Xena: Warrior Princess

Season 3 Episode 6

The Debt (1)

Aired Monday 8:00 PM Nov 03, 1997 on
out of 10
User Rating
91 votes

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Episode Summary


When Xena is summoned to the distant kingdom of Chin to kill the Green Dragon, a task she left undone years before, she tells Gabrielle about her past in Chin in an attempt to justify why she must commit murder.

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  • They don't want to cooperate? I say, kill 'em all!

    For me personally, "The Debt" is one of those episodes that changed not only how I saw and related to the show, but my perceptions in general. Like the mind-altering brilliance that we saw in "Destiny", this episode takes the series to all new heights, encompassing a new kind of episode on an epic scale. Everything about this episode is MORE – the sets, the costumes, the landscape, the characters, the love stories, the hatred, the battles… I could go on and on.

    This episode encompasses so much. If we had thought for a second that Xena and Gabrielle had worked through their issues from "The Deliverer" and "Gabrielle's Hope", then this episode proves how sadly mistaken we were. These emotions run right to the core and rise to the surface in Xena and Gabrielle's decision to go their separate ways. Only a couple of episodes ago, this would have been unthinkable, now it seems natural. Gabrielle's betrayal is one of the most emotional moments of the series for me, and discovering her in Ming Tien's bed still leaves me in tears, yet it is not unexpected. Both Gabrielle and Xena are different people now, and their actions reflect this – sad or not, that is life.

    This episode contains everything I love in a Xena episode: an epic scale, it is Xena-heavy, subtext-heavy, and based on flashbacks. No one can deny the sexual connotations behind many of the actions in this episode, from Xena rolling over in the night to embrace a sleeping Gabrielle, to the surreal kiss of life between Xena and Lao Ma, this episode is about emotions, relationships and love.

    I truly adore flashback episodes. I have said it before, but this is really what the show was about for me. I need to know everything about who Xena was, in order to understand who she became. The flashbacks are handled so beautifully throughout, and this is possibly the great flashback episode of all. Watching Evil Xena ride across the plains with Borias' army just gives me goosebumps. The setting is just perfect, with the washed out color scheme, and the extravagant costumes. It truly feels like a movie at times.

    The moments between Xena and Borias are raw, angry and wild. The chemistry is undeniable, and the quality of acting is first rate. The combination of Borias with his clear intelligence and sense of honour, yet outwardly animal-like behaviour is perfectly contrasted with Xena's core of damage and self-hatred which is presented with a mask of a normal human being.

    Lao Ma is one of the most memorable of any personality in the show. She is utterly unique, and could not have been portrayed better by anyone else. She is beautiful, yet calculating, intelligent and phenomenally talented. The moment when Lao Ma and Xena first lay eyes on each other is a moment caught in time; this is love at first site. There is a clear, instant connection between two women from opposite paths in life – their connection extends far beyond all their differences.

    Xena pays for her actions in this episode. She behaves like an animal, and is subsequently treated like one. This is such a dark point in her life, and yet it is also a turning point for her, and clearly part of her destiny. It is no wonder that she has difficulty sharing it with Gabrielle: how do you share, with the person you love, the darkest moment of your life, and yet explain that it was also one of the greatest?

    However, it is vital to note that at the crucial point, moments before Xena attempts to murder Ming Tien, it is thoughts of Gabrielle that flash through her mind. As much as she would like to turn away from Gabrielle, and person that Gabrielle helps her to be, in the end Gabrielle and her story is as linked to Lao Ma and hers as Xena is. In essence, they are all part of Xena's destiny.

    I could go on and on about this episode. It is suffice to say that this episode changed the show for me, and captures one of the all time great Xena moments. The second part of the episode continues the magic. Many fans do not see what I see in this episode, and that is fine. But if you can appreciate anything from this episode, it is the quality of acting, scripting and directing that Xena encompasses.moreless
  • pt 1 of the best episode of the season...THE XENA MOVIE

    this is where everything changes for our heroes...yup ... the rift starts here,following on from the events of the fantastically made Gabrielles Hope this episode opens with Xena come to the realisation that she must travel to Chin and kill the green dragon...who is he you ask? well you have to watch this episode to find out.

    this episode( in the same vein as the equally stunning Destiny) provides us fans with a much greater detail of Xenas dark and quite frankly brutal past.

    this episode is by no means child friendly and it shows, it is a harsh look at Xenas life and finally kicks start the season after a few so/so episodes.

    The Debt is an amazing episode of the season and i find it to actually to be the best episode (along with Sacrifice and Been There Done That obv.)and one of the top 20 episodes of the entire show.

    stunning...watch pt 2 too.moreless
  • In this epic tale, Xena receives a cryptic message that she must travel to the land of the rising sun to kill the Green Dragon. As she travels, we learn about a very important stage in her past life as an evil warlord. An adventurous episode...moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    This is one of the most ambitious episodes of the series. It is epic in scale, with some parts looking almost like they are a big-screen film. In fact, Robert Tapert wanted this to be Xena: The Movie.

    At the time, some fans considered this to be the best ever story of the series, and many still do. I personally rank it very highly, and love its epic scope, but I think you need to have seen the previous adventures to fully appreciate it.

    Following on from the template set in the second season's fan favourite 'Destiny', a great deal of this episode deals with flashbacks to Xena's dark past, where we see her as a evil warlord.

    The 'period' of Xena we witness in the flashbacks, shows her to be a reckless and at the same time quite naive and (dare I say) at times quite stupid warrior, a far cry from the focused warrior she will develop into. Lucy Lawless plays this past version of the Warrior Princess with ease, with it being amongst her best performances up to this point in the series.

    There are nice touches, such as evil Xena's neck pinch – "you'll be dead in a minute" (as opposed to her 'future' version's 30 seconds – presumably she improved on it), and not used to extract information, just to cause a terrible death.

    The Borias we see here seems to be quite different from the Borias we hear about in the second season's 'Orphan of War'. Maybe, like Xena, he improved with age.

    Jacqueline Lin is perfect as Lao Ma, who teaches Xena so much. She carries herself with such dignity, yet holds so much power. And for subtext fans, the scene where she effectively kisses Xena underwater to give her air could be seen as the point in which Xena ... well, first had an interest in first camps, shall we say!

    Gabrielle doesn't have much to do in this episode, other than following Xena and hearing the tale of her past, and begging her not to go back to her killing ways.

    But then there is the shock ending. What is Gabrielle doing in Chin? Has she really betrayed Xena? We'll have to wait until Part II to find out.

    In the UK, Channel 5 – who usually ran first run episodes (albeit several years behind!) on Saturday evenings at 8:05pm, ran both of these episodes edited together in a later time-slot after the watershed, meaning that the more adult material didn't have to be cut out. (A nice move from a channel that was so reckless with their editing on other occasions!).

    As I seem to say about many (in fact, most) third season episodes, I was in my late teens when I first saw them, and didn't full appreciate them. At that stage, I liked the 'regular' Xena episodes, with a few fights and some comedy moments thrown in. It is not until more recent years that I have really come to appreciate them, and 'The Debt' is a prime example.

    All-in-all, although I'm not sure it would scrape my top five, an epic episode, and one that leaves you wanting to see Part II.moreless
  • Deeper Inside!!!

    The Debt, Part 1-When Xena is summoned to the distant kingdom of Chin to kill the Green Dragon, a task she left undone years before, she tells Gabrielle about her past in Chin in an attempt to justify why she must commit murder.

    Xena's backstory has always been such an amazing topic on this series, when it comes to the Debt double episodes, these are some ground-breaking episodes!!! This episode begins with some action, then Xena going on a murder mission. Gabrielle of course, is worried that Xena will go down her dark path once again. To make her understand, Xena begins her tale about her adventure in The Kingdom of Chin. Leaving where the fanatasic "Destiny" left off, we are introduced to some more characters that have made Xena who she is. There's Barius, Xena's warlord lover, Ming Tzo, one of the kings from Chin, and my favorite....Lao Ma!!! Lao Ma is such a brillant character, and Jacqueline Kim gives a flawless performance. Also Lucy shines as Evil Xena, and the way she portarys her relationship with Lao Ma is great. This episode has a lot of shocking twist, finding out Ming Tien is the Green Dragon, not to mention Gbarielle betraying Xena at the end. So unexpected and unbelieveable!!! A brillant part 1, and part 2 is even better!!!moreless
  • Arguably the series best episode of all time.

    This episode is a 2-parter, but I'll be speaking on both overall. This might have to be my favorite of Xena episode ever. (Any Xena flashback episode is naturally above of all the others, for me anyway). Lucy Lawless plays Evil Xena much differently than she had when she was first given the role (at last minute) in The Warrior Princess. This version is hands down superior.

    The Xena of the Hercules trilogy (with the exception of The Gauntlet) was the traditonal femme fatale; not a true villian in my opinion and I think many will agree. In the Debt (and the following evilXena stories to follow), Lucy plays a wild, uncontrollable, bloodlusting and even yes, stupid, warlord version of Xena here. But somewhow, she makes it all seem so entertaining.

    The thing though, about evilXena althroughout her episodes, she seems to be extremely naive but so intelligent at the sametime. She picks up things most people would look by, and has had several mentors: M'Lila, Lao Ma, Alti and Ares. Its just too bad they didnt give us that Ares flashback episode (instead of the pointless AFIN and Norse flashbacks) as a 2nd part to Season's 5 Chakram. It would of been perfect.

    The contrast between evilxena and Lao Ma are astounding, and the growth of Xena's character is well beginning to develop. With each new chapter (until Season 6 when they ruined it) Xena's backstory becomes more & more interesting, and all the dots (well most) are connecting. Xena's evolution from a teenager defending her village to a damaged evil warlord to hero is beyond exceptional. We beleive now why she carries herself so stock, quiet and focused.

    The great Borias we've been hearing about since Season 2 also, makes his first appearance here. Here, he does not seem to fit the vision that was described in Orphan of War, but by Past Imperfect, it is easy to beleive the transition he made into a noble man.

    The flashback scenes are not the only main attraction: the whole story, the present day sequences, are crucial and are just as entertaining. The climax is VERY high and very unpredictable. Overall just an awesome episode. I'd show this episode to any nay-sayers and/or doubters about the quality of Xena: Warrior Princess can be.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Ming Tzu: I have the greatest respect for thieves. Every man born to wealth has a good thief among his ancestors somewhere.

    • Messenger: I bring a message to you.
      Xena: I'm listening.
      Messenger: The Green Dragon has become too large, and must be made... small...

    • Xena: They don't want to cooperate? I say, KILL 'EM ALL!

    • Xena: With shattered legs and crippled soul, I went East. To lose myself in vengeance; not against Caesar, but the entire human race.

    • Gabrielle: Xena, what are you doing?
      Xena: Gabrielle, this is just something I have to do.
      Gabrielle: Then explain it to me! Who do you have to kill? Why?
      Xena: To explain what I have to do, you have to understand what was left undone.

    • Gabrielle: OK, let's forget the cryptic part. Are you going up against a dragon?
      Xena: No.
      Gabrielle: Is the Green Dragon a person?
      Xena: Yes.
      Gabrielle: Which person?
      Xena: The one I'm going to kill.

    • Xena: I've just cut off the flow of blood to your brain. You'll be dead in a minute.
      Guard: What do you want to know?
      Xena: Nothing. I'm just letting you know how long you got left, so you can enjoy it.

    • Ming Tzu: What a strange woman, Lao Ma. Soft, and hard at the same time.
      Lao Ma: Like water. Nothing is soft as water, yet who can withstand the raging flood?

    • Gabrielle: You owe someone so much, that you would just throw away these last few years.
      Xena: Yes.

  • NOTES (6)

    • According to Jacqueline Kim, the script was written as being more overtly romantic between Lao Ma and Xena than was shown in the finished episode.

    • There was a chakram design around one of the doors at Lao Ma's palace. Rob Gillies, the Production Designer, put it there to see if anyone noticed. It was not intended to be used to reference the origins of the charkram, it was put there on purpose.

    • Monty, one of the horses used for Argo, died 10 days after completion of this episode.

    • DISCLAIMER: No frock tarts were killed during the production of this motion picture although they wish they had been.

    • The story for "The Debt" episode arc was one that Rob Tapert had wanted to use in a Xena feature film, but the studio refused to back it, and he used it here instead.

    • This episode is also known as "Betrayal".


    • Xena rising out of the water outside of Ming T'ien's palace is a homage to the movie Apocalypse Now.

    • Lao Ma and Lao Tzu
      Lao Ma's philosophy, which she said she was writing in the name of her husband Lao Tzu is mainly Taoist. Taoism is the name of the school of thought that was historically credited to the sage Lao Tzu. Writer RJ Stewart studied Taoist philosophy before writing the episode, but altered some of the philosophy's tenets to fit the story better.

    • Disclaimer:
      A "frock tart" is Kiwi slang for wardrobe crew, who did get quite a workout on this particular set of episodes.