Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"You Can't Go Home Again"

***

Air date: 2/4/2005
Written by Written by Carla Robinson
Directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You Can't Go Home Again" tells the story of a battle between personal feelings and implacable logic. The situation indicates there can be only one logical outcome. Because the outcome is so seemingly inevitable (and because there's a time limit involved that could end up putting everybody at risk), you would think logic should easily win the day. But the logic here is battling some very strong feelings — which happen to belong to the commander of the ship.

The search has begun for Starbuck, whose Viper went down on a desolate planet during an engagement with Cylon Raiders. The odds of finding her aren't good. President Roslin calls Adama to wish him the best in finding his missing pilot, despite the odds. "Frak the odds," Adama responds dryly. "We're going to find her."

Since I haven't mentioned anything about it up to this point, let me take a moment to discuss the fictional expletive "frak." At first, I didn't much care for it. Considering how this series goes out of its way to exist in a relatable world and avoid distracting sci-fi oddities, the use of a fictional swear word seems to go against that intention — and at first did little more than pull me out of the reality of scenes. Personally, I'd prefer real profanity (or even the milder TV alternatives) to silly, made-up words. But I have to also admit that the word has sort of grown on me as the show has gone on. (I read in one of Ron Moore's blogs that the word is a holdover from the original Battlestar, and I guess some nods to the original series aren't a bad thing.)

Back to the story. Adama's loss of objectivity starts almost immediately, but isn't initially a problem since it serves as an added motivator for him to find his missing pilot. It's as the story progresses that Adama's stake seems increasingly personal, less objective, and more risky. Adama and Lee — who both regard Kara as family and also as their last link to Zak — team up to become a two-man force whose personal interests in saving Kara go far beyond anyone else's. "We aren't leaving anyone else behind," Adama explains. The notion of leaving no man behind is a familiar military concept, but it's not really about that here, because under extreme circumstances, Galactica has already been forced to do far worse than leave people behind.

In this case, Adama can argue strategic risk versus benefit: It's unlikely the Cylons will notice their patrol has gone missing for at least a few days, and Starbuck has only 40 hours of oxygen. This gives the search parties 40 hours to look for her.

It's not an easy rescue operation. The planet's environment is unforgiving, offering poor visibility and causing rescue ships to break down quickly and forcing them back to the Galactica. The search area is massive. The odds simply aren't favorable (but frak the odds).

On the planet surface, Starbuck limps along the barren, sand-blasted terrain until she happens upon the Cylon Raider that she downed in the engagement that led to her crash. Starbuck hopes that maybe she can help herself rather than wait for rescue, and attempts to take control of the Raider.

Here we get some solid sci-fi elements. After opening the bottom panel of the Raider, Starbuck finds the interior of the ship is a melding of technology and gory organic components that are practically still pulsating. There is no pilot. In other words, the Cylon Raiders are actually a type of cyber-organic Cylon. The story suggests that they fly themselves. If so, this one is brain-dead. Starbuck hopes she can fire up the engines and fly herself off this rock. No points for guessing if she's successful.

The living, organic space vehicle is an interesting, albeit not new, take on the plot line of the hero commandeering a foreign vehicle. It's particularly appropriate here: Since the Cylons are a species that evolved from mechanistic robots to a flawless human imitation, it makes sense that their ships would blend technology with the organic. Eventually, Starbuck is able to tap into the ship's oxygen supply in lieu of her own depleted oxygen tank. She also plugs the holes in the ship, in a manner that either I don't understand or am correct in saying they would not likely stay sealed in the vacuum of space.

Aboard the Galactica, the Ticking Clock for the search operation has expired, and Colonel Tigh recommends that since Starbuck is likely without oxygen and dead, the fleet should jump before a Cylon base ship shows up and wipes them out. There's a rare moment where Adama raises his voice and we realize that Olmos' performance is usually so calm and controlled that when he does get worked up, it's all the more surprising. Subsequently, Adama relieves Tigh from duty for speaking up against the continued search operation.

What's interesting here is how Adama is clearly not making the logical military call; he's making an emotional — and personal — one, at the possible expense of the fleet. He's hoping he can still rescue Starbuck, and he throws all kinds of resources into it: fuel reserves, rotations of Vipers until a third of them are broken down and in need of repair. Strategically, it's the wrong choice. Finally, Roslin has to force the issue and comes aboard the Galactica to confront Adama. It's perhaps a telling sign that Tigh briefs Roslin on Adama's state of mind, essentially allying himself with her for a confrontation.

That confrontation is where implacable logic steamrollers Adama's and Lee's cause. At a certain point, one pilot is simply not worth putting the future of the entire human race at risk. Roslin offers an argument that is simply irrefutable: "If the two of you of all people can live with that, then the human race doesn't stand a chance." This showdown, which Adama thought he could win because it's "a military matter," is completely neutralized by the facts.

What's somewhat puzzling about the way this unfolds is exactly what Adama and Lee were thinking before Roslin argues the cold, hard truth. It's not as if they are blind to the odds or the dangers. Indeed, it seems to me that Roslin only tells them everything they've been aware of the entire time. Perhaps it's just a matter of needing to be called on their actions, revealing their motivation for what it is — personal feelings rooted in hope and unacceptable risk.

I guess there's something inherently human about hope standing its ground against all reason. This is demonstrated in a low-key but emotionally potent scene where Lee asks his father if he would do the same for him as for Kara. Adama's response is heartfelt and simple: "If it were you, we'd never leave."

On Cylon-occupied Caprica, we get a little bit of action/adventure as Cylon sentries shoot up the place where Helo and Boomer are staying, and in the aftermath of the chaos Boomer is missing. Is this relevant to anything else going on in the episode? Not in the slightest. But it does keep Helo's storyline alive and not forgotten, and proves to be one of the more entertaining executions of this isolated plot thus far.

By the end, of course Starbuck will be rescued. The plot is a foregone conclusion. It's to the credit of the writers, however, that this plays out with humanity, feeling, and genuine satisfaction. There's a sequence where Apollo goes up against Starbuck's Raider, thinking it's an enemy ship. This is an action scenario that doesn't forget that the pilots are human beings as opposed to action props. Could Starbuck really learn to fly an enemy vessel so skillfully this quickly? I have my doubts, but they're not too important.

This is a story built not so much on what happens but who is involved and the relationships between them. By the time Starbuck is returned to the ship and lying in sickbay, the reopened wounds from "Act of Contrition" have been forgiven, and we see how these people care about one other. That's the key to the episode, and one of the keys to what will make this series successful.

Previous episode: Act of Contrition
Next episode: Litmus

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17 comments on this review

Hamar - Thu, Jan 10, 2008 - 3:51pm (USA Central)
Besides the good story of logic vs. personal feelings I just couldn't get myself to enjoy this episode after Starbuck started to fix and ultimately fly the alien ship in such an unbelievable manner.

Would not have been surprised to see that in an episode of Andromeda... but here it just feels wrong.
Brendan - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 9:08pm (USA Central)
Moore and Eick apparently consider this episode to be one of the best of the whole series... I can't understand it really. Its ok, but in the bottom half of season 1 imo.
Brian - Fri, Apr 11, 2008 - 10:47pm (USA Central)
I can see how they like it so much, but I agree with Jammer's review 100%
Rod Williams - Wed, Feb 3, 2010 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
Forget about the plot holes, vacuum seals, similarities to Independence Day etc; this episode and the previous are worth it just to watch the human drama unfold. We all know Starbuck will be able to fly the Cylon ship home; but I didn't know how moved i would be when Adama visits her in recovery and her eyes well up when she realises she is forgiven... without him saying it, of course. Also when Colonel Tigh is reinstated, there is no spoken apology for Adama's behaviour... it's all in Adama's eyes. Fantastic drama. Btw, am watching each episode in tandem with the original series - wow, you want Acting, watch Lorne Greene chew the scenery!
Max Udargo - Tue, Jun 1, 2010 - 3:40pm (USA Central)
I had trouble with this episode because I couldn't accept Adama's complete failure of emotional discipline. Once the clock had run out on Starbuck's oxygen supply, it was completely irrational to continue the search. For Adama to continue risking all 50,000 remaining human lives for his "daughter" should have completely discredited him, even after she miraculously turned up alive.

I wish they had given Adama some rationale for what he was doing, some justification for why it was worth the risk other than his own personal feelings. Perhaps by expanding on the "we'd never leave" scene with Lee, which was powerful but also seemed out of character for Adama, they could have had him somehow explain that he fears he will not be able to remain a solid and resolute commander if he has to bear the loss of what he considers another child, and that losing Starbuck could be a final straw that causes him to unravel, which he feels will cause the thread-bare, stressed, mangled military structure he holds together by sheer force of will to unravel with him. I know I'm stretching, but I felt like we needed to see Adama justifying his actions with some sort of rationalization, rather than "frak it, I'm looking out for me and mine and the rest of you can go to hell." Why would anybody not a part of his immediate family trust him after that?

And it makes him look like quite a hypocrite later when he throws President Roslin in the brig because she wants to divert valuable military resources to pursue her religiously-inspired vision of finding Earth. Apparently Adama's is the only heart worth following with irrational abandon.

Also, I had trouble with the idea of Starbuck flying the Cylon ship, as some others obviously did. It reminded me of some old Star Trek episode where a spacecraft is supposed to be completely automated, run by computers, but it still has a bridge with chairs and consoles with buttons and lights. Why would there be an interface for a "driver" if the ship itself is a self contained organism? It's like suggesting that you could remove my brain and you would find levers and pedals at the base of my skull which would allow you to actuate my arms and legs and walk me across the room.

The episode wasn't terrible, and it had some emotional weight, but it was a poor follow up to "Act of Contrition," and not a worthy wrap-up of the issue raised between Starbuck and Adama.

I don't like when characters act in ways that make no sense for the character, but only make sense from the perspective of manufacturing drama and advancing a plot. This episode did this with more characters than any other I can remember from the first season. Although, as far as I can tell, the Cylon in Baltar's head usually pushes him in completely random directions depending on the needs of the plot, sometimes seeming to help the humans, other times undermining them. I know her motives are supposed to be inscrutable but ultimately diabolical, but I have the nagging suspicion they are simply episodically plot-driven.
James - Thu, Aug 19, 2010 - 1:11pm (USA Central)
Max Udargo, I don´t think Adama acted in ways that make no sense, because he´s a military with strong convictions BUT the last time he saw Kara was when she told him about the cause of his son´s death then he felt sorrow and rage now that kara seems lost/dead he hasn´t the chance to talk with her or even forgive her with a cold mind I can understand his impotence, lost sense, sorrowness, etc. Aditionally he´s an advanced aged man with only his son and kara (loved like a daughter) we have to put us in context to understand him, a rigid and plane character that remains constant and pragmatic in ANY situation in a hollocaustic context like BSG to me THAT´s coul be unreal. Adama show us some humanity, trigged by the distressful situation.
Nick Poliskey - Mon, Apr 11, 2011 - 11:03am (USA Central)
I don't know James, I agree with Max here. I have a hard time saying "out of Character", since we are in only the 6th episode or something, so maybe it wasn't truly out of character, but I agree with Max that up until now this guy really seemed an amazing to put your faith behind, but after this, unless you are his family, he would be tough to follow anywhere. I frankly think Tigh gave up way to easily, I think risking the entire race is certainly "lose your rank" worthy.

I mean we all love Adama right, but suppose he had been wrong, which a statistician would probably put as virtually certain, and the Cylons HAD shown up? The plot trick of the Cylon BEING Kara, that is weak and stupid.

I must admit though, I have to young boys myself, and that line "If it were you, we would never leave". that hit my emotions harder than anything yet in this series, that line alone restored this whole episode for me!

I still hate Starbuck, she is Tasha Yar in diapers.
Michael - Fri, Nov 11, 2011 - 6:47am (USA Central)
Since it was humans who created the Cylons in the first place, it stands to reason that Starbuck would be able to fix one of their vessels and fly it.

Adama WAS behaving irrationally but, then, we saw very often both in theater and in real life whole platoons being risked just to retrieve the body of a fallen comrade, never mind find one who might still be alive. That is a noble American (Western, for that matter) value, and nothing to raise one's eyebrows over. What I wonder is whether Adama would have done the same if it would have been someone other than Starbuck or his son in that situation. I don't think we know enough about him at this point to be able to answer that question conclusively, but I would surmise that yes, he would.

I think this show rates closer to the previous that Jammer's given it credit for. I'd put it on 3.5/4 if not fully 4/4.
AC - Fri, Dec 9, 2011 - 3:04pm (USA Central)
I agree with Max as well. This episode seriously damaged my opinion of the characters, if not the whole show. If this were Star Trek or the real military, the next in command would have relieved the captain and taken over command as he was acting irrationally and endangering the entire fleet for personal reasons. The fleet, his ship and 50,000 people are not his personal tool to wield as his moods or feelings dictate. To quote Spock, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." Starbuck flying the Cylon ship was just too much disbelief to suspend. There was a gaping hole in the hull. The ship is not airworthy, let alone spaceworthy. The end. Even if a jacket stuffed in the hole could keep some of the air in while she was on the ground, the jacket would have disintegrated as she passed through the atmosphere, much like her ship did on entry. For the sake of argument, lets assume that the jacket is 100% fireproof and indestructible. Without some sort of super adhesive, the jacket would be sucked out the hole as soon as the ship hit the vacuum of space. No amount of "cramming it in there good" would keep this from happening. even if it didn't get sucked out, it wouldn't be an air tight seal. The air would be sucked directly from the tube it was coming out of to the hole and out into space. Lack of oxygen or the vacuum of space would render her unconsious and then dead within minutes, let alone both at the same time. To Michael, regarding "Since it was humans who created the Cylons in the first place, it stands to reason that Starbuck would be able to fix one of their vessels and fly it." This makes no sense. That's like saying that beacuse a human designed a F18 jet, that any pilot should be able to hop in and fly it with no instructions, with controls that weren't designed to be operated by hands and feet, no gauges, indicators, radar or visibility. Even if she got off the moon, having no radar, charts or anything else to orient her own position in the endlessness of space, not to mention the position of anything else, with her just "looking out the window" as it were, the chances of her even running into the Galactica or being found by it are about a zillion to one. There isn't even an up or down in space. Without any sort of orientation, she would be comletely lost. Even if all of this were possible and she did run in to Apollo, she would never be able to outfly and avoid being killed by the 2nd best pilot in the fleet the first time flying this damaged vehicle via the imprecise controls of pulling and kicking various tubes or cables or whatever they were. That is alot to overcome.
Justin - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 8:59am (USA Central)
"I still hate Starbuck, she is Tasha Yar in diapers."

Er...what? The character of Starbuck is more nuanced and far more interesting than Yar. She's also extremely important to the fleet. Was it worth risking the entire convoy? No, but it's understandable.

@Rod Williams, I am also watching this in tandem with the original series. Quite the contrast. Despite the obvious cheese factor and the obvious rip-off of Star Wars, the production value of the OS is surprisingly good for 1978. The acting stinks, but what do you expect?
NCC-1701-Z - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 10:46pm (USA Central)
The way Starbuck maneuvered her Viper in the ep's climax struck me as very reminiscent of the oldBSG finale where [**spoiler for oldBSG**] old Starbuck and old Apollo waggled the wings of their captured Cylon Raider to keep from getting shot down. Homage? In-joke? Coincidence? Either way, I picked up on it almost immediately and it got a grin out of me.

The episode. Pretty good, even though the plot holes had a tendency to clang to the floor. My biggest complaint: How could Starbuck in a relatively short time tell one organ/blood vessel/biological whatever from another? It's not as if they were electronic controls which would be relatively easy to figure out (well, in comparison). And when did Starbuck have time to tape her name on the bottom of the wings, or anticipate the need for her to do that? I also have trouble believing that the Galactica would need that long to jump or would need to launch Vipers at the raider at all (providing a convenient contrivance for the climactic scene, of course). Um...it's just one raider. If it was really an enemy in this case and not Starbuck, wouldn't it make more sense to just shoot at it from Galactica's point defense guns, just enough to keep it away, no need to launch Vipers at all, and just jump away ASAP?

I can understand Lee and Adama Sr. blinding themselves to the facts until Roslin destroys their argument. Humans have a tendency to shove away/deny anything that goes against what they think. It often takes an outsider throwing the opposing arguments out in the open before one finally acknowledges the opposite side.

In the end, this episode remains a human drama first and foremost. Good acting from Olmos, Bamber and Hogan although McDonnell seemed slightly off her game this time, coming across as kind of flat. Still, a good episode, definitely racks up major points on the human drama side despite some clunk-to-the-floor contrivances.

I'd give it a high 2.5 or low 3.

Christian - Mon, Sep 17, 2012 - 9:29pm (USA Central)
On the subject of the hole plugging, Kevin Grazier, the show's science advisor is pretty adamant that it would work. From my own background in Astrophysics, it seems like a long shot, but I can't in principle see why a space suit wouldn't plug the hole nicely - the pressure differential should keep it in place once she's in space (think of a jammed vacuum cleaner.) There are questions regarding the thickness of the moons atmophere etc, and exactly how hot the ship gets as it leaves it - but I'd personally be more worried about the cold. If this moon is like Titan as Grazier has commented with similar atmospheric chemistry, the surface temperature would be -180 C, although this doesn't appear to be the case from the condition of Kara or the Raider. *Shrugs* Give them the benefit of the doubt?
Rosario - Tue, Nov 13, 2012 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
No one else wants to know more more more about the Cylon ship?? That ship should have been swarmed the second it landed nad had every millimeter inspected. What a find! Found this episode to be quite good - enjoyed it more than its predecesor actually. I believed Adama's reasoning until her oxygen timer ran out. After that, he surprised me with his unprofessionalism. I'm liking madame president more and more despite the fact that her face seems only able to convey one emotion: pained worry.

The whole "meanwhile on Cylon Occupied Caprica" subplot has not clicked one bit with me. The planet was SMASHED in the pilot - end of story, I don't want to see anything there. Let the human-cylon people talk about God on the Cylon world.

I don't think a show like this could ever be 4-stars/A+ for me. I start every show at max rating and then deduct/add from there. With so many plot-threads going at once, at least one is bound to be a dud - wheras something like ST: TOS where it's all about Kirk all the time, you can get an A+ if it's a good one.
Tim - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 9:09am (USA Central)
I actually stopped watching the whole series because of the outrageous absurdity of Starbuck flying a Cylon ship.

I stopped watching the show for nearly 2 years. Then just recently I started watching again after finding more about the religious aspects which I find fascinating.
Cureboy - Sun, Dec 15, 2013 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
I have just now started watching Battlestar Galactica on Netflix

Finished this episode today. And I loved it. I am finally getting around to liking Starbuck. Loved it when she flipped over and her name on her ship. Kinda cheered. They needed a victory.

That doctor chatting with the blonde Cylon cracks my ass up.

Please tell me that the storyline back on planet Caprica is gonna be moving along soon.
John - Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - 2:25pm (USA Central)
Tim - You stopped watching the whole series because there is a plot hole that you call an "outrageous absurdity" but you started watching again because you find religious aspects interesting? How deliciously ironic.
Brad - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 8:19pm (USA Central)
I absolutely hated this episode. It felt like watching some silly Disney show where everything happens to work out perfectly in an absurd yet predictable set of events.

How on earth could Starbuck fly a Cylon ship that she has had NO experience with so well that she could out perform Apollo? Cmon people, she's like kicking organs and tentacles and somehow out flying the second best pilot in the squadron? It's so ridiculous. I can usually look past plot holes and silly things but this is way too overboard. It just blows my mind how people can look past such blatant fairy tale writing and not see it as something that makes absolutely no sense.. even in this sci fi world. I wish Apollo shot her outta the sky.

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