Forget Me Not
Review by: Lord Nelson
The title of this review of the terrific clip ep "Forget Me Not" is a cliche often used in the community of people recovering from past emotional traumas. It refers to the times that people have repressed memories deliberately because they find what happened too painful to recall. Psychologically, these repressed memories are pure poison. They lead to the repression of powerful feelings and the repression of these feelings lead to behavioral changes. These behavioral changes effect everbody around the wounded person spreading the sickness until the person first effected deals with the problem. In the sensitive and penetrating script by one of my favorite Xena writers Hilary J. Bader, Gabrielle deals with her denial of a single powerful traumatic decision in her life, and her motivation for that decision. Her search is carried out with the deft use of myth and clips from other shows. The search is brought to fruition by an absolutely devastating performance by Renee O'Connor. Not only does Ms Bader explore Gabrielle's character with sensitivity she also gives Joxer a major shot of character development ably carried out by Ted Raimi in what is his finest performance as 'The Rebel Without A Clue."
In the myths, the River Styx, the boundary of the Underworld, had two tributaries, Mnemnosyne and Lethe. Mnemosyne was the river of remembrance while Lethe was the river of forgetfulness. Ms Bader throws us a variation on this myth to use it as a a psychotherapy device, which Gabrielle uses with intense moral courage. The plot is simple. After clips from Maternal Instincts Gabrielle is awash in emotional pain one morning. The clips are set up to represent Gabrielle's painful memories. Her regrets over her past conduct are very close to the surface. Joxer stumbles in and tells Gabrielle that Xena was expecting them at the nearby Temple of Memnosyne. Gabrielle is tortured by her memories and she has to find out which. Joxer is extremely concerned and follows Gabrielle to the temple. There Gabrielle meets a girl who has no memories and she knows that the priestess can end her pain by wiping her memories. Inside the priestess explains things while showing her a mystical chalice that would hold Gabrielle's memories while she explores those things that Gabrielle doesn't know about herself. The priestess has her annointed and Gabrielle's memories are removed from her body to begin her exploration. Outside, Joxer, very worried about the woman she loves, sees the annointing, breaks in, takes Gabrielle out in an attempt to save her. The priestess tells him that the Gabrielle that he now is protecting is just an empty shell who has no memory of who she is. Nevertheless, Joxer takes Gabrielle's body with him.
Here's where the dual examination really begins. Gabrielle finds herself in a place very much like the Underworld and she's suddenly accompanied by Ares. She wades through three rivers, the rivers of, Wailing, Woe, and Pain to discover what she's hidden by herself. Ares is with her at every turn trying to convince her that she can forget all this and get out of the pain. Each attempt to cross the river is excruciating for they dredge up every awful memory Gabrielle ever had. It's here that the clips are used cleverly to substitute for Gabrielle's memories. Joxer, on the other hand, tries to give back Gabrielle's memories, but only her happy ones. He does it by reading her scrolls to her. It's frustrating because the Gabrielle that is with him is an empty slate. Here Joxer tries to ingratiate himself by telling her the scrolls in a Joxer-centric manner. He succeeds in a way because the empty Gabrielle says she must be in love with him. In the Joxer scenes, Ms Bader tells several very funny inside jokes the best being Gabrielle's reference to the Shrinking Bilious Green Sports Bra.
These events lead to the two great instances of growth. Joxer realizes that what he was doing was wrong. He loves Gabrielle as she was even though he knows that Gabrielle doesn't love him. He admits to himself, and to Gabrielle that he knows that he's not worthy and that he wants the old Gabrielle back.
Gabrielle in a harrowing crossing of the River of Pain, discovers the great secret that the events of The Bitter Suite didn't heal. This is discovered in a wonderful burn stunt that is one of the longest that I've ever seen. It's doubly amazing because it's done in a tank full of water. The water is burning because of computer effects and well spaced gas jets in the tank. Altogether a marvellous effect. Gabrielle crawls out of the lake and the flames vanish, and she's stripped naked of her denial. (and for real. Wonderful use of a naked body double here) The Ares that has been accompanying Gabrielle all along asks her if it's been worth all the pain she's gone through, and in an example of moral courage that made me swell with pride, Gabrielle says yes and reveals her secret. The Ares she sees is the part of herself that wants to quit, to keep from being honest with herself. To give in to that part of herself is to loose all her memories including the happy ones. Gabrielle beats that Ares with a staff then says that she tragically invoked Ares to speed her to Chin so that she could betray Xena. She wanted to betray Xena NOT because she wanted to prevent a murder, but to punish Xena for abandoning the time she and Gabrielle had spent together. Gabrielle had given everything to Xena, her love, her family, and her blood innocence, yet Xena so loved Lao Ma that she would forget that. Gabrielle was bitter and jealous over this. In that moment, the great regret she had over that decison is healed. This is very sharp stuff and very true to ANYBODY's character, even someone as good as Gabrielle. She's no symbol of goodness and light, she is a good, immensely courageous, and very human person.
At that moment, Gabrielle's memories return to her body to find Xena there. Lucy Lawless in her single short scene is devastating. Xena hoped that a visit to the Priestess of Mnemosyne would restore Gabrielle's happiness and she set the visit up because she'd HEARD what Gabrielle was suppressing because Gabrielle was talking in her sleep. Gabrielle apologizes for her jealosy and Xena instantly forgives her by saying it's all over. Then both turn to Joxer to express their irritation that he's still there interrupting their privacy. Then they both acknowldge his importance by saying that even a trip to the river of memory wouldn't make them forget him. Lovely.
What more can be said about Renee O'Connor? She is an acting talent of the first water. In a script that could have very easily been an exercise of superficial fireworks, Renee brings out all the depth and growing complexity of Gabrielle. It was a performance, while powerful was gentle in a way. This captures the essence of Gabrielle perfectly. We see every feeling wash through her eyes and expressive face with utmost subtlety. Ted Raimi stays with her. We clearly see that the Joxer who annoys us is really nothing but a mask. Joxer hates himself so much that he can't show his true feelings which are really very melancholy. He has yet to realize that he's a good, kind man, lost and unable to find what he could be. He's desperate to be acknowleged, yet other than his warrior delusion, given to him cruelly by his parents, he has nothing. Perhaps one day Joxer will just find out that he doesn't need to impress people with his prowess or dupe people into loving him, as he attempted to do with the empty Gabrielle in this story. There is hope for Joxer now. Someday he will no longer be Paliacci (the opera, I forgot the character's name) the clown who is dying of sadness inside. Ted captures this quality perfectly.
Hilary Bader should be rewarded for her choice and use of clips for this episode for they drive the plot forward without any feeling of stopping as in earlier clip eps. This may be Jim Prior's best editing job yet. The final scenes in the firey river had a cumulative drive and impact that were breathtaking. His choices of views and pacing were super.
Of all the clip episodes on Xena I've seen this one is clearly the best. We learned a lot about Gabrielle in Athen's City Academy. We discovered two wonderful characters in Mel and Janice in Xena Scrolls. But in Forget Me Not, we learned how a simple young woman learns to accept the bad with the good and grow into greatness. Excellent job.
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