"The King of Assassins" Plot Summary:
While Xena is off looking for Melchior, Autolycus discovers that Joxer's evil twin brother Jet is in the area, planning to assassinate Cleopatra, who's also in Greece on business. Gabrielle comes up with a plan to to switch Joxer with Jet and have Autolycus steal the murder weapon, but Autolycus gets distracted watching Cleopatra undress for her bath and foils the first part of the scheme. He learns while spying that Ptolemy has a plan to eliminate her, but she has her own plan to raise an army to take her throne back from him. Meanwhile, Gabrielle suggests to Joxer that they allow themselves to be taken prisoner as a way to get into the castle; that part, at least, works.
Cleopatra catches Autolycus in her private chambers, but when he quickly explains that he was just testing her security which was obviously lax if he got in, and adds that he works for Xena, she decides to listen to him. Meanwhile, Pontius, one of Cleopatra's guards who is secretly working to assassinate her for Ptolemy, mistakes Joxer for Jet and releases Joxer and Gabrielle. Joxer refuses to let Gabrielle come with him when he encounters the dangreous Jet, who hangs him from a wall mount by his underwear; Autolycus, who has been discussing business and pleasure with Cleopatra, rescues him.
Joxer wants to convince his brother to work for good, like Xena convinced him to do, but Pontius arrests him, Gabrielle, and Autolycus before they can work out a new plan. Gabrielle and Autolycus call Joxer "Jet," which fools the guard into letting him go. While he seeks out the real Jet before the latter can assassinate Cleopatra, Xena shows up and rescues Gabrielle and Autolycus, who picks on Gabrielle's failed attempt to "play" Xena.
In Cleopatra's chamber, Jet outbluffs Autolycus and finds the sword with which he intends to kill Cleopatra. Joxer interrupts, assuming that the veiled Cleopatra is really Xena, but discovers that in fact it's really Cleopatra and he must defend her against his brother. Xena comes in during the struggle and fights Jet, braining Joxer several times; then she disposes of Pontius' men. But when Pontius threatens Joxer, Jet kills the guard, citing brotherly bonds. He goes to prison, and Xena works out an alliance with Cleopatra.
This episode suffered from two big problems: it aired the week after "The Debt II" on Xena, and in my market it aired the hour after "...and Fancy Free" on Hercules. "The King of Assassins" was funny, but nowhere near as funny as the Hercules episode, and it seemed terribly inconsequential after the last four episodes of Xena. Cleopatra couldn't hold a candle to Lao Ma, and Ted Raimi couldn't hold a candle to Michael Hurst. Bruce Campbell's direction was stylish and the jokes were funny, but there was too little Xena and too much plot fluff to hold my interest.
I must admit that I found it hard to distinguish between Joxer and Jet; they were both a little too stupid, a little too obvious. I did get a grin from the suggestion that their triplet is the real black sheep of the family because he's a little limp-wristed, but these guys were both grinning idiots in whom it was hard to see any character growth on either side. I figured Jet would turn out to have a good heart, or at least to save his brother, and that's just what happened. It would have been more interesting if he were irredeemable, and Joxer had to deal with that fact.
A Xena episode without Xena is like...well, let's just say that Gabrielle can't hold it together at present, which seemed to be the point of this episode, but it seems like the writers have spent all season making her look weak and foolish. She's utterly dependent on a Xena who's not dependent on her. I was embarrassed for Gabrielle, having Autolycus save her face in front of Xena while privately ridiculing her plan; even Joxer had better ideas than she did about how to get out of jail, and she used one of his. Watching her try and fail to do Xena's tricks with the chakram and the choke-hold stopped being amusing really quickly.
My favorite part was the long, innuendo-laden discussion between Cleopatra and Autolycus. This show does not lack for beautiful women in bathtubs. She asks if he can satisfy her, he says he can't dive in until he knows when, where, and how often; she asks for a firm offer, he wants to see her bottom line. When he insists that the guards stay - to protect his deal, though it's really to protect her from Jet - she purrs, "Kinky." There was also some fun material between Joxer and Jet, most notably Jet declaring that Joxer's childhood nickname was "Joxer the Tidy" and announcing that if Joxer saw evil, he'd need to change his pants.
Like I said before, this wasn't a bad episode - in fact it might have been a pretty good episode if the standard set by this show last season had not been so high, and if Hercules weren't on such a comic roll. It's definitely worth watching, especially if you're a fan of Autolycus or Joxer. If you're a fan of Xena or Gabrielle, however, you might be disappointed.