This one starts with Xena and Gabrielle’s camp being attacked by bounty hunters early in the morning. Xena takes care of the assailants (with Gabi sleeping right through the fight), but one of them gets a knife in the throat from his own guy. Xena does an emergency tracheotomy and she and Gabi take the guy to a nearby inn. There’s also a young dude at the inn who seems to have pneumonia or something, so the innkeeper remarks how his place looks more like a hospital than an inn. There’s a hell of a storm and they hear blood-curdling screams from a nearby mountain. When Xena’s patient and the other guy both die for no reason, Xena realizes Prometheus has been chained again, depriving mankind of his gifts … fire and the ability to heal.
Xena and Gabi go to see an Oracle (on the advice of a mysterious friend who Xena won’t talk about) and Xena heads inside to get answers on how to free Prometheus. The Oracles (who look more like exotic dancers than seers) make her undergo a test to see how committed she is. After almost losing her hands in a dinosaur skull, Xena learns that a sword in the Cave of Hephaestus (on Vulcan Mountain) can break Prometheus’s chains. The Oracles tell Xena something else about the sword, but we don’t hear what it is. Outside, Xena asks Gabi what she’d do if Xena wasn’t around and Gabi reluctantly admits she’d like to study at the Athens Academy and become a traveling bard. Beside Vulcan Mountain, Xena gets directions from a huckster running a souvenir shop and heads into the mountain to get the sword. Xena has to fight her way through Hera’s soldiers and past several traps before getting to the sword. When she emerges from the cave, her old friend Hercules is waiting, and he wants the sword. Naturally, Xena attacks him.
After a brief scuffle, Xena takes off. Gabi meets Iolaus at the souvenir shop and when she finds out he’s Hercules’ best friend, she asks some professional questions, one sidekick to another. Xena comes in and things are a little awkward between her and Iolaus. Xena takes Gabi out with her, warning Iolaus not to follow. Later, Iolaus asks Hercules why he and Xena don’t work together to free Prometheus. Hercules insists he has to strike the blow that frees Prometheus, but won’t say why. Meanwhile, Xena and Gabi hide out in a barn and Xena tells Gabi how she seduced Iolaus in her evil days and used him against Hercules. She’s not sure how either of them feel about her nowadays. Their girl talk is interrupted by more of Hera’s men and Xena fights them off. Hercules and Iolaus show up to help and one of the attackers gets hold of the sword. When he tries to kill Xena, Hercules blocks the blow with his gauntlet, which causes the guy to burst into flames. Turns out that when the sword strikes Hephaestus metal (like Hercules’ gauntlets or Prometheus’s chains), the wielder of the sword is instantly immolated. So Xena and Hercules are each trying to prevent the other from dying in a suicide mission. Hercules grabs the sword and tells Xena he’ll strike the blow. Gabi reminds them they should be working together and Hercules agrees. As they leave the barn, we see Iolaus got a slight scratch during the fight, which would normally be no big deal, but since humans can no longer heal it could end up killing him … which is why he doesn’t tell anyone about it.
Xena and Hercules keep arguing about who’s more expendable, but Hercules won’t let her get the sword away from him. They find the mountain on which Prometheus is chained and head inside. Gabi finds out about Iolaus’s wound and agrees not to say anything; she knows what it’s like to be left behind and probably doesn’t want that for Iolaus. But after narrowly surviving a cave-in, Gabi finally comes clean and Hercules insists Iolaus stay behind. Gabi offers to stay with him and urges Xena not to strike the blow that will incinerate her. Xena tells Gabi to be strong and they have a nice goodbye scene. Xena and Hercules find a way up to the top of the mountain and Xena tries to put the moves on Hercules to distract him and grab the sword. He’s pretty into it, but realizes what she’s doing and holds onto the sword. Hercules tosses a grappling hook up to the mountaintop and Xena tells him to make sure Gabi gets to the Athens Academy before knocking Hercules out and taking the sword. Xena climbs up the rope, leaving Hercules unconscious in the caverns.
On top of the mountain, Xena is confronted by some freaky-looking green dudes who hatch out of eggs. Yes, it’s the infamous Green Egg-Men. Hercules wakes up and has to climb the cavern wall by hand to reach the top of the mountain, since Xena cut the rope. Farther back in the caves, Iolaus isn’t doing too well. Gabi tells him a story about how people used to have two heads and four legs before being split by the gods, and how everyone is now searching to find the other half of their soul. On top of the mountain, Hercules fights the Green Egg-Men, but before Xena can get to Prometheus, she’s snatched by a giant bird. Xena ends up riding the bird and stabbing it through the neck. She drops the sword and Hercules deflects it with a huge rock, busting Prometheus’s chains without getting incinerated. As the bird falls to its death, Xena comes tumbling down and Hercules catches her, somehow not breaking her spine in the process. Iolaus revives immediately once Prometheus is freed and later Gabi bandages his wound. Iolaus claims he was too out of it to hear Gabi’s Soulmate story, but he does kiss her before she leaves. Hercules and Xena also share a goodbye kiss and Iolaus asks Hercules if he believes soulmates exist; Hercules says he’s sure of it … which kinda seems like they were setting up Xena/Hercules and Gabi/Iolaus romantic pairings, but nothing ever comes of it.
This isn’t a bad episode overall (although it only makes it to #86 on my all-time list), but it maybe suffers a bit from the split focus with Hercules and Iolaus. It’s not too bad in that respect; Hercules will be way more intrusive in God Fearing Child in the fifth season. But I actually kinda like the interplay between the two heroes and the two sidekicks. Gabi asks Iolaus how he deals with standing around watching Hercules fight all the time and Iolaus says he’s fighting right beside him. That idea intrigues Gabi and I think she’s ready to fight at Xena’s side now (which we’ll finally see happen a couple episodes from now). There are some great scenes between Xena and Gabi too, showing how close they’ve gotten. Their goodbye in the cave is sweet and Gabi asking Xena not to strike the blow that’ll free Prometheus (meaning Gabi would rather see Hercules die than Xena) is quite telling.
This episode also introduces the whole “soulmate” idea, which will become very important in later seasons. Gabi’s story is quite romantic—Iolaus was obviously affected by it—and the ending almost seems like we’re supposed to think Gabi and Iolaus might be soulmates (as well as Xena and Hercules). But the producers ended up realizing the age difference between Iolaus and Gabi would be a bit too much; in real life, Michael Hurst is 13 years older than Renee, but Gabi is supposed to be six years younger than Renee (Gabi’s about 18 in the first season), so a nineteen year age difference might’ve been a stretch. So, Iolaus ends up being just another boyfriend of the week … and of course, Xena and Gabi are the ones who turn out to be soulmates, but nobody knew that yet (not even the writers).
- The first time I saw this episode, my first glimpse of the Green Egg-Men was when they were busting out of the eggs and because of the way their armour looks, I thought they were some kind of amphibious monsters, like Gill-Man in Creature from the Black Lagoon. Unfortunately, they’re just regular soldiers with crappy green paint all over them. Seriously, the Orion slave girls in Star Trek looked better than these guys.
- This isn’t the last time Gabi will be shown to be a very sound sleeper; she claims she was having quite the dream. It was probably a sex dream … no wonder she didn’t want to wake up.
- This is the first time we see Xena do an emergency tracheotomy, but we’ll see it again in the season finale.
- Gabi’s desire to be a bard has been touched on before, but this is the first time she talks about studying at the Athens Academy. We’ll see Gabi at the Academy just a few episodes from now.
- Michael Hurst actually broke his arm during the fight scene in the barn. You can’t tell because they ended up using an earlier take, but he apparently finished the scene even though his arm was busted.
- “You’re not much for girl talk, are you?” Gabi expressing her disappointment at not getting any good dish about Xena’s romances with Iolaus and Hercules.
- “Yup.” Xena’s response later in the caves when Gabi points out that Hercules is just as taciturn as she is.
- “Don’t strike the blow.” Gabi’s plea to Xena in the cave, essentially admitting that she’d prefer Hercules to die instead of Xena. We all know how compassionate Gabi is, so for her to say something like that she must really care about Xena a lot.