The Bitter Suite

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"The Bitter Suite"
Xena Warrior Princess episode
Xena and Gabrielle, trapped in Illusia by the manifestations of their mutual hate.
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 12
Directed by Oley Sassone
Written by Chris Manheim
Steven L. Sears
Production code V0409
Original air date February 02, 1998
Guest actors

Ted Raimi (Joxer)
Hudson Leick (Callisto)
Kevin Smith (Ares)

Episode chronology
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"Maternal Instincts"
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"One Against an Army"
List of Xena: Warrior Princess episodes

“The Bitter Suite” is the twelfth episode of the third season of the American-New Zealand fantasy adventure series Xena: Warrior Princess, which premiered on February 2, 1998. The episode was written by Chris Manheim and Steven L. Sears and directed by Oley Sassone.

The series focuses on Xena (Lucy Lawless), a warrior in a quest to seek redemption for her past sins as a ruthless warlord by using her fighting skills to help people. Her best friend and traveling companion is Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor).

In the episode, Xena and Gabrielle are brought to the Land of Illusia, where they have to work together again, letting their past mutual grievances go, in order to escape alive. Throughout the episode Xena and Gabrielle deal with the problems that had recently torn them apart and learn to focus on the stronger bond that brought them together in the first place.


Noted for being a rare musical episode of the series, combining both humor and drama, "The Bitter Suite" was nominated for two Emmy Awards. Regular series composer Joseph LoDuca was nominated for Outstanding Music and Lyrics for the song "The Love of Your Love" and LoDuca and lyricist Dennis Spiegel were nominated in the same category for the song "Hearts Are Hurting."[1] It was LoDuca's second and third nominations for the series out of a total of seven nominations, and one award, through the six-year run of the series.


After Gabrielle's daughter Hope kills Xena's son Solan in the previous episode, a rift grows between them, with Xena blaming Gabrielle for Solan's death.

At the start of the episode, Xena attacks and attempts to kill Gabrielle, only to be thwarted at the last moment when both fall into the sea and are brought to the land of Illusia. Both of them awaken completely nude, and are guided and given new clothing by Callisto and Joxer. Then Ares, Lila, and their associates try to set Xena and Gabrielle against eachother.

The land of Illusia is never actually explained, though it is implied that it was created by a primordial divine force called 'Aleph', and by 'the fates'. The entire episode appears to be a deus ex machina to bring the two of them back together when nothing else could. Throughout the episode the two are forced to realize what drove them apart, and what is truly important to them. Ultimately realizing that the only thing separating the two of them is hate, and that they truly do love eachother, and would sacrifice their own lives for eachother.


"We decided to use an orchestra and chorus for the episode. We also brought in a Broadway director/choreographer named Jeff Calhoun, I had a chance to work with some wonderful lyricists; all the things that wouldn't be part of an ordinary episode. There are seven main numbers, as many as you would find in a full-length musical. As you tend to find with any Xena episode, we cram that TV screen with music and images and special fx, and this episode is no different."

Joseph LoDuca, series Soundtrack, about The Bitter Suite.[2]

"The Bitter Suite" was shot between September and October, 1997, in New Zealand. Some actors of the previous episode return, Hudson Leick as Callisto, Danielle Cormack, as Ephiny, and David Taylor as Solan. Other old actors in the series return in that episode, as Ted Raimi, Kevin Tod Smith, Willa O'Neill, Karl Urban and Marton Csokas. The series executive producer, Robert Tapert, was originally going to direct the episode himself, but he was forced to pull out at the last minute because of complications on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Kevin Smith was unable to rehearse the tango sequence in the episode with Lucy Lawless because Lucy had sprained her knee getting off her horse. Kevin had to rehearse with a dance instructor a foot shorter than Lucy. All ended well as Lucy's knee healed in a week, and Lucy was much easier to dance with because of her height. Hudson Leick's singing voice was dubbed in this episode by Broadway and film star Michelle Nicastro, although Leick did provide the narrations from Paul Foster Case's The Book of Tokens, and she also voiced the parts of the lyrics that sound more like talking than singing. Renee O'Connor's singing voice was dubbed by Broadway singer Susan Wood.[3] Lucy Lawless, Kevin Smith, Ted Raimi, and Willa O'Neill did their own singing for the episode.

At the Panathenaea Convention in London, England, on September 2, 2000, Willa O'Neill mentioned that she did her own singing in "The Bitter Suite." She explained that she had to audition to Joseph LoDuca in Detroit by telephone. When they recorded the songs, the singing was done in a sound studio in New Zealand, but the actual taping was done in Detroit. After taping it, they then played it back while filming the episode. She found it weird to hear her voice singing during the filming.

Tarot card references[edit]

The costumes and scenes in "The Bitter Suite" are based upon tarot cards- especially those of the BOTA tarot deck, but also other tarot decks, including the swiss 1JJ tarot deck, the fiorentine minchiate deck, and the Golden Dawn tarot deck by Israel Regardie and illustrator Robert Wang. Callisto was The Fool and then Justice; Xena was The High Priestess, then The Chariot, and also Death for a short time; Gabrielle was The Star, then The Empress, and then The World; Joxer was The Hanged Man and then The Hermit; Ares was The Emperor; Lila was The Hierophant; and Solon was The Magician. In chronological order, scenes were made to resemble The High Priestess, The Wheel of Fortune, The Moon, The Chariot, The Tower, Judgement, The Devil, and The Sun. Ares's emperor costume combines traits from roman emperors' outfits and the king of wands from the swiss 1JJ tarot deck. Xena's skirt from her 'chariot' costume is taken from the queen of wands from the swiss 1JJ tarot deck.


The Bitter Suite: A Musical Odyssey
Soundtrack album by Joseph LoDuca
Released March 3, 1998 (1998-03-03)
Genre Television soundtrack
Length 43:02
Label Varèse Sarabande

A soundtrack containing the entire musical score of the episode was released by Varèse Sarabande on March 1, 1998.

All music composed by Joseph LoDuca.

No. Title Lyrics Performer(s) Length
1. "The Sweat Hut/Slapped Out Of It/Xena's In Town"       4:42
2. "Horrible Drag/On The Edge/Song Of The Fool"       5:09
3. "What's Still Unwritten... (Song Of Illusia)/Little Ditties/Into The Chandra/Joxer The Mighty/Prepping Gabby"   Pamela Phillips Oland, Stephen L. Sears, Chris Manheim Michelle Nicastro, Keith Black, Robert Bugar, Gia Warner, Ted Raimi 5:17
4. "War And Peace/Gab Is Stabbed"   Oland Kevin Smith 5:52
5. "Melt Into Me/Let Go"       2:28
6. "Dead?/Hearts Are Hurting (Part 1)"   Dennis Spiegel Lucy Lawless, Susan Wood 2:35
7. "The Deliverer"       4:07
8. "Hate Is the Star (Son Of The Torment)/Hearts Are Hurting (Part 2)"   Oland, Spiegel Lawless, Wood 5:42
9. "The Way Out/The Love Of Your Love/Passing Through"   Joseph LoDuca Lawless 7:10
Total length:


  1. ^ Variety Magazine, February 6, 1998
  2. ^ Joseph LoDuca, Xena: Warrior Princess composer, from the article "Bitter Suite: The Making of a Musical," Topps Official Xena Magazine #3, May 1998
  3. ^ Green, Michelle Erica. "Susan Wood: Singing for the Bard". Retrieved 2009-03-12. 

External links[edit]