Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Taking a Break from All Your Worries"

***

Air date: 1/28/2007
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Edward James Olmos

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Many times before, I've talked about the guilt, tragedy, and unintended consequences of Gaius Baltar. It's one of the central character themes of the series. Now we have an episode that's like the ultimate culmination of and reflection upon that theme, presented as a case study that the other characters are forced to examine. The truth is more gray than they perhaps expected.

The title of the episode is "Taking a Break from All Your Worries," which is just an awful title considering the episode's content. The writers should have had the word "guilt" or "guilty" in there somewhere (which would apply to both of the show's storylines) and certainly not the words "taking a break." Perhaps "taking a break" refers to the recently erected makeshift bar called Joe's, which occupies (I hope) the non-operating flight deck, and where off-duty Galactica crew members can go to, you know, take a break from their worries — or in the case of Lee and Tyrol, take a break from their marriages. (Tyrol's toast: "To marriage — why we build bars.")

That the show's title, its trailer (at least as seen after "Rapture") and, indeed, the entire subplot are so far removed from the main thrust of Baltar's drama is something of a mystery. Make no mistake — this is an episode whose success revolves around the analysis of Baltar. As far as I'm concerned, everything else might as well be background noise.

The episode opens with an eerie nursery rhyme that's an effective stage-setter. Baltar, locked in his cell, attempts to hang himself, with the help of Imaginary Six, who kicks his footing out from under him. You could say Baltar is at least partially suicidal, but he's really hoping that he's a Cylon that will wake up downloaded to a new body. As he's hanging, he has a dream/hallucination that he's being resurrected on a Cylon ship. Ironically, even this dream turns against him, making him a victim within his own hallucination. This should come as little surprise to Baltar, who has a similar love/hate relationship with Imaginary Six.

Baltar's failed suicide attempt merely sets the stage for a battle of wills between Baltar and his interrogators, who want to know what the Cylons know about the next step in the race to Earth. Roslin also wants to use this opportunity to probe into the past. She knows Baltar was involved with Caprica Six, and she wants to know the level of his involvement in the attack on the Colonies.

The interrogation tactics are at first conventional, with varying degrees of good cop and bad cop. In one scene, Roslin plays bad cop, and the results are a little startling; you don't usually see Mary McDonnell unload with both barrels on this series, but we get to see it here. It's actually kind of a relief to see the usually soft-spoken Roslin driven into a fury, whether staged or sincere. This is a man that most blame for the horrors on New Caprica, and Roslin's line of attack is like the cathartic expression of those feelings on behalf of everyone.

Still, even under every kind of threat, Baltar does not confess his sins (in part because he doesn't feel that his sins are his own fault). Adama suggests a more radical approach involving some dangerous, experimental, hallucinogenic drugs that will put Baltar in a unique frame of mind. The drugs make the interrogators seem like a life line, where only truthful answers will allow them to throw buoys.

This leads to a haunting series of dramatically intense scenes where Baltar is tied to a gurney and pumped full of drugs and psychologically tortured. James Callis' performance makes these scenes powerful. Adama asks questions, and Baltar is forced to confront the horror of the truth. In some cases, it drives him to madness and screams.

At the center of Baltar's inner torture is Caprica Six, the woman who tricked him into betraying humanity and has haunted him ever since. Baltar's interrogation powerfully demonstrates Six's influence over him and the damage she has done to his psyche. Is she an angel or a devil? Is she leading him into darkness or the light? What is Baltar to do? He's a slave to her influence, and he doesn't even understand what she represents. And none of it is his fault.

He confesses everything: His unintentional role in being used to attack the Colonies ("Conspiracy requires intent!"), his being forced at gunpoint to collaborate with the enemy on New Caprica, and his hope that he might turn out to be one of the Final Five Cylons such that he will no longer have to live with being guilty. Cinematically, these scenes work because of their starkness and simplicity. Baltar's imagined predicament is that he's drowning alone in a dark pool of water. The images are cold and isolated, and they go a long way to making us understand how Baltar feels.

I was less enthused about the B-story involving Lee and Kara and their ongoing marriage crises. This subplot isn't badly handled per se, but it's already getting stale, and I don't think it's a good fit with the Baltar story, which is incomparably more interesting as a character study. With Lee's marriage falling apart since Dualla no longer trusts him, Lee starts coming home from Joe's drunk at night. Dee has about had it with him. Both Anders and Dee give Kara and Lee options out of their marriages. Kara even comes to Lee and asks him if he'll still leave Dee if she leaves Anders.

The point here, I think, is that Lee actually stops and takes stock of what he has with Dee versus what he might have with Kara. The way I see it, Kara's probably never going to be material for a stable relationship (God knows Anders already knows that), and I think Lee slowly comes to that conclusion here. As much as I was indifferent to this storyline, I should probably point out that all the involved parties react to the situation in a way true to their characters (Kara in an impulsive way, Lee in a rational way, etc.).

But I question the wisdom of cutting back and forth between a scene of Lee and Dualla reconciling and a scene where Gaeta questions Baltar. The Baltar scenes are so compelling as to make the marriage melodrama seem unworthy by contrast; it seems like a lame distraction from otherwise tense material.

I also question the conveniently sudden availability of the mysterious interrogation drug. Why have we never heard of it before? If the Galactica has had these drugs on hand all along, why haven't they been previously used on other prisoners, particularly Cylons?

So, no, "Taking a Break" is not perfect. But it definitely has some shining moments, and it ends by hinting that what's coming next is the trial of Gaius Baltar. He's guilty of something, but what exactly he's guilty of is still in question. As Adama notes, he's a man who could never confess to guilt, because he believes himself to be a victim, not a criminal. Where do you draw the line and where do you assign blame? I think that's what makes Baltar the intriguing conundrum that he is: He's not good for humanity, but is that really his fault?

Footnote: SciFi.com offered an online "bonus scene" in which Roslin questions Caprica Six. This scene was not in the episode but clearly should've been, particularly since any number of scenes involving Kara/Lee/Dualla/Anders could've been excised. As it is, Caprica Six is not in the episode at all, which to me is a notable oversight.

Previous episode: Rapture
Next episode: The Woman King

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22 comments on this review

Brendan - Fri, Nov 2, 2007 - 12:29am (USA Central)
Worst title for an episode ever, both in the clumsiness and length and the total inapropriateness given the subject matter. Moore said they named it when the script was quite different... well why not change the name - duh.
Matt - Wed, Dec 26, 2007 - 6:11am (USA Central)
I quite liked the irony of the title, I must say. Putting "guilt" or something along those lines in the title would have been so blatantly obvious; but the fact is that now there's no immediate Cylon threat, these people should be able to take a break from all their worries, but it's their own flaws that make even this relative peace a hell of its own. (It's a bit like all of those euphemistic war songs that were a stark, cynical contrast to life in the trenches.)
Brendan - Wed, Feb 13, 2008 - 12:20am (USA Central)
Many months later I would like to add that the editing choices have grown on me in this episode. At first they were jarring because they were unconventional, but upon further consideration, I think they mostly work. I think there was just one too many cuts to Lee/Dee in the Gaeta/Baltar scene, but before that last one, the short back and forth was very intriguing and effective at contrasting the starkly different plots going on concurrently. I think it gave an interesting sense that they were happening at the same time, oblivious of each other and yet counterpointed dramatically.

A more conventional style would no doubt have gone down easier and been safer, but I appreciate the vision of EJO here.
Jim Carey - Sat, Mar 29, 2008 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
2 stars, max. I don't get a few things.

* Baltar's confessions only make sense to the audience, who knows the context. The only intelligible thing he said was, he didn't know what he was doing. Oh, and C-6 saved him from the explosion.

* Baltar says NOTHING about the cylon ship. Nothing about the Hybrid, about projection, about De'anna's "rez addiction," about The Five, or the virus. Not that the virus is important--just a threat to an entire race!

* By now someone should have noted that Baltar often talks to an imaginary friend. He does it during interrogation, and I'm sure he did it in his monitored cell. If nothing else, you'd ask, "is he somehow communicating with the cylons?" I mean, I'm occasionally fooled by someone with a Bluetooth, into returning what I thought was a friendly "hello." We're talking about a guy with a constant half-conversational habit.

* Why would any prisoner feel shocked and betrayed by knowing he was being monitored?

* I'm confused about Imaginary Six. If nothing else, she has functioned as a survival mechanism (construct) for Gaius. Recently, she rarely shows up for "clever advice," and her motives are inconsistent. She told Gaius he was "the chosen one."
Jim - Wed, Jul 9, 2008 - 10:17am (USA Central)
His confession, it seems, wasn't meant to be revealing to the characters. I say this after having watched The Hub, where he tells Roslin exactly what he did and she acts like she didn't know already (which she shouldn't, given this episode). So I think they were able to get how Gauis FEELS about what he did, but not what he did.

Why would he feel shocked and betrayed? He's Baltar. It's what he does.

I loved the Gauis scenes and the B-plot held my interest, but also held the episode back from being a 3.5 episode.
Triskelion - Mon, Jul 28, 2008 - 10:34am (USA Central)
I too wondered what was so upsetting about the fact that the cell would have a video camera. I mean, wouldn't pretty much every square meter of a ship be subject to CCTV?

I think a better title for this epi might be "Drowning Your Sorrows" or something. A *Cheers* reference??

Oh, and yes, I think it should be established for the viewers whether Gaius is communicating with his hallucination by thought or actual vocalization. Because if it's the latter (and it should be, considering in an earlier epi he had actually dropped trou to have sex, caught by Starbuck), then I should think that half the crew would have known about his tendency to talk to himself; making Six's behavior an instant red flag. Come on, if Cylons have these Borg-like abilities to interact with technology on the molecular level, is it such a leap in logic to believe they might actually be able to communicate "telepathically"?

And finally, I wonder what it is everyone expected Gaius to do once the Cylons occupied New Caprica. Get himself executed? What would Roslin have done? Gaius' mistake was in settling on planet - not a crime, but an act he won the election on. While I despise his motives, is it fair to label him a collaborator, when clearly the Cylons were in total control and could easily just wipe out the fleet, (and why didn't they just do that, since that's been their motive before and ever since)??? I know I know, it's only a TV show.
Stallion - Thu, Feb 26, 2009 - 12:21pm (USA Central)
A few things I want to note about this episode.

1. The two people that are pretty much responsible for the situation humanity is in right now are locked up in the brig and no one knows how responsible they are.

2. Considering she played a key part in almost destroying mankind what does caprica six expect to happen to her. Does she really expect by gones to be by gones and to be freed?

3. Considering Boomer and Caprica are worshipped as hero to the Cylons shouldn't Athena know what role Caprica and Baltha played on the attack on caprica? I"m assuming Athena is the same cylon present at the end of the miniseries. To be fair I still have to watch the next few episodes.
PJ Murphy - Mon, Mar 1, 2010 - 11:24am (USA Central)
I agree with the review. The title of the ep, which is also a lyric in the theme to "Cheers," is a rather odd title, given what happened.

I totally agree with the Lee/Kara subplot just getting in the way in this ep. James Callis definitely brought his "A" game to this ep. He did a great job.
JJ - Wed, Apr 14, 2010 - 4:04am (USA Central)
Surprised you didn't mention the secret that baltar whispered to gaeta. Seemed like it was setting something up for the future there.
Max Udargo - Sat, Jun 26, 2010 - 7:19pm (USA Central)
Am I really so old I'm only one of two people here who understood that the title is a dumb joke referencing the "Cheers" television show? The opening lyrics of the Cheers theme song were "Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot..."

The dumb joke does kind of make sense, because at this point I'm convinced the BSG writers' room was a place with a fully stocked bar and they began every day with tequila shots. Instead of "Battlestar Galactica" they should have called this show "Drunks in Space."



N. Poliskey - Mon, Jun 27, 2011 - 9:24am (USA Central)
I LOVED this episode! Easy 3.5 borderline 4. It must be clear by now that Baltar is by far the most compelling character on this show, played by the most capable actor of the bunch. He NEVER dissapoints. Every scene where you think the character will shrivel up and die, he just comes back more forceful than before.

It does bring up a question I keep having, what exactly, did they think Baltar was supposed to do? The Cylons had complete control of the colony, was he supposed to put on supermans cape, and personally kill the baddies. The cylons even said if he didn't sign the death warrants, they would just kill Baltar and do it anyways, does Adam REALLY think Baltar had any way of stopping them?

It brings me to the biggest problem I have with the entire series, which is how Baltar "happened" to get elected literally right before they found New Caprica, and were occupied by the Cylons. Would Roslin really have been any different a president? But it sure makes it convinient for the writers or BSG. I just wish someone would ask Roslin how she would have handled it differently. For god sakes, she falsified and election, and she hates Baltar because he didn't want the 'cylons to blow his head off???

My fave line was "I had a gun to my head, you chose to serve" to Geata.

Oh, and yeah, the love square thing wasn't bad, but it was very out of place in this episode. I feel that this will all be worth it if Kara and Lee never do get together, but if in the last episode they realize they were meant to be or something, than i think this is all cheap drama. I do like the concept of never actually attaining the lvoe you desire, and if BSG stays realistic, they will never let Lee adn Kara actually be together.
Nic - Mon, Sep 12, 2011 - 9:46pm (USA Central)
I'm really disappointed that Baltar has already returned to Galactica after less than half a season on the basestar. While he was there, he was an actual villain, and an interesting one. Now the writers seem determined to make him a victim, to feel some compassion for poor Baltar being tortured by "evil" Roslin and Adama. But it's not working on me - he's never cared for anybody but himself, and that alone I find detestable. Willingly or not, his actions helped lead to the fall of the twelve colonies.

And yes, Baltar should have taken a bullet the lives of 200 humans (or at least make those deaths less 'official'). It's not easy to be selfless in those circumstances, but it IS possible.
Michael - Fri, Nov 25, 2011 - 1:27pm (USA Central)
Those asking what Baltar should have done, I agree with Nic: He should have taken a bullet. He should have resigned and refused to cooperate. By staying on, even under coercion, he was at the very least lending credence to the entire "benevolent cylon" angle the regime was going for and which cost hundreds of human lives.

I liked seeing him manhandled and frogmarched around. Personally though, instead of trying the carrot approach through Gaeta, I would have waterboarded the mo-fo.

As far as the love quadrangle, the only person I have sympathy for is Anders. The others all deserve each other, including Dee. I bet she's wishing now she hadn't been such a bitch to Billy who would NEVER have cheated on her or broken her heart.

I concur with Brendan: Cutting to and fro between the two plots worked well.
Kyle4 - Wed, Jan 25, 2012 - 8:44pm (USA Central)
The Baltar plot was all I cared about in this episode, much like Jamahl said in his review. Even though this episode came out years before Inception did, his underwater interrogation reminded me of that.

Kara went from being my favourite character on the show to the one I now can't stand whenever she's on the screen. It was bad enough that she slept with the brother of her dead fiancee (vice versa for Apollo) the fact that she doesn't care about screwing over 3 different people with her flip flopping feelings makes her detestable. Maybe the audience is supposed to dislike her, but the bit about being chosen and now Sackhoff's flaws as an actress stand out for me. The less screen time she gets, the better.
Keiren - Wed, May 2, 2012 - 4:28am (USA Central)
I dont understand how Baltar is the bad guy??? If he had not co operated, he would have been shot and someone else (maybe Gaeta?) would have taken his place and signed the death warrants correct??

So Baltar just did what was necessary to stay alive, which makes him a bad person, but not a traitor. The Cyclons would have just dragged someone else in and threatened them to sign.
Michael Steiner - Sat, May 5, 2012 - 5:08am (USA Central)
@Keiren: Whoever would have taken Baltar's place should likewise have refused. They'd have gotten shot, too; a third individual would have been drafted in; etc. Perhaps eventually the Cylons would have abandoned the Quisling-style of government.

Legally, killing another to save oneself is a crime. Baltar, therefore, is not merely a "bad person" but a criminal (accessory to Murder Two at best). Yeah, not a traitor, but someone who would -- on Earth -- have gotten the chair... - and rightly, too.
chris - Fri, Oct 19, 2012 - 3:43pm (USA Central)
The "previously on Battlestar Galactica" quote, spelled by Gaius is the best.
Nebula Nox - Wed, Jan 30, 2013 - 2:06pm (USA Central)
I agree that the title of the episode is terrible. The only good thing from the perspective of the characters is that they are not, for once, facing a firing squad of Cylons. This is one case of the writers getting too attached to something to throw it out.

I agree with many who do not like Kara. I do not like her (but I do like Dee). On the other hand, I do think Kara is realistic as a character, and I think the acting is just fine. An episode or two before, when she was playing injured in the raptor, was absolutely perfect. The trembling with pain - that can't be easy to pull off and she nails it.

Teejay - Sat, Aug 24, 2013 - 2:37am (USA Central)
These characters that hate Baltar should take a look in the mirror. THEY elected him President because THEY wanted to move there. He simply did what the people wanted. that he manipulated them into that decision doesn't let them off the hook. If Roslin, Adama, Tigh, etc. want to be angry at him, fine(they have different reasons). As for the rest of the fleet, they got what they asked for.
Cureboy - Tue, Jan 7, 2014 - 2:51am (USA Central)
The Baltar interrogation was just riveting. I wish we hadn't cut back and forth between the soap opera subplot. It killed the momentum. Though I think Anders is a good man. He seems to be the only one in this quadrangle who isn't most concerned about himself.

What did Baltar whisper to Gaeta?? Please tell me we are going to find out.

For the record, Doc Cottle is one of my favorite people on this show. Shades of Leonard McCoy
SPR - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 11:28pm (USA Central)
Totally agree with Jammer and the other commenters. The soap opera love rhombus is getting a little tiring.

On the other hand, I thought the Baltar plot was incredibly riveting, and James Callis again gave a great performance and showed why he's my favorite character in BSG.
D. Albert - Mon, Jul 21, 2014 - 7:25pm (USA Central)
Great comments.

Re: Balter taking a bullet: Ain't gonna happen. Balter is about Balter and only Balter. He's an entirely self-centered SOB. And yet, (And I'm guessing here) he will be redeemed somehow. By saving humanity...?

RE: the Love Z. BORING

I don't care about any of them, except Dualla, who is a decent person. I like SciFi, and every moment spent on soap is one less spent on Scifi. But, I guess, enough Fan Boys and Fan Girls need the soap, so there you go.

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