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Season 3, episode 12
Series 312
1st release: 01-27-97
2nd release: 07-07-97
1st USA Strip release: 10-09-98
2nd USA strip release: 02-02-99
3rd USA strip release:
Production number: V0117
Approximate shooting dates:
Last update: 01-31-99

SYNOPSIS by Liz Sheppard
COMMENTARY by Liz Sheppard

Hudson Leick (Callisto)
Liddy Holloway (Alcmene)
Jeffrey Thomas (Jason)
Kevin Smith (Iphicles)
Paul Norell (Falafel)

Joy Watson (Hera's Voice)
Michael Hurst (Old Man Iolaus)

Written by Alex Kurtzman
Directed by Oley Sassone

Callisto in front of fire: "Blow it out and make a wish!"
Callisto: "My name is Callisto".
[Callisto kisses Herc]
Herc: "You're insane".
Callisto: "Just misunderstood".
Herc runs to Alcmene asleep in chair: "Mother!"
Callisto in wild vines: "Your friends! If I die, they die!"
[Jason tries to slice open Iolaus.]
Herc on floor: "No!"
[Door with spikes closes on Herc with Callisto walking away.]
Callisto: "Why can't you just die like a good boy?"
Herc: "It's not over yet!"
[Callisto turns around.]

Xena's old enemy Callisto returns from the afterlife when she makes a deal with Hera to kill Hercules in exchange for immortality.

Xena's mortal foe Callisto crashes Herc's birthday party, spikes the punch and forces Our Hero into the Labyrinth of the Gods. Callisto's mission: kill him. But if she fails, she'll die.

Callisto drops in on Hercules' surprise birthday party, bent on a mission of immortality.

1st RELEASE: 01-27-97
An AA average of 6.4
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) HERCULES 9th at 6.4
(2) XENA 10th at 6.3
(3) STAR TREK DS9 12th at 6.2
(4) BAYWATCH 18th at 4.5

2nd RELEASE: 07-07-97
An AA average of 4.7
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) XENA 9th at 4.9
(2) HERCULES 19th at 4.7
(3) STAR TREK DS9 14th at 4.3
(4) BAYWATCH 21st at 3.8


Synopsis by Liz Sheppard

This episode starts out with Xena's arch enemy, Callisto, screaming in Tartarus. A vision of Hera appears before Callisto, telling her how to continue her mission on killing Xena- by destroying Hercules. She's good at destroying people, so she happily agrees.

Hercules and Iolaus are walking down a street talking about how down Herc's been lately because of his birthday. Herc says that ever since Hera killed his family, he's not interested in celebrating stuff. Falafel comes by, talking about a party at Alcmene's, spoiling the surprise. Iolaus tells Herc to act surprised anyway.

Iolaus, Iphicles, Alcmene, Jason, and Falafel are standing around talking about the presents when walks in a pale Callisto with a black cloak on. She acts all sweet and talks about leaving a "small gift" for Herc. Alcmene lets her in and behind everyone's back, she spikes the punch.

Hercules walks in the room, trying to act surprised, but is stunned to see everybody lying around, looking dead. Callisto reveals herself, yelling surprise along with her evil laugh. She tells him that the poison is called xanthalion phenem, a poison that makes a person driven mad by their imaginations, unless they don't kill each other first. the antidote is a bite from the fruit of the tree of life hidden the labyrinth of the gods, and she only knows the way. But Callisto wants the fruit because a whole fruit will make you immortal.

Callisto then tries to play a little game with our hero- How Far Can I Push This Big Softy Until He Cracks. You can tell Hercules wants to rip her head off, but he can't because he needs the directions. They reach the entrance to the labyrinth, but have to answer a riddle before they can enter. Herc gets it and they start exploring.

The party goers wake up, all feeling funky. Iolaus notices strange smoke coming from the punch bowl and he sees that they all have been drugged. Everybody freaks. They spilt up looking for Herc and/or Callisto. Alcmene goes with Iphicles, Jason goes with Iolaus, and Falafel stays behind. He's imagining that one of his dishes is worms. While Alcmene and Iphicles are wandering around, she gets super worried about Hercules, but Iphicles is showing extreme hatred for his brother. Then he runs off, complaining. Jason runs off claiming that he heard something, leaving Iolaus alone. Iolaus then "sees" many beautiful in white clothes all wanting him. He doesn't seem to mind.

When they enter the labyrinth, Herc finds a oil pouch. Callisto plays with his mind more, saying that all people are wicked and deserve whatever they get. Herc talks about too much good in the world to see it that way. Callisto questions him by saying that if everybody good, then why would Hercules be needed. Evil grin.

Callisto comes to a fork in the road and can't remember which way to go. Of course, she picks the wrong way and gets tangled up in wild vines. Herc can't find her, but she screams "Your friends! If I die, they die!" Guided by her voice, he finds her and does this tarzan thing and gets her out.

Meanwhile, Alcmene runs into the ghost of "Herc" saying that he's passed over and he wants to her to go with him. She agrees and they walk off. Falafel is in the kitchen "cooking" food that's not there. Iphicles comes in thinks Falafel is crazy (hint hint), and swings his sword to kill him, but cuts a rope holding up pots and pans, which falls on him, knocking him out. Falafel turns around, seeing the king gone and thinks he didn't like his stew. Iolaus and the "ladies" are having a super time, follows then down the hall, then finds himself about 50 years older, harassing the girls. "Old Iolaus" runs after Iolaus. Iolaus freaks out, then runs to find Jason.

Callisto leads Herc to a room with a huge door with spikes closing him in. Before he's trapped, he stops the door, but he's having trouble keeping it open. Hera reveals where the tree of life is hidden. Callisto eats some of the fruit, restoring her strength, looks and evil ways.

Iolaus is wandering around trying to find Jason, but finds "Old Iolaus" instead. What Iolaus doesn't know is that "Old Iolaus" is actually Jason trying to kill him.

Herc eventually gets out of the doorway, with it slamming shut, behind him. He looks around, can't find Callisto, thinks "uh oh" then a screaming blonde lands on his shoulders, beating him up. They beat the stuffing out of each other for a while, both doing a pretty good job. Callisto sets the tree on fire, making Herc mad. He goes to get an apple that's not on fire, and fight's some more. She taunts him some more, saying that even if he could make it through the maze without her, he won't get back to save his friends. He then shows her that the oil pouch is empty, gets a burning branch and threw it to the ground, lighting a path on fire. Callisto gets really mad, pulls a lever that closes the exit, and charges Herc. She ends up running into the burning tree and burns her face(which is where I assume she gets that scar in A Necessary Evil). Herc rolls under the closing door, trapping Callisto in the room. She's really really mad now.

Jason is running after Iolaus, almost has him, then Hercules comes home and give the men some apple, knocking then back into reality. Iphicles comes to, finding himself under the pots and pans and hears Falafel mumbling about "Must find meat". Falafel looks around, finds the struggling king, imagines him as a pig. He charges him with a butcher knife. Iphicles frees himself and before they kill each other, Herc, Iolaus, and Jason run in giving the men some apple. Herc goes in search of his mother. He finds her talking the ghost of "Herc" and she's about to fall to her death. He saves her, gives her some apple, and she complains on where he's been.

Everybody's reunited and Alcmene remembers Callisto and her wanting to leave a gift. Herc says that she left him love for his family. Happy ending, well except for Callisto.


Commentary by Liz Sheppard

WooHoo! What a wonderful episode! It's been a long time since I've seen a Hercules ep, but a lil' ol' ep called Surprise brought me back. With it's wicked humor, interaction with the characters, and action, it was one fun ride.

OK, yeah, I know, this is *yet* another Hera-Hates-Herc-So-She-Tries-To-Destroy-Him-Again story; but still, she uses the ultimate villianess Callisto to do her dirty work. Callisto proves, once again, that nothing can hold her. By excaping jail twice(maybe more), and getting a free pass out of Tartarus twice, which no one has ever done, she's quite skilled in her evil ways of keeping the heros on their toes. Hudson Leick does an excellent job in playing Callisto with Cally's evil wit "I think the first thing I'm gonna do is find the good Xena, and rip out her tounge just to hear her whistle an apology", her knowledge of what hurts Herc the most, his friends and family, and her beauty(eventhough she did look alittle dead); and I commend her for it. It must be difficult wearing that skimpy outfit in such cold weather.

I must say, I enjoyed the interaction between Herc and Cally more than Xena and Cally. But other people have noticed, as I did, that her attitude seemed childish in a way, kind of playful. I'm a member of the Hudson Leick mailing list, and there were discussions on the actual relationship between Herc and Cal. With her childish actions and her line of "After spending so little time together, it's funny, I feel like I know you", it's been considered that Herc's Cal's daddy. Now I know what you're thinking--crazy stupid impossible silly ect...But of this is crazy, then Ares being Xena's daddy is crazy also. Think about it--Cally's dad had never been mentioned, Herc is quite a ladies man, and Cirra was never mentioned in this ep, it's possible. I'm done preaching of another Is he? Isn't he? situation; draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, MAN do I love Kevin Smith! He is one talented actor and he's such a hottie, too! Whether he's playing Iphicles or Ares, ya gotta love him. There has been a repeated element in his characters, they always end up hating Herc. Falafel cracked me up, one again. I wouldn't want him to cook my food and he should do something about his teeth, but he's still cool. Alcmene was a joy to see again, she and Jason make a great couple. I'll always love Iolaus, but he freaked me out when the Old Iolaus came out and started giggling. Great supporting cast. Love 'em love 'em love 'em.

Now on to nitpicker central. let's start with the fight scene. Now, when you've seen Herc and/or Iolaus vs. twenty thugs once, you've seen it a million times. I love the show but those fights do get a tad boring and repeative at times. Now Callisto may equal in strength twenty thugs, but this was a good fight-she beat the stuffing out of him! She was winning, too, but then she suddenly...stopped. Gave up...got bored...got tired...knew she was the villan and Herc was the hero and hero's always win...we may never know. Also on the nit pick topic, I never knew that eating fruit form the tree of life brushed your hair and did your make up.

Is there anything else to say??? Other than that I loved this episode, I already said that...great ep, enough said...Oh yeah, I love Kevin Smith.


01-19-99. From KSZoneW. In Atlantis: The music used during the fight between Callisto and Hercules was also used in "Surprise" and many of the first season episodes and HTLJ movies. It was from the First Hercules Theme Music CD. They only use it once in a great while, even though its one of there BEST theme's. They may have used it on a past Xena episode as well, during season 1.

01-19-99. From KSZoneW. From My Little Cupcake: The fountain was also seen in HTLJ's "Surprise" and XWP's "Been There, Done That".

01-19-99. From KSZoneW. From My Little Cupcake: The bed in Autolycus room was also seen in XWP's "The Debt" and HTLJ's "Surprise".

10-07-97. At the Valley Forge Convention in October 1997, Hudson Leick shared an anecdote about SURPRISE. It was apparently her idea to kiss Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) before she whacked him a good one in a particular scene. She asked Kevin "Can I kiss you?" He answered "With tongue?" She said "No, not with the tongue."


10-07-98. From KSZoneW.

  • The interaction between Hercules and Callisto. Hudson and Kevin work very well together.

  • The look on Michael Hursts face when he see's all the female dancers in the garden.

  • The big old sloppy kiss that Callisto gives Hercules before she prepares to kill him. Hercules did not seem to like it, I can't understand why !? Even if Callisto looked horrible in this episode.

  • Callisto acting like a total wacked off psycho when she was drinking the water from the well. The other sceen was when she started singing " La-La-La-La-La" and wanted to dance with Hercules.

  • The anger show by Hercules when Callisto made comments about Deineira and the children, and she proclaimed she would make them suffer, if she went back to The Other Side.

  • The interaction between Falafal and Iphicles. The sceen where Falafal took Iphicles for a pig was pretty funny. Falafal almost chopping of The Kings head, but he missed and chopped of some of Kevin Smiths wig.

  • Old Man Iolaus. A combo of Iolaus and Charon.

  • Callisto saying "I'm in a real vine" when she gets tied to the vines.

  • Callisto thinking which door to take.


    10-07-98. From KSZoneW.

  • The fountain seen in HTLJ's "Surprise" and XWP's "Been There, Done That" was also seen in HTLJ's "My Fair Cupcake".

  • The music used during the fight between Callisto and Hercules in "Armageddon Now" was also used in "Surprise" and many of the first season episodes and HTLJ movies. It was from the First Hercules Theme Music CD. They only use it once in a great while, even though its one of there BEST theme's. They may have used it on a past Xena episode as well, during season 1.

  • The bed seen in XWP's "The Debt" and HTLJ's "Surprise", was also used by Autolycus in "My Fair Cupcake".

  • The door used in the "Labrinyth of the Gods" with the spikes was also used in HTLJ "End of the Begaining" later in season 3.

  • The outside of the Labrinyth was also used in XWP "Neccessary Evil" episode.

  • The town set used during the start of this episode was also used in XWP's "Been There, Done That" during season 3.

  • The music played when Callisto first arrives was also used in XWP's "Gabrielles Hope" when Xena see's Hope playing with the small bloody dagger.

  • The doors to the room where the party was being held where also used in XWP's "Debt" episode for the doors to the house of Lao Ma.

  • The animal painted on the wall of the castle is a gryphon [griffin] which is a mythical creature thats part lion and part bird.

  • The well from HTLJ "End of the Begaining" was also seen when Herc and Callisto start walking to through the grass area. Its seen right after they leave the castle.

  • Kevin Smith sounds more like Ares than Ipicles when he gets ticked at Alcmene, for worrying about Hercules.

  • Callisto loves to play with her hair in this episode.

  • The sceen where Iolaus is in the garden had the same music that was used in many areas of HTLJ "Lost City" episode in season 3.

  • The cave set used in this episode was also used in XWP's "Orphan of War"and in several other episodes.

  • The music played when Hercules saves Callisto from the vines was also used many times during the 5 HTLJ movies that started the whole thing.

  • The shot of the dark sky when Iolaus enters the "Land of Old Man Iolaus" was also used during the eclipse and Hopes birth in XWP's "Gabrielle's Hope" and is used many times before Hera appears or disapears. That being "Heras Eyes".

  • Sevral of the crosses from XWP's "Destiny" and "Deliverer" are used in the background of the Old Man Iolaus world sceen. It looks as there are three crosses.

  • The burned golden apple tree was also seen in XWP's "Neccessary Evil" episode.

  • The castle walls looked similar to those used for the castle in "Two Men and a Baby" during HTLJ's season 4.


    Click here to read a transcript of SURPRISE.


    Herc's party pants were not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

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