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.