Poor Boomer. Of all things, what I feel most for Sharon is pity. She's a Cylon and doesn't even know it — although after "Water" she's beginning to have some very scary suspicions about herself. The crushing horror of her situation is that she thinks she's a regular person, a good person. She certainly doesn't want to be a Cylon, and she doesn't want to be a traitor and saboteur — or even suspected of it.
She blacks out one evening and all of a sudden finds herself alone in a room the next morning, dripping wet, with a G-4 detonator in her bag. How did that get there? She takes it to the small-arms locker to put it back where it belongs, opens the case, and finds that half a dozen more detonators are missing. Where are they? Richard Gibbs, who also scored "33" and the miniseries, drives the point of shock home for us with intense, pounding percussion. It's effective storytelling without dialog: The music and Sharon's horrified gasp tell us unequivocally that This Is Bad.
As the title implies, the episode is about water — specifically the water supply and highly efficient water recycling system aboard the Galactica. Virtually not a drop of water is wasted in the recycling process, we learn. Other ships in the fleet that don't have recycling systems must tank periodically from the Galactica, but even so, the Galactica has enough water to last several years.
But then the G-4 explosions go off in the water tanks, venting most of the Galactica's water reserves into space. An investigation is launched to determine what happened and why, but more pressingly, a search for a new water supply must start immediately, as well as strict rationing of the current supply. The prospect of rioting comes into the discussion when Tigh dryly notes what will happen when people learn they can't take showers or "drink more than a thimble a day." The discussion of the food supply also comes up, as Baltar explains what it will take to feed the fleet every week. These issues demonstrate how we're not just talking about space travel here, but about having all of known remaining human society as a mobile unit.
The other issue of discussion is finding the Cylon saboteur. Adama and Tigh recruited Baltar in the miniseries to use his scientific genius to find a way to detect Cylons from humans. Here they ask him how progress on his Cylon detector is going. Baltar, the king of BS, tries to stall for time since the reality of his situation is that he has no idea how to make a Cylon detector. Adama offers him the assistance of additional personnel. Six appears and starts hopefully suggesting that his assistant might be an attractive woman. Instead, Baltar gets Lt. Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani), a longtime admirer of his work.
Ah, Baltar. Even when constantly threatened with possible exposure, all he can think of is the next time he's going to get laid. James Callis is funny in scenes where Baltar hallucinates, with his ticks and stammering and looking in the direction of a woman who isn't really there, while everyone else regards him with puzzlement. It's a fine line of panic and comedy that the actors skillfully walk in these scenes.
What's nice about "Water" is that it has a clear-cut plot, yes, but also keeps its character threads alive, showing the series' promise as a true ensemble show. Tigh's alcoholism is revisited early in the show, as he rations his remaining liquor into days. Meanwhile, Lee struggles with his guilt over destroying the Olympic Carrier. His father, always the pragmatic military man, tells him to leave the second-guessing to the historians.
There's a scene near the end where Lee shares his guilt with Roslin, and Roslin tells an interesting little story about acknowledging guilt in private versus public, and how one Colonial president kept his mistakes written down and hidden in a desk drawer, so that he wouldn't forget them. "I don't have a drawer yet," Roslin says, "but I have a pocket." In her pocket is a scrap of paper with "Olympic Carrier" written on it. This is the sort of detail that feels like it's based on fact, and elevates good material into the realm of better material. There's an interesting relationship between Roslin and Lee — sort of a camaraderie that grows from the pilot — and she asks him to be her personal military adviser, a role that forebodes torn loyalties.
Speaking of military and civilian government, there's an informed conversation between Adama and Roslin about the roles of the police versus the military (the fleet has no police), and why it's not such a great idea for the military to serve as police. Again, the level of detail makes the difference here; the writing has the ring of credibility.
Meanwhile, Baltar joins a card game and goes head to head against Starbuck and beats her. They exchange competitive stares; maybe being rivals is how big egos flirt. And on Caprica, Helo and Boomer realize they're stuck there, since the Cylons have captured Boomer's Raptor. Even here, poor Helo looks destined to spend the entire season running around a wrecked world in limited scenes.
But the heart of "Water" is Sharon's dilemma. She's essentially a guilty innocent. She thinks she's being framed. (Unfortunately, she's being framed by herself.) In this time of heightened paranoia, she doesn't want to be even vaguely connected to the sabotage, so with the help of Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), she covers up the fact that she even had one of the detonators. Tyrol believes her, but then he's also sleeping with her. That brings up an interesting question of his culpability; their relationship is, after all, against regulations.
There's a fascinating scene where Sharon, on a Raptor scouting mission looking for planets with water, sees evidence of water on her monitor. But she can't bring herself to announce what she sees. The sleeper agent inside her kicks in, and tries to sabotage the mission. But Sharon fights it at a level she isn't even aware of — and finally wins. This is conveyed by a terrific performance from Grace Park, who completely sells the internal struggle with facial expressions. A tricky, potentially confusing scene comes across not only clearly, but with a surprising emotional impact: We feel sorry for Sharon because she can't control what she isn't even aware of, and we feel victorious when she overcomes it. It's a victory she can't feel because she isn't even aware that it happened. Intriguing stuff.
And that's the reason "Water" is so effective. It stops for the human details and feelings and relationships, even though the plot is about finding water and flushing out Cylon saboteurs. There's more to storytelling than plot, and "Water" knows it.