Like a Virgin
"Warrior...Priestess...Tramp" Plot Summary:
Facing a furious thug, Xena declares that she comes in peace and strips off her weapons. The thug siezes her and prepares to burn her at the stake. Gabrielle rescues her, thinking it's a test to see if she can handle more responsibility; when they flee, she first berates Xena, then realizes that that isn't the woman she's with. Callisto in Xena's body? Her lookalike Diana? Or Meg? No, it's Leah, High Priestess of the Virgin Temple of Hestia.
When Gabrielle takes Leah to Xena, the priestess reveals that the goddess Hestia left her a message to impersonate Xena. Xena is suspicious, while Leah is horrified to learn that she is in the company of non-virgins. At the temple, the courtesan Meg is posing as Leah, telling dirty jokes and drinking the sacrificial wine every chance she gets.
Xena learns that the High Priest Bailey hired Meg to pose as Leah, for reasons she doesn't know. While Xena investigates, Gabrielle hides Leah, dressed as a harlot, in Meg's tavern. Xena discovers that Bailey is not really a Hestian priest and in fact hates the religion; meanwhile, a drunken Meg tells Bailey that Xena has taken Leah's place in the temple and Leah has taken her own at the tavern. Xena listens to confessions by the priestesses while Leah endures Joxer the Mighty and Meg attempts to explain her confusion to Xena, whom she mistakes for Leah.
Xena learns from one of Bailey's men that Bailey is a Delian who intends to destroy the temple, and that he knows all the women have switched places. While she goes to the tavern to protect her friends, Leah teaches the courtesans to sing songs of virtue. When guards arrive to take Leah, the courtesans wear them out, but Joxer has already gone to the temple to try to rescue Meg, and is captured. Bailey kidnaps Meg at the tavern so he can force her to play the role of Leah and force her followers to kill themselves.
Bailey believes that Meg, acting a priestess, will tell her followers to drink poisoned wine in order to save Joxer, who's in the dungeon with Leah. But in fact it's Xena in the dungeon - she frees Joxer while he plots - while Leah, in her role as priestess, tells the virgins in the Hestian language not to swallow the wine they drink. When the priestesses collapse, Bailey denounces the religion, but then the women rise up again and spit out the poisoned wine. Xena, Gabrielle, and Meg fight the guards, but it is finally Leah who decks Bailey, announcing that she has learned that one does not have to be a virgin to be virtuous.
The first installment in this miniseries, "Warrior...Princess," was hysterical and had a feminist message; the second installment, "Warrior...Princess...Tramp,"judgementally reduced women to heroines or sluts and let Joxer steal the show. "Warrior...Priestess...Tramp" was not without its problems - it was far more judgemental of virgins and whores, women at either sexual extreme, than it was of Joxer the Whiny or any of the men. But it also allowed the warrior and the priestess to shine, and was one of Gabrielle's better episodes this season.
I guess the producers have figured out that Lawless and more Lawless make this show successful, but this episode might have had a little too much Lawless. The humor fell a little flat because she wasn't quite convincing as three different women. I had a very hard time distinguishing between Leah, who had some sort of speech impediment, and Meg, who merely talked fast and drunkenly - their body language was too similar - though I had no problem telling Xena from the other two even when she was in disguise.
As for the bawdy humor, some of it was hilarious and very on-target, but the virgin jokes got a little tiresome. I realize that the show is trying to parody right-wing obsession with female chastity, but if the show is going to accept that women can choose to be prostitutes, why reject the notion that any might prefer celibacy? I also wasn't amused by Meg's assessment that Bailey might be a cream puff, given his evident misogyny.
Still, there were priceless moments: the courtesans singing "Joxer the Mighty" when he entered the tavern, Joxer mistaking Leah for Meg and assuming her claim to be a virgin was some sort of kinky sex game, Leah telling Gabrielle that if she were chaste she'd learn to know herself better, and Gabrielle retorting that if she had to spend her life without companionship, knowing herself would not be a problem!
Joxer playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon using Greek heroes was very funny. The best Joxer scene, though, was him dying of embarrassment at having Gabrielle catch him in a whorehouse, then thinking she might work there, which mortifies him more...and then considering that all his dreams could come true for a coin, if so. The numerous references to people going to Tartarus for their sins were pretty amusing too. Not a deep episode, but a strong showing for both Xena and Gabrielle, and Joxer was funny rather than annoying, so I'd have to give it a pretty high rating despite the surprising lack of physical comedy.