"If I Had a Hammer" Plot Summary:
Salmoneus is holding an art contest for a nobleman and wants Hercules to be the model as well as the judge. He's interrupted by Atalanta, a powerful woman who's trying to impress Hercules with her newfound femininity, but who ends up demonstrating her formidable muscles in a fight. Embarrassed that people find her too butch, she goes home and makes a steel sculpture of Hercules for her own private pleasure, which she fondles and speaks to. Hephaistos, god of the forge, hears her longing for her "perfect man" and brings it to life.
The living statue learns by mimicking Atalanta, the horse, and the goddess Discord, who arrives and gives the new man some misdirection. Hercules, meanwhile, is posing with nothing but a bunch of grapes for cover before local artists, including Picassus (who paints a cubist image with an eye at the center), Da Vincus (who puts Hercules' face on the Mona Lisa's body), Warholius (Hercules a la Jacqueline Kennedy), Rodin (Herc as "The Ponderer"), and Xerox (a black and white copy of Da Vincus' painting). When it comes time to judge the contest, Discord sends the new Hercules into the fray, where he smashes the paintings because he thinks they're ridiculing him.
Hercules plans to get rid of his double, but Atalanta insists that she has the right to enjoy her creation. She doesn't realize that he's being coached by Discord, who tells him to grope her and punish her for her subsequent rejection. Discord also convinces the double to murder a thug who spoke ill of Atalanta, which leads the townspeople to call for Hercules' blood.
The two Hercs have a showdown which ends with the original Hercules throwing the newer version into the fire, but Discord sets the barn on fire as a parting shot. The steel Hercules comes out of the fire to help Hercules rescue Atalanta, who tells Hercules and Salmoneus that he helped her learn to like who she is. Salmoneus asks her whether, in that case, she might be willing to pose for a Gentleman's Quarterly scroll...
An odd twist on the Pygmalion and Galatea story, in which a male sculptor fell in love with his image of an ideal female and the gods brought her to life to live as his love object. I found this version a lot more satisfying, despite some initial discomfort with Atalanta (mythologically the fastest, strongest woman in the world, a champion at most Olympic events) denouncing her "unfeminine" qualities.
Both she and her lust object were smarter in the end than Pygmalion, who expected a passive object to be a lover, or Galatea, whose desire for life apparently superseded desire for freedom to choose. This episode had some funny parallels with the current controversy over cloning, probably unintentionally, but still interesting in that the steel Hercules somehow ended up with the best qualities of his original despite being a child mentally.
The directing of this episode was absolutely brilliant - unlike this week's Xena, which featured three Xenas but rarely in the same frame, the two Herculeses were frequently in physical contact and often walking around one another in a single shot. Does Sorbo have an identical twin? He was also absolutely brilliant; he plays a dumb lug very convincingly, but manages a kind of naivete which is very appealing. There was never any doubt as to which Hercules was supposed to be onscreen.
The art contest was hilarious, especially the little girl who found the Dali painting ridiculous, and I loved watching Herc II trash the bad copies. Discord's a nasty little thing - when the duplicate Hercules follows Atalanta like a puppy, she sneers, "Ever heard the expression 'whipped'?" It was nice to see her again, but I really hope Atalanta returns - I'd love to see her with Xena!