Season 5, Episode 8
September 20, 2000
Reviewed by Sheryl-Lee Kerr
RATING: 6.5 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Gregg Ostrin. Directed by Allison Liddi.
PASSING PARADE: Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite); Rose McIver (Daphne); Colin May (Galantis); Peter Feeney (Tharon); Justin Curry (Doorman);
David Telford (Announcer), Allen O'Halloran (Guard); Stephen Finch (Sandor);
Wade Taylor (Castor); Scott Taylor (Pollux).
STORY SO FAR: Aphrodite puts Xenas mind into the body of a troubled little girl and then, with Gabrielles help, tries to find a way to right things for the Warrior Princess.
DISCLAIMER: No pie tins were harmed during the making of Tharon's mask.
REWIND FOR: The fight scene in Aphrodite's temple. Did I see Gabrielle twirling a sword?! She wielded it so well, makes you wonder why she bothers with those junior-sized daggers.
Aphrodite disappearing in a huff, leaving Gabrielle to fend for herself against Tharon's goons in the cave. Hit the slow-mo button -- as she dissolves, check out the 'interesting' hand/arm movements the Goddess of Love aims at the bard. Even the uncouth goons gasped in horror at her indelicate behaviour.
Check out the most classic scene of the season to date -- and its an ironic comment on season five writing that it was completely unscripted. Watch what happens when Renee and Alex Tydings as Brune and Hilda clash horns outside the Gemini club. Their helmets collide causing Alex's to slip down over her eyes. She almost lost the scene, fighting back a schoolgirl giggle. Renee may have ultimately held the scene -- and Alex -- together, but she was having troubles of her own with errant headgear. Watch how she avoids eye contact with Alex. When an actor does that, you know they are in serious trouble of losing it. The scene was capped off nicely with Alex's helmet finally sliding halfway down her face as the duo walk off camera.
Our WWF girls have two very different approaches to Castor and Pollux. When Brune and Hilda go face first into the mats -- have another look at the way Gabrielle is going "eeew" while Aphrodite is going "ooooh". And even their feet give them away -- Gabs is squirming and kicking at their legs; the goddess of love is hanging on like an anaconda on heat.... No doubt these two arent twins! (Try not to think too hard about the fact Aphrodite, whose daddy is also Zeus, is lovingly wrestling with her own brothers ... its an ancient Greek god thing.)
The comical sight of Gabrielle and Xena (as Daphne), luring in Tharon's guard with some Junior Amazon cookies. The ensuing neck pinch move and the usual 'you will die in 30 seconds' seemed all the more threatening as it was delivered via the lips of sweet young (?!) Daphne. Almost felt kinda sorry for the big lug, but serves him right for trusting a cute little cookie seller... *g*
The final beach scene with Xena and Gabrielle. Watch what happens when Xena grabs Gabrielle's neck after she asked her "What was it like being young?" Judging by Renee's bulging eyes, giggle and the look she swung Lucy, I'd say she wasn't quite expecting such a vice-like grip from her co-star. Lucy was a picture of innocence -- of course...
"I got the looks, and my sister got, um.......muscles!" You could almost smell the rubber burning as Aphrodite aka Hilda strained to think of something nice to say about Gabrielle.
"My brother and I pride ourselves on being cunning linguists." Zeus's twin sons Castor and Pollux show off their oral skills. I hear they're good with tongue twisters too.
"You have the reflexes of a pregnant tortoise." Tharon berates his incompetent goon Sandor, and, somewhat bizarrely, insults all expectant tortoises.
Gabrielle: "I don't believe it, Aphrodite suckering the ill."
Aphrodite: "I am not! These people give me things because they're grateful."
Aphrodite: "I just need to think..."
Gabrielle: "That's what I'm afraid of."
How can one episode be sooo bad and yet so good?
It was like Touched by an Angel meets Best of the Worst of TVs Swedish Accents.
Now thats a combination you dont get every day.
So schmalzy and melodramatic was the Daphne storyline that at any moment I kept expecting Xena to solemnly say (as a shaft of light from the heavens shone down upon her softly-focused face): "You see, Daphne, I am an angel..."
And so funny were our horned twins interactions that they actually stole the show -- dazzling brighter than Aphrodites latest manicure. If thats possible.
Its not often a shows B-plot will overtake the A-plot, but here it is.
The reasons for this are many, but chief among them are that Gabrielle and Aphrodite together have a wonderful chemistry, spark off each other and the actors obviously enjoy each others company and making the other laugh. Those in any doubt should get a gander of all that face pulling, helmet antics as theyre trying wheedle their way into the Gemini Club, mentioned above in the "Rewind For" section.
In contrast, the A-plot offered only a sad sob story with two pretty uninspiring characters whom Xena tries to pull together via countless Hallmark card speeches that really would make the Touched by an Angel writing team jealous as all get out.
For example (and you may wish to avert your eyes if you have a weak stomach):
Daphne: We never talk; we never have.
Xena: Maybe nows the time to start -- for both of you.
Daphne: Will I ever see you again?
Xena: Course you will -- just look in the mirror.
But the absolute monument to self righteousness comes, ironically, from someone whos parental record thus far is patchy at best...
Aphrodite: Her father comes by every day on his way to work at the docks.
Xena, frowning sternly: He should be here.
Oh right -- because hes being so irresponsible visiting his daughter every day while still trying to keep his job to keep bread on the table to feed her.
Spare us. Im not saying it wouldnt have been ever-so-sweetly Hollywood of Daddy to sit by Daphne 24 hours a day, mopping his daughters unconscious brow and patting her limp little hand... but I do find it odd that the Warrior Princess would judge another so prematurely on such flimsy grounds. What gives?
Meanwhile, I thought the days had long past where Xena was carrying such a thorny cross around that she would reflexively say such chest-beating, angst-stricken outpourings like: "Kid, if I could trade places with you -- give you a second chance, Id do it in a heartbeat."
Maybe Xena only said it because she never actually in her wildest dreams pictured it happening. But she seemed pretty genuine. And, as we saw in Fallen Angel, Xena does have that endearingly good characteristic of falling onto her sword for any tortured soul that strikes a chord with her compassionate self. Thats partly why shes the hero -- always putting others before herself. But I do wish Xena would one day get it through that woolly little head of hers that she does more good as a kickbutt Warrior Princess, taking down the minions of evil to make the world safer for the Daphnes in it, than she will ever do on any martyr detour she could possibly embark on.
And sometimes it does seem (as it does here, and also in Locked Up Tied Down) thats it more her guilt side than the hero side that makes her say/do this stuff all the time. See, you dont get more good of heart than Gabrielle, but shes not exactly always striking a pose, clapping hand to breast and declaring shed like to switch places with less fortunate souls.
Maybe one day Xena will drop the cross shes decided she must bear, accept she is a good person after all and give the personal guilt-purging crusades a rest. Just a thought...
Speaking of loopy stuff, what was going on with all that reflected Xena-talky stuff? The weirdest bit was the first moment, when Xena doesnt realise she is in a childs body. They give her a mirror. What do we see in the mirror? A reflection of Xena. And then the child -- who is Xena at this moment -- sees the reflection and screams. WHY? If Xena is looking at Xena, why scream?
We later discover it doesnt work that way -- the reflections are like looking through open windows for the two. They see the other person. Not that Xena actually needs reflections to talk to Daphne. Towards the episodes end shes just having a quiet chat, soul to soul, while Daphnes curled up in the foetal position crying. So why did they bother at all if Xena could talk at any time to Daphne by thinking the thought?
Ah well -- it was probably for us fans who see the name of the show and figure there probably should be a character fitting that description in the scenes somewhere.
Of course, anyone who got a good look at the impressive side profile of Lucy Lawless as she first enters the room in Aphrodites temple to look at Daphne will know immediately why Xena was reduced to a speaking role for most of this episode. If the actress wasnt due to give birth, then she had to have been carrying quadruplets.
Whip-cracking cow girl Gabrielle meanwhile is a lot more talented than anyone gives her credit for. How do you make an inch-thick rope crack like a whip -- to the extent nine men go down for the count when it gets anywhere near them? Such skill!
Meanwhile, the villain of the day wasnt much chop, now was he? For a man who believes a certain "leather clad bitch took off half my face" he looked more like he had a serious case of acne meets a small thorny shrub. I am now perplexed as to why the same people who give us foetuses exploding out of stomachs in the goriest possible way in Them Bones, Them Bones, cant make a disfigured face look, er, actually disfigured.
But on with the A...er I mean, B plot. Alex Tydings and Renee OConnor are such pros when it comes to comedy, but even knowing that, its a riot to see what theyll come out with next. Its not just the delivery of their lines, its the little looks, the raised eyebrows, the adlibs, the private and public smirks that make them a hoot.
They were assisted incredibly well with some funny, funny lines... and I hope and pray that for as long as I live I am never introduced to a "linguist" for Id be on the floor for the next hour in uncontrollable fits of laughter, much to their bafflement.
I am curious also to know whether the "hensbane" cure Aphrodite initially proposes to Gabrielle to separate Xena from Daphne is the same substance as henbane. Henbane, many fans will remember, is the very substance in Altered States that had a drugged Gabrielle hearing a rock choir and declaring Xena to be "Be-yooo-ti-ful".
If they are the same, it could explain Gabrielles sudden insistence ("NO hensbane") on Aphrodite not using it to fix Xenas little problem. Must have been a wow of a hangover, huh, Gabs?
In summary, on the watchability scale, this episode ranks pretty highly, if you fast-forward through the dreary homilies. The very good, not-quite-clean fun is essentially brought down by over-the-top melodramatics in the main plot.
Couldve been worse. The little girl could have been as stilted as her monosyllabic angst-riddled daddy.
But -- and a big but it is too -- it could have been better... oh so much better. Best not to think about it, really.
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