Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Water"

***1/2

Air date: 1/14/2005
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Marita Grabiak

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Poor Boomer. Of all things, what I feel most for Sharon is pity. She's a Cylon and doesn't even know it — although after "Water" she's beginning to have some very scary suspicions about herself. The crushing horror of her situation is that she thinks she's a regular person, a good person. She certainly doesn't want to be a Cylon, and she doesn't want to be a traitor and saboteur — or even suspected of it.

She blacks out one evening and all of a sudden finds herself alone in a room the next morning, dripping wet, with a G-4 detonator in her bag. How did that get there? She takes it to the small-arms locker to put it back where it belongs, opens the case, and finds that half a dozen more detonators are missing. Where are they? Richard Gibbs, who also scored "33" and the miniseries, drives the point of shock home for us with intense, pounding percussion. It's effective storytelling without dialog: The music and Sharon's horrified gasp tell us unequivocally that This Is Bad.

As the title implies, the episode is about water — specifically the water supply and highly efficient water recycling system aboard the Galactica. Virtually not a drop of water is wasted in the recycling process, we learn. Other ships in the fleet that don't have recycling systems must tank periodically from the Galactica, but even so, the Galactica has enough water to last several years.

But then the G-4 explosions go off in the water tanks, venting most of the Galactica's water reserves into space. An investigation is launched to determine what happened and why, but more pressingly, a search for a new water supply must start immediately, as well as strict rationing of the current supply. The prospect of rioting comes into the discussion when Tigh dryly notes what will happen when people learn they can't take showers or "drink more than a thimble a day." The discussion of the food supply also comes up, as Baltar explains what it will take to feed the fleet every week. These issues demonstrate how we're not just talking about space travel here, but about having all of known remaining human society as a mobile unit.

The other issue of discussion is finding the Cylon saboteur. Adama and Tigh recruited Baltar in the miniseries to use his scientific genius to find a way to detect Cylons from humans. Here they ask him how progress on his Cylon detector is going. Baltar, the king of BS, tries to stall for time since the reality of his situation is that he has no idea how to make a Cylon detector. Adama offers him the assistance of additional personnel. Six appears and starts hopefully suggesting that his assistant might be an attractive woman. Instead, Baltar gets Lt. Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani), a longtime admirer of his work.

Ah, Baltar. Even when constantly threatened with possible exposure, all he can think of is the next time he's going to get laid. James Callis is funny in scenes where Baltar hallucinates, with his ticks and stammering and looking in the direction of a woman who isn't really there, while everyone else regards him with puzzlement. It's a fine line of panic and comedy that the actors skillfully walk in these scenes.

What's nice about "Water" is that it has a clear-cut plot, yes, but also keeps its character threads alive, showing the series' promise as a true ensemble show. Tigh's alcoholism is revisited early in the show, as he rations his remaining liquor into days. Meanwhile, Lee struggles with his guilt over destroying the Olympic Carrier. His father, always the pragmatic military man, tells him to leave the second-guessing to the historians.

There's a scene near the end where Lee shares his guilt with Roslin, and Roslin tells an interesting little story about acknowledging guilt in private versus public, and how one Colonial president kept his mistakes written down and hidden in a desk drawer, so that he wouldn't forget them. "I don't have a drawer yet," Roslin says, "but I have a pocket." In her pocket is a scrap of paper with "Olympic Carrier" written on it. This is the sort of detail that feels like it's based on fact, and elevates good material into the realm of better material. There's an interesting relationship between Roslin and Lee — sort of a camaraderie that grows from the pilot — and she asks him to be her personal military adviser, a role that forebodes torn loyalties.

Speaking of military and civilian government, there's an informed conversation between Adama and Roslin about the roles of the police versus the military (the fleet has no police), and why it's not such a great idea for the military to serve as police. Again, the level of detail makes the difference here; the writing has the ring of credibility.

Meanwhile, Baltar joins a card game and goes head to head against Starbuck and beats her. They exchange competitive stares; maybe being rivals is how big egos flirt. And on Caprica, Helo and Boomer realize they're stuck there, since the Cylons have captured Boomer's Raptor. Even here, poor Helo looks destined to spend the entire season running around a wrecked world in limited scenes.

But the heart of "Water" is Sharon's dilemma. She's essentially a guilty innocent. She thinks she's being framed. (Unfortunately, she's being framed by herself.) In this time of heightened paranoia, she doesn't want to be even vaguely connected to the sabotage, so with the help of Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), she covers up the fact that she even had one of the detonators. Tyrol believes her, but then he's also sleeping with her. That brings up an interesting question of his culpability; their relationship is, after all, against regulations.

There's a fascinating scene where Sharon, on a Raptor scouting mission looking for planets with water, sees evidence of water on her monitor. But she can't bring herself to announce what she sees. The sleeper agent inside her kicks in, and tries to sabotage the mission. But Sharon fights it at a level she isn't even aware of — and finally wins. This is conveyed by a terrific performance from Grace Park, who completely sells the internal struggle with facial expressions. A tricky, potentially confusing scene comes across not only clearly, but with a surprising emotional impact: We feel sorry for Sharon because she can't control what she isn't even aware of, and we feel victorious when she overcomes it. It's a victory she can't feel because she isn't even aware that it happened. Intriguing stuff.

And that's the reason "Water" is so effective. It stops for the human details and feelings and relationships, even though the plot is about finding water and flushing out Cylon saboteurs. There's more to storytelling than plot, and "Water" knows it.

Previous episode: 33
Next episode: Bastille Day

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10 comments on this review

AndrooUK - Sat, Jun 12, 2010 - 8:09am (USA Central)
This episode really annoys me when they make it sound like the water will eventually 'run out' on the ships, like it's going to vanish or something. Just ship the sewage to Galactica for 'recycling', and job's a good'n!

Although, then the episode wouldn't take us to the prison ship, I suppose...
Nic - Mon, Oct 4, 2010 - 12:29pm (USA Central)
This is probably my favorite episode so far. All scenes are priceless. However, I have to question why Sharon's Cylon persona would want to frame HER rather than another (non-Cylon) member of the crew. If Sharon is caught and imprisoned, how does that help the Cylons?
Brendan - Mon, Feb 7, 2011 - 10:37pm (USA Central)
^ She's not really framing herself, she's just doing the crimes and the evidence left over when she comes to makes it seem as if she is being framed. By "she's being framed by herself" Jammer simply meant the person who planted the explosives and left the evidence behind seeming to incriminate her, is herself, not that her sleeper side was intentionally trying to incriminate her.
Carbetarian - Tue, Apr 26, 2011 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
The writing, acting and ideas presented on this show are all great. But, I hate, hate, HATE the camera work. All that hand held camera work makes me motion sick.

I can't emphasis enough how much all that bouncing around detracts from my enjoyment of the show. I find myself looking away during particularly shaky scenes to keep from feeling like I might throw up. For the life of me, I cannot understand how that style of filming ever became popular.

That said, so far, I am loving the very real, multidimensional story telling that's going on here. Ronald D Moore has created a very believable universe, and I'm looking forward to watching the rest of the show. I might have to invest in some dramamine to fully enjoy it. But, I'm excited about watching the rest of this show none the less.
Michael - Fri, Nov 4, 2011 - 11:16am (USA Central)
A fantastic show, every single aspect of it.
Justin - Sun, Jun 24, 2012 - 10:27pm (USA Central)
Terrific episode. Unlike the "water shortage" in the Delta Quadrant during the early episodes of Voyager, this shortage actually means something. And wow! What an amazingly nuanced performance by Sharon/Boomer. Top notch.
Nebula Nox - Tue, Feb 5, 2013 - 12:07pm (USA Central)
Sharon frames herself because the human part of her is struggling to let her know in a conscious way what is happening.
NCC-1701-Z - Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 5:08pm (USA Central)
Great episode. Boomer's facial expressions just made the ep. One small detail: I like how the CIC crew cheer when Sharon reports water, makes it feel a lot more authentic than your standard Trek ep, where a gigantic problem is averted at the last minute and people breathe one sigh of relief and then are like, "meh, just a day in the office".

Anyways, 4 stars.
Latex Zebra - Thu, Jun 27, 2013 - 3:41pm (USA Central)
Grace Park is excellent in this. The scene as she struggles over the detonator particularly so.
Tyrol seemed a little wishy washy but overall another great piece of TV.
SlackerInc - Sun, May 4, 2014 - 2:40am (USA Central)
I'm rewatching this with my now-14 year old son (he watched it some with me starting in season three or four when it was new, but he was not able to really "get it" then, and it had already kind of gone downhill as it turned out), and boy, this is all reminding me of why I once loved this show so much. (I'm planning on stopping after "Resurrection Ship Part II".)

It's such an intense dilemma: you feel for Sharon so much, and really root for her to win the battle with her "Cylon side"; but at the same time, if you are rooting for humanity to survive overall, she is Threat #1 at the moment! And Tyrol is riding this rollercoaster with her, poor guy.

This ep seemed a little short on Starbuck, but she did make good use of her one scene.

First episode with no viper battles or viper flying of any kind.

My son asked if the Boomer on Caprica was a sleeper agent like Sharon on the Galactica, or was just totally faking it with Helo, and I wasn't sure. I kind of suspect the latter (and don't remember enough from later episodes to say for sure).

It was cool seeing the Colonial One land in the Galactica. I had forgotten it was capable of fitting inside that landing bay.

Agree that all the stuff about military vs. civilian control was great. One nitpick I'd have with the review: I'm not sure Sharon was seeing the water but couldn't "bring herself to announce what she sees". I took it more that the sleeper agent was making her sort of hallucinate that she didn't see it, or suppressing her ability to understand that she saw it. That's why she asked to run the scans again, and then was like "I can't...I don't know" (not exact quotes but along those lines) and then when the "human side" got control, suddenly she could see it and got excited about it as something she just learned was the case.

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