Arriving at Babylon Five on a civilian ship are Rabbi Koslov (Theodore Bikel) and Walker Smith (Greg McKinney). In Downbelow, Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) arrests two smugglers. When he turns his back, one pulls a knife, but Walker Smith knocks the man down. Smith turns out to be Garibaldi’s old friend, who had a promising boxing career at one time. They have burgers together in the Zocalo, and Smith notices that Garibaldi is on the wagon.
In her quarters, Susan Ivanova is reading when Rabbi Koslov arrives. She is delighted to see the long-time close friend of her family. He says that her father entrusted him with his legacy when he died. He is troubled that she never sat Shivah for him, and she pleads the pressure of her work. Smith tells Garibaldi that he was offered a bribe to throw a fight. He refused and was framed, ending his career. He is at Babylon Five to fight in the Mutai, an alien fighting circuit. If he does well, he may revive his career. Garibaldi is stunned, as the Mutai has killed or crippled many aliens.
Rabbi Koslov meets Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) to talk about Ivanova. Sinclair did not even know her father was gone. Koslov knows things between Susan and her father had been tense for years but is worried that she has not dealt with his death. Sinclair willingly agrees to give her time off for Shivah. Koslov has dinner with her at Fresh Air. When he speaks of his meeting with Sinclair, she becomes upset and runs out in tears.
Garibaldi accompanies Smith to the Mutai Dojo. The alien Muta-Do in charge informs them that humans are not allowed to fight; Smith becomes rude and the Muta-Do knocks him down. In the Zocalo, Smith grouses about being cast out. Garibaldi criticizes him for not respecting the Mutai’s importance to aliens. Smith leaves and runs into an alien named Caliban (Don Stroud) who offers to help him fight. Sinclair calls Ivanova into his office, offering his condolences and indefinite leave, but she insists she doesn’t need it and remains closed to him.
Smith tracks down Garibaldi and apologizes for walking out on him. Garibaldi agrees to meet him at the fights. At the fight, Smith and Garibaldi watch the championship fight, which the Sho-rin or local champion wins. The Muta-Do asks for challengers and Smith steps up. The Muta-Do and the Sho-rin, named Gyor (James Jude Courtney) both accept the challenge for a battle three days later. Garibaldi is annoyed and several of the local aliens are incensed. Migo (Michael McKenzie) threatens to take action.
Rabbi Koslov meets Ivanova at her quarters and gives her the samovar that has been in her family for 300 years—her legacy. She says she has never been able to forgive her father for not showing his love. Koslov realizes that since she cannot forgive, she cannot mourn. She leaves to go on duty, but just before Koslov leaves the station, she comes to him and asks for Shivah. Sinclair grants her leave and says he would like to attend. A small community turns up in her quarters to attend as well, and she thanks Sinclair for his help and his friendship.
The fight begins. In the crowd, Migo pulls a dart-gun. Caliban notices and alerts Garibaldi, who stops him. After a brutal battering, neither fighter can stand. The Muta-Do declares a draw, and the crowd chants Gyor’s name. Then Gyor stops them and begins a chant of Smith’s name. The next day, Koslov takes his leave of Ivanova and Sinclair, as Garibaldi says good-bye to Smith. Before the latter leaves the station, the Muta-Do informs him that humans are accepted into the Mutai.
The book that Ivanova is reading is called Working Without a Net by Harlan Ellison. It is an imaginary autobiography since Ellison had not gotten around to writing one. He borrowed the prop and carried it around for a while, trying to make fans think they had missed its publication. Koslov’s ship was the White Star, which will appear later. The White Star Line built the Titanic. Staczynski is White Russian in background. He stated that the biggest fights ever seen in his family over bequests involved money and samovars. The Rabbi wonders if the Centauri food is kosher. Ivanova thinks it’s fish.
The champion of the Mutai is the Sho-Rin, named for the Shao-Lin temple. Walker Smith was the real name of Sugar Ray Robinson. Actor Greg McKinney, who played him, died on 12 April 1998. Sugar Ray Robinson died on 12 April 1989. The episode is a minor one in that it adds nothing to the series arc, it lacks a certain drama, and there are a number of cliches, but it does have heart. Every series, SF included, has at least one boxing episode, usually with the same cliches. The aliens’ “racist” attitude against humans is interesting, in that the aliens are mostly pink, and the human is black, which means absolutely nothing to them. The only link between the A story and the B story is that they both involve a ritual, are about a punch to the gut in two different senses, and end with a kind of triumph of the soul. Claudia Christian, as usual, can break your heart. Probably the best thing about it is the relationship between Sinclair and Ivanova. In a way, she has found in Sinclair the father she lost, or never had.