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The Most Paused Moments In Xena: Warrior Princess

The Most Paused Moments In Xena: Warrior Princess

When “Xena: Warrior Princess” first aired, its strong, female leads, awesome costumes, and irreverent treatment of fantasy and history made it a breath of fresh air for many viewers. The series garnered a following of loyal fans who tuned in week after week for the show’s surprisingly layered writing and themes. Now that the series is available on streaming video, the series is once again gaining renewed interest and picking up fans from a new generation.

With storylines that were ahead of their time, it’s easy to forget that the show came out to a world where pagers, AOL, and Blockbuster were ubiquitous, and viewers had to wait for a new episode each week. Today’s “Xena” fans get to enjoy a luxury folks rarely had when the show first aired: the ability to hit pause or rewind to take a closer look at interesting, questionable, surprising, or purely WTF moments. That’s why we’re covering some of the most paused moments in “Xena: Warrior Princess,” so you know exactly where to aim your Roku remote next time you sit down to commune with ancient gods, warlords, and kings.

The disclaimer cards at the end of each episode

From Marvel movies to “Two and a Half Men to “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” it’s isn’t uncommon these days for showrunners and filmmakers to reward fans for paying careful attention to the end credits. Adding details like these is a terrific strategy for getting the fandom together and giving them something to look for, while creating buzz in online communities over the latest new treasure hiding in something as mundane as a title card or an ongoing credits gag. 

“Xena” was a pioneer in this realm. Messages in episodes were so subtle that even some of the more attentive fans missed them the first time around. But thanks to the magic of DVDs and streaming video, eager fans can now hit pause during the show’s end credits to find an amusing disclaimer hidden at the end of most episodes. From ensuring viewers that no mythical creatures were harmed during the production of the episode to praising Danny Kaye’s “The Court Jester,” these silly disclaimers are a reminder that “Xena” never took itself too seriously and viewers shouldn’t either. Check out a full list of disclaimers at the “Xena” journal site Whoosh.org.

The time Gabrielle had three freaky fish kids

One of the things that made “Xena” special was the show’s ability to balance serious drama and powerful writing with plenty of goofy hijinks to lighten up the mood. Of all the show’s silly shenanigans, amusing anachronisms, and daffy departures, few were more absurdly wacky than the series’ odd mashup of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s 1987 film “Overboard” and the Fox series “Married With Children.” “Married With Fishsticks” (Season 5, Episode 15) had an amnesiac Gabrielle (Renee O’ Connor) duped by divorced merdad Hagar (Ted Raimi) into believing she was the mother of his out-of-control brood. To make things extra loony, the oceanic parallel world was rife with doppelgangers from Gabby’s real life.

Plagued with strange and surreal horrors like bad fashion, catty neighbors, and a misogynistic husband, Gabby’s new reality was a nightmare. But it was their three out-of-control offspring that kept viewers up at night wondering what they’d seen, unable to get those images out of their heads. In order from oldest to youngest, Gabrielle met three children straight out of special effects purgatory: Walrus-boy Flipper, Mini-Hell Priest Urchin, and the octopus-adjacent Baby Roe. At once horrifying and weirdly cute, Roe was one of the most puzzling creatures dreamed up by “Xena” creators, and the meme potential alone garners plenty of pauses among viewers today.

The time Gabrielle and Xena were Thirst Vampires

Salon writer Andrew Leonard was spot on when he called the “Xena” Halloween episode “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (Season 2, Episode 4) the “disco lesbian vampire” episode. Starring Lord Darkness from “Legend” as Bacchus, the episode had a little something for everyone: Robert Palmer girls dance party, possessed wolves, random musician’s disembodied but still completely animated head attached to everything from pikes to scarecrows, ’90s goth energy run amok, deep-discount Enigma, and super long acrylic nails pre-Kylie Jenner. The production team got so carried away with all of this Lada Gaga video energy (more than a decade before Lady Gaga was a thing) that they even forgot to edit out a propane tank, which can be seen in all its anachronistic glory at the 11:27 mark.

But it’s the super sultry vampire lust in this episode that solidified its place in the annals of TV thirstdom, helping shape the show’s image as an iconic lesbian love story. Since vampirism has always been used as a metaphor for sexuality, the show’s creators decided to use the Bacchae as a pre-Hellenic stand-in for vampires and sneakily explore Gabrielle and Xena’s sexuality in a way that wasn’t standard for the era. Director T.J. Scott told Xena Magazine he and Lucy Lawless (Xena) set out to “push the envelope in terms of sexual content.” The result was a super hot scene with gothed-out Gabby and Xena lost in erotic vamp bliss, one that’s thirst trap enough to make even the straightest girls a little Bacchae-curious.

The time a skeleton flipped Xena the bird

Some “Xena: Warrior Princess” story arcs are darker than others, such as the Alti tale spanning Seasons 4 through 6. Once a Siberian Amazon, Alti (Claire Stansfield) was booted by her tribe when she became a power-hungry shaman. She would go on to become a toxic frenemy to a still-evil Xena, manipulating the young chakram-wielder into murdering the entire Amazon tribe under the promise the shaman would make Xena a “Destroyer of Nations.” Although Xena would live up to this title, Alti failed to tell her it came with a curse, which the dark shaman placed on her lover Borias and unborn son Solan, costing Borias his life and Solan his parents.

If that super heavy back story wasn’t enough, it got even darker. When a transformed Xena journeyed with the Northern Amazons to the Amazon Resting Place, she was forced to confront the skeletons of the Amazons she once killed in the name of power. But in the midst of this dark moment, if you look carefully around the 27:48 mark, you’ll see one sassy skeleton flipping the bird in its final moments.

Every time Karl Urban pops up

There are countless reasons to love Karl Urban. Over the years, the handsome kiwi has shown up in some of the best sci-fi and fantasy series, and if you’re paying close attention, Karl Urban is everywhere. He looked majestic as heck in his Faire garb and glorious golden locks as Éomer in “Lord of the Rings.” As a super salty-but-sweet Bones, he’s a bright spot in the oft-divisive J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” films. He pops up in “Thor” as Skurge, “The Bourne Supremacy,” and “Pete’s Dragon.” Heck, Urban even had a “Star Wars” cameo. These days, he can be found in his breakthrough role as Billy Butcher on “The Boys,” and when he’s not impressing the world with his acting versatility, he’s proving time and time again that he’s one of the most wholesome people in the Twitterverse.

Of course, “Xena” fans have been on Team Urban since the late ’90s, when he first appeared on both “Xena” and the related “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” Urban’s appearance on the two shows were some of his earliest roles, and he didn’t miss a chance to display his acting chops. On “Xena” alone, the actor showed up in four different roles, often looking barely recognizable thanks to the magic of a great hair and makeup department. 

He first appeared on “Xena” as Mael, a psychopathic ancient Greek version of the Biblical Isaac’s half-brother (Season 1, Episode 19, “Altared States”). Urban later spent eight episodes as Xena’s handsome lover and murderer Julius Caesar. He then took on more of a comic role, donning wings and bleached hair as Aphrodite’s son Cupid. Finally, he played a stone-age cannibal named Kor alongside Selma Blair in “Lifeblood,” an episode that was meant to be a back-door pilot for the scrapped series “Amazon High.”

When Gina Torres was a very thirsty Cleopatra

Like Karl Urban, Gina Torres is one of those actors that keeps taking roles in iconic series that sci-fi fans fall in love with. Long before her appearance on “Hercules” and “Xena,” Torres had been building a reputation as a solid television and film actor with roles on “Law and Order,” “Profiler,” and “One Life to Live.” Over the course of her career, the New York native has appeared in “The Matrix” series, played a lead role in “Firefly” alongside Alan Tudyk, portrayed the title character in “Cleopatra 2525,” and showed up in dozens of popular series including “Westworld,” “Castle,” “Criminal Minds,” and “Boston Legal,” just to name a few. Most recently, she can be found as a main cast member on “9-1-1: Lone Star,” where she plays EMT Tommy Vega.

Fans of Torres watching “Xena: Warrior Princess” for the first time will be thrilled when she turns up as the perfectly-eyelinered Cleopatra in Season 3’s “The King of Assassins.” Yet another doppelganger episode, “King” places Cleopatra, Joxer (Ted Raimi), Autolycus (Bruce Campbell), Gabrielle, and Xena in the middle of fresh mistaken identity mayhem, courtesy of Joxer’s much cooler evil twin, Jett. While much of the episode revolves around thwarting a plot to kill Cleo, there’s a whole thing going on between the Queen of Egypt and our favorite King of Thieves, complete with a steamy bathtub scene and enough double entendres to fill a Trojan horse.

Every Xena and Gabby kiss

Back in the 1990s, LGBTQ representation was rare, and typically poorly executed; it might seem far away now in a time when an entire generation has been raised with gay marriage as a normal part of life, but back then, every time anyone or anything dared to be out and proud, some people really lost their minds over it. 

It was also a time when TV producers had even less autonomy when it came to their production and writing decisions than they do today. From the show’s beginning, the network was aware of the possibility that the relationship between Gabby and Xena could be perceived as romantic, so they went out of their way to forbid any clear-cut lesbian relationship.

But what about subtext? As it turns out, the network was fine with LGBTQ subtext, especially since it became clear pretty quickly that the subtext was part of what fans kept coming back to see. The result is that audiences ended up with plenty of steamy scenes where the heroes were bathing together, washing each other’s backs, and having heartfelt conversations about how they couldn’t live without each other. For those of us who live to see those super shippable moments, there are plenty of plausible deniability kisses.

There are good-bye kisses like Season 2, Episode 5’s “The Return of Callisto.” There are substitute body kisses like when Xena kisses Gabby in Autolycus’s body (Season 2, Episode 13, “The Quest”). There are forehead kisses, cheek kisses, lifesaving kisses, and gothy vampire kisses — and every darned one of them looks great as smartphone wallpaper.

When Joxer conjured up three naked dancing Gabbys

Anyone who writes or reads fan fiction knows that some fantasies are better kept private, a lesson Joxer learns the hard way in “The Quill is Mightier…” (Season 3, Episode 10). See, while Xena and Gabrielle were forging a bond that would last for eternity, their goofy friend Joxer was not-so-secretly holding a torch for Gabrielle. One of the great things about Joxer’s relationship with the heroes is that no matter how knee-deep in cringe he was at all times, Xena and Gabrielle always loved and respected him and even had empathy for his feelings about Gabby. Nonetheless, he could be incredibly annoying at times, and he never seemed to tire of pushing the limits of the girls’ tolerance.

But when Aphrodite (Alexandra Tydings) suddenly gifted Gabrielle the power to write her own reality, mayhem ensued. After conjuring an obsessively fishing Xena and some various troubles for the gods, Gabby got the bright idea to have all the victims of her writing sleep in a nearby cave until she could work out a solution. In the midst of this mess, a bad attempt at love poetry manifested Joxer’s Gabby fantasies as three naked dancing Gabrielles. Thanks to some fun camera work, the scene remained fairly G-rated, but it still became one of the silliest sights in the entire series. If only all bad writing was so innocuous.

When the show made no effort to hide stunt doubles

Generally speaking, big-budget films and higher-caliber TV shows will go out of their way to conceal stunt doubles; other entertainment options don’t seem to be terribly concerned.  

Perhaps it’s because the director is confident the scenes will go so fast, or their audience will be so dazzled by their sleight of hand that they won’t really look too closely. Or, perhaps they’re just working with a limited time frame and budget, so they do the best they can under those constraints and move on to the next shot. But some productions just don’t even seem to care, and not every actor can have a near-perfect-photo double like Saz from “Only Murders in the Building.”

Either way, the results can be pretty amusing when stunt doubles are obvious, and “Xena: Warrior Princess” was a frequent offender. This was especially comical for a series that spent so much time focusing on doppelganger gags. Things seemed to really go off the rails at some point during Season 4, when blatant stunt doubles became a common sight. One good example of this, guaranteed to make you laugh, comes in Season 4, Episode 20, when “Xena not Xena” can be seen riding Argo just after the ten-minute mark.

When Tim Omundson was a Jesus figure

After many years of small-ish roles, Timothy Omundson was cast as the rule-obsessed Carlton Lassiter on “Psych,” where the show’s loyal fandom fell in love with him. After “Psych” ended, he had a special role written for him as the first murderer Cain on “Supernatural,” then starred in the medieval musical comedy “Galavant.” When Omundson suffered a stroke in 2017, the “Psych” family and fans rallied around him, with Steve Franks and James Roday even rewriting the next movie to reflect their love for him.

But longtime fans of Omundson have known what a talented, charming actor he can be ever since the late ’90s, when he first appeared as Eli on “Xena: Warrior Princess” looking quite opposite the Santa Barbara police detective he would one day bring to life. With his long hair, healing powers, gentle spirituality, and the whole martyrdom thing, Eli was meant to reflect a sort of Jesus figure. His appearance on the series coincided with a controversially-problematic depiction of Hindu beliefs, a fact that isn’t helped by the fact that he’s inexplicably a white devi. But hey, it’s Tim Omundson, and it’s just hard not to love him in anything, especially when he’s rocking such luscious locks.

The time Gabrielle had a random bad wig in one scene only

Sooner or later, everybody reaches the breaking point, where it’s time to just phone it in. That seems to be exactly what happened in Season 4, Episode 12 of “Xena: Warrior Princess” (“If the Shoe Fits…”) when for no clear reason, Gabrielle inexplicably had the most absurd wig in one scene only. In this episode, a burlap-sack-clad Gabrielle told a young runaway princess her version of the Cinderella story, starring herself as the lovely and put-upon Tyrella. Over the course of the episode, each of Gabrielle’s companions took over storytelling at some point, with Aphrodite, Joxer, and Xena each giving it their own spin.

While the story-within-the-story featured some pretty fancy wigs and costumes, back in real life, Gabrielle was still hanging around in a burlap sack. That’s why it was that much more puzzling when the Battling Bard of Poteidaia was randomly seen rifling through her belongings while wearing a bizarrely poofy, much redder wig in one scene. Hey, sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got on hand so you can clock out in time for happy hour — presumably also where the on-set continuity person was at the time.

The time Gabby and Aphrodite were Swedish oil-wrestling conjoined twins

There are some episodes of “Xena” that beautifully capture the profound complexity and depth of the human experience, touching the hearts and souls of viewers. Then there are the others.

“Little Problems” (Season 5, Episode 8) feels like the writers were trying to fill out the rest of the season order while nursing a monstrous hangover or possibly coming down from ‘shrooms. 

The episode began with Xena getting Freaky Fridayed with a little girl in a coma, and things only got worse from there. Aphrodite and Gabrielle were plotting to steal some magic soul-dividing oil from club owners/skeezy conjoined twins Castor and Pollux (Wade and Scott Taylor), and for some reason, their convoluted plan involved pretending to be Swedish conjoined twins and oil wrestling the brothers to get into their exclusive twins-only club. The episode was kinda all over the place, but the nonsensical scenes with Gabrielle and Aphrodite pretending to be Valkyrie twins were worth the price of admission alone.

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