The Mighty Quill
Aphrodite brings Gabrielle's words to life in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER.
 Barding seems to be a worthwhile pursuit, dinar-wise, as Xena doesn't appear to be suffering from a lack of sharpening stones and Argo seems to be quite contented for a mare who is continually left in strange stables for undetermined lengths of time. The board fees alone would be enough to buy the bard a herd of her own horses. Gabrielle keeps herself supplied with fresh parchment, and however we might wish that some of those funds be channeled into a little fashion make-over, the bard has her priorities. That she excels at her craft is evidenced by the facts that she is still alive, and that Xena's name is becoming so popular, Aphrodite herself is annoyed. The perpetrators of the graffiti are the common people, ordinary villagers who once were Xena's victims. Gabrielle has been both successful and diligent in spreading the "good word" about Xena's transformation. Even Xena is becoming embarrassed at the evidence of Gabrielle's skill.
 What skill? After Aphrodite enchants Gabrielle's scroll, Joxer "the jerk" appears, Xena disappears, and the virus seizes the bard in its grip with a vengeance. The quill is mightier than any skill Gabrielle has in this episode, and she is certainly helpless in the face of the Joxer Syndrome.
 Very quickly, Gabrielle realizes that her words are literally coming true. The bard, who managed to hold the interest of two Titans with her stories of events they'd experienced for themselves, the bard who sufficiently impressed the honored Bard Gustacious in ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS (13/113) that he awarded her a place as a student at the Academy, the bard who enchanted the children in A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209), the bard who touched a place in the heart of General Marmax in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124) with her story, the bard who has spread Xena's name far and wide by telling stories to non-academic audiences, is unable to construct a simple sentence. The level of education in ancient "NewGreeceland" is obviously very high if the ordinary graffiti-writing populace pays good dinars to hear flowery metaphors and high-flying phrases mixed in with literal statements. "Xena Rules" was, after all, at one time, the literal truth. Perhaps Gabrielle should take a correspondence refresher course from the Academy, because the storytelling ability Xena praised in ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF PERFORMING BARDS has utterly disappeared.
 Is this sudden lack of ability the work of the scroll? Unfortunately, no. This is the Joxer Syndrome. How do we know? We can track previous symptom-ology. Has Gabrielle suddenly lost a skill that's she's consistently had? Yes. Why? Because if she had her skills, she could simply write, "Joxer goes to Meg", and Joxer would vanish. That would mean, however, that Joxer wouldn't be able to give writing opinions to a bard, thus implying a level of ability similar to a woman who earns her living and supports two others through her writing. This is reinforced by Joxer's garbled limerick, which produced three naked Gabrielles, naturally written on a scroll he knew to be enchanted. A possible conclusion is that Joxer is semi-literate (or simply ignorant, if this is his idea of love poetry) and alas, so must the bard become semi-literate, or Joxer remains a weaponless character in a bard's world. The virus prevents that from happening, and indeed, the effects are so far advanced that Gabrielle can't even manage to write, "Xena returns to Gabrielle". At least she remembers Xena's name.
Gabrielle, the "Mightier" Insensitive Are there other symptoms? Certainly. Knowing the scroll is dangerous and that it can be used by anyone, including Joxer, Gabrielle hides the scroll in the one place that should have been safe: Joxer's scabbard. This was sound thinking on the bard's part as Joxer has already said that he would never part with it because it was a gift from his father. Leaving aside the fact that this oh-so-treasured scabbard has never been mentioned by Joxer as long as Gabrielle and Xena have known him, it's easily disposable now so that Joxer can give the bard a present, demonstrating he's a sensitive, sweet, loving, BCE 90's kind of guy. This, of course, would never have been possible had Gabrielle not been affected by the virus and her capabilities destroyed because Joxer, "the jerk", would already have been gone.
 Several symptoms manifest themselves now. When Gabrielle awakens, she's wearing a necklace purchased by Joxer. She manages to ignore the fact that Joxer has had an uninvited up close and personal look at her while she slept (the BGSB gets smaller every season), and acknowledges the necklace by stating that it's beautiful. She's understandably bewildered, (or possibly fighting down the same reaction she had to Joxer's kissing her in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS [40/216]) and Joxer boasts that he sold his scabbard to buy it for her. Perhaps experiencing flashbacks to Saturday nights in Poteidaia and boys who spent good dinars on a date, expecting a "reward" at the end of the evening, it takes a moment for the truth to dawn on her, but when it does, it's not pretty.
 What symptoms do we see in this short scene? Gabrielle has progressed from "insensitive" to cruel, according to the internet Joxerites. She's spurned the purity of Joxer's love, the physical evidence (the necklace! the necklace!) of his love. (There are even those who feel she's obligated to give it back, which would no doubt prompt further cries of insensitivity). She's ungrateful, because Joxer loves her and she doesn't love him back (apparently gratitude is a sufficient reason for returning love) and she doesn't respect Joxer's personal property as she used his scabbard to conceal a highly dangerous scroll. The word "b*tch" actually appeared, more than once, to describe the once kind-hearted bard who comforts virtual strangers, the Warrior Princess, and children, and gives away a donkey she's obviously grown attached to just to make a journey easier for a young couple and a baby in A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209). This is the virus's crowning achievement.
Gabrielle, the Mighty Inarticulate
One of three nekkid Gabrielles in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER.
 And why? Because the purpose of this virus is to elevate Joxer to nobility and engender sympathy for him. Joxer obviously loves Gabrielle; Joxer can write; Joxer can out-bard a bard. Is this character development of Joxer or the Joxer Syndrome? How much of this is Joxer himself learning and growing, and how much is hormones? How much of this is achieved at the expense of the bard's skills and abilities?
 Even returning Xena to Gabrielle's side is unduly complicated, since Gabrielle has trouble at times remembering proper names, and still seems unable to think of writing "Xena returns to Gabrielle". Considering that the bard has grown so incompetent that Xena has seen virtually everyone she knows except Gabrielle (and think for a moment just how many people that must be), it's a wonder that she can still form letters, or walk and talk at the same time.
 In any event, once Xena returns and comes up with the obvious solution, exposure has been so prolonged that the bard is still unable to come up with any means of describing the action in a viable manner. So much for pandering to the masses... contrary to all the evidence, explicit and implied, Gabrielle must be an academic bard, although for Xena and Argo's sake, one hopes not. Argo, I'm sure, is still partial to oats, and unless Xena is extremely fond of fish, she'd better hope for a quick return of the bard's skills.
A Mighty Bitter Amazon Nation
Joxer protects Gabrielle (or attempts to) even when faced with Xena in THE BITTER SUITE.
 By the time events take a BITTER SUITE (58/312) turn, Joxer is once again stalking, er, following Gabrielle, this time into Amazon territory. Involved as she is in the Amazon purification rites, conducted presumably by a priestess or healer, she's immune to the effects of the virus. Strangely enough, however, the Amazons are not. When Joxer makes the suggestion that she be taken from the hut, thus terminating the rite, the implication is that he knows better than persons evidently experienced in such matters what's best for Gabrielle. Ephiny maintains her temper at this slight to both her traditions and her beliefs, and explains the situation to Joxer. The pesky little virus is certainly a possibility here, but is there more evidence of it at work, where we can make a definitive diagnosis? Yes, there is.
 Xena charges into the Amazon camp like a crazed Minotaur. The Amazons are reluctant to hurt her, but it's quickly apparent that she has to be stopped. Their first duty is to protect their Queen, explicitly stated and demonstrated during the events of A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214). Do they carry out their duty after Ephiny calls "Amazons attack!"? Rather oddly, no they don't. And while the Amazons are preoccupied with Xena, Joxer comes out of the ritual hut, carrying Gabrielle because she's cried out, despite the fact that the bard is not alone in that hut. She's with the person conducting the ritual. Everyone in the vicinity knows the situation, that an obviously out-of-control Xena is there looking for the bard. Ephiny tells Joxer to run... the Amazon Regent gives a guest in their territory a direct command to take Gabrielle and run. Probably Ephiny was hoping to buy some time by slowing, if not stopping, Xena somehow. Joxer disobeys a direct order from both a capable warrior and the ruling individual, and confronts Xena, leaving Gabrielle helpless, too weak to flee by herself. Xena brushes through Joxer like wet tissue paper or its pre-Mycenaean equivalent, and leaves the camp with Gabrielle. Unbelievably, this virus has affected the Amazons so severely, two of them actually jump out of Xena's way.
 Is this the Joxer Syndrome? Yes. In this case, the virus' directive is to make Joxer appear truly heroic. Flight, even in obedience to direct order, hardly appears courageous, and so Joxer must be in a position to confront Xena. The Amazons, capable, brave warriors who confronted Velasca in A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214) and reluctantly followed an order by Ephiny to retreat only because it was an order, must stand by and do nothing to protect their Queen so that Joxer may be seen as acting heroically. Ephiny at least has a broken arm as consolation that she did what she could. It was a sad day for the Amazon Nation when the virus infiltrated their territory.
Joxer, the Mighty Incapacitated When Xena and Gabrielle come across the thoroughly beaten Joxer in KING CON (61/315), viral effects are largely non-existent, likely due to Joxer's unconscious state through the episode and Xena's close proximity. In fact, Joxer's presence seems to be required at all for only two reasons. First, Gabrielle describes Joxer as "family". She thinks of him as the annoying little brother who tags along with his big sister and her friends simply because some attention is better than no attention. Joxer, of course, is probably 8-10 years older than Gabrielle, and this speaks volumes of the bard's opinion of his maturity level. Joxer is very much like the puppy who keeps chewing the legs of your furniture but never gets swatted because the puppy crouches down, looks at you with those puppy eyes and wags his tail tentatively. This is cute until the puppy is a 200 pound dog, your furniture is in splinters and he has still not learned a thing.
 The second possible reason for Joxer's presence is that the beating he took is severe enough to engender sympathy for him, and to provide a reason for Xena's intense reaction. Not only is a reason particularly not necessary, given that she's dedicated herself to helping "everyone", but it's very much over the top, considering her almost total lack of reaction to the beating Gabrielle was forced to take at Tara's hands in FORGIVEN (60/314).
 Now, it's nothing short of miraculous that Joxer is still alive before the events of KING CON (61/315). He roams the countryside bragging of his ability as a "mighty warrior", and at the beginning of CALLISTO (22/122), confronts Xena herself. There are plenty of Darphus, Talmadeus, Dagnine and Agranon types running around, as well as simple, run-of-the-mill thugs. Joxer has no fighting skills whatsoever. Is he living in a cave, never venturing out except to track down Xena and Gabrielle? As any kind of a threat (except to his own safely), he's completely unbelievable, and, in fact, he's put Gabrielle in danger any number of times under the guise of "heroic good intentions". Good intentions just aren't enough.
 This should act as a moment of epiphany for Joxer. The virus that he carries should be put into remission, leaving Joxer free to grow, free to learn that good intentions can have bad consequences (a fact recognized by both Xena and Gabrielle), and free to realize that another line of work is a necessity. The virus needs to stop making Joxer a "Xena wannabe" if there is to be any credible way for him to survive. There are any number of avenues open for him to explore.
Joxer, the Mighty Peeper
As she regains her memories, Gabrielle also regains her grip on Joxer in FORGET ME NOT.
 Unfortunately, this is a tough virus, and it survives. At the beginning of FORGET ME NOT (63/317), Gabrielle tells Joxer she needs answers. Because she is suffering from nightmares, painful memories and guilt, Gabrielle enters the Temple of Mnemosyne, hoping for relief from her painful memories. Even in a sacred place, she's not safe from Peeping Joxer, who has disregarded her instructions to remain behind and has climbed a tree, and is spying on her through a window. Arrogantly refusing to listen to the Priestess trained in the rite that Gabrielle has willingly chosen to undergo, Joxer places Gabrielle's life in potential danger by kidnaping her from the Temple, and the supervision of the Priestess. This is not unselfish, loving concern. Joxer knows that Gabrielle is deeply troubled. The Priestess has told him that if he loves her, he will allow her to discover her memories. To remove her from the temple is action in direct defiance of Gabrielle's freely chosen course of action, not to mentioned, disregard for the bard's potential safety because her physical defense is left up to the inept Joxer. She was hardly in danger from the rather willowy Priestess and her acolytes. Does this fit the criteria for the Joxer Syndrome? Yes, partly. The desired affect is for Joxer to look loving and afraid that Gabrielle will no longer remember who he is, thus somehow dooming a demonstrably one-sided love. His actions, however, indicate a lack of faith in Gabrielle's strength of character.
 In a parallel to Gabrielle's "disrespectful" use of Joxer's personal property in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER...(56/310), (his scabbard to hide the scroll), Joxer "disrespectfully" delves into Gabrielle's personal property in order to read her stories to her. Fruitless? Yep, as he'd know if he'd listened to the Priestess. Viral effect? Nope. It's a reasonable course of action under the circumstances, just as Gabrielle's was.
 Joxer tells Gabrielle that he's a mighty warrior, and that she loves him. Is this the Joxer Syndrome? No, because no other character is diminished so that Joxer might be elevated. Is it justified? No. Joxer certainly knows that Gabrielle has no memories, her soul is not present in her body, and this does not "fit in" with Joxer's earlier expressed desire to give Gabrielle only her good memories. These are two selfish lies, pure and simple. He adds to them by attempting to acquire, through his use of sexual fantasies, something that Gabrielle would never, while "bardo intacta", so to speak, give him of her own free will: her emotional love and commitment, and her body. Is this an unselfish act? No. Is this the Joxer Syndrome? No, it's a selfish act, carried out by a trusted friend. Nor is his renunciation of all but one of his lies the Joxer Syndrome at work. Joxer certainly knew that Xena would come looking for them, since we know from KING CON (61/315) that Joxer is always on time, so it's self-preservation at work.
Fishing For Compliments? Forget viral infestation in FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS (64/318). Think full-blown epidemic. Perhaps it should have been named "A River Should Run Over It", because it was so...so...well, odd, that I think the writers were exposed to something. The actual story could have been compressed into approximately 10 minutes, and even the Joxer Syndrome virus has to have something to work with.
The Mighty Serious Conclusion While this article has a distinctly tongue-in- cheek approach, the sentiments behind it are quite serious. It was my intention to illustrate two things: first, to express the reasoning behind the dislike of a controversial character more fully than simply saying, "I can't stand him"; secondly, to highlight the fact that, in too many episodes, Joxer's character appears to advance only at the expense of another character's already established or firmly implied abilities. Since Xena can be wrong but never stupid, the diminished character must, by default, be Gabrielle.
 Joxer, at this writing, has appeared in a total of 17 episodes over 3 seasons. When he's been used effectively, he's fit into the story as it unfolds. Good examples of this are: GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204), RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205), INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207), TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208), THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210), COMEDY OF EROS (46/222), and BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302). Stories where he's simply been used as a "plot device", and where his character really has nothing to do with the story but appears anyway are: WARRIOR... PRIESTESS... TRAMP (55/309), THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), and FORGET ME NOT (63/317). KING CON (61/315) could be included here, except that some justification was wanted for Xena to take action.
 Episodes where perceived advancements to Joxer's character are made are primarily third season episodes. CALLISTO (22/122) introduced the character. FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216) was a Joxer-centered episode, and an excellent opportunity was missed at the end of this one to take this character in new, but still humorous directions. Another excellent opportunity was missed after KING CON (61/315).
 Let this character grow and learn! We know Joxer isn't a mighty warrior... let him know it too. It's not enough for Joxer to simply fall on his face once an episode; give him a purpose, and a reason for being there, "a mission", as he says in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204). Let him get over Gabrielle, and have him appear with a new woman on his arm each time, each of whom brings out something positive or at least different in him. Let him develop because of who he is, not by diminishing another character. It is not necessary to make Gabrielle "dull and stupid" to make Joxer interesting and still humorous.
 That's the kind of character I would enjoy watching.
Joxer is left alone with his thoughts in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS.
When I'm not fly-fishing, I'm on a baseball field. When it's raining and I can't do either, I'm forced to work. Unfortunately, only one of the foregoing actually pays.
Favorite episode: DREAMWORKER (03/103), THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), THE QUEST (37/213), IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124), REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202), A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214), THE PRICE (44/220), the rift episodes, and ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313).
Favorite line: Xena about the villagers: "Kill 'em all!" TIES THAT BIND (20/120)
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), ULYSSES (43/219), KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308), THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER... (56/310), KING CON (61/315), FORGET ME NOT (63/317), FINS FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318)