This one starts with a king (Gregor) consulting a seer about the troubling dreams he’s been having. She tells him there’s a child in his future, but Gregor informs her his wife died in childbirth six months ago, so that’s impossible. The seer insists there’s a baby in Gregor’s future, who’ll grow up to take his throne. That worries the King’s advisor (Nemos) and when the seer specifies that the baby is a newborn belonging to one of Gregor’s subjects who died in childbirth, Nemos talks Gregor into sending soldiers to find the baby. A servant (Ophelia) overhears and knows exactly which baby they’re talking about. She gets the baby and sends him down the river in a reed basket. (This won’t be the last time that happens on this show.) The next morning, Gabi and Xena hear something in the rushes by the river and find the baby.
Of course, Gabi wants to keep the baby, but Xena’s not enthused, saying they have to find his mother. Gabi figures the mother doesn’t want him if she sent him down the river, but Xena says she might have her reasons … maybe thinking of her abandonment of Solan for his own good? At the castle, Nemos tells Gregor he’s offered a reward for the baby, so everyone will be looking for it. Nemos wants the baby killed when it’s found, but Gregor doesn’t. Gregor orders the baby be brought back alive, but Nemos has no intention of following that order. On the way to town, Xena and Gabi happen across a lynching and save the victim from a mob. It starts raining and they shelter in a cave, where Gabi accidentally discovers the woman they saved is Pandora. Not the original Pandora but her granddaughter, who’s condemned to carry around the famous Box that used to contain all the ills of mankind but now only holds Hope. Xena lets Pandora look after the baby to take her mind off her burden. After the storm, they head into town to get milk for the kid and end up at a tavern where Xena is forced to check her weapons at the door. The tavern keeper recognizes the baby everyone’s looking for and sends a boy to tell Nemos. Nemos and a bunch of soldiers show up to kill the baby and Xena’s weapons are out of reach.
Xena spits fire at the soldiers and starts kicking their asses, telling Gabi and Pandora to find cover. Pandora debates whether to take the Box or the baby and chooses the baby. Nemos gets knocked around and notices the Box, so he takes off with it as Xena pounds the other soldiers. She forces the tavern keeper to tell her about the prophecy surrounding the baby and Pandora freaks when she realizes the Box is gone. At the castle, Nemos gives Gregor the Box and tells him Xena is involved. That scares Gregor (I guess word still hasn’t gotten around about Xena’s face turn.) Gregor worries about Xena trying to take his kingdom and Nemos says they can trade the Box for the baby. A messenger brings a note from Xena proposing a meeting. At their hideout in town, Gabi returns to tell Xena the meeting with Gregor is on, and to bring milk for the baby. Pandora’s still freaking out and tells them there’s a clockwork device on the Box that’ll cause it to open if she doesn’t reset it every day. Pandora says they have until midnight to get the Box back, or the Hope of mankind will be gone.
Xena meets Gregor and Nemos at the tavern and sizes them up. They aren’t willing to give the Box back without getting the baby, so Xena lets them leave. Later at the hideout, Gabi shows up with Ophelia, saying she could be their way into the castle. Xena tells Gabi she believes Gregor is a good person, but doesn’t trust Nemos. Ophelia mentions that she and some other girls have to dance for Nemos and his men that night and Xena figures that’ll be her way into the castle. Gabi and Pandora sneak through the streets, hiding near the castle to wait for Xena and the Box. Inside, Xena joins the dancing girls and puts on quite a show, getting Nemos’s prurient attentions. (Xena’s wearing a veil, so Nemos doesn’t recognize her; this won’t be the last time Xena does a sexy dance.) Before Xena can grab the Box, Gregor comes in and takes it to his chambers. Nemos still has the hots for Xena and orders she be taken to his room. Outside, Gabi points out how god Pandora is with the baby and Pandora says she’s never dared dream about any kind of settled life because she has to look after the Box all the time. Xena knocks Nemos out, sneaks into Gregor’s chambers (where she figures out what happened to his wife and unborn child), and knocks the King out too. She finds the Box just as Nemos and some soldiers bust in.
Xena uses the drape cord to bungee out the window and gets the Box to Pandora just in time for her to reset it. Xena tells Gabi and Pandora she has to take the baby to Gregor. The next morning, Gregor finds the baby in the crib and Xena explains that the prophecy can come true without bloodshed, if Gregor adopts the kid and lets him inherit the kingdom when he’s grown up. Gregor likes that idea, but Nemos doesn’t. I’m not sure why Nemos is so against Gregor having a legitimate heir; maybe Nemos figures he’ll inherit the kingdom if Gregor dies without issue? Anyway, Nemos tries to waste the baby (against Gregor’s direct orders), so Xena takes it outside with Nemos and his men right on her ass. And now we get the highlight of the episode, the baby-toss. (This won’t be the last one of those we see either.) Xena fights the soldiers while tossing the baby back and forth with Gabi. Xena ends up killing Nemos, which causes the other soldiers to take off and all the peasants to celebrate. Later, we find out that Pandora is going to move into the castle to help raise the baby and Gregor has the Box put in his treasure room so she can reset it every day. They thank Xena for her help and she tells them to name the baby Gabriel (which is what Gabi wanted to call him at the beginning). Speaking of Gabi, she’s hanging out in the treasure room contemplating the Box. As she and Xena leave, Gabi knocks the Box over and they find out it’s empty … mankind’s Hope isn’t inside. Xena says Hope resides inside everyone and they leave.
I put this episode at 117 on my all time list, but it’s not really a bad episode … I just isn’t as good as a lot of stuff that’s still to come. I like how the whole prophecy angle is done; predicting that someone will take a King’s throne is a well-used story device (especially in Greek myth: Bellerophon, Perseus, Oedipus), but I like the way it’s handled here. The baby will grow up to take the throne, but as Gregor’s heir instead of his conqueror. It’s a cool twist on an old trope. I also like how Xena trusts Gabi with more responsibility throughout the episode, and Gabi totally comes through. She delivers the message to the King, finds milk for the baby, and brings Ophelia back to the hideout … all while Nemos’s men are looking for them. It’s nice to see Gabi helping out, although it might’ve been better if it hadn’t all happened off-screen.
Pandora’s story is interesting too, almost a parallel to Xena’s in a way. Pandora feels so much responsibility for the Box (and the harm her grandmother inflicted on mankind) that she can’t imagine having a normal life. Xena’s burden of making up for her past keeps her from imagining a settled life too, as we saw in Chariots of War. At the end, Pandora moves into the castle to help look after the baby; the King says a child needs a mother, but he also hints that he might need help running things. I wonder if Gregor and Pandora will end up getting married? Judging by the coy look she gives him, I’d say it’s a pretty good possibility.
- This episode marks the first time Xena (and Lucy Lawless) breathes fire at someone. In later seasons, the effect is CGIed, but for the first couple seasons, Lucy actually did the stunt herself.
- We see another instance of Xena’s affinity with animals; we already know she’s good with horses (or with Argo at least), but there’s a scene here where Gregor’s dog growls at her and she makes it run off just by making a noise at it.
- There’s a stock shot of Gregor’s castle that’s used numerous times in the first season; I’m not sure what castle that actually is but it looks perfect for a fantasy stronghold, which is probably why they kept using it.
- In case you’re wondering, Gregor is the King of Lerna, which I think is in the northern part of the Peloponnese.
- “ … a big griffon with a cat in its mouth!” Gabi tries to guess what’s making the noise by the river bank.
- “Something about our baby bothering you?” Xena’s remark to the tavern keeper when she sees him eyeing up the baby, but the way she says it almost sounds like she’s saying “Yeah, we’re three women raising a baby, you got a problem with that?”
- “We tell her the truth … Hope has been and always will be safe; it’s inside every one of us.” Xena’s answer when Gabi asks what they should tell Pandora upon discovering the Box was empty. That reply is a bit ambiguous to me: does Xena mean they’ll tell Pandora the truth about the Box being empty but reassure her that Hope isn’t gone? Or does she mean they’ll keep the truth to themselves but give Pandora the line about Hope being in everyone as well? I’m kinda leaning toward the latter; telling her the truth would be a big weight off her shoulders, but it would also mean she wasted her whole life looking after an empty box when she could’ve been out living. Probably better to keep the truth to themselves.