Friday, September 20, 2013

The Black Wolf

Original Air-Date January 8, 1996

When a band of freedom fighters, following a shadowy figure known as the Black Wolf, ambush and kill a group of armed bullies collecting taxes, Xerxes, the cold-blooded ruler of Argos, threatens the villagers with death unless they betray the identity of the rebel leader in their midst. A dozen courageous citizens step forward claiming to be the infamous Black Wolf, and Xerxes angrily orders his guards to arrest them all.

Xena  arrives a short while later, just in time to witness her old friend Hermia being abused by Xerxes' guards when she begs to see her imprisoned daughter, Flora. After Xena teaches the guards some manners with their own spears, Hermia tells her that Flora has fallen madly in love with one of the Black Wolves, and is now in prison for having taken up their cause to overthrow Xerxes. Xena vows to come up with a plan to rescue the young woman.

The warrior princess fights her way into Xerxes' palace and interrupts the ruthless despot while he's threatening his Minister of Security, Koulos. Xerxes tells Koulos he will be killed if he fails to capture the Black Wolf in time for a public execution during the fast-approaching Feast of Zeus. Pretending to sympathize with Xerxes' predicament, Xena offers to go undercover for a hefty price and expose the identity of the Black Wolf. Xerxes agrees and the next day, Xena stages an attack on Koulos in the village square, witnessed by a Black Wolf sympathizer. After a rousing battle, Xena is "captured" and taken to the dungeon.

When Gabrielle arrives later that day, she runs into Salmoneus, who is furtively selling Black Wolf merchandise, and learns that Xena is in Xerxes' prison. Knowing the only way to reach her friend is to be thrown into the dungeon herself, Gabrielle begins hassling Xerxes' guards to provoke them into locking her up. Her first few attempts backfire and result in Salmoneus' arrest instead. Meanwhile, Xena makes her way to rebels' corner of the dungeon and sees Flora for the first time in many years. She offers to help her escape, but quickly learns that her determined young friend won't consider leaving without the rest of the Wolf Pack.

Just then, Koulos arrives to intimidate the rebels into giving up their leader by locking Xena into a pit covered by a wooden grate, and flooding it with water. Moments before drowning, Xena is able to make a spectacular escape when she knocks out a guard by hurling a bone upward from the bottom of the pit and grabbing his sword to slash through the grating. As Koulos angrily exits the cell, Salmoneus is unceremoniously dumped at Xena's feet.

Later, Xena turns to Flora's beloved Diomedes, a courageous young rebel in the Pack, and tells him she has a plan to free all the prisoners. Believing that Xena may be setting them up, Diomedes begins to listen to her only after she admits that she allowed herself to be captured in order to rescue Flora. Under Xena's direction, Salmoneus begins collecting various materials from all the prisoners, including their belts, bits of rope and sticks of wood.

After fashioning makeshift bows, arrows and netting, the Pack puts Xena's plan into action. When the guards enter to feed them that night, they are surprised and overpowered by the rebels, who drop down from the netting they have secured to the ceiling with their arrows. The prisoners escape into the woods, only to find Xerxes and his men lying in wait to recapture them. Back in the dungeon, Xena is accused of betrayal and is challenged by Diomedes. After a no-holds-barred battle, Xena gains the upper hand but spares Diomedes, insisting that she is not the traitor in their midst. She soon reveals that the real traitor is the prisoner Parnassus.

Later, when Koulos threatens Salmoneus' life, Flora steps forward to admit what Xena has already guessed -- that she is the Black Wolf. As Flora prepares to die, Xena -- still in Xerxes' good graces -- agrees to accompany him to the public execution. At the last moment, with Gabrielle's help, Xena is able to free Flora and the rest of the Wolf Pack, who rise up in battle to defeat the evil Xerxes.



Lucy Lawless as Xena

Renée O'Connor as Gabrielle

Robert Trebor as Salmoneus

Kevin J. Wilson as Xerxes

Nigel Harbrow as Koulos

Emma Turner as Flora

Ian Hughes as Diomedes

Maggie Tarver as Hermia

Ross Duncan as Parnassus

John Dybvig as Brigand (Ox)

Jonathan Bell-Booth as Chief Guard

John Pemberton as Arresting Guard

Tim Hosking as Blacksmith

Colin Francis as The Grump

Adam Middleton as Black Wolf Sympathizer

Jimmy Rawdon as Father


Ox, the brigand: Looking for the man of your dreams, darling?
Xena: Yep. (Xena punches him in the gut) You're not him.

Xena: You've grown up.
Flora: You've grown legendary.

Flora: Would you believe, Xena taught me to swing a sword and embroider linen for my wedding chest.
Diomedes: You embroider?
Xena: I have many skills.

Xena: "The times change people, and people change the times."


In the previous episode (Hooves and Harlots) Gabrielle was given a staff with a bird head on it and an Amazon outfit. In this episode she has a plain staff with no bird's head, and a new outfit (the prototype of which was seen in Death In Chains), which she presumably acquired between episodes.

The writers originally intended to have Gabrielle remain in her Amazon outfit from Hooves and Harlots, but decided that it just didn't feel right, and they didn't want Gabrielle to be known as "Gabrielle Amazon Princess," so they went ahead and gave her a new costume that would be used to show her growth and developement throughout the series. The reason for change in staff design was never explained.

This is the first appearance of Robert Trebor as Salmoneus. He was in four episodes of Xena, though only 3 as Salmoneus.

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