All We Are Singing Is Give Peace A Chance
"Lyre, Lyre, Hearts On Fire" Plot Summary:
As Draco and his band of thugs discover a golden lyre buried in the sand, a band of Amazons show up to claim the treasure found on their land as their own. Xena stops them from fighting by snatching the lyre away, identifying it as one of Terpsichore's hidden instruments to spread music through the world. Draco gets distracted by his obsessive love for Gabrielle, giving Amazon leader Amoria an excuse to insult him. Both groups draw swords. Suddenly Xena bursts into anti-war song, and before long all have thrown down their weapons to sing along. But without a battle, there's no way to determine who gets the lyre, so Xena proposes a Battle of the Bands.
In nearby Melodia, musicians congregate from far and wide. Xena's mother arrives as well, desperate to find her daughter a husband so the baby will have a father. Gabrielle has been auditioning bands and tells Xena, "They all suck," but music from outside distracts them. It's Joxer's brother Jace, a Liberace lookalike who gives a revved-up disco performance of "Dancing in the Moonlight." Gabrielle gets Xena to dance in a conga line, but Joxer is disgusted to have his flaming twin show up and ruin his own image as a warrior. Jace laments his brother's cruelty to Xena, but she has her own problems: her mother has placed a personal ad seeking potential mates for the warrior princess.
Joxer has developed a crush on Amoria, which makes Gabrielle feel a little strange. Still, she has no interest in Draco, who wants to win the lyre so he can serenade her for all eternity. When Gabrielle rejects his advances, he performs a dream sequence video of "Always Something There To Remind Me." Meanwhile, the Amazon leader admires Jace and asks Joxer to get his brother to teach them some moves. As Xena tells Gabrielle to let Joxer go now that someone else wants him, Joxer tries to reconcile with his brother, who is scornful of Joxer's half-hearted apologies.
Xena finds her mother getting a massage and warns that she doesn't need any more family - she has Gabrielle, Joxer, and Mom herself. "That doesn't replace a father," her mother replies. "What century are you living in?" demands the warrior princess, who erupts into song, backed up by the bikini-clad Amazons: "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves." Afterwards, Xena's mother tells her daughter that she's always grooved to the beat of her own drummer. Still, she wants to know who the father is.
Backstage at the big concert, Draco abducts Gabrielle at swordpoint and tells her that since she won't marry him, she gets to die as the grand finale of his nihilist rock performance. Playing a guitar that shoots flames, he hangs Gabrielle in a cage from the ceiling, but the audience assumes it's part of the act. Xena catches on when Gabrielle tries to escape and plays a shrill note from her signature theme music on Terpsichore's electric lyre, which momentarily deafens the band and allows Gabrielle to escape into the mosh pit. While the Amazons play, Xena and Draco rap, fighting on top of the heads of the audience until Draco drops.
Seeing the Amazon leader cooing over the thugs, Joxer gets depressed, but Gabrielle says it's what he should have expected from a rocker chick. She tells him she felt funny seeing him with another woman, but when Joxer tries to press his advantage and asks her out, she says, "Not a chance in Tartarus." Xena tries to leave quietly, but the crowd chants for her and Jace tells her she won Terpsichore's lyre. Announcing that she will leave the instrument in Melodia, the warrior princess performs "People Got To Be Free," with Jace, Joxer, Gabrielle, her mother, the Amazons, and Draco's men all reconciled, backing her up.
The last time Xena did a musical, it was the improbable follow-up to the arc where Gabrielle's daughter killed Xena's son, and it was astonishingly moving, with Xena and Gabrielle singing a passionate duet before Xena's dead son appeared to her for a scene of reconciliation. Last week, Xena underwent perhaps the greatest transformation of her life, as her former nemesis Callisto entered her body to be reincarnated following the martyrdom of Eli at the hands of Ares. While "Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire" was an adorable episode, it just couldn't measure up.
There were some terrific directing decisions - the split-split-split-screens in the first town-wide production number, the romantic soft focus in the "Always Something There To Remind Me" video contrasting with Draco's "obsessive, deranged" violent behavior (Gabrielle's terms). For the most part the lip-synching was excellent; Joxer was a notable exception, but since Jace sang fine, this might have been a deliberate choice - we've heard Ted Raimi sing well on the series before. I love the idea of electric lyres and grunge musicians in Ancient Greece, and Amazons of all shapes and sizes backing Xena up on a feminist anthem.
But what could have been the emotional core of the episode - Xena's mother fretting over her daughter's unconventional family, and Joxer fretting over his brother's unconventional lifestyle choices - got lost in all the song and dance. It's hard to believe Gabrielle's feeling so flighty so soon after Eli's death, particularly when Xena sings so forcefully against war in the opening song. This was a highly enjoyable episode that simply aired at a bad moment. But it's getting harder for this series to get its humor appreciated in the midst of so much angst, and even harder to get the serious themes taken seriously when at any moment anyone might burst into song.