Once a Crusader, Always a Crusader
"The Convert" Plot Summary:
As men are horribly murdered inside a temple, Xena's battle cry sounds and the warrior princess drops in to trounce the villains. Gabrielle and Joxer arrive moments later and are horrified at the carnage. They find a young man dying on the floor who begs them to save an unnamed person. "Crichton took the novitiates..." he tries to tell them, but collapses. In the woods nearby, a girl screams as a man tortures her, demanding to know who sent her and her colleagues. When Gabrielle stuns the thugs with a substance like tear gas, Xena stops Crichton from killing the girl and fights him and his men. As Gabrielle realizes that the most badly injured woman is the crusader Nejara, Joxer spins while holding a knife and stabs Crichton, whose men flee.
Joxer is horrified at having killed someone, even a mass murderer, but Xena tells him they must take the body back to the village, where she also intends to summon guards to send the escaped Nejara back to prison. One of the girls announces that Nejara is a saint who refuses to fight even to protect herself, but Xena is not convinced. In the village, Joxer reluctantly confesses to having killed Crichton and is surprised to be celebrated as a hero, given his overwhelming guilt. He learns that Crichton's men will try to avenge his death, and that Crichton had a son at a nearby academy who may also come after his killer. Joxer tells Xena that he must tell the boy how his father died, asking her to let him walk this path alone.
Nejara tells Gabrielle that when she went to prison, the Djinn stopped communicating with her, so she knew she had strayed from the light. But when she gave up violence after a teacher just back from India came to the prison to visit, they returned to her. When Gabrielle realizes that Nejara met Eli, Nejara says that the Djinn told her she would reconnect with Gabrielle and they would walk the path of peace together. Though Gabrielle ties up Nejara at Xena's insistence, she defends Nejara to Xena later, saying that her tear gas compact enables her to fight without violence and that Eli is living proof that peace works. Xena pretends to be asleep.
Joxer has nightmares about the murder and sees a vision of Crichton, congratulating him on becoming a killer who orphaned a child, suggesting that soon Joxer will be just like the man he murdered. Xena tells him that the first kill is always the hardest, and good people just have to learn to live with it. Gabrielle praises his bravery, but he says he doesn't feel brave, just bad. As they travel to meet Crichton's son, Nejara taunts Xena, reminding her of her vision of Gabrielle dying at her side. Xena says "New religion, same old wacko underneath," but Nejara says she has changed her entire life for Gabrielle, to keep her out of harm's way.
Arriving at the Academy, the four meet Crichton's son Arman, who grew up believing that his father fought evil and righted wrongs. He assumes Xena and the others have come to recruit him and bring him to his father, and is devastated to learn of the killing, threatening to avenge Crichton's death. Joxer refuses to allow Arman to learn the truth, saying that to report his misdeeds would be to kill him all over again. Xena asks Arman to travel with them so that he can think about how much better it would be for him to finish school.
Though Gabrielle and Xena both encourage Joxer to be honest with the boy, he refuses. When one of Crichton's men tracks him down and attacks, Joxer denies the killing without ever allowing the victim's name to be spoken in his son's presence, and Arman defends Joxer until Xena intervenes. Meanwhile Gabrielle nurses Nejara, who tries to convince Gabrielle that she has reformed and wants to start her hospice. When Gabrielle reiterates that her place is with Xena, Nejara warns that one day Xena will do something too terrible for Gabrielle to stand, and then her choice won't be between Xena and Nejara: it will be between Xena and her own soul. Xena points out to Gabrielle that Nejara doesn't follow a path, she just hears voices...Eli or no Eli, she's not sane.
Joxer goes to Arman intending to confess, but instead tells the boy that he's a hero for fighting off the thug, and Arman thanks him for coming to tell him personally about his father's death. That night while he tells Xena how difficult it is for him to lie, Nejara escapes and tells Arman the truth: his father was a vicious murderer who had to be stopped, and Joxer killed him. Discovering that Joxer has Crichton's claw-handled knife in his pack, he threatens the older man, but Xena insists that it's worse punishment for Joxer to have to live with his guilt, and tells Arman that if he truly wants to be brave, he will give up his vendetta. Arman drops the knife, saying it is in memory of Crichton.
Then the group demands to know why Nejara told Arman the truth. She says innocently that Gabrielle said earlier that everyone deserves to know the truth about someone they love. Proving that he is a hero, Arman comes back to warn Joxer of a group of Crichton's thugs massing against him. "You didn't kill my father, you killed an evil stranger," he adds, noting that his father is alive right where he has always lived - in Arman's heart. When the thugs arrive, Gabrielle hides Nejara as Arman helps Joxer escape. Xena, fighting alone, is injured.
Gabrielle tries to go to her friend, but Nejara stops her, insisting that it is not their way, then claiming the Djinn are talking to her. When Gabrielle insists that she can't hear them and tries to go to Xena, Nejara calls on the light and beats her up. Then she and Xena fight in the woods, holding on to long vines which permit them to bungee towards the ground. Picking up Crichton's knife in her teeth, Nejara asks the Djinn to guide her hand to its destiny, but she stabs herself in the stomach.
In prison, Nejara lies in a coma and Gabrielle wonders whether she will ever awaken. Xena says that maybe her voices will call her back. They discuss their choices, with Gabrielle saying that it's hard to know that on her path, she can't shove back, but Xena assures her that as long as she's around, Gabrielle won't have to.
It's too bad that - with the possible exception of Eli - every truly spiritual character we have ever seen on this series has turned out to be either a patsy, an idiot, or both. No wonder various Hindu groups objected so strongly to "The Way" that the episode has been yanked from circulation. This is one of those installments which ostensibly promotes non-violence, but ends up having the opposite effect, because one wishes Xena would take a giant brick to Gabrielle's pretty head until she gets a clue.
Last time we saw Nejara she was an insane mass murderer who used The Light as her excuse; now she's an insane mass murderer who uses The Way as her excuse. I don't understand why Xena didn't reiterate Nejara's little digs towards her to Gabrielle, since I am sure Eli taught her that purposeful verbal cruelty is a form of violence. My favorite scene all episode was when the warrior princess first found the crusader alive and checked her for broken bones, causing her as much pain as possible in the process. It ain't nice, it ain't proper, but boy is it real, and man does it make sense given what a phony-baloney Nejara is about virtually everything.
But what exactly is this show saying about religion and non-violence, given how badly they tend to make people behave? Xena points out that Nejara is a nut (a "fanatic," a "zealot," a "wacko") several times during "The Convert," yet she reacts defensively nonetheless when Gabrielle says that at least Nejara doesn't hurt people anymore. (Good...let's test that theory by letting her go up against Caesar!) I'm sure the writers would not have left her alive at the end if they didn't intend to bring her back, and there's something sort of funny about Xena having a rival for Gabrielle's romantic affections, which is exactly how Nejara acts - not like a true friend towards Gabrielle at all. It's also funny that with her new haircut, Gabrielle and Nejara look like they could be sisters. Does that signify something? I don't know, but it did give me a reason to dislike Gab's new look.
Character development for Joxer! It's about time! Ted Raimi was terrific in this episode, and very moving, trying to tell the truth to Arman but finding Joxer didn't have the strength. His response to having committed murder was rather more plausible than Gabrielle's last season. In many ways these days I am finding him a more sympathetic character: he doesn't really know who he is any more than Gabrielle does, but he doesn't obssess over his need to find his path, he just tries to walk the walk he's chosen. I liked his determination to be responsible and brave even when he didn't feel responsible or brave. Nicely done.