This one starts with Gabi playing at sword-fighting (against a tree, which will be a recurring theme) until Xena catches her and gives her hell. Xena warns Gabi about fighting, saying the mere fact of having a sword in your hand makes you a target. Xena gives Gabi some advice about dangerous situations (If you can run, run; If you can’t run, surrender then run; If you’re outnumbered, let them fight each other while you run; and if none of that works, talk your way out of it), but when some bandits hassle them, Gabi ends up with Xena’s sword and immediately becomes a target until Xena kicks their asses and kills the bandit leader. A shady-looking dude (Manus) watches from the bushes, impressed that Gabi is full of fire but didn’t kill … excellent qualities for the bride of Morpheus.
In town, people act weird about Gabi, wondering why she’s there. One shopkeeper is very relieved to find Gabi isn’t the one who killed the bandit leader. An old blind dude (Alkton) comes in wanting a halter, but the shopkeeper throws him out, saying he doesn’t sell to Mystics … or even ex-Mystics like Alkton. Xena buys the halter for him. Meanwhile, Gabi is shopping for a weapon (starting with a sword she can barely lift), not heeding Xena’s advice at all. She decides on a breast-dagger, a small knife she can conceal in her cleavage. Xena notices Gabi is hiding something (“You didn’t find a sorcerer to enhance your motives, did you?”) and confiscates the dagger. Cultists show up and the townsfolk hide. Xena fights them off but Gabi is taken, so she forces the shopkeeper to tell her what’s up. He says the Mystics worship Morpheus and take a “bride” from among the town’s young women every Solstice. He sends Xena to see Alkton, since he used to be a Mystic.
In the Mystic stronghold, Manus tells Gabi (who looks adorable in her Princess Peach outfit) she’s been marked as the bride of Morpheus, but has to survive the challenges first. Naturally, Gabi isn’t enthused, but Manus doesn’t give her any choice. Xena talks to Alkton, who tells her about the Mystics wanting a bride for Morpheus. Alkton says as soon as Gabi kills, she’ll lose her blood innocence and be sacrificed as Morpheus’s bride. Xena’s ready to invade the stronghold but Alkton says it’d take weeks (which he changes to days after feeling Xena’s muscles) to fight through the guards. But Alkton wonders if Xena might be the Chosen One, who can travel through the Dreamscape to confront the Mystics. Xena assures him she can and Alkton prepares the ritual, which sends Xena’s soul into the Dreamscape while her body remains behind in the real world. Alkton promises to guard her body (don’t worry, he’s a gentleman) and anoint her body with oil because what’s a Xena episode without some titillation. Alkton warns that Morpheus will try to manipulate things in the Dreamscape to fight Xena, but since the Dreamscape is conjured from her own mind, she ultimately controls it. When Xena arrives in the Dreamscape, she encounters her old soldiers, begging her to lead them to bloody victory again. She also meets some of her past victims, who make her feel guilty for not even knowing their names. Manus figures out that Xena has entered the Dreamscape and sends men to find her body and kill it, which will end Xena’s soul too.
Gabi (who doesn’t know about the whole blood innocence thing) passes her first challenge by taking Xena’s advice and tricking two soldiers into killing each other. As Xena continues her journey through the Dreamscape, she runs into Gabi, who’s asleep and having a dream. Xena warns her not to kill and to do what she does best … talk her way out of trouble. Alkton moves Xena’s body to a new location, but runs out of oil to keep her body hydrated. Gabi undergoes another challenge … three guys this time in a volcanic cavern. She tosses her sword in a fire pit and talks a couple of the soldiers into killing each other. After dodging a dagger throw, she lucks out when the dagger is shot by steam pressure into the last guy’s back. Manus is impressed that she hasn’t killed yet, but says the last challenge won’t leave her a choice. He also says he knows about Xena in the Dreamscape. After running into the first person she ever killed and the latest one (the bandit from the opening of this episode), Xena finds the door out of the Dreamscape and meets the last person she expected to be guarding it … herself.
Xena’s double represents her Dark Side and taunts her, saying all Xena’s strength and battle prowess came from the Dark part of her she’s been trying to deny. They fight and the Dark Xena does seem stronger. Xena figures if she can beat her Dark Self, that’ll be her ticket out of the Dreamscape. Gabi is shoved into a contraption full of blades that constantly force her to move toward an armed bandit. She’s given the choice of picking up a sword and killing the bandit, or getting skewered on the blades (or killed by the bandit if she refuses to kill him). Meanwhile, Manus’s men have tracked down Alkton and Xena’s body and they prepare to kill her. In the Dreamscape, Xena realizes her Darkness is part of her and she can’t destroy it; she also realizes her Dark Self is the key to getting out and throws her through the door. Xena exits the Dreamscape (which causes her body to disappear before it can be killed) and confronts Manus and his minions. Xena wastes a few of the soldiers (using the breast dagger to kill the last one) and when Manus starts bitching, Gabi decks him (“Punching’s all right?”), which impresses the hell out of Xena. Later, we see that Alkton has regained his sight, become head of the (now peaceful) Mystics, and condemned Manus to the Dreamscape. Xena and Gabi get philosophical, with Xena likening her spirit to the still waters of a lake, suddenly in turmoil after she throws a rock in. Gabi points out that the lake will become still again, but Xena says the rock is still under the water, so the lake is forever changed from what it was. That sounds like Xena believes she’s too far gone to be redeemed (which is a recurring theme right through the series), but just before she and Gabi ride off, Xena looks back at the lake and sees the waters are once again calm. Maybe there’s hope for her after all …
This is a pretty good episode (#46 on my all-time list) and it introduces a couple of themes that will become very important in future episodes. The aforementioned “rock in the lake” discussion will be alluded to in several future episodes, though never explicitly called out. Personally, I think it works as a metaphor for the entire show; people look at Xena (the series) and see only the surface (the ass-kicking, the skimpy outfits, the goofy comedy), but underneath there are hidden depths that you don’t get until you actually watch the show. Or to put it another way, what happens on the show isn’t necessarily what the show is about.
Then there’s Gabi’s blood innocence, which was basically thrown in as a plot point but becomes an ongoing issue, especially in the third season. It actually ends up being more important to Xena than to Gabi; I think Gabi reminds Xena of herself as she might have been and she wants to preserve that as long as she can, and Xena is afraid of Gabi becoming Dark like her. There’s a hint of that when Xena’s talking to the shades of the people she killed; they taunt her with the fact that Gabi might end up just like Xena, reveling in violence and bloodshed, if she kills someone now. But Xena’s obsession with keeping Gabi innocent isn’t really healthy, as it stifles Gabi’s personal growth. Arguably, if Xena had loosened the reins and allowed Gabi to grow up a bit faster, maybe some of the heavy shit from the third season wouldn’t have happened.
- Xena and Gabi haven’t known each other that long, but Xena’s already willing to risk her life to help Gabi.
- Gabi’s desire to learn to fight comes from wanting to help Xena during combat, which will be an ongoing theme until Gabi finally does learn to fight in Hooves and Harlots.
- Xena’s outfit in the Dreamscape looks a bit like the robes she wore in Chin, which we’ll see in later seasons.
- It’s interesting that Xena ran was drawn to Gabi in the Dreamscape; is their connection already that strong? Well, they are soul-mates, after all …
- Xena being confronted by her nameless victims reminds me of Eve (or Livia) going through much the same thing in Haunting of Amphipolis.
- Xena confronting her Dark Self and learning it’s a necessary part of her reminds me of the Star Trek episode “Enemy Within”, where Kirk learns the same lesson.
- “It’s not like your breasts aren’t dangerous enough.” Gabi’s joke when Xena confiscates the breast-dagger and sticks it down her cleavage.
- “Wisdom before weapons.” Xena’s core advice to Gabi, which Gabi actually will take to heart and embody for much of the series (especially in the fourth season). Xena actually repeats this advice and I wonder if she means it literally; we’ll see later that once Gabi starts fighting, Xena does train her and eventually passes on all her knowledge. Maybe Xena always meant to teach Gabi to fight, she just wanted to do it on her own timetable, teaching her how to avoid fighting first (which is something Xena was never really allowed to learn because of her village being attacked).
- “The moment you pick up a sword, you become a target. And the moment you kill […] everything changes. Everything.” Xena’s attempt to keep Gabi off the same Dark Path that Xena followed. Gabi will repeat this advice to Temecula in A Good Day.