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DANGEROUS PREY
aka Vengeance and Mercy


EPISODE No. 123
Season 6, episode 11
Series 611
1st release: 01/22/01
2nd release:
Production number: V1412 (V1413?)
Script number: Season 6, Script 10
Approximate shooting dates: August-September 2000
Last update: 04-23-01


GUEST STARS, CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
SYNOPSIS by Bluesong
COMMENTARY 1 BY Beth the Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 BY Shana
COMMENTARY 3 BY Beboman
COMMENTARY 4 BY Josh Harrison
WHAT THE HECK IS NAKED PREY?
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
TRANSCRIPT
DISCLAIMER
LINKS


CAST

Tsianina Joelson (Varia)
Sandy Winton (Prince Morloch)
Craig Hall (Raczar)
Sela Apera (Marga)

CREDITS
Written by Joel Metzger
Directed by Reneè O'Connor



TV GUIDE PROMO
Xena becomes the ultimate prey for the deranged Prince Morloch (Sandy Winton), who has been hunting and killing Amazons in his twisted quest for an adversay who can match his skills. Meanwhile, Xena teaches Varia the value of listening to the voice of experience. (Logline)

Xena becomes the ultimate prey for a deranged Amazon hunter, Prince Morloch. ClickTv

Xena finds herself matched against the twisted Prince Morloch (Sandy Winton), who has been hunting Amazons for sport. After killing the queen of the Amazons, he sets his sights on Xena, who promised the late queen that she would watch over her daughter, Varia (Tsianina Joelson). Together, the two women battle Morloch and his henchmen. TVGuide.com

"Xena becomes the ultimate prey for the deranged Prince Morloch (Sandy Winton), who has been hunting and killing Amazons in his twisted quest for an adversay who can match his skills. Meanwhile, Xena teaches Varia the value of listening to the voice of experience." MaryD's page

Xena becomes prey for Prince Morloch, who is hunting and killing Amazons in his quest for an adversary who can match his skills. ExciteTV

AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
1st RELEASE: 01/22/01
An AA average of 3.3
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:

Andromeda 3.9/4.0
Xena 3.3/3.5 
Stargate SG-1 3.0/3.2
VIP 2.7/2.9
BeastMaster 2.4/2.6 
Earth: Final Conflict 2.1/2.3 
(canceled) Baywatch Hawaii 2.1/2.2 
Sheena 2.0/2.1
The Lost World 1.9/2.0 
The Invisible Man 1.7 
Relic Hunter 1.7 
Back2Back Action 1.6
Maximum Exposure hit a series low 1.5/1.6 
Queen of Swords 1.3 
Battle Dome 1.0/1.1 
Thunderbox 1.0




SYNOPSIS:

This synopsis is by Bluesong.

A frightened woman runs through the woods. Someone in black stalks her. She falls, lands in a trap, and he walks up to her. He calls the woman an Amazon. She gets up and runs. He has a whirlygig he tosses and cuts her with. He goes to the woman and tells her she will deliver a message for him before she dies.

Xena and Gabrielle, on horseback, ride into a seemingly deserted village. Varia steps out and asks Xena and Gabrielle what they are doing there. Xena says Marga sent for her. The other Amazons come out. A few greet Gabrielle warmly but mostly they are not very friendly. One of the Amazons says that in the northern canyon, Amazons keep disappearing one by one. Queen Marga went off a few days ago to find out for herself what was happening to her Amazons but she had not returned. While everyone is talking, Varia runs off after Marga. Xena tells Gabrielle to protect the other Amazons while she goes off after Varia. Xena, seeking Varia, finds Marga lying on the ground. Marga asks Xena to protect Varia and to teach her how to be a true warrior. She tells Xena the fate of the Amazons lies in Xena's hands. Marga dies. Varia comes up and holds Marga's body. Xena sees a message cut into Marga's skin. Xena says it is an invitation to all comers to meet the challenge.

The Amazons collect Marga's body. Xena tells Gabrielle that Marga died from pressure points and internal damage so she could crawl back to the village to deliver her message. Varia disappears while Xena and Gabrielle talk. Xena goes after her. Varia is caught in a snare trap, and flung upside down. Several men come to get her. Xena's chakram flies through the air, distracting them. Xena beats up all the guys except one, Raczar, who watches, and another who Xena hangs from a tree. Raczar says he has to go tell Prince Morloch about Xena. Xena cuts down Varia and tells her to watch the guy hanging upside down while she gives chase to Raczar. Raczar gets on a horse and Xena lets him go. She goes back to question the guy she captured and he has killed himself with poison. Xena and Varia have words and Xena unearths another trap with a collar and puts it around Varia's neck, telling her she'll have to stay on a leash until she learns to behave.

A man in a blindfold practices his fighting. Raczar comes in and tells him he has to see this Amazon.

Varia argues with Xena about avenging Marga's death and related items. Xena tells her the man who has set traps around the canyon will hunt the Amazons to extinction. Varia tells Xena that would be something she knows about, since Xena killed all the other Amazons in another tribe. She tells Xena she hates her.

Raczar tells Morloch all about Xena. "This afternoon I hunt," Morloch says.

Xena lets Varia go, and Varia attacks Xena. Xena tells Varia she has to learn to control her anger. They spar. Xena easily subdues Varia. They fight again. Varia falls down a hole. Xena offers Varia her hand, but Varia won't take it. Varia tries to climb out of the hole, but falls. Xena grabs the leash and chain she had on Varia and throws it after Varia, who grabs it, and Xena pulls her up from the hole. Varia tells Xena she saved her. Xena says yes, and that's the last time, I won't waste my time on someone with a death wish. Varia says she can learn a lot from Xena.

Men roam through the woods. Xena captures one of them. She gags him. She ties him high up in a tree. His buddies find him. Xena and Varia watch from afar, trying to find the leader. Morloch watches Xena from a distance. Xena senses him. Xena and Varia vanish for a moment, then Xena returns. Only it isn't Xena, it's Varia; they have switched clothes. Xena takes out one guy. Morloch claps. He invites Xena into a cave. Xena and Varia switch clothes again, and Xena tells Varia to wait outside the cave.

Morloch calls out taunts to Xena, and they tell each other their names. Morloch calls Xena an Amazon and she corrects him. "But you're so tall," Morloch says. "It's the boots," Xena replies. Morloch tosses his whirlygig at Xena. Xena dodges it. Varia, with a bucket of some kind of combustible stuff they took from the guy they captured earlier, enters the cave. Xena plays games with Morloch. They talk about being a hunter. Xena says he killed some good friends of hers. He tosses his whirlygig. Xena tosses her chakram. Lots of clanging and whizzing around. Varia distracts Xena and Morloch nicks Xena's arm. Morloch gets Varia and knocks her down. He goes to kill her with his sword when Xena comes up. She tosses her chakram, cutting his sword in half. Varia runs to Xena. Morloch's men enter the cave. Morloch tells them to kill the girl, but leave Xena to him. The men come upon Varia. They shoot arrows at her. The explosive stuff goes off. Lots of the men die but not Morloch or Raczar. Xena tells Varia she is ready to go hunting herself.

Morloch tells Raczar that Xena is the quarry he's hunted for all his life.

Varia and Xena inspect Morloch's camp. Xena moves, and Varia sees a trap. Thinking Xena is going to get shot with a crossbow, Varia sets off the trap herself and is shot in the leg. The animals all start moving around. Xena sees that Morloch has set a forest fire to flush them out.

Morloch and Raczar watch as some of the remaining men douse trees with a fluid to set a second fire. Morloch tells Raczar to go ahead and set the fire, even though the men are in the midst of the fluid. Raczar reluctantly follows orders. The men burn up. The forest burns. Xena helps Varia limp along. Varia tells Xena to go and leave her. But Xena says that saving Varia is how she saves the Amazon people. Xena pulls on a vine and pulls a pine tree back. She tells Varia to climb on. She catapults Varia. Morloch has another catapult set up, with a net, and he sends his net up into the air and it catches Varia. Varia falls to the ground. Raczar gets Varia. The fire burns. Xena runs through the flames. Morloch tells Raczar to take Varia to the arena. Raczar argues, saying she is of no use to them, but Morloch insists and Raczar follows orders. Xena runs through the fire seeking Varia.

Xena comes out of the woods and finds Varia tied on top of a flimsy log construction. She throws her chakram, but Morloch tosses his whirlygig and diverts the chakram into another log. He and Xena cross swords and fight. She cuts him. He cuts her. They do some weird jumping around on the log pile, and Xena works to keep the log pile from falling and killing Varia. Xena stabilizes the pile and cuts Varia loose. She tells her to run. Varia jumps to the ground. Morloch appears behind Xena; she blocks him. He says he is getting just what he wants, a good fight. Xena says yes, but not anymore. She puts her sword away and jumps to the ground. She begins to walk away. Morloch yells, you'll fight me, you'll fight me. He throws a log at Xena. She dodges it. He goes to jump on Xena. Xena puts her foot on the log, thrusting it upward, and Morloch impales himself on the log. Xena and Varia walk off.

At the village, Gabrielle lights the funeral pyre for Marga. Xena gives Varia a necklace Marga gave her before she died. Marga gave Varia her right of caste, so Varia is the next leader. Varia and Xena hug. Varia stands by the pyre and tells Marga she will make her proud. The pyre burns.



COMMENTARY 1:

This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.

This was a hot and cold episode for me - some very nifty things, some annoying things. Nifty were the battle of the minds, the fact that this was a return to some of the simpler story lines of old, that the bad guy really did have some brains and won a couple of points along the way, and some of the rock-em sock-em fights. Annoying were a few plot broad jumps this episode took.

Chakrams seem to be quite the fashion statement for really bad-ass warlords. That Agathon guy from Dirty Half-Dozen had one. Callisto seemed to live for snagging Xena's. And now this fellow turns up with his own version of a sharp flying boomerang thing. His is even part of his symbol that he uses all over the place - including on Marga's back.

Since there have been no new children introduced lately (and Eve survived childhood), being an amazon is now the occupation with the highest death rate on the show. Marga gets a particularly nasty end - that hand in the bear trap made me especially wince. Yeow!

Gabrielle's status among the amazons is still a pretty questionable thing. When they arrive on amazon land, there's no recognition of her status as a former Queen. Varia ignores her completely and lights right into Xena. Varia even tries to tell Xena and Gabrielle to back off because "this is an amazon problem" - apparently that girl hasn't studied her history. The other amazon, though, greets Gabrielle first. And Gab apparently has enough pull to succeed in keeping the rest of the amazons at their camp, even when the whole forest is burning down around their ears.

Speaking of Gabrielle, a moment's mourning for the fact that she only gets about four lines this episode. But it's made up for by that spiffy "Directed by Renee O'Connor" credit that goes by. Woo-hoo!

Xena takes the baddies who are trying to haul off Varia so easily that she can spare a long, hard look at Lieutenant Raczar even while she's beating the flunkies up. VERY cool.

Morloch's battle in the tent looked strange with that sped-up film effect, but I kind of liked it. It didn't distract from the fighting moves and the flickering torchlight in the tent provided a near-believable look for it.

Varia managed to get a punch in on Xena! She should have been thanking her lucky stars for that one, but she blew her moment of glory with the childish "I HATE YOU!" yell. She should have quit while she was ahead.

Varia is practically schizophrenic with her sudden 180-degree change of outlook on life. One little manacle on the wrist as she falls down a well, and suddenly Xena is her mentor and buddy and she's not nearly all that she thought she was. It's amazing the revelations that come from one little piece of iron around the wrist - or a really big reach from the script.

Morloch must have x-ray vision. When he's spying on Xena spying on his men, he realizes something's fishy because he can't see the chakram. Of course, the chakram would have been behind bushes AND on Xena's far hip, but we'll just assume he's an ancestor of Sherlock Holmes.

Loved Xena's crowing in the cave as she tried to get Morloch's goat and make him slip up a bit: "Warrior Mom"? "Who conquers Prince Chesty Forelock of Upper Whateverstan" - HA! Not surprisingly, Xena walks away with ALL the lines of the episode:

"Couldn't hunt butterflies."
"But you're so tall." "It's the boots."

I'm not sure when this happened, but I just noticed this episode - Xena's grip on the new chakram has changed. At first, she always held it by the inner handle. This episode, she was grabbing it by the edge, like the old chakram.

Maybe it was just my television set, but in the last shot of Xena's face in the cave before the commercial break, Xena's eyes were so pale and nearly pupil-less looking that she looked highly stoned.

Morloch not only has x-ray vision and is the ancestor of Sherlock Holmes, he and Raczar have the lives of cats. All but four of the flunkies standing right around them get crisped, and they both walk out feeling fine and dandy.

Morloch managed to singly cut his forces in half, since they had only four men left and then he barbecued two of 'em. That was a pretty nasty scene - blech!

Stock footage... stock footage... stock footage in the forest fire scenes! Which was especially jarring because a lot of that footage around the soldiers and Xena WASN'T stock footage. So the running wildlife shots looked even more fakey.

Good music choices in this episode: the tree-bending had the "Xena has a plan" music from Abyss, the lincoln logs of death battle had the "Xena in a big fight" music from Callisto, and Marga's pyre scene was accompanied by the "dead amazon" theme from Endgame.

I kind of liked Varia - she had a bit too much mouth and not enough brain, but she was all right. She puts up a heck of a fight while hanging upside-down. She had a near-noble (and well-acted) moment when she told Xena to leave the burning forest without her. But I never figured out WHAT was supposed to be the big deal about her. Marga said that the amazons are lost if Varia dies?? Xena said she was starting to see what Marga saw in her? *I* never did. The kid has potential to be a cool amazon, but I never saw anything that made her All That.

Morloch not only has x-ray vision and is the ancestor of Sherlock Holmes and possesses the lives of a cat, somebody should sign him up for the think tank that's working on creating a national missile defense system! That guy not only knew that Xena would send Varia OVER the fire, he knew exactly where, in that entire forest, that Varia would be sailing, and managed to hit a flying person with a floppy net. The military-industrial complex wishes it were that lucky.

This episode had a very first-couple-of-seasons feel to it, right down to the fact that Xena had a new sidekick whose sole purpose was to get captured a lot. Long gone are the days when Gab could fulfill that role!

For all her brains, Xena's plan of running around a burning forest screaming Varia's name over and over while a mad hunter was on the loose didn't seem like a good one.

The spinning fight on the shifting lincoln logs of death was another tip of the Xenahat to Hong Kong flicks. I've seen that setup before. And like many Hong Kong flicks, the idea was cool but the physics were highly questionable.

Subtle touch: I liked that we just got a glimpse of Morloch behind Xena's back without any overplayed "GASP! THERE HE IS!" camera shot or music blast. Very cool.

The log skewer was a REALLY nasty end for ol' Morloch. The guy seemed to have slipped out of character at the end: why was he suddenly screaming at Xena to fight him? I thought he wanted hunts, not fights. I figured he would have been perfectly happy to track Xena through the forest until he got to pick her off in an ambush she wasn't expecting.

I was left at the end of this episode really wondering what happened to Morloch's lieutenant. We spent a lot of time on the guy in this episode; his command of his men, his disgust with killing his own soldiers, his hesitation at following Morloch in the end. What happened to him at the end of all this?

So, the final score in this knock-down-drag-out fight was Morloch: 2, Xena: 3. I gave Morloch a point for getting the drop on Xena when she tried to out-spy him, and for the forest fire trap and mid-air Varia snag. Xena gets points for breaking his sword when he tried to skewer Varia, for blowing up his men, and oh yeah, for killing him. Set and Match to Xena, but not by much.



COMMENTARY 2:

This commentary is by Shana.

Dangerous Prey is a good episode in my humble opinion. It's the kind of episode that keeps building and building, and some of the camera angles are dizzying. There is little time for character development, but those of you who liked the character of Varia, as I did, will more than likely continue to like her after this episode. Gabrielle is in it very little, which is understandable considering her counterpart was busy telling everyone what to do, but there is some nice relationship building between Varia and Xena. Now...on to the details...

Our episode begins with someone on the run, obviously scared half out of her wits. After a couple camera shots, I recognized her as Marga, the Amazon Queen we were introduced to in Coming Home. She is being pursued by a very menacing pair of black boots. Oh yeah, there are legs and feet in those boots, but that's all we see at this point. She dips behind a tree to take a breather, but when she takes another step, her foot snares something that causes an arrrow to come flying after her. She ducks down to avoid it, and her hand gets caught in a claw trap, the kind we used to use to catch possums in back home. Yeah, I'm a farmgirl at heart. We used to use those traps and I never saw one that wasn't old and rusty. Interesting that the one that Marga was snared in was rusty too. Marga struggles to free herself from the trap as Black Boots (sounds like a pirate) approaches and stop in front of her. Marga doesn't even bother to look up until her hand is free. Black Boots taunts her, "Oh, and you Amazons have such a reputation." Marga has stood by now, and she gives him a pretty vicious kick, then hightails it away from him.

Black Boots has his own version of a chakram type weapon, shaped like a triangle. He flings it after Marga. Something didn't look right in this shot, so I watched it in slo mo, and Marga actually grabs the back of her left thigh and hobbles before the weapon hits her. She must be part of the Psychic Friend's Network! Anyway, the weapon boomerangs back into Black Boots' hand.

Hey, Black Boots has blonde hair! And a face!! Not a particularly attractive one, but a face none-the-less. Marga is desperately trying to crawl away, but Black Boots gets in front of her, and cups her head. Marga is ready to give in, obviously, screaming for him to just kill her if he's going to do it. But he strokes her head and tells her she has to deliver a message for him.

The scene fades and here comes Xena and Gabrielle riding into the picture. Xena is on Argo II, and Gabrielle is on a white horse...I guess she gave up on the apaloosa she was riding last week. There's some sort of Amazon sign (an axe?) mounted on a tree, and after dismounting, Xena and Gabs look around. "Where are they?" Gabs asks, and Xena responds, "They're watching us." Then in a louder voice, she proclaims, "We come alone, and in peace!" (I giggled at that line, I'm sorry, but I'm in one of those kinds of moods! Be warned!)

A lone figure steps forward, and Gabrielle sees it's Varia. She doesn't look too happy. "What are you doing here, Xena?" she wants to know, but Gabs says in her non-threatening, let's be friends way that Marga invited them there. They are approached from behind by the rest of the Amazons and turn to face them. Selah (should I remember her? She doesn't really look familiar) offers a more friendly look, and clasps foreharms with Gabbers, then Xena. Xena wants to know what's going on, and Selah tells them that one of the Amazons went missing in the sacred canyon, and everytime they sent someone to look for her, they went missing too. I don't normally say "went missing", but that's the way Selah put it, and I kinda like it! Marga went alone to find out what was going on and hasn't returned.

Xena tells Selah that maybe she and Gabrielle can help and Varia interjects that they don't want Xena's help. "It's an Amazon problem." Apparently, Miss Headstrong wants to be the one to find Marga, but Selah reminds her that Marga ordered no one should come after her. Xena reinforces it, "Rushing blindly into the hands of whatever's out there isn't going to help Marga." "Neither is standing here talking about it," Varia counters. Xena ain't giving up..."Let me go, Varia." But Varia won't hear of it, telling her again it's an Amazon problem and Xena should stay out of it. She walks off into the woods. Xena turns to the others and tells them that she'll get Varia.

Cut to Marga, who is almost done for...she staggers then falls to her feet. Xena spots her, and goes to her. Marga starts to moan, and Xena shushes her telling her not to talk. How rude, during Marga's big death scene! But Marga has to talk, telling Xena that Varia will try to avenge her. "If she does, (gasp), the Amazons are lost." Bad edit here, in the long shot, Xena has two hands on Marga's face, in the close up, it's only one. (sorry, I notice things like that.) Marga wants Xena to promise to protect Varia. Xena promises immediately. Marga continues, "Teach her to be a true warrior (gasp), like you are. The fate of the Amazons (gasp) is in your hands." Marga rips a necklace from her throat and places it in Xena's hand. For a brief second, I thought Marga was giving her rite of caste to Xena, but Xena takes the necklace too quickly. I don't think Xena would want the rite of caste from anyone. Varia has spotted them during the last couple of lines of Marga's speech, and as Marga dies, she rushes to her to comfort her. Xena spots the triangle-shaped damage that Black Boots did to her, then looking at Marga's line, sees writing carved into her skin. Ouch! What a way to deliver a message! Xena reads it, "This is the best that the Amazon nation has to offer." Xena ponders it. "It's a challenge to all comers." (Yes, if you're wondering, I giggled again!)

The first commercials are over, and Marga is being carried off by some of the Amazons, while Varia looks on in pain. Xena gives her autopsy report. "It was all internal damage; it's pressure points, Gabrielle. Marga was meant to crawl back to camp before she died." "Why would someone do that?" Gabrielle asks. Even I knew it was to deliver the message, but Gabbers must have other duties on her mind! Xena looks around eerily...she'll be doing that a lot in this episode. Most of the time she acts as if her skin's crawling. I keep expecting Ares to pop into the picture, but I guess he's still shoveling..well, you know. Xena notices Varia is gone. She tells Gabs to try to keep everyone in the camp until she can find out what's going on. Xena takes off, and that's the last we're going to see of Gabrielle for a very long time.

Varia is running through the woods, and then draws her sword a few steps before she's caught in a snare, and is hauled upside down, hanging from a tree. A group of men, all dressed in black leather, approach her. A clean cut, fairly good-looking guy speaks to the others..."Prince Morloch will be pleased; looks like she'll give a good chase." Varia reaches out and scratches the side of his face. He doesn't seem phased, but when he ventures a few steps closer to him, Varia gets in a few punches. He pulls back, and tells the others to get her down. Interesting technique these guys have. They have these long sticks with u shaped pieces of metal at the end. The ends of the u's have barbs in them. Apparently, they are going to get her down by thrusting the weapons at her. Dunno, but that's what they try. Sounds like a cue for a chakram to me, and sure enough, it whirls into the picture until all the men are left holding are short sticks. All the men except for Mr. Clean Cut rush Xena, and the fight is on. This isn't much of a fight though. as Xena quickly procurs a couple of their sticks and pretty well pommels the men. Clean Cut watches, musing, "Prince Morloch has to hear about this one." Xena is very casual during the skirmish...so casual indeed that she stares over into the brush where CC is watching, and holds eye contact with him for several seconds as she continues to deal death blows to the men she is fighting. Nice touch!!!

One of the men trips a line and is suspended upside down next to Varia. Clean Cut runs off, and so do the other men. Varia tells Xena to get her down, and Xena chakrams the ropes holding her. Varia bounds to her feet, and heads toward the inverted bad guy, but Xena stops her by putting her hands on Varia's impetuous shoulders. She tells Varia not to hurt him, but to just watch him. "I need some information from him." Xena watches Clean Cut ride off on a horse, and turns back to the captured bad guy. She turns him around, telling Varia they can at least find out where he's headed. The guy has some very unattractive white goo pouring out of his mouth, and Xena spots a vial in his hand. "I told you to watch him!" she growls at Varia.

Now I like Varia...I really do...but her headstrong attitude in the first part of this episode made me wonder if I had been wrong about her. "What must we worry about?" she asks Xena. Huh? I'm not exactly a warrior, but I could see where the true danger was. Xena isn't too happy with Varia's demeanor either, and hisses, "These men have a leader, and they are more afraid of facing him than they are of death. What does that tell you?" Varia's response infuriates Xena (and me) even more, "All I need to know is where to find him." Xena draws her sword savagely, and for a moment there, I thought she was going to trim a few inches off Varia. But instead she strikes the ground, and springs another of those vicious claw traps. "There's a whole lot of things you need to know," Xena tells her. "The entire canyon is rigged like a hunting ground. There are traps everywhere!" Gee, I'm beginning to think Varia has a deathwish. She responds that "a few little snares isn't going to stop me from fighting Marga's killer." Xena tries a different tactic. "I promised Marga that I would protect you." Varia doesn't want her protection...what a suprise! Xena isn't one to give up easily though, as we all know. She strikes the ground again, and a chain flies up into her hands. She calls Varia's name, and as Varia turns, Xena tosses the chain toward her and a metal collar snaps around her neck. I guess it was another trap Morloch had set, but I'm not sure how it was supposed to work. Varia is the one pissed off now. "Are you crazy?" Xena tells her that if she wants to find Marga's killer, she is going to have to obey Xena. "And until you do...you're on a leash." She smiles just a bit. "Come on!" she tells her as she hauls her off screen. I have to laugh...the way Varia has been acting, she deserves this! It hearkens to my demented mind all kinds of fan fiction scenarios!

Now we get to see how clever Black Boots...errrr...Prince Morloch is. He is back in his tent, and has blindfolded himself. Three of his men are in front of him, and are trying to attack him. Morloch counteracts their every move and keeps them defending themselves. After a few minutes of this, he whirls and throws the triangle, implanting it in a beam right beside Clean Cut, who has just entered the tent. "Don't you knock, Raczar?" Ahh...now I have names for both of them! Raczar doesn't seem to affected by this action, and smiles confidently. He tells Morloch he has fresh sport for him..."An Amazon...one-of-a-kind."

Cut to Xena leading a protesting Varia through the forest. Varia is getting a little spiteful, jerking at the collar and demanding Xena get this thing off her. Xena is much calmer, saying evenly, "Believe me, this chain is the best friend you've got right now." Varia gives a mighty tug on the chain, and Xena whirls, her patience quickly thinning again. Varia starts in, "I lost my queen, most of my tribe is gone, and you won't let me loose so I can stop the man who is killing them?" Xena responds,"If you don't stop acting like a child, and start trusting me to help you, this man will hunt your people to extinction." Varia starts fighting dirty now. "You'd know about that," she sneers, "you wiped out a tribe of my sisters all by yourself." She steels herself, then offers a strong punch to Xena's jaw.

Now, let me interject here. I thought Varia's beef with Xena was the fact that Xena was Livia's mother. I know they weren't the best of friends in Coming Home, but Marga and the rest of the Amazons seemed happy that Xena and Gabrielle were there to help, at least in the beginning. I don't remember anyone having any problem with Xena or Gabrielle, it was Livia aka. Eve that had them all riled up. Maybe Varia has been doing some reading on Xena since their last encounter.

Okay, back to the show, Xena barely flinches from the punch, and takes a few long seconds to bite down her instinct to string up Varia by her ears. You can see the battle within her not to kick Varia's butt, and the fear flickers in Varia's eyes. But Xena just whispers, "I'm gonna let that one go." Varia still hasn't learned. "I hate you!" Xena looks up with that eerie skin-crawling gaze, her anger in check now, and tells Varia, "Yeah, well, it won't be the last time you say that." She urges Varia forward, with a pleasant "Come on".

Morloch is back at his tent boasting to Raczar. He has killed every kind of creature alive, and it never offered much of a fight. He had heard of the fierce, cunning Amazon warriors, but even they have disappointed him. "It feels like a camping trip." Raczar has found someone who is different though. "She has the speed of lightning...she has the strength of many men...she thinks three three steps..." she's more powerful than a locomotive...able to leap tall whoops...got carried away there! "Only three?" Morloch asks, but Raczar assures him she's a worthy oppnonent. "Well then," Morloch says slowly, (I swear I thought he was going to say, "Let the hunt begin, but naahh), "You'd better prepare the men. This afternoon I hunt."

Storm clouds are moving in (there's been a lot of rain this season!), and Xena and Varia enter some old stone fortress of some kind. I don't know why it's there, but it is. Xena releases Varia's chain, and as Varia struggles with the collar, she tells the Warrior Princess she heard Marga tell Xena the fate of the Amazons were in Xena's hands. "You think you're replacing her? You're wrong!" Xena releases the collar, telling Varia that's not what Marga went; her job is to teach Varia to be a warrior. But Xena can't do that if Varia won't let her. The second Varia is released, she makes another wrong decision. She strikes at Xena with the chain. Xena's response is great...she just holds her hands out like in a "knew it was coming, bring it on" stance. Varia offers a series of kicks, which Xena easily dodges. "Anger makes you vulnerable, Varia". Varia returns with, "It's making me do what I should have done the moment you stepped into the Amazon village." Xena's response is a slowly raised eyebrow...she's as restrained as I've seen her! Varia attacks again, but Xena sidesteps most of it, warning again she needs to control her anger. Another attack, and Xena is fighting a little viciously now, apparently not-too-impressed with Varia's skills. "This is the way you're going to save the Amazons, huh?" She heaves Varia into a stone column and Varia stops for a minute. Xena offers a hand. "Come on, the lesson's over." I thought it was weird that Xena offered her left hand, but then I knew why. "You haven't beaten me," Varia exclaims taking the hand, but Xena jerks her behind her back, and proceeds to block punches and offer a few of her own with her right hand, while still hanging onto the squirming Amazon. She tries to flip Varia to the ground, but Varia has a few maneuvers of her own, and after a couple of cartwheel like flips, begins to press an advantage, pushing Xena up a ramp towards I don't know what. Xena literally puts on the brakes, you can see the smoke from the bottom of her boots, and tells Varia once again that she needs Xena's help to avenge Marga's death. But Varia tells her trusting outsiders does nothing but get them killed. Boy, and I thought Xena was stubborn!

Varia tries to strike again, and as Xena ducks, is propelled by the force of her own body (okay, just go with this), onto the floor which gives way to a bottomless chasm.( I know, I know, just go with it!). She is hanging by her fingertips, and Xena leans in, demanding that she take her hand. "Never!" Varia exclaims, even as her grip is slipping. I can't help but wonder if Xena is tempted just for a second to let her go, but she picks up the chain that Varia was wearing earlier and throws it down to Varia (only after "lassoing" it a couple of times). Varia's grip slips, but she grabs the chain just before we fade out to commercial.

We see the chain toss again, and Varia has a hold of it. Xena hauls her up, and I absolutely, without a doubt, knew what Varia was going to say, "You saved me." Methinks she's finally catching on! But Xena is a little cranky now. "For the last time...I'm not going to waste energy protecting someone with a death wish." I guess Varia feels she's pushed Xena too far (finally!) "I thought you made a pledge to Marga," she says. "Because she saw something in you," Xena answers, shaking her head as if she thought Marga must have been crazy. "Look, if you don't want my help, that's your choice. But just know that your sisters will live or die with what you do." Nice guilt trip, Xena!! Xena stalks off, leaving Varia to stare after her, apparently contemplating if she's gone too far. She calls after Xena, who pauses, then turns with a look on her face that says she's bored by all this. But Varia is sincere now, telling her she knows Xena can teach her a lot , and helped her sister Amazons. "I shouldn't have said what I did about you." Xena won't let her off the hook, telling Varia she almost died in the precipice because she wouldn't admit defeat. She has to learn when the fight is over. Varia starts in with a "Yeah, but you..." then fades off, apparently reconsidering her situation. "I'll work on it," she vows. Xena gets an ever-so-slight victorious glint in her eye. "Good." But I had to laugh at the next part, as Varia moves to walk by Xena she kind of bumps shoulders with her, roughly, just as she did in Coming Home when Xena threatened her over Eve. The look on Xena's face is classic! An amused, "I knew she wouldn't give in that easily, but she's getting better" shake of the head look. Very subtle and very, very funny!

A line of bad guys are moving through the woods, and Xena drops on the last one, her warrior thighs wrapped around his ears (okay now, i know what that sounds like, but I'm just describing the action here!) She clamps a hand to his face and he drops like she just put the pinch on him. I guess he was carrying a small barrel, because there's one there now. Varia pulls the plug, takes a whiff, and offers Xena a smell. Whatever it is, it's highly flammable. Xena is hogtieing the bad guy, who looks very familiar. If I'm not mistaken, he's been captured by the Warrior Pincess before. Varia wants to know what they can learn from the man, when his mouth is gagged. Xena's response? "Exactly who is hunting Amazons out of season."

They suspend the bad guy from a tree, then conceal themselves several feet away on a small hill, watching the action. A group of Morloch's men (and these guys are not the brightest guys in the world) are trying to figure out how to get him down. Varia asks Xena about one of the men, but Xena says he's not the leader. Varia asks about another one, and Xena tells her "Couldn't hunt butterflies." Varia is frustrated, "Why won't he show himself?" but Xena admonishes for her to have patience. She knows the leader will show himself when the time is right. She begins that spooky "something is out there" look, subtly looking around, as she knows they're being watched. Varia is unaware.

Sure enough, Morloch is watching Xena and Varia from a distance, and he tells Raczar that he was right, she was a special one. Raczar can't figure out why Xena doesn't strike, but Morloch knows she's after him. Varia realizes Xena is sensing something, and Xena tells her this is when she gets to do exactly what Xena tells her to do. Thank the gods Varia has finally gotten some common sense to her. "Just give me the word." Xena stands and so does Varia. "Get ready to take your clothes off," Xena tells her. Uh huh...sounds like excellent strategy to me. More fan fiction, anyone? Morloch continues to watch Xena as she talks to Varia, but we can't hear what's being said. Raczar points out the chakram, "It flies as if has a mind of its own." Morloch says he'll add it to his collection.

Xena and Varia walk off screen, and a second later, Xena comes back alone. Raczar wonders where the other one went, but Morloch doesn't care. He wants to know where the weapon is on Xena..."something's not right." When Xena stood, she had her right side to Morloch. The chakram was there. When she came back, her left side was to Morloch. I don't see how he could have seen the chakram anyway.

Okay, I admit it...I was fooled. I kept expecting Varia to walk up to Morloch naked, but the second an Amazon stepped from behind a tree, I realized it wasn't Xena that had returned to the original spot. I realized it was Varia in Xena's clothing, because Xena is now dressed as Varia. And what an Amazon Xena makes! Something about Xena in a loincloth... okay, you get the picture. Nevermind the fact that they changed clothes in less than ten seconds, Xena demonstrated that ability last week, and apparently she did the old Cyane switch-a-roo on Varia.

Amazon Xena chakrams a guy in the back, apparently thinking that's who they were after, but when she turns him over, the look on her face says she knows this isn't the leader. A few feet away Morloch applauds. "Bravo!" he taunts. "Come on in!" And he disappears inside a cave. Xena isn't amused.

Xena's Amazon appearance was all too brief, because she puts on her leathers again. Varia wants to go in the cave with her, but Xena tells her they have an agreement and should stay here...outside the cave. Varia gives an exasperated eye roll, but behaves.

Xena enters the cave searching for Morloch. I like the dialogue in this scene. They are playing cat and mouse to the nth degree.

Morloch: If I had known how much fun you Amazons would be, I'd have come to this country years ago.
Xena: I'm not an Amazon.
M: But you're so tall.
X: It's the boots.
M: I don't usually do this, (I thought he was going to ask for her phone number), but I'd like to know your name before I kill you.
X: You first.
M: I'm Prince Chesnik Vladicar Morloch of Upper Haristan. (totally phonetic there...I have NO clue what he said.)
X: Ah...Xena of Amphipolis...Warrior Princess....Warrior Mom. (love the delivery on that... and it makes me think of those darn Doctor Mom commercials...but Xena ain't through! Morloch throws the triangle which Xena dodges and then finishes her sentence) ,,,who conquers Prince Chesty Forelock of Upper Whatever-stan. (Her lack of respect for this idiot is hilarious!)
M (whispering): Ah impressive...very impressive.

Varia is getting impatient outside the cave. She straps the keg to her back, draws her sword, and enters the cavern. Hmmm...does that remind anyone else of a certain bard?

Xena is slowly honing in on Morloch, and speaks again, telling him the Amazons he killed were good friends of hers. Morloch tells her that he isn't a killer, the gods made some people poets and some seers, and they made him a hunter. Xena draws her chakram and reminds him a hunter hunts animals, not people. Morloch throws his triangle of doom again. Xena dodges it and sends a ricocheting chakram throw of her own. Xena spots Varia again, and while focusing her attention on getting her safe, Morloch triangles her again, and this time hits his mark. Any guesses where he hits her? You got it, upper right arm! Xena takes off after Varia, but Morloch gets there first, and has her in his slimy clutches. He tells her she isn't worth adding to his collection before he knocks her out. He has his sword raised to deliver the killing blow as Xena turns the corner and sees him, her mouth gaping and her eyes wide open in shock. The music builds to an exciting climax, and just as the shot fades to commercial, if you look carefully, you can see Lucy's eyes relax at the exact time as the final note. I'm sure it was just coincidence, but it amused me!

I am not even going to comment on the previews for next week at this point...nuff said.

Xena screams Varia's name, and I guess she wasn't really knocked out, just stunned, because she leaps to her feet as Xena throws the chakram. Xena quickly turns Morloch's long sword into a short sword, which he stares at in amazement. Varia runs to Xena's side, and Xena says, "Go, Varia, go!" to which the young Amazon wisely takes off running, Xena following shortly after her. Morloch smiles after them.

"Varia" Xena hisses, I'm sure getting ready to jump all over her for disobeying, but Varia says, "I just wanted to see the Master in action." They take off again. Raczar and the rest of the men are in the cave, and Morloch tells them to kill the girl, but leave Xena to him. They split up. Raczar spots Varia who ducks and dodges the arrows shot at her. The bad guys round a corner, and there is a boot in front of the barrel. I'm not a chemistry major, so somebody will have to explain the next part to me. One of the bad guys picks up the boot, and there's a little green flame coming out of the keg. The next thing I knew, Razcar yelled "Run!" and there was a huge explosion. Can't figure out how that little trick worked.

Xena and Varia are outside the cave unscathed. "Why did we have to use my boots?" Varia, the barefoot one, asks. "Because Amazons have tougher feet!" Xena grins back at her. There's another explosion from the cave and Varia asks the master if she thinks Morloch is dead, to which Xena responds, "Nah...this guy's not easy to kill." Varia gets a conspiratorial look on her face as she says, "Neither are we." Xena drawls, "You know what, Varia? I'm tired of being the prey...maybe it's time we hunted him. Come on."

Sure enough, Morloch is alive and well in the cave, muttering "Well done." Back at his tent, he tells Raczar that Xena is the kind of prey he always wanted...anticipating his moves, creating situations. "You think you've got her and (insert explosion sound here)..." Razcar isn't as comfortable with the situation. They're down to four men. He wants to give up but Morloch says this is the hunt he's wanted his whole life. Her skills almost match his. Yeah, right.

Xena and Varia are staked out on a hillside, watching his camp. From its position, Xena tells Varia they would be spotted coming a mile away. They need to go through the back door. As Xena walks off, Varia sees a crossbow in a tree, and calls Xena's name. As Xena turns, Varia trips a line and an arrow is shot directly into Varia's ankle. "I thought it was going to hit you," Varia tells her. Xena answers, "I can take care of myself, thank you." It's said gently, as she knows Varia really was trying to help her out. Varia is a reformed person."If this had happened earlier today, I'd bet you would have just left me here." Xena smiles, "Don't get too cocky" as she yanks the arrow out, "I still might." She gives a full-fledged grin to Varia, who returns it, then says, "I think I'm starting to grow on you." Xena gets all serious now. "Varia, Marga had a lot of faith in you....I'm beginning to see why." She looks up then, spooked again, and sees a couple of deer take off running and a flock of birds fly away. She sees smoke and tells Varia that Morloch is trying to flush them out with a forest fire. She helps Varia to her feet, and supporting her, they take off.

Two of Morloch's men are busy pouring more keg contents on the brush around them. Morloch and Raczar are watching from a distance and Raczar calls out for the men to stop, they're going to light it. When he realizes the men can't hear him, Morloch tells Raczar to light it anyway. "They're right in the middle of it, " Razcar tells him. "Ah, that's a shame;" is the response. So much for Morloch not being a killer, not that I believe him anyway! He yells at Razcar to do it, and his second, after much hesitation fires a flaming arrow into a tree, setting off a massive fire. The men try to run, but are consumed by the flames to Morloch's amusement.

Smoke is covering the hillside. The animals are fleeing. Xena is half-dragging, half-supporting Varia, but tells her the fire is moving faster. She tells Varia Morloch has created lines of fire on either side of them which will force them down to his camp. Varia tells her that she is slowing Xena down (well, duh), and she could never make it, but Xena could. "My sisters need you...just...Go". I like the tone of Varia's voice. She's scared half out of her wits, but has finally put her concern for her people ahead of all else, including her thirst for vengeance. "Not a chance!" Xena answers. She puts a hand on Varia's shoulder. "Varia, saving you is saving the Amazon people. You just gotta have a little faith." Xena moves to a hanging vine, and begins pulling with all her might, lowering the branch its attached to toward the ground. I had this vision in my head as to what she's was doing, but it was too farfetched. The background music is the same music from the scene in The Abyss, where Xena played Home Alone lumberjack. Xena wraps the vine around a tree, and continues to pull the branch till it was almost on the ground. "Varia...I want you to get on." "Get on?" "Come on!" Okay...so maybe it wasn't as farfetched as I thought...Xena was turning the tree into a catapult for humans! Varia grabs onto the branch as Xena tells her there's a marsh on the other side of the fireline. She's to wait for Xena there while she deals with Morloch. I like Varia's question. "What am I supposed to do about landing?" I like Xena's response even more. "Tuck and roll!" Xena draws her sword and cuts through the vine, sending Varia soaring into the air. Morloch is far smarter than I gave him credit for if he actually anticipated that move, but he yells "Now" as he sees Varia flying through the air. His men fire a loaded catapult and a net flies into the air from their side. Xena sees the net snag her temporary partner and yells out "Varia!", as the scene fades to the final commercial break.

Just in case we've forgotten, we see the net close in on Varia one more time and hear Xena's scream. Varia drops like a stone...she forgot to tuck and roll. Morloch looks to Raczar who takes the remaining men to retrieve her. Insert some very cool shots of Xena running through the forest fire, dodging fallen trees and calling out Varia's name. If Renee hadn't been directing, it could have just as easliy been Gabrielle she was screaming for...it has that kind of tone.

They haul Varia, still netted, to Morloch, who orders his men to take her to the arena. Raczar objects, saying she's half dead and no good to them, but Morloch tells him to obey. Raczar doesn't want to do it, but he does. Now, this is really technical, and it tells me I watch these episodes WAY too closely, but earlier on, Raczar told Morloch there were only four men left. Two of them died in the fire, so that would leave two. But the two men shown in the catapult scene are different from the two men in this scene! Either Morloch recruited some more men rather quickly, or Raczar couldn't count! Raczar disappears from this point anyway, and the disclaimer says something about him gaining a new identity...he must have read the end of the script!

Xena's still playing Smokey the Bear and yelling...I guess she's not worried about Morloch or his men hearing her. She enters a clearing and hears Varia call her name. Varia is staked on top of a big pile of giant Lincoln Logs (I'm serious!), her hands secured behind her back. Xena draws her chakram, but as it slices through the air, Morloch's triangle intercepts it and sends it ricocheting solidly into a log. I hate it when that happens. Xena draws her sword and the big fight starts. After a couple of slick moves on both their parts, Morloch begins to taunt Xena about rescuing Varia. "Why don't you go and get her?" "Why don't you come and get some of this?" Xena counters, and they begin fighting in ernest. They're fairly evenly matched, and at one point Morloch has Xena on the defensive. He presses down hard on her own sword, which cuts into her...would you like to guess where? Hee hee...yep that darn old upper right arm again! I swear she needs to move those arm guards up a few inches! The first cut was a small one, but this one is bleeding pretty heavily. "Oooo, I nicked you," Morloch grins. Xena's ever-confident response..."Where'd ya get that? (indicating Morloch's cheek)..."Shaving?" I didn't even see him get cut, but his cheek is bleeding. Morloch is unhappy. "No one ever drew my blood before." Xena's answer is perfect..."There's plenty more where that came from!" They continue to fight and use similar moves. They both do a flying, helicopter move, and end up on different sides of the four-sided Lincoln Log stack. Varia is perched up at the top of it, and is missing a good deal of the action below.

Now I'd love to give a play-by-play description of this fight, but it would be impossible. The camera angles, the moving logs, the helicopter jumps....there are just too many and they are too complicated to try to do justice to. Just picture Xena involved in the world's biggest game of Jenga. That's what I kept thinking when one of them would kick a log out and the whole pile would start to fall. Even better yet, picture Xena and Morloch in tutus playing Jenga, because they were both doing twirls and pirouettes that would make any ballerina instructor proud! The music that plays over this dizzying scene is the music that plays whenever Xena fights Callisto... most appropriate. The scene is highly reminscent of the ladder scene from Callisto anyway.

Finally, Morloch knocks a log away that will end the whole Jenga game, but Xena pulls a Hercules on him, and wedges her body into the missing piece's slot. She is now forced to hold up the structure, or send Varia to a tumbling death. That's gotta suck! Morloch scrambles to the top of the pile, and cuts the bindings on Varia's stake, so the pole is barely secured....it will fall over any second. "I enjoyed watching your friend beg for mercy," Morlock growls to Varia. Huh? Boy, this guy really has delusions of grandeur. Xena never begged for anything! "Even more fun, I get to watch you die." "You're the one that's going to die," Varia sneers back. Morloch creeps to the edge, putting even more weight on Xena's shoulders, but she senses him, and manages to raise her sword arm. She blocks his thrusts, and manages to push him back away from her onto the platform, then pulls some quick maneuver which slides a log back into place to support the pile one more time. Morloch jumps to the side, and there is more serious sword play...okay, I'm momentarily distracted yet again, by Xena's darkened eyebrows. They are apparent in some scenes, and not in others. It's driving me crazy!

Xena pushes Morloch away and flips to the top of the pile. Finally! She cuts Varia free, makes sure she's all right, and searches for Morloch who has disappeared. "Okay, Varia, take off!" "Not until he's dead!" Varia answers. Xena whirls back toward her. "Varia, don't fight me on this one, not this time!" The tone in her voice leaves absolutely no arguement, and Varia abandons pile in a hurry. Xena watches her land (she forgot to tuck and roll), and just as a shock of blonde hair appears behind Xena, she turns again, sword up. Morloch is still full of fight, informing her she's his match on every level. They could go on like this all night, but he will eventually get the upper hand. Does she want to know why? "Tell me" she snarls back. It's because this fight is the fight he's been searching for his entire life. Something in Xena's expression changes as she hears him. "You're right," she says, and withdraws her sword from his. "So why would I give it to you?" She turns away from him, deliberately, and somersalts to the ground.

This makes Morloch angry. "You will fight me!" he bellows, as Xena retrieves her chakram from the log. Xena continues to walk away slowly, and Morloch, a pouty look on his face, kicks the post Varia had been staked to toward the ground. "Watch it!" Varia shouts, and Xena sidesteps the post as it hits behind her. "You will fight me!" comes the bellow again. Xena looks from the post to Morloch with one her best Warrior sneers. Morloch jumps from the pile, and Xena nonchalantly puts her foot on the post, which is levered over a smaller post and is now angled directly beneath Morloch's trajectory. He is dead instantly, impaled. Nice shot of Xena's boot, holding the post in place! Xena lifts Morloch's head by the hair. "You lose", she whispers in that savage voice of hers.

Xena and Varia starts to walk off, and Varia puts an arm on Xena's shoulder. Xena helps support her again as they leave the arena. Varia speaks, "This whole time all I could think of was avenging Marga's death. But I'm here, he's gone...I guess that's revenge." "That's right," Xena answers, as they walk off screen. "That's right."

It's night time...Marga is laid out on the pyre that Gabrielle lights. Yay! Gabbers is back! A low, mournful tune is playing...I'd have to check, but it may be the one Ephiny used in Maternal Instincts. Xena walks to Varia and holds up the necklace Marga entrusted her with, telling Varia Marga wanted her to have it. "She chose you as the rite of caste," Gabrielle tells her, a very proud smile on her face. "You're the new leader of the Amazons." "I still have a lot to learn to honor Queen Marga's memory," Varia tells her, to which Gabs smiles again. Varia turns to Xena. "I will always be in your debt." Xena pulls her to her for a hug. "You don't owe me anything," she tells Varia. Varia turns to the pyre. "I will make you proud, Marga." The camera slowly pans out on Xena, Gabrielle, Varia, and the rest of the Amazons as they stare solemnly at the pyre, the sad music still playing.

And so ends another episode of Xena. Gabrielle fans will probably be disappointed in the lack of screen time for the Bard, but there is good reason for it. The episode was an excursion in Xena's training skills, as a whole, and I think Xena and Gabrielle can leave this group of Amazons confident that their new queen will be a wise leader. It took Varia a while to catch on, but once she did, she realized her limitations and let someone more capable of the situation handle it.

PREVIEW SPOILER ALERT...Next week is the Caligula episode, and if the previews are any indication, this one is going to be HOT! Michael, the archangel is there, Caligula is there, Xena is there in an even more revealing costume than the Amazon one, rubbing noses with Caligula. And Gabrielle is there too, shown briefly, in an abbreviated costume of her own. Yep, it's gonna be a long week!



COMMENTARY 3:

This commentary is by Beboman.

Well guys, I have to admit, it was great to see the credits for this show and see ROC as the director. She did a great job. I have to give her two thumbs up.

The acting in this episode was very good. LL was superb in this episode; she kept Xena just at the edge. The rest of the supporting cast also did a very good job. It seemed like the cast was having a good time with this show. The photography was just excellent and the show flowed smoothly. It sure makes a difference when the director at the helm of the show knows the show as well as ROC.

I really do enjoy a Xena packed episode, but I have to admit that I did miss the intimate moments between Gabrielle and Xena that we have become accustomed to this season. On the other hand, Xena was in all her splendor. Even though she was been hunted, she was in control; her instincts were at their peak.

We have to realize, however, that this is not the first time Xena has been hunted as prey. If my memory serves me right, Ming Su hunted her in Debt I or II and Lao Ma protected her. I think this adversary was much better than Ming Su would have ever been. At the time Ming Su hunted Xena, she was a crippled woman with less maturity and self-assurance than today's Xena.

Xena is faced with a simple dilemma in this episode: she is to protect, teach, save and conquer, all while being hunted. Not a bad day's work. She has to stay alive and keep Varia, the young Amazon, alive. At the same time she has to teach this young Amazon how to be a true leader and warrior, keep the Amazon tribe from extinction and defeat or conquer whatever is trying to eliminate the Amazons. This is just a walk in the park. Even with all the distractions Varia provided, Xena stayed focus on her mission, on the promise she made to Marga. Xena was determined to keep this promise and there was nothing that was going to stop her. I really like that ability in Xena.

Regarding Varia, there are a few things I have to say. The first is "young, foolish and stubborn " is not a good way to go through life. Didn't Varia realize that all Xena was trying to do was to help her? She had to fall into that big hole before she realized Xena was there to help her. Even then she was a bit on the stubborn side.

Well, I guess the story about how Xena eliminated a whole Amazon tribe must be mandatory reading for Amazons. I just hope that in the list of selected stories there are the stories of the many times Xena has saved the Amazon Nation, especially the last time, when Xena had Ares leave the battlefield, allowing Marga to defeat Ares' Army. It seems, however, that Varia stayed on that story of Xena killing the Amazons and did not graduate to the rest of the stories. Well, young Varia is in for the lesson of her life.

Varia, in a way, reminds me of Americe, all full of energy, wanting revenge, lacking the ability to listen to Xena and learning the hard way that Xena doesn't give advice just to listen to herself talk. Behind each and every piece of advice given by Xena is a lifetime of knowledge and experience.

At the same time, I have to say, had Xena used a leash on Americe, maybe she would have been easier to tame. When Xena says she is going to keep someone on a leash, she is not kidding; she really means it (I just love that about her).

It has never stopped amazing me how deeply seated the guilt is in Xena about completely wiping out of an Amazon village. That guilt will never be erased and Xena will always feel like she is in debt to the Amazon Nation for what she did in her past.

This episode had some really good moments, like when Varia finally realizes Xena was there to help her, to teach her and guide her, which leads to Varia's attempt to help Xena when she thinks Xena is in danger.

I also liked the scene between Xena and Prince Marloch in the cave. These were two very worthy opponents casing each other. While I'm in the topic of Prince Marloch, it was interesting that he had a weapon so close to Xena's Chakram. Last time we saw someone try to use something similar was in "The Dirty Half Dozen".

Another interesting point in common between Prince Marloch and Xena was the ability to think somewhat alike. She thought about catapulting Varia over the camp and he thought about catapulting a net to catch them. I think he was expecting to get them both, but Xena was looking for a way to save Varia.

Well, once again Xena had to tap into her superhuman strength to keep the tower up at the same time that Varia was up there tied and still be able to fix it so she could face Prince Marloch. I don't think Hercules could not have done any better.

Even though Xena and Prince Marloch were even when it came to strength and the ability to fight, Xena had one over Marloch. That was her ability to figure out what her opponent's weakness is and take advantage of it.

When Xena realized that fighting and hunting her provided Marloch pleasure, she stopped fighting him, an act that brought him rage. That rage was his weakness and cost him his life. And yes, I loved that final line, "You Lose". I just loved it, the delivery and all.

In the end, Varia learned a great lesson, the promise was kept, the enemy destroyed and we, the audience, was given a good show with all the elements we have come to expect from a Xena episode.

I guess even though Gabrielle was not physically present during most of the episode, she was there by Xena because Xena's action and treatment of Varia were a sign of how Gabrielle has influenced Xena. This showed even at the end of the show, when Xena gave Varia the necklace that Marga had left and that final hug, something Xena probably would not have done in the past.

So, did I liked this episode? Yes I did. It was entertaining and kept up with what we have been given in the last episodes. I will restate again: This Season Just Rocks!!



COMMENTARY 4:

This commentary is by Joss Harrison.

We're halfway through the final season, and the most recent offering is a solid, Gab-lite tale directed by Renee O'Connor. While the story isn't terribly original, it is well told.

The episode is inspired by a short story, "The Most Dangerous Game" (a story which has been made into at least one film, and has inspired dozens of similar knock-offs). It centers on a man obsessed with hunting to the point that he no longer finds any challenge in regular animals - he prefers human quarry. He has set up camp in a valley near the Amazon village we visited in "Coming Home", the season premiere.

This hunter, Prince Morloch, has taken to hunting the Amazon warriors. Xena and Gabrielle arrive at the village to find the queen missing, and she turns up dead shortly thereafter. Xena (with the impetuous Varia in tow) takes on the Prince and his squad of goons.

I personally believe that the show is at its best when the stories are simpler - focusing on the characters in specific situations, rather than artificially reaching for an epic, world- shattering tone. Even the great "epic" episodes (like, for example, "God Fearing Child") focus on the characters rather than on events. In my opinion, this story has this characteristic in spades. The basic story is fairly simple and delivers plenty of adventure - but it really shines in the three inter-character relationships.

First, there is Xena and Prince Morloch. I don't think that Xena has faced an opponent this dangerous since Callisto's glory days. The game of cat-and-mouse that plays out between Xena and the Prince is thoroughly engrossing, and it is wonderful to see Xena actually working to stay one step ahead of her opponent.

I have felt recently that Xena hasn't really been trying that hard to outthink the opposition. Callisto is gone, Ares hasn't presented a significant challenge in years, and most of the other opponents Xena has faced weren't on the same tactical level that Xena is (even Athena was easily duped during the Twilight story arc). Like Morloch, Xena really shines when exercising the mental aspects of her warrior abilities. The fact that he can challenge her in melee combat adds to his threat level.

Then there was Morloch and his lackey, Raczar. As the struggle between Xena and the Prince progressed, Raczar started to realize that his boss was a very dangerous - and insane man. He continued to serve out of fear, and it is small surprise that he disappeared when the climactic battle arrived.

I originally felt that the actor playing Raczar wasn't particularly good in the role, but as the story developed, I changed my mind. He grew into the role very nicely, adding a third dimension to a character that could very easily have remained a cardboard cutout. I wonder if this was a result of Renee's direction, or was in the script to begin with. Regardless, it was a subtle performance, and only added to the slowly increasing tension as the story progressed. In fact, there were moments when I thought Raczar would change sides, helping Xena defeat his boss.

Finally, we have the relationship that developed between Xena and Varia. We've seen similar pairings, where Xena takes a hotheaded fighter under her wing and changes their outlook to that of a real warrior. What really stands out in this episode is not only how good Xena is at her job, but that she practices what she preaches. She has always led by example, and this episode demonstrates that very nicely. Xena polishes her short-term charge into a true Amazon leader.

Renee's direction resulted in a much cleaner episode than her previous credit; season four's "Dj Vu All Over Again." I imagine it was because she spent so little time on screen as Gabrielle - it can be very difficult to wear multiple hats like that (especially for an inexperienced director), and Renee succeeds admirably. While her task was no doubt made easier by the experienced crew (who has been doing this for years), the shots and interpretation of the story are hers, and she deserves credit for turning out an excellent episode. Indeed, if the contrast between this episode and "Dj Vu" is any indication, she may have a promising career as a director ahead of her.

The fight sequences especially give evidence of a natural eye for action - no doubt developed on the set. The final duel between Xena and the hunter was borrowed from the Hong Kong action film, "Twin Warriors" [aka "Tai Chi Master"], right down to the red cloth wall and Jenga- tower sword fight. Likewise, the extended sequence in the cave (with dueling chakram and triskelion) combined pulse-pounding action with nail-biting tension.

In the end, Xena proved her superiority by using the very adage she shared with Varia -- she knew when the battle was over, and when to walk away. That realization was the key to Xena's victory, and it lured Morloch to his death.

One final observation before I wrap this up. I think I know why Gabrielle is reluctant to become full-time Amazon royalty - it's what life insurance companies call a high-risk job. Since the series began, there have been a large number of Amazon leaders cut down in their prime, starting with Terreis in the classic "Hooves & Harlots". The death rate has to be unsettling - even for somebody as familiar with the Grim Reaper as Gabrielle is.

I really enjoyed this episode. While the plot is fairly simple, that simplicity doesn't detract from the engaging relationships and knuckle-whitening action. Renee should be proud to add this episode to her directing credits. It calls to mind classic episodes of seasons past while retaining the distinctive tone of season six. A lack of glaring plot holes contributes to the high score this episode receives - a well deserved "A".

If the quality we see here continues for the remainder of the season, the show will certainly end on the high note it deserves.



WHAT THE HECK IS NAKED PREY?

By Diana.

After I saw the note in the Whoosh episode Guide that Dangerous Prey was an homage to Naked Prey I went and looked up that film and found this summary:

Naked Prey, The (1966)

A group of men are on safari. One of the party refuses to give a gift to a tribe they encounter. The tribe is offended, chases after the party, and one-by-one, cruelly (disgustingly) kills all but one of the safari members. The last surviving member escapes from the tribal men. Naked and weaponless he runs, beginning a life-or-death hunt through wild Africa.

Summary written by Melissa Portell (http://us.imdb.com/Plot?0060736.



WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR

02-26-01. 02/03/01, Renee O'Connor interview at Upbeat Magazine by Bridget Petrella with additional editing by Sonia Satra. Title: 'Xena' Star Renee O'Connor: Deeply Soulful And Subtly Engaging. Check it out at http://www.2upbeatmag.com/TUBE-FILE/tube_file_renee-oconnor-feature-intervie w.html. Here's some selections:

UPBEAT: So now you're shifting your career focus a bit to directing, what was it like to be behind the camera planning the shots?
Renee O'Connor: "It's quite a daunting experience (laughs). The first time for me was quite overwhelming. I wasn't used to being in charge and I took the entire episode very personally_ so when I would be behind for half a day, which is actually huge in filming terms, I would try to rise above it and accomplish it all the following day, but it was always quite discouraging_ However, this time around, it was just the most amazing experience to see how it can all work (laughs)."
UPBEAT: I think some of the best directors in the business are actors, because they are so aware of both themselves and their craft...
Renee O'Connor: "Actually I have to say when I'm acting, I try not to think about directing at all (laughs). It doesn't help you (laughs). I mean, if you're trying to convince Xena not to kill someone, it's not going to help you to think that you really should be readjusting your position. You know, it's probably an innate sense that I have and don't realize I might be readjusting or doing certain things, but I try not to think about it. I believe over the last six years now, I've been learning in between actual acting moments on the show. When they were setting up the camera or discussing lens and shots, I would always listen. But once I start acting, I have to let that stuff go."
UPBEAT: When you're directing, what would you say is your primary focus?
Renee O'Connor: "For me both episodes that I directed were so different and what I think I learned from that is each episode, as I've said before, takes on a life of its own, and you try to find what the energy is within the story that you're telling. I don't think I have a certain style already. I know there are specific things that I've experimented with, to see what I like and what I don't like, but that's just part of my growth I suppose, as a director. I mean, I could easily pick it all out if I showed you each of the episodes, i.e. oh I really wanted to see what this would look like if I tried this composition or if I contrasted this with something else, but that 's all just really in my own mind."
UPBEAT: If you could direct any actor, in film or television, who would it be?
Renee O'Connor: "I love actors who are wonderful_ like John Cusack and Russell Crowe, and wouldn't be a treat to eventually direct them one day (laughs)?"
UPBEAT: Well, you never know, that could happen.
Renee O'Connor: "I'm the type of person who feels I have to prove myself first. I would have to have the best story that I could ever approach them with in order to fuel it all in the correct way."

12-18-00. Seems like the new recurring Amazon character, Varia, just can't seem to keep herself out of trouble. In the upcoming episodes DANGEROUS PREY and TO HELICON AND BACK, trouble sticks to her like clay on a would-be basted bard. Is she related to Amarice?

09-16-00. Creation Entertainment in September 2000 put this in their spoiler area: "Time to rent Cornel Wilde in 'The Naked Prey'. Maybe you should read Richard Connell's 'The Most Dangerous Game'. Or check out the many movies made from that short story".

09-16-00. Because Renee O'Connor is directing this episode, expect Gabrielle to not be in it or to just bookend it (be in the teaser and at the end).

09-16-00. The Amazon Varia returns from COMING HOME.

09-02-00. VENGEANCE AND MERCY has had a name change, it is now called DANGEROUS PREY and it started filming earlier this past week.

07-16-00. This episode will be Reneè O'Connor's sophomore directing project.



MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

02-15-00. Jason Boaz. Take a good look at Varia's sword. Wasn't that the sword that both Ephiny AND Amarice used? Maybe she's related to either one of them...who knows?

02-15-00. XENA is notorious for "homaging" HK films. They have liberally taken from "Tai Chi Master", "Magnificent Warriors", "Dragon Inn", "Bride with White Hair", "Wing Chun", "The Heroic Trio", etc. Including a healthy number of Michelle Yeoh flicks. The producers apparently have a major Yeoh jones.

01-28-00. From Virginia Kelly. Once again, XWP has paid homage to the martial arts action flick. The final fight scene between Xe and whoever that bad guy was (he was so yawn I can't remember his name) was taken from the Michelle Yeoh/Jet Li flick, Twin Warriors (1993). A major fight scene between Li's character and his ex-friend was partially set on around a wooden structure (with Yeoh at the top as the bait, if I remember correctly). Many of the same fight moves were used including the spinning around the side of the wood structure as well as the scene with Xe holding up the logs. Li did the same thing in the movie. The scene from Twin Warriors [aka "Tai Chi Master"] even used the red, fabric walls, as did XWP.

This isn't the first time XWP has used Twin Warriors. Much of the Najara/Xena fight is from the Yeoh's character/mistress of the ex-husband fight scene early in the movie.

01-28-00. From S. Gellhorn. the fight scene on the log pile at the end of the "Dangerous Prey" closely resembles a fight scene from the Jet Li martial arts film "Twin Warriors", which was previously also known as "Tai Chi Master".

12-18-00. From Carla Capizzi. I am sitting here watching, by coincidence, "The Naked Prey" with Cornell Wilde, which is cited as the inspiration for the upcoming episode "Dangerous Prey." Since "Dangerous Prey" hasn't aired yet, I can't comment on how much similarity there might be between the two. However, I can say emphatically that it is also an inspiration for "The Abyss." There is a scene in the beginning of the Cornel Wilde film that has been duplicated exactly in "The Abyss." The African natives have killed one of the hunters they captured, and he has been coated in some sort of mud, stuck on a spit -- in exactly the same odd manner in which Hosef was placed on a spit, like he's sitting with his knees up to his chest, and the spit under his legs. He has a tube-type object in his mouth, and he is rotating slowly over the flames. The only difference is, the mud has baked to a hard covering.

BTW, if Dangerous Prey is like this movie, it's going to be one very bizarre episode: almost no dialogue, a lot of violence, lots of action, one brave and smart hero (Cornel) outwitting a lot of blood-thirsty bad guys with clever traps. Wait, that sounds like The Abyss! I can't wait to see how this movie ends!



TRANSCRIPT

Click here to read a transcript of DANGEROUS PREY.



DISCLAIMER:

Raczar mysteriously disappeared at the completion of production of this motion picture and is rumored to have been living under the guise of "Prince Vladimar Barbeque Raczar?"



LINKS:

From Creation Entertainments graphic spoiler area:

Renee O'Connor directing Lucy Lawless
Xener wearing next to nothin'






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