Battlestar Galactica

“Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down”

2 stars.

Air date: 3/4/2005
Written by Jeff Vlaming
Directed by Edward James Olmos

Review Text

The problem with "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" is that the tone is all over the map. I mean, this episode is absolutely everywhere — drama, comedy, paranoia that too quickly dissolves — and it doesn't find an adequate through-line. This is the season's most erratic episode in terms of both writing and directing, with a net result that lands somewhere in the realm of watchable confusion. It's the weakest outing of the season. What's reassuring is that even the weakest episode of Battlestar to date still proves tolerable and has its share of redeeming qualities.

This episode is basically about two things: (1) Roslin suspecting Adama of being a Cylon, and (2) everyone suspecting Ellen of being a Cylon.

Who's Ellen? Glad you asked. Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) is Colonel Saul Tigh's estranged wife, presumed dead in the initial Cylon assault, but who turns up here, having been lying comatose on the Rising Star after a narrow escape from the Picon airport. The suddenness of Ellen's appearance is jarring in narrative terms, but at least the characters also find it jarring, and Adama suspects she might be a Cylon. Tigh is happy to see his wife again, and Ellen talks with him about making a "fresh start," which might be just the personal jolt Tigh needs. (An earlier scene shows a self-disgusted Tigh pouring the last contents of his liquor bottle into a trash can, about which he says to himself, "Well, at least I did that much.")

Meanwhile, Roslin — with her own suspicions piqued by Leoben's paranoia-inducing allegation that Adama is a Cylon (see last week's "Flesh and Bone") — suggests that Adama be the first to undergo Baltar's new Cylon-detecting blood test. The test requires hours of processing and can only be performed on one individual at a time, much to Baltar's dismay; he has 47,905 tests to conduct if he's going to test the entire fleet. To pass the time, he has imaginary Six sex in the lab, which leads to a masturbation scene that is admittedly funny (Kara walks in on him) but is an aspect of the character that is really beginning to wear thin.

I'm not sure what to make of Roslin's suspicions of Adama. The lesson ostensibly learned in "Flesh and Bone" was that the Cylons want to use our paranoia against us. Isn't Roslin's willingness to give credence to that paranoia in fact playing right into their hands? That in itself isn't really a storyline flaw so much as how the episode ultimately plays out this element of the story with a comic non-payoff (more on that in a moment).

As for Ellen, whether she's a Cylon or not, the one thing the story makes clear is that she's trouble. Tigh and Ellen were clearly longtime partners in alcoholism, and there's a scene here where she breaks out the booze and makes a toast to "starting over." It seems to me that their problems in the past were probably caused at least partially by the booze, so their drinking to a fresh start isn't particularly promising.

At dinner with Adama, Roslin, and Lee, Ellen gets hopelessly sloshed while Tigh laughs along (they play the role of each other's enablers) as the rest of the dinner party smiles politely. Ellen runs her mouth, calls Adama "Bill," and plays footsy with Lee under the table. If there's credit to be given for this episode, it's that it doesn't waste any time establishing Ellen as a shameless flirt and a negative influence to Tigh's professional life.

Still, how much is too much before Ellen's obnoxiousness becomes more than the audience can stand? I propose the clock runs out with the scene where Ellen hangs from a scaffolding while putting her legs around Tigh's head. Baltar shows up, and he/Six sees something about Ellen that arouses his suspicion. Is she a Cylon?

Up to now the episode is a muddled mix of suspicion and drunken behavior. The episode's definitive breakdown comes with the "payoff" scene in the lab, where Baltar is asked to first run a Cylon test on Adama (Roslin's request) and then on Ellen (Adama's request), and then all the threads crash into each other with everyone arriving in the lab and arguing. The scene is played as screwball comedy, but that's a miscalculation. There's simply nothing funny about the idea that these people are suspecting each other of being Cylons. Going to such a place should be sad, or scary, or painful, or insulting — anything, really, but funny. This proves to be a very odd — and unworkable — choice. The characters — especially Roslin after airing suspicions about Adama, of all people — back away from and are let off the hook of their paranoia far too easily.

And the comedy itself doesn't segue well into the rest of the episode, which jumps from humor to foreboding to action without a clear idea of what any of it means. There's a subplot involving an erratically behaving Cylon Raider, and the way this subplot figures into the story feels like an underdeveloped distraction. There are also the usual scenes involving Boomer and Helo on the run on Caprica, the only point of note being Boomer's suspicion that she's now being hunted as a traitor by her own Cylon co-conspirators.

Still, for all its lack of coherence, the episode has scenes that work, like the pleasant Billy/Dualla romantic scene where he gently pumps her for information until she calls him on it. Or the fact that Baltar's Cylon test seems to pass everybody. Or the revealing moment where Six on Caprica shows a pained look of apparent envy for Boomer's ability to so easily fall in love with Helo, even as Six labels Boomer "pathetic." Clearly, there's a sense here that the Cylons want to know what it is about love/sex that contributes to making humans tick.

These moments add to the canvas of the series, but the episode itself is a puzzling tonal mishmash.

Previous episode: Flesh and Bone
Next episode: The Hand of God

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34 comments on this post

    The confrontation scene was supposed to be funny? No wonder I didn't get it.

    Not only did I get the episode; I found it absolutely hilarious. All of the actors involved were flawless in transition from the usual dark, brooding drama to this one-off "dramedy" episode ala Boston Legal. I'd have given one star more.

    This episode seems to get the cold shoulder from a lot of people.

    I have to disagree here. I would have given the episode at least one additional star. Its a good episode. Not great, but not terrible or sub-par either.

    I didn't think it was hilariously funny, per say, but its a worthy and needed breather from the crisis driven Galactica.

    I also very much enjoyed the episode. On a pure enjoyment level, it is a 3 star rating. But I also agree with what Jammer (and even Moore himself) says about the episode's failings. I'd even it out to a 2.5.

    To me, a 2 star episode rating means the episode.... is not something that's fun to watch. Tigh me up, tigh me down, is fun to watch.

    I didn't see that scene as humorous at all, in intent or execution.

    It was quite tense, actually.

    Though the lack of true results from the Cylon test was annoying.

    [Spoiler of future episode removed]....need to buy the dvd so that I can appreciate this episode more....

    For BSG for now, please don't post spoilers of future episodes on reviews that are earlier in the run. If you want to make a comment of this nature, talk around the spoiler or use vague terms. There are some people who read these reviews several seasons behind because of where they live and the delay in their access to the most recent episodes.

    Just rewatched this one with a friend the other day. Easily the worst episode of the series. I can't express how glad I am that there was never a second attempt to make a comic episode.

    In retrospect, the whole Cylon paranoia and suspicion regarding a certain character prove to be an exceptional piece of continuity by the writers when you take future seasons into account!

    (How is that for getting around the spoiler Jammer?)

    (Thanks Jammer for the spoiler alarm, I'm always weary to read comments on an episode's review that I had just watched because of possible future spoilers.)

    This episode almost lost me from the get-go. The idea of Adama being a cylon agent was pretty late coming to be taken seriously. However, when the wife was brought aboard and, more importantly, her toxic effect on Tigh was revealed, I definitely enjoyed it more.

    I found the episode's humor to be funny, but most of the time that I was laughing I also knew that it was a very strange and abrupt decision by the BSG team to make this situation comedic. I'm used to feeling this from Baltar, since he's just an uncomfortable fellow, but from the rest it inexplicable.

    However, the ending of this episode confounds me when taking into account Baltar's earlier test involving Boomer a few episodes back. Apparently his detector magically works, but now he just passes everyone anyway, even when given time to do an important test.

    I thought the "screwball" mix-up comedy scene in Baltar's lab was near perfect, because it was such a surreal, dark, even chilling joke. In my mind, the scene referenced the comment Adama had made in an earlier episode about Baltar making fools of the leadership. And in this scene, indeed, we see Baltar doing just that: exculpating Ellen before ultimately drifting off into his fantasy world with that deranged smile on his face while around him the people responsible for the continued survival of the human race argue and wave their hands over their petty grievances and paranoid suspicions.

    But it's really the Cylons who are in control and orchestrating everything. And the last, tattered, confused, divided, recriminating remains of humanity swirl around a grinning madman lost in an out-of-control masturbation fantasy.

    The scene is both funny and creepy. It shows us just how easily the Cylons can tap into human foibles and lead humanity around by the nose.

    By the way, I've only seen through the end of the first season, an I'm assuming that Ellen is in fact a Cylon. She has to be.

    I agree. This is the first episode that I actually couldn't stand. Kate Vernon was awful. The lab confrontation was abysmal. The plots went nowhere. Ugh.

    One of my favorite episodes. Some people just don't get the humor.

    The Ellen character is a type I have seen in many other kinds of films (e.g. always drinking, flirting with every single man in the room). Do women like that actually exist? Or are they just a male fantasy?

    Thanks, jammer, for your spoiler comment. I am netflixing every episode in a row and I know nothing about what happens.

    Yeah I agree, this episode blows, barely a 1.5 star. I think the reason this episode is so bad isn't because it is comedy, but because the element that is comedic is not funny at all. The accusations of people being cylons SHOULD be dramatic and tense. I believe that scene in Baltars lab is easily worst of the young series. It is just not funny subjuect matter.

    I know the episode Q-pid from TNG was not popular but I loved it because it was meant as nothing more than a comedy episode and it didn't go for more, it did what it was meant for. No Borg in tights, or klingon masturbation scenes.

    I will go on a limb here and say I truly enjoy the Sharon-Helo scenes on Caprica.


    Ellen's exist. although this character itself seems to embody several negative characteristics into one (alcoholic and floozy and creator of distrust)

    having dated once a girl who I brought to a party, she was new to my classmates, so it was like a feeding frenzy, she like the attention, they flirted with her that encouraged her to keep hitting on them in return (and getting their phone numbers). afterwards, she tried calling them, but they picked up on the fact that she was annoying, didnt call her back. then she tried to use me to get back to meeting the other guys. i shut her out.
    ellen's are not a pleasant type, and i am not an enabler or tolerate bull (she miscalculated)

    conversely, I am sure there are men who act like ellen, who hit on everyone and act obnoxious.

    Ellen is not a fantasy, the word is nightmare, although there probably is a right person for her.

    It was a solid show; I don't understand the low score and all the angst. It was a welcome relief from all the tension and problems.

    The final scene in the lab was not particularly droll and was actually frustrating in that it left many questions unanswered. The first scene in the lab, with Starbuck and Baltar WAS really funny, however.

    I think the word some of you are looking for to describe Ellen is: WHORE.

    Dee is cute :)

    One of my favorite episodes. The comedy is subtle and well done. I would imagine that because BSG is an intense show, that it attracts an audience that doesn't have much of an eye for comedy. Throughout the first season Baltar and his reactions are insanely funny. James Callis is brilliant. This episode is a 3-3.5.

    As for whether the plot goes anywhere, it actually goes quite a bit.. especially if you watch it again after the entire series.

    OK, I'm watching this series for the first time and this is definitely the worst episode so far. Which really is a testament to how brilliant this series is because it's really not all that bad.

    Here's a silly question from someone who watched this series from it's original airdate and is just now going back to watch again.

    When Baltar tested Boomer, didn't her results come back almost instantly? Now all of a sudden it takes hours? Did I miss something?

    Still, greatest series ever on TV.

    Anyone else closing his eyes during the drumrolls intro with lots of episode spoilers? Very bad idea of the producers.

    @Chris: Yes! The wife and I watched the intro vid of one episode and it gave away every single pertinent plot point. What a moronic decision.

    I didn't think this episode was too bad beyond Ellen being unbearable - the rest of the cast's reactions to her are priceless. Baltar the weasel is beginning to grow on me. I still want to see him tossed out of an airlock since I know he's lying about Ellen (guessing but c'mon) and Boomer but he certainlty has his moments.

    The Cylon ship though... I'm pretty sure it made contact with Galactica kamikaze style so I don't see how Tigh saved all their lives. I like him and want him to rise above his failings but this episode wasn't that.

    Easily my least favorite episode of the first season. Though even this one I wouldn't grade below a C. It has a weird, heightened, screwball tone similar to what "Six Degrees" had. Except I'm far more interested in Baltar and James Callis' approach to him than I am in Ellen.

    So many of Tigh's problems could've been solved by a good divorce lawyer.

    I thought it was definitely the worst episode of the first season. A little too melodramatic for BSG.

    But my favorite part is the look on Baltar's face as he's swinging around in his chair by himself at the end. James Callis is one hell of an actor.

    I do feel this is by far the weakest episode up to this point in the show's run. But I'm not one who has a big issue with the use of humor: I enjoy some of that, especially with Baltar.

    My issue is that it's a huge deal to have Baltar just shrug and lie about the test results. This first popped up with Boomer's test, and it just doesn't make any sense. He repeatedly shows at other points in the show's run that he is very concerned about the survival of the human race and its coming out ahead in struggles with the Cylons (including in the very next episode after this one). But he's all mellow about Cylons roaming around the Galactica? Even if he is completely self-centered (which I never believed, although he's been accused of it), he's just setting himself up for deep trouble once anyone he's cleared shows by their actions that they are in fact a Cylon. Makes no sense, and it's aggravating.

    "Ellen is not a fantasy, the word is nightmare"

    Yes, this. I was puzzled by the initial musing that her type might be a "male fantasy". There are plenty of those female character types in sci-fi, unfortunately; but she is far from being one of them. She fits a well-worn trope, but it's way on the negative side of the ledger from "fantasy".

    A much maligned episode that I really enjoyed - a very successful and unusual episode mixing comedy with more serious matters and pulling it all off.

    Watching the whole series on DVD (our part of the world wasn't good enough to get BSG on TV) and a few things stand out already.

    1. If theres a chance to do it different to Trek - they take it - from productions design onwards - everything here is different to TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT.
    2. Script and storylines - complex, evolving and lots of continuity which I have found pretty involving.
    3. Characters - fleshed out and explored well, characters often surprising, actors given a lot of latitude to actually act!
    4. Cinematography - now highly copied but very individual, special effects pretty good considering budget and even still look OK today.
    5. Sound and score - unique, sometimes quiet when you expect things to be 'noisy'

    I just love Ellen. Or maybe it is the actress Kate Vernon, who plays Ellen, I dig? I dont lnow, but there is something about Vernon that really makes Ellen more than just a calculating, power hungry, selfish nightmare. She really infuses life and quirk into the character, makes her real rather than a caricature. I appreciate that.

    The dinner scene is one of the highlights for me. Vernon's comedic timing is spot on, and when she screams BOO and the look on their faces. Priceless.

    See, what I love about BSG is that its characters are real and therefore relatable. They are not cast, they inhabit their roles. And they behave like normal people. And there is no one normal than Ellen. She says stupid shit, she has a good time, she stumbles. She is real.

    I cant believe she is married to Saul though. He is such a bore fest. He also seems like 25 years older. What did people see in Saul? First her, then Caprica Six? Am I missing something?

    I know I’m a little late to the game here but for anybody reading this, BSG is such a good show that even it’s sub par episodes are entertaining. Like many great shows or movie franchises, it’s the characters that make it watchable or not. I love these characters so much that I could watch them play cards and drInk all episode and still be amused.

    It is really too bad there weren’t comments here on st-hypertext back when nBSG first aired. I would have loved to go back and read my review from back then. My first comment on this site was right when commenting was first enabled in 2007,

    I can tell from the snark that I was clearly 15 years younger, and far more interested in being “funny" than being supportive of @Jammer’s new venture. Now, looking back and seeing how integral st-hypertext has been over the last twenty-odd years of my scifi watching experience, well, it is all pretty humbling.

    None of which is to say that I agree with @Jammer’s review of "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down” in the least ;) No sir!

    Like @bmoredlj, I find the episode absolutely hilarious. Like @bmoredlj, I too was a fan of Boston Legal - and all the David E. Kelley shows back in the day. And there is definitely a Denny Crane/Alley McBeal feel to the dark humor here. As @Chris J says, "I would have given the episode at least one additional star.”

    @Brian puts it most simply of all, "Tigh me up, tigh me down, is fun to watch.” Amen. I enjoy it every time.

    To answer @Nic, one of the things that makes Ellen such a hoot is that she is an arch-type for a late-career officer's wife. If you’ve spent any time socially around military brass, there is an Ellen on most bases, at most postings. Yes, @Weiss is right that such people exist in the world at large ("alcoholic and floozy and creator of distrust”) but there is something about the bubble of uniform, boredom at bases, cheap and ever-flowing booze (, and the general high-handedness that comes with rank but no real responsibility that these colonel’s wives enjoy. Ellen is the, er, perfect distillation of that poisonous tendency.

    I am rewatching nBSG to get a feel for what a reboot of Babylon 5 might look like, assuming JMS can pull it off,

    The pilot was absolutely amazing! As good as I remember (and I’ve seen it a few times in the last 17 years since it first aired).

    What I wasn’t prepared for was how weirdly familiar the Cylon testing story line is after these last two crazy years.

    We see the very first test in the pilot, The test was a complete lie. Baltar just makes it up.

    Balter overwhelms Tigh with technobabble to “prove” using Science that Doral is a cylon, because he needs someone to take the fall for the cylon device in C-in-C,

    Tigh: Are you sure?

    Baltar: One can never be a hundred percent sure. But the evidence, the evidence seems conclusive. Basically, basically all I did was, I expanded on, on your doctor's analysis of Leoben's corpse. I then went around the CIC discreetly taking random hair samples of people who've been working there, subjected that to a special form of spectrum analysis that I've been experimenting on for quite some time now. I then wrote a clinical computer subroutine to screen that for synthetic chemical combinations. Uh, his ones, his samples were the only samples to register as synthetic. As you can see.

    Tigh: I'll take your word for it.

    Fortunately nothing like that ever happens in real life,

    Doral's predicament is played for laughs early in the pilot, and only by sheer luck in the closing scene are we relieved to learn that he was in fact a Cylon. Clearly Baltar has no such qualms about his lie.

    What’s more, the elites decide to keep the fact that Cylons look like humans to themselves. They keep the secret through the events of “Water” even though it is pretty clear that a Cylon must have been responsible for the explosion.

    The thing about “Litmus” is that Sargent Mathias has clearly felt for a while that something is off - why all the security lapses?! When Adama tells her that Cylons look like humans, you can tell she is both shocked, and feels betrayed. Her witch hunt is a gross over reaction to facts that the elites knew but kept from the People. Fortunately nothing like that could ever happen in real life,

    Which brings us to "Six Degrees of Separation” and the first time the cylon test is used for political gain.

    In “Six Degrees" it is Baltar accusing Godfrey of being a cylon. When he tells Roslin, the beat is played as hilarious (because it is, or at least it is ironic on so many levels!). But of course Roslin has passed out from doing too much weed (or is that Kamala?). As Doc Cottle says,

    Cottle: How many of these did you take, young lady? one…? Two…? Two. Three. Three times the dosage. Must work three times as fast, then, right? Everybody wants to be their own doctor.

    The funny thing is, this isn’t even the first time Doc Cottle thinks Roslin is ridiculous. Fortunately Docs never think politicians are ridiculous in the real world.

    And so we get to "Flesh and Bone” when Baltar sees the entirety of the ridiculousness of his predicament, and decides the only way to keep his head is to give the people what they want. Far better than a test that actually works, is a test where everyone passes!

    What else can you do but laugh in the face of this utterly predictable human behavior even where there is a civilization-destroying cataclysm.

    You either laugh at the people in charge, or you’re driven mad looking for a guillotine.

    And that’s what "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down” does. It laughs at the people in charge and their petty interpersonal bullshit. Mean Girls for the apocalypse.

    The episode follows in the wonderful tradition of political satires like “Wag the Dog” and "Charlie Wilson's War” and the recent netflix hit movie “Don’t Look Up”. Remember, nBSG came on the heels of 9/11 and in the shadow of the Iraq War. Satire was in the air.

    But, as the comments above show, humor is subjective. I for one was laughing more now than ever before. Cause dude, after the last two years, what other option is there?

    Ellen: So, Bill, now, the question on everyone’s mind – and I do mean everyone – is, where’s Earth and when do we get there?

    Adama: That’s classified information.

    Ellen: Oh that word again!

    Tigh: Ellen, leave the man alone.

    Ellen: Well, come on, if there are no privileges of being an X.O.’s wife, then what’s the point? I mean, Bill, we’re all family here. Come on.

    Roslin: The need for secrecy is paramount, Ellen. Oh, I’m sorry. Perhaps you don’t know that the Cylons look like us, now.

    Ellen: Oh, that, yes, yes, I knew that.

    Roslin: It’s recent news. Most people just found out a few days ago.

    Ellen: A thing like that would travel fast, right?

    Adama: Any one of us can be a Cylon.

    Ellen: Boo!

    Secrets on secrets.

    Ellen asks a straightforward question: where is this Earth we are heading towards?

    Of course Adama has lied through his teeth to the people telling them he knows where it is, and of course Roslin has agreed to the lie. But they both hide behind that word, “classified”. And poor Tigh, ever loyal, tells Ellen to back off.

    Rather than deal with Ellen, and her inconvenient questions, these guys prefer to believe she could be a Cylon. And the only way they have to prove she is a Cylon, is a detector that the Baltar has rigged so it doesn’t work.

    If you can’t laugh at all that human folly, then maybe you haven’t quite been paying attention.

    nBSG, like B5, was a commentary on the human condition. As the greeks knew all too well, all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

    Clearly the weakest BSG episode thus far -- Ellen Tigh is super-annoying, but Roslin does a poor job here as President being overly suspicious of Adama without firmly reciprocating that she too should be tested. That's not going to foster trust and loyalty... Her spying on Adama is ridiculous, but the episode provides her fodder with which to fuel her suspicions, and perhaps the viewer can't truly appreciate the paranoia she must feel.

    The episode ventured into comedy -- and cheap comedy at that with people walking in while others are undressed, shagging etc. The episode is a bit of a failure for the one "comedic" moment in Baltar's lab when all the accusations come out. There should be consequences to these accusations etc. but there didn't seem to be. In a way it's good to see a bit of a different lighter-hearted side to BSG, but the overall product here is mediocre due to the mish-mash of tones.

    I don't know how Helo could be lasting for over a month on Caprica -- and now he's being urged by Boomer to keep running like hell. At least Boomer has a plan and it seemed like the No. 6 in pursuit feels a desire to have human feelings like she saw in Boomer? Might be something to observe going forward.

    As for Tigh -- being married to a woman like Ellen would be a serious problem as she really gets around. But his bond with Adama is fortified after making a good call to shoot down a Cylon raider -- that was good to see.

    Baltar again shines -- he knows the true result of Ellen's test but won't tell No. 6 and tells everybody she passed. How could they not want to see the test results? B/c it's the colonel's wife? But also Baltar's credibility was re-established in "Six Degrees of Separation". Ellen's story of her rescue is pretty farfetched...

    2 stars for "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" -- not a bad idea to have a change-of-pace episode in favor of humor but the premise and logic behind it were weak and Ellen just got to be borderline unbearable. Baltar's Cylon test taking some 11 hours sounds about right to me for an initial version -- that's an interesting plot point. A few interesting tidbits here amid a questionable main plot and hit-and-miss humor.

    I love Ellen. What's wrong with flirting woth a lotnof men as long as you don't hurt anyone?

    There's an American Dad episode that does a much better send-up of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? than this embarrassment of an introduction to one of the most important characters in the mythology.

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