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.