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Season 4, Episode 12

May 8, 1999

Reviewed by SLK

RATING: 6.5 chakrams

No Montage for this episode yet

SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster; Edited by Jim Prior; Directed by Josh Becker

PASSING PARADE: Ted Raimi (Joxer/Messenger/Tyro/Prince); Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite/Pelia/Sidero); Olivia Tennet (Alesia); Chris Ryan (Zantar/Evil Stepfather); Ted Clarke (Brother #1); Douglas Kamo (Brother #2); Alistair Browning (King Melos); Sally Spencer-Harris (Queen Mistria); Hilary Cleary (Old Woman)

STORY SO FAR: Xena, Joxer, Aphrodite and Gabrielle one by one entertain a little runaway princess they are returning to her father with different versions of a Cinderella-esque fairy tale - putting themselves in the picture. Meanwhile Gabrielle and Xena have a falling out.

DISCLAIMER: No Fractured Fables were harmed in the production of this motion picture.

REWIND FOR: Okay who showers with a towel on their head? Or was this Gabrielle’s invention of the showercap? Nice back by the way, Renee, - all that thunking and whumping of stuntdudes must be paying off.

Speaking of showers, there is the strangest weather condition that erupts for three frames as Xena is walking with her newly captured baddy back to camp. Out of nowhere they are caught in a sudden downpour which ends a few steps later. I can only guess it was, in reality, raining cats and dogs the whole time, but there was a hole in a set hand’s umbrella/coversheet at that moment, letting the rain through. Either that or it gives new meaning to the term "isolated showers".

On the subject of the badguy, tell me what was it Xena used to get him out from under that tent into a tree with her? That’s right... a r-o-p-e. As in long enough to tie him up without resorting to her nearest and dearest’s apparel.

Ah yes, the Bilious Green Sports Bra - add ever-expanding to its list of adjectives, none hitherto of which have been pleasant. The length of BGSB material Xena uses to drag Zantar along with is far more than we have ever seen wrapped around the bard. At one point it seems he’s on a 1m-long lead of BGSB and that’s not counting the bit Xena’s used as gag. Btw: Interesting that these two terms should meet: BGSB=gag. I like the symmetry.

Check out the look on Xena’s face while Gabrielle is busily falling out of the tree. You’d think judging by the pained tilt of head, the bard does this all the time. On that same scene - those with tooly VCRs may want to pause the scene just as Xena says the "take" part of "mistake". You’ll see an editing error, one frame long, faster than the human eye can spot, where a close up of Xena was originally cut into the scene and then they obviously changed their mind and stayed with the falling Gabrielle shot from the mid range. For a half second you can freeze on two Xenas: one in the mid shot we have been watching talking, and one, a pinkish looking, large Xena to the right, in a tight close up. Blink and you will miss it. Those with less tooly VCRs with half a bell and one whistle will just see a flash of pink.

Gotta love the Psycho music arch up as Alesia does her version of the story - a stabbing ending for the evil step mother. What you may not have spotted is the small approving grin on the face of Zantar in the background as the little girl is enthusing about the violent end.

Hear the stomach churning sound effect as Tyrella sings that line in Joxer’s version of the story.

Okay here is the freakiest moment of the whole show: as Gabrielle is preparing to storm off - for the entire dialogue complaining about how Xena sees her, she is standing TALLER than Xena. Must be some hillock. Way to get the higher ground, Gabs!

QUOTABLE: "Unless an animal took it... a fashionable beaver?" Gabrielle having misplaced high hopes for her missing wardrobe.

"I’m telling you, brown’s not my color," a colorblind Gabrielle to Xena, quite oblivious to the rustic *brown* tones of her skirt - or the fact her new sack is more grey than brown anyway. But hey, she does sack chic so well already (Gabrielle’s Hope), so what’s not to love?

"Do these features look evil?" A shallow goddess of love, now there’s a first. Now if she could just explain for us why Callisto and Valesca aren’t also up there strumming harps virtuously with the angels...

"Xena, give me the pan before you hurt someone." Gabrielle - in an almost inaudible out of shot line as they argue over the frying pan - showing she never has nor will forget Xena’s alternate uses for frying pans.

"I don’t need you or a fairy godmother or anyone else to give me a happy ending - that’s something I’ll get or won’t get all by my own self. So I suggest you peddle this shoe someplace else." This is one grrl-power feminist Tyrella (Xena version - of course) who obviously is so way ahead of her time, she also outsources the dishwashing.

"After all we’ve been through, that’s what you think of me? As a fairy godsister of dishes? Xena, that’s my only use to you?" Aw come on Gabrielle, she also let’s you donate your precious clothing to muzzle dirty criminals.

"Nice plan, if I cared." Xena bursts the bubble on the brilliant scheme by baddies to hold sidekick wannabe Joxer hostage as insurance against warrior princesses kicking their butt. Joxer, meanwhile, comes to understand the inherent merits in picking heroes who actually *like* you as a sidekick.

Best comebacks:

Alesia: Who were all those men at Tyrella’s home?
Gabrielle: Oh...ah...they were swimming instructors.

Xena: I’m not much of a story teller - I’m more a woman of action.
Gabrielle: Good. Take this and get me some water.

Gabrielle: What do you want from me? My skirt, my boots, ha ha, my underwear?
Xena: Oh no that would be too cruel.

Ugly stepbrother 1: Who’s the new guy?
Ugly stepbrother 2: Dunno, but check out his social skills.

Xena: Why did you run away?
Alesia: Have you ever heard Joxer tell a story?
Xena: All fairy stories have a purpose even when Joxer tells them.
Alesia: Yeah: RUN.

Tyrella (Xena version): I fought a warlord, saved a village, and rescued a burning wagon full of orphans.
Ugly stepmother: Just as I thought, lollygagging again.

Gabrielle (angrily): I’m outta here, that’s it.
Xena (worriedly): She’ll be back. She does that all the time, right? She’s so crazy.



Some of you will be in mourning after this episode. And I understand this (sort of) but there comes a time in every fan’s life where you’ve just got to let go. Where you’ve just got to say, "goodbye, beloved friend, I knew you well - it was fun while it lasted". And that time is this time ... for lovers of the Bilious Green Sports Bra, that constant companion for several years of the good bard Gabrielle. For years it kept Xenites in mirth with its fickle ever-shrinking and now, ever expanding, dimensions. It would be nice to say it has gone to happy home. But perhaps it’s probably best just to say it is gone. RIP BGSB.

(There will be a funeral service held at Channel 10’s gates on Saturday night. Wear something bilious.)

Okay before I leave such a much loved topic, I just wanna know: why did Xena do it? If Gabrielle can make a top out of sack then Xena can make a rope out of sack. If Xena can snatch up bad guys with tent rope, she can bind them in the same rope. If you think Gabs is over reacting, imagine what would happen to Gabrielle if she’d tried the same trick with Xena’s only set of leathers.

So why? Did she learn nothing for The Scroll Incident? Did Xena really hate the top that much? It was all a convenient ploy for her to get rid of it?! The baddies were on her payroll, too?! Cunning plan. Or was it she was so annoyed that the bard didn’t wake her, she got a bit of tit for tit retribution? That’s mighty petty warrior princess. Pretty funny - but only cos it wasn’t her stuff destroyed.

Gabrielle’s rebuttal (as Tyrella) was rather pointed for Xena - which would have been effective if Xena had been listening to it: "Your anger is misplaced. It’s a convenient way to avoid your deepest emotions. The same way your mistreatment of my belongings is your way to avoid intimacy." Chuckle... although if Xena has been "avoiding intimacy" of late, no wonder Gabrielle’s in a huff!

This episode was fun. They took a slightly off-centre idea and made it work. The idea that everyone projects themselves as the hero in their own story leads to endless possibilities and writers used that to their advantage. We got an insight into some characters and how they see their world (like Joxer) and a reinforcement of how others’ see theirs (Xena).

And it was funny. Not by relying heavily on sight gags, which has been their stock in recent comic episodes like In Sickness and in Hell (written and directed by the same people who did this ep) or the run-around antics of say, Comedy of Eros and all the Meg/Xena doubles. No, this had funny dialogue by the bag and involved only one bottom of the barrel joke that I can recall (I am still wincing over Joxer’s wedgie); although the men in drag thing could have been dispensed with. Ya-awn.

One of the most unusual ways of quantitatively assessing an episode’s worth for me is discovering how many lines of Quotable and Rewind For moments crop up. This one had pages worth. I can’t recall an episode in recent times with so many good one liners that were equally well acted. It helped there was a lot happening - never a dull moment - but very little of that action, fortunately, was from the keystone kops chasies we have seen so often before - like in The Quill Is Mightier and Comedy of Eros. Both were equally funny episodes, I hasten to add, but there are only so many times you can smirk as people almost get caught, then they all fall over and then almost get caught and then...

There were only a few scenes that could have been done better. Gabrielle’s scene with Aphrodite was almost rude, certainly impatient - and verging on condescending. And that’s no way to address the Goddess of Love - she’s one woman I’d definitely want to be on the good side of. But Gabrielle was almost abrupt in a "Listen up and listen up good" vein, which, the god may well have needed but that’s more the sort of tone I expect from Xena rather than Gabrielle. Still, she has just had a fight with big bad leather grrl, so you can expect her to be more grumpy than usual.

I would have cut completely the interspersed fantasy fight scene at the end while Xena is taking care of Zantar’s men. That was just a cheap joke for the sake of, ho-ho, look, men in dresses with bad makeup, fighting. It added nothing, and for me, it subtracted marginally from the rest of the ep. But only marginally - it was just something easily avoided.

Another scene which seemed on the bizarre side was the curious lack of emotion from the king as his daughter is returned. He seems pleased to see her of course, but as pleased as a guy who’s daughter’s been off on a two-week cruise, not a girl who has been gods’ knows where and with who knows what sort of people. He should have been as beside himself as he was at the beginning, and awfully, hugely, massively relieved to see her alive again at the end: No little peck on her cheek, but a proper "Thank the gods you’re safe", bear hug. His pleasant response was taking restrained royal protocol to the extreme. Must have been the British accent kicking in.

Dud scene of the episode was Gabrielle’s stilted return to Xena with the cutesy line about realising family have their problems and it’s all about working things out together. Now this line served a purpose - to unite all the silly storylines together into one neat bundle. It satisfied the little girl’s sense of the world and gave a moral of the story to all the Tyrellas and seemed all very sweet (cloyingly so). But this Brady Bunch line did not fit Gabrielle and would never have come out of her lips if it hadn’t been for the fact it just happened to suit the writer’s purpose of tying up things nicely.

It was a big dud. Too saccharine and most definitely not witty or pointed enough to have been what the bard really would have said in the circumstances. She didn’t come back because she realised family was the key. She came back because she never seriously meant to leave and was blowing off steam and making a point to Xena about her feelings being hurt. Anyone who is serious about leaving, for starters, does not thrust her bag at Xena and stalk off. You take it with you.

So how should Gabrielle’s return have been done better? I’m no expert and I’m sure others would have far better ideas. But knowing Gabrielle, a true-to-form Gabrielle, that is, she’d have either reappeared saying in a haughty, face-saving Fins, Femmes & Gems voice that she "couldn’t leave because she knew how Xena couldn’t live without her", while Xena would have responded with a lot of cynical and bemused "uh huh"s (while breaking out in little relieved smiles when she thought Gabrielle wasn’t peeking). And Xena would somewhere slip in a tiny apology. And Gabrielle would through some small action show she was forgiven.

Alternatively, Gabrielle would reappear and lay out some terms for her surrender and return (Like "you will treat me with respect in any future fairytales in which I feature against my will; you will never again shred my clothing for use as human restraints, unless I give my permission etc") which Xena would, solemn but secretly amused, agree to meet each and every one. And there’d be a few more witty one-liners between them ala A Day In The Life which would reveal how well they know - and care - about each other.

But never a pompous "I have learned about family now" crudsville line like that. The If The Shoe Fits ending made me feel at any moment like Gabrielle would turn to Alesia and say, "So you see, Cindy, the moral of this is that you must listen to your mummy and daddy and Alice because that’s what families are for". Puh-lease.

This episode did remind me in large chunks of A Day In The Life. The first missing top scene was so reminiscent of the "You used my scrolls?!" that it was uncanny. ADITL was better, but this had its moments, too. At least ADITL’s plot line made some sense. This one was flopping around like half dead fish. These bad guys suddenly took it upon themselves -- after originally chasing their captured brother, then agreeing to help Aphrodite with the kid -- out of nowhere decide they want the king’s crown jewels! Why? It was what happened in Xena’s story, that’s why. Now either she’s psychic or that’s like the weirdest coincidence going. And I didn’t actually see how any of the baddies helped Dite in any way at all. And what did she need their help for, Goddess that she is? Didn’t want to get her hands dirty? Weird.

The most inadvertently touching moment (yes there was one) of the whole episode was Xena’s joking but worried comment that Gabrielle would come back and that she’s always running away. That would actually be funny if it wasn’t true! Hell, who knows what gets into Gabrielle’s head - Perdicus, the Academy, going home, off to turn to The Light with flowers in her hair... Xena really could say in all honesty that her bard did always do this, which gives a slight edge to her comment. It explains the source of the pain in her eyes. Cool moment. Nice acting.

I thought young Olivia Tennet (Alesia) did some fine acting, too, and was imminently believable throughout. My only whimper is a writing thing - what, Alesia was struck mute while dangling off a cliff? Didn’t know how to call out to Xena as she stomps past?

The ultra out of left field line of the ep goes to Xena referring to her regrets at not seeing her stepfather. Her WHAT? Was she just saying this to make the little girl feel better (unlike Xena to tell lies like that in passing) or is there some bloke bobbing around out there with issues, waiting to emotionally ambush Xena in another episode sometime soon? No wonder Gabrielle fell out of that tree in surprise. By the way, did anyone else find it odd her haste in suddenly sprinting off to be scout?

I love the bickering couple scene with Xena asking where everything is until finally Gabrielle does the typical rolling eyes, frustrated thing and does it all for her. How many times have I seen some cheeky blighters dodge the housework that way - offering to do something and doing it so badly they are relieved of duty. Hey, Xena doesn’t miss a trick! Although it does give us an insight into who does the cooking here - Xena catches the fish, Gabrielle cooks it. We know this because when Xena realises Gabrielle is still mad at her she says: "Tell you what, I’ll cook, you go on with the story." That implies a certain arrangement.

Which brings us to the fairy stories. I said at the start some were revealing. We see Joxer how he sees himself - downtrodden, victim, no respect - and how he wishes he was. And his projected self comes off looking markedly like the Joxer from For Whom The Bell Tolls when playing Charisma Man. And boy can that Ted Raimi sing. (Although I never quite picked Renee as a soprano, and a badly lipsynching one at that!) Dunno about Ted in John Travolta mode though - I say there’s only one Travolta out there and he had the good sense to be embarrassed by Saturday Night Fever long ago.

In Gabrielle’s world, meanwhile, the heroine is perfect. She’s perfect and goodness to the extreme. It’s how she wishes she could be. Nothing bothers her, and she is soooo heading for martyrdom, her Tyrella would intimidate Najara from Crusader. Nothing really new is revealed about her there.

Aphrodite’s story intriguingly paints Gabrielle as Joxer is in real life - a bit dim and slow, but worse - perhaps verging on the prehistoric grunty Jox from Fins, Femmes & Gems, while Joxer in her tale is a bit of a studmuffin (complete with social skills!). Xena is treated slightly better - that is, she is on equal footing with the goddess, although presentable, she is naturally less beautiful (no competition) for the goddess of love. Her world is surrounded by muscly, er, swimming instructors - more to raise her standing than anything else. Her world is all about her. And, vain as Aphrodite is, that fits.

Xena’s world is unlikely but still true Xena. She’s read her Germaine Greer and melded it with Cinderella and we get a butt-kicking, non-servile servant(!) - which is highly illogical but who said Cinderella made sense in the first place? Her using the fairy godsister for dishes duty may be close to the truth - I can’t quite picture Xena in real life sudsing up the frying pan. And hence, Gabrielle had a spit. It probably really was just a story in Xena’s mind, but she should know after that little chat in Fins, Femmes & Gems how sensitive her bard is to being a nobody and just a useless sidekick and she should not have cracked that particular joke.

Her amended tale is a goofy subtexters’ moment - Xena spurns the idea of marrying the prince so she can go off with the fairy godsister. Chuckle. Just so long dishes aren’t involved and everyone’s happy, it sounds like a plan.

Keep your eye on Joxer’s face in real life though, when Xena says to the little girl she wouldn’t be marrying the prince to find happiness. See, Joxer sees himself as the prince in this tale. In his mind that means he just got turned down in marriage and he didn’t seem thrilled!

The most interesting line in hindsight of the episode? Well take Gabrielle, when speaking to Aphrodite. "All these people who love her, if you don’t stop meddling, you’re going to break them up." I guess Gabrielle has picked up some things since last week in Child of Pomira. Well, good for her.

Lastly, I had no idea Gabrielle penned Pinochio. That bard’s got talent, I tell ya.

What left is there to say but: And they all lived happily ever after. Oh goody.


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