Zeus' Children Have It In For Eve
"Eternal Bonds" Plot Summary:
Xena and Gabrielle ride with Eve though a terrible storm, where lightning strikes all around and a tornado aims straight for them. Racing through the woods, they leap over a flaming log and take refuge in a cave. Inside, a sound makes Xena draw her chakram, but it's just Joxer, who coos over the baby, then announces that he has brought friends who have traveled with him to bring gifts for the baby. They are Magi, and they kneel in homage, proclaiming that Xena's baby ushers in a new world without gods. Deciding it would be rude not to accept their gifts, Xena thanks them for the nourishing grain and sweet fruit, but when the last Magus offers oil from the laurel tree, Xena recalls that laurel is sacred to Artemis. She kicks away the bottle, which shatters and steams on the ground. The Magi draw weapons, declaring that the child must die.
In the ensuing fight, Joxer is wounded in the arm. Xena sends Gabrielle to help clean the cut. When she is alone, the warrior princess announces that she smells a rat, and sure enough, Ares appears, telling her he assumed she would find assassins preferable to a tornado. But the Magi were really priests of Artemis, Poseidon, and Apollo - and the latter's soldiers put poison on their weapons. She rushes to Joxer, who is at the stream with Gabrielle, getting lectured on his impulsive behavior. Xena tells Joxer that if Apollo's sword cut him, he needs an antidote - the resin of the mandrake tree growing at the north end of the valley. Gabrielle doesn't want to accompany him since she fears for Eve and her mother, but Xena insists that they can't risk Joxer's life.
A priestess kills a man to read his entrails. When she sees worms eating his heart, she tells the other priests that their emissaries failed to kill Xena's spawn, so they will have to send armies. As Gabrielle and Joxer leave with Argo, Gabrielle worries aloud about Xena, prompting Joxer to say that if she's so worried, she should stay behind; he'll be fine without her. Alone, Xena breastfeeds and sings to Eve, but someone sneaks up behind her. Joking that they never get to finish a meal and promising to keep it warm for the baby, the warrior princess fights off the thugs with the chakram.
The baby gets blood in her face during the fighting. Afterwards, Ares pops up and says, "Baptism by blood." "Can't you take a hint?" retorts Xena, scoffing at the former god of war's attempts to woo her in Tartarus. Ares says he loves her, and he'll prove it, fighting at her side, which is where he wants to spend his waning days - since he's dying, why would he lie? He doesn't care whether he's fighting for right or wrong so long as he's fighting with Xena.
Gabrielle puts a poultice on Joxer's arm, which is showing signs of the poison. Joxer again advises her to return to Xena if she wants, though he's sure Xena can take care of herself. "I can be a real bitch sometimes, can't I?" demands Gabrielle. The two work their way towards the tree. A group of Amazons loyal to Artemis stop them, accusing them of trespassing in the sacred wood of the goddess. Gabrielle says they have come to worship Artemis, and Joxer explains away his infirmity by saying they were attacked by a woman with a baby. In their rush to find Xena, the Amazons let them pass.
Xena kisses Eve goodnight, then is visited by Ares, who asks her forgiveness for all the wrongs he's committed against her. "I want to be with you, Xena, and I'll do whatever it takes to make that happen, to make you trust me." An assailant attacks, trying to kill Eve, and Ares saves the baby. "I would rather die in your arms than live without you in mine," proclaims the god, kissing Xena ardently. She responds to his passion, then wakes up sweaty and disoriented. It was a dream. Yet in the morning, she keeps flashing back to the vision, talking aloud to Eve about the meaninglessness of dreams as she remembers Ares making love to her.
Joxer becomes delirious, telling Gabrielle how beautiful she is, then falling off the horse. Because his fever is so high, Gabrielle goes to get water. On the way she sees warriors searching for Xena, who has already reached the mandrake tree and climbs it when she discovers that Gabrielle and Joxer didn't get there ahead of her. Warriors who have been following her trail realize she must be going to the tree, and that there are others traveling in the same direction. Ares watches the warriors, then appears to Xena in the tree, offering to fight at her side and to be a father to Eve...and a child of their own. Xena realizes that that's his game: denied immortality himself, he wants to continue his bloodline. Ares points out that humans do the same thing, and he can offer her protection. Otherwise what will happen to Joxer, to Gabrielle, to Eve? Xena calls him a conniving bastard and refuses to give up her future. Eve cries.
Gabrielle finds Joxer hiding inside a fallen tree and gives him water. Realizing he cannot go any further, she says she won't leave him. "Be smart and think about the people you love," Joxer advises, and Gabrielle says she is - she just doesn't love him the way he wants. She says she wishes she did. Joxer says that she makes him feel special, to which she says he is, but he adds, "Not special enough." Xena spots a kite made from one of Gabrielle's scrolls, and follows it towards her friends. She arrives to find Gabrielle with sais drawn, and two spears come flying at them. The armies of Poseidon, Artemis and Apollo converge to attack. In the middle of the carnage, suddenly everything freezes except Xena.
Ares pops in, asking Xena once more to give him a child. The erotic dream distracts her once more, and the former god tells her he can make her dreams come true. "You're not a dream, you're my worst nightmare," she snaps. "Enjoy," says Ares, and lets the armies come at her. Xena ties a rope around Eve's sling and hoists her into a tree. The leaders of all three armies spot the child, but Ares rescues it by somersaulting into the air moments before Xena can. He stares at her for a long minute before releasing Eve, who is pulled back up to safety by the sling. After all the army leaders are dead, Xena retrieves Eve, who has blood on her face again.
Xena brings the antidote to Joxer, who recovers. As they leave the scene, Joxer tells Gabrielle that he will always love her as more than a friend, but he will learn to live with that. The warrior princess asks Gabrielle whether she is wrong to expose her baby to so much violence, but Gabrielle says that sometimes fighting is the only way. The group walks off together.
A fitting sequel to a tough episode to follow; where do you go after the death of Zeus? In this case, there's nowhere but forward. Zeus' now-mortal but still-powerful children all have it in for Xena...including Ares, despite the sweet words that roll off his tongue. I have to admit that I find it excruciatingly sexy to watch Xena and Ares make love, despite how despicable he is. Maybe it's because he's mortal now and thus nearly her equal - he can still stop time, but she could defeat him in battle with one hand holding the baby. And he knows it; it's part of the attraction for him. His love for her is obsessive, possessive, and selfish, but it's also as sincere as a scheming creep like Ares can be. Even if he's planting those erotic images in Xena's mind, she seems to figure he's as good as he thinks he is, which makes him more dangerous than if he were just a brute.
I rather liked seeing Joxer as the damsel in distress. Gabrielle might have tried harder to convince him of her affection while he was dying. Of course she's not going to declare undying passion, but she could at least have looked at him while speaking instead of staring distractedly away, as if her own philosophy of love were more important than his life. There were some interesting parallels between his deathbed wish that there had been an "us" and the pressure Ares is putting on Xena; I wonder whether Gabrielle resents it more than she lets on, though she seems perfectly content to use Joxer when he's useful and insult him when he's not. We've gotten more than enough of Joxer declaring his feelings and Gabrielle sighing that she can't reciprocate them - it should be getting boring for them as well as for us.