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Season 5, Episode 9

September 21, 2000

Reviewed by Sheryl-Lee Kerr

RATING: 7 chakrams



SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by George Strayton & Tom O'Neill. Directed by Garth Maxwell.

STORY SO FAR: Eli faces off against Ares -- and loses. Xena blames Gabrielle. The Warrior Princess also finds out who the father of her child is.

PASSING PARADE: Hudson Leick (Callisto); Timothy Omundson (Eli); Kevin Smith (Ares); James Gaylyn (Petracles); Peter Rowley (Milos).

DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Eli's non-violent ways, many people lost their lives during the production of this motion picture.

REWIND FOR: The look on Ares' face when he finds out the job of daddy to Xena's child has been filled by Gabrielle. "I would have paid to see that." So, I expect, would a few people.

Gabrielle’s smug look back at Ares in this scene was just as amusing. She clearly likes the idea. *g*

Gabrielle telling Xena she's not her child and that she can handle herself in tough situations. All the while holding her, presumably, very sharp daggers by their *blades*. It's enough to make any mother cry.

An unintentionally funny and subconscious move on Gabrielle’s part when Ares gives Eli some lip for the first time. Watch Gabrielle put her hand up to hold back Eli from going forward. What was she afraid Eli was about to do? Love Ares to death?

I aint mad, I just look it... Xena thinks nothing of ranting and raving to Callisto while villagers are around her. Either they can see the angel and think heavenly visions are commonplace in these here parts, or they can’t and just accept that Xena has bats in her belfry. Either way, they never seem very interested ... which is decidedly odd.

Xena still doing it hard the way; first it’s walking through minefields, now it's bridges. If only she had cut the rope bridge sooner rather than later, when taking on Ares' army. She might have returned in time to save Eli's blood, her sweat and everyone else's tears.




Xena: "Just you've been so quick to pull those things (daggers) lately, when words have always been your strong point." Gabrielle: "Do you have a point?" Gabrielle's brain slowly turns to brawn. I found Xena's statement quite self-explanatory, really.

"Fear always makes a good impression." Ares quotes one of his etiquette tips from his book on 'Everything You Wanted to Know About Mortals, but were too God-Like to Ask."

"What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be floating on a cloud some place?"

Or atop someone's Christmas tree perhaps? It seems even good Callisto can't help but get under Xena's skin.

Best Comebacks:

Callisto: "Eli will continue a new life as his soul is reincarnated into a new body."

Xena: "I liked him in the old one just fine!"



Ares: "You'll always be a goody two shoes."

Gabrielle: "Yeah, but with a really big sword."



Xena: "Am I getting too old for this?"

Xena, pauses: "Naaaah........aiy,aiy,aiy,aiyee!"



Ares: I could have given you the world.

Gabrielle: You can’t give me what you don’t have.



This episode got better as it went along. It suffered from some characters behaving weirdly problems and a far too heavy-handed Christianity theme, but contained one thing Xena has been in short supply of ... an unpredictable episode.

Eli is back -- with a (lack of) vengeance. As is his way. He gets more cloyingly saccharine on every visit (eg "love will be our shield and our weapon") but I suppose that’s how you turn out if you were hand-picked to be mankind’s saviour from the ancient gods. I still have a burning urge to tell him to get a proper haircut, find some original material (not culled from that other one-god preacher over in Jerusalem) and lose the dresses -- they’re out this season in Athens, anyway. But what do I know...

Also back is Ares, in his most cackly, darkly camp form. And there’s Callisto, so sweet I get dental cavities just looking at her. I will refrain from making any comments about the little matching flowers on her breasts, as long as someone will explain why to be good and heavenly, your skirt must be so long it drags along the ground... Or is the presumption she’d be levitating most of the time anyway so it wouldn’t be an issue?

Xena is in there busily proving the point "pregnant woman can jump", so much so I am wondering if her bub’s umbilical cord has been doubling as a bungy rope these past months.

And Gabrielle is showing she can be as trigger happy as Xena ever was, and that hankies are misunderstood lethal weapons.

So throw all these characters into the mix and what do you get? A Cecil B. De Mille production on acid, minus the 40,000 extras. If only Charlton Heston had done a chariot ride-by cameo, it’d have been perfect.

But let’s get back to the beginning. Xena and Gabrielle are meddling again. I don’t care what anyone else says, there’s no doubt they were sticking their nose into other people’s business -- not to save any innocents this time, but just because they heard raised voices. Her calling card is lopping the top off some bloke’s weapon, even though it could have been his family heirloom pointy stick for all she knew. Who appointed these two as the UN, anyway? It was a village squabble and needed no heavyhanded outside intervention.

That said, Gabrielle made a mistake. Shock, horror, Xena, it happens to the best of us. But the disturbing way she looked at the bard, you’d think Gabs’d started that fight on purpose. And Xena wouldn’t be looking at Gabrielle as though she were scum, if the bard had been right and the guy had pulled out his dagger...

At this moment I thought the Warrior Princess was treating Gabs like an errant business colleague, rather than a very human "soulmate" who’d made an honest mistake. That sucked.

But all was forgiven with the Ares ‘who’s the father’ banter that came next. Who of the three smirking actors loved it more? Hard to say... but my tape has a permanent dent in it trying to figure it out.

We get to hear now about the Twilight of the Gods. Now we’re talking major story arc here. And all without a rift in sight, thank heavens. Or is there? There’s no denying Xena and Gabrielle have a bad, bad argument in this episode.

It was very hard to watch and the funeral scene was hardest of all -- given the memories it evoked of their last rift. I was hoping, praying for Xena to bridge the gap and give the bard a hug. Nothing. Just Gabrielle alone against that swirling desert wind, looking all lost and lonely. Ripe pickings for a god of war.

The central theme they are debating all the while is: Is love enough, or is might right? Can only warriors shape the Earth?

Before Eli dies, Gabrielle has made her decision. She believes in him. His ideology was what she had always believed before taking up the sword, anyway.

The moment he collapses, dead, in her arms, she starts to wonder if she hasn’t made a terrible mistake.

And then Xena returns. That she disagrees with Gabrielle’s choice is obvious. But her disbelief, rage and fury are so palpable. It seemed too much to me -- after all, she had never seemed that close to Eli -- and was certainly not closer than Gabrielle had been.

I still question this choice of direction. Xena should have known Gabrielle would not want Eli to be dead, but again, she acts as though the bard wilfully brought on the teacher’s death. As with the bard’s error earlier, Xena doesn’t see it from Gabrielle’s perspective, only her own: that their role is to protect the weak, and nothing else cuts mustard. No excuse is satisfactory. As she says: "The only reason people like Eli exist is because people like us defend them when they won’t defend themselves."

Okay, we get it, but why so enraged, Xena?

In my view, a truer reaction would have been for Xena to ask the bard to explain what had happened; and she would have soon worked out Gabrielle’s belief in Eli had dominated her decision. How could she then hold Gabrielle responsible for thinking she had done the right thing? Xena might have actually endorsed the course because it was Eli’s last request. Eli was an adult. He knew the consequences and chose his course -- unpalatable or misguided as it might have seemed to Xena. It was still his right to make that choice.

Someone helping him in his cause, doing what he wanted, exactly as he wanted it, should surely not deserve such out and out disbelief and anger.

And Xena knew this was bigger than Gabrielle, anyway. Hell, she kept bumping into Angel Callisto everywhere she turned, asking her to do the very thing Gabrielle had done. Yet even though Xena has visited the heavens, and seen the forces at work behind all this, she dismisses it all out of hand and remains mad as all get out at her dearest friend. I ask again: WHY SO ENRAGED?

Was it because of another possibility? Gabrielle chose Eli’s word over Xena’s -- chose to follow his decree to not intervene, instead of Xena’s to "make sure nothing happens to Eli before I get back". That would sting a bit. But surely her ego is not so fragile as to fly into a rage with the bard over such a thing. Unless she’s ... jealous?

Of Eli’s strong (benign) sway over Gabrielle -- and her unwavering trust in him. If this is the reason, it’s a pretty sad one, Xena. Not that Gabrielle’s not immune from the old green-eyed monster herself, as Forget me Not revealed.

But I don’t think that’s what we were seeing here. I think Xena feels the bard has let both her and Eli down by believing in nonsense instead of reality and then assisting his death. Still an over-the-top reaction, but typical Xena. If you can’t touch it, smell it, see it, feel it or taste it, then it’s bunkum to her.

So for whatever reason, Xena is mad as hell with Gabs and does the very thing she urges the villagers not to do -- she uses Gabrielle as a scapegoat for Eli’s death and blames her -- publicly. This, incidentally, was a very risky thing to do with the mob all riled like that. Fortunately they, in the end, showed more restraint than the bard’s lifetime companion did. Sheesh.

Then comes the improbable characterisation number 2. Gabrielle gets a taste of Ares’ power and finds she likes it. Even though she tells the late Eli she’s going to use it for the greater good, it would have been more in keeping with the bard to throw it back in the god of war’s face the moment he gave her a glimpse of power. Didn’t she learn her lesson after The Debt -- all favours owed to and bestowed by gods come at a steep price?

But you can forgive Gabrielle her weakness for she was in a very confused state at that point. Xena’s furious at her and not even talking to her; Eli’s dead and the villagers presumably want her head on the nearest pike. And she is feeling personally devastated by guilt. Plus, dang it if that God of War can’t be so darned persuasive, too.

These character deviations aside, I found everything immediately after Eli’s death an absolutely fascinating dichotomy of raw emotion. It really gripped and spun you about... it was easy to see both were right and both were wrong. The best episodes can form around the point that everyone is right... and yet so wrong. The drama and crackling tension between Xena and Gabrielle, while, as I say above, was unexpected and a little out of character, was so gripping to watch. Those two could start a lightning storm from the sparks showering off each other as they came to verbal blows.

It was hard to watch, but like a traffic accident, impossible not to. And the more it continued, the more the stakes went up a notch, the more Gabs screamed at Xena over and over "Don’t you blame me" the more I found myself saying, "hell, this is turning into some episode..."

Fine acting from Lucy and Renee, too... But thank the gods the pair made up in the end. I doubt my poor heart could take yet another rift between these two.

Brushed over, and perhaps deserving a return at a later date was Gabrielle’s reference to Eli that Xena is "afraid I’m becoming numb to the violence". Of course aint that the irony when she promptly chooses the way of love not violence in the scene of Eli’s death that follows.

I could have done without the reappearance of Eli at the episode’s end. Two sickly sweet angels really do make your teeth itch they’re so twee. They could have had Callisto explain Eli’s mission was complete and so on. But no, he had to do the whole dramatic halo bit one last time...

Okily, how can I not finish on anything but the subject of fatherhood...

Dear, Callisto. To be honest I picked her early on in this episode because she became the only character not to comment on Xena suddenly being pregnant. (It’s one of the mysterious things about humans, this need to tell pregnant women they’re pregnant, as though it may have somehow escaped their notice.)

Callisto never said a word. (Just glowed suitably proudly.) At the end she fesses up and the symmetry was lovely: Xena has killed Callisto’s family. Callisto is a killer because of Xena. Now Xena must bear a child fathered by Callisto (if you watch closely at the end of Fallen Angel you’ll spot the moment of conception), which also will have Callisto’s reincarnated soul. That’s a little weird... but hey, it’s Xena. Weird comes with the scenery. I loved it anyway.



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