Gaeta struggles to keep his footing when Zarek takes extreme measures to keep the coup going, Baltar has moments of self-discovery, and Adama and Roslin dig in their heels to retake command
Battlestar Galactica
Credit: Carole Segal/ SCI FI Channel

First things first: Your regular Battlestar Galactica TV Watcher, the inestimable Marc Bernardin, is currently on geek detail at New York Comic-Con, and will be back next week for the return of Ellen Tigh, a.k.a. the Final Cylon, a.k.a. The One Who Apparently Knows Everything. But for Marc’s sake, I am truly sorry that he couldn’t be here to recap this week’s BSG, because frak me, was that a kickass hour of TV or what? I think it’s safe to say that even the most die-hard Battlestar fans have grown just a smidge weary of all the sci-fi kookiness and human/Cylon ennui and wanted our old rock ’em, sock ’em show back, and boy did the second half of this two-parter deliver. (My favorite moment? Lee fakes out a cadre of marines, and Starbuck, with an unarmed grenade. Starbuck: ”Not funny.” Lee: ”Yeah, it woulda been if you thought of it.”)

But what made last night’s episode truly one of the very best I think in the show’s history was that it also managed to sneak in a little sci-fi kookiness and a lot of human/Cylon ennui, entwining them both into a propulsive story in which a frak-load of stuff went down. And a few characters took a welcome step forward (I’m looking at you, Baltar), while two of our very favorite (that’d be Tyrol and Starbuck) finally broke free of seemingly endless ruts — only to dangle precariously over whole new pits of bleakness and heartache. This is Battlestar, after all.

Looking back, I think Gaeta probably realized on some subconscious level that his plan was frakked when Hot Dog refused to shoot down the President’s Raptor. Like Zarek said last week in ”The Oath,” this kind of ”revolution” is made or broken on seemingly insignificant moments building on each other until it’s an unstoppable force; Roslin safely making it to the rebel Cylon Basestar meant Adama had something (or, rather, someone) to live for, and vice versa, and that bond alone was enough to turn the fire in their bellies to a raging boil. Full credit goes to actor Alessandro Juliani for letting us always glimpse the nagging voice inside Gaeta’s head, the one screaming, ”You are simply no match for Roslin and Adama, and you know it.”

But that still didn’t stop our peg-legged mutineer from trying to beat them anyway. In fact, Gaeta was already planning ahead, ordering Adama brought to the CIC to demand Roslin’s surrender before he even bothered commanding Hot Dog to follow his order to blow her away. Speaking of Adama, it looks like that cliffhanging grenade that ended ”The Oath” didn’t do much more than knock him and Tigh to their keisters. The admiral was already in rare form when he arrived at the CIC, throwing down his rank insignia and basically daring Gaeta to grow a pair and truly take command.

NEXT: The Quorum massacre

The thing with Gaeta, though, is you can’t really escape who you are; always the man of rules and logic (how perfect was it that he wanted to be an architect as a kid?), he insists Adama be given a trial, however perfunctory, charging him with treason, desertion, giving aide and comfort to the enemy, and gross dereliction of duty. ”One move at a time, Tom,” Gaeta tells Zarek, and I think it’s at this point that the vice president realizes on a pretty conscious level that his plan is frakked, that his partner-in-insurrection doesn’t have the necessary cutthroat instinct to see this through to the end.

So Zarek decides to do it himself. First up, wipe out the Quorum. (And, by the way, was anyone else a little surprised to discover that Colonial One could fit inside Galactica‘s hangar? Didn’t it seem like this would’ve happened at least once before? The F/X shot sure was all kinds of awesome, though.) I could feign disgust and outrage at the brutality of Zarek’s decision to gun down practically the entire civilian government in one stroke, but the best that group could muster in the face of an all out coup is to mutter peas-and-carrots-peas-and-carrots-style to each other until one of them meekly stood up and passive-aggressively called Zarek, ”Mr. Vice President.” Oh. Snap. BSG has never really had much patience for the bureaucratic process, and in the face of our own government’s well-documented foot-dragging of late, I had to forgive myself for thinking ”good riddance” before the full weight of what Zarek had done had sunk in.

And then I started to wonder what I had been thinking all through ”The Oath” last week: Why is all this happening? I mean, I was certainly enjoying it on a visceral level, and as a story point, it makes sense that, after discovering a desiccated Earth, the human fleet would begin to buckle and fracture after the only thing that truly unified them was ripped away. But there are only seven episodes left in the series, and it wasn’t entirely clear to me what the writers were saying other than things fall apart, a point they’d made quite well before. I wanted something grander, more sweeping, more final.

I got exactly that the moment the rebel Cylons decide to cut and run, and Roslin wasn’t having it, disappointed especially in Tory, since her former aide’s time with humanity (and role as one of the final five) should have given her a sense of the bigger picture. ”We’ve made this veritable habit out of defying the odds,” Roslin declaimed of humankind, and the speech inspired the toasters to stand their ground. Then Tyrol shimmied his way into the weapons locker, only to find a guard, a once-fellow grunt named Aaron, waiting for him. Their standoff ended quickly after Tyrol employed some well-timed blue-collar humor, and Aaron got wistful: ”This was a hell of a ship, once.” Then he cocked his gun, turned it on Tyrol?and let his former friend, the ”skinjob,” go, clearly riddled with conflicting feelings: The Chief was my friend, but he’s now my enemy. Or is he?

NEXT: Baltar returns to his cult

The crisis even inspired surprising acts of valor in the least likely of people. Romo Lampkin, after watching Adama, his ”client,” get summarily convicted and sentenced to death by Zarek, took out his guard with just a well-placed pen in order to save Starbuck’s life. And then he even helped Starbuck take Anders, hemorrhaging blood from his neck thanks to an errant bullet, to Doc Coddle. The only other person better at self-preservation than Lampkin? Duh: Gaius Baltar, who’d taken to bed with an especially Miss October-esque Six on the Basestar, only to be startled awake by a vision of Adama getting cut down by a firing squad. The fact that Baltar would even think about the admiral’s well-being is remarkable on its own. But the outward champion of the One True God also confessed that (A) he felt true guilt for ”disappear[ing] in the nick of time, again,” (B) he has always secretly loathed his flock — or as he hilariously puts it, his ”fan club” and (C) he must return to those followers anyway because?wait for it?”they’re my responsibility.” Baltar? Evolved? Maybe there’s hope for humanity after all.

Or maybe not. After all these turns towards hope — including Roslin’s insanely awesome declaration that she will fight ”down to my own eye-teeth” to end Zarek and his mutiny, a moment that brought Baltar and one of the Sixes to tears — we came to a moment of truth: A freed Adama standing before the men who would be his executioners and asking them to help him take back his ship. But the firing squad’s commanding officer just can’t. ”Sorry sir,” he says to Adama. ”I’ve always respected you. But I hate the Cylons. And I can’t take orders from a leader who won’t fight them.”

And there, dear readers, is the rub — and, I think, one of the organizing Big Ideas for the rest of this season. However pleasing the idealism of a human/Cylon alliance may be, however soothing the notion that we can find enough common ground with our enemies that we can one day come together as allies, even men as level-headed, as solid, as Felix Gaeta can be driven to violent acts of desperation rather than even contemplate the idea of reconciliation. The Cylons wiped out humanity in a nuclear holocaust; a memorial to the lost remains in the halls of Galactica. Like Gaeta’s aching stump, some wounds cut too deep to ever really heal, the phantom pain of what’s gone forever simply too real to ignore. In just nine short hours, Gaeta and Zarek demonstrated that humanity and the Cylons cannot truly co-exist. They may end their hostilities, but it will be at best an armistice — not real peace.

Whatever understanding they come to, however, it looks like it’s gotta be soon. That fissure Tyrol discovered in the engine room — the gash through the ship’s heart — telegraphed quite plainly that Galactica‘s final days are nigh. I daresay they’d better find themselves a permanent home but quick; if they had jumped, it looks like the ship would’ve been ripped apart.

Enough of my blather. What did you think of ”Blood on the Scales”? Is Anders a goner? And if so, will Starbuck be able to recover from yet another massive psychological blow? (That kiss she gave Lee in ”The Oath” would indicate the answer is: Maybe.) Will Baltar’s newfound sense of maturity actually stick? Can the fleet mend the rift — including the sizeable pile of dead soldiers and civilians — caused by Zarek and Gaeta’s uprising? What’s to become of, say, Racetrack? Will Roslin form a new Quorum? Is Lee Adama pretty much a lock for the vice-presidency? And with the resurrection of Ellen Tigh upon us, where the frak is Cavil?!

(UPDATE: As many of you have pointed out, Colonial One has landed in Galactica’s hangar before. My bad.)

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