If you’re new to the book club, links to the previous episodes can be found here.
This week, it’s Season 2, Episode 19: “Divided Loyalties”
It’s difficult to discuss this show without occasionally wanting to discuss the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), or referring to the pilot.
If you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them. Hey, if you use Firefox, there’s a simple plug-inthat makes this as easy as highlighting text.
Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!
Open with Sheridan And Delenn arriving at a news stand that is simultaneously prescient and charmingly quaint. The concept of a self-constructed news feed in 1995 (4 years before RSS 0.9 was released) was pretty ahead of its time, but the idea people would read the news on paper? In any case, Sheridan and Delenn discuss the value of the press. Delenn toes the party line that “people should only be told what they need to know”, and then belies it by noting that she gets better information about Minbar from a human publication than from her official channels. This may be due to her technical exile, but is probably JMS riffing on the idea that during the Chernobyl crisis, senior Soviet officials were said to get the latest information from CNN, because they got better information from a foreign news outlet than from their own bureaucracy.
Cut to Syria Planum where Events are Afoot. A man is shot and passes the data on to some guy called Derek and tells him to get his ass to Mars Babylon 5.
After the Credits, Sheridan waxes nostalgic while Garibaldi sweeps the toilets for bugs. Once they’re sure they’re clean Sheridan and Garibaldi discuss brining Talia in on their little conspiracy to find out who killed Santiago. Talia seems sympathetic and having a telepath helping out would be a great help.
Speaking of which, Talia is having what looks like either lunch or breakfast with Ivanova. Their relationship seemed to have developed into a warm friendship. Ivanova is called away, but before she goes she offers Talia a bed for a night (her quarters are out of commission for a night).
The issue is that a ship passed through the jump gate, but it isn’t returning calls and isn’t moving. Also, it shows sign of battle damage, uh oh. Upon further investigation there’s one person on board but unconscious – and Garibaldi knows her.
Lyta Alexander was Talia’s predecessor on B5, Garibaldi is the only member of the B5 senior staff who was around when Lyta was on the station. Viewers of the pilot (which isn’t an official episode, but whose events are still canon) will recognize her from that where she ended up telepathically connecting with Kosh after a (nearly successful attempt on his life). Lyta is the only human to have this kind of contact with a Vorlon, and she left the station shortly after it happened.
Down in MedLab, Lyta recovers but she’s not happy. Apparently there’s a traitor in the command staff and Lyta doesn’t want to be alone with anyone until she knows who. After the aforementioned events in the pilot Lyta got probed by the Psicorps for a while, before fleeing to Mars and joining the separatists. A week ago she found out about a secret (and horrifying) Psicorps programme. The Psicorps can take a person and basically implant a spy in their mind. While it has some control over the host, this secret personality mostly just watches everything without its host even knowing it is there. The worst part is that if a particular pass-phrase is telepathically sent into the sleeper’s mind then the host personality is permanently destroyed, leaving the spy in total control. So not only is the host a traitor without realising it, they’re basically a dead person walking, capable of being killed with a thought. There is one of these spies “named Control” in on B5. Thanks to information obtained by the death of many Bothan spies Resistance agents, Lyta knows the pass-phrase and wants to use it on senior B5 staff to see what happens. Sheridan is dubious, but they agree to discuss it and Garibaldi puts Lyta in protective custody in the meanwhile. Ivanova is utterly incensed at the idea of being telepathed at, even if there would technically be no privacy invasion involved.
While Sheridan ponders this weighty matter, Delenn finds him and they have a discussion about, as Spock might put it “colourful metaphors”. Definitely something developing there. Garibaldi interrupts – he’s had a chance to research Lyta’s story and he believes it. Sheridan is more sceptical. Even if she’s telling the truth Sheridan points out that there was a traitor discover on B5 – Garibaldi’s 2IC. And that’s exactly the sort of position you’d put a spy into – it’s lower profile than Security Chief but they’d be able to find out almost as much sensitive information. Good use of continuity episode. Sheridan has a lot to think about so he decides to sleep on it.
Meanwhile Ivanova and Talia are talking after having a shower (separately), and they end up talking about Lyta. Talia thinks she’s OK and reveals that she trusts Ivanova implicitly. Interesting.
Garibaldi calls in Zach and tells him to transfer Lyta to a better room. Cut to Talia in bed and Ivanova isn’t there. Lyta is being transferred when the light cut out – ambush! The guards are cut down and Lyta flees. Sheridan orders a search and is seriously considering letting Lyta probe them. Ivanova is still utterly opposed.
Delenn is working in her quarters (discussing diplomatic relation with the Lumati), when she gets a call from Lyta. Delenn knew Lyta from her time on B5 and agrees to help her.
Meanwhile Talia and Ivanova talk. Talia asks where Ivanova was last night and she responds by being mysterious.
Delenn approaches Sheridan and tells him about Lyta. He agrees to her terms. He returns to his quarters and Ivanova is waiting for him. Then she explains why she doesn’t want to be probed by Lyta – she’s a latent telepath. She very weak and doubts she could even reach a P1 grading but she would still fall under the jurisdiction of the Psicorps and she’s terrified any telepath that contacts her mind will find out her secret. This reminds Sheridan of that dream he had when he was abducted by aliens. The dream intimated that Ivanova had a secret and now he wonders if this is it. Sheridan agrees to let her be probed last, that way she won’t have to go through it, unless she’s the traitor of course.
Lyta is ready to meet up and so it’s time to begin. Lyta starts with Sheridan and he’s clean. So is Franklin. Garibaldi takes the chance to prove he’s a goofball, but he’s clean. Ivanova is deferred for now. Sheridan sets up a not-very-convincing production line to work through the B5 staff, but none of them is the traitor. At the end, only Ivanova is left. She ultimately relents, and she’s clean. At that moment Talia comes in and – she’s the traitor. Control takes over and Garibaldi takes her into custody.
Later, Garibaldi Sheridan and Frankin discuss damage control. They conclude that Talia knew some sensitive information, but nothing the Psicorps would want to act on publicly. Psicorps will be watching them more closely, but that’s about it. While discussing alternative ways to protect themselves Garibaldi remembers something Kosh did to Talia last year and goes off to find out if it will help them, but there’s no follow-up.
While this is going on Ivanova confronts Control. She wonders if there’s anything of Talia left – apparently the answer is no. Invanova leaves dejected.
With the danger passed, Lyta meets with Kosh, she tells him that she’s leaving but hopes to return. Kosh reveals his true self to her once again.
As a final questions: am I the only one getting a lesbian vibe off Talia and Ivanova in this episode? There’s nothing explicit, they could just be close friends, but everything from the nature of their dialogue to how some of the shots are blocked (there’s one shot mid-episode which is exactly what you would use to presage a kiss) to how Ivanova fills the loved one role in the standard “are you still in there scene” scene that tends to go with mind control plots. In a modern show I’d dismiss this since I’d expect them to be up-front about a same-sex romantic attraction but this episode is 19 years old. The groundbreaking on-screen romance between Willow and Tara in Buffy won’t happen for about 7 years. I get the feeling that JMS wanted them to have a romantic connection but couldn’t get it past the network. That or I’m just reading too much into it.
Anyway, we now only have 3 episodes to go in Season 2. I have dibs on episode 21 (Comes the Inquisitor), but if someone would like to do episode 20, please leave a comment.