Mark Watches ‘Battlestar Galactica’: S01E04 – Act of Contrition

In the fourth episode of the first season of Battlestar Galactica, a tragic accident forces Starbuck to take up flight training to gather new pilots. In the process, she lashes out at the new cadets to atone for a mistake she made years ago. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.

I was curious to see when we’d get a much more Starbuck-based episode from Battlestar Galactica because, frankly, I think she’s been underused so far. It makes more sense now why the writers waited to give us this episode, and in doing so, we’re shown a stunning story about guilt and contrition.

It seems that from episode-to-episode, we’re seeing the crew of the Galactica grow, change, and adapt to the harsh reality of a life in eternal pursuit. It’s something I can’t even comprehend personally; even though I have moved a lot, I still have some semblance of a stationary home, especially these days. (No, seriously, in the past eleven years, I’ve lived at over twenty different addresses. The life of a runaway is so ~glamorous~.) While dealing with the discomfort of living in close quarters (which most seem to manage well), the cold open of “Act of Contrition” gives us both an in media res story, concerning Starbuck, and the unfortunate existence of fatal accidents. And maybe this is something I just missed about what the purpose of this re-imagined series was supposed to do, but this might be the least “sci-fi” science fiction show I’ve ever seen. (Firefly is close behind, for what it’s worth.) I was totally floored that the death of thirteen pilots wasn’t because of sabotage from Boomer. It was an accident. The end! In fact, every episode of the first season sort of concerns itself with logistics: how to avoid the Cylons; how to get water after sabotage; how to deal with prisoners; and now, what to do when there is a need for new pilots. Obviously, this is a fantastical series, but as I’ve said before, there’s no need to make realism mutually exclusive to the idea, and this might be the best example of how fantastical narratives can be grounded in a sobering realism.

For the record, I have avoided looking up anything regarding this show, including any background interviews, and now I realize I might sound rather repetitive or unoriginal, as it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that this show was created to specifically address this, and I’ll look a bit like a fool. But that’s okay! The whole point of Mark Watches is to experience these shows in the best self-constructed vacuum that I can pull off, and if this show was meant to act just as I’d said, then that just means it’s written really well. (FYI, as long as you don’t spoil me for anything to come, it’s totally okay to give me the context for what Ron Moore intended for this show. Again, though, please think through what you drop in the comments because I hate having mods delete them!)

In terms of the way that “Act of Contrition” is edited, I was impressed with how well Starbuck’s flashback’s to Zak’s funeral were integrated into the story. By having these flashes appear in a jarring manner, switching in between the funeral, laying in bed with Zak, and the first time Starbuck met Commander Adama, gave me the appearance of how thought actually works. Hell, it was sort of like we were viewing a daydream in real-time, as if Starbuck’s mind couldn’t focus on a single memory, jumping between connected thoughts and relating them to the present. And being a huge fan of LOST, that means I personally adore flashbacks used to give context to the present time, and “Act of Contrition” succeeds in giving us some much-needed information about Starbuck. It’s striking to me that in her flashbacks, she seems far less abrasive than she is here in the present, and it leads me to wonder if Zak’s death and her subsequent guilt over it is related to how she developed her sassy attitude. I mean, I do believe that Starbuck naturally has a great sense of humor, but even in “Act of Contrition,” it partially feels like a defense mechanism, as a way for her to mask the terror she feels in her heart.

It’s obvious that when Adama asks her to teach new pilots that Starbuck still hasn’t gotten over the emotional baggage of what she’d done years ago. But this is Starbuck we’re talking about! If there’s anyone who can push through pain, it’s her. However, it becomes clear that this is not just about giving a tough appearance. The problem she has with her own conscience is a lot stronger than she anticipated. There’s a neat narrative trick, though, that gives a later scene a lot of power. Adama was smart to point out that he knows Starbuck might have problems teaching because of Zak’s death, and this is when Starbuck flashes back to telling Zak he passed flight training, even though he didn’t. When it cuts back to Adama, he says that Zak’s death is not her fault. It’s so seamless that I believed we’d seen one of those moments where the flashback was told to another character, but we just saw the flashback itself. So I believed that Adama had just brushed off Starbuck’s concerns over inadvertently leading to Zak’s death.

Seriously, it’s like I purposely make myself unprepared.

I even initially believed that Starbuck was being harsh on the cadets because Tigh had chastised her for being so lax and humorous the last time she led a meeting of the pilots. I expected Tigh to walk in and be impressed. (That would come later, actually. So I was like…25% right!) But it became clear to me that Starbuck was bordering on being both insulting and patronizing, far too strict to pilots who’d never flown a Viper before in their lives. She’s overcompensating, I thought, but oh lord, was I underestimating her guilt! (Also, I was so distracted by her calling them “nuggets.” That word is forever associated with the word “chicken” in front of it, and then I got a craving for them. Damn it.)

Guilt isn’t solely for Starbuck in this episode, though. Roslin’s first visit to the doctor on board the Galactica isn’t devoid of some guilt either. We learn just how serious the cancer is and that she’s suffering from breast cancer specifically. (Was that mentioned earlier? I can’t remember when I think back. Maybe it was implied?) Roslin takes offense at the doctor’s invasive question about why she waited so long for a breast cancer screening, but you can hear the guilt in her voice when she admits she was “busy.” It’s even worse when she later confesses that she watched her own mother suffer through treatment for two years before dying. The truth is….well, Roslin’s outlook is pretty grim. There’s still the hope that maybe the Chamalla treatment might work, but with a limited human populace, there might not even be any Chamalla extract to help her. PLEASE LET HER BE OKAY.

Still, the bulk of what “Act of Contrition” deals with focuses on Starbuck, and I did like that aside from another brief glimpse of the situation on Caprica, Katee Sackhoff is the star of the whole story. God, I already want more episodes with her running the show, and this episode is evidence that she can carry the dramatic weight of an entire episode on her shoulders. Seriously, her performance during the painfully awkward card game with Baltar is one of many to show Sackhoff’s range as an actress. From this, we watch her train the pilots on their first day flying the Vipers, and she is uncompromising and brutal, failing all of them on their very first day, masking her guilt instead with disgust at these recruits. I honestly felt bad for Starbuck; her fear of repeating the mistake she made with Zak has caused her to refuse to give any of these students a chance. Thankfully, though, her actions could not be more obvious to Lee, who can read through this the second he finds out she washed out all of the pilots. Of course, she’s dismissive of Lee’s concerns, and it’s clear she just refuses to face the fact that she is overcompensating because of what she did before.

When Lee takes his concerns to his father and is unable to convince him that something is wrong, I realize I was completely fooled by the flashback during Adama and Starbuck’s conversation about this very issue. As soon as Lee mentioned what Starbuck had done for Zak, I could see in Adama’s face that Starbuck had not told him what she’d done. SHIT. JUST. GOT. REAL.

I know that I’m deep into my eighth review and I haven’t found much to complain about (THAT’S A GOOD THING!!!), and I’m seriously trying to. I am! Yet, I’m not going to complain about anything right now. Instead, I am going to heap a mountain of praise on Katee Sackhoff and Edward James Olmos for the confrontation scene. That is some of the best acting I have ever seen on a television show. And I intend every bit of that hyperbole, by the way. As talkative as Sackhoff is, so much of what makes that scene is entirely unspoken, from facial expressions to eyes brimming with tears, and Olmos’s silent rage and pursed lips tell us so much more than words ever could. I haven’t even experienced enough of this show to have an emotional investment in these characters, and I couldn’t help but tear up during this scene. It’s not easy to watch, especially Adama’s final line warning Starbuck to leave the cabin while she still can.

Holy shit, that is some good television.

This scene informs what happens when Starbuck takes the pilots out for a training session and Cylon raiders arrive unexpectedly. I’m guessing that when the Cylons show up, Starbuck feels a need to prove herself to Adama, choosing to face all eight raiders entirely on her own. Unfortunately, Hot Dog decides to stick with her (I’M SORRY, BEST NICK NAME EVER), and his amateur fighting gets her thrown into the orbit of a nearby moon or planet. The images we saw from the cold open are finally given their full context: Starbuck, in a need to prove herself as a good pilot, is now plummeting towards some mysterious world, completely alone.



  • Zak and Starbuck were engaged. My creys. 🙁
  • Who else saw Boomers extreme discomfort during the card game when Crashdown brings up the Cylon test? OH GOD.
  • I DON’T GET WHAT THE CYLONS HAVE PLANNED FOR HELO. And you know what? That intro during the title sequence where it says, “AND THEY HAVE A PLAN,” feels like it is specifically teasing me. DAMN IT.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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164 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Battlestar Galactica’: S01E04 – Act of Contrition

  1. Ryan Lohner says:

    Hot Dog is played by Edward James Olmos' son; you can definitely see the resemblance.

    Katee Sackhoff was genuinely terrified by Olmos' performance in her big confession scene, and you can see her grabbing her head as she leaves in case he threw something at her.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      I'm genuinely terrified of Adama when he's angry. He has the capacity to scare me a lot more than any of the cylons, even the centurians. He just has such an amazing presence on screen, despite not being that physically imposing.

      And of course he has the patented Adama Death Glare

      On which note, I find this totally hilarious… **spoilers I'm afraid**

    • LucyGoosey says:

      Yeah…I would never have realized that if someone hadn't told me. I'm really bad at faces (seriously, I scored significantly below average on the old Cambridge face memory test they used to have online).

      I can imagine! Sometimes, with the best writing and the best performances I can literally not imagine being on set when it was filmed

    • joeldi says:

      Holy shit, I never realised that, but you're so right about the resemblance.


    Katee Sackhoff is fantastic. I love the physicality of her acting. She acts with her whole body. Her facial expressions, the way she moves, the way she stands. She inhabits Starbuck completely and says so much without even saying anything.

  3. enigmaticagentscully says:

    " I was so distracted by her calling them “nuggets.” That word is forever associated with the word “chicken” in front of it, and then I got a craving for them. Damn it"

    Oh thank the gods, I thought that was just me! I totally want Starbuck to me an awesome Viper Pilot callsign though. I remember discussing with my friends what our callsigns would be. I think they named me 'Bubbles' because of my relentless good cheer.

    SO EVERYONE LISTEN UP and tell me what your callsign would be! because I'm a nerd and I want to know!

    • Well, my online moniker is "Polter-Cow," and some friends just call me "Cow," so…I would probably be Cow.

    • redheadedgirl says:

      Balrog. (As given to me by a friend.)

    • echinodermata says:

      I just know my brother, who was in the military, has an issue in that other people give you callsigns, and that's it's not your choice, in which case, shouldn't all the callsigns be really embarrassing? They're nuggets, give them some shitty lowly names, you know?

      • allyndra says:

        I have a friend (whose callsign was completely appropriately Xena), tell me about a guy she knew in training. His name was tragically Dick, and the other pilots were joking about finding a name that would stick for him. Well, what sticks to dick? They called him Smegma. /o

    • ABBryant says:

      It's either Midge or Skirl. Both of which are from summer camps. Midge cause I'm kinda short for my family (I'm average for the general human population, but my family is abnormally tall). Got that from a couple of my cousins one year. Skirl is a contraction of Squirrel based on a stupid skit our cabin had to do. I was more ADD than I am usually that event.

    • Meenalives says:

      Probably Moose-nose (given to me by my Dad for my former habit of walking with my head stuck out in front of me like a moose).

    • Maya says:

      Mine is Metis, who was a Titan wife of Zeus who he swallowed because he heard a prophecy that her son would overthrow him. She ended up taking residence in his head and giving birth to Athena inside his skull, and she is the goddess of thought. Since I'm a neuroscientist (almost), I thought it would be fitting.

    • elusivebreath says:

      Sunshine …. only because that's what they call me at work lol.

    • barnswallowkate says:

      I guess Barn Swallow is basically my internet callsign already, so I'll go with that.

      I should paint cat macro outlines on the side of my computer every time I have a commenting victory 😀 Internet Top Gun!

    • My best friend calls me "Flamingo," after C.J. Cregg's Secret Service nickname on The West Wing. Which is fine, and I guess it works as a call sign, too!

    • karate0kat says:

      Well, I suppose mine could be Kat, but that's both boring and taken, so…I suppose I could go with Big Mack. Given to me by my lovely classmates in middle school. Little shitheads.

    • diane says:

      I go by "cylon cat" on a number of boards, but that's probably not appropriate here.

    • daisysparrow says:

      I'm a counselor at a summer camp where all the counselors get nicknames that they're called all summer, so I have to stick with mine, Pixie 🙂

    • LittleCaity says:

      Oh lord, I haven't thought about nicknames in ages…

      I guess I'd be Koala, that's what an American friend used to call me. I'm australian, 'cuddly', and prone to lashing out. (Srsly, koalas? Cute but very dangerous. Ow.)

    • notemily says:

      People who saw me run on the cross-country team in high school used to call me "Slow-phie" (my name is Sophie), so if we're going with insulting callsigns…

    • auddie956 says:

      Mad Dog….

    • Coughdrop01 says:

      A couple of friends call me Crazy Eyes so I feel this would be the best option.

    • Crackers says:

      Crackers, I think. That's a good callsign to have. ( none of my friends know how into BSG I am so I picked my own)

  4. Ryan Lohner says:

    Oh, and Mark, you've got to love how Starbuck actually says in the teaser "You are so unprepared." Given the accident right afterward, it's like she was talking directly to you, wasn't it?

  5. echinodermata says:

    Take-home message: no one on Galactica is actually allowed to be happy for longer than oh, let's say an hour. Seriously Mark, must you always pick projects that are filled with despair?

    I do enjoy Starbuck the flight instructor, though. It's interesting. And Katee Sackhoff and Edward Olmos were perfect in this episode, but especially together. So so so so good.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      Awww and they were having such a joyful moment too, before it all came crashing down. I love the scene with Lee and Starbuck and the paint, acting like loveable idiots. And then Adama comes in and is all 'Clean your room you darn kids!' because he is Space Daddy.

      …though that sounds a little like a pimp name so maybe I should stop calling him that.

      Also, I love that you never really hear the whole story of Adama's 1000th landing, just weird little pieces of it as they walk along. It's so cute that Starbuck is telling his son a funny story about him that he never got around to telling Lee himself when they weren't talking.

      • redheadedgirl says:

        And even Happy Fun Adama is only slightly less stern than Business As Usual Adama ("This was all greatly exaggerated.").

        • enigmaticagentscully says:

          I actually really love seeing rare glimpses of Happy Fun Adama. He has a kind of quiet, dignified amusement about him, like he's always suppressing a chuckle.
          Happy Fun Roslin is cuter though. I don't think Tigh even has a Happy Fun Mode.

          Incidentally, I'm now going to use that phrase at every possible moment. Just fair warning. 😉

      • StatSig says:

        Take-home message: no one on Galactica is actually allowed to be happy for longer than oh, let's say an hour.

        BSG = Endless Sadness. But it is so good

    • notemily says:

      Znex'f tbvat gb ybir Ohssl, jurer abobql pna or va n unccl eryngvbafuvc sbe zber guna unys na rcvfbqr.

      (Spoilers for a future Mark Watches project)

  6. redheadedgirl says:

    This two-parter is two of my favorite episodes.

    There's so much going on, but the confrontation scene, where practically without moving his face, EJO can go from concern to barely supressed murderous rage (Ray Stevenson in Rome is the only other person I've seen do it as well).

    And Starbuck trying so hard to answer the questions but not answr them ("I don't know, you'll have to ask Lee." "I'm asking you." "shit") with keeping her face as still as possible to keep from spilling everything. Who hasn't tried that when you got ratted out by a sibling and you KNOW you've been caught? It never works.

    I also like, as a small beat, the conversation with Lee and Adama where they are calling each other by Commander and Captain (working hard at compartmentalizing the job away from the relationship), until Lee's like "DAD, please don't ask me." giving a signal that this isn't just the job, this concerns the family, too.

  7. chikzdigmohawkz says:

    The thing that gets me as regards to the confrontation scene, is that you can tell just from the miniseries that Adama considers Starbuck to be almost a daughter to him. The whole 'What do you hear?' 'Nothing but the rain.' exchange sets up their close relationship, and to have that demolished now, especially while they're running and fighting for their lives, is devastating.

    I mean, one of my best friends and I were 'broken up' for about a week a few years ago, and we both just about broke down in tears when we finally sorted out our issues. So I can only imagine how brutal this must be for these characters.

  8. LucyGoosey says:

    Starbuck handing Hot Dog his callsign the very first day makes me want to know the story behind everyone's (though my dad realized immediately where Boomer must have come from). That would be kind of awful, being stuck with an embarrassing nickname your entire career.

  9. pica_scribit says:

    One thing you didn't mention, Mark, is how well this episode (and a few scenes in previous episodes) sets up the relationship between Starbuck, Lee and Adama. We've seen all sorts of hints that Adama regards Starbuck with great affection, as an almost-daughter (since, as we learn here, she was very nearly his daughter-in-law). And we have the scene with Lee and Starbuck painting the helmet and teasing one another like siblings or the best of friends. So that makes the breach that occurs in this episode that much more heartbreaking. So few people are left, and how many of them are even lucky enough to have surviving family members? These relationships are so precious and seeing them break already hurts me, even though we're only a few episodes in.

  10. knut_knut says:

    THIS EPISODE ESPECIALLY THE CONFRONTION SCENE ASKLDJF;ASKLDJF;ASJ How adorable were Lee and Starbuck at the beginning?? <3 I have a question, though (if the answer doesn’t go against the spoiler policy) ! Has Boomer’s Cylon side fully taken over? Or was her discomfort at the table a subconscious thing?

    • chikzdigmohawkz says:

      I would images it's a subconscious thing. She hasn't shown at any point that she's come to terms with the fact that she's apparently a Cylon, and her purpose (whatever it is) seems to depend on the fact that she's a sleeper agent (to the point that her Cylon side has been so fully suppressed that even she didn't know about it).

    • pica_scribit says:

      I'm as clueless as Mark here, but I'm going to posit that Boomer's programming probably includes self-preservation, probably at a subconscious level. Her cover personality might not even register that her inner Cylon is concerned about this.

  11. monkeybutter says:

    I don't have anything to add to what you say about Starbuck: Katee Sackhoff is amazing to watch, I love Starbuck's character, and her scene with Adama broke my heart. Seriously, Olmos's steely gaze and her tremulous admission had me holding my breath. It killed me when he said he thought of her as his daughter—way to pile it on, writers! I loved their relationship, and how he was on her side in the miniseries. Ugh, show, why do you do this to me?

  12. NB2000 says:

    Olmos’s silent rage and pursed lips tell us so much more than words ever could

    Omos didn't tell Katee Sackhoff that he was going to get that angry, when she puts her hands on her head as she leaves the cabin it's because she genuinely thought he was going to hit her. Kudos to both of them for pulling that scene off so beautifully.

    I love the structure of this episode. There's at least four, possibly five if you count Bill and Kara meeting and the funeral seperately, different time frames in play. They overlap but never once do I feel confused about what's going on or when a scene is taking place.

    And at last, one of my favourite characters, Dr. Crotchety…sorry, Cottle. Worst bedside manner ever but I honestly don't care. He's grumpy and straight to the point and generally awesome.

    The parts of the opening scene with Lee, Kara and Bill are possibly some of the cutest scenes on the show. There's a lovely familial feel to them, particularly the paint getting knocked over and Kara trying to pin cleaning on Lee.

    The shots of the now mostly-empty briefing room after the accident, and the expressions of the few pilots left (I particularly noticed Crashdown with his arms wrapped around his chest, just huddled up in his chair) is a really effective way of showing us just how big a loss and how dire the situation is for the fleet now.

    Random trivia time:
    Zak and Starbuck were engaged. My creys

    If you notice, in most scenes Kara's wearing a silver ring on her left thumb. While the ring is Katee Sackhoff's the producers allowed her to wear it with the intention that it's supposed to be her engagement ring from Zak.

    Hotdog is played by Edward James Olmos' son Bodie.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      Oh my goodness I can't believe I forgot about Doc Cottle being in this episode! Love him forever and for always. <3

      • lyvanna says:

        I love how he says 'you're obviously an intelligent well-educated young woman' to the frickin' President!

        • And then he tells her at the end that she might consider praying. This doctor says that! The gruff, crusty, smoking-in-your-face suggests getting prayer on your side — shit. Be well, Madam President. 🙁

    • cait0716 says:

      I always kind of love that the doctor straight up refuses to put out his cigarette. It just goes against anything you would expect from a doctor interacting with a cancer patient

    • MissDirect says:

      …did anyone else totally imagine Dr. Cottle and Bones drinking whiskey together in their down time? I think they'd get along great.

  13. psycicflower says:

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
    People were happy and cheerful and had something small to celebrate and BOOM, evidently that doesn't get to last very long on this show.

    Obviously Katee Sackhoff owns this episode. You get to see so many different sides to Starbuck with her happiness and intimacy with Zak to her grief and guilt with Adama. Also, I never, ever want to be on Adama's bad side.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Oh god, that scene was perfect. Of course everything had to go to crap.

    • NB2000 says:

      Awww that gif, if Bill and Laura are the Space Parents Lee and Kara are so the kids.

      • redheadedgirl says:

        On TWOP they were pretty consistently referred to as "The Twins" precisely because of moments like that, or in 33 where she bitches him out for not being leader-y enough and then cracks up completely.

        • echinodermata says:

          Please don't use "bitches" as an insult on this site.

          • diane says:

            It's not an insult, it's a mode of talking. And Starbuck was doing it correctly.

            • echinodermata says:

              Well, taking "bitch," which is derogatory, and turning it into a verb for "complaining" isn't going to just remove the baggage the word "bitches" has at its roots (that being "bitch"). Maybe insult isn't the best descriptor, but "bitches" is just a continuation of making a descriptor for negative action/behavior a gendered word, but moreover one that is based on a word already against site rules.

              The reason I added "as an insult" is because I do recognize there are many women posting on the site, and some women do try to reclaim the word "bitch." But without evident context that that's what's happening (for example, I accept HBIC as being evidently reclaiming since I've only seen the term used positively), I perceive the use of "bitch"/"bitches" as derogatory. And hence, against the site rules. So let's say then that instead of "as an insult" I originally said "as a derogatory term." I think that better reflects my meaning.

              Also, I believe I've basically had this discussion with you before. Let's not repeat it again, yeah?

  14. diane says:

    Katee Sackhoff was a champion swimmer before injury cut her career short. You can see so much of that in her acting.

    Ron Moore is pitiless when it comes to bringing people face to face with their own flaws and guilt. That really makes him one of the best television writers ever. There's a moment (somewhere) when someone unwittingly does something very bad, and one of the other writers suggested the idea first. Ron's reaction was, oh, that is SO wrong, we have to do that!

    And a quick shout-out of love for Doc Cottle!

    • Ron's reaction was, oh, that is SO wrong, we have to do that!

      Endless hearts for creative people who do this. I vaguely remember that author Lois McMaster Bujold operates on the same principle: "What's the worst thing I could do to this character here? Okay, doing it!"

    • notemily says:

      I know what you meant, but your first couple of sentences had me picturing Starbuck making swimming motions all over the place.

  15. Kaci says:

    You know, Mark, I intended to come here and heap praise on this episode because wow, and then I read your review.

    And now my thoughts are entirely consumed with whether or not you broke vegan edge to have the chicken nuggets.

    Priorities, I have them.

  16. Jenny_M says:

    I totally forgot that Hot Dog was introduced in season one. I had it in my mind that the need for new pilots didn't come in until late season 2, and I had completely forgotten about the accident that caused the trouble. Apparently a rewatch was sorely needed for me!

    I had the same thoughts about the way the episode made Starbuck's flashbacks work the way that memory really does work. I'm an editor (not on any cool show or anything), and the editing of the sequences was especially masterful here. My fellow editors don't always get a lot of credit, because when it's good, you tend not to notice the skill: it's just that good. When it's bad, though, yeesh.

  17. cait0716 says:

    When the missile kills the thirteen pilots in the cold open I pretty much give up hope that anything good will ever be happy again. They have Cyclons hounding them, sleeper agents terrorizing from within, political factions splintering off, and now straight up accidents kill people at random. It's just one disaster after another. Which certainly makes for good TV, but I'm glad I'm not living it.

    In the commentary, Ron Moore mentions that the flashbacks to Zak's funeral were supposed to switch between Starbuck's, Adama's, and Lee's perspectives. But visually that turned out to be really hard to pull off, so you can just read them all as Starbuck's. I think one of them is a bit more obviously Lee, only because you focus on his face before the flashback happens.

    I absolutely love that Starbuck plays with her ear and lips during the poker game. It's such a great detail.

    And I'm so glad that you didn't get spoiled that this was the first half of a two-parter. It's a whole lot more shocking when you don't know. 🙂

    • lyvanna says:

      I love when she's playing with her ear and lips and flashing back to being with Zack. Just powerfully sad.

    • monkeybutter says:

      I felt the same way, especially since the drone was launched because of an old strap and metal fatigue. That's exactly how the Cylons can beat them: let them run out of resources, fight amongst themselves, and have sleeper agents nudge the process along. Eventually, they'll wear out. I admire them for doing whatever they can to hold it together, but it's also hard to watch them in such a desperate situation.

  18. echinodermata says:

    Just a reminder: rot13 comments often get caught in the spam filter. I'll try to approve them when I see them in the spam folder, but there may be some delay between when the comment is posted and when it's approved. Something to keep in mind when you're having rot13 conversations.

  19. Noybusiness says:

    Ron Moore calls the style "naturalistic science fiction".

    The doctor on Caprica in the Miniseries told Roslin "it's advanced well beyond the left breast", but it's hard to make out, especially with the engine noise.

  20. Karen says:

    I am a huge sucker for storylines about familial relationships, so for me the kicker for this episode was the relationship between Adama and Starbuck. It's pretty clear to me that she views him as a father figure and he has the kind of affection toward her that he would have towards a daughter. So when Adama realizes that Starbuck has been keeping the truth from him, I was literally like "NOOOOOOOOOOOO" and then when he confronted her and I got the feeling that it was like when your parents aren't angry, they're just ~disappointed~ in you and she was holding back tears and this is now a run-on sentence but a;lsdkj;ldskfjd;l. ALL OF MY EMOTIONS.

    This was the first episode that really grabbed me because it was primarily about the characters and their relationships and that's just the kind of storytelling that I respond to. I hate you, "to be continued". NEXT EPISODE, PLZ.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Ugh, yes, I'm a sucker for this stuff, too. Adama's fatherly affection at the beginning of the episode just made the gnawing in the pit of my stomach even worse when it was clear that he was going to find out. I was so conflicted between confession washing that dread away, and wanting Starbuck get out of telling him because it would ruin everything. The to be continued is so damn frustrating, especially since I'm worried that their relationship is going to be messed up for a while. Is it wrong that I worry more about them than the potential annihilation of humanity?

      • notemily says:

        The way he was worried about her at the end of the episode, though, shows me that he still loves her and probably won't be able to stay mad at her for long. Which is an interesting commentary on the situation they're all in. It's hard to hold a grudge when the people you love could die at any time.

        • monkeybutter says:

          Yeah, he cares about her, otherwise he wouldn't have been so mad, but I'm worried that the nature of their relationship will be changed. His worrying makes their fight even sadder.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      Oh, but this sort of thing makes my stomach hurt. It's so tense! 🙁
      I know it's totally ridiculous, and would have no drama, and make no sense as a TV show but…I kinda just want everyone to get along and be one big happy space family and never fight over anything ever again.

    • notemily says:

      This is the kind of episode I love, too. There are shows (and books, movies, etc) that are supposed to be really good plot-wise, but if they don't really explore their characters, I'm not going to be interested.

  21. Maya says:

    I love the little scene we're thrown into in the beginning of this episode, especially when they're telling the story of Adama's 1000th landing. It's so humanizing and fun and sets us up in the worst and best possible way for what happens during the celebration.

    Also, can we discuss the genius of Bear McCreary's music here? The song during the opening scene somehow manages to be both cheerful and threatening at the same time. Guh, I just ADORE his music. You will see me go on and on about it later.

    I love the way they entangle Starbuck and the Adamas and how the guilt and pain affects all of them. It helps that Katee and EJO and frakking amazing actors and pull everything off BRILLIANTLY, but I love how they show the power of guilt and love and how lasting those things are.

  22. FYI, as long as you don’t spoil me for anything to come, it’s totally okay to give me the context for what Ron Moore intended for this show.

    As Noybusiness said above, he wanted to make naturalistic science fiction. Thus, the documentary style of shooting, focus on recognizable people in dramatic situations rather than technobabble solving fantastical problems, and a grounded realism to the whole setting: using cancer and nuclear weapons instead of "space" equivalents, using real military (specifically naval) jargon and conventions, and above all not using the reset button after or between episodes to make everything all shiny again.

    Like on, y'know, Star Trek, where they lose shuttlecraft like socks in a dryer, even way the hell out in the Delta Quadrant, but somehow still have replacements the next week. RDM worked on Next Generation and DS9, among others; he has a lot to say about what BSG isn't compared to such shows if you listen to the commentaries. Which you might want to do, anyway, when you're past Spoilerville because he's a good talker and is open and honest about the creative and production processes … and he does it while sipping Scotch and smoking in his house while the phone is ringing or the cats are playing in the room (and he has to get up and kick them up before returning to the show).

    Yes, I love Ron Moore a little bit.

    Oh, and they talk in the miniseries's commentary about bringing a post-9/11 sensibility to the show. How do people respond during and after unexpected, devastating attacks? What happens to ideals, governments, personal interactions in the wake of such turmoil and tragedy? I think we've seen that already in the show, so I hope that's not a spoiler.

    • Argh, typo fail! Edits: "among other shows" (not other Treks), "kick them out."

    • cait0716 says:

      using real military (specifically naval) jargon and conventions

      After my brother joined the marines, my family went to tour an actual aircraft carrier to get a feel for what he was in for. I was surprised at how much I recognized from watching BSG. It really is just an aircraft carrier in space. Almost everything is real, to the point that it occasionally backfires and seems fake because TV is weird like that.

  23. Tess says:

    I love that BSG isn't saving the good stuff for later; it has thrown out plots in the first half of the first season that other shows would wait ages to get into. Starbuck has a secret . . . do we draw it out for six seasons before Adama finds out? No. boom. Let's deal with the consequences.

    The scenes with Starbuck and Adama just take my breath away. When Space Daddy is disappointed with Starbuck, it's like he's disappointed with us all. Her pain is devastating.

    I also love that BSG is letting the characters be massively flawed, and do wrong things, without then simply giving up on them as villainous. Starbuck caused Zak's death by putting him in deadly weapon without the skills to control it. It was wrong. She knew it when she did it, and she's been feeling horrible about it ever since. But we still care about her. Even Balthar is still being given time on screen as a real character, and not just as a hand-rubbing, cackling villain, after he was implicated in the annihilation of the human race.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      Oh god, is 'Space Daddy' catching on as a name now?
      I'm so sorry Adama.

      • diane says:

        Oh my. I do hope not.

        I see him less as a father figure (although that part is there) than as a commanding officer. "The Old Man" but still loveable, because he cares, and because he's the "good cop" to Tigh's "bad cop." Their pattern as CO and XO is pretty classic.

      • kneelb4todd says:

        Perhaps 'Space Pop' instead? Doesn't give off a sugar daddy vibe. 😀

      • Tess says:

        Only in the context of his relationship to Kara. In all other circumstances it's "Commander" or "Tess' future husband."

  24. karate0kat says:

    Do you know that there are people who think Katee Sackhoff is a terrible actress? Those people are a special kind of stupid.

    Katee fucking owns this episode. Like, Starbuck and Aeryn Sun (Farscape) are my all time favorite female scifi characters, and Katee Sackhoff and Claudia Black (who plays Aeryn) are, like, the only women in the world I'm pretty sure I'd go gay for. I don't think that's a coincidence. GODDESSES, OK? (And seriously, have you ever listened to Claudia Black's voice? Pure sex…..I keep going off topic in these comments….sorry)

    Don't get me wrong, EJO is great too, but Katee….she just makes you hurt for Starbuck. She makes it so real, the grief of losing her fiance, of it being her fault, of now losing something that the Cylon's couldn't manage to take from her but she lost anyway. It's just…soul crushing.

    • Mmm, Aeryn Sun. My favorite comment about Black's voice came from the TWoP recap of an episode: "…and can we talk about the voice, for a second? You could bottle her voice and you would make a billion bucks but you still wouldn't have approached everything that makes her wonderful."

      ANYWAY. Sackoff's a good actor, WTH, people. Show them this episode in a continuous loop until they confess and repent.

      It's just…soul crushing.
      Sooooo much. When she's walking out of the confrontation scene, clutching her head, I'm curled up in a little aching ball on my couch. Starbuck is the character I identify most with, and it's largely thanks to the performance. She lives Kara Thrace, in every gesture, look, and word.

      • MissDirect says:

        I once found a crossover vid that was Aeryn/Starbuck with the summary "two pilots walk into a bar." It was pretty awesome, especially considering I'm not a huge fan of femmeslash.

    • notemily says:

      mmm, Claudia Black.

    • Gillyweed says:

      How in the world I just realised that Aeryn= Morrigan?! I love them both so much and never connected the voice. And I agree, her voice is amazing. One of the reasons I never went for Leliana (beside her being so annoying I mean), also reason why I prefer Fenris ("I am yours", mmm).

      Uh, I got a bit off-topic haven't I? Sorry.

      • tethysdust says:

        When I watched the Dragon Age trailer, I wasn't sure if I wanted to buy it until I heard Morrigan speak. Then I immediately said, "That's Aeryn! I obviously have to buy this game."

  25. karate0kat says:

    BTW, non spoilery video – Bear McCreary did the fanfare for NASAs final shuttle launch. How fucking awesome is this guy? Really fucking awesome.

    [youtube KLDplzwB1ZQ youtube]

  26. PeanutK says:

    Yes! Mark and I are finally on the same page and I can stop zipping my mouth shut because I'm not ahead anymore!

    That said, this was a fantastic episode. Considering we've only known these characters a short time, it's really quite amazing how much we (or, at least Mark and I. I can't speak for anyone else) feel for them and their mental and emotional struggles in this episode. Obviously, this is helped by some great acting from the cast, but a lot of it is also the pacing, the writing, and the ability the creators have to communicate so much about these characters in such a short amount of time.

    Also, I hope we get more episodes like yesterday's, because I love when shows explore ethics and politics the way 'Bastille Day' did. Now if you'll excuse me, I must prepare

    • PeanutK says:

      (goddammit it cut off the last part of my comment for some reason)

      *prepare for tomorrow's review and find out what happens to Starbuck. To the BSG file folder!

  27. I heard somewhere that the initial scene at the beginning was a result of the network demanding that the show include more happy scenes "like a party." So they put in a party, and blew up most the people celebrating.

    • notemily says:

      They did have a few lighthearted moments, though, before everyone blew up. Starbuck and Lee laughing together and pointing at each other when they spilled the paint was great. Which, of course, only throws the tragedy into greater relief. This show is so great.

    • And that's why I love this show. "Oh, we'll give you a party, all right…."

  28. karate0kat says:

    Does anyone mind if I start posting the score tracks from each episode as is relevant? Because, really, this music…look, I love scores a lot (my iTunes library is primarily made up of scores), but generally speaking, when I buy a new soundtrack, the whole thing stays on my iPod for a week or two, and by then I usually have a hand full of favorites and everything else gets taken off (I have a small iPod so I'm choosy). It's not that I find the other music bad, it's just a lot of times there are only a few songs that I like listening to outside of the context of the show/movie.

    In four seasons and two specials (I don't have the miniseries on my computer for some reason THIS WILL BE RECTIFIED SHORTLY) there are approx 126 tracks. You know how many aren't on my iPod? 5.


    [youtube 2cqXrIhkXNU youtube]

    • Karen says:

      Yeah I've been really impressed with the soundtrack so far. I LOVE THE MAIN TITLE SONG. OMG.

    • Christian says:

      I'm doing the same thing, btw. CAN WE BE BEST FRIENDS? <3 *is a soundtrack bum and has all the songs on his mp3 player as well as the ones from Caprica*

  29. TheMoonSheep says:

    Since others have brought up the "naturalistic sci-fi" idea, I have to say that I ADORE how BSG is not really scifi, it's political/military drama in space. I watched this series with my best friend in undergrad. She is a huge military nerd, the kind of person who can identify types of artillery/tanks/fighter jets/ships on site, and has some sort of encyclopedic knowledge of military history and different types of military equipment. I, meanwhile, am a total policy wonk with a love of political theory and how governments operate in crisis.

    So, basically, BSG is the combination of everything the two of us loved… IN SPACE. And with great human drama tacked on! I love that the BSG universe is one that deals with the consequences of logistics and INCREDIBLY LIMITED resources.

    I also over-identify with Billy. POWER TO THE STAFFERS; always and forever.

    • Have you ever watched Babylon 5? The staffers in that show have all the awesome in the universe.

      • Nightfly says:

        Oh, hell yeah! Go Vir! And Delenn's aide whose name escapes me that this precise moment…

        • Lennier! Who is Bill Mumy, who was Billy Mumy in the scariest goddamned episode of The Twilight Zone ever, "It's a Good Life." I could never entirely put that from my mind when I was watching the show: When is Lennier going to get fed up with this nonsense and start wishing people into the cornfield?

    • evocativecomma says:

      I have to say that I ADORE how BSG is not really scifi,

      Yes it is. It is really sci-fi. It is a military drama, and a soap opera, and a political thriller, and other things I can't say because particular arcs haven't happened yet, but it is really scifi. I'm sorry, this isn't an attack on you personally, but the whole "It's not *really* science fiction" or "it's a drama, it just *happens* to be set in space" or "don't think of it as scifi; it's the story of a family" or whatever are used time and time again to distance any science fiction story that has any depth to it from its own genre, so that "people who don't like science fiction" won't turn their noses up at it. It makes me crazy.

      The entire purpose of science fiction it to let an author put a morality play about the human race somewhere or somewhen other than here and now so that it can be told without the trappings of our immediacy. That's why people say BSG is a "metaphor" for this or that (e.g. post-9/11 world), and that's what lets it get away with doing things that a straight drama couldn't do–because it's science fiction.

      • notemily says:

        This reminds me of Neil Gaiman's story about telling someone he wrote comic books. When the person he was talking to found out he wrote Sandman, he said "man, you don't write comic books, you write graphic novels!" No, he writes comic books, and they can be just as good as any other form of fiction, but people find that hard to accept.

      • TheMoonSheep says:

        Oh wow, that's not how I meant it at all. I'm a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy for all the reasons you list, I was just being lazy with my language. I mean, those ideas of what makes scifi great are the whole reason that folks love to rebrand any and all genre fiction as "speculative fiction"–quick, ditch the alienating genre name and instead slap a new label on it! My reaction just tends to be that ALL fiction is speculative, at least to a certain extent; space is really the least of our worries.

        If anything, BSG deals substantially with the consequences of technology, which makes it "more" scifi than many other things. I just didn't think before I typed, since I wanted to speak specifically toward the political/military drama aspect of the series.

  30. notemily says:

    This is what the Battlestar Wiki has to say about this episode and realism:

    This episode emphasizes many of the goals set at the series' creation to make a sci-fi series that is grounded in realism. The logistical limitations on the Fleet are readily apparent: this episode highlights how difficult it is for Galactica to train new combat-ready pilots, as there are no reserve pilots and civilians with little or no prior flying experience are all that they have to work with.

    Further, this episode shows that sometimes accidents simply happen on a battlestar: this is not a perfect, pristine in-story universe but a worn, run-down real world. The accident on the flight deck occurred not through sabotage or some sort of technobabble space anomaly, but simply because an old piece of equipment wore out.

    The realism highlighted by this episode is again apparent in the climactic scene between Starbuck and Commander Adama, in which she reveals that she was responsible for his son's death. The dramatic situation it focused on is not centered around some sci-fi concept, but the interactions between people which could have occurred on present-day Earth. If the script for this episode were ported onto another series set on a modern-day Navy aircraft carrier, there would be few if any changes to it. It is a drama script, which happens to be set in space, which was one of the goals of the series.

    Rewatching thoughts:

    Random: I like the "they look… and feel… human" title cards, because the "feel" part is over a shot of Six passionately kissing Gaius, and to me that implies not only that they physically feel human, but also that they feel (emotions) LIKE humans do. I've always liked the ambiguity there.

    "You are SO unprepared." SHE'S TALKING TO YOU MARK! YOU!

    I have to recommend watching this episode with subtitles on, just so you can see what the marching rhymes they're chanting actually say.

    When Gaeta was like "what Cylon detector," at first I thought that Gaius hadn't even told him about it, which was kind of hilarious. But of course it's classified. (Or HAS he told him about it? I just realized the scene could be read either way. Heh.)

    Dr. Cottle! I do love a grumpy doctor.

    "From now on, your name is Hot Dog." I love it. I love imagining how everyone else got their call signs, too. Like, "Crashdown" is pretty obvious, but how did Lee end up with "Apollo"?

    Starbuuuuuck. Y U FIRE EVERYONE. I mean, I know why. She doesn't want any more Zaks. I continue to love how this plotline is written.

    You can just see Lee's "oh shit" face when he realizes he's just given away Starbuck's secret.

    "I love you like a daughter." That's the problem–she doesn't want to disappoint him. 🙁 🙁 And as Lee, his actual kid, knows, he's not the warmest/most forgiving dad.

    "Kat, Chuckles, Hot Dog…" Continue to love the call signs. I really have no idea what mine would be.



    • Ravenclaw42 says:

      My headcanon of how Lee ended up with "Apollo" is sort of like how (mild super early spoilers for A Game of Thrones, I suppose?) everyone called Jon "Lord Snow" when he started training for the Night's Watch. It's definitely not because anyone respects him – yet. Lee is the son of a well-regarded, high-ranking officer and probably had a lot of privileged knowledge of the military when he started out, a lot more than other cadets coming in from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Even if his father wasn't pulling any strings for him there would definitely be an initial perception that Lee was receiving favoritism from somewhere. So in my head I can see some instructor or classmates calling him Apollo (you think you're hot shit, pretty as a god, blah blah) as sort of a backhanded insult, which fits with the theme of the other call signs. But it happened to be a name he grew into and now people respect it. Back in the miniseries when Roslin insists on calling him Captain Apollo he seems a little uncomfortable with it, and he's like, "You know that's just my call sign, not my name?" Like, oh shit, people in the military understand that call signs are always semi-joking, but this is a civilian who might not get that.

      And that turned into quite the wall of text. Sorry! 😀

  31. fantasylover120 says:

    May I just say the acting on everyone's part in this show is awesome? Not just Olmos or Sackhoff's, all of them are brilliant in this.
    But man, that CLIFFHANGER! ;flails;

  32. hassibah says:

    I don't really have a lot of strong opinions about this episode. I mean I figured Starbuck's big secret would have to come out eventually and all that drama played out pretty much exactly how I expected it would and I don't have much to add. The scene between Roslin and her doctor is a favourite though, the actor that played him was awesome as well. Doctors recommending you pray-never good.

    I was way more stressed out about them losing so many pilots. I like how many problems they have with just getting basic survival down are because of their own human fuckups and not just because of external threats cause, uh, it's not like they have a ton of resources to draw on.

  33. HungryLikeLupin says:

    The scenes between Starbuck and Adama in this episode are quite simply heartbreaking, and while the writing deserves a good deal of credit, I do think that it wouldn't have had nearly as strong an effect if not for Sackhoff and Olmos. The relationship between the two of them is so beautifully and vividly portrayed, and almost entirely through facial expression and tone. It's obvious by halfway through the episode that Adama loves Starbuck like a daughter, and that she loves him like a father on top of her respect for him as her commanding officer. All of the actors in this series blow me away, but these two stole the show this time around.

    For what it's worth, I noticed that during the flashbacks to Zak's funeral, the family was arrayed on one side of the coffin while military personnel were on the other. What makes it really interesting is that Commander Adama was standing with Starbuck–and the rest of the military–rather than with his wife and Lee. It's a superbly subtle statement about his character that even at his son's funeral he identifies more by means of his career. It's unlikely that he intended that statement, but I wouldn't be surprised if Lee saw it that way.

    I also love that this episode is titled 'Act of Contrition', and the layers implicit in the words. There is, of course, the Catholic prayer, a repentance of sins that is, at least in my mind, primarily associated with the sacrament of confession. That meaning certainly fits in with Starbuck's confession to Adama about her role in Zak's death. I can't ignore, though, the action implicit in the phrase. And that fits in with Starbuck's decision to take on the Cylon raiders; it's not enough for her to apologize, to repent, to confess what she's done and moved on. She feels the need to do something that will redeem her, even if the only way she can ever truly be redeemed is through her own death. Taking on the raiders is her act of contrition.

    God, I really do love this show.

  34. Weston says:

    I'm not sure that it was Hot Dog's flying that lost Starbuck. I suspect that it was more about her being severely outnumbered. Hot Dog stuck to the training Starbuck had given him and reduced the terrible odds against her.

  35. StatSig says:

    I don't have much to say about this episode, really, except that Katee Sackhoff and Edward James Olmos do, indeed, own (as does Mary McDonnell even if there isn't as much of her this episode). The three of them pretty much made BSG for me (though pretty much everyone on the show did a fantastic job–there's a particular person who I didn't like at the beginning whose acting struck me much later on, won't say anything more on that for now). Episodes like this did make me sad I came into the show partly spoiled–I started watching BSG because I was in love with BSG: The Board Game by Fantasy Flight, and a lot of the cards, etc. gave minor events from the first season, including the hangar accident. Major events (deaths, big reveals) were generally not spoiled for me except for something in season 4 ( Qhnyyn pbzzvggvat fhvpvqr, for curious not-Mark people), but even the minor spoilers made me feel like I'd missed out a bit.

  36. akacj18 says:

    when im watching BSG i play a game with myself trying to keep track of all the names of the minor pilots and deck gang. hot dog. kat. chuckles, susinus (dont really know how to spell that one). i guess its not really a game. but it makes me feel like i am part of the group when i know the name of a character in the background at the poker table. =)

  37. Christian says:

    Oh my FRAKKING gods this episode. One of my favourites from the first season by far. First off, let me post the main title song, just to refresh your memory. Cause…IT'S PRETTY <3
    [youtube 2VPep3zECm0 youtube]

    Now compare that to this
    [youtube JcrPTtOYeik youtube]

    God, I love Bear McCreary.

    ANYWHO. I love how cheerful the opening for this episode is (if you don't count Starbuck crashing towards an unknown planetary mass) only to have all those cheerful thoughts CRUSHED INTO OBLIVION! askl;fjsa;lkfj Call me twisted, but I love it when television does that. Also, the story of Adama's thousandth landing was priceless. MORE STORIES ABOUT ADAMA'S YOUTH, PLEASE! Hmmm I seem to be unable to form more coherant thoughts. Off to the next review! ALLONS-Y!

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