My Disclaimer: Everyone was hurt during the making of this motion picture.
The Last Stitch (01-04)
An Interjection (05-11)
Therefore, The Story Goes (12-14)
The Drums Begin To Beat (15-22)
A Shift in Gears (23-30)
A Brief Respite (31-37)
The Birth of a Warrior (38-46)
Another Interjection (47-48)
Back at the Teahouse (49-58)
Mt. Fuji (59-67)
Okay Everyone, Breath (68-70)
Strength and Love (71-80)
Time Was Running Out (81-89)
Redemption Or Not (90-94)
Gabrielle Is Not Alone (95-97)
Overheard On the Boat
TWO SPARROWS IN A HURRICANE
Gabrielle tries to convince Xena to take her along on her adventures.
The Last Stitch"Take me with you, teach me everything you know."
"When I look at you I see the purest, the kindest person I have ever known. Someone who's full of wonder and stories and would never give up on anything or anyone."
"I want so much to be like you."
"And I want to be like you."
"You talk about trying to find your way, but to me...you ARE my WAY."
"I love you, Xena."
"I love you too, Gabrielle."
"You are my whole life Xena."
"I finally realized what it was you gave me - a light of my own."
"I fear what is done today, may not be undone."
"Even in death Gabrielle... I will NEVER leave you."
"A life of journeying has brought you to the farthest lands, to the very edges of the earth."
"And to the place I will always remain - your Heart."
"Where you go, I'm at your side."
"Somehow, I knew you'd say that."
 These various quotes from Xena and Gabrielle are part of the lines in their mendhi, separated but forever connected, and a part of a rich tapestry of two extraordinary lives. The episode, A FRIEND IN NEED, provided us with the last colorful stitches of an intricate tapestry whose fabric revealed a story filled with the colorful adventures, love, and the courage of two amazing women of ancient times. They taught us much, not through words, but through example. A FRIEND IN NEED was the story of the final days of Xena and Gabrielle's "first" lifetime together, the story where it all began.
 All week after viewing A FRIEND IN NEED I, I had dreaded the last hour of Xena, but as with everything in life, the unexpected proved to be far greater than I ever could have imagined. A FRIEND IN NEED was one of the most incredible undertakings I have ever seen on television. It was shot with detail, care, love, and respect. It brought tears to my eyes repeatedly. It was intricate and beautiful. This episode said all that needed to be said, and did all that needed to be done. Its story resembled a tiny tear balancing on the tip of a thorn. It was fierce and rough, yet gentle and beautiful, all at the same time, and woven together with the skill of a master with a love of both craft and characters. It was brilliant and as Lucy Lawless said, "defiant."
 Yes, we lost Xena. However, it was her choice: her choice of when, her choice of how, and her choice of why. It was also with Gabrielle's consent, acceptance, and love. This is why we all must accept this final chapter and know in our hearts that everything happened precisely as it should.
 Also know that these two women, will "always," "always," be together.
 I cried many times while writing this piece. At first the bitterness and hurt after watching this episode blinded me. Then, as I moved through the story as a writer I began to see, feel, understand, and recognize what a gift this episode truly was. After accepting the fact that both Xena and Gabrielle were content with the actions they took and the decision they made, I realized that the hurt, the loss, and the disappointment inside of me was not for Xena or Gabrielle, but for me. My loss of someone "I" loved and my dreary perception of a loneliness that simply was not there.
 We were given answers to questions that few of us wanted to face. Yet in time, and there never would have been a good time for this, these questions would have been something we all would have wanted answers to, and it would have been too late to get them. We would never have known. This particular subject and this particular ending, was something that Robert Tapert could not leave open to the bardic rivers of the Xenaverse. He could not. It was too precious. The End could have been much worse on the Bard and the Warrior, had their final chapter were not placed in the loving hands of Robert Tapert.
 Tapert gave Xena and Gabrielle every ounce of care, honor, and respect they deserved, and made this first ending, of their most precious lifetime, perfect for them. If we were not thinking so selfishly, we could see that it was the perfect ending for us as well.
 It was the story Robert Tapert started, the story he told, and the story that he had every right to end. Just ask yourself, do you think you would have not wanted to know when Xena or Gabrielle died? Who died first? How did it happen? If Xena died first, what were her last thoughts, was she being tortured, was she helpless, or full of fury? Was it her choice or not? Did she die the way she wanted and with dignity, and who killed her? Where was Gabrielle? Did Gabrielle see the end? Did she blame herself for Xena's death and how did she cope with the loss? Was she distraught and crushed and did the light inside of her go out?
 Where did Xena's spirit go after she died and could she communicate with Gabrielle? Did Xena really stay with Gabrielle even in death, as she said she would? Did the two women get to say good bye? Was one left in utter darkness and despair? Did Xena ever finally allow herself redemption before her life was over? Did Gabrielle finally put all the pieces together in her life and did she ever find her way before Xena left her? Did they end up together forever, even in death? Do you think you would not have wanted to know? Do you think you would not have wanted it to all work out for these two women, just the way Robert Tapert so painstakingly made it so?
 Tapert had only so many pages upon which to write what he wanted to say finally, regarding the journey of Xena and Gabrielle. There is no guarantee a movie will ever be made, for life is full of many twists. This was it. He ended this ancient journey with the same care and love with which this great story was told. For this, I thank him. I thank him for the answers to questions that I would never have found the courage or right time to ask, but would have wanted to know.
 Ask yourself this, what would you have done if you were on top of that mountain with Xena and Gabrielle that day, knowing of their decision and acceptance. If you had been given the power to make the final call, would you have honestly had Xena live on? Would you have condemned 40,000 souls in order to have Xena's life extended to make yourself feel better?
 When you answer this with all honesty, you might just come to the same realization I did after writing this piece. Perhaps I should come to expect more from myself, and nothing less, from them."In a flurry of snow...
two breaths of wind unite
and become as one...and
then disappear into each other."
Therefore, The Story Goes
 Xena kneels in the misted forest, and like so very long ago in a 'Once Upon a Time' type of beginning, our Warrior Princess buries her armor with a heavy heart. It is quiet, she glances one last time at her sword and then places it atop her armor, and with her Chakram, spreads the darkened soil over top of the old friends. The Chakram however is slid into its familiar resting-place at its master's side.
 High in the canopy of the forest, the first rays of early light break through the trees and shine down upon the warrior, silhouetting her form, as she stands alone in the light of her final morning. The Warrior Princess stands tall and heroic. One gets a sense in the scene that she is no longer of the dark. Xena has completed an evolution of sorts. One that has finally allowed her to stand on the side of the light and garner its power. For the two seemed to join that morning and become as one.
 In this final episode, Xena's life was to be represented by the light of the sun and her time with us, dictated by its passing. The sun was Gabrielle's focal point in saving Xena's life, the sun was Xena's timekeeper, and its golden presence throughout t his episode represented her essence, her life.
The Drums Begin To Beat
Xena hears the drums beat in the distance.
 The day begins. Xena moves into combat, her senses heightening with each step, sensing her enemy. The drums begin, steady and strong, a slow even rhythm, like a heartbeat of a great warrior. Xena senses the army's presence, listens to the sounds behind the sounds, and puts together the puzzle of the monster that lies waiting beyond the mist. The drums beat faster.
 In a quiet forest, far away, Gabrielle stops in mid-step as if sensing something. Recent images of Xena flash through her mind without her beckoning. A realization dawns on Gabrielle's face. She utters a single word, "Xena".
 Xena finds a target in her mind and reaches for her chakram for the last time. She releases it as she always has and it flies seemingly guided by her will as it has always done. It meets its far away mark and then returns to its master's skillful hand: the final throw. The catalyst erupts in an immense explosion and the battle is on. The drums beat harder and faster. Xena runs toward her enemy and preys on them like a silent panther in the night. She knows she will face thousands and yet she has not lost an ounce of courage. As if like the wind itself, a barrage of arrows starts to bombard the Warrior Princess, yet she moves forward into them, deflecting them, and catching them, as she always does. She is struck. Yet, she moves forward. They keep coming. She is struck again. The pace quickens. The drums beat louder and faster. Xena pushes forward.
 Gabrielle, hearing and seeing the explosion at the exact moment of her realization, yells Xena's name into the forest. Her face is frantic. Her instincts fired and knotted. She runs.
 Xena is struck and as each arrow penetrates, she simply breaks off the tip and moves on, uncaring, focusing on her target. The arrows keep coming and so does the army of a thousand strong. Xena grasps her sword tightly and moves with unrelenting courage into a sea of Samurai warriors. She fells them one by one by one, undeterred. Her darkness is building inside her and her skills are at their best. She is the best.
 The drums pound. She is the greatest of all Warriors. The drums pound faster. She is a hero. More men fall. She is a mother. More men fall. The drums pound harder, faster. She is a great leader. More men fall in the fury. She is a mentor, a teacher, and a best friend. She calls out Gabrielle's name. She swings and swings, her energy buckling. She fights harder. She calls out Gabrielle's name again, filling her mind with thoughts only of her soul mate. The drums beat on and Xena fights. "Gabrielle!" She senses the moment. Xena stops, chooses her time, and stares straight into the eyes of a nameless warrior. She chooses now. With Gabrielle in her mind and heart, she allows him the fatal blow. The drums stop beating.
 This is where the episode immediately broke off to commercial. I hit the pause button trying fully to absorb what I had just seen. Xena was dead. We just watched our Warrior Princess die. I felt my heart sink and my gut knot. She was gone in an instant, one swipe. "Xena," I muttered. The end was blunted by the commercial. I just sat there stunned, empty. "Xena."
 I continued watching, thinking my heart was going to be peeled like an onion.
A Shift in Gears
 Calling Xena's name, Gabrielle rushes into the quiet battleground. Something is wrong and she knows it, but will not let the thought linger. She quickly comes across the chakram resting in pooled blood, as if waiting. It is lifted from the place of Xena's last stand by Gabrielle's hand, and it is cleaned and carried off with trust and care. Gabrielle is scared. She searches.
 This is where the episode shifts gears and idles down beautifully. We are taken from a fast, furious, and ugly place of Xena's death and quickly shown Xena arriving in a very peaceful place full of tranquility, or so it seems. The Powers that Be were brilliant in giving us no time to really feel the brunt of Xena's death before showing us that she was all right and in a good place, finally meeting up with Akemi, the one person who so long ago, taught Xena how to love. I felt better at once, as was the intention. Xena looked content and happy at seeing her dear friend Akemi. Yet, she is also sensing a difference in this journey to the underworld. Akemi tells her that her body is only a projection provided by Yodoshi and, as long as she has it, she is at his will.
 "Will", you say? Old Yodoshi is about to get a big dose of some big time "will", only he does not know it yet. First, Xena must cast a veil. The bell ring summons Yodoshi. He comes in like a stalker and bursts upon the scene greeting Xena violently to show his dominance over her. Xena does not fight back. Instead, she does what Lao Ma taught her long ago. She shows submission to her enemy. However, this is not to heal. This is to conceal. Yodoshi does not suspect Xena is going to destroy him. The plan is set into motion. Xena heads into the forest.
 Gabrielle meanwhile, is still maintaining that Xena is alive and continues to search the forest for her. Gabrielle will NOT be swayed. Xena, followed by Yodoshi's servant, moves quickly through the forest as well. The forest is very peaceful at this moment. Both Xena and Gabrielle are moving through it, but neither with direction. One woman is in the spiritual realm and the other in the living realm. Yet, they end up face to face, startled at the fact. It was if their souls knew the direction and sought each other through instinct. They embrace. Gabrielle's relief is evident, and Xena assures her she is all right.
 Xena tells Gabrielle that she is going to kill the "Lord of the Dark Land". Gabrielle holds out Xena's Chakram, returning it to her as she has done on so many other occasions. "You'll need this then." Xena reaches for her weapon but her hand passes right through it. She cannot take it. Gabrielle takes a step back, realizing that Xena is dead. Her eyes well up, "How could you let yourself be killed?"
 Xena feels Gabrielle's pain. "Sorry Gabrielle. I couldn't tell you, you would have tried to stop me, then we'd both be dead." Gabrielle looks at her friend with pain filled eyes. Xena then tells her the whole story and reason behind her having to die to become a ghost. She also tells her soul mate that she hopes to return to life, to her. Gabrielle pulls Xena close. "You are my whole life Xena. I won't lose you."
 This is not going well. However, there is hope. Xena could come back. Both Gabrielle and I chose to believe that.
 The ghost killer, Harukata, comes upon them and immediately Gabrielle swirls to protect Xena from him. The bard is not privy to Xena's plan yet. Through tear filled eyes she says in a formidable whisper, "Don't you touch her." Gabrielle is told of the plan, then, in a flash Xena pounces on Yodoshi's lurking fembod and sends her flying to her demise into the sword of the ghost slayer. It was good to see that Xena still had her special touch.
A Brief Respite
 Following the forest interlude were scenes that were both beautiful and meaningful to Xena. She is allowed, in this small window of time and circumstance, to unite the two women who are her soul mates and who have changed her life. Akemi is Xena's spiritual soul mate: the one who taught her to love, and Gabrielle is Xena's life soul mate: the one who taught her to live. (If only Lao Ma were there too!) On this tiny bridge, in a set reminiscent of a painting, the two women meet for the first time. "This is my soul mate. She's a poet just like you, Akemi." The two women's eyes meet.
 Harukata and Kenji interrupt the moment. There remains the important matter of Xena's return to life still to address, and time was of the essence. Harukata poses a question to Gabrielle. "I have one question. Would you risk your life for the return of hers?" "Without hesitation," Gabrielle responds.
 Xena then brings Akemi to the middle of the bridge to meet Gabrielle. "The bridge" is very symbolic here, in that it represents the bridging together of two otherwise separate beings. In the living realm, the bridge between Akemi and Gabrielle is Xena.
 Akemi bows to Gabrielle: "It is an honor to meet you at last". Some of you may be confused by Akemi's use of the words "at last". In A FRIEND IN NEED II, from the very first moment that Akemi and Xena meet, Akemi knows many things about the Warrior Princess. For just as Xena could be in tune with the sounds of nature and senses things acutely. Akemi is acutely in touch with places and beings that other people would not detect.
 Akemi knows that Xena is coming for her. She knows Xena will protect her and grow to love her. She also knows that, one day, Xena would be a great teacher. That meant she knew of Gabrielle. In this meeting, Akemi bestows a special force upon Gabrielle in the form of a tattoo of a Dragon, "a protector", which she etches onto Gabrielle's back and leg. This would turn out to be one of two great things that Akemi does for Xena and Gabrielle before the end of this episode.
 Gabrielle is then filled in on what would be required of her to get Xena's life and body back. She must find Xena's body and take its ashes to place in the Fountain of Strength, atop sacred Mount Fuji, which is 12,388 feet high! Her task is daunting, and she has only until sunset the next day to save Xena's life. In parting, she vows to Xena that she WILL get her body back, and she WILL see her again on the slopes of Mt. Fuji.
 It is at this point that each girl has a daunting task ahead of her. Xena is left to plot Yodoshi's demise with the others. Gabrielle sets out to find Xena's body, a task, unbeknownst to her that would bring the young warrior to her knees and challenge her inner strengths to her very core.
The Birth of a Warrior
Gabrielle suits up for battle.
 In the dark of the night, in the pouring rain and with fierce determination, Gabrielle enters the compound that holds Xena's body. She deftly disposes of the guards in a very Xena-like fashion and begins to search the compound. Without warning, the lighted fury of the sky reveals Xena's naked strung up body. Gabrielle, who has seen it all, is brought to her knees at the sight of her best friend. She gasps and fights within herself to maintain control. The storm beats against her.
 This scene was filmed with the best atmosphere. The darkness, the hard rain, the thunder, and the lightning, all create the darkened, sad backdrop for this impacting moment. The pouring rain made Gabrielle's tears more significant. Xena's body was lit by thunderbolts. It was done so raw.
 Gabrielle steels herself and rises into the rain drawing her sword. She shouts into the storm, "Give me her head!" The rain falls. Xena's body falls. Tears fall.
 A warrior emerges and challenges Gabrielle, expecting her to avenge Xena's death. He taunts her with his enjoyment in killing her friend and speaks further of Xena's formidable skills. Gabrielle laughs in his face and tells him he is a coward and a fraud and that he only killed Xena because Xena let him. He laughs at Gabrielle.
 The scene to follow is an important moment for Gabrielle. She is up against a Samurai Warrior. She needs to bring it all together, right there. Gabrielle knows she is the only one bridging Xena and her physical life: the very life that taught her everything she needs for this very moment. She focuses and listens to Xena inside her. She pulls it in and puts it together.
 A distant echo whispers through the rain, "Teach me everything you know". Her instincts rise inside her, ready for the challenge. She is focused and intensely concentrated. This is Gabrielle's defining moment as a Warrior. She absorbs her surroundings, becoming one with them, and her senses are brought to razor sharpness. Her body is ready and waiting. She listens. She feels nothing could move without her knowledge. He strikes! Gabrielle "acts", not reacts. Her sword, in a flash, lies against the Samurai's neck. The Samurai, beaten and dishonored, asks her to remove his head and let him die with honor. The very man who killed her best friend, her soul mate. What would she do? This was - the moment. Who was she to become? We wait. The rain falls. Then...
 In that space in time, Gabrielle the Warrior - chose life.
 With that "one single decision", the bard, the queen, and the new warrior, has completed herself. In those few moments, the skill, the instinct, and, finally the code, are united. She is defined. Gabrielle had found herself, and the direction she will follow as a warrior. She will be a great warrior tempered with the light, not the darkness. She chose "life".
 As Gabrielle turns, a sea of warriors opens a pathway. The bards' eyes follow to the place where Xena's head sits, seemingly at peace and cleansed by the rain. Gabrielle gently bundles Xena's body and sets out into the rain soaked night toward the sacred Mt. Fuji in her quest to restore Xena's life.
 What is ingenious about this episode is that it did not allow or entice the viewer to mourn Xena until the very end. She dies very early on in the episode. Yet, aside from the exact moment of her death, one does not consciously mourn Xena at all until the very last scenes. It was a brilliant piece of writing that swept us quickly to Xena's tranquil arrival on the other side and had our Warrior Princess not skip a scowling attitude - kick b*tt n' beat.
 In no time, Xena was united with Gabrielle and able to talk to her and hold her, just as before. She made plans, kicked b*tt, took control, lost control, and interacted with Gabrielle just as she has always done in the heat of any mission. She regained her strength near the end, appeared again as our powerful Warrior Princess in her armor, and then kicked some major Yodoshi b*tt in the entire trademark Xena way. The viewer can get totally into it, be totally oblivious to the fact that Xena was dead. This was all done on purpose. It was meant to have that affect on the audience, to reduce the sadness and the reality. It was a brilliant piece of writing and brilliantly executed.