Classic Recap: The Greater Good
By Alex Cranz
New to Classic Recap? Want to get in on the Xenalicious action? This is a great place to catch up! It’s easily the earliest “best” episode of the show and required watching.
Season 1, Episode 21: The Greater Good
Oh man look at Gabrielle! She’s awesome and confident. Oh because she’s attacking Argo. Not cool. She’s nonplussed and promptly disarms Gabrielle. Xena likes and trusts Argo more then Gabrielle. This is amusing. Xena runs ahead and runs into a belching girl with some madly permed hair. Permy needs help for her lord Seltzer. Xena rides off and leaves Gabrielle to get knocked of Argo. Delightful.
In the village it’s quickly revealed that Lord Seltzer is in fact Salmoneous. But before he can be killed Xena arrives and takes out their bows AND their swords. Without looking! While she’s kicking ass an unseen woman is loading a crossbow. She shoots Xena before Xena can chase down the last bad guys. This is impressive because she shot from far away and because though Xena can catch an arrow she didn’t see this one coming. Oh and the dart? Totes poisoned.
TITLES. I love how you don’t even see Callisto’s face but you know she’s a badass.
Xena’s testing the dart while Argo gorges on water behind her. The warlord of the week (Talmadeus) wants to kill Salmoneous because he sold him some bad equipment, but Salmoneous doesn’t want to leave quite yet because he’s given this village seltzer water and they’re all better for it and worship him.
At Talmadeus’s camp he’s being super bad ass and arm wrestling over coals. He hears Xena is in town but he doesn’t care. He wants Salmoneous to die. He’ll do whatever it takes. He even has a dart board with his face on it.
The war party starts to march into town. Xena follows them because it’s hilarious to walk right behind them. When one attacks she kicks him off his horse. Then she gets bored and just starts twirling around and taking dudes out. Man Xena the actress who plays you is from New Zealand not Tasmania. It’s all good fun but then the poisoned dart starts taking hold and Talmadeus gets the upper hand. Gabrielle intervenes and saves Xena. She helps Xena up onto Argos and they ride away because dang Xena is tired and really can’t see. The best part is how they ride off hugging the saddle.
Back at the village Gabrielle is upset but Xena’s in pretty bad shape. She can’t move. And Talmadeus is on the way and knows Xena’s hurt. So Gabrielle dons a wig and become chibi Xena. She’s a touch too small for the breastplate. Fake Xena is kind of hilarious. They have a heart to heart that ends with Gabrielle having to ride out on Argo armed with the lid of a barrel.
Gabrielle’s impression is kind of awesome but it doesn’t fool the war party. They give chase. Fortunately Xena can still use her arms. She chucks her chakram and kicks some booty. They the villagers do their Home Alone thing and send the war party running. Success! All has gone according to plan! But Xena can barely move. It’s gotten so bad she’s in her ugly beige netherthings. She gives more orders to Gabrielle who’s now worried that Xena could die, but Xena makes it clear that it’s not about them, it’s about the people. The tone of this episode is bipolar. What am I supposed to feeeeeel?!
Gabrielle, still in Fake Xena garb, starts lobbing fire bombs at Talmadeus’s army. Someone was a softball player in another life. It is all going well, but unfortunately Gabrielle is terrible at riding a horse. She gets caught and Talmadeus realizes that Xena really is sick.
He sends some men back to kill Xena, and even though she can’t move her legs and is nearly dead from poison and probably can’t see she still manages to kill all of them. The best part is the music. SO DRAMATIC.
Back at the war camp Talmadeus is being all creepy with Gabrielle. Before he can kill her Argo rides in and saves the day. If only we all had a horse as badass as Argo. Gabrielle finally manages to mount Argo all on her lonesome and they ride away to safety. If a farm girl and a horse can take out your army reevaluate your career path.
Salmoneous returns to find dead guys and a passed out Xena. No not passed out. Xena is dead. Gabrielle returns to warn them of what’s coming but finds a very serious Salmoneous. This scene plays like a gut punch. Salmoneous tells her they need to retreat, but Gabrielle won’t retreat. They’re staying and fighting. She then take Argo in search of Iolaus, and gets waylaid by a tree. She beats the SHIT out of that tree.
Salmoneous, realizing that things are too serious, turns himself over to Talmadeus and he agrees to give up Xena’s body too, all in exchange for the village. But Talmadeus is a horrible guy so he decides that he’ll make the villagers slaves and that he’ll molest dead Xena. Gabrielle sees it all from trees. She launches her own attack. I won’t lie. It’s hella impressive. Talmadeus is smart though and he gets in her head. He makes her watch while he has Argo and another horse rip Xena apart. Only Argo won’t do it and neither will the other horse. They start beating the horses and then finally send one guy to kill Argo. That wakes Xena the fuck up. Chica be half-naked but that doesn’t stop her from stopping the entire army. She and Gabrielle kick ass while Salmoneous frees the villagers. The fight ends well, Gabrielle judges Salmoneous’s hat.
Back at the village Xena and Gabrielle have a little heart to heart and worry about the person who poisoned Xena. Who was it? Will we ever know?
How this episode makes historians weep
Carbonated water was not invented until 1767 so unless Salmoneous is a time traveler he’s got some explaining to do.
- She fights a poison that’s supposed to be fatal.
- Her chakram destroys swords and hoses and armies.
- She battles an army in her undies AND WINS.
- She does some more crotch fighting. Got to love the crotch fights.
- She owns Argo who is easily the most amazing horse in all creation.
Where it stands in the series
This is the first “death” of Xena, though it’s debatable whether it counts. I’m saying yes because everyone’s reaction to her death is real enough.
This is the very first sighting of Callisto, easily the most memorable of Xena’s enemies and also one of the most awesome. This is also the second appearance of Salmoneous and the first appearance of Argo as a super horse. Before she was just a cool horse.
The idea of sacrificing for the greater good? Kind of the focal point of the show, and Xena’s speech will be touched on repeatedly through the course of the show.
Also how much has Gabrielle improved? She takes on an entire army, and only gets caught because she doesn’t kill. That pretty dang impressive!
And that bit where Xena fights the guys while drugged and paralyzed? There will be a neat call back to it in season 2.
Excessive belching can cause brain damage and social ostracism. Kids, please don’t give in to peer pressure. Play it safe.
Seriously this is my favorite episode of the first season. One of the main reasons is the insane tone of the episode. It starts out very farcical and you see Salmonenous and figure it will be silly, and then Xena starts faltering under the influence of the poison and you realize this episode is not supposed to be a funny one. Then it goes even further and has Gabrielle emotionally overwhelmed by a warlord and Argo forced to tear Xena’s body apart. Holy hell!
If Lucy Lawless finally graduated to good actress last episode then O’Connor graduates this episode. When she sees Xena’s body you can tell exactly what she’s thinking. She’s not the plucky sidekick but the naïve friend forced to face a very personal death. The hurt, horror and disbelief all flit across her face in a wave of emotion. And her breakdown in the woods is a good piece of acting. The catharsis is really believable, though it’s frustrating to see her fall back on using her hands again. SO CLOSE O’CONNOR.
The show really uses your own expectations against you in this episode and I adore that. You come in feeling it’ll be funny and the shift, which should be startling and maybe even pull you out of the narrative, instead only sucks you in further. That’s a really hard thing to do. The number of films that balance action/drama and comedy that well are few and maybe even fewer amongst television shows, but it’s something Xena has never had a problem with.
I also like the setup for Callisto next episode. This is good structuring tv writers. This is early Xena firing on all creative cylinders and doing a great job of it.
Episode 22, CALLISTO.
The mythos of the show begins in earnest with the arrival of Callisto…and Joxer as played by Ted Raimi. Big doings people!