Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down"

**

Air date: 3/4/2005
Written by Jeff Vlaming
Directed by Edward James Olmos

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The problem with "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" is that the tone is all over the map. I mean, this episode is absolutely everywhere — drama, comedy, paranoia that too quickly dissolves — and it doesn't find an adequate through-line. This is the season's most erratic episode in terms of both writing and directing, with a net result that lands somewhere in the realm of watchable confusion. It's the weakest outing of the season. What's reassuring is that even the weakest episode of Battlestar to date still proves tolerable and has its share of redeeming qualities.

This episode is basically about two things: (1) Roslin suspecting Adama of being a Cylon, and (2) everyone suspecting Ellen of being a Cylon.

Who's Ellen? Glad you asked. Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) is Colonel Saul Tigh's estranged wife, presumed dead in the initial Cylon assault, but who turns up here, having been lying comatose on the Rising Star after a narrow escape from the Picon airport. The suddenness of Ellen's appearance is jarring in narrative terms, but at least the characters also find it jarring, and Adama suspects she might be a Cylon. Tigh is happy to see his wife again, and Ellen talks with him about making a "fresh start," which might be just the personal jolt Tigh needs. (An earlier scene shows a self-disgusted Tigh pouring the last contents of his liquor bottle into a trash can, about which he says to himself, "Well, at least I did that much.")

Meanwhile, Roslin — with her own suspicions piqued by Leoben's paranoia-inducing allegation that Adama is a Cylon (see last week's "Flesh and Bone") — suggests that Adama be the first to undergo Baltar's new Cylon-detecting blood test. The test requires hours of processing and can only be performed on one individual at a time, much to Baltar's dismay; he has 47,905 tests to conduct if he's going to test the entire fleet. To pass the time, he has imaginary Six sex in the lab, which leads to a masturbation scene that is admittedly funny (Kara walks in on him) but is an aspect of the character that is really beginning to wear thin.

I'm not sure what to make of Roslin's suspicions of Adama. The lesson ostensibly learned in "Flesh and Bone" was that the Cylons want to use our paranoia against us. Isn't Roslin's willingness to give credence to that paranoia in fact playing right into their hands? That in itself isn't really a storyline flaw so much as how the episode ultimately plays out this element of the story with a comic non-payoff (more on that in a moment).

As for Ellen, whether she's a Cylon or not, the one thing the story makes clear is that she's trouble. Tigh and Ellen were clearly longtime partners in alcoholism, and there's a scene here where she breaks out the booze and makes a toast to "starting over." It seems to me that their problems in the past were probably caused at least partially by the booze, so their drinking to a fresh start isn't particularly promising.

At dinner with Adama, Roslin, and Lee, Ellen gets hopelessly sloshed while Tigh laughs along (they play the role of each other's enablers) as the rest of the dinner party smiles politely. Ellen runs her mouth, calls Adama "Bill," and plays footsy with Lee under the table. If there's credit to be given for this episode, it's that it doesn't waste any time establishing Ellen as a shameless flirt and a negative influence to Tigh's professional life.

Still, how much is too much before Ellen's obnoxiousness becomes more than the audience can stand? I propose the clock runs out with the scene where Ellen hangs from a scaffolding while putting her legs around Tigh's head. Baltar shows up, and he/Six sees something about Ellen that arouses his suspicion. Is she a Cylon?

Up to now the episode is a muddled mix of suspicion and drunken behavior. The episode's definitive breakdown comes with the "payoff" scene in the lab, where Baltar is asked to first run a Cylon test on Adama (Roslin's request) and then on Ellen (Adama's request), and then all the threads crash into each other with everyone arriving in the lab and arguing. The scene is played as screwball comedy, but that's a miscalculation. There's simply nothing funny about the idea that these people are suspecting each other of being Cylons. Going to such a place should be sad, or scary, or painful, or insulting — anything, really, but funny. This proves to be a very odd — and unworkable — choice. The characters — especially Roslin after airing suspicions about Adama, of all people — back away from and are let off the hook of their paranoia far too easily.

And the comedy itself doesn't segue well into the rest of the episode, which jumps from humor to foreboding to action without a clear idea of what any of it means. There's a subplot involving an erratically behaving Cylon Raider, and the way this subplot figures into the story feels like an underdeveloped distraction. There are also the usual scenes involving Boomer and Helo on the run on Caprica, the only point of note being Boomer's suspicion that she's now being hunted as a traitor by her own Cylon co-conspirators.

Still, for all its lack of coherence, the episode has scenes that work, like the pleasant Billy/Dualla romantic scene where he gently pumps her for information until she calls him on it. Or the fact that Baltar's Cylon test seems to pass everybody. Or the revealing moment where Six on Caprica shows a pained look of apparent envy for Boomer's ability to so easily fall in love with Helo, even as Six labels Boomer "pathetic." Clearly, there's a sense here that the Cylons want to know what it is about love/sex that contributes to making humans tick.

These moments add to the canvas of the series, but the episode itself is a puzzling tonal mishmash.

Previous episode: Flesh and Bone
Next episode: The Hand of God

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25 comments on this review

Hanna - Sat, Nov 3, 2007 - 4:21pm (USA Central)
The confrontation scene was supposed to be funny? No wonder I didn't get it.
bmoredlj - Fri, Jan 11, 2008 - 6:37pm (USA Central)
Not only did I get the episode; I found it absolutely hilarious. All of the actors involved were flawless in transition from the usual dark, brooding drama to this one-off "dramedy" episode ala Boston Legal. I'd have given one star more.
Chris J - Sat, Jan 12, 2008 - 8:05pm (USA Central)
This episode seems to get the cold shoulder from a lot of people.

I have to disagree here. I would have given the episode at least one additional star. Its a good episode. Not great, but not terrible or sub-par either.

I didn't think it was hilariously funny, per say, but its a worthy and needed breather from the crisis driven Galactica.
Brian - Fri, Apr 11, 2008 - 10:50pm (USA Central)
I also very much enjoyed the episode. On a pure enjoyment level, it is a 3 star rating. But I also agree with what Jammer (and even Moore himself) says about the episode's failings. I'd even it out to a 2.5.

To me, a 2 star episode rating means the episode.... is not something that's fun to watch. Tigh me up, tigh me down, is fun to watch.
Rusty Priske - Thu, Jun 5, 2008 - 12:19pm (USA Central)
I didn't see that scene as humorous at all, in intent or execution.

It was quite tense, actually.

Though the lack of true results from the Cylon test was annoying.
Mike Day - Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - 2:34pm (USA Central)
[Spoiler of future episode removed]....need to buy the dvd so that I can appreciate this episode more....
Jammer - Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - 2:53pm (USA Central)
For BSG for now, please don't post spoilers of future episodes on reviews that are earlier in the run. If you want to make a comment of this nature, talk around the spoiler or use vague terms. There are some people who read these reviews several seasons behind because of where they live and the delay in their access to the most recent episodes.
Greg - Fri, Mar 6, 2009 - 5:16pm (USA Central)
Just rewatched this one with a friend the other day. Easily the worst episode of the series. I can't express how glad I am that there was never a second attempt to make a comic episode.
Alexey Bogatiryov - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 3:11pm (USA Central)
In retrospect, the whole Cylon paranoia and suspicion regarding a certain character prove to be an exceptional piece of continuity by the writers when you take future seasons into account!

(How is that for getting around the spoiler Jammer?)
Mark Y - Wed, Mar 25, 2009 - 1:44pm (USA Central)
(Thanks Jammer for the spoiler alarm, I'm always weary to read comments on an episode's review that I had just watched because of possible future spoilers.)

This episode almost lost me from the get-go. The idea of Adama being a cylon agent was pretty late coming to be taken seriously. However, when the wife was brought aboard and, more importantly, her toxic effect on Tigh was revealed, I definitely enjoyed it more.

I found the episode's humor to be funny, but most of the time that I was laughing I also knew that it was a very strange and abrupt decision by the BSG team to make this situation comedic. I'm used to feeling this from Baltar, since he's just an uncomfortable fellow, but from the rest it inexplicable.

However, the ending of this episode confounds me when taking into account Baltar's earlier test involving Boomer a few episodes back. Apparently his detector magically works, but now he just passes everyone anyway, even when given time to do an important test.
Max Udargo - Tue, Jun 1, 2010 - 4:32pm (USA Central)
I thought the "screwball" mix-up comedy scene in Baltar's lab was near perfect, because it was such a surreal, dark, even chilling joke. In my mind, the scene referenced the comment Adama had made in an earlier episode about Baltar making fools of the leadership. And in this scene, indeed, we see Baltar doing just that: exculpating Ellen before ultimately drifting off into his fantasy world with that deranged smile on his face while around him the people responsible for the continued survival of the human race argue and wave their hands over their petty grievances and paranoid suspicions.

But it's really the Cylons who are in control and orchestrating everything. And the last, tattered, confused, divided, recriminating remains of humanity swirl around a grinning madman lost in an out-of-control masturbation fantasy.

The scene is both funny and creepy. It shows us just how easily the Cylons can tap into human foibles and lead humanity around by the nose.

By the way, I've only seen through the end of the first season, an I'm assuming that Ellen is in fact a Cylon. She has to be.
Kringey - Mon, Oct 18, 2010 - 11:54pm (USA Central)
I agree. This is the first episode that I actually couldn't stand. Kate Vernon was awful. The lab confrontation was abysmal. The plots went nowhere. Ugh.
Evan - Tue, Nov 16, 2010 - 11:20am (USA Central)
One of my favorite episodes. Some people just don't get the humor.
kringey - Tue, Nov 16, 2010 - 7:06pm (USA Central)
Maybe if this is considered humor, I don't want to get it.
Nic - Sun, Nov 21, 2010 - 10:11pm (USA Central)
The Ellen character is a type I have seen in many other kinds of films (e.g. always drinking, flirting with every single man in the room). Do women like that actually exist? Or are they just a male fantasy?
Nick Poliskey - Tue, Apr 12, 2011 - 9:50am (USA Central)
Thanks, jammer, for your spoiler comment. I am netflixing every episode in a row and I know nothing about what happens.

Yeah I agree, this episode blows, barely a 1.5 star. I think the reason this episode is so bad isn't because it is comedy, but because the element that is comedic is not funny at all. The accusations of people being cylons SHOULD be dramatic and tense. I believe that scene in Baltars lab is easily worst of the young series. It is just not funny subjuect matter.

I know the episode Q-pid from TNG was not popular but I loved it because it was meant as nothing more than a comedy episode and it didn't go for more, it did what it was meant for. No Borg in tights, or klingon masturbation scenes.

I will go on a limb here and say I truly enjoy the Sharon-Helo scenes on Caprica.
Weiss - Thu, Aug 4, 2011 - 10:25am (USA Central)
Nic,

Ellen's exist. although this character itself seems to embody several negative characteristics into one (alcoholic and floozy and creator of distrust)

having dated once a girl who I brought to a party, she was new to my classmates, so it was like a feeding frenzy, she like the attention, they flirted with her that encouraged her to keep hitting on them in return (and getting their phone numbers). afterwards, she tried calling them, but they picked up on the fact that she was annoying, didnt call her back. then she tried to use me to get back to meeting the other guys. i shut her out.
ellen's are not a pleasant type, and i am not an enabler or tolerate bull (she miscalculated)

conversely, I am sure there are men who act like ellen, who hit on everyone and act obnoxious.

Ellen is not a fantasy, the word is nightmare, although there probably is a right person for her.
Michael - Sat, Nov 12, 2011 - 4:30am (USA Central)
It was a solid show; I don't understand the low score and all the angst. It was a welcome relief from all the tension and problems.

The final scene in the lab was not particularly droll and was actually frustrating in that it left many questions unanswered. The first scene in the lab, with Starbuck and Baltar WAS really funny, however.

I think the word some of you are looking for to describe Ellen is: WHORE.

Dee is cute :)
Evan - Sun, Jun 3, 2012 - 3:56pm (USA Central)
One of my favorite episodes. The comedy is subtle and well done. I would imagine that because BSG is an intense show, that it attracts an audience that doesn't have much of an eye for comedy. Throughout the first season Baltar and his reactions are insanely funny. James Callis is brilliant. This episode is a 3-3.5.

As for whether the plot goes anywhere, it actually goes quite a bit.. especially if you watch it again after the entire series.
Justin - Tue, Jun 26, 2012 - 9:39pm (USA Central)
OK, I'm watching this series for the first time and this is definitely the worst episode so far. Which really is a testament to how brilliant this series is because it's really not all that bad.
Jason K - Sun, Sep 16, 2012 - 9:08pm (USA Central)
Here's a silly question from someone who watched this series from it's original airdate and is just now going back to watch again.

When Baltar tested Boomer, didn't her results come back almost instantly? Now all of a sudden it takes hours? Did I miss something?

Still, greatest series ever on TV.
chris - Fri, Oct 12, 2012 - 2:01pm (USA Central)
Anyone else closing his eyes during the drumrolls intro with lots of episode spoilers? Very bad idea of the producers.
Rosario - Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - 7:40pm (USA Central)
@Chris: Yes! The wife and I watched the intro vid of one episode and it gave away every single pertinent plot point. What a moronic decision.

I didn't think this episode was too bad beyond Ellen being unbearable - the rest of the cast's reactions to her are priceless. Baltar the weasel is beginning to grow on me. I still want to see him tossed out of an airlock since I know he's lying about Ellen (guessing but c'mon) and Boomer but he certainlty has his moments.

The Cylon ship though... I'm pretty sure it made contact with Galactica kamikaze style so I don't see how Tigh saved all their lives. I like him and want him to rise above his failings but this episode wasn't that.
Sarah M - Fri, Jun 14, 2013 - 10:16pm (USA Central)
Easily my least favorite episode of the first season. Though even this one I wouldn't grade below a C. It has a weird, heightened, screwball tone similar to what "Six Degrees" had. Except I'm far more interested in Baltar and James Callis' approach to him than I am in Ellen.

So many of Tigh's problems could've been solved by a good divorce lawyer.
SPR - Mon, Dec 16, 2013 - 10:38pm (USA Central)
I thought it was definitely the worst episode of the first season. A little too melodramatic for BSG.

But my favorite part is the look on Baltar's face as he's swinging around in his chair by himself at the end. James Callis is one hell of an actor.

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