Ulysses is a very hard episode to rate and review. I really can't think of anything that doesn't work in the episode (apart from the obvious 'love thing' which I will discuss shortly) but at the same time, it is also hard to pinpoint any really outstanding parts to the episode either. It just plods along, an enjoyable but ultimately very forgettable part of season 2.
The episode starts really well, with some great Xena-Gabrielle dialog, and then watching the two of them join the fight with Ulysses. All of this was staged extremely well; the conversations are excellent, the action scene is good and Ulysses is a very charismatic and old-school type of hero/ally/man-of-the-week. However, we then get a clearly smitten Xena volunteering their services to Ulysses to get him safely back to Ithaca. Something about this just didn't seem quite normal to me. It might have been Xena's eagerness to accompany Ulysses that bothered me... I'm not sure.
Once on the boat things start to hit their stride again. Gabrielle's dancing girl routine was very funny, and the fight scene with the pirates was also excellent. Gabrielle also did an outstanding job of being sea-sick, and again the excellent dialog carries it through.
But from here on out it all starts to unravel for me. Obviously the biggest issue is that there is NO WAY that Xena would have fallen for this guy, especially not so quickly. He honestly doesn't seem to be her type; he's not dangerous, he doesn't have a dark-side, he isn't ruthless, or ambitious or funny... I don't know, I just didn't buy it. In some ways, I can agree with Lucy that the actor was miscast; perhaps a different actor would have given Ulysses a darker side which would have been more Xena's type and thus made the romance more realistic.
On the other hand, I can completely understand Ulysses thinking that he has fallen in love with Xena. For a bloke, I think that Xena would be pretty irresistible, and it would be very easy to convince yourself that she was 'the one'. Also, at this stage, Xena and Gabrielle's relationship is very low key, so to a guy all he would see is two attractive, unattached women who must 'clearly' be searching for a man!
Unfortunately, I also don't like anything male that comes between Xena and Gabrielle, excepting men from Xena's past. It makes me annoyed because, "come on people!", Xena and Gabrielle are soul-mates, forget about the rest of them! I did like the conversation between Xena and Gabrielle about Ulysses though, and I have to say that I did enjoy the Ulysses-Xena kiss moment, especially Xena's reference to Gabrielle's belief regarding soul-mates. For me I found that comment to be particularly ironic, because, in actual fact, Gabrielle is Xena's soul-mate; her other half.
Once in Ithaca there are a few good moments, namely Xena's total shoot-down of Ulysses' proposal. The rest of the episode was really pretty typical Xena-fare: fight scene, guy gets girl, happy ending... or not really. Maybe that's what bothers me about this episode: that it feels like it could have been so much more, and instead heads back into safe, familiar territory. The setting on the sea feels like it brings a new type of episode with it, and in later episodes it does.
Overall this is an entertaining episode. It works and while it is not memorable in any way, it adds another solid episode to the excellent season that was Season 2.