As the White Star fleet jumps in, Babylon 5 prepares for action, the broadcast center is turned back into the War Room, and Sheridan calls the League of Non-Aligned Worlds into session. There he and Ivanova announce their new campaign, Sheridan is taking the White Stars and going against Earth. He declares any mutual defense treaties they may have with Earth null and void. G'Kar declares his support, pointing out that Earth has done little to nothing for galactic community, they did nothing to help during the bombardment of Narn and just sat out the Shadow War and so the galactic community owes them nothing. Further, Clark's propaganda is stirring anti-alien sentiments, which does not benefit them in the slightest. Ivanova asks for one capital ship from each world to contribute to B5's defense, but otherwise stay out of the way.
- Sheridan: From now on, Earth stands alone.
Marcus rushes to the War Room with intel on Earth Force deployments around Proxima III. Warships and scanners are positioned so that anyone trying to come through the jumpgate will be instantly seen, and the colony is close to surrender. Sheridan asks for an ID on the ships, the Heracles, Juno, Pollux, Nemesis, Vesta, commanded by Edward MacDougan, a name Sheridan seems to recognize, and the Furies. The ships that fired on civilians are the Heracles and Pollux, which are commanded by people Sheridan doesn't know, which means they're Clark's people. He then asks if any ships have gone out of their way to avoid firing on civilians but Marcus doesn't have that info. Sheridan orders him to find out.
Sheridan then asks about the Shadow-modified telepaths, but Franklin's still made little progress. Sheridan wants them mobile as soon as possible for an upcoming operation. Franklin promises to do what he can.
Sheridan and Ivanova then look the situation over. His plan is to attack in waves, isolate the loyalist ships from the ones that might be wavering and give them a chance to surrender or join up. If they attack then...take them out.
- Sheridan: I don't like the idea any more than you do, but either we committ ourselves to this completely, or we don't do it. Once we pull the first trigger, we can't hesitate to pull the next one, because they sure won't. No, once we're in, we're in, no surrender, no retreat.
Vir is falling asleep while working when the door chimes. Garibaldi is there to see Londo about some business he needs to do in Centauri space, but the ambassador isn't there he's meeting with G'K...someone else. Garibaldi notes Vir's appearance, who tells him he was up early at the briefing about the new campaign. News to Garibaldi, and he's not happy to hear about it either. He adamantly refuses to work with Sheridan. He'll fight for his homeworld, but he'll do it his way.
Outside, the fighter squadrons are running drills. Ivanova then gives them orders about Friend-or-Foe codes, telling them to check in every twenty-four hours with herself or Corwin to get the new code. Any order that doesn't use it is a fake order.
- Corwin: So from now on I guess the operational word is "trust no one"?
Ivanova: No. trust Ivanova. Trust yourself. Anybody else, shoot 'em.
Later, Sheridan gets an update on White Star deployments. Three are en route to Earth space, and he wants them near Mars and as close to Earth as possible making it look like recon flights. Hopefully, Clark will send his forces in that direction while they hit Proxima. Marcus is already in position near Proxima in contact with the resistance there trying to find more information about ships have not fired at civilian targets and the resistance provides that intel.
G'Kar is in his quarters when his door chimes, but he doesn't answer it right away. When it persists, he finally opens the door and Londo comes in. After some terse greetings, they start going back and forth like they're about to start their old routine of insult and needling each other, but Londo catches himself.
- Londo: Isn't it amazing how quickly we fall into familiar patterns as soon as we come into one another's orbit? Like comets that flare when they get too near the sun.
Londo has something more important in mind. He never thanked G'Kar for enduring everything he did, true it was to free his world, but in the process saved Centauri Prime. G'Kar has no interest in his gratitude, or his respect, and his stubborn silence begins to grate on Londo's nerves.
- Londo: You many not believe this G'Kar, but all I ever wanted is what is right for my world. I am a patriot! As you are. I have made some very poor choices in the last two years. Because I did not think, those choices nearly destroyed my world, and yours! That is a humbling realization, G'Kar. If, with a single wrong word, I can become the enemy, do I any longer really understand who the enemy is?
He explains that he has gotten the Centauri government to throw their support behind Sheridan's campaign, and he wants the Narn to join him. He admits he hasn't done as well by his friends as he should and hopes to do better. He wishes to issue a joint statement with both their governments recognizing Sheridan's actions.
- Londo: For the first time in a hundred years, we have something in common beyond hatred. I find that most extraordinary. And so, a drink: to the humans and to the bridge they created between us in the hope for a better future. For both our worlds.
G'Kar picks up the glass Londo poured for him...and pours it back into its bottle. Londo watches in dismay as G'Kar silently goes back to writing and leaves.
In the fighter bay, Sheridan announces the time has come. They will hit in three waves to isolate and surround each ship. The Heracles and Pollux have fired on civilians and are to be considered hostile. Nemesis and Vesta have gone to great lengths not to, but the rest are unknowns. They will be given a chance to surrender or stand down, but if they take hostile actions, B5 forces are authorized to return fire.
Sheridan addresses the fighters possible reservations, acknowledging this will be their toughest mission yet. He promises to do what he can to minimize casualties on the other side, but ultimately, their job is to destroy the enemy and live to fight another day. As he heads out, Corwin notes the large Babylon 5 decal on White Star 2. He worries that they'll know it's him, but that's the general idea.
In hyperspace, Sheridan begins ordering his forces into action. Aboard the Heracles Captain Trevor Hall walks onto their bridge to see what's happening. His XO, Commander Sandra Levitt, informs him of unidentified ships entering the system, but holding position. Hall thinks they think they haven't been spotted and sends the Pollux and Nemesis to investigate. Sheridan is surprised Heracles isn't going, but figures the loyalist ships are trying to keep an eye on the others as much as possible. He orders the next group into position, and as Nemesis and Pollux approach the planet, has them jump in. Levitt gets a profile on a White Star which Hall recognizes as Sheridan's forces. Hall orders fighters launched, and as the fleet readies for action, Levitt picks up a signal. It's Sheridan calling them, but the signal's coming from behind.
White Star 2 comes through the jumpgate with another group as he gives them an opportunity to surrender or depart. Hall is about to order the other ships to engage when another broadcast comes through, this one from the Vesta. Captain MacDougan tries to talk to Sheridan, saying they aren't following illegal orders since they haven't fired on civilians, but Sheridan says they are anyway just by being there, and asks what MacDougan's conscience says.
Just then, Heracles reaches firing range and lets loose a barrage of cannon pulses. The White Stars easily evade, but the Starfurys are devastated. Sheridan gives the order to retaliate and the game is on. Heracles takes a number of hits, and Hall gets frustrated when MacDougan doesn't do anything, ordering Vesta's first officer to take command when Mackie refuses. Vesta begins coming about, but the other three ships are still holding back. Sheridan orders a course toward the Furies to see what she'll do. Sheridan opens a channel to explain his intentions to her captain, but receives no response. As the White Star flies across their bow, Furies just sits there, and Sheridan informs his forces that they are non-combatant. Then they take a hit. Vesta has opened fire.
Sheridan reluctantly prepares to return fire, but gets a signal that the crew have removed their new captain and put Mackie back in charge. He declares Vesta non-com as well. Shortly after, Juno withdraws. Then Pollux manages to spear a White Star through the engines. Out of control, the ship crashes right into Pollux's bow. Sheridan watches, urging the crew to lifepods, but the ship blows apart moments later.
Marcus gets a signal that Nemesis is surrendering, which just leaves Captain Hall aboard the Heracles. Sheridan calls and orders him to stand down, but Hall thinks Sheridan is bluffing. Commander Levitt protests, but Hall thinks he's trapped dead either way. When he refuses to relent, she relieves him of command and contacts Sheridan to surrender.
Marcus says they won, but Sheridan says they achieved their objective, but too many died on both sides to be a victory. And this was just the opening move. Now Earth knows they're coming and will be ready next time. He calls the ship COs to meet with him and see where they stand.
When he meets with them, he explains that they now have to decide what happens next.
Option 1: the ships return home, though the crew of the Heracles will have to answer for their actions at some point.
Option 2: Stay and protect Proxima III from retaliation.
Option 3: Join his force to liberate Earth.
Levitt speaks up, that while she disagrees with many of Clark's policies, she doesn't agree with him either. Sheridan says their purpose is to defend Earth from all enemies, foreign and domestic, which Clark has become.
- Sheridan: Your oath is to the Alliance and to the people back home, not to any particular government.
He asks if this is the same Earth they swore to defend or if it has become something else. Did they sign on to shoot at unarmed civilians? Sheridan says he wants this to be a clean fight, just within Earth. The League worlds support him, but they won't get involved.
- Sheridan: We'll kick out Clark, and the Nightwatch and the rest of that bunch and we'll turn it over to the voters, let them decide if what we did was right or wrong. Because in the final analysis, those are the people we work for.
The other captains look at each other and Mackie says they need to talk it over.
Back on station, Londo is sitting at a bar with two drinks in front of him when G'Kar comes and takes the other.
- G'Kar: Issue the joint statement. I will sign my name, but not on the same page, you understand that?
Londo: Yes. Yes, of course.
Some time later, Mackie comes to the White Star with their decisions. Levitt will take Heracles to Beta 9 for repairs. Captain Eckland of the Furies has decided to stay and protect Proxima, and Captain Kawagawa of the Nemesis wants to join the fight. And so does Mackie. Sheridan is delighted to hear this.
On the Voice of the Resistance, Ivanova announces the liberation of Proxima III and the statement issued by the Narn and Centauri governments in support of this action, expressing hope that other worlds will join them as well.
Meanwhile, Garibaldi leaves heading for Mars. When is he coming back? "I'm not."
This episode contains examples of:
- Abandon Ship: A crippled White Star crashes into the Pollux. Sheridan watches helplessly, vocally hoping they make it to the escape pods. They don't.
- Anti-Mutiny: Occurs aboard the Vesta when Captain MacDougan decides to disobey orders to engage Sheridan's forces. Fleet captain Hall promptly replaces him with his XO Commander Philby , which leads to an actual mutiny when the crew subdues their new captain.
- Ascended Extra: This is the first episode we get to see David Corwin giving orders, as opposed to receiving them in C&C.
- The Atoner: Londo is acutely aware of his role in the events of the past few seasons, and is doing his best to make up for it.
- Batman Gambit: Sheridan sends a handful of White Stars to do flybys of Earth and Mars to make Clark think he's about to move on Earth. While Clark pulls ships back to cover the homeworlds, he intends to hit the colonies instead.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Captain Hall would rather die fighting Sheridan than report his failure to President Clark.
- Civil War: The Earth Alliance Civil War, which had remained "cold" since B5 declared independence now begins in earnest.
- Continuity Nod:
- Deadpan Snarker:Sheridan: Thank you for that ray of sunshine, Marcus. Next time I feel like being depressed I'll give you a call.
- Foreshadowing: Sheridan asks Franklin to see if he can get any of the Shadow-modified telepaths ready for transport, for a later operation.
- Friend or Foe: Sheridan does not wish to kill any more of the Earth Force personnel than he absolutely needs to. Part of his strategy is giving them the choice of standing down, retreating, or switching sides rather than backing them into a corner.
- Hyperspeed Ambush: Sheridan's forces jump out of hyperspace in two places and the jumpgate, intending to throw Captain Hall's forces out of position before closing the trap on them.
- Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: Sheridan takes the White Star directly through the field of fire of the Furies to see if they will engage him or not. When the ship does not fire on him, he orders it to be considered a noncombatant by his forces for the duration of the battle.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In the previous episode, the Pollux was the ship that fired on the two refugee ships (after retcons in the re-airings, anyway), which prompted Sheridan's Roaring Rampage of Revenge. In this episode, it's the fittingly the only ship of the Earthforce blockade to be destroyed, but by a collision with a damaged White Star rather than deliberate action by Sheridan.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Vir is about to say Londo's gone to meet with G'Kar, but catches himself and just says he's at a meeting.
- Meaningful Name: The ships that side with Sheridan, Nemesis and Furies, both aspects of divine justice, and Vesta, also known as Hestia, the protector of the home.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Deconstructed. Captain MacDougan argues that Sheridan is in the wrong, and makes the (ethically dubious) claim that he hasn't violated The Laws and Customs of War because he hasn't followed any illegal orders. Sheridan points out that acting in support of such orders is still illegal.
- After the battle, Sheridan meets with the Captains of the surrendered ships, and they debate this trope at length. Everyone realizes that this is a very complicated issue, and they don't agree on how to approach it.
- Neutral No Longer: Londo has convinced his government to choose a side and throw their support behind Sheridan's faction in the Earth Alliance Civil War. He convinces G'Kar that the Narn should do the same as a show of solidarity between former foes.
- Nose Art: White Star 2, Sheridan's flagship, bears Babylon 5's emblem, so the other side will know he's there.
- Not So Different: Londo and G'Kar, which Londo explains to G'Kar in a Patrick Stewart Speech.
- Oh, Crap!: A quick one, but for a moment, Captain Hall's face screams this when he's told that Sheridan's signal is coming from behind his ship.
- Overworked Sleep: Vir falling asleep doing some paperwork, though this is actually from being up so early.
- Point Defenseless: Par for the course on B5, utterly averted. Heracles opens up with her gun batteries, and several Starfuries are swatted within seconds.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The Juno chooses to withdraw from battle rather than engage or take sides.
- Take a Third Option: At the end of the episode, the Heracles's executive officer neither wishes to support Clark, nor fight against her own countrymen, so she instead decides to withdraw to an out-of-the-way colony and focus on repairing the badly damaged ship. Similarly, the captain of the Furies chooses to stay and defend Proxima III rather than join Sheridan's attack force.
- This Means War!: This episode picks up were the previous one ended. Ivanova tells the League of Non-Aligned worlds that they can no longer tolerate this behaviour and Sheridan declares that Earth stands alone.
- Title Drop: "Once we're in, we're in. No surrender, no retreat."
- Title Drop Chapter: This episode's title also happens to be the title of the entire season.
- Tsundere: G'Kar's eventual acceptance of Londo's offer (both the drink and the statement) positively drips with this, after he'd implicitly rejected both earlier. First, he sidles up to the bar, taking a drink that Londo had placed there. Then:G'Kar: Issue the statement. I will sign my name. But not on the same page, do you understand?
Londo: Yes. Yes, of course.
[After G'Kar leaves, Londo regards the now-empty glass, clearly touched.]
- Wham Episode: The cold war between Babylon 5 and President Clark ends, as Sheridan finally starts his campaign to liberate Earth.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Garibaldi leaves the station, knowing that he'll most likely never be able to come back.