OLD ARES HAD A FARM
Season 6, episode 10
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 7 chakrams
SCROLLS & SCRIBES: Written by R. J. Stewart, and directed by Charlie Siebert. Producer Chloe Smith.
PASSING PARADE: Kevin Smith (Ares); Noel Coutts (Gasgar); Kirk Torrance (Demetrius); Charmaine Guest (Greba); Norman Forsey (Dempar); Dai Henwood (Siki).
DISCLAIMER: Ares went to the dogs in the making of this motion picture
STORY SO FAR: Under her Mortal God Protection Scheme, Xena gives Ares a new identity -- playing farmer at her old family farm, to elude the warriors who have combined forces to hunt him down.
REWIND FOR: Two-minute neck pinch in the inn scene. Either theyre making scumbags tougher these days or Xenas losing her touch on that not-so-deadly deadly neck pinch.
Ares flexes his pecs at "neighbourly" Greba with a satisfying *boing* effect.
Xenas disgusted look when she spies Gabrielles hand on Ares crotchal area. Judging by the Warrior Princesss face, anyone would think the bard had just squeezed a skunk. Ares, for once the innocent bystander, had the look of any man caught between a god-killer and her "blonde girlfriend" -- abject fear.
Classic comedy moment on the farmhouse roof, with Ares deadpanned "of course" seconds before his Wily E. Coyote entrance on the living room floor. And keep your eye on Horace the dog, rubbing it in. Literally.
Xena humming her theme music as she puts her groceries away. Again with the theme? Is she getting royalties?!
Gabrielle vamps it up with a passing army in her own, sweet unconvincing way. Xena she aint. (Thank the gods.)
Gabrielles impressive chest thump with Xenas breast plate. Judging by the clunk they made on impact, methinks the bards been stuffing her bra... with frying pans.
"So, what brings you here? Animal magnetism?" Good to see Ares new-found mortality has had no effect on his modesty.
"How are you at shovelling sh*t?" Xena expresses her undying gratitude to Ares by offering him a job in politics.
"Hello! We're looking at a hovel." Only five minutes on the farm and already Ares is calling a spade a hovel, er, shovel.
"It even smells the way I remember it." Xena reminisces about the ramshackle ole home on the range while at the same time casting aspersions on grandmamas cleaning skills.
"Hey, drop by again when the news is better. We'll have a glass of wine, swap stories on raising root vegetables." Ares to Greba ... one track mind as usual. And it aint about farming.
"I'm in Tartarus." Sheeah right, Ares, in bed with semi naked Xena and Gabrielle -- a thousand hearts bleed for ya, big fellar.
"Is there anything you and I agree on (Gabrielle throws a wry glance towards Xena) oh, yeah, anything else?" Ares acknowledges his rival in love and other catastrophes.
"I see you use the pull-and-squeeze method. I prefer the double-squeeze." -- Gabrielle to Xena. Maybe this explains why Ares chose to move to the mysterious upstairs bedroom midway through the night?
"That's not a dog, it's a horse. We breed em small round here." Hope hes keeping a close eye on his root vegetables, then. Ares in panic mode at losing Horace the Barking Horse.
Siki: "They call me 'Battling Siki'."
Xena: "Nobody ever called you that. You just made that up. But if you don't want to be known as 'Dead Siki' you'll be moving on."
Xena: "Gabrielle and I will stay with you, just until you get the swing of things."
Ares: "Yeah, plantation, some slaves, half a dozen flute playing girls "
Xena: "Just what I was thinking."
Xena: "My grandma used to sit in this chair. She'd rock and she'd tell us stories about the Olympian gods."
Ares: "Bet you never thought you'd grow up to kill most of them, did you?"
Greba: "That Gasgar -- he's a bad one. You know what they say his favourite sport is? To take a young, beautiful, helpless maiden and despoil her chastity again and again and again."
Ares: [gasping] "Oh, the beast."
Gabrielle: "It's not a wolf, it's a dog. Don't they have dogs on Olympus?"
Ares: "Not one-headed ones."
Xena: "Hey, he's not attacking you. He's trying to be affectionate."
Ares: "I am not interested in that kind of relationship."
Greba: "I mean, when he likes you, he just comes up and starts licking you. Why can't we be more like that?"
Ares: "A very, very good question.
Xena: "Why don't you go kill a chicken for dinner."
Ares: [grabs his sword enthusiastically] "All right! Now you're talking!"
Gabrielle: "Only one chicken."
Beverly Hillbillies meets the witness protection program meets Lassie Come Home. Hoooo-doggy... Just makes you wonder what RJ Stewart is putting on his Cocoa Puffs... Whatever it is, give the writer some more.
Its a delight to find such a simple, carefree comedy following all that edge-of-seat trilogy angst, drama and death. Exactly when WAS the last pure-bred Xena comedy, by the way? Surely not Married With Fishsticks, 17 episodes ago? (If you call that a comedy - and the forensics lab hasnt got back to us yet.)
Anyway, this one is very good in that it is quite unlike any other Xena episodes, the humour relying not on slapstick, ala the pie-in-your face Little Problems, nor people acting out of character for cheap laughs, like Married With Fishsticks. Its just one good old ex-God of War and Xena and Gabrielle hamming it up together.
A bit of a clue as to how slick the screenplay is, is how many quotables and comebacks there were... I think this episode sets a new record.
With so many magic moments, where to begin?
Okay favourite scene -- Ares in bed with Xena and Gabrielle. Setting aside for a moment how utterly absurd it would be for any small girl to have had a queen-sized bed when she was growing up, and how convenient it was that only that one room stayed dry because of grandpas foresight in reinforcing the roof, but I had a severe case of the hyuk hyuks as the menage-a-troi was played out to its inevitable conclusion.
WHY was Ares between them in the first place? Well, it wouldnt have been funny if he wasnt.
Since when do Xena and Gabrielle go for the Victoria Secrets-meets-Flintstones catalogue of undergarments? Hell, do we even care? It was fun to goggle your eyes at the sight of them in their unlikely bed attire.
The only thing that would have made this scene more priceless for me would have been Xena in the middle, waking up to find the bard and Ares fast asleep, each with one possessive arm slung over her midriff.
I can just picture her wry eyebrow arch and amused smile twitching at her lips. Oh yeah, Xena doesnt half love being the centre of attention with those two around.
Note the positioning of Xenas old bedroom, by the way. Ground floor, right? So how does Ares come to wake and step up on a balcony later to hear Xena cursing her loss of breastplate and leap out the window after her? Ahh, now thats the mystery...
Second favourite scene -- Ares asks Gabrielle what, if anything, they have in common... She looks up at Xena pointedly and he concurs with an amused smile. Yeah -- no doubting the message there: those two lugs love her and neither can nor want to stop.
I note that Ares has traditionally been quite dismissive of Gabrielle. Right throughout the series, with a few exceptions, he has either ignored her or put her down. At the start of this episode, both Xena AND Gabrielle come to his aid. He ignores her and turns to Xena and starts referring to the glory of fighting at her side, like the other third of the team is little more than roadkill.
This above scene explains why... Gabrielle is his rival and they both know it and here they properly acknowledge it to the other for the first time.
I also think this rivalry was why he took so much pleasure in telling her, by the fire that first night, the reason he saved her in Motherhood -- ie only to keep Xena alive. In his own juvenile way, he wanted her to know where she, the rival, stands in his opinion. At least thats what he wants her to think. Whether that was his true opinion for his actions or not, is not really certain. Maybe it was -- he is a selfish one-time god of war after all. Or maybe hes not as tough and mean as he likes to pretend. Either way, the explanation for that rescuing moment was a bit of gentle egging on his part. Gabrielle seemed to know it, too, judging by that little "uh-huh" smile of hers, and her not being even slightly offended.
Third favourite scene -- Xena and Gabrielles pretend biffo. It took me a few watches to see why it appealed to me so much and then I realised: Renee (not Gabrielle -- Renee) was having so much darned fun! Take a close look at her and she cant stop grinning from ear to ear, even when they have an audience, and its supposed to be an earnest cat fight. Which reminds me -- unpalatable as it may be, how many men do you know who would WILLINGLY LEAVE a catfight in progress, right under their nose? Especially one that may or may not be a lovers tiff and has the potential for (in TV land characters minds at least) ... you know... the making up bit. *g*
I just thought what was even more hilarious than seeing Gabrielle putting her breasts on the line against Xenas armor (oooh thats so gotta sting), was the sight of the bad guy scooting out of there like a scared little rabbit, acting like this wasnt his every dream come true. Boy, they must breed them dedicated in the warlord game. He was off to find Ares and nothing was going to stop him...not even two beautiful women wrestling in front of him? I guess I should be grateful (and I am) they didnt write this scene as gratuitously as they would have on any other TV show.
It was the shock of him leaving that left me staggered, not that I wanted him to stay and ogle. There is a difference. That was one unusual man, Ill give him that.
Finally, you have to love that last look on Xena and Gabrielles faces as they are grinning stupidly at each other after the fight is over. Awwww. Cant ya just feel the love?
But on to the main story. I said in episode one of season six that I thought Ares should be pursued by old adversaries with a score to settle, and I am delighted to see I wasnt alone in the idea. It was of course hellishly tenuous for Xena and Gabrielle to suddenly see Ares as farm boy material and, whammo, just like that, present him with a farm. Funny we didnt know about Xenas farming background till now... and I dont think Ill get the domestic bliss milking scene outta my head for some time. *g*
Nitpicky, I know, but after 36 years, youd pretty much have expected some one else to have moved in and set up crops on grandpappys farm by now.
But a farming they did go and I have to say it, have you seen either women take to a new role with such relish as Gabrielle and Xena did to the rural life? Sandles? Girly milkmaid dresses? And WHAT was with that silly headscarf Gabs was wearing? Its not like her "voluminous" hair was going to get in her face and cause a critical moo-moo milking boo-boo.
My lordy, lord, they were into their costumes faster than you can say: "Now listen to a story bout a girl named Gabs, a bard from Poteideia who liked to keep her Xena fed..."
Actually they went so hick I kept expecting the straw to be hanging outside of Gabrielles mouth when she brought the cart back from market. Say, whos paying for all this? Pigs, cows, chickens, polkadot bras... it all adds up.
One very big plus about their farming haze, however, was that unlike in too many episodes, Xena stays in character when she changes outfit. So often she puts on new threads and does a personality switch with it. This time, even though shes looking all girly, she has no compunction about hauling Ares sorry backside off the porch and into the house, flicking him with the towel like an errant mule. Yeeha.
Which brings me to that much talked about scene...the adventures of Ares the yokel and his trampy wife. Damnation that Kevin Smith is a funny funny guy. His timing is brilliant (love your work on the roof, dude) and while farmers should certainly sue for unlimited damages for character defamation, he was a riot as the hick needing only his pitchfork to rein in his "loose woman"...
I do think Ares was right about one thing though: it does tell us something about the bard that the very first stalling scenario she can think up is her offering her body to half an army and suggesting she has a bit of a history with, er, root vegetables... Chuckle.
Of course she just doesnt strike me as terribly convincing in her seductress-of-large-groups-of-marauding-men role. Reminds me of the time in an early Xena ep when she dressed up like she was a fruit-turban shimmying wannabe from a Rio De Janiro mardi gras, and tried to win her way onto a ship full of randy pirates by implying she was ready, willing and oh-so-available. She doesnt do the insatiable seductress the way Xena does -- and she should count herself lucky. But it was funny watching her try it on -- and Ares, bless his dear heart, added the cherry on top beautifully by hamming it up so well.
Boo-hiss line of the show was the suggestion that a virgin being raped repeatedly (or despoiled as they quaintly put it here) by a rampaging warlord is a thing to be desired. It aint, and that neighbour is damned stupid to think it is. Ugggh. I am amazed this line slipped through, to be frank. But Ill forgive them this trespass for all the other zingers that did work and were far better thought out.
Towards the end, and getting back to feeling the love, we get to the point of the episode. Xena explains that her need to return to the farm was perhaps because she felt "loved and I felt like I belonged". This implies she hadnt been feeling those things for awhile and hence needed this break. Well, when youre being sleazed on by King Rothgar in some strange Nordic country for a full year while suffering amnesia, Im not surprised she was feeling unloved and out of place. Xena and Gabs totally earned their holiday after the icy soujorn.
And the ending line, that theyre lucky to have those things now was aw shucks, pretty durned sweet.
In summary, thumbs up all around, except I have to say, the costumers who may have picketing New Zealand dairy/poultry farmers on their hands for their flouncy, hick-flavoured representation of the local rural profession. But gross stereotyping of farmers as dumb hicks aside, this little comedy kicked kaboose.
So many little things added to the picture - Ares freaking out over the grey hair; the flirty neighbor who turned out to be more reliable than CNN in her regular newsbreaks, the dog which tied together so many scenes and actually led the warlord to deduce where Ares was... all very clever little interconnecting moments to make the whole thing feel very neat and complete.
And best of all, Old Ares Had A Farm plays just as amusingly on the second screening, and the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh....
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