This one starts with a young couple (Agranon and Jana) getting all lovey-dovey in a meadow while they talk about their upcoming wedding. Apparently their kingdoms (Boeotia and Kolonus) having been feuding for years, so neither of their families is too enthusiastic about the marriage, but it may be just what both kingdoms need to heal the rift between them. Unfortunately, a band of masked thugs show up and beat the shit out of Agranon, kidnapping Jana. Not too far away, Xena and Gabi stop into a shithole tavern for a meal and Xena has to bust a few heads to make sure they’re left alone. Agranon approaches and offers Xena money to get Jana back, telling her both kingdoms are blaming each other for her abduction. But Agranon thinks Jana was taken by Mezentius, a weapons dealer who lives in the walled city of Trachis, in order to keep the Boeotia/Kolonus war going. Xena only knows Mezentius by reputation, but is familiar with Trachis since a lot of her old cohorts hang out there. Xena’s not interested in Agranon’s money, but his heartfelt pleas to save Jana move her and she agrees to do what she can.
Gabi is worried Xena might be tempted to backslide into her old warlord ways once she starts hanging out with the scumbags in Trachis, but Xena says everything will be fine and tells Agranon to wait there with Gabi. In Trachis, we see Mezentius selling more weapons to Jana’s father (King Brisus), but when he leaves Mezentius asks his lieutenant (Marcus) if they got Jana. Marcus confirms it, so I guess Agranon’s theory was right. Xena shows up in a tavern in Trachis and immediately makes a splash, with all her old warriors glad to see her. Apparently, Xena’s rep has finally started to change, so she has to lie and say she’s just been pretending to be a hero to lull people into a false sense of security. (She blames most of the talk of her face-turn on Draco, who’s getting back at her for kicking his ass.) Marcus comes in and he and it turns out Xena know each other … quite well, apparently. Back at the other tavern, Agranon tells Gabi how he and Jana met and Gabi is so moved she suggests they go see Jana’s father, who’s sure to be touched by Agranon’s love for his daughter. In Trachis, Xena and Marcus reminisce and she feeds him some bullshit about ransoming King Gregor’s baby last episode. Mezentius comes in and harangues a guy (Dictys) he knows has been stealing weapons from him. After wasting two of his own men, Mezentius congratulates Dictys for turning them and offers him a job. Later, Marcus tries to introduce Xena to Mezentius, but Mezentius says he knows who she is and orders his guards to point crossbows at her.
Turns out Mezentius heard stories of Xena stealing weapons from another dealer and selling them back, so he’s a bit wary of having her around. She convinces him she just wants to make a deal and he calls off the guards. Meanwhile, Gabi and Agranon run into some Boeotian soldiers and get hauled off to the castle, which Gabi thinks is a good thing since they’ll be able to see the king. Marcus shows Xena around and puts the moves on her in the hot tub grotto. (As we’ll see in future episodes, Xena does love a hot tub.) Xena puts Marcus off so she can meet with Mezentius and convinces him Jana is worth more alive than dead. She also tells him her army can keep the war going indefinitely, allowing Mezentius to reap the profits from both sides. Jana gets away from her guards and threatens to kill herself, but Xena talks her down and assures her she can get her back to Agranon. Xena also convinces Mezentius not to rape Jana, saying she’ll be worth more if she’s unsullied. Later, Xena breaks into the armory and snoops around, getting caught by Marcus … and Mezentius.
Xena convinces Mezentius she was just examining the goods, but after Mezentius leaves, Marcus admits to Xena that he’s been siphoning off weapons to sell and keeping the money for himself. He shows her a dry well he uses to get the weapons out of Trachis. Marcus asks Xena about the rumours of her changing sides and says he tried to change his ways once but couldn’t stick it out. Marcus notes that Xena used to have something to prove, but now it seems like she’s found the answer to whatever was driving her. They start making out like weasels in heat. In the Boeotian dungeons, Gabi and Agranon find out they’re to be executed tomorrow, right before King Brisus renews the war with Kolonus. In Trachis, Xena sneaks Jana out of her room but is forced to hide her in the hot tub when Mezentius stops by. Xena distracts him with some thigh and hears about Agranon and Gabi’s impending executions. Marcus finds out from another soldier (Antonius) that Xena didn’t ransom King Gregor’s baby, she saved it and killed Nemos, the King’s crooked adviser. Marcus doesn’t want to believe it, but he finds Xena in the armory again, messing around with a big box that supposedly holds weapons. Marcus puts two and two together and aims a bow and arrow at the box.
Xena won’t let Marcus shoot, which confirms his suspicion that Jana is hidden in the box, waiting to be smuggled out in Marcus’s next clandestine shipment. Xena tries to talk Marcus into helping her, saying he just has to do one good thing to get on the right path. Marcus hesitates, but ends up calling the guards, so Xena decks him. She tells Jana to hide on a ledge and kicks the shit out of the guards. Marcus grabs Jana and holds a dagger to her throat until Xena convinces him he was on the right track when he tried to reform. Mezentius overhears and shoots an arrow at Jana, determined to prolong the war one way or another. Marcus steps in front of Jana and takes the arrow. Xena kills Mezentius with her chakram and tells Marcus he did the right thing just before he dies. The episode ends with Xena singing a dirge at Marcus’s funeral and telling Gabi how much she misses him already.
This is another episode that’s actually pretty good, but ends up in a lower position on my all-time list (it’s #112) because there are just so many other good episodes that I like more. Gabi is really sidelined in this one, contributing nothing other than some slight comedy relief and an excuse to cut away from the main story for a couple of scenes. I like Marcus as a character and his face turn at the end was believable; he’d had chances to change before and wasn’t able to commit to it, but in the end chose to do the right thing. There’s definitely a parallel with Xena’s quest for redemption, and as we saw in Sins of the Past, Xena was ready to give up too. Maybe Marcus needed a Gabi of his own to keep him from losing faith in himself. After Marcus saves Jana, Xena tells him she could’ve stopped Mezentius, but Marcus says this was his one thing, his first step to redemption. Too bad it was also his last (although we will see Marcus again in an upcoming episode).
- Xena and Marcus obviously have history—romantic history—but when did they first meet? Marcus talks about Xena’s mother like he knows her, but Xena’s been estranged from her mom since she first became a warlord. So she must have known Marcus before Caesar and Chin and all that stuff. Marcus says one thing he always admired about Xena was that she didn’t kill helpless people, which doesn’t sound like the post-Caesar Xena. So I figure Marcus is either from Amphipolis or joined Xena’s army very soon after she started fighting Cortese.
- When Xena and Gabi first enter the tavern and Xena is pounding all the guys who harass them, it seems like Gabi is completely oblivious to it. She even makes a joke about how they never seem to have trouble getting a table. But Gabi isn’t stupid; I think she knows exactly what’s going on (it probably happens everywhere they go) and is just pretending ignorance as a way of joking with Xena. (Xena’s sense of humour isn’t really evident in these early episodes; I think Lucy has said she chose to play her as more serious, but eventually loosened up and let more of herself show through.) As an in-story explanation, we could say that Gabi’s goofing around in situations like this eventually got Xena to relax a bit.
- When they first come into the tavern, Gabi is talking about how they helped King Gregor in the previous episode, which is a nice bit of continuity (unfortunately not very common going forward).
- There’s another fire-breathing scene for Xena (and Lucy) in the tavern.
- The song Xena sings at Marcus’s funeral is called Burial and was written and performed by Lucy Lawless. We’ll hear it again in future episodes.
- “ … if curiosity is the food of life, then adventure is a meal.” Gabi talking about how much she enjoys the adventuring life. I’m not exactly sure what she means, but I guess she’s just excited about being out on the road with Xena. This whole episode feels like it takes place very early in Xena and Gabi’s journey, maybe right after Sins of the Past or Chariots of War. (I always felt like Dreamworker could’ve come later in the season.)
- “You do one thing, one good thing, for no other reason than you know it’s right. That’s the first step.” Xena’s advice to Marcus on how to change his life, which he took to heart with unfortunate consequences.