Persians, Poison, and Passion, Oh My!
"One Against an Army" Plot Summary:
Gabrielle sprains her ankle trying to do Xena's flip, and has to ride. They encounter a stranger from Marathon who warms them that a Persian army is coming. Xena sends him on to Athens, and plots to cause a landslide to stall the Persians. Gabrielle is angry at herself for slowing them down, but Xena says it doesn't matter. They will head to the armory at Tripolis and prepare to fight there.
When they encounter a Spartan deserter, Dorius, Xena invites him to join them. Gabrielle is wounded defending him from a Persian scout team, and Xena realizes the arrow is poisoned. She tells the "deserter," whom she recognizes as a spy when his story doesn't add up, that there has been an avalanche and the Persian army will have to go through Tripolis. But when they arrive at Tripolis, the militia has moved on, burning everything so there will be nothing left for the Persians - not even the antidote which Gabrielle needs.
Xena wants to go to Thessaly immediately to cure Gabrielle, but her friend insists that the safety of Athens is more important than her own life. Xena hides Gabrielle in the armory where she hid weapons years earlier, but when Gabrielle begins to cough up blood, Xena wants to abandon the fight. Gabrielle again insists on the need for the greater good, and has a prophetic dream of Xena dying in battle which she warns Xena about. Xena says that even in death, she will never leave Gabrielle.
Xena singlehandedly fights the Persians off, killing the man whom Gabrielle warned her about from the dream. She sees Dorius about to kill Gabrielle and stabs him with a poisoned arrow, then follows when he crawls to his pack with the antidote. After she sends the remainder of the Persian army packing with a warning that there are thousands more like her awaiting them, she cures Gabrielle, and the two fall into an exhausted sleep.
There was a time when I would have thought this was a terrific episode, but after all that's come before, it just didn't hold together. I'm a sucker for nobility and hurt/comfort stories and people saying "I love you" over and over to each other, so it was appealing to me in spite of everything. Still, despite some token references to the past (China, Xena's mental powers), the episode rang phony.
Much as I enjoyed the musical, the rift between Xena and Gabrielle was healed WAY too quickly and easily. Over on Hercules, they're still suffering from the effects of Gabrielle's baby; why aren't Gabrielle and Xena? I didn't believe it when they decided they hated each other for the deaths of their children, but I also don't believe they have forgiven and forgotten so thoroughly. The fact that their actions in China kept coming up seems proof that it shouldn't be so simple to do either.
I was also a little confused: if Xena knew Dorius was a spy, why did she let him travel with them for so long, thus putting herself and Gabrielle at risk? We never found out what she planned to use him for before Gabrielle was shot. Nor was I clear on why the militia in Tripolus left: how did they know the Persians were coming, since Dorius traveled not ahead to warn them but back to his Persian buddies?
I did like the reference to the Marathon runner - the first, ill-fated Marathon runner - this Olympic week, as well as the javelin toss, the discus throw, and all the other sports Xena so artfully mastered. I hope Gabrielle gets to perfect that flip soon; it's going to be boring if she reverts to being the damsel in distress whom Xena always has to rescue.