Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 5 Episode 6

Purity (1)

2
Aired Monday 8:00 PM Nov 08, 1999 on
7.6
out of 10
User Rating
67 votes
4

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

EDIT
When Xena recieves a cryptic message using the words of her former mentor Lao Ma, she, Gabrielle and Joxer journey to Chin, where a war is breaking out over a mysterious, destructive powder and Lao Ma's Book of Wisdom. Xena must help Lao Ma's daughter, K'ao Hsin, protect from her evil sister, Pao Ssu.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • We return to the mystical land of Chin, at a time of chaos and danger, when the wisdom of Lao Ma is once again required to save the land.

    7.5
    Through watching and re-watching Season 5, I have been increasingly struck by the way the season is made up of a strange mix of themes from previous seasons. Perhaps because of the difficulties that Lucy's pregnancy created, the writers throughout this season seem to be somehow short for ideas, and so turn to previously successful concepts, (such as the Northern Amazons, Alti and the Shamaness theme, and Chin and Lao Ma) to bolster a lacklustre period in the show. Yet, within these seasons, none of the concepts work even half as well as they did originally, and the episodes feel flat and unrewarding.



    Unfortunately, "Purity" is the same. It has a good premise, and some good ideas, but it seems to fall flat, and certainly does not even come close to the perfection that was "The Debt".



    Firstly, I liked the whole concept of Xena and Lao Ma's daughter joining together like opposite sides of a coin to recapture Lao Ma's power. This union had a similar symmetry to the connection between Xena and Lao Ma, but unfortunately did not have anywhere near the emotional impact or power of the former union. K'ao-Hsin as a character is quite simplistic, and certainly not endearing in the way Lao Ma was instantly.



    The real problems within the episode start, however, when you begin to attempt to nut out the actual workings. From what I understand, Lao Ma gave birth to two daughters (I'm guessing identical twins), Pao-Ssu and K'ao-Hsin, whom she gave up to strangers shortly after their birth to save them from the wrath of their elder brother, Ming-Tien. At some point after giving up the girls, Lao Ma has foreseen both her death, and the death of Ming-Tien. At some stage after her death, the twin girls have found out that Lao Ma was their mother. Yet prior to this, Lao Ma had further foreseen that Pao-Ssu would grow up to become full of hatred and rage towards her, and attempt to use her wisdom for evil. Thus, she sent letters to K'ao-Hsin, Pao-Ssu and Xena instructing them that "The Hawk and the Dove must become one with the Wisdom". I'm not sure how these letters were sent, or how their arrival was timed so perfectly, but I suppose that is part of Lao Ma's mystery. Thus, Xena travelled to Chin where she used Lao Ma's book to regain the power and use it combined with K'ao-Hsin against Pao-Ssu. Confusing? You betcha!



    Now, I have no problem with this scenario, as far-fetched as it seems on paper. What bothers me is that viewers were left to figure this one out entirely on their own. There is very little explanation in the episode, and it took me several watches to really get the idea of how the events came about. I feel that this concept is far too complex to leave to viewers alone, and it is easy to lose the thread of the whole plot of the episode. Unfortunately, the episode then comes across as a clumsy and confusing mish-mash of plots with no basis, and no real resolution.



    I have several other complaints which I will outline below.



    Firstly, I am not at all comfortable with the way Gabrielle is relegated to the role of comedic side-kick again. After coming so far, this brush-aside is out of sync with previous (and future) episodes, and is quite insulting, even to a "Team-Xena" girl like me. Paired up with Joxer, Gabrielle becomes the light-hearted aspect of the episode, and not in a good way. Why couldn't she have combined with Xena to bear their part of the wisdom together? It seems to me that without Gabrielle by her side, it is highly unlikely that Xena would have been able to re-capture the power at all. They are, by this point, connected in body, mind and soul, and I feel like one cannot succeed without the other.



    My second complaint (as petty as it probably sounds) is the daggy costumes that the girls don halfway through the episode. Gabrielle's is at least explained (it is to help her 'blend-in in the market' – ha, fat chance! I can't see a little blonde haired blue eyed Caucasian 'blending-in' in Chin!), but Xena just waltzes out looking like an armchair, with no explanation for the change whatsoever. With all due respect to both, they genuinely looked like they were in their pyjamas! The costumes add nothing at all to the episode, and I actually have trouble taking them seriously looking so dopey. I can only assume that the writers were hoping that Chinese-style costuming would help to convince viewers that the girls were actually in China, and not in New Zealand on location. The costumes alone were certainly not enough to help us believe that though! (And isn't it interesting how many Maori warriors made up the Chinese army of the Black Powder!)



    The sub-plot of the black powder is also weak, and surprisingly I feel like it could be taken out of the episode without the episode losing anything at all.



    My final observation relates to several comments that were made during the episode regarding Lao Ma being a 'mother' to all the women, K'ao-Hsin, Pao-Ssu AND Xena. It is reiterated at the conclusion when K'ao-Hsin again refers to Xena as 'sister'. I found this unusual because, at least to me, Lao Ma was in no way a mother figure to Xena. If anything, she was a lover, mentor and equal. I feel like these references to Lao Ma being a 'mother' to Xena detracts from the beauty that was actually their relationship, and fails to acknowledge that there was certainly a level of romantic love to their adoration of each other, if not physical or sexual.



    I give this episode a hard time, perhaps because the original Chin episodes ("The Debt I and II") are just so important to me. Those episodes changed the series forever, and I feel like this episode is riding their coat-tails instead of standing on its own. Another disappointing episode in a disappointing season. 7.5 out of 10.moreless
  • Power Play!!

    7.5
    Purity-Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer journey to Chin, when Lao Mao's daughter summons Xena to help protect her mother's book of wisdom from falling into the hands of her evil sister.



    This episode sees the return to Chin, and I know many fans didn't like this episode and the next, but I rather enjoyed them very much! I love the idea of Lao Ma having twin daughters(Pao Ssu and K'sao Hsin), and the actress plays both sisters very well. Of course, one of them turns out to be evil, what a shock? But what's interesting is the introduction of black powder, which is used as a powerful weapon for Pao Ssu's army! But what I like the most is Xena and K'sao Hsin learning how to use Lao Ma's power, and how they are the Hawk and Dove that must become one. Joxer and Gabrielle provide some pretty funny humor, with Gabrielle feeling around Joxer's pants and his reaction, LOL!! I like how the episode ends with Xena and K'sao Hsin having a power battle with Pao Ssu, which has some beautiful costumes and special effects. All in All, watch this episode despite what fans think of it!!moreless
  • After Xena receives a cryptic message in the words of Lao Ma, she, Gabrielle and Joxer travel to Chin, where war is breaking out over the hunt for Lao Ma's powerful book of wisdom. Some dislike it, but I really enjoyed this episode...moreless

    9.4
    This review contains moderate spoilers. This episode is a sequel to the popular third season two-parter 'The Debt'.



    I was surprised to read other reviews and find that many fans don't particularly like this episode.



    Although not as epic as 'The Debt', it is still superbly shot, and just great to look at.



    Marie Matiko does a fine job played both good and bad sister, K'ao Hsin and Pao Ssu, to the extent that it is like having a different actress in each role.



    As with many fifth season episodes working around Lucy Lawless' pregnancy, many of the best moments go to Gabrielle and Joxer.



    The way that Gabrielle frees herself and Joxer from the stocks is Xena-like in its ingenuity, and another sign of how Gabby is becoming more and more like the Warrior Princess.



    We also find that Joxer is a fine cook (for some reason I always had him down as a terrible cook, and think this was even mentioned in an earlier episode). In fact, I really like Joxer of late; a long way from the annoying goon added way back in season one's 'Callisto'.



    That's not to say Xena herself doesn't get some good scenes, as she and K'ao Hsin learn to recreate Lao Ma's power. As with 'The Debt', these scenes are wonderfully shot.



    I particularly liked the act cliff-hanger, with one trail of black powder leading to Gabrielle and the other to Joxer. I should have known that a Chakram throw would have been part of the solution though!



    Some fans feel that this story mars 'The Debt', but I have to say, I didn't feel that. Maybe if they had done this story soon after 'The Debt' it might have felt like that; but it has been two seasons since 'The Debt', and I personally don't feel that it takes anything at all away from the greatness of the original.



    All-in-all, although some despise this episode, I really enjoyed it. As of yet, the season hasn't offered up a single truly bad episode in my view.moreless
  • Purity and Back in the Bottle poop all over the beautiful memory of the goregeous \'The Debt\' of Season 3.

    5.1
    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
Marie Matiko

Marie Matiko

Pao Ssu/K'ao Hsin

Guest Star

Andy Choi

Andy Choi

Go Kun

Guest Star

William Kwan

William Kwan

Vendor

Guest Star

Ted Raimi

Ted Raimi

Joxer

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (3)

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Xena: People who want the world end up their own worst enemy.

    • Pao Ssu: I have something wonderful to share with you both.
      Xena: You've been studying your mother's book.
      Pao Ssu: Yes! And I've made a wonderful discovery. I don't need anyone. Not allies, not my army. Or my family...

    • Pao Ssu: Lao Ma's powers would have been wasted on you. And you, Xena, were right. I would have dropped the torch anyway.

    • Joxer: (as he and Gabrielle are tied up in the enemy's lair) You know, Gabrielle? I've been around long enough to recognize sarcasm when I hear it.
      Gabrielle: But, at least we're together?

    • Xena: Thanks for your help. My name is ---
      Pao Ssu: Xena. You're my mother's friend.
      Xena: Your mother?
      Pao Ssu: I'm the daughter of Lao Ma.

    • Joxer: Why can't we just get this at a bookstore?
      Xena: I left it in Chin, in the safest place I knew, the Zo monastery. Lao Ma's power is in its pages.

    • Xena: (a messenger delivers a cryptic warning, and then dies) 'The hawk and the dove?' I don't know. But 'the wisdom' must mean her book, and whatever it means, somebody didn't want us to find out.

    • Xena and K'ao Hsin: (quoting Lao Ma) To conquer others is to have power. To conquer yourself is to know the way.

    • Gabrielle: I have a bead on that munitions tent. We're gonna blow it sky-high.

  • NOTES (1)

    • DISCLAIMER: There are two slightly different disclaimers for this epiode. The first is: To obtain a copy of Joxer's recipe for Moo Shu Sauce and other Chinese delicacies visit your local Bookstore or look for it at the tavern.

      A later version, and the one used on the Season 5 DVD (Region 1) is: To obtain a copy of Joxer's recipe for Moo Shu Sauce and other Chinese delicacies visit your local Bookstore or look for it on the Internet.

  • ALLUSIONS (2)

    • Joxer mentions that the black powder seems like powerful Greek fire. Greek fire is another ancient incendiary weapon, used by the Byzantine Empire, and was probably invented around the 5th or 6th century CE. Attacks with Greek fire usually involved catapulting a burning cloth-wrapped ball, perhaps containing a flask. It caused chemical fires that were actually intensified by water, making it very dangerous.

    • When Xena is trying to figure out the components of the black powder, she says it has sulfur, charcoal, and something else she can't identify, which Joxer later identifies as a meat curative. This third ingredient is potassium nitrate (a.k.a. saltpetre), which can be found as a crystal on cavern walls, or made by the refinement of urine or a combination of manure and wood ash. Potassium nitrate was, in fact, used in salted meat as a preservative, but has mostly been replaced by more modern nitrate and nitrite compounds. It is still sometimes used in making corned beef and salami.

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