Ivanova is enjoying a relaxing night cycle, when the jumpgate suddenly activates and several Earthforce ships come through. Their commander, General Richard Franklin, comes aboard and speaks with Sheridan. He has 25,000 marines that he wants billeted for a few days. Sheridan asks if there's any relation to Dr. Franklin, and is informed that he is the general's son. Franklin will see him after his troops are taken care of.
The next morning, after the troops have been settled, Sheridan, Ivanova and Garibaldi head for their briefing. General Franklin is leading an operation on a planet called Akdor. The government there has asked for Earth's assistance in putting down a rebellion, and the general is using Babylon 5 as a staging ground. This is to be kept strictly confidential. The official story is that they are a relief force for Io. He also wants Sheridan's help in planning the assault since he's been to the rebel stronghold, a place called Matok.
He also explains that his techs will be installing new defense systems on the station. Earth Central feels that with the Narn and Centauri at war the other races may start getting more aggressive.
Lt. Keffer arrives at his quarters to find two men already in them. Pvt. "Large", a heavy black man who always has a cigar in his mouth, and Pvt. Yang, a young soldier on his first deployment. Keffer is not happy to find them there, and an annoyed Large gets up as though about to start a fight. Keffer isn't intimidated and Large is sufficiently impressed that he sits the pilot down, offers him a cigar and starts regaling him with war stories.
In his quarters, Stephen is talking to his father. He asks about his mother and sisters, and the general tells him how they are, and admonishes him to keep in touch with them more often. He then suggests having Stephen transferred to a post where he can be of use to humans. Stephen objects, he's quite satisfied with his work here, and their disagreement eventually escalates until the general storms out.
Later, Ivanova brings some soldiers to Medlab to make use of the beds there. Dr. Franklin objects, but, per his own report, no one is there who can't be moved. She senses something bothering him and offers to meet him later that night to talk about it. When they do, he lays out all his frustrations about growing up with a career military father. Ivanova listens, then tells him to talk to his father. She didn't and missed her chance.
In one of the station corridors, Delenn observes the number of Earthforce troops present, and Garibaldi gives her the official line. They talk a bit, about the war, and how Londo and G'Kar refuse to speak to each other, before Garibaldi goes off to see to a disturbance. Delenn walks off but encounters a group of belligerent soldiers who react angrily at the sight of a Minbari with hair. They advance on her, saying she needs a good lesson. Before they can do anything, a woman jumps between them, starting a fight which enables Delenn to get away. She quickly finds Garibaldi and tells him what happens. The fight is broken up by the troops' sergeant major, who is ready to cart all of them off but Garibaldi asks him to overlook this incident and he agrees.
Afterward, the female soldier who started the fight runs after him, asking why he did it. He tells her Delenn told him what she did. She introduces herself as Dodger, but before long, Garibaldi gets another call. She watches him walk off, commenting, "Nice butt."
Sheridan and Gen. Franklin are going over the layout of Matok. No matter how they do it, there will be heavy casualties, and Sheridan recommends calling it off. Franklin informs him that it's a tradeoff. If they win it, Earth can establish a military presence there, strategically close to the war. Their planning is interrupted when Stephen comes in, wanting to talk to his father. The general doesn't want to talk right now, and the two of them nearly start yelling at each other again. Stephen leaves in a huff. The general watches him go, then turns to Sheridan. They have a brief discussion about the nature of war and the role of the soldier and Sheridan speaks up on Stephen's behalf, saying he's a holy terror when his principles are challenged. This impresses the general somewhat. Sheridan says he also has disagreements with his father but they never stopped caring about each other.
Garibaldi is looking over things with Officer Welch when Dodger comes up. She asks him to show her around, and Welch says he can handle things. Garibaldi goes off with Dodger. That evening, they arrive at his quarters, kissing passionately, and steadily getting more intimate when Michael stops. He starts telling her about the lack of success he's had in relationships with women of late and tells her he doesn't want to screw this up before it even has a chance. Dodger gets angry. She wasn't looking for romance, she just wants to get some action in the time between fights, and she storms out.
In C&C Sheridan and Ivanova go over their status, their docking schedule is back on track, and the new defense grid is up. Babylon 5 is now as heavily armed as a warship.
The Franklins meet up again. They have a heart-to-heart and lay out the issues they've had built up over the years, Stephen hating not knowing if his father will come back from his next assignment, something the general admits he sometimes forgets about. Stephen finally tells his father he loves him and the two embrace.
Garibaldi finds Dodger again. She apologizes for getting angry, but something about the mission's bothering her. She can't believe they would send Richard "Firestorm" Franklin on a relief mission. Garibaldi, of course, can't tell her.
Meanwhile, Keffer is nearby with Large and Yang, when he runs afoul of Kleist, the soldier who threatened Delenn earlier, and a fight starts. It ends when General Franklin comes with the word that they're moving out. The sergeant major orders them to get their things and report to the docking bay. Garibaldi and Dodger say goodbye, as do Keffer, Large and Yang.
In the docking bay, General Franklin says goodbye to the command staff, sharing one more hug with his son, and some parting words. "Please, call your mother and sisters!"
Garibaldi moves down the line of soldiers looking for Dodger. He finds her and they share one more passionate kiss before the sergeant major calls her back to the line.
Several days later, a crowd is gathered in the Zocalo watching a report about the battle. After a scene of intense fighting, a live broadcast shows a reporter with Gen. Franklin. The battle was a success, and Matok has been taken, but good feelings die down as the casualty lists are brought in. Dodger, Large, Yang, and even Kleist were all killed in action. Garibaldi looks it over, then walks off leaving Keffer standing by himself.
This episode contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Pvt. Elizabeth "Dodger" Derman.
- Actually Pretty Funny: What endears Keffer to Large in their initial meeting.
- Archnemesis Dad: Stephen and his father have ideologies that are such polar opposites that they can barely talk to each other without fighting.
- Badass Boast: Keffer defuses a stand-off with Large by offering to find a ladder and then hash it out face to face with him.
- Bar Brawl: A massive one in the Casino just before the Marines are told they are going to war. Includes almost every trope mentioned on that page's description, plus The Bartender beaning a belligerent drunk with a bottle.
- Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: Well, not exactly. Garibaldi was complaining to Sheridan and Ivanova about the GROPOS and posits that "someone in Earthdome has gone completely mental", not realizing that General Franklin can hear him from the next room. Franklin's response is to simply refer to Garibaldi's statement as an interesting opinion.
- Better Than Sex: Narrowly averted. Pvt. Durman is of the opinion that the above Bar Brawl is "the best thing next to sex."
- Boisterous Bruiser: Large. Seconds after deciding he likes Keffer, he almost strangles him with a manly hug and almost chokes him stuffing a big cigar into his mouth.
- Considerable discussion is made of the ramifications of the Narn and Centauri being at war. The mission of Akdor is to allow Earth to establish a presence strategically close to the fighting. Gen. Franklin feels it's only a matter of time before Earth has to choose sides. Delenn notes that Londo and G'Kar refuse to speak to each other.
- Ivanova encourages Franklin to try and reconcile with his father, because she missed her chance to truly do so.
- Garibaldi recounts some of the things he's gone through to Dodger like finding out his old girlfriend had gotten married, he got shot in the back, and now he likes a woman he doesn't really stand a chance with.
- Cigar Chomper: Pvt. "Large."
- Continuity Nod:
- Keffer tells Yang and Large about the confrontation with the Trigati. General Franklin asks Sheridan about how he felt after destroying the Black Star.
- Ms. Connelly is not happy about the overtime the dockers had to put in due to the unscheduled arrival. Sheridan makes arrangements for them to get time off with pay.
- Ivanova is once again reminded that in space there is no night.
- Large's friend Buffer was killed in the Mars rebellion.
- Sheridan tells Gen. Franklin that Stephen will bend or break every rule there is if there's a life to be saved or pain to be soothed. He should know, he saw it firsthand.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Dodger comes to Garibaldi looking for a one-night stand, and becomes annoyed when he mistakes her intentions as something more. After admitting that her next deployment may very well be a suicide mission, she rebuffs Garibaldi's attempts to console her and leaves.
- Downer Ending: All the main soldiers we see are killed in action.
- Bittersweet Ending: For Dr. Franklin at least, things are better. He and his father have reached a mutual understanding after years of bitter arguments, and General Franklin survived the battle.
- Fantastic Racism:
- General Franklin has some, referring to non-humans as "creatures", and seemingly only able to understand his son's affection for aliens in terms of scientific fascination. After Franklin accidentally calls his father a murderer, the General later asks Sheridan if he felt like a murderer after destroying the Black Star.
- Several of the soldiers are clearly anti-Minbari and attempt to 'teach Delenn a lesson'.
- General Franklin tells Sheridan once the new defense grid is installed, Babylon 5 will be able to take on a warship.
- Delenn's Half-Human Hybrid transformation is not being accepted as well as she hoped.
- A Father to His Men: Though he's never seen interacting with them directly, Gen. Franklin does care for the well-being of his men, and when he appears above the Bar Brawl, he strikes the image of an stern father breaking up some unruly children. he seems to be more of a parental figure to his subordinates than he is to his own son.
- Four-Star Badass: General Franklin. In fact, it's his assignment to what is supposed to be a routine garrison relief mission that tips off Dodger that something's about to happen.
- Interservice Rivalry: The GROPOS and Navy types seem to have a mutual disdain for each other, especially between the ground-pounders and flyboys. Still, Large and Keffer manage to strike up a rapport despite this, in part because Keffer wasn't intimidated by Large's Scary Black Man routine.
- Jerkass: Kleist.
- Military Brat: Stephen Franklin's father is a storied General. Their relationship is badly strained both by his dad being a hard-ass, and by the strain caused by the long separations. They eventually have a heart-to-heart about it.General Franklin: Every soldier lives with death, son. But I suppose, sometimes, we forget that our loved ones must live with it, too.
- The Natives Are Restless: Garibaldi says this at one point when the soldiers start stirring up trouble.
- New Meat: Pvt. Yang.
- No-Sell: During the bar fight, someone hits Large with a chair. The chair is destroyed but Large just gets annoyed.
- Old Soldier: Pvt "Large". General Franklin also counts.
- Operation: [Blank]: General Franklin is masterminding Operation Sudden Death.
- Out-of-Character Alert: General Richard "Firestorm" Franklin is not known for doing simple relief runs, which makes Dodger think something else is going on.
- Random Events Plot: The story is pretty much just "A bunch of soldiers come on the station, Hilarity Ensues." Thankfully, we have General Franklin and Stephen's relationship as a central thread to hang on to.
- Redshirt: Dodger, Kleist, Large and Yang turn out to be this, as they do not survive Operation: Sudden Death.
- Scary Black Man: Large tries to invoke this on Keffer, but Keffer is not intimidated, which quickly endears him to the ground pounder.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Sheridan names this as one of the things he admires about Stephen.
- Second-Face Smoke: Large does this to Keffer when they first meet.
- Sergeant Rock: The Sergeant Major. Tough as nails (even to his own troops), but he does seem to be a bit of a Reasonable Authority Figure. For example, when Dodger runs back to kiss Garibaldi; instead of hauling her off him and dressing her down viciously, the Sergeant Major just orders her back into line and gives him a knowing smile.
- Smack on the Back: Large gives Keffer one that knocks the cigar he gave him right our of his mouth.
- To Absent Friends: Just before the Bar Brawl:Large: Here's to Buffer. Wait... Here's to all of us.
- Use Your Head: After being hit with a chair, Large turns and knocks the offender out with a headbutt.
- War Is Hell: The theme of the episode. All of the GROPOS we get to know in the episode are dead by the end.
- Would Hit a Girl: During the Bar Brawl, the male soldiers have zero compunction about hitting the female ones.