Missing Pieces, a.k.a. The Lost Scroll
"Soul Possession" Plot Summary:
Xena hides a scroll created by Ares at the bottom of the sea. In the present day, divers find it and bring it to CHAKRAM, the Center for the Historical Accuracy of Key Research in Ancient Mythology. After an interruption by Xena fans, a press conference gets underway with Dr. Delaney's announcement of the discovery that Xena had been married to Ares, God of War. Reporter Barb Binder from Whoosh!, the official Xena fan site, objects to the idea that Xena would subjugate herself in marriage. Delaney claims that the latest archaeological find contains a lost scroll and a contract. Annie (from "Deja Vu All Over Again") is at the conference representing Joxer the Mighty Quarterly; she tells reporters that Mattie and Harry have gotten married.
In the past, while Joxer tries to write scrolls, Ares appears to Xena with an offer to help her find Gabrielle if Xena will marry him in front of the Fates. This would make the bond eternal and unbreakable, and Ares could never again hurt anyone Xena cares about. Xena tells Joxer that she'll do whatever it takes to get Gabrielle back, but in her dreams she sees her friend asking her not to look for her. It turns out that Joxer will do anything to stop Xena from marrying Ares. But she agrees to the wedding so long as the ceremony is held at the lava pit, so she can be as close as possible to the person she is really meant to be with. Joxer throws Ares an obnoxious bachelor party, where Meg pops out of a cake and attracts the attention of the man who will later be her husband.
When it's time for "I Do," however, Xena adds "...NOT!" Then she grabs something and races to the lava pit, telling Gabrielle she's coming. Ares catches Xena on the way down and admits he saved Gabrielle as a bargaining chip while he was rescuing Hope and his unborn child. Xena gets him to promise that if he'll let her and Gabrielle live in peace in this lifetime, she'll be his wife in the future. They put their thumbprints on a contract and Ares sends Xena to find her soulmate. Before she leaves, however, he asks her what she would have said if he'd asked for her hand in marriage without all the strings attached. Xena kisses him passionately and tells him he'll never know. Xena hid the scroll at the bottom of the sea, where Ares could never find it.
Harry and Mattie return home from a trip to Greece to find a letter from CHAKRAM about the lost scroll. They rush to the conference and sit behind Annie, who hasn't gotten over Harry leaving her for Mattie. Ares roars in on a motorcycle, but Mattie and Annie start fighting him before he can get to the scroll, with Harry performing Xena's trademark whoop-and-flip. Ares sends everyone's souls back to the bodies in which we are most familiar with them, then fights Xena in Annie's body. But he accidentally burns the scroll with a fireball. Gabrielle points out to Xena that no matter how hard Ares tries, he's never able to separate them. They walk off together as Joxer, in Harry's body, discovers he has gas.
In what's likely to be the last appearance of the two major male characters, Ares and Joxer revert to precisely the depths we've come to expect of them over the years. Many Xena fans had been terrified first that a romantic relationship might be developed between Gabrielle and Joxer, then between Xena and Ares, so attempts in recent years to make Joxer more heroic and Ares more sympathetic have met with decidedly mixed response. In the end, Joxer remains a lovable buffoon who has finally acknowledged that Gabrielle is out of his reach, while Ares uses lies, threats and violence to try to win Xena. Obviously the guy hasn't learned a thing about love, but hey -- what kind of God of War would he be if he had?
"Soul Possession" is a love letter to the most devoted group in Xena fandom, the subtext fans, with the Warrior Princess and the Bard dominating the storyline while the men who love them hang out on the sidelines realizing they could never be worthy. There's still a bit of underlying heterosexism -- we get no direct evidence that Xena and Gabrielle sleep together except when they're in the bodies of a straight couple, and Ares demands that Xena be returned to her familiar female form before he marries her. But we get tributes to Whoosh! fans played by actresses from the show, a crack at Rob Tapert over the end of the series, and an explanation of how Gabrielle got out of the lava pit before "Adventures in the Sin Trade," something that was never adequately explained onscreen.
Ted Raimi goes out in a hilarious blaze of...well, not exactly glory, but gas. On the one hand, he must endure jokes about how he only got the role because he's the producer's brother; on the other, we learn how Joxer ended up marrying Xena-lookalike Meg and siring Virgil, a storyline I always found very sweet. First, though, the writers have to explain how he got over Gabrielle; apparently believing in her death allowed him to see that they were never meant to be together. "Denial ain't just a river in Europe," he announces when Xena claims Gabrielle is alive, misquoting Saturday Night Live's Stuart Smalley aka Al Franken. Yet Joxer's best lines involve his own description of his steely, sun-kissed buttocks in contrast to Ares' "jelly butt" (later, in a misspelling of his name at his bachelor party, the God of War will become "Arse"). Joxer the Mighty also does a hilarious turn as the title character from The Wizard of Oz, trying to convince Xena that Gabrielle speaks in her dreams.
Ares is the same nasty guy some of us love. He's the sort who'd say he hopes Xena isn't holding out hope, then pretending to realize his bad choice of words...the sort who'd tell the babes at his bachelor party to leave by asking them to "blow." Xena's initial response to his marriage proposal -- kicking him over backwards -- is delightful, as is their subsequent verbal sparring, a ground on which they're equals. But as Ares points out, he IS a god, capable of using coercion and deceit far better than mere mortals. On the one hand, he really believes he loves Xena -- marriage before the Fates is a sacrifice for him because he would never be able to hurt anyone Xena loved no matter how jealous he got. On the other hand, he'd be in control of her forever, which is exactly what he wants...still an improvement on Caesar's rewriting of history, mostly because Ares is more confident that he can keep Xena once he gets her. It's hard not to shriek a little when Xena says they'd look wrong together on top of a wedding cake and he replies, "Just as long as you look right on top of me." He gets the best ending we could hope for: unreformed, but still around even in our own century to pine over Xena.
I've always said I didn't want to see Mulder and Scully get together because I couldn't take the idea of watching them shop for groceries, attend PTA meetings and sort junk mail. Here we get to see Xena and Gabrielle do just that, and it's hilarious -- Harry calls Mattie "Pumpkin"! How much domestic bliss could we have taken on this series, really? Lucy Lawless' funniest scene is as Meg, popping out of the cake at the bachelor party wearing whipped cream, cherries and little else. In the present she greets "Harry and Harry's ho" when Mattie and Harry arrive at the conference. As Xena, her best line is, "...NOT!" So she saves her soulmate at one of their darkest moments, escapes eternal hell with Ares and survives finicky in the 20th century, only to go off arm in arm with Gabrielle in the correct body. I would have been just as happy with this as the series finale.