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The Minbari war hero, Branmer, hero of the Line, has died far from Minbar. His clan members are making a ceremony of bringing his body back to Minbar, and are stopping by B5 to display his body. Sinclair and Garibaldi are very uncomfortable at the prospect, and when the Minbari war cruiser arrives, they are positively jumpy. This is an interesting reaction, when the relations between the command staff and the Minbari on the station have been relatively warm. However, the obvious war-like overtones of the ceremony is a much more blatant reminder of the enmity between Earth and Minbar during the war than Delenn's pleasant, diplomatic demeanor is.
Violence is narrowly averted when the Minbari war cruiser arrives, honoring tradition by keeping its gunports open. Delenn comes to the bridge to explain that it is tradition, and that the guns are not actually powered up. (This is easily confirmed by one of the technicians on the bridge - so why wasn't it checked as a matter of course?) We will learn later in the series that this tradition caused the "tragic accident" Garibaldi refers to as the start of the Earth-Minbari war. Delenn invites the command staff to welcome Branmer's body and the procession onto the station.
Sinclair plays the part of the diplomat very well, despite the fact that Alit Neroon, leader of the warriors accompanying Branmer's body and Branmer's second-in-command, is openly disdainful of humans. Neroon insists that only Minbari guard Branmer's body before the viewing ceremony. We also get the first signs that the viewing ceremony does not sit well with Delenn.
Meanwhile, on the zocalo, a teenage girl named Alisa is caught in some petty theft. Both Ivanova and Talia are on scene when she collapses because of what Talia calls a "mind burst". Apparently Alisa is telepathic, but her abilities had not manifested until now, and she can't control them. While Alisa is cared for in medlab, Talia begins to make arrangements for her to be sent to Psi Corps. Ivanova, of course, objects and refuses to let Alisa out of custody. Ivanova tells Sinclair that she just can't let Alisa be summarily sent to the Psi Corps and wants to explore whether or not there are other options; Sinclair promises to back whatever Ivanova decides, which is a very remarkable vote of confidence.
When the viewing ceremony for Branmer begins, his coffin is opened, and Neroon to discover that Branmer's body is missing. Outraged, he demands that Sinclair and Garibaldi find the body immediately; Delenn adds her demands as well. Sinclair promises a full and immediate investigation. Garibaldi begins having his teams search the station and follow up any possible leads, including having the stomachs of resident carrion-eating aliens pumped. Neroon becomes more and more infuriated as Garibaldi's investigation fails to find the body, and begins to make statements that could be interpreted as threats to start a war if the body is not recovered. Delenn firmly puts him in place, saying that his clan cannot decide such matters for their people.
Privately, Delenn tells Sinclair that Branmer was originally a high-ranking member of the religious caste. He joined the warrior casted out of duty when the war began and proved to be an excellent general. We also learn that the leaders of the warrior caste were not told why they had to surrender to end the war (neither have we been), and many of them still resent the religious caste for it.
The tug-of-war between Ivanova and Talia over Alisa's fate has begun. Talia tells Alisa that Psi Corps will provide for her for the rest of her life, and Ivanova tells her about what happened to Ivanova's mother. As young as she is, Alisa realizes she doesn't have many options, although Ivanova assures her she's looking for more. An unexpected option presents itself in the person of Na'Toth, who promises to support Alisa in the lap of luxury on Narn in return for genetic samples. (Apparently Narn diplomatic staff are well-briefed on making these deals, since G'Kar tried to strike a similar deal with Lyta Alexander in "The Gathering".) Alisa has developed the habit of peeking into people's minds, even though she knows she shouldn't, and she doesn't like the alienness of Na'Toth's thoughts.
The last option Ivanova can come up with is for Alisa to go to Minbar. To that end, she and Alisa visit Delenn. Delenn explains that telepathy is considered to be calling, and a telepath is supported by the general population so that she can pursue that calling. Alisa scans Delenn and hits some thoughts about Branmer's body. Delenn looks uncomfortable, and Alisa leaves quickly. Once they have left, she asks Ivanova if there's something going on about a dead body, because she knows what happened.
Neroon is convinced that Sinclair is hiding something about the missing body, so he breaks into Sinclair's quarters and begins searching them. When Sinclair arrives, they get into a scuffle. Garibaldi's arrival breaks it up, especially when he said that he searched the commander's quarters first, and under Delenn's supervision. Very neat - I wouldn't have thought of that, but it's certainly part of Garibaldi's job to cover those bases. Garibaldi gets rid of Neroon, and then shows in Alisa. Alisa says that Delenn knows what happened to the body.
Using Alisa's information, Sinclair and Garibaldi arrive in a storage area in time to see Delenn transferring a container of ashes to an underling for return to Minbar. Delenn explains that Branmer was a close personal friend of hers, and he left explicit instructions that he was not to have an elaborate funeral ceremony; he simply wanted his ashes scattered in space around Minbar. Delenn found the spectacle the warrior caste was making of his body offensive, and stole the body to be cremated. She had planned to claim that his body was "transformed" to be among the gods, presumably when Garibaldi's search had ultimately failed. Sinclair and Garibaldi say that she's got to tell Neroon the truth, or they will.
Delenn meets with Neroon privately in her quarters to explain what really happened. Neroon is livid, but we finally see Delenn show the strength beneath her pleasant exterior. So far, she has appeared almost deferent to Neroon, especially in public - presumably a simple ambassador would be so to a warrior of Neroon's rank. But we know Delenn is really a member of the Gray Council, and she draws on her authority here to give Neroon a thorough dressing down. By the time she is done, he has had to swallow his anger and be thankful that she has not chosen to use his actions to disgrace his entire clan.
Delenn's orders to Neroon are that he must accept the "transformation" story concerning Branmer's body, and that he must apologize to Sinclair. When Neroon apologizes, Sinclair very diplomatically compliments Neroon and Branmer and tries to encourage more openness between the Minbari and humans.
Alisa has finally made her decision - she is going to go to Minbar. Delenn hopes that she will help communication and understanding between humans and Minbari. Alisa bids a tearful goodbye to Ivanova and Talia; these two make up with each other for this incident and go get a drink. Sinclair stops by to ask Alisa if she saw anything else in Delenn's mind: Alisa says she saw the word "chrysalis", which leaves Sinclair puzzling.
This episode is interesting not really for the plot, but for all the background and subtexts. The biggest issue is the relations between humans and Minbari since the war. We didn't really know before how different the attitudes of the Minbari religious caste (which Delenn is part of) were from the Minbari warrior caste. The warrior caste isn't particularly happy that the war is over, especially since they had to surrender. The Minbari warriors do not seem as contemplative and measured as the Minbari we have met before: Delenn, Lennier, Shol Mayan. I think the more arrogant and abrasive attitudes of the warriors were what really got Sinclair and Garibaldi on edge throughout the episode. Fortunately, Sinclair is able to keep a handle on his emotions and even bring events to a conclusion that compliments the Minbari; as Neroon says, he speaks like a Minbari. We will learn the irony of that statement in season 3.
We also learn more about Delenn and her approach to difficult problems. She did not want to cause the warriors to lose face by insisting that they were wrong to disobey Branmer's wishes and have the ceremonies. Because of that, she chose a very sneaky course of action, and she almost got away with it. She refused to let Branmer's wishes be ignored, which spoke of how seriously she takes her friendships. We also got a delicious scene at the end with her chewing out Neroon, using a tone of voice we rarely hear from her. She definitely prefers to gently guide and prod people into what they must do, but if she has to, she'll use her authority and strength of character.
We still don't know why the Minbari warriors were ordered to surrender at the Battle of the Line. It only deepens the mystery that none of the warriors or their leaders know, either.
In this episode, the secondary plot concerning Alisa tied in nicely with the main plot, providing just the information Sinclair and Garibaldi needed to solve the mystery. I like how Delenn accepted the reality of the situation - a human might have refused to admit what had happened, arguing that information from telepathic scan is not permissible in court. However, Delenn knows that the knowledge would get out, even unofficially, so she had to own up to her actions and take corrective measures.
The fight between Talia and Ivanova over Alisa's future was a nice summary of their respective positions on Psi Corps. While I don't think that Talia would claim Psi Corps was perfect, she doesn't recognize other options for Alisa. Ivanova is aware of Earth regulations regarding telepaths, but she is willing to look for any other options. In the end, they seemed to realize that their disagreements were about Psi Corps and not a personal dislike, and so they could put the argument aside for the sake of possibly forming a friendship. I wonder how much Harriman Gray's actions and unusual demeanor in "Eyes" contributed to Ivanova's more easy acceptance of Talia?
Another aspect of telepathy that is becoming more obvious in the series is how sensitive humans are to telepathy being used than the other races are. Earth Alliance strictly regulates the very existence of telepaths, including how they may use their talents. We haven't heard of any other races having similar "programs". According to Delenn, Minbari see telepathy as a calling, and she seems much more used to its use; she certainly didn't cry foul when Alisa innocently scanned her. We will see later on in the series that the Centauri use telepaths freely for all kinds of things. Are humans especially uptight because telepathy is relatively new to the human race? Or are humans just odd that way? I have to say that if telepathy did suddenly spring into existence in humans, I could certainly see telepaths being shunned or persecuted out of fear. From that, an organization like Psi Corps could grow.
At the end of the episode, Sinclair questioned Alisa for more information on Delenn. Clearly he was hoping for some more bits about her involvement with the Gray Council or the Battle of the Line (we know he's been looking into this closely, as seen in "And the Sky Full of Stars" and "Signs and Portents"). But he got something he did expect: the word "chrysalis". This is the title of the final episode of season 1, which is no coincidence. Delenn has been building something in her quarters since at least "Signs and Portents", and we'll see that it is key.