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Season 2, episode 19
Series 219
1st release: 04/21/97
2nd release: 09/15/97
1st strip release: 09/29/98
2nd strip release: 12/31/98
Production number: V0213
Script number: 217
Approximate shooting dates: January 1997
Last update: 11-15-00

SYNOPSIS by Bluesong
COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by Carmen Carter

John D'Aquino (Ulysses)

Rachel Blakely (Penelope)
Tim Raby (Meticles)
Carl Bland (Layos)
Charles Siebert (Poseidon)
(Argus, the hound)
(First Pirate)
Referred to in dialogue: Ploythemus

Written by R. J. Stewart
Edited by Jim Prior
Directed by Michael Levine

(Sirens singing)
Poseidon: Have a nice voyage.
Ulysses: King of Ithica.
Gabrielle: What a man.
Ulysses: I think I'm falling in love with you.
(Xena kisses Ulysses)
Poseidon: Xena, stay out of this!
Xena: I want in on the fun, too.
Ulysses: What are you doing?
(Xena tying up Ulysses)
Xena: Saving your life!

Xena and Gabrielle have a Poseidon adventure when they help the good king Ulysses regain his island kingdom from the nasty god of the sea's pirate henchmen.

Xena and Gabrielle try to help Ulysses return to his home after many years away.

Xena and Gabrielle encounter pirates, the sea god Poseidon and the alluring Sirens when they help Ulysses sail home to Ithaca to re-claim his kingdom.

1st RELEASE: 04-21-97
An AA average of 6.7
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) XENA 6th with 6.7
(2) HERCULES 9th with 6.0
(3) STAR TREK DS9 13th with 4.8

2nd RELEASE:09-15-97
An AA average of 5.2
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) STAR TREK DS9 8th with 5.2
(2) XENA 9th with 4.9
(3) HERCULES 11th with 4.7
(4) WALKER TEXAS RANGER 17th with 4.1
(5) PENASCOLA 21st with 3.7


This synopsis is by Bluesong.

The story opens with our two heroines walking along the seashore. Gabrielle asks Xena to listen to the sea and not be so tense -- and intense. Xena stops to listen and draws her sword -- there is a battle ahead of them. Xena goes toward a man fighting three others; she does not approach until an entire gang of pirates head for the man. She and Gabrielle then go and help the man fend the pirates off.

The man is Ulysses, bound for Ithaca. He has been living in a cave, trying to get his ship back from pirates sent by Poseidon, the God of the Sea. Ulysses and Xena approach the god when he rises from the water, and Xena is told to mind her own business since Ares has a thing for her, but Xena declines Poseidon's offer. Poseidon tells Ulysses that his wife, Penelope, is dead.

Gabrielle dresses up as a dancer, complete with a wig and purple bra, and sets off in a canoe for the pirate ship. She then performs the "Dance of the Three Veils" (a la a ROYAL COUPLE OF THIEVES. #17) while Xena and Ulysses board the ship and get into place so they can attack the pirates and get the ship back. Xena calls to the pirates -- I want to play too! and then the fight is on. Gabrielle uses a mop as a staff. Ulysses is injured during the fight, and after Xena patches him up he says he'll drop Xena and Gabrielle off at the next port -- 3 people can run the ship. Xena says she and Gabrielle will help him get to Ithaca. You can sail a ship? Ulysses asks. "I have many skills," Xena replies.

Gabrielle is not a sailor. She remains seasick for most of the voyage. There is much chemistry between Xena and Ulysses; they share a kiss while Gabrielle is supposedly sleeping, but she sees and hears. She asks Xena if she loves Ulysses; Xena hesitates and Gabrielle says: "Promise me one thing. You'll follow your heart and not worry about me?" Xena says, "You're part of my heart." Xena then says that Gabrielle has taught her to love. "Did YOU say love?" Gabrielle asks. I guess we'll be staying in Ithaca a little while, she adds.

Poseidon turns out to be little threat. Xena and Ulysses decide to stick close to the islands. The sirens are the main danger here. Xena lashes Ulysses to a mast while she guides the ship past the island. Ulysses kicks Gabrielle and manages to free himself. He wants to go to the Island. Then Xena starts to sing and her song is more compelling than that of the sirens.

They reach Ithaca, and save a man who is being attacked. He is a friend of Ulysses. He says the people want Penelope to marry. Now Xena and Ulysses both know Penelope isn't dead. They go to the castle through a tunnel. Xena sends Gabrielle in to get some cloaks and she tells Ulysses that she has no feelings for him and that he's just like all men, thinking a woman kisses him and then she's in love with him. Ulysses dresses like a peasant and Xena and Gabrielle act as servants. There are lots of men in the castle throne room.

Penelope says if any man can thread Ulysses' bow she will marry him. None can. Then Ulysses steps up and says he wants to try. They let him. He has trouble with the bow; Xena crawls beneath the table and bend the bow at the bottom so Ulysses can thread it. Ulysses does not know this. He throws back his cloakhood and announces himself. Xena and Gabrielle help clear out the room and then they quickly leave. Xena and Gabrielle go back to the ship, and as they begin to leave Ulysses shows up. He says he knows Xena did not mean what she said in the tunnel. Xena tells Ulysses to go run his kingdom, and Xena and Gabrielle sail off.


Commentary Beth Gaynor.

We definitely did have our parallels between Ulysses and Perdicus, didn't we? Guy shows up out of the blue to sweep one of our heroines off her feet - so to speak. Will our happy twosome get broken up by a pretty face?

Ulysses does have the spark of some common ground with Xena. Here's a real warrior - "what a man" - and an adventurer who knows the road, with a strong moral compass pointing him toward his people and his land. Sure, that's a good basis for making Xena sit back and appreciate the view.

Sadly, the relationship had problems from there. The actor was generally OK, but didn't make Ulysses stand out as anything out of the ordinary, in spite of some *fabulous* lines. ("What are you doing?" "Tying you up." "All right, I'm game, what did you have in mind?") There was a wealth of potential that could have been mined - as I recall my Homer, Ulysses was quite a trickster. That could have provided some fun, but it never made it to the screen.

And - peeve alert, here - the ending betrayed it all. Ulysses was a man on a quest, and a noble one it was; return to his kingdom, his people, and his wife. At the beginning of the episode, it was Ulysses' driving force - all that mattered was what stood between him and Ithaca. Then he hits land, finds out Penelope is alive, and he pitches everything he had been fighting for out the window. It should have been one of those classic romantic dilemmas - the man that Xena could love, the man that's worthy of love, is the one who will stay with his kingdom and his wife, regardless of his feelings for another. If he's willing to pitch all that out the window, betray the woman who's stood by his memory for years and abandon his kingdom of people who are sorely in need of his help, just for the sake of what he's hoping is love, he's also betraying himself and that love. Well, that's the dilemma we SHOULD have seen more of. Ulysses flunks the test, not once but twice trying to ditch and run off with our Warrior Princess, and Ulysses went from Hero to Putz in the blink of an eye, with barely a comment from Xena except to firmly send the man back home.

We got treated to Lucy's singing voice again briefly, and is anyone surprised that Xena can sing to rival the sirens? Granted, those sirens with the bodacious sound system looked like they were stoned out of their minds (they were even forgetting to open their mouths half the time), but it's still an impressive accomplishment for Xena's resume. I was trying to figure out why the sirens' singing performance looked so strange; do you think that the music for the sirens hadn't been composed yet when they filmed? The sirens weren't singing in synch with the actual music; maybe they were trying to keep the acting-singing as neutral as possible to fit whatever the final tune ended up being.

One quick question: Is Gab's hair back to serious blonde again, or does the color on my set need adjusting?

Gabrielle does the dance of the three veils, even to the same music as Xena danced to in Royal Couple of Thieves (Wow, who brought the boom box on board?), AND takes out three guys while she does it. Not bad! I hope subtext fans had a great time with Xena's appreciation for Gab's performance, not to mention the line "I want in on the fun, too."

Gabrielle also gets to stretch her legs in Xena's footsteps: she's learned how to kick now as well as staff-bonk! And she got disarmed and managed to pick the darned staff back up again. Way to go, woman! You're getting the hang of it!

Xena really needs to rethink her timing when the guys come calling. Can she find a guy to get snuggly with MORE than five feet away from a sleeping Gabrielle? First Marcus (Mortal Beloved), now Ulysses - it's no wonder Gab usually sleeps soundly; she doesn't have much choice in the matter.


Commentary Carmen Carter.

After two years of sly winks and teasy subtext that implied much but stated nothing, R.J. Stewart's ULYSSES trumpets an overt statment about the Xena/Gabrielle dynamic. Despite any innuendo to the contrary, the deep emotional and psychological bonds that Xena has forged with Gabrielle are divorced from any desire for sexual expression.

In fact, this particular clarification of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle appears to be the central point of ULYSSES, if not the *only* point, since the episode itself was short on substance. All the rest -- the fights, the pirates, the fights, Poseidon, the fights, the Sirens, the fights -- was window dressing. Where RETURN OF CALLISTO was flawed by an attempt to cover waaay too much material in one episode, ULYSSES suffered from not having nearly enough to say. It might have made a solid thirty-minute story, but at forty-plus minutes the "Xena falls in love" plot was stretched rather thin.

As was made quite clear during the opening scenes, Xena experiences an immediate sexual attraction to Ulysses, and within short order falls in love with the sea-faring king of Ithaca. Unfortunately the actor playing Ulysses wasn't appealing enough to make this romantic scenario persuasive, especially for those of us who roll our eyes at the Love-Interest-of-the-Week approach to television romance. To everyone's relief, Xena turns Ulysses away out of a respect for his marriage to Penelope. The warrior princess may have led armies into lethal assaults against hapless villagers, but she's no homewrecker.

Any remaining ambiguity in the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle appears to be played out on the bard's side. When she overhears Ulysses declaring his love for Xena, her reaction is one of heartbreaking distress. Then the next morning she pulls herself together and directly questions Xena about the romance. "I need to know." Xena is somewhat rueful to learn that Gabrielle was awake that night, and she answers the question with a certain gentleness that implies concern for Gabrielle's feelings. It is a very touching moment between the two of them, yet one that only makes sense if it signals an end to Gabrielle's hopes for a more intimate relationship with her traveling companion. In an exchange between platonic friends, these emotional undercurrents would be puzzling and out of place.

So what are we as an audience to make of certain past events, such as Xena kissing Gabrielle in THE QUEST? Nothing, evidently. That one action is the closest XWP ever came to a smoking subtext gun, so the retroactive interpretation appears to be that it was a simple, comforting gesture on Xena's part.



11-15-00. In the October 2000 issue of Femme Fatales magazine, actress Rachel "Penelope" Blakely was featured in an article. The article included this part:

New Zealand, geographically less than a stone's throw away from Australia, prompted Blakely to cross over for assignments in YOUNG HERCULES and the 'Ulysses' episode of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS; in the latter, she played the long-suffering Penelope, whose spouse, Ulysses, has been saddled with a 10-year tenure in the Trojan Wars. Teaming up with the Greek hunk, Xena conspires his extrication to Ithica and Penelope's waiting arms. "I had a lot of fun doing XENA," recalls Blakely. "It was great watching Lucy Lawless on set to see how she works and does the action. Penelope was basically a queen whose husband had disappeared a decade before. They were childhood sweethearts. He eventually came back and reclaimed the kingdom, and his queen, just in time. But, I think he may have been secretly in love with Xena. I also played young Herc's mother on the telemovie."

03-08-00. R.J. Stewart was at the First Annual Special Effects Film Festival in Phoenix, AZ on 10/30/99. From Marilyn Cristiano's On the Road report:

R.J. noted that the Poseidon effect in the opening credits was such a popular effect that they built an episode, ULYSSES (43/219), around it. R.J. made the point that Renaissance Pictures could never afford to produce XENA in the United States given it's production values, but that New Zealand's favorable exchange rate of fifty-one cents on the dollar and less expensive labor costs makes XENA affordable to produce.

12-20-98. At Dragon Con in Atlanta (09/98), Steven Sears stated that although he thought there was some chemistry between Lucy and the actor who played Ulysses, the problem was that actor was not a fighter. Sears said that Lucy is amazing - she can subdivide her personal space up into eight quadrants, and do arm and leg movements independent of each other, and it's all real. He says she's very good - but the dude wasn't, so they had to film long shots of him, and head shots, because he coudn't do the moves Lucy was doing and make it look good.

12-20-98. At the Valley Forge Con (10/05/97), while discussing ULYSSES, she confessed that she actually loves boats and that she was eating marinated octopus, not squid. In fact, she recounted how once she was resigned to having to eat the stuff, she decided to just gross out everyone on the set. So started munching with relish and did indeed succeed in grossing out the production crew.

Xena gets another boyfriend! Will it be Xena's revenge on Gabrielle's marriage in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29)??? And FINALLY Poseidon from the opening titles appears!!! Too much, eh?


Highlights by Beth Gaynor.

I did like the final scene on the ship just for Lucy's performance, telling this man she was so attracted to that he should go home and be happy there. It's the kind of situation Xena has had to face more than once: she tried it on some little starry-eyed farm kids (Chariots of War), with much less success on a kid from Poteidaia (about a half-dozen times during Sins of the Past before she gave up), and continuously with a certain mighty-warrior wanna-be. Xena's a natural leader and damned magnetic. When you're leading an army of brigands that's not such a bad thing, but when you're a loner on the road and want to prevent uprooting the people around you, that gets a little tougher sometimes. And it's especially tough when you don't really want the person to leave. But Xena passes the test that Ulysses fell flat on and sends him packing.

Gabrielle, dear Gabrielle, wins the scene-stealing award for the week (again!). Renee continues to show off just how great a comedienne she is. The moment she appeared at the cabin stairway, even though her lines were on a completely different topic, she had the sway of a person who's going to be miserable as long as she's on top of waves. I couldn't stop laughing every time she was stumbling (or hanging) across the screen; sure, Xena was cruel, cruel, cruel to the poor bard, but it WAS awfully hard to resist.


Click here to read a transcript of ULYSSES.


Despite Gabrielle's incessant hurling, Ulysses' ship was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

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