MANY HAPPY RETURNS
Season 6, Episode 19
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 7 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Liz Friedman and Vanessa Place.
Directed by Mark Beesley. Edited by Robert Field.
PASSING PARADE: Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite); Katie Stuart (Genia);
Hori Ahipene (Ferragus); Latham Gaines (Zarat); Taungaroa Emile (Frankus);
Ross Duncan (Lagot).
STORY SO FAR: On Gabrielles birthday Xena plays some pranks on her, while the pair and Aphrodite also try to help a young impressionable woman learn to follow her own path.
DISCLAIMER: No fish guts were harmed in the making of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: Gabrielle's nose plucking, butt pinching moves on Xena, a la The Three Stooges. Seems someone is so way over the 'I'll do anything for the Warrior Princess haze' of Season Two.
The Xena and Gabrielle frolicking naked by a waterfall scene, lifted straight from the pages of a thousand fan-fic stories. Now we know what Liz Friedman has been doing in her spare time. *g*
Renee's comedic timing and facial expressions shining through once again, in the scene where Xena is snared by Gabrielle's trap of a bucket of fish guts. Renee would have to be one of the best 'straight-men' seen on TV.
Check out the contents of Aphrodites bag stolen by the warlord... one pink nightie, chains, whips, handcuffs, something that goes squeak when tossed! Anyone would think Aphrodite had a fetish or 50. Of course we are just presuming the contents were from her bag....*g*
"You ruined my sacrifice!" Sheesh - virgins were so ungrateful in ancient times! Ah....and a little ditzy.
"Xena, the Warrior-Pain-In-My-Ass!" That Warlord Ferragus - such a quick original wit - not.
"Stop Xena!" Gabrielle's infectious, but none too convincing protest, amidst her squeals of delight, thinking Xena is playing footsies with her under the blanket.
"Aphrodite, meet Genia - a virgin." Aphrodite's shocked gasp in response to meeting the Goddess of Love's equivalent of a Dodo bird, was priceless.
"Xena, Sappho tickets, I love her poetry." Gabrielle in raptures over a fellow bard - because of her use of colourful metaphor and well-tempoed structure, I'm sure. *g*
"She's planning my doom - I know it, I can feel it." One very skittish Gabrielle, overcome with paranoia as she awaits 'payback' from Xena, for her trick with the fishguts.
Genia: Take thy humble servant to thy bosom.
Xena: Whoa... this is spoken for.
Genia: "Oh no! I've eaten one of the Almighty's creatures! As penance I'm going to sleep on the cold hard ground."
Gabrielle: "You know, a better penance would be to clean the frying pan."
Genia: "The Goddess of Love is an evil myth, told to rob women of their virtue, and strip men of their pride."
Aphrodite: (giggle) "Well, you got the stripping men part right, honey."
What a pleasant little romp down memory lane this ep is -- harkening back to the days of Warrior Priestess Tramp and A Day in the Life. Certainly, the attempt is definitely there, even if the results dont quite rise to the considerable heights of these classic, earlier benchmark episodes.
Missing for many a season has been the playfulness between Warrior Princess and... well, I was going to say bard, but that doesnt quite fit any more... Gabrielle. Maybe thats the problem -- by being the warrior-in-training and not the light-hearted emoting bard, a lot of the comic potential for Gabrielle must go by the wayside. And gone for a while has been the times where they teased each other just because they could, delighting in each others reactions as much as the gag itself.
My absolute favourite moment in this episode in fact is the adorable look on Xenas face after Gabrielle has whomped the stuffing out of her for the eel prank, as the Warrior Princess lies on her side, a look of utter joy and contentment and kiddy-like delight on her face. Gorgeous moment. It just radiates how much she loves and enjoys being with Gabs.
The episode is a great return to that more carefree time of these two clowning around, being themselves. I guess they dont have to save the world every week. But Ive missed the joy. It was a delight to see it again. Even the subtext, barring the end scene, was equally playful -- Xena, big grin on the dial, vowing her bosom as already spoken for was a riot. It really did bring to mind Season 1 and 2 Xena when the show was at its most irreverent.
Of course some moments were a little forced... and Xenas gags werent exactly either clever or new (or maybe they were back then *g*). But they were carried off so well that all is forgiven. For instance, the old grease-on-the-telescope trick - yeeesh, I have lettuce older than that in my fridge. But it went from a potential groaner to very funny when Xena tried to explain it away to Genia as a "birthmark, we dont talk about it". Followed by Gabrielles narrowed eyes and whack-the-warrior-princess revenge, it became a brilliant, classic Xena scene.
The even older, bucket-of-glop-on-someones-head gag (just) passed muster solely thanks to Lucy mugging the camera in typical style, accompanied by Gabrielles panicked "uh-oh" look... Those two bounce off each other so well, its a crime its been so long between comedic drinks.
Gratuitous moment of the show, which was a little too over-the-top even for me: the first bare-butt, lets just splash at each other cos we can swimming scene, which was soooo bad, (listen to the dialogue of the duo if you have any doubt), and came complete with Genias vow to look at bushes instead. I think my rolling eyes almost did a 360 degree spin. Bushes, eh? Were not talking George and Laura I am guessing.
Actually, over the top is really a term youd want to be saving for a certain warlord who I am surprised didnt do himself a permanent injury with all his bug-eyed, neck swivelling, windmilling arms, caricatured ham acting. Now why does every other warrior on Xena have a speech impediment... chuckle. Must be a Big Ugly Bad Guy pre-requisite.
If I warmed to him at all (and we are talking merely varying degrees of freezing here) it was because at least he was considerably more engaging than the dull-as-dishwater, one-pastel-turban-fits-all zealots.
Aphrodite, great to see her back, and shes in true ditzy form this episode... but whats not to love? I found myself unaccountably warmed that this immortal would not only remember Gabrielles birthday but give her a big hug and call her "Gabby".
Best not to dwell on the rather glaring plot flaw that with an immortal all-powerful god on your side the whole episode, it should be impossible for Genia to be in any real danger, when one twitch of her finger and voila, theyre out of harms way.
Genia... She was played by a pretty good actress who handled the role with aplomb and considerable humour. I thought the moral of her story wasnt half hammered home to us, but you get that on Xena. The subtlety of a 2x4 plank.
I was a little curious as to how Xena and Gabrielle saw their role in her life: at one point wanting only to wake her up into doing some living, at another, quite bemused by her and enjoying poking gentle fun at her rigidity and not unkindly using her as their source of entertainment (like Aphrodite, who was equally entertained by having a groupie).
Their first night together reminded me greatly of Priestess Leah in Warrior Priestess Tramp, passing haughty judgement on the moral merits of Xena and Gabrielle and vowing that someone was on a "speeding chawiot stwaight to Tawtawus" and it was hard not to smile.
One Xenite pal was less impressed by X&Gs mentoring skills and told me she considered the episode to be nothing more than X&G trying to convince a virgin to be anything but. "Whats so wrong with being a virgin," she asks. "What sort of message are they sending?"
I didnt really see them as attempting to "corrupt" her, and I do tend to think it was Aphrodite who was intent on giving Genias love life a tweak, so to speak. Thats in the goddesss nature. Itd be like Ares trying to convince people NOT to go to war... doesnt really work.
A small irk from me at this point. Genia wishes to learn about love and says she cant be Aphrodites apprentice if shes never experienced it. Aphrodite agrees and tells her to "pick a guy, any guy".
I was surprised the goddess of love, especially one on this show, and in an episode co-written by Liz Friedman of all people, would be so narrow in her views. Would it have really killed them to have Aphrodite tell Genia to pick "someone, anyone at all"? Since when is love exclusive to heterosexuals? Why automatically presume she has to pick a guy if she wants to experience love? If she wants a guy, goody for her but, really, did TPTB learn nothing from the previous episode? The refresher course for them: love is love, regardless of gender. Aphrodite should know that. Unless I misread her title as Goddess of Strictly Heterosexual Love. *g*
Okay time for some stand out moments. Gotta love Belle from Belles Bridal Barn... what a hoot Renee can be sometimes. She nailed that scene. "Im thinking harem pants...." ho ho ho...er, yes, a natural choice.
I was surprised by seeing Lucy in drag - for some reason I thought shed be more convincing. *g* Well, I mean, as a chick, shes TOUGH. As a guy, she sucks in the convincing voice department and is oddly clean cut. I really thought shed have been more blokey. So there ya go: who can pick these things?!
Classic moment of the scene: the warlord proudly states he has a scar from Xena on his head and Xena asks to see it, then gives an offhand throwaway line: "I dont remember." It doesnt look much on paper. On the screen, its so funny. The womenfolk were sure in the zone that day.
Other little cute moments, Gabrielle rapping on Xenas breastplate in the opening scene. It sort of reminded me of the nonchalant way she hauled herself up it in A Day in the Life. Given Gabrielles clear attachment for Tall, Dark and Warriorlys breast region, I am thinking theres not much doubt who Xenas reference of ownership was about when Genia tried to lay a claim on it. *g*
Weirdness moment of the episode: at the ending Genia declares shes going to turn her convent into a shelter for those in need. I am certain that would be news to all her superiors. I mean it doesnt exactly look like Genia was senior management material and in a position to be deciding anything beyond the convent washing up schedule. I guess the line was just so we wouldnt worry other virgins would soon be plucked for sacrifice down the track.
The big problem, if not the only real problem with this episode for me, was the fights. Having two lots of villains doubled the length of time the show dedicated to fight scenes, ruining the balance in a comedy episode. And when they were in the same scene together, the two villains double the length of that particular fight.
Case in point: Xenas actual rescue of Genia from the spiky board at the end from go to woe, including the "Im gonna get you; no youre not" all very thrilling exposition dialogue was actually a scene that went for more than SIX minutes in a 42 minute show! For one fight. Thats excluding all her earlier biffo with the bad guys. Thats too much thumping emphasis in anyones language.
If I didnt know better Id say they were using the fights to pad out the episode for time. Hell after Id seen this episode just once, the fight scenes all just seemed to drearily drag on, and I found myself itching to hit fast-forward. Not good. Id have voted for more practical jokes and larking around between the comic duo, which the fans love, and less smacks and whacks with whomever was the big bad of the week, which the fans see every old episode any way.
For some reason, (actually no reason), all this leads me to the point of the episode: Gabrielles birthday and the final moment.
Sappho fan, huh? As in the famous lesbian poet no less. Im sure thats just coincidental and all and in no way a less than subtle wink at the subtext fans. And Im equally sure Aphrodites a natural blonde. *g*
Anyway, the last scene. It was good in that it was beautiful and romantic, and Xena showed just the right amount of sincerity and angst and embarrassment. Shes still a gruff-ish warrior with a heart of mush and its lovely when Lucy really hits that warring combination. Nicely believable.
A little bothersome to me personally was a sense she seemed to cram a few too many facial contortions into her scene, but hey, no biggie. It still is and remains a sweet scene.
The words on the scroll were of course a poem of love. As in sexual love. Passion. Anything involving fire racing beneath ones skin, skin growing pale and considering one might die from such love is not exactly platonic. And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, sort of unequivocally clinches it for all those holdouts who liked the soul mate idea but were for some reason panicky and/or upset at the idea Xena and Gabrielle might really like knowing each other in the Biblical sense.
I have no intention on commenting on all the differing/competing philosophies of Xenites, nor would I argue they should change their views if they dont want to. But I just know what I know: and that poem was about love and sexual desire. Fire is not something shared among friendly soul mates. Its the stuff of lovers. It is unequivocal. Im sure if a friend came to you saying their skin was on fire at the mere thought of you, youd have a pretty clear idea they werent merely suggesting you join the same bowling team.
Why they chose to spell out this side of their relationship now after so long teetering on the ambiguous tightrope is a mystery to me. I am surprised, but then again not. After When Fates Collide I dont think anything would surprise me. Anyway, it pretty much just dotted the Is and crossed the Ts on all that increasingly obvious subtext which seemed to really crank up a notch from around the time of the Valkyries trilogy.
In sum, a worthy episode to wear the name Xena. Too much biffo for my liking, and only a samplebag of fun not a hearty smorgasbord, but the fun which was there was savoured adoringly by the whole cast. Also, the unashamedly sentimental and touching ending Im sure had a few jaws slapping on the floor.
Rewatchability is a mixed bag - the fight scenes dragged on, the rest was reviewable, but its nothing a fast forward button cant fix.
In short, for the mother of warm fuzzies you cant beat your favourite heroes declaring love for each other and then flying off into the sunset. Now, come on, you dont see that every day. *g*
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