Even when a planet chooses neutrality, it cannot escape the hardships of war. The Trade Federation and the Republic control trade routes. It is all too easy to divert supplies away from planets that aren't supporting either side. The neutral planet of Mandalore has taken a disastrous hit; Episode 5 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Corruption, shows that some of its people have taken desperate measures.
Duchess Satine has not been able to get the supplies her planet needs. Many citizens have been forced to dealing in the black market just to get by. For diplomatic reasons, Satine invites her friend, Senator Padmé Amidala to visit Mandalore. In an odd move for a neutral planet, Satine arranges for a grand parade welcome for the Senator. As the women enjoy the fanfare, a small ship arrives to the docks. The ship seems to pick a quiet corner of the dock to unload. The occupants are obviously smugglers. Sure enough, they are bribing a customs official within minutes. They unload their goods, bottles of some kind, undeterred.
While the black market is thriving, Satine and Padmé sit in on a discussion about the issue with Mandalore's ministers of government. The group soon disintegrates into arguments about utilizing smugglers and stopping the present corruption. When Padmé tries to assist by speaking, she is called hypocritical for lecturing them on corruption. She is a member of the Republic Senate after all. Most of the ministers assume all of the Senate is corrupt. The talk leads nowhere. Meanwhile, the smugglers continue to wheel in stacks of bottles, and we see that dock guards are also giving them free passage. The bottles contain tea, and they also have a barrel of a hazardous chemical called slabin. It's a diluting agent; if it is added to the bottled tea, the product and profit can be doubled. Sure, it is a toxic substance, but only when mixed incorrectly.
A new day begins on Mandalore. Satine and Padmé plan to visit a recently opened hospital to see real good at work. When they arrive, they see an alarming number of sick children. The doctors say that the children have been poisoned. They are unsure of the cause, and the problem is widespread. The only common tie is that the children all attended the same school. The Ruling Council is convinced that the Deathwatch is behind the plot, but Satine doesn't agree. She is less concerned with politics and understands the urgency of stopping the poison. After a few wardrobe changes, Satine and Padmé begin conducting an investigation.
Satine can't trust just anyone so she asks for the help of her personal guards. They start researching the source of the poison at the school. They realize that though the food was tested, the bottled drinks many of the children consume were not. Yes, the bottles are the same ones brought to the planet by the smugglers. Testing shows that the tea has a heavy concentration of slabin. The dosage is strong enough to poison children. Satine and Padmé visit the docks to obtain the import logs, but they've been erased. The school superintendent accompanying them makes a pathetic attempt at sneaking off, but he is stopped and questioned. He admits that he was trying to line his pockets but had no idea that the tea would be poisonous.
As they get to the root of the issue, they meet an impertinent representative of a shipping company. He gives up the information needed to catch the smugglers in the act. Satine, Padmé, and the guards watch as the smugglers pay off the same customs official. Satine is shocked by the bribery. She does not act yet, deciding instead to see how far up the chain of command the corruption extends. She questions the captain of the police. He is in denial that anything like what she is describing could happen under his watch. He refuses to believe her until he sees actual proof at the dock. His police are guarding the warehouse with the contaminated product, but they have gone against orders. The captain fights his way in. They find the poisoned bottles and the people responsible. Satine orders the guards to burn down the warehouse. It is evidence, but presumably, she did not want to risk any further distribution of the tainted product.
Corruption is a recurring theme in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and films. The temptations of power or money, which Satine describes as the most powerful weapon in war, are strong. Many give in, from the simple customs official on Mandalore to members of the Senate. Though Prime Minister Almec of Mandalore promises to form a committee to determine the reach of the corruption, Duchess Satine is doubtful. She asks Padmé to speak to the Jedi on her behalf; she believes their assistance would be more effective than the work of a committee. Padmé encourages hopes and leaves for Coruscant.
Trivia & Notes
The alien smugglers with the pharaoh-like headdresses are Moogans. This is the first appearance of the race.
The primary design aesthetic of Mandalore is cubes. When Padmé and Satine are eating dinner, you'll notice that some of their food is cubed. The children's food at the school is also cube-shaped.What'd you think of the new episode?