Battlestar Galactica: The Oath
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Battlestar Galactica: The Oath

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Battlestar Galactica

The Oath

Season 4, Episode 13
-

Battlestar Galactica

The Oath

Season 4, Episode 13

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Early in tonight's episode, as Lt. Gaeta kicks off a revolution by secreting Vice-President Zarek out of the brig and off to an escape vessel, Zarek stops to lecture him.  As he tells Gaeta, he knows a thing or two about revolutions.  "Success doesn't hinge on some grand operatic idea or the will of the people.  It hangs on the cumulative moments, each one building on the next, and it can be lost with the slightest hesitation."  

That first part's important.  There is no great idea behind the revolution tonight.  Instead, we get an hour of chaos, betrayal, and petty score-settling.  We hear several references to Pegasus, the evil twin of the Battlestar Galactica, which is fitting: this season, the two ships have a lot in common.  

As we learned in Razor, the Pegasus escaped the Cylon attack thanks to a fluke and found itself aimless and alone.  The Pegasus had no mission.  That's why Admiral Cain had to invent one - telling her crew that they would wander through space, making guerilla attacks on the Cylons and surviving pretty much for the sake of it, and anyone who didn't like it would get a bullet in the head.  Pegasus didn't have a mission, but it had discipline, and that was the one thing that kept them sane in the void.  

Having discovered that Earth is a bust, the Galactica and its fleet have no mission, either.  They've been arguing about tactics - should the humans accept Cylon technology on their ships? And they've argued about politics - can the humans and Cylons form a permanent alliance?  That proposed alliance, which would take the Cylons who have cozied up to the humans and make them full-fledged citizens and partners for the future, is the cause of the war that starts in tonight's episode.  But all of these arguments take place against the knowledge that Adama's only plan is to keep scratching lottery tickets until humanity wins a grand prize, or runs out of algae.  They have nothing concrete to wish for, and without that, the only thing that could keep everyone in line is discipline.  

We already know that Adama and Roslin, newly fluttering lovebirds who are chronically shirking their responsibilities, don't feel like leading the fleet.  But there are subtler clues about their neglect.  Early on, in the CIC, Adama notes that the civilian ships are resisting the decision to work with the Cylons.  He remarks offhandedly that if they're going to have to send marines onto every single ship to get them to follow orders, "you can kiss this alliance goodbye."  He may have encouraged a human-Cylon alliance, but it's not like he's going to shoot anybody to make it happen.  Admiral Cain could tell him how well that's going to work out.  

So while Adama and Roslin snooze, Gaeta and Zarek kick off their revolution, and this week's episode brilliantly captures the lawlessness and chaos - the lack of any "grand operatic idea."  I take back what I said last week about Gaeta: he and Zarek are the perfect characters to set this in motion.  And they're perfect because they're basically nobodies.  They're both background players.  They don't present an alternative to the Adama/Roslin administration; they just know how to tear it down.  You don't really root for them, but you believe that they could succeed.  

But it's a messy revolution, and  the footsoldiers are thugs.  Scores are settled, some of them so old they're basically fan service.  Seelix and Anders go pretty far back - but tonight, she stands back while a couple soldiers kick the shit out of him.  Remember when Helo killed an officer on the Pegasus to save Athena from rape?  Well, one of that guy's buddies sure remembers it, and now rape is back on the table.  And it's not just the "bad guys."  When Apollo finally meets up with Tigh, even he admits that he doesn't buy the idea that the humans could ever work with their mortal enemies.  "We can't pretend to put it behind us," he shouts.  "If this is what survival has come to!"

The other "good guys" don't have any better ideas.  Roslin jumps on the wireless radio and tries to appeal to the fleet; it fails.  Baltar finds a phone and dials up Gaeta, at the 11th hour, to reason with his old pal and aide-de-camp; Gaeta hangs up on him.  We end the episode with Roslin and Baltar fleeing to the Cylon baseship; Apollo and Starbuck sneaking into, I don't know, an air vent or something; and Adama and Tigh, plenty of life in the old coots, armed to the teeth and ready for a final shoot-out against the mutaineers.  Both guys get extra man points tonight, which makes their scenes even sadder.  Adama lost the ship before he even knew what was going on; thanks to Gaeta's manipulation of the communications in and out of the CIC, Adama makes it halfway through the episode before he even learns of the situation, and by that time, his last-ditch appeal to discipline falls flat.  Starbuck throws it in his face: "They are not your men anymore.  They are the enemy."

As the ship carrying the legitimate President flees from Galactica, Gaeta hesitates - just like Zarek warned - before he gives the order to shoot them down.  If those extra moments are the reason Roslin survives, then maybe Zarek was right - and maybe Gaeta lost the revolution.  But that's okay.  At the rate humanity's going, there'll be another one soon enough.

Rating: A

Stray Observations:

- How great was it to see Roslin and Baltar suddenly getting along, now that they can commiserate over their screw-ups?  

- Once again, I'm wondering why they can't fix the phone situation on this ship.  I understand the aversion to networked computers, but imagine if Adama had Blackberry.  This is the only sci-fi show I've ever watched where the cast had less technology than I have sitting on my coffee table.
 

- The malapropisms on this show are treading into Soprano territory.  For example, Tigh, on the Quorum: "It'd take a cavity search to find the backbone in that sorry lot."  Yeah - one hell of a cavity search.  

- Although Starbuck's lines got clunkier and clunkier as they went along ("When I named you Hot Dog, I sure as hell got that right"), it was great to see her in her element - running around, killing people, smooching Apollo, high on life.  She was the only character in this whole "the abyss stares back at you" episode who looked like she was having fun.  How frakked up is that?

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