Fins, Femmes & Gems
Review by Lord Nelson email@example.com
I found "Fins, Femmes, & Gems to be a totally biguiling and entertaining comedy, full of love, good spirits, and easy bawdiness on the surface. Beneath the surface it was full of the sweet and very deep exploration of "The Relationship" that makes Xena: Warrior Princess so edifying as entertainment. Perhaps because the story itself was by Creator and Executive Producer Rob Tapert, this was by far the strongest of comedy scripts offered by Armas and Foster. Although not the strongest of ALL the comedy scripts because it is derived from R. J. Stewart's masterpiece 'A Day In The Life', its use of enchanted obsessions as an exploration of character was tremendously successful. As such it rises to the top rank of Xena comedies.
Alexandra Tydings for a very short time blesses this episode with her continuing and most charming depiction of the Goddess of Love Aphrodite. She arrives boogying to tunes on a pair of shell headphones into her temple (Hephestus Radio Shack Headphones?) where she assesses the offerings at her altar. Three thugs arrive with a huge mystic diamond stolen from the Temple of the Heavens which is the earthly embodiment of the north star. Aphrodite has had it stolen so that SHE can use it as the centerpiece of her new constellation. She knows that Xena and her "posse" is in pursuit and has a plan to put an end to that pursuit it focuses round a potion called OBSESSION (a blatant ripoff of the perfume industry!). The potion renders the last thought of a person into an overwhelming obsession. When Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer arrive, each is dosed---Xena twice. Joxer is looking at a tapestry of the love story of Attis the Ape Man and his princess Gaia when dosed. He BECOMES attis. Gabrielle, after passing through the 'adult' section of the temple (leading to a hillarious assessment of the position of two lovers in a wall bas relief, and Xena's even funnier reply, 'Sure it is!' ahh her many skills...) sees her reflection in a bronze mirror when dosed. She immediately becomes obsessed with herself. Xena is looking through the offerings on the altar. She picks up a fish when hit with her double dose and becomes the angler of the millenium.
I will not go on with the plot, except for the fact that the mission to recover the diamond is placed on hold because of the obessions and Xena leads them all to a lovely lake. The episode takes place here the rest of the time. The coolest thing about the script is that the obsessions bring out the most prominent characteristics of Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer. Joxer's intelligence goes down (yes it's possible!) and his love for Gabrielle and his loyalty to his friends come out. So does his passion, hillariously. He want's Gabrielle, and he wants Gabrielle NOW calling for what he calls FURIOIUS ZUG-ZUG at every opportunity to Gabrielle's horror. Think George of the Jungle!! Watch out for that TREE!!
Xena is Xena squared. She has NEVER been so focused. What is cool here is that Xena is very child like. We see her tremendous enjoyment of fishing and physical activity. She has become once again the powerful, fun loving tomboy girl. Yet somehow, she is able to use her obsession to take control of the situation, manipulate Gabrielle and Joxer into doing what needs to be done to recover the diamond from the thugs. Xena is the greatest improviser in history.
Gabrielle is REALLY Gabrielle. She doesn't shut up the ENTIRE EPISODE. She is so enamored of herself that she makes Narcissus, the mythic character upon which Gabrielle's obsession is based seem like he's totally outwardly directed. My guess is that Gabrielle is given three times the lines that Xena has.
Joxer here is pretty much a plot device. Although Ted Raimi turns in one of his best comedic performances, Joxer is mostly to drive along the action. He swings through trees, hoots and grunts like a chimp and mugs beautifully. Xena is pinned to the lake, so it is JOXER that has to provide Gabrielle the platform for her to carry out the mission of getting the diamond. Nevertheless Joxer swinging from tree to tree in a Gabrielle's sexy pink nightie (who was THAT for Humm?) and a pair of ridiculous thick blue socks was worth the price of admission, especially when Xena swings in to snatch her sidekick from his, uhh, clutches.
There are a tremendous number of riotous double and even triple entendres in the script and many other jokes in I feel was deliciously bad taste. The episode DRIPS with subtext. Some examples. Gabrielle, in an attempt to kiss her own reflection in the lake falls in. Xena dives in and rescues her. When she gets Gabrielle back to shore, she's about to administer mouth to mouth recussitation when Gabrielle wakes up and spits water at her face. Gabrielle then goes on and on about her experience and says, "And then I saw your face, Xena and I realized that there is only one person in the world for me---ME!" Xena's reactions are prescious. They are loving, modest, lustful, then disappointed and pouting. This is as heartwarming a moment as I've seen in Xena and Lucy Lawless carries it off with her marvellously mobile face brilliantly. There's the Fist the Fish crack. I won't go into that in detail, this is a family review. Lucy's entire performance is just lovely for it shows all of Xena's greatest strengths with subtlety and warmth. In a later incident, Xena cuts a lock of Gabrielle's hair to tie the first fly lure in angling hisory. Gabrielle in a fit of narcissic pique snatches it back and tries to put it back to preserve her perfection. She fails of course but during the entire time, Xena is sitting next to her POUTING! That was an incredibly sweet and funny moment, sure to be one of the classic Xena scenes.
This is Gabrielle's episode. Although perhaps written a little too brittle to be the greatest depiction of the Bard of Potidaea, it is very close to it, and Renee O'Connor is just amazing. All through the show she claims she is perfect and she very nearly is. Renee has never been so ravishing! She is clearly one of the most beautiful women on television and she is displayed to great advantage her. The song she tries to sing, a ripoff of the Beverly Hillbillies theme is right on the mark, even though Xena shuts her up. Renee's full range as an actress is displayed and it makes this reviewer want to swoon.
All of these marvellous little insights drive to an important psychological point. The obsessions are MORE than what the characters saw when they were dosed by Aphrodite, the reflect whatever was on the character's MIND when the drug was administered. With Gabrielle, it was resentment over her role as sidekick. We saw this resentment all the way back in For Him The Bell Tolls and it had never been resolved. With Xena, it was an unresolved promise she made to her late, greatly loved brother Lyceus. As for Joxer, we don't know because impishly, our heriones get a decent night's sleep alone by NOT telling Joxer what to do. When this emotional baggage was addressed, the enchantment was resolved. The ep ends in a reprise of the last scene of ADITL when our heroines look at the stars, but here the tone is very different. Xena has no shyness about showing deep affection to Gabrielle. She tells her that Gabrielle makes an important controbution to her mission every day and in a moving tribute she says that "Any good I do is because you are around to help." Xena promises to sing Gabrielle's praises from now on. This is another leap of emotional growth in Xena.
Clearly this is the hand of Rob Tapert. He is deeply interested in the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle growing into something mythic, and greater than any mortal relationship could be. This forces the viewer on second viewing to reexamine every scene and interaction between Xena and Gabrielle in that light. This is a wonderful idea and makes Fish, Femmes, and Gems worthy of great examination and analysis. (This has been done to a large extent by Deb7 in a very smart email) It raises the ep to something way above the average situation comedy. This is Xena at it's near best. Again we see another well written, and brilliantly performed episode, directed with effective simplicity by Josh Becker. What a wonderful show is Xena: Warrior Princess.