Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
Battlestar Galactica: "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down"
Roslin suspects Adama might be a Cylon and insists that he take Baltar's
Cylon-detection test. Meanwhile, Tigh's estranged wife turns up alive and
shows signs of introducing a troubling influence.
Air date: 3/4/2005 (USA)
Written by Jeff Vlaming
Directed by Edward James Olmos
Rating out of 4: **
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
The problem with "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" is that the tone is all over the
map. I mean, this episode is absolutely everywhere -- drama, comedy,
paranoia that too quickly dissolves -- and it doesn't find an adequate
through-line. This is the season's most erratic episode in terms of both
writing and directing, with a net result that lands somewhere in the realm
of watchable confusion. It's the weakest outing of the season. What's
reassuring is that even the weakest episode of "Battlestar" to date still
proves tolerable and has its share of redeeming qualities.
This episode is basically about two things: (1) Roslin suspecting Adama of
being a Cylon, and (2) everyone suspecting Ellen of being a Cylon.
Who's Ellen? Glad you asked. Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) is Colonel Saul Tigh's
estranged wife, presumed dead in the initial Cylon assault, but who turns up
here, having been lying comatose on the Rising Star after a narrow escape
from the Picon airport. The suddenness of Ellen's appearance is jarring in
narrative terms, but at least the characters also find it jarring, and Adama
suspects she might be a Cylon. Tigh is happy to see his wife again, and
Ellen talks with him about making a "fresh start," which might be just the
personal jolt Tigh needs. (An earlier scene shows a self-disgusted Tigh
pouring the last contents of his liquor bottle into a trash can, about which
he says to himself, "Well, at least I did that much.")
Meanwhile, Roslin -- with her own suspicions piqued by Leoben's
paranoia-inducing allegation that Adama is a Cylon (see last week's "Flesh
and Bone") -- suggests that Adama be the first to undergo Baltar's new
Cylon-detecting blood test. The test requires hours of processing and can
only be performed on one individual at a time, much to Baltar's dismay; he
has 47,905 tests to conduct if he's going to test the entire fleet. To pass
the time, he has imaginary Six sex in the lab, which leads to a masturbation
scene that is admittedly funny (Kara walks in on him) but is an aspect of
the character that is really beginning to wear thin.
I'm not sure what to make of Roslin's suspicions of Adama. The lesson
ostensibly learned in "Flesh and Bone" was that the Cylons want to use our
paranoia against us. Isn't Roslin's willingness to give credence to that
paranoia in fact playing right into their hands? That in itself isn't really
a storyline flaw so much as how the episode ultimately plays out this
element of the story with a comic non-payoff (more on that in a moment).
As for Ellen, whether she's a Cylon or not, the one thing the story makes
clear is that she's trouble. Tigh and Ellen were clearly longtime partners
in alcoholism, and there's a scene here where she breaks out the booze and
makes a toast to "starting over." It seems to me that their problems in the
past were probably caused at least partially by the booze, so their drinking
to a fresh start isn't particularly promising.
At dinner with Adama, Roslin, and Lee, Ellen gets hopelessly sloshed while
Tigh laughs along (they play the role of each other's enablers) as the rest
of the dinner party smiles politely. Ellen runs her mouth, calls Adama
"Bill," and plays footsy with Lee under the table. If there's credit to be
given for this episode, it's that it doesn't waste any time establishing
Ellen as a shameless flirt and a negative influence to Tigh's professional
Still, how much is too much before Ellen's obnoxiousness becomes more than
the audience can stand? I propose the clock runs out with the scene where
Ellen hangs from a scaffolding while putting her legs around Tigh's head.
Baltar shows up, and he/Six sees something about Ellen that arouses his
suspicion. Is she a Cylon?
Up to now the episode is a muddled mix of suspicion and drunken behavior.
The episode's definitive breakdown comes with the "payoff" scene in the lab,
where Baltar is asked to first run a Cylon test on Adama (Roslin's request)
and then on Ellen (Adama's request), and then all the threads crash into
each other with everyone arriving in the lab and arguing. The scene is
played as screwball comedy, but that's a miscalculation. There's simply
nothing *funny* about the idea that these people are suspecting each other
of being Cylons. Going to such a place should be sad, or scary, or painful,
or insulting -- anything, really, but funny. This proves to be a very odd --
and unworkable -- choice. The characters -- especially Roslin after airing
suspicions about *Adama*, of all people -- back away from and are let off
the hook of their paranoia far too easily.
And the comedy itself doesn't segue well into the rest of the episode, which
jumps from humor to foreboding to action without a clear idea of what any of
it means. There's a subplot involving an erratically behaving Cylon Raider,
and the way this subplot figures into the story feels like an underdeveloped
distraction. There are also the usual scenes involving Boomer and Helo on
the run on Caprica, the only point of note being Boomer's suspicion that
she's now being hunted as a traitor by her own Cylon co-conspirators.
Still, for all its lack of coherence, the episode has scenes that work, like
the pleasant Billy/Dualla romantic scene where he gently pumps her for
information until she calls him on it. Or the fact that Baltar's Cylon test
seems to pass everybody. Or the revealing moment where Six on Caprica shows
a pained look of apparent envy for Boomer's ability to so easily fall in
love with Helo, even as Six labels Boomer "pathetic." Clearly, there's a
sense here that the Cylons want to know what it is about love/sex that
contributes to making humans tick.
These moments add to the canvas of the series, but the episode itself is a
puzzling tonal mishmash.
Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...