You can tell this one is a comedy, because the camp factor is dialled up to 150% which with Xena seems somewhat unnecessary. There’s also an extra layer of Extreme Comedy Sound Effects. While it’s less scatological than In Sickness and in Health, If The Shoe Fits does continue the running joke about Gabrielle and Xena misusing each other’s belongings. In this case, Xena steals Gabrielle’s “favourite top” to tie up a warlord in the absence of rope, and um. That top, which Gabrielle has been wearing for more than a year? I LIKED THAT TOP. Proving that she has no other clothes, she wears a sack for the rest of the episode. But there’s a new costume change coming on the horizon…
Oh, and Aphrodite is officially Miss Piggy now. “Moi?” But I’m okay with that.
This is a Cute Kid Melodrama, revolving around storytelling tropes and especially the Cinderella fairy tale and its ramifications for real life stepmothers. As each member of the party tells their version of the story, it is re-enacted with different casting and style choices to reflect their own biases and the way they see the world. All of which is actually pretty clever, but makes for a crazy saccharine story revolving around a blonde moppet in ringlets, and the parents who love her more than fairy tales have led her to believe.
The AU aspect of the story gives the show an excuse to have fun with Ted Raimi who always makes a Xena comedy more fun (cos he’s so busy prat-falling that Xena has to be the straight woman, though Lucy Lawless also gets some fun roleplaying in this one). The ballroom scene from Joxer’s version of the story (with a male Cinderella and Gabrielle as the Princess) is the closest thing we get to a musical this season, and sums up most of Joxer’s psychological issues concerning his unrequited love for Gabrielle.
This is one of the few stories from this season I was happy to share with my eight-year-old (though I could do without the Gabrielle-beats-up-Joxer “humour”) so I shouldn’t complain too much about the cutesy. But it also has something genuine to say about the representation of women in fairy tales.
“All fairy tales have a purpose and even when Joxer tells them, there’s a message in them.”
Ohhh, creepy Aidan and the sinister yoga retreat.
I can’t believe that in my brain I wrote off this season as ‘that one where they went to India and were all boring about spiritual fulfilment’ when in fact they got boring about spiritual fulfilment LONG before they got to India.
For those interested in the subtext becoming actual text, this story features about six separate bathing and/or massage scenes between Gabrielle and Xena as they Discuss Their Relationship. These are the best bits.
While this one did bore me to tears (and was far too reminiscent of that Futurama episode where Leela gets engaged to Ted Bundy and starts acting not like herself), I recognise its contribution to the overall theme of this season, in which Gabrielle grows up and starts looking for a path of her own instead of modelling herself after Xena.
There’s also a small nod to Gabrielle’s continuing grief over the situation with Hope, and her feelings that she failed as a mother. I am glad that they have not forgotten this major trauma in her life.
And then, right when I started talking myself into taking this episode seriously, Xena turned into a crazy dark evil bunny monster.
You kind of had to be there. Or, you know, not. SKIP AHEAD, PEOPLE, THIS SEASON SUCKS.
“I sometimes talk about your darkness like it’s some kind of disease, but without it we wouldn’t be here.” Gabrielle.
They’re in India! Finally!
There were a lot of complaints directed at the Xena production team for using Indian mythology in an inappropriate way (i.e. the same wildly creative approach they applied to all mythology, which is problematic when the mythology in question is tied to a modern day religion and culture). However, from a purely narrative point of view these episodes represented a hugely important shift for the series. After tormenting herself for half a season of not knowing what the hell she wanted out of life, this is the point at which Gabrielle finally gets things sorted. She comes away from India with a far greater sense of identity and her future – a future with Xena instead of the pulling away she has been doing for so long.
Of course, before getting to that point, she had to be possessed by an Indian healing demon. Because, reasons?
As with Ancient Chin, the barbarian Steppes and, let’s face it, Ancient Greece, the designers do a great job of creating a sense of another culture even if that culture is not a lot like the actual historical version. It looks gorgeous on screen and it certainly feels like Xena and Gabrielle are a long way from home.
A costume change is as good as a holiday…
It’s nice to see Renee O’Connor getting to have fun for once (it’s usually Lucy Lawless who gets the chance to ham it up) and she plays Evil with such relish – this is what we have been missing since they bumped off Hope! There’s a simply glorious fight in which the possessed Gabrielle fights and takes down Xena in a magical kickboxing sequence including licking, and nails.
Eli is an interesting new character – a seedy street magician who longs for a higher calling. I always loathed him when I first watched the India episodes (in the wrong order) – I found him unbearably smug and pious. I’m not promising anything about his future, but he’s quite a bit of fun in this episode – set up as the red herring possible bad guy (or at least minor con artist), he makes a surprisingly good companion for Xena.
While consistently putting major female characters front and centre, the show has always had a good line in hapless but interesting beta male supporting characters, and this time around I liked Eli almost as much as I like Joxer and Autolycus.
I really hope he doesn’t get all smug and pious later on…
“I can’t do an exorcism!”
This one starts with a shopping scene! Xena and Gabrielle have glammed themselves up India-style, with Xena actually pinning her fringe up off her face and Gabrielle embracing the saffron shades. They then pass a funeral at which the dead man’s wife is about to be thrown on the flames, and Xena commits an act of, well shall we say cultural insensitivity?
Unexpectedly, this isn’t a story about Xena’s assumption that she can be above the laws when they’re stupid. The woman they saved, Naema, turns out to be a powerful magician (who uses the word karma a lot to remind us that she is an Indian magician). Naema senses danger to one of Xena’s future lives and sends her into that body without so much of a by-your-leave.
Xena finds herself wandering around in the body of an elderly black woman known as the Mother of Peace (thankfully not Lucy Lawless blacked up), and discovers that the warrior witch who is her greatest enemy in this future lifetime is good old Alti The Heavily Mascara’d.
Gabrielle gets herself sent into that time too, ending up with great humorous possibilities in the body of a young warrior prince who tends to lounge around shirtless. (It’s funny because we’re only shown glimpses of what this self looks like, then we just get Xena and Gabrielle playing the parts).
We haven’t had a glimpse of reincarnated Xena and Gabs for some time, so it’s quite a fun and interesting story despite the fact that I still really get annoyed by Alti.
Also, Gabrielle in a turban, which is always enjoyable.
After an episode which is at least 50% battles, there’s a lovely and emotionally resonant scene in which Gabrielle paints Xena’s back with the mehndi (sacred henna-painting on skin) taught to her by Naema. It enables them to perform magic and return to the time period they left. Unfortunately, they bring Alti with them…
The Alti-Xena fight scene is fantastic, with Alti using memories of Xena’s past as literal weapons with which to beat her up. When Gabrielle runs to her partner’s defence, Alti grabs her and gives her the same vision that has been taunting Xena all season – their death by crucifixion.
To save Gabrielle from Alti, Xena has to use her charm to slice off her hair, thereby bringing that prophecy a little closer, as Gabs had short hair in the vision…
Naema conquers Alti through the mehndi, with the assistance of both Xena and Gabrielle, and the two of them are left to continue their life together – moving forward, with no more lies between them.
It’s all gonna be okay. For reals. Eventually.
People who want romance with Xena: 13
People Xena allows to romance her: 7
Xena dead lovers: 4
Gabrielle dead boyfriends: 2/7
“Adorable” children: 39
Babies tossed humorously in the air during fight scenes: 6
Xena doppelgangers: 4
Xena sings a mourning song: 6
Gabrielle sprained ankles: 2
Xena dies: 3
Gabrielle dies: 4
Characters brought back from the dead (incl. ghosts and visits to the Underworld): 51
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): 8
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
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
Because Caesar Was Taken
Rolling Around Like Weasels
You Killed Me?
My Fungus Is Spreading
Virtue is Its Own Reward
Mr Stinky, I Presume