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.

Xena: Warrior Princess 2.7 – Intimate Stranger / 2.8 – Ten Little Warlords

Well, I thought that was cute. Xena followed up the “identical doubles” story with another classic, the bodyswap episode. But they kept it going for an additional week, I guess to give Lucy Lawless a vacation. And just to keep things fun, they also gave Kevin Smith a new role, kind of. Ares manages to lose his seat in Mount Olympus in between installments, so the villain gets to see what it’s like to have a hangover and feel pain.

“Intimate Stranger” is the better of the two, because it’s such fun to see Lawless and Hudson Leick play each other’s parts. They each do a simply fabulous job, though clearly Lawless gets to have more fun because she gets to be really rotten for a change. That’s part of why Ares and Callisto’s teamup feels like it came straight from Batman, since the actors playing the bad guys look like they’re having way more fun than our square and conflicted do-gooders.

It ends with Callisto stuck in the Underworld again, but somehow Xena returns to the land of the living in Callisto’s body. This left our son looking for logic, because it didn’t make sense to him. Ehhh, Greek gods, magic, just go with it, we said.

And so with a name like “Ten Little Warlords,” it won’t surprise you to learn, we get the Agatha Christie plot. It’s unclear how much time has passed on Earth, but there’s been chaos among the gods and with all his wheeling and dealing in the Underworld of Tartarus, Ares lost his sword to Sisyphus, rendering him human. Sisyphus has put together a competition on a remote island allegedly to find the warlord most worthy of becoming the new god of war. Xena and Ares strike up a truce, but he’s not as handy in a fight as he thinks, and eight ruffians, who think that she is Callisto, want them dead.

I thought this was a very fun pair of episodes, but my son was relieved when Ares restores Xena’s body in the end. The kid said he was about ready to suggest that Xena dye her Callisto-colored hair and start over in a new Xena costume. And why not? “Warrior… Princess… Tramp” showed that somebody out there is making custom Xena suits, even if they build the round killing thing from wood instead of indestructible magic steel!

Xena: Warrior Princess 2.6 – Warrior… Princess… Tramp

Most adventure teevee shows feel that they have to do the identical doubles episode eventually, but darned if “Warrior… Princess… Tramp” isn’t one of the most entertaining and hilarious ones I’ve ever seen. We skipped the installment from season one that introduces Xena’s doppelganger, the prissy Princess Diana. This one adds a third, a mostly incompetent nobody who gets press-ganged into posing as Xena in a bid to kill Diana’s father. It’s played for laughs and every gag hits the bullseye.

Like all these doubles stories, you have to gloss over the identical dresses and identical Xena costumes and just enjoy the ride, as poor Meg manages to get her sword caught in the ceiling, and even poorer Joxer learns the hard way that one of the women likes to kiss him but certainly not the other two. Best bit: Diana posing as Xena and realizing too late that she has no idea what that round killing thing of Xena’s is called.

Xena: Warrior Princess 1.22 – Callisto

I had a good feeling I was going to enjoy this one, and I wasn’t wrong. “Callisto” is a tremendously entertaining introduction to two more recurring players. Callisto, played by Hudson Leick, is a revenge-fueled fighter who’s been training for years and building an army. Long ago, Xena’s army torched the young Callisto’s village, and despite Xena’s command to spare women and children, there were more fatalities than planned. Callisto is demented, angry, can get under Xena’s skin like few other adversaries, and is a great, great villain.

And then there’s Joxer, played by Ted Raimi, who is everything Callisto isn’t. He would love to be a great villain, but he’s just a comedy goofball. Trying to find favor with Callisto, he accepts her order to capture Gabrielle, and gets pummeled by her. Twice. Give the poor clod points for effort; he does keep getting back up to try again, but even if he did have the moves, he just doesn’t have the heart. Our son was in stitches as they brawled. At one point, he unpacks his shoddy little homemade crossbow and Gabrielle snaps the fragile thing in half with her staff. Joxer looked like she’d broken his summer camp project and the kid lost his mind laughing.

This show always employed a small army of stunt performers, and they got a real workout with this one. It builds to a downright grand climax at Callisto’s camp, which, improbably, is designed with a pair of thirty-foot walls and a bunch of ladders between them. It must have taken ages to get all the choreography right, while poor Renee O’Connor had to dangle way up in the air with a harness under her costume because Gabrielle is being held hostage while Xena and Callisto are jumping from ladder to ladder. Sure, the outcome’s never in doubt, but it’s a marvel watching them pull it off.