"Punch Lines"
by Michelle Erica Green

A Pie in the Face Goes With the Job

"Punch Lines" Plot Summary:

Gabrielle tries to catch up on her scrolls, but she's suffering from writer's block, crumpling most of the pages and making airplanes out of others. Aphrodite pops in, frowning at Gabrielle's annoyance since Gabrielle and Xena are sleeping in her temple. Asking the Goddess of Love not to wake the warrior princess, Gabrielle explains her predicament. Tossing her onto a couch, Aphrodite announces her plan to play shrink and asks Gabrielle to describe her day.

Gabrielle recalls trekking with Joxer and a moody Xena, who rejects all of her friend's suggestions for baby names ("Rochelle?" "And have her called 'Roach'?") Xena denies that she is cranky and asks Joxer for verification. Joxer recalls a half-dozen instances of moody Xena, including the time she killed him with her chakram in "Been There, Done That," but smiles into her scowling face and says she's never been cranky. Accusing Gabrielle of patronizing her, Xena bets Gabrielle that she can go 24 hours without losing her temper. The loser has to do all cooking and cleaning for a month, plus give the winner backrubs. Gabrielle sends Joxer into town with Xena to keep an eye on the cranky warrior. She stays behind to bathe the horses, rolling her eyes at Xena's admonition to take good care of Argo. But after Xena goes and Gabrielle pours spring water over Argo, the horse shrinks.

Aphrodite says this doesn't sound like such a terrible thing, since everyone shrinks as they get older. When Gabrielle snarls, the goddess writes that the patient is hostile and exhibiting latent tendencies. "Latent tendencies?" demands Gabrielle, but Aphrodite says Gabrielle has obviously mistaken her for a dumb blonde, and spouts considerable psychoanalytic jargon. Defeated, Gabrielle continues describing her day.

She remembers fretting over the miniature pony. Lachrymose, God of Despair, comes out of the stream, explaining that Gabrielle used his spring to wash her horse. Since he has never laughed in his entire life, the god agrees to return Argo to normal size if Gabrielle can make him laugh, but the story of the harmless little bunny rabbit from "In Sickness and In Hell" does not crack up Lachrymose.

Meanwhile, Xena and Joxer try to eat in a tavern with a screaming baby. Xena scares the infant into silence, but then frets that she'll be a terrible mother, recalling the events of "Cradle of Hope." Joxer assures her that her maternal instincts may be unorthodox, but she's still a devoted mother.

Back by the stream, Gabrielle recalls the events of "Comedy of Eros" when Cupid made her fall in love with Joxer, but that doesn't amuse Lachrymose either. Nor do slapstick clips involving chakrams and snakes, a flying carpet, romantic foibles like jokes about Gabrielle liking cherries, or sexy humor involving Autolycus. Aphrodite says Gabrielle should have kept her humor at crotch-level since that's all men understand, and clothes them both in pink pyjamas so they can have a slumber party and talk about sex. To her, writing sounds just like accessorizing - something people do to express their artistic sides.

Gabrielle confesses that even though Xena is her best friend, she was afraid to explain what had happened to Argo. In flashback, Xena and Joxer discover that Gabrielle took all their money, so they need to sneak out of the tavern. But the brother of a warlord Xena once defeated stops them, vowing revenge. Xena trips him up just as Gabrielle arrives, sending her friends to get supplies and meet her at the river. All this talk about animals makes Aphrodite feel dirty, so she pops herself into a hot tub with chocolate-scented bubbles.

As Xena and Joxer shop, Argo escapes from Lachrymose and wanders into town. Gabrielle follows, walking right past the horse in the market where Xena and the warlord's brother fight over the last sack of flour. Lachrymose appears, still not laughing, and Gabrielle peevishly says he's probably not god enough to restore Argo to his normal size. In punishment, the god shrinks her, too. Elsewhere in the market, Xena confesses to Joxer that she's worried about all the evils her child may have to confront...like giants and cyclopes. And dryads, harpies, and Bacchae, Joxer adds helpfully, while both remember battling various meanies. When Joxer points out that the child will be lucky to have Xena, she gives him a smothering hug. Over her shoulder, he spots the miniature Gabrielle struggling with the pony-sized Argo.

At his beloved's munchkin-voiced request, Joxer goes to the spring and calls for Lachrymose, then giggles because he's never successfully summoned a god before. Realizing that humor hasn't worked, Joxer tells the sad story of his life, depicted in the form of cheesy black and white silent movies in which babies coo and people battle with ancient weapons. He and Lachrymose both sob, and the god begs for more. Aphrodite interrupts to tell Gabrielle how silly she was to count on Joxer to save them, but Gabrielle insists that Joxer has come through for them several times...though at the moment all she can recall are clips of Joxer tripping, crashing into trees, and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Xena wakes in the market and wanders to the tavern, where the warlord's brother attacks her once more. The warrior princess easily knocks him out, but her query about whether anyone has seen a man in a pointy hat causes unrest since the tavern is hosting a convention of men in pointy hats. Nervous, Xena whistles for Argo, who comes running...all four feet of him. Gabrielle chases the horse, and Lachrymose tries to chase the girl, but Joxer points out to the god that she'd be easier to see at her normal size, since she seems to be lachrymose-intolerant. The group arrives at the tavern just after Xena sees her miniature pony, screams Gabrielle's name, and remembers herself as a demon, a monster, and a minion of Satan.

Arriving at the tavern, Gabrielle warns Xena not to get angry - it's not good for the baby - but Xena throws a pie in the face of her friend. "I'm not mad, just very disappointed," she coos. A pie fight ensues as Joxer throws a pie intended for Xena which hits one of the men in pointy hats, who start throwing pies back. Soon the tavern is full of pie-throwers, including a Wagnerian opera singer, a Wild West showman, a Zorro type, some Three Stooges imitators, and lots of men in pointy hats. Lachrymose shows up to watch. Xena knocks a pie from the ceiling with her chakram, making it fall on the god, who begins to laugh uncontrollably. As the whole place erupts into giggles, Argo returns to normal size.

"This isn't working," Gabrielle tells Aphrodite; she still has writers' block. But Aphrodite is impressed that the women got Lachrymose in touch with his inner child. "That's it!" Gabrielle exclaims, realizing that she hasn't made time to have fun herself since Xena announced her pregnancy. Gabrielle has been working too hard, leaving no time for her writing. She thanks Aphrodite, who says not to thank her till she sees the bill. Gabrielle picks up a scroll and begins to write while Xena snores nearby.

In Gabrielle's recollections, she is back on the road with Xena and Joxer. The warrior princess is gloating that for the next month, she'll do no cooking or cleaning and she'll get lots of backrubs. Gabrielle sulks that although Xena didn't exactly lose her temper, she certainly came close. Suddenly a pie flies out of nowhere and smacks Xena in the face. While she struggles not to lose it, Lachrymose's laughter echoes all around.


I expected this episode to be even sillier than last week's musical, and it was, but it was still hard not to laugh hysterically at some of the clips - particularly the sequence of Joxer smacking into trees and falling over his own feet. I'm assuming this was the last episode filmed while Lucy Lawless was pregnant, so they had to find a way to fill an hour without her having to do too much. Since Xena hasn't done a clip show in a while, this was a fair way to occupy the time. It was interesting to note how many clips were from the first or early second season, though; that's a pretty good indication of how the tone of this series has changed.

Next week, everything will change again, as Xena gives birth and Hercules reportedly ends the reign of the gods. It's just as well that Lachrymose got the last laugh before the end, and that Aphrodite has apparently found a new profession as an analyst. It's also nice to see Gabrielle returned to her role as bard.

Xena Reviews
Get Critical