[Whoosh!] [Issue 22 - July 1998]
An Interview With Steven L. Sears
Can of Worms: THE DELIVERER
Khrafstar plays Xena and Gabrielle like a fiddle in THE DELIVERER.
 So in doing THE DELIVERER there were a few things that had
to be accepted. One, this was going to launch us into an extremely
dark area. One of the things about the rift is that the rift is
best viewed all in one evening. Because it aired over several
nights and sometimes the studio interrupted it with comedy
episodes, the rift didn't have the continuity that you needed. We
wrote it and produced it with the continuity. But because it was
broken up there was just no way to do it.
like a regular XENA episode. It's really the last few minutes that
launch you into what's happening with the rift. As most of us
know, THE DELIVERER had a lot of pressure on it because a gossip
columnist came out and used a word which I don't like to use in
regard to this, for a very important reason.
 She referred to it as a rape. As a sidebar here, and you can
use this if you want, there's a very important reason why I refuse
to call this a rape. It has nothing to do with protecting myself.
It has nothing to do with being afraid of the word. I've had a lot
of debates with people about the definition of rape. For example,
not myself, but someone came up with the idea that if this was
rape, then Mary was raped. Even then I wouldn't use that word.
 I got a lot of nasty mail. I got a lot of hate mail. Very,
very angry mail. One person said that any time a woman carries a
child without her consent, when she was impregnated, that is rape.
My response is "If I force a woman to have sex with me then as
long as I wear a condom it's not rape?" There are just too many
ways to debate that word. But this is what I believe, and I firmly
stand by this. I know rape victims. I have been involved with rape
victims, in relationships with women who have been raped. Being
supported on a pillar of fire while some mystical god impregnates
a seed of a demon child inside of you is not rape. Talk to a rape
victim and find out what real rape is. To me, it's disgusting to
try to apply their torment to that act on television. That was a
fictional fantasy. Sorry to be graphic, but having a man on top of
you, forcing himself on you while you're screaming and perhaps
even beating you to keep you quiet, that's rape. I refuse to use
that word because it diminishes what the reality of the word is.
 If you want to say "Gabrielle was violated" then hey, go for
it. Use that word. She was definitely violated. But I won't use
the word rape because of what it conjures up and what it
diminishes. But we had to deal with that. As soon as I saw that
word in print, I was angry. And if the episode had aired without
that, there probably would have been a ripple effect, but people
would not have been fired up as much. At the end of the episode,
you would not have known she was pregnant. There was nothing there
to really indicate that. Anyway, end of rant. We had to deal with
that before and after it aired.
 The other thing I did was I tried to put the audience in the
place of what Xena was doing. To a certain extent I succeeded
beyond my wildest dreams. I also got some slams about that. What I
tried to show was that Xena was so obsessed with Caesar that she
was ignoring what was going on with Gabrielle. Gabrielle was being
played. Gabrielle was being given everything Gabrielle wanted to
believe to set her up. Xena should have seen that, but she was
obsessed, she was so much after Caesar she ignored what was going
on with Gabrielle.
 Now the question has come up that we just basically changed
stories midway through. We got to a certain point and what
happened with Caesar? "Xena just walked away! What happened to the
battle?" My answer to this was that the story was never about
Caesar, it was always about Gabrielle. But those who asked "What
happened to Caesar" were just as obsessed with him as Xena was.
But the moment Xena realized Gabrielle was in grave danger she
dropped Caesar and left. She didn't care what happened to Caesar
at that point. Boadicea had her army in place and everything was
ready to go. But she left, and for me, that was the story.
THE BITTER SUITE
[Oh, great, do you know how hard it is to get blood and grassstains out of white chiffon?]
Gabrielle is much the worse for wear after the Gabdrag.
 A couple of episodes after THE DELIVERER (50/304), we get to
THE BITTER SUITE (58/312). Many people regard this as a
masterpiece. Yet we also get a lot of criticism, perhaps from the
same people who were in the "rape" camp in THE DELIVERER, about
the so-called "Gab-Drag" in THE BITTER SUITE. I was wondering what
your take on all that was.
 I thought the Gab-Drag went on too long, to be honest with
you. We had a lot of discussion about that. Here was the point to
it, and maybe we tried too hard to make this point at the
beginning -- for Gabrielle and Xena to reach a point where they
could start to redeem each other, they had to reach the absolute
 This gets into psychology and gets very hard to explain. If
there was any question as to whether they hated each other, that
question would have rippled through the rest of their
relationship. In other words, we wanted to clear the grounds
completely. We wanted to start right from the bottom, scrape every
bit of love away from them and rebuild, as opposed to scrape most
of it away and leave a little bit of expectation somewhere. The
healing couldn't be true if it had to rebuild around that. So
obviously the way to get to that is where they both want to kill
 That's what we had to do, that's where we had to get them.
That Xena would attack Gabrielle and try to kill her obviously
shows her hatred. But the moment Gabrielle says "I hate you!" and
charges at Xena, Gabrielle's slate is wiped clean. She is
completely down to a base level. In doing the episode later on,
yeah, I think the Gab-Drag did go on a little long. In fact I
think most people here feel that.
 But at the time, we put it together so we could make that
point. We didn't realize people would get the point three quarters
of the way through it. You have two characters starting it off
whose worlds have been so destroyed that they're questioning
everything. And they realize the only thing they have left in all
their questioning is hatred. Now they're directing it toward each
 Xena is crying for her son. Ares wasn't there to manipulate
her, Ares was just there to talk to her. He was her therapist in
that scene and she realized where her hatred lay. Gabrielle, in
the sweat hut, having visions of Callisto, was the same thing. She
was focusing in. You'll notice in the sweat hut she's focusing in
on herself. She begins to blame herself. But that changes before
they go into Illusia. She focuses it back on Xena. So that was the
whole point of the Gab-Drag, to demonstrate, very brutally,
obviously, the fact that these two people would kill each other.
We had to wipe the slate clean.
 Apart from the fact that it was a monumental task by its
nature, did you find it hard to write this episode? The reason I
ask this is because there is an awful lot of deep emotion and
difficult issues that I imagine would bring someone to a new level
of clarity about themselves or others, or drive them nuts.
 [laughs] I think it was a little of both for us. This movie
-- movie, I refer to it because it came out that way -- this
episode was a tremendous amount of work on everybody's part. Chris
[Manheim] and I wrote it together. Toward the end of it, just
before production, Chris was doing all the production rewrites. I
was off working on something else. I can't remember what it was,
I'm sure *you* remember what it was, but I had to get off onto
 We had to decide what our format was going to be very early
on. Chris and I, along with Rob, R.J., Liz, and everyone else, sat
down and tried to chart through the progression of their healing,
realizing, as everyone should realize this, by the end of the
episode they are not healed. But they're to a point where they
want to help each other heal. Which is the most important thing.
That's an altruistic thing, that shows caring. So we wanted to get
them to that point, to the forgiveness point. When we charted
through it, we originally came up with -- I think five points --
of psychology that they had to deal with.
 The first one was "wipe the slate clean", which was the
Gab-Drag. The second one was "fulfillment" which is fulfillment of
your hatred. Since the series is called XENA it was Xena's hatred,
she kills Gabrielle. That was the fulfillment of the hatred.
That's why Callisto had the line "Did that work? Did that help to
kill your little friend?" Because Xena is sitting there thinking
 How very poignant when we see SACRIFICE II later on.
 Right. Then we had to have "cooperation" which in this case
wasn't as highlighted because of how little time we have to tell a
story, to accommodate a song. But cooperation was basically then
working together to get to the next step. Not that they loved each
other, it was expediency.
 I believe in one version of the script there was a door that
they approached and the door was very wide. I'm paraphrasing what
we had in there because we had so many different images. But it
was like one side had a handprint and the other side had a
handprint and they were different sizes. What you realize is that
to open the door, you had to both put your hands in there at the
same time, symbolic of cooperation.
 Then we had another thing that happened during it, a wall of
fire which prevented Gabrielle from doing what she had to do and
Xena had to do something to help Gabrielle but the rationalization
was she just wanted to get through. Anyway, there was a whole
complex thing there. As it was, it went away. [laughs] It was too
time-consuming to shoot it.
 As it happens, judging from everyone's comments, it worked
out very well in the end.
 Yeah, my favorite scene from the psychological points was
the echo chamber. This was something that I came up with very
early and kept it in every draft because it's an extremely
important thing. The idea is very simple. If you're angry with
someone, anyone who's been in a relationship and had an argument
with somebody, at a certain point, you aren't hearing what they're
saying. You're only taking the words they're saying so they can
make you angrier. So you can turn the words back on them. You're
in a total defense/attack mode. You're not trying to understand.
So you can't hear each other. All you have is the argument. You
don't say what you really, really feel. You just say enough to
 We tried to symbolize that in the "Hall of Echoes". The
moment you start rehashing and blaming, the echoes become
impossible, you can't hear. But the moment Xena says to Gabrielle
"Tell me what you're feeling right now," and Gabrielle says "I
hurt." That is the totally honest moment. And there's no echo. So
these are all psychological points we were trying to achieve so
that they could get to the point where they could forgive each
other, and more importantly, where Xena could forgive herself.
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