COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by Deb E McGhee
COMMENTARY 3 by Xorys
COMMENTARY 4 by Videntur
COMMENTARY 5 by Jill Hayhurst
Commentary Beth Gaynor.
God bless the writers for finding a way for Renee O'Connor to do mean-and-nasty again now that Hope is gone. And quite a different mean-and-nasty: instead of the cold, menacing, emotionless daughter of Dahak, we have the writhing, over-the-top, vicious Tataka. Well played, ROC! Xena has her body doubles, Gabrielle has her daughters and possessions, and never may the actresses be bored.
We now know that if Xena and Gabrielle were transported to modern New York City, they'd be gawking at the skyscrapers just like every other country bumpkin. They go through the litany of stereotypical Indian wonders, all packed into one village market, and stare and smile like any other tourist. Small nit: the dialogue dubbing in this opening scene was really bad.
Xena and Gabrielle act as if they're on vacation. As they're watching Eli do his magic act, they're both grinning and enjoying themselves. Even when the act supposedly goes wrong and horrifies most of the villagers, they're enjoying the show. Even as tourists, our ladies aren't dumb enough to fall for any three-card monty cons.
Paradise Found consistency: Gabrielle's still doing yoga.
The Babel Fish Syndrome continues from The Debt: Everyone in the world speaks English/Greek.
Plot quibble #1: What happened to Maya? She was nearly soul-devoured by a demon, then we never see her again. Eli doesn't seem to give her a second thought after the possession. She must not have been much of an assistant.
What's up with this horizontal helicopter move that both Maya/Tataka and Xena end up using? Was the stunt team trying out a new harness?
Who is the "Abba" that Eli prays to? Not to Rama, or Vishnu, or any other Indian deity that I've heard tell of. The only "Abba" I know of is the Greek/Aramaic Abba, meaning Father, which the Christians used as another name for God. Is he a worshipper of "the one God of the Israelites," or is he using an Aramaic name for a god he doesn't know or calls as a father?
Plot quibble #2: Why did Tataka do the rabid act with Maya, then the slow taking-over-the-world plan with Gabrielle?
I got a kick out of Xena's faked hypnotism. She's new in town, Eli, so I'll warn you: do NOT attempt mind games with the Warrior Princess. She'll end up throwing swords at you. (Another moment I loved. WOW, look at that big piece of metal fly. Eli looked like his knees were about to give way beneath him.)
What was the deal with Ravi and the rest of the bodyguards? Ravi was the one whose eye was healed by Tataka, which convinced the crowd (and Gabrielle) that something serious was going on here. And judging by the reaction of the Ganges water to him, he was possessed in a big ol' way. As were the rest of the guards who (I think) turned into the rabid dogs that chased Eli. Were they servant demons to Tataka? Were they more possessed people, or demons in human form? Was Ravi possessed from the beginning, or did he get possessed when he touched Gabrielle's hand?
Where on earth did Xena get that "watch your back" threat that she used on the priest? OK, it was to nice effect, especially since he ended up dead, but it didn't seem to fit the conversation in the slightest.
Follow with me, now, the progression of possession:First evening: Gabrielle's wearing a scarf and feels the power of life and death. New fashion choices and power tripping: two signs to the Warrior Princess that all is not right with the bard.Another big warning sign that Gabrielle's not all the way home is her line about how "I healed. That's all I've ever wanted to do, all I've ever dreamed of doing." Uh-huh, Gabtaka, sure. This from the girl who followed Xena to become a warrior and spent ages afterward aspiring to the Athens City Academy of Performing Bards. Riiiight.
First night: Gabrielle lies awake. I'm still not sure why, but it must be significant somewhere.
Morning: Gabrielle, who the day before was protesting the followers, does some serious reveling in the square full of worshippers.
Late morning: Gab starts collecting pearls and gathering her crowds. And I think it's somewhere in here that she sics her guards on the priest.
Afternoon: Gabtaka is in full swing, posing on thrones in full get-ups.
Night: Gabtaka sics the guards on Eli.
Mid-night: Xena demonstrates the power of true names: when she calls Tataka by name, the demon takes the wheel and Gab is no longer anywhere to be found.
Gabtaka is one smart cookie: she dodges all of Xena's tests neatly. She questions Xena's desire to do yoga and never has to actually perform it. She throws Ganges water on herself, which she knows darn well won't do a thing, and yet manages to make it look like she's passed the test of being willing to stand the trial. And she DECIMATES Xena in their argument about the Ganges water test. Combine Gab's fast-talk with a demon's prescience, and you can even talk circles around the Warrior Princess.
I wonder if it was on purpose that Eli calls the pictures in the temple depictions of evil incarnate, and yet none of the images seem to be of anything bone-chilling? No disemboweled bodies, no hellish monstrosities, but what looks like family and homage scenes. That was a deft touch.
How hard was this REALLY to figure out? A big-as-life drawing of a blonde (NOT common in India) in pearls being served by beefy bodyguards, and no one ran screaming when she set up shop in the village square? These people must not know their legends very well.
What is with the Evil Overlord "moo-wa-ha-ha-haaa" mini-speech from Gabtaka when she says to thin air "If I eliminate Xena, then Eli won't have a prayer"? Who was she saying that to? And why, other than to look sinister and malicious for the TV camera? Lame cliche moment.
Is Tataka some kind of snake demon? She hisses at the bodyguards when she orders them off, she hisses on the coals. Her lick is venomous. She poses like a snake and does a snakey dance with the cobra. (That last, by the way, was REALLY cool, and a neat effect of putting the snake and Renee in the same shot.)
Subtext is applied with the subtlety of a sledgehammer in this episode. Xena and Gab joke about what they're going to be doing in their old age. Their argument struck me as a "the Rift is dead, long live the Rift" moment - they could fight again without old wounds being opened up, and they could hug and make up when it's over. Gabrielle's crawl for Xena and Xena's incredible relief after the demon was finally gone was sweet and touching. And, of course, we have Tataka's writhing commentary that Xena won't kill Gab's "sweet little... firm, strong body" (hey, Tataka looked up "babely" in the thesaurus) before climbing up her like a jungle gym to plant a big sloppy lick alongside her face. Good morning.
The imagery of the Battle Royale between Gabtaka and Xena was worth the price of admission to this episode alone. Renee does a great job with a new fighting style - that kickboxing sure comes in handy! And I like the funky strike-a-pose vogueing she does after that one takedown of Xena. Wild.
Small note when Gabtaka is stomping on Xena: her toenails are painted bright red. Who did THAT? Another small note on that same moment: get a different stunt double for Renee. That one wasn't even close, and we got to see how not-close she was three times over.
At the end of the fight, Xena's got the sword, she's about to win, and Gabrielle makes an appearance. Was that a deliberate distraction by Tataka, giving the reins to Gabrielle for a moment to make Xena pause, or did Gab fight her way to the fore on her own? I'm thinking the latter, myself: when Eli makes Xena pause again, Tataka does some quick throwing-and-rolling to get out of the way. Gabrielle freezes and calls Xena, almost as if telling her to go ahead and do it. Whew.
But speaking of which, Xena really was about to shish-ka-bob Gabrielle! If I was Gab, after sufficient recovery, I'd be smacking Xena on the top of the head. "What was THAT, Miss I-Always-Have-Three- Plans-in-My-Back-Pocket? One nasty fight and you were ready to skewer me!"
Plot quibble #3: Why didn't Tataka leap into someone else after Eli drove her from Gabrielle, like she had done from Maya into Gab?
Xena, the Skeptic Princess, says the line "Some things you just gotta take on faith." We NEVER would have heard that a couple of seasons ago. But I'm willing to buy that her character has changed enough to say that. Xena, along with all her other changes, is starting to believe there might be some things out of her control.
Also in the "my, how far we've come" vein, Xena hugs Eli! I think I can count on one hand the number of people Xena has hugged. Maybe it's just continued gratitude to him for saving Gabrielle, but not even ol' Autolycus has ranked a hug.
Gabrielle's usual outfit is gone in the last scene; it's a more Indian-style outfit, but not what she wore as Gabtaka. Is this a permanent change? And why am I even asking this after the BGSB was threatened two episodes again but made a comeback?
Plot quibble #4: Everybody's walking through town unmolested the next day? No one to ask Gabrielle "Hey, weren't you the demon-possessed Devi?" No one to chase Eli through the streets because he drove out Tataka?
Eli's a great character and well-played. This whole episode had kind of a Life of Brian "I'm NOT the Messiah!" theme to it. Gabrielle tried to deny being a Devi until Tataka set up shop, but the villagers hailed her and camped outside for her anyway. And Eli, who out of all the spiritual people Gabrielle's met is probably the one most worthy of following, turns down Gab's offers (twice!) to travel together. Gab, ignore his protests: hunt him down like the villagers were hunting you. He's the one on the right track. The rock-em-sock-em fight between Xena and Ravi was awesome; a good toe-to-toe battle. X:WP meat and potatoes kind of stuff. There's a couple of rather deep-n-thoughtful moments in this episode. Xena nailed it on the head when she talked about good and evil spirits existing and how hard it is to discern between them. Gabrielle showed how well she's learned her yin and yang theory by telling Eli if there's an evil power that can heal, and it can be exorcised, there must be a good power that's even stronger. Tell me again that this is a cheesy action show? I almost forgot for a minute.
Commentary Deb E McGhee.
SOUNDBYTE SUMMARY. Xena and Gabrielle arrive in India! They see a magic show! Gab gets possessed! Xena spends a lot of time with a humble, confused, unwitting Holy Man. It's pretty! There are many chases and fights! It's confusing and left me feeling hollow! Overall Rating: 3.5 quills (out of 5).
Although I had a several moments of positive reaction to Devi, nothing will get this reviewer pissier than feeling numb and confused. Either state alone signals trouble; in combination they're deadly. Devi left me feeling that way. I certainly didn't want to feel that way (I wanted to feel more, MORE, MORE!), and so I broke my unwritten 'rule' about keeping the number of viewings before writing my views to a minimum, in hopes that it would all suddenly fall into place and I'd have more to say for it than "Eli was cute, ROC was faboo as Tataka, and that dog chase kicked ass."
Then it came to me. I felt so clear! But it was a judgement that left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and, because I wanted to like this episode more than I did, I spent even more time trying to garner evidence that I was, in fact, wrong. Unfortunately, upon repeat viewings I remained confused, I remained mostly detached from the characters, and I saw with even more clarity what went wrong with this episode. The problem for me was two-fold. First, the point of the story was either unclear or concerned an issue that I cared not a whit about, and second, someone cheated.
At first blush, Devi seems to center around the question of what's going on with Gabrielle. Is she a devi? Is she possessed? Is she succumbing to the allure of the darker aspects of power? Is Xena being too cynical and holding Gabrielle back? For some reason, it never really clicked with me that I should be asking a much more general question along the lines of what's causing all of the various events. It also never occurred to me that the main story would be about a guest character and the impact that X&G have on him, rather than the other way around. In other words, Devi is a simple mystery story, and it is barely about Xena and Gabrielle as characters.
I think I, as a viewer, was set up. I knew going into this episode that Gabrielle and Xena are on a spiritual quest, and so I figured that each story in this arc would center around issues of spirituality and how they impact the principals individually and in relationship. Well, once Devi concluded, I realised that I knew nothing new about Xena and Gabrielle.
I saw a cautious and determined Xena trying to solve a mystery and save her partner. She spends a hell of a lot of screentime beating people up, running to and fro, and chit-chatting with Eli. Was she reacting to Gabrielle in those emotional scenes or, because we know she was suspicious from the point of the shoulder massage on, was she biding her time while she gathered clues and devised a solution? Indeed, she starts to test Gabrielle almost immediately and runs off to find the priest when the crowd gathers beneath their balcony. Was she going to sacrifice Gabrielle at the end in order to defeat Tataka? Well, she tells Eli she wouldn't kill Gabrielle, but we know from past experience what Xena feels is appropriate to deal with incarnations of evil (infant Hope), we know Xena isn't always the most reliable predictor of her own behaviour when it comes to violence towards G, and she sure does have a look of single-minded purpose when she raises that sword as well as surprise when Eli shows up to save the day. So in regards to this extremely important question, I'm left with the feeling: Flip a coin! And that just annoys me no end.
There is even less to ponder about Gabrielle, because from the time she asks Maya the Disappearing Assistant if she's okay until the time that Eli casts out the demon, ROC is portraying is Tataka, not Gabrielle (more about the possession later). What would Gabrielle, Champion of Goodness and Light, do if she suddenly found herself with the ability to heal? Would the fascination or intrigue with power that we've had glimpses of in previous episodes become so overpowering that she gradually succumbs to its darker aspects? Would she be doggedly resistant to Xena's attempts at reason and intervention? WHO KNOWS! The one time that we see Gabrielle with incredible power within herself -- not tenuously at her beck and call ala The Titans, nor as part of an all-too-human alliance -- but as part of her soul's makeup, Gabrielle's psyche is completely suppressed and we get one little two-minute exchange in the wrap-up. ARGH! I don't care what side of the "Gabrielle is an incipient megalomaniac" fence one falls on, it seems to me that all members of the audience would have liked to have seen at least a hint of further exploration of such a central 'spiritual' question. What a waste of a beautiful opportunity.
In the end, it seems that the one we learned most about was Eli. This was the story of his search for The Power -- his struggle, his feelings of inadequacy, and the beginnings of his coming to terms with his gift. Now, I'm willing to accept that this may be a function of my narrow-mindedness and selfishness, but it is the case that I watch XWP for Xena and Gabrielle. I have a sufficiently hard time with stories like Daughter of Pomira in which the story of the guest characters is given equal focus to the X&G story (thereby taking up valuable screentime), that I'm going to be hard-pressed to stay (emotionally) with a story that tips the balance even further in the guest's direction. Once I reached the end of the episode, searched around for the causes of my feelings of numbness, and (finally) realised "the point", I felt sufficiently bamboozled and robbed that I wanted to take back every good thought I had had about Eli and the actor who portrayed him, and exorcise any and all thoughts about who Eli might really be (or represent) from my mind "just cuz".
Another source of my confusion and annoyance was that I knew that 'devi' meant 'goddess', and did not expect that the title of the episode was itself a bit of misdirection, nor that the writer would use the rather cheap tactic of misdefining a critical term so that the audience should then be expected to be willing to apply it to any character, regardless of sex. (Imagine the roles were reversed and Eli, speaking whatever Indo-European language was spoken at that time in India, asked Xena, "What's a 'goddess'?" Would 'healing deity' really be accurate?) Thus, when Xena said, "Gabrielle's not the devi, you are [Eli]," my reaction was, "Um, no, Eli's got a Y-chromosome." I might have been willing to chalk it all up to the difficulties with using gender inflections while not giving too much away, but the fact that Eli did not correct Xena's usage when it would have been natural to do so, just gave more weight to the theory that Manheim wasn't playing fair with the audience. In sum, the bit of cleverness with 'devi' just led me further down the path of 'Is Gabrielle a devi, and, if not, what is going on with her?', and hopelessly away from the broader mystery.
Devi is a mystery, and in a mystery the writer, director, and actors are allowed a bit of sleight-of-hand (not unlike a magician), but there is also an unspoken trust between artist and audience that the artist won't cheat and that the audience might discover the solution if only they pay close enough attention and pick up on the readily available clues. What the writer, director, and/or actors will not do is something akin to stacking a deck with all the same cards so that, no matter what card one picks in that classic trick, the magician 'wins' and the audience has no way of deducing how the ruse was accomplished. Go back and watch your favourite mystery: Knowing already 'whodunit', you should be able to see several hints and clues sprinkled throughout the drama. After the usual wrap-up or upon repeat viewing of a good mystery, I'm always left with the feeling "Oh, of course! How did I miss that?" The same cannot be said for Devi.
I have already talked about the writer's little bit of cheating, but there are also problems and even bigger cheats in the way the possession is depicted. When Tataka possesses Maya, it looks to be instantaneous and complete, and Tataka seems like one of those demons who's got a lust for blood and not a hint of subtlety. In contrast, when she possesses Gabrielle she's much subtler. So far, so good. Demons aren't morons, and since Tataka has just seen how formidable Xena is, it stands to reason she'd try a different tack. But here is where the problems start. Why give Maya those whitish contacts that we associate with deification from earlier episodes, but not give them to Gabrielle? Greater still, why was it that both the characters in the drama as well as the audience could see the spirit exit Maya's body, but they couldn't see it enter Gabrielle's? Even if this wasn't purposeful foul play on the part of the director and/or editor, it was durn sloppy work, and adds even more confusion to the issue of what's Gabrielle and what's Tataka. The eye-rolling later on just compounded the problem, because it made it seem as if Tataka had finally gained full control when, in fact, she had it all along.
(The only alternative to a complete and instantaneous possession would be a gradual one, whereby Tataka bent Gabrielle's emotions and thoughts to her will until Tataka had complete control. In such a scenario, Gabrielle would have to have NO awareness, however, that she was behaving strangely. This model doesn't work for me, because I can't see Gabrielle having absolutely NO problem with anything she's doing. If nothing else, her change in demeanour with versus away from Xena suggests not a person who believes in what she is doing (as she so vehemently claims), but rather a person who is being manipulative and has something to hide. In addition, Tataka lets a number of things slip -- almost from the outset -- that Gabrielle couldn't know.)
In any case, the murkiness of the possession just increased my befuddlement, and decreased my enjoyment, by that much more.
I could have done without the return of Xena, Superhuman Destroyer of Physics as well. What can I say? Inconsistent characterisation so blatantly in the service of forcing the plot along makes me edgy. Out of the gazillion or so fight scenes (obviously needed to make up for Paradise Found coming in under quota) the final showdown between Tataka and Xena was the most exciting and enjoyable, save for the George Washington wig-wearing stunt double (whose necessity I often couldn't fathom) and spinning-arrow Xena.
Now, despite all the problems I had with Devi, I did feel engaged and excited from time-to-time. It was a curious experience. The acting, I believe, is what kept the episode afloat. Timothy Omundson played a likable and interesting Eli, and worked well opposite LL. For her part, LL was solid and steady as Xena, portraying the range of emotions Xena experienced with depth and honesty, and none of the excessiveness I've come to fear. ROC's portrayal of Tataka was pleasingly subtle at the outset and just wicked fun at the end. Truly, I feel she was the only one among the critical parties who never cheated when it came to the possession mystery. Kudos must go to ROC, the director, and the fight choreographer for those wonderful "snake-cum-Hindu diety" moves.
All in all, I'd put this episode somewhere in the "good" range. There was a lot of potential in the possession story, but little of it pertained directly to or illuminated Gabrielle's and Xena's characters. Paradoxically, it just might have been the complicated and confused plot which not only led to my feelings of dissatisfaction at the end, but also to my desire to give the episode another, closer look.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY
One can always tell when one is in a foreign country because everything one has ever heard about the country is going on in every big city square. "Aw, Wasn't that the Sweetest Little Thing?" Moment of the season goes to G&X's teasing exchange about G reminding X about whatever [the what really doesn't matter] when she's "crippled and old". Much as I would like it to, 'devi' does NOT rhyme with my firstname. As I understand it, a good approximation of the first vowel is halfway between a long-a and a short-e. The first consonant is not the English 'd', either, but let's not go there. Speaking of which, one can hear both the correct and XWP pronunciations of devi in the balcony scene. The crowd starts off right, but when the camera pans back, it's a no go. Further speaking of which, the crowd sounds at the balcony are a good place to detect a sound edit. It seems that the front view of the crowd employs the voices of Indian extras, but one can hear a subtle change in audio quality when they switch to what was most likely the regular ADR crew. Idiom check: Last week in Paradise, Xena uttered the unfamiliar "don't stand a prayer"; this week Tataka uttered the usual "have a prayer". More YAXI: During the shoulder massage, Xena's left shoulderstrap is off her shoulder, but when camera angle changes, it's back on her shoulder. Still more YAXI! Notice when Gabrielle is convulsing as Tataka struggles to leave, neither Eli's nor Xena's hands stay in the same place from one angle to to another. Can ROC work an outfit or what? I wanted a place on my knees at her pavilion.
OK, I guess I have to start my comments on Devi by declaring a conflict of interest... or something of the sort. My family is half Indian, and although I've only ever spent a few months in India myself, I inevitably look on Indians as "our lot", as it were, and on India as more some kind of alternate or spiritual homeland than just another foreign country. And all this inevitably colours my reactions to an ep like Devi... the result of which will probably be that I'm even more picky than usual, and that I tend to meander off topic to an even greater degree than is my wont. Sorry... and I'll try to do my best to constrain myself!
So - did I actually like this ep? Well, at least the first time through, I rather got so caught up in the details that I missed the wood for the trees. After a couple more viewings... yes, I quite like the ep. I actually think that, despite trotting out a lot of cliches, and incorporating quite a few nits to be picked at, on the whole they handled the Indian setting very well. And the plot and characters... well, they interested me and held my attention. If I'm not utterly enthusiastic about the ep, I guess there are a couple of things that hold me back. Firstly, the dynamic between Xena and Gab is getting a bit repetitive - there's a limit to how many times you can hinge major scenes in an ep on what is essentially the *same* interaction between the two principle characters... at some point they're going to have to make some connections or grow beyond this. And secondly, although the ep interested me and amused me, nothing in it really moved me - the *great* X:WP eps do... they cover all the bases: they amuse, they grip, they stimulate thought, they illuminate moral issues, and they move me - they stir the feelings, the passions. Daughter Of Pomira did all that for me, which is why a would call it a great XWP ep, even though I had plenty of nits to pick, and some serious doubts about a few points in the script. Devi, OTOH, whilst perhaps richer and more sensuous as entertainment, lacked the moral and emotional dimensions to make me see it as great. But still, a good ep, would be my overall feeling. (Although there were some points in Devi's script that troubled me somewhat as well, especially on repeated viewing...)
And off we go, for the usual wander through the details, if you choose to accompany me...
To continue the chit-chat about Indian music, which I started with last week... the ep opens with music played on probably the best known Indian instrument of them all, the sitar (its name, historically, means "seven strings" - but it doesn't actually have seven strings). It is, of course, a plucked string instrument, and its special timbre comes mainly from the fact that there are a bunch of unplucked, unfretted "passive" strings underneath the main strings which resonate according to the harmonics of the notes being played. The sitar is accompanied by a drone on the tanpura (an instrument similar to the sitar, but simpler, completely unfretted, and used only to play the same four notes over and over again, with resonant harmonics, function somewhat like the drone on a set of bagpipes, but more complexly), and by the "tabla" drums, which are a marvellously versatile instrument in their own right (two drums, played with the fingers, each speaking differently, depending where and how it is struck, one a base drum, and the other a treble, which is tuned according to the dominant note of the melody to be played). The voice that joins in with the opening music after a while is singing the "sargam" - i.e. the syllables sung are the equivalent of the western do, re, mi, etc. This form of singing is common with Indian classical music... sometimes intervals of improvised sargam singing are interspersed between the singing of poetic verses. The syllables of the Indian scale are Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa - however the intervals between them vary according to the Raag being used, and not all notes are used in all Raags...
Gab's first comment is "India is so different... and yet there's this connection too." I wondered what she meant by that... why does Gab feel that she has a 'connection' with India? I would have thought, coming from ancient Greece, that India would have seemed extremely alien to her...
Gab and Xena certainly look like tourists at the start of this ep, wandering round gawking, and oohing and awwing, almost as if they just got off the plane... And TPTB really did manage to roll out just about every cliche in the book about "exotic India" - let's see, we got an elephant, some firewalkers, snake charmers, a bed of nails (presumably belonging to a fakir, though I didn't actually catch sight of him)... they even made the performance of the "famous Indian rope trick" a central feature of the plot. All the norms of the comic book version of India... but then I suppose that's fair enough, up to a point - it is, after all, a "fantasy" show!
Interestingly enough, despite the fact that I'd assume everything was shot in NZ, they really *did* succeed in capturing the feel of India to a considerable degree - I had no trouble believing I was really seeing India, especially in the opening, establishing scene, and the other outdoor scenes in alleys and market squares etc. Even the light looked right!
So Gab is doing yoga every day now (so she says) - is this a carry over from Aiden? (But he never called it "yoga", did he?) Perhaps she found another teacher. You'd think she'd feel a bit awkward about it if she only learned about it from Aiden...
Another new Indian instrument is introduced when Eli appears, and it's another of my personal favourites - the sarangi. This is a bowed instrument - i.e. it's played by sawing a bow across it, like a violin or cello, producing saw-tooth waves. It also has passive strings, like the sitar, and this, plus its very different soundbox, gives it a very different tone from the violin, closer to the human voice (and indeed, emulation of the human voice is widely considered to be one of the greatest aims of Indian instrumental music...)
It's interesting that Eli the magician should have an assistant called "Maya". "Maya" *means* (in a sense) "illusion", and most specifically is used in Hindu and Buddhist teachings to refer to the whole physical world...
After the rope trick, Eli says that all he does is perform illusions - so if the rope trick was an illusion, how the heck did he do it? I've heard about it, but I've never seen it done myself. Taken as a conjuring trick, his version was certainly extremely impressive...
Despite my occasional complaints I was actually quite impressed with the presentation of this ep - it had some very nice little touches... for example, when Maya was climbing up the rope, and paused a moment to take a mouthful of something from the woman on the balcony - that just struck me as *so* Indian! Obviously one or more people involved with putting this ep together had some real familiarity with the subcontinent...
I would have been happier with Eli if he had seemed more Indian - the actor was fine in the role, but I'm afraid I couldn't for a moment actually see him as a native of India.
Xena seemed so girlish and touristy watching the magic show - somehow it seemed a bit out of character for her (I'm not used to seeing the warrior really relaxed, especially not recently).
I must say I thought it was a bit disgusting when Maya fell back down from the sky in pieces - if this guy is a magician, I'm definitely not hiring him for my next children's party!
I thought Maya was rather fun - *especially* when she was possessed. I liked her faces, and her sword juggling.
Eli: "Be careful - something's wrong!" - definitely a candidate for the "No, sh*t, Sherlock!" award of the week!
BTW - aren't Indian clothes lovely? Take a look at Maya's costume, for example... the colours, and that fine gold decoration (admittedly the tailoring of some of the costumes was a bit unusual for India - but the fabrics and designs certainly looked authentic).
I nearly injured myself laughing at the cuisinart / watermelon trick! (And another mark for accuracy - the watermelon is grown extensively in India - although I couldn't speak for the history of this practice...)
That was a *most* peculiar trick when Xena sort of spun about her axis and flew at Maya - I've never seen Xena do *that* before. And it was even more physics-defying than most of her moves. Is this another Hong Kong borrowing?
When Xena flies at Maya, Eli says "Abba help me!" "Abba" is a somewhat familiar term for "father". In this context it would refer to a god. It's a not inconceivable thing for an Indian to say in such circumstances, although I can't say I've heard it commonly. Exactly *which* god the speaker might have in mind would depend on the speaker, and the circumstances... Indians often refer to female gods as "mother", but they're generally less prone to referring to male gods as "father"... With Eli I have no real idea - the only god he mentions by name is Rama, who is more usually addressed, now, through one of his avatars. Mind you, the Indian side of my family are Muslims, so I only know Hinduism as an outsider...
OK, I have a problem... when they figure out later what happened, Xena says that Eli expelled the possessing spirit from Maya "straight into Gabrielle" - so how come they showed us the white 'spirit thingy' taking off out of Maya and flying around? Admittedly is *did* come back and 'buzz' Gab - but it looked as if it went past her and rose again to me, rather than entering her. So... is this a case of the f/x people not being on the same page as the writer, or what?
I know Vikram was *supposed* to be rather a prat, but even allowing for the fact that he was meant to be irritating, I didn't like the way the actor played him, and I was quite relieved that he got offed fairly early on. For one thing, even though he *looked* the part fine, he didn't seem Indian, or more specifically, Indian priestly, at all. Now I realise that this need not be a problem - after all, Xenaverse Greeks hardly *seem* Greek. But you do need to make up your mind how things are going to be played - for example when Herc went to Ireland, all the Irish were actually played as Irish (more or less). Devi was inconsistent in this respect... whilst Eli and Vikram seemed totally non-Indian, the two people from the crowd who spoke immediately after Vikram's entrance ("It's her - she has the higher power!" "He's right - she beat the demon!") both clearly *were* Indian - and the contrast made Vikram stick out most incongruously, to me at least.
BTW, listen to how that guy from the crowd pronounces "Devi" - he says it right... something rather closer to DAY-VEE then to DEVVY. Almost all the featured actors (and some of the extras) mangled it horribly throughout... which, small point though it is, probably got on my nerves more than anything else in the ep. It did occur to me that perhaps someone had encouraged them all to use this odd pronunciation on purpose, to make it sound more like "devil".
And whilst we're on the subject, "Devi" simply means "goddess" (not any particular goddess, and not necessarily with any association with healing... and the word is also used figuratively and metaphorically, much like the English word "goddess", when praising females, etc...) This, of course, makes it rather awkward when later Xena says to Eli that he is the Devi... The masculine equivalent would be "Deva" or sometimes just "Dev" (as in "Jai Guru, Deva" - which means "Hail Teacher, God", and is the refrain of the Beatles song "Nothing's Going To Change My World" - although when I first heard it I thought they were singing "Jackarooday var"... and I wondered why). So the Hindu name "Devdas" means "gift of god", making it an exact cognate of Mozart's middle name "Amadeus" (in it's Latinised version, or "Theophilus" in the Greek version, which, I believe, is how Mozart was originally named). Sorry... wandered a bit off-topic there!
Xena: "I don't like the sound of this - I'm gonna get him outta here!" Gab: "I'll handle the crowd!" So... is this a new division of labour?
And how did Xena *know* Eli's box had a false back? Did she just assume it, because he was an illusionist? They'd have looked a bit dumb if it *hadn't* had another way out...
"So is she?" "What?" "Your friend, Gabrielle........ is she really a Devi?" I must say something else did flit across my mind here, especially given the *long* pause after "Gabrielle" ("No I'm not - but my girlfriend is...")
And this conversation was possibly the high point of the ep for persistently and egregiously mispronouncing "Devi".
Then Eli tries to hypnotise Xena. I had my doubts about this the first time I watched - Xena is a classic "bad hypnotic subject"... I don't think you could *ever* hypnotise someone like her - she has a kind of constant vigilance and suspicion, which, together with her divided and tension-filled self, and her strong self-awareness, would almost certainly make her completely resistant. I was thus very relieved when it turned out Xena was just leading Eli on, and wasn't really hypnotised at all (chalk one up to the writer for character consistency...)
OK, if Gab was already possessed after Maya was healed, how come she kept acting like her normal self for a while, and needed persuading to accept the role of Devi? This "possession" thing seemed to be handled a bit oddly... eventually Gab changed completely - but why did it take so long? Maya seemed to be completely taken over immediately. Are we perhaps supposed to see this as meaning Gab is stronger than Maya, and needs to be taken over more trickily and gradually?
Presumably Ravi (the "eye guy") was meant to be some sort of demon all along, helping to put over the deception. Incidentally, he was another one who was played by an actual Indian and who pronounced "Devi" properly - listen when he says "Praise to our Devi" when he first meets Gab. (I'm sorry... I told you - this really bugged me!)
Nice sitar music again when Eli is trying to hypnotise Xena...
When the crowd are all chanting "Devi! Devi" this is another good example of the right pronunciation, since most of the extras were apparently Indian. But then Vikram wanders in again, sounding more like a low-church Anglican vicar than a Hindu pandit: "Suffer not a demonizer among you!" Some slight consistency problems here...
OTOH, another plus was the architecture - those arches we see Gab through with the crowd are *so* typically Indian, right down to that peculiar blotchy griminess which so many things in India seem to have (which certainly conveys an Indian atmosphere to anyone familiar with India - although being really picky, arches like that in India almost definitely derive from the Muslim influence, which didn't arrive until way after the "Xena era", and even the griminess is probably largely due to modern pollution...) On the same lines, the paintings in the temple where Eli hangs out are in a style developed in the period of the (Muslim) Mughal emperors, 1,500 years or so after the time of Julius Caesar...
Now interestingly (well, perhaps only for me...) Vikram in fact pronounces "Devi" right when he comes to say it - probably because, for all his rather strange manner, the actor is of Indian origin, directly or indirectly...
It's also interesting (rather more generally, hopefully) that despite initially seeming bigoted and fanatical, Vikram is in fact the first one to be, quite correctly, suspicious of Gab's condition. But Xena still seems prejudiced against him (and honestly, so was I), and so doesn't take his warning seriously.
The shot immediately after Xena leaves the temple, after talking to Vikram, is clearly actual stock footage of India (well I guess it's just a single still, not even footage, really...) The architecture here however is most *definitely* Muslim, specifically Mughal, and so about 1,500 years before its time.
The trouble with this ep, when you come right down to the essential Xena / Gab interaction is... well, isn't this getting a bit repetitive? How many more Gab: "This is great!" Xena: "Gee, I dunno..." moments are we going to go through?=20
Gab says to Xena "I know that you had a spirit inside you..." Am I just getting absent minded here? (Quite probable at my age...) *When* did Xena have a spirit inside her? I mean they both became Bacchae in GJWTHF, but I don't think that counts. And Xena and Calli swapped bodies... but I don't see that counting, either. And Xena was inside Auto in The Quest, but not vice versa? So what *is* Gab talking about...?
Xena: "Gabrielle, there are spirits that are good, and bad. But they're smart, and sometimes you can't tell one from another!" I liked the vehement way Xena delivered this line. But what does Gab reply? Gab: "Whatever this is, it wasn't bad, Xena..." I mean they can only go on doing this sort of thing for so long before we all come to the conclusion that Gab is totally psychotic... and I reckon we're fast approaching that point now. And since when has Gab been dreaming of a life as a healer? Excuse me, I thought Xena was more the healer of the pair. The whole idea of dealing with the sick and injured seemed to be thrust quite unfamiliarly on Gab in first season eps such as Prometheus and Death In Chains... You could, I suppose, make the argument that Gab's obstinacy and self-absorption, which rise to a pathological point in this ep (i.e. she starts to seem crazy) are a function of her being 'possessed'. And I'm sure we are meant to see it that way, to some degree. But the scary thing is, these traits are very much part of the week-to-week 'normal' Gab, and can be traced all the way back to her early appearances (The Titans, anyone?) I'm in two minds - I can almost see the point of folks who theorise that somehow the spirit of Hope lives on in the Gab we're seeing now, and that her behaviour is TPTB preparing us for some denouement based on this. But then somehow this seems unlikely - there have been too many little intimate moments since Gab's return that seem very much the real Gab. (To say nothing of problems with Devi itself - Tataka possessing Gab who is already somehow possessed by Hope... I don't think so.) And even Gab's increasingly evident problems (stubbornness, wilful blindness, self-absorption, even something of a megalomaniac streak) seem to arise from roots that we've seen in the character since we first got to know her. I just hope (oops!) something happens soon to stem the growth of these trends - there's only so much I can take of a crazy Gab flying in the face of everything she's experienced and everything anyone (especially Xena) tells her, and persistently adopting various schemes to become some sort of saint, superwoman or deity. Get a clue Gab, and work on being human...
I was confused by the business where Gab goes out onto the balcony, Xena looks after her, then Xena turns around and Gab is on the bed... was that just an awkward edit, with the scene where Gab gets up taking place at a totally different time (which is what I mostly think)? Or was Gab meant to have teleported, or Xena to have zoned-out, or something?
I *really* don't like that little way Gab smiles when people bow down and worship her... it gives me a very bad feeling about her character flaws (maybe that's why I have so much trouble with gods - who could really admire someone who wanted to be worshipped?)
They did a great job of misdirecting suspicion towards Eli... I liked that. It makes the ep more interesting when it isn't obvious where everything is headed, and who is to be trusted and who isn't.
I quite liked the bit with Gab's 'bodyguards' vanishing and then the demon dogs appearing. It seemed somehow appropriate to the kind of demonic goings on involved. And the dogs were fairly successful in effects terms - by relying mainly on real dogs, with just a little in the way of CGI enhancement, they created more sense of real menace than the sometimes rather hokey pure CGI monsters often do... If you're being picky, though, you might complain that if the bodyguards were supposed to have turned into the dogs, then there should have either been more bodyguards or less dogs...
Incidentally, what the heck happened to Maya?! *Everyone*, including Eli, seemed to utterly loose interest in her once she got unpossessed in the opening scene...
The streets that the dogs chased Xena and Eli through looked very Indian too... They surely don't have alleys and buildings like that naturally occurring in New Zealand - so were these all sets? Or did they actually do location shooting? I have to say, if they did build and dress all this, I'm impressed!
The trick where Xena swung herself and Eli up over the dogs by her whip was, of course, absurd - the whole nature of *swinging* on a rope is that the middle point of the swing is necessarily lower than the ends... whereas in this case, they rose and then descended. I'm starting to think that Xena enters some sort of Escher-space when she performs her stunts... And did Xena just abandon her whip hanging from that architectural whatnot?
I wasn't entirely clear *what* was supposed to have happened when Eli appealed to Gab to free him from the demons and then levitated... having seen the whole ep and looking back, I still have trouble making sense of it. Was this all a trick by Eli to get away? But then why did the demons stop pursuing him and let him get away with it?
I liked the singing during it anyhow - more great classical Indian vocals! I'm *so* glad that Loduca chose to use classical Indian traditions and excellent Indian musicians in the music for these eps!
OTOH, Eli's "Praise the Devi! Praise the Devi!" really got on my wick... Sorry, it's that pronunciation again - "Devvie Does Dallas", anyone?
I must admit that when Eli first started talking about Tataka I had no idea what he meant - actually at first I thought he said Gattacca (sp?) like that movie. I do have a passing familiarity with the Ramayana, the great Hindu epic about the exploits of the god Rama, but I didn't remember Tataka's name at all, and neither did a couple of the purely Indian members of my family. However, Tataka does play a moderately significant role in that epic. She is a 'hideous she demon' who is killed by Rama. Perhaps significantly the argument is made that killing her was an acceptable thing to do because removing her from the world was for the greater good, similar to driving out a possessing spirit from a body. However, although she is *compared* to one, there doesn't seem to be any suggestion that she actually *was* a possessing spirit (although the whole idea of 'possession' is definitely very well established in India and of great antiquity). And all the descriptions I could find of Tataka portrayed her as a hideously ugly ravening demon, rather than a cute blonde wearing pearls... Perhaps the most obvious problem with borrowing the character Tataka from the Ramayana is that her main function in that epic is to get *killed* - she is done with, removed from the world... so using her in a "sequel" is a bit moot - but then TPTB have never bothered about *that* sort of thing, have they?
As an almost entirely random aside, "tataka" is also a Japanese word, meaning "battle" or "war".
Gab was certainly pretty impressive in her "pearly queen" outfit. And that little pavilion she was in, with the flowered branches hanging down around it, was *so* Indian - if all this was done without location shooting, the set-dressers did a *tremendous* job!
"I mean, underneath all this, I'm still me..." Errgh... Gab...
So Gab asks Xena why she has the Ganges water - why doesn't Xena just tell her? This seemed entirely like willful misunderstanding brought on by a bad case of script writers to me. And the whole "Ganges water burns in the hands of a priest" thing sounds more like a borrowing from a bad horror movie than any Indian tradition (although admittedly some Indian traditions do sound a bit like bad horror movies...)
"Why is this so hard for you to accept?" Well all I can say is, Xena really *must* love Gab a lot... to put up with this crap over and over again and never even loose her temper. Of course, I guess she owes Gab a few... But you know, maybe that's Xena and Gab's problem - maybe they need to have good, honest, screaming row now and then, before the tensions build up too far and someone gets hurt. If so, they've come to the right place, in my experience - there's no one like the Indians for screaming at one another, especially their family members!
When Xena is fighting Ravi in the temple (after he attacks Eli) that music is *not* Indian... I'm not sure, but I believe it's probably derived from the Bulgarian tradition that Loduca so often uses on XWP.
And after Eli kills Ravi with the holy water (which I guess was the whole purpose of that plot point...), this is where Xena says that Eli is the Devi (somewhat unreasonably, as I already noted... but perhaps he's a goddess inside).
Lovely little melody on the Shehnai (double-reed pipe) when we cut back to the sleeping Gabrielle.
What Gab is wearing when Xena wakes her is an Indian 'blouse' - the garment that is worn underneath the sari... and incidentally for Indian women to sleep in a blouse and petticoat is indeed very common. Come to think of it, the BGSB itself looks very like an Indian blouse. And didn't the yellow blouse that Gab was wearing here look very like what she had on in that supposed "short hair" holiday greeting video that was posted (it was so blurry that I couldn't tell whether her hair was actually short or just tied back...)
Whatever we were supposed to believe about Gab's condition and self-presentation before, by this point she is clearly deceptive and actively up to no good... So what about the night before, when she disarmed Xena by crying at her - was that deception too? I find this "possession by degrees" thing a bit hard to make sense of... I mean it's hard to accept that Gab was instantly totally possessed - because then all that "Why can't you see what I'm feeling?" business would have had to have been the demon talking, not Gab... and it felt *so* Gab. But then if she *was* possessed slowly, by degrees, to the point where she could deceive Xena whilst dispatching assassins - then shouldn't the real Gab at some point during this process have sensed this evil thing taking her over, and struggled, or somehow tried to signal Xena? Somehow this whole thing seems rather put together for convenience of presentation, and not to stand up too well to close consideration... Anyhow, now apparently Gab's spirit is who knows where, and Tataka is in control.
When Eli is running through the woods (which BTW, are most un-Indian - un-Greek too, for that matter) the music is back to the Bulgarian gaida pipes which we know so well. Actually the Indian and Bulgarian musical influences seem to blend together quite well...
The whole "icon for the exorcism" thing made no sense at all to me... an icon is an image (especially a religious image) - from the Greek Eikon, meaning "image". How can a quill be an image?
I'd have been happier if they'd played Tataka a bit more forthright and tough - her sort of po-faced gracious act was a bit too uncomfortably reminiscent of the bard we know...
And they didn't seem to be able to make up their minds how to pronounce Tataka, either - sometimes it was Tataahka and other times Taahtaka... I don't actually know, but I'd suspect all the vowels are short, in fact.
I wonder why ROC as Tataka didn't wear a proper sari - a single length of cloth wrapped around over the petticoat with the end brought up and round over the shoulders or the head. Perhaps they found it too awkward (although plenty of Indian women work in fields, on building sites, etc. in them...) Instead she wore a sort of "pseudo sari" - basically a skirt, a blouse, and then a separate piece of cloth over the shoulders and the head, which looked rather like the end of a sari, but which wasn't attached to anything, and which she discarded when she started to fight. (Whereas Indian women have ways of tucking the sari in to fight, or do similar things...)
*Really*! Xena is getting beaten up by *everyone* this season! And now it's Gab's turn (oh sorry... Tataka's - and it was Tataka who licked the skin off Xena's face too - but it sure looked like Gabs). This is starting to get upsetting - constantly seeing Xena pounded and tortured.
But after it all, was Xena about to fail the "Hercules test"? (BTW, I assume everyone noticed that this was another example of TPTB using every plot idea they come up with on *both* shows these days - reuse, recycle, waste not, want not...) So... had Xena actually given up and made the decision to terminate Gab for the greater good? It sure looked like it - but would she really have gone through with it? I mean I know Xena can be decisive, and she's prepared to commit to a course of action, if it's necessary, however difficult, e.g. trying to kill Hope, even though she'd been told that she'd certainly die herself if she succeeded. But then Hope was moving along fast with a plan to take over the whole world. There didn't seem to be any very pressing reason why Tataka had to be dealt with immediately. So, the exorcism plan failed... couldn't Xena have just run away, lived to fight another day, and come up with another plan (gone to fetch a priest, for example - India's full of them)? Why would Xena force a fight to the death with Tataka? I don't claim to know the answer to this one. Perhaps she thought she wouldn't be able to get away (but she didn't really try, did she?) Or perhaps she was just *mad*... but hopefully that wouldn't have taken her as far as actually killing Gab / Tataka. I wasn't very comfortable with all this frankly... I don't like it when I can't really connect with how Xena's acting. I guess I'd go for a combination of "she was fighting for her life" and "she was mad"... but then I don't think she actually have completed the kill.
Putting the pinch on Gab's body so that Eli could do his stuff seemed like a good idea. I thought it was quite clever to have Tataka try to use Gab to deceive Eli ("The power you seek... it's a lie!) - and I suppose this would tend to reinforce the idea that Tataka was knowingly "imitating" Gab in order to deceive Xena earlier... But to what extent? Was Tataka in control when Gab was talking of dreaming of being a healer? And what about when Xena said they should do yoga together, and Gab realised she was testing her - was *that* Tataka? And if so, how come she didn't fall for Xena's trick? As I say, the whole "possession by degrees" thing left me confused and uneasy...
And Eli is back to appealing for help from "Abba" when he drives out Tataka at the end. That one didn't feel right to me... more like a Christian appeal. Come to think of it, "Eli" is hardly a very Indian name!
And Xena was so caught up in the whole thing that she nearly forgot to take the pinch off Gab (the elapsed on-screen pinch time was actually one minute and thirty two seconds, BTW - *considerably* longer than the nominal thirty seconds!)
And some more really nice sarangi music for the marketplace shots at the end...
I have to admit I was rather uneasy with the concluding mutterings about a "stronger power" for good, and not being alone... too much like a cross between monotheism and Star Wars for me (and I'm afraid I'm no big fan of either).
And at the very end, Gab had her staff back, but she was still wearing her 'pseudo sari' get-up... so is this going to be her new outfit, pro tem?
What can I say - this was one of the most “warm and fuzzy” episodes that I’ve seen -I loved every minute of it. Xena and Gabrielle were very relaxed and actually having fun.
Before elaborating on Xena and Gabrielle, let’s take a look at the character of Eli (a medieval Robert Goulet look-alike). Judging from the summary of the episode “The Way”, Eli will be a reoccurring character. You definitely get the sense that Eli is someone who possesses a great deal of power but does not fully understand or realize the full extent or capabilities of that power nor does he realize the implications it may have upon others. He was definitely impressed by Xena, especially when he tried to hypnotize her in order to discover whether Gabrielle was truly a Devi, and if so, how she was able (or so he thought she was able) to cast the demon out of his assistant’s body. He was surprised when Xena (non-influenced by Eli’s hypnotic powers) instead ended up asking him a question. You could also tell that he was impressed and thankful for Xena’s fighting abilities as well as her ability to correctly “size-up” a situation instead of taking the situation at face value. At the end, when Xena and Eli hugged, you could tell they had formed a bond and understanding of what was important for each other - an understanding that would end up coming back in future episodes.
Now for Xena and Gabrielle. In the beginning of the episode it is like watching two children who are surveying a land they have never seen for the first time - it was great! The laughter and merriment between the two characters has been a long time overdue. Yet even in all their levity you can see that these two intend on being friends for a lifetime. This is expressed when Gabrielle is showing Xena a man considered to be a master in Yoga. Xena expresses that Yoga is not for her, to which Gabrielle replies: “When you’re cripple and old and I’m doing head stands -I’ll remind you of this.” The show of relaxation progresses into the next scene when Eli throws the rope up in the air and ask if any skeptics would like to step-up to which Gabrielle pushes Xena out of the crowd and says “here’s one” as she laughs and applauds. This to me was a great scene - these two have become so relaxed with one another. Xena doesn’t even get mad with Gabrielle she just goes for the moment - it’s great.
The episode; however, shows that Gabrielle still does not extensively scrutinize a situation deep enough before jumping into it “head over heels.” She does reason - but still not to the extent or maturity that Xena reasons - you can tell that Xena has been through much more and doesn’t trust as easily. This would be a good lesson for Gabrielle to adopt. One example of Xena’s “sizing up” of a situation was when Gabrielle informed her (while giving her a back massage) that she felt a spirit inside of her, to which Xena replied: “ Is that what’s happened - cause Gabrielle there are spirits good and bad but they’re smart and sometimes you can’t tell one from another.” Gabrielle doesn’t listen but instead becomes caught up in the events (having just restored a blind man’s sight) and mistakenly assumes the spirit must be good - when will Gabrielle learn? You can tell that Gabrielle is trying to correctly “size up” situations but doesn’t have much evil in her past life to compare anything to, whereas Xena is also learning but has many past experiences to draw from and apply to the situations that she presently encounters.
Xena is very good the way she will pretend to let the other person have the upper hand in order to ascertain their next move (almost like a chess game). An example was when Eli thought he had Xena hypnotized. Also, if you notice, Xena does not trust anyone (except Gabrielle) and never takes anything at face value.
An “A” goes to Xena and Lucy Lawless for her fantastic display of compassion and caring. The one thing consistent in all Xena episodes is the fact that Xena can’t stand to see Gabrielle cry or hurt. Lucy Lawless portrays this so well in her acting that the compassion comes across vividly. When Gabrielle started to cry because she felt that Xena thought her powers were evil, Xena held Gabrielle, apologized and begged her not to cry. When Gabrielle was revived by Eli after the demon was driven out of her body, Xena kissed Gabrielle and held her (same as she did in “Is there a Doctor in the House?”). I have seen the same kind of compassion from Gabrielle in the earlier episodes of Xena (ex: “The Greater Good”, “Destiny”, “The Quest” and “Blind Faith”) but I haven’t seen it much from the later episodes of Xena (ex: “Crusader” - when Gabrielle left Xena lying on the floor without saying anything before she left - or - “Paradise Found” where instead of Gabrielle compassionately stitching up Xena’s leg, she is instead taunting Xena about laughing when fighting). I’d like to see the old type of compassion that Gabrielle use to display come back so that perhaps the next time Xena needs stitching of any kind, Gabrielle will be compassionate and concern while performing the task much like the compassion and concern consistently displayed by Xena towards her.
I thought the fight between Xena and the evil Gabrielle was fantastic. ROC was very good in her snake dance impression when she was fighting Xena. Lucy Lawless was good in her display of Xena’s discomfort on the bed of nails while Gabrielle relentlessly jumped on top of her. I do feel that Xena would have defeated Gabrielle much earlier but was hampered by her fear of hurting Gabrielle. When Xena realized that the Gabrielle she knew was gone, I admired her strength in knowing that she might have to destroy Gabrielle in order to save her soul (thank goodness that didn’t come to pass). Also, I have said it before and will repeat it again, I love Xena’s use of the whip this season - her awesome use of weapons never cease to amaze.
I loved the episode, I loved the interaction between the two characters and as always Lucy Lawless and ROC were superb in their acting.
01-29-00. Commentary Jill Hayhurst.Gimme an "I"! Gimme an "N"! Gimme a "D"! Gimme an "I"! Gimme an "A"! What's that spell? "INDIA"! I can't hear ya... "INDIA!" What's that spell? "INDIA! INDIA! INDIA! GooooooOOOOOOOO, *INDIA*!
(Can y'all tell I'm from Texas, home of high school football as a Big Business? Other states, like Nebraska, concentrate their efforts on college ball, when all the knees that are likely to be blown have already blown, and their owners given decent jobs in furniture retail or used car lots or some such. In Texas, though, we like to think positive about the future, so we spend an inordinate amount of time speculating on the career of sixteen year old fullbacks, hoping for another Earl Campbell, please you, Jesus.)
Speaking of Jesus, I b'lieve, since this spoiler's some 6 months late, it's been mentioned a time or two about the CLOSE FAMILIAL RESEMBLANCE yon Eli has to certain roadside black velvet repros of ol' Leo's Last Supper's central figure. Well, friends, I've been stuck in this one spot for a damned long time now, pondering the entire INDIA arc and DEVI in particular, and I am here to tell you, once and for all, definitively, that yeah, Eli does look a bit like Leo's Jesus. And he's wearing a flowing stripey robe affair that weren't found nowhere outside Semetic tribes of the time (pick a time, any time, it's the Xenaverse). So I think it's safe to say that he was, JUST LIKE XENA AND GABRIELLE (but not Argo, where the hell's Argo?), a furriner to this quaint little INDIAN village, aka the setting for BTDT and FHTBT among others.
We know our grrls are in India cos, well, cos they say they are. Over and over in the opening scene. Every furkin' sentence. True, there's shots of snakes dancing to pipes, and folks walking barefoot over hot coals, and one guy knotted up in a half hitch, and cows not being shot, but let to wander all over creation, no wonder all the side streets're nothing but mud, and everyone's wearing filmy shawls and turbans and such, but the real reason we know they're not in Greece anymore is cos they CAN'T STOP SAYING SO.
I'm sorry, I'm a bit grumpy, I know. Headache. Not the ep's fault, I adored this ep, start to finish, glaring plot holes and all. The demon doggies scared me into fits, every time I watch it they do that, and Gabrielle was dazzling all through.
Anyway, so we open with X&G meandering through the marketplace and gawking at the sights, all of them so Indian they're streaming with Ganges holy water, when they come upon a mountebank performing a magic act, the sort of act that would translate from place to place, country to country... where you send Vanna White to the Land of the Spirits (or Mount Olympus, or Beth' Al, or Hell, or Tel Aviv or LAX, look-- you gotta tailor this stuff for your audience, else the local Duke never notices ya, and there go your chances for the sweet life doing coin tricks at fancy parties indoors out of the rain.) and she comes back on command, except in bits and pieces, and if you work your props right, the audience is both riveted and grossed out. Then you wave your hands and Vanna pops out of a trunk while go-go dancing boys undulate in the background and if you pass the hat at this moment, why, you clean up big.
It's a sure thing, trust me. I'd be digging in my secret pockets for someone who could do a gig like this.
What you want to watch out for, though, if you're in this business, is actually managing to send Vanna to the Land of the Spirits (or LAX, wherever) where she might actually be POSSESSED BY A DEMON, cos (trust me) that kind of thing royally fucks up the timing of the second part of the act. The local Duke is not gonna want to employ someone who might infest his parties with demon-possessed assistants. It's just plain bad for business.
So when Eli's Vanna returns from the Other World with more souls than she started the day with, he's naturally a bit concerned. And when she starts hissing and twirling swords in the manner of Gingsu chef approaching a shark, he is, in my opinion, perfectly correct in breaking character and asking for help.
It makes ya think, though. Think about What Would Have Been had Xena and Gabrielle NOT been there, with their prior experience in dealing with demons and such. I can't help but think it would have changed the world, not to mention been unpleasant for Eli. Think about it with me: Tataka would have entered the world, sucked in legions of followers (she's like that) and then marched east and south to Greece and gone head to head with Dahok.
It's like a bowl game between Nebraska and Miami: *really* hard to know who to root for. I mean, they're both the Anti-Christ. Of course, (it's my spoiler, I can tangent if I want to) if it's the State championship between Odessa-Permian (they feed those boys extra meat, I know they do) and the Katy Tigers, then we all know the chant is "GooooooooooOOOOO, Tigers!" (If anyone cares, I did my HS years in Killeen, when there wasn't but one high school and the mascot was the Kangaroos... cheering for Kangaroos will give a child a real and lasting appreciation for variety and differences in this world... I think I'm done tangenting. No bets though.) But Tataka and Dahok... it's really hard to care enough to move the channel off All My Children, know what I mean?
So anyway, all that's moot since Xena and Gabrielle are right there, and willing to do their Greater Good act. They tag team proto-Vanna, Xena doing the actual spin -n- toss and Gabrielle doing the sensitive chat thing, once Vanna's on the ground and writhing unarmed. Meanwhile, Eli speaks the magick words "Abba, help me" with all the conviction of a shepherd looking down at a flock of dead and diseased sheep surrounded by wolves, just before Vanna spin-bounces off his torso, this is a plot point, just make a note of it here, and next thing you know, Gab's kneeling beside Vanna right when Tataka (weighing the odds and going for the quarterback sneak) exits Vanna's body.
Suddenly, Gab's being hailed by the populace at large as a "Devi". If you wanna know what a Devi really is, ask deb7. I can't remember, hell, it's all I can do to remember to re-oil my chain after riding in the rain. Anyway, in the context of the Xenaverse, I'd say a Devi is one who has some special influence over the manifestation of demons in middle earth. And who can make sick people feel better. I would spend a few paragraphs wondering why the two seem to go hand in hand in every darned religion in the world, but then I need to oil my chain.
Somewheres in there we had the opening titles and credits and such like, so if anyone's clocking my verbage vs. ep start time, well, there ya have it.
So, on with the plot! There's this priest dude, who shows up the second the crowd says Gab's a Devi (Vanna feels better and staggers offscreen. We never see her again, unless she's the one who turns out to be a Darsham in BTL.) The priest dude makes with the ominous portents talk and in an attempt to regain prestige, accuses Eli of having brought all this on them. Well, he did, I guess. But he didn't mean to! Not that it matters; once folks tar you with the demon-summoning brush, you can't get clean ever, even in the Ganges.
So now Gab's the Fox of the Year, and Eli's scum, and Xena's... well, um, kinda in the background. (Don't worry though, Xena don't do trophy wife.) There's wheels within wheels as we find out when the crowd hounds Eli into hiding. Xena helps him get away while Gab distracts the crowd. They disappear into a little prop hut, one of those with a false bottom or rear wall or maybe, just maybe, Eli's a REAL MAGICIAN! And he disappeared them both to the land of Oz! It could happen!
Not in this ep, though. So, with Eli and Xena gone, the stage belongs to the Gabster, and the crowd forgets their bloodlust long enough to fawn mindlessly over her. Meanwhile, Xena and Eli jog into the local temple (y'know, Indian temples ain't decorated a bit like churches I grew up avoiding. Heck, if I'd seen tits like that on a statue of the Virgin Mary, I might've... tangented quite early in my young life.)
(ahem) Did I just blaspheme two religions in one sentence? Oh, well. Eli asks Xena how Gabrielle managed to cast the demon from Vanna, cos he's like, majorly eaten up with jealousy, it's been a dream of his since he were a sprat to chuck devils around in the big leagues, like Earl Campbell, and he even tries to hypnotise her to get the Answer. Since, a) Xena ain't got the answer and b) Xena don't hypnotise, he's screwing up badly here. But Xena's learned something since Illusia, and she forgives him.
Back in the marketplace, a passing group of Hawaiian tourists has draped a lei over Gabrielle's head, and the crowd is still insisting she's a Devi. Several of them swear fealty to her right there, and all the while the priest dude is muttering darkly to himself away off on the steps of a building opposite. When he gets tired of it all, he ducks into the temple and confronts Xena. She tells him to watch his back, cos he's such a mean-spirited kinda guy. We don't see him alive again. Hm.
That night, Gab and Xena have a sensitive chat about what it means to be a minor diety. Xena seems a tad worried, maybe Gabrielle don't smell right, I dunno. But she's not jumping whole-heartedly on the 'my sword for you, Devi' bandwagon. I think she's wondering how all those guys from the marketplace are gonna fit on Argo (remember Argo?) when they hit the road again.
Comes the dawn, and Xena ain't slept a wink. She wakes Gabrielle (who was only pretending to sleep anyway... hm.) and they go out on the balcony on their way to breakfast, and the crowd below goes nuts. Gab seems to be eating it all up, all the attention, and does her WIR On Board Ship pose, except smiling, looking every inch worth worshipping. Xena dashes off to fetch Eli, they're gonna take him with them to make sure he's safe, but when she gets to the temple, all that's there is the priest dude. Swinging in the breeze. Suddenly Eli appears out of a shadow and Xena collars him, cos she thinks he might've had something to do with the priest's sudden loss of vitality, but maybe not. Well, she doesn't treat him much like a suspect, but she's not letting him wander off either. They go hunting for Gabrielle (leaving the priest right where he sways, maybe they think a hanging body completes the entire temple decor motif), and spot her surrounded by worshippers and bodyguards, then suddenly just by worshippers. Hm. Xena runs off (she does a lot of that) to track them, and Eli and Gab lock eyes for half a minute, before Eli takes off in a full-scale, witless scared retreat.
Now, how many times have we ever seen anyone so frightened of the Gabster they break and run? Hm.
He thinks he's got safe away, but then there's a growling behind him, sounds like a pack of hungry lions filtered through a megaphone, and he's set upon by a pack of (mangy curs) DEMON DOGGIES, they chase him and then him and Xena (she finds him, do *not* ever try to elude the Warrior Princess) through alleys and byways and clotheslines all draped with whatever bolts of cloth N'gila hadn't already used up on the extras.
(I'd swear that the lead doggie is the same one from the opening scene of AFA. Really gives me warm fuzzies, it does, knowing Xenastaff goes to such trouble to ensure that *everyone* in NZ has steady work.)
Even though the doggies are demons they're not too bright. Persistent, but not bright. Xena and Eli confound them at every passage, dropping laundry on them, leaping over their heads, slipping into side canyons while the posse carries straight on to the river, then finally emerging onto a main street, where, wonder of wonders, Gabrielle has just accepted an urn full of pearls from a worshipper. Eli runs full tilt into her as the doggies slink off and knocks them all over the street. He stares at her for a beat, then loudly pleads with her to 'heal' him. He even manages a levitation bit, and sets it all to her credit before jogging off, claiming he's been healed and so keeping the crowd from ripping him into bits. Gab just stares at him the whole time.
Xena catches up with Eli in the temple again (no sign of the priest) and he fills her in on a bit of Indian demon lore, and makes the connection between the doggies and the disappearing bodyguards. There's a painting on the wall of Tataka, blond, bedecked in pearls, evil to the core even though she did healing works. Xena stares at it. Hm.
Just in case you blinked or anything, that shot fades into one of Gabrielle, all done up JUST LIKE THE PAINTING in pearls and a crown and a tip to continuity: a Blinding White Beaded Wonderbra, and sitting in the middle of the marketsquare in a ritual pose. Wasn't ten minutes since Xena'd last seen her, either, looking normal and cute, so it's no wonder she's a bit surprised when she comes out of the temple.
So that evening Xena and Gab have a little chat about her new look, and Gab's seriously defensive ("I am not a demon! I AM A HUMAN BEING!") , Xena doesn't know what to do with her so she hugs her, wouldn't you? and then we cut to the temple where Eli's hiding and one of the bodyguards attacks him. Demonically, but still with the kicking and punching and body-tossing we know and love, and Xena shows up before he gets seriously hurt and holds the demonguard at bay while exhorting Eli to squirt her waterskin at him. (It's full of the Ganges holy water from the font in the temple.) Lo! the demon burns and writhes and dies under the water when Eli uses it, which means *he's* the Devi, which is why the demon doggies were all over his magical butt, and that means that Gabrielle has been possessed by Tataka, the demon from the opening scene, AND HAS BEEN TATAKA ALL ALONG! Yikes! Subtly biding her time, fooling with Xena's head, healing the sick to win them over to her nefarious schemes, and all the while trying to eliminate the only threats to her, the priest and Eli.
Xena goes back to their room and tricks the demon into revealing herself, and now she knows the gig is up, Tataka emerges in all her Madonna glory, hissing and vamping fit to kill, and then next thing ya know, it's full daylight and Eli's running through the woods (in Chin? that boy can really sprint through the backfield) and Xena after him and they have a little chat about how he promised to stay and heal Gabrielle and here he is running like a dog and he pleads incurable congenital wussiness so she makes him tell her how to do an exorcism and returns by herself to confront Tataka-Gab.
Finally, after a bit more this -n- that, (the exorcism thing went bad, too complicated a plan, right at the top of the scene), we get to the butt-kicking. The market square, being large and mostly cleared is really the perfect place for this, also cos its got neato trademarked Indian-type dangerous things like beds of coals in one corner and a bed of nails in another, just like all Indian villages, and Tataka-Gab lures Xena out by having her followers beat the tar out of innocents, and they go at it, Tataka at one point distracting Xena by rubbing her (Gab's) hands all over Gab's tits and then licking Xena's face, burning her cheek, something I'll bet would make Xena think twice about future snuggles under the blankets by the campfire, and then they trade kicks and punches, with Tataka-Gab scoring major boxing points and at in one sequence Xena tosses her high in the air and she slams into an awning and slides the length of it, timing her descent so that she ends up flying and landing right beside a couple of snake charmers OBLIVIOUSLY CHARMING SNAKES THROUGHOUT THE SCENE, and does a little dance with the cobras before returning to whale the tar out of Xena some more, but then Xena gets the upper hand and next thing you know, Tataka-Gab's on her back with Xena standing above her, sword drawn.
Just when Xena's gonna do it, skewer Gab, she's torn up about it, but it's the only way, Eli races in and stops her. He's found some guts somewheres, for the moment anyway, and is ready to give it a go. Xena wrestles Tataka-Gab up to the podium where Eli is and puts the pinch on her, and thus begins the longest 30 seconds in Xenaverse history to date. I think this rivals the 30 Seconds of Pinch Time in AITST2, since you can't count the time the Littlest Amazons spent in the Spirit World, helping Xena whup up on Alti.
So Tataka-Gab's choking, immobilised pretty much, leaving Xena and Eli free to discuss ways and methods of exorcism, the philosophical and theological and personal implications of Eli being a Devi and how he's gonna live with that, and what if he isn't, really, and who they each like in the Cotton Bowl this year, and finally after working through his Devi-to-Greek, Greek-to-Devi phrasebook, Eli comes up with the magic phrase, "Abba, help me!" which I think really means "If the draw play don't work, we'll have to punt." And that does the trick, Tataka screams out of Gab, thinks briefly about infesting Xena, decides she's not really feeling up to it this millineum and shoots off for the Land of the Spirits and a warm bath with maybe some hot cocoa later.
And Xena takes the pinch off Gab and pulls her into her lap and kisses her cheek and it's so tender I about melted away into my chair.
Next day they all say bye to each other, Eli going one way and X&G going another, Gab's still wearing the saffron get-up she had, minus the pearls and the BWBW, and nobody in town pays a lick of attention to any of them, you'd think they went through this every day. Actually, from Gab's lack of chatter about it, you'd think she barely noticed she'd spent the last couple days possessed. I'd've thought it'd be like having tapeworms or crabs, you couldn't help but notice *something* was up, but maybe not.
And not one word about what the deal was with the priest, if anyone cut him down or burned his body or even noticed he was missing. I guess it's like Xena said it was, guy like that's gotta have a lot of enemies.
So, all in all, way cool brainy ep, with just enough butt-kicking. No visionary flashes this time, so we get a break from snowy Romans and crosses and things, but don't worry, there's always next time.
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