Two Worlds, One Family
"Daughter of Pomira" Plot Summary:
Xena remembers a battle with the Horde, where they scalped her men and she killed a lieutenant for calling for retreat before she called a retreat herself. Jolted back to the present, she reflects to Gabrielle that they are in the spot where she lost half her army to the Horde; now she knows one of their words and recognizes their code of honor, but she still doesn't understand them. The two decide to evade Horde territory but then spot a group of teenage Horde members. A stranger attacks the leader, and Xena attacks him. The Horde get away during the fight, but Xena recognizes one of the teenagers, and realizes that the pouch dropped by the girl once belonged to her - it has a Roman symbol on it.
Milo, the bounty hunter who attacked the leader, announces that he gets paid per scalp and recalls that Xena lost of lot of men to the Horde. He wishes to team up with her to collect scalps, but she shirks him. She has realized that the familiar girl is the daughter of an old friend, and goes to a nearby village to see whether he knows that his daughter is alive. She meets Rahl and Ardra, the parents, and shows them the pouch. They say it belonged to their daughter Vanessa, who was killed by the Horde. Gabrielle blurts out that she and Xena saw a blonde girl with the Horde who may be their daughter, and volunteers herself and Xena to retrieve the girl for them because of her conviction that children need their biological parents. Milo wants to come on the hunt, but Xena rebuffs him.
Tracking the Horde by moonlight in the woods, Xena finds their underground hideout. Dressed as a member of their tribe, Xena finds Vanessa alone by a stream and tells her that she's come to take her home, but the girl screams, alerting the entire Horde. Xena puts a mild version of The Touch on Vanessa, allowing her to breathe but preventing her from talking, then drags the girl through a cave, where Xena causes a rockslide with her chakram so that they can't be followed and picks a hole in the ceiling with a Horde axe that had been hurled at her.
Gabrielle tries to warm up to Vanessa, who insists that her name is Pilee. The girl tells her that her father is Cervik, leader of the Pomira, who revere the sky and the earth. People like Gabrielle kill the trees and the earth, and when the Pomira tell them to leave their land, they are slaughtered. Having heard the chief wailing over Pilee, Xena realizes that she was not a slave but an adopted daughter. She tells Gabrielle that the Horde won't give her up and they may have made a mistake, but Gabrielle insists that they must reunite Vanessa with her parents.
Xena catches Milo in a tree and drags him back to the village, where the girl's reunion with her parents is less than pleasant - when she scratches her father's face, he insists that she is not his daughter, she's an animal. Gabrielle tries to soothe the parents while Milo suggests hanging the girl to set an example for the Horde. Xena realizes that there will be an attack, so she takes command of the villagers...but she insists on sole authority and says that if there is a war, it will have to be total annihilation of the Horde or the rest of them will die. Meanwhile, Gabrielle tries to make Rahl accept his child and is nearly successful when he sees his little girl in a pretty dress, but Vanessa still insists that her name is Pilee.
Xena summons Gabrielle to tell her that she doesn't intend to fight the Horde, she intends to use Vanessa to negotiate for peace now that she has the trust of the village soldiers. Gabrielle bemoans her insistence that they kidnap Vanessa back, but Xena says that this development gives them a chance to forge a lasting truce between the Horde and the villagers. Gabrielle says she just wanted to give Vanessa a chance to know her parents, but Xena notes that now they must abide by the choices the girl makes. After standing over her parents with a sword, Pilee chooses to take a childhood doll and escape, but is stopped at the point of a blade by Milo. Xena takes his weapon and insists that Pilee can stop the killing, both her families will suffer otherwise.
The next day, the Horde approaches the village and Xena orders the gates opened. Pilee approaches her people with her biological parents, but Milo leaps out of a hole in the ground, ready to assassinate Cervik. Xena leaps from the wall and fights him, ultimately turning his own knife on the bounty hunter. The girl introduces Cervik to Rahl - "Both my father" - but when Ardra begs Vanessa to come home, she says that her name is Pilee. She promises to visit, and Cervik orders that there will be no fighting because the villagers and the Pomire are family. Xena tells Gabrielle that because of the latter's insistence on getting involved, there is now peace and Pilee has two loving families, to which the bard responds, "And they call YOU the hero?" Xena says, "Want to switch? You kick butt, and I'll take notes."
This episode marks the return of a Gabrielle I really can't stand, namely the Good Mother. It's not that I don't applaud her compassion and her desire to teach people to love; it's the stereotypical prejudices and maternal tripe that get me. Gabrielle's absolute insistence that a girl needs her mommy, even when she's been raised by a loving father who is the only parent she remembers, really grates - did Gab learn nothing from Solon and Hope about the nature vs. nurture debate? And her continued belief that the girl she calls Vanessa should choose civilization over the Pomira, whom she calls The Horde, is also troubling.
This episode bears some similiarities to various Westerns about settlers' daughters kidnapped by Indians who turn out to be not-so-bad (the scalpings make the analogy unavoidable). "Daughter of Pomira" also smacks of The Jungle Book - sure, we discover that the woods-dwellers have sophisticated language and nuclear family bonds, but then we have Milo and Rahl representing a view of the group as savages, and Gabrielle resolutely arguing that the blonde, blue-eyed young lady belongs in the village rather than outside the gates. It's never refuted that she was kidnapped instead of wandering off. She's still wearing the pretty blue dress when she walks away with her adoptive family.
Ironically, the pre-reform Xena had no prejudices; she thought everyone was inferior to herself personally, and tried try to conquer them all and force them to share her way of life. Now she plays imperialistic games of deciding which cultures are worth fighting for, and listens to Gabrielle's tripe about family love transcending all other social bonds. In this case it turned out to be advantageous, but it could have been deadly. Funny that Xena can fight off Ares, Hercules, various armies, most of the Horde, yet one bounty hunter can throw her across vast distances and nearly kill her. I was glad to see Jennifer Ward-Lealand back though I'd rather have seen her again as Boadicea. In general, I'd rather see these women avoid domestic squabbles if they're going to play to cliches.