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Altared States Reviewed

Featuring the memorable opening of Xena and Gabrielle skinny dipping, this is one of the best of the series. It mixes biblical themes with a lot of humour and the first serious tease of subtext. The plot is reminiscent of the Issac and Abraham story, as a man named Anteus, who believes in one true god, is about to sacrifice his young son, Icus, because he thinks that is what his god wants. It isn`t though, it is really the dastardly older brother Maell drugging their food and using a load talking thing to simulate the voice of god. Xena and Gabrielle help Icus, and along the way Gab gets high on henbane laced nutbread, sings with the rocks and has a knife held to her throat again. The pair also get thrown down a well for theor efforts.

Much of the enjoyment from this episode is in the humour. Xena`s opening fight with the deadly weapon - a bunch of wet fish, is classic XENA humour. Gabrielle`s drug induced state is also the root of a lot of laughs as Renee O`Connor has fun. The clamber up each other`s bodies out of the well and the finishing playful scene between Xena and Gabrielle are also memorable moments. The story itself is a successful mixture. I don`t always enjoy the bilical or mythical ones, but this story is not directly from the bible, merely very similar. Karl Urban makes his first appearance as Maell(also Caesar in Destiny and Cupid in For Him the Bell Tolls and A Comedy of Eros) If you are a fan of the subtext, then this is a memorable episode. The fishing scene, Gab telling Xena she is beautiful, and that climb up each other in the well all figure high on subtext fans evidence lists.

Another point of interest is the ending scene where Xena is more playful with a hung-over Gabrielle than we have seen her before. Some people saw this as a significant moment in Xena`s development, but in a facinating interview at the outstanding Whoosh! site with director Michael Levine, he reveals that Lucy Lawless had been off for a while with a bad back, and this was her first scene back. She was in a good mood and consequently played it for fun. He also told how the voice of Icus was in fact dubbed by his own son due to some problem with the sound.

A good episode strong on story, performances and high on fun.

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