"Home, Part 1" is about how Adama gradually comes to the crushing realization that he has been significantly abandoned — and that a divided fleet is a substantially weakened fleet, in terms of both ability and morale.
In the episode's early scenes, he names a new CAG, Lt. Birch (Ben Ayres), to replace his son. His selection is based more on Birch's apparent loyalty to the chain of command than actual leadership ability. Even Tigh has doubts about him. The story drives home the point when Adama holds a press conference where he says, "We've lost no one who cannot be replaced with someone loyal." Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Earth is something Adama made up. Adama threatens to jail reporters who spread such "slander." This is not a fleet that has high confidence in its battlestar commander.
Meanwhile, Roslin heads up the mission to Kobol with Lee serving as her XO on the Astral Queen. This is an irritant for Zarek, who really wants to be in charge but recognizes that Roslin is the one who wields the power with her religious followers who want to find the Tomb of Athena. Zarek's right-hand man, Meier (James Remar), readily encourages Zarek to plot several moves in advance. Meier reminded me of Gul Rosot from DS9's "Tacking into the Wind" — a man participating in a fragile alliance, just waiting for the right moment to upend the arrangement by taking Lee out of the equation. Meier seems like more of a wild card than even Zarek, because at least Zarek has a sense of political savvy that somewhat reins him in.
Kara, Helo, and Sharon rendezvous with the Astral Queen, and for the first time on Battlestar Galactica, there is no Cylon-occupied Caprica on the screen. If there were any questions as to what kind of reception a copy of Sharon would get upon returning to the fleet, they're answered here. Lee grabs her, throws her against a wall, and presses a gun against her face. Roslin doesn't hesitate in ordering Sharon put out the airlock, no questions asked, which is as disturbing as it is consistent. Only Sharon's claim that she knows how to find the Tomb of Athena puts her execution on hold. Sharon is thrown into a cell; to say Roslin is skeptical is an understatement.
With a show like "Home, Part 1," the truth is in the details and character nuances. Take, for example, the scenes between Kara and Lee. When they're first reunited, Lee spontaneously kisses her, much to (I suspect) both their surprise. Later, he goes to talk to her while she broods with her Caprica-acquired pyramid ball. The way he playfully taunts her with the ball has an unmistakable sibling vibe to it, like two kids on a playground. And when he casually tells her that he loves her (again, with a sibling sort of throwaway delivery), I like the way Kara turns around and taunts him with that admission. The sexual tension is there, yes, but the story doesn't lose track of the unique, playful bond between these two characters. (Although given how this is played, I fail to see the point of the writers pairing Kara up with Anders in "The Farm.")
On board the Galactica, we get two sequences that show how Birch isn't up to the job of CAG. (A training exercise with Hotdog and Kat almost ends in disaster, and a routine refueling mission is botched.) By extension, it shows Adama's own emerging impotence as a leader. When Birch blows the refueling mission, Adama's face has never seemed longer. In the privacy of his quarters, he sits at his desk and crushes walnuts in his hand, as if to release little bits of percolating rage.
The episode has a great scene that works because of its haunting stillness. Adama sits in his quarters doing touch-up painting on a model sailing ship, and has a monologue to an off-screen listener: "Betrayal has such a powerful grip on the mind. It seems like a python. It can squeeze out all other thought, suffocate all other emotion until everything is dead except for the rage. I'm not talking about anger. I'm talking about rage." The scene is entrancing, in no small part because it's so quietly pitched. Edward James Olmos plays this monologue with utter calmness and emotional detachment, as if Adama has separated himself from his feelings and can contain and objectively analyze them. The listener turns out to be Dualla, and her unexpected response to Adama's monologue is a terrific moment, because it demonstrates her own perceptiveness and doesn't let Adama off the hook for his own responsibilities in this mess. "You let us down," she says.
A subsequent scene is also powerful even though it has absolutely no words. Adama stands unhappily in a corridor, realizes that the situation cannot continue as it has, and decides he's going to take steps to fix it. He does not reach this decision easily; you can see the pain on his face. Everything about Adama says pain. As Dee said to him, it's time to heal the wounds.
Like most episodes so far this season, there is a major action sequence in the final act. I've complained about gratuitous action scenarios on other series, but the action works on BSG, because it's not arbitrary and grows from a place of good motivation. (It also helps that the action is visceral and feels more like chaotic war footage than inorganically inserted choreography.) It's established early that the path to the Tomb of Athena is likely being guarded by the Cylons, and the action is not simply about itself but also about how the characters behave under fire. Lee doesn't trust Sharon one bit and acts like a very rabid watchdog; this pays off with an explosion that earns Sharon some trust.
Priest Elosha is killed when she steps on a land mine. I would express mild surprise at the writers having the guts to kill off a supporting character who has been around since the miniseries, but let's face it: She's not going to be nearly as necessary as a source of exposition once "Home" answers its questions in the second part.
There are a lot of dynamics of interest in this episode. Whether it's Zarek and Meier discussing the power of Roslin's myth, or Lee and Kara arguing over Sharon's motives, or Roslin using Sharon's love for Helo against her, or Sharon telling Helo that it's human nature to be distrusting and unkind — it's all engrossing and we're made to care because we have a stake in all the characters.
But the real point here is Adama. Here's a man who has been wounded and humbled and is not quite the man he was, and now he has to watch as everything around him goes further to hell. Only by making a concession that goes against his military hard-line strength can he find a way out of this jam. Olmos makes the journey to this realization a particularly interesting one, by depicting a man who deep down knows what must be done but has a hard time swallowing the pill.