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Season 1, episode 13
Series 113
1st release: 01-22-96
2nd release: 05-13-96
1st strip release: 08/20/98
2nd strip release: 11/17/98
Production number: 76916
Script number: 111
Approximate shooting dates: September-October 1995
Last update: 09-16-00

SYNOPSIS by Kym Masera Taborn
COMMENTARY by Kym Masera Taborn

Dean O'Gorman (Orion)
Grahame Moore (Polonius)

Patrick Brunton (Stallonus)
Lori Dungey (Kellos)
Alan De Malmanche (Docenius)
Joseph Manning (Euripedes)
Bernard Moody (Drunk)
Andrew Thurtell (Twickenham)
David Weatherley (Gastacius)

Written by R.J. Stewart and Steven L. Sears
Edited by Doug Ibold
Directed by Jace Alexander

Gabrielle forsakes a new homeric odyssey with Xena in order to audition for the Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards at their annual storytelling competition.

Gabrielle cons her way into a prestigious storytelling competition and ends up helping a fellow bard who is under pressure from his father to win.

Gabrielle travels to Athens to compete in a scholarly competition.

Gabrielle helps a storyteller regain his confidence.

1st RELEASE: 01/22/96
An AA average of 5.5
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) HERCULES 10th with 7.0
(2) BAYWATCH 14th with 6.1
(3) STAR TREK DS9 15th with 5.7
(4) XENA 16th with 5.5

2nd RELEASE: 04/15/96
An AA average of 4.1
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) STAR TREK DS9 9th with 5.7
(2) HERCULES 13th with 5.2
(3) BAYWATCH 14th with 4.8
(4) XENA with 4.1 (not even in top 25 folks! Ouch!)


Suddenly we are in "The Reckoning" where Ares as the mysterious masked assailant goes mano-a-mano with Xena. But wait! It's not a re-run, it's Gabrielle telling the story to a bunch of guys. A young guy tells Gabrielle that the Bard Academy in Athens has some openings and that there's a competition going on to fill the positions. Gabrielle ditches Xena to go (she must have learned how to do it after watching how Xena handled Hercules). Gabrielle meets up with the young guy again, just in time to tell him about Xena's fight with Draco in "Sins of the Past". Instead of showing any interest in the real name of the guy, she dubs him Orion.

Gabrielle artfully bluffs her way into the competition. During a lecture, she is horrified by a staged event. She then tells the story of Xena and Death in "Death in Chains" in order to show them what a REAL story is about. Later she hangs out at the dorm with her new pals: Stallonus, who tells the story of Hercules in a Steve Reeves Hercules movie; and Euripides, who tells the story of Iolaus' seduction in "The Warrior Princess" from HTLJ. Instead of then telling Euripides about her and Xena's double date with Hercules and Iolaus in "Prometheus" (which would have wowed him more, I believe), she tells the tale of Xena's redemption in "The Gauntlet" from HTLJ.

Meanwhile, Orion is suffering from severe father angst. His father is a stage father who wants Orion to be best darn bard ever. Orion feels great pressure to perform. Gabrielle tries to shape up the father but it doesn't work. She then tells Orion to let the story take control, ignore the audience, and just let go. Presumably, that's what she does.

After being kicked out of the competition for many reasons (late registration, lied to get in, insulted the instructor, too perky), Gabrielle then tells her new friends that although she dumped Xena, she would not dump them. She does this by finally telling them about the friendship between Hercules, Xena, her, and Iolaus in "Prometheus". After such a fine story, the wannabe bards have no choice but to refuse to perform until Gabrielle is reinstated into the competition. To strut her stuff, Gabrielle tells the story of her and Xena finding the baby in "Cradle of Hope".

Stallonus starts the competition with more Steve Reeves' Hercules. Gabrielle tells about various Xena adventures from "Sins of the Past" and "Chariots of War". Orion then decides to blot out the audience by closing his eyes and giving the story all he's got, Father be d*mned! He tells the story of Spartacus from the Stanley Kubrik movie "Spartacus".

Neither Stallonus or Gabrielle made the cut (even though it is ambiguous; Gabrielle may have refused it), but Orion did. He tells Gabrielle his real name: Homer. Gabrielle then goes back to Xena as if she never ditched her to begin with.


No doubt the show was made to give Ms. Lawless a break and to save the production company money (it was all clips and Gabrielle). This episode, along with "The Prodigal", comprised the "Where is Xena?" episodes for the first season. In both episodes Gabrielle awkwardly dumped Xena in the beginning only in the end to return, a little bit older and a little bit wiser.

In "Athens" Gabrielle left Xena mid- trip to see if she was made of the right stuff and could get accepted into a prestigious, if not snooty, bard school (one that she dreamt of attending in "Prometheus"). In "Prodigal" she left Xena mid-trip in a sudden and poorly motivated need to return to her home village.

By the time these episodes had aired, the relationship of Xena and Gabrielle had already taken on a life of it's own. Their separation was very clumsy and the writers did not try hard to hide it. It was clearly a device, albeit it awkward, to allow Gabrielle some breathing space to develop sans Xena (not to mention to give Ms. Lawless a break and in the case of "Athens" to spend a little less money and work the crew a less that week).

In "Athens", Gabrielle discovered that she could function quite successfully without Xena, thus furthering a process rarely seen in television called the maturation of the character. She went about her business cleaning up the bard acts of various up and coming bards, fixing a rift between Homer and his father, and even redressing her bard professor for ineffective teaching techniques. It was unclear whether she was accepted and refused the scholarship or whether she wasn't offered anything. However, it was clear that at that point she had decided it was more important making the story than telling it, which could be best achieved by returning to Xena. This was cleverly emphasized by the evolution of her stories from being just about Xena to finally stories about HER and Xena. Thus Gabrielle returned to Xena with a more focused reason why she wanted to be there. It also defined her evolution towards becoming Xena's partner than just a tag-a-long chronicler, as she sold herself to Xena in the first part of the first season.

All this was fine and good. The relationship of Xena and Gabrielle seemed almost etched in stone at that point, but then "The Prodigal" came around. Gabrielle once again got itchy feet, and before you could say "No, you didn't freeze", Gabrielle was out of there, leaving Xena in the dust, and heading home to bond with her flesh and blood sister. Again the parting was done very abruptly and without any foreshadowing, other than Gabrielle's perception of her failure at an ambush. Yet again, the parting was not the point, it was that Gabrielle had to visit with her real family in order to realize that she also was family to Xena.

Both shows highlighted the talents of Ms. O'Connor and she carried both shows successfully.

This was the first "clip" or "bottle" show in XWP's history. THE XENA SCROLLS (#34) was the second season and highlighted the talents of Renee O'Connor as well even though Lucy Lawless was more present in SCROLLS than she was in ATHENS CITY.


09-16-00. Dean (Orion) O'Gorman was at the Panathenaea Convention in London, England on September 3, 2000. He mentioned that the actors did not know that there would be old movie clips (from the Steve Reeves' HERCULES movies and SPARTACUS) used. Apparently they just thought clips from the show would only be used.

01-31-98. In an upcoming WHOOSH interview (tentatively scheduled for March 1998), Maggie Hickerson, the script coordinator for XWP, stated about ATHENS: "...when Steve Sears gave me ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS I saw that one of the characters, the one with the stutter, was named Twickenham, and I screamed with laughter because that's my home town. That stems from when I first came on board and we were all talking about ourselves and getting introduced and I said I was from a town called Twickenham. He said I like that name, it has a nice ring to it, I'm going to use it in a script one day.'

01-27-98. From Nicholas Nayko:I got Robert Weisbrot's book "Complete Guide to the Xenaverse" and was shocked to read R. J. Stewart (a writer) cite Euripides' play "Helena" setting in Egypt as justification for his fooling around with established mythological and historical characters. Stewart claims Euripides did it, so why can't he. He doesn't understand that play takes place after the Trojan War when Helen went to Egypt to meet with Menalaes. Stewart claimed Helen should be in Troy, not Egypt. Even Herodotus states Helen went to Egypt so Stewart is obviously mistaken in his justification.


Changing Times is by Debbie White.

Xena learns that Gabrielle might not always be at her side while Gabrielle tries to find out if she can really obtain her dreams.

The Changing Xena

Xena appeared more in flashbacks than not in this clip show episode.

Gabrielle learns about a bard contest when Xena comes back. Xena tells her about some monster causing havoc and asks, "I guess I don't have to ask if you want to come along, huh?" Then Xena learns that Gabrielle is willing to leave her for four or five years in order to follow her dream to become a trained bard. Xena, though sad, tells Gabrielle a story to get across that Gabrielle is like family to her, then lets Gabrielle go. Xena even tells her to follow her dreams and that she WILL win, because she is a good story-teller. We learn that Xena, though sorry to lose Gabrielle, is willing to let her go and that she now has confidence in her skills.

The Changing Gabrielle

The episode starts with Gabrielle telling stories about the adventures she has had with Xena. Now we know it is Gabrielle who is recording and telling these adventures for future generations to come. Also, people pay her money after her story- telling. This is one of the ways Xena and Gabrielle get money since they do not fight for money.

Gabrielle is irritated enough by Orion's father and tantalized by the chance to become a trained bard, that she is willing to leave Xena for a time. It seems strange that Gabrielle would do that, but it is a dream of a life-time versus her pride against a short absence away from her friend. So she leaves Xena, tricks her way into the contest, and immediately makes several friends among her competition. At the introductory lecture, Gabrielle gets a feeling that something strange will happen even before it does. It shows how much she has picked up from Xena. Not only that, but she stands up to the lecturer when she thinks what he is saying is not good advice on story-telling. Several times Gabrielle makes the point that she thinks that stories should have morals.

Later, Gabrielle is taking to her friends in their room. They look to her for advice on how to tell stories better, even though she is a contestant with them. Gabrielle is just observant enough to see what is wrong and is able to give good advice, so they are smart to listen. They listen to her defend Xena and believe her, too, despite having heard of Xena's evil reputation. Her friends come to respect her enough that they are willing to give up their own chance at the Academy so that Gabrielle can stay in the competition. Gabrielle even tries to keep them from getting into trouble over helping her, but they will not have it. Perhaps why Gabrielle tries to stop them is because Gabrielle is not used to attention, especially with Xena around. When everyone starts gathering around to listening to her stories at the beginning, she comes out of the story and seems self-conscious of all the people standing around.

Gabrielle also learns the pros and cons of adventuring versus being a trained bard. She wonders what Xena is doing and misses the excitement of adventuring. She also does not like having to meet and then leave so many of the friends she has made along the way. Also, she wins a spot in the Academy, but in the end she learns that her real dream, or her new dream, is to be living the adventure rather than just telling stories about it.

"This is a story of two friends. They met each other in the hardest of times. They learned to care for each other. They became a great team. Some adventures ended better than others. And together they learned life's mysteries."


Embarrassingly enough, for me, it was Stallonus. I loved him.


Click here to read a transcript of ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS .


The producers would like to acknowledge and pay tribute to Stanley Kubrick, Kirk Douglas and all those who were involved with the making of the film classic 'SPARTACUS.' Additional thanks to Steve Reeves.


The following WHOOSH! articles discuss this episode:

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