”Battlestar Galactica” recap: Civil wars
This episode was titled ”The Ties That Bind,” and I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that maybe the writers meant that ironically. As we take one step closer to our Earth-bound end — 3 down, 17 to go — Battlestar Galactica continues to unravel so many of the relationships we’ve come to know (and, in many cases, love) over the previous three seasons. What began as Six’s wee insurrection has grown into an all-out Cylon civil war. Lee Adama’s debut as a politician further drove a wedge between him and his once beloved Madam President. Kara Thrace continued to try everyone’s patience (including the audience’s) with her loopy I don’t know what or who I am, but I’m pretty frakking sure I know the way to Earth plunge down the rabbit hole. And speaking of free-falling into dark places, it looks like poor Chief Tyrol has kicked off his long-promised downward spiral after the demise of his wife, Cally. Even Adama and Roslin continued their tango of two steps forward (Adama reads a poignant pulp noir novel to Roslin as she’s treated for cancer), two steps back (Adama tells Roslin he wanted to give himself a chance to believe Starbuck, and Roslin responds with a cutting ”Apparently”).
Fortunately, your bond with your regular Battlestar Galactica TV Watcher, the illustrious Marc Bernardin, has only been temporarily cut; Marc’s currently on a hardcore geek-out at New York Comic Con, including moderating a panel with Tigh, Anders, and Tory — i.e., Michael Hogan, Michael Trucco, and Rekha Sharma. He’ll be back next week, but in the meantime, I’m going to continue his recent pattern of breaking out the episode into its individual narratives, if only because its theme of lacerated relationships has started to seep into the storytelling itself. ”The Ties That Bind” had the feel of a long windup, shifting several characters onto far-flung Start Story Arc Here spots on the endgame board, and as such, even though it was all thematically connected, it felt at times like one of the most disjointed BSG episodes since season 3’s ”Taking a Break From All Your Worries.” It certainly left us with lots to talk about, though, so let’s do it to it.
THE CAVILS STRIKE BACK
After Brother Cavil awoke on the resurrection ship all ookified after being blown away by Six’s newly sentient Centurions, Boomer explained that the whole Cylon fleet is split down the middle. (Then she gave him a ”welcome back” smooch that had me feeling a little ooky — looks like Cavil wasn’t just idly watching Boomer dance last week.) Backed into a corner, the Cavils gave in to the Sharons and Sixes and resolved their original dispute, ceasing to lobotomize the raiders. Of course, now that they were holding a winning hand, the Cylon rebels weren’t satisfied: As Marc predicted, they demanded that D’Anna — whose entire line was ”boxed” after she discovered the identities of the final five Cylons — be freed so that all 12 Cylons can finally be brought together.
Cavil still believes that boxing D’Anna was the right decision, but his side just wanted unity — or so he said — so he suggested they should all jump to some specified spot so that D’Anna’s reboot could commence. Now, we already know Lucy Lawless is returning to the show to play D’Anna (yay!), but did you buy Cavil’s line of bull? I sure didn’t. The whole plan screamed, ”Um, dude, it’s a trap,” and yet the Sixes and Sharons leaped in head first. The Sharons have always been quicker to trust than the other models, but those Sixes are a wily bunch — it felt wildly out of character for them to take Cavil at his word so blindly. Indeed, they paid for that mistake dearly; the resurrection ship didn’t jump with the rest of the basestars, and so when Cavil’s ships launched their attack on the ships holding the Sharons and Sixes (and, one presumes, the absent Leobens), they all really, truly died.
Here’s the thing: Should we care? This whole event unfolded so briskly, with so little real buildup or tension, I’m not exactly sure what it means. Are all the Leobens, Sixes, and Sharons (sans Boomer) gone? Or just a rabble-rousing faction of them? Won’t the Centurions retaliate, or were only the ones on the now obliterated ships made sentient? Obviously, I’m dying to know more, but the Cylons’ descent into civil war seems like such a massive development within the BSG universe that it’s a little weird for the show to treat it so casually.
NEXT: Lee ambushes the president
MR. ADAMA GOES TO THE QUORUM
Turns out that ”opening” in the government Lee Adama was talking about was a rather big one: The Caprican representative in the Quorum of Twelve has apparently died, and Vice President Tom Zarek nominated Lee to take up the position. Why? Zarek told the onetime military man it’s because he had the guts to confront Roslin on the stand in Baltar’s trial. (Sidebar: Sure the ep was already overstuffed, but why no Gaius this week?) Translation: Zarek thinks Lee is ruthless enough to make hard choices and also dumb enough to do his dirty work for him. So he slipped Lee a classified folder after delivering some admittedly disturbing intel on President Roslin’s ever-tightening grip on power.
Cut to the meeting of the Quorum with the president. It’s been three weeks since Adama secretly gave Starbuck the Demetrius and sent her off on her quest to find Earth, and the fleet has been wild with speculation as to the ship’s whereabouts and mission. The Quorum wanted answers, but Roslin wasn’t talking. Lee diplomatically suggested that it’s worth at least admitting that they’re exploring all possible avenues to Earth. Strange that Lee would know about the true mission of the Demetrius, since he’d left the military before Kara was set free. No matter; Roslin shut him down: ”I personally don’t feel the need to have a junior delegate appoint himself my spokesman.” Ouch. But then Lee counterpunched, bringing out that telltale folder. Evidence of the Demetrius‘ location, perhaps? Nope. Plans for a tribunal system in which all judges would be appointed by, and only answerable to, Roslin, which forced the president to call it a ”work in progress” and place it on the docket for debate well before it was ”ready” — almost certainly killing the measure, or at least Roslin’s authoritarian angle on it. Score one for Lee Adama…maybe. One never knows with that shifty Tom Zarek.
FLIGHT OF THE FRAKKED UP NAVIGATOR
Not only has Adama sent Kara off to find Earth, but he’s sent some of his best men and women with her, including Helo, Athena, Gaeta, and Anders. Um, what? Anders I buy, but the rest? Helo, one of the last seasoned senior officers left; Gaeta, so constant a presence in the CIC that it seems it couldn’t function without him; and Athena, who’s, you know, a Cylon? On a mission led by someone suspected of being a Cylon herself? That is one giant wet sloppy kiss of good faith that Adama has given Starbuck, and by all appearances, she hasn’t exactly been living up to it, stuck with visions of a trinary star system while leaving her shipmates to feel she’s been sending them in circles to find it.
That is, except Anders, who remains blindly devoted to his wife, even after she told the ex-jock she married him only ”because it was safe and it was easy and you were just pathetic enough to go along with it.” So of course, they frakked. Afterward, Kara dropped this pillow-talk bomb on her Cylonian hubby: ”Everything seems so far away…like I’m watching myself but not experiencing it, not living it, like my body’s just this alien thing I’m still attached to. Does that seem crazy to you?” Yeah, but it’s finally my kind of crazy: contemplative and mysterious rather than shrieking and obnoxious. More, please!
NEXT: Cally goes to the airlock
MY HUSBAND, THE TOASTER
I’m going to be blunt: Up until this episode, I’d only liked Cally in small doses. Actress Nicki Clyne never seemed to have the chops to carry anything more than a few lines of wide-eyed adorableness — see: season 3’s ”A Day in the Life” — and with the promos for ”The Ties That Bind” hinting that this was going to be a Cally-centric episode, I kinda feared the worst. So serve me up a steaming plate of crow, because frak if Clyne didn’t pull it off, delivering a strung-out, freaked-out performance as a wife smacked hard with the realization that her worst fear — her husband’s having an affair — didn’t come anywhere close to the actual truth: Her husband’s a frakking skinjob.
Cally can’t exactly be blamed for suspecting at first that Galen was schtupping Tory after catching the way the president’s aide was caressing the Chief’s elbow in Joe’s Bar. (Can we pause for a second, though, and marvel at the fact that the bar napkins for Joe’s Bar actually have four 90-degree corners?) It may have meant nothing to Galen, but even though Tory said later in the weapons locker that the Chief’s not her type, those sure looked like bedroom eyes to me. Not only is Tory the Cylon we know least about; she’s the character we know least about, so perhaps it’s easier to believe that she’d quickly become a borderline sociopath after realizing her true nature. (Rekha Sharma gives great vacant stare, too.)
Tory’s at least with it enough to realize, though, that little Nicky Tyrol is the second human-Cylon hybrid, a notion that seems to have escaped the baby’s father. I mean, if Tory didn’t care about Nicky, she wouldn’t have bothered to have swooped into the airlock and placated the suicidal and infanticidal Cally — ”I do know we’re not evil; we’re not inhuman” — just long enough to lift Nicky from his mother’s arms. Then whoosh, bye-bye Cally, which seemed pretty evil and inhuman to me. One question, though: Wouldn’t Cally have bothered to tell someone that she knows her husband’s a toaster before heading out to shoot herself and her baby into space?
We ended the episode on the widowed Chief, who said rather ominously in Joe’s Bar, ”I don’t do well with change.” That shot of Tyrol cutting his own finger and then licking the blood — even if it was merely just a flash of Cally’s imagination — was by far the most unnerving image of the night, and I fear things will only get worse from there.
I leave you with these questions: Do you think Helo and Athena brought Hera on board that sweaty rust bucket Demetrius? And if so, don’t you think we needed at least one scene in which someone brought up the fact that once upon a time Hera’s blood eradicated Roslin’s cancer and maybe it’d be a good idea if the tyke were kept around, even as a last resort? Speaking of Roslin, is Zarek just being his normal two-faced self, or has she truly grown more strident of late? Can you imagine Baltar running those Quorum meetings when he was vice president? And could someone please make Lee another suit, one that preferably doesn’t make him look like he’s a dancer in Guys and Dolls?