Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Crossroads, Part 1"

***1/2

Air date: 3/18/2007
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Michael Rymer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

It seems the second-to-last episode of a BSG season has become the slot where we get the progression of the ongoing plot, but also new developments of bizarre and disturbing ominousness.

Last season's "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 1" had an opening teaser where Sharon sensed a cold feeling, and Tyrol suddenly awoke from a nightmare and beat Cally to unconsciousness.

First season's "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1" had Sharon, who had been teetering on the brink all season, shoot herself because she thought she was about to do something terrible. She survived.

Both episodes opened with musically scored montages of crosscutting. "Crossroads, Part 1" has no such opening sequence (a shame), but it does have what might be the creepiest portending to date, because it's not in what characters say or do, but in what seems to be in their minds. Helo, by the end of the hour, is sensing the doom in the air: "Weather's changing, Felix. We need to be ready for it. There's a storm coming."

Roslin's dreams might be predicting that forthcoming storm. For the first time since the cancer, Roslin has a mysterious vision. It involves Six grabbing Hera in the ancient opera house on Kobol. Anything imagined/envisioned/prophesied at that opera house — or more accurately, Opera House — has automatic meaning in the BSG universe.

In "Crossroads" we've also finally reached the beginning of the trial of Gaius Baltar. Tory tries to push the prosecutor, Didi Cassidy (Chelah Horsdal), into charging Baltar with genocide for the original attack on the Colonies. In classic Law & Order style, the prosecutor explains that she'll try the case she can prove, not the case that the political/societal machine might want.

The trial sequences are very much in the style of contemporary TV courtroom drama like L&O. The crucial difference, of course, is that the witnesses, judges, and defendant are major characters in the larger picture, and the details of the trial involve stakes that become deeply personal as well as legal and societal.

Those proceedings begin with the opening arguments. It's worth mentioning that Cassidy's argument isn't particularly compelling. Certainly, the numbers are significant — 5,197 went dead or missing on New Caprica during Baltar's presidency — but they don't get to the heart of Baltar's guilt or innocence. Certainly not the way Lampkin's defensive argument does. His fiery attack on the "justice of the mob" is far more compelling material, delivered with far more feeling. Indeed, Lampkin's defense makes a good point about Baltar's decision to surrender to the Cylons: He simply had no choice. The only other alternative would've meant death. (Cassidy's argument might've been better had she mentioned that it was Baltar's ill-advised decision to colonize New Caprica in the first place. Of course, no one knows the truth behind the nuclear bomb that took out the Cloud Nine, which was also Baltar's fault.)

The simple fact is that no one is going to out-lawyer Lampkin. Cassidy is competent but colorless. As audience members, we already have far more invested in Lampkin as a personality. It's an interesting way of setting our sympathies; even if we are in favor of Baltar being found guilty, our attraction to Lampkin's arguments help balance the scales.

Interesting things start to happen when the witnesses testify on the stand. Tigh gets on the stand partially drunk, and his guilt over Ellen — which has been brought back to the forefront in a memorable scene between Tigh and Six in which the interrogator has unexpectedly had the psychological tables turned against him — ends up with him confessing the killing of his wife in open court. The testimony has the effect of making Tigh's bitter hatred of Baltar look completely personal and not objective.

Meanwhile, a sense of dread begins building behind the scenes. A woman visits Baltar in jail and begs him to bless her son. She's the fifth such visitor. Why does she seem to worship Baltar? And is there a significance to the fact that she's the fifth visitor?

Down at the bar, Anders can hear mysterious music in the static of a radio. So can Tigh. So can Tory. But no one else seems to hear it. At one point, Anders and Tory share a stare that's chilling in its mysteriousness. What do they have in common? Is the music a warning? A strange Cylon communication? What?

Tigh's incident on the witness stand has launched him into a drunken mess. Adama helps the poor guy into his rack, who sadly notes that he can no longer smell Ellen's scent on her clothes. Tigh has become a tragic warning of a battered life of warfare. Let me quickly add the performances of Michael Hogan should never go overlooked.

Meanwhile, Galactica's tailing Raptor learns that the Cylons have discovered how to follow them and are catching up. The theory is that a radiation leak on the tylium refinery might be traceable by the Cylons. Before fixing the radiation leak, Lee comes up with a plan to throw the Cylons off track: Send the tylium ship on a different path before rendezvousing with the fleet. It's a plan that's as smart as it is simple.

So there's a lot of percolating dread in the background. The main drive of the story, however, is Lee, and what his association with Baltar's defense is doing to his relationships with his shipmates, his father, and his wife. Following Tigh's debacle on the stand, Adama and Lee have a conversation that shows just how quickly their relationship has deteriorated since Lee joined Baltar's defense. Adama doesn't trust his son anymore, and flat-out accuses him of having leaked Tigh's secret about Ellen to Lampkin. (Ironically, the truth is that Lee didn't even know about it.) Lee resigns his post, saying he won't serve under an authority who questions his integrity. Adama accepts his resignation, saying he has no integrity. As I watched this scene, it seemed to me that Lee was practically baiting his father into this course of action. It's such a cold, cold scene between father and son that it's almost painful to watch.

Why is Lee doing this, anyway? Is it merely to stick it to the old man, as Lampkin contends? Lee thinks he may have information about Roslin that could potentially damage her testimony over Baltar's signing of the New Caprica execution order, but he's loath to share it. Lampkin essentially tells Lee that it's time to put up or shut up: Either he's really working for the defense, or he's simply acting out a charade to annoy his father. Lampkin, a brilliant strategist, knows just what buttons in Lee to push to get the right reaction.

The episode's crucial turning point comes when Lee cross-examines Roslin. Seeing Lee in a suit rather than a uniform makes for an effectively jarring little moment. Jamie Bamber's performance is finely tuned in how it reveals Lee's obvious nervousness in standing up and cross-examining the president in court. (Unlike Lampkin, he has not done this before.) The power of this scene comes in its implications. It's not merely that Roslin is forced to admit that she has resumed taking chamalla and that her cancer has returned. It's that she's forced to admit this in open court when it's an attack on her credibility — by someone who was once close to her. When she whispers to Lee, "I feel so sorry for you," you realize just how deep a hole Lee has dug for himself.

The scene shows Lee passing a point he might never recover from, burying himself in alienation. That night, Dualla leaves him. When Lee attempts to defend his behavior on behalf of "the system," she frankly says the system should be taken apart, and we realize that this trial is not simply about one man, but a possible referendum on the legal system itself (such as it is).

I love how unflappable Roslin is in the face of an inquisitive press corps. She keeps her cool, and has a sardonic wit. Reporter: "Madam president, how long do you have to live?" Roslin: "How long do you have to live, Karen?" It's a cooler head than Tory's, who calls the reporters "vultures" to their faces. Later, Roslin tells Tory to get her act together and to relearn the functions of a comb. I love these little details. Yet they still service the ominous foreboding. What's wrong with Tory, anyway? And with Tigh? And Anders?

The episode ends with Tigh alone in his quarters, hearing that song and concluding: "It's in the ship!" The scene is eerie as hell, and proves that the confident setting of tone in storytelling can sell the notion that Something Big Is Coming. Even if we didn't have Helo telling Gaeta to beware the coming storm, we'd still be getting the point. Beware.

Previous episode: The Son Also Rises
Next episode: Crossroads, Part 2

Season Index

16 comments on this review

Brian - Mon, Mar 24, 2008 - 6:06pm (USA Central)
You know, I've thought from the moment this episode aired that it was "a four star episode if there ever was one", and for a time I thought it was better than part two.

Lee's questioning of Roslin, her pleading for him to stop along with, and the look in her eyes just before he makes her say she is taking chamalla again... was just the most affecting piece of television and/or cinema I have ever scene.

Michael Hogan's performance in this episode was also one of the series' best, both his reaction to what Six says in the cell and his behavior in the stand.

And, of course, I was cheering when Roslin revealed she had cancer (boy that makes me sound to cruel out of context). Although season 3 is my favorite seen based on its overall fluidity, the deepening involvement of the mythos, the beginning and closing arcs, and the fact that ALL of this flows inexorably from the New Caprica arc, it is a seen with problems. Most of these problems are with the standalone episodes forced on Moore, but I think the other problem has been that Roslin has had a reduced role this season and without cancer or her Presidency-In-Jeopardy/New Caprica story, she hasn't had much to do. Part of this, I think, is because characaters such as Tigh, who became my favorite character this season, Starbuck, and baltar that were most affected by New Caprica have had the most material flowing out of the arc and thus have the most development.

The revelation that Roslin has cancer, and that she's back as a major player now that she is once again the Dying Leader, was just one "great plot" thread that this two parter sets up.

I'm also going to take this moment to just say the other episodes that have ratings I disagree with:

Tigh Me Up, Tigh me Down: 2.5 (to me,a 2 isn't as enjoyable as this is)
Resurrection Ship, Part 1: 3.5
Scar: 3.5 (I did buy the foundation)
Torn: 3.5 (The Tigh-Starbuck story is first rate and the direction/style of the episode is something I really love)
Rapture: 3.5

A superb beginning to a superb ending of an overall superb season.
Luke - Tue, Jul 13, 2010 - 3:51am (USA Central)
This was definitely an interesting episode. I thought one especially poignant moment was that after Roslin admitted to taking Chamaala, she wanted to continue to explain why. Lee's initial refusal really drove home the point that justice depends on context. If he had not allowed her to provide context, it would have been starkly unjust. What a fine line to walk.
Nick M - Mon, Nov 22, 2010 - 10:47am (USA Central)
Maybe it's me, but just how beautiful, and dare I say it - but sexy - did Madame President look in the Opera House? In a series with some amazingly beautiful ladies, that scene...well, I would love her to spend time in my office too. :-)

(I really need a girlfriend LOL)
Brruceling - Mon, Jun 20, 2011 - 8:06am (USA Central)
I hate to say this but I'm becoming very disheartened by Admiral Adama. Here is a man who single-handedly saved the remainder of the human species, calmly and coolly handled all of the shitstorms that arose in the aftermath for two years, and suddenly seems to have become a hard-assed bastard who cares more for his position of authority than the actual well-being of the people around him. The only credit I can give this is that it largely was foreshadowed by his 'realization' in Unfinished Business that he shouldn't be friends with his crew. I think it's crap.

What happened to the man who stayed behind to find Starbuck at the risk of the fleet, and said if it was Lee he'd never leave? He was simultaneously too human to be a good commander, and the best man for the job for that very reason. As the military man in charge of the remainder of humanity, we saw what his soft touch was really worth when Admiral Cain appeared on the Pegasus. He seems to have gotten his panties in a bunch because he let people settle on New Caprica instead of remaining a hard-ass and blames himself for their inability to defend the planet, but he only allowed a couple of people to go based on personal feeling - obviously most people would have been gone regardless and they would not have been any more prepared to fight off the cylons.

This marks a significant loss of the qualities which made Adama a great and interesting character. A man who threatens to murder Cally in cold blood rather than listen to the concerns of some strikers is no better than Admiral Cain.

Otherwise, a great episode, and I ultimately have to side with Lee. Baltar is not guilty of any of the things the prosecutor claims - he did not actively seek the deaths of anyone. He is not a murderer. He is just a truly pathetic man.
Nick P. - Mon, Jul 18, 2011 - 12:04pm (USA Central)
Riveting episode. Easy 4 star. and the next one.

But I really wish people would quit saying he is pathetic, I still find him the most likable sympathetic character on the show. (Tigh is getting up there however). Would any person have acted any differently under Baltars' circumstances. NO. Of course not, and if they did, he would be dead. He is a poor kid from a poor planet who became a famous scientist. It is not his fault he was blinded by a hot blond. Come on?

Anyways, there were only 2 minor complaints I had with this episode. Daula left Lee for his defense of Baltar?? WHAT??? He has been having an affair for almost a year and she stays, but leaves over f-ing BALTAR? Stupid. And I think the moment where Roslin asked lee to ask her WHY she was taking Chamalla, Lee should have immediatly denied her request anjd dismissed her. Anyone could see that trap she was laying.

But man, is this 2 parter watchable!!!! Fine performances from all!!!
Nic - Wed, Oct 5, 2011 - 8:36am (USA Central)
Nick P.:

Baltar only cares about himself. That's not a quality I find very endearing. He may not have willingly participated in the genocide on the colonies, but he gave a NUCLEAR WARHEAD to a known Cylon agent, which not only ended up killing thousands but also allowed the Cylons to find New Caprica. And although none of the characters know it, he also gave the Cylons important information about Earth.

You don't sacrifice hundreds of lives to save your own. If doing the right thing causes you to die, then you should die. I would do it, and I'm sure most of us would. In my mind, he'll always be a villain. A complex and interesting villain, but a villain nonetheless.
Michael - Sat, Nov 26, 2011 - 2:55pm (USA Central)
The prosecution made a major mistake trying to pin genocide on Baltar. There's no way that could ever be proven.

He didn't personally kill anyone. He didn't issue orders to kill anyone of his own free will.

He did, however, continue to preside over a puppet regime under which 12% of the mankind was exterminated.

By staying in office following cylon occupation, he lent a human face to an occupying regime. So long as that regime did no more than provide a civic structure and maintain civilian infrastructure, there was nothing wrong with that. But when that regime began implementing hostile, even murderous, actions against your own population, he should have packed it in.

He signed somebody's death warrant. Yes, it was under duress, but it is inexcusable. Whether his signature actually had any weight or not, whether the executions would have taken lace with or without his consent, whether he had to choose between his own life or the life of even one other, innocent human is all immaterial.

He is not guilty of genocide. He may be guilty of cowardice but that is not a civilian crime.

He IS guilty of treason and he should hang.

Anyway, compelling viewing. Made me sit up and watch and absorb every minute, and incited strong feelings and passion in me, which hadn't been the case since the start of Season 3.
Nick P. - Sun, Nov 27, 2011 - 9:49am (USA Central)
Michael,

Although we generally agree on this show, I am curious why your negative opinion of Baltar? I have conisistently found him the most sympathetic character on this show, and I really don't see how anyone in his position under the Cylons on New Caprica would have acted any bit different. Had he done anything else he would be dead and the cylons still would have committed their crimes. Cowardice, ?maybe? even then I don't know what he could have done to ?save? anyone?

Further, you often mention treason, but where does this come from? Even from the miniseries he did NOT openly aid the enemy, he let a hot chick have "some" access to the defense mainframe, but again, that is not treason. Again, I think this implies Baltar singlehandedly built and maintained the colony defense mainframe, which he did not, he was a piece. Again, six would have simply moved to her next target.

He could be charged with un-knowingly abaiting the enemy, but as for treason, I don't get it?
Michael - Sun, Nov 27, 2011 - 10:30am (USA Central)
Hey Nick:

You're right, I don't like Baltar. Never did. Part of it is his accent, silly and shallow though as that sounds. Another part is his stringing everyone along for the best part of Season 1 and then giving a cylon a nuclear device. Not endearing. Also, he's "slippery": He always manages to wiggle himself out of every pickle he finds himself in. Plus, he got to rack up Six and a string of other pretty women so, yeah, I'm jealous of the summabitch :-))))))))

But I'm looking at this from a purely legal viewpoint and my conclusion would be the same whosever ass was on the line.

Now yes, you're right that most people would probably have instinctively acted the same way he did on N.C., but that doesn't excuse him. He found himself in the same situation as Gen. Petain as the head of the Vichy government (not sure if you're familiar with that chapter of WW2). "[C]onsciously or purposely acting to aid [one's country's] enemies" is the definition of treason, and he did that, by staying on as president and allowing himself to be used by the cylons as an instrument of legitimizing the occupation. Of course that his resignation or even, in effect, suicide would not have altered anything, but his actions were tantamount to collaborating with the enemy. GUILTY! :D

I don't begrudge his early history, i.e. facilitating Six's access to the defense mainframe. He had no idea she was a cylon and he could not reasonably have, so that's not at issue at all.

On another note, the Bonnie Taylor in me is desperately searching for a "hero," i.e. someone who's dependably positive and principled, and doesn't turn out to be some screw-up. It used to be Adama whom I idolized but he let me down majorly. The closest I'm thinking of is Tigh although he's a boozer and flaky.
Michael - Sun, Nov 27, 2011 - 12:51pm (USA Central)
Of course, I meant "frack" or "frak," not "rack," and no "up" up there. I need another weekend break!
Caleb - Mon, Jul 30, 2012 - 1:56pm (USA Central)
I agree with Michael, he is guilty of treason. That said, I love the dude. He's by far my favorite character and I can't help but sympathize with him.
Teejay - Mon, Aug 26, 2013 - 6:14am (USA Central)
One question about this episode that bugs me, even if it's a minor detail is Anders. Did I miss him enrolling to be a viper pilot in an earlier episode or was this just revealed in this episode almost as an afterthought?
beej - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 2:03am (USA Central)
I don't think Roslin's statement that her cancer has returned damages the defense at all. Yeah, I mean it's great she's not just some druggie getting her kicks with chamalla, but the side effects are what they are regardless of why she's on the stuff and that was the important point.

I do hope Baltar is going to be found not guilty in this trial. He's a great character, and while his list of actual crimes is incredibly long, trying to pin New Caprica on him ... yeah, he embraced settlement as a political ploy, but the reason it worked is because the people wanted it. The occupation itself and the toll in lives was not preventable once that course was decided upon.
Tloser - Tue, Oct 29, 2013 - 9:30pm (USA Central)
I have to agree with others who don't think the charge of treason on the original attack can stick on Baltar. If BSG treason is anything like U.S. law, then wrongful intent and an overt act are needed. I don't think Baltar meets either of the elements. However, there are certainly lesser charges that could be proved on Baltar opening the mainframe backdoor, albeit unintentionally. Maybe a charge where recklessness or negligence is an element? In terms of the execution order, I am not sure if duress could be a valid defense. My understanding is that duress is never a defense for murder. But the defense would point out that Baltar did not commit murder but only signed a piece of paper which was used by the Cylons to place the blame on him. To me, this trial is not black and white, and I would definitely not convict on treason or genocide, maybe on lesser offenses. I don't think I even know what the specific charges are being pressed by the prosecution.
Cureboy - Tue, Jan 7, 2014 - 10:19pm (USA Central)
Oh my heart broke for Colonel Tigh when he was on the stand. The actor turned in a great performance. I am really thinking he's a Cylon. What a horrible fate. To be one of the creatures you hate so much. Does this mean Anders and Roslin's press secretary is one too?

I hadn't realized how attached I've become to these characters in the past month. The scene with Lee and Roslin on the stand. How she once confided in him. And then Roslin admitting her cancer had returned. It felt like a punch in the gut. I am guessing Hera can't help this time.
SPR - Sat, Jan 25, 2014 - 9:47pm (USA Central)
I agree with some of the other commenters. I think this is an easy 4 star, and the best is season 3 so far.

The courtroom scenes with the examinations of Tigh and Roslin were wonderful and riveting. Absolutely phenomenal scenes.

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