Saturday, April 12, 2008

Battlestar Galactica, "Six of One": Rules for in case of a Tigh

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?


K J Gillenwater said...

I fear that Kara may never be back with Lee or Adama. I think that the fleet is doomed to die, and the only humans left will be the ones on the waste processor. Or a few she can rescue and convince to come along. I think Adama will know that the president is wrong, know they are doomed, but will continue on that path anyway as a sacrificial lamb of sorts....I don't know.

Not sure what to think of the final 4, though. What happens to them?

I tend to not like these episodes with a lot of soliloquies or dialogue-heavy discussions. But I did find the Tori/Baltar scenes very intriguing. How does he know she is 'different'? Baltar has always confused me...who is he? why is he seeing Caprica and now "Chip"? what does that mean?

Looks like next week will be back to some more action, rather than thought-provoking dialogue.

Nicole said...

Although I haven't really paid attention to who has been writing what, the last two Angeli episodes you referred to were some of the weakest in the series history. I wouldn't say this one was weak, because the Cylon civil war kept it moving, Chip Balter added humour and the other parts were acted the hell out of by EJO, MM and KS. I did wonder at the Lee sendoff, because it seemed a little excessive, and would anyone really do that for a non Adama who just didn't want to fly anymore?

I'm on board with Lee being the President at some point, although perhaps only the in final episode.

I am glad in my dork completist heart that they associated most of the Cylon model numbers with identities in this episode.
1 are Cavils, 2 are Leobens 3 are D'Annas 4- Simons 5 Devals 6 - Capricas and 8 - Boomers/Sharons

So the Final Five are 9 to 12 and number 7. It's interesting that 7 was skipped, and I wonder if it's the Final Five not already revealed to us. 7 is also an important Biblical number, so I bet Moore et al are having fun with that too.

I share Kristin's fear that Kara and Krew will be the only ones left alive, to start a new colony on Earth. With the left over Cylons.

I also wonder if Tory is Judas or Mary Magdalen to Baltar's Jesus.

Finally, Alan I know you have powerful writer connections with the HIMYM people, but if you have some power with Ron Moore, could you please get him to make podcasts for this season's episodes? I miss them, and feel that my BSG experience is missing something.

Dana Henderson said...

As to why Lee was able to leave the military. I think it's because he was sort of already kicked out of the military for his role in Baltar's Trial. So all he really did was not rejoin.

Also, if the show has kept to any principle it's that the rules never apply to those making them.

Anonymous said...

re: Headline


I thought the mustering-out ceremony was great. Lee thought they'd given him his big sendoff, and he was completely stunned when they gave him an even bigger, more meaningful one. It wouldn't have worked with just one or the other.

I'm not sure I buy the Admiral of the fleet and the President of the Colonies playing Odd Couple (think of the headlines!), but damn, was that scene good. Adama is a mean drunk, isn't he? The last time he got that hammered, he provoked Lee into resigning.

Chip Baltar! How appropriate that the ultimate narcissist got to meet himself face-to-face. Even if we never find out exactly who or what he and Head Six are, I'm fine with it because they play it so well.

Tricia Helfer is even more beautiful with the darker hair. I wouldn't have thought such a thing was possible.

Oh! And before this we didn't know all the Cylons' model numbers, right? Cavils are Ones, Leobens are Twos, the short balding guys are Fives, etc. Their Wiki page was updated within minutes.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, I see Nicole already noted that! And Moore has apologized on his blog for not having the podcasts up yet. Technical difficulties.

Anonymous said...

I was also struck by the amount of OTN dialogue, but what bothered me even more was how repetitive so much of it was. How many times did Kara scream "We're going the wrong way!!!" I know they were trying to hammer home the desperate futility of her pleas, but it got tedious fast. And the monotonous-restatements-of-well-established-points were not limited to Starbuck.

Mrglass said...

Lee's farewell to the uniform took at least one third of the episode, it was way too much, especially considering how minor this event was compared to everything that happened recently. Plus, all of those scenes have already been done to death in the show.

Yet, the rest of this episode was very good, especially the scenes on the Cylon baseship. I wonder if the "traditional" Cylons will keep control of the lobotomized raiders; if not, there is no threat against the human fleet at the moment, a first since the genocide.

Bobman said...

Am I the only one who thinks Mary McDonnell might have hit the botox a little hard in this episode? Maybe it was just makeup and an attempt to make her look more sickly, but her face seemed... off.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, y'all!

Kristin - I heard Baltar's "you're special" stuff to Tori as being the same crap lines skeezy guys feed to women all the time.

Definitely agreed it was way too much Goodbye Lee stuff and a bit much of Kara's Going The Wrong Way stuff.

Six's behavior has often been really fascinating and it's interesting to see how her "freeing" the "lower" Cylons highlights the Cylon/Human history as well as perhaps unleashing something that's going to screw her (and others) up in the future. They seem dangerous.

This was some of the best BSG bloggery I've run across yet. (I even like the goofy headline)


Anonymous said...

This one was a letdown compared to last week's premier, although the Adama/Roslin stuff was excellent.

Regarding Lee's exit, those goodbye scenes were annoying and they ate up so much time. If memory serves, Galactica entered the war undermanned and I believe I read on the Battlestar Wiki that the Pegasus required a smaller crew due to the higher level of automation. Factor in Anders' guerillas and the assumption that many of them - including Anders - actually joined the military, Galactica should actually be in good shape as far as manpower goes. That said, even if the ship has enough crew, it still seems pretty inexcusable that one of the two or three best pilots in the fleet is allowed to walk away. Taking a cue from Alan, preventing Lee from leaving could have allowed the writers to address the stop-loss issue more directly than "Dirty Hands" did.

Then again, I discovered while watching SciFi's marathon last week that the show's seeming sloppiness from one ep to the next plays better when viewed in multi-ep chunks. I would like to think that this Lee story line will look the same in hindsight as well.

Mrglass said...

I would like to think that this Lee story line will look the same in hindsight as well.

Indeed, the only thing that could justify so much time spent on Lee's job change this episode is if it really is the last time he sees, for example, Kara, Dee or his father.

Alanna said...

I can buy that the crew would give Lee a huge farewell. He's a former Commander and current CAG (third-in-command), and he's leaving to become the show's equivalent of a Senator. Two scenes might've been excessive, but the emotions didn't ring false to me.

I'm nervous that we now have four very distinct storylines and settings: 1) The usual stuff on Galactica, 2) The Cylon civil war, 3) Lee, Roslin, and the Quorum, and 4) The sewage ship with Kara and half the crew. Then again, Ron Moore has said that they won't do any stand-alones this season, so I suppose those four storylines should be enough to keep things going until at least the mid-season break.

Anna said...

No. I don't think the Michael Angeli-ness of this episode worked at all. "You can stay in the room, but get out of my head"?? Who the hell talks like that? The answer is NO ONE. And even the scenes on the basestar, which most people agree were the more interesting parts of this episode, were written in that same clunky/repetitive/expository/on-the-nose Michael Angeli way. I don't know why that man is allowed to write so many episodes. Or at least why Ron Moore doesn't assign him a writing partner who actually knows what good dialogue sounds like.

I think you are absolutely right on with Lee's farewell storyline. Also, it really pissed me off that we were so obviously robbed of a moment between Lee and Roslin on the hanger deck. (Seriously, you can tell by the editing that that moment was supposed to be there but got cut for some stupid reason.)

Regarding the "stop-loss" issue: from what i remember of "Final Cut," the point they made in that episode was that, since the genocide, no one had even asked to be relieved of duty because they knew that the situation demanded their service, whether they liked it or not. The only time anyone started asking to leave was when they thought the cylons wouldn't find them anymore. So I don't think Lee's departure is a reflection of the command authority; it's a reflection of Lee that he even asked to be relieved of duty, whereas no one else has, now since the exodus from New Caprica.

R.A. Porter said...

anna: I thought "You can stay in the room, but get out of my head" was a great and very believable line, particularly with EJO's delivery. The quiet romance of Adama and Roslin is at an end and that was about as bitter a "frak off" line as possible.

Anna said...

No. No one talks like that. If you were having a fight with someone and you said that, they would either roll their eyes, audibly groan, or say "oh shut the (frak) up."

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anna. That line immediately jumped out at me as DRAMATIC!

And also, I don't care if the crew threw Lee a week-long festival. We don't have to see it all. The problem for me is not in the universe of the show, but of how much of the same thing the writers threw at us.

Overall, I liked the episode, and it's certainly the best by Angeli. But I'm also a little disappointed that this season hasn't completely blown me away like the beginning of last year. Comparing Six of One and Precipice makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

I thought "You can stay in the room, but get out of my head" was a great and very believable line, particularly with EJO's delivery.

Same here. But apparently I haven't been in as many drunken arguments as Anna...

Anna said...

Yeah, thanks, jim. I'm not actually an expert on drunken psychoanalytical arguments, but I am a student of screenwriting, and I'll just say that Michael Angeli is never going to be one of the people I'll model my own writing after. I mean, how many times has Ron Moore apologized for one of this man's episodes on his podcasts anyway? He apparently couldn't even do the podcast for "The Woman King" without getting drunk on absinthe.

That particular line I mentioned was just one example of the larger problem with Angeli's dialogue. See also every word out of Kara's mouth, especially her big speech of 'I'm losing it. It's getting weaker. Don't you understand? It's getting weaker. It's half of what it was before. I'm losing it. One more jump and it'll be gone. Do you hear me? It's getting weaker. I'm losing it.' Yes, we heard you! Two minutes that went on for! To her credit, Katee Sackhoff sold the crap out of it, but it doesn't change the fact that it was horribly written in the first place.

Unknown said...

The only way to justify Lee leaving the fleet- there is NO WAY this guy should be leaving even if he is an Adama- is to set him up to be President Adama after Laura dies. Period. That's where this is going.

I am glad to see we won't be having Kara screaming about going the wrong way for longer than 2 episodes. (As someone else on line pointed out, it looked like that was gonna be the new WAAAAAAAALT!)

So, did 3 out of 4 male Cylons all get boxed after that?

R.A. Porter said...

Someone might then have to say "shut the frak up" to me during an argument. I thought the line was believable because it was something I'd say during a fight.

Anna said...

I would. Or I would just laugh and ask you how long you've been working on that line.

R.A. Porter said...

You might, I'd suggest, listen to the rhythms and patterns of people outside your normal circle from time to time.

As a student of screenwriting, and all.

Anna said...

So might you, as your argument for its believability is that it's something that you would say.

But I seriously did not mean to get into an overblown fight about one single line in an entire hour-long episode.

So now maybe we should start an argument about Michael Angeli's misogyny (whether intentional or not).

Tony Dayoub said...

A couple of things:

1) I think that Lee's overblown farewell is setting us up for something... don't know what, but it sure feels like it's a setup.

2) Without spoiling anything, Alan, I think you've tapped into the BSG zeitgeist (unless you've already seen a screener). The reason that you're focusing on Cally so much is because next week's episode is going to revolve around her in a surprising way.

3) And concerning Angeli, I do agree he's got a tin ear for dialogue. But as Ron Moore attests to in his podcasts, he pretty much does a pass on just about every episode. He would be as much to blame as Angeli, so let's not pile on the guy(I did like Eddie Olmos' line reading to Roslin. It may not have felt true, but it felt true to him, as dialogue should).

dark tyler said...

Perhaps "Michael Angeli" is Ron Moore's own Alan Smithee persona.

K J Gillenwater said...

Anonymous, Chip was the one that mentioned to Baltar Tori was different. It wasn't a throwaway 'guy' line after sex. So there is something there...some sort of knowing. Maybe it can all be chalked up to the fact that Baltar has this intimate relationship with Caprica Six, so he can sort of tell the difference between a 'real' woman and a Cylon woman? I have no clue!

I also think that the humanoid Cylons are soon going to be on the run from the traditional robot Cylons. That Six just created a HUGE problem for ALL of the humanoid Cylons. And that they have done the same thing to the robot version that the humans did to them and caused them to rebel in the first place. Maybe this is the idea of 'what has happened before will happen again.'

Tony Dayoub said...

Kristin, you are right about the Cylons.

However, I think Anonymous is right about Gaius Baltar. True, Chip does seem to honestly think Tori is special, but Baltar is limited by his narcissism to truly listen to what Chip is saying. For example, look at how differently James Callis reads the line "Feel her out," when he says it as Chip than when he says it as Gaius.

Clearly, Gaius and Chip are saying similar things but with different motives.

Anonymous said...

This episode felt like a series of character studies setting up the next mini-arc (Starbuck leads her merry band of sanitation ship allies on a wild goose chase), but I enjoyed it immensely.

The pivotal scene to me was the one with Chip Baltar. I have always assumed that Chip Six, Chip Baltar and Chip Leoben were the same being, some sort of "angel" or guide or entity whose identity we did not know yet.

But the idea that Baltar can visualize both Chip Six and Chip Baltar might throw a wrench into that theory. Are these the same entity or a series of distinct visualizations? Is there an angel (the One or some version of the One) or are there angels with distinct motives and personalities? Might Chip Six and Chip Baltar be competing to influence Baltar in the same way that the various Cylon models are competing to influence the lesser-Centurions?

In either case, this scene seemed to implode all that I had assumed about the series. Yet another reminder of how, even in an episode that felt like it was setting up future events, BSG can constantly amaze.

Anonymous said...

I'm not actually an expert on drunken psychoanalytical arguments, but I am a student of screenwriting


Anonymous said...

Bobman, I agree that McDonnell's face looked weird, especially her eyes. I looked for tighter skin that signals a face lift, but she still had crow's feet. But her smaller looking, up-tilted eyes are odd.

Barry Hertz said...

I'm surprised no one here has speculated on why Baltar was seeing "Chip" instead of Six in his "hallucinations." I think it may have something to do with what was going on with the Cylons this week, ie. Cavil saying they're programmed not to be able to see the final five.

So, Baltar had his "Chip" version rather than Six when he was talking to Tory, because she is one of the final five. Just a theory, but I was wondering if anyone else had the same idea.

Steve B said...


I wasn't thinking that, but that makes as much sense as anything else I've thought about. If that were the case, it would definitely mean that Baltar isn't the final cylon. Which is good, as I desperately don't want him to be revealed as a cylon.

The only problem is that the cylons have seen the others before. I don't know why she would have had a problem this time. Also, it doesn't seem as though "Chip" knows that Tory is one of the Final Five. He just suspects something is different with her. I don't think Six would have thought that differentness (I don't know if that's a word, but I'm using it) meant Tory is a cylon, therefore, she wouldn't have had a problem appearing.

I don't know, but I like your theory.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no one here has speculated on why Baltar was seeing "Chip" instead of Six in his "hallucinations."

I just figured it was because they hadn't tried it yet and thought it would be interesting. There's probably nothing more to it than that, and we'll never know exactly what's going on in Baltar and Six's heads.

(Sorry, I've just been burned by Lost one time too many...)

thedalyn said...

How did the 13 tribes become the 12 colonies? Am I the only one who suspects that the cyclons might be number 13?

Tony Dayoub said...


Tribe 13 is presumably the tribe that left to colonize Earth.

The Cylons were created by the Capricans.

However, you may be right in that there may be a subtle link between the two that has yet to be revealed.

thedalyn said...

Yeah, I know it defies all the laws of logic, but I can't help but think there's something there.

Christy said...

I'm thinking maybe a shark was jumped on the way to earth. I do not like this move for Lee. Bamber doesn't have the chops to come across as anything other than a girly boy when not wearing a uniform. I just don't buy it.

I know this is going off the, er, Acropolis, out of the pantheon, but I'm thinking of Kara now as Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, Angeli's dialogue bothers me less than his obvious misogyny. How realistic is it for Tory, after having been prositituted out by Tigh (which is horrible enough in its own right), to get over her obvious revulsion of the moment in order to be converted to Baltar's cult? On another note, Lee's episode-long slow clap was so intensive I wondered if he really was leaving the show.

Anonymous said...

I totally concur with Kate C. Angeli's mysogeny goes back to season 3's Measure of Salvation --that torture sequence. Poor Baltar, having to think of sex to get through the pain. Whydon't we ever see A MALE torturing a female on BSG? Baltar should be torturing Lucy Lawless. She should be the one dreaming of sex. Anotherexample: The WomanKing. Athena comes home, immediately wants sex. No. Wrong. Helo's the one who should be coming home and wanting sex. And then, The Son Also Rises--the pen. So damn phallic. Couldn't Angeli come up with something other than a pen for this prisoner to hold? And worse than that, he has Baltar hide the pen in his pants. Couldn't Angeli find a better place to hide the pen on Baltar than his pants? I mean,come on. And what does poor Kara get? A garbage ship. What's with Angeli? Why couldn't she be given the horticulture ship? And poor, poor Tory! Why couldn't Tigh ask Anders or the Chief to sleep with Baltar? What's wrong with a gay man suddenly appearing? And then -- Then -- during the sex, Angeli has poor Tory curling her toes, like she loves it or something. And the crying. Gods. Why couldn't she laugh or moan during sex? And, naturally, Baltar's on top. Angeli should be banned from the writer's room.