THE XENA SCROLLS
Season 2, Episode 10
November 7 , 1998
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 7 chakrams
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by R.J. Stewart; Edited by Jim Prior; Directed by Josh Becker .
PASSING PARADE: Ted Raimi (Jacques S'Er/Jack Kleinman/Ted Raimi); Kevin Smith (Ares); Renee O'Connor (Janis Covington); Lucy Lawless (Melinda Pappas); Mark Ferguson (John Smythe); Robert Tapert (Robert Tapert)
STORY SO FAR: In Macedonia, 1942, a descendent of Gabrielle, Dr Janice Covington, teams up with a descendant of Xena, Melinda Pappas, and a descendent of Joxer, Jacques SEr, to track down the ancient Xena Scrolls. In doing so they unleash the imprisoned God of War, necessitating the real Xena to take over Mels body and stop him.
DISCLAIMER: No Hollywood producers were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: Oh the pagans. Real archaeologists would doubtlessly wince at the way an excavator, with one hand, picks up his ancient (presumably old and crumbly) tablet in the first scene, and brandishes it about so carelessly.
The look on Janices face when her hat gets hit by a bullet; in the same scene, spot Janice ignore fragile signs on her boxes and shoot right at them; also in that scene check out the goons who cant hit a woman directly in front of them from point blank range (at least she didnt appear to be trying to hit them).
Keep your eye on the gun Janice hands over to Smythe outside the tomb... it is so fake it hurts - given the lightness (being plastic), Smythe actually effects something of an easy two-fingered twirl with it. This also begs the question: was this the same gun which ran out of bullets; in which case, why did he want it? And was this the same gun Janice later uses to shoot out a light? Is it a magic reloading gun?
Aress blondie lines about Gabrielle look a bit dumb when the footage (past and present) is of a very red-haired woman indeed.
Listen for the hollow sound when Mel bangs Jacques on the head with the first scroll she finds when he gets too amorous.
Some unexpected role reversals: Janice giving the hysterical Jacques a mighty slap and telling him to pull himself together; followed by her telling Jacques to "get the girl" in a rescue scene, when Janice looks far more of a "girl" than Mel ever could.
Keep your eye on the brilliant look on Xenas face when she first reveals she is Xena. Suss out the coolest overhead Hercules/Iolus-like somersault Xena and Ares perform...followed by a rather darling game of tunnel ball involving Ares as the ball.
Speaking of Ares and, er, balls, did Xena just discover a new use for her chakram? If so, he looked like he half enjoyed it.
QUOTABLE: "It sure as hell aint suicide, sweetie" Janice to Mel. being just about as chauvinistic as any woman can get.
"I loosened it for you," Janice gets Excaliber-envy with half a chakram.
"Can a brush salesman from New jersey think he can defeat the God of War?" Doh. Way to blow a blokes cover, Ares.
"I see youve kept your familys reputation for undiluted idiocy intact." Oh gee, and rub it in, too...
"My fathers a thief; my mother she ran out on us, and Im related to the useless tagalong Gabrielle." And Janice is having a bad hair day. What next? Unleashing the God of War? Oh oops...
"Gabrielle was never useless, She cared for others more than herself. She was the finest friend anyone could ever have..." Call me dense, here, but why is Xena talking about Gabrielle in the past tense? Isnt she alive in Xenas reality, just not at this particular moment in history? How does this time travelling thing work, anyway?
"Dont say it baby, youre something else. Youre a swell looking tomato, with a nice set of gams." Uh huh, well some things never change. Joxer/Jacques is still a jerk to women in any time frame.
"We can shoot this in some third world country using the locals." Shhh, nobody tell New Zealand or it could spark an international incident.
This is one of the more original, unoriginal bottle shows I have ever laid eyes on. Sure sure its a cross between Indiana Jones meets Inspector Clouseau. But I loved it anyway. The ham acting is flying from the opening scene - when Janice lays eyes on her machine gun and says: "AHA" she is only bettered by Mels flightless bird impression during the line: "And here I yam." Yes yam was how she said it. A yam ham no less. Ahh those New Zealand Southern belles in Greece.
The over-acting was somehow all okay in the context and it seemed like everyone was having a hoot. But seem is the operative word. Behind the scenes, Lucy was unhappy... a small problem with the director forgetting she was still the star of the show and giving all her closeup scenes away to Kevin Smith (Ares). It may sound petty, and she probably shouldnt have made that public, but she is right: she is the star, even if she is playing second fiddle to Renee this episode. Certainly, Ares is everywhere and, like those Wheres Wally cartoons, there are some scenes where youre going, ah, Wheres Lucy?
That said, it didnt lessen my enjoyment of the episode as much as it probably lessened hers. It was very fun to see Renee stepping far, far out of character for a rollicking good time as Indian.. er, Janice. Seeing her smoking was a bit of an unexpected surprise; seeing her without a fringe, and looking a bit older, was a pleasant one.
Amid everyone busily acting the goat, the plot was squeaked over a bit, so Ill ask a few obvious questions left unanswered: Why did Mel Pappas have the burning urge to leave her safe little home in the middle of a war and travel halfway across the world to Macedonia to see a person who had a telegram correspondence with her late daddy, and whom she has never met? And a person who may not be there when she gets there because she hasnt told Janice shes coming and she even admits she found an "old" telegram. For all she knew, Janice had packed up camp months ago. Once there, why would she decide to stay on - especially with such an aversion to danger ("Oh my, I couldve been killed")? (And how come she hasnt got a ladder in those stockings after crawling through rubble, tombs and gods knows what else. And is the patent to those stockings available?)
Why is it "written" that only Xena, a mere mortal (we presume) of no other significance than that she was a pretty scary warlord at one point, becomes the only person to release Ares from his tomb?
How does Xenas soul come to somehow be trapped in her chakram (now theres an ep thatd make fascinating viewing!) ?
And where on earth did Janice get such tickets on herself and her work? I cite this quote: "The most important archaeological find of the century. Something that will revolutionise the way we look at the ancient world. It has the power to turn myth into history; history into myth - The Xena Scrolls." At this point Janice wouldnt know anything about a God being buried in the tomb; she just wants to find scrolls proving some warrior woman named Xena really lived. Yet on a world scale, this is more important than, say, the discovery and excavation of the lost city of Babylon carried out only a few years earlier? No offence to Janice, but shes probably been out in the sun too long.
I loved seeing Renee being an action woman for once and she has a mighty right hook and left backhander in her that makes Xenas look like mere love pats.
Jacques (or Jack Kliman) is pretty interesting for one reason: hes actually smarter than Joxer. He gets the jokes the gals throw at him (the mummy one) unlike Joxer who took an entire episode to get the "Gabrielle awoke with a jerk" from The Quill Is Mightier. He also out-logics one of our duo for the first time ever when he points out the ludicrousness of Janices dormant embers lighting the torches theory. It seems Ted fancies himself at the accents as much as Lucy, and does a credible job at them.
I was quite fond of Smythe (who you may or may not remember being a recurring Xena baddy with a spiral tattoo on his chin), and his rasped out incredulous delivery during his death: "My...god!" Hey, way to die, man!
At the start I referred to this being a bottle show. Well it is in the sense they were saving money by using flashback footage and it isnt in that the footage was very carefully chosen to add to the story (unlike 99% of bottle shows) and also the rest of the show probably wasnt as cheap to make as most bottle shows. It is tough to make anything using flashback footage not feel like a ripoff for fans but this one was quite the opposite. Like Forget Me Not, another flashback show, they somehow gave us far more.
One other aside, I personally believe there was a scene in this episode specifically directed at the fans. The scene where Janice has a serve at Gabrielle and Xena, very defensively almost, leaps in and shuts her up for being nasty. Janice, to my mind, was voicing the concerns and criticisms of a number of Xena fans early on in the show when Gabrielle really was, as Janice aptly put it, "a useless tagalong". Everyone at Xena resented that at the time and then, oila, out pops this episode, with that line from Xena. Almost as if Xenas telling us: Stop with the Gabrielle knocking, yall. Of course the Gabrielle of today is anything but useless, but in the context of that time, I do wonder who that comment was directed at: Janice, or the fans? You decide.
Last but not least, I loved the finish: Mel and Janice, off together for new adventures... Note Mels breathy pause as she says "Well not if you dont .... want to". A cute subtexty moment, offset entirely by the rather defining het-text moment of Mel declaring Marcus as Xenas "one true love". Much as I adore Marcus, that had to be the most short-sighted piece of writing ever devised. If Xenas one true love is a dead man, shes destined to be very lonely for the rest of her life. And anyone who may catch her eye in the future - be it Gabrielle or any manner of muscle-bound warrior, well know this is not her true love because shes already met him already! Doh. Silly, silly Xena people.
And finally there was Joxers descendent, in the present, pitching the show to Rob Tapert. Third world country, my foot. As a former Kiwi myself I almost fell off my chair laughing. Ahh, Xena lads and lasses, keep those chuckles coming.