Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "Rumors, Bargains, and Lies"

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Episode Information

Title: "Rumors, Bargains, and Lies"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Mike Vejar
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: January 18, 2010

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Delenn contacts Neroon to make a covert plan to end the strife on Minbar. Sheridan tricks the Non-Aligned Worlds into being protected.

Delenn has arranged a meeting among the leaders of the religious caste and Neroon, from the warrior caste, to discuss ending the fighting between the castes. On the way to the meeting, she spends time looking at old images of the wonders of Minbar - recent reports say that there is even fighting in the capital. She grieves of the destruction of the beauty of Minbar and agonizes about how much she is to blame for the present circumstances, since she is the one who broke the Grey Council last season in "Severed Dreams".

When Neroon arrives for the meeting, we can see the resentment and anger between the religious caste and warrior caste members. Delenn takes Neroon aside for a private meeting, and while they do not like each other, each of them has come to respect each other.

Delenn has come to realize that if either side definitely wins the war between them, then it will cause no end of misery among the Minbari. Neroon agrees with this in principle, but doesn't see how to end the war without a winner. Delenn presumably has some kind of plan, but we don't learn what it is now. Neroon, however, agrees to cooperate with her for the moment.

Delenn's private meeting with Neroon is the cause of much wild speculation among her subordinate religious caste leaders. The speculation is fueled by one of the religious caste Minbari, who incidentally eavesdropped on part of Delenn's meeting. They come to the conclusion that Delenn is planning to have the religious caste surrender to the warrior caste. They resolve that this cannot happen, so they will put poison in the air supply to kill everyone on the ship. What happened to them will just be a mystery. Fortunately for all involved, Lennier happens to hear the end of their planning.

The religious caste members are not the only ones speculating wildly, as one of Neroon's aides attacks him, presumably because he's negotiating with Delenn. The attacker is quickly neutralized and taken away. Delenn and the others of the religious caste have arrived, and Delenn clucks over how the attacker had jumped to the conclusion that the warrior caste was going to surrender to the religious caste. She explains that neither side can surrender... and the others realize they have also jumped to conclusions.

But, the poison has been put into place, and it's too late to stop their plan. Lennier has pulled out the container of poison, accidentally inhaling some of it so that he has to be rushed to doctors. After surgery on his lungs, he tells Delenn he had discovered some kind of coolant leak that had to be fixed immediately. Delenn accepts this explanation, but the others know the truth. Lennier tells them that Delenn does not live in the same world as them, but a better world, where everyone acts from the best possible motives. He could not bear for Delenn to find out that her followers had such distrust of her, so he concocted the story to protect her.

While Lennier is recovering, Neroon leaves the ship without notice, returning to the warrior caste with the message that he knows the plans of the religious caste and victory is imminent.

On the station, the plot that runs concurrently takes up where Sheridan left off in the previous episode, "Conflicts of Interest". The Centauri and Narn have agreed to allow the White Star fleet to patrols their borders, but Sheridan asks Londo and G'Kar not to tell anyone about it, and to even deny it if asked.

The representatives of the Non-Aligned Worlds eventually discover that something is up, as they get various reports from their ships about the actions of the White Star fleet. Sheridan helps feed things to them with some specific actions. First he sends Marcus with some White Star ships to a random sector of space to destroy some asteroids, then later he has Ivanova announce on the Voice of the Resistance that nothing happened there.

The representatives know something happened, and they eventually conclude that the White Stars are fighting some kind of enemy with advanced shielding technology. When they put this together with the fact that the Centauri and Narn have seemingly requested help from the White Star fleet, they realize that this putative enemy must be very powerful. They become desperate for protection for themselves, and call Sheridan to a Council meeting.

At the meeting, Sheridan denies any claims of attacks or mysterious enemies, and he refuses to send the White Stars in because he knows they'll never agree to give them the authority they need to be effective. The representatives of the Non-Aligned Worlds very smugly tell him that the White Stars can have any support they need. Sheridan acts put out, but agrees to write up the treaty. Once he's safely out of sight, he celebrates that his plan worked - he'll be able to protect the Non-Aligned Worlds without anyone getting their pride injured.

This episode cleverly set up two situations where groups of people without all the information speculated wildly and drew conclusions that may have fit the facts, but were incorrect. In the case of the religious caste members on Delenn's ship, their inaccurate conclusion nearly got them all killed. In the case of the Non-Aligned Worlds, Sheridan carefully set up the situation and "facts" to guide their speculation to an inaccurate conclusion that nonetheless will end up being beneficial to them. And Sheridan did not lie at all - he simply presented the facts in a certain way.

The plot involving Delenn and Neroon hopefully brought the Minbari civil war closer to a conclusion, although we can't be sure what that conclusion will be. Delenn and Neroon certainly projected respect for each other, Neroon in particular explicitly saying how his opinion of Delenn has changed. But, how much of Neroon's attitude was fake in order to gain Delenn's trust? His message to the warrior caste at the end of the episode doesn't seem consistent with him working together with Delenn. We shall see.

I found the rampant speculation of the religious caste members to be frustrating. And leave it to Minbari to think that the best course in such a situation is mass suicide; only a group of Minbari could decide that and have no one with second thoughts that gives a warning! I do have to admit that the religious caste members were not totally blameless, as Delenn left them pretty much in the dark about her plans, as she is wont to do. Perhaps she thought it was obvious that the war must end in a way such that no one surrenders or wins, but clearly it wasn't so obvious to the others. The irony of her praising her followers for not being as suspicious as the warrior caste attacker was a little too heavy.

As I mentioned earlier, I did like Lennier's description of Delenn's world-view, as she believes everyone acts for the best. I think it's a perfect description of her - another example I can think of is in "Racing Mars", after Sheridan and Garibaldi argued. She doesn't ascribe Garibaldi's odd actions to spite, or jealousy, or any "bad" cause, but simply says that Garibaldi's path in life is different now. Delenn believing in people this way is a great example of how the expectations of a leader can potentially bring out the best in her followers - we hear Lennier attest to this in himself.

I do wonder about Delenn speaking at such length to Neroon about how she depended on Lennier. Perhaps it's a measure of the respect she gives him - she believes he would never do something as dishonorable as hurt Lennier just because he knows it would affect her. Yet again, she's extremely trusting of people's motives.

I am still somewhat mystified at how the strife between the castes has returned so vigorously after having worked together for 1000 years. I can certainly believe that when Valen first put together the Grey Council and made the castes work together that there was a lot of friction. But surely after 1000 years, old slights and conflicts would have been forgotten! It's amazing to me that such hatred has just burst out such that it's led to civil war.

The parallel plot with Sheridan and the ambassadors is clever and played more for laughs, as we see the ambassadors almost panic about this "new enemy". ("They could be anywhere right now!") Sheridan was lucky that the ambassadors played right into his hands and didn't jump to some other conclusion that might have lead to in-fighting or other problems. Londo is also a laugh, as always, as he can't believe Sheridan wants him to keep the White Star patrols a secret - surely the type of manipulation Sheridan was employing couldn't be new to Londo.

We see throughout the episode how the new Voice of the Resistance is progressing. It's nice to get a taste of some of the information that they are gathering and passing on, such as the fact that a lot of President Clark's cabinet resigned when he declared martial law. This is exactly the kind of thing that should allow B5 to make in-roads into Earth Force and Earth Alliance civilians.

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