GUEST STARS, CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
SYNOPSIS by Bluesong
COMMENTARY 1 BY Beth the Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 BY Beboman
COMMENTARY 3 BY Jill Hayhurst
COMMENTARY 4 BY Josh Harrison
COMMENTARY 5 BY Amol Sathe
COMMENTARY 6 BY Shana
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Adrienne Wilkinson (Eve)
William Gregory Lee (Virgil)
Calvin Tuteao (Gurkhan)
Tandie Wright (Sonata)
Gina Varela (Milda)
Michelle Langstone (Lana)
Jo Lo (Yo)
Edited by Rob Field
Story by Robert Tapert
Teleplay by R.J. Stewart
Directed by Michael Hurst
TV GUIDE PROMO
Lila tells Gabrielle the fate of family members which leads her and Xena to North Africa on a trail of vengeance. This is not the log line; I'm just telling you what I saw. From Sharon Delaney (Official XENA Fan Club)
[Xena and Gabrielle travel] to North Africa to rescue Gabrielle's niece who has been kidnapped. TVGuide.
Gabrielle sets out on a rescue mission to North Africa with the gang in tow when she discovers her niece has been kidnapped. ClickTV
When Gabrielle learns that her niece has been captured by the vicious raider Gurkhan, she sets sail for North Africa on a rescue mission with Xena, Eve, and Virgil.
Xena, Eve and Virgil sail to North Africa to rescue Gabrielle's niece from Gurkhan. ExctieTV
[Xena & Gabrielle] find that Gabrielle's niece Sarah has been captured by the vicious raider Gurkhan, they set sail for North Africa on a dangerous rescue mission. PR Release
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
1st RELEASE: 10-23-01
An AA average of 3.7
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
Stargate: SG-1 3.4
Queen of Swords 1.5
The Invisible Man 1.6
The Immortal .8
2nd RELEASE: 03/05/01
An AA average of 2.7
3rd RELEASE: 08/13/01
An AA average of 2.4
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
The X-Files 3.6
Stargate SG-1 2.8
Invisible Man 1.9
Earth: Final Conflict 1.6
Relic Hunter 1.5
This synopsis is by Bluesong.
Gabrielle, Xena, Virgil and Eve walk into Potedia. It's a thriving town. Gabrielle goes to her old home. It is all run down. She goes to the door. Lila is there. Lila and Gabrielle hug. A storm comes. Inside the house, Virgil sits beside of Eve and sharpens a sword. Gabrielle and Lila talk. Lila tells Gabrielle about her daughter, Sara, and how 8 years ago Sara was captured by Gurkhan and taken to Madador in North Africa. Gabrielle's parents then sold most of the farm and they and Lila's husband went to Madador to try to buy Sara back. Gurkhan had them all beheaded, except Lila wasn't sure if Sara was among them. Gabrielle runs out into the storm. Xena follows her. Xena says they'll go after Sara in the morning. Gabrielle says this isn't just a rescue mission. "I want vengeance," she says. "That man murdered my mother and father. Now I kill him."
On the boat over, Gabrielle practices with her sais. Eve tells Gabrielle she has been to Madador, selling slave girls. Gabrielle and Xena talk. Gabrielle says that today she is not an assassin. Tomorrow.... she runs over to the side and throws up. Eve and Xena talk, watching Gabrielle stand at the edge of the boat. They say Gabrielle is on a suicide mission. Eve asks Xena if the talent to kill in cold blood was one she inherited from her mother, because Eve could kill Gurkhan but Gabrielle just isn't up to the task. Eve asks Xena what she is going to do. Xena says she is going to cure Gabrielle's sea sickness. Xena gives Gabrielle a potion and knocks her unconscious.
Virgil and Xena go to Madador. Virgil has Xena for sale. He wants a price on his "choice specimen." The auctioneer says Gurkhan himself will buy Xena. He yanks all of Xena's clothes off to inspect her, leaving Virgil gaping. At the auction, Xena talks to the slave girls. Some of them want to be in the harem, to escape bad lives. Virgil calls Xena over to him, and she tells him to watch out to see which bidder is Gurkhan. Xena goes on the auction block. She brings a high bid. Unfortunately, Gurkhan has several men bidding for him. Virgil is confused. Gurkhan buys Xena. "Very clever," Xena mutters.
Gabrielle wakes up aboard the ship, with Eve watching over her. She wants to know where Xena is. Virgil returns. Gabrielle is really mad. She figures out that Virgil sold Xena to Gurkhan. Virgil tells Gabrielle he loves her. Gabrielle says "two can play that game" and she storms off the ship.
In the harem in the palace, Xena says her name is Sophia. She tells talks to a girl from Chin. The girl says she can't talk to Xena, it will break the rules. Breaking the rules means being beaten, manacled, and sent to the dungeon to die.
A well-dressed woman comes in. Xena questions her. She is the #1 wife. She pulls Xena's hair because of Xena's insolence. The #1 wife says anyone who comes between her and Gurkhan will feel her wrath. She kicks Xena in the face when she sees Xena watching the shadow of a man behind a curtain. "Bad dog," she says.
The Harem goes before a lot of men. While they are there, Virgil enters with Gabrielle. He claims to be a pirate, with a present of an Amazon Queen to give to Gurkhan. He says the Amazon Queen will dance for Gurkhan. Gabrielle does a belly dance. She gets close to the men. Xena sees a knife is Gabrielle's clothing, and tackles her. Xena grabs the knife, and says, "She won't have Gurkhan before me" as the men surround the two women. They knock Xena unconscious.
Gabrielle joins the harem. She tries to see Xena but can't. Xena is beaten, chained, tortured, hit, left alone in the dungeon, hung upside, and lots of other really bad things in a montage of torture. She dreams of Gabrielle. She hangs upside down, with her eyes bloody and swollen shut. A man comes in. He says, tell me, Sophia, why did you have a knife? She says because she didn't want the other wives to get the drop on her. She sees Gabrielle in front of her, in a dream state. She tells the man she wants to be here. She sees Gabrielle saying the word "Sara." Xena says she wants to give her self to the great Gurkhan. She says she wants to be the #1 wife. Gurkhan says perhaps. He says for now, her name will be Fatima. Xena sees Gabrielle walk away from her (she's hallucinating).
Xena is brought back to the Harem, all bloody and beat up. Xena collapses, and Gabrielle runs to her. She holds her. In the Harem, Xena and Gabrielle talk about how Gabrielle never got a chance to say good-bye to her parents. Xena tells Gabrielle that she can kill Gurkhan. Gabrielle says, thank you. Xena says, don't thank me, just be ready. The #1 wife comes in. She says, on your faces, and look up at your peril. A man comes in. That one, Fatima, he says, pointing at Xena. Tonight she dances. Gabrielle helps Xena get all painted up for the dance.
Xena dances, in black veils. She finishes, and says Gurkhan she has one request. "Sara's head on a plate." Gurkhan wants to know where she heard that name. Xena smiles. Gurkhan says very well, I'll give you Sara's head. The #1 wife says, Gurkhan, how can you do this? And she is lead away to the dungeon, because she is Sara.
Xena is alone with Gurkhan. She breathes an idea into his ear. Xena is astride Gurkhan when Gabrielle comes in. "Join us, little one," Gurkhan says. Xena puts the pinch on Gurkhan, paralyzing him. She hands Gabrielle a knife. Gabrielle unsheathes the knife, climbs over to Gurkhan, and puts the knife at his throat. She taunts Gurkhan, asking him if he is afraid. She tells him what he did to her parents. Then she says, "If I kill you, you win. I become like you." She takes the knife away. Then she beats the daylights out of Gurkhan while Xena watches.
They go to the cells and find Sara huddled against the wall. Gabrielle tells Sara who she is and introduces Xena. Sara says it's not possible. Gabrielle says they have come to take her home. Sara at first does not want to be touched, but then she cries, and Gabrielle tells her no one blames her, she was just a child when Gurkhan took her. Gabrielle holds Sara. Sara says the only way she could survive was to become mean. Xena tells Gabrielle it's time to go. They have a hostage, Gurkhan. Xena goes into the Harem and tells the girls to come on, we're going on a cruise.
The soldiers go to behead Sara. Oops. They chop off Gurkhan's head instead.
Xena has a ship full of girls. Sara says she can never be forgiven for the terrible things she has done. Xena looks at Eve, Eve looks at Xena, Gabrielle looks at all of them. "Are you ever in the right company," Gabrielle says.
This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.
Let's get right to the point: This episode rocked. It was a small, simple story that addressed some of the oldie but goodie themes of the series. Xena and Gabrielle battled a corrupt warlord for the sake of their friends and family, and along the way contemplated justice, vengeance, violence, and proved how strong they are when they work together. It had its stumbles and cheesy moments, but that's part of the show I know and love.
Sign of the times: "So you weren't really dead." "Not that time." Five OTHER times, yes, but not then. Nice delivery of the line, though.
Worst misfire of the episode: Gabrielle's declaration of malice and forethought. Gabrielle wasn't given long enough to absorb what was done to her family and decide that she wanted to kick some booty for it. And her emphatic "I want vengeance!" line, Xena's jump in dramatic shock, and the accompanying thunder and downpour of rain were all so overdone that I laughed all the way through the opening credits.
Xena and Gabrielle's plan(s) was a good one: becoming a concubine attains both of Gabrielle's goals. It's the way to hunt up Sara from the inside, and since no one outside the palace knows who Gurkhan is, the solution is to become someone who's confined to the palace. But I was never sure that they had found the real Gurkhan. I kept expecting them to find out that Gurkhan was like the Dread Pirate Roberts, not a person so much as a title that gets passed from person to person. Who, other than that pesky First Wife, would know?
Was there some drunken sailor just off-camera who was forcing Eve to lean right on Xena while they talked on the ship, or was that done purely for a screen capture moment? (Cheesy though it was, it DID play up how much Eve has her momma's eyes.)
Notify the press: Eve made it through an entire episode without mentioning Eli's name. And instead of just whimpering through the show, she was putting some of those brains to work. "That's your goal; what's your plan?" Now THAT'S the thinking of someone who was a commander for Rome. This was definitely Eve's best episode yet, even though she only got to be in a little part of it.
Joxer's son is now fulfilling Joxer's old role. He has the same crush on Gabrielle, and is following the girls around like a puppy. But as opposed to his old man, when Virgil is told to do something, he's perfectly competent at it. And doesn't have any braggart slapstick tendencies, either. Meg must have knocked some sense into him when he was growing up.
The auction scene was fantastic - that's when the episode kicks into high gear. The music builds, the auction speeds up, and then everything jumps into hyper mode with the seller going off like a cattle auctioneer, the camera shots taking about a half second each, Virgil's befuddlement (and even Xena's confusion) in the midst of it, and the one real moment of comedy in the episode: "Are you bidding, sir, or are you just picking your nose? Well, stop it!" I laughed myself silly.
Gabrielle says that two can play the threatening game, and the next thing we know, Virgil is selling Gabrielle for all he's worth. What did she threaten him with? Personally, I think it must have had something to do with "no chance for nookie in a million lifetimes."
Was the identity of Sara really supposed to be a surprise to anyone? She was the only other harem member we met, besides the newcomers with Xena and the woman from Japan, and the only one with hair notably similar to Gabrielle's. Gee, I wonder what HER name could be?
Kudos to all the supporting actors in this episode. The new girls, especially the one who wanted to be a concubine, and Sara were all well played. Sara's introduction and her "Bad doll!" line were juicy.
Xena's torture scene is brutal, both for the savagery of the beating and for the suffering Gabrielle goes through upstairs. Well done, right down to the old warrior princess music that we seem to get every time since The Gauntlet that Xena's gotten the crap kicked out of her.
Last episode ended with a pretty unconvincing statement from Xena that remembering Gabrielle got her through the rough times. This time, we got pretty indisputable evidence of it: when beaten into a bloody pulp, Gabrielle is the vision she sees. What a handy vision, too - it even dances for her. And in the end of it all, after Xena has insisted to the vision that she wants to be there and stayed true to the purpose the pesky dancer reminds her of, Xena gets her reward; she's delivered back to the real Gabrielle's care, and everything's "peachy." Now THAT'S devotion.
Ummmm, Xena? Gab? Servants ARE people, y'know. What on earth was up with discussing their whole plan and purpose while one of the servants tended to Xena's wounds? The scene even ended with a suspiciously long shot of the servant's face... but we never hear boo about it again. What was up with that?
Check out Xena and Gabrielle when FirstWife shows up and orders everyone onto their faces: Xena's showing Gab the hookah pipe. Was she about to demonstrate how to take a good hit off the bong?
And now... the battle of the Solid Gold dancers! Wow, Xena and Gabrielle both get their turn doing the stripper-in-search-of-a-pole act. Both dances are... ahem... well done. Have I mentioned that in my city, Xena shows at 10am on a Saturday? About 250 kids this weekend who were channel surfing for their favorite cartoons got their hormones unexpectedly carbonated. These dances proved flip sides of similar coins to me. Gabrielle showed exactly how much about dancing she's learned since those early beginnings in the first season. And Lucy Lawless pulls off her best dancing job that I've seen her do.
In both dances, I got a heck of a lot of entertainment watching the "musicians" in the back of the room. Most of them weren't even playing the right instruments for the music we were hearing, let alone playing at the same tempo or with the same amplifiers as the soundtrack.
The Xena Translator on my shoulder says that Xena's tummy tattoo said "If you can read this, you're too close. Signed, R Tapert."
XenaStaff dives into a little biblical inspiration again, but instead of plagiarizing for Eli's sermons, this time they come up with Salome's dance for the head of John the Baptist. That was a nifty little plan, although it took some more prescience from Xena to know that Sara wouldn't be beheaded on the spot. Wouldn't THAT have put a small crimp in Gabrielle's plans?
Xena shows another clever streak with her plan for getting Gabrielle and she together alone with Gurkhan. Not too many guys sitting around with a stable full of harem girls could resist any idea that starts out with "How about sexy me and my adorable friend over there..."
Gabrielle's vengeance results in a mixed bag, but it's ultimately pretty darn satisfying. Revenge doesn't mean much if the guy doesn't know why the vengeance has come, which Gabrielle mostly takes care of with a quick explanation (although he may have needed more specifics to know exactly which people he's beheaded that she was talking about). She decides not to kill him, but the rule that says "that will make me like you" apparently doesn't apply to beating the daylights out of an incapacitated man, dragging him around the castle, and then leaving him for his guards to kill. Slippery thing, those vengeance morals.
Gabrielle probably picks the single best thing to say to Sara when she tells her that nobody blames her for what happened. That was a well-done scene. But I did have one quibble with the dialogue: "They killed Grandma and Grandpa" was a much more powerful statement than "They killed father," mostly because I don't know any kids who call their dad Father. Was the formal name for her dad just a bad word choice, or a sign that she wasn't much of a daddy's girl?
Great moment when Xena and Gabrielle release all the wives with "We're going on a cruise... anyone care to come?" I could have done without all the giggling, though. And check out the chick who worked so hard to be bought by Gurkhan - she's the first one out the door! If hitting the road beats marrying rich, mayying poor, AND joining a harem, why didn't she just do that in the first place?
Those guards who manage to behead Gurkhan thinking he's the First Wife win the Stupid Award of the Month. Gurkhan deserved to get offed just for having such dumb bruisers on his staff. Cool head-on-the-floor effect, though.
There wasn't a single real fight in this episode. No swords, only one brief glimpse of a dagger, and the "fight" with Gurkhan was just a quick neck pinch that made him lie there while he was treated as a punching bag and dragged around as a key. That may be a record for a Xena episode.
Nice final scene, with Sara bemoaning that she has to reconcile with her mother and deal with her guilt... she WAS in the right company. It was a cute parallel, but also pretty funny for how much of a guilt duffer even Gabrielle would make Sara look, never mind Xena and Eve.
I loved the transition in attitudes that Xena and Gabrielle take in this episode. At the beginning, Gabrielle plans to take on Gurkhan and pretty much ignores Xena. Xena does the overprotective routine and decides that Gabrielle can do nothing on her own. Xena tries to cut Gabrielle out of the action completely by knocking her out not just once, but twice, jumping into harm's way instead. Xena pays a high price for trying to take Gabrielle's actions - and consequences - on herself instead. But on her own, Gabrielle probably would have been doomed. She would have charged into the palace like a kamikaze pilot, and at the end of her dance, she looked ready to knife the wrong guy. It's not until Xena and Gabrielle decide to work together instead of alone - Xena by supporting Gab's mission instead of commandeering it and Gab by allowing Xena to join the plan - that they become unstoppable.
Nice makeup job on Lila to age her! In fact, the makeup and wardrobe departments were really firing on all cylinders for this episode. Xena and Gabrielle's outfits and veils, Lila's age, and Xena's body paint were all excellent. I'm a little iffy on Gabrielle's corn rows, but since everything else looked so great, I'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt
Line of the episode goes to Xena for "There's a loophole in the system," spoken with Gurkhan's head tucked under her arm.
This commentary is by Beboman.
I have to start this commentary by stating that this episode was amazing. It was interesting and it reflects how far Xena will go for Gabrielle.
Although there were no fight scenes, Xena's sword never left its sheath and the Chakram was never thrown, this was a very violent episode. So with this in mind, here is my opinion about this show. As you can see I have emphasized the word "opinion" because some of the things I have to say might not settle well with some of the readers.
AS much as I liked this episode, and before I go on raving on how outstanding and amazing it was, there were a few things that did not settle well with me. So here I go:
For starters, the scene between Gabrielle and her sister should have been a bit longer. This whole story about Sarah's abduction felt like if it had been dragged by the hairs. It felt as if it had to be put out there as fast as possible so our travelling four could go on their adventure to Africa. As an audience member, I felt rushed and I don't like that feeling when I'm watching a show.
By slowing that moment a bit, giving Lila the opportunity to enjoy just a bit more of the visit of her sister and then telling the story of what had happened to their parents, her husband and child, it would have given Gabrielle a stronger hold on her emotions for the outburst of anger to come later on. This is the same outburst that made her want to be a killer. I do understand that rage is a valid emotion when you find out that your parents have been brutally killed by some heartless monster.
On the other hand, that scene where Gabrielle leaves the house and is followed by Xena was very well performed and the thunderstorm and rain helped emphasize the feelings of both women. This scene was the catalyst that takes our foursome into an adventure that would lead to physical and emotional pain for our two leads. The idea that Gabrielle might turn into a cold blooded killer was just an idea because we all know Xena would never allow that to happen.
Another scene that did not settle well with me was when Virgil returned to the ship after selling Xena as a slave, singing and acting like a fool. It not only denigrated what Xena was trying to do, but it also put Virgil one step away from being a buffoon. After watching Virgil since last season, I don't understand why TPTB want to make Virgil into another Joxer. I think doing that would be a disservice to Virgil.
Now, as we move along in the plot and we get to the end of the torture scene (which I will touch on a bit later) and Xena returns to the Harem, I found Gabrielle's reaction a bit emotionless. I was expecting something like in "Ides of March", when Xena woke up in the prison in Gabrielle's arms. The tenderness of that moment was not there this time. I'm not sure if Gabrielle was still in shock to see all the physical damage her friend had suffered or if Gabrielle was totally consumed by guilt at the fact that she was to blame for the brutality and physical pain Xena had endured in Gurkhan's dungeon.
We all know that Xena is totally in tune with who and what she is and she is also very comfortable in her skin and has used her body several times to obtain what she wanted. But in the slave market, when she is stripped naked and eyed as a piece of merchandise, Xena resorts to making disgusting faces behind the back of the man assessing her value. I think this was her way of making light of a situation that was ultimately very humiliating. All this while Virgil stood there with his mouth wide open and his eyes popping out in her presence. This had to have made this situation even harder to stomach for Xena.
As we continue to course through this marvelous episode, we come to the dance scenes. Boy, what two different dances these were. Both were very sensual in there own very distinctive forms.
The one performed by Gabrielle was sexy and provocative in a subdued way. It was artistic and very carefully orchestrated. It did call the viewer's attention to the dancer.
On the other hand, Xena's dance was animalistic, sensual, provocative and all in your face. She not only wanted the attention of the viewer. She wanted to inspire those animal instincts within the viewer.
But one thing is for sure; both women can arouse all kinds of thoughts and emotions from the viewers with the way they dance and move.
Now comes one of the most violent scenes in this episode: Xena's torture. This scene caused me to stop watching the episode and take a deep breath before I continued. Yes, it is true that we have seen Xena hurt and injured before. We saw her badly injured in "Ides of March". We saw her survive the gauntlet in "The Gauntlet". She even survived the dungeon in "Locked Up and Tied Down". We, the audience, are very much aware of Xena's high tolerance for pain.
But this montage of tortures was beyond the grasp of almost any human. Seeing Xena brutally beaten, hanging head down with blood dripping from her eye and other injured parts of her body, like a piece of freshly slaughtered meat was something I had a hard time with.
If there was any doubt that Xena loves Gabrielle and would do anything for her, this scene would definitely take away those thoughts. Only a person who truly loves another and is selfless would allow herself to go through all that pain to save the person she loves.
For Xena, putting herself through that grueling punishment was not a heroic act. There were no heroics; just a vast manifestation of a great love.
In Xena's mind, it wasn't the fact that Gabrielle could not withstand that type of punishment. Xena knew Gabrielle could. Gabrielle had been crucified next to Xena and that was a tremendous amount of pain. But for Xena, the question was why let Gabrielle go through something like that if she (Xena) could take the pain and survive the punishment.
Not many times we have seen a fragile Xena. I guess (as far as I can remember; I could be wrong) twice at the prison in "Ides of March" and in this scene as she was hanging there almost lifeless. I felt like walking in there, taking her in my arms, cuddling her and telling Xena that everything would be alright. And that was the feeling and the emotions I expected from Gabrielle when Xena returned to the Harem. I did not get that from Gabrielle.
After surviving the torture, Xena is still in control. She would not submit to anyone and would not allow her tormentors to see her weak. So she walked into the Harem by herself and waited for them to leave before succumbing to the pain and collapsing.
I found very interesting the images that came to Xena's mind of Gabrielle as she was suffering through the torture; the image of a caring, soft Gabrielle taking care of Xena and the seductive dance that Gabrielle was performing. It was as if Xena was holding on to both the delicate and the seductive Gabrielle to survive her torment.
Before I go any farther, I must say that I have to take my hat off to ROC for her performance in Gurkhan's room. She kept Gabrielle under control. That scene could have easily run wild with the full gamut of emotions Gabrielle was feeling at the time. Her anger, hate and her desire to kill the man who had done so much harm to her family. Gabrielle was fighting the desire to kill and she was rationalizing that if she killed Gurkhan in cold blood she would end up like him. That took a lot of courage and self-control. ROC did an excellent job in this scene and she portrayed all the emotions that were needed to make that scene work.
Also, if there was any doubt in the audience's mind about the dedication and commitment of LL to this show, the torture scene should have wiped out those thoughts because the physical and emotional demands of this scene on LL must have been tremendous. There is no way (my opinion) that LL could have done this scene without feeling the emotional pain Xena was feeling at the time. Also, hanging upside down takes a lot out of a person. Add to that all that makeup and the prosthetic eye and still having to say lines and make them come out real. That takes a lot of talent and dedication. I really take my hat off to this actress.
The other totally violent scene came when Gurkhan was decapitated. I know we have had decapitations on the show before. There was the decapitation in "When in Rome" and when Pompeii lost his head (literally) at the hands of Xena in "Endgame". But we have never seen the lifeless head staring at us after the decapitation. That was a bit more than I wanted to see.
This show also had some really good "touchy feely" moments, like the moment between Xena and Eve in the boat on their way to Mardagon as the are talking about Gabrielle's lack of killer instinct and Xena's and Eve's killer instinct. The two of them looked relaxed. It gave the feeling that they both had accepted the other and were enjoying, in a weird way, their lives and their time together.
Another great "touch feely" moment was when Gabrielle and Xena go to get Sarah at the dungeon. That comfort, caring and overall acceptance from Gabrielle and the words said by Sarah touch Xena emotionally. We can see and hear that.
At the end of the episode, we see Gabrielle standing next to Eve on the boat. They are approached by Sarah, who is feeling guilty and believes she is not worthy of being forgiven for all the bad things she has done. When Gabrielle responds to Sarah, the way Gabrielle looks at Xena, who is standing nearby, showed how much Gabrielle did understand her niece and all the others present.
The final scene of the episode in the boat when Gabrielle looks at Xena and Xena gives her that smile was a perfect way to end the show. After all, they were still together and joined by members of their family they both had rescued, although not at the same time, but still rescued.
Now after all I have said, the question will be did I like the show? And without holding anything back, I will have to say "Yes, I did". It was a very powerful and emotional episode.
This commentary is by Jill Hayhurst.
Knock, knock! Who's there? Gurkhan. Gurkhan who? oh, just some guy, is all. Man, this old home week stuff is getting to be a little, well, old. First we ride in old Amazon lands, then it's back to Amphipolis, then Hell, well, sort of, now we're checking out what's left of Potedia. What's next, sliding by Rome to see if Evilia's kindergarten has a historical plaque? Ah, well, never mind me, this was a really cool ep and I've missed really cool eps, I have. I just can't help being snarky, it's my nature.
Like I said, this week's opening finds our heroines jogging along in glorious sunshine, on the yellow brick road to the clapboard village. They hove into view of the farm Gabrielle's parents had, and don't it look like the bank took it over some years ago? Makes you think that last wagon they passed was full of Joads. Exercise for the kidlings: rewatch SotP and get an eyeful of the Farm in the glory of its prime, when wheat prices and pork bellies were sky-high and Dad was thinking of putting up an extra silo. Now go back to WG. You tell me: where did the hillside with the terraced truck garden go? All speculations will be considered, except for 'a wizard did it'.
I love the way Gab's belt hangs on her hips. Eve says that all that matters is that the people inside are all right-- ***tweet*** that there's a plot point, childrens. Well, 'twouldn't be a Xena ep if everyone was fine, would it? So, anyway, Gabrielle knocks on the front door and Lila, baby sister Lila, answers. Lila's some 25 years older, and for a change, she looks just that. No more, no less. Kisses all round to the make-up crew. (After kicks in the behind for week 'fore last's King O' Hell/Deliverer/Bacchus reworking.) Kicks and kisses, they work for RenPic, they'll love it all, I'm sure.
Back to the show-- the reunion scene is wonderful, touching, not a bit too much, and next thing you know storm clouds are moving in, threatening a bit of evening showers. Uh oh. Gabrielle and Eve, excuse me, Lila, hey, they're dressed alike for some damn reason, anyway, the sisters are chatting before a roaring fire the likes of which I'd be scared to light in that house without a platoon of firefighters standing by, hoses at the ready, and for some reason in all this time they haven't touched on the topic of Mom and Pop, Location of. They've had hours, maybe they filled in the time chatting on sheep futures, I dunno. Anyway, they get round to the personal touch with Lila mentioning that Gabrielle et. al. hadn't been dead after all, and Gab says 'not that time', a priceless delivery from ROC and then Lila brings up Sarah. Her daughter, it seems, and she's been gone lo these many years (just like Gabrielle and Xena, I love these little psychic tie-ins) and Lila's a bit sad about that. Seems Sarah was kidnapped by slave traders working for some guy named Gurkhan and when Mom and Pop and Hubby went after her, wanting to buy her back, nothing so confrontational as waste his village or set seige to his castle, but just pay ransom, Gurkhan chopped off their heads.
Weird. Most potentates woulda just laughed heartily and ignored them. Or enslaved them. Maybe Gurkhan had a surfeit of sad-faced slaves that month. Maybe they mouthed off to the castelain. Anyway, that's the premise and we're going with it. One niece enslaved and two out of two parental units beheaded. (I think Hubby lost his head too, but I can't really remember. Husbands are expendable in the Xenaverse.) I'd be a tad upset by this if it were my family, and I have extra nieces. Seems I'm not alone; Gabrielle is ready to kick ass and take names, too. She runs out into the gath'ring storm, and Xena follows. Gabrielle wants Vengeance, by golly, and in case we don't get the breadth and depth of her feeling in the matter, some damn fool at RenPic ordered up a lightning flash and downpour at that junction.
Possibly they've forgotten what it means to have material and personnel who can deliver without the flash and sparkle of the FX department. Perhaps they have a bit extra in the budget. Perhaps they're just nitwits. Anyway, it's time for the titles and after all, this bit did give us a giggle to last through the moments of yesterminute and coming attractions, not to mention used car salesmen and truly offensive Molson Ex ads. Thank the gods (I'm sure there are a few still around, hiding in bunkers and plotting a comeback) for fast forward. (There was an ad for Return of the Living Dead in there. I have no comment.)
All aboard! Who'd have thought, back in the days of LM, that they'd get so much mileage out of that ship? Okay, so for this one they've replaced the sails with that of a junque, but it's the same deck and all. Might be the same sailors, for all I know.
So we're on the ship and Gabrielle's practising with her sais and Eve and Xena are trying to get her to talk about what's on her mind and all they get in response is something General Patton would recognise. Gabrielle is totally focused. Her goal is to take out Gurkhan, she hasn't thought about how or what happens after. Sort of like Xena in DEBT I and II. Must be an assassin thing. Then she throws up over the rail. I'll bet General Patton threw up a lot, too.
Xena and Eve bond some more over that, like they needed to bond more, and next thing we know, Xena's drugged Gabrielle just when they make landfall at Magador, Gurkhan's home base. Virgil (Virgil's in this ep, btw. Sort of Joxer-like, except not as over-the-top hammy.) is roped into working with Xena on her alternate plan of infiltrating Gurkhan's household while Gab snoozes. He gets to sell her ass to the highest bidder.
As better minds than I have pointed out, since when would a callow youth such as yon Virg get his hands on such prime material as Xena? You'd think the experienced buyers at the auction would question that, but they don't, maybe her serial number ain't been registered nowhere. The auction gets underway with a minimum of footage and turns out that there's three or four guys in the audience doing Gurkhan's bidding for him. Well, that's one way of spending excess dinars, just bid against yourself. Better yet, pay other folks to do it for you, then you don't even have to show up.
Anyway, after furiously bidding against his archrival, Gurkhan Procurer Number One, not to mention Nos 3, 4 and a couple of outsiders, GP#2 gets the goods. Nods from the women still on the block-- Xena fetched a good price. Shades of HSCMA, one of them earlier gave Xena the low-down on the future she had in store for her if she did *not* make it to Gurkhan's harem. Ew. Puts me in mind of a Lifetime channel after-school special.
There's more, inside. Same kind of thing, only turned on its head. In the group bath, there's a wife/slave who dreams every waking moment of her fiance' as a panacea against the horrors of her daily life. That's also a plot point, so make a note. In the midst of all this cheery back-washing comes Number One Wife, who walks surprisingly steadily considering the size of the chip on her shoulder. Have you ever just wanted to smack someone into next week? That's Number One Wife. Patty Hearst got nuthin' on this bitch. She lets the rest of them know where they stand, and it's somewhere behind and below, say mebbe a mile, of her.
And she's a blonde, too. Hm.
Clicking right along, later that day or possibly next week, the other blonde in the ep makes her appearance on the arm of Superlious (aka Virgil), who is offering her and her dancing and her untouched status as a gift for the great Gurkhan, who ain't heard of Perdicus, well, it's been 27 years or so and he wasn't that memorable then. Ol' Gurk's dumb enough to go for it, he's a guy, and Gabrielle (it's her! I was shocked when the veil came off, I was.) shimmies and shakes, I think she does, the camera does focus quite closely onto her belly button, and shimmers and quakes. Gurkhan is charmed. Gabrielle has a knife tucked into the notions and gewgaws that make up the back of her haltar, or she does at the end. No sign of the knife beforehand, and it's not a size of cutlery one might mistake for a brassiere fastener. Wherever it came from, Xena leaps out and tackles her, just as Gabrielle's about to go for the gusto, whispering she had the situation under control before sending Gabrielle to dreamland once again. The guards surround them and take Xena away, after kicking her unconcious, it's a kind of tit for tat thing, without which the Universe becomes unbalanced. There's a lot of that kind of thing in this ep, once you start looking for it, you can't see anything else. That's part of what makes this ep so cool, all them eternal verities and stuff. And belly dancing, of course.
Some have said that Gabrielle was about to knife the wrong Gurkhan and that's why Xena dove into the act. Myself, I think that it was cos Gab's was patently a suicide mission, what with all the guards being there and wide awake. The camera kept showing one of the GP's from the auction, but all them boys were clustered together in the middle of the room, so it's odds on who Gabrielle was gunning for.
Well, never mind that-- it's time for some more light-hearted, campy fun and games. Xena's taken to the dungeon, where's she's hung up, beaten bloody, kicked, knocked unconcious and woke up so they can do it all again. Throughout this senseless, brutal and purposeless footage, what keeps Xena from going under are her visions of Gabrielle, alternately dancing and offering comfort. Lesson for the kidlings: should you ever be a POW of a nation which does not observe Geneva Convention rules, hallucinate. (This also goes for working for large corporations, btw.)
Gabrielle (the real Gabrielle) tries to see her but cannot. Eventually, though, Xena's released back into the harem and Gab can get on with the comfort part. (The torture dude first addresses Xena as "Sophia", then after she's convinced him of her loyalty to Gurkhan, renames her "Fatima". Works for me.) Within a very short time, Xena's completely healed up and in Olympic form. Next time I stub my toe, I want Gab to kiss it and make it better. Apparently, for her it's more than just a nice gesture.
While Xena's recovering (her body was black and blue all over, eyes blacked and swollen and oozing cuts over them, lips swollen, chapped and bruised, teeth untouched, bright white and in perfect order. Amphipolis water must just be 90% flouride.), she and Gab have a sensitive chat (the servant's right there, washing bruises away from Xena's arm, but she doesn't react to their talk of killing Gurkhan, maybe all the wives talk of killing him, I dunno) about Sarah, and Mom and Pop being offed, and Xena says she has a plan and Gabrielle can kill Gurkhan but she has to be ready. Gabrielle's ready, sir yes sir, you bet.
The plan goes into action when Xena's picked to "dance". Now it's her turn to shimmy and shake and show off her belly button and do stuff with a scarf I've never seen before in my sheltered life. Gurkhan is predictably pleased and agrees to reward her. She demands Sarah's head on a plate. That's fine with him, but not so fine with Number One Wife. Turns out her old name from another life was Sarah. Weren't our grrls looking for a Sarah? No chance there could be two of them, is there? Gabrielle doesn't think so, either, and looks shocked and dismayed as the guards take (follow as she stalks proudly, actually) Sarah away.
Now with Gurkhan in the Great Bed, Xena has him send for Gabrielle. He thinks that is a fine idea, what a cool new Number One Wife he's got. He's happy as a puppy dipped in warm bacon fat, leastways until Xena puts the Pinch on him. She turns him over to Gabrielle Montoya, who disdains actually killing him but does let him know why she's perturbed with him. Then she beats on him while he's still helpless from the Pinch. Since it makes her feel better, and he is the same scumbag in whose dungeon Xena was just whupped up on while similarly helpless, I guess it's okay. Anyway, it's more of that Universe balancing stuff.
They go to the dungeon and rescue Sarah, who is shocked to find out who Gab is, and Xena, and remorseful about her treatment of them and all the others and is going to need a lot of therapy, but Gabrielle insists on comforting her and it's a really nice scene.
They've drug Gurkhan down with them, and what we don't see is that they apparently dress him up as Sarah and leave him in her place. What they did about disguising his moustache is anyone's guess. The light ain't so good down there, so maybe they figured the pretty robe and headdress would suffice.
They stop by the harem long enough to invite the rest of the women to join them on their little cruise ship. It's a tiny junque, and there's like 20 of them, but maybe they don't mind sleeping on deck. Well, it *is* the Medditeranean. At some point in their leavetaking, guards stop by the cell and whack off Gurkhan's head, so that was a good disguise after all.
So that's all the loose ends tied and the tied ends loosed. The sun is shining, the waves are sparkling, the porpoises are playing, Magador is no doubt being looted and burned behind them by warring factions and Sarah learns she's not the biggest villain on board. Be darned if I can figure where Virgil's got to, but we were done with him after he delivered Xena to the Palace.
All in all, very cool ep. A serious lack of butt-kicking (I do not count the dungeon torture scene, that was just something else entirely), and rather more dancing than I'm used to seeing, but on the other hand, a total absence of glowing green pits to eternal damnation. And there's butt-kicking next ep.
This commentary is by Josh Harrison.
As you may remember from my previous reviews, I haven't been terribly pleased with Season Six so far. I feel that the episodes have been somewhat dull, and the writing hasn't been up to the standards that I've come to expect from the series. That said, I was thrilled with this most recent offering by the Xenastaff, which marks the first script by R.J. Stewart this season.
A comparison of this episode to the previous three shows just how good R.J. is. There were no gaping plot holes that I could find. The characters were true to their backgrounds and motivations. The tension and drama were cranked much higher than last week's "Heart of Darkness." This is how Xena should be written.
And yet, the storyline is much less complex than anything else we've seen this season. It is a story driven by the characters, rather than by some artificial plot mechanic that must be satisfied. In my opinion, it stands even with the best dramatic episodes of the series.
(It is, I suppose, possible that the recent spate of mediocrity we've been subject to has made me much more forgiving of the foibles in a solid episode like this one. Still, even after watching it a couple of times and thinking about it, I find myself enthralled by the taut storytelling.)
The plot in this episode focuses on Gabrielle. She returns to Potedeia to find out what has happened to her family in the twenty-five years since Ares put her and Xena on ice. Gabby's sister Lilla still lives in the old house, and passes along some troublesome news. A villain known as Gurkhan kidnapped Lilla's daughter, Sarah, years earlier. When Lilla's husband and parents went to retrieve her, Gurkhan had them executed.
This sets up the primary conflict for the episode. Driven by grief and rage, Gabrielle resolves to travel to North Africa and kill Gurkhan. Xena, who knows that vengeance is not a healthy reason to do anything, goes along to make sure Gabrielle doesn't make a huge mistake.
Xena and Gabrielle infiltrate Gurkhan's harem, learn the fate of Sarah, and rescue the other slaves in the harem. It is a tightly woven story with high personal stakes for both Xena and Gabrielle. Gabrielle seeks revenge for her dead family, and Xena is afraid for Gabrielle's life and moral stability.
The episode is directed by Michael Hurst, and contains a lot of his trademark sensuality. Much like his earlier directing credit, "Antony & Cleopatra", Hurst uses the camera here to contrast the internal and external natures of the characters. There is a lot of moral ambiguity in this episode, and Hurst uses it wonderfully. The physical beauty of the characters often masks a dark undercurrent in their heart.
Last week's episode also had a great deal of sensuality, but when compared to the beauty crafted here, "Heart of Darkness" comes across as cheap titillating smut, while this episode is high-class erotica.
There are two things I would like to focus on in this episode. The first is the near-fatal sacrifice Xena makes for her friend. When Gabrielle arrives in Gurkhan's palace and attempts to kill him, Xena stops the assassination. Not only that, she takes the fall for her friend, knowing that it very well may cost Xena her life.
The love and devotion shown in this act are tremendous. Xena willingly accepts the punishment that Gabrielle would have earned. Subtexters should rejoice at this affirmation of Xena's love for Gabrielle.
In fact, the phantom appearances of Gabrielle while Xena is being tortured relate to a comment that Xena makes earlier in the episode. She tells one of the other harem girls to keep thinking of her fianc‚, because the image of someone she loves will carry her through the ordeal. In the same way, Xena clings to Gabrielle's image to carry her through the abuse and torture that she suffers.
I wouldn't be surprised if a hue and cry were raised over the brutal treatment we witness while Xena is in Gurkhan's dungeon. Abuse against women is a serious problem in our society, and images of abuse are sure to be shocking.
I would caution people to go with their knee-jerk reaction to the sequence, however, because it goes to show the depth of Xena's love for Gabrielle. Even if you don't accept the sexual interpretation of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship, you cannot deny that this sequence irrefutably affirms Xena's love for her friend.
The other issue I would like to mention is the parallel story construction that occurred with the mystery over Gurkhan's identity, and the mystery of Sarah's identity. It was very well handled. This jaded and cynical TV viewer was caught off guard by the revelation of Sarah's identity.
The mystery of Gurkhan's identity served to distract us from the other mystery - which of the girls in the harem was Gabrielle's niece? The way the story played out, we were intentionally led to believe a different girl was Sarah. They chose an actress who bore a strong physical resemblance to Willa O'Neill (who plays Lilla), and the episode was directed so that we might be led to believe she was the wayward niece.
Of course, when the moment of discovery finally came, it made perfect sense. I take it as a sign of good writing that I was distracted enough to not pierce the mystery of Sarah's identity. It appears that Sarah takes more after her aunt than her mother. It was an excellent job of casting and directing.
Excellent performances abounded in this episode. Xena and Gabrielle's role-reversal was well played. In the early episodes of the series, Gabrielle was often the one acting to restrain Xena's more murderous impulses. Lucy and Renee both turned in wonderful work - Renee played the grief-stricken vengeance seeker wonderfully, and Xena played the devoted friend with her head on straight.
Eve's role in this was likewise good. She provided some background on Gurkhan and the city, and also served as a parallel to Sarah. The final scene on board the ship where she Sarah and Eve were talking about the past and how they could be forgiven was well written and well acted.
The actress who played Sarah likewise gave a good performance. She played much of the episode as a stone cold *itch, but when the truth was uncovered, the shattered little girl came out. The scene in the dungeon when X & G rescue her was heart wrenching.
Even Virgil, one of the more popular punching bags, served a purpose in this episode. He helped Xena and Gabrielle infiltrate the harem, and got out of the way once they were there. He filled the role that traditionally would have been taken by either Joxer or Autolycus (depending on when the episode was made). He distinguished himself from either one of those characters, however, and stayed out of the way once his job was done.
The only character that wasn't really developed was Gurkhan himself, but we didn't need him to be. He was a fairly typical Xena villain - a warlord who is taking advantage of innocents. Judging by the abuse perpetrated in his dungeons, he deserves the punishment meted out at the end.
All around, this is an excellent episode. It is amazing what somebody who knows the characters can do to produce a solidly written script. Wonderful acting and directing, stunning visuals, and a tightly woven storyline make this episode an instant classic (at least, in my humble opinion). After careful consideration, I give this episode the coveted "A" rating.
This commentary is by Amol Sathe.
I taped "Who's Gurkhan" when it aired, and just recently sat back and watched it...and rewatched it nearly three times. The episode was visually stunning, and surprisingly entertaining, even without my favorite, action-packed, Xena fight scenes.
I was hooked to the episode from the start. In "The Haunting of Amphibolus" Xena got her chance to go home...and was faced with tragedy. Now Gabrielle comes home...and meets the same fate. She learns from her sister, that her parents and brother-in-law were killed by the powerful Gurkhan, and her niece, Sara was kidnapped. Eve knows that Gurkhan is in North Africa...so what do they do? They go to North Africa.
I was getting flashes from "The Return of Callisto" when I saw blood-thirsty Gabrielle. That part of the storyline was particularly annoying for me, especially when Gabrielle made the same decision (to not kill Gurkhan), as she had in "The Return of Callisto," for the exact same reason...even though she did beat the crap out of a defenseless Gurkhan anyway, which gave me some satisfaction...
Other than that one annoyance, I really enjoyed this episode. The audience was treated by not just one, but two, visually stunning dances. The first one, by Gabrielle, was more "dancing girl" type, giving off the impression of Gabrielle's innocence (or whatever was left of it) while also making her seem a bit naughty. Xena's dance was more of a "seductress" type. While Gabrielle had merely danced, Xena stripped off those veils, and was ALL OVER Gurkhan. Her dance was also a treat to watch. Those tantalizing dances definately made up for the missing fight scenes.
Gabrielle looked absolutely beautiful with her hair braided back. It made her hair look a bit longer, and less "butch." Xena, on the other hand, looks a lot better with her bangs. Still, both women looked extremely good in their African garb.
The twist with the "Number One wife" being Sara was highly predictable...yet still effective. The actress who portrayed Sara did a good job, and Gabrielle's line of "Are you ever in the right company" at the end, was fitting. Xena, Gabrielle, Eve, and Sara all had inner demons to face.
While the one thing lacking in this episode was a good fight-scene, it still turned out to be extremely entertaining. The dances were tantalizing, the gals were yummy, and everything else was just wonderful! I think this episode might also foreshadow a future XWP episode, in Japan, since Xena meets that woman named Yao who is from a land "further than Chin. They call it, the land of the rising sun."
This commentary is by Shana.
You know that silly noise cartoon characters make when they shake their head out of befuddlement? That sound is echoing through my head right now. This was an odd and rather disorienting episode. I'm not sure if I liked it or not...I've got to watch it again to figure it out.
An alternate title for this episode should be The Rainmaker. Anyone who has seen the preview for this episode has seen Gabs declare "I WANT VENGEANCE", followed by a nice little surprised jump from Xena. What you don't see is Xena flinches because she knows they are about to get pelted by a HARD rain...very nifty effect!!
So basically, our travelling foursome (yes, that's four count em, four, Xena, Gabrielle, Eve, and Virgil), are travelling to Gab's home to check in with the folks. It seems Gab's Mom has been accused of being a witch, and was burned at the stake...whoops, no that was Xena's Mom...No, actually, Gab's parents and her brother in law have been murdered by this slave owner named Gurkhan. He has taken Gab's niece, Sarah, to be his slave, and Gab is determined to rescue her and bring Gurk's tyranny to an end. Won't these poor girls learn not to go back to childhood homes; they have yet to see someone with good news.
So they set out by see to travel to some place I can't spell, and the dialogue is established that Gabrielle is going to kick some Gurkhan butt "You're right, Xena, today I'm not an assassin, but tomorrow..." Some interesting talk between Xena and Eve ensues, where Eve tells Xena she inherited her talent to kill in cold blood. Xena confirms, "It's a gift." Somehow, I never considered that a gift! Blue eyes, yes, lethal combat skills, nope.
Now here comes the part, some fans aren't going to like....Xena and Eve muse that despite Gab's anger, she won't have the skill or strength to complete her mission of vengeance. In an effort to save Gab's from suicide, Xena "cures her sea sickness" (yes, it reappears), by giving her a brew that effectively renders her unconscious so Xena and Virgil can get to Gurkhan first.
Virgil doesn't want to go, and I see some definite flashes of Joxer here...but Xena threatens him telling him he will have to wear a pasta strainer on his head...no, I made that part up...but she does manhandle (tee hee) him, and he becomes "Superlius", the slaver, who arrives at the big auction (Just go with me here...I ain't makin' this up!), to sell his prize, Sophia aka. Xena.Xena (to Virgil): Make it look good.The auctioneer, pleased with Xena's...errrr...Sophia's looks, shows off ALL her assetts while Joxer...er Virgil gets an eyeful, much to Xena's consternation. If looks could kill, Virgil would have died with his eyes still glued to her anatomy in the exact same place Ares seemed to like in Chakram. I'm beginning to think Xena has "Kiss me, I'm Greek" tattooed on her chest the way the guys like to look at it with the open mouthed stare. Seems like Virgil and Ares have something in common too. Note to Virgil...if you don't want to be traumatized for life...the first time you look at a naked girl...don't let it be Xena. Hee hee...his expressions during this scene are priceless!
Seconds later...still to Virgil: Not that good!
So Sophia goes to the highest bidder who is, of course, Gurkhan, but this guy is elusive. Xena tells Virgie to find out which one is Gurks and stand behind him to learn something from him during the bidding, but Gurkhan doesn't stand in one place for long. Xena is going to his harem chambers...okay, I don't think the word "harem" is ever used, but that's what it is...and while she's settling in, doing a little "Warrior Princess Therapy", or "Hi, my name is Sophia... who are you, where are you from, why don't you leave"...etc....Gabs is waking up from a long winter's nap (not twenty-five years this time, thank the gods!)
Gabs is peeved that Xena tricked her (can you blame her?), and tells Eve "That peaceful smile isn't going to cut it" when Evie refuses to tell her what Xena is up too. And interesting exchange comes up here that's gonna make a lot of people unhappy, but Virgil says rather casually, as if it was established a long time ago, "I love you", referring to Gabrielle. Now what kind of love is it? The love of two friends, or the love of a man for a woman? Beats me, but I don't like the way it was just left hanging there in the open.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, a blonde is sizing up Gurkhan's newest auction conquests, and of course, she takes an instant dislike of Xena. Why is it so easy to pick out the villains on this show? The blonde tells Xena and the others that she is Gurkhan's number one wife, and no one is going to take her place. Aha! Sounds like a challenge to the Warrior Princess...er Slave Princess. A kick to Xena's face doesn't help the blonde's chances of surviving the episode much, especially when she tells Xena "Bad dog". Good thing Xena lowered her head right then. That's gotta be tough!
Time for another fly in the ointment...The fly is Superlius...aka Virgil. Xena knew she was in a precarious situation, and was being closely watched, especially by wife #1, so her expression was fairly well-guarded when Superlius offers his token gift to Gurkhan, a Greek Amazon princess! Gabrielle's look is half Bo Derek, half hula dancer, and all abs of steel. She proceeds to dance for Gurks and his cronies. This is the kind of scene that brings the subtext issue to mind once again, and especially in light of last week's episodes, I was questioning it again. For much of the dance, Gabrielle was behind Xena, and Xena seemed to be watching other's reactions more than Gab's movements, but when Gab was in front of Xena, there was another one of those odd looks in Xena's eyes. It definitely wasn't a look of pleasure, it was more like...and boy is this a weird thought...a mother disapproving of her child's actions! Whoa! Too complex for me! Virgil who is obviously enjoying Gab's dance, catches Xena's displeased gaze at him, and immediately stops enjoying the dance. I'm telling you, Joxer is very much present in him!
Towards the end of the dance, we (we? I sound like a doctor!) catch a glimpse of metal, and suddenly Xena launches herself on top of Gabs, knocking her flat on her face. Gab's gasps "Xena!" and Xena says"I had this under control." Then comes the "trust me" line, and she knocks Gabs out! Whoa again! The amazing thing is, after viewing this again, I don't see how Gabrielle could have seen Xena from the position she was in when she was tackled....she had to just know it was her. Interesting....Anyway, Xena gets a couple of vicious kicks to the head, and passes out on top of Gabrielle...subtexters anyone? There's an image that lingers!
Now up to this point, I was pretty much on top of things, but here's where I get a bit confused. We see Gab's hand pulling a knife concealed in the back of her dress, which Xena grabs from her as soon as she tackles her, but no one else seems to realize Gab's had the knife to begin with. After the commercial break, I expected to see Xena rising up the ranks of the wife heirarchy...(Watch out #1, someone's breathing down your neck....the dance off is coming soon), and meanwhile, I expected Gab's to face the India rubber torture or some similar awful fate for her assassination attempt. That's why I was so discombobulated (ain't that a great word?), when after the commercial, Gab's is blissfully in with the harem while Xena is getting the Tartarus beaten out of her!
Now I've seen Xena beat up. "The Gauntlet" comes to mind immediately. But compared to the way Gurkhan treated her, TG was a makeover gone slightly wrong! Wow, what a makeup job!! Her left eye was totally unrecognizable! Classy guys, those Gurkhan guys...they aim all their blows at Xena's head and upper body. Trust me... you're going to be shocked by this one, if you haven't already seen it! During the beating, you learn they thought Xena was the one with the knife to begin with, and that's why she was being punished...because she was jealous Gab's might become the number one wife... Oooookay. They leave her hanging upside down, with her blood dripping into an ever growing puddle on the floor...that's gotta make that head pound even more!! The whole time I was thinking..."She's letting them do that to her." She didn't fight back a bit. I expect a serious guilt trip on Gabrielle's part very soon.
Now comes the revenge of the subtext, at least for me. In the cell, where Xena is still hanging upside down, barely recognizable (thank the gods they didn't knock out any teeth...that's what told me it was still LL), a man, Gurkhan, begins questioning her. While he is doing so, Gabrielle appears before Xena and continues her dance, for Xena's eye (not eyes, one of them is useless) only. Xena never stops watching her the whole time...hmmmm....I'm watching this scene again...man did she get her ass kicked!! Anyway, Gurkhan asks her why she had a knife, Xena answers to make sure the other wives didn't get the jump on her. She tells him she's there because she wants to be...she wants to be the number one wife. Methinks she'd better clean up first. Gabs is there, (and yes, it's a vision), to remind her why she was going through this. The one word she speaks, "Sarah", who is Lila's daughter, keeps Xena focused enough to answer the questions.
Okay, time for the cartoon head shaking sound effect now, because after she says she wants to be number one, Gurkhan laughs and says, " Let's just start by calling you ...(are you ready for this?) ..... Fatima." Huh? Xena is now Sophia is now Fatima. Perhaps there is some significance of "Fatima" I don't know...someone fill me in if they can! Next scene...subtext still very much present....is of Xena/Sophia/Fatima....okay, I'll just call her Xena for simplicity's sake, is of Xena dragging herself back to the harem, amidst the gasps of the wives. She does that brave "I can walk" Warrior Princess thing...what is it? "Too tough for my leathers?", and collapses at Gabrielle's feet. Gabrielle scoops her up, and her face looks very much like first season Gabrielle, somehow. Someone asks Gab how Xena is....and with a half smile on a very busted up face, XENA answers, "Peachy." Gabrielle presses her face to Xena's as they fade out.
Xena's recooperative powers are very much intact, because in the next scene, she already looks very much improved. She is sitting on a bench, wearing nothing but a towel and a half, revealing a very bruised back and very white breasts. Either Lucy has been working on her tan, or the makeup people decided Xena never skinny dips anymore. Anyway, Xena and Gabrielle discuss their situation, and Xena tells Gab she will get the chance to kill Gurkhan. Gabrielle thanks her, and Xena says, "Don't thank me, just be ready."
Gurkhan makes a surprise appearance to his harem, to pick his dancer for the night, and guess who he chooses? Yep, Fatima. She looks totally healed by now. Now it's Xena's turn to dance. Gabrielle does some interesting paint work on Xena's anatomy (that's from fourth season, isn't it?), and then Xena starts doing her thang. For a lady who's had two babies, Lucy is in incredible shape. There wasn't a body double used for this one, and I will be interested in how the guys of the group compare Gab's and Xena's dancing. They both had different motives and styles, and I'm not sure whose was more effective. Xena's was a little more...direct...but isn't that par for the course?
Now it's time for more Biblical flashbacks. At the conclusion of Xena's dance, she tells Gurkhan, "I have a request." I knew what was coming before he asked what it was. Anyone remember John the Baptist? What was the request of Herodias' daughter after she completed her dance for Herod? She wanted John the Baptist's head on a platter. Guess who's head the Warrior Princess wants on a platter?
Of course, she asks for Sarah's head on a plate. This gets quite a response from everyone...because Sarah has never been revealed. Anyone who has been paying attention has probably figured out that Sarah is number one wife, the blonde who called Xena a dog....(bet she'll regret that!). I'm sure Xena already knew who Sarah was, but from the look on Gabrielle's face, I don't think she knew. Poor Gabs!
Okay, last commercial break, and now Xena is alone with Gurkhan, starting to put the seductive moves on Gurkhan. She tells him "I have an idea," and whispers in his ear. He seems to like this idea, and no wonder, he's about to be in the first menage a tois with Xena and Gabrielle...remember it was the Furies when it was with Ares. Gabrielle enters the room slowly to see Xena straddling Gurkhan who is looking very smug at this point. Then comes the first real glimpse of the Warrior Princess since she took off her leathers in this episode. She sees Gabrielle enter, then turns to Gurkhan with a sneer we all know, and puts the pinch on him, calling him a "dirty bastard". She stands up, hands a knife to Gabrielle, and says, "If you're going to do it, do it now."
Does Gab do it? No, of course not. And Renee does a great job in this scene, and the scenes after it. She is one pissed off "Little One" as Gurkhan calls her.
To make a long story short, I know...too late...Gurkhan will no longer be a threat to the world (he ends up being killed by his own men), Gab and Sarah learn about each other, while Xena looks on in a very powerful scene, and the threesome, Xena, Gabrielle, and Sarah, offer the other wives the chance to take a cruise. They're back on the boat, and for some reason, they don't change clothes, Xena and Gabrielle are still in harem clothes. Sarah is very sad, saying "How could she ever love me again, after what I've become?" referring to her mother. Eve, who is standing next to Gabrielle offers very wise and goose bumpy words, "You don't know mothers very well, do you?" Sarah says, "You don't understand, I've done terrible things, how could I ever be forgiven?" Gabrielle smiles slightly, says "Are you ever in great company?", gives a glimpse to Eve, then one of those long soulfull looks at Xena who has been watching. Xena breaks out into a wide smile, which is actually enigmatic if you over-analyze it, which I tend to do. And that's it.
After writing all this, I find I do like the episode, but I wouldn't call it classic Xena. I didn't include everything, of course, including one cute little bit where Xena is talking to one of the wives who is from the land of Chin. She tells Xena she wouldn't have heard of it....oh well, I guess I included it, after all...but there are still some other surprises I left out. Hope you enjoyed reading about it, and all comments and criticisms are welcomed!
WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR
11-12-00. From Marc Mackay. Global TV up here in Quebec did not show "Who's Gurkan?" on Saturday the 28th at 4:00 PM eastern time. As you may have recalled from my e-mail last week, they had not shown "Heart of Darkness" last week. This makes the second time in a row, Third time in the past three seasons that they have done so.(Last time was the fourth season India episode "The Way".). This was their official answer:"Global did not air Xena this past weekend due to the sexual / violent nature of the episode."I was told the Programming group was thinking of changing the airing time of Xena to a later time. If you wish, I will inform you of the decision as soon as I hear of it myself. I am unsure whether they plan on replacing more episodes, or if these were the only two that were causing problems. But judging from the news of a possible time shift I think there is trouble ahead.
09-28-00. Willa O'Neill on September 2, 2000 at the London UK convention called Panathenaea stated that the prosthetics that she wore to play Lila 25 years older took a long time to get into.
09-28-00. It appears that the whole point of WHO'S GURKHAN is the dance of seven veils that Xena does. So, do not expect character development or story, just eye-candy! Also, it appears that Gabrielle gets to beat the crap out of some guy who is either already unconscious or becomes unconscious after she starts. Let's hope it has something intregal to do with the over all story arc of "Gabrielle ponders violence".
09-28-00. Early in September 2000, Fandom.com posted some XENA articles which mentioned some scenes from GURKHAN, including one where Gabrielle does some body painting on Xena (I guess old habits are hard to give up) and while Xena is being tortured she keeps an image of Gabrielle in her mind that helps her through it.
09-02-00. Turns out that the earlier considered Virgil and Eve experiment in dating was nipped in the bud by the time filming came around. Adrienne Wilkinson at the Cherry Hill NJ con (August 26-27 2000) stated that Virgil and Eve did not walk off into the sunset together as an early purported script directed. This episode will be the last appearance of Eve that we know of. Wilkinson mentioned that there was an ambiguous mention of maybe using Eve in the last half of the season.
09-02-00. UNDER THE SWELTERING SKY was an old name for WHO'S GURKHAN. This episode ties with DEVI over name changes! Anyways, it appears this is an homage to the novel by Paul Bowles, "Under the Sheltering Sky", about a woman who goes into the desert with her partner and then gets kidnapped by a group of desert people and goes "native". Something to think about.
09-02-00. Some buzz that Xena might get branded in this episode. Aren't brands permanent? That's one reason I am not that confident of this rumor.
09-02-00. The Gabrielle trilogy of WHO'S GURKHAN, LEGACY, and THE ABYSS appears to be the strongest episodes of the first half of the season. Reports have the North Africa episodes (GURKHAN and LEGACY) being visually arresting.
07-18-00. Andrienne Wilkinson (Eve) spoke at the Xena Palace 07/15/00. Click here for a complete transcript. At the Palace she spoke of a singing scene which was cut from GURKHAN: "In the last episode that I filmed Lucy, Renee and I were supposed to sing- so we practiced a few days before- but when it came time to do it- it seemed silly and out of place- so we left it out --- it was a little to "sound of music" for how dark the ePisode was."
07-12-00. In June 2000, Sharon Delaney (Official XENA Fan Club) announced that in the Official XENA Fan Club Kit #4, a video about the making of WHO'S GURKHAN will be included. Delaney posted on June 2, 2000:I recently spent 9 days on set in New Zealand filming every aspect of the making of this episode.
It covers the first readthrough of the script; early morning makeup sessions and porridge; wardrobe; props; set design; the choreographer teaching the actors dance routines [Research has shown that this episode will not be a musical, but will have choreographed dance sequences involing a harem in Morocco]. ; filming on board Rob's Folly (that ship with the ubiquitous eye that has, sadly, been painted over); Tilly, Barbie, Mac and Zulu (who he?? wait and see (G)); Adrienne Wilkinson, William Gregory Lee, and Willa O'Neill (guesting on this episode); a prosthetic eye and blood in a dixie cup; harem girls and Turkish baths; pseudo North African body decoration and Gabrielle painting by the numbers (painting who? hmmm); exotic costumes; an Amazon village, Poteidaia and a strangely haunted Amphipolis; an incredible rainstorm; Renee kicking the stuffing out of a poor defenseless pillow; Mama Lucy and her bags of chips; and, reigning over all -- Michael Hurst as director. Michael is a wonder to behold -- especially on "frock" day! (G)
There are also interviews with Lucy, Renee, Michael, Rob Tapert and Eric Gruendemann.
Renaissance gave us total access to every department and every moment of filming. It was warm, wonderful and exciting. The amount of work and the efficiency with which it is done is mind-boggling. There were cameras perched on ladders towering over my head, a focus puller in 6-inch platform heels, early morning fog pocketing the valleys of New Zealand -- and through it all, the heart of the show -- Lucy and Renee at work and at play.
I'll be editing the footage over the next two weeks and I'll keep you updated. I want to make this the best behind-the-scenes video any show has ever had :)
07-12-00. Both this episode and Legacy takes place in North Africa (although WHO'S GURKHAN starts out in Poteidaia).
07-12-00. Regardless of who Gurkhan is, this episode apparently starts a series of three stand alone episodes where Gabrielle revisits some themes of her past and finally comes to terms with them. What does that mean? It means she has not skated through the blood innocent-Dahak/Khrafstar-Elian pacificist-killing machine process and is now taking episodes to ponder what it all might mean. In this installment, Gabrielle deals with her current habit of apparently having no problem with killing in cold blood. Or does she?
07-12-00. Michael Hurst in the Official Xena Magazine #9 (06/00) stated:"I'm excited about that one... It's set in North Africa and it's about Gabrielle, who wants to take revenge. She's wrestling with what it's like wanting to kill someone for revenge and Xena has to help her deal with that. It's set in a slave arena: they sell themselves as slaves to infiltrate this place, so it`s going to be quite brutal, although ultimately it`s about the characters` love and support for each other."
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These things are by Beth Gaynor.
Poteidaia continues to change with every episode we see it... but the home is the same one we saw in Family Affair. 50% on the consistency scale.
I may not be looking hard enough at the back straps of Gabrielle's dress, but I could swear that knife she reaches for at the end of the dance isn't there for the rest of it.
Slight commercial-cut blooper: before the commercial, Xena's head falls unconscious onto Gabrielle's shoulder. After the commercial, it's down around mid-back.
Xena brings new definition to the words "quick healer." At most, a day goes by since being hog-tied upside-down, bleeding puddles and in danger of losing an eye or two, and next thing you know she's boogying to the band. I wondered during Xena's beating whether the guards would be in trouble for damaging Gurkhan's valuable property... I guess Gurkhan already knew that Fatima has the regenerative properties of a gecko.
Click here to read a transcript of WHO'S GURKHAN?.
Xena's uncanny ability to recover from devastating wounds was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.
10-26-00. Official XENA Website episode guide
10-13-00. WHO'S GURKHAN screen grabs from MaryD's Ausxip.com webpage
Graphics from Creation Entertainment:
Gabrielle comforting Xena who is knocked out on the floor Gabrielle comforting a beaten up Xena Xena in a white mask It might be Xena in the process of being tortured Gabrielle about to knife some guy. Close up of tortured Xena Gabrielle posing like an Egyptian. Xena with a whole bunch of veils on. Xena about to discard yet another veil. Gabrielle after an attempt at cornrows.