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Season 5, Episode 11

September 25, 2000

Reviewed by SLK


RATING: 5 chakrams



SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Chris Manheim. Directed by Andrew Merrifield.

PASSING PARADE: Ted Raimi (Joxer); Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite);

John Gadsby (Lachrymose); Chris Ryan (Blutos); Tony Forster (Solemnus);

Constance Talmadge (Joxer's mum).

STORY SO FAR: Gabrielle offends the god of misery, Lachrymose, who shrinks Argo, and later Gabrielle. Aphrodite tries to cure the bard’s writing block.

DISCLAIMER: Gabrielle and Argo were shrunk and permanently pressed during the production of this motion picture.

REWIND FOR: Aphrodite inching her chair closer to Gabrielle in their first 'counselling session'. I hope that wasn't some lame attempt, by the creative types, at maximising the visual appeal of the contents of Aphrodite's bra. *rolls eyes*

We do get to see a Greek shopping centre and fans should all be deeply impressed by their use of a PA system ("cleanup on aisle seven") before the invention of electricity. Dang those Greeks were good. On that note, there was even tinny shopping mall musak playing over the top of the supermarket scenes. As if they weren’t torturing us enough already! *g*

Overheard comments in the tavern when midget Argo appears: "It’s like a dog with a horse’s head on it." "What do you have to do? Add water?"

Xena dropping a bag of wheat on the dumb thug as she declares him an oaf. Sure enough, the sound he makes when the bag lands is, *oaff!*.

Miniature Gabrielle biting Joxer's finger, then hanging on like a piranha when he tries to pull his hand away. He was definitely asking for it, too...


"I haven't been cranky for years. Have you ever seen me cranky?" Xena lays a trap for Joxer and Gabrielle with a fiendishly clever trick question.

"Although bombastic forms of circumlocution should generally be avoided, one mustn't shy away from big words in the right context." Aphrodite's way of saying 'nobody likes a smart ass'.

"Xena doesn't do any cleaning, have you smelled her feet lately?" I think we can safely say Gabrielle is now out of her hero worship of the Warrior Princess phase. *g*

"Everybody shrinks when they get older, that's why old people are so short." You know, as scary a thought as that is, Aphrodite actually made a lot of sense here. Be afraid, be very afraid...

"...don't underestimate me, Xena does that." I wish just for once, Gabrielle would say what she means. *g*

"Lachrymose intolerant"... a new medical diagnosis coined by Joxer. Just don’t add milk....

Best Comeback:

Gabrielle: " Xena and I are best friends. There aren't any secrets between us."

Aphrodite: "Mmmm...you stalled, huh?"

Gabrielle: Exactly.




Not exactly the season highlight, this episode. A bottle show, employing flashbacks, obvious humour, but spared from the abyss by some nice little moments. (No pun intended.)

Punchlines actually smacks of early Xena, doesn’t it? You can imagine the season one ‘Laura Ingles’ Gabrielle having these same pleadings with Lachrymose to get Argo back to full size... more so than warrior Gabrielle, anyway.

The episode does address the issue of the bard’s writer’s block we’ve been hearing about for a few shows, although her reason for it seems a little over the top: "Ever since Xena became pregnant I have been trying to make the world a better place and I’ve allowed no time for the things that make me happy -- like my writing. I think I’d been too afraid I’d lost that part of me that’s a bard."

That’s a rather extreme reaction to Xena being pregnant ... can’t ...write... too ...busy saving... the ...world! I can’t see why a desire to make the world better would make you worry about losing your writing ability. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. After all, the Gabs I know has been trying to change the world into a more loving place from day one -- and she wrote all the while.

Ah well, at least it gave us an excuse to have Gabrielle’s cool scenes with Aphrodite, which never fail thanks to the pair’s great comic timing. From these scenes we learn the following:

1. Gabrielle’s sleepwear has moved beyond the pink nightie of Fins, Femmes & Gems (well if Joxer had been naked in your nightwear, would you wear it again?) and seems to have evolved into Chin-inspired pyjamas. Cu-ute.

2. Gabrielle could be masking "latent tendencies"... nudge, nudge... Chuckle -- well tell us something we don’t know.

3. Aphrodite’s dumb blonde act is just that... an act. Hey, I wasn’t fooled. I’ve long thought it required a PhD to get your hair that high.

4. Chocolate is the aphrodisiac preferred by the goddess of love... but why, oh why, was she using it at the same time as inviting the bard in for a nekkid hot-tub dip with her? Meanwhile, can gods time travel? I hope so because, milk chocolate, let alone white chocolate is a 19th century invention and just plain ol' chocolate didn't surface, courtesy of the Mayans until around 600AD (maybe a couple of centuries earlier). You could maybe stretch disbelief for the Goddess of Love, but how would Gabrielle have recognised the aroma of a food not yet discovered? She was probably just humoring the god -- it’s the price you pay for free room and board.

5. Gabrielle apparently believes: "Of course, I know now exactly who I am..." She’ll be the only person on Earth, then. Why do I remain so sceptical?

6. A "normal" day now for Gabrielle is apparently to spend the hours pondering baby names with Xena and Joxer. (Gee, real fun...)

On the subject of Joxer, hasn’t he got somewhere else to go yet? I don’t think I’ve ever before seen him in quite so many episodes all clustered together like this. In small doses, he’s liveable, and yeah, all right, can be funny. But he seems to have moved in with Xena and Gabrielle to play Uncle Jox to Xena Jr until the end of their days. He’s like the guest who doesn’t know when to leave. If this is a sign of things to come, that sort of kills the Xena/Gabrielle alone against the world stories the show was always about... But far worse, regardless of whether you see them as just friends or something more, all those close, intimate moments between them would go out the window. Xena is hardly going to have any deep and meaningful discussions with Gabrielle while Joxer’s listening in. I miss this intimacy. And it’s only the 11th episode of the season!

Just a thought.

I liked the Xena "I am never cranky" bet -- really funny stuff. And I won’t say a word about why she insists on bardic backrubs. *g* But check out the look on her face when Gabs arrives at the tavern the first time after they’ve endured the crying bub. Oh my, looks really can kill. I hope Gabs blinked... for her own health and safety.

The shrunken Argo/Gabs thing was less my cup of tea, and I rather hope this Twilight of the Gods thing Ares mentioned last episode happens just so it will wipe Lachrymose off the face of the earth. Seriously, Honey, I Shrunk The Horse is not exactly the newest idea going...

I was no fan of Joxer’s reaction to a shrunken Gabrielle, either. His first response was not to rush off to help her but to determine how he could use her small stature to fulfil the dream he’s had since For Whom The Bell Tolls -- to make her his new partner. If at first you don’t succeed ... wait until they’re shrunk by gods and try again, huh Jox?

Scary stuff Joxer’s childhood, by the way. Wonder why he never mentioned that both his parents were mute? Not to mention boasting a disturbing yellowish tinge... No wonder Jase went for the colorful wardrobe.

I was staggered the Xena folks went for the hackneyed finish of a pie fight scene with the pointy hat convention. So, so old, pie fights, I personally thought it stunk up the show as badly as Xena’s feet*. Or, as Aphrodite so astutely noted: "A stupid boring unfunny excuse for a pie fight...?"

You peeked, Aphrodite?

She adds that Gabrielle "must have been aiming too high the rest of the time’’.

Which by implication acknowledges a pie fight aims low... oh so low.....

I know it was all just a plot device but why would all the pointy hats, mid fight, stop dead and hold their breaths when Lachrymose got pied? They didn’t even know who he was!

Ah well, whatever.

In summary, it was the pointless flashbacks more than the pie fight (not that that helped) which made me mark this one down. The Xena bods actually have an excellent record to date on using flashbacks to add to their shows while saving their pennies for the blockbusters to follow. The Xena Scrolls is one fine example and so was Forget Me Not. But they did themselves no honor with Punchlines and the recycled scenes combined with two such obvious unoriginal gags just made it seem all a bit blah.

Worst of all, the flashbacks from episodes in the greener pastures of Xena merely served to highlight the decline in quality of subsequent seasons, this episode being no exception. Let's hope these flashbacks triggered the collective memory of TPTB of how well they used to do comedy.

I’d put Punchlines in the "sorta tried a bit but didn’t really work as well as it might" category. No wonder you’ve got writer’s block Gabs -- it’s the material you’re working with.

But don’t despair, Gabs, tomorrow is another ....script.

(*I have not personally smelt Xena’s feet, but it’s hearsay from a certain bard who claims to have first-hand knowledge of said aroma.)

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