Xena: Warrior Princess 4.12 – If the Shoe Fits…

So I was saying that comedy Xena is a million, billion times better than angsty Xena. Here’s more wonderfully fun evidence. This time out, it’s a hilariously fractured fairy tale. While escorting a very ugly warlord to whatever local assizes is in charge of justice in this land, Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer pick up a runaway seven year-old who doesn’t like her evil stepmother and has found refuge with Aphrodite, who claims to be the little girl’s fairy godsmother. So now they have two charges in tow and pass the time telling the kid some slightly off-kilter versions of Cinderella.

This is one of the goofiest hours of anything we’ve watched, and we all chuckled throughout. The story is a complete scream, with ridiculous costumes and accents, gender-flipping depending on who’s doing the telling, three incredibly ugly men becoming even more incredibly ugly stepsisters, and Ted Raimi and his remarkably obvious double doing some kind of Saturday Night Fever-Vogue dance at the ball with some anachronistic sound effects.

So yes, I enjoyed this one tremendously. I liked it even before they started storytelling, because it harkens back to season two’s triumphant “A Day in the Life” with Xena thoughtlessly destroying Gabrielle’s things and taking her for granted and putting them in a bad mood. This time out, Xena can’t find a rope to tie up and gag the warlord, and Gabrielle’s having a shower, so the warrior princess just takes Gabrielle’s green top and shreds it for binding.

I don’t know why I enjoy it so much when these two forget how much they love each other and get petty, but I really do. Later on, Gabrielle uses her story to punctuate that somebody uses this casual theft as a defense mechanism to avoid talking about intimacy, which is wonderful. Later still, the warlords, now stepbrothers, are made to say “Check out his social skills!” which is even more wonderful. It’s a fine, fine hour of TV. And they all lived happily ever after.

Xena: Warrior Princess 3.18 – Fins, Femmes and Gems

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.

Xena: Warrior Princess 3.10 – The Quill is Mightier…

Another Lawless-lite comedy episode, this one had us all chuckling quite a lot. Ares manipulates Aphrodite into doing something about Gabrielle and all the mythmaking that she’s doing with Xena, and Aphrodite blesses/curses her by enchanting her new scroll. Anything that the bard writes upon it – or that anybody writes upon it – comes true. But the scroll is incredibly literal, and pretty soon drinks are on the house and it starts raining money over a town, and both gods lose their powers and really come to regret this intrusion. And Gabrielle has three doubles as well now, only they don’t wear any clothes and go-go dance.

Well, the grown-ups chuckled and enjoyed a couple of good belly laughs, but the kid lost his mind roaring. When Xena finally shows up for the climax, Gabrielle having sent her away for a remarkably successful fishing trip, I thought the kid was going to pass out. The onlookers’ grumbling about whether Xena is using a squid or an octopus as a bolas is easy to miss under the weight of all the rest of the gags, but I’m glad that I caught it.

Xena: Warrior Princess 2.16 – For Him the Bell Tolls

Well, I’ve got Joxer the Mighty’s incredibly catchy theme song, “Joxer the Mighty,” stuck in my head now. Great.

“For Him the Bell Tolls” is another episode that they filmed while Lucy Lawless was recovering from her injury in America. She’s just in the two scenes that top and tail the story while Gabrielle and Joxer have an adventure of their own. The story introduces a second recurring character for Karl Urban: the god Cupid. It also marks the first appearance in Xena of Alexandra Tydings as Cupid’s mom, Aphrodite. She’d been introduced the previous year on Hercules, and now the two of them are having a family feud over Cupid’s latest targets: a royal Romeo and Juliet from neighboring kingdoms who have decided to elope. This conflicts with some of Aphrodite’s own real estate and antiquity plans, so she puts the whammy on Joxer to drive a wedge between Romeo and Juliet. Wacky hijinks and a pretty good swordfight follow.

Certainly not a great episode, this one’s still entertaining with lots of slow burns and comedy moments and we all enjoyed it both for the laughs and the good character moment for Joxer, who comes to the sad realization at the end that he isn’t being the hero at all, Gabrielle is. He also composes a theme tune for himself that rhymes “sidekick” with “little stick,” and I don’t think poor Gabrielle really appreciated being immortalized in this particular song.