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The Debt I & II

Teleplay by R. J. Stewart
Story by Robert Tapert and R. J. Stewart
Directed by Oley Sassone
EmperorPenguin (I& II)
joan the english chick (I& II)
Morgan Dhu

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DebR on The Debt:

Now that I have seen both episodes, I can say... OOH. That was GOOD! This is just outstanding television. Blew me away. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.

One of the things that I particularly loved was that the ending scene left no certainty or peace. It has been said that Lao Ma intended for Xena to kill Ming T'ien, but I don't think that Lao Ma would have had that intention, and if she had, she would have done it herself. I think that she was offering again to Xena the opportunity that she had passed up with Borias, to act from the 'mystery of things' rather than imposing her desire on Ming T'ien. The whole of the story, IMO, centered around whether Xena would make a reasoned emotional choice or remain in the state of consciouslessness and react. The ending seemed to say that Xena did not. She loosed her unreasoned self and beat, killed, and POSED him after he was defeated. I think Lucy was wonderful. She played a stoic running with rampant emotion. Wow.

As for Gabrielle, she has taken quite a beating for her crimes. I agree that her actions here are way out of character for the Gabrielle we have learned to love in seasons one and two, but a helluva lot has happened since then. She has had her fundamental being broken. Think of the end of The Deliverer where, sitting in the rubble of what she had hoped for and clinging to an emotionally inadequate Xena, she says, "Everything's changed." Her trust in Xena is gone. Not just her trust in Xena, but her trust in the certainty of Xena's redemption. Xena was the reactive, unreasoning being when she hunted Gabrielle and Hope. The sadness in Gabrielle's eyes as she said, "I know," to Xena's apology at the end of Gabrielle's Hope signaled that realization, I believe.

It makes sense to me then that Gabrielle would then believe that if Xena was to be redeemed she would have to intervene. She has to believe it is *possible* even if she can no longer be certain. Think of where we are now in the saga from the opening salvo of Destiny in which Gabrielle's rock like faith is evident. "Xena you've changed." It is common, if misguided for humans to try to "save" others from their choices (It is a definition of fundamentalsim.). The most painful part of the arc so far, IMHO, is the scene of Gabrielle screaming at Xena, slapping her trying to get her to see her (Gabrielle's) way to freedom and redemption. She is trying to impose her will on Xena. That is the point at which Xena flashed back to herself at the crux of her healing possibility. Part of Xena's tears had to be for Gabrielle when she recognized that she was caught in the same lesson unlearned.

That Gabrielle would go to Ming T'ien to prevent Xena from commiting murder is a measure of the degree of her love for Xena, and the degree of her moral confusion. In the dungeon Gabrielle weighs the reasons for her actions against the consequences and is defeated that they do not add up. When Xena shows her compassion, she offers back to Gabrielle what Gabrielle has been offering her all along, unconditional love, and finds within herself the ability to take a (another) step toward the unconditional love she has been offer by, M'Lila, Lao Ma, and Gabrielle, which is a step toward selflove. At the end in the midst of all the deception, betrayal and just downright messiness of relationship, they profess their love for one another, anyway. Stunning. Not your average bear.

Some things I thought were interesting:
The sunburst table top from Gabrielle's Hope (and the TV Guide Lucy photo, BTW) was the background of the healing of Xena's legs. I can't see that as prop-coincidence given that these episodes are a single arc. The table in Gabrielle's Hope was the 'round table' of the Briton soldiers, a symbol of reason and cooperation. Niether can I see it as actor coincidence that Martin Csokas played both Krafstar and Borias. It makes me wonder about Solon. And it also planted the idea that Hope could possibly be the reincarnation of Lao Ma.

Beautiful. Bravo. They have topped The Price for me. If this trend keeps up I'll have a library of video taped bliss.

c. 1997 DebR
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EmperorPenguin on The Debt:I&II

The Debt I

Most of these thoughts and comments are random and scattershot, so please bear with me.

I really wanted to like this episode-I haven't been able to list a single third season ep as a favorite yet, and I had high hopes for 'The Debt'.

Alas, after watching part one, I'm hoping the conclusion will address and answer some major problems I had with this ep.

Are Xena and Gabrielle still in Brittania as this ep starts, or are they back in Greece? Not that it really matters to TPTB, of course. They could have X&G on Mars in one ep and in the heart of modern day downtown New York in the next without feeling the need to explain how or why. Continuity? They never heard of the word:(!

What in the world has Gabrielle got to be so dreamily contented about as the ep starts? She practically beams with satisfied contentment, even before Xena comes up to her. What about the events that happened to her in 'The Deliverer'? What about the events that happened to her in 'Gabrielle's Hope?' Just last week we saw Gabrielle lie to Xena about the "death" of the baby she desperately wanted to raise herself to ensure it would "be good". Just last week Xena became an ancient Greece version of 'The Terminator', ready to kill Gabriele's child, her "hope". At the end of 'GH' I wondered- can Gabrielle possibly have any love left for Xena at all?

Yet at the begining of 'TD' we are presented with this seemingly unbelievable exchange of dialouge between X&G, given the events of the past two weeks:

Gabrielle: "Everything's fine"..."Thank you...you stuck by me through everything."

Xena: "Likewise I'm sure."

G: "I hope I never disappoint you, Xena."

X: "Impossible."

G: "I've learned that anything is possible."

OH PLEASE! Talk about a classic case of clusmy "foreshadowing"! That entire scene practically telegraphs what will occur in the final scene of this ep. VERY subtle-like a brick through a plate glass window:(!

The only positive in this entire scene, IMO: Gabrielle picking up that there was someone hiding in the brush before Xena did.

Does it seem like the fight scenes this season -excluding the scenes from Xena's flashbacks in this ep-have gotten bigger, longer, and more frenetic? That Xena herself has been more "ruthless" in combat than at any other time except during episodes from the first half of the first season? And where was Gabrielle during the melee' between Xena and the Chin warriors? Paralyzed by guilt over the loss of her blood innocence? Dutifully tending to the wounded messenger while her "best friend" is being attacked by a handful of skilled warriors? Or is it more likely TPTB thought it'd be "way kewl" to just show Xena single handedly kicking some "ninja" butt:(?

To the TPTB's credit, Gabrielle tries her damndest to get Xena to open up to her, to tell her exactly "why" she must undertake this mission of "murder". That is very much in character for the bard.

But as Xena tells her tale, Gabrielle soon becomes reluctant to want to hear anymore about this story of "war, greed, hate." She's obviously uncomfortable with what she's hearing. And that is very much not in character for the bard when talking with Xena.

Excuse me, but hasn't Gabrielle been traveling with Xena for well over two years now? Hasn't she met enough friends, foes, and acquaintances of the Warrior Princess to get a pretty good idea of just why she was called "Destroyer of Nations"? She's gotten an up close and personal look at Xena's dark side in 'The Price', stood up to it, and helped "defeat" it, for cryin' out loud!

For Gabrielle to suddenly become so " blindly judgemental" of Xena's past and how that affects who she is now seems very off character to me.

Remember during the campfire scene in 'Callisto' how Xena admitted the "truth" about what happened at Curra. Basically she says it wasn't really her fault, she didn't know how the flames that burned Callisto's village got started. Gabrielle appears to understand and comforts Xena.

Flash forward to 'A Necessary Evil'. Xena stands in the middle of a town square and tells a VERY different story about the destruction of Curra. It was by her direct order that the village was burned and every living thing killed. And Gabrielle's reaction to this direct contradiction of what Xena had told her earlier? Nothing-except for a reassuring touch on Xena's arm as she walked past the bard.

So if Gabrielle can "forgive", "understand" and keep trying to "reach" Xena through all these events and revelations concerning the Warrior Princess, both past and present, why this sudden "naivete" and readiness to judge on her part? Why is Xena so sure Gabrielle "wouldn't understand"? When Xena told Gabrielle that her story was ultimately about love, why didn't that catch the bard's attention and make her demand the whole story from the warrior? Why did Gabrielle let Xena get on that ship alone and THEN decide she had to act to stop her?

The Xena and Gabrielle I've come to know and love over the past two seasons would have tried harder to comminicate. The Gabrielle I know and love would have accompanied Xena on the ship, trying to find out why Xena felt killing the Green Dragon was the ONLY answer, and trying to find/offer other ways to deal with the situation.

And then, once they reached the land of Chin, if Xena was still undeterred in her single mindedness to carry out her "debt", THEN Gabrielle could have parted from her and acted on her own.

After witnessing such out of character actions, I am again drawn back to the conclusion that this storyline is yet another example of the "prime directive" of TPTB during season three: plot over character, first, last, and always.

Of course this could all be answered satisfactorily in the conclusion, so I'll leave this issue alone for now.

So, was there anything I liked about this ep? Yep. I liked seeing XenaDark again. It's always a wicked thrill to see that part of the warrior-cold, cruel, deceptive. A master manipulator whose only lust is for power and will do _ANYTHING_ to achieve that goal. Always thinking, planning, scheming. Cunning and dangerous.

Xena's own analysis of her psyche post Ceasar-wanting to hurt the entire world the way she'd been hurt-was dead on target.

And the heads on spikes scene was stone cold-and I mean that in a "good" way:)!

Yet there were times I felt that Lucy had Xena acting almost like a surly teenager who was cheesed off cause she couldn't borrow her parent's car;-)!

This ep was well directed, and beautifully photographed. LoDuca's music was as reliable as ever. The costumes looked great. The scenes leading up to the "shocking" conclusion of the ep were visually stunning: Xena coating her body with mud for camouflage; Xena's head breaking the surface of the water, long hair slicked back, knife clenched in her teeth; Xena gracefully stalking through the chamber filled with rotating wicker birdcages and globes. All very slick, very well done. All nice pieces of eye candy. 'TD" was definately the best looking Xena ep I've seen in a long while.

Marton (Khrafstar) Csokas as Borias made little impression on me, except that I didn't like the way he manhandled Xena throughout the episode. And where did he pick up that ridiculous accent? Sounded like the late Bela Lugosi channeled through Gary Oldman;-)!

Jacqueline Kim did a fine job as Lao Ma. And while I did "appreciate" the sensual interactions between Lao Ma and Xena-the long, lingering looks, the underwater "kiss of life", the bath and hair brushing scene-they never connected with me on an emotional level.

I still see more love and depth of feeling in one fleeting glance bewteen Xena and Gabrielle than in all the scenes with Xena and Lao Ma combined. At least in the glances X&G gave each other during the past two seasons, anyway. This third season is rapidly becoming another matter in that area.

Note to TPTB: the "kill em' all!" line is already in danger of beoming overused-ease up on it a bit, okay;-)?

How did Gabrielle beat Xena to Chin? How did she get so "chummy" with the Green Dragon that he outfitted her with a fine dress, earrings, and pearls?

The flashback to key X&G moments Xena has just before deciding to go ahead with her "mission" seemed more like an "obligatory" show of conscience than anything else. It had no emotional impact on me.

What finally did effect me emotionally was the scene at the very end when Xena and Gabrielle exchange glances. The look of hurt, guilt, and betrayal in both their eyes was simply heartbreaking.

I can only hope that the conclusion of 'The Debt" will make up for what to me has been a nigh miserable third season to date.

c. 1997 EmperorPenguin
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EmperorPenguin on: The Debt II

One thing I want to make clear is this: I am not against 'dark' storylines or the idea/concept of a rift between Xena and Gabrielle. I _AM_ against the 'tunnel vision' attitude and character demeaning actions TPTB have decided to use in presenting this particular stroyline.

I am not in favor of a show where the two lead characters get along famously all the time with nary a cross word between them. I fully realize every relationship has it's moments of stress, strain, and instability. I also realize such events _IF_ handled smartly and properly can provide engrossing, challenging, and entertaining drama.

But as I have said over and over and over again, it is the _manner_ in which TPTB are handling this whole "rift arc" that angers, frustrates, dismays and appalls me.

In all likelihood, this will be my last episode commentary on Xena for the year. I'm strongly inclined to give 'King Of Assassins' a pass, and in a way I'm almost glad there's so many weeks of repeats coming up. I can take the time I used to devote to watching new eps and writing commentary and put it towards preperations for the upcoming holidays. I also need some time to "take a step back" and do some soul searching so I can come to a decision about whether Xena is still a show I want to invest my emotions in and if reasoned, intelligent dissent about the series is worth posting anymore.

Anyhow, here are my thoughts, comments, and opinions on 'TDII'.

I'll list the good stuff first:

The flashbacks to Xena's past in both episodes. I _LIKED_ seeing XenaDark, even though I thought Lucy Lawless often walked over the edge and overplayed the "bad" Xena in an irritatingly exaggerated manner. Interpreting the "dark side" doesn't give an actor free rein to "go over the top".

XenaDark and Lao Ma. I got a much stronger impression of the love between them in part II. This wasn't subtext, it was maintext, especially on Lao Ma's part. The scene after she heals Xena's crippled legs then uses her "powers" to unfurl the tapestry and wrap it around Xena's body, drawing them into a close embrace was lovely to see. The "dancing in the air" scene had a definate "courtship" feel to it.

Unfortunately for Lao Ma, she miscalculates Xena's desire to change. At first Xena sees Lao Ma much as she did M'Lila-someone who possesses a great power/fighting style that she wants to learn and use to achieve her own ends.

But as Lao Ma's "teachings" begin to touch Xena's shattered soul, she makes an ultimately fatal error-she reunites Xena and Borias. BIG MISTAKE. That's like letting two piranha loose in a tank full of tropical fish.

Instantly XenaDark reappears and proceeds to beat the hot tar out of Borias-which was apparently just a bit of "foreplay" for the feral pair;-)!

This leads to the deadly "game" where Xena is the "prize". Xena and Borias quickly reconnect and "stack the deck" in their favor. Ming Tzu is killed, Xena's ready to skewer Ming Tien, and all of Lao Ma's hopes and dreams are dashed.

Xena had her own agenda all along, and couldn't/wouldn't overcome her hate and anger. One of the best moments in this ep was Xena's true regret at failing to take up that past opportunity.

And TPTB FINALLY give the fans a "reasonable, in character" situation to thoughtfully ponder and question-did Lao Ma mean for Xena to kill Ming Tien?

At the end of the pyrotechnics, Xena seems "satisfied" and makes ready to leave. The Green Dragon has indeed been made "small". But Ming Tien proceeds to taunt Xena with explicit detail of Lao Ma's death, and sneeringly says he knew she was his mother and that he killed her himself.

So Xena ended up doing what she planned all along-killing The Green Dragon. But did her actions betray Lao Ma's teachings? Did she really lie just to "protect" Gabrielle? And given Xena's past history at "cleaning up after herself" concerning her "creations", specifically Callisto, shouldn't Xena have known better than to give into to revenge? Sure, it was viscerally satisfying to know Xena offed the tyrant, but in the end, didn't she betray not only Lao Ma, but herself?

These are all the kind of thought provoking questions the show used to pose to it's audience in the past. It's an indication of how this season has been so heavily plot driven that it takes so "late" in the third season for such an issue to be raised.

Xena came off "better" and more in character in this ep than at any time during the entire new season to date. She was everything in 'TDII' she should have been in 'TDI'-she takes the time to explain and communicate, especially to Gabrielle.

But every second of what was good about this episode couldn't overcome the bad-Gabrielle's character assassination by TPTB.

When I saw Gabrielle slap Xena while hysterically, childishly screaming at her to promise not to kill Ming Tien, then make only the slightest, coldly unemotional move to "stop" Xena's execution, for the first time since this series began she truly lived up to the derisive nickname "little girl".

Excuse me, but this naive, traitorous, spineless "child" is _NOT_ Gabrielle. She isn't even early first season Gabrielle. No, this "creature" is a warped creation of TPTB to further their damned "rift" plot along in complete and total disreagrd for everything that had been established as being part of the "true" Gabrielle's character as seen during the series first two seasons. The mantra of season three continues: Plot over Character.

This is _NOT_ the Gabrielle who was ready to be torn limb from limb in defense of Xena in 'The Reckoning'.

This is _NOT_ the Gabrielle who single handedly took on Talmadeus and his army just to honor Xena's dying request in 'The Greater Good'.

This is _NOT_ the Gabrielle who was savvy enough to size up Valesca and strong enough to keep her from becoming the new Amazon Queen in 'The Quest'. That Gabrielle knew damn well not all rulers are wise, kind, or benevolent.

This is _NOT_the Gabrielle who faced her own dark side in 'Return Of Callisto'.

This is _NOT_the Gabrielle who in saying "Get her, Xena!" gave tacit approval for the warrior to do "whatever was necessary" to stop Callisto in that same ep.

No, that Gabrielle no longer exists. She has been systematically eliminated this season, all for the sake of a 'tunnel vision' master plot.

I know the "reunion" scene between Xena and Pod Gabrielle in the flooded dungeon was supposed to turn on the old waterworks big time. The "scratch my nose" line was supposed to pack a subtle but powerful wallop. But after watching all the character regression and assassination in these two eps and in fact throughout the entire third season to date, all feelings of emotion had been pretty much leeched out of me by then.

Oh, I guess I caught a glimpse of the "real" Xena and Gabrielle during that scene-but they were like momentary flashes of lightning on a dark, stormy summer's night. Brief and fleeting, never lasting, always elusive. I might have known and recognized the Xena in that scene, but not the Gabrielle. Oh well, never mind, it's just a tv show, right:(?

<Warning: entering sarcasm zone>

But on the "bright side" you've got to hand it to TPTB-they've supplied us with more big KABOOMS and "way kewl" special effects in less than half of this third season than the past two combined.

And who knew that in addition to most likely being Ares daughter that Xena can now tap into her 'Chi', snap metal bonds and send knives flying through the air, shoot bolts of pure energy from her hands, and basically wreak havoc without breaking much of a sweat? Not me, that's for sure!

But boy, wasn't it "kewl" to see?! Xena made things blow up real good! YEEE-HAW!!! The adolescent male demographic has really caught the eyes of TPTB this season, haven't they?

Wonder if in the future we'll find out Cyrene came across the infant Xena in a crashed spaceship launched from the planet Krypton;-)?

Gee, wonder why Xena's "super" powers never really showed up in earlier times of crisis-like maybe when her "best friend" was being raped by Dahak? Oh, I forgot-that would have interrupted the flow of the all mighty master plot.

And wasn't it just a _TAD_ repetitive to have Xena "crucified" and on the verge of death yet again, but saved at the very last moment by the mystical appearence of her teacher/lover/savior-last season it was M'Lila, this season it was Lao Ma. Anyone want to bet she'll never be mentioned again, just like poor M'Lila? But never mind, after all it's just a tv show, right:(?

<Notice: exiting sarcasm zone>

I suppose the most heartbreaking thing of all in this ep was seeing Xena and Pod Gabrielle finally say "I love you" to each other. I have waited and hoped and yes, even prayed for those lines to be exchanged. And in the tradition of the old saying-"be careful what you wish for-you might just get it."-it came to pass.

Yet it meant nothing. It was built on a bed of lies and deceit. It cannot last. TPTB so much as confirm that with the disclaimer for this ep: "Xena and Gabrielle's relationship suffered another blow (although Gabrielle doesn't know it yet) during the production of this motion picture."

Why has the vast majority of the X/G subtext had such a negative undertone to it this season? What does that bode for it's future?

In closing, I remember it being suggested that 'The Debt I & II' would make the perfect way to introduce someone not familiar with Xena: Warrior Princess to the series. I _STRONGLY_ disgaree.

My pick would be 'Destiny' & 'The Quest'. In those two eps we saw the depth of Xena and the "real" Gabrielle's true devotion and love. A devotion and love that defied death itself. We had a declaration of love from the heart, not from lies and deceit. Our two heros _finally_ kissed. We saw XenaDark and her descent into the abyss of pure evil. We saw the healing power of love and forgiveness. We saw Gabrielle's faith and most importantly her strength. She was at last Xena's partner in every sense of the word, not just a sidekick.

Yes, I would show a Xena "newcomer" those two eps, then remind them that for whatever reason, TPTB aren't making episodes like that anymore. And when they asked "WHY?", I would have no reasonable answer.

I guess I went from commentary to rant during the writing of this post. Sorry. It's just that I'm so very tired and depressed over what has happened to two such wonderful characters-Xena and Gabrielle-this season.

Anyway, it's just IMO.

c. 1997 EmperorPenguin
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JoAnn on The Debt I & II:

Lao Ma....what a powerful character. Stronger, wiser and she saved Xena's life. So they killed her. That was a shame. Maybe she could come back as spirit guide to Xena. I feel Xena would love to say goodbye to her and a few more things. Also, I didn't like that shade of majic marker on Gab's lips.

c. 1997 JoAnn
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joan the english chick on The Debt I & II:

The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
Moves on, nor all your piety and wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.

I almost feel that I shouldn't be posting about this episode because my feelings about it are so ... unsettled. I blame it on PMS mostly.

My tape ran out halfway through, to my great surprise. I was sure there was enough space left. Fortunately, I can get it when it repeats next weekend. Unfortunately, I can't rewatch it now to figure out why it upset me so much. :(

Another part of my woe was that one of those annoying people who talk throughout a TV show watched with me. With some shows I don't mind, but with XWP where I want to catch every word and every nuance of expression, it's annoying as all Tartarus!!! Arrrggggh!!!!!


I guess the majority of my displeasure stems from the odd behavior of Gabrielle and the Rift which, it seems to me, is entirely her fault at this point. Well, maybe that's a little harsh. But let's consider.

A man pops out of nowhere and with his dying breath relays a cryptic message to Xena. Gabrielle sees that Xena tries to revive the man -- message: He's on "our" side (whatever that means). Xena immediately concludes that she has to go kill someone. Gabrielle immediately concludes that this is wrong. Huh?????

Granted that Gabrielle's feelings are obviously raw. It seems that it's only been a few days since the events of "GH" (hard to tell, but I'm guessing) so she's still upset about killing Meridian, reeling from having a supernatural baby, raw from the pain of giving Hope up, and probably guilty over the lie she's perpetuating to Xena. But does that justify her wholesale condemnation of what Xena plans to do, without having any facts? I say no.

So Xena explains. This part is interesting. I wish it had all taped because I would like to watch "Destiny" and then "Debt 1" so I could get the full impact of the progression of events. But as I see it: She meets Caesar Julius Caesar, meets M'Lilla, the one betrays her, the other saves her, she goes to Niklio, gets partly cured, M'Lilla dies, Xena goes off to China, meets Borias at some point (I'm unclear about this), hooks up with him, they kill people together, they betray each other in turn, she gets captured, she gets freed, she pitches woo with Lao Ma, a bunch of other stuff happens that we don't know about yet, and eventually Xena goes off and has Solon (that's another post) and meets Hercules, reforms, meets Gabs, etc.

But at the point where Gabrielle says, "I can't follow you," all she knows is up to the point where Xena captures and ransoms the kid and then gets captured herself. (BTW, kidnapping Ming T'ien: did we see that coming a MILE away or what?) What has Gabrielle heard that shocks her so badly?

A. Xena killed people for no reason.
B. Xena had sex with a man she didn't love.
C. Xena kidnapped a child and held him for ransom, presumably not injuring him during the process.
D. Xena was ruthless and intended to rule the world or at least get rich by killing people.

Now how many of those four things should really shock Gabs? I say none. Gabs knows that Xena was a baaaaaad grrl. Gabs knows that Xena killed people. She knows (presumably) that Evil Xena slept with Iolaus purely so she could kill Hercules. She knows that Xena sometimes took hostages. She's seen Xena kill countless people, some of them baddies, some not. And she knows that Xena has a dark past that involved killing a lot of people, mostly for no reason or bad reasons. How is this any different?

Additionally, Gabrielle doesn't yet know (if I recall correctly) that the little boy in the story is the Green Dragon whom Xena plans to kill. For all Gabby knows, the intended victim is another version of Callisto! Someone pointed out (sorry, I zipped through the spoiler posts, don't remember who said what) that the flashback to Callisto's death makes a point about Xena killing on Gab's behalf vs. Xena killing on anyone else's behalf vs. Gab killing. Well, if Xena had said, "I just heard that Callisto has an even eviller twin sister, I'm going to China to kill her" would Gabs have protested? Arguably, no.

In short, it just doesn't make sense. Gabrielle does not have all the information, yet she makes a snap judgment that what Xena plans to do is wrong. This may be understandable in light of Gab's recent traumas, but it still feels way out of character.

And! Bad enough Gab disagrees, and leaves Xena to make her journey alone. But then Gab travels to warn Ming T'ien? I think NOT! Leaving aside the question of how did Gab get there first, how did she know where to go, etc. (hey, Gab also has many skills, and anyway IOAS), the only possible reasons I can think of for Gabrielle to betray Xena in this way are: 1. Jealousy and 2. Petty revenge.

1. Jealousy. Gabrielle hears the saga of Lao Ma and figures out that she was Xena's girlfriend (someone said her first. Ummmm, what about M'Lilla??). Gabby gets jealous. She decides to sabotage Xena's mission which, on the face of it, is being undertaken purely for the benefit of Lao Ma.

2. Revenge. Gabs is still angry with Xena for trying to kill Hope and essentially forcing Gab to give up her child. In her anger and grief and all the other emotions, Gabrielle takes leave of her senses. I think we all know how it can happen. Your grief turns to anger and you lash out, saying or doing something that you know will hurt a loved one. Then when you see the hurt on their face and realize that it worked, your "victory" feels ashen on the tongue. I think I saw some of that on Gabby's face at the end of this episode.

Still, it wasn't enough. I don't believe Gabrielle has entirely learned her lesson. As for what that lesson is, it's a tough one for me to figure out. It seems that Gabrielle needs to attain a new level of trust for Xena. The events of Deliverer and GH destroyed the "Xena can rescue me from any bad situation" type of trust. GH also destroyed the "I will always be able to understand and agree with (or at least accept) Xena's decisions" type of trust. Now what Gabrielle needs to find is some sort of "Xena and I can disagree without destroying our friendship or hurting each other" trust.

It seems (sudden epiphany?) that Gabrielle fell prey to an error that many people make in relationships these days. She saw one argument and turned it into a Rift. In other words, as soon as they reached a point of no compromise -- the life or death of Hope, neither woman able to find any middle ground that would satisfy both -- Gabrielle began to believe that she and Xena would never agree again. It's almost as if Xena can be always right or always wrong, but never wrong yesterday and right today. As if Xena's one wrong (in Gabby's eyes) decision, to kill Hope, means that all her other decisions are equally wrong. Gabby needs to get beyond this, and I sincerely hope (no pun) that when she does we get a real honest heart-wrenching moment of clarity and a nice emotional apology to Xena -- preferably ending in a kiss and a steamy love scene, but let's not get greedy.

Leaving the topic of Gabby, on to Xena.

My problem with Evil Xena in Destiny and this ep is that she's not smart. In Destiny it makes sense, because she's really just a petty warlordess looking to collect lots of loot and not caring whom she has to kill for it. But by The Debt she should have learned her lesson. The valuable lesson to take from the entire encounter with Caesar Julius Caesar is: Know the people you're dealing with, before you deal with them.

When we first encounter Evil-Xena-In-China, it's obvious that she knows crap about the Chinese people. Borias has to tell her to back off, explaining that the Chinese are a people of honor. When they meet Ming Tzu and then Lao Ma, it's clear that Borias understands the Chinese customs and beliefs and is prepared to use them to his advantage. Xena, however, neither knows the ways of the Chinese nor cares to learn them -- nor, and this is the important part, understands why it would be valuable to know this stuff.

And she shows her ignorance several times, in significant ways. First, attacking Lao Ma. Stupid, stupid. Any idiot could see that Lao Ma's "husband" was a nonentity and it was she who really wielded the power. In which case, do you just blindly leap at her? A small woman ruling an entire empire, unable to defend herself? Um.... no. Second, kidnapping Ming T'ien. Obvious thing to do, and not done with any finesse. Just ride on in and snatch the kid. Yeah, real subtle planning there, Xena. Third, not realizing that Borias would sell her out. Being ruled by her hormones? No, in this case I don't think that's what it is. She simply hasn't studied him carefully enough to realize that he'd sooner betray her than settle for 5%.

By the time Lao Ma rescues her and pretties her up, it seems (from Xena's/Lucy's face and body language) that she's finally begun to practice some people-studying, but it's too little too late. This version of Evil Xena is just plain not smart, which is why she keeps getting into trouble. This is not the Xena who studied Hercules and realized that Iolaus was his Achilles' heel. This is not the Xena who could fool the gods numerous times. This is not the Xena who thinks three steps ahead of every enemy and at least two ahead of every friend. Maybe it was Lao Ma who taught Xena these things; in that case, I hope we see it in "The Betrayal," the second half of this two-parter.

Anyway, in my rather incoherent fashion that's a summary of what disturbed me in this episode. I guess it boils down to two main things: Gabby leaping to judgment, and Evil Xena not being smart. Other than that (and the Solon question, which continues to fret me) it *was* a beautiful ep, rich in imagery, throbbing with intensity, fresh and exciting in the fight scenes, with some fun new styles of music that must have made LaDuca very happy.

Things I particularly liked:

-The Kiss -- oops sorry, "oral transference of oxygen." Yeah, whatever. ;)

-The "I don't eat meat" scene. Yow!!!! How maintext can you get without actually going there???

-The entire stalking bit at the end, covered with mud. Beautifully done! (although I couldn't really enjoy it with ___ yapping. Ugh!!!! Catch me letting him watch TV with me again!) And then pulling back the covers and finding Gabby! Thinking "no, it's just a hallucination." Realizing it really IS Gabby. Oh SHIT!!!!!

-All the infusion of Chinese and Eastern-esque philosophy/spirituality into the plotline. Lao Ma's casual way of fighting; the way the child was transfixed by Xena; the references to honor. Love it.

Other misc. things I particularly hated:
-Anything with Borias. Ugh! Kill him now!
-The dog chase. Too painful to watch again. *shudder*
-Seeing Xena crucified again! Snif!!!!
-The bit with the heads on stakes. Powerful, yes. Safe for the delicate tummy, no.

I'll have more to say once I've calmed down. And although I really kind of hated the episode, I put it mostly to PMS and I feel reasonably sure that I'll love it when I see it again.

c. 1997 joan the english chick
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joan the english chick on: The Debt II

First of all, on the question of whether Xena killed Ming Tien. [In response to the suggestion that Ming Tien was not deas but possibly lobotomized.]

IMO this is nitpicky. Ming Tien hands Xena the hairpin saying it was Lao Ma's dying wish that Xena would get it back. Lao Ma would know that Xena would remember the "you could kill someone with that" conversation. Lao Ma would know that it would be Ming Tien giving Xena the hairpin. Ergo, it was Lao Ma's dying wish that Xena use the hairpin to kill Ming Tien. QED.

Second of all, regarding Ming Tien's parentage. Maybe it's too many years of watching soap operas, but I knew Lao Ma was his mother as soon as we met her in Debt I. Too obvious.

Third of all, my biggest quibble concerns Solon. Considering:
1. The events of "Destiny" supposedly happened "ten years ago."
2. Between "Destiny" and the end of "Debt II"'s flashbacks there must be at minimum six months' time. I'm giving Xena time to recover partly from her crucifixion, move to China, meet Borias, hook up with him, build their army, go through everything with the Mings and the Laos, etc.
3. Solon in "Orphan of War" had to be at least eight or nine years old. hence
4. Xena had to be pregnant by the time she kills Ming Tzu and (presumably) is kicked out of China by Lao Ma.

Do you think she got knocked up when Lao Ma left her to "make peace" with Borias? Heh heh. Somehow I don't think Lao Ma intended them to kiss and make up quite so literally. Poor Xena was still struggling her way out of the closet back then.

Fourth: Symbolism... I really like the interweaving of Chinese philosophy in these two eps. (There's a discussion of this on WHOOSH that is pretty interesting.) Particularly of interest regarding the Rift is the basis of Lao Ma's fighting philosophy: to clear one's being of all desire, hatred, etc. It appears that Bad Xena in the flashbacks was unable to do this. Much as she tried, giving herself over to the love of Lao Ma, she was unable -- evidenced by her love-hate interactions with Borias -- to free herself of emotion. Now, however, in the grip of Ming Tien's executioner, with the betraying Gabrielle looking on, Xena is able to attain that state of clarity. IMO this has unpleasant implications for the future of their relationship.

I see Xena already moving toward the clear state when Gabby visits her in the watery prison. It seems to me that Xena reacts the way she knows Gabrielle expects her to: at first she is stony and unresponsive as Gabrielle offers her eloquent apology, but once Gab has unburdened herself Xena provides the sought-after absolution (encapsulated in a summary truth, "I was mad at you, but I could never hate you") and proceeds to regale Gabrielle with a story, demonstrating the return to good faith. All this, though, is very mechanical. Xena knows the steps because she's danced them so many times before. In fact, the briefest summary of this episode could sum up half the eps to date: "Gabrielle's well-meaning act nearly costs Xena her life." Xena isn't really allowing herself to feel the emotions of the moment -- the betrayal, the relief, the love, the forgiveness. She merely goes through the motions because she knows it's what Gabrielle needs, and despite all else that's happened, Xena is incapable of letting Gabby suffer like that.

Gabrielle, of course, doesn't realize that her absolution was a sham. I still have a lot of trouble understanding her actions here, but one thing is clear: she's regressed from much of the growth she had done throughout the series. Whether it was the traumatic events of "Deliverer" and GH that did it, or not, she's gone back to the immature, naive and often stupid sidekick she was in first season. Only now, without the cushion of youth and inexperience to excuse it, it is unforgiveable and shocking.

At the end of Debt II it's clear that Gabby thinks all is well again. She takes the book and says almost cheerily, "We'll take care of it." She obviously thinks they're going to go find Argo, return to New Greeceland, and resume their adventures as if nothing had happened. Well, can we be surprised? If she didn't realize that Ming Tien would not let Xena escape alive, and didn't see that Xena really had killed him, and of course didn't foresee the inevitable consequences of her betrayal, why should she suddenly now have the sense to see that there are still unresolved issues between her and Xena?

It distresses me to see that Gabrielle has so completely lost her mind <G>: I mean, taken leave of her good sense -- it seems to me that pre-Deliverer Gabby would have spotten Ming Tien's, if not Xena's, deception immediately -- and I certainly look forward to seeing this issue get resolved.

All that aside, I have to say that when considered as a whole the Debt episodes (even call it one two-hour episode, for convenience's sake) was one of the best yet -- this season, or overall. It certainly bears watching over and over for those nuances of meaning.

c. 1997 joan the english chick
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Katrina on The Debt I & II:

[In response to a statement that the major secrets between Xena and Gabrielle makes for potential big trouble later, Katrina writes:]

Yeah, probably TPTB will go that route, but they don't have to .. .

I'm going to articulate this, but I'm not sure I can.

Sometimes, mature relationships have secrets. . within that relationship. They still work. .

Sometimes, it's important to "talk" things out and others not so important.

I've found that the issues, tend to open themselves up. .not always when we're ready.

But. .

It's part of the human condition.

It was humane of Xena not to tell Gabrielle about the Green Dragon. Gabrielle was not in a state of mind to handle it. She'd just been through a horrible trauma, lost her baby (not as in dead. .but still) and she is clinging to what she *thinks* is right at the moment (don't we all. .)

It was humane of Gabrielle not to tell Xena about Hope. She was the baby's mother. It was her responsibility to make that decision. .not Xena's. It would have been one thing if Gab's had said, "Xena I can't do this, but the baby must be destroyed." It was totally something else to have someone stronger, quicker, more powerful chasing after a body that's just given birth, experienced her first kill and is having nightmares about it. Gabrielle wasn't in a state of mind to make any other choice (given her preference that all life is valuable. . .) I'm pretty sure that Gabs doesn't want her defender feeling like a total bitch. . . (at least my version wouldn't . . .but hey. . they'll probably make like Xena was right and then I'll have to go. .Damn. . )

Now, whether there will come a point when the truth must be shared for them to move on. .probably. It's like coming out. .In order for me to move on I felt I had to let my family know that I wasn't straight. .It's been really hard on them and I've sometimes regretted the decision, but I was still able to move on from there. There is more than a good chance, that given enough emotional distance, under normal circumstances (if we pretend for a moment that X:WP is real life) Gab could safely tell Xena the truth

She might say something like, .I was so afraid for my baby and you were yelling at me and I had to make the decision and I'm sorry. .

or Xena could safely tell Gabs. .honey love, the bastard knew what he did. .he he murdered his mother because he could. .then he goaded me until I couldn't take it anymore. It might not be a justification for today. .in real life. .but, given the "story" world. .it would be enough

Truth has a tendency to work itself out into the open anyway, I guess. .

<quote> But such is the irresistable nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. --Thomas Paine </quote>

we just have to give it enough time.

But it doesn't mean it has to be presented painfully or remain unforgiven.

In real life, we learn to forgive. . Or at least one hopes so. . . I would also hope it is so for X:WP

Not all secrets are bad. . and neither are all lies. Even some of the whoppers. . I guess, in the end, one has to think about what is the important result. . one seeks. .Maybe it's the "off the cuff" lies that get us into trouble. The ones where we have to build a whole reality a round in order to have it work. I dunno. . . I guess a body has to learn to think beyond the "black and white" obvious stuff. I mean, there are some "truths" that I might wish my kid to remain ignorant about. . .at least for a little bit. .(Santa comes to mind. .Now that is a whopper, then you tell the kids the "truth," and then you realize one day that Santa really does exist. . .)

It reminds me of a quote that has become a fave of mine.

Fill the seats of justice with good men, but not so absolute in goodness as to forget what human frailty is. --Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd

Don't get me wrong. .I'm not proposing we all go out and lie to each other. I am saying that, as human beings, we are often faced with similar choices, and we lie, and they do not necessarily result in total ruination.

There has to be a balance in perspective. . .

Real life is made up of so many twists and turns. . .I don't see why X:WP, which is such a remarkable show, should be exempt. .

<quote> The surest way of finding the right way is taking the wrong way. Look at all the knot-holes, worm-holes, and dead-ends we've all come through just to arrive at our current realizations. Who can know the journey that someone else must take. I dare not speculate. --John Neatrour </quote>

Personally, I'm grateful for my knot-holes. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be half as interesting without them. . .

Besides, as a friend of mine (a fellow story teller) once told me, before I even started out on this mystic journey of writing. . . when you have characters . . .if you want the story to be interesting. . you've got to give them problems to overcome. .then you give them some more. The trick is. .always give them a way out.


Sometimes lies have their place, just as truth does. Truth tends to out itself eventually. Character is built through life experience and a story should avoid being boring.

Now tell me the truth and don't you lie. . . . even through all this stuff that we've chatted about has anyone been *bored* by third season?

I haven't. I've been wanting to rail and scream about it. . .but I haven't been bored. . .

The thing to look for, I guess. .is the way out. . . (hopefully with lots of smooches and hugs. .but that's just my preference)

Uhm. .hope that makes sense. . .

*steps off soapbox and hides behind it*

Katrina c. 1997 Katrina prosper4@ix.netcom.com
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Lunacy on The Debt I & II:

- Impressions

This is without a doubt the most spectacular episode in the series to date and among the most intense hour of TV I've ever seen. It really leaves DESTINY in the dust. Forget about XWP being a kiddie show. This is gritty and BLOODY, sensual and RAW. This is a motion picture quality production - storytelling at its best...even if it will break your heart.

The episode begins with Xena and Gabrielle but I'm going to discuss the flashback sequences first and leave the sections with the bard for last. When Xena begins remembering her past there are a couple of shots from DESTINY showing her betrayal by Caesar and then we learn that she headed East. The opening sequence on the Chinese steppes is majestic as we see a group of raiders on horseback in hot pursuit of some Chinese soldiers. The soldiers are easily cut down. One particularly bloodthirsty raider is revealed as our Warrior Princess looking absolutely wicked in an attire that has her resembling an Arab or Hun warrior. The leader of the raiders is the famous Borias - who in later years will father Xena's child. He is played by Martin Czokas - the same actor who played Khrafstar, the evil priest in THE DELIVERER - only in this episode there is NO sign of Khrafstar in his performance. He is a warlord in the same mold as Xena - wild and raw although perhaps showing the first hints of the humanity which will one day lead to his redemption. His Borias is very good - difficult to pin down in terms of race or ethnicity. I would tend to agree with [another Xenite] (from the NetForum) that he could be Russian.

Xena is his lieutenant and at this point is moving around with the help of a crutch - her legs still not mended after the experience on the cross. She is, however, utterly ruthless! This is a Xena that makes Callisto look like a puppy by comparison. The redeeming qualities may be there but they are buried SO deep there is NO hint of them. She asks Borias to give her the dead men they have just killed. When he does so she beheads them all and impales the severed heads on a line along the Great Wall of China. We begin to see how Xena is likely going to be having nightmares for the rest of her life.

Back at the raiders' camp, Borias and Xena meet Ming Tzu and his young son Ming T'ien. Ming Tzu is the head of one of two great dynasties Borias is trying to do business with. A very unruly, uncontrolled Xena ruins the negotiations. During them though, she catches her first glimpse of the young boy whose destiny will cross her path again soon.

The next scene offers a sharp contrast between the Xena of the past and the Xena of the present. In the present we see Xena and Gabrielle both on horseback, riding calmly through a forest as the warrior assumes the role of storyteller - then the perspective shifts back to the past and we see Xena and Borias having sex while on horseback. There is no love between them - just raw passion. As Xena says...they use each other. Borias tosses her on the ground and then heads back to meet with the representative of the house of Lao.

Here we are introduced to the BEST new character since the creation of Callisto - the enigmatic, beautiful and deadly Lao Ma. She is married to the head of the Lao Dynasty. Borias is immediately charmed - Xena is suspicious and decidely unfriendly. Despite this there is TREMENDOUS subtext between Xena and the mysterios Chinese woman. At dinner that evening, while smoking opium, Xena does not take her eyes of Lao Ma - getting angrier and angrier as the woman seems to have a civilizing influence on Borias. This is something Xena does not want. After giving her a small warning with the toss of a knife during the dinner, that night Xena orchestrates a more serious confrontration. She waits for Lao in her tent intent on killing her. For the first time we are treated to Lao Ma's powers and they are FORMIDABLE. She completely trounces Xena who despite being crippled is still very capable. The special effects here are wonderful - particularly the knife throwing. If you look carefully you'll also notice the first indications that Lao Ma may be a sorceress of some sort. At one point when she hits Xena she actually does not touch her but rather unleashes with her hand a "force" which strikes the warrior tossing her back several feet.

Lao Ma informs Borias that it would not be appropriate for them to form any sort of allegiance now but before leaving she whispers some words of wisdoms to Xena, urging her not to let her desires rule her mind. A furious Borias throws Xena out of his camp. She promptly turns around and kidnaps Ming T'ien intent on demanding a huge reward from his father. Borias goes along with this but in the end - betrays Xena becoming the second person close to her to have done so after Caesar. We see Ming Tzu riding along with his son as soldiers follow with Xena. The woman is in a VERY small cage. Lao Ma arrives on the scene at that moment. She tries to give Ming T'ien an embroidery she made for him but the boy tosses it away. Lao Ma sees Xena and wonders at how they can consider hunting a cripple. Later when the warrior is in fact being chased by a pack of dogs, Lao Ma saves her. This scene with Xena in tattered rags, stumbling through the forest, her hair wild and unkept, the fight STILL in her eyes despite the impending doom - is absolutelyy RIVETING. She cannot understand why Lao Ma saves her but the woman does - taking her back to her home.

Later, Xena is hiding in a hottub with Lao Ma sitting on the edge, as Ming Tzu enters looking for Xena. Lao Ma calmly informs him she's not there. At one point she dunks her head in the water and kisses Xena to give her air. There is an interesting conversation here between Ming Tzu and Lao Ma. We learn that she was a cortesan HE sold to the head of the house of Lao. This little revelation combined with the earlier scene with Ming T'ien leaves me strongly suspecting Lao Ma is the boy's mother. IF she's the one that has summoned Xena to China in the present, it would explain why she herself is not willing to stop the Green Dragon who seems to be Ming T'ien. This would also be quiet a contrast to the earlier episode GABRIELLE'S HOPE with GH featuring a mother (Gabrielle) who does not see her child as evil and prevents Xena from killing her, and THE DEBT featuring a mother who DOES recognize the evil in her child and asks Xena to murder him. Speculation at this point but WOW!

In the final flashbacks we see Lao Ma caring for Xena - bathing her, dressing her...then, we're back in the present, it's evening and Xena is just outside Ming T'Ien's castle spreading dark paint all over her body. She's wearing some sort of bodysuit. Noicelessly she enters the castle and starts to head toward the sleeping form of the young man with the knife in hand. For all of you out there who are reading Paul and Jenna's excellent uber story SURFACING, this scene in particular is going to remind you a LOT of scenes from that story which has the Xena character as a deadly spy and assassin.

Then comes that end...gods. I knew it was coming and it STILL got to me. As Xena is getting ready to kill the young ruler, the covers are pulled back and she finds herself starring into Gabrielle's face. As soldiers then pour into the room, Gabrielle tells her she simply could not let her go through with her plan. It is seemingly the third betrayal Xena experiences and very likely the most devastating. The look in her eyes is a mixture of horror, disbelief and desolation. Then she turns toward Ming T'ien and there's only hatred there. As Gabrielle looks on, the man has her arrested.

Now this leads me to the bard and her depiction in this episode. In GABRIELLE'S HOPE, Gabrielle was very emotional and ended up turning on Xena but in my view her characterization remained solid throughout. Gabrielle behaved as we would have expected her to behave. She protected the baby because Gabrielle protects the innocent, because she is willing to give people a chance, because inspite of everything she still believes in the power of love and goodness. She lied to Xena because she had no other option. By contrast, in THE DEBT, I felt like I was watching a complete stranger - NOT Gabrielle by a long shot. I felt this way from the very beginning of the episode when they show the bard sitting on this rock with a smile. She thanks Xena for standing by her during the recent turmoil and all seems honky dory. Sorry but the Gabrielle *I* know after two seasons watching this show would NOT be calm and content knowing that her daughter is out there somewhere with gods know who, possibly in danger, possibly being influenced toward evil. Even knowing that she did the only thing she could have when she placed that baby in the river, Gabrielle would be upset, anxious, nervous. She would not be sitting on a rock with a smile. I didn't, in fact, think Gabrielle would be able to maintain that lie about Hope for the simple reason that the worry and stress would give her away.

Then when she's traveling with Xena as Xena is talking about the past, Gabrielle occassionally comments on how ruthless Xena was. Gabrielle appears judgemental and at times almost callous - two qualities which again I have NEVER associated with the bard. Then she tells Xena that she can't go with her to China. Well - I can see this as Gabrielle perhaps honestly not wanting to help Xena commit a murder OR perhaps as her seeing this as an opportunity to go look for Hope BUT in truth, I don't find this realistic. I think while there was still a chance to change Xena's mind, Gabrielle would have not left her side. That she does so seems to insinuate that Gabrielle is already thinking about trying to beat Xena to China to betray her to the Green Dragon - something SOOOOOOOOOOOOO out of character that I simply CANNOT accept Gabrielle doing it. In the previews for next week one scene shows Xena being tied to a cross while Gabrielle calmly looks on. Sorry. That's NOT the bard I know and if they MAKE her into Gabrielle then they will have indeed completely deconstructed a character, remaking her into another.

My bet is, and this is purely speculation, that this will turn out NOT to be Gabrielle. I think it isn't even Gabrielle at the beginning of the episode. So who is it? Two clear possibilities - Hope or Ares. Even if the Gabrielle in Greece does turn out to be the real one - the one in China seems likely to be an impostor and with that one a third possibility arises as to who it might be - namely Lao Ma. In THE DEBT we already learn that the woman has some extraordinary powers. She uses some sort of force to hit Xena and when she saves Xena from the pack of dogs she stares down a growling dog who turns around and whimpers away. In the previews for next week, in that same scene where we see Xena being tied to a cross and Gabrielle standing idly by, we also see a number of what appear to be torture tools suddenly start levitating. Something is definitely not right in Denmark...or Ching as the case may be. ;-)

IF it does turn out that the real Gabrielle is the one who betrays Xena then those producers/writers are going to have to come up with one HELL of a believable explanation for her actions because I do NOT beleive the bard would betray Xena based on some moral stand against killing. I could see Gabrielle maaaaaaaaaybe warning Ming T'ien that Xena is going to kill him but I will NEVER, EVER accept that she helps to willingly set a trap for Xena knowing that the warrior will likely get captured and tortured or executed. Even the warning seems far-fetched to me because it alone puts Xena's life in danger. In GABRIELLE'S HOPE the bard turns against Xena but she does it almost in self-defence with Xena clearly as the agressor AND I do not believe Gabrielle ever tries to endanger Xena. Even when she yells at the Banshees to stop the warrior, I think she knows Xena will likely get out of that predicament quickly enough. Xena had been sounding pretty cocky before about her growing ability to actually battle the Banshees.

THE DEBT is an OUTSTANDING ride folks. It is the type of dark, intense, emotional episode Xenites LIVE for. I am certain that episode is making a lot of new fans too. The acting is SUPERB with Lucy doing arguably her best work to date and a very strong supporting cast. Jacqueline Kim as Lao Ma is incredible - WHERE did they find this woman! Also very good is Grant McFarland as Ming Tzu. Despite the quality of this episode, however, the end left me totally depressed. I think I should have waited until I could see part two at the same time but alas - I have no will power ;-) I look forward most of all to some sort of explanation for Gabrielle's behavior because right now it looks like this season may not only be about the deconstruction of heroes, but also about the deconstruction of one of the most beautiful friendships I've ever seen on TV.

c. 1997 Lunacy
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Morgan Dhu on The Debt I & II:

Something which has gone almost unremarked in most of the commentary on The Debt which I have seen to date is that Lao Ma, who is being positioned as another primary influence, albeit delayed, in Xena's redemption, is in The Debt revealed to be the true author of the Tao Te Ching, supposedly written by Lao Tzu.

I find myself wondering if this will be developed. Much of the current discussion of the philosophical positions of Xena and Gabrielle, especially in the wake of The Deliverer and Gabrielle's Hope, posits them as being symbols of Evil (in the process of reformation) and Good (in the process of gaining sophistication). If Xena's primary philosophical influence is in fact Lao Tzu (Lao Ma), perhaps it becomes more useful to look at the philosophical rift between Xena and Gabrielle as instead the discontinuity between a Western set of values based on a dichotomy of good and evil, and an Eastern set of values based on finding The Way, and living in balance and in harmony with The Way. In a Taoist perspective, acts are not considered good or evil in themselves, but must be examined in full context and with reference to whether or not they are intended to bring about balance and harmony.

If Gabrielle is seeking Good, and Xena is seeking Balance, then they will inevitably find themselves in conflict from time to time, since Balance includes both yin and yang, dark and light, expansion and contraction, growth and destruction.

c. 1997 Morgan Dhu
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Tammy on The Debt:

Over the last two and a half seasons, we as viewers have participated in the growth and nourishment of a type of relationship that is not seen on television. A deep caring one between two strong willed women, Xena and Gabrielle. Each week, we have watched them struggle to carry out their own private mission and we have felt our own hearts move as in the process as they grew closer to each other.

Xena, a soul reborn from darkness, struggled with her inner desire of evil while at the same time attempting to somehow make atonement from her wrongs to herself and to the world around her. We saw this struggle so vividly in season one with episodes such as "Ties that Bind", "Dreamworker" and "The Reckoning". It also became clear to the viewer that the peasant girl, Gabrielle's inner motivations were not only for adventure and escape of an unwanted lifestyle. Xena became Gabrielle's mission from early on. By the start of season two Gabrielle had personalized her mission to reach to the world around her. She starts this in the first season's last episode "Is There A Doctor in the House?" when she goes after a child trapped in a war zone.

We as viewers have all watched very closely at the events that have brought us to this apparent "Rift" in their relationship. Shock with the abuse of Gabrielle in "The Deliverer". That episode also showed us a side of Xena that disregarded her companion's well-being as she dealt with a resurrgence of feelings for an old nemesis. Gabrielle's lie in "Gabrielle's Hope" disconcerted many. So often in season one Gabrielle had been reinforced to us through Xena's own lips as being good, pure, living with a code above so many others in episodes such as "Callisto" "Is There a Doctor in the House?" "Death in Chains". Episodes such as "The Debt 1 and2" stirred emotions in us as viewers of loyalty, the betrayal of a loved one(Xena's view) and the betrayal of one's values and mission(Gabrielle's view).

This relationship so carefully crafted to go beyond death and through the hidden secrets of season two is now recieving a shake-up unpleasant to watch in season three. Where is the same Xena that sat throwing rocks in the water to explain about what killing does to a person's soul in "Dreamworker"? Where is the same Gabrielle that wanted to use Argo to pry the bars of the jail off in "The Reckoning" saying that she had learned that justice and the law were not always the same thing? Where is the innocent boldness we fell in love with in Gabrielle's spirit as we watched "The Debt 1 and 2"?

I ask us as viewers to remember that quiet pond that Xena threw the rocks into as she sat telling her young friend to watch as the water rippled. Gabrielle responded that the water will again grow still but Xena countered that "yes, but that the rock is now a part of the ponf, the pond is forever changed." [Dreamworker paraphrased] It is so unlike what we see in their lives today. Events have occurred. Both women have stood on their principles that have for the first time disagreed with the other's belief system. Still they acted on them. Yes, it had effects. Yes, it caused pain. No one can convince me otherwise that the tears Xena shed in "The Debt 2" were anything but because of Gabrielle's treatment of her.

Which one is right and who is wrong? Do we give all life a chance? Do we stand boldly against the evil forces in this world? Does the destruction of a person's soul matter above all else? Do we pay our debts at any cost?

All the above questions are honorable undertakings. And I as a viewer can not judge either Xena or Gabrielle. As Xena told Malus at the beginning of "Callisto" when he swore vengence against her "You will do what you have to do". And both women have done so.

The perfect picture of true abiding love that withstands all has been marred by the reality that both Xena and Gabrielle are human. They make mistakes. Over the stint of time they have been together they have allowed their perspective of the other one to be that in which the other can do no wrong. Both women sat high on a pedestal that now is wobbling. When they fall, they will either shatter or they will pick themselves up off the ground.

I have faith in Xena and Gabrielle. Every episode in this "Rift" has found them at the other's side. It is clear that they both care for each other. Yes, both have made mistakes. Yes, yes, both women are being forced to change their perception of the other one. But the pedistals are gone. Xena is not the perfect warrior out on a quest for good. She is human. Gabrielle is no longer innocent, she has her own darkness to contend with. {don't we all?}

Gabrielle said it best in "Callisto" at the scene at the campfire talking to Xena. Paraphrased she said, "There is only one way to stop this..... and that is through love and forgiveness" Yes, it was idealized, innocent, but the saying still holds true. There is no doubt of the level of love between them. And I say love will prevail. Both will be the wiser. Both will see the other in amore truer sense and their relationship will grow deeper and stronger.

The rock is still in the pond. The pond is forever changed, But the pond is still beautiful. The waters can be calm. The water is forever changed........ But is that such a bad thing?

c. 1998 Tammy
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Tracey on The Debt II :

I saw Debt II last night, finally. It led me to thinking about how all the major positive transformative figures in Xena's life are women and how most of the negative ones have been men.

Say what you will about TPTB and their attitudes toward feminism, subtext, etc., but you have to admit it's a pretty powerfully female-centered show, even aside from the fact that its two leads are women whose primary relationships are with each other. TBTB could have easily made Lao Tzu (sp?) Xena's mentor, but they chose instead a woman. M'lila was also a savior for her. Then there is, of course, Gabby (once they stop lying and stabbing one another in the back). I'm sure I could think of others if I wanted to go back through all the episode synopses, but this is uninteresting enough as it is. : )

Oh, and a question: Was there ever any explanation of how Ming Ti'en (sp. again) ended up with Ming Tzu instead of with his mother? I am guessing Lao Ma won her freedom from prostitution by providing Ming Tzu with an heir. Is Ming Tzu Ming Ti'en's biological father?

I think my favorite scene from Debt II was when Gabby was visiting Xena in the dungeon and was already on the brink of tears when Xena asked her to scratch her nose. ROC is *such* a good actor -- the way she lost it at that point was perfect. It reminded me of her reaction to seeing Dead Xena, just before The Kiss. I'd like to see an interviewer ask ROC and LL some time how they are affected by scenes like this. I would think the preparation and the aftermath would require an excellent working relationship between the actors involved.

The spoilers couldn't really do that scene justice -- when I had read that X asked G to scratch her nose, it struck me as the kind of inappropriate humor the writers sometimes like to inject into otherwise emotionally weighty scenes. Seeing it, however, was quite different.

Last thought: I thought the mutual "I love you"s were sincere; that snarl on X's face at the fadeout was one of victory at having killed Ming Ti'en and had very little to do with how she felt about Gabs.

c. 1998 Tracey
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