Season 1:18 Episode Guide & Review


The Prodigal


Reviewed by SLK

Rating: 6.5 chakrams


Before we begin, just one small point of business. Gabrielle – never ever EVER play the panpipes again. OK? Dear god – are my ears still bleeding? And what’s with our tone-deaf musical minx bouncing up and down like an attention-deficit-disordered meerkat? Are you trying to get whiplash, girlfriend?

Yeah, yeah I know, everybody’s a critic. At least Argo has taste.

Which brings me to The Prodigal. I am sure the powers that be must have been chewing their nails to the quick over this episode, wondering if Renee could pull it off, being front and centre, minus The Hero ™ for the first time. Although they did give her a hero, true, but he’s not one you’d want for anything beyond sharing the bar tab.

So does Renee pull it off? Most definitely. Wanton panpipe abuses aside, Renee does a masterful job of comedy and drama in this episode.

Before I launch into superlatives for redheaded warrior wannabes, I have to get the initial forced plot point out of the way.

Gabrielle leaves Xena. Again. Sigh.

There are so many things wrong with the opening to this episode which sees Gabrielle freeze and rethink her entire sidekick career path. First, she puts up a pretty good fight until she doesn’t and it’s the latter split second that makes her think she’s putting Xena’s life in jeopardy and that’s unacceptable to her. She says she is a liability to Xena.

And this is different from the first three months they travelled together how? Bearing in mind that on the first day when Gabs scarpered out of Poteidea determined to be Xena’s companion, she gave no thought to her uselessness – in fact quite the opposite, reeling off all the reasons how she could be useful to her. Now, after she has learnt masses of information on how to be seriously handy to have around, she declares herself without any use at all and the very liability she could well have been months ago.

The other stupidity about her statement – has she actually looked at the warrior princess lately? I mean, hell, that woman can go toe to toe with Ares and whip an army before breakfast with one battered frying pan. (Incidentally please note Gabrielle’s enthusiastic use of a frying pan as a bashing weapon in this episode.)

But one could argue the point of having a self-esteem crisis is that it’s not logical, it’s all based on one’s fears. That’s why they’re called fears, not realities. So that would explain the “oh good grief” eye roll Xena offers behind Gabrielle when the bard first announces her intention not to stay with her. Yep, even Xena knew those excuses were beyond lame.

Which brings us to poor Xena. We’re now up to two desertions by the bard (the first being the Academy of Performing Bards), and counting.

It doesn’t get any easier – the look on her face is heartbreaking the moment she realizes Gabrielle can’t be swayed on this. And it gets worse when Gabrielle announces she needs to be with “family” to sort this out. This gives Xena the heads up as to exactly where she doesn’t stand in the bard’s life.

Gabs follows that revelation up by one more kick in the guts when Xena, almost pitifully asks, in a small, fearful voice: “You’ll be coming back though, right…” and is told firmly “That depends…”

Ouch. Now just apply acid to the wound, bandage with salted cotton and you’re done.

Meanwhile Xena might want to work on her motivational speeches. “Act don’t react” is like saying be “attentive not alert”. She probably meant “Think then act, don’t just react”. But seriously when you’re facing a truckload of pointy spikes heading towards your head all anyone is going to do is react.

Which reminds me of the silliest part of this entire near-lethal log encounter – Xena races to Gabrielle’s side when the bard trips in front of the hurtling cart, and wrenches her to her feet. Then she tells Gabrielle to “lie down”. When she doesn’t, Xena pulls her down again, virtually exactly where she had been lying after tripping over! Genius.

A cute little moment: Gabrielle is clearly worried about Xena’s vitamin C intake and eating well (sometimes warriors do forget to look after themselves), taking the time to transfer an orange from her bag into Xena’s saddlebags before heading off. Awww.

And now we’re on our way to Poteidea - again. One thing I really loved about them bringing back the cart driver from Sins of the Past when Gabrielle first headed off after Xena was how she’s calling the human furball’s bluffs this time. When we last saw them both, Gabrielle was talking utter rubbish about people she’d never met just to get on to the cart and he spends the ride correcting her. Now, this Gabrielle has seen and done so much more that she’s correcting him. It was great to see the start of her shift in character from a follower to a woman to be reckoned with.

The shift is never more pronounced than when she gets to her village. We discover Xena has taught her a hell of a lot more than we’d ever guessed, from tracking to trapping – although clearly the Warrior Princess never got around to stealth. Gabrielle’s knife-at-throat count for this episode is a ridiculous two. How we’re supposed to take her seriously as a warrior in training when she’s still so incredibly easy to capture is a bit of a mystery. Still it makes Xena useful… or it did.

Okay, burning questions: where are Gabrielle’s parents? Contiki tour?

And her former fiancé? Does no one think it odd she didn’t bother to ask after any of them?

Oh, hey, it’s Lila – I have always loved the relationship between her and Gabrielle because it just seems so real. The bickering, and the automatic grounding of Gabrielle is right on. The redhead may be best friends with the Warrior Princess but to Lila, she’s just her sister. And she’s not shy in expressing her annoyance either.

Although Lila must have got the shallow end of the gene pool if this exchange is anything to go by:

Gabrielle: “I thought you were happy I was getting out to see the world.”

Lila: “I was happy until I realised getting out meant leaving me.”

Er, duh…

And finally, I loved the cute way Gabrielle yanks Lila about like a sack of potatoes (after looking for “coverage trees”). Remind you of anyone? Yes, Gabrielle learnt how to treat a sidekick from the best.

Those two are so sweet together – it was also great to see the way Lila came around to Gabrielle’s true calling after spending time together again. I think she needed to be reminded about how her sis was such a square peg in a round hole in Poteidea and it was almost a form of cruelty to trap her back there through family ties or guilt. Once they both came to the same conclusion on their own, without ever once talking about it in depth (despite that being why Gabrielle went home) their differences were resolved.

It was a lovely resolution for them to realise together the bard had made the right decision all those months ago, and she will leave a stronger person for it.

Although I am curious that Lila picked up on Gabrielle’s need to be with Xena as much, if not more than, her need to see the world. Sisters do know things, often before their siblings figure stuff out about themselves. So this was a very telling line indeed: “Doesn’t take an oracle to realize you belong out there in the world – with Xena.”  

Thanks for clearing that up, Lila. *grin* Now if only Gabrielle would take good advice when she hears it.

Enter Meleager. Nice bit of chemistry (in a paternalistic/fellow warrior sort of way) between him and Gabrielle. They acted so well in scenes together. I enjoyed the dawning realisation on Gabrielle’s face when she works out the drunkard has lost his nerve to fight, and she can relate all too well.

I loved, loved, loved Gabs stepping up, getting in Meleager’s face to get him out of bed and back in the saddle so to speak. While she was always sort of interesting as the village tag-along, here she is now riveting as a woman in her own right, standing up for herself with all this newfound confidence and leadership. Awesome.

And so we go full circle. Gabrielle leaves Poteidea yet again with another uplifting speech, this time from Lila, about how she’s destined for greater things. She has her mojo back and is heading off to find Xena. You know, I always wondered about this – how in all of Ancient Greece would you know where to start looking for her? It’s not like they made plans – meet you in Thebes in a season…. Seriously. Has the big lug got a homing beacon on her or what?

Now I don’t know about you, but if I were approaching an area I had been ambushed in before, and so badly my nerves were shattered by it, I would make damned sure it didn’t happen again. I would be approaching with extreme caution, not whistling like a defective kettle. (I guess Gabrielle did get a little hint of Lila’s gene pool after all.) Sigh.

Have to give a continuity nod to the BUG (bad ugly guy) bearing a bandage this time – he was hit by Gabrielle’s rock in the opening scene.

But the highlight of the episode is just the great iconic hero shot of Xena standing on top of the rocks, holding her chakram up, ready to strike. Now that’s a poster girl!

Well what’s left to say – for a Xena-lite episode they did a great job. It was entertaining, had rewatchability and was a wonderful showcase for Renee’s skills. On the downside was Gabrielle’s penchant for leaving Xena every time the whim so takes her. She’s lucky the WP is so understanding, because it’d be heartbreaking to have to keep readjusting to having someone in your life and then gone for good and back again, every few months.

I wish I could give Gabs a shake and say “Enough! No more”. But the kids of today, what can you do….

As for my last word, a second bit of business. Gabrielle, sweetie, no whistling ever, EVER again, either. OK? You’re souring the milk in the cows across three districts. There have been complaints. Thank you.


SCROLLS & SCRIBES: Written by Chris Mannheim; Edited by Robert Field; Directed by John T. Kretchmer

PASSING PARADE: Tim Thomerson (Meleager), Willa O'Neill (Lila), Alan Palmer (Pharis), Steve Hall (Damon), Kelly Greene (Derq), Anton Bentley (Athol), Wally Green (Elderly Driver), Ashley Stansfield (Sentry), Stephen Walker (Peasant), Barry Te Hira (Head Highwayman), Margaret Conquest (Villager).

DISCLAIMER: Meleager the Mighty, the generally Tipsy and Carousing warrior-For-Hire, was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

STORY SO FAR: Gabrielle returns home to rethink her life as Xena’s sidekick, only to join forces with a washed-up warrior to save her village from marauders.



Xena snickering like a dolt as a distressed Gabrielle recounts all her near-death experiences. It was a funny aside from Lucy, even if it meant the Warrior Princess had chosen the worst of all moments to exercise every muscle in her body, except the one between her ears.

The tearful farewell when Gabrielle announces she is leaving Xena to return home. Lucy beautifully played the ‘warrior-too-cool-to-admit-she-needs-a-friend’ while the conflict in her expression betrayed her sense of loss.


Think about being skewered against the stone, a la cart, or simply giving us what we want. And I mean, everything.” Yet another over-sexed, unwashed, ancient Greek petty criminal making the mistake of not recognizing the Warrior Woman.

How come mankind can solve the riddle of the Sphinx but he still can’t make a decent roadmap” Ohmigod, Gabs knows the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx? Well do share… Built by giants, right? Yep, I knew it.

…Sun-dried hard rodents are good to lift up off the road and…anyway, how am I doing?” Meleager, the expensive mercenary for hire, not surprisingly fails to impress with his ‘high-tech’ arsenal.

Tell me Gabrielle’, is there anything Xena doesn’t know? Or should we build her a temple right now?” Having goaded Gabrielle all day, Lila finally drops all pretence of what she really thinks about the ‘Woman Wonder’.

“Doesn’t take an oracle to realize you belong out there in the world – with Xena.” Lila, now over her jealousy, admits the painful truth that where Gabrielle needs to be is not in Poteidea.

You’re not so brave without your well-muscled friend, are you?” Funny, how they always remember the muscles. I don’t think it was Xena’s sparkling repartee that first attracted Gabrielle in Sins of the Past, either. ;)


Gabrielle (breathless): “A man named Daemon and his gang are on their way here!”

Village woman (weary tone)
: “To sack and burn the village, strip it of everything valuable? Old news, Gabrielle.”