In this episode, Xena and Gabrielle rescue Pandora’s granddaughter, also Pandora, from an angry mob while simultaneously rescuing a baby who, it is prophesied, will one day be a king. Unfortunately they end up being attacked on all side with only a few hours left to save the word from losing Hope forever (or not, as it turns out).
This is also the episode that features Xena posing as a veiled dancer, looking like a harem girl, which may be more memorable to some. The bit where they start throwing a baby around like a football, might, on the other hand, be the most memorable bit.
There are more dreams at the beginning of this episode, and a female soothsayer who seems to be mixing up half a dozen methods of divination at once – prayer to a god (Zeus), stones, dreams and some kind of vision (stones really could not give that much information). She prophesies that an infant orphan will one day rule instead of the king and the child is put in a Moses basket (very appropriate) and sent down river, only to be discovered by Xena and Gabrielle.
The idea of the prophecy that a baby will rule, followed by an attempt to kill or capture the baby, is very Classical, and Near Eastern, and Biblical. There are lots of stories of that nature, the most historical ones being those connected with the Persian monarchy that appear in Herodotus (Astyages dreamed that his infant grandson Cyrus would overthrow him and tried to have him killed, but as usual the general who was supposed to kill the child didn't want to, in this case because it meant killing a royal. Cyrus eventually overthrew Astyages). Gregor proves to be wiser than any of them by simply adopting the child as his heir, thus saving the kid the bother of usurping him at a later date.
The version of the Pandora story used here features a wooden box, rather than a jar, and includes the detail that Hope was trapped inside the box. However, here, the fact that Hope was trapped apparently means that we all still have hope, as opposed to all other desires, which are fleeting, rather than that everything is hopeless. My copy of Hesiod, in which this detail first appears, has an explanatory note saying that Hope remaining in the jar means men still have Hope, and Hesiod is just being inconsistent in his symbolic use of the jar, which would fit the interpretation here (though I have to confess, the tone of Works and Days being what it is, I wouldn't be surprised if Hesiod had had the more negative interpretation in mind). I have to admit as well that I was rather relieved when the box turned out to be empty. I know the whole point of Xena is to dramatise mythological stories, but this particular story really works better on a metaphorical level than a literal one.
Unfortunately, presumably in order to fill time, the episode gets more and more ridiculous as time goes one, with some bizarre and inexplicable use of slow motion (the director must have been getting bored) and Xena and Gabrielle literally throwing a baby around as if they were Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth.
Jareth, in the middle of throwing the baby around.
One final, random observation – the currency is apparently dinars. Interesting choice. I would have expected drachmas, sestercii or denarii, but I guess dinars is as good as anything else!