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Maternal Instincts
Callisto arrows maternal.jpg
Xena tries to take revenge on Callisto
Series Xena: Warrior Princess
Season 3
Antagonist Callisto, Hope
Setting Greece
In-Universe Date Year 3
Production # V0405
Filming Dates 18 June to 27 June 1997
Original Air-Date 26 January 1998
Written By Chris Manheim
Directed By Mark Beesley
Episode Chronology
Order in Series 57 of 134
Order in Season 11 of 22
Order in Franchise 133 of 304
Previous Episode in Series "The Quill is Mightier..."
Next Episode in Series "The Bitter Suite"
Previous Episode in Franchise "Medea Culpa"
Next Episode in Franchise "Men in Pink"
Title Image
Maternal Instincts TITLE.jpg

Xena and Gabrielle meet with their respective offspring, Solan and Hope. But the reunions are hardly happy, thanks to Callisto.


Xena and Gabrielle return to the centaur village

Xena and Gabrielle return to the Centaur village where Xena's 10-year-old son Solan, who still doesn't know his mother is Xena, is being raised by Kaleipus, the leader of the Centaurs. As the two arrive to join in the celebration of the signing of a Centaur peace treaty, they are welcomed with open arms by young Solan.

Callisto is freed from the lava-pit.

Meanwhile, a 10-year-old girl named Fayla is playing ball near the edge of an old lava pit when suddenly, Callisto emerges from the chasm in a pillar of fire. Back at the Centaur village, Gabrielle is surprised to see her friend Ephiny, Queen of the Amazons, and Ephiny's son Xenan. She confides in Ephiny that since they last saw each other, she gave birth to a child named Hope who died. Meanwhile, Callisto approaches the village, sets fire to a Centaur totem and murders two sentries (Chad Bennett). Xena quickly figures out that Callisto is responsible for the destruction.

Gabrielle's daughter Hope tells Gabrielle Callisto wants to kill Solan.

When Gabrielle is alone in her hut, she discovers Fayla who has been hiding there. The child tells Gabrielle that a "monster lady" told her to relay a message to Xena only. When they find Xena, Fayla reports that the lady knows Xena's "little secret" and will "take it to the grave." Certain that Callisto is after her son, Xena becomes extremely worried about Solan's safety and decides to hide him in the Ixion Caverns. Fayla suddenly disappears and Gabrielle sets off to find her before Callisto does. What Gabrielle doesn't yet know is that Fayla is actually her own daughter Hope and that Hope is in cahoots with Callisto to kill everything that is precious to Xena, including Solan.

Hope plans to continue her father Dahak's plans.

When Gabrielle runs into Fayla a short while later, a toy wooden lamb exactly like the one she gave Hope as a baby falls out of the child's pocket. When the girl explains that she has had it ever since she was found in a basket on the river as an infant, Gabrielle finally realizes that Fayla is Hope.

Callisto faces off against Xena and Gabrielle (believed to be Solan) by Callisto.

As Xena escorts a hooded figure through the forest, Callisto sends a flaming tree branch down from above and suddenly appears in the fire. After a nasty exchange between the two warriors, Xena and the hooded figure flee. When Callisto intercepts them, she is surprised to find that Xena has tricked her -- the figure is Gabrielle, not Solan. Meanwhile, Kaleipus is in the Ixion Caverns when he is confronted and mortally wounded by Hope. As Xena and Gabrielle rush to the Caverns, they realize that Callisto is not working alone. By the time they reach Kaleipus, he is dying and Gabrielle secretly begins to fear that Hope is involved.

Xena and Solan mourn Kaleipus.

Later, as the Centaur delegates pack up to go home, Xena urges them to bond together and bring Callisto to her knees. Solan is distraught over the death of his foster father and begs Xena not to leave him behind. Xena, hiding her emotions, agrees that she will take Solan with her 'when all this is over'. At the same time, Callisto and Hope have decided to kill all the Centaur children in order to crush the future of the nation.

Callisto hears Xena's screams of pain, finally getting her revenge.

When Gabrielle finds Hope again, she tearfully confesses that she is her mother. The ever-devious little Hope then masterfully manipulates Gabrielle into taking her to where Solan is hidden and Hope ends up killing the boy. After one the most, if not most intense argument between Xena and Gabrielle, Gabrielle tells Xena that she sent Hope to the Hut, Xena runs into the hut, She pulls gently on Solan and he falls into her arms. Gabrielle runs in and is shocked, but Xena tells Gabrielle to leave, after she is gone, Xena screams in pain. Elsewhere, Callisto hears Xena's screams of pain but her smile of delight fades as she realises it does not bring the satisfaction she expected.

Xena screams out over Solan's death.

Later, Xena continues to cradle Solan in Kaleipus' hut, Ephiny enters. Xena doesn't turn to look at her, She just stares blankly. Ephiny tells Xena Callisto's coming. Xena lays Solan down and covers him with a blanket and leaves to battle Callisto. Elsewhere, Gabrielle pours poison into a wineskin as Hope enters. Gabrielle hides the vial that held the poison. Gabrielle asks Hope what shes doing there. Hope runs to Gabrielle and hugs her, where she mentions things that led Gabrielle to believe she killed Solan.

Xena attempts to defeat Callisto.

Callisto walks into the village, when an arrow suddenly rips through her body. She turns to face Xena. Callisto tells Xena, that losing your family rips out your feelings until all that's left is the pain. Callisto shoots fire at Xena, but Xena comes out and fires another arrow. Centaurs and men leap out and make Callisto a living pin cushion with arrows. Callisto is uninjured, as Her eyes glow, Callisto screams and the arrows are thrown back, killing some of the centaurs and men. The children run by with Ephiny, as Callisto aims a fireball. Xena attacks Callisto, causing the fireball to miss. Xena draws her sword and attacks, but Callisto grabs the blade and sends Xena flying into a burning hut.

Ephiny with the children seeing Xena has defeated Callisto.

Callisto walks into the cave, where Ephiny is with the children. As she enters a room in the cave, she finds Xena waiting for her, where Xena and Callisto face off in a furious battle which triggers a thunderous cave-in, trapping Callisto inside the Ixion Caverns.

Gabrielle's kills Hope?

Gabrielle fully comprehends the treachery of her daughter and puts an end to the girl's life and kneels over Hope's dead body and almost drinks the poison that's killed her, but she empties it onto the ground instead. Xena approaches and they stare at each other. Xena wears an angry face, while Gabrielle is almost in tears. Gabrielle looks away.

Xena and Gabrielle part ways...

Ephiny sings at double funeral fire for Solan and Hope. Ephiny finishes and everyone leaves the two mourning mothers alone. Gabrielle turns to face Xena, who is not only overcome with grief -- she feels totally betrayed by Gabrielle who caused the death of her son, ironically because of Gabrielle's own maternal instincts. Xena then looks and responds calmly but in anger for Gabrielle's disrespect for saying Solan's name and for lying to her. As Gabrielle walks away. Tears fall down Xena's face and she walks the other way. The two friends have parted and the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle becomes strained..


Xena and Gabrielle's relationship was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

Background Information[]

"“I found [this episode] difficult to do. I think the episode is phenomenal. It’s really good. It’s not my episode, I’m like a sidebar. But that’s not why I found it difficult. I have to bow down a little bit, and that was hard to do as Callisto. It’s not something you can change with a word change. I did bring it up, though. Callisto is a god, and she doesn’t really have much reverence for anything. She doesn’t care, and she’s not afraid to die. It was hard for me to find that connection and make it believable. But the episode as a whole is spectacular.” "
― Hudson Leick (Actor, Callisto)

Source: (Whoosh! Interview – November 1997) and many thanks to http://jacksonupperco.com/ for personally researched, and transcribed

Behind the Scenes[]

"“Gabrielle’s daughter killing Xena’s son… that’s a toughie. How do you get back from that? Whether it was going to work, or whether it didn’t work, that’s kind of a role of the dice. Having these murders take place with family members — that is not something that’s easily forgivable. But, then again, think about it: it is the ultimate challenge to their particular relationship.” "
― Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer)

Source: (“Maternal Instincts” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set) and many thanks to http://jacksonupperco.com/ for personally researched, and transcribed

  • The original script for this episode included Melinda Clarke's return as Velasca to haunt Gabrielle. Writers had Callisto killing Xena's brother (Toris), Hope killing Xena's son (Solan), and Velasca killing Hope to hurt Gabrielle. Melinda was unable to film at this time, causing writers to edit the script. In the final version, Toris is scrapped, Hope kills Solan, and Gabrielle kills Hope. Callisto is just there to torment.
  • "Maternal Instincts" rated 9/10 stars on the Neilsen's National Ratings chart in 1997, making it the top-rated episode of the third season. It ranks as one of the top-rated episodes of the whole series.

Key Events[]

  • This episode marks the death of Solan.
  • This episode marks the death of Kaleipus.
  • This episode marks the first death of Hope.


  • Often overlooked because of the shocking impact of the deaths of both Hope and Solan, the most pivotal plot point in this episode is actually Callisto finally attaining her vengeance over Xena by causing the death of her son. Her relationship with Xena changes drastically from this episode on, from total hatred to indifference. That is, until Xena wrongs her again by sending her to Hell at the end of "Sacrifice II".

Links and References[]


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