The Exchange


To quote “Time of Your Life”, here’s what you need to know: Xena is from a town called Amphipolis, in Greece, of course. About 14 years ago (before "The Exchange", i.e. about 2000 years ago total), a warlord named… oh, crap, I forget. Anyway, this warlord (oh wait, his name was Cortese) came to Amphipolis, and Xena and her brother, Lyceus, raised a resistance against him. Unfortunately, Lyceus was killed and Xena blamed herself. Worse, so did her mother (blame Xena). So Xena left home, eventually becoming a pirate.

It was after a couple of years of this that she and her band ended up with two captives aboard their ship: a runaway Egyptian slave named Mylia, and a Roman general named Julius Caesar. Xena and Caesar had a brief affair while she held him for ransom, and they agreed there were no hard feelings when she returned him to his men. Meanwhile, though they didn’t speak the same language, Xena and Mylia developed a rapport, and Mylia taught Xena a number of unique fighting techniques.

After a time, Xena and her crew met up with Caesar again, but the reunion didn’t go as Xena had envisioned: Caesar captured Xena and the pirates, and crucified the lot of them, breaking their legs and leaving them leaving them to die along a beach, as a warning for anyone who would screw with Rome.

Fortunately, Mylia had escaped and comes to rescue Xena, and takes her to a healer that she knows. But when Caesar learns that she’s been rescued, he sends troops to find and kill her. They track her to the healer, and Mylia dies trying to defend her. At this, Xena goes berserk, killing the rest of the guards, and vowing to have revenge on Caesar.

She travels east to China, rebuilding an army, bitter and hateful, but not truly evil until she falls in with an evil sorceress from a tribe of Siberian Amazons. (She also has adventures in China that aren’t relevant here.) She becomes pregnant but gives up her son Solon to a tribe of centaurs so that her lover, another warlord, can’t use the boy against her.

Xena cuts a vicious swath through China, Mongolia, Siberia, and Asia Minor, on her way back to Greece. It is uring this time that Ares, the Greek God of War, takes a real interest in her. She’s ruthless and cruel, and an astonishing fighter; a model citizen, in other words, to Ares. In one battle she and her men cut down ten thousand enemies. Over the course of ten years, the name Xena would come to strike terror in those who hear it, and she would receive the moniker “Warrior Princess”. Her army would come upon a village, demand tribute, and kill all the men in the village if it wasn’t received, though they would spare the women and children. Usually.

It was during this period of terror that Xena’s army happened upon an inconsequential town named Cirra. It was nothing unusual, “pay up or die”. Only something terrible happened: either through carelessness or just meanness, Cirra was burned to the ground, women and children included. The only one to survive was a girl of nine or ten named Callisto.

Xena kept up her life of evil until almost ten years had passed since Caesar left her for dead, crucified on the beach. It was then that she crossed paths with Hercules, who was, you might remember, the son of Zeus, king of the Greek gods. Unfortunately, he was the illegitimate son of Zeus, a fact that Hera, Zeus’ wife, didn’t appreciate. One day while Herc was away, Hera killed Herc’s wife Deianeira, and his three children, Clonus, Aeson, and Ilea. Herc went nuts, but ultimately decided to travel the world fighting evil instead of trying to exact revenge.

Hercules traveled everywhere with his best friend Iolaus. His half brother Iphicles was King of Corinth, while his mother Alcmene married an old war buddy of Herc’s, Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts).

Anyway, because Herc was such a goody-goody, Xena decided to take him down. To do this, she seduced Iolaus, and tried to use him against Herc. It almost worked, but in the end Herc prevailed. Xena escaped though.

Still, her past had begun to work on Xena’s conscience. (Herc has that effect.) A few months later, Xena refuses to kill a child (I forget the circumstances), and her men turn on her and throw her out of her own army. For various reasons, she turns to Hercules for help, and though things are still a bit strained between her and Iolaus (understandably), Herc turns Xena away from her evil-doing. (They even have a brief affair, because this is television.)

So, Xena now goes off on her own, hoping to emulate Hercules, traveling around, using her skills for good. She starts by heading home towards Amphipolis. In the first village she passes through, Xena encounters a young farmgirl named Gabriel, who dreams of more than living out her years in Potedaia, married to the farmer Perdicus, to whom she’s betrothed. Gabrielle wants to have adventures; she dreams of being a traveling bard, presenting the tales of those adventures at the Academy of Performing Arts in Athens. So to Gabrielle, Xena coming through Potedaia is a gift from the gods. She decides to tag along with Xena when she heads on to Amphipolis.

Xena, though, has other plans. She doesn’t want this farmgirl hanging around. For one, she doesn’t want to be responsible for her. For another, she doesn’t feel too secure in this whole “no evil” thing. What if she corrupts this girl?

But Gabrielle is an innocent. Xena says she’s changed, so despite her past, Gabrielle believes her. Moreover, she believes in her. Though Xena refuses to take Gabrielle along, Gabrielle leaves home and follows Xena anyway.

Eventually, Xena gives in, and lets Gabrielle tag along. They begin a deep friendship. In many ways, Gabrielle is Xena’s conscience. As they travel around, Gabrielle gains confidence as she gains experience, though she uses a quarterstaff instead of a sword, as she’s vowed not to kill. There is an early re-meeting with Hercules and Iolaus, where Xena and Herc rescue the titan Prometheus, and the obligatory semi-romance between the sidekicks, but it is only a one-episode crossover.

After a few months, Xena and Gabrielle encounter the Amazons of Greece. (Well, one tribe.) After Xena and Gabrielle settle a dispute between them and the centaurs, the queen of the Amazons names Gabrielle as her successor. It’s kind of a strange honor (and I don’t know all the details), but it has far reaching repercussions.

Also, in one of the comedy incidents of the show, an episode entitled “Warrior…Princess”, Xena discovers she has a double (the first of many in what becomes a very overused conceit) in the person of a princess named Diana, of some random kingdom.

Some time after this, when Xena and Gabrielle have been traveling together for about a year, they come across a caravan of refugees. When they ask one of them what happened, the answer doesn’t make any sense: the man responds that their village was destroyed... by Xena. Xena and her army have destroyed a whole string of towns nearby. This is impossible... unless someone is impersonating Xena.

At this point I need to mention Xena’s “chakram”. Though Xena is skilled at many weapons (indeed, one of her catch-phrases is “I have many skills”), she has one that is unique: the chakram. It’s kinda like a metal Frisbee that is sharp around the edge, plus it has no center, making it a ring. Only Xena knows how to use it, and she uses it will. She can bounce it off of enemies and objects like a pinball, and it has a boomerang effect as well, so she always catches it on the return trip.

So Xena and Gabrielle head into a nearby town that they hear is under attack, to find a furious army killing and pillaging, and at its head a raving Valkyrie [1], a lithe blonde dancer with a sword. Xena and Gabrielle launch into battle to defend the villagers. Xena lets her chakram fly... and is stunned when the Valkyrie calmly flicks out a hand and plucks the chakram out of the air mid-flight.

The warrior woman faces off with Xena in the midst of the chaos. She asks Xena if the Warrior Princess remembers the town of Cirra, something that obviously Xena does. If you haven’t guessed already, this is Callisto. She has been shadowing Xena for years, learning her moves and studying her talents, and in her very personal opinion, there is no way that Xena can just “turn good” and not have to face punishment for the crimes that she committed in her ten plus years of terror. She is determined to make people remember all the bad things that Xena did even if she has to cause havoc in Xena’s name before she kills the Warrior Princess. They fight briefly; Callisto has obviously studied Xena well, as Xena can gain no advantage. Finally Callisto takes off (taking the chakram with her), as she has more things to do before her final showdown with Xena.

Xena wallows in her guilt for a while after the battle is disengaged by Callisto’s army, telling Gabrielle about Cirra. Gabby’s justification about why Xena should stay out of jail is that the greater good is being served by Xena using her many skills to help the otherwise defenseless (an argument that works much better in Ancient Greece than in modern America). Gabrielle says to Xena that “the cycle of hate can only be broken by love and forgiveness”. Meanwhile, Callisto must be brought to justice (though Xena does realize the irony of this, since Xena created Callisto in the first place).

An irritating clumsy “warrior” named Joxer has meanwhile tried to offer his “skills” to help Xena. [2] When Xena refuses this boob, he goes to Callisto. Although she considers summarily executing him, instead she gives him an opportunity to help. (In attempting to avoid his own death he gives Callisto the nickname “Warrior Queen”, as opposed to Xena’s “Warrior Princess”.) Callisto knows that Joxer will leak the info back to Xena of her plans. The next day Callisto heads off to kill the Oracle at Delphi with Xena’s chakram, knowing Xena will be there and hoping (so it seems) that she gets the blame. As it turns out, Xena is able to stop Callisto from killing the Oracle, and when Callisto tries to escape, Xena chases her down to bring her back to jail for trial.

But Callisto is not finished. This was part of her plan: Xena guards Callisto herself to see not only that she doesn’t escape, but further that the crowd that Callisto has incited to near riot doesn’t execute the blonde warrior summarily without trial. Meanwhile Callisto verbally taunts Xena from within the cell, giving her plenty of reminders of how Xena’s actions killed the members of Callisto’s family. Outside, someone in the mob throws a torch into the cell, catching the straw matting on fire. Xena has to go in to help, since Callisto is still in wrist irons.

However, Callisto, amidst her taunting, has picked the lock on her chains. When Xena comes in, Callisto beats her with them and locks her into the burning jail. Callisto heads out, backing the crowd away with only a hiss for a threat. She grabs a horse, and moreover, grabs Gabrielle on her way out of town.

This is her real plan: to force Xena to come get her on her own turf, force her into a final showdown that she hopes to lose almost as much as she hopes to win. When Callisto tells Joxer that if he really wants to join her he must kill a defenseless Gabrielle, the oaf refuses, Callisto hangs him up with Gabrielle over a pit of spikes by a single rope, and waits for Xena to arrive, which happens presently.

Just to make things more interesting, Callisto has her men light the rope on fire, though they are not to interfere. There follows a terrific one on one battle on ladders as Xena tries to rescue Gabby and Joxer before… well, dying, basically. Of course, she succeeds, and leaves Callisto hanging from the very flaming rope that Gabby and Joxer were on. When her men (actually her second in command, a big lug named Theodorus) go to put out the fire, Callisto orders him not to. She’d prefer to fall to her death. Again, Xena intervenes, and the episode ends with Cally and her men being taken off to prison.

A few months later, Xena and Gabrielle are heading to the temple of the Fates for Xena’s annual pilgrimage in honor of her dead brother, Lyceus. Xena begins her tribute when a ruckus is heard outside the temple. They find an army attacking, and take to their usual “defending the innocent” bit. However, one of the masked soldiers that Xena kills turns out to be, when his helmet falls off, about thirteen or fourteen. Xena is overwhelmed with guilt. She rushes back into the temple as the attackers run off. In near tears, she wishes that she had never become a warrior in the first place.

Well, having just saved the temple of the Fates, those three demi-gods are inclined to hear that statement as a literal wish. Suddenly the temple is gone from around her, and Xena hears someone call her name. Turning, she sees, inexplicably, her no longer dead brother.

The Fates explain her predicament: she has her wish, she never became a warrior. The villain Cortese never attacked Amphipolis. But since she never became a warrior, she can’t be one now. If she ever sheds someone’s blood in anger, things will be returned to what they were.

For a while, things seem to be hunky dorey. Though it takes getting used to not using her brawn to solve problems, the change seems worth it. But it doesn’t last. She discovers that since she never raised an army against Cortese, he is still a warlord, heavily involved in the slave trade. And one of his slaves is Gabrielle.

Xena tries to rescue Gabby, but this is a very different girl than the one that she knows. Her innocence was stripped away a long time ago. Though she tentatively accepts Xena’s help, she doesn’t see in herself what Xena does. Also, Xena discovers that Cortese is joining forces with two other warlords, and together they intend to wreak havoc on much of Greece, including Amphipolis.

Xena and Lyceus intend to take them down, Xena bending the Fates’ rules a little by attacking only with blunt objects, not a sword. But then Xena sees something that destroys what little comfort she’d had out of this world: Gabrielle takes her revenge upon Cortese (her vicious master) by running him through with a sword. She is far gone from the Gabrielle Xena knows, who had vowed to never take a life. Xena decides, and then takes a sword and kills a warrior on her own. The spell is broken, and things return to normal, right in the midst of the battle outside the temple. But with one exception: Xena has not yet killed the young soldier. She seizes this gift from the Fates, and threatens but doesn’t kill him, and makes him vow to give up the way of the sword before it costs him his life.

La, la, la, Xena gets a message that she needs to go back and see Princess Double… er, Diana. When she stops in a tavern on her way, she gets a very interesting reception from Joxer: it would seem (I’ll spare you the inane mistaken identity routine) that Xena has another double in the form of Meg, a… well, the episode name is “Warrior…Princess…Tramp” if that gives you a clue. Yada yada yada, hilarity abounds, Xena reforms Meg (sort of), but Joxer still has a crush on her.

Back to the cool stuff. Callisto is in prison, and what a prison: she is kept in the wing with the most dangerous offenders, but in a cell all her own, strapped motionless into a high backed chair, bound barefoot, ankles to the chair legs, wrist, throat, and forehead all tightly tied down, because she’s already crippled three guards. But this is Callisto, and her tongue is as dangerous as any other part. She taunts a guard enough that he comes into the cell to beat on her (even right after he’s told a new sentry that one should never go into her cell), and while he’s whacking on Callisto she steals a knife from his belt. After he leaves, she uses the knife to cut a wrist strap, releases herself from the chair, picks the lock with the dagger, then goes into the sentry room and kills six guards barefoot with just the knife and her hands.

She releases Theodorus (her second in command) and rebuilds an army from the other prisoners. And, as always, her singular plan is to destroy Xena.

Meanwhile, Xena and Gabby run across Perdicus (Gabby’s old betrothed back in Potedaia). He’s changed a bit from when Gabby was back home, become a bit more worldly, mostly because he’d joined one of the many armies in Greece, until he couldn’t take the life anymore. He and Gabrielle are getting back acquainted with one another when Joxer shows up with the news of Callisto’s escape.

The lot of them head off to where Cally and her band are roughing up a random town to draw Xena out. They arrive and Callisto immediately has Xena at a disadvantage. She throws a dagger at a child running about in the chaos, knowing Xena will leap to stop it. And then she has Xena pinned to the ground, her sword at the back of Xena’s neck. But she’s not going to kill her… “I’m not going to kill you now, oh, no… first I’m going to kill your soul… just like you killed mine.” And then she does a series of backflips and takes off.

Anyway, in the middle of the fight, Perdicus just breaks down. He can’t do this anymore (great timing, Perdicus). Gabby gets him out of there. Later, sitting about the campfire, Perdicus asks Gabrielle to marry him again (or rather, again asks her to marry him). Amazingly, she says yes.

So Gabby and Perdicus get hitched in a small ceremony (which broke all the lesbian fans’ hearts ) [3], and Xena reassures Gabby that she can take care of Callisto by herself, not to worry.

Callisto has other plans. When she said she’d kill Xena’s soul, she meant it. She tracks Perdicus and Gabby to their new home, and though she intends to kill Gabrielle, Xena shows up in time to prevent that. So Callisto settles for killing Perdicus instead.

Needless to say, Gabrielle goes ballistic. She fully intends to get her revenge on Callisto, and this is in fact part of Callisto’s revenge upon Xena, watching Gabby lose that sense of love and forgiveness she’s always possessed.

Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer track Callisto and her army to a seaside hideout where they are celebrating. Xena convinces Gabrielle to just hang back while she will take care of things in the morning when the army is all hungover and sleeping.

In the morning, though, Gabrielle sneaks in on her own, fully intent on killing Callisto. At the last minute, she decides even Callisto is not worth breaking her vow not to kill. Unfortunately, Callisto doesn’t drink, so when Gabrielle changes her mind, she doesn’t get the chance to leave before Cally has a knife at her throat. Xena comes in rescue Gabrielle, but Cally’s army is ready and they capture her too.

Callisto has Xena strapped into the same chair that she was in in prison (she brought it with her as a reminder), while she prepares to burn Gabrielle at the stake. Then Joxer stumbles in trying to rescue the other two, and though he succeeds at nothing, Xena uses the distraction to get her chakram from Callisto and free herself and then Gabrielle. Much fighting ensues, but Callisto races outside to draw Xena out, and they get into a furious chariot race along the beach.

They battle back and forth, Callisto wrecks Xena’s chariot but Xena uses her whip to grab onto Callisto’s. Callisto drags her along the beach, but Xena slowly pulls herself forward and climbs aboard where they fight hand to hand, and finally tumble from the chariot and down a sand dune… right into some quicksand.

Xena uses her whip again to grab a fallen tree and drags herself free. Then she watches while Callisto drowns, all the while begging Xena for her life.

Things move on. But Xena is exceptionally guilty about just letting Callisto drown. She keeps having nightmares about it.

Meanwhile, Callisto is in Tartarus (the Greek version of Hell), when Ares (the God of War) comes to visit. He offers her a way out of Tartarus… in Xena’s body. Together they enter Xena’s dreams, and get Xena to admit she murdered Callisto, and at that moment their bodies are reversed.

Ares wants Callisto to take up Xena’s old hobby of destruction and mayhem. She goes (as Xena) to confront her old army, now led by Theodorus, her old lieutenant. To prove she (Xena) has turned back to evil, she kills Theodorus. Her plans don’t exactly match with Ares’ though (Callisto doesn’t take orders from anyone, god or no god), and she takes the army back to Amphipolis. There she intends to convince Xena’s mom and the rest of the villagers that an army is coming (her own, of course), and lock them all up for their protection. Then burn them all to death, just like Xena did with her family and village.

Back in Tartarus, Xena (in Callisto’s body) speaks with Hades, the God of the Dead, and tries to convince him of Ares’ deception. He is not inclined to believe her, given how troublesome and wickedly clever Callisto is. But he does agree to let Xena out of Tartarus for one day to bring Callisto back, else she spends the rest of eternity there.

So, as you would expect, Xena (as Callisto) has to convince Gabby (and, ugh, Joxer) of who she is, and then they go to the rescue. As it turns out, Xena sends Callisto back to Tartarus by bringing up the ghosts of her mother and sister, and how they must feel about all the people that she’s killed. And the ghosts of all those people. Callisto has always dismissed her guilt by saying it is Xena’s fault, all those deaths are on Xena’s head… but she can’t take the guilt when she starts to realize she’s guilty as well.

Callisto goes back to Tartarus and Xena gets out… but they stay in each other’s bodies, well, at least for one more episode. In case you don’t know the story, this was because Lucy Lawless fell off a horse while practicing a skit for the Jay Leno show, so the producers enlisted Hudson to play Xena for another episode on the show. Which was great, because Hudson was awesome at playing Xena. And the fans love her as well. (She is a huge hit at the conventions. Trust me, I’ve been to one. ’Cause I’m a big old nerd.)

Anyway, Callisto’s in Tartarus for a while when (presumably due to Hudson’s popularity) she catches the eye of Hera, the Queen of the Gods who is Hercules’ nemesis as I mentioned earlier. Hera agrees to let Callisto out of Tartarus, and have a chance at the fruit of a magical tree at the heart of the maze of the gods if she does a favor for her.

Hercules comes home to Corinth, where his family is having a surprise birthday party, to find that Callisto, disguised as a poor traveler, has poisoned his mother, half-brother, old friend Falafel (sort of the Joxer of Hercules’ show), and Iolaus, with a poison that will drive them insane before it kills them. The only cure for this poison is the very fruit that Hera promised Callisto… a fruit that will both bring Callisto back to life, and also make her immortal.

Stuff happens, Callisto knows the way through the maze but needs Herc to help her get past the traps. They eventually get to the center, and Callisto double crosses Herc to deliver him to Hera. Meanwhile, she eats the fruit and becomes immortal. Naturally, though, Herc overcomes his dilemma, and ends up trapping Callisto deep within the maze.

Back in Xenaville, our heroes have various and sundry adventures, and then they pass through a part of Greece that holds some bad memories: the burned out ruins of Cirra, Callisto’s hometown. Xena has some bad flashbacks, but shakes them off when a group of people nearby are attacked by some ruffians. Xena goes to defend them, but they spring a trap: a giant log, tied up in the trees that swings down to hit the attacker. Unfortunately, a child is standing right in front of the trap, and Xena leaps to knock her out of the way and is struck by the tree herself.

She is badly injured. In a delirium, Xena tells Gabby of a healer up in the mountains, and Gabrielle sets up a litter and begins the long journey. This is the episode where we actually find out about the pirate-and-Caesar thing, and Mylia, all in Xena’s fever dreams. Lots of cool parallel story stuff goes on, ending with Mylia and Gabrielle both bringing Xena to the healer, ten years apart. But the endings are different: the second time through, in the present, the healer can’t do anything for Xena, and she dies.

Needless to say, Gabrielle is devastated. She’s not sure what to do with her life, beyond her decision to take Xena’s body back to Amphipolis. On her way, she runs into the Amazons again (the one she’s the Princess of), and finds more bad news: the Queen of the Amazons has died. Of course, this means that Gabrielle’s the next queen. She stays in the village for a few days, and decides, at the Amazon’s suggestion, to give Xena an Amazon funeral, which includes burning the body after an elaborate ceremony.

It is in the Amazon village that she meets Velasca, a tough Amazon who had been the adopted daughter of the Queen. Velasca tries to convince Gabrielle to give up the throne, since she has been training to be the Queen, and Gabrielle doesn’t really want to be Queen anyway. Gabrielle considers it.

Meanwhile, Xena is in Tartarus. But, while she is there, Mylia comes to see her. Xena doesn’t belong in Tartarus… she still has good things to do on Earth. So she needs Gabrielle’s help to come back to life.

But Gabrielle is busy with the Amazons, so Xena contacts a friend of hers, Autolycus, the self-proclaimed King of Thieves. He lets her enter his body, and he goes to Gabrielle, but she doesn’t believe him. She thinks it’s a cruel trick. Because he was trying to steal Xena’s body (so that the Amazons don’t burn it), she thinks he was going to sell it to some of Xena’s enemies for cash and puts him jail. She has enough trouble to worry about with Velasca, whom Gabby doesn’t think should be the new Queen of the Amazons.

There is a ceremony to instate Gabby as Queen. To pass the throne, all Gabby has to do hand over the ceremonial mask to Velasca at the proper moment. The moment comes, and Gabrielle makes a decision. Velasca holds out her hand, and Gabrielle instead puts the mask on herself. Velasca storms off, furious.

Autolycus has broken out of the jail in the meantime, and with Xena possessing his body, he grabs a horse and Xena’s body and is about to make a run for it. At the last moment, Gabrielle realizes it is Xena in his body, and leaps on the horse as well.

They stop sometime later and Xena/Autolycus tell her the plan: they need some ambrosia, which is the food of the gods. It can bring the dead back to life – but can make a mortal who eats some a god. Thus it is held in a highly secure hidden temple.

Some of the Amazons catch up with Gabby and Autolycus. They are majorly pissed off, and many have turned their allegiance to Velasca. They jail Gabrielle and Velasca tortures Autolycus. When she throws Auto back in the cell, Gabby takes charge, and they trick their way out of the jail, heading off to the temple. They managed to convince an Amazon or two who was loyal to Gabby to help, and they go off to get Xena’s body while Gabby goes for the ambrosia (Auto is too hurt from the torture to help).

Alas, Velasca has followed them. She decides becoming Queen of the Amazons is too small, she deserves to be a god. The ambrosia is held at the top of a high chamber hung with ropes over a floor of spikes. When Gabrielle starts up the ropes, Velasca jumps on as well, and a nifty battle ensues while they hang from the ropes. Velasca reaches the top first, and opens the chamber. She has the ambrosia in her hand, when Gabrielle grabs the rope she is on and shakes. The ambrosia falls into a fiery pit and is destroyed, but not before hitting Gabrielle on the way down. Velasca falls from the rope to the ground and is out.

Gabrielle climbs down just as the Amazons bring in Xena’s body. Some of the ambrosia stuck to her, and she brings Xena back to life.

Just as everyone thinks everything is great, the scene cuts to the chamber again. One more piece of ambrosia falls from the ceiling chamber. And a hand reaches up from the floor to get it.

The next day dawns back in the Amazon village, with Xena and Gabrielle preparing to leave. Gabrielle hands the mask over to another Amazon (Ephiny) to rule in her absence. But suddenly a bruised and battered Velasca appears at the edge of the village, very pissed off. She reaches into a pouch and pulls out a piece of the ambrosia, and whoa, Nellie! Her eyes get this pale, almost white color, and she starts in throwing around lightning bolts and whatnot, destroying the village and trying to toast the Amazons.

When she seems to weaken for a minute, Xena gets the Amazons out of there. They head to a nearby cave to hide, but obviously that won’t do. They need someone who can stand up to a god, and there are only two people they know who can do that. Hercules is too far away to get there in time. But the other, as Xena has been told by Hercules, is relatively close-by.

Gabrielle is very much unsure of this idea as the two of them approach the maze of the gods. But she trusts Xena.

Xena lowers herself into the maze where Callisto is trapped, and makes a very similar promise to what Hera made: if Cally helps Xena and Gabby, she’ll get a chance at some ambrosia. Cally agrees. But it’s gonna be an interesting trip.

Callisto also makes Xena perform one act before they get on their way. Xena must go to the nearest village, and declare her guilt before a marketplace of people. Though Xena thinks they’re wasting precious time, Callisto insists. So Xena complies. As it turns out, no one in the marketplace actually seems to care, but when Gabrielle takes a glance at Callisto’s face during the confession, she sees an almost blank, almost troubled, almost teary expression, but only almost.

Meanwhile, Velasca has taken a side tour to the temple of Artemis, the Goddess of the Forest and Hunt and the patron goddess of the Amazons. Velasca yells to Artemis that she doesn’t need her anymore. Artemis wasn’t there while the Amazons were falling from the places of power, being scattered across the world. She, Velasca, doesn’t need any of the gods anymore. She declares herself as the God of Chaos, and then proceeds to destroy Artemis’ temple.

Xena and Gabrielle and Callisto go after Velasca once, and bury her under an avalanche of boulders, but Xena says it isn’t enough. Velasca is too strong, and getting stronger as time goes on. She has another plan. They move on.

That night the three have dinner by the campfire, and Callisto and Gabrielle have an interesting conversation. Gabrielle gets the impression that deep within her, Callisto is sorry for the things that she’s done. But it’s well hidden behind a façade of cynicism and anger.

They continue to draw Velasca along, and she continues to grow more powerful. Eventually they draw her into these ancient ruins, on a cliff high above a river of lava. Velasca is mostly interested in killing Gabrielle, of course, but Callisto keeps defending her and she and Velasca get deep into battle.

Velasca throws Callisto away, and Gabrielle draws Velasca out onto a rope bridge. Velasca is about to kill Gabrielle and Callisto jumps her again. Gabrielle snatches Velasca’s pouch of ambrosia, but falls so that she’s hanging off the bridge. Xena tells her to throw the ambrosia to Callisto.

Callisto eats some of the ambrosia and transforms into a god, with the same shockingly blue-white eyes instead of her normally soulful-brown ones. She and Velasca start going at it. Though Velasca has been a god longer, Cally is a better fighter to begin with, so it’s a pretty even match. Meanwhile, Xena cuts the bridge, and Callisto and Velasca both fall into the lava below.

Xena rescues Gabrielle from the cut bridge, hanging in mid-air (and Gabby is afraid of heights, so she’s terrified). Before they leave, they look down into the canyon. Gabrielle asks Xena if she things Callisto is sorry, deep down. Xena doesn’t think so. But Gabrielle thinks she does, and says she forgives Callisto for the things she did.

Deep in the canyon below, the two goddesses are frozen in the lava, a statue sticking out from the flow, hands clutched at one another’s throats…

And so we begin…