Murder At Mom's Bar
"Takes One To Know One" Plot Summary:
Xena rides Argo through a storm to an inn, where family and friends yell, "Surprise!" Xena tells them that they've got the wrong girl: Gabrielle's not arriving until the next day. A blonde woman glares at Xena as she follows her mother Syrene to her room for the night. Awakened hours later by the storm, the warrior princess sees someone sneaking toward the stables, then hears noises and breaks down the door to the room next to hers. Inside she finds the blonde dead with a knife in her chest. Discord appears, telling Xena that Ares has made her Goddess of Retribution. Xena has until morning to produce the killer from the assembled cast of family and friends.
Syrene tells Xena that the dead woman, Ravinica, was a bounty hunter. Xena warns her mother that she knows Syrene was not in her room at the time of the murder, but Syrene claims she was in the kitchen - though she would kill to protect her daughter, in this case she didn't have to. Xena wanna-be Minya knew Ravinica's reputation: she cut the tendons of her victims' horses so they could not escape. "Minya in the bedroom with the knife," Joxer intones, but Minya scoffs, "Get a clue!" and pleads innocence. Just then Gabrielle arrives to warn Xena that a bounty hunter is on her trail. Everyone lamely yells "Surprise," then fills Gabrielle in.
Autolycus discovers that Syrene had duplicate keys to all the rooms in the inn and suggests that no one had better motive or means, then tries to leave, believing he has solved the case. Discord blasts him back through the door, disgusted that Xena doesn't have the guts to turn in her mother, but Xena says there's no evidence against her yet. ""Play your little detective game, but you only have till sunrise," the goddess reminds the warrior princess. Gabrielle discovers a purse full of diamonds and suggests to Autolycus that people have killed for far less, but Xena finds that one of Ravinica's bounty scroll cases is empty and says that whoever went through Ravinica's belongings was sloppy and stupid - her pack was put together inside out, and everything smells like lavender, a scent no bounty hunter would wear if she wanted to avoid being scented out.
All heads turn to Gabrielle's sister Lilah, who protests that she never touched Ravinica's belongings. Gabrielle finds a stick of kindling on the dead girl's floor despite the lack of a fireplace, and a fifth candle lies on the rug though the chandelier only takes four. The door was locked from the inside, which makes Gabrielle suspect Autolycus again, but Xena says she's the one responsible. Autolycus notes that the door was not removed from its hinges and Xena realizes that the dead girl had a welt on her head, plus ink on her skin. The murder weapon is identified as Minya's, but Xena has already concluded that the knife didn't kill Ravinica - she was already dead.
Gabrielle mournfully admits that she killed the bounty hunter...learning that she was after Xena, Gabrielle put some of Joxer's gravy recipe into her drinking water. "That's inhuman!" the crowd agrees, but Gabrielle insists that she only meant to give Ravinica the runs. Joxer says it's his fault since it's his recipe and Discord arrives to take him, but Xena shows everyone that Ravinica never drank the water in her canteen so that can't be what killed her. Xena, however, takes a piece of ripped paper off of Joxer and demands to know what he did with the scroll from the empty case. He reluctantly confesses that he stole it since it was a bounty for his brother Jet; Ravinica threatened him because she mistook him for his twin, catching him in the act of writing a note to Lilah on scented paper.
Joxer did make a discovery, however: he overheard Autolycus and Ravinica in her bedroom. Autolycus says it was a business argument: she accused him of stealing her diamonds. He claims that he told Ravinica he wanted her body, but Joxer says that's not true: Autolycus was really there to protect Xena from the bounty hunter. Lilah and Minya admit that they also schemed to protect Xena as well: Lilah was planning to run off Ravinica's horse, but Ravinica caught her. "I admit it," Autolycus starts to say of his own gallantry, but before he can finish, Discord shows up yet again with an army of hunks, telling Xena she'll take the whole lot of them for retribution.
Xena fights off Discord's men, of whom she says, "You might be good in bed but you're hopeless in a fight!" Xena interrupts when Minya tosses a chandelier in Discord's direction, saying she knows who killed Ravinica. When the bounty hunter went inside after leaving the door locked from the inside, she had to sneak in a window, which fell shut, knocking out the kindling which propped it open and bouncing Minya's abandoned knife Minya into Ravinica's chest. She stumbled, hit her head on the chandeleir, and fell fully onto the knife. Discord whines that her job sucks. Gabrielle points out that everyone present acted for love, and gets a real surprise party complete with cake.
I have never been much good at mysteries, but even so, this episode reminded me more of Murder She Wrote than Agatha Christie. There was no way a viewer could have solved the mystery from the clues we were given; Xena had to come along and fill in the missing pieces all along the way, and even so, her conclusion sounded like wild extrapolation. As a result, she didn't seem like a terribly clever detective. The real fun of this episode was in the cast of suspects - Xena's mom, Gabrielle's sister, Joxer, Autolycus, Minya (sans thespian girlfriend, regrettably). It felt like sort of a ripoff that while they were all willing to kill for Xena, none of them did. I expected guilt and retribution in the redemptive sense.
Discord confuses me: last week on Hercules she was plotting to make Triton's life hell, now she's in league with Ares again. The first time she popped up with bow and arrow, it was funny; the fifth time was less so, and the same could be said of Joxer reciting, "Minya in the bedroom with the knife" (which I wanted to be true just to rationalize our having to hear it so many times). Joxer's best moment was when he tried to explain that Lilah asked him out, but he was already in love with Ga-- uh, gallavanting around the countryside, yeah, that's it. He was charming as well explaining why he had to save his brother. That was probably the most sincere family moment in an episode full of them.