I may be insane, but I’m sane enough to KNOW I’m insane!
Tekkadan is still reeling from Shino’s failed sacrifice. Orga yells at them to go pick up his body, but Eugene yells back that Shino took that risk to get the rest of them out of there alive, and they only have a little time before the timer on the Hotarubi is up. That timer is for set charges of nano-mirror chaff that scrambles nearly everyone’s radars, allowing them to escape. Mikazuki trounces Julieta and turns her into a busted and bloody mess shortly before the bomb goes off, with Julia’s remnants lost in the explosion.
This doesn’t stop McGillis and Gaelio’s fight, however, with their Gundams evenly matched in strength and speed. Isurugi spots the chaff explosion and tells the rest of the Revolutionary Forces to retreat back to Tekkadan and tells McGillis to do the same, but the match is too close to finishing now. He and Gaelio continue their argument about ideas and symbols, but they’re long past the point of seeing each other’s perspective. McGillis finally manages to gain a lead, but the wound from Almiria’s knife acts up, allowing Gaelio to go for the killing blow. It lands, but on Isurugi, who pulls a Haku from Naruto and blocks the strike for his crazy boss. McGillis escapes, and Isurugi uses his dying breath to explain his reasons for following him. He came from the colonies and was looked down upon simply for that, but McGillis strives to change that society, something that someone like Gaelio wouldn’t understand. Or at least, he wouldn’t if not for knowing Ein, and how his treatment showed HIM that Isurugi was just another victim of McGillis’ delusions.
A few days later, Tekkadan is still licking their wounds and morale is low as they head back to Mars for reinforcements. Yamagi is still torn up about Shino, Zack wants them all to throw in the towel but is quickly shot down, and Derma is broken up about losing his arm and considering himself useless. At a strategy meeting, McGillis informs them that they’ll have much more of an advantage on their home turf, but Orga is more concerned about losing more lives. He promised his friends a future, but all it’s led them to so far is a pile of dead bodies. In his moment of angst, Yamagi yells at him for being a coward and how he can’t understand how anyone is feeling. Eugene steps in, telling him that Shino once confided in him about loving how everyone in Tekkadan was different, and how he wanted to protect them. So, with him gone, they’ll all have to protect their friends.
In the hanger, Mika and Orga have another Rap Sess affirming their commitment to crushing their enemies and fulfill Orga’s goal.
Back with Rustal’s fleet, Gaelio visits Julieta in recovery. They discuss gaining the power to fight, and Julieta’s realization that she needs to make herself as a human, which pleases him. Rustal muses over how McGillis is about to fall into his trap, which manifests when McGillis arrives at Mars and finds out his Gjallerhorn rank has been stripped.
Like virtually all Gundam series, IBO is very serialized, but it’s still nice and refreshing to see when one episode can stand on its own with a consistent theme. In this case, it’s about something that fuels wars and battles in the first place: the fact that people just can’t completely understand each other. Almost every conversation in this episode supports this theme. People across factions, like Isurugi and Gaelio, people across factions in the alliance, like McGillis and Orga, and even people within the same faction, like Zach and Hush or Yamagi and Shino. We are all our own person, and while there will always be things we have in common with others, there are just as many things that set us apart. This can lead to fighting, war, and death, especially when we think we understand something we clearly don’t. Sometimes, people accept those differences and feel they are worth shedding blood, but the episode ends with two relationships that show another way: Accepting the difference and loving despite that. Julieta confesses to Gaelio that she better herself as she is and not submit to using other means just to gain power, and Shino admits to his ignorance of his friends’ feelings (even not knowing Yamagi’s feelings for him) but loves them all anyway. Yamagi’s smaller tear merging with his larger one is a perfect metaphor.
That’s not to say this didn’t stumble a bit, particularly regarding the resolution to the Gaelio vs McGillis/Isurugi fight (first it’s G vs Mc, then G vs I, then back to G vs Mc before I jumps back in for the end), but having such a strong narrative throughline overpowers that entirely. With the final five starting as strong as this, a strong finish is looking pretty likely.