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In the Babylon 5 episode Voices of Authority, this exchange happens between Ivanova and Sheridan:

Ivanova: Is there anything else you need?
Sheridan: A glass of whiskey, a gun, and two bullets.
Ivanova: Understood.

What Sheridan says feels like a quote from something. Does anyone know definitively whether or not it is, or if it's original JMS? If it is indeed a quote, what is it a quote from?

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Hmm, it looks like the best answer is a combination of the two given: That the line is original JMS, but that he probably knew of the tradition mentioned by @BobWarwick. I hate it when this happens. Which answer to accept? –  Trebor Rude Mar 26 at 2:55
    
Well, it seems to me as if the tradition mentioned by @BobWarwick likely influenced the line, and Bob has less rep than Richard, so I'll give Bob the win on this one. –  Trebor Rude Mar 27 at 2:50
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

TVTropes make this claim:

This is actually a play on a practice of the British Army back in the imperial days, when officers (particularly those of noble birth) accused of heinous crimes would be given the option of a pistol with one shot, and a bottle of whiskey. Their subsequent "suicide" would be less damaging to their family than a trial.

For those that are interested, here are a couple of references to the practice in relatively recent British media:

A drink, a revolver - and the strange death of a Liberal leader
PETER OBORNE: So, who will hand Brown the loaded revolver and bottle of whisky?

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An interesting, but not quite definitive answer. Also, are you aware of any other references to said practice? –  Trebor Rude Mar 25 at 4:50
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I've looked into this, and all references I can find are variations on the same TVTropes page @Bob Warwick linked. –  James Sheridan Mar 25 at 5:29
    
But what is the first bullet for? –  Paul A. Clayton Mar 25 at 15:03
    
Added a couple of links in the answer, since the link-handling ability is much better in answers than in comments. –  Trebor Rude Mar 26 at 2:53
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JMS answered this question in an online chat a few years ago;

Subj: Re:Poe, Zampolits, & 2nd Bul[let]
Date: 96-02-06 21:10:01 EST
From: JMS at B5
Posted on: America Online

The second bullet, in theory, would be for oneself.

The clear implication is that Sheridan will drink the whiskey, shoot Julie Musante and then shoot himself.

As to the origin of the line itself, there's no real indication that that it's not completely original. All of my attempts to find an earlier reference simply lead back to the same TV tropes page where you can find at least 20 variations on the same theme from earlier films and TV shows.

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I never had any doubts as to what Sheridan was implying. Although I suppose a debate could have arisen over whether the second bullet was for Sheridan or just in case the first didn't do its job. JMS answers that nicely here. –  Trebor Rude Mar 26 at 2:47
    
@TreborRude - it's simply a very common tv and film trope. For example, there's a nearly identical line (not played for laughs) in The Dreyfuss affair which JMS would certainly have seen. –  Richard Mar 26 at 5:35
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