Back at the Teahouse
There isn't much tea at the teahouse.
 Back at the teahouse, Xena's plan to trap Yodoshi is set into motion. As quickly as it begins and seems to be successful, all h*ll breaks loose. It is evident Yodoshi's power and fury was greatly underestimated. Apparently, someone had been sipping from the Fountain of Strength. Then things take a bad turn. The ghost killer does not have the strength to combat that of Yodoshi's, and it is left to Xena to battle her way out of another jam. It gets ugly. She fights with all her might to protect her friends and even manages to seriously injure Yodoshi. However, she does not have the power to kill him. In the end, only Xena and Akemi remain alive. Xena looks worried.
 It is night. In a darkened scene, flames, in a pitch-black forest, light up Gabrielle's face. She has ignited Xena's pyre. This cut from Xena's face, to the flames, to that of Gabrielle illuminated in its light, is very significant.
 "The golden light of the sun" represents Xena's "life" in this episode. We first experienced this connection when Xena stood in the early morning rays of sunlight on her last morning. The "light" in this scene represented her in "life". The "light" from the flames of her burning pyre came to represent her in "death". Then, the "light" from the sun, came to represent her in "spirit".
 As Gabrielle stood golden, in the light of Xena's burning pyre - her voice was heard, "I cannot let you die." Images of Xena and old words roll through her mind. "If I have only 30 seconds to live... this is how I want to live them - looking into your eyes." "Even in death Gabrielle, I will never leave you."
 Gabrielle speaks into the flames... "You will return to me my friend." Gabrielle's hand slowly closes the lid on the urn. The scene fades away.
 Xena cradles Harukata's head in her lap, and yes it was still attached to his body. You never know in this episode. Just before his death, Harukata fights to express his words and tells Xena that she must also drink from the Fountain of Strength on Mt Fuji. This will give her the power to distract Yodoshi and get close enough to kill him, thus releasing all the souls from Yodoshi's enslavement. Harukata blesses the sword and they were ready to go. It was now up to Xena to kill Yodoshi and free all of their souls.
 So far, this developing scenario seemed run of the mill for our Warrior Princess. Come to the rescue, kill the bad person, free the souls, say goodbye to Akemi, and then get to the fountain just in time to meet Gabrielle and get your life back. No problem! At least that is what the audience are all intended to think at this point. However, the looks on both Akemi's and Xena's faces tell a different story. It was just after Harukata has died. His death changes everything for Xena.
 In retrospect, you can see the exact moment Xena comes to a painful realization and Akemi as well. Akemi looks at Xena with such a painful love, like she feels so bad for Xena at the turn of events, and now, we all know why. If you look hard at this scene you can see the hints that tell us that something important has changed, but you cannot quite put your finger on it and figure it out. That was the intention. This scene is set up so that we can sense something heavy has happened but we were not given enough information to process and figure out. It does not seem very important because it is hidden beneath the main plot. This scene is meant to reveal the plot and to conceal the twist, the biggest twist in the whole episode, a twist that can only be revealed at the end.
 Xena is never meant to kill Yodoshi. That is not why she is a ghost in the underworld. She is there to use her exceptional skill and experience to execute a plan to trap Yodoshi in such a way that Harukata could get close enough to kill the mighty soul stealer. Harukata was always the chosen one destined to kill Yodoshi, release the enslaved souls, and avenge them against the wrong done to them by their being captured and enslaved by Evil Lord. No one ever expected Xena to return to these lands. Ever! She is not the one expected or chosen to avenge those 40,000 souls. It is Harukata. However, when he died all that changed. She is it, now. Xena realizes this. So does Akemi.
 This is not about redemption for Xena. It is all about correcting a wrong, freeing those souls, and having those souls rest in a place of peace. Xena vows she would not rest until the deed was done.
 Atop Mt Fuji, a spear hits the side of Gabrielle's' horse and they tumble. Our friendly neighborhood Samurai stands poised for attack on the rocks. The Sun is passing overhead. Gabrielle, urn in hand, stands braced. "I will not allow you to find the fountain and revive your friend." Those are surely the wrong words to say to her. This guy has to go. Gabrielle manages to fight the samurai quite adeptly with urn in hand. This is reminiscent of a certain warrior who often fought off thugs while carrying a load. Eventually the urn goes sailing to the upper deck with the two warriors in tow. Gabrielle, (kudos to Renee O'Connor for this scene), kicks major b*tt and even provides the young Samurai with a few "face lifts". The plot thickens! The urn is knocked over the edge of the cliff and now, the fate of Gabrielle's soul mate rests on the ledge below. The tension is mounting. The sun passes further in the sky. Is nothing going to go right here? This is not good.
 Yodoshi meanwhile, unlocks the fountain waters, eager to heal himself, but as the water gathers, Xena quite suddenly appears and sends him flying into the nearby rocks. He is battered and losing strength rapidly. Xena waits beneath the fountain for the water to fall. The pool fills, flowing over, and down the fall toward the waiting Xena. Yodoshi freezes the flow just before it reaches Xena's mouth and he blasts her far into the air. Xena yells and lands crashing onto the rocks. She is broken and weak. This is not going well at all. The sun begins its slow descent towards the horizon.
 Gabrielle hears Xena cry out and is torn only for a few breaths between Xena's ashes and Xena herself. She rushes to find her soul mate knowing Xena's life remains on the ledge below.
 Yodoshi, barely able to move, notices shards of ice from the fountain lying near him. However, before he can reach it, Akemi rushes to her father with his own sword. She is cast back violently.
 Gabrielle finds her battered soul mate near the Fountain and rushes to her side. Time is both the friend and enemy at this point. Xena smiles through her pain at the sight of her friend and struggles to talk. Everything is reaching a peak. Xena struggles to ask Gabrielle for water from the Fountain of Strength.
 Yodoshi places the ice in his mouth.
 Gabrielle runs toward the fountain and places her hand into the water.
 Yodoshi rises up against the sky, his power restored. Here is where Akemi truly shows her love for Xena. She knows the stakes and the burden that now lies upon Xena's shoulders. In trying to kill her father, Akemi fights to release Xena of this enormous sacrifice. For the one who kills Yodoshi would also be the one to avenge the wrong of Yodoshi's wrath against the souls. However, Akemi, armed only with a determined heart, is simply no match for her Evil father. As she fights, her courage gives Xena and Gabrielle the greatest gift, the gift of "time".
 If Akemi had not been there, the whole thing would have crumbled and all would have been lost. It was Akemi's diversion of Yodoshi that gave Gabrielle enough time to get to the water and place it in Xena's mouth. Although Akemi caused Xena and Gabrielle to be in this mess in the first place, she did redeem herself twice giving them what was needed to save their "life" in Gabrielle's case, and "spirit life" in Xena's case. Yodoshi breathes in the last of Akemi's soul then turns toward the fountain and Gabrielle, unleashing a powerful force of energy hard onto her back. The music, this scene in slow motion, was amazing. "The Dragon" Akemi gave Gabrielle becomes significant. As the force hits Gabrielle, it seems to absorb Yodoshi's blast and the Dragon power comes to life, breathing out a flame of such intensity, that it sends Yodoshi crushed and broken into the rocks. Gabrielle then recovers and staggers toward Xena.
Okay Everyone: Breath
 "The Kiss" -- that wonderfully brilliant "kiss". Thank you Rob Tapert! I had to applaud TPTB (the powers that be) when I saw this scene. They actually pulled it off! It was ingenious and a monumental gesture toward the fans.
 Gabrielle dropping the water of strength into Xena's mouth with a long, slow motion, multi-angled, lingering kiss. This was a masterpiece! In addition, they managed it without rippling any waters in the multi-faceted fandom. Brilliant! They must have racked their brains trying to come up with that one! Slam-Dunk!
 That "kiss", has huge symbolic meaning for Xena and Gabrielle. When Gabrielle staggers over to her injured soul mate and places her lips upon Xena's, releasing the "water of strength" in a loving kiss, the scene symbolized the "strength" each woman has always given the other and the "love" from which that strength had always come. "One Kiss" a thousand words melted down to two: strength and love.
Strength and Love
 Xena's eyes flutter open and she whispers Gabrielle's name in a tone so familiar from so many scenes over the years. Then she is pulled up and in a magnificent, super-heroic way, the Warrior Princess is back. Xena stands in her full-leathered armor, all her strength returned to her. In this one moment, Xena is glorified. She is huge, legendary, heroic, and you just want to stand up and cheer. She is right out of the movies! Gabrielle's face was just - awestruck.
 Now, it is the crunch time. Gabrielle hands Xena the sacred sword. She glances at the setting sun, concerned with retrieving Xena's ashes, but Xena's reaction and attempt at trying to tell Gabrielle something gives the distinct impression that something definitely is not right. Was Gabrielle a bat in her last life, because she is sure left in the dark a lot!
 Before Xena could let Gabrielle in on the bad news, Yodoshi lets it be known that he wants to rumble. The big man is about to get a big dose of the Warrior Princess. "Do NOT, make me zap you!" Anyways, Xena has to go fight Yodi and Gabrielle quickly beats it for the ashes with the rays of the setting sun on her path.
 The next scenes are all special effects, and Lucy Lawless doing what Lucy Lawless does best. The following fight scenes are meant to be the mother of all the Warrior Princess fight scenes. It is all Xena, one hundred percent. It is full on, classic Xena, in full on battle mode with all the classic moves and all the classic looks. Xena in full fighting fury, poised in front of a wall of flames with fire in her eyes! Her hair is the old Xena and not pulled back at all. The whole thing is right out of the credits, and is quite a treat for all the fans. It is Xena's last stand. Look out!
 Meanwhile, back on the branch, Gabrielle stands balanced against the cliff as she tries to reach Xena's ashes. In true moviedom style, just as Xena thrusts her sword deep into Yodoshi's gut, Gabrielle kicks the urn free and catches it in the air. Things are at last back on track.
 Xena throws her body into one more powerful swing of her sword and slashes Yodoshi's head from his body. He falls dead to the ground. From his body comes the white wisps of souls, released from their darkness, and each passes by Xena, free at last.
 Gabrielle stops dead on the ledge near the Fountain of Strength, her form outlined in the light of the setting sun at her back. The water falls from the pool and at its base stands "you know who" still crying over his spilt honor.
 Gabrielle looks back at the sun and then at the warrior. He speaks:"I deserve the dignity of a warrior."
"Dignity huh?" A hand clasps around cold steel.
"Like you showed my friend?"
 With those words Gabrielle throws the chakram for the very first time, and as it fells the man who took her best friend's life, all that was Xena, has been given to Gabrielle.
 As Gabrielle watches, the chakram turns back. It knows, and in the golden essence of Xena's light, the chakram makes its way back into the only hands in this living world, worthy of it. This scene is so meaningful. The essence of Xena is all around Gabrielle in the golden light. Gabrielle's eyes go from the chakram held tightly in her hand, to the slain warrior, to the sun -such a connection.
Time Is Running Out
 Xena watches as the souls swirl around in release. Then Akemi's soul appears and calls Xena's name. "Xena, you've redeemed me. You've redeemed them. You've redeemed yourself!" "Go in peace Akemi. We'll meet again, one day."
 Xena's reaction to Akemi speaking of Xena's redemption tells the tale. It was never something Xena had sought in this whole thing. However, in righting the wrong, it is something Xena is given. Xena's lack of expressing relief in being given redemption by Akemi shows that although Xena allows herself THIS redemption with regards to all the souls she has just avenged, she still does not allow herself redemption for all the lives she has taken in her lifetime. All she cares about, in this mission, is the fact that the souls were released and her wrong was righted. In addition, she would have been on her merry way if Harukata had not died.
 Did Xena ever think she could do enough good in her lifetime to make up for all the pain and suffering she had caused? Who knows? However, she did have one thing left to give.
 Let us review some of the concepts at work here:Redeem: to make good.
Redemption: to be free from the consequence of wrongdoing.
Avenging: to inflict punishment in return for, or take vengeance on behalf of ones self or another.
Vengeance: To inflict injury as a punishment for a wrong or injury.
 Some could say that Xena's decision to stay dead was the ultimate action to redeem herself. This was NOT the case. Xena's decision was not about redemption or even vengeance for that matter. It was about a "realization".
 It was Yodoshi not Xena, who inflicted the wrong done to those 40,000 souls. Xena did not harm the "souls" themselves in any way, but she was responsible for taking the "lives" of those souls in the living world. Therefore, it was the "wrong" Yodoshi inflicted on the souls by enslaving them that Xena was actually avenging. Had Harukata lived, the fact that Xena helped to trap Yodoshi and right the wrong, would have been enough to redeem her in this circumstance. However, Harukata died.
 The vengeance was not originally her burden to bear. It was Harukata's. Why? Because way back on the bridge at the teahouse where everybody came together, Akemi, Harukata, and the monk were all very keen to make sure that Gabrielle set out as soon as possible to do everything they told her to do, so Xena could get her life back in the end. It was not their intention at the time that Xena would remain dead. However, Harukata died. The burden fell upon Xena and because "she" killed Yodoshi, she avenged the souls. Therefore, she also had to be the one to stay dead if they were to pass to a place of peace. Alternatively, they would all be lost forever.
 After Xena killed Yodoshi, she righted her own wrongs from long ago, and she avenged the souls against Yodoshi's wrong doings. Therefore, not only did she do her original part in all this, but she did Harukata's as well. The wrongs were righted, Yodoshi was dead, the souls were avenged and released, and Xena was free of the consequences of HER wrongdoing. She was free to walk away with no more guilt and no more obligations.
 This leads directly to Xena's decision to stay dead. It was now Xena's turn to take all she had learned from Gabrielle, and put it all together. In staying dead, Xena did not intend to seek redemption. She already had that. Neither was it an act of guilt. It was an act of enormous honor and integrity. She could have walked away, but she did not. For the first time in her life, Xena found herself in a place beyond redemption. She no longer owed. This was a place she could show the true colors of her heart without past burden. Therefore, when the 40,000 souls needed to be saved from being lost forever, Xena looked within to the new person she had become, and did the final, the good, and the right thing. She decided to give the greatest gift any living being could give of themselves: their life. It was then, that Xena found peace. Just as Akemi had predicted so long ago.
Redemption Or Not
Xena prevents Gabrielle from bringing her back from the dead.
 What about Gabrielle at the edge of the fountain and the gentle hand that came to wrap around hers and the urn, and pull them back from the water? These last scenes were beautifully done, with every moment bearing its own meaning. Perhaps one day I will be able to watch them without a single tear, but that will be a long time coming. I loved the setting and the intimacy of these scenes and I loved the fact that Gabrielle said she "didn't care" when referring to those 40,000 souls. This stated that for Gabrielle, Xena came before the Greater Good. However, Gabrielle was to fight her own legacy on this one. Xena had learned too much from her, and in doing so, Xena had come full circle within her heart from the darkest depths of hatred and violence to the lighted world of love and forgiveness. In addition, in listening to her heart, Xena finally knew peace. This was Gabrielle's gift to her.Xena: "But if there was a reason for our travels together it is because I had to learn from you enough to know the final, the good, the right thing to do."
Gabrielle: "I love you, Xena. How am I supposed to go on without you?"
Xena: I'll always be with you Gabrielle. Always.
 The sun sets and with it, Xena's physical life is gone. However, her spirit remains, heart and soul.Gabrielle: "A life of journeying has brought you to the farthest lands, to the very edges of the earth."
Xena: "And to a place I will always remain - Your heart. Where you go, I'm at your side."
Gabrielle: "Somehow, I knew you'd say that."
 The Powers That Be (TPTB) showed that Gabrielle was okay. She was smiling. She seemed very content and proud of her soul mate's life. TPTB also showed that Xena was at Gabrielle's side, just as she said she would be. Then, TPTB blew that whole image all to h*ll when in that final scene, they showed Gabrielle down on the boat all alone. This scene rips me to pieces and it is the hardest one for me to watch in the whole episode. Yet, as the camera pans back, you see something. It is the sun. A big beautiful rising sun. Gabrielle's ship turns toward it and sails into its light. It was then, I knew Xena was with her.
 Besides all that gooey stuff, there is another reason Xena is with her. Xena said she would be. One cannot possibly think that Xena is not at Gabrielle's side at this very moment. Consider the last six years and the world they live in, the places they have been -- not run of the mill. We have watched Xena kick b*tt from Hell to Heaven and everything in between. If the woman says she is going to "always" be with Gabrielle, then she is going to "always" be with Gabrielle.
 The Warrior Princess had just finished kicking the b*tt of the baddest, meanest force in her realm. What or who is going to stop her from staying with her soul mate? Who and what army? Not even a change of fates and completely separate lives could keep those two souls apart.
Gabrielle Is Not Alone
 Gabrielle was smiling. Xena was there. When Xena said goodbye to Akemi, she said, "we'll meet again, one day". "One day" is the optimum phrase here. Xena did not say soon, or after I talk to Gabrielle, or see you later at the inn. She said "one day", which meant she was staying in this realm, the realm closest to the "living realm", closest to Gabrielle. In addition, Harukata told Xena that the person who would trap Yodoshi had to be a ghost. Therefore, Xena became a ghost. Her soul did not pass over with the others.
 Xena was only required to give her "life" to avenge all those souls. Her physical self, was her "life". She did not lose her heart and soul and her connection with Gabrielle. She is a ghost. What is "ghost"? To quote the dictionary, a ghost is "the spirit of a dead person. It is supposed to live in another world and appear to living people as a pale, dim, shadowy form, a faint image". Xena is another Patrick Swayze, if you catch my drift. The only thing separating Xena and Gabrielle is a sliver of time.
 One soul will always wait for the other, and together they will pass to their next lives: Arminestra and Shakti, Mel and Janice, Annie and Mattie, and so on. Xena and Gabrielle will always be together. If there is only one thing you should believe in when you walk away from this show, it is that.
Overheard On the Boat
[Gabrielle turns to walk across the boat deck. She stops.]
Gabrielle: Do you feel that?
Xena: (quietly) Yes.
Gabrielle: What is it?
Xena: It's me, you're stand--
Gabrielle: (smiling, eyes closed) It feels warm, like the sun on my face.
[Xena smiles. Gabrielle steps forward then stops suddenly]
Gabrielle: Xena, I just realized something! I'm now stuck with ALL the camp jobs now, the cooking, the cleaning, the firewood and all the hunting and fish
Xena: (smirking) Yup... I think I'm going to grow to like this ghost thing.
Gabrielle: Oh, ya will, will ya? How about I go fishing today?
Xena: (raises and eyebrow, shrugs) Great.
Gabrielle: And how about I cut their little heads off with this chakram, huh?"
Xena: (eyes narrowing, growling) "You wouldn't (beat) Gabrieeelle.
Gabrielle: Yeaaah. Slice aaaand Dice. (swishes Chakram) Perfect! (then points chakram edge at Xena) Since we no longer HAVE A KNIFE! (beat) And it's a good thing I guarded Minya's frying pan so well, or I'd be stuck using my sais to roast rabbit on the fire TOO!
Xena: (begins to laugh hard)
Gabrielle: (looking puzzled) What? What? [beat] Oh...oh...
[suddenly realizing] Not that rabbit thing again Xena! I told you he had fangs the size of acorns and he jump--
Xena: Yeah... yeah... and it was cold out there... and you couldn't get a fire going... and the mosquitoes were the size of eagles... yeaaah I know. (Xena laughs to herself)
Gabrielle: (surprised) Gods Xena, you remembered that?
Xena: Gabrielle, when it comes to you, every second we shared together is etched inside me.
Gabrielle: (rolling her eyes, shakes her head) Gods Xena, and I thought I was talking to myself all that ti-...
Xena: Gabrielle? You're not REALLY going to use my chakram to cut the heads off fish, are you?
Gabrielle: (raises an eyebrow) That depends.
Xena: Depends on what?
Gabrielle: (smirks, crosses arms) On whether or not you'll promise to never mention that rabbit thing again.
Xena: (sarcastically) Oh, I promise Gabrielle. I promise.
Gabrielle: (looking suspicious) Good, it's a deal.
Xena: Besides, I still have a certain "nut bread" story to use.
Xena: And just think of ALL those practical jokes I can play on you on your birthday next year now that you can't see me.
[The camera pans up and away from the boat as it heads toward the light of the distant sunrise, but two voices, fading slightly, can still be heard...]
Xena: Gabrielle, I'm just getting warmed up. Believe me!
Gabrielle: Oh, don't worry Xena. (teeth gritted, mutters to herself) Do I believe you.
Gabrielle: (rumbling back) Yeah
Xena: I didn't know you knew how to sail a ship?
Gabrielle: I don't.
[The ship heads...ur...um...zig zags... east into the light of the Rising Sun.
They will get by. They always have before. Cheers "to one of the most wonderful love stories ever told."
Terri Nash is an outdoor enthusiast and photographer who lives in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Her Xena home website is "Xenaville," and her name there is Taral.
Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE
Favorite line: "Ya got that."
First episode seen: THE TITANS
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS; LIFEBLOOD