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Season 5, Episode 14

May 15, 1999

Reviewed by Sheryl-Lee Kerr

0 chakrams


SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Kevin Maynard; Directed by Paul Grinder

PASSING PARADE: Ted Raimi (Joxer/Hagar), Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite/Crabella); Meighan Desmond (Discord/Sturgina); Joseph Main (Urchin)
Rupert Simmonds (Flipper); Steve Cleary (Swimming instructor).

STORY SO FAR: Gabrielle dreams she’s a mermaid in an underwater world while a mean Joxer lookalike pretends to be her husband and the father of ‘their’ three sprats.

DISCLAIMER: No Sea Nymphs or other Denizens of the Deep were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

REWIND FOR: The closing credits.

QUOTABLE: You must be kidding.




It’s quite a skill to go from the highs of last episode’s Amphipolis Under Siege to the slippery slopes of this one. Never let it be said that Xena isn’t consistent with its inconsistency.

I didn’t think it was possible any Xena episode could unseat Forgiven as the worst ever offering under the guise of entertainment in my book. But Forgiven comes off as Citizen Kane compared to this absurd dribble.

It’s hard to precisely pinpoint what I find more objectionable... the plot, the Aphrodite-wardrobe-raided costumes and wigs, the plot, the wump wump music trying to jolly us along throughout, the plot, Discord’s Bronx accent, the plot, the dog’s breakfast creatures masquerading as Gabrielle’s spawn, the plot...

But at a pinch I’d say the plot.

I can’t even begin to imagine how this one got through the Xena bods, but anyone who approved it should be hung upside-down above a lava pit by the toenails. (My partner, Sam, suggests another bodypart.) Never have I seen a more contrived effort to wedge characters into situations so implausible and unfunny.

Now we see the proof long suspected, that they are not making these shows for the fans, or even occasionally giving the fans what they are clamouring for (eg Xena and Gabrielle having a conversation lasting more than two lines), but they are being smart alecs, show offs -- giving the fans what they think’s clever. They are indulging their own egos (oooh, wouldn’t we be legends if we did a Flintstones spoof) and by the looks of things, overindulging their budgets, too.

Well I have news for you, boys and girls, it aint clever. It aint even vaguely witty. It sucks, pure and simple, and if this is your tribute to the Flintstones, then Hanna Barbera should sue for slander.

Okay, let’s talk turkey. I find it absurd that Gabrielle would presume she’s lost her maternal touch because she can’t settle Eve down for five minutes. As Xena rightly observes, "she’s a baby", babies do that.

But Xena also implied, with a very smug, supercilious glance at Gabs when first taking Eve from her, a mother can do it best. That’s hardly very comforting for the bard who’s trying her hardest to be babysitter here. It was the very opposite of what Gabrielle needed.

But then Xena has taken to showing again and again that Gabrielle’s feelings definitely take the backseat now Eve is here. Case in point, at the end of the episode, after Gabrielle is breathing again, the wet and bedraggled bard is told by Discord that she almost died. What does Xena do? Ignore her and coo at Eve. Clearly it doesn’t bother Xena that her travelling companion of five years was almost fish bait.

I’m not saying she shouldn’t worry about Eve and fuss over her, but where is it writ you can’t care about two people dear to you at once?

It gets worse. Check out the appallingly doubtful look on Xena’s face when a now maternal Gabrielle asks to hold Eve. Good grief -- could the big X show any less faith in the bard if she tried?

Surely that’s a look you’d reserve for Joxer if he was going to ask to hold Eve, not Gabrielle, who is hardly going to play ice hockey with the bub. Just appalling.

Gabrielle has done more than enough over the years to earn Xena’s trust and faith and should not be treated like a clutzy pariah now Xena has a baby to care for. Even if the expression was only to convey that Xena doubted Gabrielle could comfort Eve, she didn’t have to look at her like that. What harm could Gabrielle possibly do by trying? Shouldn’t Xena be wanting Gabrielle to not give up on bonding with Eve too?

Inexcusable, awful behaviour from Xena all round. I don’t know who this Warrior Princess is any more and I’m starting to wonder if I even want to.

Onto the plot. A little background for people who aren’t aware that this episode is based on the 1987 Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn movie Overboard. In it Goldie plays a snotty, snobby rich bitch who rips her carpenter off and, when she later washes up off her yacht with amnesia, he decides to extract the money owed through housekeeping services rendered. He does this by convincing her they’re married and that she’s the mother of his four out-of-control kids. The difference here was that Kurt was only mean to Goldie to a point, and she had been such a bitch that she deserved some comeuppance.

In this version the mistake they made (apart from making the episode) was in having everyone not only be horrible to someone who clearly didn’t deserve it and who was good at heart, but two characters even had murderous intent. It was like watching someone taking to a kitten with a sledgehammer.

This led to two other plot problems: one, our sympathies could thus only ever be with Gabrielle and all the others swinging the sledgehammer are seen as thoroughly detestable and unfunny; and two, when Hagar makes good, he can not be forgiven by the viewers for being the conniving lying sexist manipulative pig he started out as.

Therefore when Gabrielle forgives him and actually kisses him, we are incredulous and appalled for he has not done nearly enough to wipe his blotted slate clean. He deserves to be in the dog house for a long long time to come.

The humour was also so bad in this episode. Did they think those children were funny?

(And since when does a mermaid and a human produce a sea lion, a squid and a sea urchin? Methinks Crustacea might have been getting more than just milk from the milkman, and bread from the baker...) If I was the special effects bod for this ep, I’d be wanting my name off the credits.

Also on "laughs", could someone tell me what is even slightly funny about being held upside down in a tank of water with a shark closing in? Ho bloody ho.

Those kids need therapy.

And what is funny about two people who are posing as Gabrielle’s friends using her naivete and trust to lure her into a deathmatch with a giant squid? (By the way, is this poolclub crowd blind? No one noticed the squid in the pool beforehand?!) Frankly the Mafia would be taking notes on body disposal, here. Meanwhile we’re left wincing and saying, "but that’s so meannnn."

The bad taste award of the show’s entire run goes to the scene where Hagar is reminiscing about how he met Crustacea. Renee does a Lolita send up -- she licks her lollipop flirtatiously, peeking at him over heart-shaped glasses in exactly the same way as the 12-year-old girl did in the iconic poster for the 1962 version of the controversial film about paedophilia. I ask in astonishment ... why? That’s just a bizarre choice of homage.

I know the children in the audience won’t get the reference but it doesn’t make it a less tacky lapse of judgement. Could be that it’s because Lolita (the novel) was banned in New Zealand in a highly publicised affair back in 1960 and so someone thinks they’re being funny...

Or are they saying Hagar was a paedophile, too, and got to Crustacea at the ripe young age of 12? Gee, there’s just sooo much to love about this guy...

Another homage, more subtle, came from when Gabrielle asks the sprats to ‘please excuse us’ when she’s in a foul mood with Hagar.

Their reply is the chirpy "Yes mother dearest."

An odd response from those two (I mean who calls their mother ‘dearest’ anyway?) unless you consider it’s a wink at the famously mean mother, actress Joan Crawford, as revealed in her adopted daughter’s tell-all book Mommy Dearest. Chuckle -- now what are they implying about Gabrielle’s maternal disciplinary methods, anyway? (Not that the brats don’t deserve it.)

What was with the bad orange bikini, heels and ’Dite wig they wedged Gabrielle in? It was almost as bad as watching those poor mermaid extras almost drown in the Aquacise pool... look at them -- they’re desperately trying just to keep their heads above water!

The big question, apart from why did Rob Tapert greenlight this, is why would Sturgina (Discord) and Crabella (Aphrodite) want Hagar -- and so badly they’re prepared to kill a nice woman they’re befriending to get to him? It seems, from Hagar’s recollection, that they liked him at first sight -- even if he was thwacking and swatting everyone in sight and almost knocking himself unconscious. What gives? If they’re that short of male talent in this water world then perhaps drowning might indeed be a better option ...

In sum, not even the fact Renee and Alexandra usually have a chemistry could save this from a watery grave. Hell, even the Joxer/Gabrielle relationship fans (a small but hardy group) wouldn’t get much a kick out of this episode given Hagar was so thoroughly objectionable that you couldn’t suspend disbelief (unlike Gabs) and like him. A dog with fleas is still a dog with fleas even after a bath and obedience training.

Xena, as always, should have been more than just a bit player with two scowls, three lines and a coo. (By the way, what was she doing back in her maternity gear again?)

I can’t believe they ended the episode on that cliched male fantasy -- a cat fight -- and worse, over Hagar.

Frankly this episode was a Greek form of water torture. I’d rather have my eyeballs extracted through my nose than have to watch it again.

If this is an indication of Gabrielle’s dreams then it tells us we should stay the hell out of her dreams in future.

Actually, when I was in Year 5, I wrote an essay where in the end it was all just a dream. My teacher gave me a withering glare upon reading it and addressed the whole room: "I’d like to think you’re all old enough now not to fall back on such an obvious cop-out -- you’re above that now. You’re far too old for this."

I really wish Xena writer Kevin Maynard had attended Mr Grant’s English class.


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