Season 1:14 Episode Guide & Review





Reviewed by SLK  

Rating: 3.5 chakrams 


What happens when you take a Hercules reject script, add a sprinkle of Indiana Jones, characters with the mental acumen of those in Dumb and Dumber and more polystyrene rocks than you can bounce a stunt double off? A Fistful of Dinars – which is bizarrely named for there are neither dinars to be had (try a cave full of jewels), let alone a mere fistful of them. 

It’s scary to come across an episode that is actually worse than a clip show like the preceding episode, Academy of Performing Bards, but midway through A Fistful of Dinars I would have gladly traded Gabrielle’s gooey-eyed swooning for bardic boy-band clones over the almost incessant “ARGGGGHHHss” of the BUGs (Bad Ugly Guys) on the loose. In fact this is probably the ultimate show reel for BUGs, as so much dedication was given to making the usual ornery thugs we care so little for, the stars of the show. 

Still, into every great show the gods must sprinkle a few duds – so should we mind that this is just another? Well yeah! See this is the episode that sums up the expressions you see on the faces of non-Xena fans when you finally suck it up and tell them you like Xena. They picture in their minds this exact same clichéd plot (whoever heard of a rope bridge breaking with someone on it – gasp!), by-the-numbers acting (just feel the sizzling chemistry between Xena and her ex) and bouncy rock effects – all while wondering if they can back away towards the door from you without you noticing. Yes, I know, the scarring runs deep.  

Therefore, all things considered, it may be faster to outline what’s to like, rather than what’s not to like in this episode.  

Personally I liked the ominous and obvious plot point threat of a volcano erupting – if only for the heady promise held out of it swallowing these unwashed creeps and the episode whole. Alas, no such luck – thank you fickle Mother Nature/Cheap Effects Department.  (Which reminds me – that lava-on-a-budget special effect was too funny – love the flaming ambrosia at the end (no, I swear that is not a euphemism). 

Adore the new outfit, Gabrielle, sweetie – shows off those shapely new upper arms and doesn’t gather the mud on the hem. Hate the too-long-under-the-curling-iron fake fringe but it was probably all the rage in Thebes or something. 

I also welcome the first truly full-blooded Xena scream – the Miss Piggy-esque Aiiiyaaaaaaaa. No wonder Petracles did a runner, you’d be deaf hanging around that woman for two weeks. (I do hope Gabs’s health insurance is up to date.) 

Best scene, by far, was a harried and confused Gabrielle running back to camp after Xena’s ex has had a grope and a kiss. She screeches to a halt next to Xena who is all macho, strong-silent-type sharpening her sword by the fire. Gabrielle avoids her eye and looks lost and a little uncertain as to what to do next, and having a full appreciation of her warrior chum’s temper, decides not to share what just happened. So, still without having locked eyes with Xena once, she simply drops to the ground where she sits and stares at the fire.  
Petracles, the little devil with lousy timing that he is, bursts through the thickets not moments later looking like a guilty cat reeking of cream, sees Xena, then bolts. Xena tracks her eyes from Gabrielle up to him and processes this suspiciously hasty arrival and exit, her eyes narrowing.  

This entire scene is over in a few minutes. Not one word is spoken yet it felt like an entire conversation has taken place. I give massive points to both Renee and Lucy for selling it so completely. It was brilliant. 

This was also the scene which led to the next one, which, drum roll please, marks the first ever bonafide, can’t be anything else, subtext moment. Yes there it was … Xena right up in Petracles’s face, close enough to inhale last night’s garlic-bread breath, threatening him with sword-related dire consequences if he touches Gabrielle. 

To whit he says simply: “I’d say you’re jealous. Are you?” 

Heh - I now have a new appreciation for blunt warlords. And no, I don’t think he meant jealous of him. I may even forgive Petracles his really bad long hair that he cleverly dangles next to naked torch flame and his fairly massive charisma bypass. Hmm. Well I did say maybe. 

At this point, taking the Subtext 101 point of view, the direction seems to be that Xena is massively possessive towards the young bard and Gabrielle in turn is completely clueless and still doing the hormonally charged boy-crazy toboggan run. We are also deliberately left somewhat in the dark as to Xena’s feelings here, given she never did answer Petracles’s question. 

There is one other scene that gives pause for thought. Early on, the warrior princess tells Gabs off for conversing with the enemy. Gabrielle then playfully tells Xena off for not trusting her. And then she adds: “I am an adult, remember.” And with a pause that goes on for at least two beats, a perplexed Xena finally replies “right”. 

For the life of me I can’t decide the point of Xena’s strangled response – was she trying to deny Gabrielle was all grown up now, or say that she knew it and was trying not to think about it? I’d love to know what Lucy was playing there. 

Speaking of a more adult bard, for the love of Zeus, would someone give that girl a weapon?! Twice in this episode she uses her furry little handbag, sorry travel bag, as a chained shot-put, trying to whack or getting ready to whack bad guys. At one point as it whirled around it looked like she’d gotten a rabbit by the tail – and the thought of her battering someone with a funny bunny is behaviour unbecoming anyone travelling with a warrior princess in my book. 

Okay quibble time – first up, grabbing the ruby jewel from the temple. Their cunning plan – incidentally sorted out together with everyone whispering in a scrum, sort of half standing and half crouching (um, why??) – was to stage a diversion. Now picture it – you’re a religious guy standing inside your temple. Mad people attack by hurling javelins in your direction, all hooting and hollering. Do you

a) squeal “mercy” and dive further inside, or
b) run outside in the line of fire, taking all your fellow temple staff with you?

Yes folks – it’s a miracle this man didn’t lose his pretty little red rock years ago – he’s too stupid to function in polite society.  

The rope bridge scene – after an impressive stunt-double-fuelled swing of the rope bridge to make a Wile E. Coyote splat on the rock face on the other side of the chasm, we find Gabrielle clinging for her life. Watch what Xena’s doing. Oh look, she’s just standing there. Gabrielle cries out for help. Xena stands there. The assassin crawls up Gabrielle’s body. Xena stands there. The assassin virtually sticks his boot on Gabrielle’s head to get up and over her, as the bard’s weakening arms tremble, and then, finally, finally, the woman of action does her double somersault with a half pike landing to begin a rescue. Lord only knows what mental macramé she was doing in the meantime. 

In the same vein, in the Indiana Jones temple under Mt Rushmore, Gabrielle has just been snatched by the evil assassin. What does Xena do? Debate for a good half minute with Petracles as to whether he really had wanted to help Gabrielle earlier.  

And one last quibble, Petracles dies and based on the fact he hadn’t tossed Xena’s wedding bracelet and had saved Gabs, the warrior princess portrays a blind spot a mile wide and declares he had been a good man all along. Er…right. It seems even in death this warlord’s snowing her. Recall he even admitted to Gabrielle he only wanted to marry Xena to possess her and then discarded her when he’d won. Yeah, he’s real top drawer material there, love. 

Right – so what was the final analysis? To be frank – Fistful of Dinars was boring and stupid.

Boring because it took so long to go anywhere and I kept wanting to cry out “Are we there yet?”. And stupid because I can believe Xena planning to marry Petracles about as much as her taking up Knitting for Business and Pleasure classes. 

The bottom line is the care factor wasn’t there at all and if not for one subtext scene and Gabrielle’s impressive new biceps, it wouldn’t even be worth remembering. On the plus side, at last the bard is declaring herself an adult (albeit while still possessing her funny bunny whacking bag) and dressed for the warrior-bashing scene at last. As they say, from little things, big things grow. 

I just wish they’d crack out the fertilizer…


SCROLLS & SCRIBES: Written by Steven L. Sears and R.J. Stewart; Edited by Robert Field; Directed by Josh Becker

PASSING PARADE: Jeremy Roberts (Thersites), Peter Daube (Petracles), Huntly Eliott (Calicus), Richard Foulkes Jr., (Lycus),  John Smith (Marleus), Lawrence Wharerau (Klonig), Merv Smith (Head Villager). 

DISCLAIMER: No Ambrosia was Spilled, Spoiled or in any way harmed during the production of this motion picture. (Thanks to the indefinite shelf life of marshmallows.) 

STORY SO FAR: Xena joins forces with an assassin and her former warlord fiancé to find a treasure and prevent one of them getting their hands on ambrosia which would turn them into gods. 



Gabrielle’s double-take when Xena tells her she was almost married to Petracles. Just when you think you know someone…you have to add another name to your little black book of your best friend’s exes. 

The scene where a gang of disgruntled villagers confronts Xena’s team in the woods. While the Warrior Princess and Petracles stand their ground with their very sharp swords, Gabrielle clumsily takes guard with her very soft, very cute fur-lined…bag. Give that girl a weapon that looks like it might actually leave a mark. ;) 

On the rope bridge, watch all those planks fall to the raging river below when Petracles puts his foot through the wood. Observe when he finally extricates his foot and moves to the next plank - all he’s actually done is split the wood, and no planks have been dislodged to fall anywhere. 

The minor and bouncy rock fall in the cave just before Xena and her gang fall down the obligatory hole in the floor. Let’s go with the theory – they’re volcanic rocks, therefore very porous and therefore, very, er - light. 


“I’ll get the horse.” Gabrielle, clearly not yet warmed up to the third person in her ‘marriage’. Argo does have a name, girlfriend. 

“That volcano’s about to erupt!” Not a sentence you hear everyday, so why weren’t they being trampled in the stampede of villagers from said impending danger? Damn…you mean it was just a plot point?  

“If you use a cold compress, it won’t swell.” Gabrielle, adding insult to injury by blithely offering advice to one of Xena’s latest victims as she steps over them. Farewell, the sweet innocent little girl from Poteidea. 

“You hurt my friend, I’ll rip your throat out.” Xena letting Petracles know his advances towards her sidekick were unwelcome. Her threat, delivered with a neck pinch, led the man to wonder if the Warrior Princess’s motives were driven by jealousy – over him. Alas, he was only half-right. ;) 


Petracles: “Do you remember our wedding bracelet?”
Xena: “Yes, I threw it in the fire, like I do all my garbage.”