Season 2, Episode 18

November 14 , 1998

Reviewed by SLK

RATING: 6 chakrams

Montage - Blind Faith

SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster; Edited by Robert Field; Directed by Josh Becker

PASSING PARADE: Jeremy Callaghan (Palaemon); Chris Bailey (Apex)
Sydney Jackson (Vidalus); Graham Lauder (Lagos); Ajay Vasisht (Vendor)

STORY SO FAR: Gabrielle is kidnapped and sent to a palace for a forced marriage to a dead king, where she is destined to die with him. Xena is blinded by oils in a fight with the man who kidnapped Gabrielle. He helps Xena in a race against time to save Gabrielle’s life and Xena’s eyesight.

DISCLAIMER: Once again, Gabrielle's luck with men was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

REWIND FOR: The mystery of the miraculous appearing mega-cleavage. You know whose I mean so stop pretending like you didn’t notice.

One heck of a good chakram catch - but watch the angle Xena shoots it off on originally!

A funny wouldbe Pygmalian transformation of Gabrielle by Vidalus.

A nice reunion over a coffin (bah, they’re getting so good at it, so why not).

A darling eyesight restoration scene, complete with Xena’s "I’m in a dark mood so bring me my serious, deep purple" lipstick... See if I’m right when I say she only appears to wear this shade at disturbing moments when she’s feeling especially grim, like at funeral pyre scenes and during moments of extreme blindness...

QUOTABLE: "I’m more of a redhead really." the debate settled at last, Gabrielle? Hmm, wait a year...

"My best friend is Xena, Warrior Princess and she’s not going to like this forced wedding thing one bit if you get my drift..." Or even the unforced wedding thing based on that look in Return of Callisto... See the conspiracy theory below...

"You have the hand gestures of a wagon driver" Vidalus to Gabrielle. Too much bardic expressiveness doth not a princess make.

"Whether you can see again or not, I want another chance at a fair fight to the death," Palaemon, with a rather novel definition to the word "fair". But of course we knew he didn’t mean it, and was saving face for not letting her drop, right?

"I can’t marry the king because my heart belongs to another. So even though I can’t be with them now, I can’t be with someone else." Yeah yeah yeah, nice speech Gabrielle, now just cut to the chase and name names.

"All the men I get serious with end up dead." Snort. Finally, Gabrielle, you’ve noticed. See the conspiracy theory below...

"Leather huh? Bold choice." Vidalus, sounding more like Salmoneous by the minute, and remembering that even when confronting death, fashion is an obligation not a choice.

"Now that’s a sight for sore eyes." Xena to Gabrielle... um.. I am so stunned by this subtext I have been rendered momentarily speechless...

Best comeback:

Vidalus, drooling: I think I might follow him and see if he needs a sidekick.

Gabrielle, grinning cheekily: It’s nice work if you can get it.



Okay boys, now pay close attention. It’s official: Stay away from the short blonde. Er, redhead. Whatever. She’s dangerous. Every bloke who looks sideways at her ends up dead and in this episode the bloke manages to actually end up dead beforehand... Yikes. That’s a scary power. And we thought Xena had the godlike tendencies. I think if I was Gabrielle I’d be starting to take it kind of personal. And she’s even noticing it at last.

The conspiracy theorist in me would be wondering what Xena has been slipping in their nutbread... Or perhaps it’s all a cosmic hint from the gods - the fabled Scriptus Writers - i.e. she’s gotta stop with the eyelash batting at all the stray blokes because she has a tendency of running off with them, getting married and ditching Xena and then, well, suddenly a duo with only one person in it seems about as practical as a deep freezer in the Antarctic.

So, as I say, this is now officially the gag for Xena - Gabrielle’s boyfriends are all designated redshirts (a Star Trek term referring to the red outfits security personnel wear in cameos and end up dying in on a regular basis). This does make me wonder how she’ll go at forming new friendships with those cute, blonde-haired lads yet to develop facial hair who take her eye so oft: "Hi, I’m Gabrielle, a bard from Poteideia. My interests are writing, reading and killing suitors. I am a health hazard in three provinces and my record stands at one boyfriend dying a mere 14 minutes after saying hello and complimenting me on my special gift with people. You?"

Of course the big, big question in this episode is who it is Gabrielle’s in love with when she tells Vidalus she "can’t be with now". If she’s referring to a bloke, say Tallas or Perdicus or some other chap, well, by her own admission, he’s pushing up daisies anyway so she’ll have a long wait for the reunion.

It’s not like the Xena makers to be so vague... Unless... Was that, gasp, a subtext moment, folks? Could she mean Xena?

‘Tosh,’ I hear the anti-subtexters amongst you say. Well, either way, a lot of it comes down to one sentence: Did Gabrielle say I can’t be with "him" right now, or I can’t be with "them" right now? If it was a him and she meant him then an occasionally succinct bard like Gabrielle would simply have said him. I mean, why wouldn’t she?

If it was meant to be a subtext moment then she deliberately gave the vague "them" so it could be taken to mean a person from either gender. Problem with Renee’s darling Texan accent is that no one could make out what she actually said with any degree of accuracy and, when first this episode aired, everyone was duking it out, adamant that what they heard was right. I was told by someone who has ties to the Xena set that Renee said "them". Shrug. I’m still not sure: I could wear a hole in my tape figuring it out. I’ll let you all decide for yourselves what she said and who Gabrielle of Poteidiea is holding a torch for, but it sure sparked some debate around the campfire, I can tell you.

Enough of the hair splitting, onto the bigger stuff. Xena is blind. Uh huh. Well she should be black and blue if she really was. Acting blind is doing more than getting the sightless stare down pat and dear Luce was forgetful at best, downright psychic at worst. Her lucky guesses included ducking beneath a window at the top of that wall, hitting everyone she aimed a fist at, sensing handcuffs at her feet and kicking them up to her hand (even when she couldn’t sense her sword beside it) and, the most remarkable sight of all, running around that cremation table instead of smack into it as she was in line to do. A note for thugs: If the person you are fighting is blind, don’t run at them growling loudly. Drop to the floor, then stealthily (and silently) crawl over to them and wrench their legs out from under them. For royal guards they are not too bright.

On the up side, Lucy was pretty awesome a couple of times: once, when she pinned Palaemon up against a tree and tore shreds off him for invoking unpleasant memories. And two, in the looks on her face as she’s trying to get inside that coffin to get Gabrielle. For all she knew, the bard could have been one crispy gal by the time she opened the coffin and by the look on her face it seems she’s considering that possibility as she tentatively reaches in and prods around. Her relief is also profound. So much so their touching reunion is a little too touching for Palaemon who gets all embarrassed and doesn’t want to intrude so coughs, rubs his neck and looks away. Close friends, these two are indeed. In fact Xena shows she would risk a life of blindness to save Gabrielle. As Palaemon said disbelievingly: "That must be some friend." Well he’s right. That’s not something you do for your tennis pal, that’s for sure.

I thought Jeremy Callaghan was very good as Palaemon - a nice mix of false bravado and hints of vulnerability as to who he really is, carefully papered over with more, well, bravado. He certainly beats a few other guest stars of the week we’ve seen in that spot.

But I absolutely adored Vidalus who stole the show in his attempt to make Gabrielle a lady. Of course if he had covered up that "peasant muscle" as threatened, doubtless the mournful cries of thousands of Xenites would be heard even in ancient Greece! (By the way, do you think "Vidalus" is a nod to author Gore Vidal?)

Speaking of Gabrielle’s coverings, what, by all the gods in Olympus, was Gabrielle wearing? Princess Leia meets Bobo the Clown? And where did she get that pair of, er, well, I mean to say, she got a lot bigger in the chest department and no one seems to know how... I do recall a lot of discussion among some fans at the time and all that was agreed was that it certainly was a dramatic, um, transformation. I don’t normally comment on such shallow outer aesthetics in a show all about female inner strength but it actually shocked the heck out of me. So please forgive...

Another funny Vidalus moments - Gabrielle with a scroll on her head, instead of a book - hence the weird hairdo, no doubt. Oh and the sight of Gabrielle stopping mid rant by being offered food! Baddies should remember this in future.

I wasn’t fond of the scene with her holding the dead king’s hand - the writers made her out to be dumb in the name of a quick laugh. Like she wouldn’t notice his lack of pulse? Or that there’s cold and then there’s dead?

The Weekend At Bernie’s-like wedding scene had me laughing for another reason - Gabrielle is tied at the wrists. Her fingers are free. She is struggling to speak. All she has to do is lift her fingers and yank down the gag and scream to the masses that their king is dead. Come to think of it, it’s the first thing she does when they dump her in the coffin. Hey, did someone say masses? A headcount puts them at roughly 30. Not a large turnout for a royal wedding methinks...

Nice little constitution they’ve got there in the kingdom; not to mention utterly absurd. Did anyone really listen to it? Here it is again: If the king dies without an heir, the throne passes to his cousin in another kingdom. (So far so good, the monarchy goes to the next royal in line.)

If, however, the king dies when he is married, then the monarchy is dissolved and the power goes to the king’s ministry. (When it comes to monarchies, keeping it alive is usually pivotal to the original monarch creating the laws and dissolving it is an absolute anathema after all their hard work to get there. Such a ridiculously easy monarchy to dissolve would have collapsed centuries ago by either the law of averages or else some ambitious minister who would have waited for a king to marry then simply killed him. And yet we know this monarchy has been around for ages because of what is said next:)

By ancient proclamation, the widow must accompany the king to the other side. (Now that is just patently ridiculous. There is no way in heck any princess or her family, in any time, under any threat, would want to marry a king with rules that mean if he dies, she dies. Hence his lack of wouldbe brides would have meant no heirs, no royal line whatsoever and the monarchy would have had to have gone to the ministers long ago. Unless it was being kept alive by kidnapping fiancees all this time - a fact not borne out by Vidalus’s comments about the princess or lady he was hoping for instead of Gabrielle. Families tend to notice if their famous offspring go missing...)

Well in all, I didn’t mind this episode. It had a few laughs, a bit of drama, some bad moments, some good. Even had a moral to the story and a goodly young chap who is shortly about to be very surprised as he acquires a rather unlikely sidekick. But at least Palaemon will always be well dressed...

In the meantime, if only Gabrielle could stop killing all those nice lads...

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