Operation Desert Storm
"Legacy" Plot Summary:
Xena and Gabrielle get caught in a desert storm, making them wonder why they ever left the shore. Later, as they bathe together, Gabrielle admits that "sand up her wazoo" makes her edgy. Xena says she hates it when that happens. They hear fighting outside and discover one band of nomads circling another, with weapons drawn. The two women help the trapped group defend themselves, but the woman who leads them is angry afterwards, demanding to know who Xena thinks she is. Told the names of her saviors, the woman gets even more enraged, saying Xena has no right to take the name of the legendary warrior princess. To prove her pedigree, Xena demonstrates the legendary chakram, and is promptly offered hospitality from the nomads -- even the chance to sleep with the leader's cousins.
Xena learns that the Romans have been invading the land of the nomads, but the tribes have been unable to band together against them. The leader, Kahina, believes Xena might be able to unite them. She sends a message to Tazere, the leader of the group that attacked her tribe before nomads hold a summit meeting -- well, a desert meeting -- where Gabrielle becomes friendly with Tazere's son Korah, who was impressed with her earlier fighting. He wants to learn to use weapons defensively as she does, though Gabrielle warns that sais can kill. Xena summons her friend to spy on the Romans disguised as a noblewoman and her slave. On the road, Gabrielle says it's strange to be thought of as a warrior rather than a bard, but she likes it.
After learning from the Roman governor that three Roman legions are preparing an offensive against the nomads -- "call it a cleansing if you will" -- Xena and Gabrielle get caught in another sandstorm. A man approaches, waving what looks to Gabrielle like a knife. She stabs him from behind as he stumbles towards Xena. The she discovers that her victim is Korah, and he carries not a weapon, but a scroll with a message about the truce between Kahina and Tazere. Gabrielle wants to confess, but Xena convinces her to let the tribes assume the Romans committed murder. However, when Kahina orders the execution of an innocent centurion found near the camp, Gabrielle admits that she is the killer.
During her imprisonment before her scheduled execution at dawn, Gabrielle remembers her innocence when she set out from Potedeia. In flashbacks she sees herself forgiving Callisto and talking to Eli about the Way of Love and throwing her staff away. But she also sees herself in battle, and killing Dahok's messenger. Deciding that her death will be for the best, she goes meekly to her execution, and is buried up to her neck in the sand so that nomad warriors can strike her head off.
But Xena refuses to let her friend die, and goes to the Roman governor to tell him where the tribes are massing. She chakrams the weapons aimed at Gabrielle's skull just as a messenger warns of the Roman army approaching. Persuading Kahina and Tazere that they have few options, the women convince them to hide underground while a sandstorm gathers. They attack the disoriented Romans in the midst of the turmoil, achieving a decisive victory. Gabrielle saves Tazere's life and earns his forgiveness, though both agree the scales can never be balanced for Korah's death. When she wants to know why Xena saved her life against the greater good, Xena tells Gabrielle that in everyone's life, there is something that goes beyond the greater good.
If this weren't a serious episode, it would be screamingly funny. Advance word on "Legacy" -- written by fan fiction favorite Melissa Good -- had it set in North Africa, and Xena represented herself as the wife of Scipio Africanus V. But it looks like we're watching a tribe of matriarchal Mideast Berbers fighting a cast of Marco Polo extras -- they even play polo with the skulls left lying around for the last mass execution! Xena's clothes are a mishmosh of styles from across the Middle East and Asia, while poor Gabrielle doesn't have enough of a headdress to cover her face in a sandstorm. The Raj outfit Tazere wears wouldn't do him much good in a sandstorm either...but it would keep him nice and warm if it suddenly started to snow in the desert.
So Gabrielle finally comes to terms with what it means to be a great warrior, yet Xena has to save her, as usual -- it seems a bit of a cop-out. We know Gabrielle is uncomfortable with her increasingly violent role. She went through that with Dahok, with Nejara, with Eli, with Ares, yet her ongoing revelations that violence begets violence don't seem to affect her behavior most weeks. In "Legacy" she asks Xena about the moment in battle when one must decide whether or not to kill one's enemy. Xena tells her friend to trust her instincts because there's no time to stop and debate. Xena has killed innocents before, it's something she lives with daily. Of course it's a good thing for Gabrielle to stop and question her increasingly brutal lifestyle, but it also seems irrelevant to her ultimate path in life.
And truly, it's hard not to giggle when the polo players stop practicing on their vast supply of bleached skulls to take aim at Gabrielle's head. We all know Xena's chakram will slice apart their mallets before they score one at her friend's expense, so there's not much tension, and the scene plays out like a bad nightmare sequence. I suspect most viewers will prefer the image of the women rising from their shared bath to wash the sand out of Gabrielle's wazoo.