Season 3, Episode 9

25 July,1998

Reviewed by SLK

RATING: 8 chakrams.

thm_wpt2.jpg (13235 bytes)SCRIBES & SCROLLS:
Written by Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster,
Edited by Robert Field,
Directed by Robert Ginty.

Lucy Lawless (Meg, Priestess Leah);
Ted Raimi (Joxer);
Macgregor Cameron (Bailius).

A priest secretly plots to destroy the order of Hestian Virgins. Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer and Xena-lookalikes Meg (who now runs a brothel) and High Priestess Leah, set out to stop him.

Despite another Xena lookalike, the gene pool (or rather gene puddle) was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

The heavy bucket of water that truly defies gravity (which as we know hasn’t yet been invented, so that’s okay); A startled Xena joining hands and “Pwaising Hestia”; a brilliantly funny fireside chat with the Priestess with more ham than a Texan barbecue; a revelation as to Meg’s true character inspiration - Bill and Ted, judging by her “Ex-cellent”, complete with fist pull; one of the better versions of Joxer The Mighty, replete with bordello chorus and an explanation as to precisely why he thinks he’s mighty (although we don’t know how small his shoe size might actually be); Joxer inventing the Kevin Bacon game before it was the Kevin Bacon game; Xena’s pursed lips and dancing eyes in the closing scene at the thought of Gabrielle making a “gweat virgin”. (Er, it’s rather like she knows something the priestess doesn’t. Gee, boys and girls, what could that be?!) And on that note, here’s another one for the subtexters: recognise the guilty “gee that bush looks real interesting” look on Gabrielle’s face when Priestess Leah questions her virginal status? It was *exactly* the same look (complete with hand gesture) she used when Joxer asked about Xena’s hickey in Been There Done That. This would imply if she’s guilty here - and we know for a fact she is - then she would appear to be guilty of something there...

Ahhh where to begin. “Hestia the Virgin Goddess? What has she got to do with the price of grapes in Carthage?” Gabrielle justifiably perplexed as to why Xena suddenly has an interest in things virginal.

“This burning yourself at the stake thing is way over the top.” Gabrielle not impressed by “Xena’s” new soon-to-be-shortlived hobby of martyrdom.

“All right - gee Gabrielle, who is it? I just *have* to know. The suspense is killing me...” Xena who missed the girl-talk gene and makes up by torturing bards with sarcasm.

“Come in seven - Priestess needs new sandals.” Meg, as Leah, updating her wardrobe with divine dice.

“Well looks like someone has caught a chariot straight for Tartarus” - Leah not telling Xena anything she doesn’t already know.

“Heathens to the left of me, infidels to the right.” Leah still working on her making-new-friends social skills...

“What? Is it written on my forehead??” Gabrielle finally being told that the flashing neon sign on her brow does indeed say “Not a virgin.”

“Believe me, if I had to go the rest of my life without companionship, knowing myself won’t be a problem”... the famous, fabulous Did Gabrielle Just Say What I Thought She Did line...

“Boy you virgins pack a wallop - must be all that pent-up energy” Joxer the ShoeSize to Leah.

“I think she’d say “nicely done”.” Leah, having just decked her former high priest, showing how Hestia’s non-violent clause is all in the interpretation.


Well they sure aint kidding with that disclaimer... that’s quite a gene puddle happening there. It’s kind of cute (and very Xena) how they don’t even bother, ala Star Trek, to offer some logical, technical explanation for the Xena clones. Heck that would only bog everything down, right?! Instead they just launch straight into the fun. And fun it is. All the credit goes to actors on this one - while the lines where sharp and amusing, most of it was winner thanks to the delivery. And both Renee O’Connor and Lucy Lawless have impeccable comic timing which shines here from start to finish.

The plot however doesn’t shine as consistently - and I thought the first half was much funnier than the second. I can only guess that’s because the second half starts to get more into the Spot The Real Xena/Meg/Leah scenarios rather than sticking with the witty retorts from our once-cloistered high priestess. I suppose it was inevitable, just as it was in Warrior Princess Tramp, that when you have three clones running around, the gags are eventually going to fall to the sight gags of mix-ups. Still, I didn’t really mind, as the show redeemed itself over and over with the chuckle factor, again thanks largely to Lucy and Renee. And those "Hi Xenas" were priceless.

Why Joxer was actually necessary in this particular storyline I don’t know - but I guess someone saw it was a comedy and, as he seems to turn up in all Xena’s comedy eps these days, Raimi got the summons to don that mashed hubcap once more. He didn’t even get given any of the top-drawer lines like the gals, instead it was middle-drawer stuff like: “Don’t bet on it, roadblock...”

But, onto the burning questions... Okay, now, the public wants to know: What happened to Meg to turn her from King’s personal chef to brothel-keeper? And I’d like to see parents in the audience explain her nice new job to the kiddies. Actually, no, I don’t think I would! But on that note, I was in agreement with Leah for a moment when she opens a brothel room door to hear baa-ing and says: “I hope that was a petting zoo, *please* let that be a petting zoo.” Her line was funny but when I thought about it, the gag itself was in surprisingly bad taste. By inference, Meg, our dear lovable trampy Meg, runs a brothel that offers bestiality. That doesn’t sit too well. I kept hoping someone would rescue the, er, petting zoo after they rescued the virgins... Actually, this is Joxer’s domain - he could’ve been quite amusing attempting to spring the four-legged friends from their enforced life of ill-repute. No such luck.

This goat/sheep joke did also bring to mind how many of the gags in this episode (if not all) were specifically for adults only. Gabrielle’s funny, deadpan “knowing herself” line is one example; the endless virgin jokes and Joxer’s shoesize are others. It’s quite unlike last week’s episode which was humor for the youngies. It seems as though Xena is rotating through all the spectrums of its multi-tiered audience to cater to everyone. Not that I mind this incredible diversity of targets and tacks, it’s just very unusual.

Okay, onto the downside. Not that we watched this one for the plot, but there was one thing that has been niggling me: the bad High Priest Bailius who presumably has been hanging around the Hestian virgins for some time, worming his way into a position of authority in order to execute his dastardly plan, still hasn’t managed to learn Hestian?! (If he had he would have known Leah had told the virgins not to drink the poison.)

Okay, so if he didn’t know Hestian - and let’s be kind and say that that’s left only to the High Priestess - then who wrote the scroll he gave to her to read? Unless it’s some holy, ancient scroll that she always reads from... in which case she would have a particular way of reciting it that would be correct. And yet Bailius’s plan hinged on Meg being substituted for Leah and reading this scroll. I could be wrong, but if Meg actually knows how to read (a big if for those days and her background), it is unlikely she’d have the foggiest notion as to how to pronounce Hestian words - and her cover would have been blown instantly to the other virgins. Another minor point, Leah really should have told the virgins to *pretend* to drink, not to actually take poison into their mouth and spit it out... one mistake and that’s a very dead virgin; besides it’s dangerous enough to have poison swilling around inside your mouth. And one last downer, was it just me who figured Leah’s “Sorry I was such a cow for pre-judging you” speech to Gabrielle and Xena was way too sickly? Cripes, it wasn’t half obvious all the way through that her views were maturing without those awfully trite “and the moral is” lines. But I must say it was worth it for the hysterically funny look on Xena’s face when Leah then goes on to suggest Gabrielle would still make a good virgin. It was right up there with Xena’s suppressed mirth when Gabrielle asks about Xena's earlier marital status. And *that’s* what I mean by delivery. Most of the fun in this episode comes from seeing Xena, normally a stoic, dark, demon-ridden Warrior Princess, uncharacteristically struggling to keep a straight face or smirking like a school girl at Gabrielle. We like to see her having fun. In turn, it also comes from watching Gabrielle (Renee in fine form), deadpanning as Xena normally does, as she delivers some of the funniest lines witnessed on Xena.

You can absolutely see how much fun both women had doing this and as a result it was a joy to watch. It was also nice to see Xena and Gabrielle as a happy team again, sharing little private looks/jokes with each other. Sweet. But not in the slightest bit believable given what has just transpired in The Debt. But frankly, I don’t care. It’s Xena - and if you can believe the Warrior Princess has three exact, unrelated duplicates, possibly more, then you can believe anything is possible - including that she forgives, virtually overnight, a bard who betrayed her and almost got her killed. But the rift arc is not yet over, so I guess we should just look at this as a lovely, cheery interlude from whatever lies ahead.

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