Spoilers for "Six of One," episode two of "Battlestar Galactica" season four, coming up just as soon as I put on a cravat...
There are drama showrunners with such a heavy editorial hand that every script, no matter who started it, ends up sounding exactly like every other script. (Think Sorkin or Milch.) On "Battlestar Galactica," Ron Moore gives his writers a lot more rope, such that, if you've been watching the show long enough and paying close enough attention to the writing credits, you can figure out who wrote each episode even before the credit turns up. You can assume, for instance, that any episode with a heavy focus on military protocol and lore will be from the David Weddle/Bradley Thompson team, just as you can tell that any episode where the characters stand around delivering speeches psycho-analyzing themselves and the people around them will be from the keyboard of Michael Angeli.
"Six of One" was vintage Angeli, and yet it wasn't, in that all the navel-gazing dialogue didn't bother me as much as it has in previous episodes like "The Woman King" (where Helo figures out he's a champion of lost causes) or "The Son Also Rises" (where Romo Lampkin and his sunglasses of fury talk Lee into going up against the old man). Virtually all of "Six of One" was given over to characters analyzing who they are and why they do the things they do, but even as I winced at occasion at how on the nose some of the dialogue was, it worked here, because the series is at a point where the characters need to be asking these questions of themselves and each other.
The Final Four are still groping for understanding of what exactly they are and who their fifth compatriot might be. The other skinjobs have been fracturing at least as far back as Caprica and Boomer's insurrection in "Downloaded" (more on that shortly), and whatever it was that happened with the Raider and Anders last week has only exacerbated the internal tensions. Lee, after many false starts, is leaving the military for good. Roslin, after a miracle cure or five, is finally succumbing to her cancer. And then there's the matter of the woman who looks, talks and acts exactly like Kara Thrace, screaming and ranting about the fleet going the wrong way like she's the most high-strung GPS device of all time.
With these seismic changes going on, it would feel like a cheat if the characters didn't pause to reflect on the meaning of it all.
Plus, whatever issues I may have with some of the dialogue, the actors really brought it this week. I know it goes without saying that Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos are brilliant, but Adama and Roslin's drunken/bitter midnight game of intolerable cruelty was riveting. Almost as good was the Lee/Kara farewell scene in the brig, maybe my favorite of the umpteen Lee farewell scenes.(*) Katee Sackhoff was, in fact, superb throughout the episode, as Kara veered between violent mania and controlled bitterness over Roslin's navigational choices.
((*) Seriously, Lee's goodbye was treated like the last 40 minutes of "The Return of the King." The only thing missing was Lee and Helo and Hot Dog jumping up and down on a bed together. Given that A)Lee's popularity within the fleet has waxed and waned over the years (and that one of his most recent public activities was to help get Baltar acquitted), and B)the character isn't actually leaving the show, it felt excessive. Either do the party in the pilot's lounge or the big ceremony on the flight deck; both were overkill.)
Even in the midst of all this self-actualization, a number of important things happened here. First, Adama borrowed a page from Roslin's playbook and sent Kara off on a secret mission to show Helo the way to earth. Second, Tory went undercover with Baltar (after being pimped out by Tigh, in one of his more despicable and yet not out-of-character moments) and started buying into his One True God theory (which Gaius himself seems to buy into maybe half the time), at the same moment that Baltar got his first-ever visit from Chip Baltar. And the skinjobs went from petty bickering to open civil war, with Natalie (the writers' name for the dirty-blonde version of Six who's with the Cylon fleet while Caprica rots in the Galactica brig) going with the nuclear option (Sixes have a tendency to do that, either literally or metaphorically) to depose Cavil.
Can any good come from giving the Centurions back their free will? From what we know of Cylon history (which, given Tigh's presence in the Final Five, may not be as accurate as we thought), the Centurions are the ones who rebelled against their masters in the first place. Sure, they're on the side of the Twos, Sixes and Eights right now, but how long will that last? Will the humans and skinjobs both wind up on the run from the more robotic Cylons? And was Natalie just teaching Cavil and the others a lesson by having them shot, or have she and her allies seized the resurrection facilities in an attempt to box Cavil, Doral and Simon?
One problem with the Cylon portion of the episode: Boomer voting with Cavil is far from the first time we've seen an individual Cylon go against his or her model. See also Athena falling in love with Helo and joining up with the humans, or Caprica Six breaking Boomer's neck and attempting to join with the humans, or, for that matter, Caprica Six and Boomer behaving differently from the rest of their models back when they first arrived on Caprica in "Downloaded." Boomer's vote may have been a starker break than some of those, but Athena's split was more dramatic, and several years old.
And what on Earth (or Caprica, or Picon) are we to make of Chip Baltar manifesting himself in front of the genuine article? Chip Baltar was wearing the same suit he always does when he appears before Caprica Six, which suggests (as I've always assumed) something far deeper than a hallucination. Does this mean that Chip Six will soon be appearing to Caprica Six? Or that I may finally get my long-awaited scene featuring both Chip Six and Chip Baltar?
A few other thoughts on "Six of One":
-At this point, I really need to stop asking questions about the logistics of the military, particularly in this post-Pegasus version of it, but if Lee can muster out by choice, can't Cally? Can't anyone? In the early years of the show, we were told that, after the genocide, members of the military were essentially in uniform for life because of the threat level and the manpower shortage. (Sort of the Galactica version of Stop-loss.) Did the arrival of all those Pegasus crewmembers change things? And, if so, why hasn't Cally quit yet? (And why am I spending so much time thinking about Cally in an episode that was blessedly Cally-free?) Is this another one of those class warfare things that Baltar was telling Tyrol about in "Dirty Hands" -- that Lee gets special treatment solely because he's an Adama?
-Did Roslin really miss at point-blank range because of her medication, or was there more to that moment we didn't see because of the editing choices? And does her bullet hitting dead center in a picture of her with Adama foreshadow a more dramatic split between the two than what we already saw here?
-Lee arranges Tom Zarek's freedom and inadvertently aids his entry into fleet politics, and now Zarek repays that by giving Lee a spot in the Quorum. Adama has already made it clear he won't tolerate Zarek as the president; should Laura die before the end of the series, who else wants to put money on one Adama running the fleet military and the other running its civilian government?
What did everybody else think?