A Tale of Two Muses
Series: Xena: Warrior Princess (1995)
Season: Four
Story Number: 074
Writer: Gillian Horvath
Director: Michael Hurst
Broadcast: 2 November 1998
Previous Story: A Good Day
Following Story: Locked Up and Tied Down

Synopsis Edit

It's night, and some young people are gathered in an abandoned building playing music and dancing. One of them is Tara, the rebellious girl Xena and Gabrielle met in "Forgiven". She dances with a young man, then somebody grabs her. One of her friends yells "It's Istafan" and everybody scatters. Tara is the only to be caught, and Istafan tells her that she will be punished for her transgressions.

The next morning Xena and Gabrielle are walking through the desert. Gabrielle complains that her boots are all worn out, and Xena says that Argo, who is with them, needs shoes too. They come to the vlllage of Paleos and see the entire town all turned out to see a young girl be whipped. Xena can't let that happen, so she attacks. Gabrielle joins her, and they quickly rescue the girl, who they are surprised to see is their friend Tara from the thugs. She tells them that she won't allow her to be punished by a mob, but Istafan, the leader, tells her that he is Paleos' chief magistrate and the men are the village's militia. He also says that she has commited a grave offense that must be punished. Gabrielle is ready to blame Tara for screwing up again until she hears Istafan say that her crime was to dance. Dancing was forbidden at the order of the Muse Calliope, the town's patron deity. Xena tells them that Tara is leaving with her, and one of the villagers, a man named Telamon asks if they could change her punishment to banishment. Istafan can see that public opinion is on Telamon's side, so he agrees. Tara says a sad farewell to Telamon and his son Andros, the boy she had danced with the night before.

Once out of town Gabrielle asks why dancing is forbidden. Tara tells her there had been a terrible fire sixty years ago after a big village dance and they decided that dancing was an abomination to Calliope as a result. After she explains this Tara turns to go back to town- she knows a way to sneak in and she wants to be with Telamon, who has become a father to her. Gabrielle says she's crazy to flout the magistrate who wants to have her beaten, but Tara explains that she loves dancing deeply and she can't bear to think of the men who have become her family not being allowed to enjoy themselves. Xena thinks it over and agrees to go back with her to try to change things for the better. Tara goes and apologizes to Istafan and the whole village, and again Telamon intercedes for her. Istafan grudgingly allows her to come back to Paleos under the understanding that Xena will get Tara on the straight and narrow and if she still does wrong Istafan can punish her as he sees fit. Telamon thanks Xena for bringing Tara back, since she has become like a daughter to him. He invites Xena and Gabrielle to stay with him, but the women decide to bed down out in the town square. Xena feels a little queasy from the foreign food, but Gabrielle is full of energy that needs dancing to release, especially since she knows it isn't allowed. Xena tells her to settle down, the plan has been set in motion.

The next morning Gabrielle goes to the market to look for a cobbler to repair her boots. The repairman agrees, but says that the job will take him three days since Philepon the Reformer is on his way to Paleos for a revival meeting. Gabrielle is sceptical about the usefulness of more preaching for that town, and allows her rebellion to come out in sneaking in a few dance moves when no one is paying attention.

Istafan announces the arrival of Philepon, who takes off his veil to reveal the fact that the so-called Reformer is in reality Autolycus, the King of Thieves. Xena steps forward and steals Istafan's thunder, introducing Philepon as the man who reformed her. Autolycus is disappointed to find out that he won't be paid for his impersonation of the revivalist, but decides it will be worth his effort to humiliate Istafan after Istafan insults the reputation of the King of Thieves. Autolycus goes into his spiel and everyone seems to be falling for it except Telamon, who leaves in disgust. Xena follows him to his butcher's shop and presses him for his reason for leaving before the meeting was over. He says it was because he had a lot of work to do, but it is plain that he doesn't approve of the turn of events. But since he refuses to speak up Autolycus comes with Istafan to turn up the heat. He points at a landscape painting on Telamon's shop and declares it to be pornographic. It features some round, rolling hills and a tower thrusting skyward, but only someone who was looking for evil would find it. Andros defends his father, but Philepon declares that it is the will of Calliope that the mural be painted over, and Istafan agrees.

That night Tara returns to the abandoned building and begins to dance in the firelight, and to her delight she is joined by Andros. They dance together until Andros tells her that he has had enough of Paleos, that he intends to leave and wants her to come with him. She says yes, and they go. In the morning Xena searches for Tara only to be told by Telamon that she and his son have left town. Xena goes after them, and when she catches up with them she tells them what a mistake they are making. If Andros is unhappy with his home he should fight to make it a place where he can be happy. She tells Tara that she got into this because the girl said she wanted to make things better in Paleos, but obviously all Tara cared about was being with a cute guy. They feel ashamed of qitting so easily, and return to Paleos.

Gabrielle and Autolycus talk about the plan, waiting for Xena to arrive with the young people. Istafan and his followers come as well, since they have been promised that Xena will give their children an alternative to degenerate dancing. Gabrielle continues to rebel by sneaking in some dance moves, but they never quite catch her. The kids march into the square under the discipline of Xena. She announces that she is teaching them the art of war, and the kids enthusiastically respond to her commands. Their drills could be said to resemble dancing, but the crowd is so pleased with the way things were progressing that they miss this point. Only Telamon is angry that his son is being taught how to injure and kill. Isatafan is delighted, especially since there is to be a vote the next day for the position of head magistrate, and the success of Xena's training spells success for him at the polls.

That night Istafan and Philepon talk about how well the training is going but Telamon breaks in to protest. He says he doesn't want his son to learn how to fight, and that it was insane to consider killing a lesser evil than dancing. He makes a decision, and throws his hat into the ring for the next day's election. Istafan is annoyed, but he knows what he has to do to prevent Telamon from taking his place.

The day of reckoning arrives, and Telamon makes a speech that is very well received by his fellow villagers. Istafan takes his turn and as he is speaking Xena notices that Istafan's chief henchman Licinus is missing. She looks around and sees someone drawing a bead on Autolycus. She leaps into the line of fire to protect her friend, and Istafan tries to claim that the assassination attempt is the work of one of the young rebels that has been plaguing the town, but Xena interrupts him and says it was the work of Licinus. Istafan says that this is ridiculous, since he, Istafan, had no motive for wanting to see Philepon dead. Xena points out that she hasn't accused him but his henchman, but Istafan is unable to continue dissembling. He says that everything he has done has been for the children. Xena says she's eager to see how he will react to what the children are about to do. The young folks start dancing, and when Istafan tries to make them stop Xena and the rest of the town join in. Istafan knows he is beat when even Philepon says that it is the will of Calliope that they all dance, and the entire town celebrates their new freedom to their hearts' content.

Memorable quotes Edit

Cast Edit

Background information and notes Edit

  • This episode was inspired by the movie Footloose.

Continuity and mistakes Edit

Disclaimer Edit

  • No Self-Righteous Magistrates intent on suppressing the basic human right of freedom of expression were harmed during the production of this motion picture.