A Mission (01-02)
Spoiler Heaven (03-04)
Spoiler Angst (05-09)
The Real Thing (10-11)
Questions and Observations (12-19)
Xena listens to Kenji's tale.
 I am on a mission. Is it a mission inspired by God? No. It is a mission inspired by love, my love for Xena: Warrior Princess and my love for creativity in art. Production ended with the series finale, an end to one part of the creative process. Yet, the crucial part continues. Each viewer now has the opportunity to create from within the final interpretation of FRIEND IN NEED. Join me as I share my internalization.
 I am an unrepentant spoiler hunter. Perhaps there are others like me? As a latecomer to the Xenaverse, I have only seen Xena episodes at the original time of broadcast since OLD ARES HAD A FARM. Through some fluke, I also saw DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN at the initial airing but that hardly counts. I read the Whoosh! synopsis page about a week before I have a chance to see the episode. As I share what the finale made me feel, I confess my thoughts begin with the reading of the spoilers. In fact, I begin to write this on Tuesday when my first chance to see the show is still days away, Saturday, the 23rd.
 Sunday, June 10th, the first of the summaries of FRIEND IN NEED I show up on the Whoosh! page and I devour them. As seems always true, Bluesong's has an objective detachment to it. Shana's is much more detailed and carries an undeniably subjective tone. I love reading both these people but particularly appreciate Shana's clues to check aspects like posture and facial expressions. Shana was getting bad vibes all through part one, a foreboding she eloquently shared with me, a devoted reader. I have learned to respect Shana's interpretation and often find I share it. Ack! I discover I do not get to see either part until they show up on the 23rd-- thirteen days away!
 Sunday, June 17th, Bluesong's synopsis for FRIEND IN NEED II posts and I read it mid-afternoon. I even manage to spoil the spoiler by reading the last couple sentences first. I said I was unrepentant! I cried! The last sentence floored me. "Gabrielle, standing alone on the boat, drifts over the water as the sun sets." What! NO! NO! NO! You said you would be together forever! I scroll back up to the top, hoping I have somehow misinterpreted what I sneaked at the end. (But I do not cheat at solitaire...) I read clear through, through the decapitation, through the ghostly part, but that devastating last sentence is still there and makes me cry harder. My grief was so real and so intense but was all for Gabrielle. I was not sad for me or mad at the creators. I was purely and thoroughly devastated for Gabrielle. I cried more. NO! NO! NO! How could this happen to Gabrielle? I found nothing in Bluesong's synopsis to lessen the ache in my heart. I shut off my computer and went for a walk to the top of a hill where I could gaze at the horizon and sniffle away. My Xena obsession is a solitary pursuit so there was no one to whom I could turn for solace.
Xena and Gabrielle fail to beware THE IDES OF MARCH.
 I returned to the house, still grief stricken, having decided I would watch THE IDES OF MARCH tape, one that makes me cry but leaves me feeling a sense of triumph in the end. Once that was done, I checked Whoosh! again, hoping Shana's summary would be up. It was not. I moped more. Working to convince myself my grief was premature, I began to hope the full intent of the episode did not come through in the objectivity and brevity of Bluesong's comments. That evening, I watched the Oxygen showing of BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, one of the many episodes near and dear to me. Still seeking some sort of cathartic purge, I watched my MANY HAPPY RETURNS tape immediately after. Yes, I watched three episodes on Black Sunday. I looked for Shana one last time, worried when there was still no posting from the one who would give me greater detail. I sent e-mail to Shana, expressing my worry.
 Monday morning, after a mainly sleepless night, I get up to check for Shana again around six. Still nothing. When I check my e-mail just before eight, I have a delightful surprise, Shana's synopsis. (Thank you again!) I do not have time to do anything more than cheat and read the end before I must go watch THE RECKONING on Oxygen, my first shot at seeing this episode.
 When I finally have time to read and study Shana's synopsis, I am given more to think about. I e-mail a couple more times back and forth with Shana, trying to convince us both to view the episode in a positive light. It was very hard work! I was not only fighting my response to spoiler reading but also the responses of other fans made available on the Internet. I was dismayed by the negative reactions, particularly when they seemed to be so viciously aimed at the creators of the show. I decided to stop searching those out until after I had a chance to see the episode.
 It was a tremendous help to me to have access to the final minutes of the show, courtesy of Kym's posting. (Thank you!) I watched that many, many times, crying my way through, again feeling Gabrielle's sorrow. After enough viewings, I no longer cried.
 By late in the week, I had pulled together my thoughts from spoiler reading, my thoughts on specific aspects of the finale that seemed to annoy other fans so much, and my musings on what was really meant by the closing boat scene. I firmly believed I had a mental construct that would allow me to watch the finale and get through it emotionally whole. I still expected to cry at certain spots, but I had my alternate version to buoy me up.
The Real Thing
 Saturday came at last. By that day, I was only just recovering from the sleep deprivation of earlier in the week. I think I slept an unhealthy sixteen hours over the course of four nights, starting with that spoiler reading Sunday. There was a niggling fear in the back of my mind that I would fall asleep in front of the TV during the show. Well, that was surely not the case. I was thoroughly engrossed and entertained from the start. The parts I thought I would find gruesome were not as bad as I had expected. I had studied so hard and prepped so extensively, there were absolutely no surprises anywhere. Not only that, I had myself so convinced of my predetermined interpretation of the final five minutes, I did not shed a single tear at any point in the episode. This was the only surprise in my viewing experience. I really thought I would cry. As the evening progressed, I realized I was not so much saddened as numbed by the episode.
 I watched the episode again Sunday morning, from the tape I had made Saturday. The commercial breaks are a real annoyance for me in these highly dramatic shows. It was nice to fast forward through them this time. It kept my feelings directed. (Those darn Bugle ads on Saturday really broke the continuity of my emotions!) I cried on this second viewing, but not where I expected to be so moved. I cried at the parting scene at the teahouse, after Gabrielle has her tattoos and blue shirt. There was something about the conviction in her voice and expression when she turned and assured Xena she would get her body back and that they would meet on the side of Mount Fuji. Xena's "See you there..." had no maybe in it anywhere. It was an epiphany moment for me. What faith that showed! What belief those characters have in each other and in themselves! Though it was not part of my planned response, this scene became key to seeing some triumph in the parting at the fountain's side. Gabrielle and Xena's faith in one another and themselves was justified. They met on the mountainside as promised. The rule change that seemed to make Gabrielle's quest a moot point in no way diminishes her dedication and accomplishment.
Questions and Observations
Akemi shows off her poetry and calligraphy skills.
 There are a number of questions in my mind now, post viewing. When did Akemi realize Gabrielle was off to recover Xena's body in order to return Xena's life in the fountain of strength? The talk about getting Xena back took place between Kenji, the ghost killer guy, and Gabrielle. Xena and Akemi were in the background, presumably out of hearing of that discussion. When did Akemi finally tell Xena she could not be resurrected without condemning the 40,000 souls? Perhaps it was after Gabrielle left to retrieve Xena's body, otherwise she would have told Gabrielle. If Akemi the ghost came up gasping from the tub, does that mean ghosties in Japan breathe? What IS the difference between a ghost and a living person in this episode? Why was Gabrielle able to hug ghost Xena when they first met after Xena's death? The ghosts seem able to do fancy tricks, turn to fire, and things like that; yet, they also seem to have tangible substance to them, under some circumstances. Why did Xena not turn into a wispy critter at Yodoshi's destruction? One could guess it was because she had never been slurped inside?
 Why was Gabrielle so calm or resigned as the sun set? One would have expected her to be hanging onto Xena in these last moments, not just leaning against her shoulder. Was it technically not possible to vanish Xena from an embrace? Were we to think Gabrielle had reached acceptance so quickly? How much time passed between the sunset scene by the fountain and the boat scene with what looked to me to be a sunrise? What happened in the intervening time? It must have been something pivotal, something to give Gabrielle a sense of peace and the ability to smile a genuine smile as she held that urn.
 On second viewing, I was more tuned in to the choice of words and to mirrored speech. The symmetry between Xena's early remarks about the girl with a chakram and Gabrielle's use of the same words seemed more meaningful the second time, like the completion of a circle. Likewise, I paid more attention to who was using the word "friend" or "old friend". My ear heard it used sneeringly by Yodoshi, taunting Xena near the end. However, it was used with such devotion and depth when Xena and Gabrielle used it referring to each other. Xena's "Good luck, old friend" as they are about to part at the teahouse and Gabrielle's "You will return to me, my friend" at the pyre mean something SO different than Yodoshi's "your friend".
 Another phrase Xena and Gabrielle mirror back at one each is "I knew you'd say that." As they watch Higuchi burn from the boat, Xena says "Gabrielle, I've got to go ashore." Gabrielle responds "I'm with you." Xena then does the "knew you'd say that" part. At the very end, Xena is the one to make the pledge and Gabrielle the one to say she knew it was coming. Where is Xena now? I believe Akemi's poetry tells us where she is.She is exactly where she promised Gabrielle, at her side.In a flurry of snow
Two breaths of wind unite
And become as one
And then disappear into each other
 This final show was wonderfully done. The creators are to be applauded for their efforts. On the June 2001 National Public Radio interview with Scott Simon, Lucy referred to the show as "a goofy show for smart people". I prefer to think the creators intentionally left ambiguity and gaps in the finale so these smart viewers would have to use some of their smarts.
 For those viewers who watch the occasional Xena hour and then go happily on their way, this show has Xena dead, dead, dead and Gabrielle on her own, probably to go forth and finally find the man of her dreams, now that her good friend is gone. For some viewers, this show was such a heartbreaker, they will choose to pretend it never happened. For some of us, the show left too many unanswered questions to let thoughts of it die. For some of us, Xena and Gabrielle are still together in a way we have yet to define.
 The show creators have left us to take their story where we please. That is a level of creativity to be admired. All along, we have been given stories and adventures which we can choose to take at face value or to tweak and alter until we have the story we need. This creativity is a gift we have been lucky to see for six season's worth of shows. I am grateful. Thank you, cast, crew, all the people who have contributed to these entertaining years.
 To my fellow fans, go forth and create the meaning YOU need from the finale of this delightful series. It is within your power to do so.
College educated (trained as a secondary mathematics teacher), reclusive, uncommunicative, rural individual with socialist tendencies... a true loner
Favorite episode: comedy, A DAY IN THE LIFE. Drama, too close to call, THE BITTER SUITE, THE IDES OF MARCH, PARADISE FOUND, WHEN FATES COLLIDE
Favorite line: Don't have one but my favorite dialogue is from A DAY IN THE LIFE, after the fishing session, when Gabrielle and Xena are sitting on the log, Xena with bare, muddy feet.
First episode seen: DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN, I have seen 132 Xena episodes since February 1st, 2001, most of them on Oxygen. My Xena experience has been short but quite intense.
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS, KEY TO THE KINGDOM