Child Discovers Her Inner Xena
"Little Problems" Plot Summary:
Thugs working for a warlord named Theron rob Aphrodite's temple. Xena and Gabrielle burst in. Despite being hugely pregnant, Xena tosses the chakram, scatters the villains, and corners their leader, telling him to tell Theron that if he doesn't stop looting, she'll finish the job she started on him years earlier. After he flees, Aphrodite pops in to say thanks for saving her diamond necklace. When Xena asks whether the goddess intends to give it to the poor, Aphrodite complains that they can't accessorize for anything, but she has been helping the poor anyway. As she shows Xena and Gabrielle, she has turned her temple into a hospital. The goddess of love has discovered that people give her lovely tributes in gratitude for helping their sick relatives.
Xena is drawn to an unconscious young girl, who has lost her mother and her will to live. The warrior princess tells the child that she would gladly change places with her if she could. "OK," says Aphrodite, and poof! Xena passes out. The little girl, Daphne, sits up and asks for her mother, but a moment later she speaks to Gabrielle in Xena's voice. Aphrodite tried to put Xena's life force into the child to instill in her the will to live while the child's consciousness passively inhabited Xena's pregnant body, but she did something wrong, and now Xena and Daphne are sharing the child's body while Xena's soulless form lies unconscious.
Daphne's father shows up, seems happy to see his daughter awake, then hustles her out of there. The girl assures Gabrielle that she'll be all right, but needs her friend to look after her body and find a way to undo Aphrodite's spell. "I need to think," says the goddess, which is exactly what Gabrielle was afraid of. Aphrodite needs to work quickly, because at sundown the body swap will become permanent...and besides, if it takes that long, Aphrodite will miss the rave at the Gemini Club, where Castor and Pollux themselves will be in attendance. Gabrielle recalls reading that the Siamese twin sons of Zeus invented some sort of oil which can separate them during battle, and concludes that if they can steal the castor oil, they can separate Xena from the little girl.
At home with her father, Daphne learns that her mother has died, then admits to Xena that she has never been close to her father. In a mirror where Daphne can see her face, Xena says it's time to change that. As the child shops in the market with her father, she spies a vendor selling daisies - her mother's favorite flowers - and for a moment the family recalls how happy they always made Mom. But the moment passes and Dad goes off by himself. Suddenly a riderless horse charges through the market square, panicking dozens of people. Daphne uses a plate as a chakram, leaps into the air and whoops like Xena, then hurls herself onto the animal's back to slow it down. Her father misses the display. Theron's men, however, do not, and report back to their leader that Xena is now inside the body of a little girl.
Theron says he has waited ten years for revenge against Xena. Gabrielle and Aphrodite have hidden Xena's soulless body in a cave, but his men find them. "How smart is it to take a soulless body?" demands Aphrodite, disregarding Gabrielle's attempts to shut her up. Then, to show off, the goddess vanishes...leaving Gabrielle to fight off the entire horde. Fortunately she has gotten very skilled since the trip to China. Pulling a rope off Xena's litter, she uses it as a whip, then lights the end and singes the thugs. "Rope burn!" they scream as they flee. As Gabrielle whispers to Xena that she wishes her friend had been there to see it, Aphrodite pops back in to say, "You go, cowgirl!", announcing that she couldn't help because she just got her nails done.
At the Gemini Club, the goddess and the bard are turned away from the twins-only party, so they wrap themselves in a single sheet and pretend to be the Siamese twins Brune and Hilda, direct from Valhalla. They meet Castor and Pollux, who proposition them in Norse dialect. "It's hanging below his belt," Gabrielle warns Aphrodite, who coos, "Yeah, I noticed!", not realizing the other woman means the castor oil. When they compliment the twins on their grasp of foreign languages, the twins reply that they pride themselves on being cunning linguists. Because they cannot themselves keep up, Gabrielle and Aphrodite keep saying "Da" to every question, and find they have agreed to wrestle the divine pair in oil.
Daphne asks her father how her mother died, but he tells her it's no concern for a child and snaps that he wishes she would stop reminding him that his wife is gone. Daphne flees sobbing, falling onto her mother's grave. "I want to be with you," she cries. Theron's men offer to help her get there, but Xena takes control of Daphne's body and trounces the thugs in classic Xena style despite the height disadvantage. Daphne wishes her father could have seen her fight so he would learn to appreciate her, but Xena assures the child that he loves her, he just doesn't know how to show it. Back at his fortress, Theron expresses disgust that his men could have been beaten by a little girl, but concocts a plan to lure Xena to himself.
The Gemini Twins wrestle Gabrielle and Aphrodite in oil, using far more body contact than is generally advisable. Aphrodite enjoys the free butt massage, but when Gabrielle reaches for Castor's pouch of oil, she grabs the wrong dangling thing and makes a disgusted face. The two women win the match, but when Aphrodite jumps for joy, she untangles the sheet holding them together. "You're not twins!" exclaims Pollux. "We're not? You lied to me!" shouts the goddess. When Castor asks what's going on, Gabrielle retorts that it looks to her like shameless exploitation of the female form. Then she grabs the pouch of castor oil and flees.
Daphne goes fishing, talking to Xena's reflection in the water, when she suddenly has a flashback: she fell into the water by those rocks, and her mother drowned trying to rescue her. Her father arrives just as the girl runs away, crying, "It's my fault." Then Theron's men show up to kidnap the father, figuring the daughter - with Xena in her body - will show up to rescue him. Imprisoned in the fortress, the father tells Theron that he'll kill the warlord if anyone hurts his daughter, but Theron scoffs and tells the man that he and his daughter will be casualties in a war with Xena that began long ago.
Xena tries to comfort Daphne, telling the girl that she would have died to save her own daughter and she knows Daphne's father feels the same way. Gabrielle arrives to tell Xena that Theron has abducted the father and will trade him only for Xena. Moreover, the body swap must take place by sunset. Daphne sends Aphrodite to recover her body from its hiding place in the cave, saying the timing will be close but they must save Daphne's father. When Gabrielle approaches the fortress with a little girl who says she's selling cookies, a guard gets close enough for Daphne to put Xena's Touch on the man, demanding to know where her father is hidden.
The little girl easily finds her father and frees him using some lock-picking techniques "a friend" taught her. Then Xena retreats from Daphne's mind so the girl and her father can reconcile. The father confesses he feels guilty that he couldn't save both mother and daughter, which is why he has been so distant. Gabrielle pops in to tell them the coast is clear for them to flee, but Daphne is trapped behind a metal grate. Theron planned all along to get the other two out of the way so he could fight Xena himself.
While Gabrielle and Daphne's father whomp bad guys with sais and convenient decorations, Daphne struggles with Theron, who removes his armor to reveal his scarred face. "I hate to break it to you, but you were never that good looking to begin with," Xena says from within the child's body. The two fight and Daphne hurls the warlord over a castle wall. By the time she manages to check on Dad and Gabrielle, who have knocked out all their opponents, Aphrodite has put Xena back into her own body. Daphne hugs her father, who thanks Xena for saving his daughter. Xena says she hopes she has a kid just like Daphne. As the warrior princess and her best friend walk down the beach talking about how hard it is to be a child, Daphne's father brings her daisies.
No "little problems" in this episode. The young actress playing Daphne turned this from a mundane Xena body-swap story into a terrific and moving episode. I confess that my favorite parts involved Gabrielle, Aphrodite, and the lecherous Gemini Twins - though I was curious why Aphrodite's half-brothers didn't recognize her - but Daphne did a terrific job both being a kid in mourning and imitating the warrior princess. I particularly liked her stepping on Theron's thug's face.
Still, the real revelation was Gabrielle's fighting skills. Renee O'Connor has really been training since last season! She did terrific work with the whip, and it was evident in the scene where she and Daphne's father use the sais that she knows how to hold them correctly while he doesn't. She's looking lean, mean, and spectacularly muscled, not only next to a very pregnant Lucy Lawless but also next to a barely-clothed Alexandra Tydings. I wish the writers would find a way to write Aphrodite as flighty without making her a ditz all of the time. It gives the impression that love is inherently frivolous and fleeting.
Xena was lovely counseling the girl, comparing her relationship with her own lost father to Daphne's conflicted feelings about a man she barely knows even though he has raised her. The effects in which Daphne saw Xena's face reflected on various surfaces were very nicely and subtly done. Like the weightier "Animal Attraction," everything came together very well in this episode.