Weirdly, the first two seasons of Xena had given us mostly lighthearted action-adventure stories, punctuated by some light comedies. Season three seems to be all angst, heavy and unpleasant, and the comedies are completely over-the-top and wonderfully ridiculous. Boy, do we ever prefer the comedies. This one features the return of Alexandra Tydings as Aphrodite. Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer are on a mission to intercept three bandits who have stolen the Northern Star – eh, magic – for Aphrodite. She waylays them with an obsession spell. Joxer seems to become a monkey-man after the hero of an old legend, Gabrielle becomes obsessed with herself, and Xena, for the second time this year, really just wants to go fishing.
Xena is much, much better at fishing than Jack O’Neill. For starters, she doesn’t waste time on ponds without any fish in them. But she’s really interested in one particular fish that’s been the one that got away for ages, and she has a complex scheme to use a kite to catch it, with a hook baited with a lock of Gabrielle’s hair.
Honestly, the whole thing is a riot again, but as hilarious as the ladies are, I’m afraid that the episode’s editor let Joxer steal the show. Having convinced himself he is Tarzan, or the ancient world’s equivalent, he swings from the trees to abduct Gabrielle, and calls on the animals of the Greek forest to defend them from Xena. What happens next is a hysterical montage of animals who were nowhere freaking anywhere close to a forest, in Greece or anywhere else, when they were filmed, and the episode suddenly and deliberately turns into one of those no-budget African adventure movies you’d catch on UHF channels in the 1970s that didn’t have access to much library footage.
Nobody found this as funny as I did, but that’s in part because one time about thirty years ago, I overheard two fellows debating whether Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was the greatest television show ever made, because it starred Marlon Perkins as – and I quote – “this seventy year-old guy who beats up giraffes and shit.” Show me beat-up library footage of a lion on the savanna, especially when it flat out does not belong in the narrative, and it just takes me back.