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aka Shark Island Prison

Season 4, episode 7
Series 407
1st release: 11-09-98
2nd release: 05-31-99
3rd release: 12-27-99
1st strip release:
2nd strip release:
Production number: V0614
Script number: 411
Approximate shooting dates: August 1998 (name change in October 1998)
Last update: 09-02-00

SYNOPSIS 1 by Bluesong
SYNOPSIS 2 by Missy Good
COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by Deb E McGhee
COMMENTARY 3 by Missy Good
COMMENTARY 4 by Videntur
COMMENTARY 5 by L.N. James
COMMENTARY 6 by Bethany Faison

Katrina Browne (Thalassa, the Commandant)
William Kircher (#1 Bad Guard/Prison overseer/captain)
Tanea Heke (Ersina)

Natalie Dennis (Clysemene)
Julie Taylor (hanged woman)
Gilbert Goldie (town elder #1)
Huntly Eliott (judge)
Margaret Blay (woman in court)
Patrick Smith (healer)
Chris Sherwood (Draxel)
Laurie Dee (tavernkeeper)

Story by Robert Tapert and Josh Becker
Teleplay by Hilary Bader
Edited by Jim Prior
Directed by Rick Jacobson

[Shackles. Xena on trial.]
Man: I sentence you to life imprisonment on Shark Island.
[Xena and island guards. Xena fights.]

Judge: I sentence you to prison, and may the gods have mercy on your soul.
Captain: You're a real hero, aren't you?
Thalassa: That's right, Xena.
Ersina: Take her, girls!

Xena is sentenced to life in prison for the crimes she committed in her dark past.

1st RELEASE: 11-09-98
An AA average of 4.9
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) X-FILES 12th with 5.7
(2) XENA 13TH with 4.9
(3) STAR TREK DS9 17th with 4.5
(4) ER 19th with 4.3
(5) HERCULES 20th with 4.2

2nd RELEASE: 05-31-99
An AA average of 3.8
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(2) (10) X-FILES 12th with 4.6
(3) (15) XENA 13TH with 3.8
(4) (18) ER/WALKER TEXAS RANGER 19th with 3.4


This synopsis is by Bluesong.

As the show opens, Xena receives a massage from Gabrielle. Poor Xena's shoulders ache from carrying the weight of the world on them. Xena tells Gabrielle there are men approaching, and they all have a little fight. One of the men carries a warrant for Xena's arrest for the murder of Thelassa, a young woman of goodness murdered by the Destroyer of Nations, killed for no reason other than it suited Xena's purpose. Xena gives Gabrielle her chakram and says she's going in for her punishment. The men chain her up.

At the trial, witnesses testify to the goodness of Thelassa. Xena, in a flashback, remembers how she slapped the woman and cut open her head, and then tied her up where flesh-eating crabs could get to her. She is sentenced to life on Shark Island. She and Gabrielle talk before she ships out. Xena tells Gabrielle that she is looking for something to make her feel whole, just like Gabrielle is doing with her spiritual quest. Xena is put on the ship. Gabrielle sits at a bar and looks at the chakram. A man comes in; he was the healer on Shark Island but he quit. Gabrielle buys him a drink.

Xena arrives on the island and is greeted by a hanging. A cloaked figure watches from a window. The inmates fight amongst themselves; Xena defends one young woman and has a big fight with several inmates, including one she put away several years ago. Xena asks if she can bury the woman who was hanged. She digs the grave in the dark and the rain. She makes a burial marker. A cloaked figure watched from a window. Xena helps a weak woman unload a wagon. The guard calls Xena a "hero" and Xena says she is no hero. The guard beats Xena for talking back. Xena is told to unload the wagon by herself, hauling heavy kegs. The young woman Xena saved earlier tries to help her, and is ordered to receive 3 lashes for her efforts. Xena goes off at this and beats up all of the guards as the prisoners cheer her on. The window watcher intervenes, and Xena stops fighting long enough for the guards to get a hold of her. The watcher is Thelassa! She doesn't have an arm. Xena remembers how she went back to get her and she was gone, but her arm remained. Everyone thought the crabs had eaten her and left her arm. Thelassa orders Xena "chained like a hog" and then Xena is thrown into a pit full of rats. Thelassa laughs because Xena is finally getting the punishment she craves, but it's for a murder she didn't commit! The rats crawl all over Xena.

Gabrielle, now dressed as a healer, arrives at the prison. She spends time with Thelassa and works on her arm stump to relieve the phantom pain. Xena, still in the pit, kills rats with her teeth. Gabrielle goes in search of Xena, but to find her she has to lose two guards, and ends up beating them up. She finds her friend but can't get to her; she rolls the chakram across a room to the pit, but the chakram catches on bars and doesn't fall down into the pit. It just lays there, out of reach. The guards grab Gabrielle. Thelassa isn't happy with having to do something to Gabrielle, because she likes her. But the rules say Gabrielle must hang.

Xena manages to throw a dead rat with her teeth, and it knocks the chakram through the bars. It hits her chains and frees her. Thelassa won't give the command to have Gabrielle killed. The guard boss does it anyway. As the rope tightens, Xena's chakram flies from nowhere and cuts the rope; Gabrielle falls. Xena jumps into the yard and a riot breaks out. Xena tells Gabrielle to save Thelassa. Xena breaks up some of the riot, but many of the women go after Thelassa. Xena beats up the women and saves Thelassa. Thelassa says she is feeling not quite so bitter, and she hopes Xena is able to forgive herself someday. Xena goes free.


This synopsis is by Missy Good.

Nice opening shot of Gabrielle giving Xena a backrub, looking for a kink the tall dark and deadly one is complaining about. (G) Gabrielle finds it, then asks Xena what she's been carrying on her shoulders, Xena tells her that she tries not to over analyze her life like some people. ( I thought that was kind of unecessarily snippy of her...but anyway.. ) Gabrielle tells her some people say an unexamined life is not worth living. Xena says.. 'they haven't lived my life.'

They are attacked by some villagers who say they are here to bring Xena to justice, they have an arrest warrant for her for the murder of someone. Gabrielle obeys her spinal reflex and defends her, but Xena says the accusation is true - and that she's going back with them to face justice. She gives Gab the chakram. Gab looks stunned. Xena tells her, "you said yourself I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.. maybe it's my guilt, this is my chance to do something about it." They put Xena in chains, and we end the teaser.

We come back to the trial - I think it's the same guy as the judge in the Meleager ep.. but I could be wrong. We get a flashback to a Xena past - this is ugly folks. Xena takes this girl in a bargain for some information, then leaves her to be eaten by crabs.

Eaten by crabs? (biting lip) Okay, well at least she didn't stab her to death. Xena gets sentenced to life in prison on Alcatraz, I mean, Shark Island, even though Gabrielle does a darn good job of trying to defend her.

(Note to Gabfans - The Bard comes off being extremely intelligent, resourceful, tough, and loyal in this episode - not to mention really showing off some nice gabwhacks)

Xena's on the dock waiting to be shipped to Alcatraz. Gab comes to say goodbye - she's upset at Xena for not speaking up in her own defense - Xena tells her there is no defense for what she did. Gab says 'you could have argued the greater good' and tells that that if she's looking for redeption, she's not going to find it on Shark Island. Xena tells her that she's not looking for redeption anymore, and that they were always talking about Gabrielle's spiritual quest, and that she said she was looking for something to complete her.. well, Xena needs that too. She goes to touch Gab's face, and they pull them apart and ship her off. (The actual line is "You say you need something to make yourself whole.. I need that too." and altbards all over are rolling their eyes and saying "Well.. DUH!!!") (sorry.. I coudn't resist)

Gabrielle is sitting in a bar, examining the chakram, (Gab, sitting at a bar gazing into the razor sharp edge of the chakkie, what an image) The ex healer of Shark Island shows up, and she buys him a mug of ale, then discovers the prison has no healer and asks when the next ship out is. (awww)

The prison is nasty. They hang a woman when the new prisoners get there just to prove it. The prisoners decide to make an example of Xena. Even chained, this is not a good idea, folks. She kicks some booty, then they ask her to join them in an escape attempt. She says no. I have to say that Xena looks very...well, she's pretty off balance in this episode...I think it's all getting a little too much for her.. or maybe it's an aftereffect of the season opener. (or, perhaps, she was overly traumatized by the lice.. I can't tell) But if I was someone who knew anything about psychology, which I don't, I'd suspect she's heading towards a nervous breakdown.

They are working, and the woman they hung the day before is starting to stink. Xena convinces the guard to let her bury the woman instead of tossing her to the sharks. So she does, at night and in the rain, and builds a death altar to her (sticks, a half moon.. I 'm not sure of the symbology) The prisoners watch through the window, and you see a shrouded silhouette also watching from the guard's area.

Xena tries to help a woman who is sick - the lead guard does a sadistic mean guard thing to her - smacking her around, and you know that in the end of this show, this guard is going to get either Xena whapped or Gabwhacked .. they tell Xena to unload a wagon, and a woman tries to help her - they give the woman three lashes and Xena has had about enough. Sure enough, she whacks the crap out of the nasty guard, and then proceeds to smack the crap out of everyone.

Then it turns out that the girl Xena was supposed to have killed, she never did. (Thelassa is her name) She's here on the island, being the evil commandant She has Xena chained, and tossed into a rat bin, after making sure she knows exactly how much Xena ruined her life. (the crabs chewed her arm off, and nibbled her face.. )

Question - HOW DID LUCY LET ROB GET AWAY WITH THIS ***AGAIN***??? RATS!!!! UGH!!! Okay, it could have been worse. It could have been palmetto bugs. (Non Southern US residents - a palmetto bug is a three inch long flying cockroach whose average intelligence ranges from that of a dog to that of a governer elect.)

Back to the story. Xena is being eaten alive by rats. In the meantime, a new healer has arrived on the prison island. She offers asstance to the warden, salve for her wounds .especially the arm that was chewed off by the crabs The commandant is very bitter - she tells Gabrielle a tall, dark haired evil stole her beauty and twisted her soul and it looks very much like she's falling for Gabrielle. This is an interesting scene. Gabrielle tells her she has to let go of her hate, and reconnect with the good still inside her (paraphrased), all the while gazing up with those pretty green eyes.

To say the commandant is smitten would be about right. This is not subtext, folks. (shaking head) if the character was a guy, he'd be wearing a red shirt.

IN the meantime, Xena is defeating the rats in her own, initable Xena style, by biting them and tossing them against a wall. She's got them scared off.. they run when she yells now. It's an interesting testiment to Xena's will to live, and her stubborn determination. As far as she knows, she has no help on this island, she's hogtied with chains, in a pit with thousands of rats, and she really has no hope of survival. This is feral Xena at her finest and when she growls, those rats flee in terror.

Gabrielle has guards following her everywhere. The commandant wants to insure her safety apparently. She borrows a broom, ("Excuse me, can I borrow this please?" ) and sweeps a little dirt out of the way (very cute scene) (A smile "Thanks." when she hands it back to the old woman after beating the crap out of the guards) then goes to find Xena's hell pit. She tries to toss the chakram down, but it gets stuck in a grid above where she is, and the guards come and get Gabrielle.

Ooo.. they're going to hang Gabrielle. Things look bad.

Xena grabs a rat by the tail (I'm not lying..it's dead, I think) and flings it upward, it's stiff body knocking the chakkie down and cutting her steel chains. (another skill of the chakkie!) (note - the dead stiff rat makes the same number of revolutions that Xena did when she was flying through the air to the ship on Lost Mariner.. confounding those people who insist there is no continuity on this show)

Back to the scaffold, the commandant decides she can't order Gabirelle hung, but the guard can, and does - the hangman pulls the lever, and Gab drops. All the way to the ground because the chakram has cut the rope. (ouch.. poor Gab) The prisoners revolt, and Gab gets the commandant to safety, then defends her against the prisoners with some gabwhacking. She finally gets knocked out by the lead prisoner, but then Xena comes flying in the window and kicks the lead prisoner halfway back to the mainland. They fight, then it's all over, and Gabirelle comes down to claim her partner.

The commandant tells Xena that Gabrielle has helped her get back in touch with her soul, and her ability to do good, then she leaves, and Gabrielle asks Xena if she's ready to forgive herself. Xena answers that forgiving is 'not for her' but that she's not going to let the evil she once was keep her from doing good. Gabrielle answers "not as long as I'm around."


Commentary by Beth Gaynor.

Fair warning for this review's objectivity: this is the kind of Xena episode I adore. Sure, the dramas can grab my heart, and sure, the comedies can make me laugh until I'm sick, but it's a cheesy, rollicking adventure that plants a big smile on my face. Xena is dark and dangerous, Gabrielle is sweet and sneaky, and the baddie is chewing the scenery (and, in this case, the scenery's chewing on her.) Pass the popcorn, crack up open a beverage of your choice, and prop your feet up with me.

Gabrielle reports that some people are saying that "the unexamined life is not worth living;" does this mean Socrates will be banging around the XenaVerse someday? ("Socrates, stop! Don't drink that hemlock!") Great "those people haven't lived my life" riposte from Xena. Attention in the terminal: the Xena guilt trip is now boarding all passengers for a 45-minute ride.

Gabrielle tries her best to defend Xena - and does a fine job of it - but it's tough to be the defense attorney when the defendant is leaping into the shackles for the jailers. The judge's "She's done nothing since you've known her to make you question her resolve for good?" is a telling question. You can almost see Xena holding her breath, waiting to see what the post-Rift Gabrielle is going to answer. Gab's reply is a wise one: let the one who is without sin cast the first stone. Mortar a whole mess o'more bricks into the rebuilding that Xena and Gabrielle are doing.

The parallel between Thelassa and Gabrielle starts be drawn almost immediately, as soon as Xena mentions her "light," which is the same word she's used so often to describe the bard. Maybe this was part of the reason she took on a tagalong from Poteidaia? The presumed fate of Thelassa flies in the face of Xena's usual protests about killing women and children. According to Flashback Xena's words - and reactions - it's the first time she's crossed that line. And was it on purpose? Xena claims to be prepared to come back and release Thelassa, but then why leave her with the crabs already starting to do their work? Is Xena guilty of murder or gross negligence?

When did this happen in Xena's past? Judging by her outfit and furry-headed flunkies, it's after her return from Chin. There's no sign of Borias. But she doesn't yet have her warlord armor.

What was Xena about to say when she and Gabrielle were yanked apart at the dock? Whatever it was, it looked like it was going to be deep and meaningful. Drat those timely interruptions!

For once, it's Xena that has left Gabrielle. When the bard is sitting morosely in the bar (what's she drinking, anyway?) with Xena's chakram, I realized that other than one little Green Dragon incident, it's usually been the other way around. Gab doesn't take to being left behind too easily. Her response brings back vivid memories of the episode The Black Wolf: Gabrielle manages to get herself into the prison and bring Xena's weaponry with her.

One small question: we see lots of Xena's chakram, and it's a blaring symbol of when Xena stops fighting and when she battles again. But where's Xena's sword? For that matter, Argo's never mentioned either. Maybe THAT'S what Xena was going to say on the dock - "don't forget to feed my horse!"

Most of the women in this prison look about as dangerous as deer. Ursina ("bear woman"?) and her crew are the exception. Ursina looks ready to chew nails - or random set pieces - at the drop of a hat.

Was it a nice piece of acting, or was that prison set freezing? Xena looked chilled to the bone most of the times in the courtyard.

Nicely-done humor moment by the warden: he sniffs the prisoners, then turns suspiciously to his own men, when he notices the bad smell in the area.

That was some pretty vivid penance Xena imposes on herself when she builds the monument and grave while chained. I half-expected Xena to sing the funeral dirge for her victims. Beautiful emotion in that scene. It was almost beautiful enough to make me not quibble about being allowed to dig a grave in the middle of the courtyard or collect a bunch of spare supplies for altar building... almost.

Xena comes verrrrrry close to succesfully making herself fall into the role of the quiet, obedient prisoner, until one of the deer is threatened. (Then Xena gets to be creative with a soaked noose.) As the warden said, you're a real hero, aren't you, Xena?

The warden sure gets his clock cleaned early and often. First Xena gets her licks in, then Gabrielle, then he's finally offed by Ursina. Contrary to what I expected in the beginning, Xena's climactic battle isn't against the cruel warden, who nonetheless had the law on his side, but was against Ursina and her buddies, who would have been a menace had they escaped. Nice touch.

Gabrielle apparently spent her week on the mainland by playing strip poker with the previous healer and altering her winnings. Her tie-dyed outfit is an almost exact copy of his, as is her hat, necklace, and bracelets.

"The thought of you has haunted me every moment of my life," says Thelassa (Nicole Kidman, is that you?). Shades of Callisto come back again. The difference is that Thelassa isn't psychotic. But she's mired in bitterness and cruelty, which Gabrielle manages to reach past. Thelassa sure took a fast shine to Gab!

It's been quite a while since we've seen anyone get the better of Gabrielle in a fight. I'll blame it on the head injury and still cheer the fact that the bard flattened Ursina's four buddies first.

In the fight between Ursina and Xena, watch after Xena flips to her feet on the table. Ursina looks table-level at where Xena used to be, then up. That's a great choreography touch.

Xena takes heaping gobs of abuse in this episode. By the end of it, she's been serving hard labor, pummeled by a whole group of guards, hog-tied in chains and dropped a story or two into a cold, dank pit, has been nibbled on by rats, and tops it all off with a nasty fight against five crazed prisoners. Thank goodness Gabrielle had been brushing up on her healing skills to give Xena the red cross treatment when it was all over.


Commentary by Deb E McGhee.

SOUNDBYTE SUMMARY: Xena, Warrior Penitent, gives herself up to the long arm of the law for a crime it turns out she didn't commit. Nicely directed and well-acted on the part of the principals, the story is slightly marred by a hesistance to commit to Xena's blameworthiness and a hurriedness in the final scenes. 3.5 quills (out of 5).


A few weeks ago I commented that the M.O. for season 4 looks to be a revisitation of the themes of season 1, now that our protagonists have experienced the major upheavals and 'resetting' of season 3. The pattern still holds true here in Locked Up and Tied Down. If I had the proper equipment, I'm sure I could find the subliminal "This is 'The Reckoning Revisited'" messages hidden between frames.

Several elements of the earlier episode are there: from the theme of atonement, to major plot points like the call to justice for a crime Xena didn't commit and Gabrielle as advocate, to seemingly minor things like a sneak attack by a posse in the woods and a mysterious hooded figure. Bader's script, however, makes what easily could have been a retread in the context of yet another genre 'homage' a thoughtful compare-and-contrast character study.

For example, in The Reckoning, Xena and Gabrielle are tracked through the woods by villagers unskilled in stealth. Xena senses their presence almost immediately, while Gabrielle is clueless. Here in the fourth season, Gabrielle is the first to mention the presumably skilled bounty hunters, and instead of needing Xena's protection, executes some of the coolest moves I've ever seen from the warrior-bard. It's little details like this that elevate a script from the mundane and show the skill of a writer who can develop characters within the constraints of an action genre.

In addition to the deftness with which Gabrielle's character is treated despite going missing for almost two full acts (a rather ironic reversal considering that Reckoning featured ROC more than other episodes of that period), Locked Up ups the ante on Xena's quest for atonement. In Reckoning, Xena was tried and jailed for a crime she had no hand in whatsoever -- in fact, she had tried to stop the true culprit. There, she was willing to let the law run its course despite its injustice because she recognised she had committed numerous and more heinous crimes in her warlord past. Now, Xena must answer for a crime she *knows* she perpetrated. The similarities and differences between how Xena and Gabrielle handle the old and new situations and how they manage their relationship are intriguing.

As before, Xena readily becomes penitent in the extreme. LL gives what I consider to be her most compelling and least self-conscious performance in a long time during the burial scene. In those moments, I became re-acquainted with the character that first drew me to this show: a person deeply troubled by past transgressions and "a monster sleeping close to her heart" who recognises she may never make up for those things but must try, nevertheless, to somehow atone and do better in the present. There were no words, no big expressions of emotion, no self-righteousness, just quiet pain and determination. And although the setup was there, Jacobson (the director) doesn't overdo the rain symbolism and Lo Duca is restrained with the musical underscoring.

Locked Up also provides Xena the opportunity to choose between wallowing in her self-loathing and doing something to aid others. Whereas in Reckoning she capitalised on a slip made by the one who framed her and thereby brought back the innocent dead, now she *actively* protects those who are abused by others with greater power. The story gradually unfolds by reminding us of the first season Xena -- the one who sits silent in the courtroom -- and moves onward to close with a reminder of destiny ("The gods certainly love playing with our fates, don't they?"). Xena may not yet be willing to forgive herself, but there is the sense that she is moving closer toward a balance of accepting responsibility for the past and taking responsibility for the present, rather than acting simply out of self-recrimination.

Gabrielle is also similar to, yet different from, her younger self. In Reckoning she was full of vibrant energy and passion, fiercely intent with her cunning and youthful optimism to free her friend. The determination is still intact, but two scenes stand out for their contrast value. First, in the courtroom, Gabrielle starts out staunch in her defence of Xena but -- unlike the first season Gab who persisted despite the recalcitrance of her client -- backs down when she realises the case is lost. The Judge's query about the strength of Xena's conversion made me cringe for X&G and cheer for the honesty of the scriptwriter. Gabrielle is wise and accepting of the truth when she answers, and I only wish that Jacobson had not chosen a long, wide-angle shot for that moment.

Despite her hard-earned temperance, however, Gabrielle has not completely given over to cynicism. It was a delight to see the twinkle in her eyes when she meets the former prison healer: I could almost hear the mental machinations. On the flip side, we see that some of this optimism persists because Gabrielle still cannot bear the full weight of Xena's former depravity. Gabrielle wants to look toward the future, and this is plain in her eyes and voice when she counters "Don't!" to Xena's self-condemnation.

As Gabrielle and Xena have both changed as individuals since The Reckoning, so too has their relationship developed. Xena no longer tries to push away her partner but, in giving her the chakram, conveys her recognition of their importance to one another as well as (perhaps) her suspicion that Gabrielle may not yet concede the fight for Xena's life. Moreover, Xena is ready to turn from her own turmoils and fight without hesitation when she knows that Gabrielle is in trouble. For her part, the bard is no longer in need of constant protection and shows that she can take care of herself and the relationship with due force as she sees fit. Despite all they've gone through and despite lingering questions around why Gabrielle stays with Xena, the power of their bond shines through.

I do have some reservations about the meta-message of XWP that was highlighted in this episode. Specifically, in all the episodes I can recall in which Xena meets a past acquaintance who is now a foe, there is a suggestion that those who have been 'twisted' by her influence in some way perpetuated their own torment. This was the case somewhat in The Black Wolf, but definitely as early as Fistful of Dinars and as late as The Debt. In addition, for those who were already wicked (e.g., the warlord in Chariots of War, Marcus, and Alti), Xena's role is to put them down or lead them to the path of righteousness. Not only is there a bit of victim-blaming going on in such scenarios, but it tends to make Xena look rather holier-than-thou.

In Locked Up, this pattern is continued in the character of the commandant. Thalassa crosses paths with Xena the Destroyer, survives the trauma, and takes up a career as the head of a brutal prison. The predictable and somewhat distasteful pattern is broken by two saving-grace features of the script. First is the theme of acceptance which runs as a thread throughout and so does not come off as the transparent, jejune, tacked-on moralising we normally get. Second, the dialogue of the closing scene includes a clever bit of deflection. Xena shares her wisdom about the perils of bitterness, but Thalassa affirms its truth value by attributing it (and her change of heart) to Gabrielle. In my mind, that dialogue indicates an increase in honesty about Xena's character on the part of the writers, as well as a *true* recognition of Gabrielle's power -- yet I remain cautious about whether this will continue.

The Reckoning is one of my favourite XWP eps of the entire series, so it should be unsurprising that I liked Locked Up and Tied Down for its revisitation and development of common themes. My main complaint is that the ending felt rushed. Very little interaction is shown between Gabrielle and Thalassa (powerful though those scenes were), which undermines the credibility of G's influence and T's change, and there is even less between Xena and Thalassa, making T's story feel like a plot-inititating contrivance. Still, I plan on making a second tape on re-broadcast.


LL's read on the "For what?" line when Xena is served with the arrest warrant was odd. Considering that X&G have just been talking about Xena's life, Xena's stark incredulity seems false and hypocritical.

Most of the minor actors got on my nerves. Ursina (the Brown Bear?!) especially set my teeth on edge. However, it was nice to see Eliot Huntley (The Judge) back for another stint as a community leader (he was the Amphipolitan Village Elder in Sins of the Past, the priest of Demeter in Fistful of Dinars, and has had at least one similar role over on HTLJ.).

Xena makes a reference to Gabrielle and she discussing Gabrielle's spiritual quest. This was a nice touch and I'd like to see XWP include such inter-episode references more often because they add continuity and smoothness to character development.

There were a few times when I thought the script was overly heavy-handed. It was clear from the moment the varklempt villager started witnessing for the red-haired, lit-from-within Thalassa that Thalassa was Gabrielle's parallel. It was *crystal* clear when Thalassa (in flashback) offered herself up to Xena in exchange for the safety of her neighbours. Thus, the chilling message about what would have happened to Gabrielle had she met a pre-reformed Xena in Sins of the Past was already laid out in 20 or so dialects before Xena's pedantry -- valuable television seconds that could have gone to the rushed ending.

I am still unclear as to what Xena was alluding when she said she needed something to make herself complete. She was giving Gabrielle her argument for why she should go to prison at that point. Does she mean that she needs punishment and debasement to feel complete? Dios mio, that certainly adds a whole new perspective to the warrior's character!

Greetings and salutations to the DP, set design, and wardrobe and makeup crews for adding the extra special touches. The contrasts between the opening scene in which G and X share private moments, the prison landscape, and Gabrielle's 'aura' as healer were just beautiful. And I do so love red and black in combination.

A big old 'yikes!' for the stuntwork involved in falling into The Pit. LL or whoever did that: "Good on ya, mate!"

The rat-toss was silly. I hope that wasn't supposed to be a tension-breaking moment, because it only succeeded in un-suspending my disbelief. Two shots at the chakram would have been just as impressive and not as mood-munching.

Subtext moment of the week goes to that groan Xena issued during the backrub. Second place (missing first place by mere fractions) goes to the moment when Thalassa first laid eyes on Gabrielle. The bronze for just about every other bit of dialogue between T&G ("It's over, Gabrielle!!").

Cute 'human foible' moment when Xena, upon catching her chakram after freeing Gabrielle, goes to hook the weapon at her side. Of course, at that point she has no hook because she's wearing the prison sackcloth! I just thought that was a sweet little thing, somehow.

Obviously, staff didn't like the original "Shark Island Prison", but the title "Locked Up and Tied Down" has kink connotations that went nowhere and is a pain to remember, to boot. Therefore, I propose some alternate titles for this episode.

10. Locked Down and Tied Up
9. Tied Up and Locked Down
8. Tied Down and Locked Up
7. Hog-tied and Thrown Down
6. As If
5. Adventures in the Prison Trade
4. A Prison Affair
3. In Sackcloth, Leather, and Silk
2. A Tale of Two Redheads with 'A Light'
1. The Reckoning, Revisited

"I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole."
Malcolm X


Commentary by Missy Good.

Interesting episode. I'm not a fan of women in prison flicks, but I thought both Lucy and Renee did some good work in this one. The story was kinda contrived.. but the commandant put in a good effort, fitting the stereotype of an evil commandant with admirable skill. Her reaction to Gabrielle was priceless.. as was Gabirelle's gentle acceptance of her disfigurment. At one point she asks "What would you know of loss?" to the bard, who just smiles and says "A thing or two."

I think the ep did a couple of things - one, it reinforced Gabrielle's confidence in her ability to turn aside evil... she made a difference for the commandant, and she knew that. After last week where she voices doubts that Tara's new friends can change, this is a welcome turnabout. Gabrielle also showed herself to be resourceful, and competent, and doggedly loyal to Xena despite being angry at her for not defending herself.

Xena, on the other hand - she's got problems. WHen Joxer said in AFA "You're hurt worse than you know" I think that's very accurate.


Commentary by Videntur.

First of all, I think we need to applaud Lucy Lawless. Between the scene of her burying the woman in the drenching rain and the scene of the rats crawling all over her body and having to pick them up in her mouth - no wonder by the end of the show she really looked like she was out of it. I saw a real tiredness in our actress and it wasn't part of the show. Lucy Lawless really goes beyond the call of duty to bring her audience a terrific show.

The definite theme of this show was learning to forgive others and learning how to forgive oneself. The latter is often the most hardest to perform.

Thelassa was indeed very bitter - but who could blame her. Her arm had been eaten away by little crabs and Xena was never punished for her crime. Thelassa's hatred blocked any chance of forgiveness towards Xena. Even when she watched Xena bury the prisoner and help the other prisoners, her hatred still blinded her to see that Xena had changed. It never even occurred to her that when Xena beat her guards half-senseless that she could have continued to do so even after she had commanded her to stop. Not only did she want Xena punished, but she wanted Xena to feel the pain of being eaten alive like she had felt. Finally, when Gabrielle arrives she sees the light in Gabrielle that she herself had and you could see she wanted to be like that again. At the very end she realized that Xena had changed but she also knew that Xena needed to hear that forgiveness. She did it in a very nice line: "My ability to do good had been crippled - the evil Xena, she did that to me - don't let her do it to you." In that one sentence we realize that Xena had been forgiven but she was telling Xena that she now had to learn to forgive herself.

Gabrielle was good in this episode. She has definitely become self-dependent and very "quick on the uptake". She knows how to take advantage of an opportunity (like the healer who left the prison) to obtain what she wants. The best thing is her undying loyalty to the warrior princess. Gabrielle was ready to hang in order to save Xena. We now know that if Xena is in trouble, we can count on Gabrielle to get her out of trouble. If Xena is hurt and unable to defend herself, we know that we can count on Gabrielle to defend Xena until she is able to heal. This is a far cry from the first episode Gabrielle - and I like the change. Also, you could feel Gabrielle's hurt when she had to watch Xena being chained at the beginning of the show and the hurt when she couldn't even give Xena a hug good-bye and we see that no matter what Xena has done in the past, Gabrielle is a firm believer that she has indeed changed. It was also neat the way that Gabrielle realized the warden was Thelassa by what Thelassa said: "Whatever beauty I had inside me was crushed the day evil entered my life - a tall dark haired evil - she took my beauty and mutilated my soul." At that moment Gabrielle knew that Xena had been sent to prison for a death that did not occur. At the end, we have another person, Gabrielle, telling Xena that she has to forgive herself when Gabrielle states: "So how about it...forgiving yourself."

Sometimes the hardest thing in life is to forgive oneself for something we did in the past. This surely was the case for Xena. We have both Gabrielle and Thelassa telling Xena that she has to forgive herself and yet her response is "Gabrielle, that's not for me." So we see that even at the end, Xena still cannot forgive herself for all the crimes in her past - yet I know I forgave her in the very first episode. I can only hope our hero realizes that the completeness that she is looking for is right within herself and its called forgiveness.

Speaking of our hero, besides the things she went through which I mentioned in the first paragraph, I could have cried at the end when she had the blanket over her shoulders and the cup in her hands - she looked vulnerable, tired and weak - totally unlike what we are use to seeing Xena look like. We are indeed seeing that even though the warrior princess has godlike strength and courage, she does indeed have a human side that can be reached and weakened.

Best consistency plot: When Xena realizes that Gabrielle will be hung for helping her. As always, Xena's main concern is freeing herself to save Gabrielle. When she cuts the rope that was around Gabrielle's neck and the prisoners start revolting against the guards, Xena's only thoughts were seeing if Gabrielle was okay and to get that rope from around her neck. The consistency of Xena's concern for Gabrielle and Gabrielle's concern for Xena are what make this show great.

Best moves: Xena's fighting in the beginning of the show (including knowing the exact number of men in the forest: "2 men to the left, 2 to the right and 2 behind us" and her moves in the prison when she was fighting were awesome. Gabrielle was good the way that she took the broom from the old lady and beat the two guards senseless. Her moves at the beginning of the episode were also cool. Good show!


Commentary by L.N. James.

You know, I've read lots of reviews of this ep..from people who both share my similar tastes in XWP and those who don't. So, I'm as perplexed as the next person as to why I didn't like this episode. I mean, I like 'classic Xena'..I sort of dig the adventure eps, but for some inexplicable reason, I just was not..moved by this episode one bit.

And that really sucks.

Here, to the best of my abilities and as much self-insight as I dare perform, is what bugged me about the ep. Obviously, just because I didn't like these things doesn't mean I'm making any judgments about those who enjoyed them. And of course, these are only my opinions and preferences...feel free to disagree.

1. Melodramatic story line/Xena's Motivation

'I need punishment to make me complete' and another person hurt from Xena's past. Tired of it. You know, it just annoys me to see Xena do this remorseful self-flagellation thing...I'm actually one of the few people, apparently, who didn't like 'The Reckoning'. I don't enjoy watching someone not defend themselves because they think they 'deserve' the punishment. I especially don't like this quality in Xena. Atonement is one thing, masochistic expiation is another.

If Xena doesn't believe in the greater good anymore and she's not looking for redemption, what's her purpose? The problem I've seen with Xena's motivation is that it changes from ep to ep, season to season. First it was redemption (Season 1), then it was the greater good (Season 1 & 2), then it was a million different things in Season 3 (revenge, paying old debts, taking care of Gabrielle, ridding the world of evil). Now, in Season 4, I'm trying to figure what the heck motivates her to get up in the morning. After watching 'Locked Up and Tied Down', I have no idea.

She started out Season 4 with trying to find Gabrielle in 'Adventures in the Sin Trade I' (Gab-motivated). Then in 'AITST II', it's to make up for her past and help the Amazons find peace (Redemption-motivated; Greater Good-Motivated). In 'A Family Affair', it's to rid the world of Hope and The Destroyer (Greater Good-motivated). In 'Sickness', it's to save a village from thugs (GG-motivated). In 'A Good Day' (one of my all time fav eps, btw), it was to prevent a war from happening in Greece while simulaneously defeating C,JC and The Magnus (GG-motivated; and possibly Revenge-motivated). In 'Two Muses', it's to save a village from oppression (GG-motivated). And now, in 'Locked Up', it's no longer about the Greater Good, it's no longer about redemption, it certainly isn't about Gabrielle. What is it??

The problem is not that I can't deal with people having lots of different motivations for why they do things. The problem I have is that this episode with Xena's words on the dock/inaction in the courtroom discount all previous motivations and we're left with this new Atonement/Self- punishment-motivation deal. Frankly, Xena doesn't wear that well in my book. There's a line at which stoic pride and heroic sacrifice crosses over to melodramatic atonement. I know many people enjoyed Xena in this ep...defending the innocent, carrying big barrels as punishment, standing in the rain burying a dead woman, and being thrown in a pit for tortue. For me, it was just too much of a good thing..too much drama. Too forced.

2. Fight scenes

Too many, too long. There were three of them. One at the beginning with the warrant-serving guys, one in the middle with the prison inmates, and two in the end..X versus the guards and X versus the women prisoners. Frankly, I fastforward through the fight scenes because, as much as I enjoy watching our gals kick butt, it's becoming very old. I get no satisfaction from it anymore, especially when it seems gratuitous and quota-filling. Oh, Xena beats up another one. Hey, look, Gabrielle whacked another one. I don't know what it was about this ep, but it just seemed like too much fighting filler and not enough 'meat' rationale behind the fights.

But then again, I've always been a fan of storytelling over genre action/adventure. If it serves a purpose, I'm good with it. Like, say, in 'The Price'. Lots of fighting there, but there was a story to back up the reasons behind it. Same thing with 'One Against an Army'. In 'Locked Up', I found myself thinking more along the lines of 'this fight scene is going on For-Ever and is totally circumstantial/situational' rather than 'Wow, cool, Xena was fighting because she believed in X, Y, or Z'. Circumstantial/Situational fighting is boring...fighting because there are other people there to knock heads with is uninteresting in my opinion and that's how I saw things in this ep.

3. Unbelievable Conversion to The Light

Wow, I didn't know Gabrielle had so much power. To convert a woman who was one of Xena's past victims (when, who knows?) with a two minute conversation is truly amazing. You know, I love Gabrielle dearly, but she's had three plus years to work her magic on Xena and while she's made some inroads with that old warrior of hers, she's hardly a miracle worker. But in this ep, two minutes (give or take a few) with Thalassa and she's turned a life around! Maybe instead of looking for her Crusader, she should start her own religion...with the kind of turnaround she's got, all of Greece will be Healed in a fortnight.

4. Miscellaneous Pet Peaves

Leaving Gabrielle without so much as a 'It's been nice spending time with you' on the dock. Is this the same Xena from 'One Against an Army'? I don't know what it is, but sometimes XWP has this mixed message approach/avoidance thing going between X&G. One minute they're pleding to stay by the other's side and the next they're taking off. Neither one of seems to know if they should stay or go. Kind of hard to keep the faith if your buddy decides to hightail whenever it suits the storyline. Shit or get off the pot. Sorry..I just felt like saying that.

Good guys/Bad guys, heck, let's fight them all. I was perplexed why the Big Fight Scene was between Xena and the Prison Chick. So, Xena didn't want to join their escape and then kicked their butt in the cell. I thought they pretty much resolved that iss-ewe and were amicable but then, there's this big scene at the end between the two. Is Prison Chick mad because she wants to tear the Commandant limb from limb (poetic justice, huh?) and Xena's saying no way? That hardly seems worth the major butt-kicking. Apparently, having one Big Foe for the Finale Fight is key. I guess I would have expected the guard guy to have been it. But then again, I was like, 'whatever' with the fight stuff by then so...

5. That Certain Indescribable Feeling of Emptiness

At the end of this episode, I didn't feel anything. Nada. I have no idea why. Surely, my above comments don't warrant such a negative feeling..and it's not really negative..it's ambivalent. Which sucks. Because for me, XWP at it's best is when there's something about an episode that moves me in one direction or another. I wasn't moved and I can't say why.

I think I'm becoming a Xena junkie and like, I need bigger, heavier doses of what I like in order to get that Xena high going. I need the drama of 'A Good Day' to feel that euphoric the-earth-itself-has-moved rush I get from XWP. This series has provided some MAJOR rushes over the past four seasons...'Dreamworker', 'Greater Good', 'Is there a Doctor..', 'Destiny', 'The Quest', 'The Price', the entire RIFT arc, 'Skin Trade I&II', 'A Family Affair', and 'A Good Day'. This episode, to me, was simply unfulfilling in the grand scheme of things...not that I expect every ep to be 'The Debt', but for me, anything less simply leaves me wanting more.

6. Things I Liked/Random Observations

So as not to sound like the total party-pooper, there were a few things that I liked about the ep...it just wasn't enough to overcome my ennui. First of all, this review has given me quite the sore neck...I wouldn't mind a little 'feel for the knot and work it on out' action. I liked Xena's exasperated 'harumph' in the rat pit right after the Commandant makes her irony crack. I thought the lighting in this episode was stupendous..loved the use of sunlight and darkness. I thought Gabrielle looked really cute in those healer duds. I kept thinking 'Shawshank Redemption' during the rain scene..I half expected Xena to lift her arms to the sky and cry for freedom. Xena is once again freed by This, her Chakram. How symbolic.


Commentary by Bethany Faison.

1. I liked this episode, but I ended up wanting so much more.

2. Unlike some, I didn't have a problem with the position that Xena took before, during or after her trial. I felt it was actually an extremely moral position to take. Do you realize how EXTREMELY RARE it is for an evil person to honestly acknowledge their acts and take moral responsibility for the ultimate effects? Xena also addresses the question of whether or not ANY punishment can truly be "enough" for such a crime. (And gentle readers, this WAS a wantonly cruel act and Xena really DID do it). Such blazing honesty is actually one of Xena's greatest personal strengths. At the same time, a real bust in terms of the character's personal development this week was the complete lack of concern she seems to have for Gabrielle. (What were the writers thinking?) The wharf scene was cut way too short. There should have been SOME words of consolation / comfort for Gabrielle. After all, once X gets on that prison ship, they will probably never meet again. I mean it's goodbye! The duo is over! Bye-bye! And...without a single word of consolation? They should have given her SOMETHING kind to say to Gabrielle. Jeez! Can someone be a true penitent and simultaneously self-serving? Guess the answer is "yes".

3. The character of Thelassa was GREAT with some really GREAT lines (I know people who would have walked on hot coals for this part!). I mean, what potential to look at what a single act of terrible cruelty can do to another human being. Pain and bitter hatred consuming every remaining minute! (This chick has Miss Havisham totally whipped, hands down.) I'm getting goose-bumps just thinking about it! The phantom-limb pain, the physical and emotional suffering, the physical disfigurement...all caused by a chance encounter with random evil (Xena). Then there was the potential interactions between Thelassa and Gabrielle (as healer, etc.). I loved the whole idea of it. It was a chance to look at who Gabrielle is and what she can do and how she changes people's lives. BUT THEY ONLY SPENT TWO MINUTES ON IT! ARGHHH! Even in those two minutes, Thelassa got to deliver some really great lines. Unfortunately, all were spoken without an ounce of true understanding. Oh, my poor heart! This could have been a stupendous recurring character if I ever saw one. Think of all the subsequent conflicts! Somehow, though, I don't think we'll be seeing her again. The total look was "right" (the costume, hair and makeup were perfect), she even had that "cape flip" thing down perfectly, just no heart in the part. I'm sorry to speak of these things, but I'm hurting over this one, and BAD.

Things I didn't like:

  • The rat-toss. I have tried this at home and have found you cannot hit a target on the ceiling with a rat used in this manner. It always spins off target. Personally, I feel some other device / psychic power should have been used to retrieve the chakram.

  • Xena building her stick memorial. I just wanted some other imagery than this. This was the incredible "weight of the world" moment. I liked the first half of the burial scene, I just wanted so much more for the second half of it. I mean, just think of all that's going on in this scene.

  • The "sniff test".

  • The supporting cast this time around.


    10-28-98. SHARK ISLAND's name has been changed to LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN. Hmmmmm.

    10-10-98. In September 1998, Josh Becker's website divulged that that SHARK ISLAND PRISON is like Alcatraz or Devil's Island, where the prison is on an island surrounded by shark-infested waters. It also said that Becker thinks it is a good woman's prison story and that it will be a good episode of Xena.

    09-29-98. Ach meine Gott! Not only does Xena meet up with an old flame this season, but she also pays heavily and oftenly for her past when she meets up with people whom she had screwed over while in her Destroyer of Nations phase (let me see, was that ten winters ago?). In ADVENTURES I & II, while in the afterlife she deals with an Amazon she had previously placed there (and let's say that the Amazon ain't too happy about it); she runs into another "old friend" who is still working out their issues in PAST IMPERFECT; and in SHARK ISLAND PRISON, Xena visits yet another woman from her past who would love to read Xena a few riot acts.


    Highlights by Beth Gaynor.

    The entire pit sequence is fabulous, starting with that nasty tumble in and Xena's wincing groan from the impact. I cheered and laughed myself silly when Xena starts handing out the rabid dog chomps. "That's enough", ha! She has the whole pack running scared by the end of it. Then to top it all off she picks up a dead rat not just with her mouth, but with her tongue - Eee-yuk! - and gives it a 100-foot vertical toss. Xena's discovered a new Olympic event. I can't imagine why it never caught on.

    This episode's got some chilling stuff to it. Nibbly, leaping rats, hangings, flesh-eating crustaceans, and rotting corpses. Those yells that Thelassa lets out as she's devoured gave me the screaming heebie-jeebies.


    By Xorys.

    11-20-98. Huntly Eliott, who played the Judge - He was also in the HTLJ ep Judgement Day as the Town Elder, who led the pursuit of Hercules...Thanks to Alleigh (rogue2@airmail.net) for this one.

    11-20-98. Katrina Browne, who played Thelassa - She was also in the HTLJ ep Prodigal Sister as Siri, an Amazon who, not to say too much, was central to the plot...Thanks to EponineC@aol.com for this heads-up.

    The Judge no doubt looked familiar to you - he was played by Huntly Eliott, who played the First Citizen of Amphipolis in SOTP and Calicus, the Priest of Demeter, in AFOD.

    A less obvious connection was that Katrina Browne, who played Thelassa, was in WIR as Mendala, the warrior wife of Vercinix.

    Patrick Smith, who played the Healer, first appeared as Dolas, one of the guys who complained about being killed by Xena, in the dream-passage in Dreamworker. Rather more memorably, he subsequently appeared as Glauce, the sinister ambassador in Warrior...Princess.

    Chris Sherwood apparently played a character called "Dexsel" (if you can read this name better, please let me know). He has previously appeared as Guard #1 in King Con. Dexsel (if that is indeed the name) was presumably the head guy of those arresting Xena in the teaser.

    The rest of the cast don't seem to have appeared on XWP before.

    Natalie Dennis, played a character called "Clysetone" as best as I could make it out (again, *please* let me know, if you can figure out the spelling of this better) - this must have been the redhead in the prison... she has previously appeared on the NZ TV series Shortland Street and Bianca.

    Gilbert Goldie, who played the Village Elder, appeared as a doctor in Heavenly Creatures, a made in NZ film about a real-life case involving a murder by two teenagers. This film was one of Kate Winslett's first major acting gigs, and personally I would highly recommend it (but with the notation that it is based on a strange and tragic murder case, and may be disturbing for some).

    Tanea Heke, who played Ersina, has no previous film or TV credits that I can find, which reinforces my suspicion that she is a NZ stage actress just making a move into film.

    Hilary J. Bader wrote the Teleplay of this ep (but not the story). She has written three previous eps, BTDT, TQIM and FMN, but for all those she wrote the whole thing, both story and teleplay.

    In this case, the story was written by Rob Tapert and Josh Becker. Josh Becker's only previous story writing credit was for Chariots of War. He directed COW, BF, Warrior...Princess...Tramp, AFOD, FHTBT, FF&G & ISAIH. Rob Tapert had story writing credits for SOTP, TXS, Destiny, The Debt, FF&G, & AITST; he also directed Destiny.


    These things are by Beth Gaynor.

    Flashback Xena threatens to kill the group of women she's rounded up as hostages, but look at the crowd - there's at least one guy in that flock, too.

    Possible sign of episodes being shown out of order: Xena says "we're always talking about your spiritual quest" - since when? Is this something that's been happening off-camera, or something we haven't seen yet?


    09-02-00. From Katie Moncelsi. In the scene before the burial everyone has ankle chains BUT Xena. Also, its quite obvious the cuffs are still on her ankles and that she is supposed to be chained, but there is no chain connecting them.

    From Bethany Faison.

  • An extremely angry, frightened and worried Gabrielle screaming at Xena as she's boarding the prison ship, trying to snap X back into the real zone.

  • The entire opening sequence. Even the rain. (Guess it rains a lot in N.Z.)

  • The hair, makeup, costumes and CAMERAWORK in this one.

  • The fact that even stooped over, LL is still at least six inches taller than any of the other inmates.

  • Gabby's fabulous execution scene, her "drop" through the scaffold floor and the chakram slicing through the hangman's rope at the last moment. Wow!

  • The fight sequence in the Commandant's office, especially Renee's work and whoever it was that stunt-flew over the balcony and into the courtyard as "Xena".

  • Renee charging out of the commandant's office, caroming down the stairs and into the courtyard after said fight scene. (She's getting really good at this.)

  • The entire scene in "the pit", from very beginning to end (except for the "rat-toss"). Note that if anyone can order a rat around, It's X. Yet more proof that LL has GOT to be a good sport (in addition to being a good actress).

  • Everything Renee O'Connor does in this episode.
  • From Tamara Poirier. Xena munching down on a rat or picking it up in her mouth and tossing it with a flick of her head - these are the special moments I've come to love this show for! ;)


    Click here to read a transcript of LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN.


    No Rabid Flesh Eating Crabs were cooked during the production of this motion picture.

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