Edition Come visit Claire's site!


Season 3, episode 13
Series 313
1st release: 02/09/98
2nd release: 07/20/98
1st strip release: 10/15/98
2nd strip release: 01/22/99
Production number: V0413
Script number: 311
Approximate shooting dates: November 1997
Last update: 02/18/99

COMMENTARY by Beth Gaynor

No one got guest star status!

Douglas Kamo (Dorian)
Nick Kemplen (Phiddipides)

Written by Gene O'Neill and Noreen Tobin
Edited by Jim Prior
Directed by Paul Lynch

(An army on horses)
Xena: Persians?
Man: They're headed this way
(An army approaches)
Xena: If they reach Athens Greece is lost.
(Xena throws a sword to Gabrielle.)
Gabrielle: As in you and me?
(The army approaches. Xena punches a soldier. Gabrielle rides on horseback. A soldier shoots an arrow. Gabrielle is shot in the back.)
(Xena holds Gabrielle while looking at the arrow.)
Xena: Poison.
(Xena opens wide double doors.)
Gabrielle: How long do I have?
(The army enters a building. Xena fights the men.)
(Xena sits by Gabrielle.)
Xena: Even in death, Gabrielle, I will never leave you.
(Xena and Gabrielle hold hands.)
Gabrielle: I love you Xena.

Xena must hold off an entire Persian army single-handed---and also tend to Gabrielle, who's been struck by a poison arrow.

As Gabrielle lies near death from a poison arrow, Xena fights off the Persian Army.

Xena's solo efforts to stop an approaching Persian army leave a poisoned Gabrielle to fend for herself after the duo are double-crossed by a Persian spy.

1st RELEASE: 02/09/98
An AA average of --
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
HERCULES (72/413 "Armageddon, Part 1")
STAR TREK DS9 (137/613 "Far Beyond the Stars")
OUTER LIMITS (59 "Second Thoughts")
EARTH: FC (14/114 "Pandora's Box")

2nd RELEASE: 07/20/98
An AA average of Unavailable
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:


This synopsis is by Bluesong.

Gabrielle wants to learn backflips. She practices, using the staff as a bar, then decides to do it without the staff. Xena tells her it took her about 300 tries to learn to do backflips without the staff. Gabrielle makes the attempt anyway and sprains her ankle. She is too proud (or embarrassed) to let Xena look at it, but Xena tricks her and slices her boot open with a throw of the chakram. Xena fixes up the ankle, and a man approaches and tells them the Persian army is coming. Xena says if the Persians reach Athens, all will be lost. She sends the man ahead to warn everyone. Gabrielle rides on Argo, and Xena explains as they walk along that she can create a landslide at the pass and divert the army, which would at least give the forces of Greece time to pull together. Gabrielle suggests that Xena go ahead and leave her behind, but Xena is worried about Persian advance scouts finding her. Gabrielle asks Xena why she can't just use that force she utilized in Chin to attack the army, and Xena tells her that "took a purity of essence that, well, it's gone now."

A Spartan deserter finds them, and he offers to help Xena. Advance troops attack them and the deserter freezes. Gabrielle goes after him, though Xena had sent her and Argo into the woods out of the way, and she is shot in the back with an arrow. After Xena pushes the arrow through, she realizes it had poison on it. However, she believes she can keep Gabrielle alive because the arrow did not hit a main artery and there should be a serum in the next town, Tripolis. The deserter wants to help, so Xena tells him there has been a landslide at the pass and he should go on to Tripolis ahead of them and tell them to round up their militia. But Xena knows that the man is really a Persian spy; she misled him so that she wouldn't have to create the landslide.

Xena and Gabrielle arrive in Tripolis to find the town burned to the ground. The people burned it rather than let the Persians have it, Xena says. She searches through the physician's burned home and finds no serum for Gabrielle. She takes Gabrielle to the armory so they can make a stand. She realizes that the main army is close at hand. She and Gabrielle argue about leaving; Xena wants to save Gabrielle. Gabrielle argues for the greater good. Xena gives in and prepares to fight. At one point she tries to utilize her powers as she did in Chin (Debt II), to no avail. In anger, she kicks over the vase she was trying to move with her mind, and Gabrielle wakes. Xena goes to her, and finds her feverish. She speaks as if she has just met Xena and begs her to let her go with her, to take her from Potedia. "I want so much to be like you," Gabrielle says. "And I want to be like you," Xena replies as tears spill from her eyes.

Gabrielle sees the Persian army enter the armory. Xena fights them off, but a man with a double-edged sword comes in through the roof. Gabrielle watches him slit Xena's throat. She sits up -- it was a dream. Xena lies beside her. She reaches over and touches her. Xena gets up and they argue again about leaving. Gabrielle says she is going to die and knows it. "I don't accept defeat," Xena says. Then she tells Gabrielle that she is through paying for her past. "My responsibility now is you." Gabrielle again says Xena must stay and fight. Xena says that if this is their destiny, so be it -- she will die fighting if Gabrielle is going to die. They clasp hands.

Xena goes outside and sends Argo away, telling her not to stop for any stallions. Xena returns to Gabrielle and tends to her. Gabrielle says she is just diverting Xena's attention from the fight. "But you're my source, Gabrielle .... don't you know that by now?" Xena tells her. She throws Gabrielle over her shoulder and carries her up a ladder to a loft. She hoists a pot of boiling liquid up there as well and tells Gabrielle to push it over when the Persians are near the ladder. Gabrielle says the liquid will fall on Xena -- Xena says if the soldiers have gotten that far it won't matter. Gabrielle says she hopes that Xena knows she never meant for Xena to be hurt in China. Xena tells Gabrielle that she is her best friend, "my family. I love you." They hug and part, not expecting to see one another again until they reach the other side.

The Persians arrive, and Xena fights. She blows fire, slashes, cuts, dices and splices -- true Xena fighting. She manages to get out of the way and yells for Gabrielle to throw over the pot of liquid, which she does. Xena goes out on the roof of the armory and fights some more. She is injured when a soldier slices her arm, but she keeps fighting. She looks down and sees that the spy from before is going to stab Gabrielle, so she kills him. She fights more soldiers in the armory. They get her down and suddenly she comes roaring back. She catches an arrow in mid-air and then sticks it in a soldier. She watches him crawl to a vile with the antidote in it, then she kills him. She brings the army to a standstill, and tells them, "go home, there are thousands more like me." She takes the antidote to Gabrielle, but a few straggling Persians attack her. She fights them off and gives the antidote to Gabrielle. Gabrielle asks Xena how badly she's hurt, and Xena says she is okay. Gabrielle tells Xena she still owes her a new pair of boots.


This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.

After so many wild and experimental episodes, getting back to the classic recipe is a welcome return. Lots of fights, plenty of angst, Gab in danger, Xena dangerously peeved, a healthy dash of humor, mix in cheese, corn and spice, stir vigorously, cook for 45 minutes. It's nice to get back to the basics.

This was a mirror flip of The Greater Good. This time, it was Gabrielle dying by inches while a battle was being waged around her. It was interesting to watch the roles get reversed. Hey, Xena's died at least twice on Gabrielle; Gab owed her one.

What a lovefest of an episode. Guess the writers wanted to make up for Rift lost time and give our ladies plenty of heart-to-heart warm and fuzzy time. It was cornball, sure, but hey, they owe us some sugar after all that salt.

Gabrielle, inventor of the first Xena action figure! And with convenient carrying case. Apparently, pre-Mycenean garb comes with standard bosom pockets. Xena uses hers to carry her breast dagger, Gabrielle totes her Xena dollie. And I'm not makin' any more comments than that.

The history buff in me got a kick out of this setup. Marathon was a real battle, and Pheidippides, the runner that Xena and Gabrielle met, was the man who ran 26 miles to tell Athens about Marathon (which the Greeks won in real history), dying of exhaustion after the long run. The pass of Thermopylae was an actual battle site, too. A small band of Greeks was defeated, but used the pass to hold off a swarm of Persians long enough for the main Greek army to escape. Once again, XenaStaff uses just enough "real" history/mythology/legend to give a story a jump start, then turns it on its ear.

Glad to see that the swift little "use the force, Luke" trick Xena pulled in Chin hasn't been forgotten compeletely, although the writers aren't making it available to Xena any time she needs an extra ace up her sleeve (thank goodness). And it makes sense: Can Xena be free of will, desire, and hate, when Athens is on the line, Gabrielle's dying beside her, and the Persian cavalry is about to ride down on her head? Not too likely.

Renee O'Connor has mentioned how often she has to cry on the show, so it must be noted: Gabrielle got to stay dry-eyed the whole ep, but Xena was the one with leaking eyes. Hope you enjoyed the break, Renee!

Xena tries three separate times to leave the Persians behind and get Gabrielle to help. The first time was after they found out Tripolis had no antidote. Second time was when they realized the arrow had hit Gab's lungs and how little time she had available. Third was in the middle of the night as Gabrielle worsened. Each time, it took more determination from Gabrielle to keep Xena there. By the final attempt, Xena was willing to declare her quest for redemption over and pitch her whole quest in favor of keeping Gabrielle safe. Now _that's_ desperation. But Gabrielle still manages to keep Xena on the straight and narrow, keep her vision clear. No wonder Xena calls Gab her source.

We watch two hallucinations from Gabrielle during the night: the beginning of her life with Xena, which we see from Xena's perspective as Gabrielle feverishly whispers "You gotta take me with you. Teach me everything you know. You can't leave me here...", which were her exact words from SINS OF THE PAST (before going on to talk about philosophers and prophesies - were those going to be Gabrielle's backup arguments if Xena hadn't cut her off?). That scene, by the way, was my favorite in the episode for "gets ya right here" value. The second hallucination was the end of her life with Xena, which we see from Gabrielle's perspective; her dream of Xena's death as they're overrun by the Persians.

Loved the effect of Gabrielle's line "Then honor my memory." The way it was shot, the way it was said... it was the voice of a living ghost.

After Xena's line about meeting their destiny together, she's planning on dying in the battle alongside Gabrielle. Through the rest of her preparations, her goodbye to Gabrielle, and the fight, she's counting on taking as many of them with her as possible. But the moment she gets the poisoned arrow, a plan flares, and her tactics change. That's the point when she figures out a way for Gabrielle to survive - and where Gab survives, she does, too.

This episode gave us a grim, clear picture of how a Warrior Princess is supposed to die. I saw it two or three times over during the episode's big battle; buried under a dozen men, overwhelmed at last. Xena managed to break her way free, of course, but it was still a vivid image of a warrior's death.

Pogo spear! Check the "boing!" sound effect as Xena bounces from side to side to stomp on Persians. The comic relief was a nice break in the midst of all the battle nastiness. This fight put Xena through the wringer unlike anything we've seen. By halfway through, she's sweaty. By the time it's over, she's bloodied, bruised, dirty, and soaked in sweat.

Nice effect of the ground shaking under the pounding of 300+ horses. I think XenaStaff must have used up their horsie budget for the whole season on this episode. (With the help of some stock footage.)

The strange Rift timeline still haunts us. Gabrielle apologized for Chin, but nothing about Hope and Solan? Was that because she figures Illusia didn't quite cover Chin? Or was this supposed to occur before Maternal Instincts? (I doubt that.)

I'd heard that Lucy is no longer doing the fire-breathing trick in the name of not endangering the life of the star unless absolutely necessary. This must be the first faked fire-breathing; the flame is entirely too straight and there's not enough force behind Xena's breath for the flame we see. Ah well, it was cool while it lasted. But it *would* be awfully tough to explain why Xena had no eyebrows all of a sudden; better to play it safe.


This observation is by CR.

There are major historical problems with this episode, and even bigger geographical ones. To highlight this, let's just review what the episode says about the Persian invasion:

The Persians have defeated the Athenian and Spartan armies at Marathon and are advancing on Athens by the shortest route, the pass at Thermopylae. Xena bluffs them into thinking the pass is blocked, so they head round the mountain via Tripolis, in the vicinity of which Xena stops their advance guard.

Almost everything in that paragraph is wrong.

The Persians lost at Marathon, it was a great Athenian victory. The Spartans weren't even there. The shortest route to Athens, just 20 miles away, is certainly not via Thermopylae, which is 90 miles the other side of Athens. So is Tripoli (Tripolis?), but in a different direction. And on a more minor point, if the ladies are heading to Thessaly, it's more than a days' journey away - 150 miles, more like 10 days.

The way it really happened, very briefly, was:
(WARNING: History lesson follows. Some accounts conflict):
Athens sided with Greek city-states in Ionia (western Turkey) in rebelling against Persian rule. In 490 BC, Darius of Persia sent an army by sea against Athens, they landed at Marathon, 20 miles due east of the city. Athens sent a runner to Sparta for help, he covered the 140 miles in under two days. However, the only troops that arrived in time were a contingent from the small city-state of Plataea, just north-west of Athens.

The greatly outnumbered Greeks quite unexpectedly routed the Persians, killing those who could not escape to their ships in time. Then they hurried the 20 miles back to Athens to get there before the Persian fleet. The Persians went home.

Ten years later, 480BC, Darius' son Xerxes crossed the Hellespont with a huge army and marched through northern Greece (all the small towns wisely surrendering without a fight) and headed south towards Athens. At the 'pass' of Thermopylae (actually a track along the coast) a Greek defending force was outflanked by a contingent of Persians who were shown a path through the mountains by a traitor. While most of the Greeks withdrew, a small force of 300 Spartans stayed and fought to the last man.

The Athenians abandoned their city to the Persian invaders, but the Greek fleet outmanouvred and defeated the bigger Persian fleet at Salamis; Xerxes went home, leaving an army in Greece. In 479BC, a Greek army headed by the Spartans defeated the Persian force at Plataea, while a Greek fleet surprised the Persian navy at Mycale in Ionia. This was the end of the major Persian invasion, though some mopping-up remained to be done.

Thus the tiny Greek city-states had defeated the greatest empire in the world, a quite amazing achievement. This is why some Greek Xenites hate ONE AGAINST AN ARMY for what it does to their history. I just hate what it does to geography. How could Xena in her right mind say that the shortest route from Marathon to Athens is via Thermopylae?

The only weak explanation I can come up with is that Gabrielle was still out of it from the after-effects of arrow poison when she wrote that scroll. Or maybe Xena used it for rubbing Argo down or whatever they do to horses, and wrecked it. Somebody should have given the writers a map!!

Contrast this with the sense of history shown in WHEN IN ROME, where the writers took the known facts and skilfully wove a story around them. Crassus, the third member of the triumvirate, and disliked by Caesar and Pompey his co-rulers, was killed in Syria. In XWP, Xena spirited him to Rome, where he was executed anonymously as no-one in Rome except his rivals recognised him. This fits neatly into history with a minimum of conflicts, quite unlike OAAA.

Footnote: The Persian empire, it appears, was not particularly despotic, being content to let its subject states get on with their lives and religions so long as they paid their due tribute. And an intriguing aside: At the naval battle of Salamis, Xerxes noted that the most energetic of his naval commanders was the only woman amongst them, Artemisia, ruler of Caria, and said "My men have become women, and my women, men". A real warrior princess?

Reference: Ancient Greece, Thomas R Martin, Yale University Press.
Studies in Ancient Greece, ed. Diane Hennessy, Thomas Nelson Australia.


11-13-98. From Beth Gaynor. At the Cherry Hill NJ Convention (08/98), Sharon Delaney, president of the Official XENA Fanclub, discussed Renee O'Connor. O;Connor's a very thoughtful, involved actress who muses out her characters' thoughts and motivations for every scene. According to Delaney, she can tell you exactly why Gabrielle did anything in any moment. For example, Delaney asked about why Gabrielle stroked Xena's hair after having her nightmare/vision about Xena's death. According to O'Connor, Gabrielle was thinking that this may be their last night on earth, and pondering how beautiful Xena was.

02-01-98. In the promo for this episode, Xena is seen telling Gabrielle that she'll never leave her, even in death. WOW!!! Now **THAT'S** a committment if I ever heard one. Also, it's quite a leap from "I'm gonna kill you" which was the previous week's mantra. Looks like Xena needs some lithium to keep those mood swings in check!And I bet Gabrielle is due some prozac...


From Grolier's Multimedia encyclopedia:

This fragment from a sarcophagus captures the action of the Battle of Marathon (490 BC), a decisive Athenian victory during the Persian Wars. Although the Athenian army was greatly outnumbered, under the strategic command of Miltiades and with the aid of Plataean troops they defeated the Persian army on the Plain of Marathon, 32 km (20 mi) from Athens. (Scala/Art Resource, NY)...

The Battle of Marathon, fought in 490 BC on a plain northeast of Athens, was a triumph for the Greek forces as they repelled a major Persian invasion during the Persian Wars.

Again, also courtesy the handy Grolier's and some of Bret's old college texts):

According to legend, in 490 BC a Greek soldier named Phidippides ran the 36.2 km (22.5 mi) from the site of the battle of Marathon to Athens, where he died after announcing the Greek victory over the Persians. The modern marathon commemorates this feat, and, appropriately, a Greek, Spiridon Loues, won the first modern Olympic marathon.

Also looks like they mixed up elements of the 2nd and 3rd Persian Wars in Greece.

The second invasion had the Battle of Marathon, and the third was the one where the Greek Army holding the pass at Thermopylae was wiped out (the Greeks later won, but the holding action bought them time to get organised). A mention of the history booksfrom Grollier's:

Thermopylae is a pass in Greece lying between Mount Oeta and the Gulf of Malia's southern shore. Because of its strategic importance on the route from Thessaly to Locris, it was the site of three notable battles in ancient history. In 480 BC the Spartans under Leonidas heroically defended Thermopylae against the huge Persian army of Xerxes l (see Persian Wars).


From Beth. "Look at you now," Xena marvels at Gabrielle's bravery. But to me, the growth from Gab this episode wasn't in bravery. Gab's always been long on courage, and has faced death with guts before. The surprising thing was Gabrielle's work with that pot of boiling oil. Gabrielle has always blanched at the idea of taking the life and death of others into her hands. In episodes like THE PRICE, we've seen that Gab hates the idea of necessary death, and will wiggle and squirm any way she can to avoid it. Not so this time. Xena gives Gab her instructions to dump that oil, and when Xena calls for it, even though Gabrielle probably can't see for sure whether she's dumping the oil right onto Xena, she crawls over and dumps the couldron without hesitation.

From Beth. They managed to make an arrow removal scene even more painful than the one Xena went through in Chariots of War, by making it slower, blast it all. Wow, that hurt. Kudos to the effect of pulling the shaft out of Gabrielle's shoulder. That gave me the willies all the way through the next commercial break.

From Beth. Greatest bluff of the century: "Go home, there are thousands more like me!" I laughed for five minutes. If she could have produced Meg, Diana, and Leah on the spot, the entire cavalry would have probably died of heart attacks.


02-24-98. From CR. The dialog:

Gabrielle: How many campfires?
Xena: 30 or 40.
Gabrielle: 10 or so men per fire. That's good. For a minute there I thought we were in trouble.

Is there anybody who didn't recognise this as being closely adapted from the last minutes of 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'?

02-24-98. From Nikalaos. Thermopalae is not only a place, but in the Herc & Xenaverse, it's the name of Herc and Iolaus' special move when Iolaus does a back roll over Herc and they end up on opposite sides to kick b*tt.

From Bret. In the grander sense, the ep itself in an homage to the film 300 SPARTANS, in which 300 men held the pass at Thermoppalae against an invading Persian army (the timeline is wide traversed once again). Gabrielle makes allusion to this when she asks if what they are about to do isn't "something you have to try 300 times".

From Bret. In the teaser, Gabrielle says she's got "everything worked out" in how to do the flip. She pulls a small figure from her BGSB to demonstrate. This is an homage to Peter Bell, the stunt coordinator on the show, who in fact works out all the stunts using little figures and such.

From Bret. Also in the teaser, Xena tells the runner going from Marathon carrying a warning to "pace himself" because "a run like that could kill you". The legend, of course, states that is exactly what happened -- a runner carrying warning of an invading army dropped dead after delievering his message.

From Bret. Gabrielle mentions the title of another ep where the roles are reversed (Gabby takes care of poisoned Xena) THE GREATER GOOD.

From Bret. It was also asked about Xena using her "power" that we saw in THE DEBT. TPTB had expressed concern that people would think Xena had some new power after that ep aired. We see Xena trying to do it in a moment of meditation in OAA but she can't.

From Bret. When Xena readies a pot of boiling liquid and drags it across the floor to place it, it's half empty. When Gabrielle empties it onto the invaders, it's full to the top.

From Beth. MAJOR blooper alert: the second time that Xena makes a stand at the front door, watch closely. Every time they show her from behind, even while she's swinging her sword, her scabbard still has her sword in it. Other shots show the scabbard empty.

From Beth. Funny; Tripolis looks an awful lot like Laurel (Hower and Minya's hometown from A Day in the Life), just filmed from the opposite end.

From Beth. Watch Argo's right shoulder when Xena sends her away from the battle. There are numbers - our style, Arabic (is Argo an Arabian?) numbers - branded on her shoulder. They're gone for the far shot of her rearing.


Click here to read a transcript of ONE AGAINST AN ARMY .


Gabrielle's ankle was harmed during the production of this motion picture.


The following WHOOSH! articles discuss this episode:

Coming soon


The following links discuss this episode:

Coming soon

Previous Episode
Back to the Episode Guide
Next Episode

Season 1 |Season 2 |Season 3 |Season 4 |Season 5 |Season 6

Guide Table of ContentsBack to Whoosh!