Xena: Warrior Princess 3.20 – Vanishing Act

Bruce Campbell’s back for the second week in a row as Autolycus, but this time it’s Lucy Lawless who steals the show. At Autolycus’s direction, because they’re pulling a heist his way, Xena goes undercover as a fence looking for a stolen golden statue. She invents this accent… I guess it’s kind of a brassy Queens accent? Like Fran Drescher or Barbara Nichols? It’s really amusing, but it also took me out of the show completely. I know full well that Lucy Lawless can play lots of different characters. I’m a little less sold that this is among Xena’s talents. I’d believe it a little more if they’d have brought Xena’s lookalike Meg in for this caper.

The other real problem I had with this one is that there’s a really fine twist in the story, and I liked the way that Autolycus is casing this castle and getting ideas. You can see the gears in his head turning, and you can see that our heroes are up to something, only to get the rug pulled out from under them. This is wonderful, and they should have done much more with this, but it’s almost like they were running short this week and needed to beef up the running time with a long scene where Xena convinces Autolycus not to kill their opponent. It’s a preachy scene, terribly out of place, and it totally derails the much better material around it.

Our son was much happier about it than I was. The Autolycus episodes remain among my favorites, and it’s certainly watchable despite my misgivings, but I’m afraid this was certainly his weakest installment so far. We’re also curious how many more times they’re going to use this harbor set. They’ve tried to redress it, but not quite hard enough. I’m pretty sure they used it as the harbor in Jack of All Trades a couple of years later, too.

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