Jan 17 2009 1:08pm

Battlestar Galactica Round Table: “Sometimes a Great Notion”

In case you were living under a rock, last night was the season 4.5 premiere of Battlestar Galactica, chock-full of reveals, revelations, surprises, and deaths! In lieu of a traditional review, we’ve decided to hold a small round-table style discussion about the episode, and then open it up to the rest of the community for a big ol’ discussion. The participants, Torie Atkinson, Threresa Delucci, Rajan Khanna, John Joseph Adams, and Pablo Defendini, were chosen by a purely arbitrary process, based solely on their fanishness. The conversation starts after the cut, and there are so many spoilers it’s not even funny. So if you haven’t seen the episode, please stay away from this post!

Pablo Defendini:

Let me get things started with a FRAK! DUALLA! NOOOOOOOO! I know some people didn't like her, but I really did. That was very very sad, and broke my frakkin’ heart. When the show first started, and Dualla was buggin’ out with the jacks and during the Raptor ride back to Galactica, and even after she shot herself, I thought that she was going to be the final Cylon, and that there would be a resurrection hub somewhere on Earth.

Ok, moving on: Ellen Tigh is the Final Fifth! Wow, talk about going with the so-obvious-they-would-never-go-there choice. That explains why RDM said that some would find it lame, and some certainly will. I don’t quite know what to make out of this just yet, except to wonder how she’ll come back; I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a resurrection hub somewhere on Earth (or maybe on Luna, to keep it safe from the nukes?).

So, that fire that Starbuck started, was it a funeral pyre for her doppelganger, or was it also her getting rid of the evidence? Now that she didn’t get a chance to tell Lee, will she keep it to herself, and if so, will Leoben play along? Someone needs to test that blood on those dog tags. It’s a nice flip to have Earth people all be Cylon. It’s a body blow to Roslin, which then sends Adama, her convert, into the disgustingly intense and wrenching spiral that he goes into. The Old Man’s lost it, as EJO has mentioned in interviews recently, and this train wreck of a man is gonna be painful to watch.

A few notes on craft and presentation: I didn’t think they could go starker with the cinematography, but damn! Some shots are practically duotone! Also, there were some deft and very beautiful edits, particularly the cut into Starbuck’s funeral pyre scene. And those two hallway scenes, when the Old Man is heading to Tigh’s quarters and just walks by that brawl, and then afterwards, when the camera pans by the “Frak Earth” graffitti—I think it’s goddamned clear that morale is not only in the shitter, but out in the sewers!

Rajan Khana:

Put me in the camp of people who, while not exactly upset, is a little underwhelmed at the Ellen Tigh reveal. I thought that was way too obvious and while I easily discounted out there choices like Zak [Adama, the Old Man’s long-dead son], I think I was hoping for more of a surprise. But I’ll see where they take it. I love Tigh, so seeing him have more to interact with is great.

On the other hand, this latest development undercuts the whole decision Tigh made to kill her. Obviously he didn't know that she would come back, but in a way it undoes that change. Although I have to say that when I was thinking about it tonight, I felt bad for Ellen. Tigh killed her, his own wife, whom he loved, because she turned traitor. Yet how many traitors are there around now? How many people forgiven? How many enemies now allies? Hell, Tigh was even a Cylon. In a way, bringing Ellen in as the last balances that somewhat, but I thought Ellen’s death was one of the emotional climaxes of the overall story.

I’m mostly wondering what the frak is going on with the other four of the five. So they lived on Earth? Two thousand years ago? Baltar said that the skeletons were Cylons. Presumably normal skin jobs as the Final Five seem to show up as normal humans. So somehow Tyrol and the others were normal skinjobs and now are something else?

Then there’s Starbuck. Yeah, what is she? One possibility is that there’s something on the planet or connected to what’s going on there that allows people to be duplicated. Something that allows dead people to manifest as regular people. I don't know - it sounds ridiculous. And that still doesn’t explain her ship.

The chaos of the fleet is very disturbing. It seemed all about the loss of hope. Even the webisodes had that big speech by Sharon about hope being just another way to lie to yourself, and in a way that’s what they were doing with the search for Earth. Or at least from a certain perspective. And it looks like, from the next episode teaser, that there’s going to be more internal struggles. Plus there are still other Cylons out there.

As to Dee, yeah, that sucked. I think they were heavily hinting that she was the final Cylon. Even the promo before the show mentioned the final Cylon and zoomed straight in on Dee, as if they were hinting it was her. When she shot herself I was shocked. And horrified. And yet I love the show for doing things like that.

Adama seems to almost have taken over the Tigh role right now. But I wonder what will happen with Roslin. I assume she’ll have to break out of her funk at some point. What will make that happen?

Really, though, I still want to know what’s happening with the Cylons. How are they still around? And what’s the deal with Starbuck?

One last thing—I thought Leoben getting scared of her was awesome. Just a perfect little turnaround.

Oh, and more Baltar. He was barely in this.


There were a bunch of turnarounds in this ep: Roslin and Adama, Adama and Tigh, Starbuck and Leoben, Dualla (aw man...) and Lee, Torie and Anders! That moment, when Torie mentions that Anders sang “Watchtower” to all the final Cylons... what the hell was that? Does that mean that they were even back then a small, tight-knit group, or was Anders some sort of rock star? Was everyone on Earth like the Final Five?

Torie Atkinson:

I deny these rumors! I’m no cylon! I think you mean Tory. :)


We’re gonna have to find a nickname for Tory (the character), then. I will continue to make that mistake, probably.

Theresa DeLucci:

We could call her Cylon Bitch maybe? I’m still pissed about poor Cally! Tory’s gonna get hers before the end. She has to. That was too cold.

What is up with Anders playing Jimi Hendrix? And playing it for all of the other Cylons on Earth? Can you picture Sam as a rock star? He was a famous athlete on New Caprica, too. Is there like an archetype pattern there? Maybe not, but it's so early in the season.

Ellen Tigh, huh? I always liked the drunken cougar routine. She was a little bit of Absolutely Fabulous on an otherwise very dark show. (Dee! Noooo!) And she was very clever. Will Tigh face repercussions from the other Cylons for killing one of their own? Will Ellen even return? I thought the other four Cylons could not resurrect. But I guess even they don't know that. Can’t say I’m wowed by the final Cylon reveal, but it’s way too early to know what it means. Maybe it ultimately means very little - the real drama is what’s going on with the human fleet.

Human, or whatever the hell Starbuck is. Loved her interaction with Leoben and her scene at the funeral pyre.

Could you imagine season one Adama *ever* allowing his ship to deteriorate like that? Walking through the halls while his men fistfight, drink, strew trash around? God, the morale is going to be a huge problem. Dee’s just the first of many I bet. I kind of knew she’d lost her marbles on Earth. Her voiceover... if Lost and years of Whedon shows have taught me anything, I can usually see a character sacrifice coming. (I'd pegged Cally for a suicide, too, but the last-minute airlocking was a brilliant, unexpected twist.) But it was still chilling to see Dee all happy and then... Ugh.

Very little Roslin and even less Baltar in the opener. I wonder what they, two people more of faith than the other characters will do in the face of this huge letdown. Mary McDonnell is such a great actress.


Not to steal your thunder, Torie, but something that you mentioned to me last night over IM has stuck with me: about how the women on the show serve to facilitate the men’s emotional journeys, or some such. I went “Huh” and kinda put it aside, because one of the things that I’ve historically enjoyed about BSG has been the strong female characters. But looking back over the last season, and last night’s episode in particular, I have to say that I agree: women have been brought very low, and that’s a bit disappointing.

Dee offs herself. D’Anna decides to stay on Earth and basically die off. Roslin curls up in her bunk with her ganja-plant. Callie was gonna off herself as well, until Cylon Bitch kills her instead. Hell, even Cylon Bitch totally played the whole “groupie” card with Anders-as-Bob-Dylan last night!

As for archetypes, Theresa. Yeah, I do actually think that all the Cylons (both final and original flavor) conform to a certain archetype. I suppose it’s feasible that Anders embodies the “god among men, celebrated personality” archetype...


That’s been one of my big problems with the show since the beginning—the women seem to appear only if and when the men need some kind of emotional catalyst. Dualla’s death was an excuse to set off both Apollo and the (bizarre, in my book) scene between the old man and Tigh. Cally’s death was a great chance to send the Chief off the deep end. Six spent the first few seasons as fodder for Baltar doing stupid things in public, and then entirely disappeared from this episode except to appear with Tigh and remind us of their cylon baby.

I’ve got a few theories for how they’re going to explain away the final five, but none of them are satisfying. The writers sort of set a trap for themselves when they made pre-existing characters, complete with childhoods and histories, into secret cylons. Did anyone else notice that they only remember their past lives at exactly the same age as they are now? But how does that explain Tigh knowing Adama for thirty years, and aging? The five didn’t seem to tap into some kind of collective unconscious, the way that copies do—they were exactly the same, not built similarly. The best theory I can come up with is a pseudo-Buddhist reincarnation explanation—their souls come back again and again, together.

John Joseph Adams:

Man, I don’t know what the frak is going on.

I’ve sort of given up trying to actually make sense of everything that’s going on on the show and just wait and see what happens. See, here’s the thing. While they were looking for Earth, all along I was saying, the Colonies must be a lost colony—that is, humanity reached the stars, settled other worlds, then there was some cataclysm which resulted in loss of historical records and so much time has passed that they don’t even know where they came from, and Earth is only a legend. And based on what we see when they finally get to Earth, I thought I was proven right...until they reveal that there were cylons living there, and whatever the frak is going on with Starbuck, and whatever the frak is going on with the four fleet cylons (Tigh, etc.). Of course, the lost colony theory could still be correct if it turns out that these cylons who were living on Earth recolonized Earth years after whatever apocalypse happened there.

The reason I’m sticking with the theory, I suppose, is I can’t help but try to fit BSG into an actual possible future, rather than some alternate-timeline future, or some Star Wars-esque thing. Since the Colonies talk about Greek gods and use all these other real world cultural references, and they do acknowledge that such a place as Earth exists, I feel like it *must* be set in a real-world possible future—otherwise the creators have stacked the deck with wild cards and we don’t know what the rules of the game are. So because of this line of thinking, I’m having trouble trying to make sense of everything that’s going on. And also, because I’m a rationalist, and since BSG uses the furniture of science fiction, I’m assuming that they live in a rational universe, and so am assuming that there’s some prosaic explanation for all the seemingly paranormal activity that’s going on. But—it’s getting harder and harder to see how any prosaic explanation will make sense.

As to some specifics about the episode—the Ellen Tigh reveal was quite a shock to me, and I totally didn’t see that coming. I think it’s actually kind of a bold move to make the final cylon be someone who was killed off already. I don’t know what to make of it just yet, but I’m intrigued. As for the Earth and the seeming resurrection/reincarnation of those cylons, and whatever the frak is going on with Starbuck—I’m mixed on that because, like I said, I’m trying to fit it into my rational worldview, and I don't see how it's going to. But it *is* interesting, and I want to find out what's going on, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt before I call it a mistake. It would have been interesting if Dualla had killed herself on the planet, to see what would have happened then, since the planet seems to have resurrected Starbuck and must have had something to do with those fleet cylons.

Like Torie, I also have trouble with the secret cylons with the complete childhoods etc. In the previous episode, when Tigh reveals he’s a cylon to Adama, and Adama questioned how that was possible given that he’s known Tigh for 30 years, I had hoped for some explanation about how that could be, but they kind of gloss over it and don’t really answer the question. Also, I find it really hard to believe that in a society sophisticated enough to create advanced artificial life that medical science would not be able to distinguish between cylon and human physiology *at all*. So, yeah—there are lots of questions to be answered about the final five, and I’m really skeptical that anything will possibly make sense.


John, I have the same issue with BSG regarding a rationalist approach—I have a hard time taking any religious or supernatural trappings seriously. But sometime around Season 2 I decided to just suck it up and suspend my disbelief.

Jason Henninger
1. jasonhenninger
"Frak Earth" was a nice touch.

Hey..maybe I missed it in the conversation above, but did anyone else find it odd that earth was nuked 2 thousand years ago, but they find artifacts all over, just barely buried? Two thousand years...that's a fair bit of sediment. But the stuff is all just lying around in the sand like it was last week.

And as for Ellen, I turned to the people I watched the episode with and said, "The skank? I thought we were done with her." Sums up my thoughts on that.

So much more to say, but I'll stop there.
Pawel Martin
2. pawel_z_wrocka
We were totally puzzled by the resurrection of Starbuck. How comes? Are there 13 Cylons after all?

Finally, my fiancée suggested that the Earth itself is a resurrection hub that brought the Cylons back to life after the nuclear holocaust - and it resurrected Kara as well.

So either Starbuck is now a Cylon, or humans can also resurrect...

Gosh, my mind is melting...
Amy Paul
3. redtailedhawk
I think that they'll find another planet, this one full of humans, and it will turn out that these humans nuked the cylon colony on earth.

As for Kara, wow. When she found herself, literally, I thought for sure that she would be the 12th cylon after all. Not sure what to make of the Ellen angle.

I hope that Tory gets some cosmic justice, and soon.
4. barbarellaslittlesister
So, to follow, 1500 years ago, one of the colonies, which turn out to be what later humans call Cylons, blow themselves to smithereens.

The other colonists find them, and are puzzled that this colony is Cylons, as they created the Cylons. How could these Cylons exist?

My guess is that somehow, the story will reveal that humans are actually the descendants of Cylons (skin jobs), and that the colonies creation of "Cylons" was a stepping stone for the recreation of the skin jobs.
Jordan Hamessley
5. Jordache
One theory I've heard is that Ellen is just an aged 6 model, which could be wacky.

I need a better reason for the death of Dualla. It feels like a cheap trick by the writers to have her be a red herring for the first chunk of the episode and then watch her just off herself. There is more to that story.

And Tory needs to pay. She is a bitch.
Let's hope next week gives us some answers.
Katrina Forest
6. katrinasforest
It felt like this episode threw the whole idea of the origin of the cylons into question. We've been assuming from the start of the show that the human-looking cylons somehow evolved from the mechanical ones. But based on this episode, it seems just as probable that the twelve models were originally human beings (aka us in present time) who developed a cloning technology.

What's confusing me is the whole Starbuck being the "harbinger of death" thing. Has that already happened? (aka was her crash landing on earth somehow the catalyst for its destruction?) Or is that something that's still to come? I love the fact that Starbuck's not having an emotional breakdown like so many of the other characters. Don't get me wrong, emotional breakdowns at this point are perfectly natural, but having at least one character who's not there yet is a nice contrast.
Angel Banchev
7. Tiranas
I just watched the ep and it got me thinking on several things.First Ellen implies that the 13th Tribe had anticipated a nuke detonation and had some kind of precautions in place i.e. Ressurection Hub Technology. That would explain to a degree the corpses and the Senturions remainings.We`ve seen that when Cylons die their old bodyes remain where they died,its only their consciousness that is transfered right ? So finding bodyes would be no surprise.With the nukes going off and stuff it would have been a bit difficult to colect one`s old body after his rebirth.Lets also assume that Senturions were servants to the people of the 13th tribe much like with the Cylons we know.So again finding remains of them is no surprise.That got me thinking about the army in general and how important people get taken care off during different crysis,so isnt it not possible that the Models originally were supposed to be avatars of important members of the 13th tribe ? Molded on their original outlook and with similar physical traits ? Well if the 13th tribe first possesed the cloning tech it would make sense that they were experienced with it and had that ability plus it would be easyer from a psichologycal point of view if you were actually reborn in a body similar to your own right ? So in a time of crysis one could operate it and be able to make decisions unhindered from the shock of a new body and all the mental stuff that can come with the prospect of it ? So i think that that could be an explanation even if a bit shaky one to the findings...

Another thing that got me thinking was that D`Anna said that they did not knew the design of the Earth`s Senturions...Maybe the 13th tribe molded their senturions differently because of taste or need, or maybe they were really prototypes for the Senturions the New Cylons know.

Another thing was the dating of it all and the continuity issues.Pitia is supposed to have made her prophecies 3500 years ago.Im not sure about it but i think that the Collonies were founded 2000 years ago and the remains on Earth were dated 1500 years old...So wtf then ? What has happened between Pitia`s prophecies, the Event that caused the founding of The Collonies and the nukes on Earth ? Are the nukes and the Event connected somehow ? Would be interesting to see what the writers have put up as an explanation to all of it...Would be most interesting to see the connection between the New Cylons and the Earth Cylons though...

Di`s death felt a bit week for me.After the strong conversation she has with Lee and how she is trilled to hear his speach and then the invitation she excepts...Just didnt feel like a pre-suicide behavior...Its true that they have limited episodes and have to close the plotlynes i just hope the next closed one makes more sense cuzz i`ve allways felt that Di was one of the stronger characters in the show so i was shocked to see her go so feebly...

As for Starbuck...well she was missing several days when she found Earth right ? So maybe some kind of Time Travel or something ? That can explain the brand new Viper she rides back home...i think...

I`ve watched the show because of the great ideas it started with and it was a pain going through season 3 and watching the whole what-the-frakk-are-we-gonna-get-away-with-now attitude of the show.I just feel that they should not be frakking around with it and end it properly like the show deserves...Sincerely hope they have cuzz else it would be just pitiful to see all of the ideas go to waste...
Pablo Defendini
8. pablodefendini
I think the accessibility of artifacts may be the creators taking a bit of artistic license in order to facilitate the plot.

@barbarellaslittlesister, @Tiranas
That being said, check out this interview with Ron Moore, where he says (among many other things) that although it's sketchy now, eventually, the timelines will all make sense.

As for Ellen, well. I've had some time to think, and reading that same interview has helped congeal some initial thoughts in my head. Clearly the creators fly by the seat of their pants, and RDM makes no bones about that fact. But after giving it some thought, I think the reveal of Ellen as the final Cylon makes about as much sense as it can, and about as much sense as revealing any other previous character (yes, dead or alive) as the final Cylon would.

One of the things that I really liked about the Season 3 reveal of Tigh being a Cylon, aside from the dynamic that it would bring into his relationship with the Old Man and the rest of the fleet, was the fact that it played very nicely into why Saul has always been such a broken man, and so hell-bent on destructive behaviour, like his excessive drinking and his always coming back to that "whore of a wife" of his.

The same can be said about Ellen Tigh—one of the things that justified the Tighs' attraction to each other for me was precisely the fact that both were very broken people in their own way. When Saul killed her, I very much saw it as him putting her out of her misery. Now that it's been revealed that both are Cylon, it makes perfect sense that they both have been so broken and lost; they weren't in touch with their true nature, but were so close to it, by virtue of being with each other. That kind of fine-line-walking has to frak with your mind, even if subconsciously, and it certainly leads to the kind of behaviour that we've seen from the Tighs throughout the series.

Obviously this is all just about making pieces fit together after the fact, by the writers' own admission—it's not like they've had a master plan from the miniseries on out. But like JJA, I'm willing to give RDM the benefit of the doubt and see where he's going with this crazy ride. I've never been one to second-guess writers much—they either do things I like or they don't. I wouldn't presume to say "Oh, they should have done this differently, or they shouldn't have gone down that road". If I wanted to see the show go in the direction I wanted it to, then maybe I should get to writing some fanfic, or something. It certainly wouldn't be RDM's Battlestar Galactica, which is the show that I've been following and enjoying so far.

I think the reason for Dualla's death is just what was shown in the show: she gave up. Lost hope. Again, checking out that interview with RDM sheds a bit of light on the motivation from the writers in that respect. As much as I like her character, and as much as I'm saddened to see her go, these things do happen: people lose hope, and can't find meaning in their life, and decide that it's time to end it all. There's never really a good explanation for suicide, and as Lee says in the episode, when talking to Kara, he has to live with the fact that he'll never get a clean, neat explanation. I think we, as an audience, have to as well, and that's fine by me.

The chronicling of her breakdown throughout the first half of the show, and our reading it as a possible hint that she was going to be the final Cylon is, of course, a red herring, and I'm damned sure the writers planned it as such. The fact that I was expecting her to be revealed as the final Cylon made the moment when her face changes and she pulls out her sidearm and just shoots herself all the more shocking and unexpected, which, again, is what the writers were going for. It's sad, but it worked. This is, obviously, also a credit to Kandyse McClure. She played it like a pro. Mad props, Ms. McClure, mad props.
9. coron78
I'm still not convinced that Ellen is the fifth cylon. Tigh seems to see her everywhere which makes his memory suspect. Until I see her alive, I'm considering Kara as the fifth cylon, as it explains her clone.
rick gregory
10. rickg
"it's not like they've had a master plan from the miniseries on out. "

Yeah, and it shows. Constructing a mythology by the seat of your pants is risky and not really working that well. I was pretty disgusted with the 'Planet of the Apes' ending to last season (Earth having been nuked) - it seemed pat and an easy out. But then, the search for Earth never really made much sense to me anyway - "Hi, we're being chased by Cylons that have destroyed THIRTEEN colonies... we thought we'd bring them to Earth."

I fully expect that this Earth is a decoy planet or something similar. Remember, there are only 9 episodes left - they don't have time to launch a major arc. There are four basic options: they all die, they all settle Earth, they all leave on a new journey (perhaps after Adama etc have been killed, setting up a new series) or they discover something about Earth that makes it the thing they were looking for after all.

And... well... the reactions of everyone seemed over the top. First off... did they need to send ships down (last episode) to figure out there was nothing left? Of course not.. this is a ship that can cross light years in seconds. They could easily have told that there was nothing down there. But the method they used was more dramatic, so fine... I'll give them that; there would be a power in SEEING the devastation that would make the emotional impact greater. But then we have Kara wandering off on her own... there seemed to be no command at all. And the aftermath - everyone's over the edge? Really? The president loses her mind basically and burns the prophecies... Me, I wanted to know what they predict after you find Earth. Are there clues there? Adama I can almost understand after Dee's death (and I fully get what she did - she was on the edge on Earth).

I don't know... the emotional reaction seemed TOO melodramatic. And part of it was that it seemed like no one brought up the point that Earth might be gone in previous seasons. There seemed to be this blind faith that Earth was a paradise and all would magically be well if they found it.

I guess that's the problem I've always had with this series... some of it's great, but there are gaps you can drive trucks through (not being able to tell Earth's state from orbit, Kara wandering off... or even Kara having to run to stop Lee from spacing Tigh last episode... what, there's no intraship comms?) Too often I'm reminded that there's a writer doing it this way for effect and ignoring internal logic.
11. FoolishOwl
When it was revealed that Ellen Tigh was the final Cylon, I was reminded of the ending of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Ellen tells Saul that everything is prepared, and they'll live again. I took this to mean that the Final Five were expecting the catastrophe on Earth, and that they had an elaborate plan, leading to their rebirth and reawakening -- and that this plan has already failed, because Ellen is dead, killed by Saul before she re-awoke.

I'm not certain of that interpretation, but it would mean that the episode ended, having reached an even more profound degree of failure than we could have expected.

In general, I think this story is an anti-epic. Everyone and everything is tested to destruction.

I went into this episode, with Dualla having just moved to the top of my list of possibilities for the final Cylon. Part of my reasoning was, frankly, that Dualla was the least developed character in the series, and yet had appeared in just about every episode, so perhaps there was a secret to her.
12. Craig Ranapia
Folks, I think if you're complaining about the characterisation of women on BSG, I think the sobriquet "Cylon Bitch" should be allowed to die sooner rather than later. Reminds me a little too much of how long it took "Cut-Throat Bitch" on House to get a name; and I kind of let that slide because being an abusive jerk-off is kind of Gregory House's thing.

What I find interesting is how people have been willing to keep accepting the Cylon's estimation of themselves at face-value even though (arguably since season two's 'Downloaded'), it's been impossible to escape the conclusions that they've all got huge gaps in their programming.

rickg@10: "There seemed to be this blind faith that Earth was a paradise and all would magically be well if they found it." And you find that hard to believe when most of the fleet have had everything -- and pretty much everyone -- they once took for granted reduced to radioactive ash? Where else do they have to go? Back to Kobol? New Caprica? Old Caprica? Most of these people aren't spacers or colonists; they survived through dumb luck. What else do they have to force them to keep going apart from blind hope?
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
13. pnh
Uh...the title of this post notwithstanding, the actual title of this episode was "Sometimes a Great Notion," not "Once a Great Notion."

It's not a minor point. Episode co-author David Weddle discusses the title here:

The day the staff finished putting the cards up on the board with Ron, and the day before we began writing, I flashed on my favorite American novel, Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. It is a much underappreciated and towering work. Anyone interested in fine literature and great story telling should read Kesey’s masterpiece.

The book opens with a childish rhyme that enunciates the theme of the book and what to me was the theme of our show. "Sometimes I live in the country. Sometimes I live in the town. Sometimes I get a great notion. To jump in the river and drown."

In Kesey’s book, the hero -- Hank Stamper, an Oregon logger -- does constant battle with the river that runs past his home, a river that has claimed the lives of pets and loved ones and comes to symbolize the vast and indifferent power of the universe that both gives life and cruelly snatches it away again. In his notes to himself as he was writing the book, Kesey scribbled something that has become one of the shorthand phrases Brad and I use while writing scripts. Kesey wrote: “Try to make Hank quit.” By that he meant: take this strong, heroic character and pile one misfortune on his back after another until he finally falls. What happens in that moment? Does he despair? Does he get up and go on? For me, there is no more defining moment for a character.

We tried to do this with almost all the characters in this episode: Adam, Laura, Kara, Lee. We ripped everything out from under them then sat back to see what they would do. What were their individual breaking points? And if they did break, would they stay broken or grope toward a recovery?
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
14. pnh

"What is up with Anders playing Jimi Hendrix?"

What is up with people thinking "All Along the Watchtower" is by Jimi Hendrix? :-)
Pablo Defendini
15. pablodefendini
Episode title is fixed. I should be airlocked for that.

And yeah, the missatribution of "All Along the Watchtower" to Hendrix instead of Dylan is a pet peeve of mine as well.
Megan Messinger
16. thumbelinablues
pnh @ 14 - I hear you. It's totally a Grateful Dead tune. :-P

Pablo, I also really loved the cinematography and edits in this one, even the weird, almost-white of the scene where Starbuck and Leoben find the body, and especially Starbuck's silhouette as she builds the pyre and burns the body. I liked that she was at once destroying evidence (and yet planning to tell Lee?) and giving herself, or whoever, or whatever, some kind of send-off; it reminds me of that time she took out her little Apollo and Artemis statues and prayed - unexpected, and all the more affecting for it.
Pablo Defendini
17. pablodefendini
I'm still not convinced that Ellen is the fifth cylon. Tigh seems to see her everywhere which makes his memory suspect.

That's a very interesting point. While I doubt that they would pull that kinda crap this late in the game, it's still within the realm of possibility.

the search for Earth never really made much sense to me anyway - "Hi, we're being chased by Cylons that have destroyed THIRTEEN colonies... we thought we'd bring them to Earth."

Well, the search for Earth never really made too much sense to Adama either! Remember, he out and out lied to the fleet when he announced that they'd found Earth, as a ploy to boost morale, way back during the miniseries. And as time went on, Roslin—and more importantly, her spiritual mumbo-jumbo turning out to have some sort of fundament in reality—turned him into a believer. That's been a big part of his journey as a character.

Additionally, the idealization of Earth makes sense, when you place it within context of a handful of refugees with absolutely no hope for anything at all, other than finding this one place they've annointed their "promised land". Again, that's why the revelation of Earth as a nuked-out shell is such a harsh blow to the fleet, in particular. Of course it's always been a possibility tat they'd find something like this, or that they'd find nothing at all. But if you were in the fleet, have had ALL your friends and family killed, your homes obliterated, your very civilization nuked into oblivion, wouldn't you cling to what little scrap of hope you have left, and over time make it out to be grander than it probably would be otherwise?

One thing that I noticed during the episode is that we saw very little of the original Cylons, with the exception of D'Anna. I would assume that they aren't as broken up about Earth. Even if they don't have many more options than the humans, they haven't been building themselves up for nearly as long when if comes to finding Earth.

@Craig Ranapia
Can I call Tory "Conniving, Scheming, Despondent, and Murdering Cylon Lacking in any sort of Loyalty or Honor" instead? Hm. That seems a bit long.
Kate Baker
18. Kate_Baker
Some thoughts:

I like the idea of Ellen being an aged copy of #6. It would make sense that Tigh sees her in the numerous meetings they have. Perhaps on a subconscious level, he knew. Not to mention, one of the things I noticed when they landed on Earth was #6 walking directly up to Tigh to comfort him.

I was also shocked by Dee's suicide. For that one instant as she hangs up her ring and looks around the quarters, I thought she was finally going to reveal she was the 5th. Instead, she revealed the pistol.

Now, what I find curious is that when Tyrol has his flashback to the market, he is in the company of different types of people (who we later find out to be Cylons). I will not be surprised if there are more than the 12 cylons or that the humans in this episode in the end find that they are all cylons.

I am also considering that since the final five were working in all parts for the "humans" and later resistance, that the attack on Earth was yet another past Cylon civil war. They were attacked by their own Cavil's, which would explain why they chose the sides they did in future resurrections, even unconsciously.

As for Starbuck, I did think that the Leoben getting scared of her was brilliant. Even someone who has seen so much death and resurrection, it was very interesting to watch the fear in his eyes. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the one who ends up with a steak knife in his hands this time around.

As for what the future holds, I am not holding my breath. If anything Moore and Eick love building you up only to take you down and while I will be secretly wishing for my happy ending; this dystopia is too far a long to see such gratification.

If anything, I will not be surprised if we see Tyrol again looking up into the sky at the outdoor market on a new planet, nodding to one of his fellow cylon/humans only to see the holocaust again, brought forth by Brother Cavil.
19. barbarellaslittlesister
@pablodefendini: I trust RDM and the writers to tell a good story and explain the time line. One thing about BSG is it's darn good storytelling. It's not always perfect, but it's superior than most TV shows.

And, great Science Fiction TV is hard to come by (I'm looking at you Stargate Atlantis, which I watched all the way through, even I thought the story/characters lacked depth).
Rajan Khanna
20. rajanyk
I'm still hung up on all the Cylon stuff. That would seem to have huge implications in the current situation. So there were skinjobs 2000 years ago? Doesn't that completely rewrite history as they know it? They're supposed to be new developments. And Cylons (correct me if I'm wrong) were supposed to have been invented in Adama's grandfather's time. Now we, the viewers, know that all of this has happened before, but I would like to see more reaction, at the very least, to these revelations.

I know that there was a lot in this episode, a lot for people to react to, but I'm still caught up in that mystery.
Pablo Defendini
21. pablodefendini
I think the operative phrase there is history as they know it. A quick and dirty way to retcon? Maybe, but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Also, I wonder if this means we'll be seeing Aaron Douglass (Tyrell), Rekha Sharma (Tory), Michael Trucco (Anders), Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh), and (oh gods please) Michael Hogan (my boy, Motherfrakkin' Saul Tigh) pop up somewhere in Caprica, the new spinoff that SciFi is developing, which takes place on Old Caprica, fifty or so years before the attacks on the Colonies... Given the fact that there were Cylons in existence way back in the day, on Earth, I'm willing to believe that some incarnation of the Final Five (or a similar entity) engineered events on Caprica in order to give humans the impression that they created the Cylons.

We really weren't supposed to get answers in this episode, and we certainly didn't. I'm sure this is only the beginning of the long narrative that will start to unravel and become clear as the series draws to a close.
rick gregory
22. rickg
Craig & Pablo... yes, I might consider Earth a shining paradise and pin my hopes on it... If I were one of the people in the fleet. But the leadership should be better than that. We're not talking about a few month long journey, but one that spans years and it stretches credulity that in all that time the tough minded leaders of Galactica never considered that Earth might not be paradise, never asked "What if..."

And it's the fact that their homes WERE reduced to radioactive ash that makes it rather silly that they'd then show the people who did that where Earth is. I'd have tried as hard as I could to lose the Cylons and maybe then make for Earth. But then, the motivations of the Cylons and of the humans have never really seemed internally driven but driven by forces outside of themselves. It's just not a fictional stance that I like myself, so I've had a hard time with it in BSG.

The messing with the timeline feels like a bait and switch job coming... maybe not, but some cheap retcon will jst reinforce the feeling that the fictional world isn't an internally consistent place but is being jerked around as the writers make stuff up.
23. Craig Ranapia
pablodefendini @17:

Yes it is a mouthful, but so's calling Tigh "Drunken Masochistic Shouty Hallucinating Psycho Who Can Only Get It Up When Get A Girl Is Either Dead Or Locked Up Cylon" Or how about this for Anders: "Whiny Sex-Bot With Really Awful Taste In Women - But Slightly Better Than Commie Union Boss Tyrol Whose Idea Of Flirting Is To Break A Woman's Jaw While In A Psychotic Fuge Before Knocking Her Up Cylon". Cylon Bastards trips off the tongue slightly better. :)
Pablo Defendini
24. pablodefendini
@Craig Ranapia
I just had me a good belly laugh. Touché.
25. Francis Burdett
Would the following make any sense to anyone:

The Colonials and their Cylon allies have indeed reached a blasted Earth. Our own Earth in some unknown future.

The Earth was blasted in a worldwide nuclear holocaust two thousand years earlier.

(so far so obvious)

That Earth was not inhabited by homo sapiens but by post-human androids ("skinjobs") who go about their business listening to electric guitar folk and walking through outdoor markets.

At some previous point in their past (our future) the Singularity has occurred and humans have been exiled offworld.

Thus the weapons that rained down on Earth and destroyed the cylon civilization belonged to mankind; to us.
Rajan Khanna
26. rajanyk
I think the idea that humans nuked the Cylons is likely and underlines the whole "all of this has happened before" thing in that the violence was started and continues on both sides. It also makes the Cylons more sympathetic in a way and leads to a more satisfying resolution for both sides (in a fucked up kind of "we've both committed genocide" kind of way).

I know I'm going to sound like a broken record, but I have to come back yet again to what distinguishes the human remains from Cylon remains. The bones look the same. Is it their composition? Because it begs the question, what's the dividing line? They can apparently interbreed - how different are they really?

Which leads me to another thought - if the Cylons can "clone" themselves and download their personalities into those new bodies, why not do it with humans? Or whatever Starbuck really is? And that could explain the final Five - they are cloned and inserted into the colonies but originally lived on Earth. Starbuck died on the planet, but was cloned and sent back to the fleet.

The question then becomes, who did it? I'm assuming that there's still someone out there in charge of all of this. Maybe Ellen has the answers...
Pablo Defendini
27. pablodefendini
Who did it, Raj? Why, it was R. Daneel Olivaw, of course. He's the Cylon god, he's been running the show from the beginning, and BSG is nothing more than a big ol' piece of Asimov fanfic.

All joking aside, Francis Burdett's 'Cylons are post-singular humans' idea is interesting, and fits with the questions that Raj raises regarding the nature of Cylon biology.
rick gregory
28. rickg

but why would 'post-singularity humans' be exiled? Why would some become androids and some not? Where did they get exiled to? Again, we only have 9 episodes left to wrap this up so spawning lots of questions is problematic.

The whole 'this has happened before, it's a big cycle' is woo-woo enough that it might be the way they go but please... how unorginal. A truly interesting ending might have been a truly post-human earth (ala Stross). This just feels so 1980s... yeah yeah, we nuked ourselves. /meh
Pablo Defendini
29. pablodefendini
Funny you mention Stross: one of the key points in post-singular Accelerando is that regular humans become more and more marginalised as the singularity progresses.
30. Uland K.
Theory: D killed herself because, while on Earth, holding those jacks, she had a vision and realized she must be a Cylon.
#5? The others had visions while holding objects...

Also keep in mind that Tigh was seeing Ellen while interacting with the six.
31. tariqata
Uland: the same thought crossed my mind regarding Dee.

It's a good thing that one of the reasons I like Battlestar is that it surprises me.

However, I think that they'll have some explaining to do if Ellen is an aged version of the six - if the cylons age, why are they reborn into adult bodies? Why do they follow one biological process but not others?
32. Uland K.
Also just remembered Dees' picture of herself as a child in her locker...
Pablo Defendini
33. pablodefendini
That proves nothing. After all, we've seen Tigh as a younger man, with Adama, before they re-enlisted.

But it does make for an interesting parallel, the contrast between the jacks and her childhood picture.

While I still don't think that Ellen is not the final Cylon, you've shed some doubt.

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