It's strange to start a season off with an arc that's such a departure from the norm of a series. I think back to that six-episode arc that started the sixth season of Deep Space Nine. More recently, we had the Kobol arc bridging seasons one and two of Battlestar Galactica. When things are so shaken up, you find yourself wondering how situations will ever go back to being the way they were — or at least resembling something similar to what they were. And yet somehow they still do — with enough change to avoid feeling like a cheat.
Obviously, with this most recent storyline, humanity wasn't going to be trapped on New Caprica forever under the rule of the Cylons. But I still nevertheless found myself asking: What's the rest of season three, which is to be some 20 total episodes, going to be about if the Galactica was able to rescue the human survivors from New Caprica by the end of episode four?
"Collaborators" seems to let us in on some of that. Here's an episode where the whole point is that even though we might not be on New Caprica anymore, the consequences of what took place there will continue to play themselves out now that everyone is back aboard the Galactica and the fleet. "Collaborators," as its title implies, is all about how characters deal with the aftermath of the failed occupation, and specifically about dealing with those who worked for the enemy. Even though "Exodus" might have gotten the characters off New Caprica, it was not a Reset Button Plot.
Take, for example, the small details. Although there isn't a single line of dialog about it, the Galactica is shown here as overcrowded, which makes sense considering that the Pegasus has been destroyed and there are now two crews occupying one battlestar. How exactly are the crews going to be integrated? Also: When so many people left both ships to go live on New Caprica, that left a lot of changes in the duty roster. Now that no one lives on New Caprica, what will the new duty roster look like? This episode brings up that question without dealing with it directly. For example, we see Helo is still the XO of the ship. Will he continue to be now that Tigh is back aboard?
The answer appears to be yes, at least for the time being. There's a scene in CIC where Tigh, as a character of this show, seems to represent the living proof that the events of New Caprica are not, by any stretch of the imagination, forgotten or forgiven. Tigh calls out his replacement, Helo, a "Cylon lover" in full view of the CIC, and then bemoans the fact that Gaeta, who was Baltar's chief of staff, has been given full access to the CIC simply because "the old man needs his phones fixed." Adama has to call Tigh off as if he were an attack dog. Every once in a while you get a scene that announces, loud and clear, that things are not simply going to be okay, and this is one of those scenes. Tigh is going to be a problem. Michael Hogan's performance portrays a bitter and damaged man who has been through hell and back and has earned his bitterness. "I'm not just going to forget," he says.
The episode's plot is actually about dealing with the scars of New Caprica. In the strong opening sequence, we see Jammer being tried for collaborating with the Cylons as a member of the New Caprica police force. Jammer's trial is a secret tribunal conducted by six jurors (called "the Circle") in alarming swiftness. All the jurors were residents of New Caprica and probably members of the resistance. Among them are Tigh, Tyrol, Anders and Seelix — familiar faces that demonstrate how this is not an episode about good guys and bad guys, but about a big mess that is now in the process of being cleaned up by the regular characters in a very messy way. Jammer's crime is treason. The sentence is death. To be carried out right now.
I see now that the "Resistance" webisodes are more crucial than I initially thought, because they further flesh out Jammer's arc. He went from a fellow resistance member to a misguided puppet of the Cylons who hoped he would be making things better for the human citizens of New Caprica instead of worse. If history is written by those who survive rather than those who die, then Jammer's obituary is one of a traitor. The reality might not be so clear cut. In his defense, he pleads to Tyrol for forgiveness, and he explains how he helped Cally escape from being executed by the Cylons. Tyrol doesn't necessarily believe him (and even if he does, the rest of the Circle weighs Cally's survival against dozens of other deaths), but when Jammer is put out the airlock, Tyrol can't watch. It's an interesting moment, made more interesting when you consider that Jammer was once a member of Tyrol's deck crew. People are being put to death by their own former friends.
This episode is about the ones being executed, and also the ones carrying out the executions. In a civilized society, the reason a criminal trial is made up of jurors is so that the verdict is rendered by impartial individuals. The Circle members are clearly too close to the case to be impartial, and that's the whole point. Guilt or innocence is being decided by a biased jury that's in too much of a hurry to get through the cases (they have only a few days to judge more than 50 people). What's interesting is how the Circle perceives itself: "We're not just thugs out for revenge. There was evidence against Jammer," Tigh says. They may not be thugs out for revenge, but the presumption is definitely one of guilt, and not innocence. Is that appropriate under the circumstances? Perhaps that depends on what your definition of the law should be, and whether those accused are worthy of still breathing.
The episode's central plot is that the Circle intends to bring Gaeta to trial. We know, and the Circle does not, that Gaeta was the crucial source that supplied the resistance with inside information. Can Gaeta relay this information before being found guilty, and even if he does, will he be believed? At the heart of "Collaborators" is the sinking feeling that an unjust execution is going to be carried out simply because the system set up to carry it out is an implacable machine that presumes guilt and doesn't have the time to look for truth. Tigh points out that while it's true that everyone used to like Gaeta, the price must be paid by all who collaborated. After all, Tigh's own wife paid the price for collaborating, and as Tigh dryly puts it, "I liked her a hell of a lot more than I like Gaeta." Anders is undecided on the evidence and would rather quit than convict Gaeta purely on unconfirmed circumstances.
In the rec room, Gaeta is shunned by everyone, and Kara sits down with every intention of picking a fight with an unpopular traitor. His professions of innocence fall on deaf ears, because the court of public opinion has already convicted him. Later, Kara is put on the Circle jury in place of Anders, who resigns because he doesn't intend to railroad a potentially innocent man. A scene where Kara confronts Anders (ending with their apparent break-up) is a powerful one for two reasons: (1) It further demonstrates how damaged Kara has been left in the aftermath of her ordeal on New Caprica ("I got out of that room, and it was like someone painted the world in different colors"); and (2) it demonstrates precisely how the Circle is not an impartial jury at all. In Kara's case it's the end result of a dangerous collision course: She's bitterly angry and looking to punish somebody — anybody — to feel better. Might as well be Gaeta.
If human beings are defined by their actions, then Gaeta is defined by his dignity, even in the face of a jury that is operating more on emotions than on facts. When the Circle pulls him in to read the charges, Gaeta doesn't grovel the way Jammer did; he simply and pointedly states that re-explaining his innocence to those who refuse to believe him is pointless. Surely, Gaeta would've been killed had the information about the dog bowl not surfaced at the crucial moment to reveal to Tyrol that Gaeta was the secret inside source.
Like the New Caprica storylines (this episode is basically the New Caprica coda), "Collaborators" asks tough questions: Do traitors deserve to die, and should the law be circumvented in order to get the job done quietly and quickly so that government can move on with more pressing matters? That brings us to the central issue of the government's role in all this: the revelation that Zarek, as outgoing president, is the one who ordered the formation of this secret tribunal to carry out these executions "legally." (Of course, they aren't legal, because they're conducted in secret and there are no lawyers.)
Early in the episode, Roslin makes an agreement with Zarek that includes his resignation, with the understanding that he will become her vice president once she resumes her role as president. It's interesting to ponder whether that offer still applies (the episode isn't clear) once she learns that he initiated this secret tribunal. Zarek makes good points, however: Trying collaborators in the open public would bog down the system for months if not years and would turn Roslin into "executioner in chief." Zarek's secret tribunal was an attempt to deal with the traitors quietly, efficiently, covertly. And, in some cases — let's face it — unjustly. Roslin's solution perhaps does not fulfill justice either, but it is pragmatic in terms of moving forward: She pardons everybody.
What makes "Collaborators" such a terrific episode is that it asks these big questions and allows for all these differing points of view. And it allows the various characters to play their reactions on all parts of the spectrum. This story showcases a wide-ranging cast of characters who have experienced wide-ranging hardships and have wide-ranging ways of responding.