Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"The Farm"

***

Air date: 8/12/2005
Written by Carla Robinson
Directed by Rod Hardy

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As the small band of human resistance fighters on Caprica plans an attack on a Cylon base, Kara is shot, falls unconscious, and subsequently wakes up in a hospital. Her doctor, Simon (Rick Worthy, recently seen as a Xindi in Enterprise's third season), tells her that she's had surgery to remove the bullet, almost died, but now will be okay.

What's the nature of this hospital? It appears to be just what it seems to be. But we suspect immediately that it's more than that, because if it wasn't, well, there'd be no episode — at least not in the traditional sense that there are crises and revelations to be experienced. "Are you a Cylon?" Kara asks Simon. He says he's not, and he seems genuine enough, but it's not like asking if someone is a Cylon is going to yield the truth. It's mainly a way for the writers to put the cards on the table from the outset. It's not as though Kara is in a position to argue. She has just had surgery; she's weak and pumped full of drugs.

The main story of "The Farm" on Caprica conveys the feelings of an X-Files episode, where the situation looks normal enough, but creepy things are happening beneath the surface, and we sense the wheels of ominous conspiracy turning. (Are they doing something to Kara in this hospital? Are they implanting a chip in Scully's neck?)

On board the Galactica, Adama returns to duty to much applause (the episode picks up a week after the events of "Resistance"), but there's a sense that Adama himself is not quite the same after having been wounded. "I feel strange," he says to Tigh, "like closer to the ground."

It's certainly nice to have Adama back. It's been said that in what is an ensemble cast, Edward James Olmos is like the heart of the show, and in a lot of ways I agree with that. He's a military man and makes very military-minded decisions, and he stirred up all this unrest by overreacting to Roslin's interference and forcing her out of office at gunpoint. And yet he's a man of deep feelings, thoughtfulness, humanity, and now — after being shot — obvious vulnerability.

There's a particularly nice scene where Adama talks with Tyrol in the aftermath of Boomer's death by Cally's hand. Adama asks Tyrol flat-out if he loved Boomer. "I thought I did," Tyrol replies. Adama's response: "Well, when you think you love someone, you love them. That's what love is — thoughts." The simplicity of that statement is somehow perfect given all the uncertainty everyone faces — as if to say that in desperate times, we cannot afford to second-guess our feelings and the trust in those we care about. For two years, Adama says, Boomer was a vital, living part of his crew, and that alone makes her more than simply a machine. It's something that probably many instinctively feel is true, and yet no one until now has allowed themselves to actually say it.

As a counterbalance to that notion, Adama lets Cally off with a slap on the wrist: 30 days in the brig for "unauthorized discharge of a weapon," undoubtedly on the technical grounds that Boomer was a machine and not a human. It's an obvious contradiction to the feelings he just talked about, but a necessary one in order to try to heal the ship's wounds and pick up the pieces.

In tactical terms, Adama is now looking for Roslin ("She can hide, but she can't run"), and noteworthy is the fact that even though Adama is back in charge, the turmoil in the fleet is not going to magically get better. Adama may have more political sense than Tigh, but this is still a mess — a mess that Adama had a large hand in creating, by the way.

Roslin, Lee, and Zarek are hiding out on a cold-storage vessel, and Roslin wants to drum up support for a trip back to Kobol to open the Tomb of Athena. Zarek's idea is to have Lee publicly denounce his father for overstepping his authority. It's something Lee thinks he can do but ultimately can't. Instead, Roslin declares, "I'm playing the religion card." Significant, how Roslin sees this as a calculated move that is not innocent of taking advantage of people's faith when she herself is not necessarily a true believer. She approaches the prophecies from a standpoint of logic and a need to play the odds. Is it right to invoke religion as a "card" to play? I suppose she does what she must. It's politics, after all, and she's the president. Curious how Elosha encourages Roslin to follow through on a path of destiny even when Roslin is reluctant and feels it's not her place to serve as a de facto religious figure. Of course, I've seen this character arc before: His name was Benjamin Sisko.

Roslin's statement to the fleet certainly uses the language of a true believer, much to the ire of Adama, who calls it "religious crap" and emphasizes the point by slamming his clipboard over a console. He doesn't think anyone in the fleet will bite, but he's sadly mistaken. Nearly a third of the fleet follows Roslin back to Kobol. Adama is facing some serious abandonment issues. Watch his face when reminded that Lee is among those who have sided against him.

But we must turn our attention back to the more pressing matters on Caprica, where the longer Kara lies in the hospital bed, the more suspicious she becomes. Simon notes that Kara is a rare commodity: a woman capable of giving birth, which is going to be an important thing on a world where the population has been mostly eradicated and the survivors must cope with radiation poisoning. But there are obvious ominous undercurrents when we think about the Cylons, and their obsession with sex, love, and procreation — something humans have mastered but their Cylon "children" apparently have not.

There's some psychology put into play here when Simon notes that women with Kara's history of child abuse — apparently at the hands of her mother — are often reluctant to have children of their own. Kara's reaction to Simon's inquiries is one of surprising raw emotion.

Meanwhile, Helo and Anders (Michael Trucco) lead a search party to find Kara. Sharon finally turns up, having been tracking them since she flew off in "Scattered." Sharon shows all the signs of being the first true Cylon defector, and offers to help them bust Kara out of the hospital and get off the planet. Her defection is motivated out of devotion to Helo, which would seem was not a part of the Cylons' admittedly convoluted Plan.

When Kara confirms her suspicions and discovers Simon is a Cylon in cahoots with Six, she's understandably frightened and desperate, trapped in a hospital room with no weapons. But she's also a hard-core survivor. She pulls herself together quickly and wields her resourcefulness alongside a startling ability for lightning-fast lethality. The way she dispatches Simon with a mirror shard is both swift and savage. I liked the pure visceral impact of Kara screaming, "Just DIIIIIE!" Which he does — but there are more copies of Simon, who is our fifth official known Cylon model.

Kara also makes a chilling discovery: The hospital is actually a birthing facility (called a "farm") where human women are imprisoned, hooked up to machines, and used as birthing modules. This is a fairly disturbing concept, although not a completely unexpected one given the tone of the episode and our knowledge of the Cylons. Something about it reminded me of The X-Files. Also The Matrix, where the Machines needed to grow humans in fields to plug into VR. Among the women at this "farm" is Sue-Shaun (Tamara Lashley), from Anders' band of pyramid-players-turned-freedom-fighters. Sue-Shaun tells Kara to destroy the farm, although I was unsure of why they both assumed Sue-Shaun would die if they pulled the plug. Kara whispers something into Sue-Shaun's ear that we're not permitted to hear, which made me think of Lost in Translation more than something that existed in the moment.

What's been common to the season thus far, and isn't unwelcome here, is the big action climax, in this case Anders and his team rescuing Kara after she breaks out of the hospital/farm, helped in no small part by Boomer, who has acquired a Cylon vessel with more firepower than a Raider.

So what about the Cylon Plan? Boomer says the Cylons believe they need love as a crucial variable in order to conceive — a strange belief for part of a purely biological process. I'm not completely sure what to make of it, honestly. But in lieu of love, the Cylons have been kidnapping women and putting them into these "farms." One wonders how many farms there are, and on how many of the 12 former Colonies the Cylons are operating them. One also wonders why the Cylons would nuke the Colonies first when they could've simply infiltrated them and started introducing hybrids into the populace. Much like an X-Files episode, logic here takes a back seat to the twisted and the bizarre.

In terms of the whole Cylon love issue, Boomer and Helo are somewhat unique. But Boomer says Kara is also "special"; the Cylons did some sort of surgery or experiment involving her ovaries. What exactly happened? The story is (intentionally) murky about it. Kara doesn't much want to think about it.

What seems somewhat imposed on the story is Kara's weepy-eyed closing scene with Anders. In the course of a week, Kara and Anders went from adversaries to allies to sexual partners to something ... more, I guess. Kara, Boomer, and Helo take the Cylon ship and the Arrow of Apollo back to the fleet. Anders and the resistance stay on Caprica to destroy as many "farms" as they can, very likely getting killed in the process. Kara is apparently heartbroken about this. The performances work, but something about the sentimentality feels overstated given Kara's character and how little of this relationship we were shown.

Then again, maybe she thinks she loves the guy. And when you think you love someone, you love them. So says sage Adama. But maybe she also thinks she loves Lee. Maybe she's projecting. No wonder the Cylons are so confused about love and sex.

Previous episode: Resistance
Next episode: Home, Part 1

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16 comments on this review

Paul - Tue, Jul 22, 2008 - 2:49pm (USA Central)
Did the machines in the farm remind anyone else of the milking machines we use for cows?

There's a sickening thought.
k - Mon, Nov 10, 2008 - 3:36am (USA Central)
I thought this was one of the most heavy-handed episodes so far, raised to a higher plane only by the performances. I was much more frightened in the past by an original Galactica eposide, perhaps the pilot, where beings fattened up humans and others at a space casino only to implant their eggs in them, and capsules showed the various stages of hatching.
Vince - Thu, Aug 20, 2009 - 6:29pm (USA Central)
I would add at least a 1/2 star to this episode. It is not without its faults, but it also has quite a lot of interest.

I find it annoying that the Sharon killed on BSG was never given credit for blowing up the Cylon mother ship, even if she did shoot Adama. Also, Almos's scene with the dead Sharon was extremely well acted.

I thought that Adama's forgiveness of Tigh was very appropriate, especially sine Adama really caused most of the problems anyway.

To me this episode is very pivotal in the entire arc of the series.
Helix - Thu, Sep 9, 2010 - 10:38am (USA Central)
I second the above poster. I'm rewatching the series on Blu-ray now and I feel like most of Season 1 was just about survival and laying the "rules" of the show to us as viewers. It was action-heavy, it introduced the characters, it showcased its differences from Star Trek.

Season 2 finally starts laying down the main plot arch, establishing some of the bigger themes and central questions that the series explores, and adds a lot more depth and dimensionality to the characters.

This was a particularly great episode for character development. Adama showcased a wide range of the emotional depth that makes him such a believable commander. And he wasn't alone. Many characters on this show showcased sides of their personality we'd only seen glimpses of before.

In many ways I agree with the concept that this had aspects of an old X-files episode but it also had some of the character moments that essentially defined most of the different Star Trek series.

I bought the fast love story for Starbuck. It's all in the little details here. The infatuation phase of love is intoxicating and that's where she was at. All she saw was the strengths of this man and none of his faults. He was good looking, charming, funny, playful, sexual, loyal and he said the right things at the right times for her. At the very end when he tells her to be safe there's a nurturing aspect that she senses and shakes off, as if to say, "This guys has everything. It was a little pushy but I think the acting elevated it beyond what it otherwise could have been.

Starbuck as a character took a massive step forward for me this season and this episode and the previous one are big reasons why. She initially came off as an Alpha male/cocky/snarky/fly boy in a woman's body which was fine but it wasn't all that compelling. Now that we know more about her abusive past it helps explain more why she is the way she is. We see more of her forgiveness here, as well as her femininity.

Because it helped me understand and empathize with Starbuck and her occasionally bad decisions more, and because it showcased more of the defining personality traits of the crew, I'd give this episode a 3.5 out of 4.
Nic - Sun, Mar 13, 2011 - 8:31pm (USA Central)
I don't buy the revelation that Starbuck was abused as a child. I'm convinced this wasn't in the original series' bible, because it doesn't fit with what her character was in the first season (which, unlike Helix I prefered to the new "soft" Starbuck).

For now, I'm less than thrilled with the "farm" angle being the reason for Sharon and Helo's adventures in the first season. Their relationship is still one of my favorite aspects of the series, but I guess I'll just have to wait and see where it leads.
Nick P - Mon, May 2, 2011 - 6:33pm (USA Central)
I am finally starting to like the Starbuck Character, a little. That being said, her abusive past, which I did buy, and explains alot of her actions, still astound me that the other characters let her do what she does, Adama in particular.

Again, an abused pilot with a broken leg is not the best choice to interrogate a Cylon, and then figure out the military plans for the entire fleet.

But she is WAY more likeable this season over last.
Michael - Mon, Nov 14, 2011 - 1:08pm (USA Central)
So, now Roslin's shacked up with Zarek in pursuit of "democracy" (read: In pursuit of power and staying in power). Then she decides to "play the religious card." What a pathetic creature she is, and even more so the schmucks who support her and kneel before her. If I disliked her before, now I positively abhor her. I never thought I could harbor such a strong sentiment toward a T.V. character!

BTW, and this concerns the previous episode more so than the instant one: hasn't Cally undergone a rapid transformation! Back on Kobol she was a total mental wreck, cowering and whimpering when it was time for action; yet, back on Galactica she's punching and assassinating people like a pro. Another sorry human specimen.

Adama breaking down and crying: I didn't think I could like that man any more than I did, but after that scene, somehow I do.
Ryan - Sun, Feb 12, 2012 - 10:23pm (USA Central)
I could sense it coming down the pipe, but I still facepalmed hard as hell at the whole "we need love to make our dingalings work" spiel. Seriously? Are you seriously serious?

Also...

>now I positively abhor her. I never thought I could harbor such a strong sentiment toward a T.V. character!

I didn't realize Ellen Tigh was in this episode... :D
Justin - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 2:38am (USA Central)
@Helix, great assessment of Starbuck's character. I'm watching the series for the first time and while I liked Starbuck in the first season I like her even more in the second. Just a terrific character and so well acted by Katee Sackoff. She strikes the perfect balance between badass flygirl and vulnerability.

@Michael, maybe you should run as the Tea Party candidate against Roslin in the next election.
Elliott - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 3:08am (USA Central)
@ Justin :

you just posted the 10.000th comment on the site. I think you're supposed to be getting a package in the mail...

Michael - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 3:51am (USA Central)
@Justin:
You think I'ma Tea Party supporter!!? Boy, are you waaaaaaaaaay off.

Say what you want, even Pres. Bush's first mandate was more legitimate than Roslin's.
chris - Sun, Oct 14, 2012 - 2:40pm (USA Central)
Didn't that "Simon" dude played on VOY's Equinox episode? Nice actor, I like his calm voice, perfect for a Cylon agent.

I agree with Michael, concerning Roslin. I am actually starting hating her, especially since she decided "to play the religious card". Typical politician... lame!
J - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 2:00am (USA Central)
**caprica spoiler alert**

Im watching bsg for the first time, finally, and this is the episode I'm on. I actually watched caprica first, which might be giving me a weird perspective, although I do like spotting things that made their way into caprica, like Joe Adamas lighter, etc.

I find that I'm starting to hate roslin in the same way I hated clarice. They both excuse their actions by chalking it off to a higher purpose, which irritates the heck out of me. Granted, roslins actions, so far, seem to be better for the human race as a whole than clarices (I'm assuming, based on the final episode of caprica, that clarice is the one tha instilled colons wi the sense of religion they have in bsg times), but she's still extremely unpleasant.
J - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 2:03am (USA Central)
I meant Cylons, not colons. Hehe.

Interestingly, I thought my iPad autocorrected Cylons to colons, but it turns out I must have just made a typo, because much to my pleasant surprise, Cylons is in my autos poll dictionary (it's even capitalized). Must be a bsg fan at apple somewhere.
J - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 2:04am (USA Central)
Autospell* :(
Headdie - Sun, Aug 18, 2013 - 7:06pm (USA Central)
Concerning the whole Cylons nuking the colonies question Jammer brings up: I've always taken the initial Cylon attack as more of a thinning the herd type action. They wanted to lower the numbers to make the survivors easier to control/capture. Just my take on it though.

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