"I guess this wouldn't be a good time for me to suggest we all join hands and sing Kumbaya?"
REVIEW: This episode may start with an innocuous, light-hearted scene, but it actually fits the theme of the PsiCorps shocker to come. I like how the station rations and recycles everything, including newspapers, and how print news is tailored to each reader's particular interests (and biases, just like TV news?). It's a nice bit of world-building, and a little more serious than the public restroom scene (which I still appreciated, but it's not the first time go in there). And who doesn't like Sheridan and Delenn flirting? He stays just a little too long while she gets her copy, and though the Minbari don't lie, she still tries to impress him and has to save face when it appears she protested too much about disliking gossip. (Of course, their courtship continues more explicitly in the garden scene, and it's sweet how very innocent it is.) Thematically, it's a scene about customization and information gathering. And that's just what the A-plot is about.
The return of Lyta Alexander smacks of her interchangeability with Talia Winters. Not just because the latter replaced the former on the cast (and soon, vice-versa), but because both characters are ostensibly on the same path to betray their untrustworthy organization. While I like what little I've seen of Lyta, and am intrigued by her quest to join the Vorlons - is Vorlon a state of mind, or is it perhaps something we, or at least, telepaths, can evolve into, sort of like how Ironheart evolved into HumanityNext - but Talia has something she doesn't, namely relationships with other members of the crew. Her friendship with Ivanova is in fact written like a romance, and an intimate one at that. This episode has a odd moment where it looks like they're about to kiss, which is followed by a scene in which Talia reaches for Ivanova in bed and wakes up, realizing Susan's gone. As a plot contrivance, it's supposed to draw suspicion to Ivanova as the sleeper agent (an attempt is made on Lyta's life while she's missing), but as background, it's the same kind of thing Chris Claremont used to do with the female X-Men. I'm not sure it's believable Ivanova would risk such physical contact with a telepath, even if Talia does show incredible respect and restraint around her. And when Ivanova finally shares her dark secret with us (well, Sheridan) - that she's a weak latent telepath - it's put into terms a gay person might find familiar. The scene is about her coming out of the closet to a friend, and only that friend, who then shares her secret. Still, that would be a great cover for a "programmed" PsiCorps agent, as since B5 doesn't mind doing permanent harm to its characters...
But it's not Ivanova. The mole is Talia, and I'm not sure I like that. Originally, it was going to be Laurel Takashima, and after two years, that would have been a shocker. But JMS didn't have that option and moved the plot line over to Talia Winters, he claims. Apparently, it's there from the beginning and why Talia is so aggressive in seeking Ivanova's friendship. That's as maybe, but making a PsiCorps operative a PsiCorps mole isn't exactly shocking. She wasn't the most trusted person in the cast to begin with. If JMS really had wanted to make the switch, why not to Ivanova, who was also a replacement character and in the same position as Laurel? JMS swears it has nothing to do with Andrea Thompson being difficult and wanting a bigger role (appearing in only 8 or 9 episodes a season, I can't really blame her), but that sounds bogus to me. Because losing Talia creates a whole lot of loose ends. She was investigating PsiCorps and hiding the underground railroad. She had powerful, evolving powers left her by Ironheart. She was said to be "the future" somehow. That's all gone. And the worst of it is, while I'm sure she'll be mentioned again, she won't reappear again. She doesn't even turn up again as a vicious villain who knows everyone's weaknesses. A huge waste. So you'll forgive me, Mr. Straczynski, if I don't quite buy you're "it was all planned from the beginning". If it were true, she would have welcomed Garibaldi's advances, not spurned them. Come on now. And while I wouldn't want Claudia Christian off the show by any means, at this point, Ivanova's arc has played itself out. Just the right time for the character to take this dramatic a turn.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The episode's conclusion is wasteful, but I can't deny how exciting this thriller is, nor how interesting the characters moments are.