Happy New Year and 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.
87. Season 4, Episode 19: “Takes One To Know One” (Aired: 04/26/99 | Filmed: 02/18 – 02/25/99)
Friends and family gather for Gabrielle’s surprise birthday party, only to become suspects in a murder investigation.
Written by Jeff Vlaming | Directed by Christopher Graves | Production No. V0623
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:
Alison Wall (Actor, Minya): “[This] was a comedy as well… everyone knows their part so well. Everyone really likes each other and it’s a nice warm atmosphere to be a part of. Renee and Lucy and Ted all know the ropes. Ted is funny, he’s so lovely and vague. For some reason he called me ‘Mindy’ for the longest time. I was talking to someone on set and he called me Mindy and this person gave the strangest look. I said, ‘Oh, Ted is so sweet, he calls me Mindy all the time.’ He said, ‘Isn’t that your name?’ I said, ‘No, actually, it’s Ali.’ He was so apologetic. I said ‘I really don’t mind, Tod, you can call me what you like!’ The next day in makeup he said, ‘Hi, Mindy!’ He is lovely though. He’s writing too, apparently. All jolly good fun, really.” (Whoosh! Interview – January 2000)
Ted Raimi (Actor, Joxer): “[This] was like a murder mystery… and it all took place in one house. It was like shooting an old-fashioned murder mystery… Frankly I thought that [this] one did not come out very well… [This] episode I know I was the worst actor on the show, guest star or lead, combined.” (Campbell & Raimi Interview – Season Four DVD Set)
Willa O’Neill (Actor, Lila): “For [this] episode I just had to be sweet and charming and in love with Joxer. Ted [Raimi] was really great. When I first met him we got to talking about someone I really admire, Jim Henson. I grew up with the Muppets and really like them. I wish they had just let Kermit die too, because some things just can’t be re-voiced, not to a purist like myself, anyway. Ted said that he’d met Jim Henson and I really admired him for that. It wasn’t too hard to pretend to be in love with Joxer after that.” (Whoosh! Interview – January 2000)
Bruce Campbell (Actor, Autolycus): “I hadn’t done an Auto episode in a while. I had buzzed my hair for another part… [This episode] was like ‘Xena, She Wrote.’ That’s what I called it… The problem with [this] one is that [Ted and I] suffered from having too much fun, cause I remember specifically… an assistant director came over to us… and she was like… ‘Could you leave?… Sorry guys, but you have to leave. You’re too loud and obnoxious.’ (Campbell & Raimi Interview – Season Four DVD Set)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I remember Ted and Bruce making up my birthday song at the end of the show. I don’t [remember if] it made the cut. ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’… They kept going, ‘for she’s getting older, for she’s getting older.’ They kept getting worse and worse as they went along. ‘Her hips are getting wider, her hips are getting wider.’ I was, like, ‘Oh my God!’ Thank God that [part] didn’t make it.” (Coffee Talk #1 With Lucy and Renee)
Darien Takle (Actor, Cyrene): “I [tried] to lighten [Cyrene] up, to make her funny, to be a bit ditsy. I think she is quite funny. I think that’s where Xena gets her sense of humor from, and probably her independence and feisty character, because mom’s small but feisty. There was one thing that I did which Lucy loved and we kept in. In [one scene], Xena reaches to get a piece of fruit and I smack her hand, which is what mothers do. That’s the sort of relationship that they’ve got now and probably always had, except when Xena was being a bad girl.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #10 – September 2000)
88. Season 4, Episode 20: “Endgame” (Aired: 05/03/99 | Filmed: 02/26 – 03/08/99)
When Brutus kills Ephiny in the heat of battle, Gabrielle becomes queen of the Amazons; while Xena pursues Brutus, hoping he’ll lead her to Pompey.
Written by Steven L. Sears | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V0622
I featured this episode as #18 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Danielle Cormack (Actor, Ephiny): “[Producer Eric Gruendemann] suggested that they were thinking of killing [Ephiny] off or putting her into a coma. I said, ‘Why don’t you kill her off? It creates another really dramatic storyline.’… [When I saw the script] I thought, ‘Wow, how’s this? I don’t even make it through the teaser! They’ve really got it in for me this time!… [But] it’s great for the character. She goes down well.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #3 – January 2000)
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “I killed Ephiny. I admit it. I’m proud of it. No, I loved the character. The character was wonderful. I could have done this episode without killing Ephiny. I told Rob, I said, ‘I could go either way with this.’ And Rob reported back that I guess Danielle [Cormack] had some commitments or something like that and the decision was made [to] just kill off the character. And I said, ‘Okay. All right. But this is a beloved character. We’re going to have to deal with that consequence.’ [But] she had to die. It was a big loss for the Amazon nation to lose Ephiny and that became a major contribution as to why Gabrielle took over the Amazons… [while] she was struggling to figure out [her ‘Way’] and I was really playing in my mind that she wasn’t trying to please Xena at all, but she was [thinking], ‘Can I live up to Ephiny?’… The interesting change in Gabrielle in this, and it also comes through with her discussions with Brutus, is how firm she is, how confident she is. She basically says, ‘No, I don’t want a war. But if you want a war, I will fight you.’ Now, that’s a very careful distinction for the character and what we’ve seen before. The discussion between her and Brutus to me is extremely illuminating. Before she would have said, ‘I don’t want a war. What can we do to stop this?’ Now she [says], ‘I’m going to meet force with force, but only if it comes at me first.’ That is a statesman. That’s somebody who is very knowledgeable, very wise, and someone who cares about [her] people, obviously.“ (“Endgame” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Four DVD Set)
Eric Gruendemann (Producer): “We were, by this episode, starting to take [Gabrielle] from the complete pacifist into the realm of warrior. Not only did we know that we wanted the character to arc again, but also we felt that it was going to be very hard for her to play a passive character in so many of the situations for so long on a series and not get into the thick of things. And [we wanted to see] what that would do to a character once she does have to kill. So, yeah, we were making conscious steps to amplify the lack of her passivity as we [went along]…” (“Endgame” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Four DVD Set)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “[There] was a subtext that the actor, David Franklin [Brutus] and I decided to play [in this episode and the next]. We wanted to show the love/hate relationship between the two characters so we played a bit of attraction. But there was nothing going on between them. Sometimes you have chemistry with another actor and sometimes you don’t. David and I did, and we added that to the scenes.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #8)
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “Where I wanted to start with Brutus was to portray him as somebody who had fallen under the charismatic spell of Caesar. I mean, Caesar was an incredible general and his men knew that; they followed him blindly. Well, Brutus was no exception. ‘If this is good for Caesar, it must be good for Rome, because Rome is what Caesar is all about.’ Well, I wanted to start seeing that being stripped away. And one of the ways to do that was [his] interactions with the Amazons… I remember we had long discussions about how we wanted to do this. We knew that we wanted to have Xena be responsible for Caesar’s death, but we couldn’t have Xena kill Caesar because that was so well recorded in history. We didn’t want to totally violate it. So the point was we had to have Xena be instrumental in manipulating events so that they led there. And a lot of this episode was [her] manipulating Brutus. [He] has been portrayed in history… as a betrayer. He betrayed Caesar… but stop and think… he killed a dictator. He killed someone who was trying to abolish senate law. So really, Brutus wasn’t a bad guy. Brutus had his reasons for doing this. It was for the betterment of Rome. I liked Brutus. [He] was there truly because he had a mission. He wasn’t trying to do anybody wrong. He was following orders. He was really trying to seek a way out for all the forces involved. So he went back to Caesar with the answer… he had the agreement in his hand… What does Caesar do? He just tosses it off… and in Brutus’ mind at that moment he realizes [that] this is all about power. It has nothing to do with Rome, it has nothing to do with peace, it has nothing to do with what’s right. Every illusion he had about Caesar had crumbled. Well Xena knows Caesar better than anybody else, so when she saw Brutus head off, knew what the interaction was going to be with Caesar, she knew she was laying the seeds for own destruction. In a broader sense, Xena knew the only way to destroy Caesar was from within.” (“Endgame” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Four DVD Set)
Jennifer Sky (Actor, Amarice): “I think [the producers of Xena] kind of said, ‘We need to throw in somebody who’s geared to the younger audience, who people can relate to.’ My character goes through all those kinds of trials and tribulations: first love, right and wrong, lying… just basically all the virtuous things that you learn as a teenager, I guess… emotionally, she’s immature. She thinks she’s right all the time. She’s very one-minded, basically like a lot of teenagers are.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #3 – January 2000)
*Check out an interview that writer Steven L. Sears gave on “Endgame” with Sharon Delaney for Fan Kit #10 here.
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Pre-Code Film Friday!