Iolaus the Jester
"Just Passing Through" Plot Summary:
Hercules awakens to see the alternate universe jester Iolaus making breakfast. For a moment he thinks it's his best friend...as the double surmises. Hercules tells the jester that he doesn't have to cook for him - he's not the Sovereign - but the jester notes that neither is he Iolaus, and thinks that it might be easiest for both of them if they went their separate ways. Hercules asks the jester first to come with him to see something. On the way, Hercules tells him about the Iolaus he knew, and discovers that this Iolaus is an inventor; he has already created a disposable lighter and a pair of spectacles.
In the past in Ipithea, Autolycus hid in a museum and stole a ruby from the head of a sculpture of a jaguar. Unfortunately, he didn't know that there was a curse attached to the gem: if anyone stole it, the panther would come to life within hours and kill to get it back. At that time, Hercules and Iolaus were arguing about the latter's dislike of exercise and bathing, but when Hercules heard about the stolen gemstone, he agreed to come help the town - and sent a message that he was expecting a shipment of gold, guessing correctly that Autolycus would wait around to steal that, too.
Hercules was having problems with a local girl who wanted to marry him and a crowd of groupies trailing him, which caused Iolaus repeatedly to tell him that he needed to learn to say "no" to people. The other man was interested in learning to pay the mandolin, but without lessons, his skills were lacking. Hercules impressed everyone the first time he picked up the instrument with his Hendrix-like skills and cheered a small boy in a local hospital who had teased Iolaus about being nothing but a sidekick, but he was having less luck getting the stolen gemstone - Iolaus had found Autolycus and warned him of the curse, but because the King of Thieves had swallowed the ruby for safekeeping, they could only feed him prunes and wait for him to expel the stone, hoping it would be before the jaguar awoke.
A panicked Autolycus admitted that he had a problem with kleptomania - if he was the last man on earth, he supposed he'd steal from himself - and tried to get in touch with nature and with his own inner goodness, swearing that if he survived the night, he would never steal again. But lightning struck when he begged to "see the light" and the jaguar came to life. Hercules had rigged a net to try to catch it, but instead trapped the local girl who expected to marry him; while Autolycus leapt into the net with her, Hercules and Iolaus attempted to divert the beast, first with music and then (when the strings broke) with force.
Iolaus performed a Heimlich maneuver of sorts on Autolycus, popping the ruby free into Hercules' hand. After saying "YUCK," the son of Zeus managed to toss the stone directly onto the right spot on the head of the panther, which turned back into a statue. As Autolycus collected Hercules' groupies and pondered that in order to get the gem, he probably would have to steal the whole panther, the prunes went to work and he fled to find a toilet with the women following. When Iolaus hoped it wouldn't hit the fan, Hercules joked that his friend only pretended that Hercules was better than himself at everything so he could do less of the work.
In the present, the jester and Hercules reach an obelisk, and the living Iolaus realizes that he has been brought to the other Iolaus' grave. He feels that he doesn't belong there, but Hercules points out that his friend is at peace now, his dreams having come true. The jester and inventor tells his counterpart that he feels like an intruder who cannot replace Hercules' sidekick, but hopes that there's some of that Iolaus inside himself.
I will be glad to see Michael Hurst back every week no matter how the writers do it, but I still have reservations over the "replacement Iolaus" storyline. I'm sure they rationalize that Hercules hasn't really recovered from his friend's loss - he's just glad Iolaus is finally at peace - but the ease with which Hercules approached the grave, leaving Iolaus' double to work out his own problems, gave the indication that Hercules is completely comfortable at this point with his loss.
The alternate Iolaus has been interesting and distinctive; making him an inventor was a brilliant touch, and opens all sorts of possibilities for future plots involving Autolycus and Salmoneus as well as Hercules. Still, he's not Iolaus, and I suspect many viewers are suffering from the same sense of dislocation as the people whom Hercules encountered with him this week, assuming they were greeting an old acquaintance rather than a new face.
As a result of this existential situation, the past-tense plot with Autolycus seemed rather inconsequential, which is too bad because it was really a good one. The idea that he got constipated by a stolen gem he swallowed is hysterically evil, leading to lots of funny toilet humor and a suggestive scene where Iolaus stumbled across the King of Thieves with "a full moon out there." It was also amusing to see Hercules fleeing hordes of women, jammin' and singing, all without resentment from his sidekick even when a kid threw his oatmeal on the hero's back.
Next week the jester meets the Widow Twanke, and Herc gets arrested for wearing leather. I love it when they get kinky.