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 L.N. James
COMMENTARY 4 by Richard Furman
COMMENTARY 5 by Stryper
COMMENTARY 6 by Philip Teo
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Timothy Lee (Acestus)
Campbell Cooley (Euraylus)
Andrew Kovacevich (Innkeeper)
Allen O'Halloran (Scythian Soldier)
Albert Sword (Villager)
Written by Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster
Edited by Rob Field
Directed by Josh Becker
EVIL HAS A NEW NAME
[A hand with a knife. An army.]
Gabrielle: What, ringworm?
Joxer: Goat poo.
Gabrielle: Sheep dung.
Gabrielle [thrusting her foot in Xena's face]: Foot rot!
XENA GETS DOWN AND DIRTY
[Xena on the ground, surrounded by swords pointing at her.]
Joxer: You get used to the smell.
Man: You're going to defend our village?
[A frizzy-haired Xena.]
AN ALL NEW XENA
ON THE NEXT XENA--
(Xena thrusts her sword into the ground.)
Acestus: I'd be unstoppable.
(A soldier overturns a table.)
Acestus: And evil will rule the world!
(A soldier on horseback rushes a villager.)
EVIL HAS A NEW NAME.
Gabrielle: What? Ringworm?
Joxer: Goat poo.
Gabrielle: Sheep dung?
(Gabrielle holds her diseased foot in front of Xena's face.)
Gabrielle: Foot rot!
Joxer (to Gabrielle): You know, I just think you're feeling puffy, irritable, and
NOW THE WARRIOR PRINCESS IS ITCHING--
(Xena scratches her hair.)
FOR THE FIGHT OF HER LIFE--
(Xena beats up several soldiers.)
Xena (to Gabrielle): It's dandruff. It's-- it's-- it's a minor scalp irritation, that's all.
(Xena approaches Argo.)
WITH HER TRUSTY STEED--
Xena: I am not leaving without you.
(Xena tries to force Argo to move, but ends up falling flat on her face.)
AND HER LOYAL SIDEKICK.
(Gabrielle tries to whistle, but spit just comes out between her fingers.)
(Gabrielle scratches her back using Xena's chakram.)
Xena: That's not my chakram you're scratching your fungus on, is it?
Gabrielle: You want a piece of me, huh?
(Gabrielle rips a patch of skin off and offers it to Xena.)
Gabrielle: Fine, I'll give you a piece of me.
(Xena with frizzed-out hair on the ground surrounded by swords.)
XENA GETS DOWN AND DIRTY--
Joxer (to Innkeeper): You get used to the smell.
(Gabrielle vomits on Joxer's feet.)
Villager: You're going to defend our village?!
(A man holds his nose.)
(Xena with frizzed-out hair and a queasy Gabrielle stand by a door.)
Xena: Yeah, but we're going to need a little help.
AN ALL NEW--
(Xena picks off a piece of skin and yells.)
TV GUIDE PROMO
In an itchy and scratchy show, Xena (who has lice) and Gabrielle (who has a fungus and a vraiety of other ailments) take on marauding Scythians who have captured Argo.
Lice and foot rot impede Xena and Gabrielle's battle against the Scythians.
Xena and Gabrielle, plagued by a myriad of ailments, try to defeat a Scythian army.
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
1st RELEASE: 10-19-98
An AA average of 4.5
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) X-FILES 4.9
(2) STAR TREK DS9 4.7
(3) ER 4.6
(4) XENA 4.5
(5) HERCULES 4.1
(6) MORTAL KOMBAT 3.2
(7) EARTH FINAL CONFLICT 3.1
(8) STARGATE 2.9
(9) CROW 2.6
(10) NIGHTMAN 2.1
(11) OUTER LIMITS 1.9
2nd RELEASE: 03-08-99
An AA average of 3.9
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) 12 X-FILES-SYN (AT) 2/T 4.2
18 ER-SYN (AT) W/T 3.9
19 XENA STD 3.9
22 HERCULES, JOURNEYS OF STD 3.7
3rd RELEASE: 10-25-99
An AA average of 3.0
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) XFiles 4.7
(2) ER 3.9
(3) Stargate 3.3
(4) Xena/VIP 3.0
(5) Hercules/Baywatch Hawaii 2.9
(6) Earth Final Conflict 2.7
(7) Beastmaster 2.6
(8) Profiler 2.3
(9) Relic Hunter 2.2
(10) Amazon 1.9
(11) Voyager 1.8
This synopsis is by Bluesong.
Xena and Gabrielle camp out in a valley, the place where Xena left Argo when she went to the Amazon land of the dead in search of Gabrielle. They trudged through swamps to get there, and Gabrielle now has foot rot. Xena has acquired a headful of lice. They are rather peevish with one another. Joxer shows up with his helmet down around his eyes, and tells them that there is a village being plundered not far away. He hands Xena a knife the horseriders use; they are the Scythians, the meanest of the mean. However, Xena and Gabrielle need breakfast and Gabrielle goes off to kill a rabbit. In homage to Monty Python, the rabbit grows large teeth and attacks Gabrielle at the throat. They have nothing to eat but some stew Joxer fixes.
Xena sees Argo, but Argo spurns her and runs away. Xena is upset about this. She says Argo is mad because Xena has been gone a long time. The Scythian captain sees Argo and captures the horse. Xena and Gabrielle argue about the lice and the foot rot. Joxer and Gabrielle have a talk, and Gabrielle throws up on Joxer. Joxer's cooking has made everyone sick, including people in the town. Xena and Gabrielle get a dubious welcome to the town. The town has mineral springs and "Greek fire" which bubbles from the ground and burns well. The Scythians are after this oil. Xena and Gabrielle bath in the springs and, since they both now share the lice and the fungus, cover themselves in goat poo and pick nits from their head. Back at the inn, Gabrielle drinks the linseed oils she was supposed to put on her skin, and makes her mouth completely numb for days. A Scythian assassin comes after Xena in the night; she puts her touch on him and then has to be sick. She tells Gabrielle to question him, but Gabrielle can't talk and she slobbers all over him instead. Next morning the Scythians attack. Xena whistles at Argo, and the horse responds a little, but continues to let the Scythian leader ride her. Xena finally remembers she's supposed to fight and does so. Joxer does a commendable job here, too. Xena sends Joxer into the Scythian camp to feed everyone his now-infamous stew. She goes after Argo. Argo won't come with her. She falls down outside of Argo's tent and is surrounded. She flips up and fights the soldiers off, the runs. She gets out in a meadow and the Scythian leader, on Argo, follows. He rides toward Xena and Xena throws her sword to the ground; she won't attack Argo. Gabrielle yells for Xena to defend herself. Argo stops short, and the Scythian flies forward and lands on the ground. Xena and Argo make up. Gabrielle decks the leader's brother. Joxer turns down a reward from the villagers.
This synopsis is by Missy Good.
This is a sight gag show, so doing a point by point synopsis would be..er... pointless, I suppose. I will try though...I'm not generally fond of the wacky comedies, and this wasn't an exception, though there were definitely some moments in which I laughed.
Premise - Joxer is hired by a village to defend them from the Scythians. He needs help. He knows where ot find it. Unfortunately, due to Xena's insistence in tracking Argo over the swamp and thorugh the mud, the girls are much the worse for wear when he catches up to them. Xena has acquired a lice infestation (wild giggle number one - the lice snicker. You first hear them when Xena shakes out her bedroll and they go flying. After that, whenever she plucks one from her hair and tosses it (smashes it, torches it, stomps it) it gives out a little giggling scream) Gabrielle has contracted foot rot, from, I assume, keeping her boots wet during her slogging, and it's spreading to her entire body. Renee does a disgustingly nice job of peeling bits of her own skin off and flicking them away here.
They argue over whose going to get dinner, so Gab decides to hunt for wabbit. This happens to be the one scene in the show I completely enjoyed - Renee finding a cute, fluffy bunny, and tossing berrries at it to coax it closer...cooing at it.....
Then the bunny bares it's CGI fangs and comes after her, latching onto her throat, and she has to beat it against a tree, then punch it several (many) times before it lets go. I almsost passed out from laughing.
This is interspersed with Xena and Joxer having a discussion about personal hygiene, Nuff said about that.
Then Joxer gives them the trots by feeding them Grecian mexican water, I guess, since he made radish stew for them since Gab didn't bring home the bunny.
So, the village is going to be defended by a scratching, vomiting, cranky twosome...they try remedies, which don't work, get attacked by a Scythian.. oh yes, the enemy of the village is the Scythian army.. I forgot about that...who love horses and who have captured Argo.
See, Argo's having a Rift with Xena. Probably a wink at everyone who always wondered what she does when Xena just goes off and leaves her. The horse won't have anything to do with Xena, which is frustrating the hell out of her. She runs away when Xena whistles for her.
Meantime, Joxer has given the entire village the trots, so Xena figures he can do the same with the Scythians.. oh yes, she's taken time out (after leaving Gab tied up so she wouldn't scratch herself) to create a rockslide (how original) to stop the main Scythian army from advancing.. this is just an advance guard. (I think this entire story was just a spoof of One Against an Army, personally)
Army gets the trots, Xena tries to get Argo, who is in a personal horse tent. Argo, being the only one with brains this week, and now having her own heated tent with servants, understandably tells the WP to hit the road. She's left Gab to whistle if there's danger, but Gab cant't, because she drank something with Vicks Vaporub in it, and her tongue and lips are numb.
Scythians find Xena, who is in a BAD MOOD, and beats up on folks.. then hauls out of the camp with the leader, (on Argo) chasing her. Xena gambles on Argo not letting her be spitted, and wins, and kicks the tail off the Scythian. Another one rides up, and Gab takes him off his horse with her little stick quite handily.
The villagers are grateful to Joxer, and he graciously turns down their reward, then realizes now HE has the trots. The girls end up still with lice, still with crud, but together, and Argo's now back.
Personally, I think everyone just said, D*mm*t - we've been too serious lately - let's just get goofy, and they did. Oh, btw... Argo defected to the Scythians because they gave her apples. Xena seemed quite miffed about this, I personally found it very funny.
One note - I've seen them ridicule Joxer, and Gab, and other characters including Ares, but this is the first time I think I recall them ridiculing Xena, and letting her look sort of dumb in front of other people. I'm not sure I was fond of that.. or of her getting hysterical in the village over Argo's defection.. to me, it seemed to really degrade the characters diginity, but maybe that was the point.
So anyway, loved the giggling lice, loved the killer rabbit, Argo's apples were fun, and yes, Joxer does get vomited on by Gabrielle.
10-28-98. Commentary by Beth Gaynor.
The logic of this episode escapes me. We all watch Xena: Warrior Princess. Therefore, we probably like the stars. Why would we want to spend an hour watching those stars bumble, heave, wail, and generally gross-out their way through an episode? I don't mind self-deprecating humor (Gabrielle seasick, Xena going nuts trying to figure out why a day is repeating), but this was way over what I enjoy. Xena spent the episode in denial, self-conscious and vain, and looking like a fool in front of an entire village. Gabrielle was barfing, drooling, spitting, and getting as disgusting as possible. (Although Renee O'Connor does manage to look cute and sexy even when she's scratching. How does she DO that?)
I liked the idea of an Argo rift. It's about time that poor horse got sick of being left behind all the time. She let herself be bought off with apples? What a tramp. I didn't mind Xena falling apart a little over Argo snubbing her, but in the middle of a public tavern? Xena, who knows SO well how to inspire and lead, loses it in the middle of a tavern? But she did throw a pretty awesome snarl at Joxer.
I had the same problems with Xena's stumbling introduction to the village. The woman who led a town from her poisoning deathbed in Greater Good, who just led an amazon tribe to defeat an evil sorceress despite her grief in Adventures in the Sin Trade, babbles like a madwoman because of an itchy head and upset stomach? At least they let her put aside her personal issues enough to kick six warrior butts in the enemy camp - I was starting to worry that they had completely forgotten who this character is.
The killer bunny was straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I kept expecting it to get explained somehow, but it never did - was the killer bunny because it ate the berries, or maybe Gabrielle handled them too much and tripped out? Whatever, I kinda liked the sight gag of Gabrielle punching the rabbit. And slamming it against the tree with her chest! Imagine the story that bunny's going to be telling in the Bunny Afterlife: "How'd you die?" "Well, Fiver, you won't believe it! What a way to go!"
I sure hope Gabrielle switched the chakram to the "knock 'em out" setting instead of "embed in their throats" before she started scratching with it. Otherwise she's going to have some hard-to-explain scars on... well, wherever that was that she was scratching. I kind of liked her showdown with Xena, afraid to touch her for fear of catching the fungus.
I was confused to hear that the villagers were getting sick, too, since the only thing we saw was a villager scratching his head when we first see the town. Do they have lice or the stomach virus? Or do they have both? In which case, what are they looking at Xena and Gab so strangely for?
Some of the best banter lines of the episode:
"Did one of your bug friends whisper that in your ear?"
"No skin off my back!" "Har de har har."
"I don't ask for much, I just want my pony back!"
"What is it? ... The fact that I talk about [Argo] like she's a real person?"
The laid-out Scythian army sounded a lot like the campfire scene from Blazing Saddles. And here I was just thinking "Wow, we've gotten a whole 45 minutes into this episode, and you know the one thing it's missing? Fart jokes."
Xena praises Joxer for defending the town against the Scythians "without spilling a single drop of blood." Did she not notice the pile of corpses around her after the jailbreak? We see her sword go through a guy - that usually spills blood. It looks like Joxer managed to accidentally do some serious damage, too - I was wondering whether Joxer's blood innocence was about to go by the wayside in this episode.
In the final scene, is Gabrielle standing in a hole? She's six inches shorter than normal against Xena and Joxer (and that's saying a lot!). What was going on there? And why the paper-thin platitudes from Xena?
My apologies for what's probably the most bitchin'-and-moanin' wool-gathering I've ever done, but this episode really took me aback. The whole thing was aimed at sixth-grade-level humor. XWP has had crass humor mixed in with the subtle stuff before, but I've never seen it so unadulterated and at the cost of the characterizations. I can't believe that very many of the people who would love this would also love stories about the death of children, the nature of good and evil, redemption, and the emptiness of vengeance. There's a difference between going for a broad audience range and going for a lot of little audiences. Going for a broad audience range, which XWP usually pulls off successfully, gets you a lot of fans. Going for a lot of little audiences, like the little audience this will appeal to, will end up confusing everybody about whether this is a show they like or not.
10-28-98. Commentary by Deb E. McGhee.
SOUND-BYTE SUMMARY: A whole bunch of 'clever things' slapped over a threadbare plot does not a humourous episode make. This one had its chucklesome moments, but overall left me feeling curiously empty -- bored even. Rating: 1.5 of 5 quills.
ANALYSIS-REVIEW: Aside: For all of you for whom 'Analy-View' suggests a certain posterior portion of the digestive system, we are now faced with the cruel, cruel, bitter irony of an episode for which that read is highly appropriate. Oh, the horror.
_Monty Python's The Meaning of Life_ is one of my all-time favourite movies. Moreover, I *liked* Beavis & Butthead, Wayne's World, Bill & Ted, and I'd watch South Park more often if I were more organised and less forgetful. Appreciation for all-out, gross-out goofiness? Got it in spades...when it's done well.
I've just been experiencing, this last day and a half, the very unpleasant state of being so generally unmoved by an episode that I could scarcely summon the emotional, mental, and existential energies needed to review it. How to begin? What angle to take? Why won't my mind work? What have they done to me??
Then, with the creeping insidiousness of one of those infections/hostile alien body takeovers they always seem to be having on Star Trek: Voyager, I realised what was happening. I was being stumped by this episode. Now, many have been the occasions in which I was stupefied by certain XWP episodes, but stumped? NEVER! The day I am stumped by such dumbness as Sickness, is the day they forcibly pry my ripped-hair, clawed-face, bloody stumps for fingers body away from my comfy little workstation here in my comfy little dark corner.
When the episode opened onto the scene of Xena all snuggly and cuddly under her sleeping furs -- and before the childhood memory-invoking sight of Gabrielle shoving her rotting flesh into Xena's face in that oh-so-12-year-old way of "Oh my god, this is soo gross! Look! Taste!" -- I knew what we were in for: This season's retread of the Fins, Femmes, & Gems retread of A Day in the Life. Never satisfied with leaving well enough alone, XWP sought to go whole hog, catch the big cahuna, beat that horse til it's well and truly paste, rip that scab off in one giant zipper-fx'ed hunk, and yank that wiggling tooth out by the Hades-blessed root with a door-slamming SHEBANG!
Sickness is a self-mocking parody of proportions so apocalyptic that Dahak should be moved to give up the quest in defeat; an exercise in self-reference so out of control that Narcissus would appear the epitome of saintly humanitarianism and self-actualisation by comparison; a game of one-upmanship diminished in its excellence only by virtue of the teensy-weensy fact that there's only one player; a cataclysmic meeting of the best and worst elements of the show that leaves me shaking in wonder and awe.
There are certain givens about XWP. First, they like to wink at the audience from time-to-time, either in a gesture of goodwill or in sly acknowlegement of their own foibles. Second, they like to pay tribute to their influences and favourites, from The Three Stooges, to the old early Christian/gladiator movies, to the Hong Kong action genre, to schlock horror. Third, Armus & Foster-credited episodes Gabrielle tends to be out-of-character on a regular basis. Finally, over time XWP has embraced with passion the U.S. cultural motto that bigger is always better.
In a sense, then, Sickness is the quintessential, late-season XWP episode because every last one of those elements is present. There are fandom references galore, from the use of the term bedroll; to X&G sleeping in an inn; to Gabrielle's One with the Earth/ pacifistic methods for killing her food; to the mention of several things that were brought up once or twice in the show, only to take on inviolate canonical status amongst online fans. For example, here in the 72nd episode, Gabrielle suddenly and out-of-the-blue brings up her and Argo's Uneasiness Thing -- which began to be chipped away as early as the 21st episode of the series (Greater Good), looked to be resolved completely by the 36th episode (Destiny), and seemed a matter of historical record by the 59th episode (Army) when Gab was seen manoeuvering Argo with style, strength, and certainty despite a useless left leg and only one available hand with which to handle the reins -- and which yet persists in fandom as a Sacred Truth. These and many more fandom treasures await those who would have the courage and patience to seek them out.
Then there were the references to outside influences and other episodes. Joxer's helmet over the eyes, "I'm blind!" schtick is straight out of one of those movies that you know you've seen but just can't place. Gabrielle's fight with the Psycho Bunny (beautifully performed by ROC) is ripped with alacrity and sans apology from the videotape of _Monty Python and the Holy Grail_, but -- in a surprising and welcome spot of cleverness -- is staged as an exact replication of the Gab-Tara barroom brawl from Forgiven. LL does a spot-on "Why I oughta...!" (the exact source of which, Ralph Kramden or The Stooges, is still a matter of debate).
However, the piece de resistance, the truffle in the mud, if you will, has got to be Sickness's plot -- a grander version of the thin-plottedness of last season's Fins. All those art-housers, philosophers, and other social science nerdy types ain't got nothing on this ep when it comes to self-conscious deconstructionism! Determined to prove that they know *exactly* what they're doing, Sickness boggles our minds with not two wafer-thin stories, but rather a staggering THREE, COUNT 'EM, THREE storylines. (Luckily for my somnolent mind, the writers were sensitive enough to ABC & 123 the plots at regular intervals.) Imagine my stupefication when I realised that no, this wasn't just a heaping pile of putrefaction, infection, and other assorted nastiness, lost and with no place to shovel it; and no, this wasn't just the story of trying to keep the single-mindedly megalomaniacal Scythians from attaining... um...er...Greek fire; but wonder-of-wonders it was also the story a woman and her horse -- their trials and tribulations, their estrangement, and their heart-swelling reunion! I laughed, I cried, I was struck dumb with the inconceivability of it all!
Now that I've caught my breath and gotten that stitch out of my side (with the help of a rusty penknife), let's review the other XWP references. Of course there's ADITL's hottub scene, which got hearts a'fluttering and hormones a'racing despite the domesticated animal scat. Subtexters and fankids are a hardy bunch, apparently. There's the rockslide to block the path from Army and Fins, come back to taunt me with promises of oblivion if only I'd crawl through the tv screen and beat my head against it. Why, Sickness is so chock full of witty and clever references that there is even one from a dropped scene: Joxer's cooking prowess that bit the dust of the cutting room floor in Return of Callisto!
And no description would be complete without a bit of Spot-the-Subtext. Gabrielle arching her back, grinding her hips, and moaning & groaning while trying to find relief using Xena's trusty tool, her chakram; X&G engaging in delightful, 'old married couple' banter while luxuriating nekkidly in the hot springs; and, obviously, the sly twist on traditional marriage vows for the episode title. The cockles of my heart threaten to burst into flame.
Speaking of subtext, I feel like putting this baby to bed. But not before I make a few more impertinent comments.
Against all expectation, Gabrielle's characterisation is remarkably similar to those from other recent (and I use that term loosely) episodes. Save for the inexplicability of not knowing how to administer linseed root and the Argo Thing, Gabrielle displays intelligence and ability past the usual first season level. Instead, Argo's and Xena's characters are sacrificed for contrivance's sake. Argo leaves Xena for apples?! Argo endangers Xena's life by creating a ruckus in the enemy camp?! Xena the Destroyer lurches around like a drunken mercenary and whines and cries like a spoiled brat? Xena allows a random villager to press her sword between her shoulder blades?! Was multiple personality disorder an affliction that I perhaps missed hearing about? Oh, the humanity.
Yes, In Sickness and In Hell was the quintessential post-2nd season XWP comedy: a few half-developed ideas enhanced them with BIGGER SOUND EFFECTS! and EVEN MORE GRAPHIC BODILY FUNCTION HUMOUR!! called 'a story'. LL got to let it all hang loose and not play Xena for a while. Joxer was there so that NEITHER XENA NOR GABRIELLE "LOOK SILLY". This time, however, all that mental effort expended toward being witty and clever appears to have been exhausting, because for an episode that seems designed to have been snappy and fast-paced, it was downright sluggish at times. Each time I watched this ep, I had to strain to stay with the teaser, and nothing sums up my feelings during the closing scene more perfectly than Gabrielle's nod off.
I will say this for the ep: ROC was funny as all get-out, and that fight on the horses scene at the end was way cool (great stunt and camerawork). All-in-all, though, I'm thinking XWP ought to consider how far it's willing to stretch its boundaries before it becomes so much disjecta membra.
10-28-98. Commentary by L.N. James.
People, people, people...it is obvious that you all are MISSING the metaphorical and philosophical importance of the episode 'In Sickness and In Hell'. Do you not realize this episode has important implications for everything from the characterization of Hero Xena to the deeper ramifications of The Rift in juxtaposition to the halcyon days of Season Two (which we all know ruled!)? Please open your minds and allow me to point out what was abundantly clear to me and why I think this episode packs more meaning than those critic's darlings, 'Cradle of Hope' and 'The Titans'.
This episode was not jejunian in its approach. No, this episode literally TRANSCENDED THE PARADIGMATIC BOUNDS of the Redemptive Quest/Good vs Evil storyline which is at the core and center of Xena, Warrior Princess.
First and foremost, let's get to the heart of why we all watch the show: Xena. In this episode, she is tormented, not by lice infestation, but rather those elusive 'ghosts' which haunt her very soul, 'ghosts' of all the dark, dark evil nasty things she has done. The lice, while effective at putting a semi-human face to the emotions of betrayal, greed, lust, sociopathic tendencies, power-mongering, and general crankiness resulting when one doesn't get one's way, act as a tangible reminder to Xena (aka Warrior Princess, aka Destroyer of Nations, aka The Hero, aka Hot Babe in Leather) that she can never escape her past no matter how many times she tries.
Hello DENIAL!? Did you all not notice how often and vigorously Xena DENIED having lice? The poor, poor dear has not yet reached that therapeutic nirvana in which one can ACCEPT one's methaphorical 'lice' and move towards resolution. Despite a half-hearted attempt in the cleansing waters of a 'spiritual bath', Xena was unable to leave her lice behind. By the end of the episode, we the audience are still left to ponder whether those haunting voices arising from Xena's psyche remain (note: what brilliance TPTB displayed at having Xena's long flowing hair harbor the 'voices' of her discontent. Profound and brilliant). It is clear to me that until Xena REALLY comes to grips with her own dark past and EMBRACES her all-too-human affliction, she will never reach the place where she can fully self-actualize into the Perfect Hero. Right now, she's a Flawed Hero, some might even say a Tainted Hero, but certainly, she is not yet the Perfect Hero.
[I will not go into Gabrielle's characterization and the metaphorical meaning of her creeping 'fungus' as it is unimportant to the series as a whole. Whether or not the Mere Sidekick develops an all-encompassing, flesh-destroying spiritual 'decay' as a result of following the hero, Xena is inconsequential. In fact, it is clear that her own obvious disobedience resulted in, once again, misfortune for the irritating blond. Themes of deservedness and blame/guilt run rampant through this episode highlighting the moral distinction between present day Xena and Gabrielle, Hero and Sidekick. Maintaining that distinction is necessary for the preservation of the Hero Storyline. There can only be but one person who is RIGHT all the time in this XENAverse. Further, I will not go into the importance of the transference of 'ailments' between the two during the bath scene because it is clearly the case of Gabrielle 'tainting' Xena once again and thus, in the grand scheme of heroic redemption, is inconsequential.]
As if that wasn't enough, The Rift was magnificently and symbolically represented as the peptic unrest felt by both Xena and Gabrielle throughout the episode. For those critics who thought The Rift was inadequately resolved, the pleasure they would derive from this episode should be clear. Obviously, the physical manifestation of the emotional whirlpool these two women endured during the third season is evident in the expulsion of the noxious inner pyschological 'shit' (pardon my scatalogical language, but it is quite necessary to cut through the proverbial 'BS' and get to the heart of the matter in this case).
Does that not satisfy even the harshest of S3 naysayers? The fact that Xena and Gabrielle are still experiencing unease and upset TO THIS VERY DAY should make it clear that one cannot simply wish away such hideous betrayal and psychological damage done by lies, deceit, and violence. These two women are PAYING for their misdeeds right where it hurts most: The gastrointestinal tract. I would ask if, after this episode, we can forgive them their sins? Can we find the humanity within ourselves to sympathize with their discomfort, to empathize with their physiological pain, and to let go the blame we place on them (and particularly on Gabrielle) for their past? If we cannot, I fear we are destined never to find the inner peace that allows us to move past the pain, pass the gas, and past the past. I only wish that for us all.
I know this analysis has gone on long, but the material was so rich that I could fashion a dissertation from it I daresay. I will make this final critical point before I bid farewell. I have read many an analysis that derides the central role Joxer plays in the life of these two women. This episode provides definitive proof that indeed, Xena and Gabrielle do need a male 'savior' present in their lives. While many may say that Joxer is an incompetent baffoon and annoying prop, his increasing importance is shown once again. I need not remind the reader that it was his retrieval of the hind's blood dagger in SACII or the incapacitation of an entire army in this episode that will forever catapult his role from prop to main character status. An 'Also Starring' credit is in the future, my friends. His near-total immunity to the illnesses experienced by Xena and Gabrielle give him a god-like quality. It was clear Joxer had neither the haunting ghosts of lice nor the spiritual fungus that plagued the warrior and bard. Thus, one can conclude that he is, in fact, the True Hero of this show.
Wake up, Xenites!
My friends, I ask that you not dismiss the episode 'In Sickness and In Hell' with such resolute and stalwart 'poo-pooing'. Peeling back the layers of this episode is like discovering a festering wound of psychological angst the depths of which can only be imagined. To diminish this episode as a mere 'comedy' or juvenile boy-like humor is to miss the real drama that is present. We may not yet know just what impact this metaphorical dalliance has on the series Xena, Warrior Princes, but its place in the Xenaverse is clear. I have been forever changed because of it and I suspect you all have been too...unless you are in denial..which you probably are.
Note 1: I was unable to comment on the importance of the chakram as an instrument of both profound destruction and orgasmic pleasure in my above thesis because it would have detracted from my main points. Needless to say, any object that can elicit such auditory sounds from Gabrielle should not only be pondered, but envied as well.
Note 2: At this time, I was unable to analyze the messages of Xena's 'ghosts' for content, but I suspect themes of 'nononononono!' will be present, an indication that Xena's past is unwilling to be free of its host.
Note 3: This episode also dispells the childlike innocence we all harbor, forever robbing us of our schematic representation of the 'cute, little bunny rabbit'. TPTB are insidious in their shattering of core values and beliefs we all hold dear and further analysis of their motivations should be undertaken. They are evil...very evil.
Note 4: Cryptic moral lesson learned in this episode: The sweetness of an apple is fleeting so enjoy every bite, even the mealy bruised parts.
10-28-98. Commentary by Richard Furman.
The first comedic episode of Season 4 just may be the best comedic episode yet. Disgusting though it may be, there are some very important breaks with previous comedies. Most notably, Gabrielle does not become suddenly stupid in this episode, as she did in season 3 comedies, in fact she seems more situationally aware at some points than Xena. Secondly, Joxer's puerility does not play a role in the comic factor; in fact, this episode shows Joxer's first major battle victory. Thirdly, Xena is showing some signs of fallibility.
Gabrielle's Situational Awareness
This is a big step forward for the bard. The first scene has Gabrielle calling Xena's attention to foot rot that came as a consequence of using a route that Gabrielle had counseled against. She also points out Xena's lice, which Xena is struggling to repress. When they find that Argo has gone missing, Gabrielle snidely comments that "someone probably came by with an apple." This is precisely how the scythian leader attained custody and control of Argo.
But the bard's best performance in this episode is in the final battle, where she unhorses and incapacitates a Scythian warrior of whose approach Xena seems completely unaware. Because Xena is so completely engrossed with Argo, her life is in danger and Gabrielle saves it. The horse running by and being mounted by the Scythian warlord shakes Xena out of her reverie, but without the Gabster's battle prowess, she would not have lived that long.
Now that Gabrielle is approaching Xena's level of competence, a new acolyte is needed. It is my belief that Joxer has been groomed for this role and that season 4 will develop him into something civilized. The process began in Forget me Not, when having brought himself to the point where he could realize his frat-boy fantasies, he stopped himself even before Gabrielle reanimated her body. It doesn't justify his behavior, but it does show some maturation. In Sacrifice II, he is given a mission which he successfully achieves. Here, he has attained a commission to defend a village. He realizes his limitations and seeks assistance. He does in fact prove instrumental in stopping the army ("without shedding a drop of blood" it is noted, leading me to wonder if we are now to worry about Joxer's blood-innocence!?) When offered payment, the ladies' penetrating gaze prompts him to consider what the reconstruction costs are going to be for the village. He came out of nowhere and he's theirs to raise.
Gabrielle's growth has had an important consequence for the show's narrative: Xena is no longer on a pedestal and we can see her faults. Denial is the major fault this episode shows us, and that denial drives much of the comedy. First, Xena denies she has lice. Then she denies that Argo would have left her for an apple. Both of these are true and when Xena realizes the latter, she is noticeably affected. Jealousy also comes into play, as we discover that Xena is so affected by Argo allowing herself to be ridden by someone else that she seems willing to risk the horse killing her and then completely drops her guard when Argo doesn't.
There is another characteristic that makes this episode stand out among comedies -- it is tightly integrated with the episodes around it, tying up loose ends and continuing the narrative begun by other episodes. This is unlike the anomalous comedies of season 3, and one can only hope that TPTB continue to uphold this standard. Seeing a comedy in which arc-level threads are carried and dealt with imparts a new sense of integration to the show.
After giving such an analytic commentary of a comedy, I wouldn't want to be thought of as completely lacking a sense of humor. The Assassin scenes had me ROTFL. Xena carelessly leaving a guy who had just had the supply of blood to his brain cut off to be questioned by an inarticulate Gabby whose only language was saliva was rich, and O'Connor's deadpan attempt to deliver the phrase "she's cut off the supply of blood to your brain" in the midst of a salivary rainfall had me laughing so hard that I nearly missed the scene where, the Pinch having failed, Xena succeed in getting answers by threatening to have Gabby kiss the Assassin.
The Gabby Kiss:
Speculation about whether or not being kissed by Gabrielle was a sure sign of an untimely demise could be argued against by the fact that Iolaus was still alive. Well, no more. And in AFA we discover that this effect can even affect you if you're 1/4 Gabby, 1/4 Dahak, and 1/2 Aries, as the Destroyer died within minutes of a Gabby embrace. The effect does, however seem to be limited to males, seeing as Xena hasn't died (recently anyway). Obviously the Assassin simply doesn't want more Gabspit, but clearly the "pinch" has a lower mortality rate than the Gabby Kiss.
12-21-98. Commentary by Stryper.
Xena gets talking head lice, while Gabrielle turns into the Swamp Thing. Then Joxer gives everyone food poisoning, and Xena’s trusty stead of several years, is turned to the dark side for some apples. Then both Gabby and Xena smear themselves in goat’s pooh, and Gabrielle losses the feeling in her mouth and drools profusely on herself and anyone who happened to be nearby. Oh, and lets not forget the psycho bunny from hell that kicks Gabby’s butt, the vomiting, the diarrhea, etc...
It amazes me that within the span of one episode, they’ve managed to undermine everything that Xena and Gabrielle stood for, managing to make our gallant heroines come of like goofballs in the process… Oh, and it looks like the much anticipated "Gabby tossing her cookies on Joxer" scene was in fact, "Gabby tossing her cookies BECAUSE of Joxer, and NOT on him (well, she might have gotten a little on his shoes… lol)
I personally like Femmes, Finns and Gems better (also written by the same writers), but this episode (although as I stated before, did cast our ladies in a bad light; kind of , "A Day In The Life: The Outtakes") had its moments, especially the "Killer Bunny From Hell" thing (although, I think they carried it on for a tad too long). But, then there where the things that made you go, "NOT!" such as Xena’s trusty horse of many life and death encounters, turning on her, and taking up with the head baddy. I find it very difficult to except that Argo would forsake Xena for nothing more then some apples. This really makes Argo come off as a stupid animal, and not the intelligent creature that saved
Xena’s life in, The Greater Good, when she endured lashings of a whip, and also convinced another horse to stand its ground, and also endured the whipping lashings, just long enough for Xena to brake free of the trance like slumber that she had placed herself under, in order to weather the poison that was ravaging her body. That’s the Argo that we all know and admire (I have no idea who the imposter in this episode was).
Oh, and here's a thing that made me go, "Huh???" Joxer walks into the bad guys camp with a pot full of food, and the soldiers EAT IT!!! Exsqueese me, but would you eat food brought to you by a stranger? Especially one who you had just been fighting with??? I think had they had him eat it first (since he seemed to be immune to his own culinary disasters) then this scene would have played out a bit truer.
It’s not so much that this was a bad episode per say, it’s just that we just got Gabby back from the abyss, after a gruelling summer of waiting to see how the writers were going to bring her back. And then she’s not back for more then an episode, and they have her all fungusy and spewing, and all.
This kind of episode that would have done much better around the middle to end of the season, AFTER they had established Gabby’s whereabouts after her, "Fall To Grace" (lol). Then we could have sat back and laughed along with the sight gags. But to do it so soon to Gabrielle’s return, without any mention of Gabby’s disappearance, was a bit too strange. It came off as if the writers were trying to make us forget all that both Gabrielle and Xena had just been through.
Okay, so people are going to argue that this is precisely why we needed this type of episode, to lighten things up after all of the dreariness, true to a point, as Xena had begun to take on a very bleak, "The Sky Is Falling, And There’s Nothing That We Can Do To Stop It" kind of mood, but is that any reason to then go to the extreme opposite?
I had thought to just write off this episode as being from a couple of freelance hack writer, who didn’t really know the Xenaverse,, until it was brought to my attention that these same two people, where also the creative geniuses behind such great episodes as, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and "Chariots Of War". So my question is; how do you go from writing "A" grade material like "GJWHF" to such "B" grade material like "FFAG" and "ISAIH"? I mean, let’s face it, Fins, Fems And Gems, was an okay episode, but seemed more like a bunch of sight gags strung together, out of which a story happened to emerge, where as it should have been a story that had sight gags, which help it to progress. It also seemed that the writers went out of their way to reverse the polarity on our poor sweet Gabrielle; where as in FFAG, she’s played up as the Queen of Cute, and the Goddess of Beauty (in her own mind anyhow, and to those of us who secretly worship her from afar… Oops, was I thinking that out loud? lol) in ISAIH, she’s made to be very disgustingly repulsive. Let’s see, she scratches, she patches, she drools she spewls, she has the runs, then just for fun, smears goats pooh all over herself (although admittedly, she has no idea that that’s what she’s smearing on herself, but, how could you not know that you where rubbing yourself with animal dung? Was her nose afflicted with something too?).
I just think that the writers should have come up with a more appropriate episode, that dealt, at least in part, with Gabrielle’s mysterious whereabouts, and not just written it off like they apparently did for now. Or is it just me?
11-15-00. Commentary by Philip Teo.
I must say this was quite an interesting episode. And since this was meant to be a comedy episode, I was prepared to expect all kinds of crazy stuff.
Xena was very stubborn about admitting that she had lice and it was rather disgusting to see Gabrielle with all that foot rot.
Gabrielle fighting with that ferocious rabbit was rather amusing. Notice she had to use her breasts to slam it against a tree trunk, and still it refused to budge. Is there really such a strong rabbit?
And Xena and Argo are not on good terms? Why would that be? Xena has abandoned Argo on so many occasions, why would Argo be angry only until now? It just doesn't make sense.
I loved the fight scene in the village where, Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer worked together to drive the warlord and his men away. Despite their sickness, Xena and Gabrielle fought rather well and taught those guys a lesson. Xena, was of course, crushed that Argo, did not respond to her and sped off with the warlord instead. Of course, by then, Xena figured Joxer could aid them in putting the warlord's army out of commission by serving them his infamous stew.
What I don't get it is why would the army trust Joxer so much into eating his stew? Wouldn't they be the least bit suspicious about him?
We saw that Xena was surrounded by the guards when she attempted to break Argo free. But still, the warrior princess could free herself and defeated them. So then, why would she be so afraid of getting discovered? She could handle a whole lot of guards in "One Against An Army". What was so difficult about this one then?
When Xena was running off into the woods, she seemed to know that the warlord was chasing after her. Did she had all this planned out? And the warlord seemed pretty weak. He merely got thrown off his horse and he was a goner. The fight ended a bit too disappointing.
So, I guess that Xena and Gabrielle both found the cure for both their sickness? It was never explained whether they fully recovered or were on the verge of recovering. The plot seemed to end once Xena found Argo and defeated the warlord and his army. Are we missing something here?
Since this is a comedy episode, I couldn't comment much. But I have to give credit to certain amusing scenes. Though I have read other reviews that say that the comedy episodes in Season 4 were rather lame, I found this episode acceptable and got me intrigued to watch every scene.
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
01-31-99. From Linda. I thought I'd let you know that "In Sickness and in Hell" has just aired on cable in the UK. Naturally I read the entry in Whoosh straight afterwards, and found that there had been a big cut in the episode as shown here. The scene where Gabrielle had the mad rabbit at her throat cut straight to the scene of her eating stew. Her fight with the rabbit (which many of your reviewers reckon was the best thing in the episode) was cut. I've written to complain about this sort of thing before but it never seems to do any good. However, I notice that the re-runs on channel 5 seem to be the full version, so I will have to wait until that is shown.
10-11-98. From Missy Good. I think I'll be passing on doing the spoiler for Sickness and in Hell. The previews looked, well, picture Lucy after she's been through a little shock therapy, hair wise, and lots of smelly jokes regarding sheep dung. (Apparently this is the cure for Gabrielle's foot rot, or something.)
10-05-98. SICKNESS apparently is an homage, at least in part, to the film THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. Now that should warm everyone's cockles.
09-16-98. In August 1998, Josh Becker, the director of SICKNESS, on his web page (http://www.beckerfilms.com/) mentioned that in the episode IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL that Xena and Gabrielle in the midst of battling the Scythians, also battle head lice (Xena) and foot fungus (Gabrielle). Meanwhile, Joxer appears totally detached from everything that is happening [like. this is new???]. Also, apparently, Xena and Gabrielle have an altercation over the use of a shrub; Mr. Becker adds some more lines to the Joxer The Might Song; and Gabrielle throws up on Joxer. [Apologies to the Xenamedia.com site for earlier accidently quoting their description of Mr. Becker's words as Mr. Becker's himself. Mille regrets!]
09-16-98. This episode alledgedly has an homage to the show SOUTH PARK by having Gabrielle vomit on Joxer. Apparently there is a character in SOUTH PARK who is in lust with a girl, and vomits every time he sees her.
08-21-98. Yeah, I know. I have been lax, but, hey, it is summer. Josh Becker, the director of FISTFUL OF DINARS (one of my personal favorites, was my 2nd fave after DREAMWORKER until THE QUEST arrived), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (where XWP homaged the classic French bedroom farce), FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (which is distinctive for its LACK of feminine hygiene jokes), BLIND FAITH (which was an interesting homage to DREAMWORKER), and FINS FEMMES AND GEMS (an episode no doubt doomed to be discussed for decades), has himself his very own website at http://www.beckerfilms.com. He has a spot on the site where you can ask him questions about what he has done and what he is doing AND HE ACTUALLY RESPONDS!!! What a concept. Apparently he is this very minute in New Zealand filming IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL. And what news of IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL? Well, it looks like a scatological paradise for those inclined to that type of humor. I only hope that they put in something for those of us not so enthusiastic for the genre. As reported on Mr. Becker's page, Xena and Gabrielle get the runs real bad and fight over a bush (surely there must be more than one shrubbery in all of Greece???), while at the same time they have to keep the Scythians from taking over the world. Gabrielle also finds the time to throw-up on Joxer. There is always the hope that it will "come off" better than it appears on paper. Another interesting item on the site is Mr. Becker's suspicion that there will be no romance between Joxer and Gabrielle because, as he wrote, "Since no one but Ted and I think he and Gaby are a good idea, I can reasonably assure you that they will not 'do it.'" Becker also mentioned that he was a co-writer for SHARK ISLAND PRISON.
10-28-98. Highlights by Beth Gaynor.
For all my complaining, I gotta say: I loved the sound effects for the lice. It starts with a couple of teeny voices and giggles, and the next time you see Xena's head, there's a party going on. Listen for the mass death when Xena slams her mug down in the tavern.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
10-28-98. These things are by Beth Gaynor.
Commercial cut blooper: when Argo arrives in town with the Scythians, we see Xena's reaction before fading to commercial. Before the commercial, Xena is to the right, Gabrielle is to the left. When we get back from the commercial, Xena is center, Gabrielle is now on the right, and Joxer is to the left.
I realize nitpicking this episode is kinda like fiddling while Rome burns, but why on earth didn't Joxer dress up like a cook to give the Scythian army food? Nobody questioned a guy in silly armor showing up with a bucket of soup?
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
12-21-98. From Sally Dye. Xena and Gabrielle are watching the Scythian camp and Gabrielle asks-in a voice slurred because of the skin remedy she accidentally drank-"Din you see Argo?" and Xena begins to answer her with the same slurred speech-"No, I din..." before she corrects herself, after a withering glare from Gabrielle, who obviously thinks she was doing it on purpose. And after watching the blooper tapes where Lucy deliberately tries to crack Renee up at times, I wonder if that was scripted, or another example of Lucy doing just that.
12-21-98. From E. Marks. IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL, did you catch Gabrielle biting the ear of the psycho rabbit. Guess she picked up some 'bunny brawling' techniques from Tara afterall.
12-21-98. From Caron Pearson. There is another South Park reference in the episode IN Sickness And In Hell. It comes during the fireside scene when Xena is flicking lice into the flames. After one of them is BBQ'd the another lice (louse?) utters the phrase "Oh my God, she killed Kenny!" followed by what sounds like "The b*tch!".
12-21-98. From Nicholas Nayko. They played with the spelling of the Scythians with the pronounciation of it during this episode. Although pronounced like 'it' in the real world, the Xenaverse Scythians are prounced like "ice", like the scythe, the farm (or the Grim Reaper's) implement . To add to this motif, the tribe's leader had twin scythes on his hemet.
Click here to read a transcript of IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL.
No Leapin' Lice were beaten, whipped, smashed or scratched during the production of this motion picture.
Official Josh Becker Website
E! Fact Sheet
The Internet Movie Database
An Interview with Robert Field, Part 1 by Bret Rudnick WHOOSH #10 (07/98)
An Interview with Robert Field, Part 2 by Bret Rudnick WHOOSH #11 (08/98)
An Interview with Robert Field (01/97) by Deborah White
The Internet Movie Database
The Ted Raimi International Fan Club
E! Fact Sheet
The Internet Movie Database