HAPPY 20th! The Best of XENA: Allies Edition

Welcome to another Xena Thursday! In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Xena: Warrior Princess, which premiered 20 years ago this month (September 4, 1995), we’re dong a monthlong series of posts celebrating the best Xena episodes per character. While I’ve already voiced my thoughts on every single episode and chosen my picks for the best, I’ve long wanted to choose which installments best represented the characters, furthering their individual journeys and strengthening the audience’s understanding of them. We’ve already done the two heroines, so we’re continuing today with some of the pair’s most frequently appearing allies. I have selected these installment due to the things revealed about each character and their importance in the person’s growth and development. They are listed in airing order.

 

JOXER

01. Season 1, Episode 22: “Callisto” (Aired: 05/13/96 | Filmed: 02/06 – 02/16/96)

Xena is once again reminded of the sins of her past when a malicious female warrior, whose family was killed by Xena’s former army, exacts her revenge on the Warrior Princess by impersonating her.

Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by T.J. Scott | Production No. 876920

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I featured this episode as #3 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

In addition to the introduction of the titular baddie, this classic installment marks the debut of Joxer, arguably Xena and Gabrielle’s greatest and most frequently seen ally. He starts as a bumbling antagonist, hoping to join Callisto’s army, but even Gabrielle can beat him up. The two immediately have a fun, breezy repartee, and it’s easy to see why this comic relief character was brought back.

02. Season 2, Episode 22: “A Comedy Of Eros” (Aired: 05/12/97 | Filmed: 03/19 – 03/27/97)

Even the warlord Draco becomes a comedic victim of Cupid’s son, Bliss, when the mischievous boy creates unlikely romantic pairings among Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer and Draco.

Written by Chris Manheim | Directed by Charles Siebert | Production No. V0225

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I featured this episode as #54 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

Although this is a trivial little comedy that seems to do no more than spend 43-minutes inundating the audience with sexual innuendos, fans have long considered this installment a turning point for Joxer, who reveals, for the first time, his deep affection for Gabrielle. Their unrequited love will be a subliminal thread for the next several years, and it really begins (in the final scene) here.

03. Season 4, Episode 18: “The Convert” (Aired: 04/19/99 | Filmed: 02/09 – 02/18/99)

Najara returns claiming a newfound mantra for nonviolence while Joxer wrestles with the guilt of his first kill.

Written by Chris Manheim | Directed by Andrew Merrifield | Production No. V0621

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I featured this episode as #49 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

This episode gives Joxer his most dramatic individual storyline, as the accidental killing of an evil warlord becomes his first bloodshed. Joxer grapples with his conscience when they go to visit the warlord’s son, who has no idea of his father’s atrocities. While there is a bigger story going on with the “reformed” Najara, this juicy B-plot has always been one of my favorites for the character.

04. 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

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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. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

Joxer’s final season making regular appearances is one of his character’s best, for the writers finally decide to play out his crush on Gabrielle as part of an ongoing little arc. After confessing his feelings for her in “Chakram” and being rejected in “Animal Attraction,” this episode gives closure, as he and Gabrielle talk plainly while he hovers near death after being injured with a poisoned sword.

05. Season 5, Episode 20: “Livia” (Aired: 05/01/00 | Filmed: 02/18 – 02/29/00)

Xena and Gabrielle are freed from their icy prison after 25 years and set out to find Eve, who has become a fearless commander in Rome.

Written by Chris Manheim | Directed by Rick Jacobson | Production No. V0921

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Check out my thoughts on this episode, along with the opinions and recollections of the cast and crew here.

This clearly isn’t one of the series’ best episodes, but it is undeniably important, especially for Joxer, whom we learn has been married to Meg for over 25 years and happily content with a family. While Joxer’s death in the following episode may be the bigger moment, this episode shows us — bittersweetly — what happened to him over the time gap.  (And it’s not as hard to watch for his fans as “Eve.”)

 

AUTOLYCUS

01. Season 1, Episode 17: “The Royal Couple Of Thieves” (Aired: 02/19/96 | Filmed: 01/08 – 01/16/96)

Xena’s asked to steal back a pilfered chest containing the world’s most powerful weapon, so she enlists the help of Autolycus, the self-proclaimed King of Thieves.

Written by Steven L. Sears | Directed by John Cameron | Production No. 876922

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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. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

Following his debut in the second season premiere of Hercules, Bruce Campbell’s Autolycus makes his first Xena appearance, as he and Xena go undercover to steal back a powerful weapon. The scenes between the two are probably their most memorable of the entire series, filled with moments of both comedy and pathos. It’s an action packed episode, and one of the character’s undiluted best.

02. Season 2, Episode 13: “The Quest” (Aired: 02/03/97 | Filmed: 11/14 – 11/25/96)

Xena’s spirit puts into action a plan that may allow her to return to the land of the living and reclaim her body. And Gabrielle is faced with a big decision after meeting up with her old friends—the Amazons.

Story by Chris Manheim, Steven L. Sears, & R.J. Stewart | Teleplay by Steven L. Sears | Directed by Michael Levine | Production No. V0221

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I featured this episode as #21 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

Autolycus turns himself into even more of an ally in this unforgettable installment, in which a deceased Xena invades his body in her pursuit to steal back her corpse from the Amazons and come back to life with the help of ambrosia. It’s the first time he really gets to share scenes with Gabrielle, and the two have a playful relationship different from his interaction with Xena. Another terrific installment.

03. Season 3, Episode 20: “Vanishing Act” (Aired: 04/27/98 | Filmed: 02/05 – 02/13/98)

Autolycus’s reputation as “king of thieves” is at stake when a 20-foot statue turns up missing—and he didn’t steal it. So he vows to steal it back. 

Written by Terence Winter | Directed by Andrew Merrifield | Production No. V0421

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Check out my thoughts on this episode, along with the opinions and recollections of the cast and crew here.

The cast and crew hate this episode, considering it among their worst. While I believe it has big flaws (check out the link above), it’s far from being the weakest installment they ever produced. Personally, I don’t think the emotional backstory for Autolycus in this episode is handled well, but it is the only time in this series that we learn stuff about his past. So it’s unique in that regard.

 

APHRODITE

01. Season 3, Episode 10: “The Quill Is Mightier…” (Aired: 01/19/98 | Filmed: 10/28 – 11/04/97)

A jealous Aphrodite casts a hex on Gabrielle’s scroll, which causes everything she writes to come true. Of course, what Gabrielle writes isn’t always precisely what she means.

Written by Hilary J. Bader | Directed by Andrew Merrifield | Production No. V0408

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I featured this episode as #52 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

Aphrodite is interesting because she spends her first two years on the series, not really as a villain, but as an antagonist. This episode, probably the funniest of her early appearances, gives her the most opportunity to interact with the mortal characters, particularly Gabrielle, with whom she will eventually develop a memorable friendship. This’ll give you a taste of her before she was an ally.

02. Season 5, Episode 22: “Motherhood” (Aired: 05/15/00 | Filmed: 03/17 – 03/29/00)

With the lives of Gabrielle and Eve hanging in the balance, Xena faces the gods in a final showdown.

Story by Robert Tapert | Teleplay by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Rick Jacobson | Production No. V0923

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I featured this episode as #34 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

As the conclusion of the giant Twilight of the Gods arc, this episode is notable for being the first dramatic episode in which Aphrodite appears. Without any of her usual antics, Aphrodite has a major function: bringing Xena and her two close-to-death companions to Olympus. Motivated by her regard for Gabby, this episode shows just how far she’s developed over the course of Season Five.

03. Season 6, Episode 19: “Many Happy Returns” (Aired: 05/14/01 | Filmed: 02/26 – 03/07/01)

While on their way to deliver Hermes’ helmet to Thebes, Xena and Gabrielle save a young virgin from being sacrificed by a group of religious zealots.

Written by Liz Friedman & Vanessa Place | Directed by Mark Beesley | Production No. V1426

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I featured this episode as #19 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

This is the character’s last episode of the series and it’s long been one of my favorites. Its high quality is truthfully the main reason that it makes today’s list, but it’s also notable for reconciling the bumbling Goddess of Love (who screws things up with her spells — whether inadvertently or not) with her new role as friend to both Gabby, and now, Xena. It’s a perfect swan song for her character.

 

EVE

01. Season 6, Episode 14: “Path Of Vengeance” (Aired: 02/12/01 | Filmed: 11/23 – 12/05/00)

Xena and Gabrielle fight to save Eve from execution when she returns to Amazon lands to make amends for her past.

Written by Joel Metzger | Directed by Chris Martin-Jones | Production No. V1418

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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. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

I’ve written quite a bit about why this character never completely worked. Certainly, she was much more interesting as Livia than the annoying Eve. This episode, her last, gives us a taste of both, as she is finally put on trial (by the Amazons) for her crimes. Although the character is not an active participant in the story, the connection between her quest for redemption and Xena’s is handled more adroitly than ever before. And without the mindless preaching of her past appearances, this leaves the character in a good place.

 

EPHINY

01. Season 2, Episode 13: “The Quest” (Aired: 02/03/97 | Filmed: 11/14 – 11/25/96)

Xena’s spirit puts into action a plan that may allow her to return to the land of the living and reclaim her body. And Gabrielle is faced with a big decision after meeting up with her old friends—the Amazons.

Story by Chris Manheim, Steven L. Sears, & R.J. Stewart | Teleplay by Steven L. Sears | Directed by Michael Levine | Production No. V0221

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I featured this episode as #21 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

Of all the allies in today’s list, Ephiny is the character that I most wish was used with more regularity, because her affection for the characters, which developed over time, was matched by her incredibly tough and butt-kicking Amazonian nature. While the character’s first appearance gives us the biggest arc and emotional insight, this one shows Gabrielle and Ephiny as good friends when she helps Gabrielle go up against Velasca as they try to bring Xena back. This is where the two Amazons’ bond is really developed.

 

ELI

01. Season 4, Episode 16: “The Way” (Aired: 02/22/99 | Filmed: 12/03 – 12/15/98)

Still in India, Xena seeks the help of the god Krishna to rescue Gabrielle and Eli from the clutches of the King of the Demons.

Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by John Fawcett | Production No. V0617

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I featured this episode as #40 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here. Check out what the cast and crew had to say about the episode here.

Eli is one of the series’ most influential characters, for not only does his existence spark Gabrielle’s attempt to walk the path of non-violence, but he resurrects the dynamic duo from the dead, and ushers in the Twilight of the Gods with his demise at the hands of Ares. This episode is his most seminal, for not only does this mark the first time that Xena and Gabrielle encounter him after seeing him last in “Devi” as a street magician, but this is the show in which his discussions with Gabrielle lead her to follow the Way of Love.

 

 

Come back next Thursday for the best episodes for several of Xena and Gabrielle’s enemies! And tune in tomorrow for another Pre-Code Film Friday!

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