xena opens it, wearing only a few drops of water, and the little guy from the bushes (Gar) falls to the floor. He's brought clothes for Gab, since he knows about the BGSB enchantment and wants her to try to stay dressed for the rest of the ep.
You can tell, from the way he doesn't look at Xena, that he wishes he'd brought a second set.
After that, the training stuff really gets started, with Gab and Aiden in the main hall, in front of a round window looking out to distant mountains, and the whole room's apparently built on top of a turntable, since the camera continuously swings slowly around and around and back and forth and around and I got quite seasick and was really glad for those cut-aways to Xena doing her own getting-in-touch-with-her-inner-warrior stuff in the garden. There's more blue statues out there, she's surrounded by them, maybe there was a sale at K-Mart. The birdies and the bunny and the tortoise hang around too, cos they don't want Xena to get lonely. Even when Xena goes a bit nutso and starts fighting the statues and jump-kicking the tree-blossoms, the birds merely twitter irritatedly. And the wilder Xena gets, the more that tortoise tries to snuggle up to her tootsies. Hm.
(Must say, I do hope that hot tub's open 24/7, cos Xena's inner warrior bears a strong resemblance to a Kentucky coal miner.)
The weary hours drag on, Gabrielle gets deeper and deeper into serenity, Xena fights harder and harder against it. That night, as Gab, filled with inner peace, lies on a yin/yang bed (first the door, now the bed. I'm gonna take a wild guess here, and say that 'opposites' are a pivotal theme tonight), Xena does frantic sit-ups beside her on the floor-- oh, Gab sleeps on the white side, with her head pillowed on the black centre. Our bard is clad in a yummy white brocade sleeping gown that also serves as a cover for those chillier nights in Paradise when your warrior wants to stay up till all hours, exercising, meditating, learning to beat the forces of evil at their own game...
Xena actually breaks Aiden's illusion for a minute, though she doesn't know she's done it. Aiden knows, though. He's a bad guy. (Well, heck, there's only Xena, Gabrielle, Gar and Aiden. *Someone's* got to be the bad guy, and Gar's just a clown and Gab's turn ain't till next ep.)
Next day finds Aiden and Gabrielle strolling and chatting in the main hall (hey, it was an expensive set piece, gotta make the most of it) and I know Xena's mental work in the wee hours has gotten to him, the bastard, cos he tells Gab that Xena's dark side is gonna overwhelm her with delusions and blood and stuff, when that's really him attacking her. And Gab finds Xena later (in the tub, surprise!) and tries to warn her and get her to try the yoga thing or else she's gonna start to wig out, and Xena does, right there in the hot tub. (Gab's still dressed and off to one side, guess the clothes change worked.) And Gab starts to leave but she asks Xena if she's all right, and Xena says she weren't never better and right then she looks just like Assassin Xena in Chin, without the mud, it's really scary and boy, was I glad they went to commercial.
Xena gets dressed and seeks out Aiden to demand an explanation, cos she doesn't know yet that he's the source of all her delusions and stuff and so she believes him when he hits her "Keep Gabrielle Safe" button by telling her that if she don't leave, the dark fantasies of blood and pain and landscapes dotted with Wal-Marts as far as the eye can see will become real and the Gabster will take the long count.
So, once again
Xena sets down to write a Dear Gabrielle letter, but her nose starts bleeding and just then Gab comes into their room with a knotted back muscle which the Warrior Princess can (of course she can! wahoo!) massage right back into suppleness. So now, on top of the hot tub scene of scenes, we get Xena rubbing Gabrielle's bare back... and arms, and legs and feet... my heavens. Mixed in with all this are more (new! thank the gods!) scenes from the penultimate vision, the Gabster's apparently sat still for having her palms tatooed, you know that hurts like the devil, and all the while Xena's trying to work the knots out, she's being distracted by these visions and the blood dripping from her nose and she *still* manages to put Gabrielle to sleep.
And once again, it's 'bu-bye, bard!' as Xena tries to sneak off for the Greater Good. In the garden, on her way to the train station, she is arrested by the sight of a medallion on one of the statues. She touches it-- it's a service medallion, and looks just like the one she saw on Gar's neck the first time she met him, hm, next thing you know, she's chasing Gar down in the bushes. (For some reason, the little scene of her touching the medallion repeats, out of sequence, and all I can think is that this is a real, live glitch on the part of the film editor, who apparently expected a commercial break right after the first 'touch the medal' showing.) Anyway, Xena's made one of those intuitive leaps of logic that drive those around her to such distraction, where she's trying to knife demons and all's the rest of her pals can see are innocent babies.
She finds Gar and he spills the beans. Aiden sucks goodness out of everyone around him, and what's left over is... blue painted concrete? Well, let that be a lesson for the kidlings, then. Anyway, she forms a plan, she's gonna divest herself of all her own goodness and attack Aiden with what's left, and Gar had better do what he's told or they'll all die.
Cut to a close-up of Aiden bending over Gabrielle, she'd deep in a trance and he's finally looking just as wicked as we all knew he was, smirking in a wash of blue light. Cut back to the garden, Elvira's rising up, wearing Xena's leathers... wait, it *is* Xena, only her hair's back in the lice stage and ye gods and little fishes, her teeth are...
That's one hell of a plan Xena's come up with, Aiden will never expect her to show up on his doorstep as a bunny rabbit. A chakram-wielding bunny rabbit. Hey, I think we've finally come to the butt-kicking part!
And the first thing she does, is a little chakram practise in the garden-- one pass, and scratch one birdie, bounce off the tortoise (symbolism alert!), through another birdie, off the tortoise again (in case you didn't get it the first time), then home *through* the blonde bunny. Ooog, and to think Xena once complained of Gab getting eel guts on the thing...
SYMBOLISM TANGENT ALERT: I know I should leave this kind of thing to the brainy hardcore nutballs, but I just can't help myself. Cos there was that whole yin/yang thing, traditionally shown as black and white, which has some connotations in Western culture where light=good and dark=Jerry Springer, but that's not the whole story here, and when xenastaff brought in the tortoise and the hare motif, by golly, that was way cool, since those are also representative of opposites, but without the good/bad baggage dark&light carry. So Xena, in order to take on Aiden, becomes *what she was not*. She was the tortoise, she becomes the rabbit-- and to complete the transformation, she kills the existing rabbit.
Okay, she does the birds, too, but that's just icing.
Enough of that crap-- on with the butt-kicking! Xena faces off against Aiden in the hall, where Gab is already beginning the transformation to garden gnome. Without getting into a blow by blow description (what-- do I *look* like John Madden?), it seems when Xena tries a frontal assault, she gets knocked back and around (and bounced off floors and walls) by the power of Aiden's mind-- he sits serenely behind Gabrielle. Only when he approaches her in an attempt to take whatever good may be left from her (t'ain't none, fatal mistake, lotus-boy) she is able to land her first telling blows. Physically away from Gabrielle now, he loses his edge, and hastens back to feed from her directly. Then Xena taunts him to approach her again, and while he's some distance from the bard, she actually contemplates killing Gabrielle before Aiden can draw from her again. That's when Gar steps in, that's his part of the plan, to stop her before she can hurt the Gabster. She instead turns on Gar, which is enough to shock Gabrielle out of the trance (can't let Xena kill the innocent, nuh-uh), which in turn shocks Aiden just long enough for Xena to kick her sword through his gut.
After that's a really nice sequence of images where Paradise melts away all around them as Aiden's body melts to nothingness and a touching reunion tween bard and warrior and then they're back in the cave. Except Gab's new clothes melted, too, and she huddles behind Xena to keep out of Gar's line of sight. There's the final wrap-up, Gar goes his way to once again experience the joys of freedom, since he was crazy only because of seeing what all Aiden did, and a lot of chat about Evil being a necessary force in the universe, since without it Good can't be experienced, sounds like the kind of stuff I used to hear at cast parties in the eighties after about six joints had been passed around (I hung out on the porch and drank beer, thank you), there was also a lot of talk about how Bobby Jones was a furkin' genius, but that was all true, so maybe this good/evil dichotomy is too.
So, anyway, way cool ep. The whole thing on opposites needing each other to exist is an excellent grounding for the coming India sequences, since it validates both Xena's and Gabrielle's varying patterns and emerging philosophies. On the surface, it looks like another "Gabrielle's trusting nature is AGAIN decieved by an evil teacher", but I don't think it is, at heart. Gabrielle is on a real, honest spiritual journey, and she will seek to learn from anyone and anything that seems to offer some insight on any aspect of the inner workings of the mind. If she gets in too deep, well, Xena's there, with her innate skepticism, to bail her out. That's her purpose. Gabrielle is the Seeker and Xena's the Guardian.
Works for me. (g)
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
03-18-00. In the June 1999 issue of Chakram (the Official Xena Fan Club newsletter), fan club president Sharon Delaney wrote:I [Sharon] asked her [Renee] about what kind of guidance a director gives an actor during a scene. For instance, in "Paradise Found", when Gabrielle breaks down in Aiden's arms and Xena is watching from a distance.
"You know what Rob said?" Renee started laughing. "He said, 'Lucy, she's in another man's arms!' And Lucy went, '*Another* man's arms!!'" Renee was laughing even harder. "It was hilarious because it was quite a serious scene and Lucy couldn't hold it in. She just started laughing. For the next take, Rob stood near Lucy and talked her through the rest of the scene. It was quite moving. But that was a hilarious line. One of those classic moments."
02-10-99. In an interview in CHAKRAM #12, Chris Manheim stated that PARADISE FOUND was "a very small episode. It really is almost a cerebral story, which may or may not work. I don't know what the fans are going to think. But it was a very difficult show to write and I think Rob [Tapert, who directed the episode] did a wonerful job."
11-24-98. PARADISE FOUND is apparently the Alice In Wonderland episode. Xena and Gabrielle are travelling in the mountains (somewhere) and Xena is wounded fighting bad guys. They find a cave and Gab treats the wounds. She must do a pretty good job, 'cause they both go out looking for firewood. They fall down a hole into some sort of cavern/wierd place where there's a Holy Man named Aidan. While Gab increasingly finds inner peace, Xena is more and more falls victim to her darks side. It's supposedly a hugely trippy episode that makes BITTER SUITE look like linear narrative. There are only four in the cast, including some GateKeeper character.
08-21-98. One of the themes for the 4th season will be the further development and exploration of Gabrielle's spiritual side. She will meet and interact with purported spiritually inspired people in several episodes, most notibly in PARADISE FOUND and CRUSADER. In PARADISE FOUND, Gabrielle finds that her paradise might be Xena's hell while in CRUSADER, she receives a lesson in the difference between zealousness and devotion.
Turns out that Xena and Gabrielle have started to go to a couples counselor and we have been leaked some of report written up by the therapist. Read at your own risk. Thanks to Susan Mullarky for her connections!
Second Session, Part A PARADISE FOUND
Report on Assignment
Gabrielle was able to recall ten swear words for the first two days. On the third day, she had to ask for Xena's help. Gabrielle also found just standing and screaming out the words was awkward for her and made the task harder. Xena helped her figure out a way to do it easily. She had Gabrielle beat the tree with her staff as she screamed out each swear word. Gabrielle blushed as she related to me that, on a few occasions, she had gone over her limit. Since she had not written down the different swear words, she admitted she might have repeated a few. They had to resort to foreign words and that had taken coaching from Xena. At this point in Gabrielle's report, they looked at each other and giggled.
Xena initially had real difficulty remembering that she had helped anyone. Gabrielle had to coax the memories out of her. They finally decided to change the rules a bit and include animals as Xena spent a lot of time with horses. I asked Xena to give a couple of examples. Xena related three stories. She had beaten up a man who was whipping his horse. She'd beaten up an older boy who was bullying her little brother. And she had on one occasion, got a horse out of the mud where it had been left to die. Xena reported that once she got to hang of it, she easily completed her assignment. They giggled about the four extra swear words Gabrielle had to say for giving Xena help. I gently tried to lure them into telling me why they giggled but Gabrielle blushed and both refused to comment as they giggled some more. There was no therapeutic value to the question. I was simply curious.
For Gabrielle, there were several themes that intertwined throughout this session. One theme was empowerment of self. Gabrielle had met a man, Aidan, who introduced her to yoga. This approach to finding physical and spiritual well-being resonated with Gabrielle. (For each of us there is a way to deal with pain and suffering. Some do it with movement, some with yelling, some with introspection, some by feeling their pain.) For her, this technique allowed her "self" to become strong enough to reach within to find a place of emotional calm to begin the final steps of dealing with her guilt, horror, and shame. She will have to deal with these issues all her life but if she can begin to talk about these issues, they will not rule her life. As time passes, they will impact on her less and less. From this starting point, she was and will continue to be able to deal with her rape by Dahak, the birth and death of Hope, Solon's death and the loss of her blood innocence.
Gabrielle became very agitated as she related her story starting with being tricked by Khrafstar and the loss of her blood innocence by killing Meridian. Xena finally could not stand Gabrielle's discomfort any longer and got up, went over to Gabrielle and carefully scooped her up. She sat back down holding Gabrielle in her lap with her head tucked under her chin. Xena shot daggers at me. I explained that it was crucial for Gabrielle to tell Xena all about these horrifying experiences. She could look daggers at me but it did not change what was needed to be done. I explained that it was very important for Xena to listen as Gabrielle talked so they both could understand all this. It was also important for Xena to demonstrate that she could be there for Gabrielle in this way For a while, Gabrielle sobbed into Xena's chest, then she gathered herself and continued to pour out every detail that had haunted her about her rape. Gabrielle felt she deserved to be raped, to give birth to Hope, to lose Hope and ultimately to have to kill Hope because she had killed Meridian. She felt in killing Meridian she had killed her light, her faith, and her "self." She felt she deserved to be punished and she had to bear the consequences. She also told Xena she was angry at her because she was so caught up in trying to kill Caesar that she missed the fact that Khrafstar was evil. Gabrielle grabbed Xena at this point and shook her, crying that it was HER job to notice evil. Xena was the expert in that department and Gabrielle needed that from her. She said she was afraid to talk to Xena because she was afraid that her wrong doing would cause Xena to leave her.
She felt that Xena expected her to work through her pain on her own. She feared Xena would see her as a wimp for not being able to put it all behind her. Not knowing what to do to deal with the pain in her, allowed the pain to keep growing and growing. It made her feel she was a monster and no positive use to the world, to herself or to her beloved Xena.
This is the SECOND theme: who am I in relation to you? Gabrielle felt overwhelmed by all the events and her decision to keep Hope alive was in part to keep her hope alive that she was not evil. She saw Hope as a lifeline to her blood innocence Perhaps this child could be what she no longer was. When Hope killed Solon, Gabrielle's tenuous hold of being of value to her self and Xena evaporated. In her profound despair she wanted to die. She berated her self for not being strong enough to commit suicide to rid the world of this useless being. Again she sobbed. Xena held her tight this time and just let her cry.
At one point, I had to get up and go over to Xena and softly tell her that she was strong enough to hear this and to let Gabrielle tell her all of it. Xena was subtly trying to stop Gabrielle by telling her it was okay, or telling her "shhh," or getting restless or looking away. Gabrielle needed to know at this point that Xena could bear her pain or Gabrielle would not get past the guilt, horror, and shame. Gabrielle is not in therapy to tell me this stuff but to share it with Xena. Part of the reason for the wide gulf between them is this fear of hurting each other.
Xena needs to learn to tolerate Gabrielle's pain and not cut her off. They must deal with the pain to try to fix the problem. They have to demonstrate this over and over and over to each other. Each has to convey to the other that they will be there no matter what the circumstance.
This was as far as the session got. It is only one little hour and enough work had been done. I will see them both in a couple of days to finish the session, as I had yet to hear from Xena. I told Xena that I knew it was difficult to hear Gabrielle's story but Xena needed to give that gift of love to Gabrielle and not leave her.
There was no homework assignment as I felt the session was not complete.I will wait until the end of the next session to assign any homework.
End of session report.
Session 2 Part B PARADISE FOUND
When there are no homework assignments, I asked my clients to give a little summary of their time between sessions.
Gabrielle: She reported she was glad to have learned some yoga techniques and would continue practicing. She learned that Aidan was really a horrible man. She asked Xena to tell me about what had happened. Gabrielle was distressed that painful memories continued to surface. She indicated that she was beginning to share more of her confusing, pain-filled memories with Xena. She reached over and took Xena's hand as she said this and Xena did not move away.
Xena: She reported she had to kill Aidan to prevent him from hurting Gabrielle. "I knew he was big trouble from the moment we met. Gabrielle seemed to like him and was interested in learning some techniques he had mentioned that would help her feel more peaceful. I felt confused, not knowing if my negative feelings were justified. I then learned from Gar that Aidan had captured the minds of his soldiers, took their goodness and then killed them. In the end, Aidan and I fought. I killed him. When he died his power died too and we returned to our shelter in the mountains."
NOTE: I reasoned that getting Xena to talk was going to be difficult judging from her very succinct summary of events. She had hardly said a word in the first session. So I had to create a way for Xena to feel comfortable in expressing herself. It would also start to establish a pattern for them to have safe talks. At this point, I believed Xena would not talk to me at all. This was okay but she did need to talk to Gabrielle. I was concerned that Gabrielle not talk for her. (By remaining silent Xena could put Gabrielle in the position where she felt she had to speak for her partner.) So I decided to try two things. First, I would enlist Gabrielle's help because I knew she knew how to get Xena to talk. Second, I would attempt to enlist the help of the "Xena" who very successfully led an army. In order to do that, she had to be articulate and she had to understand her men and her enemies. She must have been able to judge men very quickly in order to maximize their talents and abilities. She knew how to plan to reach her objective. She knew how to successfully implement that plan. She was physically and mentally razor sharp. This is a very strong part of Xena and I wanted to get her to use these strengths to help their relationship.
I asked Xena how she knew someone was bad or evil. I got a shrug and she said that she just knew it. So I asked her to explain how she just knew. This time she growled that she just knew. I said I would not accept that answer. She was a warrior who was a leader of men and women. How did she make those decisions about whom to keep, whom to leave behind and whom to kill? This time her eyes defocused indicating she was looking inward to find an answer. She refocused on me and shrugged.
I looked at Gabrielle and asked her if Xena ever talked to her. She replied that she did. I asked if they talked about important stuff. Gabrielle said that they talked about important stuff more in the past than now.
I asked Gabrielle when Xena would tell her important stuff. When was Xena most likely to talk? Gabrielle looked confused so I made some suggestions: after dinner, or when they were walking along, or when they cuddled. Gabrielle said that it was most likely in the evenings shortly before they went to bed or shortly after they went to bed.
I told Gabrielle that I had a strange request. Would she mind going over and sitting comfortably on Xena's lap? She looked at Xena and Xena smiled so she went and got all settled in. Then I asked Gabrielle to ask Xena how she knew Aidan was evil by telling all her thoughts and feelings from the beginning. Gabrielle did as I requested.
Xena sat still for a while, absently stroking Gabrielle's hair as Gabrielle snuggled into her shoulder. She said that when she jumped into the pit and landed on the grass beside Gabrielle, in what appeared to be a little slice of heaven, all her alarm bells went off. It was too good to be true. She knew that some gods or magic must be influencing them. When she noticed her wound had healed, she knew for sure something was not right. But she did not know what was wrong, where they were, or how to get away. They walked to the palace that they could see nearby. There they met oily Aidan.
"Right away he focused on Gabrielle and I felt him pushing me away. Dividing us," Xena noted. She said that Gabrielle clearly wanted to stay and she could not come up with a valid reason to leave right away. She kept mentioning that the longer they stayed the more Aidan tried to separate them.
Xena realized too, he played on Gabrielle's desire to have peace, to help others and on her own fears of violence and hurting Gabrielle again. She was able to see the more calm Gabrielle became the more angry and out of control she became. As Xena became more confused, Aidan became more powerful. Xena was practicing Tai Chi, an old Chinese martial art, when she realized the very strengths she needed to protect Gabrielle were the ones Aidan had helped her doubt by accurately pinpointing her fears. Xena explained that she knew she would have to fight him and most likely kill him or she would lose Gabrielle.
"To fight you have to draw on a different type of energy than to be peaceful(still). If all Gabrielle had was stillness she would not be able to defend herself. She was like that bunny, unable to see or defend herself against evil. I reached down under the shell where the wolf lives and I let her loose," Xena confessed. "I knew I would need all the cunning, all the power I had to kill the beast." She began to cry as she talked. Gabrielle hugged her tightly and told Xena she was her warrior and she needed her and loved her.
Xena told Gabrielle that she knew she did not like her violence and yet once again she had been forced to draw on that very capability to save them. Each time she did so, she feared she would drive Gabrielle away. This was driving her crazy with worry. She told Gabrielle, she (Xena) did not kill for the sport of it. Killing no longer made her feel good. That looking back, she realized, it had never made her feel good. She told Gabrielle that she did love a good fight because when you put all that you are on the line it was exhilarating. She loved the challenge and thrill of fighting to the limit of her capabilities. She was after all, a warrior. Gabrielle told Xena that she really knew that in her heart, but because she was torn apart, she tended to attack Xena and blame her for everything.
At that point, I thanked Xena for talking to Gabrielle and vice versa. Enough had been said. It was time to stop the session. If too much is said, the client loses face and will not come back. Xena had said enough to let a lot of light in and helped Gabrielle begin to understand her warrior better.
The two themes that I worked on in this session with Xena were: Who am I in relation to you and who am I?
I then gave a homework assignment. Everyday, Gabrielle was to brush Xena's hair and everyday, Xena was to make something for Gabrielle.
End of session.
WHERE HAVE I SEEN YOU BEFORE?
So who was who in Paradise Found?
Not exactly a cast of thousands - in fact the smallest ensemble of any HTLJ or XWP ep to date I believe... only four actors appeared on screen in this ep, except for the background figures in the various "visions".
Did you wonder why Aiden looked familiar, perhaps feel that somehow he wasn't to be trusted right from the start? Not surprising really, given that the previous incarnation in the Xenaverse of Jeremy Roberts, the actor who played Aiden, was Thersites, the vicious, weaselly assassin in A Fistful of Dinars! He was also featured as Derk in the HTLJ ep Mercenary. Jeremy has quite an extensive resum=E9, including roles in the movies Money Train (Guard), Stuart Saves His Family (Brad Skoog), The Mask (Bobby, the bouncer), Sister Act (a biker), The People Under The Stairs (Spenser), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Lt. Dimitri Valtane), and The Marrying Man (Gus). He has also appeared on *many* TV series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer (playing Kakistos in the ep Faith, Hope & Trick), Sliders (playing Bane, in the ep: California Reich), Millennium (playing Richard Alan Hance in the ep The Thin White Line), Silk Stalkings (playing Harrison Peak in the ep: Peak Experience), Star Trek: Voyager (playing Lt. Dimitri Valtane in the ep: Flashback), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (playing Meso'Clan in the episode Hippocratic Oath), Weird Science (playing Officer Friendly in the ep: Sex Ed), The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (playing Bill Swill in the eps: Mail Order Brides and No Man's Land), Roseanne (in the eps: War And Peace and Crime And Punishment), and Seinfeld (playing the Chauffeur in the ep: The Limo). Wow! What a busy guy... no wonder he looks familiar!
And what about Garr? Did you feel there was perhaps something holy about him? Mervyn Smith was last seen forgiving our sins as the Priest Of Apollo in Forgiven. He can also be seen as a Village Elder in one of Xena's original outings on HTLJ, Unchained Heart. He also appeared in the HTLJ ep Love Takes A Holiday, as Iagos.
The ep was written by Chris Manheim, whose previous writing credits on XWP are for The Prodigal, Altared States, Remember Nothing (with Steven Sears), A Solstice Carol, Here She Comes...Miss Amphipolis, The Quest (with Steven Sears and R. J. Stewart), A Comedy Of Eros, Maternal Instincts, The Bitter Suite (with Steven Sears), King Con, Tsunami, and A Family Affair (with Liz Friedman).
The ep was director by the big guy himself, Rob Tapert, whose only previous outing as a director on XWP was Destiny. He also directed the HTLJ ep Once A Hero.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These things are by Beth Gaynor.
Important question #1 resolved: the BGSB survived its mistreatment in If The Shoe Fits! Like the whip from Day in the Life, replacements are apparently readily available in local markets.
Listen carefully when Xena's standing in the cave as Gabrielle checks out the noise (role reversal alert!) - there's an almost-gasp and a swoosh at the moment Gab must have fallen, and that's Xena gets worried and starts calling.
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
01-06-01. From Jan. Notice the "rotating scar" on Gar's face. It tends to switch sides throughout the episode, depending on camera angle. The cheek facing the camera tends to be where the scar appears.
11-13-00. From Katie Moncelsi. The black make up stuff used on xena's hands and nails that start in the scene where you first see her as a bunny. Come and go as if it has a mind of its own during the entire scene from when she turns up where Aiden is til she becomes herself again.
Click here to read a transcript of PARADISE FOUND.
Paradise was found but not necessarily embraced during the production of this motion picture.
Jeremy Roberts Official Site