Sheridan lies curled up in the corner of a dark room, thinking back on the events that led up to his betrayal by Michael Garibaldi and his capture by Clark's forces. Eventually a door opens and a nondescript looking man comes in, followed by guards bringing in a table and two chairs. As they leave, the man begins asking questions about Sheridan's health, any allergies, illnesses, medications, or heart troubles. Clearly interrogation is about to start and Sheridan doesn't say anything.
The interrogator instructs him to answer all questions immediately and honestly or face the consequences, and Sheridan goes to probably throttle him but as he gets close pain givers on his neck and arms go off, giving him an electric jolt. The interrogator just begins unpacking his briefcase, like it's just another day in the office, explaining that he's not the enemy here, he has no personal stake in this, it's just a job, and how uncomfortable this gets is entirely up to Sheridan. When asked, he explains he's there to ensure Sheridan's cooperation and will do whatever it takes to get it. He taps a control and the guards come in again and strap Sheridan to one of the chairs. The interrogator again asks if he has any health issues, and Sheridan says no. The man smiles and says they can begin.
Sheridan has apparently been left strapped to the chair for some time when the interrogator comes back in. He turns off a light that has been left in Sheridan's face and removes it before going back to his table. "Good morning." Sheridan says it's not morning, since there was light coming through the door earlier and now there isn't so it's night. The interrogator goes and turns the light on and off several times before leaving it on and calling it morning, so good morning. Sheridan is not amused. The interrogator takes off his coat and pulls some things out, goes to get his glasses which he forgot and zaps Sheridan for contradicting him. He spends the next few minutes writing in a notebook, looking over files, then checks his watch, says it's time for lunch and grabs a sandwich.
Looking over Sheridan's record he notices Sheridan has never been political. Which, according to Earth, would not make him likely to go around trying to overthrow the government unless he'd been influenced by other people. Sheridan says no, but the interrogator points out that everyone's influenced by the people around them, why wouldn't he be? Unless he's completely cut off from others. Sheridan snorts in disgust and the interrogator jots it down as a "fabrication".
He then comments on his corned beef sandwich, how it's done just right. He offers some to Sheridan, since it's lunch time, isn't it? Isn't it? It can't be morning, corned beef sandwiches are for lunch, so is it lunchtime? Sheridan says it probably is somewhere. The interrogator seems pleased with that and lets him have the sandwich. Sheridan's about to take a bite when he pauses. The interrogator reminds him that he already ate part of it. They have no interest in killing him...yet. Sheridan starts scarfing it down.
The interrogator begins talking about truth, how it's such a subjective thing and can be molded depending on what we perceive.
- Interrogator: Out there it doesn't matter what time it is; in here, it's lunchtime if you and I decide that it is. The truth is sometimes what you believe it to be, and other times what you decide it to be. My task is to make you decide to believe differently, and when that happens the world will remake itself before your very eyes.
Sheridan protests it'll never happen, but the interrogator says he does it all the time. First the Minbari were the enemy, then suddenly they stopped being the enemy, both were the truth at different times. And now Earth Force is the enemy, it all depends on what you believe and what others tell you. As a soldier, Sheridan should be very familiar with this, it's the nature of his job to enforce the policies of his superiors, even if they were the exact opposite the day before. Unless he's rejecting everything he claimed to stand for.
Sheridan eats the last of the sandwich and says it was pretty good. The interrogator accuses him of being evasive, which he thinks is better than being dishonest. The interrogator begins pointing out all the changes in stance Sheridan's made just since they've been in the room together, whereas he has spoken nothing but the truth. "Just remember it's time for supper."
The interrogator then begins casually talking about taking small amounts of toxin to build up an immunity to it, so you can eat something, a corned beef sandwich for example, that had said toxin on it without ill effect. Sheridan won't be so lucky, and the interrogator says he'll be back after they've cleaned up.
When the interrogator returns, Sheridan is lying on the ground still feeling the effects of the toxin. "Good morning." He comes over to check on Sheridan, then apologizes for having to do that, it's just part of the process. He finds it distasteful, but there's nothing he can do. They don't listen...well they do, at random points during the day, and if they don't hear results the consequences could be dire. It'd be better to just cooperate, then they'd let him go.
Since Sheridan's dehydrated, the interrogator offers a drink of some kind, completely free of anything unpleasant. He recommends small sips.
He then begins talking about some records, trying to confirm if Ivanova is still his XO. Sheridan is reluctant to tell him, just because he wants it, but the interrogator reminds him that he doesn't want anything, but his superiors do. He asks if Sheridan is feeling better ("Yes.) then invites him to come over. Sheridan struggles to his feet then goes over to the other chair.
The interrogator then mentions that he ran into Sheridan's father, who sends his regards. Why? Why not? He had no reason not to, so he did. And he expects a thank you, which Sheridan reluctantly gives. Of course, they'll be holding his father until Sheridan cooperates as well.
Next question: been interrogated before?
- Sheridan: Yes.
Interogator: Anyone I know?
Sheridan: You'd be surprised.
The interrogator then pulls out some papers, explaining that it's Sheridan's confession to treason, mutiny, conspiracy, terrorism, illegal seizure of Earth property, assault, and various other up to the murder of the crew of the EAS Roanoke. Sheridan shouts that he won't sign it, but the interrogator fires back that he will, and read it in public and name his accomplices. And apologize for his actions then plead for mercy. Sheridan demands an attorney and a hearing before a military tribunal. He has the right...right? What right? In here there are no rights. Only a confession that he will sign if he ever wants to see the light of day again. The interrogator has had enough for now, and leaves.
When he comes back ("Good morning.") he has a sobbing Drazi brought in, who begins to record a confession that he was among those who influenced Sheridan and turned him against Earth. Sheridan keeps trying to talk the Drazi out of it, but the Drazi is too afraid to refuse. Sheridan keeps telling him not to give in, not to give them what they want. He extols the bravery of the Drazi, their strength and pride. Eventually the Drazi looks him in the eye, and says he has nothing further to say. The interrogator urges him to continue, but the Drazi will not cooperate any longer. The interrogator begins asking the Drazi if he understands that this is his last chance, as Sheridan asks what's going to happen. The Drazi just says, "yes", and despite Sheridan's protests is removed from the room.
The interrogator orders him taken to Room 17, then picks up with trying to update the record on Ivanova or contacts in the Resistance until Sheridan demands to know what will happen to the Drazi. The interrogator sighs and pinches his nose, and just says he was expendable. They're all expendable, except Sheridan, at least until the higher-ups lose patience. He again encourages Sheridan to cooperate, it would make everything a lot easier. Suddenly the Drazi is heard screaming from somewhere else. The interrogator apologizes again for what they have to do then packs up for the day. Before he leaves he starts a recording telling Sheridan to confess and conform to the state, over and over and over...
Sheridan eventually falls asleep until the interrogator comes back and turns the recording off. "Good morning." He takes down Sheridan's nutrition IV, and warns him not to take it any further. They've already restricted him from solid food. He again takes out the confession and tells Sheridan that they're not keeping him here, he's keeping himself here.
- Interrogator: Don't you want to leave? Don't you want to be free? Walk thought that door, feel the sun on your face again?
Interrogator: Then sign it and speak. That's all. Then you can go.
The interrogator explains that they don't want him dead, they want him to be seen, to meet people, travel, be a symbol of the preeminent truth of the time, that you cannot beat the system. They will come eventually, but it won't be for a while, they'll wait until he's been forgotten, it'll be quick, but until then he will have his freedom. As the interrogator begins encouraging Sheridan to sign again, he suddenly sees Delenn standing there, watching him. The interrogator releases him, and he reaches over...and spits on it. "No." The interrogator looks disappointed, saying he wishes he hadn't done that. He says what comes next is out of his hands, then leaves as Sheridan allows himself a somewhat satisfied look.
When the interrogator comes back, there are no pleasantries. He tells Sheridan that as a war hero, he has a certain pull with the public, and when he begins to believe certain things, others start to believe certain things. And that's a problem since his views are currently at odds with the State's. It's either one or the other, and they've decided they can make do without him. They can forge his signature and create his image and that will have to do now.
- Sheridan: You know it's funny, I was thinking about what you said, "the preeminent truth of our age is you cannot fight the system". But if, as you say, the truth is fluid, the truth is subjective, then maybe you can fight the system, as long as just one person refuses to be broken, refuses to bow down.
Interrogator: But can you win?
Sheridan: Every time I say "no".
The interrogator gets up and asks one more time if he will sign a confession, "No", then calls for the guards to take Sheridan away. As he is carted down a hall to Room 17, a priest reads his last rites, and as they approach the lit room, he sees Delenn waiting for him.
He is brought into the room where a hooded figure waits for him. The figure leaves...then the guards come back, strap him to a chair and another interrogator comes in ("Good morning") and the whole process starts over again, while the figure comes back and takes off his hood to reveal the Drazi. Sheridan resigns himself to having to resist them all over again.
This episode contains examples of:
- Acquired Poison Immunity: The interrogator claims to have it, which lets him eat the same food as Sheridan and not be affected.
- Ambiguous Situation: Given the high degree of Mind Screw present, a few examples present themselves. First, Sheridan sees Delenn twice, whether it's in his head or an elaborate illusion on the part of the interrogators is up to debate. Similarly, the executioner who reveals himself to be a Drazi could either be another thing going on in Sheridan's head under stress, or just an indicator that the Drazi was in on it the whole time. According to Word of God, it's the latter: the Drazi was collaborating.
- Bottle Episode: The only scenes from outside the cell are flashbacks. Otherwise it's just Sheridan and the interrogator in a room.
- Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: The interrogator leaves Sheridan alone overnight with a canned, repeating recording of the interrogator's own voice, demanding compliance "for the good of the State and your own survival."
- Closed Circle: The lack of a B plot means the audience shares Sheridan's sense of isolation. He has no idea if the war is going badly or well.
- Continuity Nod:
- The paingivers were first introduced in The Parliament of Dreams. Also they were acquired from the Narn, presumably while they were selling weapons to Earth during the Minbari War.
- When asked who he'd been interrogated by before, he just says, "You'd be surprised." Like anyone would believe it was Jack the Ripper.
- One of the crimes Sheridan is to confess to is the murder of the crew of the Roanoke.
- Denied Food as Punishment: Double Subverted. Sheridan is denied food for several days before the episode starts, which the interrogator says is standard procedure to try to soften a prisoner up. Not long after getting to work the interrogator allows Sheridan to eat a corn beef sandwich, but the sandwich was laced with a toxin that caused him to vomit afterward.
- The Determinator: Sheridan.William: But can you win?
Sheridan: Every time I say "No"!
- Electric Torture: Sheridan is wearing paingivers that William uses to punish Sheridan if he misbehaves.
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: Save for the paingivers and what was done to him as part of the "softening up" phase, in this part Clark's men use non-violent, but very potent means to break Sheridan to the point he can pass a telepathic scan.
- Exact Words:
- The interrogator claims that he Will Not Tell a Lie. Be very, very careful about making assumptions when he leaves something unsaid, however.
- The interrogator comes in and says, "Morning." A few minutes later, he pulls out a corn beef sandwich and starts eating. He offers some to Sheridan for lunch, but then Sheridan notes he just said it was morning. The interrogator recalls that and says how one can't have a sandwich like this for breakfast. So what time is it? Sheridan resolves by saying it's lunchtime somewhere. This pleases the man enough to offer him the sandwich.
- False Confession: Played with. The interrogator's ultimate goal is to get Sheridan to not merely sign it - his signature, after all, can easily be forged if he won't give them a real one - but to actually believe it. To accomplish this Sheridan has to be completely meantally/psychologically broken and rebuilt.
- Faux Affably Evil: Don't let the interrogator's mild-mannered demeanor fool you. Everything he does, whether cruel or seemingly benign, is calculated to lower Sheridan's guard and break down his resistance.
- Gaslighting: Much of the Interrogator's technique comes down to this, paired with 2 + Torture = 5.
- Heroic Resolve: Sheridan refuses to break.
- Hope Spot: Room 17 is this. The room is described with a finality to it. Sheridan is strapped to a gurney and taken there with a priest giving him last rites along the way. He fully expects death, and might welcome it to escape from the torment the place puts the person through. Except what is found there isn't death. Being sent to Room 17 just means they will now start over from the beginning. Room 17 takes away any hope of an escape by death.
- Locked in the Dungeon: Sheridan is trapped in an inescapable place with his perceptions of time being messed with as a means to break him.
- Mind Screw: A Drazi is brought in, forced to record a confession saying he and others influenced Sheridan, and when Sheridan convinces him to not do it, they take him out and we hear screaming coming from another room. Sheridan is lead to another room, seemingly for execution, where a man wearing a black executioner's hood is waiting, but after a minute another interrogator comes in and begins the process all over while the executioner removes his hood to reveal... the Drazi.
- Minimalism: Never more than three speaking characters at once, composed mostly of dialogue, and the vast majority of it taking place in a featureless black room.
- More than Mind Control: One of the objectives is to get Sheridan to believe his own False Confession.
- Morton's Fork: The interrogator asks Sheridan if he wants to admit that he had been rebelling against Clark due to an "influence from outsiders". Sheridan replies "No", and the interrogator acts surprised, saying that everyone is influenced by others, that it is part of being human, and concludes that Sheridan is either lying or out of his mind if he believes that other people have no influence over him. However, if Sheridan had confirmed that he had been influenced by others, the interrogator would have concluded that Sheridan is merely a puppet of alien governments, as the ISN reporters did before.
- Never My Fault: The interrogator is never responsible for what happens here. It's always his superiors who make him do it this way or Sheridan who brings it on himself.
- Only One Name: The interrogator's name is revealed in the credits: it's William. The second interrogator is not named, though.
- Platonic Cave: Discussed and Invoked, as part of the Mind Screw.
- The Power of Love: Demonstrated again. Sheridan holds on to his memory of Delenn to not sign a False Confession.
- Real Time: Each act of the episode runs on this time frame, with the act breaks being the "intersections".
- Room 101: Room 17. This is were uncooperative people go. When Sheridan is finally sent there, he finds not death, not pain. Just the whole situation starting over with a new man asking the same things the first one did.
- Rousing Speech: As rousing as can be managed in a dungeon, as Sheridan manages to light the Drazi's last spark of pride and dignity.
- Self-Poisoning Gambit: The interrogator uses a combination of this trope, Acquired Poison Immunity, and some Exact Words to get Sheridan to eat a sandwich that will make Sheridan sick.
- Shout-Out: The door leading out to an empty corridor, with a light defining "day" or "night", and thus messing with Sheridan`s sense of time, shouts out to No Exit of Jean Paul Sartre. The room in that play also has a corridor behind it, and we get a sense that the entire building is messing with the main characters. Understated that Sheridan is in some kind of Hell.
- The recurring allusions to Nineteen Eighty-Four in regards to the Clark regime are in full force in this episode: the interrogation is highly reminiscent of Winston Smith's interrogation by O'Brien, Room 17 is a clear reference to Room 101 and the interrogator informs Sheridan that if he confesses, he will be released and allowed to live a comfortable life until he is eventually forgotten and later quietly killed, which is exactly what happens to Winston.
- And of course: "Every time you say no". The statement rings familiar to those who have seen Spartacus. At the end of the movie, Spartacus states that the Romans will never win as long as one person stands up to them.
- Slasher Smile: The interrogator has a rather wide grin as he says "We can begin".
- Spiteful Spit: As it looks like Sheridan on on the verge of signing the confession, he spits on it.
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: William looks and acts like a mild mannered accountant despite being a Torture Technician for a fascist regime. If there was ever any character that fully embodied the concept of "the banality of evil" it's him.
- 2 + Torture = 5:
- Inverted by Sheridan, who states that if the truth is flexible, then that means that he can decide that what he believes is the truth just as easily as the Interrogator can state the opposite.
- Also invoked by the torturers. A False Confession isn't good enough; Sheridan needs to believe the confession for it to pass muster with telepaths.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: After feeding him the sandwich, the Interrogator leaves before Sheridan starts throwing up and comes back the next morning after it's been cleaned up.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: At the end, Sheridan is in an identical room, with a different interrogator starting the whole process over again. It is easy to wonder what happened to the last guy who failed to get a confession from Sheridan.