EPISODE NO. 25
Season 2, episode 01
1st release: 09/30/96
2nd release: 11/25/96
3rd release: 01/05/98
1st strip release: 09/09/98
Production number: V0206
Approximate shooting dates: May, June 1996
Last update: 07/04/00
GUEST STARS, CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
SYNOPSIS 1 by Tricia Murphy
SYNOPSIS 2 by Bluesong
COMMENTARY 1 by Tricia Murphy
COMMENTARY 2 by Carmen Carter
CHANGING TIMES by Debbie White
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
David Taylor (Solan)
Paul Gittins (Kaleipus) [no screen credit given]
Mark Ferguson (Dagnine) [no screen credit given]
Alexander Campbell (Miklan)
Stephen Papps (See'er)
Peter Tait (Daylon)
Richard Adams (Warrior)
Written by Steven L. Sears
Edited by Jim Prior
Directed by Charles Siebert
TV GUIDE PROMO
Xena comes to the aid of a community of centaurs menaced by a member of her former band, and upon her arrival is reunited with the young son whom she left in their care nine years earlier.
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
1st RELEASE: 09/30/96
An AA average of 5.3
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) HERCULES 8th with 5.8 ("Mercenary" 38/301)
(2) STAR TREK DS9 9th with 5.6 ("Apocalypse Rising" 99/501)
(3) XENA 11th with 5.3
(4) BAYWATCH 15th with 4.2
(5) BABYLON 5/THE OUTER LIMITS tied 19th with 3.6 ("Walkabout" 62/318) ("Mind Over Matter" 25/204)
HIGHLANDER ("Prophecy" 88/502)
POLTERGEIST ("Town Without Pity" 02/102)
KUNG FU ("Chill Ride" 77/401)
THE CAPE ("Just A Rumor" 05/105)
SINBAD ("The Beast Within" 02/102)
TARZAN ("Tarzan and the Lost Legion" 03/103)
FX ("Pay Back" 04/104)
VIPER ("MIG-89" 02/102)
TWO ("Many Happy Returns" 04/104)
2nd RELEASE: 11/25/96
An AA average of 5.3
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) STAR TREK DS9 10th with 6.0 (107/509 "The Ascent")
(2) HERCULES 11th with 5.5 (38R/301 "Mercenary")
(3) XENA 12th with 5.3
(4) BAYWATCH 12th with 4.3
(5) OUTER LIMITS 20th with 3.9 (1R/22 "Trial By Fire")
BABYLON 5 (70/404 "Falling Toward Apotheosis")
HIGHLANDER (96/10 "The Messenger [Old and Wise]")
POLTERGEIST (10/110 "Ghost in the Road")
KUNG FU (85/409 "Time Prisoners")
THE CAPE (13/113 "Judgment Call")
SINBAD ( 1RA/101 "The Return of Sinbad")
TARZAN ( 02R/102 "Tarzan and the Leopard Queen")
FX (12/112 "Supernote")
VIPER (10/110 "Street Pirates")
TWO (12/112 "Prodigal")
3rd RELEASE: 01/05/98
An AA average of --
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
STAR TREK DS9 (135/611 "Waltz")
HIGHLANDER (113R "Unusual Suspects")
HERCULES (38R3 "Mercenary")
THE OUTER LIMITS ( 55 "Awakening")
POLTERGEIST (33 "Lives in the Balance")
FX (28R "High Roller")
EARTH: FC (10/110 "Live Free or Die")
NIGHTMAN (11/111 "Bad Moon Rising")
CONAN (05/105 "A Friend in Need")
TEAM KNIGHT RIDER (11/111 "Et Tu Dante")
HONEY I SHRUNK (7R/107 "Honey, I Got Duped")
This synopsis is by Tricia Murphy.
The Story: Part 1.
This episode opens with Xena and Gabrielle entering the outskirts of a village, a gloomy area adorned with Centaur totems. Xena sees that a battle has already taken place there between the centaurs and Dagnine. This sleazy warlord, who used to serve in her army, has headed for the same village in search of the magical evil-centaur-spirit-holding "Ixion Stone". Before too long, Dagnine's evil goons attack the duo and it is here that we first see just how good Gabby's getting with that staff of hers.
The attack thwarted, the two notice the arrival of Kaleipus, leader of the centaurs, who is understandably wary of Xena's arrival. (First, Xena was one bad apple last time he saw her. Second, Xena had promised to never return.) Xena explains that she is not there for anything or 'anybody', but merely wishes to aid them in the fight against Dagnine. "Anybody?" Gabrielle asks her, quizzically. A yell comes from the trees above and we see a young boy jump down, ready to attack.
This stout ten-year-old believes Xena to be the murderer of his father 'Borias'. With Borias' sword in hand, he immediately voices his hatred for her. "I want to kill her, Uncle," he says to Kaleipus, then says to Xena, "You have just met your greatest enemy." Kaleipus keeps him in check and Gabby asks Xena, "Do you know him?" Xena gazes at the child, and replies, "He's my son." The group heads for the village.
Background: Ten years prior, together with Dagnine and Borias, Xena had led her fierce army against the village. For reasons which are not disclosed in this episode, Borias "the man who betrayed Xena to become the greatest friend of the Centaurs" decided that the centaurs should be spared and took sides with them. Xena, obviously having had some feelings for him, ordered that he merely be captured. Unfortunately, Borias got killed instead. Our Xena, the "always-a-likely-scapegoat-for-those-who-need-to-divert- blame-from-themselves" Warrior Princess, got pegged for the murder. But, wait! It seems that Xena and Borias were a bit closer than anyone had imagined. The result- Solan.
Knowing that her son would become a likely target for her vindictive enemies, Xena placed the infant in the worthy hands of Kaleipus, leader of the centaurs. Kaleipus, obviously holding the deceased Borias in high regard, agreed to raise the boy as his own. The army having been dispersed and the attack canceled, Xena stumbled away into the forest, leaving her child behind.
The Story: Part 2.
On a distant hill Dagnine and his wizard buddy spy on the village, all the while trying to read Xena's lips through a medieval telescope. It seems that Dagnine is a bit power hungry and can't wait to get his grubby little hands on that Ixion stone. ("Ixion" was the father of the Centaurs. When he had the choice of making them "wicked" or "noble", he chose "noble". This legendary gem is said to hold the spirit of centaur evilness that was created and not used, promising that anyone who possesses the stone and drinks of it's elixer will BECOME the wicked centaur.) Dagnine knows that the Ixion Cavern where the stone is kept is somewhere nearby and hopes to get Xena out of his way. Down in the village, Gabrielle confronts Xena over her past actions and her decision to leave her son and never tell him who she really is. Xena storms away to discuss with Kaleipus in his hut her wishes for Solan to NOT become a warrior like her, after which she encounters Gabrielle again outside. It seems Gabby still isn't very understanding of Xena's decision to not tell her son who she is. Gabby is told, basically, to "mind her own business". Back up on the hill, via a good lip-reading session, Dagnine then learns of Solan's existence and makes plans to kidnap him.
Gabrielle approaches Solan in the forest, wishing to speak with him. The boy is still hesitant as he knows she is Xena's friend. Gabby tells him that Xena is not the same merciless warrior she used to be, that Xena has changed. That she, like Gabby, is his friend. Still wary, Solan proudly brandishes his father's sword, evidently planning to be a great warrior someday, and asks her curiously why she carries a staff instead. Gabby begins to explain why staffs are better than swords when Dagnine's goonies make their next appearance. Gabby does some good thumping on the bad guys, all the while yelling for Solan to "run!". The boy ignores her advice and stands his ground. Next thing we know our beloved sidekick gets THWAPPED on the back of the head and knocked out. Solan, of course, gets hauled off to the enemy camp.
Once she regains consciousness, Gabby informs Xena that the boy has been captured. Xena goes after her son, first by sneaking into Dagnine's tent and knocking him for a loop, then by climbing a tree and snagging the cage her son is being kept in with her whip and throwing him the key. Solan grabs for his father's sword which is stuck in the ground nearby. Unfortunately, they get spotted and the cage drops before the boy can get out. The ground collapses and the cage falls through. Xena jumps down and catches the hand of her son, who miraculously did manage to unlock the door. She wraps the whip again around the tree and begins to pull them up. As the archers are ready to skewer them both, Xena looks at Solan and says "Do you trust me?". Solan nervously nods "Yes". Xena lets go of the whip and they fall into the cavern below.
By an uncanny stroke of luck the cavern they fall into just happens to be the Ixion Cavern. They approach the shrine of the stone only to discover that it is empty! Apparently, Borias had taken it long ago and hidden it for protection. Solan sees that the handprints of his father are still distinguishable in the dust and places his hand on them in wonder. In need of a quick escape before the bad guys get there, Xena breaks off a nearby root hanging from the wall and blows into it, creating a horn-like sound. Uptop, Gabby and the centaurs hear the call and come running. Dagnine also soon arrives with his gang in tow. Eventually, Xena and Solan scamper up the rope their rescuers have lowered for them before they can be pulverized by the baddies. And just when we thought that all was well, Solan drops the sword of Borias and it falls back down the hole.... where a good-sized emerald dislodges from it's handle. Lo and behold, it is the Ixion Stone! Dagnine grabs it and holds it triumphantly.
Conclusion: "I'll kill Xena! I'll kill Hercules! I'll take Athens!" Dagnine says, "I've got so much to do, I'll have to make a list!" He gets his sorceror buddy to whip him up an Ixion cocktail, dry iced, and viola!... he transforms into one UGLY centaur. Back at the village, Xena and the gang are preparing for the new Industrial Strength Dagnine. They set up a giant crossbow on a launcher and make their plans. Before too long the evil centaur himself makes his ominous appearance, Borias' sword in hand, while his bad guys attack from behind. (Here we see Gabby again do some excellent staff wielding and a nifty little flip.) After doing in some good guys, Ixion-Dagnine grabs Kaleipus by the throat, which earns him a nice swift acupuncture thwack with her fingers below the pony tail by our Warrior Princess. After a little chit-chat with her, he manages to grab Xena by the throat as he explains that it was HE who really killed the revered Borias. Xena does a quick move and escapes his grasp, sending her sword flying to cut the rope on the launcher. The giant arrow hits its mark and Dagnine falls to the ground. The crowd begins to chant "Xena, Xena, Xena...".
Final Moments. In a touching scene by a lake, Xena sits next to her son as he gazes out to the water. She struggles with telling him who she really is, yet decides against it. "We'll always be friends," she tells him, "don't you ever forget that." Solan tosses the sword out into the water and announces that he no longer wishes to be a warrior. Xena tells him that his mother would have been proud.
In the end, Xena walks away, fighting back the tears as she once again must leave him behind.
(Just as a side historical note; the real "SOLON" was an Athenian lawgiver and poet, one of the Seven Sages. Elected "archon" (government leader) of Athens in 594 BC, he repealed the repressive laws of DRACO and freed those enslaved for debt. Source: The New American Desk Encyclopedia; 1989 Edition.)
This synopsis is by Bluesong.
Xena and Gabrielle are in an area of centaurs, an area that Xena's army once conquered. However, she negotiated a settlement with the centaurs, telling Gabrielle that she told the centaurs she'd never come back to that area. But now an evil warlord named Dagnine was after the Ixion stone, a stone which holds all of the wickedness of the centaurs in it. Apparently long ago someone was given a choice with the centaurs -- they could chose wicked strength or nobility; the choice was nobility, and the rest was placed in this stone. Xena and Gabrielle are jumped by Dagnine's henchmen, but they beat them, but not before the centaurs show up also. Xena throws down her weapons and tells the one-eyed centaur that she's not there for anything ... or anybody, only to stop the evil Dagnine.
A small boy named Solan jumps from a tree and attacks Xena, saying she killed his father, and he is her greatest enemy. One-eye looks at Xena and nods as the boy runs off. Xena says "he's my son." Gabrielle of course is a bit shocked but there is no further explanation. However, apparently a man named Borias was Xena's lover and Xena bore his child about 9 years ago; he turned "good" before Xena did, though, and he died keeping her army away from this evil Ixion stone. (It's never clear if this is a man or a centaur.)
They all go to the centaurs village and Xena watches Solan; Gabrielle thinks Xena should tell the boy she's his mother, Xena gets mad at Gabrielle and pushes her away (physically). Xena has a "flashback" -- she gave the boy to the one-eyed centaur to raise in an effort to make a deal and to keep the child safe.
Back to the present. Someone spies on them with a crude telescope; Xena even senses this (she is so GOOD!). This person finally does enough lip-reading to understand that Solan is Xena's son, hidden all this time to keep her enemies from getting him. So the evil Dagnine decides to take the boy. Xena talks to the boy at his "parents" grave -- he's been told both his mother and father are dead. Later, Solan and Gabrielle are attacked by about 6 men; Gabrielle valiantly fights them off but gets clubbed in the head anyway, and Solan is taken. The evil Dagnine puts Solan in a cage. Gabrielle finds Xena and Xena goes to get Solan.
Xena talks to Dagnine, who was one of her soldiers, once, and then punches him out. She tries to get Solan, but ultimately they end up falling through thin ground into a cavern. Solan breaks his arm. Xena sets it. They get out of the cave but Dagnine has the Ixion stone. Back at the village, Xena and Gabrielle have a tender friendship-defining moment where Gabrielle feels she failed Xena by arguing with her when Xena is obviously in emotional turmoil over Solan. She wants to be there for Xena. "Always. Always." Xena says.
Dagnine eats the stone and he turns into this hulking evil centaur. Xena sets a trap for him; he comes to the centaur village to get her. His henchman come in the village the backway; Gabrielle fights them off, and while Xena's fighting Dagnine, she sees Gabrielle in trouble & saves her with a toss of the chakram. Then finally Dagnine is killed, but before he dies he admits that he's the one who killed Solan's father (and Xena's lover). Xena later finds Solan by a lake; they talk briefly. Solan throws his sword in the water and says he doesn't want to be a warrior; Xena says his mother would be very proud. She walks away. The end.
This commentary is by Tricia Murphy.
The characters of Dagnine and his goons were just so darn funny, in a twisted kind of way. The kind of guys who make bad boys fun to watch. This episode seemed a bit more violent than most. However, in true XWP tradition, swords were never bloody after having been used. And the chakram, which ended up buried in some unfortunate bad guy's chest, wasn't either.
My conclusions. First, this was an unnerving display of understandable emotional weakness and turmoil for Xena, yet it showed us the down-to-earth side of her. Like the soft, penetrable part of a mighty dragon's armor that every knight aims for, this tough-skinned warrior has a woundable heart. And that is what makes her, for us, human.
Second, Gabrielle gets quite harsh with Xena as they argue over how a mother could ever give up a child. In return, Xena treats her as if she will never understand, how could she... or anyone else who had never been faced with that decision? In an instant, this seemed to place their friendship on some pretty shaky ground. Though, later on Gabby apologizes for her questioning Xena's actions, she states that she isn't saying she agrees with her decision, but will always be there for her. While this difference of opinion could set them up for a real emotional falling apart in the future, it's hard to say if the producers will ever follow through with this branch of the plotline. (Though I could just be making a mountain out of a molehill, I would still like to see this resolved at some point.)
Third, though Gabby got knocked out in one scene, I saw a real improvement in her fighting skills. Renee O' Connor has definitely been practicing!
Things to watch for: (1) Keep an eye on Xena's costume. To us, it seemed the design had changed a bit from last season; (2) The scene with Xena riding on Kaleipus' back was well done, though they ran by in somewhat of a blur. I plan on watching this episode again on tape, as I swear there is one scene where a horse is standing with it's head down and the man is standing at just the right camera angle to look like a centaur. Hmm...
This commentary is by Carmen Carter.
I should preface my remarks on ORPHAN OF WAR with the confession that I've never been particularly happy about the prospect of Xena's motherhood. And I can't say that I've changed my mind on that issue. However, if she had to be a mother, this episode handled the subject very well, and was further blessed with a decent kid actor to play against Lawless. The result was some very touching scenes between Xena and Solan. To my relief, Lawless managed to portray Xena as noble and self-sacrificing without sliding into maudlin sentimentality; not an easy balance to maintain. And the last shot of the episode, a freeze-frame on Xena's emotional turmoil after leaving Solan, was really quite stunning.
The main strength of the episode was that Xena's past relationship with Solan's father was used to explore issues of right and wrong, of good and evil. Xena's lover turned against her to fight for a just cause, and discussion of that conflict reveals some additional shading to Xena's reformed character.
An additional bonus was a new and admirable centaur character, Solan's "uncle," to add to the Xena universe. Also, Gabrielle has been practicing with her staff over the summer because she exhibited a few new stunts in her fighting repertoire, including a fabulous back flip that appears to be Renee in flight, not a stuntperson. Brava! And it was great to see Renee O'Connor listed in the opening credits!
For those (like myself) who notice these things, the Xena/Gabrielle relationship was considerably underplayed in this episode. Although there were a few scenes affirming strong friendship between the two women, their interaction was devoid of the emotional intensity or nuances of intimacy which were threaded throughout the last episodes of first season. However, one episode isn't enough to gauge whether this is going to be a trend for second season. I, for one, hope it isn't.
The glaring flaws in the episode centered on the villain and his Merlin-mystic cohort. They were portrayed in a broad, comic-book style, and the worst offender was the actor who played Dagnin. [Xenites will recognize him as the slimy warlord from HOOVES & HARLOTS.] His over-the-top performance was in jarring contrast to the more modulated performances by everyone else, and by the dramatic tone set by Xena's emotional conflicts over her son.
Changing Times is by Debbie White.
In ORPHAN OF WAR (26/201), Xena deals with several things from her past: the centaurs she once fought, one of her old soldiers, and her son by Borias. Gabrielle learns more about being a true friend as Xena deals with her past and present.
The Changing Xena
"You have things here I can only dream about. Things I would want for my son."
-- Xena to Solan, ORPHAN OF WAR
Xena is better in how much information she gives to Gabrielle. Xena usually does not like giving information about her past, even when Gabrielle needs to know it. This time, though, she tells Gabrielle that she fought the centaurs, that she was after the power of the Ixion stone, and that Dagnine was once her soldier. Still, she decides not to tell Gabrielle about Solan until he attacks Xena and declares he is her greatest enemy. Even when she tells Gabrielle about Solan, she does not want to talk about it. When the subject is intensely personal and Xena regrets her past choices, she avoids Gabrielle's judgment of her actions. This may be why she hides so many things from Gabrielle in the first place.
Some fans were upset that Xena has a son. Considering how many times she has used her body to get suicidal loyalty from her officers, the fact she has a child is not too surprising. What is interesting is that Xena clearly loved the father, Borias. She tells Solan that she sang with him, which she does not often do, and that they were very close once. Xena clearly respects Borias, too, because she says, "He found his way much sooner than I did" and that he saved her from finding the stone and killing off the centuars. Perhaps that is why she choose to have his child.
That Borias went against Xena for the greater good might have been a wake-up call for her. When Xena gives Solan up to the centaurs, she not only says it is to keep him from being used against her, but so that he will not become like her. It did not stop her from being a warlord, but it may have been one of the wake-up calls that kept her from losing all of her conscience and becoming unredeemable.
It is also interesting to see how Xena interacts with Solan. When he asks her about Borias, she answers him with the truth: that he was great because he stopped her, but that he once was evil, too. She does not try and paint a good picture of herself, either. She makes it clear to him that if Borias had not stopped her, she would have wiped out the centuars who are now Solan's friends and family.
Xena respects Solan enough to tell him the truth, but hides the fact that she is his mother. The only hint she gives Solan is that she can sing, like his fictional mother. When she resets his broken arm, she holds him like a mother but talks to him as a friend. In the end, Xena decides not to tell him she is his mother, though she comes very close to telling him.
Xena told Gabrielle that she feels like she does not have the right to tell Solan because she gave him up. She sees that Solan already has a family that loves and cares for him, which she still cannot provide for him. Also, she has already taken his vision of a totally herioc father from him. Her being his mother would take away his loving "mother", too. So she allows him to forgive her for her past crimes that he has come to terms with, and lets him remain free of all she would bring, both good and bad.
There are a few more interesting things in this episode. First, Dagnine did not know Xena had a son, yet he was a soldier in her army. Xena and Borias must have kept the child a secret so he could not be used against them. If Xena remained a "tent commander" and Borias was the one actually making sure the orders were carried out, then it could have been hidden fairly well. Also, despite the fact Xena does not want Solan to be a warrior, she compliments him on not freezing in a fight. Either she is taking to heart letting Solan choose his own way, or in all fairness had to compliment him on the skills he has.
A small final point is that when Xena was fighting the centaur-Dagnine, she still throws her chakram to kill a soldier fighting Gabrielle. The thing was that Gabrielle was holding her own just fine. On the other hand, eariler, she sends Gabrielle to go get the centaurs to come help save Solan. It seems like Xena trusts Gabrielle to get help, but not survive in a fight without her, yet.
The Changing Gabrielle
"She always does what's right, even if it hurts her."
--Gabrielle, ORPHAN OF WAR
When Gabrielle learns about Solan, she immediately berates Xena for leaving him, even if it was to protect him. Gabrielle thinks Solan deserves to have a mother. Later she even tells Solan she does not understand how people can hate Xena so much, because she has really only seen the good Xena. Still, despite the fact Gabrielle thinks she knows what is right, she apologizes to Xena. She realizes that she should have been less judgmental and more of a friend, which is what Xena needed. Gabrielle is slowly learning how to be a friend to Xena while keeping her moral code.
Still, Gabrielle keeps giving Solan hints that Xena is his mother. She tells him that he is ahead of the game when he says he cannot do backflips. She also tries to get Solan to forgive Xena, though she would probably do that, anyway. Still, she just cannot stand back and let Xena decide to tell Solan or not.
Gabrielle's attitude about her staff is interesting. She tells Solan that she is not a warrior, even if she fights to protect herself. She says that a sword makes you a target because the edges threaten people, where as a staff has no edges and will not provoke a fight. She has also learned enough now that she offers to teach Solan how to use a staff. Despite that, she still is not good enough defend both Solan and herself from mutiple attackers.
Finally, Gabrielle has obviously learned more about centaurs. She knows the totems are centaurs totems in the beginning and knows that centaurs are easy prey in the woods. She also just hops on a centaurs back when they are about to take off. Her confidence and knowledge is growing.
Xena tried to take the Ixion stone "ten years ago." Xena gave up Solan into centaur care for "nine years."
I would take this to mean that near the end of the 'ten years ago', Xena started fighting the centuars with Borias. After a few months, Borias turned on her, she gave up Solan, and she stopped fighting these centaurs.
Highlights by Tricia Murphy.
This episode is a "must-see" and gets a definite "grab-the-tissue-and-get-ready" rating. For those who have children, or are just the caring sort, the scenes between Xena and Solan as she struggles with keeping her relation to him a secret are emotionally torturous. Perhaps in the future he'll learn of his true identity. I have little doubt that we haven't seen the last of Xena's Solan. Especially if any of Dagnine's goonies survived to get the word out of his location.
The centaurs themselves are one of my favorite entities in the series. I can't get enough of them! What must it be like to say your lines with a staight face, all the while stepping side-to-side like a horse while you speak? And who the heck is doing all that whinnying, neighing, and other horse noise in the background? I love it!
I also enjoyed the little scene with the young centaur engaging in some horse-play with Solan and the other children as they kicked around a ball. One line from this episode that I found memorable was during that short scene; "Hey! No high-hoofing!"
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
These things are by Beth Gaynor.
Click here to read a transcript of ORPHAN OF WAR.
No sleazy warlords who deem it necessary to drink magic elixirs that turn them into scaly centaurs were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
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