Battlestar Galactica

"Sometimes a Great Notion"

4 stars

Air date: 1/16/2009
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Michael Nankin

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Sometimes a Great Notion" is a true companion episode to the final shot of "Revelations." There is a great deal of information supplied by this story, with several more secrets revealed about Earth — enough to really get the speculative juices flowing — but there is no plot in the conventional sense. This is a character piece, marked by stellar performances, that takes the final shot of "Revelations" and depicts its fallout for the hour's duration. "Revelations" provided the big reveal, and "Notion" compellingly, vividly, devastatingly documents the consequences.

As I said before, Earth is not going to save these people. Indeed, quite the contrary: From the evidence here, it might hasten their demise, because finding it as a barren, uninhabitable wasteland has now stripped away the one thing that has kept many people in this fleet going: hope. Hope that the journey had a destination and that their unremitting daily hell would one day end.

The episode opens with a series of simple, powerful shots that stretch out the emotions of the final minute of "Revelations" — characters wordlessly looking at the landscape of a destroyed Manhattan-like city on the opposite side of a riverfront. They sift helplessly through rubble, ruins, and dirt. Dee finds a child's game of jacks, and she just loses it. "Let's get outta here," Adama eventually grumbles. When Roslin gets back to Galactica, words completely fail. There's nothing she can say to express this kind of crushing disappointment, and no way to spin it into anything remotely positive. So she says nothing. She just walks away.

On the planet surface, investigations continue. It's here that we get the most intriguing new facts about Earth and how it fits into the mythos. Surveys show that the planet was nuked about 2,000 years ago. The metallic head of an ancient Centurion is found — and it's a model not known to the Cylons. And in the biggest twist yet, analysis of skeletal remains reveals that the people who lived here were all Cylons. Yes, the Pythian-prophesied 13th Tribe of Kobol were Cylons. They came to this planet and called it Earth.

What does this mean??? That's right — three question marks. And I never use more than one (because it's bad form). The possibilities put forth by what's shown here are tantalizing. If the 13th Tribe were all Cylons, does that perhaps hint at the reasons for the original exodus from Kobol 3,600 years ago? Which in turn led to the formation of the 12 Colonies? And then there's the fact that the 13th Tribe was destroyed 2,000 years ago in its own nuclear holocaust, presumably by the Centurions that they created, but, well, maybe not.

Here's a theory that occurred to me, although one that might be quickly debunked: What if everyone is a Cylon? What's the difference, exactly, between a human and a humanoid Cylon?

Forget that for now. How about this: There's an assumption that the seven non-Final-Five humanoid Cylons somehow evolved, within 40 years, from the Centurions that were created by man. But what if they didn't? What if they are a completely different race that originated from the 13th Tribe? Or at the very least evolved because of some mysterious interaction with survivors of the 13th Tribe? I could go on like this for some time. (Ironically, this isn't even what this episode is really about.)

We also get some more clues about the Final Five. Being on Earth gives them flashes of 2,000-year-old memories. Tyrol sees a black burn mark on a wall. It's what's left of himself; he remembers being blown up, right here, in a nuclear blast. Creepy. Anders remembers playing the Cylon cover of "All Along the Watchtower." While I don't believe for a second that he could, as he does here, find a partially intact musical instrument just inches below the dirt after 2,000 years, it's still intriguing as all hell: "That song that switched us on — I played it." How did the Final Five, who were on Earth 2,000 years ago, get to the Colonies with these repressed memories?

Then there's Kara. She and Leoben track down the signal that led the fleet to Earth, and this builds our slow realization of an inevitable conclusion. In a creepy sequence, Kara finds her own decomposed body in the destroyed cockpit of her Viper. Her dog tags are still around the corpse's neck. Yes, she really did die at the end of "Maelstrom." It was one thing to watch Kara blow up and then come back amid an air of mystery. It's quite another thing when we actually see her body — when she sees her body. There's something deeply unsettling about the way the corpse is just ... there — providing an austere, incontrovertible fact that now forces her to deal with the reality she has maybe known all along. "If that's me lying there, what am I?!"

Leoben, usually the confident prophet with all the handy answers, is speechless. He backs away slowly, like he's afraid of what Kara might actually be, since she's clearly not what he was sure she was. "I was wrong," he says. "About everything." You've never seen Leoben this lost, and you realize here that the revelations on Earth are going to affect the Cylons every bit as much as the Colonials. Later, in a nicely photographed and edited sequence, Kara builds herself a funeral pyre. Wrap you brain around that.

But I've still not gotten to the real meat of "Notion," which is in watching things go to hell in a handbasket on Galactica. Take, for example, Roslin burning the Book of Pythia and skipping her cancer therapy. Basically, she has given up. She is broken. She curses the fact that Adama ever listened to her about Earth, about anything. Mary McDonnell's performance is devastating. Roslin's emotional state? "Dire" might be the word.

Then there's Dee. The sudden refocus on Dualla and Lee and their relationship had me initially perplexed: Is her sudden prominence here a setup because she's the final Cylon? No. Something else entirely. Her action here represents the ultimate act of surrender, while at the same time the ultimate act of taking control of what may be the only thing she, or anyone, has any control over — the ending of her life. In the show's most truly shocking moment that I didn't see coming, Dee puts a gun to her head and pulls the trigger. It's all the more jarring because she seems so happy just before she does it.

This works as raw shock value, but it works for reasons beyond that. It works because it rings true psychologically and because it says something about hope and loss, about limits and the human ability to cope. This series is not afraid of killing off prominent characters, and in this case it has chosen its moment aptly. This woman has decided she has simply had enough. She's done.

The fallout's fallout: Lee and Adama in the morgue, pondering why Dee would do this. Adama is unabashedly drunk (and it's a brilliant performance; Edward James Olmos nails the confluence of emotions as filtered through a believable alcoholic haze). He offers Lee a drink. Lee refuses, and look at that steely resolve in his eye. Alcohol is not going to be his solution. Then again, there are no solutions.

Then there's that superb shot that follows Adama through the corridors on his way to Tigh's quarters, as the ship spins utterly out of control. People huddle in the hallways in despair and apathy. Two men are in a fight, and Adama doesn't even acknowledge them. "FRAK EARTH" is spray-painted on the wall. The best word here, again, is "dire." If this is not Galactica hitting bottom, I fear what we may see in upcoming episodes.

This leads to the hour's dramatic showpiece, where Adama attempts to commit suicide-by-Tigh. It's a masterpiece of depicting the entropy of the fleet via the microcosm of these two old friends. The cavalier sense of drunk Adama ("Sit down, Cylon!") is entertaining in its weird, offbeat way (mostly because you can enjoy the rawness of the performance), but it quickly turns into a very tense, painful, dangerous, sad situation. Adama says awful things to Tigh, and ultimately turns his bile toward Ellen, the one subject he knows will provoke a reaction in Tigh. He wants Tigh to shoot him. Olmos goes all-out in a performance of unfiltered ugliness. Just look at that mug, for crissakes.

And how about that Tigh? Once again, this guy's the epitome of awesomeness, taking the higher road in the interest of the fleet and talking sense into Adama when he most needs it. I wanted to cheer him. If an argument needs to be made that Adama and Tigh's friendship should survive Tigh's outing as a Cylon, that argument is right here, because Tigh has this guy's back when things are at their bleakest. Adama hits bottom, Tigh talks him through it, and there's a sense that maybe, for now, the corner has been turned. Adama subsequently makes a speech to attempt to bring some solace to the fleet.

If I'm burying the lead here in saying that we also find out Ellen is the final Cylon — well, that's because the episode itself buries the lead. Maybe because it's not really the point and never should've been. Ellen's reveal doesn't play as a shocking revelation so much as another piece of character development for Tigh. I think it's a wise choice to reveal this now and in this manner. It defuses our expectations and instead invites us to ponder its meaning. Tigh has a flashback to 2,000 years ago on Earth. Ellen was his wife then, too, just before the nukes went off. "Everything's in place," she told him. "We'll be reborn together."

So Cylon resurrection was apparently invented by the 13th Tribe two millennia ago. What does it mean that Ellen and Saul Tigh have had a relationship that has spanned (at least) two lifetimes? There must be a special significance to that, and to them. Everything has happened before, and will happen again. It's just unclear exactly what "everything" is. "Sometimes a Great Notion" demonstrates that this series is about its characters and their personal mysteries. The story value of the final Cylon is not in who it is. It's going to be in why it is — and its part in the larger, ever-expanding BSG mythos.

Previous episode: The Face of the Enemy (webisodes)
Next episode: A Disquiet Follows My Soul

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47 comments on this post

Jason K
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 5:59pm (UTC -6)
I can't wrap my head around how these guys come up with story after story like this on such a consistent basis. They are on such a roll right now it's not even remotely fair.
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 7:06pm (UTC -6)
I'm glad to see you're keeping up with this season now, it seems like its going to be such a wild ride to the end. I've said this so many times after watching BSG, but I positively think this is the best episode of TV I have ever consumed. I can only hope the next 9 bring even 1 episode that ups the ante.
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 7:08pm (UTC -6)
Yay, new review!

I agree with you about the revelation of the final Cylon. I was thinking during the long break that no matter who it was, it would be anticlimactic because either it's a less important character, who we don't care about, or it's a major character, in which case we've prepared for it since the beginning of the series.

The brilliance of the decision here is that they don't make the revelation an end unto itself. RDM doesn't go, "And the final Cylon is..." and expect us just to bow before him on that alone. The identity of the final Cylon is a piece of the much larger puzzle and the revelation provides us with insight into that puzzle. It makes us think even more rather than just going, "Okay, that's interesting. Now I feel empty."

I think it was exactly the right way to go.

But still we have to square that with all the bigging up that was done in the first half of the season with the prologue ("One will be revealed."). It clearly isn't the identity on its own that's important, but rather the story of the final Cylon. In 'Razor', the hybrid said, "And the fifth, still in shadow, will claw toward the light, hungering for redemption that will only come in the howl of terrible suffering." I think it is this that is what will be "revealed", not just a simple name.

On a more critical note, I thought the depiction of the crashing of morale was a bit silly in its bluntness. I mean crowds vagranting in the corridors. It's as subtle as a nuke to the face.
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 7:09pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Jason. There are a couple of other series out there that I may personally rate a little bit higher as a whole than BSG, but have any of them ever truly had this caliber of a streak going as BSG is having at the present moment?

It's almost disgusting, really.
Jack Bauer
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
I thought the whole Galactica going to hell in a hadn basket bit was a bit rushed. Much like a lot of things on this show. I would have done a "6 months later" type deal with this and shownt he aftermath some time after the discovery. I think time would have made "Frak Earth" a more plausable story.
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 8:52pm (UTC -6)
Easily the best BSG episode ever, and probably my favorite episode of anything, ever, as well.

Eddie Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and Micheal Hogan had better get some kind of award recognition for this final season. Truly brilliant.
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 8:58pm (UTC -6)
This was a brilliant, absorbing hour of television. All I have to say.
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 9:20pm (UTC -6)
Actually, screw that.

I want to comment on Starbuck burning her body. To me, she wasn't so much giving herself a funeral as destroying the evidence. She's been afraid of what she might be (as we saw in the premiere), and now that she KNOWS she's not herself, KNOWS she must be something else, she can't take it. So how does she deal with it? She burns the only thing there is that says something is wrong with her. If that body isn't there, maybe for a moment she can pretend that it was never there at all. In fact, it rather reminds me of Boomer's realization she's a cylon in KLG, only...with more attention to it. It shows how fragile and damaged Starbuck is, but then again it also shows that she's the same person she's always been. These are the actions of the same person who never told anyone about her role in Zak's death (well, until a good while later) because she didn't want to face that role.

The burning of the body, Dee's suicide, Laura burning the bible and hanging onto the weed, the shot of the hallway as Adama walks... were just perfect.

I've also enjoyed comparing this reaction to the reaction to the loss of the colonies. Earth means more. Even before Adama made his "we're going to earth" speech in the mini, people weren't committing suicide or anything like that. They didn't have much hope either (yet), and yet the reaction to the loss of Earth is so much greater.
Fri, Jan 23, 2009, 11:47pm (UTC -6)
As I said in my statement after the review for "Revelation" - this episode completely tore me apart. There's only been a few eps that I've found to be as absolutely amazing as "33" and season 4 seems to be of that quality nearly every one.

Kudos to Ron "frakking" Moore and David "frakking" Eicke and the rest of the team. If I ever have kids/grandkids they WILL watch this show.
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 12:10am (UTC -6)
IMO dees suicide was more or less announced right at the beginning at the episode. what with here getting so much attention all of a sudden, then totally losing it, then suddenly switching to super-happy-smile-at-everyone-mode.

but why i write a comment is this - heres another theory about the bodies on earth being all cylon:

the 13th tribe was human. much like at the beginning of the series with the 12 colonies, they built themselves slaves in the forms of cylons.

those rebelled and evolved. and then went on to kill their creators. one holocaust later, earth is populated by nothing but cylons.
until one day humanities few survivors come back and nuke them.

therefore: all of this happened before and all of this will happen again. makes some sense IMO.
those nukes in the flashbacks of tyrol&co must have come from somewhere, and it probably wont be aliens of the week with funny foreheads.

and it opens up the possibility that they might still find other humans. maybe they live somewhere nearby. theyd probably not be very amused to find that their brothers came back to them and invited some cylons along for the ride.
just as the remaining other cylons (brother cavil et all) might be in a slightly bad mood when they eventually catch up with galactica.

and moore and eicke like people that are in a bad mood ;-)
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 12:39am (UTC -6)
Wow. So many things that can be commented on.

I watched this slowly: backing it up to re-watch sequences and also letting the commercials play out, then pausing at the last moment to go to the bathroom or something...

Now some ramblings...

I was somewhat surprised when I realized that Baltar was commenting as a scientist, not a theologian. It took me a moment to unscrew my brain and remember he IS their top scientist, and they are letting him be one, even after all that has happened. I didn't expect that.

The suicide. I knew a police officer that did that. His friends were unaware because he seemed to be happy that day and they thought he was coming out of his depression. After the fact, they said he was probably happy because he had made a decision. With Dee, we saw her small (but understandable) breakdown at the beginning of the episode, then interact with Lee when he asks her out. I'm thinking they might get back together when we see the end of their date. Nope. Apparently, she has been on the edge and thinks the time to go out is when she is happy... but it still didn't work for me. As poignant as it was, I couldn't help but thinking the writers needed someone to snap, but nobody too valuable. We cared for her character, but the show will not miss a beat, mostly, with her being gone (as opposed to Adama, for example). It would have been better if it had gone on for a few episodes, but they didn't have the time.

I spent the episode thinking Starbuck would be the Final of the Five. Nice shot of her blonde hair around the head of the corpse, by the way. If she isn't, then, well..."WHAT AM I?!". If not her, then... Ellen? And, oh, wait, how did she get from imploding in a gas giant to Earth? Why is Starbuck missing the other big questions this episode? Not just "Who Am I?", but HOW DID I GET TO EARTH IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Lastly, my thought during the show (probably silly when they all get aired) was that, for whatever reason, the humans/13th Tribe destroyed the Cylons on Earth 2000 years ago. Perhaps it is BSG in reverse... It has happened before and it will happen again...

Thanks for the great reviews Jammer and I look forward to the final five, I mean nine.

Take care... Todd
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 12:58am (UTC -6)
Hey Jammer just wondering if you were surprised atthe choice of Ellen as the final cylon even though I see what you mean that it was more related to tigh's character-- though think it was still shocking in that there were no obvious clues/hints leading up to it being Ellen
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 3:19am (UTC -6)
The reveal of Ellen points us back to the first season episode "Tigh me up, Tigh me down." Head Six comments that there's something special about Ellen and Balthar's test results are never revealed. When asked about it all he says is "I'll never tell." The test worked on Boomer so it may have worked on her as well.
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 4:29am (UTC -6)
I've suspected Ellen for a while. The end of TMUTMD was a clue, but I doubt Balter knew. The test results were probably negative for a Final Five Cylon.
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 6:10am (UTC -6)
Dee's suicide was probably the most intense (and brilliantly constructed yet unexpected) tv moment I've ever watched. I was literally in tears and that doesn't happen often. This series has come a long way to make episoded like that possible. In Jammer's words: stellar!
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 10:37am (UTC -6)
I also hope that this episode has redeemed the Apollo/Dee romance for some of those who hated it. At the end of their date, the two of them had me convinced that they could actually work as a couple - the scene was sweet and necessary after all the doom, gloom and depression.

And then, bang. Frakking hell, as the characters might say.

P.S.: Are those rumours true I keep hearing that KFC is selling a "frak pack"? Has anyone told them what it means?
Matthew L.
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 9:47pm (UTC -6)
"It's as subtle as a nuke to the face."

Dude, there is nothing subtle about what happened to these people. All the hope they have in the universe has been torn away. A subtle reaction from them would have been downright silly.
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
Ellen is one of the few characters that fit every clue we were given (admittedly many of those were given after the decision was made), and she is the only one that had real reason to suspect her nature.

Look at the major clues given:
1) Not in last supper photo.
2) Was considered a possible Cylon by end of S1.
3) Would be a familiar face.
4) Not in fleet during "Revelations".
5) Searching for redemption.

Who did that really leave? Oh sure, you could parse the clues (I sure did), but if you assume they were playing fair, and the final Cylon was assumed to be human (ie not Head Six, not the Viper or Galactica, or Boomer, etc) we were left with dead characters and minor characters (Hot Dog, Socinus, Racetrack, Skulls, etc). Since half the audience probably wouldn't even realize the minor characters have been on the show regularly, they were pretty well left with the corpses: Caly, Billy, Elosha, Kat and Ellen. Billy and Elosha don't fit the redemption thing, Kat seemed to find her redemption when she died, and she has the problem of being only slightly more significant than Hot Dog. That left Caly and Ellen, and, given what we had been told about Nicky not being a full Cylon child (ahem) that left out Caly.

Of course, there could have been more about these people that we didn't know, but only one of them collaborated with Cylons, cooperated in the assassination of a political figure, and appeared in the fleet under mysterious circumstances.

Of course Ellen was the Cylon.
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 10:18pm (UTC -6)
@Jack Bauer

They couldn't really do a 6 month leap forward, and there wouldn't be much point to it. The fleet's primary concern is survival, and they couldn't settle there. They needed to go, and now, both for practical reasons, and because they couldn't allow the fleet to sit there for months and simply ponder the frak pack they'd been served.

And I can very much see things degenerating that fast on the ship (a few days, it seems). Think how little these people have left. Think all they've been through - starting with the genocide f their race. Endless months of being crammed into this vessel, with poor food, little entertainment, and nothing to break the monotony except a stay on Cylon occupied New Caprica. This was the one hope they had to cling to, and the rug was pulled from them in a brutal way. Who wouldn't want to give up at that point?
Jason K
Sun, Jan 25, 2009, 3:30pm (UTC -6)
misterd is right.

Also think about this, these people have found out that some of the people they have looked up to and respected for the past four years are Cylons. The XO of the Ship defending them, the women formerly with a direct link to the President, a star sports player and husband to a well respected pilot and the guy keeping the planes flying...all Cylons. These are all people in sensitive positions within the fleet that they have put their trust in for a long time, only to find out that they are the enemy as well, whether they want to be or not.

It's cruel and heartbreaking.
Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 7:02am (UTC -6)
Hi all.

Been lurking here for a while (love the site Jammer), but thought it about time to post.

In terms of the sudden drop in morale, and the reactions amongst the BSg crew... The best summary of this (from my view) is that from a set of books (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever - very highly recommended) - "The only way to hurt someone who has lost everything is to give them something back - broken". These people have lost EVERYTHING - the ONLY thing that kept them going was a dream, a hope for a "normal" life on this place called Earth, something that would allow some degree of redemption for everything they have gone through and have done. And now....? Nothing. It was all for nothing, nothing is left, there is no redemptions, there is no new dawn, no chance to rebuild. That is where I think the power of this episode comes through, the impact on "normal" people who have finally had their one and only final hope come crashing down on them.

In terms of the suicide, that caught me completely out of left field. I was actually hoping for a bit of hope here - out of the ruins, someone stands up for the human race (Lee Adama), leads them on, accepts the mantle from the "old" leaders, having "found" himself, he re-starts his relationship with Dee etc... Wow, am I a sucker!! I should have realised that this is BSG, not ST. Powerful, raw and effective. I think the dramatic impact of this act was to set the audience's expectation in the same way that character's had been set - sorry guys, there ain't gonna be no happy ending here.

Finally (appropriately) as for the fifth of the final five... I loved the way that it was done, almost as a side comment but interestingly, somethign that no-one else has mentioned (too obvious?), I was sure that Tigh was about to suicide - to keep on walking out to sea (swim out along the river) and not come back. The revelation of Ellen, that he will (almost certainly) meet her again is what makes him realise that perhaps tehre IS something worth living for, for him at least. Without that image, I think Tight may have kept on walking/swimming and never come back. Loved it.

Scary thought - what if the next episode is better?

Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 8:47am (UTC -6)
1)What is with Tigh's accent? By the end of last season he was sounding like a bad attempt at Irish or Scottish, this episode the same.
2) I'm beginning to think that women characters are the "redshirts" in this series. Except for Billy, the major "deaths" that I remember are Ellen, Kara, Cally, Dee & the priest - then there is also Kat and the character killed by one of the sixes last season. (So far, three have come back, so maybe, like Dancing with the Stars, they'll all show up in the last episode - when Laura takes the boat?)

Harbinger of death - anyone else think this refers to bringing death (end of resurrection to the Cylons)?

Jammer, thank you for catching up on the reviews, I can't watch the episodes without them. Finally watched this episode last night.

I loved that Kara found her body (it would have been too pat for her to be one of the final five. I'm so glad it wasn't Baltar.) She was going to tell Lee before she heard about Dee, so I see the cremation as her acknowledgment that Kara Thrace was dead. Moore continues to set himself up for bigger and bigger expectations in the final payoff.

I would have been delighted to have Dee back in the series - she provided such a sweet contrast to everyone else. Not back in a relationship with Lee though - that never had any chemistry. Seeing that relationship start up again felt wrong, so I'm glad it was a red herring. At least she got to go out with a "bang."

Having the fleet's morale plummet was perfectly logical, but, somehow the way it was staged didn't feel right. Maybe some scenes were cut (haven't listened to the podcast yet).
Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 9:49am (UTC -6)
Great review Jammer, thank you. Amazing episode, hopefully there'll be more to come. And for the record, the guys in charge of the Emmys should beg on their knees to Michael Hogan to accept an award from them. Never mind, it's not going to happen because of the name of the show, but still.
Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 3:15pm (UTC -6)
Glad Jammer is back on line. Love your reviews. Even better now with comments! My thoughts on the webisodes and Ep 11. Ep 12 didn't move the ball forward much, except that it was interesting watching the Gaeta-Starbuck confrontation knowing that Starbuck believes she's a Cylon. I have not seen any discussion regarding Starbucks apparent Cylon-ness - this seems to be drowned out by Tigh's (seemingly true, admittedly) belief that his Ellen is a Cylon.


The webisodes? It was what it was, but I was not that impressed. Apparently it tied up some loose end that Baltar accused Gaeta of (“I know your little secret…”)? Gaeta was playing both sides? I wasn’t actually convinced that Gaeta did anything wrong from what I could gather. He thought he had an ally in that cylon chick, and thought she was getting favorable treatment or release for the list of ppl he was giving her (ie, he thought he was helping his side) but in fact she was having them executed b/c they must be important if they were on Gaeta’s list.

Yes, Gaeta was sleeping with her, but, again, he thought she was an ally. So though his actions got people killed, it wasn’t his fault or his intent. He supposedly convinced himself that his plan was working even though he didn’t always see the people he asked to be released. (“I released a few of them, just to fool you.”) But that is just a human failing. It doesn’t amount to culpability. Doubtless he feels awful about what happened, now that he knows. But that doesn’t amount to culpability. Just a well-run counter-espionage operation by the New Caprica Cylons.

So can you figure out what if anything Gaeta did “wrong”? I suppose he would want to hide what happened from everyone else. It does “look” bad. Is that what Baltar thought he was holding over Gaeta’s head as blackmail material? (“I know your little secret.”)

The theme did go well with something that was happening in plain sight that he convinced himself wasn’t happening. Gaeta was “guilty” of the same kind of willing self-delusion on the shuttle as he was on New Caprica. And it was the same Cylon chick. Pretty cool, but it didn’t speak to or illuminate the larger storyline. EXCEPT thematically with regard to Starbuck as we saw in the new episode. Same theme of plain sight / self-delusion really with regard to us, the audience – though it isn’t clear cut (we want to believe ____ about Starbuck, but the obvious truth is ______). Not a neat fit.

Half way through the ep. 11, I thought Starbuck was obviously the last Cylon. In retrospect that had seemed apparent for some time. We’ve now seen two copies of her destroyed: one when her viper exploded (as witnessed by Apollo), and now dead in the burned up viper cockpit on Earth. Or maybe that is supposed to the same “copy” though that defies explanation due to the distance involved among other things.

At the end of the episode it seems that SB is NOT the last Cylon after all (then what is she?). Tigh at least thinks it is his wife. And I’ll admit it looks as if (based on what Ellen Tigh said “everything is in place, we’ll be reborn”) the writers intend us to take this at face value as the (actual) truth – rather than be skeptical about Tigh’s proclamation. I say this because that was my primary reaction to Tigh’s revelation - I was skeptical about it. Maybe Tigh mistook his wife’s meaning. Maybe it was only Ellen’s religious belief in rebirth (this however is largely, if not totally, belied by “everything is in place”). Maybe Starbuck is really the Cylon (for this, we actually have much more hard evidence than for Ellen Tigh).

Maybe it’s just Col. Tigh’s desire/guilt that his wife (who he killed) not be gone forever manifesting in self-deceptive delusion. He was on the brink of suicide (the fox swam out into the ocean) so he’s not at the hight of mental stability. Set against all this, however, is my perception that the writers intended (through this last scene) to inform the viewers that Ellen Tigh is indeed the last Cylon. Where that leaves Starbuck, I dunno.

Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 7:25pm (UTC -6)
Since knitpicker mentioned Michael Hogan's accent, I'll just assume it's Canadian. Of course most of the Canadians on the show have lost or hidden their accents.

But mainly I just wanted to mention, since Jammer has described Tigh as "awesome" a couple times this season - my favorite character on the show has always been Tigh. Mainly because of his dryly cynical comments, which make me laugh out loud. Adama is a close second in this department.
Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 8:12pm (UTC -6)
Bryan- I disagree that Starbuck was ever a good contender for final cylon. It just would have been too easy.
Ian Whitcombe
Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 10:19pm (UTC -6)
Taylor, as a Canadian myself, I can say that we do not all go around talking like Michael Hogan. ;-)
Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 10:48pm (UTC -6)
That's a shame Ian. Tigh is (and sounds) badass. -.-
Tue, Jan 27, 2009, 10:32am (UTC -6)
Got the last DVD of 4.0 (Netflix to the rescue) - in the interviews, Michael Hogan had a similar accent, which I agree sounded Canadian (thanks Taylor). I assume he's letting more of his normal accent through (yes, Ian, I, know that not all Canadians sound like that.) I am clearly a closet chauvanist because I stupidly didn't think to check IMDb for his country of origin.
Tue, Jan 27, 2009, 3:09pm (UTC -6)
Ellen has been outed as the final cylon. I wonder how it will affect Cavill. He was so against "even knowing" the final 5 that he was willing to go to war over it. He used Ellen sexually, holding the life of her husband over her to do it. Not only does he know her, he has sex with her. Also, he was seemingly the one who interrogated Tigh, possibly tortured him, and he is also one of the final 5. How will this revelation affect him?
Wed, Jan 28, 2009, 7:32pm (UTC -6)
First may I say that I've been reading your reviews, Jammer, since the days when DS9 was new. I've always been impressed by your writing, and I'm very glad you are still taking the time to do these even as life gets more complicated.

I wanted to propose a couple other solutions to the "What is Starbuck" dilemma. One possibility is that there is some sort of time travel thing going on here. Indeed it would seem that some sort of time distortion would have to have happened to explain why she experienced so little time passing between her disappearance and reappearance. So it's barely possible that the corpse on Earth is future Starbuck. But that opens up a bunch of messy paradoxes, doesn't explain the shiny new viper, and generally sounds a bit too Rick Berman.

More likely is that the corpse on Earth isn't Starbuck at all, but a fake. There was nothing about that body that proved it was Starbuck. Dog tags? Blond hair? Those would be easy enough to copy. After all someone presumably copied her whole viper. And no medical investigation of the body was done. This could all be part of a giant mindfrak by Leoben, or someone else.

I had a technical problem with Ellen as the last Cylon. Since Baltar had tested her in TMUTMD, and since we were led to believe that the Cylon detector worked (though the characters don't know that) then either Baltar knew all along (which is inconstant with his curiosity about the final five) or she tested negative. I'd believe the latter, since the final five seem so different anyhow, but it should be mentioned sometime. On a related point, how did they determine that the skeletal remains were Cylon? I thought they were indistinguishable from humans. Come on, Baltar, can you test for Cylonicity or not?

Lastly I too was amazed by the incredible cluelessness of the ad for the KFC Frak Pak. Perhaps they will expand the promotion to include a Shag Bag and a F*ck Bucket.
Thu, Jan 29, 2009, 1:11am (UTC -6)
this show continues to stupify me after 4 years. BRILLIANT stuff and utterly poweful performances. Thanks Jammer for the great reviews!
Nick P.
Mon, Aug 8, 2011, 1:14pm (UTC -6)
@Mike, Good point, but I am guessing that the final 5 can not show up on his scanner. We know they are different, and for some reason he was testing something unique in the first 7.

@ Aiddar, I completely agree wtih your assessment of the Lee Red Herring. I have been getting the impression over the last season or so that Lee is meant for much bigger things, leading humanity, etc... Just look at the jesus hair! And the discussion with Dee was just more in that direction and than BANG..

Truly marvelously devastating episode.
Mon, Nov 14, 2011, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
This is when you see what Stephen King meant by "there's not a better acting troupe on television." Even when the writing falls short (or takes itself WAY too seriously), the actors deliver fine performances.

About Dee's suicide... I think it makes sense that once she had made the decision, knowing the torture would soon end, she would be gleeful. But the execution made it more into a GOTCHA! moment than focusing on the character. I guess what I'm saying is we should've seen more of her breakdown.

I must say, with Starbuck finding her own dead body (if that's really what it is), the 13th Tribe being Cylons, the Final Five being over 2,000 years old... the writers seem to be painting themselves into a corner. If all this ends in a deus-ex-machina, or worse, with no answers, I will be very disappointed.
Fri, Dec 2, 2011, 5:44am (UTC -6)
My first thought was how come those artifacts (such as the pocket watch found by Dualla) were on the surface? If the nuclear explosion took place two millennia ago, wouldn't those objects have gotten buried several feet under ground in the intervening period, the same way we today have to excavate Roman ruins?

I did not see Dualla's suicide coming at all. After her tryst with Lee and their subsequent flirtation, I rolled my eyes and figured: Oh, here we go again. As she put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger without a forethought or afterthought or agonizing or antagonizing; all within less than a second; I had to do a double-take. That was done REALLY, REALLY, REALLY well. One of the best shots (pun unintended) in the entire series. I don't care about her so I had no emotional response, but I LOVED the way it was played out. And Matt hit the nail on the head up there: Her suicide DID provide "closure" of sorts to me who always resented her and Lee for their relationship.

Also really well depicted are the all-pervading sense of despair, dejection and despondency. I appreciate Aiddar's comments: Yes, this is the WORST possible thing that could have happened to the fleet, far worse than not actually having been able to find Earth at all. When you have one hope and one hope alone, and that hope is dashed so spectacularly, even though I have not experienced anything like that, I find it perfectly believable that people would simply fall apart, possibly irredeemably.

As others, the revelation of Ellen being the final cylon was very anticlimactic to me, too. She was always a subsidiary character and I was hoping for a much bigger bombshell than that. BUT, since it wasn't a bombshell, presenting the revelation as such a "oh, by the way" matter was, again, expertly done. If Ellen's the fifth--and, as Bryan mused, it IS an "if"--, then who/what indeed is Starbuck?

I was also thrilled to see Baltar back on form as a scientist, and without that dopey look of religious bliss on his face.

Lastly, Roslin bonfiring the "holy" book; how I wish all humanity does that with all our real "holy" books some day...

Another excellent show; maybe short on action, but dramatic and extremely thought-provoking nonetheless. My comments are almost as long as Jammer's reviews and when a show makes you ponder it and its implications that much, you know it's something real special...
Sun, Jul 22, 2012, 4:06am (UTC -6)
I'm avoiding spoilers by skipping the comments section, but I just had to add my own "whoa!" to the list. This is one of the most compelling hours of television I've ever seen. Superb, superb stuff.

On a different note, Dualla's suicide did not come as a shock to me. She showed definite signs of someone who has gone past conteplating suicide and made the decision to go through with it. People seeming almost happy in situations where you wouldn't expect them to be can be a warning sign that they are suicidal. I know this from an unfortunate experience with a loved one who tried and thankfully failed to kill herself. Dualla's scenes were convincingly written. Not to mention acted...
Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 11:37am (UTC -6)
I am just watching this fantastic series for the first time, and since about the middle of season three have been reading these reviews along the way. Having just watched this last night, I was REALLY surprised to find when coming here that this is the only comment you had about the reveal of Ellen as fifth Cylon:

----- Excerpt from review:
"If I'm burying the lead here in saying that we also find out Ellen is the final Cylon — well, that's because the episode itself buries the lead. Maybe because it's not really the point and never should've been. Ellen's reveal doesn't play as a shocking revelation so much as another piece of character development for Tigh. I think it's a wise choice to reveal this now and in this manner. It defuses our expectations and instead invites us to ponder its meaning. Tigh has a flashback to 2,000 years ago on Earth. Ellen was his wife then, too, just before the nukes went off. "Everything's in place," she told him. "We'll be reborn together."

"Defuses our expectations?!?" Not a "shockign revelation?!?" Wow, MY "expectations" for the remaining arc of the series were COMPLETELY reset by this minute or two of the episode, I thought it was the most significant thing by far that happened, plot-wise (and there were a LOT of very significant plot developments in this episode!) I was really curious to see what you had to say about this, and am frankly shocked that you no more than shrug your shoulders about it!

OK, obviously this series ended 4 years ago, so whatever I say won't mean much except to someone else like me, watching on disc. But this is what this one brief scene did to MY expectations:

1) Ellen is not dead after all. She died on New Caprica, in a place we know a resurrection ship is located (Leoben kept coming back, after all), well before the hub was blown. She's out there somewhere, doing who-knows-what. She clearly will be back, given that the actress is still working on the show (she's been "doubling" for Caprica Six)

2) Maybe that "doubling" for Caprica Six in the brig is not actually Tigh's imagination, she is really somehow channeling herself through Cap Six? then what does that say about the baby she is carrying?

3) Her comments about "everything's in place, we'll be reborn." That means cylon resurrection existed two thousand years ago. Which means the idea is WRONG that the Cylons of the first Cylon war "evolved", as the title sequence tells us so many times. This means the "Cylons" of Earth (the final five) have no direct connection to the "Cylons" that the Colonies created only a hundred years ago, and rebelled 50 years ago. The Colonials have conflated the "Cylons" they created with their lost 13th tribe, they are actually two distinct civilizations. Somehow the final five enslaved the "true" cylons again, after they had freed themselves from the Colonials?

4) This then leads to the question, what are the "skinjobs," which group do they belong to? ("real" cylons, or remnants of earth civilization) I don't know, but given that DeAnna sees them when she is being reborn, I imagine they are connected to the "Earth cylons," the "final five."

Again, I know my analysis is meaningless to all but the few who still haven't watched this, those who have already watched it all can't be tantalized by this few seconds of flashback to Ellen & Saul's dying moments on Earth. But for those like me watching for the first time then coming here to read, I just wanted to point out the possible significance of this scene goes WAY beyond what Jammer appears to have thought.
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 9:17pm (UTC -6)
I just want to note that there's nothing wrong with the characters finding artifacts of any age, on or near the surface. There are, in real life, lots of geological processes that can bring objects up. Real fossils, much older than anything in the show, have been found literally sitting on the ground.
D. Albert
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 8:35pm (UTC -6)
Good review and comments.

I know attraction is personal, but I'll never understand why anyone would prefer Starbuck to Dee. Starbuck was a mess. Dee was sweet and a knock-out.
Wed, Aug 9, 2017, 2:59pm (UTC -6)
Dualla's scenes were all nicely done and the suicide scene was amazing in a sad and tragic way. She wanted to close the chapter on a high note, after having spent a wonderful and fun evening with Lee, her love. She was holding on to that feeling in the locker room for as long as she could, humming her song, carefully putting away her wedding ring, taking one last glance at her picture as a child. There was no regret or fear in her voice. She was completely in the moment, full of clarity.

And then she ended it. No agony, no crying, no misery. No flinching or contemplating, just do it while the good feeling lasts and before the fear and panic and loss of hope appear again the way they had back on that awful planet and at the sad realization that the promised land that they had sacrificed so much for was a scorched apocalyptic wasteland.

And she played it superbly too. You could, literally, see the exact moment she decided to end her life. It was in the cockpit of the shuttle as they flew back to Galactica. She kept telling herself that it will be ok, again and again, with Helo comforting her and after a few seconds of whispering "it's gonna be ok, you gonna be ok " to herself, she then stopped. Suddenly her face stopped being all tensed up, she relaxed, her frown disappeared, her eyes stopped moving frantically as relief washed all over her. The kind of relief you feel when you know you have found the solution to a terrible ordeal, where you realize that this solution will finally put an end to the agony and pain. That you dont HAVE to deal with it anymore, that there is a way out.

I think that is when she decided to end it. And once she had made that decision and resigned herself to this fact, she could suddenly open up again and try to enjoy whatever time she had left and end it on a high note. Leave the party when you have the most fun. It was a brilliantly played coda.
Thu, Aug 10, 2017, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
An excellent, very perspicacious disquisition. B.S.G. excelled in character portrayal, including through these almost imperceptible nuances and details, in ways that, say, Star Trek never did.
Tue, Mar 12, 2019, 12:48am (UTC -6)
Ten years later this episode still messes with my head. The lasting images I have were of Starbuck finding her corpse and burning it. I had forgotten a lot of the other details about this episode, until I re-read the above review and comments.

Time to dig up the old DVD's and watch it straight through next winter, methinks...
Sat, Jun 22, 2019, 10:21pm (UTC -6)
can't help but think how other writers would mess up this episode
Wed, Oct 30, 2019, 10:42pm (UTC -6)
There's something so sad about Seelix and Gaeta calling for the medic even though it's clear to them she's already long gone. Gaeta's reassurances there pretty much the same futile echo of Dee trying to calm and reassure herself back when she was riding beside Helo back to Galactica.

I love Lee, more than most fans I'd think, but I was annoyed by his complete inability to understand why she did what she did, and how she went about it. I thought to him at the very least it would make some sense, he's shown a tender understanding before. It's oddly appropriate though, for the mostly one-sided romance they had going on that she'd end up leaving him in the dark. Dualla, I...
Matthew Martin
Mon, Jun 8, 2020, 11:51pm (UTC -6)
I've watched a lot of TV in my days but I dont think a character death has hurt me as much as Dee's.

She was always so pure and good. I understand why, therefore, it had to be her. I get it, I just hate it.

I've watched and rewatched this show maybe five or six times over the past decade and Dee's death makes me weep every time.
Fri, Jul 10, 2020, 9:05pm (UTC -6)
@Matthew Martin - I agree 100%. I hated seeing her character die that way.

This episode deserves a lot of credit. It accurately captures how people sometimes achieve apparent peace and composure when they've decided to end their life. It also shows the aftermath of what happens after the person dies - sorrow, pain, trauma, confusion, sense of loss, despair, guilt.
Wed, Apr 20, 2022, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
I know it's late but can someone tell me if they agree it was OUT OF CHARACTER FOR ROSLIN TO WALK OUT of the viper bay without saying anything to the crew and quietly saying get me out of here..that seems cowardly to me and she was always abiut facing the truth..I don't see her doing that to all those ppl..maube Baltar would but not her...anyone agree?

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