Season 2.20 The Price

The Price


Reviewed by SLK

Rating: 5 chakrams



I know they want us to consider this episode as a metaphor for the animal within us all, the humanity we lose when we go to war and the depths to which we are capable of plunging in the moral abyss. Er, right, whatever. I can get that on the nightly news. Frankly I see The Price more as a morality tale of what happens when you have a lack of good hair conditioner. If that doesn’t make us a little psycho, I don’t know what does. Instead of water, the bard should have tried offering combs and a nice cream solution that gets right into the roots.

But seriously, which I suppose I should be with all the corpses and “Kill ’em all” warcries filling the air, I have to ask: Exactly what drugs are the Xenabods on here?

I don’t know which is sillier – Gabrielle running on to a battlefield with a water bottle for protection and deciding she’s immune from danger because of, um … what was that again Gabby? Her underpants of invincibility? Her deep frown of virtue? Because that’d be such a sane way to go out – death by utter stupidity.

Or there’s Xena, meanwhile, seemingly meeting up with this bunch of lazy-assed demoralised soldiers during the wrong time of the month, going all psycho on their behalf, when she’s known them all of two minutes. I suppose it’s the old saying – the enemy of my stranger is my enemy. And anyone who gets in the way is on The List. Anyone. Including that Invincibility Underpants Girl.

Let’s face it – the showdown between our two heroes is essentially the whole point of the episode. Up till now Gabrielle hasn’t seen Xena gather an army while convening with the Dark Side. Xena, meanwhile, hasn’t controlled an army while having a virtuous sidekick around her to point out all her moral failings every step of the way.

The end result was always going to end in tears. Gabrielle can’t believe how feral Xena gets, and how she’s enjoying herself doing naughty, naughty things. Xena can’t believe how naive her partner is after all they’ve been through, and how disapproving she is of Xena having a bloody (literally) good night out with the lads.

So what could possibly bring our star-crossed gals back together again? Why, it’s water. Yes, water. For some reason – despite the fact the crazy natives are virtually surrounded by it, swim up and down it, and bob for warriors in it, there seems to be a shortage of it whenever they go into battle.

Enter the bard – with her water skin, good intentions, virtuous frown and precious little else, to show her power-tripping comrade there is a code of honour among savage beasties. We know this purely because they don’t instantly kill the only water carrier within 5km. Everyone note Xena’s incredulous fury and exasperation at this unbelievable foolishness. Yep, that was my expression, too.

Nonetheless, based on Gabrielle not being julienned within three seconds, Xena concludes not only don’t these wicked savages kill people bearing water, but they have an intricate power hierarchy of whom they do kill. She divines further that they will also kill a leader if he fails to kill an enemy leader and will not poke knives in the back of any winner of such a bout. Again, I ask, what drugs are the writers on? This was like the anti-exposition scene – no explanations needed, and just fight some more if it makes no sense.

Well enough of the bad, let’s talk about the good. Subtexters are particularly fond of one scene in all this – where Xena catches herself as she says to the bard: “You understand hatred but you have never given in to it. You don’t know how much I love … ‘that’.”  We all knew who “that” was. Including Gabrielle who offers stunned silence for once. I’d have liked a close up of the bard’s reaction there, but can’t win ’em all.

My subtexter’s heart went awww, thud all the same.

If there’s one thing that you can take away from both this scene and this episode it’s that Lucy can completely sell any emotion. Whether it’s her “I smell a turd” glare of appalled disgust, regrettably used on her bard more than once this episode, or her heart-breaking “What have I done, forgive me” looks hinting at fear and love, you can totally buy it.

I like that she admits she’s gone too far, with her eyes at least … but to give the credit to the water being the key to success made me laugh aloud. Yes, of course, the water did it. All hail the water.

The truly stupid thing about this entire episode, if you can firstly buy Xena just marching in and elbowing command right off the “elite of the Athenian army”, is that for the most part the warrior princess was exactly right. It was “them or us”. It was war, not glamour. It was all tactics and darkness not innocence and naivety that would keep them safe. Gabrielle didn’t have to like it, but Xena was right. Creepy psycho right, sure, but right.

The bottom line is Gabrielle therefore got lucky. The next barbarian could just as easily have slit her throat.  Yet Xena takes from this that the next wars will be fought by diplomats like Gabrielle. Uh huh. Sure they will, sweetie.

Those bad-hair boys will more likely run away, do rock, paper, scissors for a new leader and be back looking for more conditioner before you can say “Is that a bone in your nose or did you snort a horse shoe?”

But then if you’re going to trowel on a message, guess you’d better make it a pacifist one, right Xenabods? Cos the “wars are a dirty business” line just doesn’t sound so good to finish on.

Meanwhile, I know I could also go on about the quibbles of Gabrielle bandaging men’s arms over their clothing (yeah, that’ll really help the wound) and Pavlovian dog Xena going bad-ass nasty on the bard every single time she smells blood, but let’s face it that’s not what the episode is about.

If we take anything from it, it should be this – two people with completely opposite positions on life, love, hordes and the universe can still be together. They can get past the anger and mistakes, some enormous, some small, and reach the love that repeatedly brings them together in the end. Now that’s a message worth taking away forever. And that in itself is worth paying The Price.

Footnote: This is my final Xena review of all time. All of the episodes have now been reviewed. Thanks for the friendships, the fun, the emails and everything in between over the many years. – SLK.


SCROLLS & SCRIBES: Written by Steven L. Sears. Directed by Oley Sassone

PASSING PARADE: Paul Glover (Menticles), Charles Mesure (Mercer), Tamati Rice (Garel), Mark Perry (Galipan), Justin Curry (G'Kug).

To show sympathy for the Horde, "kaltaka" was only served upon request during the production of this motion picture.

Xena’s blood lust resurfaces, giving Gabrielle more to worry about than the just the hungry Horde storming the garrison walls.

LOG LINE: Xena (Lucy Lawless) rallies Athenian troops in a desperate battle against the Horde, but it is Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor) who ultimately finds a way to end the terrible siege.



The big love-fest scene when Xena and Gabrielle talked about not giving in to hatred. There was nothing platonic about the longing in those looks.

Xena’s rubbery sword in the big mano-a-mano fight with the Horde’s chief warrior. As he holds her blade in his hands, keep an eye on the top half getting the wobbles.



“We’re gonna kill ‘em all!”  A catchy tune, but you sure you can’t dance to it – Xena, playing her theme song, a cappella.

 “This is war! What did you expect? Glamour?”
 A few sequins maybe ... this was the light bulb moment for Gabrielle, realising the Princess had left the room leaving only the Warrior Xena, snarling in her face.

“You understand hatred but you have never given into it. You don’t know how much I love … ‘that’.”
 Xena, catching herself just in time before she made a less than warrior-like admission.


Gabrielle: “Well fought, friend fish. Know that I don’t do this for pleasure, only to live.”

Xena: “Don’t talk to your breakfast.”

Gabrielle: “I have a theory about fish.”

Xena: “The one where they’re cold and wet and slimy?”

Gabrielle: “No, that’s not it.”