Battlestar Galactica Newbie Recap: Unfinished Business, The Passage
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.
In which Rebecca fangirls over one episode and goes all Welcome to Night Vale over another. ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD.
Now this is how you do a one-off.
This episode is one of Battlestar Galactica‘s signature flashback-a-pa-loozas. In the present day it takes place during one of the Galactica’s regular “dances,” a.k.a. a round of boxing matches where people challenge those they have… wait for it… unfinished business with. The idea is to let people work out their issues via organized physical violence so grudges won’t fester. I like this plan. I think more places should do it.
The flashbacks all take place 17 months ago on New Caprica. Ladies and gents, we finally find out what happened to make Lee and Starbuck (seemingly) hate one another so much.
First, the present day: While Helo and Lee are duking it out in the ring, Starbuck’s just engaged in a little, ahem, personal time with Anders, who says he wants their marriage back. Starbuck counters that she’s just not ready for that, and in response Anders brings up the elephant in the room: Maybe he’s not the one she really wants. Starbuck deflects and heads to the boxing match, where she watches Lee get his butt kicked. His defeat comes about partially because he was distracted by Starbuck; the two of them send approximately 15,975 loaded glances at each other over the course of the episode. Man, Lee. Take a hint from that great cultural touchstone High School Musical and get your head in the game.
Starbuck aims a little not-so-good-natured ribbing Lee’s way, and when he makes to go nurse his wounds she goads him into staying so the two of them can fight.
Now we flash back to New Caprica, where the colonists are planning a ceremony and after-party to celebrate how everything’s going to be great for humanity from here on out, no Cylon invasions or anything, no siree Bob! Dee and Lee have come down planetside for the occasion, as have Starbuck and Anders. Things are awkward between the four of them—Dee and Anders both know their significant others have some residual Feelings for one another—but not overly so.
Meanwhile Adama and Roslin are engaging in a bit of UST themselves (albeit older, more distinguished UST). Adama says the color she’s wearing looks nice on her, and I’m preeeetty sure there was hand-holding going on just out of frame. Back in the present-day Roslin shows up at the boxing match and Adama explains the whole working-out-aggression thing to her. She’s totally into it, because in addition to being a natural leader, a tough-as-nails politician, and a snappy dresser, she’s also a boxing enthusiast. That bit of character detail: Yes. I’m so happy!
Back on New Caprica, party time has begun. Everyone’s all tipsy and happy, including Tigh and Ellen, who have a brief exchange of ultimate cuteness that I cannot handle. Just… just go on without me. I need a minute to gather my feels. Roslin and Adama have a brief chat wherein Roslin seems to convince her grumpy friend that humanity actually can have a fresh start on New Caprica. Back on the Galactica Adama overhears Tyrol telling another mechanic to take a break fixing a downed ship, since he can always do it tomorrow. That sends us back to flashback-land, where we see Tyrol ask Adama whether he and Cally can leave the service and settle on New Caprica. Adama refuses—you’re in the military, you can’ just quit. Apparently present-day Adama is holding on to some residual bitterness, because he steps in the ring and challenges Tyrol to a fight.
Tyrol doesn’t take the challenge seriously: Adama’s an old man. How could he possibly beat a young specimen of masculine virility like Tyrol? Turns out that was a bad move, because Adama takes advantage of his opponent underestimating him to absolutely wail on the mechanic. Back on New Caprica Tyrol has broken the news to Cally that they’ll have to have their baby up on the Galactica. They’ve both accepted the news, but you can tell they’re not pleased by Adama’s decision.
Later, at the celebration, there’s dancing and drinking and fun for everyone, particularly Adama and Roslin, who have laid down off to the side and are smoking something that I’m gonna go ahead and guess isn’t a regular cigarette. Roslin suggests that they leave their cares behind and just enjoy being on New Caprica. Maybe the Cylons come back and maybe they don’t, but either way at least humanity gets a break.
In the present-day Adama and Tyrol are still fighting it out. The tides have turned, and by the time a break is called Adama’s in really bad shape. Doc Cottle says he shouldn’t fight, but Adama doesn’t listen to him. Roslin shows up in his corner and, after telling him he’s frakking insane… proceeds to give him boxing advice. Love it!
We see in another flashback that the morning after the celebration Adama changed his mind and gave Tyrol and Cally permission to leave the service and settle on New Caprica. Their plotline comes to a close when Tyrol finally beats Adama to the ground. There’s complete silence as Adama crawls to his feet and spends a few seconds death-glaring at Tyrol. Then he launches into a William Adama Inspirational Speech (TM). Soldiers should always to be ready to fight, he says. Back on New Caprica I got soft and was too easy on all of you, giving some of you breaks and letting others leave before the fight was over. I let this crew disband, and we paid for it in lives. That’s not going to happen again. He and Tyrol both leave, Tyrol to fix the repairs he put on the back burner earlier and Adama, presumably, to nurse his wounds. Most of the spectators follow them, as Adama speechfying tends to put an end to raucous entertainment.
Starbuck’s pissed, since everyone’s leaving and she never got a chance to beat up Lee. A quick taunt about how he can try to frak another man’s woman but not fight one (hey now, where is this going?) and a remark about Dee having to settle for sloppy seconds fires Lee up, and the two of them head into the ring to finally—finally—work out some of their issues.
So this is what happened back on New Caprica: Starbuck and Lee, both tipsy-edging-towards-drunk, walk out into the wilderness after the party. They talk about Starbuck’s future: She wants to stop flying now that all the good parts of it (like actual fighting) are over, and while she plans to settle down on New Caprica she doesn’t want to get married. That segues into a conversation about their relationship, and they end up having sex. When it ends Starbuck asks Lee what they’re going to do. Lee’s response is that they’ll both tell their respective significant others and take up together, duh. At first I was a little put off by Lee’s attitude here—might you want to, uh, ask Starbuck if she’s OK with that first?—but then she gets into the idea. Each of them stand up and yell into the night sky that they’re in love with the other.
Everything seems great for them now, but of course that can’t last. This is Battlestar Galactica, where happiness is nothing but a set-up for future tragedy. The morning after the sexing Lee wakes up and finds that Starbuck is gone. When Lee heads back to the city he finds out from Adama that she apparently marched right to Anders and asked him if they wanted to get married that same morning. Adama, still in his “You get to resign! And you get to resign! Everyone gets to resign!” mood, has given the newlyweds permission to live on New Caprica.
Wow. So Starbuck woke up the morning after confessing her love to Lee and proposed to Anders. That’s tough. On the one hand, she wasn’t 100% sober the night before—she probably wouldn’t have been so open about her emotions if she were—and when she woke up she was probably scared out of her mind. If there’s one thing we know about Starbuck, it’s that she doesn’t handle emotions well.
Lee’s not much better; when he sees Anders and Starbuck he snarkily wishes Anders good look, ’cause he’s going to need it. He looks like his heart’s been ripped out of his chest. So, for that matter, does Starbuck, who doesn’t exactly look the brushing bride. I absolutely get Lee being angry with her, but it’s what happened next that made me want to smack him over the head with several hard objects. Jilted by the person he wants to be with, he strides up to Dee and plants a big kiss on her. Lee, Lee, Lee. Starbuck may be a bit more obvious in her inability to deal with emotional issues, but you’re not exactly getting a gold star yourself.
Back on the Galactica the two dysfunctional lovebirds are beating the crap out of each other, with Dee and Anders—who absolutely know what’s up—both watching. Ugh. They deserve better than that pair of childish chuckleheads. I kind of want them to say “screw this” and run off together to live a life of competency and pyramid games.
Starbuck and Lee have have fought to a stalemate; neither of them are beaten, but neither of them can really stand at this point either. The fight ends with them hugging it out and saying they missed each other.
On the one hand: I still ship it.
On the other: Damn but these two are bad for one another. They have a metric ton of unresolved issues, and instead of actually talking about them they just let them boil over. Then they fight—usually verbally, this time physically—long enough for them to decide they want to be BFFs again. But nothing actually ever gets dealt with!
I’m not an expert on dealing with relationship problems by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m pretty sure you can’t punch them until they go away.
RIP Kat. You were cool, and now you’re dead.
Turns out what’s left of humanity has all but completely run out of food, which is the sort of thing that’ll happen when you have several thousand people winging through space in metal tubes. Normally the food supply comes from processing and food-ifying algae (which sounds… delightful), but something went wrong and now everything is contaminated. There’s some fresh, delicious algae on a nearby planet, but it’s in the middle of a radiation cloud. The episode starts with Athena—who, as a Cylon, isn’t so susceptible to radiation poisoning as humans—piloting a Raptor to the planet and almost dying in the process.
So the algae is reachable, but the radiation level surrounding the planet it’s on is so high that getting to it would kill just about anyone who tried to make it through. Said radiation would also screw with the nav systems on the civilian ships. That’s kind of a deal-breaker because, for
Plot Science Reasons, the ships can’t just fly around the radiation cloud; they have to jump into it and back out. And the Galactica can’t handle the task on its own, since the dozens of trips it would have to take to get the necessary amount of food would leave the fleet unprotected for way too long.
As if that’s not bad enough? The cloud basically looks like it’s on fire, so whatever poor schmucks are piloting through it won’t even be able to see where they’re going.
The poor schmucks in question will include some of our favorite Raptor pilots, including Starbuck, Lee, and Kat. Lee and Adama must’ve paid attention in kindergarten, because the plan they come up with is basically the buddy system: Each civilian ship will be outfitted with a skeleton crew and assigned a Raptor to fly alongside it and feed it coordinates. In theory it can work, since the nav systems on Raptors are pretty hardy. But it’ll still be an extremely tough job for the pilots, who will have to jump into a visually disorienting GLOW CLOUD, find their civilian ship, and feed it coordinates, all in a matter of seconds.
And then they have to do the same on the return trip.
Oh, and there are five round trips total.
Did I mention if they screw up everyone on their buddy ship dies?
And that all of the pilots are literally starving?
Yeah, fun times. No wonder one of them ends up dead.
Early in the episode we see that tension is still running high between Kat and Starbuck. The animosity between the two of them pops up again when Lee, in a pre-mission briefing, says all the pilots will be required to take stims. That’s a problem for Kat, since she used to be addicted to them, a fact that Starbuck is sure to bring up. Lee relents on the whole “required” thing, but one thing he doesn’t budge on is that any pilot who receives too high a dose of radiation—judged by a badge on the wrist that turns black when you gon’ die—gets pulled from the mission.
On her way to the first run Kat runs into Enzo, a guy she knew before the Cylon attack on Caprica. We learn from him that Kat’s real name is Sacha, and that if the military found out her background they’d kick her out faster than you can say “Enzo is a giant douchenozzle.” He is, too. Kat tells him to leave her alone, but he refuses, calling her “baby” and getting all up in her space.
Ugh. The skeez. Space Robin Thicke should be airlocked.
There’s a brief interlude where Tigh graces the CIC with his wonderful, frowny presence yet again—Grumpy Cat is back on the job, frakkers!—and then the civilian ships and their Raptor babysitters set off. The awesome power of the GLOW CLOUD makes it all but impossible for the pilots to see, and Hot Dog ends up losing his ship.
Poor Hot Dog. The feels, man. And it only gets worse! After a few more runs all the pilots are in really horrible shape, and Kat’s lost one of her ships as well. Back on the Galactica Starbuck sees Kat pushing Enzo away, and later she goes to confront him. We don’t know what Starbuck tells Enzo—I hope there are fewer words and more punches involved—but when we flash back to an argument between Starbuck and Kat we find out what the latter was so intent on hiding.
Turns out Kat stole her identity from some girl who died two days before the attacks on Caprica. If she’d used her own identity she never could’ve become a pilot, because she was drug runner. She and Enzo moved people as well as drugs, and, as Starbuck points out, some of those people could’ve been Cylons using illegal operations as a way to get onto Caprica. Jesus Christ. Is there anyone who hasn’t been blamed for the Cylon attack? Hot Dog’s still clean, right? Starbuck all but accuses Kat of being a traitor and tells her that she’s scum who could only get into the company of “good people” (like herself) by lying. A crying Kat begs Starbuck to let her tell Adama herself, but Starbuck just walks away like Kat’s too pathetic to even talk to.
Starbuck! Hunger can do weird things to a person’s emotional state, so I’ll forgive you. An earlier scene had Tigh and Adama positively giggling because of a stupid joke Tigh made about paper shortages, after all. But still. My heart went out for Kat right there.
The earlier food run put Kat over the radiation limit, but the verbal pummeling she got from Starbuck made her determined to prove herself by continuing the mission. So even though her hair’s literally falling out in clumps, she steals Helo’s radiation badge so she can keep flying. We flash back to earlier, when Kat seemed to accept her “true nature” and engaged in some sexing with Enzo. So on the one hand Kat seems to have given up, but on the other hand she’s willing to die to prove—not to the other pilots, most of whom don’t know her past, but just to herself—that she’s a good person. Ow.
Predictably—y’know, since she can barely stay conscious—Kat can’t find her ship on the next run. But when everyone else jumps ahead she disobeys orders and stays in the GLOW CLOUD. Just before she passes out she finds the ship, sending them the navigational coordinates and saving the lives of the crewmembers…
…but not her own. Upon returning to the Galactica she’s greeted by a round of applause—including from Starbuck, yay!–and then promptly collapses. While lying near death in sickbay she finally reconciles with Starbuck, who says she didn’t mean the nasty things she said about her. In lieu of actually saying “I’m sorry”—hey, she doesn’t handle emotions well—Starbuck leaves Kat a bottle of sleeping pills so she can die quickly and painlessly if she so desires. That’s like roses from her.
Kat’s next visitor is Adama, who’s there to let Kat know that she’s being promoted to CAG. They both know she won’t live long enough to actually do anything in her new position, but hey, it’s a nice gesture. She tells him that there’s a reason he might not want to promote her, but he shoots that right down. Sacrificing her life to save the ship was brave and worthy of being a CAG, and whatever horrible things she’s done in the past don’t change that. He then sits beside her and chats all friendly-like about his family until she dies.
The GLOW CLOUD claims another victim. ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY GLOW CLOUD.
Afterwards Starbuck goes to the Galactica’s memorial wall and pins a picture of Kat up. May I just say, Katee Sackhoff: Congrats on your acting this episode. My love of Starbuck just grows and grows.
But it hasn’t been all horrible feels and GLOW CLOUDs this episode. Back on the Cylon Basestar Baltar has figured out that D’anna’s been repeatedly offing herself so she can figure something out about the Cylon God. He asks her whether she sees any of the Final Five when she resurrects. He could very well be a Cylon, he explains, and if he just found out that he is he could stop being a traitor to one race and instead be a hero to another. My first thought was “Awww, that’s kind of sad. He sees himself as so irredeemable as a human that he’d rather just start over as a Cylon.” Followed 0.2 seconds later by: “Waaaaitaminute. Baltar, you jerk. That’s just laziness. You’d rather have it be decided for you what side you’re on than actually determine your loyalties yourself. You want to be absolved of all responsibility toward the human race so you won’t feel obligated to make up for what you did.”
Such. Consistent. Characterization. (Except you, Lee.) I love Battlestar Galactica. Every other show needs to take notes.
D’anna and Baltar, now allies in the effort to find out What the Heck Is Up With the Cylons, visit the hybrid. Baltar sticks his hand in her, er, gel tank (not a euphemism, I swear), and the hybrid grabs his wrist before proclaiming “Intelligence. A mind that burns like fire.”
Baltar’s response? “Yes, I’m here.”
There are times, Gaius Baltar, when I love you.
The hybrid spews some faux-nonsense about “the hand that lies in the shadow of the light,” “the eye of the husband,” and “the eye of the cow.” Baltar and D’anna figure out that she’s talking about the Cybaby Hera and the “Eye of Jupiter,” an object often referenced in the ancient texts that turns out to be a planet, probably one hidden in a shadow of light. Finding the planet will lead to “the hand,” which has five fingers, aka five faces, aka possibly the Final Five. That seems like a bit of a leap, but OK. Baltar and D’anna are shocked to discover that the hybrid seems to be saying there’s a connection between the Cylon God and the gods of humanity. At the end of the scene we cut to the good guys flying through the GLOW CLOUD.
Hmmm. A planet hidden in a “shadow of light.” I wonder if this is significant.
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