This Side of Paradise Syndrome
"Paradise Found" Plot Summary:
While a storm rages, Xena and Gabrielle rest in a cave, discussing Gabrielle's spiritual yearnings as Gabrielle stitches a wound Xena got from some thugs. Xena says that traveling to India is all right with her, but she's not enjoying this route. Gabrielle says the moutains are supposed to be very spiritual, and she's worried about Xena, who has too much fun beating up thugs. Xena recalls the crucifixion scene Alti showed her and shivers, but Gabrielle puts on her shirt and goes to check on a noise outside. After a moment, Xena sits up and calls after Gabrielle, who doesn't reply - so Xena limps after her outside into the storm, where she finds a huge, ominous pit which appears to have no bottom. After screaming Gabrielle's name and hearing only an echo, the warrior princess leaps in.
The women awaken in what looks like the garden of Illusia, but Xena points out that there is no singing beyond the birds in the trees. Bunnies hop in the grass, the flowers are perfect...and Xena's leg is magically healed. Hearing a noise in the bushes, she overreacts and pulls a sword. A grungy little man named Gar who wears pieces of a uniform tells them that they must find Aidan, who owns the entire place. Walking through Wonderland, they come to a huge hacienda with lots of windows which Xena agrees is beautiful "in that yucky island paradise kind of way." Inside, they examine blue sculptures of faceless people in yoga positions, where a voice tells them the figures represent inner peace. The man is Aidan, who says that he is living proof that anyone can release inner demons and find a spiritual center. He says Xena's wound was healed by mind over matter, and invites them to stay for some meditation and a hot bath.
Though Xena is uneasy, Gabrielle pulls her into the hot tub and gives her a back rub, interrupted when Gar arrives with new clothes. Gabrielle has asked to learn Aidan's methods of deep breathing and meditation though he says Xena's mind is "too active" to be taught. Gabrielle doesn't understand why Xena is so skeptical of Aidan's power given her own experiences with spiritual leaders, but Xena points out that Aidan is no Lao Mah, and that most spiritual leaders are corrupt. While the warrior practices Tai Chi outside the next morning, Aidan warns Gabrielle that his techniques can stir up unpleasant throughts . During the exercises (which involve a lot of Aidan touching and twisting Gabrielle's body), she remembers Hope, which makes her cry. Xena comes in to see her friend in tears, but leaves after a warning look from Aidan. Afterwards, Gabrielle tells Aidan that she's not sure she can face all her pain, but he says that if he could come to terms with the death of his wife and child, she can tap into her own inner stillness and find her power.
Outside, Xena is filled with rage and attacks the blue statues. That evening while Gabrielle relaxes, Xena works out and accuses her friend of having a crush on Aidan. Gabrielle smiles dreamily but assures Xena that this is a spiritual feeling: Aidan has helped her come to terms with her failure as a mother, and given her a peace she has not felt since Hope was born. She says she feels very light and wishes Xena could share the feeling. Xena reluctantly agrees to stay another day. As she meditates, her wound reappears, then vanishes again.
Aidan warns Gabrielle that people with powerful dark sides experience delusions, bleeding, and violence as their true selves emerge. She worries about Xena but he assures her that if he could come to terms with his own rage, so can she. Gabrielle seeks out her friend to ask whether Xena is all right; Xena has a hallucination of breaking Gabrielle's hand, and sends the other woman away. Afterwards, Xena tries to put The Touch on Aidan and demands to know what is happening to her, but The Touch is ineffective against the man, who says that her true nature is emerging and that it's possible she will hurt Gabrielle if she doesn't leave. She starts a note to Gabrielle to explain just that, but a nosebleed interrupts her, then Gabrielle comes in complaining of a backache. Xena gives Gabrielle a massage. As drops of blood fall from her nose, she envisions the crucifixion again...this time with her own hands holding the nails and the hammer. When Gabrielle falls asleep, Xena says goodbye and flees.
On her way out of the garden, Xena sees a service medallion on a statue and captures Gar, who babbles that his platoon went for Aidan's peace and passivity while he refused. Xena realizes that the statues in fact used to be people - Gar's people - and decides to unleash her dark side when Gar warns that Aidan will just steal whatever good is in her if she tries to attack him, leaving her mad. As Aidan tells Gabrielle to sink deeper and deeper into a passive trance, Xena becomes a Neanderthal, growing oversized teeth and killing the harmless little bunny rabbit. While Gabrielle is becoming still as stone, still as death, Xena bursts in to attack Aidan, who stands on Gabrielle's feet to steal her strength and uses his telekinetic powers to throw Xena all over the room. Then Gar comes to see who's winning and Xena holds him over a sword; Gabrielle snaps out of her trance to save the innocent man, screaming at Xena to stop, which breaks Aidan's connection with her. Xena flips her sword into the spiritual leader, killing him.
As Aidan's body dissolves, his entire world dissolves along with him, until all that is left is the cave and the weapons (and a naked Gabrielle whose clothes from Aidan have vanished). Gar is there too, sounding lucid, as Xena explains that she realized his insanity had saved him from Aidan so she knew she needed to tap into that sort of lunacy herself. She knew that Gabrielle would never allow her to take an innocent life. Gar declares that he will return to his his wife and kids. After he leaves, Gabrielle apologizes for always talking about Xena's dark side like it's a disease that needs curing, when it has saved them time and again.
Early on in this episode, Xena says, "Anything which looks too good to be true probably is." But although this has held true innumerable times on this series - like in "The Deliverer" with Dahok right before he got Gabrielle pregnant, or with Nejara in "Crusader" a few short weeks ago - the bard isn't smart enough to listen. Instead she forces Xena to recreate the Evil Kirk from Classic Trek episode "The Enemy Within" during an experience which also steals shamelessly from "This Side of Paradise" (having to anger people in order to break their passive spell) and "The Paradise Syndrome" (the evil bald hippie guy looking for Eden), plus the TNG episode about the villainous guy who stole Deanna Troi's goodness so he could put his own evil thoughts into her...all while ripping off Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (the instant-healing mind technique, the hero refusing to give up pain).
If, like me, you have seen every single episode of Star Trek and get a kick out of watching them rehashed, then like me you probably got a good giggle out of this episode. Otherwise it had virtually nothing to recommend it apart from an unbelievable number of near-nude scenes by Renee O'Connor. Thank goodness she's pretty, because BOY is Gabrielle stupid. Just now it occurs to her that Xena enjoys fighting for its own sake? Only after Xena rescues her from the evil Aidan does it become OK to murder him, when moments earlier she thought he was a demigod? How could she not realize - as Xena does at once - that Aidan looks like a stereotypical Airplane-movie cult leader? Admittedly, Xena once again resorted to her recent "leaving for her own good" routine with Gabrielle, where she's too chicken to say that to Gabrielle's face, but if I had to deal with a friend who raced after ever alleged do-gooder like a groupie after Nirvana (the rock group, not the state of mind), I'd sneak out too.
Xena and Gabrielle are going to India to pursue Gabrielle's spiritual aims. This week Xena had to rescue her from one false truth; next week it looks ike Gabrielle gets taken over by some Hindu goddess. I realize that the Greek gods who spawned Hercules are morally bankrupt, but everyone else's gods sure seem to be worse. I won't even sweat the idiocy of Xena jumping into a bottomless pit after Gabrielle - I expected her to meet the various underworld gods Hercules has been hanging out with of late - but I think this quest is one of the dumber ideas this pair has undertaken. Well, unless Xena is trying to avoid that crucifixion scene by getting as far away from Rome as possible. Caesar doesn't seem that bad, compared with Dahok, Aidan, and some of the spiritual types. If I didn't know better, I'd think this show was preaching atheism.