Welcome to another Xena Thursday! We’re continuing with my 60 favorite episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess. I’ve been a fan of this series since I was about three years old and believe me–this list was tough to make! If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it was a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and aired in first-run syndication from 1995 to 2001. Taking place primarily in Ancient Greece, the show focused on Xena (Lucy Lawless), a reformed warlord seeking redemption for her evil past by helping others. She traveled with her best friend, Gabrielle (Renée O’Connor), an aspiring bard and the chronicler of Xena’s adventures.
I have chosen the best 60 of the 134 produced episodes. Of course, these are all subjective. For those who are familiar with the series, I hope my points-of-view will prove fascinating and perhaps inspire you to reexamine your favorite, or perhaps least favorite, episodes. For those who are unfamiliar with the series, this list might spark your interest and give you some places to start. Because the series did so many different things over the 134 episodes, Xena is the type of show that requires multiple viewings to be properly assessed. The ranking is subjective. If a particular story strikes your fancy, I encourage you to give it a try! In fact, contact me and I will be able to hook you up.
With all that said, let us resume with episode number eight on the list.
08. Season 3, Episode 2: “Been There, Done That” (Aired: 10/06/97 | Filmed: 04/09 – 04/16/97)
Xena realizes her day is repeating itself so she can break a cycle of death that hinges on two lovers’ warring families.
Written by Hilary J. Bader | Directed by Andrew Merrifield | Production No. V0227
One of the cast’s most fondly remembered installments, “Been There, Done That,” was actually the last episode produced for Season Two, but was carried over for the following season (along with “The Furies”) when the decision was made to air 22 episodes per year instead of 24. It’s interesting to note the production date, because the episode does have that Season Two “golden era” feel. (I generally believe that Season Two was the show’s “golden age,” but Season Three houses the best writing and is the show’s most uniformly excellent year.) Anyway, this hilariously entertaining homage to Groundhog Day (1993) is the perfect episode for first-time watchers. The story is self-contained with a plot that blends humor and pathos. But best of all — there’s a tinge of suspense as Xena tries to figure out WHY the day keeps repeating.
The episode begins as the rooster crows. Xena and Gabrielle awake from the stables as Joxer brings them goose eggs for breakfast. Later that day in the village, the trio witnesses a duel between two townsman. Joxer foolishly tries to break up the fight and gets killed. The next morning, Xena and Gabrielle awake in the stables. Joxer enters with goose eggs, and nobody remembers his death but Xena. Determined to prevent him from getting killed, Xena is mortified when Argo gets killed as a result of the village brawling. Then the next morning, Argo is alive, and nobody but Xena remembers that the day has already happened twice. But this time, Gabrielle ends up getting caught in the middle of a village brawl and is killed. Of course, the next day finds her alive again with no recollection of her death.
Xena spends the next few days desperately trying to stop the day from repeating. She prevents various duels, saves various people from death, and even tries killing that darned rooster. Nothing works. Each day she must explain the situation to the confused Gabrielle and Joxer. One day, Xena decides to just stay asleep and kills Joxer before he can give them breakfast. But Xena soon realizes that the feud between two village families is somehow connected to the repeating day. She does some investigative work and learns enough information to stop the feud. Confidant that the day will no longer repeat, Xena celebrates with the still confused Gabrielle and Joxer.
But Xena wakes back up in the barn with Gabrielle and Joxer with his goose eggs. She remembers that during her visit with the kooky old village doctor, he mentioned that his vial of nightsbane, a lethal potion, was missing. Xena discovers that it’s a Romeo and Juliet situation, with the girl, Hermia, taking poison at sunrise and her heartbroken lover, Neron, wishing to Cupid that the next day would never come. Cupid granted the wish, telling Neron that it will only be broken when a hero can arrive to save Hermia and end the feud. So Xena does just that. She wakes and uses her chakram to break the vial of nightsbane that Hermia is about to drink across town, and then goes to the village where she once again ends the feud between the two families.
The next morning, Xena is enraged to find things are exactly the same as the day before. Until Joxer enters with turnips instead of goose eggs and Xena realizes the spell is broken. The three friends rejoice.
This episode is pure fun from start to finish. With delicious lines, including Ted Raimi’s fondly remembered ad lib, “Is that a hickey?”, and many riotous bits, like Xena chakram-ing Joxer in the chest just so she can get some peace and quiet, this one will keep you laughing. The camaraderie between Lawless, O’Connor, and Raimi is never more perfect than in this episode, which is comedic, but isn’t as farcical as the rest of Season Three’s comedies. (Again, note the production date.) The focus of the episode is the suspense of the story, which is engaging and, I have found, interesting to both casual and diehard viewers.
When I watch this episode, I immediately think of how challenging it must have been for the actors, particularly Lucy Lawless, who carries the episode. Given that episodes are shot out of sequence, can you imagine how difficult it would be to keep track of what’s happening and what’s already happened? O’Connor and Raimi have it easier, but Lawless recalls making massive lists for each day of what her character knew and when. It seems like the type of challenge that production welcomed, as everything about the episode is fun — complete with epic chakram throws and in-jokes about Sinbad.
However, there are moments of effective pathos among the fun — Joxer’s initial death being perhaps the most startling — that help make this episode the perfect blend of everything Xena. In fact, I truly think this might be the best example of Xena at its “golden era” best. With unique storytelling and hearty laughs, this episode houses an excellent mixture of camp and honesty. These traits prevail throughout the entire series, and assuredly contribute to the show’s still growing fan-base, and this episode is the living embodiment of the Xena phenomenon. “Been There, Done That” is pure entertainment — perfect for both curious first-time viewers and diehard fans looking to get their daily Warrior Princess fix.
Come back next Thursday for number seven! And don’t forget to check back tomorrow for another Film Friday post!