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There All the Honor Lies

An "A" plot that is, perhaps, less than the series' best is significantly redeemed by some wonderful side bits in this unexceptional, yet still quite watchable, installment.


Sheridan is on his way to one of his "lessons" with Ambassador Kosh when suddenly, out of the blue, his link is snatched by a lurker in Down Below. Chasing the thief, Sheridan finds himself confronted by a Minbari warrior who attacks, shouting "Death first!" Sheridan reaches to one side, finds a PPG on the floor next to him, and shoots the attacking warrior - killing him.

A cut-and-dried case of self-defense, particularly with the presence of a witness, a Minbari named Ashan. However, Ashan's story does not corroborate Sheridan's. Ashan claims that the warrior called out a Minbari phrase that sounded very similar to "Death First," but actually meant, "I surrender." Sheridan's efforts to refute Ashan's story are hampered by one seemingly indisputable cultural fact: the Minbari never lie.

Meanwhile, Sheridan is distracted from his problems when Kosh presents him with a lesson on "beauty in the dark." Ivanova is assigned to oversee Earth Central's latest scheme to make Babylon 5 profitable - a store selling B5 memorabilia. And Vir receives some news from home: now that Londo is no longer a joke, the position of being Londo's assistant is no longer a joke... meaning that the Centauri government now plans to replace Vir with a more suitable candidate.


There are some absolutely wonderful moments in There All Honor Lies. Chief among them is the lesson Kosh provides to Sheridan. When he comes to Sheridan, the captain is at probably his least receptive. He has been accused of murder, or at the very least manslaughter, and has been told that this situation may force him to step down as commander of Babylon 5. He has also been told that he cannot refute Ashan's story. He is tired, he is angry, and when he tries to explain to Kosh that this is not the time for a lesson, Kosh indicates that his mood actually makes this the perfect time.

We follow Sheridan and Kosh into the worst part of Down Below. Then Kosh all but pushes Sheridan into a particularly grimy chamber, where several red-robed figures await him. A nervous Sheridan attempts to engage the robed figures in conversation, only to have a bowl slid forward for payment. Sheridan has very little to give, his money being held on a credit chit. The only thing he can think to place in the bowl is his stat-bar: the symbol of his command. Placing that symbol of his rank and identity into the bowl as payment, he displays the very ignorance Kosh's lessons are probably designed to erase when he stammers that the bar is "not worth much." The bowl is taken away, leaving Sheridan (symbolically) anonymous.

Then we, along with Sheridan, are treated to a display of lights moving across red robed figures, as a chant sets the mood in the background. A dazzled Sheridan later tells Ivanova that the lesson was about "beauty in the dark." This prompts one of the best lines in the episode as Ivanova observes that Kosh's lessons must be working: "You're even beginning to talk like a Vorlon."

The events of this episode also continue to show the wonderful way this series builds on past continuity. An apparently minor scene in the "B" plot of The Quality of Mercy involved Lennier lying to an annoyed Sinclair in order to save face for Londo, whose attempts to cheat at cards had prompted a bar brawl. This tiny bit becomes very important now, when Londo's knowledge of the exact situation in which a Minbari might lie becomes the key to saving Sheridan. It's the perfect use of continuity: viewers who had not seen the earlier episode would not be in any way confused by it, but those who had seen The Quality of Mercy would get the reward of seeing that scene "click into place," as it were, and become important.

Though the main plot of the episode did not overwhelmingly impress me, I can't entirely fault a story that turns the focus to the low-key but ever-more-interesting character of Lennier. Lennier never stops being soft-spoken or deferential in this episode, and yet he dominates the story. The way in which he deals with Ashan is very effective. He never displays anger, and shows irritation only once - when Ashan insults Delenn. But there is never any doubt that Lennier is far the stronger of the two men. Lennier's quiet strength in this episode is certainly more than one would have thought the meek, subservient little man introduced in Parliament of Dreams would be capable of.

Finally, the episode makes nice use of both Talia and Keffer. Neither character has a major role - each is on-screen for about two minutes, if that. But Talia's reactions as a distraught Vir bumps into her are very well-done, and Keffer's appearance (as the "punch line" of the episode) at least manages to make good use of him, while reminding us before the big episodes start that the character is still around. It is also just nice to see some of the important characters popping up in the background when they aren't a major part of the story. It makes them somehow more "real," that they can be present when their characters aren't experiencing any crises.


The side plots and use of continuity are terrific. The "A" plot is not. Sheridan is apparently meant to feel utterly helpless, judging by his words to Delenn near the episode's end. But I never really believed that Sheridan was pushed to the brink by this situation. Boxleitner once again plays the surface emotions and lines very well here, but I didn't get any sense of his character being scared. I'm not sure whether to lay that at the feet of the actor or the writer; but throughout the "A" plot, I never got a sense of there being a John Sheridan beneath the somewhat blustery surface.

With Boxleitner, I'm finding almost the reverse problem that I sometimes had with Michael O'Hare in Season One. In Season One, I pretty much always believed that I was looking at Jeffrey Sinclair... even as I sometimes cringed when O'Hare couldn't quite find the right line delivery, or botched the delivery by falling back on the patented "I don't know how to say this line" grin. In Season Two, Boxleitner is almost always spot-on with the right delivery and facial expression... but I sometimes find myself not convinced that "John Sheridan" is really there.

The entire plot seems just a bit predictable, with an ending that seems cribbed from the pages of a Hercule Poirot novel (one of the lesser ones, I mean). There isn't anything here for me to really lay into. Nothing made me wince or cringe. But while the side material was wonderful, the main plot "felt like TV," in a way that the best of Babylon 5 usually doesn't. It came across as a particularly shallow episode, save for the "beauty in the dark" scene (which, in itself, raises the episode's score by one point).

My Final Rating: 6/10

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