Welcome to another Xena Thursday! Today, we’re continuing our chronological coverage of every single episode of Xena: Warrior Princess — both the episodes that I have previously highlighted AND the episodes I’ve yet to feature. Complementing my thoughts are the thoughts of those who worked on the series: mostly actors, writers, directors, and producers. I have done months of research for the acquisition of the quotes you’ll see over these next 67 weeks (as there are 134 episodes and I’ll be covering two episodes per week). They come from a variety of sources, including the original special feature-laden DVD releases, The Chakram Official Newsletters, both the Topps and Titans Official Xena Magazines, the fan kits, and other assorted print and video interviews. So in addition to sharing my thoughts, these posts will also contain information and musings from the Xenites that matter most — the ones who brought this exciting series to the small screen.
103. Season 5, Episode 13: “Eternal Bonds” (Aired: 02/07/00 | Filmed: 12/02 – 12/10/99)
When Joxer is wounded by a poisonous sword intended to kill Xena and Eve, it’s up to Gabrielle to get him to the antidote while Xena combats armies sent by priests of the gods.
Written by Chris Manheim | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V0916
I featured this episode as one of the 18 honorable mentions that narrowly missed inclusion on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Chris Manheim (Writer/Producer): “I think because we knew the baby was going to be short-lived, in other words, we knew we weren’t going to see a lot more of that baby because it just cramped the action of the show so much, I think it was important [in this episode] to show Xena as a full-on mom in the midst of action. I remember we talked about she’s actually teaching the baby her moves: how to lead a false trail [and] how to send a signal if you didn’t want to make noise. I mean, all of these little tricks of the trade that she was passing along to her daughter, even though the baby couldn’t understand it. Still, it was a very sweet kind of maternal thing in this otherwise fearsome warrior lady… With Joxer and Gabrielle, [this] gave us a way to kind of tie up that storyline that we’d been playing since – what, second season or something? And yes, actually there was a kiss written in the first draft. I’m not sure if it actually lived to be filmed, but I believe… that both actors, certainly Renee as Gabrielle, felt that it just wouldn’t be consistent with her character to kiss him. Frankly, I would have liked to have seen it played both ways and then made up my own mind, but you have to honor… that she feels like the character would not do that. And I don’t think it was missed. I don’t think there was a big hole where a kiss should have been. But as he lay dying near that log, there was supposed to have been a kiss that never happened… I think Xena and Ares were star-crossed lovers, quite honestly. I mean, it’s kind of odd when you think of Romeo and Juliet as star-crossed lovers, to say that Xena and Ares were, but because of the evolution of Xena’s character… she’s growing into having more conscience, compassion, heart. You know, so far away from where Ares ever wanted her to be. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still love her. I think Ares has always been in love with Xena. And quite honestly, it was my feeling as a writer [that] nobody worked as well off Xena than Ares did. At least, in the sack. Nobody seemed to have quite what it took to stand up to Xena, except Ares. The chemistry was undeniable between the two of them, and I’m guessing it’s because they were friends off-screen. It allowed them an easiness that translated wonderfully as sex. I think Ares both loved Xena genuinely for what she could bring to his life, which is, in this episode in particular, a child. Ares smells mortality. He smells the end of the Gods coming and he does want to leave something that will move on through life behind. Now that’s selfish of Ares, but I think Xena knew she could trust him. I would have trusted Ares because that was the overriding concern for him: to be with her and have a child. [It] would have kept him walking the straight and narrow.” (“Eternal Bonds” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “Right, we cut [the kiss between Joxer and Gabrielle]. I was at the read through and I said, ‘She can’t kiss him! You know what a betrayal that would be to everything you’ve said?’ And Renee said, ‘Oh, thank you.’” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “You know, Ted and I both laugh at the fact that Joxer was in the throes of death and Gabrielle still can’t say, ‘I love you.’ But at least she was honest. Pretty sad, though, I have to say. Here he’s dying and Ted kept teasing me, ‘You could have at least said yes then!’” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “Joe LoDuca made up that [lullaby]. I had to go into the studio to loop it because of a footstep on the soundtrack caused by someone stepping on a twig in the bushes. The footstep wasn’t out of place because there was a bad guy creeping through the trees. The first time I sang it, I was very relaxed and sang it really nicely. Then I had to go back in late on a Friday night and do it again and I was so tired. You just can’t sing when you’ve been fighing and working hard all day and I did a tired, awful version of the song. Later when I heard it, I was furious. I said, ‘How could you people let that go through? Don’t you ever let me go out having done substandard work because I’m too tired to judge myself!’ And they hemmed and hawed and tried to make excuses, but it went through a lot of people’s headphones and nobody pulled me up on it. We reached a new understanding that day. If I give a substandard performance, they have to say something to me. None of this being polite or she’s the star or coddle her ego. I can’t stand that. It just makes me furious… doesn’t help me at all.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Here are scans of an interview that writer/producer Chris Manheim gave on “Eternal Bonds” for The Chakram Newsletter: #12.
104. Season 5, Episode 14: “Amphipolis Under Siege” (Aired: 02/14/00 | Filmed: 1/10 – 1/20/00)
Athena wages war on Xena’s hometown of Amphipolis in an effort to kill Eve and stop the Twilight of the Gods.
Written by Chris Black | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V0919
I featured this episode as #14 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “Xena uses sex as a weapon. [This] was the first time we’ve ever done that… It didn’t bother me [here] because it was part of Xena’s ruse… it was the only weapon left to her. The siege mentality was the justification for her going to Ares and spinning her web that way. Lucy as an actress is hot and Kevin [Smith]’s a good-looking guy. There’s a certain chemistry between them that we wanted to utilize.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Kevin Smith (Actor, Ares): “The real joy of the episode is when she first comes to him and says, ‘Look, if you call off your sister, you get me.’ And the look on her face is priceless when he starts to go for it, but then he goes, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. All these years you’re doing this, and all of a sudden it’s, “Take me?” Uh uh. I ain’t buying it.’ The look on her face is, ‘What!? You’re rejecting me!?’ And I like to think if there wasn’t an explosion, and her mom appeared in a hole in the wall, I like to think things would have carried on.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #11 – October 2000)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “We had to do the [kissing] scene so long, all day, that it got to be like shaking hands… I [remember that I] was standing up and I said, ‘This feels really boring just kissing around the face. We did that in the last episode [“Eternal Bonds”].’ Then I said to Mark [Beesley, director], ‘What if I’m licking his chest? Is that all right, Kevin?’ Kevin said, ‘Yeah. Fine.’ And Mark said, ‘No, bite him!’ ‘Yeah, excellent,’ Kevin and I both said. We knew it needed something different. And then, when the camera’s rolling, you just go for it. And because it’s all right with both of you, there’s nothing uncomfortable about it.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)
Paris Jefferson (Actor, Athena): “To me, Athena was essentially a good god who was put in very difficult circumstances. I don`t think she was a bad god; she was simply forced to do something she felt was imperative for the survival of the gods. She wouldn`t have gotten any pleasure out of it like Ares, who is much more angry and gung-ho. I think Athena is far more reticent. Athena also has a certain kind of dignity. I think when you`re powerful and a god, you don`t have to play it – you just are those things. It`s sort of like being a king: the king doesn`t expect to have to order people around; he expects people to be behind him. So Athena just knows her orders are going to be followed. She also knows she can kill anyone, although it is very infuriating when you`re a god and you keep missing, because Xena, of course, can`t be killed! And it`s especially infuriating when you`re supposed to be an intelligent god… I think that the loyalty llainus shows Athena is probably absolutely without question. Ilainus would give up her life for Athena, no question. And Athena loves Ilainus. I don`t know exactly what their relationship is – we never really see that – but they definitely have a love for each other. One of the fans at the Xena convention told me that what was really nice about our final scene together was that it showed even gods could feel pain and loss. I haven`t seen enough of the episodes to know if the gods have always been portrayed without having those human emotions. But that could have been something I brought into the episode that perhaps wasn`t supposed to be there. The director of that episode, Mark Beesley, wanted to cultivate that relationship to a point… Working on Xena is probably about as much fun as you can ever have on a television show. In a way, you get to play a larger than life cartoon character. And I don`t mean that to diminish who these people are. But you`ve got powers that usually only come with superheroes, if you like. You get to act, but you get to be very physical as well. It`s not very often that you get to look at people and have them know you could kill them if you wanted to. Or hold your sword up and have fire come out of it! It was so much fun when I had a fight with Ares. Kevin [Smith] is about twice the size of me and could probably kill me in real life just by sneezing on me! But in Xena I got to hit him with my sword and he went flying back 50 feet! I also loved my costume. I had the best cleavage in my life on [this] show! I was fantastically well-endowed! Overall, it was pretty much about the most fun I’ve had.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #12 – November 2000)
Darien Takle (Actor, Cyrene): “Hard [episode]. Because the babies are lovely, but you’re working, and there’s smoke everywhere and there’s noise and dust, and those poor babies! They’re very well looked after and they’re only allowed to do about an hour or two at a time, but it’s still hard for them with horses galloping by and the smoke machines. The baby did quite a bit of crying, and you’re holding it close into your chest… and babies are very heavy!… I had to work out for myself that [the song I sing] was like a kind of ‘We Shall Overcome.’ I had to create that feeling for myself: ‘We shall overcome, we are Amphipolis, we are one.’ I knew what I was singing in my own heart.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #10 – September 2000)
Here is an on-set report of the production of “Amphipolis Under Siege” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #8.
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Pre-Code Film Friday!