Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "TKO"

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Episode Information

Title: "TKO"
Writer: Larry DiTillio
Director: John Flynn
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
Reviewed on: February 22, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


An old friend of Garibaldi's arrives on the station to restart his fighting career; Ivanova's rabbi arrives to help her grieve for her father.

The two plots in this episode are completely disconnected, so I will summarize them separately. Garibaldi's old friend, Walker Smith, arrives on the station and promptly saves Garibaldi from being stabbed in the back by a petty criminal. Smith is a boxer who had a tremendous career a few years earlier. Smith had a chance at a championship fight, but the hidden bigwigs controlling the boxing sport wanted him to hold off for awhile. When he refused, they framed him for using performance enhancing drugs. It's not clear whether Smith ever cleared his name, but the negative publicity has prevented him from getting any major fights.

This brings him to his reason for being on the station: he wants to fight in the Mutai. The Mutai is an alien-run fighting group that is no-hold-barred once the match is started. Garibaldi thinks Smith is crazy to want to do it, but since no human has ever fought in the Mutai, Smith is convinced the publicity will catapult him back into the top of the boxing world.

Garibaldi reluctantly takes Smith to the area where the Mutai fighters train. Smith cockily demands to see the Muta-Do (who runs the fights); the Muta-Do smacks him around a bit and tells him that humans are forbidden from fighting in the Mutai. The aliens who are training there are openly hostile to Smith. Smith leaves dejectedly and blows of Garibaldi when he says it's for the best. Then Smith runs into an alien that had seen the incident at the Mutai; this alien, Caliban, claims that he knows a way the Smith can fight in the Mutai, if he's brave enough.

Smith convinces Garibaldi to watch a Mutai fight involving the current champion. After the champion knocks his opponent senseless, the Muta-Do asks if there are any challengers - of course, Smith steps forward. The champion, Gyor, accepts the challenge and gives Smith some time to prepare. Caliban and Garibaldi help Smith train.

We see that Smith is already getting the publicity he wants, as the fight is advertised on ISN. At the Mutai, Smith and Gyor face off. Gyor is much taller and has the advantage at first, but after a beating, Smith manages to make a comeback. The two eventually fight themselves to exhaustion. The Muta-Do declares a draw.

Smith has succeeded in gaining his publicity, and the Muta-Do declares that humans will now be allowed to fight in the Mutai. Smith heads back to Earth to resume his career.

In the other plot, Rabbi Koslov arrives from Earth to visit Ivanova. He has brought some precious items that Ivanova's father wanted to pass on to her, and in the course of their conversation, he learns that Ivanova never sat shiva for her father. Ivanova claims that her duties don't allow her to take the time off to do it.

Koslov promptly visits Sinclair, tells Sinclair all about Ivanova's family life. Sinclair already knew Ivanova's mother committed suicide (which we learned about in "Midnight on the Firing Line"), but he hadn't known that Ivanova's father had died (in "Born to the Purple") or that her brother had died in the Earth-Minbari war. Sinclair says that Ivanova can have as much time off as she needs.

Ivanova takes Koslov to dinner, and after a bit of reminiscing, Koslov mentions Sinclair's generosity. Ivanova is aghast that Koslov poured out her personal life to Sinclair and storms out. Sometime later, Koslov contritely visits Ivanova to give her the family Samovar that her father had left for her. Ivanova apologizes for her rudeness, but still refuses to sit shiva, saying that her father never showed her any love when she needed it, and she cannot forgive him for it. Koslov regretfully says that in that case, he'll be leaving the next day.

When Ivanova goes to see off the rabbi, she has a change of heart and decides she will sit shiva after all. She asks Sinclair for the time off, and he says he intends to join in the shiva ceremony. Koslov has rounded up some Jews on the station to participate as well. Ivanova recounts memories of her father, but keeps her emotions tightly controlled until the final prayer. Then she finally breaks down into tears. When the rabbi does leave for Earth, his parting with Ivanova is quite warm.

This episode is quite a let-down after the previous one that was so significant. The two plots in the episode are completely disconnected, without even any thematic elements in common. They are also rather jarring when interleaved, especially the fight with the shiva ceremony. Sometimes mixing very different plots is effective, but here it was annoying.

The plot involving Ivanova was good for giving more about her background and showing her friendship with Sinclair. It's also interesting to see an ancient Jewish ceremony in such a future setting. Koslov was also a very likeable character, a sterotypical good-hearted meddler.

The plot involving Garibaldi was almost useless. We learn that Garibaldi had a checkered past, which we already knew. We learn that Garibaldi has sworn off alcohol, which we already knew, although it's good to see he got back on the wagon after "Survivors". We learn about the Mutai, but that doesn't really seem useful for future events. One bit that is painfully amusing later on is how Smith keeps warning Garibaldi to watch his back - Garibaldi doesn't learn, as we see in "Chrysalis".

Overall, this episode wasn't overtly bad or offensive, it just didn't have too much of a point.

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