Whoosh! Online Edition Click here to rate your fave eps!


Season 1, episode 23
Series 123
1st release: 06-03-96
2nd release: 08-26-96
1st strip release: 08-21-98
2nd strip release: 12-02-98
Production number: 76917
Script number: 119
Approximate shooting dates: January 1996
Last update: 01-21-99


Joseph Kell (Toris)
Michael Lawrence (Cortese)

William Davis (Malik)
Doug McCaulay (Aescalus)
Elizabeth Skeen (Sera)
Peter Needham (Village Elder)

Written by Peter Allan Fields
Edited by Jim Prior
Directed by Stewart Main

coming soon!

After being reunited with her estranged older brother, Toris, Xena decides to join him in his plans to kill the raider who destroyed their village years before.

1st RELEASE: 06/03/96
An AA average of 4.7
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) HERCULES 8th with 5.0
(2) XENA 10th with 4.7
(3) STAR TREK DS9 13th with 4.3

2nd RELEASE: 08/26/96
An AA average of 4.5
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(2) XENA 4.5


This synopsis is by Bluesong.

The show opens with Xena and Gabrielle on a trail, Xena astride Argo. They are talking about catching arrows -- Gabrielle wants to know how Xena does it! Xena tells Gabrielle it's something your body learns; she can't explain it. An assassin sends an arrow after them and Gabrielle stops it! -- to her amazement & Xena's. Then Xena goes after the assassin, who is wearing a mask. Then another masked man comes out and Gabrielle fights him (some good moves from Gabrielle). Xena sees the mask and stands looking at it for a moment before going to Gabrielle's aid, but Gabrielle has the situation in hand.

"I guess you don't need my help," Xena comments. Gabrielle says, "No, but stay close." Xena does the "X-touch" on this man, who tells her Cortese is the leader and is burning a nearby village. Gabrielle wants to know what the mask means. "The men who attacked my village wore this mask," Xena says. Later Gabrielle says of Cortese, "He's the one who made you so ..... aggressive?" Xena replies "It was fighting him that twisted me into what I became."

Xena rides off to save the village; she slices down a few guys. Gabrielle finally runs up over the ridge and saves a young girl from a marauder. The masked men retreat and seconds later the king's men come. Too late as always, the king's men say. One of Cortese's men knows who Xena is; he tells Cortese's lieutenant, who goes to Cortese. Cortese brags that he "created" Xena. The man who knows Xena puts on his mask and goes to Xena. She puts a sword to him; he removes his mask. It is Xena's brother .... Toris. Her older brother.

"You're just full of surprises, aren't you," Gabrielle comments. Xena and Toris are not on good terms; Toris fled with some of the villagers when Cortese attacked Amphipolis. Toris blames Xena for leading the villagers in a stand against Cortese, where their younger brother was killed. He thinks Xena is leading Gabrielle down the same wrong path. Toris wants to kill Cortese; Xena says that isn't the way. Xena wants to see the camp of Cortese's men; she tells Gabrielle to go back to the village to stay. Gabrielle stands up to Xena! and tells her she's going with her. Sending me away, Gabrielle says, means you think you're not safe to be around. Did it ever occur to you that you're never safe to be around? I'm staying. (That's paraphrased, not a quote).

Xena pretends to have been "captured" by Toris; he leads her into the camp. He gets thrown out of the gang for speaking up to the lieutenant (Toris wants to see Cortese). Xena gets away and meets Gabrielle and Toris. They decide that the king has a spy in Cortese's camp because they use messenger pigeons which bear the royal seal on them. Toris and Xena go to the king; Gabrielle reluctantly goes back to the village. The king is Cortese! He is the spy! He tries to drop Xena and Toris down a hole but it doesn't work; Xena and Toris get away but now the "king's" men and Cortese (as a bandit) are both after them.

Xena and Toris go to the village to get Gabrielle and to tell the elders that the King and Cortese are one and the same. Xena and Toris go to talk. How do you stand that annoying girl? Toris asks after telling Gabrielle that she knows nothing of justice. Xena stands up for Gabrielle; then Toris admits that he left the village because he was afraid of dying. Xena goes to the elders and while they are talking Toris leaves. He goes to the bandit camp; he is caught and tied to a tree. Xena goes after him; it's a trap. They end up in the castle dungeon.

They escape. The head of the king's guard lies to Xena about where Cortese is; she knows it's a lie but she sends Toris to that place anyway to get him out of danger. She gets Cortese; she ties him and the guard up and leads them outside. Earlier Xena sent pigeons out with a message to the bandits telling them to attack the castle; she finds Toris and Gabrielle fighting the bandits. She unties the guard and he goes to get his men; she hangs the king up on a hook and goes to help Toris and Gabrielle. Then she tells Cortese to tell the bandits to drop their weapons; he eventually complies, proving to the king's guards that he is really Cortese, the bandit. Xena tells Toris to kill Cortese (he thinks that will make him feel better), but he doesn't. They part, with Toris going home to Mother.


Commentary Bluesong.

There are a few small flashbacks in this show where Xena remembers the attack on her village, but they are mostly to show the mask and its effect upon her.

The conversation in this show is what is most important about it. The talk between Gabrielle and Xena is very revealing; Gabrielle's stand against Xena is pointed, and while comical, her action says a lot about their relationship, and about Gabrielle. She understands -- probably more than Xena -- how much "at risk" Xena is. Gabrielle stays by Xena not because Xena is afraid of attack, but because Xena is afraid of Xena. She is facing her past again; this Cortese is the man who "twisted" her, and there is a very real fear that Xena might not stand by her convictions, that is, she might just kill this guy herself, in spite of what she says. Gabrielle is determined not to let Xena return to her evil ways.

Xena and Toris also have intimate conversations. Toris may be Xena's older brother but he is not her equal, not in intelligence or in fighting skill (or looks). When he admits he was a coward, he tells Xena that he first thought she was misleading Gabrielle, but now he sees that Gabrielle is with Xena because she's brave; and that means the villagers who stayed with Xena to fight were brave, and Lyceus was brave, but Toris wasn't. He says he spent so much time trying to figure Xena out that he forget to figure himself out.

One of the most revealing conversations has to do with "feeling". Toris asks Xena what it felt like when the village turned Cortese back. Xena says she never felt anything; she never took the time. She knew Lyceus, her younger brother, was dead; she knew Cortese's men would return, so she and the villagers she led took surrounding villages to build up an army to take protect the village, but somewhere it all went wrong and she went bad. The implication here is that withdrawing, or withholding emotion, wrecks havoc on the psyche. Therefore Xena keeps trying to talk Toris out of murdering Cortese; she tells him: "The pure evil of murder is that it is premeditated." She says maybe it's just her perception, but it's different if you're killing in the heat of battle, or in self-defense or to protect another. This is something she has learned. Obviously she is also still learning about feeling and feelings.

This show answers a lot of questions and raises a few, but then it wouldn't be great Xena if it didn't. Personally, it's not as good a show as "The Greater Good" or even "Callisto" (bad acting notwithstanding) but it ranks in the top ten.


Coming soon


Highlights by Shelley Sullivan.

The wing-breast-thigh lunch scene. Another one of Gab's finest moments.

Xena's suppressed smile at Gab's laying down of the law.

The flying breast dagger is not to be missed, along with the line "get right to it. I like that."

The scene in the dungeon is another keeper, when she tells Toris that she didn't have time to feel anything. It's interesting that she seems to have repressed the memory of Caesar, because she was sure feeling something by the time M'lila was killed, and I think that Xena was probably not a "warlord" until after M'lila's death.

The beginning, with the instruction on arrow catching, and the chat X and G have about arrows just before Toris shows up.


When Xena and Toris are in the dungeon and the guards come in, Xena changes shoes for a moment.

In the big fight scene between Xena and Cortese, Xena catches a dagger thrown at her head (in typical Xena style), tosses it over her shoulder, and dismounts Argo. But look at the ground behind Xena after she lands (it only shows for a few seconds) and you will see her chakram rolling away from her. It fell from her hip when she hit the ground! Then, the next time you see Xena full body, about 5 seconds later, the chakram is on her hip again.


Prepared by SheWho.

As I was doing the script differences for Death Mask, I wondered, why was this episode so panned? I didn't mind it that much, although I thought the acting most of the guest stars was not very good. Was it really that bad? And if so, that raises an interesting question. There were unusually few changes between the script and the televised version -- did that mean they simply didn't have time to make changes they ordinarily would to put out a better product? Did they like the script but just not like the way it turned out? Who knows.

There are very few substantive changes for Death Mask. There's an omitted scene between Xena and Gab (I always like those), a line where Toris describes when he first heard Xena's war cry, and a few other tidbits.

DEATH MASK. By Peter Allan Fields. Directed by Stewart Main. Shooting script - January 22, 1996

After Xena learns that the mask is that of Cortese, "Gabrielle notes the rigidity of Xena's body; the hate in her face."

In the script, Gabrielle doesn't do any fighting in the village. [It's becoming clear to me that many of Gabrielle's action scenes in the series are added post-script. Wonder what that means.]

Toris is described as "a tall, handsome, well-built man. We'll learn that he's slightly older than Xena..."

The description of Cortese: "His appearance is as sophisticated as Malik's is grizzled. But he's nonetheless built like a warrior (we'll soon see that he's strong as an ox.) His success at plundering is demonstrated by the gold and silver odds and ends (and bejeweled candleholders and even table service) which adorn the place. He's holding a heavy metal flagon of wine."

Toris reveals his identity to Xena on the trail. "This is one of the very few times we'll ever see Xena's face reflect wide-eyed, open-mouthed astonishment."

Since I couldn't quite figure out this exchange the first time I saw the ep, I'll set forth the description of the 'wing, thigh, breast... Who wants what?' scene:

"Gabrielle stabs a drumstick, and hands it toward Xena." [Yeah, right; like that's the one Xena would choose.]

Xena (offhanded aside to Gabrielle): "He likes drumsticks..."

[I guess it's supposed to be almost instinctive, to show that her deep down affection and family tie with Toris is still there?]

After Gabrielle chomps on Xena for trying to get her to stay in the village, "Toris stares hard at her. Xena can't help but give her a smile of admiration." [Yeah, that's one word for it.]

In the script, Xena works the breast dagger "from its hiding place" with her teeth. Not nearly as intriguing...

Is it just my overactive imagination, or do Xena and Toris both sneak a quick scope at Gabrielle when she bends over to pick up her bag? (Anyone out there with a big screen TV and an LP copy? Nevermind - maybe I don't want to know - leave me to my little fantasies.) As described in the script, when Gabrielle resigns herself to her fate, "Xena gives her a smile. She reluctantly returns it. Toris watches this interchange with a stern look."

Xena's line when she picks up the wet towels, "Remember this, Toris?" isn't in the script.

When Xena and Toris return to the village, Gabrielle says she's glad Xena's all right. Then, as an aside, adds, "You're always all right." The line in which Gabrielle introduces her friend 'Lea the Warlord' isn't in the script. (The little girl character was originally written as a boy.) "As Xena and Toris both nod their 'hello', we may notice that Toris seems for some reason far less cordial to Gabrielle than expected or warranted (we may be reminded that he eyed her similarly once before)."

An interesting tidbit: While chained up in the cell, Toris starts laughing, and Xena asks if something's funny.

Toris: "When we were fighting our way out of Cortese's throne room... you started with that scream of yours. First time I ever heard that, I had just thrown that centaur doll of yours into the river." (then) "You beat the heck out of me."

He then tells her he's glad she's with him...

In the description of Xena's escape from the dungeon, we find: "[A sword] flies up and, just before it hits the ground, Xena catches it with her feet, while hanging from her bindings. In an amazing example of the perfect Abdominizer Commercial, she brings her legs up and cuts her ropes with the sword (still holding it with her feet)."

An omitted exchange between Xena and Gabrielle at the end, before Toris' "I'm free" speech:

"Xena is saddling up Argo as Gabrielle talks to her. Her staff leans against a wall."

Gabrielle: "I never did figure you what the arrow thing. It's very frustrating."

Xena: "Like I said, Gabrielle... stop trying to figure it out. You don't need to conquer the world in one day."

Gabrielle: "I know..." (grin) "I'll need at least a week."

"She walks over to pick up her staff. Just as she reaches it, Xena picks up a small stone and throws it at Gabrielle. Gabrielle spins and knocks the stone down. She looks amazed and thrilled."

Xena: "It's a start."

When Toris suggests that Xena could go home with him, she says not yet. "I just saw her a little while back and we're still sorting it out."


Click here to read a transcript of DEATH MASK.


No messenger doves were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, several are reportedly missing in action and search-and-rescue efforts are under way.


Carper, Virgina, "How Effective was Xena as a Commander?", WHOOSH #06 (03/97) Paragraphs 7, 14, 19.

Dekker, Nusi, "Who Was Xena's Father? Theories on the Warrior Princess' Origins", WHOOSH #06 (03/97) Paragraph 19.

Dekker, Nusi, "Who Was Xena's Father? Theories on the Warrior Princess' Origins", WHOOSH #06 (03/97) Paragraph 19.

Draganis, Mary, "Dark Warrior Pasts: Kira and Xena'", WHOOSH #07 (04/97) Paragraph 5.

Rentoul, Ian, "Xena and the challenge of destiny", WHOOSH #08 (05/97) Paragraphs 5-7.

Swenson. Gregory R., "Alexander the Great: Blueprint for Xena", WHOOSH #04 (01/97) Paragraphs 3, 12.

Swenson. Gregory R., "Puritanism, Capitalism, and Transcendentalism in Xena: Warrior Princess'", WHOOSH #08 (05/97) Paragraph 25.

Taborn, Kym Masera, "The Annotated Warrior Princess", WHOOSH #02 (10/96) Paragraphs 113, 116.

Wiatt, C., "Xena and Callisto: Why Are They The Way They Are?", WHOOSH #01 (09/96) Paragraph 5.

White, Debbie, "Xena's Family: Who Are They?", WHOOSH #04 (01/97) Paragraphs 1, 3, 4, 7, and 9.

White, Debbie, "Was Xena ever really evil?", WHOOSH #02 (10/96) Paragraph 5.

WHOOSH!, "Letter to the Editor", WHOOSH #05 (02/97)


Coming soon

Guide Table of ContentsBack to Whoosh!