In an episode full of revelations, we see and hear from Ellen, Lee gets the keys to the fleet, and we find out there's a 13th skin job
Battlestar Galactica
Credit: Carole Segal/SCI FI Channel

‘Battlestar Galactica’ recap: Powerful payoff

Hey, everyone. Sorry I had to step away from the keyboard last week — sometimes, there’s just no way to avoid a Comic Con, especially if it’s just a subway ride away. But I knew that you’d be in capable hands with Young Master Vary. Alas, I’m back…and just in time to wrap my brain around the single most revelatory episode of Battlestar Galactica, well, ever.

You know that stretch in Oliver Stone’s JFK where Kevin Costner’s Jim Garrison meets the mysterious insider played by Donald Sutherland in a Washington DC park, and Mr. Mystery proceeds to just drop all kinds of crazy conspiracy science? For what feels like a half an hour he just talks, connecting dots, joining theories, and it’s one of the most magnetic 30 minutes on film.

I bring this up because that’s how I felt about ”No Exit”: It was as if some hidden vault of information opened up in front of me, kind of like the Ark of the Covenant, and by the end of the hour, it melted my goddamn face off.

So, where to begin? At the beginning, of course, with that spiffy ”history of the Cylons” opener, in which we got up to speed with, essentially, everything we’ve learned about our robot enemies lo these many years. And then we saw Ellen Tigh wake up in the goo bath of resurrection; shocked, at first, at her surroundings, but that shock quickly gave way to memory. To understanding. To the truth about who and what she is.

And then ”No Exit” broke in two to follow two different stories: Ellen’s post-New Caprica life on Cavil’s baseship, from the moment she downloaded 18 months ago to the present day; and life in the fleet, in the here and now.

And between those two threads, we learned the following:

The Final Five were Earthlings who rediscovered the Kobolian science behind organic memory transfer from one body to another. Thanks to Ellen, who made the breakthrough, these five learned the secret to resurrection. When the bombs dropped on Earth, they resurrected on a ship in orbit and then made their way to the Twelve Colonies, where they found humanity embroiled in the first Cylon War. The Five then made a deal with the Centurions: The toasters would cease hostilities if the Five would create for them the skin jobs we know so well, and imbue them with the gift of free will. The first model off the assembly line was John/Cavil, who then helped the Five create the other skin jobs. Cavil wanted justice for decades of Cylon slavery and, knowing the Five wouldn’t stomach another war against Mankind, he killed the Five and when they resurrected, left them without their memories to die in the Cylon holocaust. Which, of course, they didn’t.

In one, 44-minute info-sprint, we learned the how and the why behind the Cylons, the war, the Five, everything.

NEXT: Starbuck stands by her man

It’s tempting to focus on that massive raft of revelation, but there was so much more:

* While Ellen and Cavil argued on the baseship — with Boomer watching from the sidelines — Cavil revealed the source of his voluminous hate: because he’s a machine who is destined to play at being a man, complete with all of man’s weaknesses. The Five sentenced him to a life of flesh.

* Thanks to the bullet Anders caught in the head during the mutiny, he’s got access to all the memories that had been repressed for so long. He regales Tigh, Tyrol, Tory, and a newly affectionate Starbuck with the truth of who they are and how they got here. Anders became Captain Exposition — until it becomes clear that the bullet needed to come out…and, with it, those memories.

(The only part of this episode that rang false was John Hodgeman’s cameo as the neurosurgeon that Doc Cottle called in to extract the bullet. It’s cool that he’s a fan of the show and all, but watching him work that all-too-familiar speech pattern just pulled me right out of the proceedings. They might as well have had Ted Lange serving drinks in the corner.)

* According to Ellen and Sam, there’s a thirteenth Cylon model. Called Daniel, he was a sensitive, artist type and Cavil iced the whole model line…wiped them from existence. Or did he? Is that some explanation behind Starbuck’s rebirth? She is something of a painter…

* The old warhorse, Galactica, is on her last legs. Torn apart inside from doing things that no Battlestar should do — falling to the deck in mid-atmosphere — combined with both age and some corner-cutting from her builders have left Galactica vulnerable. While tending to the repairs, the newly reinstalled Chief Tyrol notices that the very fabric of Galactica is eroding. Now, both of Adama’s girls have cancer; they’re both rotting from the inside. Tyrol wants to use some organic Cylon magic-goop to repair Galactica and, after some boozy soul-searching, Adama relents. After all, if Laura could be healed with Cylon blood, why shouldn’t Galactica? The things this man will do for love. (Query: Is Galactica the dying leader Pythia spoke of?)

And there were so many little touches. Anders’ pre-op ramblings (”All the forgotten faces, all the forgotten children, we speak a forgotten language. The mind is its own place. The hell of heaven.”); Ellen the Machine Goddess offering Boomer the apple of knowledge; Roslin passing the mantle of leadership to Lee; Tigh laying his head on Caprica-Six’s swelling belly….

At the end of the day, you know why I loved this episode so much? Because I earned it. We all did. All of us who’ve been watching, faithfully, from the very beginning. It was like finally getting to the ”mystery solved” speech in a Sherlock Holmes yarn. We’ve put in the time, and now here’s our reward.

Now we know the truth behind the Cylons but, to borrow from G.I. Joe, knowing is half the battle. The other half will come when Cavil follows Ellen to the fleet.

What did you think? Is Lee getting the reins of the government again a little too easy? Was Cavil justified in declaring war on humanity, when it was the Five he had a beef with? What’ll be the fallout of Adama agreeing to impregnate Galactica with Cylon tech? And, again, how will Hera come into play?

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