Two people arrive at the station, a rabbi and another man. Elsewhere, Garibaldi has broken up an illegal sale of medical supplies, which results in a scuffle. One of the miscreants pulls a knife and is abut to attack Garibaldi from behind, when he is knocked out by the newcomer, who says, "One of these days, Garibaldi, you're going to have to learn to watch your back." The man's name is Walker Smith, and he and Garibaldi knew each other years before. Walker had become a professional boxer, but was forced out after a scandal.
The other arrival, Rabbi Koslov, has gone to see Ivanova. He is a friend of her family and has come to bring her father's legacy to her. He had intended to give it to her at her father's funeral, but she wasn't there. She tells him there was a crisis at the time and she couldn't get away. He understands, then asks if she has sat shiva for her father. She hasn't and doesn't see the point.
Walker is telling Michael about his boxing career, which was cut short when evidence that he doped up was planted by parties who wanted him to throw a fight. The media firestorm was such that he couldn't enter any fights back on Earth, so he's come to Babylon 5 for an alternative, the Mutai. Garibaldi tries to talk him out of it, saying the Mutai is not like fights on Earth, there are no rules and only one official, the Muta-Do. There have been several deaths, and scores of major injuries, but Walker is determined.
Rabbi Koslov goes to see Sinclair, telling him Ivanova recently lost her father, something she failed to mention, and has not had the opportunity to sit shiva. Sinclair agrees to give her as much time as she needs. Ivanova does not react well when Koslov tells her, accusing him of trying to control her life the way her father did.
The next day, Walker and Michael go to find the Muta-Do. As they enter the practice facility and old-looking alien tells them to leave. Walker protests and for his trouble is knocked flat. The alien turned out to be the Muta-Do himself, and informs them that humans are not allowed to fight. Walker leaves, and Michael follows, telling him, "The Mutai means something to them, you're treating it like a tank fight." Turns out Garibaldi knew that the alien was the Muta-Do; fuming, Walker storms off. As he does so, he runs into another alien named Caliban, who says there is another way to get into the Mutai.
Sinclair has called Ivanova into his office telling her she can have time off, but she refuses, saying her emotions are her own business. Sinclair leaves the offer open and warns her to make certain what she's feeling.
Walker tells Garibaldi that he got some passes to see a Mutai fight, and invites him along. There, they see Gyor, the Sho-Rin (grand champion) of the Mutai make short work of a Drazi challenger. Afterward, the Muta-Do calls for anyone brave enough to challenge the Sho-Rin. Walker steps forward; after delivering his challenge, the Muta-Do deems it worthy, and Gyor accepts. Before they leave, however, another alien approaches them and warns Walker to stay out of their business.
Rabbi Koslov comes to see Ivanova again, and she apologizes for her outburst. He presents her father's legacy, an antique samovar that has been in her family for generations. He asks her to sit shiva again, but she still refuses, saying her father was never there for her and she can never forgive him for that. Later, as the rabbi is about to leave, she remembers the last conversation she had with her father moments before his death, and changes her mind.
As Walker trains for the fight, Michael asks Caliban if he has a chance. Caliban responds, "He will fight bravely." Later at dinner, Michael tells Walker there's still time to back out, but he refuses. Gyor's skill is no reason to back down.
Ivanova asks to take the leave Sinclair offered, and he agrees, offering to sit with her as a friend. Later, a small group has gathered, and Rabbi Koslov begins speaking about Andrei Ivanov, and Ivanova recalls some experiences she had with him.
The Mutai begins, and Gyor begins pummeling Walker. It seems as though the fight will end in quick defeat, but Walker suddenly begins fighting back much harder. When this happens, the alien who threatened them earlier panics when it looks like Walker might win and takes out a small blowgun. Caliban notices, and Michael quickly puts him down. Eventually, the fight reaches a standstill where both are so battered they can't even stand anymore. As the two fighters lie on their hands and knees, the Muta-Do gets up and declares the match a draw. As before, the crowd chants Gyor's name, but Gyor stops them, starting a new chant for Smith, which the crowd eventually takes up with enthusiasm.
As the shiva ends, Ivanova thanks those gathered for coming, finally letting her tears come to the surface.
The next day, Rabbi Koslov bids farewell to Ivanova and Sinclair, and Walker prepares to leave. They are surprised when Gyor and the Muta-Do approach them. The Muta-Do says that humans will be allowed to fight in the Mutai from now on and Gyor salutes Walker. Walker then leaves, with a final reminder to Michael to watch his back.
Tropes used in this episode include:
- Alien Blood: Gyor, the champion, bleeds white. So Onteen blood is white (Gyor's Onteen race previously appeared in Believers; the name is from background material).
- Alien Lunch: Walker thinks the snacks served at the Mutai are pretty good, until Garibaldi tells him it's fried tree-worm.
- Archnemesis Dad: Ivanova's relationship with her father, to the point that months after his death she can't forgive him.
- Book-Ends: Walker's first and parting words to Garibaldi.
- Call-Back: Ivanova revisits her father's death.
- Casualty in the Ring: Not seen, but Garibaldi says several aliens have been killed and dozens crippled in the Mutai.
- Combat Breakdown: At the end of the fight between Walker Smith and Gyor, both fighters are literally trading punches (and rather clumsy-looking ones at that). It's an indication that both fighters are at their limits, and a nice aversion of How Much More Can He Take?.
- Continuity Nod: Ivanova brings up the Euphrates Treaty that was going down while her father died.
- Cry into Chest: When Ivanova finally breaks down at the shiva, Sinclair is there to hold her.
- Double Knockout: Both Gyor and Smith collapse to the floor after a final exchange of blows. They're still technically conscious, but they can no longer stand up without assistance.
- Fan Nickname: In-universe; late in the fight, the crowd begins a chant for Walker Smith, "Great Heart".
- Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Rabbi Koslov briefly wonders aloud whether the Centauri food that Ivanova orders for him is kosher. She has no idea, and Koslov decides it's okay on grounds that the Torah doesn't say anything one way or the other. (Assuming Ivanova's guess that it's a kind of fish is accurate, it probably actually is.)
- Flashback: Just as Rabbi Koslov is about to leave, Ivanova suddenly thinks back to her final conversation with her father.
- Foreshadowing: Walker Smith's parting words to Garibaldi: "Watch your back, Michael."
- Frameup: The fighting corp doctored Walker's blood tests, then leaked that he was on the take.
- The Gloves Come Off: Gyor seems to be toying with Walker, until he actually manages to draw blood.
- In-Universe Nickname: Rabbi Koslov is better known to Ivanova (and referred to throughout most of the episode) as "Uncle Yossel".
- Old Master: The Muta-Do is a former Mutai fighter and is certainly no spring chicken. He's over 90 years old.
- Paparazzi: Once it got out that Walker might be doping, they were all over it, and ruined his career.
- Product Placement: The Zima sign at the sports bar. They actually didn't get any money for it; JMS simply thought the presence of a sign for what he saw as a trendy (read: fad) beverage was funny.
- Shout-Out: "Walker Smith" was the real name of legendary boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.
- The Silent Bob: Gyor seems to prefer nonverbal communication. The only word he speaks the entire episode is "Smith".
- Team Hand-Stack: Walker Smith, Garibaldi, and Caliban do one before Walker goes into the ring. (Caliban gives the other two a "what is this strange earthling custom?" look before he joins in.)
- The Teetotaler: Walker is surprised to see Garibaldi drinking water.
- Throwing the Fight: It was Walker Smiths refusal to do so that got him blacklisted.
- Underdogs Never Lose: Walker Smith fits the trope in all but one fashion: he doesn't actually win the fight. He does, however, fight the Sho-Rin to an honorable draw, so he technically doesn't lose the fight either.
- Worthy Opponent: Before the match, Walker calls Gyor "the best [fighter] I've ever seen". Immediately after the fight, Gyor stops the audience chanting his own name, and starts a chant for "Smith", so he clearly thinks Walker Smith is this by the end.