Season 3, Episode 14

5 September, 1998

Reviewed by SLK

RATING: 0.5 chakram.

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Written by R.J. Stewart;
Edited by Jim Prior;
Directed by Garth Maxwell.

Shiri Appleby (Tara),
Dorus (Mervyn Smith),
Wayan (Wade Jackson),
Micah (Brett Coutts) and
Lark (David Goodwin).


An obnoxious teen tries to replace Gabrielle as Xena’s sidekick.


No street-talking, cat fight bar-room brawling, juvenile delinquents were harmed during the making of this motion picture.


You must be kidding. If you actually taped this, do yourself a favour and jump up and down on that little plastic box until there is nothing left to rewind... okay okay... if you must, the last scene, for Xena’s look at the temple but that’s all I can bear seeing.

Sorry, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I refuse to watch this particular episode again just to find some groanable quotes like "I’m here to replace blondie"... My pain is too great. Maybe after the extensive shock treatment and medication... Maybe...


If you are one of those Xenites who thinks all Xena eps are good by mere virtue of the fact that it is Xena, then leave now. And if you haven’t seen Forgiven yet, whatever you do, don’t watch it. You won’t miss anything and your friends who have seen it will envy you your blissful ignorance. Avoid this episode like the plague. You have been warned. (You’ll thank me, later.)

Everyone else, I am sorry your eyeballs were, like mine, assaulted for 42 minutes by what I believe is the worst Xena ever to grace our screens.

It was one of those "nice idea, didn’t work" eps. I may yet need therapy for the disgraceful juxtaposition of last week’s moving affirmation of love and friendship in One Against An Army, with this dud effort which sets the Xena/Gabrielle friendship back so far I very nearly gave this review a negative rating. The only reason it gets any score at all is the final scene, which I will talk about later.

Xena didn’t treat Gabrielle so poorly or with such callous indifference even when they first met, so will someone please explain why she starts doing it now after they’ve recently seemingly pledged themselves to each other’s sides forever?

Even the most ardent Gabhater’s or Xenalover’s heart would grow icy at how their hero treats her supposedly best friend this episode. Xena shows no empathy whatsoever for what the bard is feeling and going through. Rather, Xena seems to get a kick out of being heroworshipped by the bratty, rebellious Tara.

And she is pretty slow to respond when Tara chews off half of Gabrielle’s ear and rips her face to shred. Imagine if any bloke tried to do this to Gabrielle? Xena’d ensure he’d be toast in less than a heartbeat. And that night, he certainly wouldn’t be getting pride of position next to Xena for his efforts.

In all, this entire episode was unforgiveable. The hurtful behaviour from a condescending Xena showed an appalling lack of respect for Gabrielle and a total lack of respect for their partnership - a partnership which has been built and earned after three years of life together and heaven’s knows how many near-death (and actual death) brushes.

So what went wrong - aside from the fact the show should have been called Forgive Us? It seems obvious to me the viewers could not generate any sympathy at all for Tara because by the time we get to her sad upbringing (brought in waaaay too late) we already hate her far too much to cut her any slack. And besides which, because she is double crossing our heroes left, right and centre, we can’t even ascertain whether she’s telling the truth when we hear the sobstory. In essence, Tara is not worth harming a friendship for -- and the fact that she does just that for awhile seems ludicrous. Thus, we have a character we have no sympathy for, constantly beating up Gabrielle physically and emotionally, while Xena sits by smirking. Gee, this is fun.

And, as if to rub salt in the wounds, Xena doesn’t even care that Tara has usurped Gabrielle in bedroll positions. Sheesh - nothing like being relegated to second class status in one day, after three gruelling years spent living, laughing and fighting beside someone you would die for.

Yeah yeah, Gabrielle shouldn’t care, right? She knows Xena loves her and this is only temporary. But shouldn’t Xena care that this is hurting the woman she loves, too?

I don’t buy that Xena is doing all this because Tara reminds her of herself. First up, Xena was many things in her past but I can’t ever see her as an obnoxious little brat. Wait till Fins, Femmes and Gems for a glimpse of a teenage Xena and if you can see even a *hint* of Tara in that laughing, happy girl, then just call me Joxer and hand me butt naked and blindfolded to Callisto for partyhour.

But okay, so Xena *thinks* she was just like Tara and thus sees the girl needs a second chance. But you can do that without treating your dearest friend like crap in the process. Not only doesn’t she pull Tara into line repeatedly (and we thought Xena knew how to discipline whole armies?) but she lets her get away with disobeying her instructions/endangering everyone no less than four times. Not to mention the little matter of the double cross, combined with history’s stupidest boyfriend (who goes out of their way to make Xena an enemy, I ask you?).

All I learned from this episode (which I would have preferred never to have known) is that Xena sometimes likes to put her ego above her closest friend, and that Gabrielle, character wise, really is the bigger woman on occasion. Patience of a saint. Almost way too good, actually - but one could certainly relate to her ever-present frustration.

Another fairly large quibble: Xena leaving the pair alone so Gabrielle would kick Tara’s butt was almost cruel. The Warrior Princess knows full well how much the bard hates to inflict pain on others; she knows that for Gabrielle to get to that position she would have to have been pushed a great deal too far. Yet Xena doesn’t seem to care. She is only thinking of teaching Tara a lesson, not whatever feelings Gabrielle may later experience, sensitive soul that she is.

Besides, I actually think Tara was Xena’s discipline problem, because it was she who allowed the girl to tag along, and so it was Xena who should have solved it herself, especially as she was the one Tara respected. Xena should not have instead walked away, treating Gabrielle and Tara like two little children who needed to go out the back, put on the boxing gloves and pummel each other senseless to work things out between them. Gabrielle is an adult, not a child, and should *never* have been put in the same category as Tara by Xena. That was so insulting. And Gabrielle was not only *not* consulted -- as an adult and equal partner to Xena should have been -- but she was flat-out *used*. Oh bravo, Xena. What does that say about how Xena sees Gabrielle?

Minor quibbles, next to these major ones, did we *have* to see the charade twice? Xena’s patronising "We *don’t* knooow" Gabrielle was funnyish alone but symptomatic of the whole episode.

Note for the director: if you want us to be thinking warm fuzzies about a character who has attacked a wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly regular, you might want to erase the evidence of the brutal injuries as soon as possible. The constant reminder - those scratch marks on Gabrielle, the bloodied ear - just left us detesting Tara all the way through and never forgetting what a troll she was from scene two.

Which somehow (?) leads me to the only moment in the whole show which actually moved the character development forwards not backwards. Xena standing, silhouetted at the temple’s door, not wanting to get the blessing because she feels she does not deserve it. Oh she would love to get a blessing that would just wipe away her past. But how *can* she, her guilty mind asks her, how *dare* she think of wiping away all that she has done? What right has she to even contemplate it? You can see it all going on behind her lonely mask. This scene showed so much how Xena will always have her cross to bear, for she will never, ever, let herself feel that she has done enough atoning (curiously at odds with her statement in last week’s show though - but she was terrified of losing Gabrielle at the time). The look on Xena’s face; the sadness of the entire scene; Tara’s lack of understanding ...while Gabrielle, Xena’s soul witness, knows without even asking. That was a very interesting and compelling moment.

But as to whether the entire episode was worth it just to see that, I’ll let you decide.

And if you think I am being too cruel, perhaps I am. But ask yourself how far these two dear friends have come to reach this point -- only to have their friendship treated by writers almost as something of little consequence. And then you may feel the same sense of betrayal that I and a large number of Xenites also feel by this awful dud. Oh and you are all free to invite me, along with six burly lads, around to your place to jump repeatedly on your copy of Forgiven. No charge.


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