"The Ties That Blind"
Week of November 12, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Brothers and Keepers

"The Ties That Blind" Plot Summary:

With Anasazi teaching Gemini to fight and Harper off the ship at a surfing championship, Captain Hunt is having a slow day until the Wayist ship Om Shanti hails the Andromeda begging for assistance. Rev Bem, himself a Wayist, recognizes the spiritual leader known as Serenity and begs the captain to save him. The only other passenger is a Brother of the Way named Raphael Valentine -- Beka's brother.

Rafe calls Beka "Rocket," but she says it's hard to recognize him in a monk's robes, and doesn't for a moment believe this isn't a scam. He claims he doesn't know who tried to kill them, but he was taking Serenity to peace talks with the Restorians -- a group of terrorists who devastate space lines to stop colonization and corruption of native cultures. Beka explains to Hunt that the Free Trade Alliance vehemently oppose these extremists. Hunt offers to take the refugees to the peace conference as a step towards promoting Commonwealth ideology.

Anasazi confronts Rev Bem, demanding to know why the Om Shanti hailed the Andromeda Ascendant by name. The Magog admits that he used a homing signal. It has not escaped Tyr's notice that during its flight, the little ship emitted the same energy patterns as the vessel that self-destructed several weeks earlier to avoid being identified by Andromeda. Hunt finds it just as odd that Beka's brother is a Brother, but she snorts that if Rafe Valentine's a monk, she's a vestal virgin. She also knows it can't be a coincidence that of the billions of people in the galaxy, Rafe happened to run into her. Her older sibling claims he wants to make amends for having caused Beka and their father pain. She is shocked that her unrepentant brother would ever apologize for anything, and tells Hunt that if Wayism could turn a born killer like Rev Bem into a monk, maybe it really has changed Rafe, too.

Then they learn that Rafe has launched the Eureka Maru, using Beka's command codes. Furious, she pursues him to the nearby Starlight and Still Water monastery, only to learn that he is meeting in seclusion with a spiritual advisor. While she waits, Rev Bem asks Serenity why he trusts someone of such a dubious background. "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," says the leader, who empathizes with those who resist colonization on the grounds that profiteering squanders the gifts of the universe. Meanwhile Rafe is meeting not with another monk, but a terrorist who wants him to blow up Andromeda. Rafe complains this wasn't part of the original plan, but his contact says that someone named Valentine will have to die -- Rafe can decide which.

Andromeda and Ronnie argue about inconsistencies in the Om Shanti's damage reports and navigational records. Beka flies her brother back to the ship; on the way, he says he is having second thoughts about Wayism. When his sabotage begins to take effect, Hunt attacks Rafe, demanding to know what he did to Andromeda, but Beka defends her brother, passing on his story that he's working undercover for the Free Trade Alliance. Hunt demands that Rafe help save his crew by doing exactly as ordered. While Rev Bem tries hailing incoming vessels, then praying, Gemini and Anasazi race to the engine room to try to restore the slipstream drive.

On an open channel, Beka announces that her lying bastard of a brother took off in the Om Shanti, and must be working for the Restorians -- he has stolen Andromeda's access codes. Pursuing in the Maru, she listens to Rafe explain that he'll become her partner once Andromeda explodes, but she launches kinetic warheads at him for his betrayal. Rev Bem prays for his eternal life, but says they're all dead: Rafe broadcast the Andromeda codes to the Restorians before his ship blew up. Using the stolen data for guidance, the terrorists fire their missiles. . .which turn around and go back, destroying the ships that launched them. Gosh, says Beka, there must have been a virus programmed into the targeting systems.

Safely on the Maru, Rafe says he's impressed by his sister and also by fossilized High Guard officer Dylan Hunt, who was surprisingly devious in planning to trick the Restorians. Hunt suggests they get away before more Wayist saboteurs turn up, prompting Rev Bem to point out that neither Rafe nor the man claiming to be Serenity were real Wayists. Hunt says he knows -- he knew all along -- but how dare Rev Bem have sent out a homing signal without his authority. The captain invites the elder Valentine to stay aboard, but Rafe has schemes of his own, now that his little sister and her friends have cleared his slate with the Free Trade Alliance. It's "back to business as usual," as he says.


The wit and energy of "The Ties That Blind" more than compensate for the roller-coaster feeling of the plot, which becomes difficult to follow as it twists and turns around Rafe's phony alliances. I felt sorry for poor Dylan Hunt, who must have been at least as confused as I was about who the players were -- not to mention who was playing whom. We know about Wayists since Rev Bem has been around all along, and we've met Restorians, though none of us knew that was the name of the enemy from "D Minus Zero" until they showed up again here. Now we learn there are different sects of Wayists, and a Free Trade Alliance who aren't nearly as benevolent as their name suggests.

The episode centers around the tense relationship between Beka and her brother, but that serves as a metaphor for the larger universe, where groups that might want to trust each other can't get past the terrible track records of others and their own self-interested schemes. If there's cause for hope, it's epitomized by the strange relationship developing between Anasazi and Gemini -- two people whose philosophies and personal styles couldn't be more different, yet who are willing to teach one another and learn from one another. And then there are problems like Andromeda's -- she has to stop and argue with herself, as well as with everyone else. If a handful of people on one ship have such problems, no wonder chaos ensues on a galactic scale.

Yet "The Ties That Blind" is unfailingly optimistic, and for the most part, people end up striving to do what they believe is right, as opposed to merely expedient. The quotation at the start of the episode suggests that following The Way should be no more difficult than sleeping or waking, a commentary which could apply to the many different Ways pursued by Hunt and his crew. Harper tries to stay on top of the waves; Anasazi looks out for number one; Rev Bem tries to submit to the will of the divine. Unfortunately, every time I hear "The Way," I think of Eli on Xena expounding on the Way of Love, which produces uncomfortable Christian overtones when Rev Bem's beliefs seem more open to there being many different paths to truth.

God only knows what Trance's Way might be. Her flamboyant pledge of loyalty to Hunt, which inspires her to threaten Tyr physically, causes bemusement rather than making an impression. Having her yell "Hee haw!" all the time just makes her look stupid. But she was the first to suspect Serenity's integrity -- or, at least, she was unimpressed enough with him to suggest that she knew divine will as well as he. I did like that. Anasazi seems determined to make a pilot and a warrior out of Gemini for reasons I can't quite fathom, other than the need for everyone on the ship to be competent in flying and fighting skills -- and because she's actually open to some of his suggestions, which must seem to him like a refreshing change from Hunt.

The captain certainly takes the news of his AWOL chief engineer well, and is more willing to give Rafe a chance than is Beka. Aware of the need for pragmatism yet wanting to believe, she came across like Hunt in most of his dealings with aliens, and Rafe came through for her the way people often come through for Hunt, raising themselves to the level of his expectation. Of course Rafe doesn't want to kill his little sister, but he doesn't really want to kill her colleagues, either, and she doesn't want to believe he would. They never really have it out about that particular question, which is too bad. Beka's certainly no angel, she and Rafe discuss problems she's had with smugglers and bounty hunters in the past, yet she has a strong code of honor that seems to consist mostly of loyalty to individuals -- even individuals who may not really deserve it, like her own family members.

Does Rev Bem's choice to trust his brothers in The Way constitute betrayal? Hunt doesn't call it that, but we already know he won't fire weapons even in the interests of Andromeda's safety. What is the proper balance between loyalty to people and loyalty to abstract ideals? I am certain we will be learning more about The Way, the Restorians, and the Free Trade Alliance, plus all the people like Rafe who move around in the spaces between them, so I suspect this question will come up again and again.

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