"Past Imperfect" Plot Summary:
Xena finally tells Gabrielle of the vision Alti gave her of Gabrielle's crucifixion. She wants to protect her friend, but Gabrielle doesn't accept it as destiny and refuses to dwell on it. The two are off to warn the city of Athis that an attack is imminent, but when they arrive, they discover that much of the army is ill. The city is assaulted with flaming catapults before they have come up with a contingency plan, and Xena is injured while saving a young girl. The blow makes her flash back to a similar battle from her past, when she and Borias were attacking Corinth. The warlord Dagnin was with them, and had taken centaur prisoners. Borias insisted that they should let the centaurs go, but Xena wanted to use them to find the Ixion Stone, which she believed would give her the powers which the sorceress Alti foretold she would acquire so that Xena could become Destroyer of Nations.
In the present, Xena tells Gabrielle of her flashback and remembers the advice she was given by her servant Citrina, whose former master Demaius had an idea for taking the city by poisoning the grain to weaken the soldiers, then digging tunnels to get past the walls. In the present, Xena suddenly realizes that the grain of Athis has been poisoned which is why all the soldiers are sick. Since the general has been killed in the attack, she takes command, going immediately to check the city's water supply. She plans to destroy the dam so that water will flow freely into Athis, but at the dam she remembers killing Corinthian soldiers and floating their bodies downstream to send a message to Corinth to surrender. While she is distracted, an army rises from the lake and attacks. But Xena has spotted a snowy mountain in the distance,which she believes to be the site of her vision of the crucifixion; she grabs Gabrielle, insisting that they retreat back to the city.
In Athis there is no food and little water. Xena recalls that Borias wanted to make peace with the centaurs, but she had Dagnin betray him by capturing the centaur leader, Kaliapas. Borias, who had been quarreling with Xena over the fate of the son she was about to deliver, was furious, freeing the centaurs and fighting Xena's men. Xena declared war on her former lover, announcing to Dagnin that she would crucify his army in a line from Corinth to the Caspian sea. Back in the present, Xena tells Gabrielle that the enemy outside the walls can think just as she did during that battle, and she doesn't know how to fight her own tactics. Again Xena begs Gabrielle to stay inside and protect herself, but Gabrielle again insists that she doesn't believe in Xena's vision, and goes to help at the battlements.
Xena sneaks into the enemy camp and enters a tunnel, where she is shot with a poisoned dart. She becomes dizzy and recalls the birth of her child with Citrina in attendance. Then Citrina arrives in the present, announcing that she is Xena's new enemy, the one who has been besieging Athis. The two women remember the birth together: Citrina gave Xena a painkiller which made her pass out as Borias and his army attacked Xena's camp. Borias intended to rescue Xena and his son, declaring that he loved her even if she didn't acknowledge that she could feel love, but Citrina - who wanted to study Xena and learn her tactics - stabbed him and betrayed him to Dagnin while Xena slept. As Xena delivered her baby, screaming Borias' name, Borias fought Dagnin and was murdered in view of Kaliapas. He was still conscious, however, when Citrina brought Xena past him, holding their newborn son.
In the present, Xena recalls being shocked that Borias loved her enough to come back for her. Citrina tells Xena that she could have taken Corinth if only she hadn't gone off in pursuit of the Ixion stone, and now Citrina, having learned her ways, will take Athis. But Xena tells Citrina that she'd already figured out who her enemy must be: the only people who knew of the plot with the poisoned grain were herself, Borias, and Citrina, so she took an antidote to poison, and the dart really had no effect on her. The warrior princess attacks her former servant but decides not to sully Borias' memory by murdering her. Citrina declares that that was the wrong choice, and calls guards, who engage the army Xena has had tunneling in from the other side. The Athis army wins but Citrina escapes during a cave-in she causes.
After the battle, Gabrielle and Xena reflect on destiny, with the younger woman pointing out to Xena that Alti was wrong about the one she promised Xena as Destroyer of Nations, and Xena may be wrong about the meaning of the vision of the crucifixion. Xena recalls giving her son to Kaliapas, reciting the very words Borias said to her about not wanting to baby to be at risk from Xena's enemies and to follow her dark fate. Kaliapas promised to raise Borias' son as his own, and Xena walked away sobbing. In the present, Xena sits by the fire with Gabrielle, tears in her eyes.
It's interesting to watch Xena's history coming together backwards; the series is almost caught up at this point with the character introduced in the early Hercules episodes. Now we have the full story on Xena's breakup with Borias, hinted at but not explored in "Orphan of War," plus a link between those events and the previous encounter with Alti, who had already cursed the son of Xena and Borias so that he would never know his mother's love. Borias has become a surprisingly sympathetic character, considering how despicable he seemed during his first appearances with the would-be Destroyer of Nations; he's too possessive of Xena in an overbearing, chauvinistic sense, but it's hard not to root for his desire to teach her the value of love, which she learned only much later (and after much pain) with Hercules and then Gabrielle.
Boy, Xena pissed off a lot of women in her past! It's a pity that virtually every strong woman she meets becomes an adversary; for once it would be nice to have her encounter someone like Boadicea, a fellow warrior princess who fights for the same things she does, who could stay in her life for more than a few moments before turning into an adversary. Citrina didn't come across as quite a worthy adversary, especially since she received mentoring first by her lover Demaius and then by Xena, yet used the same signature ploy in each case. There was also never a good explanation for how she knew Xena would come to Athis, nor why that town was important to her.
Destiny works in interesting ways on this series, it's true: I can't imagine that Alti's first prophecy about Xena being Destroyer of Nations is going to come true, but the crucifixion vision almost has to at this point: the show needs some payoff for the recurrent image or it will be a letdown. I don't like Xena's overprotectiveness of Gabrielle any more than I liked Borias' overprotectiveness of Xena, but fortunately for once Gabrielle feels the same way. She did some good fighting here both with her friend and in battle. Not as funny as she was on Hercules this week as Sunny Day, but Renee still had her moments.