"Sacrifice" Plot Summary:
A cloud appears over the temple where Hercules hid the knife with the hind's blood. The portal between the worlds opens, and Callisto claws her way out, declaring that it couldn't hold a god. Elsewhere, Xena and Gabrielle watch a ceremony conducted by a cult which Gabrielle's friend Seraphim has joined. The priest announces the coming return of a goddess, and Seraphim climbs an altar. When Xena realizes that the girl is about to be sacrificed, she tosses the chakram and saves her, but after the fight with the worshippers - interrupted by Callisto, who appears in the middle and cuts the priest's throat - Gabrielle discovers that Seraphim wants to be sacrificed by the cult, which Xena believes is worshipping Callisto. Ares asks her to become his ally, but she refuses. Meanwhile Callisto takes the murdered priest into the cave where we last saw Hope, announcing that she has brought the Priest of the Flesh.
Seraphim approaches the sacrificial altar again, only this time when the priest moves to execute her, she pushes him off; it's Xena in disguise. She fights the worshippers and has a sword battle with Callisto, who points out that since she's a goddess, swordplay is just a game to her. The neophyte goddess hurls a fireball at Xena, but it hits Ares, who takes the impact. He wants to know where the hind's blood is, but she grabs another priest and vanishes. Gabrielle stops Seraphin from returning to the priests, but Xena realizes that it's not Callisto who's been reborn: they are preparing for the return of the goddess of Dahok...i.e., Hope.
Gabrielle talks to Seraphim to see if they can learn what this "rebirth" will entail. Seraphim tries to convince Gabrielle that Hope is their savior, and that as Hope's mother, known as The Betrayer among worshippers, she can stand as a champion of mortals, draw out Hope's good human side as opposed to the evil she inherits from Dahok, and bring about the salvation of the world. Xena worries that Gabrielle is taking this too seriously, but has other problems...such as Ares wanting an alliance with her to find and kill Hope, and Dahok's followers preparing to find someone else to sacrifice. Meanwhile, Callisto learns from the priest she's dragging to Hope to sacrifice that he can communicate with the goddess while she's in her cocoon. He talks to Hope, who is making growling sounds inside an egg-shaped bubble, and tells Callisto that Hope agrees to her demands: she wants total oblivion, not merely death but utter destruction with no threat of Tartarus or persistence of memory.
Xena tracks Callisto to Hope's hiding place, where Callisto admits that Hope is defenseless while cocooned. The two fight and Xena lures Callisto outside, where the goddess hurls a fireball...that Xena reflects back at her with a shield of Dahok, bringing an avalanche down on Callisto's head. Xena then goes in to do away with Hope, but Ares beats her to the punch, disappearing with the cocoon containing Hope. Xena tells Gabrielle that Ares must have taken Hope to the Hall of War, which is hidden; inside, Ares forgives Hope for having Strife killed, and declares that he has plans for her.
As they travel, Xena, Gabrielle, and Seraphim are attacked by Dahok's followers under Ares' command; they flee. Gabrielle asks Xena whether she thinks this rebirth might change Hope, Xena yells at Gabrielle for defending Hope to her, and the two argue. Seraphim witnesses this and persuades Gabrielle to let her to go Hope once Xena has gone off in search of the Hall. Once Seraphim is free, Xena returns - she has been listening, Seraphim's "persuasion" of Gabrielle was just a ploy so the girl would lead them to the Hall of War, Gabrielle believes Hope is evil...though her performance for Seraphim almost convinced Xena otherwise. Xena asks Gabrielle to wait outside when they reach the Hall, but Ares appears and abducts Gabrielle to visit the Fates. He announces that he is calling in the debt Gabrielle owes him for getting her to Chin ahead of Xena: if Xena kills Hope, then the Fates will cut Xena's life thread
Inside the Hall, Xena fights priests of Dahok and tries to stop Seraphim from allowing herself to be sacrificed, but a priest stabs the girl and she rubs her blood over the cocoon as she dies. Xena is about to destroy the hatching cocoon when Gabrielle leaps at her to stop her. Meanwhile, Callisto emerges from the rocks from the avalanche and appears in the Hall. As all present watch, Hope hatches from her cocoon...looking exactly like Gabrielle. Callisto laughs demonically.
A good episode in terms of action, plot, continuity, and Callisto, I nevertheless must confess that I am really sick of Hope. Gabrielle acts like a goof in every episode where Hope's name is so much as mentioned; in this one, at least, she was fighting to save Xena, but I don't completely trust that she wasn't trying one more time to save her daughter and I'm sure Xena doesn't either. It figures that Gabrielle gets to claim she was trying to save Xena in protecting Hope; my bet is that Xena would have sacrificed her life to stop Hope from coming into the world again.
Hope brings out the worst in Xena, too: sure, the demon child killed her son Solon, but it still bothers me that Gabrielle always asks Xena whether she's OK whenever Hope comes into the picture, rather than the other way around. Hope is Gabrielle's daughter, like it or not; Xena's lack of respect for that bond seems as callous and prejudiced as I would have found it if Gabrielle rejected Solon because his father was once a thief. If Hercules can be Zeus's son and still be a good guy, why assume that a child of Dahok is beyond redemption, even if Dahok's followers do dress like dark-robed Klansmen?
Now we have a clear statement of what Callisto's stake in all this is: she wants to die. And she wants to die by Hope's hand, to make sure she can never come back, not as a goddess, not as a mortal, not as a ghost. I'm going to be very sad when that happens; there's nobody else on this series who's as good a foil for Xena, who has enough in common with her to make such a wonderful contrast as a villain. The good news is hopefully that with Callisto gone, Hope will go away as well. I'd rather see Xena fighting Ares and his armies about human matters rather than this war of the gods business.