Sunday, March 29, 2015

Battlestar Galactica: Six Degrees Of Separation (S1E8)

by JASmius

Rating: **

Written by: Michael Angeli
Directed By: Robert Young

In a nutshell: Baltar blasphemes the Cylon god once too often, Number Six retaliates by somehow showing up in person to frame him as the Benedict Arnold of the human race, facing his worst nightmare drives Baltar into a "foxhole conversion" not much more histrionic than the one he pretended to undergo back in "33," he is immediately "miraculously" exonerated when his Cylon paramour's cooked video evidence is exposed, and a for-the-time-being chastened Baltar is back firmly under Number Six's control. Also still being led around by the penis. But some things are, I suppose, beyond even "god's" ability to redeem.

I guess it's a tribute to the creative staff that this series managed to refrain from resorting to the fabled "reset button" until its eighth installment (counting the pilot as the first). I guess it's also doing me a favor in that there isn't much relevant narrative to review or synopsize. But I still have several problems with this episode.

For one, just exactly how are we supposed to regard the Baltar-Number Six sub-thread? I've observed previously that the only purpose I can see for it is to provide the audience with an insight into Cylon culture and intentions. I also observed just last week that the Cylons seem at cross-purposes, with Number Six adamant that Baltar complete his "Cylon detector" (seeming to suggest that it is to have some other, presumably sinister, purpose) and a Doral clone appearing as if from nowhere to blow it and Baltar into daggit chow. Now we see Number Six toying (again) with the vain, horndog human scientist, while also simultaneously "evangelizing" and satyrizing him - an incoherent combination assuming she's as devout as she puts herself over (and isn't really a member of Our Lady of Scanty Covering) - and in the process doing things that are inexplicable short of the supernatural and, at other times, things that are just really, really stupid.

The question, after all that buildup, is "Are we supposed to take the Baltar-Number Six angle seriously?" Also, does it have a purpose above and beyond making the latter a narrative device, not unlike the Borg Queen on Voyager? I guess you could say that the "Cylon Barbie Doll" has thoroughly reminded Gaius of who's boss ( I was going to say "who wears the pants in their relationship," but given her perpetual state of undress it didn't seem to fit), but by doing a "dry run" of Baltar being exposed as, if not a traitor, at least a really, really weak patsy, and then pulling it back and yelling, "Psyche!" it seems to me that the writers have delivered a significant blow to the seriousness of this plot line. When they decide to do it "for real" down the line, I don't think it will have the same visceral impact as it would have had it not been trivialized preemptively.

Here's another question: where did "Shellie Godfrey" come from? Has she been in the fleet the whole time, using her spatial proximity to Baltar to maintain telepathic contact? It would seem to be the only answer, since the alternative would be an independent "program" in the chip implanted in Baltar's head and a separate Cylon operative being aware of the same situation with the same human at the same time and acting in coordinated fashion. And yet she disappeared almost literally into the ether, walking around a corner with her security escort right on her heels and then vanishing into thin air.

So, where did she go? How did she go? Is she an "angel," able to pop in and out of the physical world, and the minds of humans, at will? Or does she have Borg-like personal transporter technology? And, turning to another speculation entirely, was she ever really there at all? Adama and Tigh and a few others saw her, but does that mean she was bodily present or was just manipulating their minds as well to generate an illusion, as she's been doing with Baltar?

And, the question I'm sure a lot of BG fans have been asking over the past few days, what was that wince-inducing scene in Adama's quarters all about? There was so much about that interlude that was just plain awful. On the one hand, I couldn't believe that any man could fail to be seduced by a Victoria's Secret model, and yet as Number Six brought her delectable lips to Adama's, the Commander just sat there like a Vulcan would have, unmoving and utterly expressionless. Maybe a huge wet spot was blossoming on his uniform trousers, but the story certainly didn't give the viewers any indication of it.

On the other hand, why was Number Six attempting to raise Adama's "launch tube" to "full alert status"? Did she buy into her own press clippings (like my comments above) that no human male could resist her? Had she been hanging around Baltar so much that she came to believe that all men were as flesh-addicted as he is? Or is nymphomania an override written into her programming?

I just didn't see the point. Even if Adama had responded to her, her unsubtle bimbo behavior would still have aroused his suspicions. And now that they suspect that she is a Cylon, she can't exactly waltz back onto the Galactica again with the same impunity.

Unless she's an angel. Or telepathic. Or "god" herself. <sigh>

Another roaring implausibility, at least to me, is the utter credulousness of Adama and President Roslin vis-a-vie Baltar over the previous three and a half weeks, the unquestioning, almost blind trust they've invested in him despite the man being in a state of perpetual guilt telegraphy. How would you not look askance at somebody who was always that nervous and mercurial, and who kept talking to invisible companions? Obviously something is making him frantically skittish. Maybe you wouldn't jump to the conclusion that he played a role in the Cylon holocaust, but wouldn't you at least think that he was a couple of Vipers short of a full squadron? Would responsible, canny leaders entrust someone like that with a top security clearance, even if he does possess skills and knowledge and expertise that are desperately needed and available in no other surviving human? And if so, wouldn't you still keep an eye on him, or maybe even "prevail upon him" to visit the ship's shrink?

Don’t agree with that? Take another look at the bathroom scene. Between Baltar’s frenzied attempt to lobby Lieutenant Gaeta and his forcing his way into “Shelly’s” commode stall and shouting “NO MORE MR. NICE GAIUS!” at her, you just knew that somebody would be coming for him – either security or the men in the white coats and butterfly nets.

The bridge scene where "Shelly Godfrey" makes her debut was that dynamic in reverse - Baltar talking to her as though she weren't there when the others can see her as well. Wouldn't somebody take note of the familiarity with which he addressed her, as though they already knew each other "intimately"? Plant a seed of suspicion, especially after she pulled her vanishing act, despite her treason case against Baltar collapsing right on schedule? And doesn't President Roslin in particular welcome him back into her good graces with just a little too much alacrity?

And finally, isn't that the most modestly "Miss Godfrey" has been dressed in the entire series thus far, by a factor of a whole frakking lot?

What does it any of it matter? The answer is, not much. Just a fairly large-sized cheat. Unless, that is, you marveled at how Gaius could bound up the stairs while tearing off his pants at the same time without ending up in a crumpled heap back at the bottom.

A few other brief snippets:

-Starbuck got goaded out of bed by Colonel Tigh (the opposite, of course, of Baltar's efforts) and down to the hanger deck to assist Chief Tyrol (who's got to be developing carpal tunnel syndrome in his right forearm already) in figuring out how their captured Cylon raider works, since she's the only one who can get it to do anything. Unfortunately she's utterly incapable of explaining it to the Chief, which isn't a knock since how do you catalog the avionics of goo-enslimed entrails?

-Boomer put on a really creepy display with the Cylon raider, patting and caressing it like it was a sheep waiting at the back entrance of a fraternity party and appearing to possess a far greater understanding of what the contraption is (as opposed to how it works). It resembled almost a trance, like the one into which she lapsed at the end of "Water." Sure seemed to freak out her ex-boyfriend, who was so unnerved that when she snapped out of her brief "detour" and asked him why he was looking at her funny, he was definitely channeling Sergeant Schultz.

-President Roslin collapses after ODing on pain medication. That oughta be a fun issue for Tom Zarek to bring up in the approaching presidential campaign.

-Apollo is AWOL again (not that I'm complaining….).

-Meanwhile, back on "Cylon-occupied Caprica," the other Boomer collaborates with her Cylon colleagues (Number Six clone and Doral clone) on whether Helo will abandon her after her disappearance from their restaurant fallout shelter or go looking for her to play the "knight in shining armor" role. No gold stars for guessing the latter. It was mildly diverting to see the other two beat the living crap out of Boomer, so as to create a convincing plight when Helo found her. But I was gagging at how the other two Cylons were on two occasions standing in plain sight of Helo and he never once noticed them.

Okay, that was last week, but I figured I could catch up that storyline in this review. Just as I also (finally) figured out that the Cylons are using Helo as a one-man psychological experiment. The sight of the three of them standing high above on a rooftop, looking down on their test subject, very much resembling a rat in a maze, was quite symbolic.

Nothing nearly so substantive this week, I'm afraid. After evading a Cylon patrol, Helo professes his crush to Boomer, and she smashes her mouth against his, and they rip each other's clothes off as if being attacked by the fashion police, and she rides him like Ron Turcotte at the Belmont Stakes, and her spine glows a tell-tale orgasmic red while Tahmoh Penikett gets an eyeful (not as much as James Callis got in the pilot, but hey, would you complain?). Not bad from Helo's perspective, given how his immediate future looked a few weeks back. Just wait until he discovers what's really going on.

On second thought, maybe it will all turn out to have been a bad dream.

After all, it was for Gaius.

Next: a Cylon agent is captured, and Starbuck gets to be the "bad cop."

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