Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 5 Episode 7

Back in the Bottle (2)

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Nov 15, 1999 on
out of 10
User Rating
65 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


Xena must hone the power of purity after a vision which prompts her, Gabrielle, and Joxer to return to Chin. There they are reunited with K'ao Hsin and must deal with threat in the vision: the warlord Khan, who has the recipe for the black powder, due to his collaboration with the evil spirits of Pao Ssu and Ming T'ien, aka The Green Dragon. Can Xena master the power in time to save her friends and stop the green dragon's armies?


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  • The final episode in the Chin saga ends in dramatic style. We farewell the power that Lao Ma created.

    "Back in the Bottle" is the final episode set in the province of Chin that we will see. It is on par with the previous "Purity" and is really the second half of a minor story arc, which is in itself the conclusion of a major story-arc begun back in Season 3. The enormous time gap between "The Debt" and these episodes, however, means that any real sense of them being two parts of the same whole is lost.

    This is again a reasonably solid, but overall unremarkable, episode. In this one the performances are much better, and three things in particular redeem this one for me, raising it above the previous episode. Those three things are 1. the addition of Lin-Qi 2. the combined being of Ming-Tien and Pao-Ssu (solely because it looks great) and 3. the clever and interesting ending.

    This is the conclusion to the previous episode, and so it really just follows on with the story, possibly a week or two after "Purity" has ended. In that time, Pao-Ssu spirit has combined with her dead brother's and returned to the land of the living to destroy the kingdom of Chin. I'm not overly sure what the motivation for this is, and it is never really explained. Suffice to say that Pao-Ssu /Ming-Tien somehow summon an army of 100 000 warriors, and pass on the secret of the black powder to them to use as a weapon.

    It becomes Xena's sole responsibility to battle this army and save the innocent people of Chin. Having said that, Xena doesn't do a whole lot during this episode other than act as a vessel for the power to fight against evil. She is again quite flat and a bit disappointing overall.

    Gabrielle is returned to a more leading role in this one, but is still underused. However, her interactions with the absolutely charming Lin-Qi help to redeem this episode in a big way. Lin-Qi is a lovely character, well-rounded and instantly endearing. He has an ease about him, and a depth of character that we don't often see in a one-off guest star. I thought the way he clearly is instantly smitten with Gabrielle to be extremely realistic and handled very sensitively. It was not overdone and was both touching and honest. I found myself rooting for him, even while knowing he was destined for heart-break.

    There is a beautiful scene where Lin-Qi and Gabrielle discuss the concept of 'home'. Gabrielle gently tells him that "home can be a person". I thought this line was just so sincere and just so indicative of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. Like any soul-mates would feel, where they live doesn't matter, as long as they are together. Gabrielle is clearly aware of the feelings that Lin-Qi has for her, and she handles their interactions with her usual maturity and grace, never leading him down the garden path, but just being a friend. Their goodbye at the conclusion is subtle and just right.

    My second complement for this episode goes to the idea of putting Pao-Ssu and Ming-Tien into one being, like two sides of the coin. I thought this was very clever and really showed the way hatred and rage bound them together and made them so similar. While Pao-Ssu and K'ao-Hsin may have been identical in appearance, it was Ming-Tien with whom Pao-Ssu was really bound in mind and spirit.

    My third complement goes to the clever ending, tying in the creation of the Terracotta Army with the conclusion. I had wondered throughout the episode how the 'power' was going to save the day, so when the battle began with Xena again shuddering and creating force-fields I was quite disappointed, thinking that would be the extent of it. I was pleasantly surprised with the irony that the symbol of the green dragon was used against the army, effectively acting as a conduit through which the power could enter them and turn them to stone. I thought this was very clever and it felt realistic and appropriate despite the liberties taken with history.

    One other moment is worth mentioning, and this is the conversation between Xena, Gabrielle, K'ao-Hsin and Lin-Qi regarding how Xena plans on defeating the Green Dragon's army. K'ao-Hsin expresses her belief that love can win a war. Gabrielle, however, replies "I once believed that love was enough. I was wrong". This is a sad moment, as it really hits home that the young hopeful and trusting Gabrielle of the past really is dead, never to be revived again. Even though I had know that this was the case for some time, actually hearing her express in words that she no longer believes in the power of love moved me in a way that nothing else up to this point was able to.

    So overall this is the better of the two Chin revival episodes, although by no means a great episode. It earns a better score for better overall presentation, scripting and casting. 8 out of 10.moreless
  • After she has a vision, Xena returns to Chin with Gabrielle and Joxer to deal with the warlord Khan, who is working with the spirits of Pao Ssu and Ming T'ien. An unnecessary continuation of the story, but still a good one...moreless

    The previous episode, 'Purity', didn't really need to be continued. But even so, this is still a good episode, and I am surprised that some others didn't like it, as it is far from the worst episode of the series.

    As with many fifth season episodes, Gabrielle gets to do most of the fighting with both Xena and Lucy Lawless pregnant. She sure is handy with those Sais!

    There originally was supposed to be more of a relationship between Gabrielle and Lin Qi, but the powers that be felt that there was little chemistry between the two actors and cut this element of the episode back. Personally I didn't think they were too bad together; and I like the scene where Joxer is obviously jealous.

    The return of Ming T'ien maybe isn't as powerful as it could and should have been, and this is probably the biggest flaw of the episode. But I do like the effect has he swaps faces with Pao Ssu, that's a nifty trick!

    We also find that Xena was responsible for the creation of the terracotta army, in one of my favourite examples of the series tampering with history.

    This episode may be slightly less good than the previous episode and take time to really get going, but personally I find it nowhere near as bad as some made out, and still find it an enjoyable story.moreless
  • Damn, Powdered Again!

    Back In The Bottle-After a vision Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer return to Chin, where they are reunited with Kao Syn. Where they must defeat the warlord Khan, who has joined forces with the evil spirits of Pao Tsu and Ming Ten, aka The Green Dragon, and knows the recipe of the deadly black powder.

    The Chin adventure doesn't end yet, when Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer come back to Chin where they must stop the warlord Khan who now knows how to make the black power. I like how Pao Tsu and Ming Tien share the same spiritual body, yet the return of Ming Tian is kinda anticlimatic. He just stands around and taunts Xena...boring! but there are som great elements to this episode like Gabrielle's interaction with Lin Qi. Both actors have good chemistry, and you could see them as a couple. Then there's the conclusion of the episode where Xena uses her power against Khan's army. The Special effects are amazing and how Xena uses the power to stop the army is really cool! All in All, both Chin episodes may not be as good as The Debt episodes, but they are pretty good none the less!moreless
  • Purity and Back in the Bottle poop all over the beautiful memory of the goregeous 'The Debt' of Season 3.

    Purity and Back in the Bottle are both respectively terrible sequels to The Debt. Ming Tien was a good character for its use, and it really was not needed to see him again.

    These two episodes have no plot twists, turns, or suspense whatsoever. There's no real change in perspective of anything: Black Powder is in wrong hands, must get Black Powder and destroy it, twas the premise and nothing else. I also did not like the idea of Lao Ma having two other children (other than Ming Tien), who we're twin daughters. For one, it's not interesting, so why bother, and two, her story is complex as it is - there is nothing more to be added. Both daughter's themselves, one evil and one good, we're just as bland as the idea. Although the actress did a fine job playing both characters (had I not known better, I would of thought it was two different actors), but her talent was wasted with this one.

    The only real shinning moments of these two episodes we're the humorous parts with Joxer (and occasionally Xena), which is a sign that an episode is lacking in the overall plot. The comic relief is supposed to be a bonus to an episode, not the best part.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • Daniel Sing returns as the evil Ming T'ien, otherwise known as The Green Dragon. Daniel previously played this role in "The Debt Pt I", "The Debt Pt II" and "The Bitter Suite".

    • By the end of the episode, the secret of the black powder formula is lost. Perhaps this is how they explain that black powder wasn't discovered until the 9th century CE, when Xena seems to mostly take place around the 1st century BCE (around the time of Julius Caesar).

    • Khan speaks in Cantonese, a dialect native to south China. During his incantation to summon Ming Tien he says the words, 'Tien Leng Leng, Te Leng Leng.' This is a traditional Chinese prayer, and loosely translating to 'Let Heaven and Earth come together.' He also says, 'Luk Long San, Fai Yin Yeng,' roughly meaning, 'Green Dragon Spirit/God, Take real shape/Show your true form.' When attacking Xena, he says, 'Ja Sei Koi!' This translates to 'Explode, kill her!' or "Blow her up!"

    • Goof: When Xena hugs K'ao Hsin hello, listen closely when they part. There's a noise which sounds like a belch from someone on set.

    • Clearing a minefield so others can pass safely was also done a few weeks earlier in the Hercules episode "Rebel with a Cause".

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Kao Sin: Your point of view changes when you're about to bring new life into the world.

    • Lin Qi: So, ummm, you're the storyteller. How's this gonna end?
      Gabrielle: I haven't written it yet.
      Lin Qi: Goodbye, Gabrielle.

    • Gabrielle: OK, can I just go to town for food? Who has money?
      Joxer: I do. Here.
      Gabrielle: It's black powder. Joxer, I told you to get rid of this!
      Joxer: I thought I did!

    • Gabrielle:(holding a rabbit)Xena, I'm starving. Can't we just cook this thing and eat it?
      Xena: Shh, Gabrielle. I'm trying to achieve absolute stillness. (the rabbit turns into stone)
      Gabrielle: Great, another one!

    • Xena: No, it's not that. The power that I had today wasn't born out of anger. I wasn't even thinking about those men. I was thinking about the people that they wanted to hurt. So, I guess what I said before isn't true anymore. I have seen love end a war.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Lucy Lawless was 6 months pregnant during the filming of this episode.

    • Robert Tapert called "Back in the Bottle" one of the weakest episodes they've done, and said Lawless and O'Connor agreed with him. He called it a disaster, citing part of the reason being that it was done during a staff transition. He explained this in the XWP newsletter. "A pregnant Xena facing the decision that the only way she could protect herself is to kill 100,000 people is a great emotional moment. And nothing was made of it. That was the whole story. Xena saying, 'Gabrielle, I can't kill all these people and bring somebody into this world and not have it affect my child.' That was the story and it got lost and changed into things that didn't matter."

    • Buddy Williers is again credited as a writer for this episode. This is an official pseudonym of Stephen Sears, first used on "Them Bones, Them Bones". It was used because his original scripts for both episodes got changed enough that he felt he could no longer take credit for them.

    • There was a part of a scene cut from this episode. Gabrielle and Lin Qi kiss, but the two actors didn't have good chemistry and it was decided to leave it out.

    • DISCLAIMER: Pao Ssu's split personality was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.


    • In this episode there is an allusion to the famous Terracotta Army, when Xena changes the army along with their horses into stone. The Terracotta Army is an army of thousands of terracotta figures of warriors and horses dated to 210 BCE, each with distinct features, no two warriors have the same facial features.