"Forgiven" Plot Summary:
At a temple facing the sun, a group of mercenaries steal the Urn of Apollo, which wipes out past mistakes and lets people make a new start. The priest explains to Xena that even if she believes the strength to change comes from within and not from the urn, it is an important symbol which has turned people's lives around. Xena promises to recover the urn. While she is investigating, Gabrielle is attacked by a local teenage girl, who beats her up and tells Xena that she should replace "blondie." Xena wants to help the girl, Tara, turn her life around, so she reluctantly invites her to join them over Gabrielle's pointed objections.
While Xena goes off alone after the urn, Tara follows and lures a thug to Xena so she can watch Xena demonstrate "the squeeze." The thug tells them that the urn is being sold in the north. Gabrielle is irate that Xena doesn't punish Tara for not listening to her, but Xena explains that she's just putting into practice the lessons she's learned from Gabrielle about helping someone turn her life around, which means believing in the girl even if the girl doesn't believe in herself. When Tara asks Xena how she knows good from evil, Xena replies that when in doubt, she asks Gabrielle.
The next morning Xena again sets off alone, admonishing the other two to stay put, but Tara insists on following the warrior princess, telling Gabrielle that she's going to be stuck being a sidekick all her life. They spot the urn at the mercenary camp but when Tara tries to retrieve it, the two are captured. Xena rescues them from a death trap, telling Tara to stop acting like a selfish brat. Once Xena is gone, Tara attacks Gabrielle, forcing the older woman to beat her soundly in her own defense. While Xena tends to her wounds, Tara sobs that her mother died when she was four and her father used to beat her and tell her she was worthless. The three finally stop fighting and spend the evening doing pantomimes. But once Xena and Gabrielle are asleep, Tara sneaks away to meet her mercenary lover.
In the morning Tara leads Xena to a castle where, she says, she believes the mercenaries have stashed the urn. Tara asks Gabrielle why the urn is such a big deal, and Gabrielle explains that for people who need forgiveness, it can turn their lives around. Tara keeps Xena from the urn, then snatches it herself and flees with it. She finds the mercenary, Mika, and kisses him, but refuses to give him the urn because people believe in it and Xena believes in her. They struggle, joined by the mercenaries who are defeated by Xena and Gabrielle. The women take the urn to the temple, where Tara and then Gabrielle come to be forgiven. But Xena walks away.
I rather liked this episode, though I didn't think it was very well done. Female coming of age stories are all too rare, and too often seem to involve salvation from a father- or boyfriend-figure. This one was all about women learning from other women, and had a nice gritty realistic feel to it despite the campy circumstances.
I disliked Gabrielle's jealousy of Xena for the first half of the episode; while it was easy to be sympathetic to her dislike of the obnoxious girl, her outrage at Xena's sympathy for Tara seemed very out of character and made Gabrielle look very weak. Xena's reactions to the girl were easier to take, though I thought she was ridiculously lenient with her: showing faith in someone doesn't have to mean letting her get away with appalling behavior toward one's friends. It was pretty easy to predict that Tara would have ongoing connections with the mercenaries, and I thought her conflicted feelings towards Mika were pretty realistic.
I'm not sure what to make of the ending. Is Xena just skeptical about the need for forgiveness from Apollo, or has she still not forgiven herself for the past which has haunted her all season?