"Outcast" Plot Summary:
A group of cretins (that's what they're called on the show) harrasses Leila, wife of Derek the Centaur from "As Darkness Falls," and plans a prank involving torches to scare Derek since centaurs are terrified of fire. But one of the more vicious members of the group allows the prank to turn deadly and torches Derek and Leila's house, killing her after she hides their child in the woods. Derek, initially believed dead, attacks several villagers in self-defense.
Meanwhile, Hercules and Salmoneus arrive in town and learn from Leila's sister that centaurs are being scapegoated, blamed for everything from bad crops to financial problems. When Hercules hears what has happened to Leila and Derek, he tries to talk Derek into returning to face charges, but Derek doesn't trust the townspeople. Hercules joins a group formed to apprehend to centaur so he can protect Derek. He learns from the young Damocles that the vicious leader was responsible for Leila's death, and goes off on his own to find Derek.
Salmoneus babysits Derek's son Kiefer while Hercules leads Derek back to town to face charges, but the cretins beat up Salmoneus and kidnap the little boy. Damocles, feeling guilty, confesses everything to Hercules, who rescues the child while the townspeople to take justice into their own hands and prepare to stone the centaur. Hercules returns to find Derek at the center of an angry mob, and says that if Derek is going to die for being different, only people who are not "different" at all have the right to throw stones. Damocles tells the crowd that Leila was murdered, and sympathy turns in Derek's direction. Hercules preaches compassion and forgiveness to restore peace, then learns that Zeus has restored Leila to life, since her death was unjust. She tells Hercules that she's sorry the same could not be done for his own family.
A thuddingly heavy episode, "Outcast" gave Hercules the opportunity to play Jesus not once but twice, though raising the dead was left to Herc's father. It's too bad that the show was so unsubtle, because it had some really nice moments of commentary about scapegoating and the ridiculousness of prejudice based on sexual preference, different physiology, and the like. I was particularly impressed with Hercules' argument with Damocles, where the boy complained that he couldn't get a job on a farm because the centaur could do the work of three men, and Hercules demanded to know whether he got the pay of three men to do it. The portrayal of mob mentality and fear of difference was quite skilled.
But much of this episode seemed to exist for gratuitous Lucy Lawless appearances - she plays Leila, looking more like Xena here than in her previous appearance in "When Darkness Falls." Hercules and Salmoneus even get off a joke about how much the two women remind them of one another. I liked her at the beginning trying unsuccessfully to fight off the prejudice of her neighbors, but when she reappeared first as a ghost and then as a reincarnated woman, I felt like I was being manipulated. This episode would have worked fine without so much Lawless, and it's a little embarrassing for the series to cash in so blatantly on its spin-off's success.
I very much enjoyed Salmoneus, who reminded me of Autolycus in his use of humor. He has just come from a motivational speaking seminar which he hopes to translate into quick cash, and tries to get everyone from Hercules to the townspeople to adopt his ideas for stress reduction; however, he's the one who ends up humming to calm himself every five minutes, and the toddler centaur runs him ragged. The child playing Kiefer was terrific as well as Robert Trebor in their scenes together. It seems unlikely that there will be a third installment about Derek's family, which is just as well, but I wouldn't mind seeing the kid again.