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Battlestar Galactica Newbie Recap: A Measure of Salvation, Hero

Recap

I’m a sci-fi geek who has never seen Battlestar Galactica. Yes, I know, I know. 2013 is the year I change that, and I’m blogging as I go.

One great episode. One, eh… not so much.

A Measure of Salvation

We start this 44 minutes of sci-fi pain with a team of pilots, led by Lee, investigating the dead Basestar Racetrack and Athena found at the lion’s head nebula. After a bit of exploring they find a room of skinjobs, most of them dead but five of them only mostly dead. One of them, a Six, tells Athena that they were infected by that weird beacon. Understandably, the information that they’re on a plague ship sends the pilots into a panic. Unbeknownst to them, but knownst to us, all of them are immune… except for Athena.

Back on the Galactica it’s decided that all of the good guys will be put under quarantine while Doc Cottle runs some bloodwork. The dying Cylons will be brought aboard and kept in the brig so the good Doc can examine them as well. “When they die,” he says, “I’ll know how long our prisoners have to live.” Wow, no bones about it, huh Doc?

Speaking of bones, I want Doc Cottle and Bones from Star Trek to have a show where they go around curing diseases and being gruff at people. Please tell me someone’s at least drawn some crossover fanart of them.

It’s not that long before Doc Cottle figures out that humans are immune from whatever disease the Cylons are infected with, so everyone’s free to go. Everyone except Athena, that is. Not because she’s infected, but because the Doc hasn’t had time to test her yet. That causes Helo to go off on his first “Everyone’s prejudiced against my girlfriend!” rant of the episode. Calm it down, dude. You don’t want to take the Moral Superiority crown from Lee. He’s worked too hard for it.

(I would like to point out the dude in the background who got really enthusiastic upon being told of his clean bill of health. I think I have a favorite extra.)

Baltar, meanwhile, is in a tough spot: Caprica told D’anna that he lied about not having seen anything suspicious aboard the infected Baseship, so now the Cylons are convinced he’s guilty of working with the Galactica to infect them. Baltar tries to explain that he didn’t tell them because he thought if they knew about the beacon they’d accuse him of betrayal. He even goes so far as to rock some major puppy dog eyes. But it’s all to no avail: D’anna says they think he knows something about the virus, and they intend to find out what that is.

Cue the torture.

D’anna has Baltar strapped to a chair, his fingers attached to nodes that activate the pain centers in his brain. Caprica’s clearly very upset by the whole thing, and D’anna sends her a distinctly “judging you” sort of look. Head Six, still in Baltar’s beach headspace, is doing her best to guide Baltar through it, telling him that he can interpret neural impulses in a way that’s not painful. But that’s easier said that done, so to help him out she… has sex with him.

Wow. A torture scene that’s also a sex scene. Battlestar Galactica went there.

There’s context, of course. Head Six tells Baltar that it’s human nature to separate the mind from the body. So if he keeps his body, where the pain is, with her to get sexed up, he can send his mind back to the Basestar and come up with a way to psychologically manipulate D’anna. Baltar says he can’t, that the pain’s too much. During a break from the torture he tries to convince D’anna of his innocence by telling her that him finding the beacon was just a coincidence. But that’s not enough for her: She says everything happens according to God’s will and starts back in on the torture.

And now for some theology.

If God exists then our knowledge of him must be imperfect, because our stories are filtered through human experience, Baltar says to D’anna. You claim to have absolute faith in God, but you can’t help but ask yourself why he allows death and destruction to occur. I can see that you’re conflicted about your beliefs, so let me help you reconcile faith with fact.

That only makes D’anna angry, causing her to ramp up the torture, so Head Six tells Baltar, out of his mind because of torture and sex, some things to say to her: “Don’t stop! I want you to believe in me! You’re all I have left. I believe in you.”

At first D’anna is all “What in the hell?,” as a guy screaming “Don’t stop!” while you torture him will tend to do. But eventually she backs off and looks like something profound has just happened. Baltar tells Head Six—and, back on the Basestar, D’anna—that he loves her with all his heart. D’anna, seemingly smitten, caresses his mouth.

So. That was intense.

But not so intense that it kept me from thinking about the idea of Baltar spouting Intro to Atheism philosophy as pillow talk. Hey, it’s funny.

Back on the Galactica Doc Cottle has figured out both what the infection is—lymphocytic encephalitis, which humans developed an immunity to hundreds of years ago—and how to keep the Cylons from dying. It’s not a cure, though: They’ll have to receive regular injections of the vaccine or they’ll relapse. Roslin comes up with the ingenious idea of telling the Cylons they do have a cure and offering to trade it for information. Lee expresses doubts, noting that back on the ship “Karl’s wife” (not Athena) said the Cylons were saying this prayer that basically means they’ve accepted their death.

All the same, they decide to try it, and as it happens one of the Cylons is completely prepared to give up valuable information so that he can live. That would be Simon, the creepy Cylon “doctor” from The Farm. Brief meta break: Of the seven known Cylons, Simon is one of two non-white ones. It’s been over a season since The Farm, and in that time he hasn’t gotten to do anything. He’s been in a bunch of group scenes so far, but the extent of his involvement is that he occasionally gets a line. Even Doral gets to stomp around being grumpy at people! And now they need a Cylon to be tricked by humans into giving up valuable information, and welp, there’s Simon. Whaddaya know. Battlestar Galactica has problems after all.

With the humans dangling a (fake) cure in front of his face, Simon spills about the infected ship, the beacon, how they were abandoned for fear of spreading the infection to a Resurrection ship, and that Baltar’s been helping the Cylons look for Earth. Everyone is, understandably, a bit ticked that not only is Baltar alive, he’s helping their enemy reach the exact place they saw as a refuge. The stakes now exponentially higher, Roslin and Adama are open to a new plan Lee’s come up with: Park the Galactica in a shipping lane, lure a Cylon fleet to them, and execute the Cylon prisoners, (hopefully) infecting the fleet’s Resurrection ship and exterminating the entire Cylon race in one blow.

The only one who’s none too pleased with that plan is, you guessed it, Helo. He argues that it would still be genocide, even if the Cylons aren’t human. Exterminating an entire race would make us no better than them, and anyway, they did try to live peacefully with us on New Caprica. Up until that point Roslin respectfully disagrees with him, but bringing up New Caprica causes her to go off. You didn’t suffer on that planet, she says, so out respect for the people who did I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that you just said that. Burn, Helo! Still, he’s undeterred, arguing all Cylons—like, say, Athena—aren’t murderous, human-hating fiends. On the other side of the argument is Lee, who says Cylons not being human means it’s A-OK to kill them all. Roslin says she’ll consider both of their arguments, but it’s clear which way she’s leaning.

The next scene shows us that there’s an unlikely person disagreeing with Helo: Athena. It turns out she isn’t going to die, by the way. Something to do with how carrying a half-human child gave her the antibodies she needed to fight the disease. Anyway. She’s not pleased by what Roslin and Adama are planning to do by any means, but she argues that it’s more important, at least for her, to obey orders and continue to prove herself. If that means the rest of her species gets wiped out, so be it. Helo, as a human, has the luxury of disobeying his superiors without the risk of being labelled a Cylon agent. Athena doesn’t.

Roslin and Adama have decided to go through with the genocide plan. They head to the shipping lane, and a Cylon fleet shows up to meet them. Everything’s going according to plan… until Lee goes to execute the prisoners and sees that they’re already dead. It’s Helo’s doing: He reversed the air purification system so the Cylons would suffocate before they got in range of the Resurrection ship. The Galactica manages to jump away before there are any casualties, but they still missed their golden window of opportunity to take out the Cylons once and for all.

Helo goes to Athena and tells her that he did what he thought was right, and if he’s labelled as a traitor because of it, so be it. But it won’t come to that. Adama, who was never truly on board with the whole genocide thing, decides not to investigate the sabotage, even though he pretty much knows who did it.

The episode ends with Doc Cottle providing some relevant information about the infection. One, the beacon was probably accidentally contaminated—Baltar may very well be enduring torture because somebody sneezed on the beacon before launching it. I wouldn’t have thought a season ago I’d say this, but: Poor Baltar. Two, the virus is an exact match to one reported over 3,000 years ago, right around the time the 13th colony left Kobol. That means the beacon was probably left by the colonists, and therefore the Galactica is probably on the path to Earth.

The problem, says Roslin, is that the Cylons are, too.

Hero

Welp. Time for another monster of the week episode.

The “monster” this time around is Daniel “Bulldog” Novacek, a pilot who flew under Adama’s command back before the Cylons attacked Caprica. He was captured during a top-secret mission three years ago and has been imprisoned on a Cylon Basestar ever since.

But we find out about all that later. First off, the episode gives us Roslin and Tory talking about how it’s coming up on Adama’s 45th anniversary of being in the military, so they really should have a ceremony for him. Not only would it honor Adama, it would also give people something to feel good about.

Meanwhile Adama is dealing with three Raiders that have popped up near the Galactica. But there’s something unusual about them: One of them is being chased by the other two. The inhabitant of the pursued Raider is, of course, Bulldog. He sends a message requesting help to the Galactica, and Adama, much to the surprise of everyone else in the CIC, orders that the Raider be brought aboard. The pair of them have an emotional (well, emotional for Adama, which means he looks like he might crack a smile) reunion on the hangar deck.

After being checked over by Doc Cottle to determine he’s not a Cylon, Bulldog tells Adama how he managed to escape. A while ago all the Cylons started getting really sick, he says, and eventually a chance came for him to kill his guard—a death-warmed-over looking D’anna—and bolt. But that doesn’t explain how he got out of his cell, since he attacked her through the bars. Something doesn’t add up here.

Moving the exposition chronologically backwards a bit, Bulldog and Adama explain the super-secret mission they were on when Bulldog was captured to Roslin. The pair of them—Bulldog in a stealth ship, Adama on his old Battlestar, the Valkyrie, with Tigh and some other crewmembers—were monitoring a group of miners who were working too close to the human-Cylon armistice line. Bulldog got shot down, and Adama thought he was dead, so he left. But Bulldog managed to eject, and he floated in space until the Cylons found him and picked him up. Something about the story doesn’t add up for Roslin—the way Bulldog keeps shooting hesitant glances at Adama has something to do with it—so she asks Adama to tell her the whole story. He refuses. What happened is my mess, he says, and I’ll clean it up.

Things get even more intriguing when Adama goes to visit Tigh. He’s feeling particularly confrontational that day and pushes Adama to tell Bulldog about his part in his capture. Again, Adama refuses, saying what happened is in the past and won’t make any difference now.

But Bulldog finds out anyway. Tigh’s next visitor is Bulldog himself, who pulls a hilariously uncomfortable Tigh into a big ol’ hug. (Casual physical affection? What do?) The two of them have a bit of a chat about Tigh being a drunk hermit and how Adama ended up on the Galactica, and eventually the conversation works its way to how “Oh my Gods, Bulldog, did Adama not tell you how you getting captured is his fault?!

At the same time, Adama is telling that same story to Lee, whom he invited into his office for a family chat. Turns out the mission wasn’t about whupping some rogue miners. Instead it was to monitor the Cylon side of the armistice line to see if the Cylons were preparing for an attack. When unidentified ships showed up Adama made the call to shoot Bulldog down himself, since if human ships were discovered in Cylon territory it would be all the justification they’d need to start a war. Or course, the unidentified ships were probably Cylons anyway, a fact that Adama’d been lying to himself about for years. So not only did he shoot Bulldog down, he unintentionally provoked the Cylon attack on Caprica.

Wow. That, in the words of the immortal Marty McFly, is heavy.

Also, Tigh, you jerk. Don’t even pretend you told Bulldog about what happened for his or Adama’s own sake. I saw that glee in your face when you were leading up to the great reveal. You’re milking this, you drunk bastard. God, I love ya.

While other characters have been embroiled in flashback drama, Starbuck’s been reviewing pictures of Bulldog’s pursuit by the Cylon Raiders. Turns out they had plenty of opportunities to shoot him, but they kept intentionally missing. At this point Starbuck and I are both convinced that Bulldog is a double agent, a brainwashed sleeper agent… something. Sure, he says he was able to escape because of the Cylons being sick, but maybe he was just using that as a cover story because he knew the good guys would buy it. Furthermore, how did he just happen to find the fleet? She shares the photos and her suspicions with Tigh.

Meanwhile Bulldog, intensely ticked because of what Tigh told him, asks Adama to come visit him. When he arrives Bulldog beans him on the head with a pipe, ties him up, and proceeds to choke him. Mid-rant about how Adama abandoned him, he mentions that the door to his cell was left open by the Cylons. That captures Adama’s attention, and he asks whether the Cylons let him out. We see what happened via flashback: They did let him escape, but he’s not a double agent. They just let him go so he’d seek revenge against Adama.

I’m sorry, but that’s stupid. You’re telling me the Cylons set Bulldog free assuming he’d A) find the Galactica and B) be brought aboard, later to be C) told by someone about Adama shooting him down, which would cause him to D) try and E) succeed at killing him? These are the Cylons, for chrissakes. They take years to formulate elaborate plots. I call bullpucky on their whole plan being “Well, I guess we’ll hold this guy for a few years, let him go, and see what happens.”

The plan doesn’t work; Tigh storms into Bulldog’s room and rescues Adama. Of freaking course it’s not going to work. How would it, when the Cylons have accidentally engineered it so it looks exactly like Bulldog’s a traitor, even though he isn’t? (And how did Bulldog find the Galactica, anyway?) Tigh has a great monologue where he talks about the nature of being a soldier, and how the toughest part of getting defeated like Bulldog—and Tigh—was is that it robs you of your dignity and makes you think you’re worthless. The self-hatred, he explains, is like a bottle that never runs dry. When Adama asks him how one puts that bottle away, Tigh responds that one day you just have to decide to walk out of your room.

Tigh’s pep talk (the world’s most bitter, depressed pep talk, but still) gets to Bulldog. He’s shown, minus his murderous rage against Adama, leaving the Galactica to try and recover on a different ship. Adama, meanwhile, goes to Roslin and tells her he’s the one responsible for the Cylon attack on Caprica. He tries to resign, but Roslin tells him to STFU, because did you ever think the admiralty might have set you up to start the war they wanted, you naïve baby? The Cylon attack is way too complicated an issue for one person to take responsibility for it, so shut up and let me hold this ceremony for you so the people can have a hero to look up to.

Sigh. I love her.

The episode ends post-ceremony, with Tigh—in his uniform again!—going to visit Adama. Adama asks his former XO to come back to the job and asks if he wants to tell him what happened with Ellen (all my creys!). Tigh doesn’t respond to either request, but he agree to having a drink together.

Awwww, the friendship is getting mended. I like that part of this episode, ditto the larger Tigh character development, but other than that… meh. Bulldog shows up and you think there’s some larger traitor plot going on… until there isn’t. And a Big Dark Secret from Adama’s past is revealed… but he’s gotten closure by the time the credits roll. Nothing that happened in this episode, aside from the Tigh stuff, looks like it’ll have any impact on the further development of the show. (I will gladly eat my words if Bulldog actually turns out to be a secret agent or if the I Killed Caprica, Waaaaahhh stuff shows up again.)

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad episode. It’s no Black Market. But the larger series arcs of Battlestar Galactica are so great that when a monster of the week ep comes along and halts the momentum it’s just jarring, even if there’s nothing wrong with the episode itself.

Granted, there is something that went down in this episode that has wider implications as far as D’anna is concerned. Back on the Basestar she has a nightmare where she’s walking around the Galactica and is killed by a group of marines. She thinks it’s the gods trying to tell her something, so she orders one of the Centurions to kill her. In the time between dying and re-downloading she sees some sort of beautiful, miraculous place. Upon coming to in her new body she tells another version of herself about it, with Caprica and Doral looking on like she’s gone nuts.

Oh, and when she wakes up from the dream it’s in a bed with Caprica and Baltar. So apparently that threesome is canonically happening. Good to know.

In an effort to avoid spoilers, comments on this post have been locked. However, Jill and Susana will be reading comments over at our Facebook page, so if there’s anything you’d like to say in response to this post head on over that way. Former Battlestar Galactica Newbie Recaps can be found here, and next week’s recap is here. Have a (non-spoilery, for the love of God) comment? Hit me up on Twitter.

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