Hercules and Xena Banner Exchange
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Let's start with the most important part of this episode, the sex. This episode clearly demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that Xena and Gabrielle are lovers, on the show as well as in Fan Fiction. Yes, this episode supposedly had a plot about the light vs. the dark (yawn), but with so much sex in the air, who cares? :-D
The attraction between Najara and Gabrielle was obvious from the start of this episode. Xena clearly notices that Najara's eyes are all over her bedmate, and she doesn't seem to like it much, either. Here is the close of their campfire scene:
Najara (to Gabrielle and Xena): "Sleep well."
Xena: "Oh, *we* will."
Please correct me if I am wrong, but I inferred from Xena's tone that she would give Gabrielle the @#$%ing of her life that night, if only to distract her from Najara. Xena clearly seemed like a wary mate who felt she had something to prove, bed-wise.
Later, Najara and Gabrielle have the scene where they roam off to the lake to watch some swans. This is so obviously subtextual that Xena seems to choke at the chance to play chaperone, and she lets them go off. Xena, you'd better get into bird-watching *fast*, if you know what's good for you.
Xena's reluctance to indulge in what she considers silliness here is quite strange. Wasn't she Riverdancing her butt off two episodes ago? ("A Tale of Two Muses") Oh well.
Xena's rush to the lake, and her expression as she takes in Najara and Gabrielle walking together, is absolutely exquisite. This is not the reaction of say, Hercules, should he see Iolaus walking along with Salmoneus. Xena looked like a jealous lover. Alright, maybe not jealous, but deeply afraid that the love of her life just found someone a little more likable. Wonderful scripting. This is all I ever wanted out of this show. Save the Dahak crap. I want Soap Opera Romance on this show!
Please note that the real plot of this episode is not the reformation of slavers, but that a suitor has come into Gabrielle's life. This *was* the plot. Can you believe it? I'm still stunned. I've read a few "suitor" Fan Fiction stories before, but I've never seen an episode version of it! Wow.
In their lakeside conversation, Najara tells Gabrielle that she should commit herself to life with Xena. To me, this sounded like "Why don't you two just go off and get married? You two already act like you're married."
Moving along... When it is revealed that Najara is a fruitcake, Xena has the excuse she was looking for to come in and kick her ass over Gabrielle. (Oh, I apologize for my language. Xena correctly uses the term 'butt' in a later scene. That Xena, always looking out for our sensibilities.)
"Get out of the way, Gabrielle." Xena warns as she draws her sword. What a great scene, two very sexy warrior women fighting over Gabrielle. Every episode should be like this! It doesn't get any better than this, folks.
Later, Najara gets the upper hand, but before she can finish Xena off, Gabrielle rushes in for the self-sacrificial assist. Their dialogue is as precious as diamonds:
Gabrielle: "Najara, you and I, we'll walk out of here together."
Najara: "You're just saying that to protect her."
Gabrielle: "Xena's dark side *frightens* me. I need to move on, but I could never live with someone who killed her."
This exchange is deeply revealing for Gabrielle, tying in to the revelation from the previous episode that Xena fed a young girl to the crabs. In this episode, Gabrielle is clearly making it known that Xena's potential for evil turns her stomach. Powerful revelations, but it was missing from that episode. (Good thing Xena was unconscious during all this.)
Aside from that, this exchange just oozes sex. Gabrielle is clearly identifying herself as Najara's future mate, but only if she spares Xena. In case this is a little vague for the audience members who still don't "get it", Xena clarifies things when she wakes up in the next scene:
Xena (speaking of Najara): "She'a a tough girl, but she's got a weakness. It's the same one I've got."
You ain't kiddin', Xena. There are quite a few of us who have that weakness for the strawberry-blonde as well. :) Zeus, I still can't believe I'm hearing lines like this! Tell me I'm dreaming! This is the most incredible thing I've seen on this show yet!
Later, in a somewhat confusing scene, Xena appears to have reverted to her dark side, and has trussed Gabrielle up in a standard Callisto trap to fall to her doom. As Najara confronts Xena, Xena sneers:
Xena: "If I can't have her, nobody's gonna have her."
To me, the emphasize is on "having her", close quote. I guess this answers the question from "A Day in the Life", which was whether Gabrielle could cook with her juices. I think we have the answer to that burning question. "Have her". I still love hearing that.
Okay, enough about the sex. (Aw...) This episode addresses questions that I have had since "Bitter Suite". In their conversation before Xena leaves Gabrielle, Xena confides to Najara:
Xena: "It hasn't always been good for her being with me. I seem to hurt her."
Xena is deliberately vague here about the ways how she has hurt Gabrielle, as she would not like it publically known that she tried to drag Gabrielle to death behind her horse in a fit of rage. But the Djinn speak to Najara apparently, as she responds with this:
Najara: "I know she forgives you."
>From Xena's expression you can tell that Najara is referring to the GabDrag from "Bitter Suite". She knows Xena's dirty little secret. I'm glad someone other than Gabrielle now knows about that particular instance of abuse. I still haven't forgiven Xena for that one.
The writers return to this theme again at the close of the episode:
Najara (to Xena): "No, that would hurt her, and I don't ever want to do that. That's *your* job."
Xena stares at her, because she knows she is right. And I absolutely love it. This is scripting at its finest, and the writers should take a bow for this episode. They acknowledge Xena's dark side in a way that was totally absent from their "closure" of the 3rd season's "Rift". Simply stunning. "Crusader" is thoughtful, exciting, and even manages to fit in enough sexual tension for ten 3rd season episodes. I cannot praise this episode enough. Thank you!
c. 1998 Ogami
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