In the ninth episode of the first season of Battlestar Galactica, Colonel Tigh is reunited with someone from his past, which is the first of many moments of chaotic awkwardness that follow. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
I’m happy to see that this show can still have a sense of humor about itself, especially when dealing with topics that are invariably intense or serious. I could see how the execution of this might have been a misfire, but I think that “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down,” directed by Edward James Olmos (!!!!) uses humor to expose the absurdity of the paranoid witch hunt occurring on board the Galactica.
Spilling over from “Flesh and Bone,” Roslin still can’t escape Conoy’s last reveal, that Adama is a Cylon, and with the news that Baltar’s test is now complete, she can’t help but suggest that Adama go first. It’s the first domino in a long chain that will be tipped over, slowly at first, until everything crashes by the episode’s end. Now, we know there’s no way that Adama is a Cylon. I’m sorry, I just can’t believe that! That would be such a ridiculous twist, so I’m glad that the writers only pursue the idea in order to discredit it as much as possible. (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME REGRET TYPING THAT.) That being said, it doesn’t help that Adama is behaving in a secretive manner. Roslin even recruits Billy (who I’m quickly learning to adore forever) to try and get information from Dualla, who sees through his poor attempts in a heartbeat. That’s what I found both fascinating and hilarious about everyone in this episode. None of them were particularly subtle about whatever it was they chose to do. It’s obvious Billy is spying for Roslin. It’s obvious Roslin suspects Adama by ordering Baltar to do his test first. It’s obvious that Adama is off doing something he probably shouldn’t do. And that’s really the absurdity of the situation: no one is very good at trying to determine the truth without attracting any attention. Hell, I’d say that they are all awful at it, really.
And then Commander Adama brings Ellen Tigh on board the Galactica.
I’m sure everyone in the fleet has said goodbye to their friends, relatives, and loved ones in their own way, given that they sort of have to, as there’s no world left that they could exist in. Tigh did that by burning a hole in Ellen’s face on a photograph, suggesting that something had happened between them before she died in the Cylon attack. And yet, here she is, very much alive. Well…sort of? Because Adama’s trip to get Ellen is put in a new context when Roslin, checking in on Adama’s blood test, finds out that Adama cancelled his own test, replacing it with…Ellen’s.
He thinks Ellen is a Cylon? What the hell? Why would he bring her on board the ship if he suspected that she was a Cylon agent? So now the seed is planted in my head, and, just like everyone else in this episode, all of her actions are filtered through that lens. And I’ll just spell it out right now for everyone: if any of the previous episodes caused me to feel awkward, they pale in comparison to the dinner scene here in “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down.” If there wasn’t a little bit of humor to break the tension up, I may have turned off the TV just from how unbearable it is to watch Ellen hit on Lee and to see everyone in the room (aside from Tigh) have all their suspicions about Ellen slowly confirmed.
The dinner scene probably contains some of my favorite acting of season one so far, as the people in this scene succeed at balancing themselves between situational humor and the very real fear that the woman in their midst is a Cylon, trying to gain more information from them about Earth and the Cylons. It’s so uncomfortable because, like the other characters, Ellen is not a subtle person either. She is brazen, outspoken, and without any tact at all. (Seriously, trying to play footsie with Lee in such a confined space while everyone stares at you? No tact at all. Though…wow, she’s got guts. I must admit that.) If she’s a Cylon (and at this point, I completely believed she was), she seemed to be rubbing it in the faces of everyone else. Can’t explain how she got onboard the Rising Star? Or why no one knows how she was treated during the three weeks she spent on that ship? Or how she so readily knew of the Cylon-human development? SHE DOESN’T CARE. Literally! She’s drunk, with her husband, and she’s going to flirt like hell with Lee Adama. She’s clearly another space honey badger, obviously.
But she does make a slip, and one awful one at that: she correctly identifies and names Baltar without ever having been introduced to him. I was totally floored by the idea that Six is just as perplexed as Baltar about this woman, and I think I’m comfortable saying that I think she truly is disconnected from the other Cylons at this point. Why would she tell Baltar to pay attention to Ellen? The only thing I can think of is that Six is a manifestation of Baltar’s desire to survive. Time and time again, Six has given Baltar the information or advice he’s needed to protect himself. (Though, to be fair, she has awful timing when it comes to being sexual, as proven when Starbuck unfortunately walks in on him….humping the air. Oh god, this episode is beyond awkward.)
For Baltar, though, his success at avoiding certain death in “Six Degrees of Separation” seems pointless when he is faced with over sixty years worth of lab work. The daunting task of testing over 47,000 samples of blood (requiring eleven hours per sample) frustrates him to near-fatalism. How is he ever going to pull this off?
It really doesn’t take long for all of this to be completely and utterly destroyed, though, and after Baltar is called back to his lab by Adama, Tigh voices his distaste with Ellen’s flirting, given that that is what dissolved their relationship the last time. To me, though, this was where Ellen laid out her entire plan for appearing on the Galactica, and she did so far too obviously. Every Cylon appearance since the start of the season has chipped away (or attempted to) at the camaraderie and trust of those who are still alive. How this fits into a larger “plan” is still a mystery to me, but Ellen was a clear plant to cause the people running things to bicker and fight with one another.
I bet there are those who disliked how the three-way fight in Baltar’s lab was played up as being funny, and I don’t blame them, as it is an odd tonal choice. I, however, firmly land on the side of thinking it was a great way to deal with an uncomfortable situation and to poke fun at the inherent seriousness of everyone involved. They are all allowing their emotions to get the best of them in a way that none of them should, especially as leaders. (I do like that Lee and Baltar are basically helpless to stop the chaos and simply look on in bewilderment.)
I was touched, though, by how much “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down” gave us a much closer Tigh and Adama. The Cylon Raider that had been malfunctioning suddenly heads toward the Galactica in a suicide mission. Even as they bicker and fight over who is or is not a Cylon, Tigh still manages to put aside the accusation that his wife is a Cylon so he can order Alert Fighters to attack the Cylon Raider in time. It’s a moment of perspective for Adama, who now realizes what a mess he’s made by carrying himself in the way he has. Adama is not one to express his emotions plainly, so I really liked that he spells things out for Tigh, that he truly cares for his colonel and, more important, his friend. And really, it was about time that we got an episode that focused on Colonel Tigh anyway.
Surprisingly, all of this proves to be nothing more than a mistake, as Baltar confirms that Ellen is human. She’s not a Cylon. Can I just echo Lee’s concerns and say that this somehow feels worse than if she’d been a Cylon? Well, at least it did for a whole whopping sixty seconds. As Six tries to commend Baltar for the work he’s done, he admits to her that he has decided that life will be much easier for him if he merely reports that all tests have come back as green.
WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!? Why????? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? So now it’s possible that Ellen is a Cylon? That others will pass through and you’ll just let them? Even from a standpoint of self-survival, this is a HORRIFIC IDEA! What if a Cylon decides to blow up your ship? Life won’t be easier because YOU WON’T HAVE ONE TO LIVE.
Oh my fucking god, what an awful way to end this episode. I wasn’t entirely filled with dread, though, because the plot on Caprica gave me some hope. It really does seem that Boomer wants to save Helo, to keep him away from the other Cylons. He has picked up on the fact that Boomer doesn’t experience any sort of exhaustion at all, and she also seemed to know about the Cylon base at Delphi without having a good reason to. Will he confront her about it soon?
I was far more interested in Six and Doral’s conversation above ground as they continued to try to locate Boomer. They’re aware that they misjudged the mission, as Boomer’s feelings are genuine. It’s another piece of the Cylon puzzle for me. Doral and Six confirm that Cylons don’t experience genuine human emotion: no anguish, no love. Strangely, though, they sound jealous, and Six even begins to sob at the thought that she won’t experience love as long as she exists. Yet how was Boomer able to? What makes her different? How is she able to separate away her Cylon nature?
AHHHHHHH I GET NOTHING.