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The Convert Reviewed

Najara returns with yet more mental tortures for Xena and Gabrielle as she is up to her usual trouble making between them. The episode opens with Najara free from jail and helping out a group of women under attack from a vicious warlord. After a fight, the warlord is accidentally killed - by Joxer! Gabrielle realises that it is Najara who was involved, but she is hurt and claiming to be a reformed character - a new woman. According to Najara, Eli came to her prison spreading the message of peace. So he does prison visiting does he?? Najara claims to have turned towards that way and once again stirs up things between Xena and Gabrielle by pointing out their differences. Meanwhile, Joxer is suffering guilt over his first kill. This is made even worse when he hears that the warlord has a son, and Joxer wants to be the one to explain to the boy. However, the lad believes his father was a hero and vows to avenge his death. Will Joxer tell him the truth? And how long will Najara keep up her way of peace? As Xena says in one of the best lines, "new outfit, new religion, same old whacko underneath!"

This episode was important for a number of reasons. Chief of which was that after almost three full seasons, Joxer is finally seen as something more than a comic buffoon. Ted Raimi is indeed a fine physical comedian, whether you like Joxer or not, but in this episode he finally gains a little more depth as a character. No pratfalls, no goofing, this Joxer is someone you can at least imagine being a genuine friend to Xena and Gabrielle rather that a total liability. I also liked the way Joxer interacted with the young man playing Arman, the warlord`s son. A handsome young actor, he was perfectly cast having just the right blend of naivity and idealogy.

Najara is one of the most intriguing baddies the show has produced, mainly due to her being so close to being noble and also to her plausibility. It seems only Xena really knows her as Xena has never been fooled. Poor old Gabrielle is once again the easily taken in sap. Kathryn Norris has a slightly less interesting role this time, but once again, Najara gets Xena where it hurts - the crucifixion visions that still plague her and the thought that she might be responsible for Gabrielle`s death. Like Hudson Lieck though, Norris really is very, very skinny! All hair and attitude! However, an analysis of Callisto and Najara is an interesting one. Callisto`s obsession was Xena, and causing her maximum harm. If that involved Gabrielle, all the better, but Xena was the one. Najara on the other hand seems to have a thing for Gabrielle. Is she looking for a friend, a follower or an acolyte? Whatever it is, Najara`s motives in her dealings with our heroes are all towards trying to win Gabrielle, and Xena is merely the biggest obstacle. They are both blonde, pretty and totally crackers!! They are also two complex and intriguing characters.

The Convert featured some of the more action packed scenes we have seen for a while. The opening fight was a vicious one, but it is the confrontation between Xena and Najara in the trees that stands out, very reminiscent of the ladder fight from "Callisto". Once again we see that Najara is one of the best fighters Xena has ever faced. She always gets a few blows in on the warrior princess.

As is so often the case, this episode contained a number of interesting additions to the development of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and Gabrielle`s change of direction. We saw a number of very domestic seeming scenes between them round the campfire. We even had an Argo scene- not enought of those! As a point of interest, look out for Lucy Lawless struggling with her right bracer during that first cosy campfire scene. She tugs and tugs and then gives up! The episode ends with Gabrielle again wondering how she will continue on her path of peace...a question a few fans are wondering about too.

Yet again we also saw the uncertainty Najara causes. Xena gets annoyed that Gabrielle seems to be falling for Najara`s tricks once more. However, alongside this friction, we have a scene where Gabrielle sounds more sure than ever. She tells Najara quite clearly that her place is with Xena and that the old hospice idea can never be for her. By contrast, she seemed to be ready to give up her life with Xena in "Crusader" to start the hospice with Najara, or at the very least she was seriosly considering it.

A less welcome addition was a rather bizarre new weapon for Gabrielle - a powder compact that involves her puffing powder in an assailant`s eyes. It was not very convincing and I hope this isn`t a weapon they are planning on sticking to. However, I thought this was an excellent episode generally. I loved the Joxer storyline - a very overdue event actually giving him something useful to do. I liked the Najara character in Crusader, and having her back was a good idea. She creates a lovely tension between Xena and Gabrielle. Writer Chris Manheim has done a good job and deserves a big kiss from Ted Raimi I think!

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