"In Sickness and In Hell"
by Michelle Erica Green

Get Ready To Puke

"In Sickness and In Hell" Plot Summary:

Gabrielle wakes Xena to announce that she has foot rot, and discovers that Xena has lice. They are in pursuit of Xena's horse Argo, whom Xena left behind when she went to find Gabrielle. Joxer arrives to announce that a nearby village is being plundered, but he promised to protect the villagers. Xena recognizes the knife he took from the enemy as Scythian, a vicious, evil group. Xena agrees to help Joxer but wants to eat something first; Gabrielle goes to kill a rabbit so that Xena won't give it lice before breakfast, but the bunny grows fangs and attacks Gabrielle. When she returns empty-handed, Joxer cooks stew and offers to go search for Argo while Gabrielle scratches her rapidly spreading fungus and Xena scratches her head.

Xena spies Argo, but the horse runs away from her. She laments that Argo must be angry because Xena left him for so long. The Scythian captain spots the horse, declares it the sort of creature fit for one who will rule the world, and captures it while Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer quarrel among themselves, culminating with Gabrielle throwing up on Joxer's feet. Joxer's cooking has made everyone sick, including the townspeople who threaten Joxer while Xena and Gabrielle fight over the outhouse and stink up the premises.

In order to treat the lice and fungus which they now both carry, Xena and Gabrielle bathe in the springs and coat themselves in goat manure. Xena realizes the Scythians want the land for its mineral springs and Greek fire, a kind of hot oil which bubbles up from the ground. Later, Gabrielle herbs which she was supposed to use to numb her skin and her mouth goes numb, making it impossible for her to talk or control her drooling. Xena warns her that the innkeeper must be in league with the Scythians, since his property was untouched in the last raid; they prepare for an assassin, who comes at night, but when Xena puts her choking touch on him, she has to run out to throw up and asks Gabrielle to question him. With her numb mouth, Gabrielle can't talk, and she drools all over the suffocating man. The next morning he tells all just to avoid having her slobber on him again, but he warns Xena that his brother will rescue him.

The next day, the Scythians attack. Xena is devastated to see the leader riding Argo and doesn't fight as quickly as she should, crying and scratching her lice. During a break in the fighting, Xena sends Joxer into the Scythian camp to feed the army his deadly stew and goes to take Argo from the Scythian barn, but the horse won't leave with her. She falls outside the barn and is surrounded by soldiers whom she fights off, but the Scythian leader mounts Argo and pursues, having equipped the horse with a deadly unicorn-like spear on his helmets. The leader rides straight at Xena, who throws her weapons down to show the horse she won't attack him. Argo throws the Scythian, and Xena embraces her horse. The leader's brother then attacks, but Gabrielle dismounts him, and Xena gets on Argo to show the leader she owns the horse. Then she learns from Argo that he abandoned her for apples, and itches some more.

Joxer is offered a hefty reward by the villagers but turns it down at Xena's glare, asking them instead to name their town Joxopolis after him. Xena tells him that he's a hero, having brought down the Scythian army without shedding a drop of blood. He sings a verse of "Joxer the Mighty" celebrating his immunity to disease, but has to stop one verse in to go throw up. Gabrielle falls asleep snoring, and Xena bonds with her horse.


I fail to understand why this series feels it necessary to do at least one episode about bad smells and bodily functions every season - I guess this is for the portion of the demographic that enjoys toilet humor, though this isn't even very good toilet humor. My favorite scene was the Monty Python and the Holy Grail-ripoff harmless little bunny rabbit scene; the puking jokes (including a reference to South Park) wore really thin by the time Xena put the touch on the assassin and then had to run out to barf, while the image of Gabrielle slobbering on him was just plain disgusting.

This wasn't a terrible episode - it had its moments - but this seems awfully early in the season for this sort of ridiculous comic relief. Xena and Gabrielle just reunited last week, and the emotions of that experience have not begun to be explored; to have them back to slapstick was a waste, especially since next week they're going back into battle against the forces of Caesar. There are things I like about light XWP episodes and things I like about dark XWP episodes; what I don't like is the show's refusal to commit to one primary tone or another during any given month, which leaves the series with a bad case of split personality. The characters were caricatures this week; mid-season, that can be a nice break, but at this point it just seemed inappropriate.

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