Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Fragged"

***

Air date: 7/29/2005
Written by Dawn Prestwich & Nicole Yorkin
Directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Given the last couple shows, the title of this episode, "Fragged," might give you a big hint as to where the story is going to end up. Let's just say the title is not misleading. It's essentially accurate. It also hints at a direction toward which my suspicions were already raised — because of the fact that Sam Witwer, who plays Crashdown, is the only major player to have gone from recurring cast member to "guest star" in the credits as of this season's premiere. My thinking: This storyline cannot end well for the error-prone LT.

If there's a common thread between the two storylines in "Fragged," it's about how situations can quickly deteriorate, going from bad to worse in a matter of hours — or seconds. These situations deteriorate not because of external forces, but because of conscious choices made by the characters. Here's a universe with flawed people taking flawed actions. The A-story, involving the infantry unit on Kobol, is tense and terrific. The B-story on the Galactica, involving Tigh's problems and Roslin's mental state, is less engaging, perhaps because it's a bit simplistic as drama.

Like with any arc-based TV series, it's getting more difficult to score these episodes with star ratings. Every rating feels like an of-the-moment score based on approximations for the current week, mixed with hedged bets for future episode possibilities. Three stars has become the catch-all for: "I liked it a lot, it wasn't perfect, it's part of a much bigger puzzle, and I have to leave room for the likelihood that something better (or worse) will come along next week." As always, star ratings are just useful approximations, with no scientific value or absolute comparative relationship with other series/seasons necessarily implied. But I digress.

On Kobol, the stranded infantry unit holds a memorial service for their slain comrades, Tarn (who was shot) and Socinus (whose died from smoke inhalation). Crashdown has a strange look in his eyes, like he has more to prove now than ever, which is a very dangerous attitude for a CO to be carrying around in a survival situation. The remaining soldiers in the unit, Tyrol, Cally, Seelix, and, yes, even Baltar, conduct recon to figure out where all the Cylons are deployed. They discover the Cylons are assembling an anti-aircraft battery to shoot down any Raptors that come looking to rescue them. The nature of the recon, combined with Baltar's inexperience in such matters, leads to some confusion as to exactly how many Cylons there are.

Crashdown decides the unit should attack the Cylons so no more people die. The flaw in his plan is that he's likely to get his entire unit killed; they're hopelessly outgunned. The deaths of Tarn and Socinus have clouded his judgment; he feels he must prove himself to people who are already dead. Tyrol thinks Crashdown should be worrying about the people who are still alive, not those who can no longer be saved.

One question I had was why the Raptor search teams wouldn't already be expecting Cylons on the planet. There was, after all, a base star and a bunch of Raiders orbiting Kobol just a few days earlier. The other question I had was why the Cylons haven't deployed another base star to Kobol (like, for example, the one that was in "Scattered"). Wouldn't they know that the base star in orbit of Kobol was destroyed and therefore send another one to track the rescue operation? One of the storytelling logic problems with the Cylons seemingly having so many resources is that we begin to wonder why they can (or can't) locate the fleet whenever they do (or don't). They seem to pop up only at random.

Baltar and Six have debates over the legacy of humanity. Six lectures him on the idea that Man's ultimate legacy is killing, and its salvation lies only in accepting the one true God and asking His forgiveness. In doing so, Six betrays herself as the ultimate hypocrite. Apparently, the Cylons' solution to the problem was genocide, which Six washes her hands of by saying the Cylons are Man's children and knew no better. I guess Choice had nothing to do with it and they are therefore blameless. She tells Baltar to "be a man." By the end of the episode, he has indeed become a man according to her definition (having taken a life), but I think when she says "man," she really means "Man." The Cylons (or Baltar's paranoid imagination, I suppose) have some warped philosophies, let me tell you.

Meanwhile, Crashdown only reinforces his status as an ineffective leader, and his attack plan spurs plenty of unhappiness. Only the civilian, Baltar, is brash enough to speak up (not having the military respect for chain of command). When he calls for a vote, Tyrol (who, by the way, also hates the plan) shouts Baltar down and tells him to shut up. I like the notion that Tyrol is a true military man and that he doesn't permit the type of mutiny that Baltar tries to introduce into the situation. Tyrol knows that a military unit cannot be a democracy and that such a notion can spawn only chaos. Crashdown is in charge, for better or worse.

It turns out to mostly be for worse. Crashdown's plan is probably untenable, but the actual manner in which it falls apart is unexpected and makes for some pulse-pounding drama. Cally freezes, refuses to flank the Cylons, and stops the plan in its tracks with her fear and inaction. When she does this, Crashdown puts a gun to her head and orders her to move. He says he's going to count to three. Then Tyrol pulls a gun on Crashdown.

What happens here is a pitch-perfect dramatization of a messy situation turning bad, then worse. Would Crashdown really pull a gun on his own soldier given the variables and even his psychological state? Would he honestly think it could possibly do more good than harm? I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that it makes for a taut, powerful scene, which the actors act the hell out of. There's an intensity of emotion, a startling complexity in what everyone is feeling, which is completely believable and riveting. Cally's paralysis by fear; Tyrol's desperate attempt to regain order; Seelix's completely true statement that "this is crazy"; Crashdown's painful realization that he has lost all control and yet his refusal to back down from his position of authority. And then Baltar, of all people, shoots Crashdown in the back, something that has all kinds of implications. As death scenes go, Crashdown's is certainly powerful, but absolutely not heroic. He is, in short, fragged.

And then things get even worse, as the Cylons open fire with machine guns. If last week was hard-core sci-fi action, then this week is hard-core ground warfare action, and exceptionally well done: loud, chaotic, dirty, desperate, and harrowing — and shot in the gritty docudrama style of modern war movies.

Really, the only thing holding this episode back are the reasonable but somehow too obvious scenes on Galactica. Roslin has descended into dementia because she hasn't gotten her medication (which makes her symptoms look more like withdrawal because of drug addiction). Meanwhile, Tigh finds the pressures of command and administration mounting. If Tigh was the right man for the job in "Valley of Darkness" when the Cylons boarded and besieged the ship, he's decidedly not the right man for the job here, where political instincts are necessary, and dealing with the civilian government — not dismissing them, as Tigh does — is a must.

The story becomes perhaps a little simplistic as Tigh blows up at Lee on the hangar deck, casually dismisses the Quorum of 12, and allows himself to be talked by his wife, Ellen "Lady Macbeth" Tigh, into letting the press see Roslin in her deranged state so he will have unchallenged authority. ("Viewing time at the zoo," he says, which is too glib even for Tigh, whether alcohol-induced or not.) The plan backfires spectacularly, and perhaps too neatly. Roslin's terminal illness becomes public, which in fitting with the Prophecies of Pythia turns her into a religious icon of sorts, which made me naturally think of the type of issues explored with Sisko as the Emissary on DS9.

But Tigh does seem aware of his own limitations and mistakes, as when he visits a still-unconscious Adama in sickbay and says, "I really frakked things up for you, Bill." There's a certain calculated irony when he declares martial law immediately after this private admission, and then orders the press "the hell off my ship," with the word "my" being particularly significant. Tigh's not the most flexible fellow, and it's clear already that that's going to pose a problem.

Previous episode: Valley of Darkness
Next episode: Resistance

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10 comments on this review

jim - Wed, Apr 22, 2009 - 1:30am (USA Central)
I think crashdown was bluffing about shooting cally,but you can't bluff Baltar.Another cool episode.
Nick - Thu, Nov 5, 2009 - 8:59am (USA Central)
Jammer wrote: "One question I had was why the Raptor search teams wouldn't already be expecting Cylons on the planet. There was, after all, a base star and a bunch of Raiders orbiting Kobol just a few days earlier."

Fair enough, but here is my thought - the Raptors, if/when they show up, would expect Cylons, but would not know where they were, so there would be no way to suppress AAA* before it is fired. Remember, this seemed to be a new type AAA as Tyrol and Crashdown were assesing the situation after the recon and (what we call in the Army) the SALUTE report (SALUTE = Size, Activity, Location, Unit/Uniform, Time, Equipment) they said the missles the Cylons had were being modiified for AAA and seemed like they had never seen what the Cylons were building. So isn't it fair to think the SAR teams would not be looking for ground fire? I would think they would be looking more for Raiders.

I have to say, rewatching the series (and I commented on this in the third or fourth season as well when I first watched it a year ago), too much pulling of weapons on their own people. In the last few episodes alone we had Apollo pulling on Tigh, here Crashdown on Cally...just too easy for the writers. Yes it makes for heavy drama, but it was overused in BSG IMO.

Still, the best series in a decade though.

*AAA = Anti-Aircraft Artillery
Max Udargo - Wed, Jun 16, 2010 - 7:59pm (USA Central)
I recently got the first disk of Season Two, and I just finished watching this episode. I agree completely with the objection to Tigh's glib attitude toward the political situation and was thinking much the same thing. Even with the assumption that his drinking is making him behave erratically, it seemed too far out of character and too silly. The only reason Tigh makes the comment about "viewing time at the zoo" is because it is designed to set up the "twist" that we all saw coming. We already know Roslin has got her medication and that Ellen's plan is going to backfire. But whatever narrative purpose it might serve, the comment makes no sense for Tigh to make, even if he is drunk.

Tigh in this episode contrasts sharply with Tigh in the previous two or three episodes. Whereas in the earlier episodes of the season we see his complexity and ambiguity, now he becomes almost a one-dimensional bad guy. He's actually snickering in one scene while contemplating his nefarious plans.

But I thought the choice Tigh made at the end was very interesting, and I'm going to go watch the next episode now to see if I'm right about something.

Tigh knows he has screwed things up as far as the political situation, which was already bad and quickly deteriorating when Adama was shot. Right before the press conference in which he announces martial law, we see him apologizing to "Bill" for how badly he's "frakked things up." We also know that Tigh believes that Adama was opposed to the idea of martial law. Earlier in the episode he talks about how "the Old Man" believed in democracy and "all that good stuff."

Tigh is deeply flawed, but he is loyal to Adama and he is willing to do the dirty work himself even if it means nobody likes him. In fact he has made past statements that indicate that he defines his job as being the bad guy so Adama can always be the hero. So I'm thinking -- and maybe I'm giving the writers too much credit here -- that what Tigh is doing by declaring martial law (now that he knows Adama is going to survive) is setting himself up as the bad guy so that Adama can come back and be the hero. Since the political situation is so frakked, and it is partly his fault, he has decided to push it all the way, far past where Adama would have pushed it or wanted it to be, so that when Adama is back on his feet and in charge he can rein it back in, mending the situation and looking like the hero who saved the day from the out-of-control Tigh.

It's just a theory. I'm curious to see if it plays out this way. Probably not, since our last image of Tigh has him swishing furtively from a flask, which was clearly meant as a metaphor for him being drunk on power.

I wonder how long before Adama returns. I wonder if we will get to see how Tyrol reacts to the news that Sharon was a Cylon after all.

And I wonder why nobody ever washes their face. Seriously, makeup people, cuts and bruises are fine, but I'm thinking these people would have wiped away the dripping blood sometime in the first couple of days after the crash.

And what's up with Lee's ever-busted-up face? I'm almost wondering if it was meant as some sort of inside joke that the guy would never appear in a scene without cuts and bruises on his face. Maybe somebody decided that the actor's features were too delicate and pretty and he always needed some roughening up to look the part.


Max Udargo - Wed, Jun 16, 2010 - 9:22pm (USA Central)
Ok, some much for my oracular powers. Tigh is obviously just an easily manipulated, over-compensating weakling. My vague suspicion that they were going to forget all about Tyrol's and Boomer's relationship was totally off base. And, of course, even though he's just finished battling giant robots using explosive bullets, suddenly Apollo's face is blemish free.

I suck at the future.
Nic - Tue, Mar 1, 2011 - 9:44am (USA Central)
So the only thing that unites humanity is our ability to kill each other? Talk about dark. And far-fetched. Other species of animals kill each other (and even eat each other). And even in this fictional colonial society, I'm sure MOST humans have never committed murder. We have a killer INSTINCT, yes, like all predators do. But what sets us apart from other species is our ability to rise above our instincts.
Brruceling - Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 1:06am (USA Central)
I had the same thought as Max, and I think it makes the most reasonable sense. The scene where Tigh apologizes to Adama IMMEDIATELY before declaring martial law, only makes sense in this light. He already messed things up, he just learned that Adama will live, and he's made comments before like "if they don't hate the XO he's not doing his job". He's made good command decisions while under the influence before, so I don't think his drinking is meant to imply that he's suddenly making bad choices willy nilly.

It's a highly questionable decision, but without releasing the president he has little choice. Once Adama comes to, he will set things right and people will see him as the rightful and trustworthy commander of Galactica.
Michael - Sun, Nov 13, 2011 - 11:05am (USA Central)
I won't try to dissect Tigh's character and motivations. Instead, I'll aver that I'd FAR rather have the likes of him and Adama enforcing martial law than someone like Roslin wasting humanity's scarce resources pursuing some cockamamie religious phantasms.

I also cannot believe how fractious and self-destructive humans are, that in time of dire straits we sacrifice expediency and efficacy in order to preserve legal niceties. What they're going through is basically a military operation, and such operations can NOT be conducted democratically; I don't care what anyone says...
Martyn - Thu, May 3, 2012 - 2:48am (USA Central)
You can tell RDM used to write for DS9. It's like that was his practise run for this. This entire Kobol arc reminds me very much of the Dominion War arc at the beginning of DS9 season 6. They set up such a massive cluster-frak of a situation at the end of the previous season, with so many people scattered around in so many locations, that it takes 6 or 7 episodes to put it all back together again.

The situation in this ep, with a Colonial team and a Cylon team both crashed on the planet, is very similar to the Starfleet team and Jem'Hadar team crashed on the planet in "Rocks and Shoals." The stand-off scene in which Crashdown dies reminds me of the standoff scene with Garak and Kira and Odo and Damar in "Tacking Into the Wind." And of course as Jammer mentions, the "emissary"-like arc for Roslin.

None of which means I didn't like it, because I did.
Justin - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 12:53am (USA Central)
Crashdown had to have been bluffing, but who could take that chance? Cally has survived so much and been so brave only to be shot by her own CO because she refused to go on a suicide mission? No way. For whatever reason he did it, Baltar did the right thing. A shame to lose another soul that way, but it had to be done.

One of the best scenes of the series so far...
Justin - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 1:02am (USA Central)
@Max, I pretty much agree with your assessment of Tigh. For all his flaws his heart is in the right place and he HAS made some pretty good (and risky) command decisions. It's just the politics he sucks at and he DEFINITELY set himself up to be the bad guy by declaring martial law only to have Adama come back on duty and save the day. He's a true and loyal friend to the Old Man.

Another solid, solid character in an outstanding ensemble...

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