This review contains mild spoilers.
I had heard a lot about this episode in various reviews before I got to see it, and when I finally saw the episode, I wasn't disappointed.
Whereas the series at one point did comedies every three or four episodes, this is the first real comedy episode in quite a while. Unlike many of the mid-run comedies, this is more a gentle, easy going comedy, much in the vein of episodes such as the first season's 'Warrior... Princess' than of the riotous comedies that followed.
I really like the feel of this episode, and how it doesn't go for some of the cruder, cheap laughs of aforementioned mid-run comedies.
The episode has a sort of an 'A Day in the Life' feel to it, with having little real plot and little real threat to it. Yes, there are the warlords after Ares, but even that had little real urgency to it, and for the much part took the backseat to a slow paced but very enjoyable tale.
When one of the many elements of the story is Ares befriending a dog, you know what kind of paced episode you're in for!
The late Kevin Smith gives one of his best performances in the entire series in this episode. It's hard to think of him as the out-and-out villain in some episodes, and yet see him like this elsewhere. And no doubt of note to many female viewers, Smith spends much of the episode without his top on and wearing very little.
Xena and Gabrielle, meanwhile, dress in farm girl costumes. Gabrielle in particular looks really good!
Underneath, they have rather modern looking underwear. This episode seems to offer something of interest for both the male and female viewers!
Lucy Lawless, Renée O'Connor and Kevin Smith have great on-screen chemistry with each other, and it really makes the episode spark.
The highlight of the episode is probably the three in a bed scene (no, not as it sounds!!).
I agree with other reviewers that this season, the series really has a feel of the end being in sight and of rounding things off. This episode really has a feel of tying lose ends up.
After the Valkyrie trilogy before this, this episode is a good comedown into a more easy going fare. It is the sort of episode that anyone – hardcore fans or more casual viewers – can watch and get into. Having said that, it is probably the long term fans, who have previous knowledge of the characters and their histories, who will enjoy the episode the most.
If I had to pick a hole, I would say that the final act doesn't work quite work as well as the rest of the episode. With the warlords already out of the way, it seems a bit pointless and repetitive having to convince them about Ares a second time, and the staged fight between Xena and Gabrielle is a bit silly. But that's my only nitpick with an otherwise very enjoyable story.
The only lose end I wasn't sure about was the travelling salesman and his dog – I found this not to be wrapped up properly, and felt sorry for the salesman losing his pet. Maybe it would have worked slightly better if they suggested that the salesman didn't really want the dog in the first place.
All-in-all, I found this a very likable, very enjoyable and easy going episode. It probably stands as one of my favourite episodes of the season.