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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Because Caesar Was Taken [Xena Rewatch 3.16-3.19]

December 18th, 2011 at 7:51

3.16 – When in Rome

Pompey the Magnus. Oh my yes.

I was excited to see this was a Rome episode and even more excited to realise it features Crassus, a historical character who has always interested me. But then Caesar turned up, stealing all the oxygen in the room, except that which is pinched by his rival and “ally,” Pompey THE Magnus. And I really stopped caring about Crassus.

Jeremy Callaghan, who will always be Brian from Police Rescue for me (last seen in an earlier Xena episode as a thug who might possibly have a heart of gold under his grubby armour), does a good job of balancing out Karl Urban’s shall we say High Acting, and has good sinister chemistry with Xena, too. He takes it a bit too far at times with the grape sucking and furniture chewing, but that sort of thing is what Xena is all about.

“So why do they call you the Warrior Princess?”
“Because ‘Caesar’ was taken.”

The episode is pretty much wall to wall flirting with occasional politics and bloodshed. It’s a relief to have a good episode after several that felt like padding. An excuse to see a bunch of New Zealanders in Roman armour is also most excellent, not to mention Xena frocking up as a glamorous scarlet matrona.

“I can’t believe you were about to double cross me, just as I was about to double cross you.”

Gabrielle’s subplot is about her concerns that Xena is willing to sacrifice the life of Crassus for that of her friend RandomGaulatrix, given that Crassus is basically a mass murderer. Tough moral question and all that. The choice Gabrielle makes at the end is an intriguing one and definitely shows that she is a lot further down Xena’s path of the warrior than either of them are comfortable with.

“How many more times are you going to follow me into battle?”

The rendition of the Colosseum is the point at which, basically, my willing suspension of disbelief runs out. Ha, and you thought I had a bottomless supply of it, right? But this is no Gladiator, my friends, and the attempts to make it look like a bunch of people are sitting in tiers using CGI is… well, yeah. Also I’m pretty sure the Colosseum was still round back in those days, rather than square. But the shots down on the sand in the Colosseum are classic Xena skirmishes, with some nail-biting action.

We’re still on the first Brutus, by the way. The attrition rate for these will step up in future episodes. Speaking of recycling, Gabrielle seems to have got hold of a pair of boots IDENTICAL to the perfect ones that Xena destroyed in a previous episode. So I suppose that’s okay.

I have a horrible feeling after this episode that Pompey and Caesar are officially my OTP. Oops.

3.17 – Forget Me Not

Let the ritual bathing begin!

At first this seems promising, with Gabrielle disturbed by dreams of the Hope drama from earlier in the season. She finds her way to the temple of Mnemosyne to meet Xena and decides to try out the temple’s charms for herself by giving up her troubling memories.

Because Gabrielle is even worse than Xena for explaining things to her friends, Joxer is unaware of her choice and blunders in, “rescuing” her empty shell of a body while Gabrielle’s inner self fights her own demons in a spiritual realm. For some reason, the priestesses allow this to happen. Joxer then bumbles around, trying to restore Gabrielle’s memories using her scrolls, and of course (because let’s not forget he’s in love with her) being tempted to do wicked, wicked things to her saucy memoryless self, and generally screw with her mind to make her think she loves him back. Aargh. And again, aargh.

I’m starting to think that part of the reason I didn’t join in the Joxer-hate back in the day was because I had totally not watched half his episodes. This particular one is dire.

The more entertaining portion of the story is the part where Ares turns up to be Inner Gabrielle’s spirit guide through her bad memory odyssey. The scenes with the two of them are, as always, pure gold. And in great Xena clip show tradition, the production team spent a fortune on new sets, in this case a glacier-like cave complete with icy lake for Gabrielle to fall into. Plus lots of steamy flame effects.

Because yes, it’s a clip show. Of all the bad stuff that happened between Gabrielle and Xena. Including a lengthy flashback about Crassus who, let us recall, was in the LAST EPISODE. I’m glad they suggested that the whole Crassus thing is the reason that Gabrielle was triggered into having nightmares about Hope and Chin etc., and I am very glad that they are not pretending that the Bitter Suite resolution made everything go away – there are still emotional consequences for the characters to work through.

But, SERIOUSLY, clip show? They’re over, sweeties. We have DVDs now. You can’t get away with sitting on the Keaton’s couch and chatting about those funny things Michael J Fox did last Thanksgiving. And I really thought that with The Xena Scrolls last season, they had said their final word about clips shows.

Obviously I just blocked the later ones out. Because, I am now remembering, there are MORE TO COME. Still, any episode that gives us Ares laughing at Gabrielle as she drowns in an icy lake over and over again… not all bad.

Right at the end, the episode pulls one hell of a whammy out of its back pocket by giving us a flashback to a scene we’ve never seen before: the explanation as to how Gabrielle got to Chin ahead of Xena to betray her to the Green Dragon. The wild card, of course, was Ares. And that means not only that the two of them share a secret, but that she owes him a favour. Oooh I wonder if that will turn out to be important. (Stoooooory arc!)

3.18 – Fins, Femmes and Gems

I’ve always been a fan of Aphrodite episodes but at this point I have to say, I’m tiring of the concept.

This episode feels by-the-numbers – Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer enter her temple to find a mystic diamond she stole, she puts a spell on each of them to make them obsessed with the first thing she sees. Xena becomes obsessed with fish, Gabrielle with her own image, and Joxer turns into a human ape. Yeah I’m not sure how that fits either.

It’s an excuse to let all three characters play with their comedic skills, and they have a great deal of fun – I do like it when Xena goes fishing (shoulda kept track of that in the Chakram Stats, too late now). But it doesn’t add up to much, really.

Um. There was an excellent fight scene at the end. And an even more awesome fishing scene. At one point, Gabrielle drowns Narcissus-style and Xena gives her the kiss of life.

Xena whistles her own theme tune while fishing. You know you needed to know that.

The resolution is stupid.

3.19 – Tsunami

Fortune teller: “There is danger, and death.”
Gabrielle (to Xena): “Did you hear that?” (pause) “She just described every single day of our lives.”

BOATS! I do love it when they get out the old boat prop and start doing all that rigging and sea salt biz. Also the running gag about Gabrielle’s seasickness is referenced here – she no longer has any problems at all but mentions the pressure points she now uses to prevent feeling ill.

Basically this one is a disaster movie – Gabrielle tries to rescue Autolycus from a prison ship and is press ganged herself; Xena hops aboard to join her. Pretty soon they’re wrapped up in the minor dramas of the crew, prisonmaster and his wife, but none of that means much when a nearby volcano causes a… well, you saw the title, right?

The visuals of this episode are pretty damn good when you consider how clunky things were only a year ago. Getting ‘ship gets hit by tidal wave full of snarky ancient world prisoners and floats upside down for much of the episode’ is the kind of thing that a television budget would still struggle to portray today.

None of the extra characters are particularly sympathetic, and Angela Dotchin is a bit less convincing as a nervous pregnant wife than she was as a glam mermaid in Hercules a year later (I never did see the swashbuckling TV show she did with Bruce Campbell, Jack of all Trades, but I guess if there are fans of that then seeing them together in this episode is a cool thing?) but I am glad she gets a chance to fight for her husband, even if this is yet another example of beautiful, loyal young wives attached to and apologising for the behaviour of grotty old rich men in the Xenaverse.

Apparently they made pretty damn good boats in the ancient world if this one could stay airtight underwater for so long! The physics is dubious at best, but this is a fun episode. What we lack in sympathetic supporting characters, we gain in Autolycus, Gabrielle and Xena kicking arse underwater, Poseidon Adventure style, expressing a few emotions along the way.

Also everyone is wet. Very wet. For the whole episode. If that’s your thing, this is a good episode for you!
I’m only sad that they didn’t take this opportunity to do a crossover with Seaquest DSV!

CHAKRAM STATISTICS:
People who want romance with Xena: 13
People Xena allows to romance her: 7
Xena dead lovers: 3
Gabrielle dead boyfriends: 2/7
“Adorable” children: 36
Babies: 5
Babies tossed humorously in the air during fight scenes: 6
Xena doppelgangers: 4
Xena sings at a funeral: 3
Gabrielle sprained ankles: 2
Xena dies: 3
Gabrielle dies: 3
Characters brought back from the dead (including ghosts and visits to the Underworld): 21
Ares loses his powers and goes all to pieces about it: 2
Xena or Gabrielle earns money: 2
Xena or Gabrielle spends money (or claims to have money to spend): 7
Out of the Pantheon: Morpheus, Ares, Hera, the Titans, Hades, Celesta, Charon, the Fates, Bacchus, Aphrodite, Cupid, Poseidon, the Furies, Discord
The Celebrity Red Carpet of the Ancient World: Pandora, Prometheus, Hercules, Iolaus, Sisyphus, Helen of Troy, Paris, Deiphobus, Menelaus, Euripides, Homer, Autolycus, Meleager, Oracle of Delphi, David, Goliath, Orpheus, Julius Caesar, Brutus, Ulysses, Penelope, Cecrops, Boadicea, Cleopatra, Crassus, Pompey

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Previous Xena Rewatch Posts:
Warlord is a Lady Tonight
I Don’t Work For Money
Amazon Wanna Take A Ride?
Go To Tartarus!
Swashbuckle and Shams
Death In A Chainmail Bikini
Full Moon It Must Be Xena
How Do You Mortals Get From Day to Day?
The Future is Archaeologists
Divide and Conquer
My Sword is Always Ready to Pleasure You
Hide the Hestian Virgins!
Lunatic with Lethal Combat Skills
Coping with Your First Kill
Sweet Hestia, I’m In a Den of Filth
The Bitter and Sweet of It

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2 Responses to “Because Caesar Was Taken [Xena Rewatch 3.16-3.19]”

  1. Amanda Says:

    I admit to cringing tons during Fins, Femmes and Gems. The Joxer in a dress gag – they had to go there? *sigh, facepalm*

    I do love it when Xena slings fishes – they make the cutest little “squee” sound effects.

  2. tansyrr Says:

    Yes, I think the Tarzan joke is… well, it’s kind of old now. I realised only belatedly that this is what it is – he was looking at a mural of “Attis,” their version of Tarzan. But it comes off as pretty dated and uncomfortable now.

    Xena fishing is ALWAYS GOOD TIMES.

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