There's No Place Like Home
"If the Shoe Fits" Plot Summary:
A naked Gabrielle showers while Xena and Joxer (snoring loudly) sleep; Xena awakens late for a very important date and charges off to catch the evil warlord Xantar, swiping Gabrielle's shirt as she heads out. The warrior princess attacks Xantar's men, capturing the villain and returning to camp with him, using Gabrielle's top as a gag. Her sidekick is angry and informs Xena that she didn't wake their traveling companion because she was topless. Xena throws water on Joxer the Mighty, waking him so that they can take the captive to justice.
As they pass a nearby temple, the group hears a disturbance inside and rush in to find Aphrodite yelling at someone for using her bottle of Passion. A little girl runs to Xena, declaring that Aphrodite is her evil fairy godmother. Xena recognizes the child as Alicia, daughter of a local king, and discovers quickly that the girl was running away from her new stepmother. Aphrodite is glad to be ride of the child, but once the girl has left, she mopes, realizing that since Cupid grew up, she suffered from Empty Nest Syndrome. She determines to get Alicia back.
Xena tells Alicia that she had a stepfather and didn't appreciate him either, but Gabrielle drops out of a tree where she's been keeping looking to demand to know why Xena never told HER this story. The warrior princess ignores her friend and heads off to spy on Xantar's men, who have been trailing them. To keep Alicia calm, Gabrielle tells the girl a story. Once upon a time, there was a lovely girl named Tyrella (played by Gabrielle in her fantasy), who was relentlessly cheerful despite having an evil stepmother (Xena) and stepsister (Aphrodite). Alicia interrupts to suggest that Tyrella should stab her stepmother over and over, but Gabrielle insists that there are better ways to solve problems, and has Tyrella begin to psychoanalyze her family.
At this, Aphrodite pops up, saying she will tell the story as it really happened. In her version, Aphrodite is the stepmother (a madam), with Xena as her favorite girl and Tyrella as their hideous servant. When Joxer arrives as the prince's messenger, Xena begins to lap-dance for him until the real Xena arrives to interrupt the story, scowling. While Gabrielle cooks, Joxer continues the story. In this version, he is Tyro, the abused hero, while his evil stepfather and stepbrother (played by Xantar and one of his cronies) laugh that he's too socially inept to go to the ball. Xena appears as Tyro's fairy godmother, bestowing social graces and a mustache and beard like Autolycus' so that when he arrives at the ball, he charms Princess Gabrielle with both his disco skills and his singing. Suddenly, the magic hourglass runs out and his pants fall down, so he must flee...
The real Xena goes after Xantar's men. Gabrielle, still wearing a sack since Xena ruined her shirt, offers her skirt and her underwear, but Xena says the latter would be too cruel. When she returns, Alicia is gone; Xantar explains that having heard Joxer's story, he understands why the girl would run away. Xena and Gabrielle argue about who is responsible, then Xena goes off after the child, leaving her friend in charge. Just after Xena leaves, an old woman appears to warn Gabrielle that she was attacked by Xantar's men. Gabrielle rushes to assist, leaving Joxer in charge, but when the old woman transforms into Aphrodite and kisses him, he faints. Aphrodite frees Xantar, whom she has promised to return to his men if they will help her find Alicia.
The child meanwhile has fallen over a cliff, but Xena rescues her, taking her back to Joxer and Gabrielle (who get another tongue-lashing), and continuing the fairy tale herself. In Xena's version, Tyrella is a warrior princess who saves orphans and fights warlords, but her stepmother (Xantar again) thinks she's a slacker. Alicia insists that the princess should not be sharpening a sword and should be wearing a dress, but when the prince arrives, Tyrella tells him that she doesn't need a prince for a happy ending and she'd rather stay with her fairy god-sister. That lovely creature warns Tyrella that if her family couldn't get the crown jewels through marriage, they're going to steal them another way. Tyrella thanks her god-sister, but says that she can handle the thugs; the fairy would be of most use doing the dishes and cleaning up.
At this, an outraged Gabrielle says she needs space and leaves. Alicia begins to fear that the story won't have a happy ending...particularly when Xena returns her to her father and stepmother, who have been robbed and tied up by Xantar and his men. Xena locks the girl and her stepmother together in a closet so that they can bond; meanwhile Gabrielle orders Aphrodite to leave Alicia alone, so the child can find out what love really means.
Promising to be the heel to Xena's Achilles, Joxer follows the warrior princess into battle with Xantar and is captured for his trouble, but Xena defeats the warlord while the Queen tells Alicia the story of the brave Tyrella and her battle with her nasty family (once again, Xantar in drag). Xena comes back with the jewels, announcing that she had to rescue the prince, but she and the fairy god-sister made a pact to help one another be all they can be. Aphrodite arrives to bid a reluctant farewell to Alicia, who seems ready to live happily ever after with her parents who love her.
This was an adorable episode, superbly directed with overdone soft-focus in the fairy-tale portions, featuring hysterical performances by the regulars as their assorted mythical alter egos. The fantasy became anti-climactic after Joxer's dream of waltzing, singing, and Travolta-ing his way into Princess Gabrielle's heart - only to have his pants fall down when the hourglass struck midnight - but it was almost as funny listening to Xena explain that no princess needs a stinkin' prince in her life, and she'd rather live with her best girlfriend (even if the princess treats her best girlfriend like a housewife).
The "real" and storytelling narratives fit together nicely. Both contained a lot of humor, especially the swipe at Disney in the cheesy song and horrible singing voice dubbed in for Princess Gabrielle. I did not notice until the end of the episode that the king was wearing an outfit similar in style to that worn by the stepmother as played by Xantar, which creates a funny Oedipal narrative I'd rather not analyze too deeply (I did love Alicia declaring that her wicked stepmother must have cast a spell on her father to get him to fall in love with her, thus disrupting her perfect father-daughter family). The little girl looked jarringly like photos I've seen of Jon-Benet Ramsey and was wearing a formal white dress and tiara - which made Alicia's familial problems seem more frightening than they needed to - but that probably was not intentional.
I usually complain about whiny Gabrielle, but she was perfectly appropriate this episode - I would have been a LOT more hostile than she was to Xena about the dishes! And Joxer was quite likeable, especially as the inept would-be-prince. Aphrodite, however, needs work. Allying herself with thugs to get a little girl, then deciding that it's beneath her? The Goddess of Love deserves better storylines than this!