After last week's torrent of space-opera exposition, it's apropos of Battlestar Galactica to shift gears for an episode and dial up the human drama. It's a formula that serves the show well, but with only four episodes to go before the series finale, the sudden screeching halt kills some of the urgency that has permeated every glance and gesture of late.
Still, there's plenty to chew on now that fifth-final-Cylon Ellen Tigh (with fellow escapee Boomer in tow) has linked up with the fleet. She reunites with Saul, and it doesn't take long for her to learn of his baby with Caprica Six, transforming Ellen back into the ruthless manipulator we know and love/hate; she has more than a few choice words for Tigh for having a child with his own creation. Six is having complications with their unborn son (who, we learn in a tender moment, is named Liam after William Adama) only four months into her pregnancy. "The baby's fighting back," Doc Cottle warns gravely.
The arrival of Ellen is evidently the last straw for the rest of the Five, who decide to put the decision to escape with the other Cylons to a vote. Now that Cylons can procreate without humans or resurrection, they scheme to jump away on the baseship and use Six and Tigh's baby as a launchpad to restart their race, despite that whole "this will all happen again" Ouroboros thing the humans and Cylons seem to be trapped in.
With Tyrol and Tory for, and Tigh and a comatose Anders against, Ellen is the deadlock-breaker. As she's only too willing to admit, she sides with Tyrol and Tory to hurt Tigh. Tigh resolves to stay, and passes harsh judgment on the Five's lust for racial purity: “No wonder we had to invent some passionate God for them to believe in, we couldn’t have them deify us, could we?!”
Tigh is, unquestionably, this episode's star. Michael Hogan has always been one of the more underrated actors on the show, and it was a sight to see him stretch his acting chops beyond the 'gruff hothead' persona he's cornered so well. The old-salt war buddy moments he's had with Adama this season have been fantastic, an affection Ellen sums up perfectly when she tells Six, “there’s something in the universe he loves far more than you or me - it’s Bill Adama.”
In perfect parallel with his crumbling ship, Adama is beginning to self-destruct. As Cylon and human workers labor to transform Galactica into a hybrid of their respective technologies, we see shot after shot of Adama looking around, tenderly and bewilderdly stroking Galactica's crumbling skeleton as though his world is falling apart. "She won't know what she is any more," he muses sadly.
He's stepped up his booze-and-pills regimen too, and we get to see him teetering on the brink more than once in the blink-and-you'll-miss moments the show does so well: offering a parched Ellen his flask (who brings booze to cabinet meetings?) and stumbling as he offers Tigh a drink in his quarters, his tumbler of whiskey** just a little too full.
Baltar (now shorn of all pretense to religiosity) returns to his abandoned flock and finds a new figurehead, Paula, rallying them to arm against the increasingly aggressive raids of the Sons of Ares. As they visit a makeshift refugee camp, Baltar's invisible Six returns. Baltar sees a kid who looks like (and has the same name as) him, and with a little encouragement from his imaginary(?) Six he gets his cult back on a leash by using his greatest asset: his silver tongue.
Noting the desperate climes of the fleet's starving and downtrodden, Baltar uses Adama's mistrust of the Cylons to manipulate him into arming his cult: "That's not a mutiny, admiral, that's a revolution. Galactica is slipping away from you. You're pouring Cylon blood into her veins - I'm offering you the last human solution you'll ever be presented with." Next scene: Baltar returning with crates of high-powered rifles for his own little Branch Davidians. Why Adama would equip Baltar's police force/insurgency so soon after the mutiny makes next to no sense, but the admiral seems like he's on the ropes, and Baltar knows just which buttons to push.
And just as Anders' heart monitor begins to ping with signs of life, Six's baby's pulse goes silent. The pace was slower and a little bit clunkier tonight, compared to the breakneck tempo of the last few episodes, but standout performances from the Tighs rounded out this bout of character drama. And, as hinted in the preview for next week's episode, things look nicely set up to come crashing down.
**Consider whiskey an authorial bias for Adama's unnamed drink. Substitute the ochre space-liquor of your choosing.