Burnt-Out Ends of Smoky Days, The Stale, Cold Smell of Mourning
"Forget Me Not" Plot Summary:
Gabrielle remembers Xena's discovery that she did not kill Hope, then remembers killing Hope after Solon's death and contemplating suicide. When Joxer tries to talk to her, the distraught Gabrielle starts to cry. She is supposed to meet Xena at the Temple of Mnemosyne, Goddess of Memory, so that Gabrielle can rid herself of her painful memories. When she arrives, Xena is not there, and she sees a woman leaving the temple, empty-faced. A guard warns her that if she enters, she risks losing the memory of her entire life.
Inside the temple, a priestess of Mnemosyne tells Gabrielle that that her memories are a part of the temple, and the priestesses know more about them than does Gabrielle herself. They are now in a bowl, which Gabrielle is told to pour water into. The priestess warns her that if the water is ever poured out, Gabrielle will lose all her memories forever. But if she goes on the quest through her memories, she must cross three rivers, then decide whether to keep her past or rid herself of it.
Joxer tries to sneak past the guards and eventually succeeds, finding Gabrielle's body lying on the floor. The priestess admonishes him that this is only an empty shell, not the woman he loves, but Joxer "rescues" her anyway. Meanwhile, in her memory, Gabrielle comes to the first of the rivers and is shocked when Ares appears to guide her. She accuses him of having selfish, ulterior motives, which he doesn't disagree with. He warns her that this is the River of Wailing. She wades in, and instantly flashes back to her own crucifixion and the murder of the priestess of Dahok. When she comes out of the river, she is covered with blood.
The next river is in a frozen landscape. Ares tells Gabrielle that this is the River of Woe, which runs deep. She tries to cross a bridge of ice, but Ares tells her that the ice symbolizes her tenuous control over her torments. The ice breaks, and she falls into the freezing water, where she remembers betraying Xena in China. When she scrambles out of the water, Ares builds a fire for her while she recalls Xena forgiving her in Ming Tien's dungeon. She decides this is the key and goes back through the River of Woe, but the ice floes trap her. When she claws her way out, she doesn't know how she can go forward or backward; Ares tells her that her only other choices are to stay where she is for all eternity, or die.
Meanwhile, Joxer has revived Gabrielle and tries to teach her about her past, first by showing her familiar objects, then by reading to her from her own scrolls. He makes some changes, however, first inserting himself as her love interest and then taking credit for most of Xena's deeds. The empty shell of Gabrielle concludes that she is madly in love with him and very happy, even though she can't remember those feelings. She asks him to sing that wonderful "Joxer the Mighty" song again.
Gabrielle moves on to the final river, which is aflame. Ares says that life is pain, it has no meaning, and suggests that Xena is the root of all of Gabrielle's problems. Gabrielle insists that they put their rift behind them in Illusia, and remembers singing of love with Xena. Empowered, she steps into the river of flame. But once again she remembers asking Xena whether she owes someone a debt so great that she would throw away her years with Gabrielle, and Xena's saying yes. Then she remembers something she never recalled before: turning and seeing Ares after Xena's departure. Gabrielle catches on fire and wades through the river screaming, until finally she falls upon the far shore and thrashes until the fire is out.
Gabrielle realizes that Ares isn't really Ares; he's a manifestation of her own hatred and guilt. She attacks him with her staff, but as she does so, she remembers talking to Ares just after Xena's ship left for the Kingdom of Chin. She told him she wanted to pursue Xena out of friendship, but he knew that she wanted to get revenge on Xena for leaving her after she gave up her home and her daughter for the other woman. Ares sent her to Chin so that she would arrive before Xena, and she betrayed her best friend for loving someone else. Her hatred and jealousy almost cost Xena her life.
Ares encourages Gabrielle to rid herself of the pain by pouring out the water in her bowl of memories. Meanwhile, the shell of Gabrielle makes a pass at Joxer, begging to let her experience once again the joy she must have felt with him, but Joxer realizes that this isn't the woman he loves and admits that he's been lying to her...well, except for her liking to dance naked in the rain. At that moment, Gabrielle regains her memory and grabs him hard by the ear, insisting that that is not true. Xena steps in while they tussle, tells Gabrielle she's glad to see her, and says she wondered how Gabrielle got to Chin before she did - she thought Ares might have had something to do with it. She realized from Gabrielle's talking in her sleep that she had repressed her memories. She tells Gabrielle how glad she is to have her back, and they embrace.
This was a pretty underwhelming "bottle show" consisting largely of clips from earlier episodes, which would have been fine had there been some interesting revelation...but other than confirmation that Gabrielle had help getting to Chin before Xena and that Solon arranged for the sojourn in Illusia, we really discovered nothing new. We should have found out something more important about Gabrielle than that she made a deal with Ares, who's hardly a devil in this case since Gabrielle herself harbored the anger and jealousy which almost got Xena killed; I think we all figured out that her betrayal of Xena stemmed from resentment as well as reverence for life, and that it's painful for her to recall those events because she feels guilty.
What's interesting is that Ares is right: Xena did put aside Gabrielle and all her sacrifices when she made the decision to go to Chin. Gabrielle repeatedly announces that she's put the pain of that behind her, but it's not so easy to believe her - especially not when she killed her own daughter in Xena's name. I feel like this show has been trying to rationalize the whole rift arc by doing repeated episodes in which Xena and Gabrielle forgive one another, but it's just seeming redundant, not like they're growing as people. It was especially interesting that Gabrielle's flashbacks included her recent betrayal of Crassus; that is something she would have found unimaginable a few months ago, before Dahok and Hope and Xena changed her.
Once again the show suggests that the love between the two women is transcendent and redemptive - though we're told that rather than shown it - and Joxer is dismissed as a wanna-be, both as a hero and a lover, which is a curious choice considering that Gabrielle said she was jealous Xena loved another woman more than herself, and that led to her betrayal of Xena over Lao Ma. The subtext is alive and well; I just wish the friendship were stronger.