FORGET ME NOT
Season 3, Episode 16
26 September, 1998
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 8.5 chakrams
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Hilary J. Bader, Edited by Jim Prior, Directed by Charlie Haskell.
PASSING PARADE: Ted Raimi (Joxer), Ares (Kevin Smith), Jan Hellriegel (Priestess of Mnemosyne), Mark Webley (Guard), Lana Garland (Lost Memory Woman).
STORY SO FAR: Gabrielle sees the Priestess of Mnemosyne to deal with some disturbing memories and nightmares. If she cant face her pain she will lose her memories forever.
DISCLAIMER: Xena and Joxer were not forgotten during production of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: Gabrielle pondering the structural makeup of her green top; the chilling look on the bards face as she agrees with Aress more palatable excuse for her going to Chin (To prevent a murder etc); the whammy final revelation scene - holy smoke, they wouldnt do this on Herc; and Xenas voice cracking, in her cameo appearance, in concern and relief for Gabrielle at the end.
QUOTABLE: "I have your memories...ow" the Priestess of Mnemosyne (with the ever changing Kiwi/US accent) to Joxer. I smell a workers comp claim.
"Well I can make her forget; Im a very forgettable person," Joxer now playing his own straight man.
"The gates are open, no ones storming the castle." The irony that it is Jerkst...er, Joxer making this line about Gabrielles brain seems lost on him.
"Very strange - in every story you tell me, this things gets smaller. Is it enchanted?" Gabrielle to Joxer, as the Bilious Green Sports Bra net jokes make it to the screen.
"Funny isnt it? You give up your family, your home, your blood innocence, your daughter - all because of Xena and its like nothing compared to the debt she owes this woman." Ares to Gabrielle. Ouch.
"I wanted to get there before Xena so I could betray her. I wanted to betray her. I hated her for loving someone else. I wanted her to hurt; I wanted her to be punished and I almost got her killed. My hatred and jealousy almost killed my best friend." Gabrielle gets in touch with her dark side.
"Is this that Centurion/Gladiator game we used to play?" Gabrielle to Joxer... just what sort of material has he been re-educating her with?!
"Callistos not my love kitten," Joxer to Gabrielle during confession time. Hed be very badly dead if psycho leatherbabe got wind of that line, Im sure.
"Hey arent you forgetting about me?" Joxer to Gabrielle.
"Not even Mnemosyne could help her with that." Xena, smirking, to Joxer.
Wow. Let me just say it again. Wow! I utterly adore this episode on so many different levels that I dont think Ill ever tire of seeing it. Only Xena could turn a clips show (ie showing flashback footage from other episodes, usually to save money) into something so above-average it takes your breath away. And this is the second time they have succeeded at clip show excellence - The Xena Scrolls was another.
Great acting from Renee OConnor in this episode is backed up by a well written, gutsy story from Hilary J. Bader (Been There Done That; The Quill Is Mightier) who shows her repertoire extends beyond her fine talent for comedy.
What really made this episode work where others have failed is that the dramatic tension builds and builds throughout it as we follow Gabrielles quest, unsure, just as she is, as to what lies at the end. It is exciting and, best of all, unpredictable. We are on the edge of our seats, fingernails nibbled down to the quick, agog at what will happen next. And when the bard reaches understanding as to the root of her pain, fans are not let down. Just the opposite - the revelation is downright explosive. It was so bold, I can not think of any comparable show anywhere which would dare make its stereotypical happy sidekick flawed.
I really loved discovering that Gabrielle of Poteideia, for all her goodness and purity of heart, which they keep beating us over the head with at regular intervals, is also real, flawed, and yes, human. She makes mistakes. Big ones. Mistakes for really human, basic reasons. I loved that. For some reason, my opinion of Gabrielle increased tenfold after this episode. Perhaps it just was nice knowing she isnt impossibly good but has frailties like the rest of us, which she fights like the rest of us.
My faith in the Xena writers also goes a long way to being restored after seeing this episode because they have gone to the trouble to brilliantly tie off some niggling loose ends. I would go so far as to call this the seventh and final rift episode; a conclusion. Bitter Suite did not resolve all the rift issues though they made us think they had. But those paying attention in The Debt/s would have suspected immediately at the start of this one that something from those episodes had to be the cause of Gabrielles nightmares. She got off way too easily with Xena in the watery cells of Ming Tien. And she knew it deep down. (Literally.)
I would very much love to know if they were planning this episode all along when they did The Debt (it certainly looked like the Ares dock footage was filmed then) or whether this was a very brilliant masterstroke later as a way to fill a gaping character plot hole. (If someone out there knows for sure, please tell me.)
Xena fans who havent seen The Debt should see it before this or Forget Me Not will make little sense. The short synopsis of that two-parter was that Gabrielle disapproved of Xenas plan to go to the Land of Chin to kill a young ruler, in order to repay a debt to the late Lao Ma. Lao Ma was a woman who once tried to save Xena from her barbarian ways and whom the Warrior Princess loved. An unimpressed Gabrielle went ahead of Xena to Chin and warned the intended victim, Ming Tien, of Xenas plans. Her actions almost got Xena executed. To the bafflement of fans everywhere, how and why Gabrielle did this was never fully explained - just that she thought that this was a murder and wrong.
In my Debt reviews at the time I wrote: "This Gabrielle is all over the place, nothing adds up and I hate this out-of-character feeling I get just looking at her in her blue silk, squaring off on opposite sides of the fence to her dearest friend, beside a cackling ruler she does not know. And how exactly did she get to the land of Chin before Xena?
"For one so wise a lot of the time, whoever the doppelganger masquerading as Gabrielle in this episode was, she was not the Gabrielle I know. The excuses Gabrielle has seem to me to fall apart quite quickly."
So finally, we get an episode filled with answers to all our questions. Yes, we at last find out why Gabrielle betrayed her dearest friend so easily in Chin. But its the getting to this point in the episode that is so brilliant. Watch them crank up the tension, the mystery, the wrong turns, watch them peel away the layers until we get right inside Gabrielles heart and mind and soul. And then see the bard just come apart at the seams. That was an incredible pinnacle, such an emotional climax, you ride it all the way along there with her. (I dunno why she had to be naked at one point, but I trust Xenites wont wear a hole in their tapes nutting it out. Smile.)
Some minor quibbles. I didnt buy for a second that Gabrielle would have thought she had hit on the truth of her nightmares with something as lame as: "I thought Id never come to terms with my mistakes, but I did: When I visited Xena in Ming Tiens prison. I have come to terms with it. I just didnt realise it."
Now this is patently silly because if she had come to terms with it, the bard wouldnt have been having nightmares to start with.
But did you like the hint her buried subconscious, represented as Ares, gives her as to the real reason shes in pain, just as she turns to go back into the River of Woe? "Dont worry, Ill be here to save you - that is if it doesnt bother you owing a favour to the God of War."
Oh that was sneaky - but Gabrielle didnt hear that line for what it was. A dead ringer for one shed heard once before...
If she was really thinking about it she should have also stopped to wonder why Ares, a God she has little affinity or personal involvement with, was the one who had been made the manifestation of her subconscious guilt. Its not just because hes one dark dude; oh no, his appearance is another clue.
Later, when Gabrielle realises that it all stems back to the real Ares, the moment when he tempts her at the dock with passage ahead of Xena to Chin, her howl is brutal, guttural, chilling and painful: "Yoooouuu?!!; ooooh, NO!"
She seemed surprised - almost as if she had suppressed this memory of her deal with him. If this is so, it would be a bit odd. How on earth did she think she got to Chin if she doesnt remember consorting with the devil, so to speak? Maybe it was shock she had been manipulated and the realisation of it.
Either way, I loved how the next revelation comes. Its all in the context. At the time of The Debt, we had one context for this line of Gabrielles to Xena: "You owe someone so much you would just throw away these last few years?"
These last few years, at the time, we took to mean Xenas path of atonement; away from murder, towards being good.
Amazing what happens when you put a more personal twist on it. After the context of Ares pushing all Gabrielles buttons, including her understandable feelings of rejection; his reminding her of what shes given up to be with Xena, and Xenas leaving, we then hear it differently: "You owe someone so much you would just throw away these last few years?"
These last few years is suddenly about Xenas time with Gabrielle. Their friendship. The two of them paired up, together against the world. Now it means nothing in Gabrielles eyes. You can hear a different hurt there you never heard the first time.
This context change was just brilliant in my mind; very cleverly done indeed. Full points to the writer.
But one of my favourite scenes comes as Gabrielle asks Ares to send her to Chin.
"To prevent a murder, for the sake of friendship," the God suggests - giving her that reason to cling to; that excuse that she can somehow use to justify (albeit poorly) her actions later.
Absurdly transparent as it is, it is all the bard needs to grasp onto. Watch her face as she replies: "Yeah" (pause) "for friendship".
The way she said "friendship" was as cold as Ive ever heard the word said. It was more like a declaration of war than anything to do with friendship. Or perhaps, she just knows its so hollow even to her own ears, that theres no point her even trying to make it sound like she believes it.
This scene serves another purpose too. It puts the seed into our mind as to what was going on with Gabrielle at Chin, which sets up and explains the climax. The climax would have not been nearly as convincing without it. Yes, now we know Gabrielle was manipulated (even if she didnt at the time); we sense shes hurt and angry and we know that it all has something to do with Xena leaving. The final outburst puts the final piece of the puzzle into place: shes jealous, plain and simple. In her words: "I hated her for loving someone else."
Whoa. Subtexters may never be the same again after this. (Imagine Iolus trying this scene about Hercules?!)
In a semi-related vein, Gabrielle later decides whether she wants to live with these memories. She goes through her options: shed have to give up her memories of "my youth, my parents, my loves".
In a perfect counter, Ares retorts: "The brutality, the killing, the death of your child."
Gabrielles decision comes down to one more thing on her list: "Xena," she whispers. There is a small silence as she absorbs this thought. She gives it far more thought than her other points. Its as if this is what will make up her mind: knowing or not knowing Xena. Xena outweighs it all. And Xenas what she chooses.
This to me is reminiscent of Xenas choice in Remember Nothing - she can get rid of all her awful warlord memories but to do so she must lose the Gabrielle she knows. She chooses Gabrielle even though it costs her her dear brothers life.
Their memories together must mean an awful lot to both of them. (No wonder Gabrielle felt hurt that day at the wharf.)
Speaking of Xena, her final scene was a great effort. Although, it was hard for me to imagine Xena lurking about in the bushes, presumably pursed lipped - all the while watching Joxer telling lies to roll around with Gabrielle (before he did the honourable thing) - as she waited to find out what happens with the bards memory.
Lucys part, though very small, had a lot packed into it. I loved the way she said the line: "I wondered how you made it to Chin ahead of me. I figured Ares may have had a hand in it but what I couldnt understand was WHY?"
Talk about feel her pain.
And she wont let Gabrielle apologise for her actions in Chin. That was very, very nice of her. And it also puts the rift to bed at last.
But... do you think Xena knows? Everything?
She says Gabrielle talks in her sleep. Exactly how much did the bard say? Did the bards jealousy reveal itself? I wonder... I dont think Xenall ask.
Youd think if she doesnt know, shed be itching to find out, why, though.
Finally, Joxer The Mighty. He did some pretty silly things here at the start. Climbing a tree to scream out to Gabrielle as though she was being held hostage in the temple was pretty bizarre. She had made it quite clear to him she was going in there willingly and thus he should have accepted that was what she needed and not mounted a hamfisted rescue mission. Having said that, I quite like the friend who would answer your statement of "I cant do this" with: "OK, then we wont. Never again. Er what?" Grin.
I noticed Joxer has been attending night school to improve his reading ability since The Quill Is Mightier. And good for him. He must have seen the literacy campaign posters Lucy and Renee have been putting out.
The diversion of Joxer was obviously to break up some of the tension and lighten the show. Its the sign of good writing to be able to put the comic diversion in while still managing to go instantly right back into the tension where you left off, without going off the boil. Onya Hilary.
On that subject, Hilary J. Bader is one Xena writer who takes note of fan jokes that go around (eg. Gabrielles abs of steel in The Quill Is Mightier) and it was nice to see her being consistent, this time with the shrinking BGSB jokes. I await with fascination what shell come up with next.
In sum, it was a fine job all round and it still boggles my mind that this was actually a clips show. Does this mean we can expect brilliance now from them in their normal shows? I remain ever hopeful.
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