Why Not Take All Of Me
"The Quest" Plot Summary:
Gabrielle is taking Xena's body to Amphipolis when thugs try to steal the sarcophagus. She is in the process of beating them up when Iolaus appears, helps her finish them off, and inquires about Xena's whereabouts. Gabrielle tells him that Xena is dead. As they both weep, she says she wishes she had told Xena how empty her life was before she joined the warrior princess, and that she loves Xena. Iolaus tells Gabrielle that Xena knows.
Amazon leaders drop out of the trees to pay homage to Xena. Ephiny wants to honor Xena with an Amazon funeral pyre. She tells Gabrielle of the death of Queen Melosa, suggesting that Gabrielle take her rightful place as Queen of the Amazons, and depose the current leader, Velasca. Gabrielle agrees to accompany the Amazons to camp and think about it.
Meanwhile, Autolycus, King of Thieves, is stealing the Knife of Helios when an unknown force takes over his body and makes him grab a wooden book from a statue as well. The force speaks: it's Xena's spirit, which can control his body and talk to him. She asks Autolycus to steal her body before the Amazons cremate her, since Gabrielle has decided that she must go on with her life: she will give Xena an Amazon funeral before taking her ashes to Amphipolis, then return to become Queen of the Amazons in place of the power-hungry, prejudiced Velasca. Gabrielle catches Autolycus trying to steal Xena's body and finds his explanation - that Xena is inside him - initially pitiful, but when he uses Xena's acrobatics and her chakram to stop the funeral, she believes.
While Velasca challenges Gabrielle's right to rule as Queen and accuses Ephiny, who has a child by a centaur, of being a traitor, Gabrielle follows Autolycus and talks directly to Xena inside him. Xena asks Gabrielle to hide her body and recover the ambrosia she set Autolycus out to find via the knife and the book. Gabrielle and Autolycus hide the coffin and go to retrieve the ambrosia, but they are stopped by Velasca, who goes after the food of the gods herself.
While Ephiny escapes to retrieve Xena's body, Xena's spirit takes over Gabrielle's body and fights Velasca on some ropes above a pit of spikes. Velasca gets to the ambrosia first, but drops it and falls, presumably to her death. A fleck of ambrosia lands Gabrielle's clothes, with which she saves Xena; a larger piece lands near Velasca, who's not quite dead yet. Xena thanks Autolycus and promises Gabrielle that she will never die on her again.
"The Quest" is Gabrielle's finest hour; ironic that the producers chose to rerun it during the third season, right after four consecutive episodes which make the sidekick into, well, a sidekick, with little to contribute to the series. Here, she was at her strongest and most independent, yet still completely devoted to Xena. Her encounter with Iolaus, who shares a similarly devoted if less passionate relationship with Hercules, was very moving. Gabrielle and Ephiny have a deep friendship independent of Xena, and I loved seeing the bard acting as Queen of the Amazons, albeit briefly. She made the strong but brittle Velasca - a reminder of the earlier, unreformed Xena - look like a far weaker choice to lead the nation of women.
There are two unforgettable Gabrielle moments in this episode, played wonderfully by Renee O'Connor. The first, in which she offers Velasca the mask of leadership and her knife, and the violent Velasca takes the knife - leaving Gabrielle holding the crown, and sealing her decision to become the next queen - shows Gabrielle's ingenuity as well as her fearlessness. The second, when the image of the resurrected Xena kisses her in Autolycus' body, speaks volumes about the subtext of their relationship...especially since, moments later, Gabrielle must tell Autolycus to get his hand off her butt! Both scenes contain enough comic suggestiveness that one can write them off as artifice, but they also help construct Gabrielle as a more consistent, self-possessed character than we usually see.
The comic Autolycus had an equally good episode, especially when he was possessed by Xena but didn't yet know it. Bruce Campbell's hilarious, nuanced performance reminded me a lot of Steve Martin's in All Of Me, in which his character was possessed by the spirit of Lily Tomlin, and indeed the script for "The Quest" made similar jokes about bodily functions and who got to handle which parts. Autolycus was particularly amusing "playing" Xena - performing her flips and letting out her war cry as she tried to stop her own funeral. I also got a kick out of the scene where he broke out of jail using the pin from the breastplate of one of the Amazons.
The writing for this episode is a superb balance of wit and moving meditation on death and friendship, and the directing is as good as it gets - the contrast between the intimacy of Gabrielle's scenes with her friends and the circuslike battle on the ropes is quite dramatic. There's one gorgeous shot as Gabrielle ascends to become Queen, a god's-eye view of the proceedings, that adds an interesting perspective to the notion of destiny - so important to Xena in the previous episode and a recurrent theme for Velasca, who determines that her destiny is not to rule the Amazons but to become a god herself. This is one of the best Xena episodes in three seasons, despite the fact that Lucy Lawless barely made an appearance.