The episode begins on a shopping trip to a small commerce station, where Chiana and Rygel are looking for anything remotely valuable amongst the cheap junk, and Aeryn is trying to keep the two of them out of trouble. Chiana is drawn to glass pane where a line sketch of her own image has been captured in miniature: the image shows her holding a favorite necklace of hers, one that she lost half a cycle ago. The gypsy-ish shopkeeper and station owner, Kyvan, offers it to her for free. Naturally suspicious, Chiana questions the womans generosity and dismisses the portrait as some sort of trick, but Kyvan encourages her to think of it a souvenier, saying that it is "a window in time."
Back on Moya, Chiana is still engrossed in her art piece when she spots a DRD clasping her aforementioned necklace in its pincer. She retrieves it, then looks on with astonishment as the painting changes - this time depciting her a severed leg. Just then, the DRD gets underfoot and trips her up. China falls to the floor with a sickening crunch of bones. Ick.
Crichton examines Chiana's busted leg while she blabs on about how her brand-new toy predicts the future. Crichton shrugs off her experience as a coincidence, while Zhaan wants to perform tests on the painting. Chiana's protests are overruled, and she is packed off to her room; it's not long before D'Argo pokes his head through her doorway to express his worries that the portrait isn't predicting events, but causing them. Chiana brushes him off for being a stereotypical, superstitious Luxan. That's concerned
Luxan! The pair have a philosophical discussion about how knowing the future keeps us from striving for our goals. After all, wouldn't D'Argo like to know if he's destined to ever find his son? No, because if it's bad news, he'll lose all hope. But, Chiana reasons, it might keep him from wasting time fruitlessly if he's never going to find him. D'Argo tells her to be sensible and get rid of it, but his choice of adjective irritates Chiana, and she kicks him out.
In her laboratory, Zhaan is analyzing a shard from the portrait while a whispered voice rustles around her; she can't find anything abnormal about the shard, but it's clearly scaring the blue crap out of her. Then, in the distance, Chiana screams, and everybody makes a beeline for her quarters; there, they find that the portrait has morphed into an image of Chiana being immolated. Panicked and sobbing, Chiana pleads with D'Argo to take her someplace safe, so the crew carries her down to the cargo bay and stuffs her in a freezer. Moments later, Chiana's gloved hands are heard pounding on the door with alarm. As they try to force the door open, the freezer inexplicably catches fire: nobody can get in, and Chiana is reduced to ashes.
Fingers of blame immediately turn on Pilot, but he hasn't the foggiest idea of what went wrong; Moya's systems are functioning normally. Everyone mutters amongst themselves over how they could have prevented Chiana's death. Crichton's sold on the evil nature of the portrait, and tells Zhann to dispose of it; Zhann enthusiastically complies, setting it on fire with a blowtorch. Minutes later, D'Argo comms Crichton and Aeryn to meet with him in the central chamber – the painting has repaired itself and now depicts D'Argo, though what's going to happen to him isn't certain just yet. Crichton doesn't think they should wait around for it to finish its thought. D'Argo agrees, and smashes the portrait to pieces; just in case this isn't enough, they crew also eject the fragments into space. Aeryn flies off with Rygel in tow, intending to pump Kyvan for answers.
Not too long after that, the painting reconstitutes and shows D'Argo impaled. D'Argo assumes that his Qualta Blade is slated to be the culprit, so Crichton opts to lock it away. However, one of the DRDs repairing Aeryn's Prowler apparently malfunctions, causing the Prowler to spring to life and swivel around, skewering D'Argo on its bayonet-like nose. To Crichton's amazement, D'Argo's body shatters into glass and vanishes.
D'Argo awakens in a corridor of arches suspended in empty space, with Chiana trapped nearby. The scenery is identical to the yellow corridor we saw in the portrait, so Chiana reasons that they've somehow ended up trapped inside the portrait itself. Meanwhile, back in the "real world," the portrait changes again to depict Crichton being electrocuted.
Aeryn and Rygel have found Kyvan, who whines that that she was forced to create the portrait... by none other than Maldis. Crichton's naturally confused; he thought they destroyed Maldis, but Zhann says they only dispersed him, and that she knew he'd coalesce again one day. For a moment, she appears to zone out, but when Crichton tries to snap her out of it, she pulls his forehead against hers to do another mind-meld: speaking directly into his mind, Zhaan tells Crichton to play along with her; someone evil is listening in. Zhann breaks the bond, and in a fit of panic, says they can't beat Maldis and that it's time to give up. Crichton signals his understanding, and Zhann shoves him into an exposed circuit. Crichton vanishes as Zhaan looks down on the portrait and sees her image as a body shattered like glass.
As expected, Crichton is transported inside the picture and calls Maldis, who appears behind him. Though he's more or less his usual gleefully hammy self, Maldis is less than happy with the fact that he had to put himself back together again, sustaining his essence with thoughts of revenge. Crichton taunts him to bing it on, but Maldis doesn't consider him to be of much importance: he's saving his revenge for Zhaan, the one who sealed him away. To that end, he's been wearing away at Zhaan's composure by killing off her shipmates one by one. We briefly cut back to Moya, where Zhaan is being taunted by Maldis' spectral voices, and growing more and more hysterical as a result. Eventually, she decides to consult with Pilot on something (though a cutback to inside the portrait prevents us from seeing exactly what) before another echoing voice causes Zhann to stumble into the pit surrounding Pilot's console. Zhaan falls to her 'death' and lands in the portrait.
As Maldis turns his punishment on Zhaan, announcing his plan to escape the portrait and trap them all in there, Pilot contacts Aeryn with a priority message from Zhaan: they need to kill Kyvan and get out of there fast. Aeryn 10-4s and immediately shoots Kyvan, who shatters like glass, exposing herself as another avatar of Maldis. As the module flies clear, the entire spherical junk station shatters into glass. Maldis is weakened by this, and Zhaan jumps up and takes advantage of his weakened state to give him a good thrashing. Back on Moya, we see that same window to the portrait bridging Maldis' reality with ours; everyone hurries into the portal to escape back into Moya, but Maldis's giant hand reaches out through the portrait, attempting to grab them. Crichton uses a combo of the DRDs' lasers and the mounted gun on Aeryn's prowler to drive Maldis back into the portal, which closes behind him.
And now for the rehash. In Moya's galley, Rygel shrugs at Chiana, saying he still doesn't get the Maldis-Kyvan thing. Chiana does, though only because Zhaan explained it all to her: When Maldis recorporealized, he created Kyvan and the portrait to gain a foothold on their plane of existence. Then when Aeryn destroyed Kyvan, it weakened Maldis enough for Zhaan to wallop him. Neither of them are happy, though: Chiana still has a broken leg, and Rygel is annoyed that Kyvan's junk disappeared along with her.
Crichton leans in through doorway to Zhann's chamber and asks if "that sumbitch" is gone for good; Zhaan says you can never be certain with a creep like Maldis. Crichton groans, saying that it would have been a really good time to lie to him, but Zhaan says she's not a very good liar. Au contraire, says Crichton; je congratulates Zhann on having everyone fooled with her Nervous Nellie routine. Zhaan stares at him seriously: "My fear wasn't an act, John."
Tropes included in this episode:
- Agent Scully: One by one, Chiana's shipmates begin to suspect the portrait really is cursed — apart from Aeryn, who snarks that Kyvan probably set the whole thing up because Chiana insulted her art. Following Chiana's 'death', Aeryn (not emotionally able to waste her time with regrets and rituals) takes the pragmatic, problem-solving route and cross-examines Pilot about what went wrong with the freezer lock.
- All That Glitters: Rygel thinks he's struck it rich when he discovers a priceless Hynerian tiara amongst Kyvan's other junk. Unfortunately for him, the tiara disappears along with everything else once Maldis is beaten.
- Being Watched: Maldis is keeping a very close eye on the the crew, hence why Zhaan has to communicate her plan to Crichton via Unity.
- Berserk Button: Maldis tires of Crichton's bravado and proceeds to press the Berserk Buttons of Crichton, D'Argo and Chiana, just so he can enjoy their anger and fear. He gloats that he might just head to Earth next- humankind would keep him well-fed for quite a while- before turning to D'Argo to needle him about feeding on Jothee, and Chiana about sending her back home to Nebari Prime, where she'd face a swift mind-cleansing.
- The Cast Showoff: Virginia Hey's martial arts training came in handy for her fight with Maldis. As a teenager, she earned a blue belt in Judo and an orange in karate.
- Clingy Macguffin: That is one durable painting.
- Collapsing Lair: Kyvan's market turns out to be a mental construct. Once Aeryn blasts her, time and space folds over the station, causing it to vanish. Maldis' portrait undergoes similar destruction.
- Combat Stilettos: Of a sort. Maldis struts his beribboned, black pumps across Zhaan's prone body, crunching her bones. Pretty strange.
- Continuity Nod: Crichton suggests that from now on, they just lock all of Moya's doors, don't let anybody in, and never ever venture out. "That way we get no alien critters, no shape-shifting bugs, no mind-altering viruses, no freaky-deaky artifacts..."
- Curse Cut Short: Maldis can read Crichton's mind, and knows that he's counting on Zhaan to save them all. "To me, your mind is an open book... Full of big print and lots of pictures!" Crichton points at his temple and tells him, "Then read this: Kiss..."
- Death by Falling Over
- Do You Trust Me?: Zhann has her suspicions about who's behind the painting, but doesn't want to share them yet. First, she wants Crichton to pledge that when the time comes, he and the others will do exactly what she says. "Do you have enough faith in me to obey?" Crichton holds her gaze and says whatever she's planning, he's in. He has her back.
- Double Entendre: Chiana flings one at Maldis. "You're all talk. The bigger the mouth, the smaller the action."
- Endless Corridor
- Fantastic Fragility: Maldis loses control after Kyvan, his avatar in the real world, is shot dead by Aeryn.
- Foreshadowing: Aeryn's prowler is undergoing repairs by some DRDs. The camera intentionally lingers on its exposed circuits.
- Gender Bender: Kyvan, like all of Maldis' alter-egos, is played by Chris Haywood. It's hard to tell under all that gaudy makeup.
- Gypsy Curse
- Hearing Voices
- Honest John's Dealership: "Kyvan's" junk store.
- Hurricane of Euphemisms: Crichton points out that now would be a really good time for Zhann to pretend that Maldis is dead for good.
Crichton: 'Yeah, sure John! He's toast! Strike him off your Christmas list! Stick a fork in him, he's done! He's over! The fat lady is singing!'
- Ironic Echo: Maldis parrots Crichton's line about how this "magic mystery crap" isn't really his purview.
- It Has Been an Honor: Having glimpsed his portrait and resigned to his fate, D'Argo solmenly tells Crichton that whatever happens, it's been a pleasure knowing him.
- It's All My Fault
- It's Personal: Rygel has a funny way of showing grief over a lost comrade. He stows away inside Aeryn's cockpit, claimng he has as much of a score to settle with Kyvan as the others. Aeryn guesses he's hoping to make a profit, and Rygel wonders why he can't have both. "Punitive damages! That's what Chiana would have wanted."
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
- Just Between You and Me
- Kill It with Fire: Zhaan uses a blowtorch to set the portrait on fire. It's doesn't take.
- No Body Left Behind: Crichton's clue that the painting hasn't actually killed anyone.
- No-One Could Have Survived That
- Noodle Incident: Rygel putters around in Zhaan's laboratory, squirting a few drops of some chemical on Kyven's tiara. It glows pink, proving that it's genuine. So gleeful is Rygel at ripping off the old gypsy woman that doesn't notice Zhaan until she yanks him back by one of his ears. "I'm surprised you're using my possessions without my consent, Rygel. Especially after what I did to you the last time."
- Out of Order: This episode usually airs after "The Way We Weren't" (and is listed in that order in the DVDs), but should come before it in production order. A few scenes, most notably the testy exchange between Crichton and Aeryn in the mess hall, break continuity from "The Way We Weren't".
- Phantom Zone
- Portal Picture
- Revenge by Proxy: Maldis confesses that Crichtin was never his intended prey; he's been picking off Zhann's shipmates as a way of prolonging her anguish.
- Say My Name: Yotz! It's all over the place in this episode.
- D'Argo bellows CHIANAAAAA as she's being roasted in the locked freezer.
- Crichton calls out Maldis' name, then asserts that the "the super-villain's handbook" obliges him to show himself so he can gloat.
- Maldis hollers, "Pa'u ZHAAAAAAAAN!", causing her to stumble to her death in Pilot's den.
- Scare Chord
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
- Shoot Out the Lock: Aeryn attempts this on the door panel when the freezer containing Chiana catches on fire. It fails.
- Shout-Out / Title Drop: To demonstrate that even Crichton has his weak point, Maldis intones, "Picture, if you will, me standing on your home planet." The phrase "Picture if you will..." was Rod Sterling's catchphrase on The Twilight Zone.
- Single Tear: Pilot squirts out a tear when Crichton calls in to report Chiana's (apparent) demise.
- So Was X: Chiana has determined that the art piece predicts the future! Unimpressed, Crichton remarks that his Aunt Ruth can do that with tea leaves.
- Suggestive Collision: As the Moya crew is fleeing through the rip in reality, D'Argo yanks Chiana through the clingy barrier, and she lands right on top of him. Bow chicka wow wow.
- This Is the Part Where...: Crichton recognizes the picture maze and starts yelling for Maldis to show his ugly face. "Haven't you read the super-villain's handbook? This is where you're supposed to twirl your mustache and gloat."
Maldis: I don't have a mustache, John!
- Waxing Lyrical: "Fear, and the terror of helplessness- these are a few of my favorite things."
: Oh, could you do that "Farewell, Goodbye
" song the kids sing? It's one of my favorites.
Maldis: I DON'T DO REQUESTS!
- Wounded Gazelle Warcry
- You Remind Me of X:
Rygel: [Chiana] was quite a lot like me, you know. She had spirit. Ambition, hah! Large appetites. She would have made an excellent Hynerian. I'm - actually going to miss her.