Battlestar Galactica #81: Taking a Break From All Your Worries

"To marriage. Why we build bars."
SO SAY WE ALL: Relationship troubles, a new bar springs up on the ship, and Baltar is interrogated

REVIEW: Judging by the cheery title, this was originally meant as a change of pace, lighter episode. That's just not the story BSG is telling, so even the idea to add a makeshift bar in a disused hanger (now that Cloud-9 has been destroyed) has to be about infidelity and people hiding from their spouses and so forth. I guess Tyrol and Cally are having problems (it's not really explored), but obviously, the focus is more on Lee and Dee, and Starbuck and Anders. Both couples eventually make a stronger commitment to one another, but it all feels pretty desperate either way, like the men at least are lying to themselves, wanting to believe their own lines. Dee is pretty cold in her scenes, while Lee is emotional and suffering (linking him to another suffering character, Baltar, who we do not trust and so are led to mistrust Apollo). Joe's Bar might as well have been called the Rock Bottom. It is NOT a break from all your worries, it's where you go to wallow in them and potentially, to make a fool of yourself.

If the bar stuff isn't light and rosy, it's still a hell of a lot lighter than the main plot, which has the Colonials use extreme methods to extract information from Baltar. Even before they get to that point, he's making suicide attempts, the show using a near-death experience to trick us into believing he's a Cylon for a second there. Roslin then visits Baltar, an echo of a similar scene on New Caprica where the roles were reversed, and when she can't get an admission of guilt from him with honey, she's ready to use vinegar. And that's the disturbing thing about Taking a Break. Our heroes are ready to use enhanced interrogation techniques on Baltar and feed him hallucinogens to create anxiety and force him to tell the truth, something Doc Coddle participated in with real distaste. I think the interrogation works, really, but Adama is absolutely right when he says they'll never get an admission of guilt from the former president because he just doesn't see himself that way. He's truthful from his point of view. But it's still considered a bust. Every strategy technically fails, and we have Adama talking about "disappearing" Baltar, since few know he was recovered from the algae planet, when not so long ago, we were supposed to condemn Zarek for doing the same to the New Caprica collaborators. It's not a great episode for ethics.

And then there's poor Gaeta, who can't abide Baltar's survival, tries to make clandestine visits in the night, and eventually gets a chance to kill Baltar and almost does. I think Baltar exposes his guilt complex quite ably. Baltar sees himself as someone who had a gun to his head, but Gaeta as someone who had a choice. And while Gaeta did work with the Resistance from the inside, he was still willingly on the inside. When Baltar, knowing full well there's a camera in his cell, leans in to tell Gaeta something, thereby making Adama, Roslin, etc. suspicious of HIM, he loses it, and between this action and the stain on his reputation, he may never recover. I like that he isn't talked down, but that Adama punches him out in a moment of distraction. Now that Baltar will get a public trial, how is Gaeta going to be compromised further?

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: The lullaby that opens the show includes the line "should I die before I wake", which is/will be echoed in an old Earth rhyme.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Headcount is now at 41,403, up two from the previous episode. They are Hera and Baltar (Caprica-6 is not included, of course).

VERSIONS: The episode's deleted scene was actually shown upon original broadcast as a post-credit bonus scene. It features Roslin having a chat with Caprica-6 in her cell; Roslin recognizes Six's love for Baltar is real, and the Cylon offers a deal, try Baltar and she will cooperate and be chief witness, but not if they torture him.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Depressing to be sure, and we can question the hell out of our heroes' methods, but strong scenes throughout and complex psychological stuff.

Speaking of breaks, these reviews will take one during the holidays because they really don't strike the right mood. They will return second week of January!


LiamKav said...

I'm only a few episodes ahead of this, but I'm finding BSG's treatment of marriages so far to veer just a little bit too much towards "tsk, women eh?" Cally and Dee end up as the nagging wives and it's just a bit cliched.

(Of course you do have Starbuck to counter that, but she is also portrayed as being "the one in the wrong" and given far less sympathetic writing than Lee is.)

Siskoid said...

And really, Anders is the wife in that relationship. The show really doesn't think highly of marriage. I guess we still have Helo and Sharon.


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