TV Review: Battlestar Galactica: "Someone To Watch Over Me" (Season 4, Episode 17)

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Wow!

You know, it's easy to forgive massive missteps like last week when they completely knock it out of the park like they did tonight! Seriously.

Apollo is at work assembling a new Colonial government, and welcomes the Cylons to it. They ask to try Boomer for treason. Cheif Tyrol objects, but to no avail. We get a montage of what Starbuck's life is like these days: working out pilot schedules, and sending off Raptors to look for habitable worlds. Aners continues to moulder away in a coma, and Starbuck spends a lot of time with him. Depressed and lost, she finds herself drawn to a piano player in the bar that she insults, argues with, then befriends, then connects with on a very fundamental and real level, in the process dropping everyone's favorite musical clue. Meanwhile, Tyrol renews his affair with the once-again brigged Boomer, and decides to help her escape rather than be executed. Boomer then beats the crap out of Athena, fracks Helo *in front of* Athena, kidnaps Hera, and cripples the Galactica in short order, while making her escape.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

Last week attempted a character-based episode, and it failed on damn near every level. This week tries again, and sucedes on damn near every level. How is this possible?

The integration with the Cylons is proceding apace. In fact, it's going much faster and smoother than the attempts to integrate the Pegasus crew in to the Galactica. Cylons and Vipers are flying patrols together, coordinating missions, and joinly looking for habitable worlds. The prize for finding one is a tube of "Felgercarb" Toothpaste - the last tube in the universe, "And most of you sorely need it." The montage in which we find out about this is quick and artfully done, and very economical. Basically we see segments of about 14 days in Starbuck's life, one pretty much like the other, and all boring. Nicely done!

I go through long stretches of time where I forget that I like Starbuck. She's all over the map as a character, as if the writers don't know quite what to do with her. At her worst, she comes across as a shrill man in a dress - that is to say a character who's female only in genetalia, not in mannerism, thought, nor idom - and sometimes she's cool, but on occasional moments like tonight we get a look at the person inside the mass of psychological defence mechanisms and open craziness that we call Kara Thrace, and she's pretty likeable, if admittedly a mess of a human being.

She genuinely cares for Anders. I don't think anyone will ever make sense of their poorly-written and whacky relationship, but she does love him on some level, and she's clearly broken up and passive in the sick bay scenes. There's some guilt, but also some regret in there.

The piano player scenes are the meat of the episode, though, and they're the best thing she's ever done. It's refreshing to simply watch her have a conversation with someone new that she's coming to trust, particularly because it seems so inconsequential and tangential to the plot. That it turns out to be of crucial importance to her and the over-arching storyline of the series is a nice subtle twist. And the fact that it's all done with music is better still.

Starbuck's daddy, as you'll recall, was a piano player who evidently abandoned the family. This guy's about the same age as her daddy was when he left - 40s - and they have an undeniable chemistry early on. They hit it off, but not in a sexual way. He plays music, she makes snarky comments, there's a number of musical in-jokes in there, such as when he starts the second movement of an original piece he's been working on, and plays - unmistakeably - the "There are those who believe" fanfare from the Original Galactica. Starbuck immediately accuses him of ripping of some previous composer. A gag within a gag, it's great stuff. They bond. He tries to help her remember a piece that her daddy taught her all those years ago, and with some help from a drawing that Hera gave her earlier - she thought it was a bunch of stars, but it was notes minus the trebleclef - we segue simply and effectively and kinda' beautifully in to yet another rendition of "All along the watchtower," which brings the final five a-runnin'.

Better than this, though, is the realization that the mysterious piano player *is* her father, mysteriously present and unaged. The way this plays out is great - unspoken awareness on both their faces. No one says anything, but we all know who he is, and that she's finally gotten past a world of hurt from her childhood, having forgiven both her parents, essentially. She, of course, grew to realize who he was, but I wonder if he knew all along?

The reveal that he was a halucination, or a ghost-cylon or what have you, took me aback. There was no inclination to the idea that Starbuck had been sitting by the piano talking to herself for three days, but, of course, these people know her well enough not to bug her when she's drunk. She wasn't drunk here, but how would they know that?

The other plot was the Tyrol/Boomer one. This worked, though not as well as the Starbuck stuff, pretty well just the same. The clever angle here was in playing our own expectations against us. We've gotten used to the Cylons, and we always liked Boomer. If there was ever a character who seemed unfairly screwed by events, it was her. We want her redemption, we want a happy ending for her, we want her and the Cheif to get back together. We want so much that we tend to ignore the fact that she's a vicious, screwed up bitch with some serious anger-management issues who brutally enslaved humanity at New Caprica, and betrayed her own people thus starting the Cylon Civil War.

Her betrayal of Brother Cavil two weeks ago appeared to be the first step on the road to redemption, though it begged the question of how she knew where earth was. Well: now we know. Cavil has evidently known where Earth was for some time, and Boomer's apparent defection was yet another of her betrayals of humanity in the service of Cavil. He let Ellen "Escape" so he could capture Hera. Beating the crap out of her rival Athena and essentially raping Helo in front of her was just an added bonus.

Tyrol has seemed to have had a harder time figuring out who he is than any of the rest, the effect this has on him in the coda for the episode is heartbreaking and devestating. She totally plays him. What makes it more painful is that the president flat-out says that if they let Boomer live, she'll play all of them.

What will come of this? I'm sure we'll see all these people again.

We're told that the cylon organic goo has helped the Galactica, but not fixed her. "She's got a few jumps left. We won't know how many, until the hull collapses." We're also told later on that if a raptor jumps while in the flight bay, it'll gut the ship. We then see jump while heading towards the alligator-head of the ship, and the gravitational shockwave does, indeed, cripple Galactica. She's venting atmosphere.

Roslin is looking sick again. She's loosing motor coordination throughout the episode, and collapses at the end, her own decline paralelling that of the galactica itself.

Despite being told a week or so ago that Helo was CAG, Starbuck is clearly CAG and has been for some time. She's still a captain, though by this point she clearly should be at least a Major.

Helo is, once again, a good guy - he's spent the past several months trackign down all of Starbucks' old crap (Auctioned off after she 'died') to give it back to her.

Hera speaks in this episode!

Tigh is still devestated from the loss of his child.

So what was Starbuck's daddy? Clearly he's Daniel, the destroyed #7 model cylon, but he wasn't there physically. Was he a leoben-like halucination? Probably. What's his tie with Hera? Clearly the two were working in concert (Pardon the pun). What is this mysterious force that's manipulating all their lives?

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