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'Caprica' recap: Sipping Scorpion Ambrosia in the dead girl's empty bedroom

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Image Credit: Eike Schroter/Syfy Tomas Vergis looks a little bit like a propaganda cartoon version of Daniel Graystone. He wears the same suits, but with better tailoring, and with the added hint of blue-collar Tauronese muscle underneath those fitted shirt sleeves. Danny Graystone is a family man, a failed father who needs his wife to rescue him from Baxter Sarno. Tommy Vergis (go ahead, call him Tommy, we’re friends) goes on Sarno with a gift bag of Tauron cigars, radiating nonchalant charisma as he teases Caprica City about his immigration plans. (Watching him on Sarno, I thought he looked a little bit like an alternate-universe Richard Burton who never drank before dinnertime and never married the same girl twice).

Tomas Vergis is, in short, the kind of Tauron everyone, even your traditional Caprican grandmother, would love. Just make sure he doesn’t roll up those shirt sleeves. Grammy might be understanding, but those tattoos will give her a heart attack.

We heard a little bit about Vergis before last night’s episode of Caprica, and last night we finally got to meet him. John Pyper-Ferguson was the actor (BSG fans might remember him as Captain Cole Taylor, one of many ill-fated officers from the Pegasus), and in under an hour, he added yet another fascinating characterization to the ever-expanding Caprica cast. And his wasn’t even the most eye-popping introduction: that would be Barnabas, played by a strikingly un-Spike-ish James Marsters, emerging from his hiding place at the docks with his arm wrapped in what looked like barbed wire. Ah, so he’s that kind of monotheist.

Together, these two characters epitomize everything I’m loving about Caprica. They couldn’t be more different, and in fact, it’s hard to imagine how they would ever appear in the same scene. Vergis is a public figure with all the resources of a worlds-spanning megacorp, but his purpose is very direct: the destruction of Daniel Graystone. Barnabas is a shadowman with no resources beyond what his high school minions can buy without their parents noticing, but his purpose couldn’t be more expansive: the destruction of an entire religion, of a state of being, for the greater glory of his god. Vergis buys Pyramid teams; Barnabas blows up holocafes. Somehow, they feel equally dangerous.

I don’t know if last night’s Caprica was the best episode yet, but it was the first episode that made me feel the creators of the show know exactly what they’re doing. Scenes moved along at a fast pace, but nothing felt hurried. Whether we were peering over Philomon’s shoulder as he waited in vain for Caprica V-Match to E-Harmonize his love life, or watching Sister Clarice work a minor seduction on Amanda Graystone, or even just basking in the warmly awkward kitchen interplay between Joe Adama and his secretary (more on that  later), everything felt perfectly paced. Caprica is like a raconteur who knows just when to throw in a brief digression.

Which might just be a lofty way of saying: not a whole lot happened last night, but I was fascinated, astounded, breathlessly invested for the whole hour, even so. Part of it, I think, is the little details. I love how Amanda and Daniel call each other “Dr. Graystone,” with just a hint of teasing sarcasm. I love how Emptor Electronics sells their Holobands terrible plastic packaging, and I love that Joe Adama’s solution is the same as Larry David’s. And I love the way that Zoe explains to Philomon that she’s “cash poor,” which is the socially acceptable way to say “poor.”

The most notable thing about last night’s episode, “Know thy Enemy,” is that almost every plot thread involved the interaction of two people who have, so far, been living in separate spheres of the show. Let’s run down the list:

Amanda and Clarice

“I saw you on Sarno and I thought you were wonderful,” said Clarice, lying. She brought over a bunch of books that didn’t belong to Zoe. Fortunately, Amanda never paid much attention to her daughter’s course schedule, so she shed a tear of Markowitz’ Math and was very agreeable to cracking a bottle of Scorpion Ambrosia. A boozy afternoon of remembrance and espionage ensued.

I thought the actual action here was pretty direct – Clarice’s terrorist-husbands had given her a magic Science-Fiction information machine that absorbed information from Daniel’s mainframe. (She didn’t get the Zoe-Avatar, but was there other important information on that computer?) But I enjoyed finally seeing these two HBO-approved actresses interact.

It seems to be Amanda Graystone’s sad destiny to never know when people are lying to her face (Sam Adama, Clarice, her husband, her daughter), but I found it incredibly sad when she started talking about Lacy, and “How much she hated Daniel’s work.” It sounded more to me like she hated Daniel’s work, but that’s the Scorpion Ambrosia for you.

Clarice fled Casa Graystone for a victory lap around her opium den. Amanda presumably nursed an early-evening hangover. Note: this plotline featured the second best ever use of the word “frak,” when Amanda referred to Agent Duram as “That MotherFRAKKER.” The best ever use remains this proud utterance by Colonel Saul Tigh.

Philomon and Zoe-Avatar

He’s a nerdy engineer, she’s the digitally recreated personality of a dead terrorist; call me nutty, but I’m hoping these two crazy kids make it! Philomon’s adventures in the Caprican version of Match.com weren’t too successful, but Zoe took some pity on him and set up a V-world date with “Rachel.” (Isn’t it interesting that the Zoe-Avatar already has a completely different taste in men than Zoe? Or am I the only one who thinks that Ben Stark is the polar opposite of geeky, awkward Philomon?)

Philomon’s V-world avatar was wearing a fantastic suit that unfortunately looks unfashionable on any plane of reality. Zoe was wearing glasses, and here’s another reason to love Caprica: Philomon instantly realized that she looked exactly like Zoe Graystone, except with glasses. Zoe mumbled something about getting a designer avatar (I suppose it’s not too different from high schoolers wearing Che Guevara shirts). Philomon said that he actually kind of liked Zoe Graystone. And they say the Zoe Avatar’s heart grew three sizes that day.

Lacy Rand and the Soldiers of the One

We’re starting to see signs of conflict within the ranks of the STO. Sister Clarice, for all of her sketchball sneaking around, is beginning to seem like a peacenik, in opposition to the holocafe-bombing lunatic fringe which is beginning to take the reigns of STO policy. She just wants to find the avatar – she calls it “a continuation of the soul to eternity,” and, in a myth-exploding speech, talked about the notion of a heaven that we could see. A heaven of digitality, existing just to the side of our own reality. Our understanding of V-World is growing every episode; in a funny way, Daniel Graystone is beginning to look more and more like an accidental god.

(The notion of human beings creating a heaven isn’t a new one. If you can wade through some truly awful comic book meta-plotlines, there’s a fascinating narrative arc in Marvel Comics’ Earth X saga about the creation of an entire alternate universe intended to hold the souls of the dead. This leads into a lengthy discussion about what heaven should look like. Also, as more souls arrive in heaven, it becomes too big and starts to encroach on real reality. Also, aliens attack heaven. It’s weird, but awesome.)

ANYWAYS: over in the STO’s Lunatic Fringe Squadron, Keon Gatwick took his girlcrush Lacy to meet Barnabas. Barnabas refused to help Lacy carry anything to Gemenon, and generally acted rather uncouth. I feel like we’re about one dynamite Lacy-centric episode away from this plotline being a bit more interesting, but there was something so perfect about seeing Barnabas, sitting in his broken-down easy chair.

Daniel Graystone and Joseph Adama

In my humble and probably-wrong opinion, we don’t see these two together enough. I admire how Caprica mostly refuses to force its main characters together, but there’s a real fire in the way that Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales play off each other.

There was something eerie in how their scene came together. Joe put on the holoband, and was greeted by a digital version of Daniel (who apparently serves the same purpose as the Microsoft Paperclip.) Thinking it was the real Daniel, he tore off his holoband in terror. Then he put the band back on, and was just asking fake-Daniel about Tamara, when REAL-Daniel pulled him out of V-World for a stern talking-to.

Is there any way that we can get these two very different men together more often? I’m not saying that I want to see them solve mysteries or work at a hospital or anything. I just miss seeing them hang out, smoke some cigarettes, and talk about all the things they lost along the way to right now.

How did you feel about “Know Thy Enemy,” viewers? Would you sell your Pyramid team for wads and wads of sweaty cash? Was Vergis’ closing speech awesome, or was it the best speech ever? Are you loving that there are at least ten awesome ideas in every episode of Caprica? And did I misread my screen, or is Tamara’s mystery-boy from New Cap City really named Tad Thorean?

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