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Xena and Gabrielle arrive at a small village where Salmoneus has pepped the people up with carbonated water that they believe is some sort of elixior. However, Salmoneus is in trouble with a local warlord, who he sold faulty goods to. Suddenly in the middle of a fight, Xena is hit by a dart and poisoned. After she is then almost killed in a simple fight, Gabrielle must pretend to be Xena to try and protect the villagers. After Xena apparently dies, things get desperate, and Salmoneus and Gabrielle must try and save the villagers, for the greater good!
I am a mega-Salmoneus fan! I love the character, but even more, I think Robert Trebor is wonderful. In this episode he goes up even higher in my estimation, as he shows that he is far more than just a comedy actor. This is one of the most emotional episodes as Salmoneus and Gabrielle have to deal with Xena dying - as they think - and both Trebor and Renee O`Connor are so good that the episode is a real tear jerker.
It begins with much humour as we see Gabrielle practising her fighting skills- on Argo! We also meet up with Salmoneus, or Lord Seltzer as he is known in the village. The scene where Xena fights the warlord Talmadeus and is almost killed is a scary one - we have never seen Xena lose before, and thankfully Gabrielle`s staff throwing skills save the day. This is an especially strong episode for Renee O`Connor and Gabrielle. She saves Xena, then gets into her armour and impersonates her, causing one soldier to comment, `does she look smaller?` After Xena appears to die, there are two wonderful scenes that director Gary Jones should be praised for. Gabrielle`s scene with Xena`s body is full of long cuts, virtually no dialogue but wonderful, emotive acting from O`Connor and Trebor. Then Gabrielle goes out and grabs her staff and vents her grief and fury on a nearby tree.(In my review of Return of Callisto I discuss Gab`s tree whacking in three episodes, including this one. I also have an article in the June 1998 edition of Whoosh! on Gabrielle`s Relationship with Trees.)
These two scenes are beautifully written, directed and acted. They convey Gabrielle`s grief very well indeed. Also in the good-Gab-ep section, she fights like never before or since, when she tries to stop Talmadeus mutilating Xena`s dead body. She fights her way through countless soldiers, before holding the warlord at sword point. This incredible fighting skill was obviously a one off in response to Talmadeus` horrible scheme for Xena and Gab was inspired, as she is not too much of a fighter yet. Argo also has a strong episode. She has Gabrielle practising on her, gets to chat to Xena, has to put up with Gabrielle`s attempts to whistle, saves Gabrielle from the soldiers, and talks the other horse into refusing to drag Xena`s body around! There was to be another scene with Argo just after Gab attacks that tree, where Argo comes up and nuzzles Gab to give her comfort- but that was sadly edited.
Salmoneus` reactions and action to Xena`s death show what a hero his character really is beneath that money making exterior. Lucy Lawless gets to look poorly a lot, but she does it very convincingly, and don`t we all give a big cheer when she comes back.
We get our first glimpse of Callisto in this episode as it is she that fires the dart at Xena, but it ISN`T Hudson Leick - it`s a body double.
One little query, Xena obviously knew the effects of the poison but she didn`t prepare Gabrielle. Wasn`t this cruel? She could have told her that she might appear to die. What if they had buried her or cremated her! Also, how did they get Xena`s outfit to fit Gabrielle, who is a lot smaller? And how *does* Xena get herself untied from the horses in time to stop that soldier from stabbing Argo without being seen to be alive?
An outstanding episode(and the first one I ever saw by the way- good start), great script, wonderful acting and just excellent!
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