Wouldn't It Be Loverly
"My Fair Cupcake" Plot Summary:
Autolycus steals an invitation to a ball in Antioch, where the king is looking for a bride, and goes to visit Cupcake in the bar where she works to ask how she'd like to be a princess. Meanwhile, Hercules is meeting with King Jorgus of Carpathia, who is convinced that the prince of Antioch is trying to start a war with him and wants to counterattack. Hercules convinces Jorgus to give him a couple of days to figure out what's going on, and sends Iolaus ahead to Antioch to see if he can keep the peace there. He hits the road to Antioch at the same time as Autolycus, who has been giving Cupcake advice like, "You don't have to be intelligent, just act it," and ordering her around in terms of her speech and clothes. Cupcake insists that she's going to be true to herself, and spends more time reading than listening to his advice.
Hercules realizes that a street fight in Carpathia was likely started by an instigator, not an invader from Antioch invader as everyone suspects, and sets out to find the real culprit. In Antioch, Prince Alexandros is in the midst of meeting potential brides when he's interrupted by an advisor who announces that Carpathia has launched an invasion force. Just then, Iolaus arrives, telling Alexandros that he's just come from Jorgus and the Carpathians want a truce. Just then, Autolycus arrives and introduces Cupcake as Hermia, daughter of the King of Carpathia. Alexandros is instantly smitten with her and says he'll take no war action until Hercules arrives, though his advisor objects.
Once they're alone, Iolaus yells at Autolycus - he knows perfectly well that his companion isn't Princess Hermia, and suspects Autolycus is just using her to get into the palace so he can steal the Sapphire of Antioch. Autolycus claims he was merely trying to stop a war. Iolaus warns Cupcake that Autolycus is a thief, but she doesn't believe it. At the ball, Autolycus steals small jewels from women while Cupcake charms the prince, reciting Euripides from memory and discussing Pythagoras. A woman there recognizes her as a showgirl and has the band strike up a bawdy tune, but Cupcake sings "Have a Ball With Me" to the prince, declaring that she has to be true to herself and he'd have a lot more fun with her that way. The prince is embarrassed at first but then breaks into applause, which the entire court follows. Autolycus is so charmed by Cupcake that he forgets to steal the sapphire while she has everyone distracted.
Back in Carpathia, Hercules finds a villager about to commit arson, and gets the man to admit that King Jorgus paid him to do it. He brings the thief before the throne to ask whether this king really paid the man to stir up trouble and the man confesses, but it's not really the king on the throne, and the real King Jorgus demands to know who the thug was covering for. Meanwhile, in Antioch, the king's nefarious advisor reveals his plan to take over Antioch and Carpathia, so he's delighted to have "Hermia" as a hostage in the palace.
Autolycus confesses to Cupcake that he's a thief, and starts to declare his love to her when she's summoned by the prince. She starts to tell the Alexandros that she's not the Princess of Carpathia, but the evil advisor's men attack them until they are fended off by Iolaus and Autolycus. Hercules arrives in the midst of the melee to tell a wounded Alexandros that Jorgus was not in league with his conspiring advisor, and moreover that "Hermia" is not Jorgus' daughter. Cupcake finally admits that she's a commoner, but Alexandros doesn't care, and asks her to marry him.
When she visits Autolycus, he tells Cupcake that the king obviously saw how beautiful, talented, and smart she really is - after all, even he saw that. Cupcake said she really believed for awhile that Autolycus was the man for her, and kisses him before she leaves. He says that he loves her after she's out of earshot. When Iolaus tells Autolycus that he knows the thief really loved the showgirl, Autolycus says that all he has left is one shiny memory. That sets off Hercules' warning bells and the two heroes rush to find the sapphire missing. Iolaus suggests that maybe they should let poor Autolycus keep the souvenir for a little while, and after five seconds, Hercules says, "Long enough." The two set off after the King of Thieves.
Another utterly charming Autolycus episode with a lot of Iolaus and virtually no Hercules, "My Fair Cupcake" has most of the elements typical of this series' mythology - street fights, battles with swords, kings and thugs, false identities - and it also manages to rewrite both the ancient and contemporary versions of one of the most sexist myths around, turning it completely on its head. I absolutely adored the song Cupcake sang at the ball, lyrically reminiscent of Jerry Herman's Tony-winning "I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles, and her dialogue was much snappier than in "Men in Pink," when she was more of a dumb, drippy love interest.
The legend of Pygmalion and Galatea, in which a sculptor falls in love with his creation until a god turns the beautiful woman into a living vessel for his affections, has been used before on this series with the roles reversed, but it still sent out pretty negative implications about men wanting women to be love objects rather than individuals. My Fair Lady, on which this episode is more directly based, suggests the unfortunate conclusion that a woman probably will end up happier by pretending to be someone she's not just to attract the right man. In Hercules' version of the story, however, it's Cupcake who transforms Autolycus. His superficial improvements to her beauty aren't what win her the prince - it's her intellect and her self-assured charm that he falls for. Autolycus doesn't deserve Cupcake; I'm not sure Alexandros does either, but I'm willing to bet we haven't seen the last of either of them, so it will be interesting to see what the showgirl princess ends up doing later on.
Thing is that Bruce Campbell is witty and sensitive enough to make Autolycus entirely sympathetic, even when he's talking like a boor and acting like a creep. He's gotten a lot of air time this season and made the most of every second: here he outshone Michael Hurst's more serious Iolaus and performed more stunts than Kevin Sorbo's subdued Hercules. The plot was pretty silly - the idea that a king on the verge of war would send his daughter as a peace offering should have made everyone suspicious, not that she was secretly a commoner but that she was secretly an assassin - but plot is the least important element of this series. It's got snappy dialogue, wonderful recurring characters, slapstick fighting, fun rewritings of popular fantasy, and the occasional musical number...what more could anyone ask, except possibly for more Hercules himself?