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Clare & Renay's Adventures in: Xena


In a time without a Black Widow movie on the horizon, two fans in turmoil cried out for a heroine. She was Xena, a mighty female protagonist forged in the fires of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The action, the camp, the queer subtext. Her adventures will rock their worlds.


Renay: Wow, this episode changed tons of my feelings about this series so far and my reaction to it was basically "?!?!?!?!". Back in "The Return of Callisto", we watched Xena make the choice to not save Callisto from a deadly quicksand. "Intimate Stranger" is how Xena copes with the guilt she feels over her choice, which can be summed up as "not well". Callisto may be down, but she's not out: she uses dreams and Xena's guilt to keep causing life-altering shenanigans. And of course Callisto isn't working from Tartarus alone. Nope: our good buddy Ares is on board with Callisto's plan to plague Xena from the afterlife, too.

Callisto's evil plot is to trap Xena in Tartarus and return to the living world in Xena's body to wreck havoc. It workS: Xena's eaten up with guilt over her choice to let Callisto die and Callisto manages the switch perfectly. Immediately after taking control of Xena's body she goes to make out with Ares. If you're like me and suspicious of everything Callisto does, you're definitely suspicious about this turn of events. Callisto partnering with anyone as an equal?? Ares, look out.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle and Joxer have no clue about the switcheroo. The only one who has a clue is Argo and she pays dearly for it. Wow, talk about having INTENSE FEELINGS. I am pretty sure I shouted at my screen in horror as Callisto took out what seemed to me to be a pretty sadistic revenge. Didn't I say last time I was torn over Xena's choice to let Callisto die the way she did? NO LONGER TORN. GOOD CHOICE, XENA. STAY FAR AWAY FROM CALLISTO.

Clare: I did not experience that, even though I am notorious for bearing grudges against fictional characters for doing one thing. (On the way back to campus after our midnight screening of The Avengers, a college friend of mine joked about how hot Loki was. I, fatigued, delirious, and dressed as Thor, turned around and hissed “He sucked out a guy’s eyeball! We don’t like him anymore!” Fandom, obviously, did not get my message.) I think if she’d successfully killed Argo, I would have been more upset? But it didn’t strike me as Callisto transcending to a new level of evil.

So I do still remain conflicted about how Xena just let Callisto die in the previous episode, and I was delighted to see that the show does, too. True, Xena’s guilt is exacerbated by her sleep deprivation due to Callisto actively haunting her, but I also think it points to the central conflict regarding Callisto: what makes Callisto irredeemable and Xena redeemable? I don’t think "Intimate Stranger" answers this question very well—it feints towards recognizing Callisto’s suffering before letting her get dragged off to the Underworld for her sins—but it’s the question that makes Callisto such a fascinating character.

And can I just say that Lucy Lawless and Hudson Leick slay the body swap thing? Lawless is an old hand at it, but Leick takes up the challenge and runs with it. I wonder if Lawless ran lines with her; she really nails that Xena-specific delivery.

Renay: I am surprised to say it, too, but this was the episode where I warmed up to Joxer a bit. He attempts to protect Argo after Xena, returned from Tartarus in Callisto's body to stop Callisto from killing Xena's mother, finds Argo brutally wounded and alone. Fine, Joxer. I guess you can stay.

Clare: Joxer was dead to me the moment we met him. Nothing can change that. But he is a hair more narratively useful in this episode, I will admit.

Renay: Watching Callisto and Gabrielle interact while Gabrielle has no clue that Xena is having an out of body experience is gutting. Callisto is the opposite of Xena in every way, especially how she approaches fighting and violence. Again, Lawless knocks it out of the park on the acting here; it's a troubling glimpse into a Xena that might have been if she hadn't gotten off the path of war.

Clare: It also helps that this episode explicitly states that Xena’s moral code dictates that she only kills when threatened—which, to be fair, is a pretty broad definition, but I love anything that outlines Xena’s morality, because it’s something she’s actively building and creating.

Renay: The biggest shock of the episode for me was, hands down, the fact that although they defeat Callisto, Xena doesn't reclaim her body. She's trapped in Callisto's body. And although it's not forever, it's so disconcerting to watch. Just like Gabrielle, we have to adjust to Xena in this body and that is super hard and very weird. Drama! Uncertainty! How long will the writers stretch this storyline out for so Lucy Lawless can have a small vacation?

Clare: Well, Lawless was having a small vacation to heal a fractured hip! Apparently, this episode was originally supposed to end with the switcheroo being fixed, but because Lawless fractured her hip during stunt tricks on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Leick stepped up to the plate to give her time to heal. I know it was, like, her job, but that’s really touching.

Supplemental Material


Much like Xena herself, Renay and Clare have powerful allies in their quest.
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