Our tales open with sex! Not Xena and Gabby – settle down subtexters (G). Ares is rollin’ around in the sheets with a Barbie doll that says she wants to be his ‘heir’. Ares pretty much says thanks for the ride but don’t let the door hit your naked butt on the way out.

Now cut to Xena and Gabby battling some bad guys – well you don’t SEE them battling the bad guys, you just see dudes flying. You hear Gabby asking to help but Xena refuse. When we do see the bard she’s filling up some water skins. She’s grumblin' about how Xena has to do everything, when Ares shows up. Gabby isn’t too happy to see him but he says he sympathizes with her since Xena can’t change her perception of the bard. He says he’s noticed how good she’s gotten with her weapon and Gab remarks that at least SOMEONE noticed. When she turns to face Ares he’s gone. Gabby makes her way back to Xena but suddenly the water skins get punctured and Barbie shows up.

Gabby doesn’t look too worried. She asks the woman what she wants to which Barbie says she’s Malacan and want to kill Xena and the best way to do that is to kill Gabby. Malacan throws a javelin at Gabby but Xena shows up and stops her. Xena whips out the chakram (which is pretty cool I must say(G)). They battle (making sure to keep most of LL’s shots above the waist(LOL) - Doesn’t help though. You can tell she’s pregnant). Anyway Ares shows up and breaks them up. But she doesn’t give up. She throws a knife at Xena but Gabby uses her sais to deflect it before Xena can. After Ares says that perhaps she’s right. He needs a successor. He creates another world and sucks Malacan, Gabby and Xena inside so they can’t damage any more temples.

There’s a few rules however. Xena can’t kill Malacan without being trapped in the other world. Malacan must kill Xena if she wants to be the successor. When Gabrielle comes to she’s in a dark room but no Xena. Xena for her part finds that she’s in a forest with no weapons when Malacan comes back. They fight. Xena knocks her down a hill as the sun starts to set. Next we see Gabby wake up in the forest at night. Now it’s Xena who’s in the little room. Xena however has a spectavision(G) where she can watch Gabrielle. She wonders what the hell Gabby is doing when she starts playing with some vines and walking around Malacan’s camp.

Gabby makes some smart-ass comments about being an amazon when Malacan jumps from the tree. Gabby gives a pull and flips Malacan on her ass(LOL). Gabby reminds Malacan of the rules after she rushes her – ‘Xena can’t kill her but there’s nothing that says that SHE can’t’. Malacan however gets the upper hand and the box Xena was stuck in during the ‘Debt’ makes another appearance. This time however Gabby is in the box, as bait for when Xena arrives. Malacan has to do the tough talk and the sentimental talk. She wants to know what it’s like to be with Xena. She says she read one of Gabby’s scrolls a while back and after she kills Xena she’ll need a biographer. Gabby however doesn’t want the job(LOL).

But the sun starts to rise and Gabby starts to wig out like she’s having an epileptic fit – suddenly Gabby morphs into Xena and Xena is the one in the cage. Xena now knows that Ares has merged them into one being – Xena’s words by the way. Malacan decides she’s going to try to shish-a- bob Xena with a few spears. Xena tries to talk her out of it to work against Ares. But Malacan would rather impale her. When Xena catches one in the gut Malacan goes over to taunt her. Pity. Xena whips her upside the head and manages to get out of the box. Malacan however has disappeared. Wily little one she is. Malacan said she’s just going to wait until sundown and kill Gabrielle. If she does that she’ll kill Xena as well.

Xena senses Ares around and he says he wants her opinion on Malacan, saying that she’s a bit better than he thought she’d be. Xena says this is all so he can watch is new girlfriend fight. Ares says no it’s so he can watch is olllllld girlfriend fight.(LOL). Ares says Gabby is in the little room but she doesn’t have a camera view like Xena. He compliments Gabby saying she’s pretty smart and she’s got a fire. She also figured out part of the riddle. She can kill Malacan but Xena can’t. Xena tells Ares ‘You’d like that wouldn’t ya?" and he disappears. But Xena starts to think. He WOULD like that but why? She's not sure. She takes some tree bark, some clay and heads off to make camp before nightfall.

Malacan is busy too, making weapons and such. Xena sets up her little trap for Barbie girl. When Malacan arrives Xena opens a can of whoop a** and ties her up – giving a butt kicking to Malacan that Malacan gave Gabby the night before. Nobody bounces her bard around the forest without feeling it. But before she can do more, she morphs into Gabby who doesn’t know what is happening. Xena can now see what’s going on but can’t do anything. She whispers for Gabby to look around – which she does. The warrior bard (my new pet name for the Gabster. I love Gabby. Have I mentioned that?(G)) sees a staff and grabs it but it doesn’t come easy and she tugs it again. Gabby notices what’s going on and ducks to the ground. A huge log comes out and whaps Malacan giving Gabby the chance to get free. She doesn’t escape unharmed though since Mal hits Gab’s shoulder with an arrow head stone.

Xena is in the room watching it and is relieved Gabby got away when she hears Ares. The war god says: "You have to like her style. Her focus. The intensity. The ability to learn and adapt. She is just incredible. I can’t believe I took her for granted for so long."

Xena doesn’t agree and doesn’t think Malacan is all that. But Ares says it’s not Malacan he really wants to win over. It’s Gabrielle. Now the warrior princess gets a little pissed.(LOL) She pops Ares in the mouth and says ‘Gabrielle will NEVER follow you’. Ares replies that maybe Xena doesn’t know Gabby as well as she thinks. They’ll see after Ares makes his offer to her to be Xena’s successor. All she has to do is kill Malacan.

In the onset, Gabby sees the tree bark attached to the staff she took with her. She takes it off and it’s a note from Xena. Xena explains what’s going on (since Gabby doesn’t get ‘TV privileges’ like Xena(G)) and tells Gabby not to kill Malacan – she doesn’t know why yet (well at least at the time of the note she didn’t).

Gabby tends to her wound in a cave when Ares shows up. Gabby isn’t pleased to see him but she listens to what he has to say. He says that who better to take over Xena’s throne then someone she’s trained. He uses Xena’s lack to see that Gabrielle has changed in order to win Gabrielle over.

Gabrielle listens to his speel about how his world order plan was misguided. He needed someone like Gabby – someone who was forceful but knew restraint. Xena never did. She was too bloodthirsty. It’s someone like Gabrielle he needs to keep peace through power. Gabby asks what would happen to Xena. Ares says she would go back home, live with her mother, knowing the world was in safe hands since it’s with someone Xena trusts. Ares tells her not to answer now. Instead he gives her one of her sais and tells her all she has to do is kill Malacan and he’ll know she’s ready.

Malacan shows up and Xena yells for Gabby not to do it. Malacan and Gabby duke it out and taunts Gabrielle. Gabrielle kicks the crap out of her and raising to blow to strike but she won’t do it. She throws down the weapon as day breaks. Gabby morphs into Xena and Xena and Mal fight again. Malacan says Gabrielle is her ‘fatal flaw’ – Xena can admit her flaws(G) and agrees but she taunts Malacan about her flaw – needing a destiny. Xena traps them in the cave and they both battle until they end up on some vines over a huge hole.

Xena taunts and teasing Mal, shaking the vine to make her fall into the abyss to be forgot – Malacan’s worst fear. Malacan calls on Ares for help. He shows up and says are you asking for help. Malacan says yes and Xena in typical smart-ass Xena fashion says sarcastically ‘she’s asking for help’. With that Ares opens the ‘window’ and Xena smiles before jumping into it. Malacan is a tad pissed. Ares said they could ask for help but as he tells Mal that doesn’t mean you should.

Xena and Gabby ‘separate’ as they come back through the window and Ares shows up. He still offers Gabby a chance at his side but Gabby doesn’t take it. After he disappears, Xena and Gabby have a heart to heart talk about Xena’s perception of the bard. Xena said she’s sorry she’s misjudged her and (more or less) she can see now that she’s a woman who can stand on her own not a girl that needs protection. Gabby says that it looks like at least some good came out of Ares plan as Xena puts her arm around Gabby’s shoulder leading her away. They chuckle, they banter some more and we fade to black.

Most of the ‘subtext’ in this ep is the ‘maintext’ stuff that subtexters have come to enjoy and non-subtexters bitch about. (LOL). You know what I mean - the I’ll do anything for my warrior/bard stuff that’s become so much a part of the series. The storyline itself put me in the frame of mind of the book and film ‘The most dangerous game’ about humans hunting humans and they did it quite well in my opinion. Ares was likable as his selfish self here too. (G) It’s a shame that Kevin is going to call it quits on Xena. I think he will be missed greatly like Danielle (Ephiny) and Hudson (Callisto).

I have to say they are 3 for 3 now!(G) I really enjoyed this one too. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed three in a row. And next weeks looks like a hoot! The first comedy ep of Season Five – we finally see Xena discover she’s gonna be a mommy. Gabby wants to know when and how and it doesn’t look like Xena has an answer. She does however have a cute little teddybear stuffed animal she’s holding in the promo (G). Looks like they might go four for four. <VBG>

CN Winters

Queen of Subtext