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TO HELICON AND BACK


EPISODE No. 127
Season 6, episode 615
Series 615
1st release: 02/19/01
2nd release: 07/23/01
Production number: V1419
Script number:
Approximate shooting dates: Mid-December 2000
Last update: 10-28-01


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


CAST
Tsianina Joelson (Varia)
Craig Parker (Bellerophon)
Morgan Reese Fairhead (Cyane)
Kirstie O'Sullivan (Gwyn-Teir)
Madeleie Sami (Tyro)
Marise Wipani (Kanae)
Michelle Blanchard (Mawu-Ka)

CREDITS
Written by Liz Friedman and Vanessa Place
Directed by Michael Hurst



TV GUIDE PROMO
Xena tries to save Private Ryan. Creation Entertainment

When the Amazon Queen Varia is kidnapped by a masked warrior, Gabrielle leads the Amazons to Helicon on a bloody rescue mission. Logline

Gabrielle leads the Amazons to Helicon to rescue kidnapped Queen Varia. ClickTV

The Amazon Queen Varia is kidnapped by a masked warrior, leaving Gabrielle to lead the other Amazons on a bloody rescue mission. The plan takes a downward turn, however, when Xena's efforts to counteract the warrior's catapults are ineffective. TVGuide.com

AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
1st RELEASE: 02-19-01
An AA average of 3.5

2nd RELEASE: 07-23-01
An AA average of 2.2
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
The X-Files 2.8
Stargate: SG1 2.7/2.8 (63R Maternal Instinct)
Andromeda (2.3) (14R Harper 2.0)
Xena (2.2/2.3) (127R To Helicon and Back)
BeastMaster (2.1/2.2) (32R Heart Like a Lion)
VIP (2.1/2.2)
Earth: Final Conflict (2.0)(23R First of its Kind)
Profiler 2.0
Maximum Exposure (2.0)
The Invisible Man (1.9/2.0) (9R The Value of Secrets)
The Lost World (1.7) (36R Under Pressure)
Baywatch Hawaii (1.6)
Relic Hunter (1.5) (27R Fertile Ground)
The Outer Limits (1.5) (132R Final Appeal Part 2)
Early Edition 1.5
Sheena (1.3/1.4) (21R Marabunta)
Queen of Swords (1.1) (13R Kidnapped)



SYNOPSIS 1:

This synopsis is by Bluesong.

Gabrielle and Varia clasp arms and discuss their fight in the previous episode. Xena says she is going to the forest while the Amazons do their Amazon only celebrating. Gabrielle watches while Varia is made queen. She gets her arm cut and she raises her bloody hand to a dark sun. Xena does her own little ceremony in the woods, making way for a new Amazon nation.

Masked riders on horses attack, yelling "death to the Amazons." The Amazons fight back. Xena does her trademark yell and comes dashing in. One masked man goes after Xena. Xena and Gabrielle find each other and stand back-to-back, fighting off masked dudes. Varia fights very well. Then the one guy who went after Xena takes Varia and throws her over his horse. He says, retreat, let them come after us. Lots of Amazons lie on the ground. Cyane looks up and says "they've kidnapped our queen."

Xena picks up a mace. She says it is from Helicon. Gabrielle says that in Greece. She says Xena should lead them, but the Amazon queens who made Varia their over-all leader says they have to follow an Amazon, and they pick Gabrielle. Xena says she will go knock off their leader while the Amazons attack from the water.

Varia talks to the leader. He says he had intended to kill her, but his plans changed. Varia says her sisters will come after her. He says he knows that.

The Amazons light a funeral pyre for the dead. Xena rides off on a horse. The Amazons all get in a boat and hit the ocean. Cyane asks one woman for coins; she says if she owes a debt she won't die. Another woman says she is worse than Joxer facing the dryads because she is scared.

Xena greets the leader and learns his name is Bellepheron. They fight. Bellepheron knocks Xena a good one and she says she's been hit like that before, but not by a mortal. Bellepheron says he is the son of Artemis, and he is avenging her loss of the Amazons. And Xena murdered Artemis, and now she'll pay. Bellepheron yells for his guards. He says he knows that Gabrielle and the Amazons are in the boat. He tells the guards to fire the catapult. Xena breaks away and runs and dives off a cliff.

A flaming catapult hits the boat, which catches on fire and starts to sink. Xena sees the burning boat. Gabrielle tells the now-swimming Amazons to take the beach. They reach the beach, but are assaulted by arrows and catapults. There are lots of dead Amazons on the beach. Cyane routes a few of the women, urging them forward. Gabrielle says they won't die there. She asks one woman to create a diversion, and the woman runs out to get catapulted and arrowed to death. While she is dying Gabrielle says run, and they all head toward some sand dunes and relative safety. Gabrielle keeps yelling for them to run. They reach the dunes, and Cyane sees someone coming from the water. It is Xena. She runs to Gabrielle.

One Amazon goes at Xena, telling her its all her fault because she didn't kill everyone while she was in the fortress. Xena tells the Amazons they have to keep calm.

Bellepheron tells Varia that the Amazons deserted Artemis when she needed them most.

Xena tells Gabrielle about Bellepheron. There are lots of dead Amazons everywhere. Gabrielle asks Xena to take command. Xena refuses, saying the Amazons won't listen to her. Gabrielle, you are it, Xena says.

Bellepheron tells Varia that they might reach an understanding. The catapults stop. One Amazon runs away, and she gets shot up with arrows and then blasted with a catapult.

Xena runs out. She tosses the chakram and hits the catapult, setting it on fire and burning the men around it. The Amazons run. One Amazon, one of the queens, is hit. Xena runs to her and carries her with them.

Varia, blindfolded and chained, walks across the beach. Cyane sees her. Xena cuts the chains with her chakram. Varia says Bellepheron let her go because a queen should die with her tribe. Varia says they will retreat at nightfall. Gabrielle says Bellepheron will come after them. Xena says he has to be stopped. Varia says she isn't leaving any wounded soldiers behind. There is an odd exchange between the three, some looks, and Gabrielle says, "You are right." Gabrielle and Varia discuss a track down from the fortress. Gabrielle says she'll go look for it.

Xena, making a raft, realizes that Gabrielle is missing. She sees Gabrielle running along the beach. Varia has a bow and arrows, aimed at Gabrielle. Xena stops her and yells for Gabrielle. Gabrielle sees Varia with the bow and arrows aimed at her, and she runs back across the beach with catapults blasting all around her. She accosts Varia. Xena says Bellepheron promised to spare the Amazons if Gabrielle dies, making Xena suffer a loss. Gabrielle says the Amazons are a sisterhood, and Varia has betrayed that sisterhood. Several of the other queens go to kill Varia, but Xena stops them. Varia says she won't do it again. Gabrielle decides to take her word, but Varia is no longer queen.

Gabrielle walks up to Xena, who sits alone on the beach. Xena is thinking of giving herself up. That's the thing about vengeance, you're never really satisfied, Xena tells Gabrielle, explaining that Bellepheron will continue after the Amazons anyway.

Xena watches Gabrielle rally the troops. She looks pensive. Gabrielle says it's time to die, maybe. Xena says it seemed like someone else, and Gabrielle says it was, it was the Queen of the Amazons. That's who I am whether I like it or not, Gabrielle says.

The Amazons go through the water. There are sharks. Gabrielle releases the wounded queen into the water as shark diversion. She asks Xena if that was honorable.

On land, Gabrielle recounts the name of the dead. She says death is the pathway to the afterlife, and it's time to finish the job they all began. More may die, but the Amazon nation will live on forever. Xena goes to Gabrielle. Gabrielle says she did what she had to do. Xena tries to console Gabrielle. Gabrielle says she has to be cold and ruthless to keep these women alive.

Xena rides up to the castle. She yells for Bellepheron. He comes out. He says he's beaten Xena twice. She says once, but who's counting? They fight. Xena gets a cut on her arm. She sheathes her sword and climbs on the horse and rides away. Bellepheron yells for a horse and his men. They chase after Xena. Xena stops in the woods and waits on them. She whistles, the Amazons attack. Bellepheron and Xena go at each other, still on horseback.

Gabrielle and Varia fight side-by-side for a while. Bellepheron and Xena hit the ground, still fighting. More fighting all over the place. Xena gets Bellepheron down. She tells him to walk away from the cycle of killing. She turns away. Bellepheron goes after her, and Xena slices him open. She tells him he forgot half of him is mortal. He dies. Xena watches as Gabrielle chases after a soldier. She goes to kill him, but Xena yells at her and tells her it's over. Gabrielle lets the guy go. Xena looks at Gabrielle. Gabrielle looks at Xena. Gabrielle walks over to Xena. Xena says, you won. Gabrielle says, I don't think I did. War is tough on the soul, Xena says.

Cyane calls out, Queen Gabrielle. "Your people need you," Xena says. Gabrielle walks over to the remaining Amazons. She goes to Varia, they clasp hands as they did in the beginning. "To a strong Amazon Nation," everyone says.



SYNOPSIS 2:

This synopsis is by Shana.

First thing I want to address is a real beef I had with this episode. I mean, this problem absolutely drove me to distraction and put a big minus sign on the episode before I even get into what happened. I read somewhere that twenty-five minutes of footage had to be edited out of this episode before it was trimmed to its proper length. It was a new record for a Xena episode. Either TPTB decided to edit some of that footage back in, or they should have edited more out because someone got the bright idea of SPEEDING UP the fight sequences. And not just a little but a lot...to the point that it looked like cartoon fighting in some spots. There were some good action sequences, but they were disguised well with the too quick movements of the participants. I thought slow motion fighting could be a distraction, but this was much worse!!

Now that I have that off my chest, let me summarize the rest of the episode by saying I spent a good bit of my time with my mouth gaping open, going "huh?" This episode had a lot of surprises and there was a lot of plot jammed into the time allotted. There's a good story here somewhere, just fighting to get out, but my very first impression was too much is not necessarily better. Despite that, this is an excellent look into Gabrielle's character, and it shows just how far the Battling Bard of Potodeia has come. It was a serious episode to be sure, and it was quite angst-ridden and suspenseful...shocking in some places. And it definitely hearkens to past seasons. It was a group of fighters taking on a real warlord with real decimation left in its wake. Now let's see if I can make some sense of it all...

To Helicon and Back starts out on an extremely positive note for me...it picks up exactly where Path of Vengeance left off. Apparently, after Eve took off East to wait until she meets up with our heroines at the end of the season, Xena and Gabrielle have decided to hang out with the Amazons for a while longer. The very first shot is of an upraised forearm offered by a smiling Varia which is crossed by Gabrielle's forearm. "To a strong Amazon nation," Varia declares, which Gabs echoes. "How's the eye?" Varia asks. The cut is still there on Gabs' left eyebrow. "How's the hand?" Gabrielle returns. "Fine, why?" Varia asks. Gabrielle grins and says, "I thought maybe you sprained it on my face." There's a beat, then Gabs' nose wrinkles with her grin and Xena chuckles that great throaty chuckle and Varia breaks into a head shaking grin of her own.

The two release forearms and Varia walks toward Xena, who gives her one of those mock "we're not worthy" bows. Varia tells her they'd like to "borrow" Gabrielle for a while since the ceremony is, "Amazon only...like the other ones," Xena supplies. She doesn't mind...she's going to rough it in the forest. I was bemoaning the fate of campfire scenes last week, and we get this one this week, only like in The Rheingold where it was only Gabrielle (and later Brunhilda), this one looks like it will be only Xena. I miss the fireside chats! Xena gives an odd expression when she realizes she's out on her own ...I can't really describe it. Then she holds up a hand as a wave to Gabrielle who has been beaming at her, and says, "Well, have a good time at the party...don't do anything I wouldn't do," before heading out.

There is an eclipse. Now, do the Amazons plan their queening ceremony because of the eclipse, or do they cause the eclipse with the queening ceremony? I dunno, but it makes for some very nifty lighting effects! Gabrielle and some of the other Amazons are seated on the ground, while others do the dancing thing. There's a shot of Xena by the side of the campfire, watching the eclipse with a look on her face that says something is bothering her. Varia is all dressed up in her finery, and stands with her arms outstretched. An Amazon approaches and gives her a cut across the left bicep with a wicked looking knife while Gabs winces. Varia (did you know "varia" was a legal Scrabble word? So is "xenia".) rubs her right hand in the blood and starts to lift it. There's a shot of Xena in near darkness, apparently her psychic powers (or at least an excellent sense of timing) working even as she burns her finger on a piece of meat she's cooking and whispering "to a strong Amazon nation" then Varia's hand reaches upward to superimpose on the darkened sun. As one, all of the Amazons, including Gabs, of course, raise their hands as a victorious shout goes up, "Hail, Varia, the new queen of the Amazons!!" The dancing continues with EVERYONE participating as daylight begins to appear. Somewhere in the midst of the faces, a pale blue face appears, someone NOT invited to the ceremony. Xena's pyschic senses are definitely in overdrive back in the forest because she whooshes her head upward, sensing something is very wrong. More masked faces appear, and the fight is on.

Some of the intruders are on horseback, some are on foot, and it takes the Amazons, including Gabbers, a few seconds to realize they're under attack. There's about thirty seconds of fighting, with both sides doing damage when the leader, whose mask is different from the others, pauses on his horse. Xena gives her warcry, but we don't see her entrance. The first shot we see of her is her holding her sword to one of the bad guys' throat, which she slices open while the leader watches. A non-verbal challenge, I'd say. As the fighting continues, and the sequence speeds up ridiculously, Xena throws her chakram which is deflected off the leader's sword but still takes out a couple of blue faces. Xena takes a blow to the head and is knocked down. Cyane, the Cyane we met last week is doing a great job fighting. Gabrielle does some damage with her sais as Xena hops to her feet...from her back...and jumps back into the fray. Nicole Kidman Amazon and one of the other Queens from last week get in their own respective shots, and we see Gabrielle go down. Xena is at her side in an instant, and Gabs hops back to her feet and they fight back to back. Varia takes out a few bad guys, and then the leader approaches her. They spar for a few seconds, and then the leader clouts her on the head with his scepter, or whatever you call it, and she's knocked out cold. He loads her on his horse while someone yells out, "Varia, they've got Varia!" Xena and Gabrielle still have their butts pressed together as the leader calls out, "Retreat...let them come to us!" and that's what the men do. The Amazons begin to assess their damage and Cyane walks up to Xena and Gabs. "They've kidnapped our queen", she tells them as we focus on Gabs', then Xena's concerned face and fade to opening credits.

Xena picks up the scepter and identifies it as being from Helicon, which Gabs says is a fortress on the coast. One of the Amazon queens says they have to rescue Varia. Cyane says they'll need a commander who is familiar with Greece's terrain, and looks to Xena. So does Gabs, "It should be Xena." That's what I was thinking! But oh no, Nicole Amazon has to rain on my parade and tells them they can only go to war under an Amazon queen. Xena's been studying the scepter, her back to them, but she's been listening and turning her head, whispers, "That means you, Gabrielle." Gabrielle steels herself and gives a nod to Xena, not looking 100% sure of herself.

But she takes command and they all crouch around an invisible map, and Gabs tells them the fortress is on a outcrop and the best way to attack is by the mountain pass. Xena adds, "And therefore it's the best defended." "Exactly," Gabrielle concurs, then "We attack by water." "Good girl," Xena whispers under her breath with a hint of a smile. "Good teacher," Gabs responds a little louder. Xena touches her arm to get her to walk with her. She tells Gabs that she'll sneak into the fortress, take out the leader, create a diversion, and Gabs and the others can attack from behind. Just business as usual in the day of the life of a warrior princess. Gabrielle asks what I would consider the silliest question of the week..."Xena, are you sure about going after the leader on your own?" Cut to a shot of the fortress, just as Gabs described it with a Xena voiceover..."I can handle him...let's just hope Varia can."

Inside the fortress, Varia is standing behind a man who has his back to her. "The great Varia," he says, and turns to face her. He's pretty good looking...too good looking to be so evil. He tells her he guesses her first day as queen wasn't what she expected. Varia tries her tough girl approach, "in the name of all the Amazons, I demand..." she gets out, but he grabs her face squeezing hard, telling her she's in no position to demand anything. Varia looks afraid, but wrenches her head free. She tells him he's a madman, inviting the wrath of the Amazon nation on himself. He responds that he had intended on just killing her, but his plan has changed. Varia, feeling brave again, tells him that her sisters will come after him. "I know," he tells her with a slight smile.

There's a funeral pyre for the Amazons that didn't survive the first attack, along with Ephiny's song from Maternal Instinct. Xena watches a second, puts a hand on Gabs' forearm, then mounts Argo II. She rides off, and then the moon is in the sky, and all the Amazons are on a boat, which is rocking precariously. The Amazons are extremely nervous, and Gabrielle, not known for having a great pair of sea legs is walking around, reassuring everyone. Cyane asks Nicole Amazon to lend her some coins. Nicole (she has a name...it will be used later, but for the life of me I can't remember it now) wants to know why? They don't use the same money. "I know," Cyane replies, "but knowing my luck, if I owe you money I"ll survive." I like Cyane! Nicole laughs, but Cyane says, "come on I'm serious," and they all sober again. There's an Amazon that looks remarkably like Toura, Varia's sister whom we met last week. She has dark brown eyes and dark brown hair, and looks far less battle-hardened than any of the others. She's staring into the face of another blonde-haired Amazon, who is young in age, but appears far more cynical, but turns to Gabs when she asks, "Are you all right?" She laughs nervously and says, "Some warrior, huh?" I was expecting her to compare herself to a pregnant slug, but instead she says, "I feel like Joxer facing the dryads." You know, I should have been offended by that, and so should Gabrielle, but I wasn't and neither was she. Afterall is said and done, I feel Joxer had some heroic qualities, and hate the thought of him being remembered for his lack of bravery, but the Amazon is terrified, obviously. Gabrielle puts an arm around her and tells her, "Everybody's afraid. Some people are just better at hiding it ..you'll do fine."

Xena's made it into the fortress...seemingly with no difficulty. She gets a great camera shot of her feral expression, then delivers a kick to the suprised leader, knocking him down. He smiles and starts to pick himself up as Xena walks out of the shadows with a smile. "Hello", she says pleasantly. "Xena," he says knowingly. He was surprised to see her at the Amazon camp. "LIkewise," Xena intones studying him, and then giving him a subtle headshake that says she doesn't know who he is. He stands up and walks over with a pleasant smile which Xena returns. He calls himself "Bellerephon." "It's NOT nice to meet you, Bellerephon (who shall henceforth be known as "Belle"...too hard to type), " she replies and attacks. He's good though, and after a few hits and misses from Xena, he gives her a hit that sends her flying backwards to land on her warrior butt. She looks shocked. "I've been hit like that before," she says standing slowly, "But never by a mortal." They begin to circle warily as the dialog continues. Belle tells her he was born of Artemis, "the greatest of the Olympians". Huh? If she was the greatest, why did we only see her in one episode? But Xena knows now why he hates the Amazons so much. He confirms it... Artemis watched over the Amazons, teaching them all they know, but they abandoned Artemis. "That was not the Amazons' fault!" Xena declares. "No," he agrees, "It was your fault." Uh oh! Methinks he has a personal vendetta against Xena! Xena attacks again, this time getting in a few solid kicks and blows. "You're a good enough fighter," she tells him. "So what? Does that make you a god?" But Belle knows she no longer has the power to kill gods...everyone knows it. Sheesh...I knew that secret wouldn't be safe for long, but does everyone watch Nigel's documentary? Xena murdered Belle's mother, and is going to pay. He yells for his guards, and Xena attacks yet again, getting in some more kicks, but he has drawn a knife and grabs her, pulling her back to him with the knife at her throat. He tells her, "First you, then every one of those bitches until there's not an Amazon left to draw a breath." He sees the boat and calls them "fools bobbing out there on the water". Xena's eyes reveal she knows the ship is sailing into an attack, and looks horrified. On the boat, Gabs is telling her troops they have to disembark in silence, as the element of surprise is their greatest weapon. Uh oh! Back in the fortress, Belle, still holding a squriming Xena orders the catapult to be fired. Xena breaks free, slams into his face with the back of her head and makes a running dive through an open window from the fortress, off the outcrop, and battle cries all the way into the water below.

Meanwhile, back on the boat, one of the Amazons wants to know what the screeching noise is (it's the catapult, not Xena, she's too far away), and Gabs spots the flaming ammo of the catapult hurtling toward them. "Get down!" she cries, and they all do as the stern of the boat is taken out. The boat is on fire as we fade to commercial.

The Amazons have abandoned ship. Someone asks Gabrielle what to do and she tells them to "Stay calm, We're taking the beach." The blonde Amazon says they've got catapults but Gabrielle repeats her order, "We're taking the beach." This scene will long be remembered as the A-Day invasion, at least in my twisted mind.

It is not pretty...Belle's catapults do serious damage to the scrambling Amazons. Poor Gabrielle (who is looking mighty buff in her new Amazon queen duds...very nice!) can't even stop to help her injured and dying sisters who are falling everywhere. Belle has archers on the fortress walls, and their aim is deadly. Explosions abound as the Amazons try to get to safety, following Gabreille's lead. She is running like an Olympic athlete. There are shots of Amazons trying to help their fallen sisters, only to be hit by arrows themselves. It is very, very sad. The brown haired Amazon crouches behind a rock with Gabs. "This is going to be our graveyard," she says. "We are not dying here," Gabrielle tells her. But it is obvious they are.

About this time I started asking a question I'd ask a lot during this episode. Uh...where's Xena? Shouldn't she be here now? Gabrielle is doing a great job as leader, she truely is. She's keeping her wits about her, and spots cover behind the sand dunes which lay ahead. She tells them they need a diversion. She looks at the Amazons who have made it to this point, and spots one tough looking Amazon staring straight ahead. "Trudis, can you do it?" "I'll go," Trudis replies in her Kiwi accent, wth no hesitation.

The brown eyed Amazon says she'll never make it, but Gabrielle tells her they don't have any choice. Trudis mentally prepares herself and makes a dash for it. The first catapult shot hits her, but Gabs gives the order to move. The Amazons make a mad run for the dunes, but great numbers are stopped by arrows and the catapults. It was about this time I was drawn to the parallel of this episode to A Good Day, in which Xena wants Gabrielle to take command in her absence and Gabrielle can't do it. She CAN do it now, and is doing her best, another sign of how much she has changed. She doesn't look behind her as she continues to give the order to go until they make it to the relative safety of the bottom of the rocks that the fortress is mounted upon. There is a heartbreaking shot of one of the injured Amazons calling out, "don't leave us", but there really is no choice in the matter.

At the bottom of the cliff, Cyane turns and spots the silhouette of Xena, finally emerging from the water. "Someone's coming out of the water," she cries, and all heads turn to see. Shouldn't Cyane have recognized Xena, even from that distance? Anyway, Xena is dodging catapult shots, calling out "Gabrielle" every two seconds as she makes her way to them. She drops to the ground by Gabrielle who puts a hand on her shoulder and asks a simple "What happened?" But the blonde cynical Amazon moves in and starts in on Xena, demanding over and over to know why Xena didn't do something. "We're going to die," she tells Xena..."We're all going to die." Xena takes a lot more of this than I ever thought she would, but snarls back,"Now you listen to me...yes, they've got catapults and yes, we are going to die...(huh?)...if you don't pull yourself together! (oh!)...you hear me...all of you keep calm!" She gives the blonde one more look and orders, "Get back!" The blonde moves back slowly, put in her place for now.

Varia is being forced to listen to Belle's monologue about his plans for destroying the Amazon nation. Her face has tears drying on it. He tells her its his revenge for the Amazons turning their back on Artemis.

Down on the beach, Xena tells Gabrielle they are up against the son of Artemis. "Do you understand?" Gabrielle knows what that means. "He's going to destroy us." She surveys the carnage on the beach. She puts an arm on Xena's shoulder, and tells her that she should take command. She means it. But Xena tells her the Amazons won't listen to her. "You're it," she tells Gabrielle, and for a minute there, I pictured a game of Tag...but it was a fleeting thought...this scene is too intense. "You're it."

"But maybe," Belle says (we're back in the fortress), "we can come to some kind of understanding."

On the beach, the attack has stopped. The cynical blonde wants to make a run for it, but Xena tells her "Stay put." For someone not in command, she's awfully...commanding. The brown haired Amazon wants to know why they don't want make a run for it, but Gabs says that's what Belle expects. The blonde dashes anyway, and the brunette tries to follow but is tackled by Xena. The blonde runs to the top of a ridge, and immediately becomes a pincushion with half a dozen arrows sticking out of her. She falls backwards and lays there twitching. The others watch mournfully as the catapult finds its mark and decimates her completely. Xena tells Gabrielle she has an idea. It will only buy them a few seconds but it's the only chance they've got. Gabs puts a hand to her shoulder, but she gets up to move and sprints out of the picture. She tops the same crest the blonde had just been knocked from, and why the archers didn't shoot, I don't know. But she gives a mighty chakram throw, and as the catapult moves to fire it's flaming payload, the chakram hits the top of it, severing it, and the flames explode on the men below it. It was a minor victory, but it had me cheering! "Now!" Xena screams, and Gabrielle echoes it, and the Amazons quickly advance again. Xena watches from the crest, waiting on her chakram to return, and cries out when Nicole Amazon (okay, her name is Gwyn-Teir) is hit by another catapult shot. Xena runs to her and carries her to the next advanced position as Gabrielle helps another injured Amazon to the same place. Gabrielle tells Xena that at least they're out of the line of fire. They are at the bottom of the really steep sand dunes, and across the beach, they can see a blindfolded Varia struggling to make her way to them. Cyane, who seems to have the eagle eyes of the bunch, spots her, and Xena and Gabrielle go to see her approach. The brown haired Amazon wants to know why they aren't being fired at, and no one responds. Check out Xena's expression though...she seems to have her guesses as to what's up.

Xena cuts through Varia's manacles with her chakram. Gabrielle crouches by Varia, and puts a hand on her shoulder. Varia says that Belle says "A queen should die with her tribe." There is something very odd in her voice. But Gabs tells her it's good that she's back. Varia tells them they'll wait for nightfall, then retreat. "Retreat?" Gabs repeats, looking up at Xena...they are both puzzled. Varia takes a long drink, then stands, telling Gabs and Xena that she has to get her sisters to safety. Gabrielle tells her it won't end until Belle is defeated and Xena agrees, "We have to stop them, Varia." Varia considers this, and turns back to them. "How?" Xena tells them they should go by water and set up a flanking position and move to the other side of the fortress. Gabs doesn't want to leave the wounded behind though. Xena tells them they'll be completely defenseless on the beach. Varia doesn't want to leave her sisters behind. Gabrielle tells Xena that carrying the wounded would slow them down, and more will die. Xena looks slightly offended that Gabbers is questioning her plan, but stays silent as she waits on Varia to make a decision. But it looks like Varia isn't feeling like taking her command back. She doesn't say anything. Gabrielle thinks deeply and then tells Xena that's she's right. Gabs will tell the others.

Now here's the next time I asked, "Where's Xena?" Varia and Gabrielle are huddled together, and Varia tells Gabs that she was blindolded, but she came down the mountain on a trail. Gabs says that means there's another way up to the fortress. Varia tells her they need a volunteer to find it, and Gabs says she'll go. I see a problem here, especially with the way Varia is eying Gabs. Why would Gabrielle change the plans, and not let Xena know? Xena is down on the beach, working on some kind of raft, but looks up as her psychic ability kicks in yet again. "Gabrielle?" she calls as she stands and looks for the bard. She spots Gabs a long way off, running along the beach, presumably toward the fortress. What makes matters worse, is some distance away, Varia has her bow and arrow raised, and she's aiming it at Gabrielle.

Y'know, I really thought Varia was straightened out...I really did. What is up with this character? This show is really making her a character that's difficult to like! Varia lets the arrow fly, but Xena is right there, and stops the arrow before it's completely left the bow. Xena turns and calls out Gabs' name, and Gabs wheels immediately to see Xena and Varia, the arrow still clutched in Xena's hand, the bow still lifted. The sounds of the catapults fill the air as Gabs realizes she's been ambushed, and she makes a mad run back toward Xena. What an awesome scene!! Gabrielle looks very strong as she pumps her way away from the catapult shots hitting behind her, their explosions filling the background. Very, very well-done on both the directing (thank you, Michael Hurst) and Renee's part!

Gabrielle is more than a little miffed as she moves back to the safety at the bottom of the sand cliff, with Xena at her heels. "You!" she accuses Varia, "You tried to kill me." She grabs Varia's shoulders, but Xena puts a hand on Gabs' shoulder to calm her. There's a switch! "Let me handle this," she tells Gabs, who backs off, still seething. Xena takes a breath to calm herself, and then glancing at the regret filled face of Varia, tells the Amazons "Bellerephon promised to spare you all if Varia killed Gabrielle." I KNEW that Xena knew what Belle was up to when he returned Varia. Xena turns on Varia then, snarling, "Oh, that's it, isn't it? Your tribe for my suffering?" She softens a little, and says, "He wouldn't have made good on his promises, Varia." "He swore on Artemis's grave," Varia pleads to Xena, and Gabrielle turns with a hand in the air and stalks off. Amazing! She walks a few feet away, and then turns again, saying angrily, "The Amazons are a sisterhood, Varia...you broke those sacred bonds!" Brown haired Amazon and Cyane move to draw their swords, saying Varia is a traitor and should be killed for her treason. But Gabs turns on them and tells them she won't have this kind of justice. She may be angry, but she's still thinking clearly. She tells Varia she can't come with them...because she can't worry about the enemy and Varia. Varia, very repentent, says as an Amazon queen she gives Gabs her word that she won't harm her. Gabrielle gives her a head shake and an "I don't care" expression that is so reminescent of Xena it made me laugh out loud. Gabs acts like Xena more in this episode than any other I can recall. What a reversal of roles we're getting here, because Xena, who has been standing slightly in front of Varia, obviously to protect her, tells Gabs softly, "We can't leave her here, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle looks at Xena, then steps forward, telling Varia she'll take her word. She reaches up and yanks Varia's queen pendant from her neck, and tells her, "But you are no longer queen" before stalking off again. Xena watches her retreat, her eyes revealing how shocked she is by Gabrielle, and Varia looks to Xena, looking lost.

I was feeling very uneasy at this point, especially with Gabrielle, and when the next shot shows Gabrielle walking alone along the sand dune, I thought she should have talked to Xena about all this. Then when I saw Gabrielle was walking to Xena, who was sitting alone on the dune, I realized the writing in this episode was pretty on-the-mark. They sit in silence for a moment, then Gabrielle says, "You're thinking of giving yourself up to Bellerephon, aren't you?" Xena tells her it would settle things, but Gabs says only for a moment...he'd be after them again. Xena knows this...that's the thing about vengeance, you can never be satisfied. She glances at Gabrielle and tells her she did the right thing about Varia. "She doesn't deserve to be condemned." Apparently, Gabs has calmed because she agrees, knowing Varia was desperate to save the tribe. Xena says it made her do things she never thought she'd do. Xena tells Gabs she has to rally the troops to fight...maybe even die. Gabs nods. "If that's what I have to do," she concurs. There's a long pause while Xena just stares at Gabrielle. Gabs returns the gaze and says, "Why are you looking at me like that?" Xena looks away and says, "Just doesn't seem like the Gabrielle I know." She doesn't sound too happy about it. Gabrielle responds, "It's not me, Xena...but it is the queen of the Amazons. That's who I am whether I like it or not." The camera slowly closes in on her resigned face.

It is nighttime, and the surviving Amazons and Xena are in the water, with the injured Amazons floating on rafts. One of the Amazons says she saw a shark, and another one says she felt somehing brush her leg. Xena tells them all to keep still...sharks are drawn to movements. Xena is looking to Gabrielle, who is struggling with something, and then Gabs turns to Gwyn-Teir who is on the raft. She whispers to her "Travel safely, Sister," and pulls the lifeless body from the raft and sends it floating off. A few seconds later, the body is pulled under the water.

Gabrielle immediately turns to Xena. There is pain in both sets of eyes. "Is that honorable?" Gabrielle asks. "I don't think so." But Xena puts a hand on the side of Gabs face. "Would you have given yourself for her?" she asked. Gabrielle nods definitely. "You sent her spirit in peace, Gabrielle," Xena says gently, before removing her hand and telling them "forward". They continue to move through the water. That brief scene is very tragic, and very sweet.

It is daytime again, and they have made their way to a clearing in the woods. Gabrielle has the remaining Amazons around her, and she names off some of the Amazons who have already died. Xena is crouched by a tree, her face frozen in its stoic expression. Gabrielle tells them that their deaths is not an end...it's a pathway. And she wants to know when she dies, she can grasp them by the hand and she can look them in the eye and tell them their blood wasn't spilled without purpose. In her heartfelt speech, Gabs tell them they'll finish what the dead Amazons began. "More of us may die today, but the Amazon nation...it will live on forever. That is the duty that we carry, and the everlasting honor we will hold." The Amazons listen somberly, their spirits being revived as Xena looks down, obviously touched by the power of Gabrielle's words. Gabrielle has tears in her eyes as the scene fades.

After the speech, Xena approaches Gabs, who has her back to her. Gabs is holding the sword which has been strapped to her back during the entire episode. "You okay?" Xena asks quietly. Gabs nods, "Yeah...yeah, I did what I had to do. I rallied the troops." Her voice breaks a little. Xena tells her, "Gabrielle, I can see that you're in pain," and Gabs whirls on her, whispering savagely, "Xena, don't! Don't! Don't try to make me feel better about this." The camera is on Xena who gives Gabs a tiny smile with a patient nod, as if she was expecting this. Gabrielle continues, "Half of my tribe, lies dead on the beach...now I have to be as cold and ruthless (I thought she was going to say "as you are", but instead...) as I can be. I'll do whatever I have to to keep these women alive." Xena looks at her for long seconds, then says "Let's end this now, then." There's respect in her eyes. Gabrielle nods. Xena tells her "You know what you have to do," and then she walks off. Varia watches Gabrielle as Xena leaves, still looking genuninely repentent over her actions. Gabrielle stares off camera, struggling with the weight on her shoulder, her head slightly shaking no.

Apparently, Argo II has been roaming around in the forest, because Xena is riding her up to...uh...the back door of the fortress. The layout of the land is never clearly shown, but if it was so easy to approach from this angle, why didn't they just do it to begin with? Maybe I'm not supposed to question those things. Xena stops a short distance from the door and bellows, "Bellerephon!" The camera closes in on her scowl, and then she dismounts Argo by swinging both feet free of the saddle. She draws her sword. The door opens, and no one appears. Xena growls, not caring for the theatrics. Belle peeks out the door, and Xena holds her sword point up, letting him know why she's there. "Xena," he purrs, "when will you learn?" Two guards follow him out. "I've already beaten you twice." "Once," Xena smiles, "but who's counting?" She rushes forward. They clang swords a few times, and Belle gets in two good kicks which knocks Xena to her knees. He leans in..."Is that fear in your eyes I see, Warrior Princess?" Xena is immediately on her feet again, and he gives her a barrage of punches. Now, I know I often write that I think Xena is toying with her opponents, not giving them full-thottle and as one of his punches sends her head turning, the look on her face shows she's relishing this skirmish, but is almost bored. She's just buying time. She turns back and his sword flies and cuts her...say it with me now...on the upper left arm. Xena smiles at him. He strikes again, and this time cuts her upper right arm. Another kick from Belle, and she flips over backward. As she slowly pulls herself off the ground, she holds her sword hand funny, and for a moment, I thought her wrist was broken. But no, she resheaths her sword, making some little exagerrated "this guy's too much for me" sounds, and remounts Argo II. "So disappointing when a warrior falls short of your expectations," Belle pouts, but he should be looking at Xena who is eying him from her horse. He calls for a horse, as Xena takes off down the mountain. "A horse!" Belle hollars again, and one is finally brought out, and the chase is on. Xena hightails it back to the forest with Belle and his men in hot pursuit. Amazingly enough, the soldiers on foot are just a few paces behind the ones that are riding. Xena comes to a stop in a clearing that looks awfully familiar, and turns to watch the approach.

"Xena," Belle says haughtily,"What's the matter...confronting your reputation?" Xena has her own haughty glare going, "No, confronting yours. And that wasn't fear you saw in my eyes before...it was disgust!" She puts her fingers to her lips and lip synchs...badly, I might add...a whistle, and the Amazons move on a little ambush of their own. They attack from everywhere...some of them swinging down from trees, some of them buried under brush on the ground....we've seen it before. A closeup of Belle, then Xena's eyes show these two are going to square off as the rest of the Amazons fight Belle's men. Xena and Belle play joust for a little while, then still seated on their mounts, proceed to pair off in some noisy swordplay. Then the film annoying speeds up as Gabs starts taking out bad guys with her sais and Varia uses her sword to do the same.

The action moves so dizzyingly fast that's it's hard to tell what's happening, but the Amazons are obviously winning. Belle jumps from his horse, knocking Xena off in the process and she lays on her back for what seems like the hundredth time this episode. Gabrielle plunges her sais into a couple of goons and looks for someone else to fight. Xena continues to spar with Belle as Cyane skewers some of the bad guys with her bow and arrow. Gabrielle draws her sword, which is more like a long dagger, and continues with the fight. The body count rises as the victorious "Xena: Warrior Lumberjack" music from The Abyss plays. Belle finds Xena isn't as easy as she seemed as she gives all that she gets from him. (Gee, two cliches in one sentence!) Finally she throws him to the ground, and points her sword toward him, victorious. Xena summarizes the whole plot for him..."I killed your mother to save my daughter...and you killed the Amazons to avenge Mother...so the Amazons killed your soldiers. Why add one more name to the ranks of the dead? End it here, Bellerephon. Make the decision to walk away from the cycle of killing." Why does that sound like something Gabrielle would say? Is the reversal of roles still evident? Just to prove my point, there's more shots of Gabrielle kicking butt. "Or?" Belle asks, a half smile on his face. "Or I'll make the decision for ya'" Xena replies. She lowers her sword and turns her back on him. He draws a dagger from his boot, telling her she made a mistake forgetting he's a half-god. Xena whirls on him and her sword cuts open his belly. "You forget," she sneers..."You're half-mortal too." He looks down in horror at his wound, and Xena, on one knee, says very sincerely..."It didn't have to end this way." "Oh yes," he answers, blood showing in his mouth..."It did." He collapses backward, leaving Xena to stare into his open, lifeless eyes.

She responds immediately though, when she hears Gabrielle shout,"Come on, get up!" and then watches, with great sorrow in her eyes, as Gabrielle gives chase to a retreating soldier. Last week, I made a comment about Gabrielle being Xena's conscience, and this is truely reversed this week, because as the soldier falls, and Gabrielle raises her sword with a yell to kill him, Xena screams, "Gabrielle," and Gabs stops, sword in the air. She looks around and sees Jiminy Xena, who tells her "It's over." Gabs looks at the soldier, and what she almost did, and stands up and staggers back toward Xena, her eyes full of regret. Xena's sad expression doesn't change as she watches Gabrielle, who is splattered with blood of slain men, appraoch. "You won," Xena tells her, but Gabs shakes her head. "I don't think I did," she says. "With each battle, I lose more of myself." Xena's eyes have filled with tears. "War's tough on the soul, Gabrielle," she tells her. Cyane approaches from behind Xena, saying simply, "Queen Gabrielle." Xena responds to that, and steels herself, telling Gabs, "Your people need you." Gabrielle slowly walks past her, understanding what Xena is saying, while Xena keeps her back turned for one more second, composing herself. These last two episodes have really tugged at my hearstrings!

Gabrielle slowly walks toward Varia, who is looking a little gunshy, but Gabs offers her forearm, and Varia crosses it with her own. Gabrielle gives her a forgiving smile, then turns and looks directly into the camera. "To a strong Amazon nation," she says. The Amazons around her whisper the pledge. Xena, facing the group, whispers it..."To a strong Amazon nation." And just as the scene fades, Varia, standing behind Gabrielle, repeats it..."To a strong Amazon nation."

For the record, the disclaimer is "No shark bait was harmed during the making of this motion picture."

And thus ends another powerful episode of Xena. This was a tour de force for Renee O'Connor, and she rose to the ocassion with gusto. Watching Gabrielle go through the same struggles that Xena has battled was an interesting twist. Neither acted out of character during this episode, instead, what was portrayed is how Gabrielle's character has gradually been changing over the years with Xena. Xena has changed too, and this hour reflected that as well, but it was more evident in the bard. If this is the last appearance of the Amazons, they went out on a strong note, hurting yes, but victorious none-the-less!



COMMENTARY 1:

This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.

XWP has always done really well with the "War is hell" theme. Some of their best episodes come from that base. This one will stand proud among 'em - all kinds of vicious battle scenes, a ruthless and sharp bad guy with an understandable axe to grind, amazons being amazon-ly, Gabrielle being queenly, and Xena leaping off tall parapets in a single bound.

Glad to see that Varia finally got around to that little apologizing bit for her fight with Gabrielle last week! Cute "sprained it on my face" pish-posh it gets from Gab. (Gab was "saving face" - har de har har.) But the fact that Gab so easily blew off their earlier fight - and Varia taking her time at making amends for it - shows how much more serious their tiff later in this episode is.

All the battles got that herky-jerky combat effect, when it looks like the action was filmed at half speed (and missed every other frame) and then played back at normal speed. I have mixed feelings about that effect. On the one hand, it's very cool for getting across the speed and confusion feeling of a battle. But on the other, it's rotten for really seeing what's happening.

A note for all bad guys: if you'd like to avoid the Warrior Princess's attention, don't knock down the bard!

Xena and Gabrielle have connections to a pretty impressive rent-a-barge service! I can't believe that the forest-y amazons had one of those just lying around. "Worse than Joxer facing the dryads." Lord help us all, Joxer has passed into legend.

Bellerophon got an awfully nifty introduction. He comes across as a cocky, just-this-side-of-crazy warlord hotshot... until he knocks Xena across the room and rains fire down on the sneaky amazons. Now that's the way to demand a little respect! Pretty cool way to introduce the "and by the way, you killed my mother" routine, too.

I'll give Bellerophon points for his peeve with Xena. I'm sure that to him, Eve doesn't mean beans next to Mom. But he's got some serious blinders on when it comes to the amazons. It makes perfect sense character-wise, I'm not quibbling with the writing. But that boy needed some serious time on Aphrodite's psychiatrist couch to wake him up to the fact that the amazons were getting their butts kicked for five seasons, including Artemis's own temple getting torched by a blasphemous former-amazon, and we never saw boo from Artemis until she showed up for thirty seconds to shoot at Xena. How were some more fervently-worshipping amazons supposed to stop that from happening? He even calls Artemis the "greatest of all the Olympians." That boy needs some serious Oedipal counseling.

Amazon D-day! Except this was kind of D-Day if the Nazis had managed to crack Allied codes. They get blown out of the water, have to paddle to shore, then get decimated as they charge the beach. No wonder the casualties were so staggering. It was a crucible of a battle, but these amazons didn't seem very well-trained for a large-scale battle like this. We got so many shots of the so-called best amazon warriors weeping over comrades, tugging the wounded, and generally standing in the middle of carnage in disbelief that the point about the nastiness of the fight was made, but at the expense of making these poor amazons look like babes in the woods (no pun intended).

Awesome scene when Gabrielle squares off against Varia, extremely well-played all around. But I kind of snickered during:

"You tried to kill me!"
"Let me handle this."
I completely expected the next three seconds to be:
"You tried to kill Gabrielle! *SMACK!*"

The shark scene was reeeaaallly nasty - it gave me serious chills to see Gabrielle decide on the spot that their near-dead (I took it that she wasn't dead yet, or they wouldn't bother hauling her along) Celtic Kick-butt pal was going to have to bite the dust to save the rest of them. It gave me chills in spite of the raging problems that scene had with actual shark behavior. Xena was right that movement attracts sharks... so a motionless floater would not be the first choice of targets among a bunch of people treading water. And sharks are not precision snipers. They get hungry, they attack whatever moves, and with the first bit of blood and meat they catch scent of, it's open season on everything in their reach, frequently including each other. Celtic Kick-butt would have been the appetizer.

I had really liked Bellerophon - he showed smarts and nastiness. Right up until Xena shows up at his door. And the previously smart guy decides there's no way that Varia didn't take away the amazons (even though Xena doesn't say boo about anything happening to Gabrielle) and merrily leads his men into an ambush. Man, those last-five-minute losses of 20 IQ points are painful!

Bellerophon's awfully cocky about being half god. Granted, I wasn't a faithful watcher of the show, but didn't Hercules spend an awfully lot of time worrying about that "half mortal" part? Bellerophon should have spent a little more time on that, too. And the biggest irony of the episode is that Xena is doing her darnedest to talk Bellerophon down at the same time that Gabrielle is getting more and more lost in bloodthirst.

This was an impressive "look how far she's come, for better or worse" episode for Gabrielle. Gabrielle sends wounded to die and a volunteer to a suicide run. She leads the tribe into certain decimation with the knowledge that it's the only way to prevent them all from being exterminated. It's an extreme example of following the Greater Good, of sacrificing in the name of finding the lesser evil. Gab spends most of the episode with her horribly determined face on, and pretty darned heartsick at the end of it all. Nobility has always sat well on Gabrielle. Who would have thought the little village girl would be such a natural-born leader?

Poor Xena is the only kid not invited to prom. She tries her best to be understanding while she sits in the forest muttering at her campfire while all the amazons party it up. And she REALLY tried at the end to give Gabrielle some room when queenly duties come a-calling. But this has now officially reached a crisis point. The amazons - and Xena and Gabrielle - seem to think there's no one else who can lead them. Is that true? And if so, how do you solve a problem like Xena? Isn't there any way besides rights of caste to proclaim a person an amazon? How the heck do all these gals join the tribes?

HIGHLIGHTS

The nordic amazon queen gets the Line of the Episode crown (which apparently gives her the power to make it through the episode in one piece) with "Knowing my luck, if I owe you money I'll survive. I'm serious."

Xena has awesome spidey sense. Varia's setup of Gabrielle ("Sure, just run that way across an open field") was pretty cheesy. But it was so worth it for the cool shots of Xena standing over Varia with the arrow stopped in its tracks, and then of Gabrielle running hell for leather across the field with fireballs exploding behind her. (But see previous catapult physics problems.)

Gabrielle is just cool as all get-out as she chews Varia out, throws up her hands in disbelief when Varia tries to make promises, and then declares her judgement on Varia and snatches back the queenhood faster than you can say "power is a drug." But whatever happened to Varia being the hope of the amazons and that without her leadership the amazons would die?



COMMENTARY 2:

This commentary is by Beboman.

Before I get too involved in my commentary about this episode, there is something I need to say because if I don't I'll explode: I'm getting very tired of the way these new Amazons have been treating Xena in the past few episodes. She has done more to keep the Amazon Nation safe and alive than any of those "piss ant" Amazons. I believe it is time they start treating Xena with some respect and acknowledge all she has done for them.

Besides being tired of the way Xena is treated by the Amazons, I am also getting really tired of Varia's attitude toward Xena, especially after Xena has saved her neck twice so far twice, once from Prince Morloch and the last time from her own self after getting involved with Ares. I think it is about time Varia gives Xena some consideration.

I do understand that those Amazon rituals are just for the Amazons and Xena has never claimed to be an Amazon. That is Gabrielle's thing. But treating Xena like a total outsider is just a bit too much.

If we go back a bit in the history between Xena and the Amazons and we get over the fact that Xena eliminated a whole tribe of Amazons, we come across the first encounter with Xena and the Amazons in "Hooves and Harlots". This is the episode in which Gabrielle became an Amazon Princess, but wasn't it in that same episode that Xena also became an Amazon Queen when she beat Melosa and saved both the Centaurs and the Amazons. It was a title Xena, I would guess because we never saw it, returned to Melosa after the big fight with Krykus and his men and before departing with Gabrielle.

It is true that Xena has never cared for titles other than the one she uses, "Warrior Princess", but how many more times is Xena supposed to put her life on the line for this group of women before they even take her into consideration. With this said, I'll move on. There is no need to beat a dead horse.

I have a major problem with the Amazons making Varia their new queen. So far, Varia has not done a thing to merit the title of Queen of the Amazons. Varia is a hotheaded, immature, self-centered and untrustworthy individual. This is the woman who wanted to kill the daughter of the woman who had saved her life just a few weeks or months earlier. By golly, with sisters like that, who needs enemies.

But, continuing on the path of the Amazon Nation, when Varia is captured and Gabrielle tries to give command to Xena, Red Head Amazon states that the Amazons will not follow anyone but an Amazon. Yo kid, who else better than Xena to follow into battle. This is a woman who singlehandedly fought the Persian Army and won. This is a woman who has taken down the Roman army several times and has destroyed almost all the Olympian gods. Besides, she has also done some other kick ass deeds.

Then there was Little Blonde Amazon who got all into Xena's face on the beach when the catapults were flying. She was lucky Xena did not deck her right there. She did need to be 86ed from the episode. To tell you the truth, I have never been glad when someone gets killed on the show, even the really bad guys. This time, however, when Little Blonde Amazon bit the bucket, I cheered. She had gotten on my last good nerve and had to go.

Now that I have vented and raved about the Amazons, I will truly move on.

This show had some really good moments between Xena and Gabrielle. However, we all should agree that Xena has natural radar to detect when Gabrielle is in trouble. We saw this when Xena was in the woods when they were making Varia the new queen, Xena felt something was going wrong even before the Amazons did. Another of those "Gabrielle is in trouble" radar moves was at the beach when Varia was about to kill Gabrielle (and I'll revisit this a bit later).

To me, another of those touching moments was after Xena saves both Varia and Gabrielle by stopping Varia from killing Gabrielle. It was very interesting when Xena and Gabrielle are sitting on the sand, Gabrielle realized that Xena was going to give herself up to save them all and Xena realized that she was not talking to Gabrielle, but to the Queen of the Amazons. Also, when Xena tried to console Gabrielle after her great speech to rally the troops, the pain in Xena's eyes was indescribable. But the moment that touched me most was at the end of the fight after Bellerophon and most of his men were dead and Xena sees Gabrielle running after one of the men. She stops Gabrielle from killing him and once again the pain in Xena's eyes says it all. Then when Cyane calls Gabrielle "Queen Gabrielle" and Xena tells Gabrielle "Your people need you", I could see in Xena's eyes that she really wanted to say how much she needed Gabrielle. By the same token, what Gabrielle wanted to say was "I need you too, Xena". There was a hug there waiting to happen.

I think those scenes between the two characters were very well accomplished by both actresses and they deserved a big round of applause for them.

I have to take my hat off to ROC for her scene of rallying the troops, running down the beach being chased by catapults and overall the scene where she sends one of her fellow Amazons to be bait for the sharks so the rest could live. That took some really heavy duty concentration and great acting.

The thing that most characterized this episode was the fact of how gradually Xena turned into the voice of reason and Gabrielle, when taking command, started resembling the Xena from "The Price". It was so well accomplished and neither of the two characters stopped being who they are in essence. Very good work by both LL and ROC and great direction by Michael Hurst.

Talking about Michael Hurst, one thing that did bother me the most in this episode was the way the fight scenes were filmed. They had a strong resemblance to those fight scenes from "Life Blood". Also, I found it strange that, for the first time, Xena and Gabrielle fight back to back. It reminded me too much of the way Hercules and Iuoles used to fight and that bothered me.

The fight scenes between Xena and Bellerophon were pretty good, but I did not like the fact that Xena was held at knifepoint by this guy. It has been a long time since we have seen this happen.

That final fight scene between Xena and Bellerophon was very good and it drove home the point that he was also half-human and could die. That death was a waste in Xena's viewpoint. It really did not need to happen, but we all know that it did. If truth were told, I did not like to see Xena get beat that badly during her second fight with Bellerophon, but she had to set the trap.

Now we have to take another side bar regarding Varia: When she is found and tells her story, Xena did not buy it for one second. So when Varia was about to kill Gabrielle, we see tears rolling down her checks, the tears of treason. Once she was safe with her Amazons, she should have told the truth of what was going on. There was no real honor in keeping the word she had given her enemy. She should have realized that Bellerophon was using her and that no matter what she did, he was going to try to kill them all. Varia's loyalty should have been to Gabrielle and her people, not to Bellerophon.

This was a good episode. It was well directed and very well acted by LL and ROC. In this episode, once again we see those moments where the true feelings between Xena and Gabrielle come to light, those looks and unwritten words.

Once again, Xena gives her all for what is important to Gabrielle, disregarding her own safety and her own feeling. If there was any doubt that Xena loves Gabrielle, this episode serves as a reminder of those feelings.

With all this said, in my book this episode will not be one I will watch several times. That may be because of the way it was filmed or the lack of respect the Amazons showed for Xena or Varia's treason. There was something missing for me from this episode and I just cannot put my finger on it.



COMMENTARY 3:

This commentary is by Josh Harrison.

This is an incredibly powerful episode for many reasons. First and foremost, just as the Amazon nation is united under Varia, their very existence is threatened. Secondly, the action sequences are intense and realistic - recalling in many respects the opening battle scene in "Saving Private Ryan" - in fact, the film style used is very similar to the Normandy invasion sequence.

But this episode is truly remarkable not for its emotionally charged story and explosive action sequences - though as I said both of those elements are incredible. Instead, it should be looked at for the changes in Gabrielle since the earliest days of the series - as well as the changes in the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle.

Gone is the načve and idealistic girl of the first two seasons. Also gone is the confused young woman from the second stage of the series. The capable warrior and queen that leads the surviving Amazons into a battle for their very existence is obviously descended from these earlier incarnations, but has learned - both from Xena and her own painful experiences - to put the doubt aside when the time comes to step forward and be the leader and hero these women need.

A comparison to other Gabcentric episodes will demonstrate some of the character development I'm speaking of. In the first season we have the episode "The Greater Good", where Gabrielle must fill in for a virtually comatose warrior princess. Gabrielle does the best she can to raise a defense, but finds the situation a little bit out of her league - requiring the last minute intervention of Xena to save the day.

Compare that early episode to season three's "When In Rome" where Gabrielle really begins to demonstrate an independence from her mentor. The moral quandary she faces with the disposition of Crassus - a decision left almost entirely in her hands - demonstrates her character growth. In the same "era" of Gabrielle episodes we have the epic "A Good Day" where Gabrielle leads the charge against the armies of Rome. This episode marks the beginning of her spiritual quest, and her attempts to ignore the warrior path she has been following up until that point.

In most of these earlier episodes, Gabrielle ultimately turns to Xena for comfort and reassurance. She relies on her friend's greater wisdom and experience. In this episode, however, she refuses the comfort that Xena offers, and does what she knows is necessary to see that her people survive. At first she wants to let Xena lead the charge against Bellerophon, but when Amazon law prohibits Xena from doing so, she steps into the role and displays tremendous strength and skill.

This is a fantastic episode, and continues the development of Gabrielle as a character. It is wonderful to see Liz Friedman return (even if she was only a writer). She injects this episode with a tremendous amount of girl power, and shows a remarkable understanding of the story and characters - especially since she hasn't been directly involved with the show for some time.

One of the most interesting contrasts in this episode is the difference between Varia and Gabrielle. At first glance, it seems that they are both very different, and yet both women display the strength of will to make sacrifices and do what they feel is necessary to save their subjects. Varia's mistake was believing Bellerophon - an error that the more experienced Gabrielle would not make. She has faced vengeance-driven warriors like Bellerophon before.

Indeed, the weakest part of this episode is the reason for Bellerophon's rage. I can certainly understand his hatred of Xena - after all, she was responsible for his mother's death. But his feelings towards the Amazons don't really make a lot of sense. If memory serves, Velasca destroyed Artemis's temple in "A Necessary Evil", claiming that Artemis had turned away from the Amazon nation. But even before that, the worship of Artemis never seemed to be an aspect of the Amazon culture. So just what event is Bellerophon referring to? The impression that I get is the Twilight Battles from the conclusion of Season Five - but the Amazons played no part in that, so just what is the deal?

There are few minor items I would like to point out before bringing this commentary to a close.

First are the mytho-historical connections. Not surprisingly, myth and legend are put through the wringer in this episode.

There is a Bellerophon in Greek myth, but he bears little resemblance to the character portrayed here. According to Brittannica.com, Bellerophon first appears in the Iliad, and there is no reference to any relation to Artemis. He is most famous for taming the Pegasus and using it to slay the chimera (this mythological reference also appears in Mission Impossible 2).

Also according to Brittannica.com, Helicon was the sacred mountain of the muses. A temple to them was located there (eventually dismantled by Constantine the great). There is no reference to a fortress, but an interesting connection to the Bellerophon myth is found in the fountain of Hippocrene which is located near the former temple site. According to legend, the imprint of Pegasus's hooves created the fountain.

Second, there is an amusing comment made by one of the Amazon warriors when she admits to being afraid - she refers to feeling like "Joxer facing the Dryads." I certainly received a chuckle at this, and detected an amused expression on Gabrielle's face at her old friend's name.

Also, I really liked the matching scenes at the beginning and end of the episode where Gabrielle and Varia cross arms and pledge to a strong Amazon nation. The first is filled with joy at the new unity the Amazons have found, and the second is tainted with the sorrow of the great loss suffered. It is a wonderful moment that bookends the episode nicely.

Finally, I pointed out in my commentary on "Path of Vengeance" that Xena seemed to be out of her element when it came to the Amazons. I also noticed that Xena seemed to be thinking of retirement for the first time - a thought that I'm sure she doesn't allow herself to take seriously.

But Gabrielle's self reliance in this episode seemed to hit Xena especially hard this week. Xena seemed to see her friend in a new light, and realized that Gabrielle doesn't need her the same way anymore. In "Path", Eve set out on her own for Chin and Indus - the child left home and has begun charting her own path. In this episode, it seems that Gabrielle is doing much the same thing. I think these recent events have gotten Xena thinking.

Is Xena thinking of hanging up the sword? Is she going to pass the mantle on to her apprentice? What do the final episodes of the series hold in store for our dynamic duo? There is no telling, but I must say that I am eagerly anticipating the final weeks. I hope you feel the same way.

In the end, the motivation for Bellerophon's anger drops this episode down a notch. The return of Liz Friedman, however, and the powerful action and emotion that drips from this episode, help make up for the loss in plot power. I give this episode an "A"



WHIMPERS, MURMURS, AND A LOVE GONE TOO FAR

02-15-01. This episode takes the new prize as the episode to "run long" more than any other episdoe in XENA history -- almost 25 minutes long. (MOTHERHOOD ran only 20 minutes over!). Most of this is due to the fact the episode has a huge number of action sequences and complicated battle scenes. Hey, those guys didn't make it off the beach on D-Day in just 45 minutes!

12-18-00. And did we mention this episode has more Amazons than you can shake a stick at? Also, the episode appears to be one long action sequence. If you like Amazons, and you like action, then this is the episode for you!

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?

11-22-00. First it was separate, then it merged, and now it has been surgically separated again. THE LAST CENTAUR apparently started out as part one of a two parter which would be concluded by TO HELICON AND BACK. Then it was merged into one episode. And then...it was decided to separate the shows again, but this time make them stand alone episodes. So as of press time, I think they are two shows again.

11-19-00, Since this starts filming in a couple of days and Danielle Cormack has not been signed for anything, it is SAFE to assume she;s not going to be in the episode. BUT Kevin Smith is down under filming some episodes this November so he might be playing Ares in this one as well. It looks like the show is about Xenon, but I have not been able to confirm much.

11-14-00. Episode has had a name change to TO HELICON AND BACK. It is written by Liz Friedman and will be directed by Michael Hurst.

11-13-00. As of October 31, 2000, Danielle "Ephiny" Cormack was not signed for any 6th season XENA episodes. This means that they are shelving the LAST CENTAUR episode with Ephiny's grand daughter OR they are going ahead but with a different actress. However, both Claire "Alti" Stansfield and Alexandra "Aphrodite" Tydings have been called back to New Zealand to film a few episodes in November.

09-28-00. This might be an episode where Danielle Cormack plays Ephiny's granddaughter, meaning her centaur son, Xenon, has reproduced!



THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

These things are by Beth Gaynor.

Has no one in this episode heard of basic eclipse safety? Xena and every amazon in the tribe is staring up at a full eclipse! There's going to be a run on seeing eye dogs in the XenaVerse next week.

Superfluous masks alert! The bad guys wear masks in the opening fight, but leave their calling cards, openly declare their intention to destroy the amazons, and never use the masks again. Was it just an eclipse fashion statement?

Whoops, a camera slip during the funeral pyre scene. Xena squeezes Gabrielle's shoulder, then walks straight behind Gab to Argo, with one of the queens on Gab's right. When we switch to the long shot from above, the row of queens stand to Gabrielle's left, and Xena is way over on the other side of them.

For all its good points, this episode has some serious, major problems with catapult physics. Catapults are not precision weapons, even in the best-trained hands. They can NOT be used to pick off individual people. And they take a few minutes to reload. Judging by the number of fireballs raining down on our amazon heroes, there were quite a few catapults in that castle, but then why do the rest all take a break after one shoots at a kamikaze runner (see first physics problem) or Xena's chakram takes one out?

Bellerophon needs to hire a better stunt double in his castle; the one he has looks nothing like him.

These rules for amazon queenship just get weirder and weirder. Now royalty can be taken away by ripping off a necklace? Maybe that was a challenge that Varia just didn't want to dispute. But weren't all the other members of the tribal council queens of their groups? Why is Gabrielle suddenly the only one with a claim to the throne? At least one other queen - the funny nordic one - was standing right next to them.

Superfluous sword alert! Gabrielle carries a sword on her back that seems to serve no purpose at all. Her sais are still her weapon of choice. In the final battle, at one point she's only carrying one sai and the sword... then she has both sais again... then it's back to the sai and sword. Pick a weapon and stick with it, woman!



MORE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

10-28-01. From Richard. I know the Xenaverse bends the laws of physics now and again, but Solar eclipses only occur at a new moon, and there was a near full moon in the night sky when the Amazons went to rescue Varia later the same day. Also why did Xena say she was going to sleep in the woods if it was daytime?

07-26-01. From Nikalaos. I was watching my Helicon tape and began to realize a similarity to Friend in Need as far as Xena being prepared to lose Gabrielle. In FiN, LL plays Xena's intentions much more obvious than in tHaB. For instance, in Fin, Xena says stuff like "What would YOU do, Gab?" and "Jus' wanted you to now everything I know", etc, playing pretty obvious that she plans on becoming a ghost, etc. (the whole *remaining* as a ghost thing is a seperate issue). Anyways, the point? LL played Xena's preparedness to lose Gab in tHaB much subtler, less obvious, and in my opinion, much better than in FiN. Xena was not prepared to lose Gab to death, but to lose her as a companion to the Amazon Nation. Such stuff like, "You're it, Gabrielle, you're it." and "Your people need you." etc, and the look in Xena's eyes when Gab is cheered as queen and inspires her troops, being a leader the Amazons are loyal to and love, etc. . . . all suggest that Xena is preparing herself to lose Gab to the Amazon cause. Perhaps this is more subtle because I've misinterpreted Lucy's lines, etc. Perhaps FiN was not too obvious, but it was a significant part of the plot to have Xena behaving in ways that suggested her seperation from Gab. Either way, just thought I"d share. :)

03-20-01. From Freya2000. In To Helicon and Back, there is a major, MAJOR goof-up, that is impossible to overlook. The second Bellerophon says that his mother is Artemis, "the greatest of the Olympians, the episode automatically lost any credibility. HOLD IT! Overt familial pride aside, there is NO way Artemis could have been ANYONE'S mother. She was the virgin (hear that? VIRGIN) goddess of the hunt, and generally avoided the company of men (her twin brother Apollo notwithstanding). She changed Callisto into a bear after discovering the girl was pregnant by Zeus. To quote the Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology, "Artemis, in fact, spent most of her time in hunting, in the company of various nymphs whom she required to remain virgins like herself." So Bellerophon was either completely misinformed about his parentage, or lying. Case closed.

Virginia & Lourdes S.. ...the turtle-shaped shields used by the Amazons.

Virginia & Lourdes S.. ...when the Boadicea-look alike Amazon, Gywn-Teir was hit by one of the catapults, Xena rushed to her and held her up by grabbing onto her left breastplate.

Virginia & Lourdes S.. ...during the fight scenes at the end, Gabrielle was using both of her sais. We wondered why she wasn't using the sword on her back. Next couple of scenes, we've seen Gabrielle holding the sword on one hand and one sai on the other, then back to two sais then back to sword and sai. What fast moves! Maybe Gabrielle was complimenting with how the fight scenes were being shot. You know, fast-forward kinda way.



CK TRANSCRIPT

Click here to read a transcript of TO HELICON AND BACK.



DISCLAIMER:

No shark bait was harmed during the making of this motion picture.



LINKS:

Screen Grabs from Judi

Official Site press release





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