Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 3 Episode 12

The Bitter Suite (2)

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Feb 02, 1998 on
out of 10
User Rating
125 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


After trying to kill one another, grief-stricken Xena and Gabrielle awake in a strange musical world called Illusia, filled with familiar faces, where they must face the pain and anger caused by the deaths of their children and forgive one another in order to live.

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  • Comic Book Opera Mess that Jumped the Shark

    I loved the tender Xena / Gabrielle relationship but stopped regular watching after this campy Shark Jump. Renee O'Connor called the ending "Playboy porn."

    Find the Xena 10th Anniversary Edition. In it, R.J. Stewart called it a disaster and Steven Spears even wanted to take his name off it. After Stewart said what a mess the production was, how the writing never gelled, he looked around and realized hes about to lose his career. He then licked Rob Tapert's boots, saying how brilliant he was to pull it all together in the end. You said it right first, mate.

    In the commentary, even Lucy and Renee admit its still a big confusing mess. I loved the singing but didn't fully understand Illusia until years later. Fangirls will always praise the episode, but they would praise Lucy reading the phone book.

    I never again took this show seriously. It became a comic book for pimply-faced adolescents who read Playboy... for the articles, of course. :-)

  • confused atmosphere

    I find the Bitter Suite to be an episode that is neither a masterpiece nor is it a total flop.

    Personally i feel that The Bitter Suite lacks the coherence that was behind the successful and the classic preceding episode 'Maternal Instincts' which had major character development in store for Xena and Gaby, started the rift, had amazingly violent sequences between Xena and Callisto, and Hope brought forth season 3's main story arc.

    The Bitter Suite is a very confused musical that starts in a spectacular fashion with Gaby hallucinating about Hope and Callisto while Xena mourns Solans death with Ares...then it goes downhill quite literally as Xena and Gaby fight it out in a rediculous fashion and fall into the sea transporting them to the fantasy world of Illusia.

    Hudson Leick plays a character(other than Callisto) that hosts to Xena, and Ted Raimi plays a host for Gaby.

    Xena then kills Gaby...but its an illusion then they argue a fair bit.

    Xena is then put on a cross, Gaby on the sacrificial tablet from The Deliverer.

    they sing a ballad(again)...then they become friends.

    it is irritating that i've presented it this way but this episode just wasn't the spectacle that i hoped for.

    the songs are all original though and the visuals are pretty great too.

    but it lacks all the consistancy of season 3's arc.

    Maternal Instincts is a classic episode of the show and so is the following One Against An Army which brings the duo closer together...and it works much better.

    for the shows superior musical,watch Lyre,Lyre Heart On Fire...and for the definitive musical in telly history watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer- Once More With Felling(its awesome)...it is a good episode but its not the spectacle i was hoping for when i saw it the first time round.

    recommended for at least one viewing,maybe rewatch...but seems too unnecessary...i'd skip to One Against An army.moreless
  • Epic, amazing, musical?

    I love musicals. And I enjoy Xena. So a Xena musical? That surprised and excited me, but also made me nervous. A lot of times when shows try to do musical episodes, they really fall flat, and I had never before seen a SERIOUS musical episode of any TV show; but this one did not disappoint.

    Let me just say that I was so disappointed and shocked by Xena at the beginning, trying to kill Gabrielle. I never like it when Xena resorts to her old, evil ways, and especially when her violence is directed at Gabrielle.

    I really feel for Gabrielle in this whole situation. Yes, she would not listen to Xena about Hope. Yes, it was Gabrielle's fault that Xena's son died. But we can hardly blame Gabrielle for not wanting to kill her daughter, for wanting to believe her daughter is innocent. I don't think she really has a right to blame Xena for the whole Hope situation, however.

    Then we get to Illusia. I didn't much like Illusia's introduction, with the singing animals and mythical creatures. I thought it was a little weird and goofy. But it got better.

    The music was really top-notch for a TV show musical and added to the emotion. The lyrics of letting go of hatred and forgiving each other were quite applicable to the situation (and to our own lives as well). Xena and Gabrielle were experiencing some powerful, overwhelming emotions that needed to be worked through and their journey through Illusia was just what they needed.

    They battle their inner demons and learn to not let their pain overcome them, but to learn from the pain and let it make them closer. The symbolism is clear throughout, and the final scene with the water washing away the hate and pain is fitting.

    All in all, a well thought out, powerful, though strange episode. Quite possibly the best episode of the first three seasons.moreless
  • We'll overcome our damaged past... and we'll grow stronger side by side.

    Well… where do you start with this episode? I've seen this one quite a few times now, but every time it hits home just how significant this is. Few other episodes have as much meaning, or changed the face of the show like this one did. It is often thrown around that "The Bitter Suite" is one of the greatest episodes of all time – fans have voted it close to the top of the list, and rightly so. There are few tv shows that could make an episode like this one, dealing with the issues that it does, and succeed magnificently. Xena is one of them.

    From start to finish this is clearly a special episode. It has darker, sadder, more meaningful overtones than few others. We begin with our two heroines dealing with their grief and anger in completely different ways: Xena, ever the loner, seeks solace alone… in a remote and isolated location where she can express her grief privately. Despite how far she has come, Xena is still unable to deal with her feelings, she can't express them to others, nor can she accept them as a part of herself. It is interesting that in her time of greatest need, it is only Ares who is by her side. Even though he is still using her grief to manipulate her, this says volumes about how he really feels. Ares loves Xena unconditionally; he is drawn to her like a moth to a flame, and needs her presence in his life to be complete.

    Gabrielle, in stark contrast, seeks comfort in the arms of others, of those she loves. It is logical that someone with such love and caring in their soul would return to the closest thing to a family that they have – Gabrielle returns to the Amazons, where she is supported by Joxer and Ephiny. And yet, she finds no comfort, no relief. All her feelings, bottled up inside and not expressed are eating away at her very soul. The appearance of Callisto is highly significant. She may be there to torment her, but in a very real sense she speaks only the truth: the truth that Xena really DID create both of them, that while much is Gabrielle's fault, Xena's hand is in every action.

    We move onto the horrific and infamous 'Gabdrag'. I have to say that it still gives me chills watching it, even after several re-watches. There is something dark about Xena, like something is missing, and this is more frightening than her anger. As she is about to throw Gabrielle off the cliff, she screams "Vengeance!". Vengeance for who? For what? These are big questions. And next thing we know it, we are in Illusia.

    There seems to me to be a lot of significance in the fact that Xena is awakened in Illusia by a kiss from her mortal enemy, a woman, Callisto. It makes you question where the lines of love and hate really do end… where do they blur? In a way, does Callisto really love Xena, for what she has done to her? Were they created to destroy each other, or to cherish the havoc the other wreaks?

    The episode looks amazing. The sets are great, the lighting is perfect, and the special effects work well. I think the soundtrack is outstanding, considering that it is a tv special. The lyrics are meaningful and capture the moment brilliantly – much better than dialogue could. The songs manage to create a contrast between Xena's world of dark, and Gabrielle's world of light. But really, how much different are their worlds? I think the answer is, not a whole lot.

    I could go on and on about every detail of this episode, but I will only touch on a few more major points. I think it is an interesting moment when, after Xena has killed Gabrielle, that it is Callisto who warns her to let go of her hatred, or be consumed by it. This is incredibly ironic coming from the woman who was actually destroyed by her own anger and twisted desire for revenge. I think it is a nice touch, and highly poignant, and says a lot about how far Callisto has come through the series as well. We tend to gloss over Callisto, yet she too is on a journey.

    I thought the reenacting of Gabrielle's first kill in the crypt was very well done. I had little more problem with Xena back on the cross, because I don't feel like that was part "The Rift", and was not something that she was struggling to deal with at that point. More symbolic would have been Xena as she was imprisoned in Ming Tien's dungeon, with the board strapped to her shoulders, or alternatively, Xena strapped to the sacrificial table in Ming Tien's court. But that is a minor concern, and is still very well acted and performed. The beautiful duet between Gabrielle and Xena speaks volumes about the healing that has occurred.

    The episode ends perfectly, with Xena's lie about killing Ming Tien exposed and forgiven, and Solan finally discovering that Xena was his mother. Xena's song asking for forgiveness also had a hint of Lao Ma in it:

    "Forgive me, I'm sorry, believe me.

    Stop hating, stop hurting forgive me.

    Forgive those who harm you,

    Do good for those who hate

    Forgive if not forget, I know its not too late.

    Forgive me and you'll discover too,

    That the love of your love is you."

    This, to me, was Lao Ma's message to Xena in her teachings, and is perfectly captured in a subtle way.

    The return of the two women to the real world, through the waterfall in Illusia, and in the sea, was in a way a washing away of the past. Again, a highly symbolic moment.

    It is important to remember, however, that these events will never go away. While all may be forgiven, the pain will always live on in each of them, and this forever changes the series.moreless
  • xena and gabrielle leave their past behind!

    perfect!This is my favorite xena episode.What a great idea to make a musical episode,the songs are very inspired and i wonder how xena's team managed to create an episode like this.I think that this episode deserves only good critics because it has quality.It was a great idea to make a musical episode and it was an artistic way to give an end to the rift,i dont think they could do a believable ending with a normal episode.The truth is that if you are watching this for the first time maybe you will be confused but when you catch the point,you understand its value.Is an episode you can rewatch it even when you dont have mood for xena because it has its own style,it has such a power and meaning that in the end you think you gain something.I think it deserves the title of classic!!!moreless
David Taylor

David Taylor


Guest Star

Daniel Sing

Daniel Sing

Ming Tien

Guest Star

Marton Csokas

Marton Csokas


Guest Star

Kevin Smith (II)

Kevin Smith (II)


Recurring Role

Ted Raimi

Ted Raimi


Recurring Role

Karl Urban

Karl Urban

Julius Caesar

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • This episode marks the end of The Rift. The Rift is the name fans have given to the relationship trouble Xena and Gabrielle have after the events of the episode "The Deliverer".

    • This episode contains yet another version of the "Joxer the Mighty song", this time with Joxer singing as a guide to Gabrielle in the land of Illusia.

      Joxer the Mighty / Master of geography / Here to guide you on your way / Stick with me you'll never stray / If you're in a land that's new / Find the man who'll get you through / (Even when you're slightly nude) / I'm Joxer... I'm Joxer the Mighty!

    • After their trip to Illusia, Xena is wearing the same clothes as before she fell into the water whereas Gabrielle's outfit has changed from a white wrap to her usual green top and brown skirt.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Xena: My dear Solan, I never told you that you were my son. I didn't know the days we had left were so few. If I only knew, I'd have been with you. I'm so sorry, I couldn't be the mother you deserved. And I regret that I missed your first step, your first word, that I never heard. Now it seems absurd.

    • Gabrielle: Because of you this happened! Because you had to carry out your vengeful, little plans!
      Xena: It's you who should feel guilty! Because of you my child is dead. His blood is on your hands!

    • Xena: I never dreamed that any barriers could rise...
      Gabrielle: Or that I'd ever see the stranger in your eyes.

    • Callisto: Did that fill you with glee, to kill your little friend? Did that ease your suffering or bring it to an end? Let go. All of anger will poison you yet. Unless you can just let go.

    • Gabrielle: (to Callisto) You're not real. You're in my mind.
      Callisto: What difference does it make? You came here for the truth. And the truth is that Xena made us both. She shaped our lives, changed our fates... killed our families.
      Gabrielle: No - I killed hers. Solan died because of my daughter.
      Callisto: (fiercely) Because of Xena you HAD a daughter!

    • Ares: (to Xena) This whole... 'atonement' kick you've been on lately - it's not you. You're full of fire, bending the world to your will. Full of rage and revenge. Accept it Xena, embrace it.

    • Gabrielle: The Elysian Fields. Only heroes wind up here. (realising what that means) Dead heroes. (looks down at her unclothed state) Dead naked heroes.

    • Callisto: Absorb thyself in this great sea of the waters of life. Dive deep in it, until thou has lost thyself. And having lost thyself, then thou shall find thyself again. even as it is written, she had her dwelling in the great sea and was a fish therein.

  • NOTES (14)


    • Tarot
      Different characters in this episode bear very strong resemblances to Tarot characters. Callisto is The Fool, representing youth and desire for knowledge. Later, she appears as Justice, representing balance and Karma. Gabrielle is The Empress, representing creative imagination, love and motherhood. Xena is The High Priestess, representing receptivity, reflection and memory. Later, she appears as Death, representing transformation and motion. Ares is The Emperor, representing reason, control and vision (this card is connected with Mars/Ares... not a coincidence). Joxer is The Hanged Man, representing reversal of thought and the suspended mind required to reach divine consciousness. Later, he is also The Hermit, representing enlightenment and Will. Also, the wheel of fate that recurs throughout the episode bears a strong resemblance to the Wheel of Fortune card (including the figures on it).

    • Tarot and The Book of Tokens
      This episode was largely inspired by Tarot. In particular, several quotes are taken from The Book of Tokens, by Dr. Paul Foster Case, an authority on Tarot. Callisto, representing The Fool (and wearing his outfit, bag, and accompanied by his little white dog), gives a monologue containing several quotes from different chapters in Case's book, and representing different Tarot characters.

      "Absorb thyself in this Great Sea of the Waters of Life. Dive deep in it until thou hast lost thyself. And having lost thyself, then thou shalt find thyself again." and "Changeless, this great deep of elemental water remaineth forever pure. Because of this, it possesseth the quality of stability. From water do all forms have their beginning." These are both from the chapter on The Hanged Man.

      "Even as it is written, 'She had her dwelling in the great sea, and was a fish therein.'" This is from the chapter on Death, though it has the gender changed from male to female.

      "Aleph am I. From mine unfathomable Will, the universe hath its beginning. In my boundless Wisdom are the types and patterns of all things." This is from the chapter on The Fool, who is associated with the letter Aleph (the first letter in several Semitic alphabets).

    • Looney Toons
      When Callisto sticks her head through the wheel of fortune she is meant to invoke the image of Porky Pig from the Looney Toons.

    • Ares: Ding dong, the b**** is dead.
      The original lyric is "Ding dong, the witch is dead", taken from the 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz, which has a similar story theme of a girl being transported to a colorful fantsy world.

    • Wheel of Fate:
      It can be argued that the Wheel of Fate Callisto shows Xena is meant to be a representation of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming (Bhavachakra in the original Sanskrit). It represents the cyclical nature of human existence on earth. There are usually three animals associated with it, the cockerel, pig and snake, although only a snake is shown in the episode.

    • Jackal-Headed Man:
      The canine headed character that appears in this episode is likely a representation of the Egyptian god Anubis. In Egyptian lore, Anubis was the god of funerals, and was one of the gods present during a soul's judgement. He was usually represented as a man with a black canid's head, thought by many Egyptologists to be a jackal.