Season 4, Episode 14
May 29, 1999
Reviewed by Sheryl-Lee Kerr
RATING: 7 chakrams
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Chris Manheim; directed by Garth Maxwell.
PASSING PARADE: Timothy Omundson (Eli); Monroe Reimers (Vikram); Alex Reekers (Maya).
STORY SO FAR: In India, Gabrielle seems to suddenly acquires the gift to heal people -- and a growing ego trip to match. Xena is less than impressed.
DISCLAIMER: In memory of Women's Best Friend: Bear, Dodger, Kali, Samantha, Taffy, Bear (Note: this refers to the names of the attack dogs - taken from the crews own pets names.)
REWIND FOR:Theres a weapons shop that sells something suspiciously chakram-like. And we thought this was Xenas first trip to India....well, well, well.
Gabrielle nominating Xena for magicians assistant - via the quick shove to the back method; followed by Xenas classic unimpressed (but secretly very impressed) look when the magician says: "Satisfied?".
You say tomayto, I say tomahto, Dayvi, devvy... Listen to the Life of Brian rentacrowd - the front half say Devi one way, the back half another.
Love the would-be hypnosis scene: boy, is that guy a drongo. Anyway, check out how Elis hands actually are blackened where he ran them over the candle.
When the people are being rounded up and just as Titaka utters the line: "Forgive them, I know theyre rough", check out a large guy in a purple shirt to the left throwing visible air punches while theres still sound effects of thumps heard.
The unlikeliest lollipop of them all. If you need to ask, you were not watching the first time. On that note, Xenas cheek is one of the fast-healing varieties... no blotches remain when she says goodbye to Eli.
Get those stopwatches out on Xenas Titaka neckpinch....
QUOTABLE: "An exorcism? Really, Xena, dont you think thats the pot calling the kettle black?" Titakas "takes one to know one" theory on Xena.
"You want me out? Youre going to have to kill this sweet little body to do it. I dont think you can." Titaka on her borrowed assets. Gee and all this time we were led to believe Xena only liked Gabrielle for her mind.
"Give up this face and firm strong body? Fat Chance." Titaka sees the merits of Gabrielles daily yoga.
"Some things dont bear too much thinking; some things youve got to take on faith." Lucy switching lines with Renee.... Hello! Xena, Worrier Sceptic here, remember...
Gabrielle: When youre crippled and old and Im doing headstands, Ill remind you of this.
Xena: Ohhh, I bet you will.
This was an episode full of firsts. Not the big ohmigod, wheres that rewind button kind, but the interesting, quirky kind. Like, its the first time we get to see Xena smiling her toothiest of smiles (the big ole friendly one) for what seems like forever -- at the start of this show. In Greece, with her guard up 99% of the time, she usually offers her "I am Pretending Not to Be Impressed" lips-together smirk -- except in situations involving bathtubs, large round vegetables and bed rolls. But even in those exceptions, shes usually laughing rather than smiling. Nah, this Xenas in full-on tourist mode and its a kooky sight but, hey, even Warrior Princesses have gotta have fun some time. Isnt it great to see her relaxed for once?
This is also the first time we see a new sideways, spinning helicopter fighting move (hope Xena packed her motion-sickness powders).
This is also the first time Xena willingly hugs a guy whom shes known for a very short time (Eli) -- and very tenderly at that. Still, he did save Gabrielle when Xena was about to shishkabab her, so its the least she could do to express her thanks. That was really a very nice scene. Oh and before the nitpickers point out she was sharing spittle with Ulysses in less time, may I point out that while that may be so, she didnt let him hug her... She has her standards, after all. Chuckle. Whatever the reason, I think that holiday air is mellowing our grrrrowly, standoffish Warrior Princess.
Finally, this episode marks the first time Xena and Gabrielle (albeit as Titaka) engage in a gloves off all-in equal brawl -- and what an amazing sight it was to behold. I think Gabrielles limber body proved the merits of yoga to Xena and once and for all. This was easily one doosy of an episode highlight. Although using Xenas cheek as a lollipop is not generally the first thought most villains have when fighting a slayer of nations... but I suspect Gabrielle/Titaka would be the only one to get away with it -- though I could imagine Callisto, Gods rest her soul, would have been annoyed she didnt think of it first. Oh, and subtexters ... remember to breathe.
Well, on with the show. They do a pretty good job at re-creating India here, albeit a pretty stereotyped one - Look, Ma: snakes; and elephants, and nail beds; and yoga dudes; and fiery-sword swallowers and fire walkers... Perhaps that was just in case we forgot after the first five reminders from Gabrielle as to where we were. The sight of those two rubbernecking at all the stalls had me laughing aloud. They just needed the neon flashing sign with arrows pointing above their head: Tourists. Pity the poor sod who tries to rip Xena off, though.
Now did Gabrielle just promise to hang around with Xena until theyre old and grey? Nice to see theyre still optimistically planning ahead despite The Vision.
There has been some concerns on the net that Xena is getting more and more violent this season, apparently being at its peak in the now-banned episode The Way - which, trust me is plenty gory in parts (although thats not why it was banned). Personally, I must say the sight of a torso without limbs was easily the Xena eeeww moment for the year for me - and, even though we find out its only a fake, in Xena, it was easy to wonder if it was meant to be real. Thats because when trying to portray real effects on the show, they tend to look pretty much fake-ish like that. I thought the torso in particular, with the imitation flesh hanging out from where the legs had presumably been severed was a little unnecessary. Mr Sears obvious gore-lovin horror movie talents creep into Xena at regular intervals. Maybe its just me.
By the way, why is Gabrielle the only one smothering a laugh while everyone else in the crowd looks ready to toss their sandwiches after the falling limbs trick? Youd think shed seen real severed limbs, maimed torsoes and bouncing heads on a regular basis or somethi... oh, right. Er, never mind.
Now Titaka is either a slow-acting deity with a settling-in period, or a little scatter-brained. Heres what Gabrielle does after the incident with Elis assistant (hey, whatever happened to her?) presumably when Gabrielle is possessed:
*Gabrielle is proclaimed the Devi by the masses, which she protests and seems shocked by.
*Gabrielle then tells Xena she did heal a man.
*She claims healing is all shes ever wanted to do.
*She looks startled but not unappreciative when masses of Devi-lovers gather below her balcony.
*When Eli asks to be freed and does his floating act, Gabrielle then tells Xena: "I didnt heal anyone".
*She later appears in pearls, soaking up the atmosphere of the adoring crowds.
To Xena, Gabrielle appears alternately shocked by being called Devi and trying to explain shes not, to being mightily pleased. If she were Titaka the instant she was possessed shed have not been so dazed; nor would she be discouraging anyone from worshipping her.
Secondly, and most oddly, first she tries to convince Xena she has a power and healed a man (the blinded guy); and then she tries to convince Xena she didnt heal anyone (Eli). If she was Titaka all the time, she should pick one idea and stick to it. Her best bet would have been the latter, as it would arouse less suspicion in Xena to say she was unblessed by magical powers.
The only logical conclusion for all this is that Titaka was in Gabrielle for a while before getting control of her, leaving Gabrielle confused at what was going on at first and what she was capable of. Later, a Titaka/Gabrielle hybrid began to emerge and was enjoying the attention, sicking the dogs on Eli etc; and finally when Xena speaks Titakas name aloud, only pure, bad-gal, red toe-nailed Titaka emerges.
The thing Id like to know is when Gabrielle went from dazed whatsup Gabrielle, to being the hybrid?
I found really intriguing watching two scenes between Xena and Gabrielle as Xena is trying to figure the bard out. The interplay was great. The first, Xena had a truly sickened look on her face as Gabrielle says this line: "I healed. Thats all I ever wanted to do; all I dreamed of."
Why did she look so sick, with the bards uttering of what seems such an altruistic cause? It was the emphasis. Any person truly motivated only by healing would punch and emphasise the word "healed". Gabrielle for some strange reason only punched the "I" words. It was an ego statement. It was given a delivery which did not match what she was saying. Xena immediately knew something was up. Suddenly Gabrielle sounds like a power freak. That would send anyones antenna up.
The second scene was the one where Gabrielle/Titaka tosses the water on her. (By the way, since when does super-reflex Xena get so clumsy as to drop vials?)
Anyway, here, Xena is testing, carefully, to find out if this is her Gabrielle or someone/thing else. The interplay of emotion ranging from anger (Gabrielle) to uncertainty and fear (Xena) was just brilliantly done. You could train a camera on them, and tell them to just talk and theyd still light up the room. Its what has been missing from so many season four episodes: Gabrielle and Xena communicating one on one.
The highlight of that scene was so bitter sweet. Xena doesnt know any more if the woman in front of her is Gabrielle or some strange spirit but all she knows is now shes crying. And so she holds her, demons and all. I thought that said it all. Xena loves Gabrielle a mighty lot.
Which is why it was such a stunning moment to watch her poised to kill her. But Ill come back to that in a moment.
Gotta love that fight scene. As a kick boxing enthusiast myself, I noted Renee OConnor had some pretty slick moves happening there; although her guard was a little on the wayward style for my liking (ah, nice to keep it somewhere near your jaw). The whole fight scene reminded me of one of those cheesy but super fast, super exciting Japanese action flicks where they often have two women or a man and a woman going for broke with high kicks and killer supersonic triple somersaults. Which, if I recall, was Rob Taperts original inspiration for Xena - he wanted a kick-butt warrior woman in the vein of the females in Asian action flicks. So they have their wish at last. Of course I was so in that mode, I kept waiting for Gabrielle to move her lips and a bad dub to come overhead a minute later: "Yo watch eet Misses Foo, I kell yo."
Gabrielle is rather amusing as Titaka. When she first thrusts her arms heavenward and declares triumphantly: "An exorcism!", she looks and sounds for all the world like Aphrodite. I am sure Renee would be happy with the comparison.
From then on, she is more into a slinky hissing snakewoman, charming and wiggling her way around Xena and not at all embarrassed about taunting Xena with Gabrielles assets (the bardic breast fondle left me somewhat stunned in shock). A lick for good measure showed it was no accident. Now what could Titaka be suggesting here, about what Xena will miss if she kills "Gabrielle"? Hmmm. Let me think.... Not her cooking?
Which brings us to the soon-to-be-departed Gabrielle. Xena was really going to do it. Really. If Eli hadnt shouted, shed have skewered our Gabs. This came as more than a little disturbing. Titaka suddenly realised Xena wasnt bluffing either, so she gives her a glimpse of the real Gabrielle right at the end to give her pause and doubts. We know it was Titaka still pulling the strings because the venomous look she shoots when Eli shouts was pure evil. Still, a top bit of acting from Renee. I really thought she was great there, showing the two separate entities in her.
I liked the writing at the end - trying to have Titaka make Eli doubt himself: "The power you seek, its a lie". A futile move, but still a slick line youd expect the entity to make. Loved the freaked out Xena in an almost Is There A Doctor In The House state about Gabrielle under Elis ministrations. Frankly, she should have been keeping a closer eye on her own handiwork. My clock had Gabrielle under the pinch for a minute, 20 seconds.
Some quibbles plotwise - I dont know why Eli waited for so long before deciding to step in. Or was he just enjoying the show too much to intervene?
Why did Eli presume Gabrielle/Titakas body guards disappeared when they saw him? What an egotist. It could have been Xena, anyone else in the crowd or the fact Gabrielle sent them off for a curry that had them leave.
Then theres the inexplicable line of the episode (please, scriptwriters, explain it to me real slow). After the dog chase, Eli runs back to the crowd. The dogs are now gone and so he is fine. His first thought is to then run up to Gabrielle and cry: "Please, free me!" He then becomes an upwardly floating gent.
Why did he say that to her? If he believes she is the Devi, then he would need to have something wrong with him to be healed of it. If he believes she is Titaka, hed know shes a serious bad mamma and not one to be granting favours. And she had already called off the dogs, so that wasnt it. And, lastly, if he believed she was just a bard then all she could free was his schedule at best.
If he just did it for show - to what end?
Anyway, that made as much sense as Gabrielle/Titakas line to Xena about why she has consented to wear the pearls from the people: "The more that I dress like them, the more they turn to me for my help."
How many Indian villagers did you spot wearing pearls?
Speaking of dress, I loved the improvement to the bards outfit as the episode progressed. Way to power dress, grrl.
Heres a weirdish line from Gabrielle to Xena: "I know that youve had a spirit inside you; what was that like?" Um, someone jog my memory here... since when was Xena possessed? Or is she referring to Xenas spirit-like fighting scenes in Adventures In The Sin Trade 2 - in which case Gabrielle certainly never witnessed any of it. And Xena was not possessed.
Another quibble, I was under the impression the Hindu-origin word Devi (pronounced Day-vee; not as Xena, Eli and Gabrielle said it - Devvy) was female. As in mother or goddess. The context is sometimes seen as mother of life. I wonder if Eli knows what hes in for...
In all, this was an interesting episode. While it gave Renee quite the acting showcase, it also set her up against Xena in some crackling scenes. Too rare lately that, and I loved every minute they were arched eyebrow to arched eyebrow. I also liked the sleight of hand in making Eli look like a shyster initially and turning it round so hes the nice guy. It kept us guessing for longer than most eps as to who was up to no good. A solid episode that kept you watching, and, for once, ended more strongly than it began. Just gotta love that big finish.
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