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250[BSG] Jammer's Review: "You Can't Go Home Again"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    May 11 11:34 AM
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "You Can't Go Home Again"

      When Kara goes missing on a desolate planet, Adama orders a massive search
      operation with a scope that threatens to compromise the fleet's defensive
      position.

      Air date: 2/4/2005 (USA)
      Written by Carla Robinson
      Directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan

      Rating out of 4: ***

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      "You Can't Go Home Again" tells the story of a battle between personal
      feelings and implacable logic. The situation indicates there can be only one
      logical outcome. Because the outcome is so seemingly inevitable (and because
      there's a time limit involved that could end up putting everybody at risk),
      you would think logic should easily win the day. But the logic here is
      battling some very strong feelings -- which happen to belong to the
      commander of the ship.

      The search has begun for Starbuck, whose Viper went down on a desolate
      planet during an engagement with Cylon Raiders. The odds of finding her
      aren't good. President Roslin calls Adama to wish him the best in finding
      his missing pilot, despite the odds. "Frak the odds," Adama responds dryly.
      "We're going to find her."

      Since I haven't mentioned anything about it up to this point, let me take a
      moment to discuss the fictional expletive "frak." At first, I didn't much
      care for it. Considering how this series goes out of its way to exist in a
      relatable world and avoid distracting sci-fi oddities, the use of a
      fictional swear word seems to go against that intention -- and at first did
      little more than pull me out of the reality of scenes. Personally, I'd
      prefer real profanity (or even the milder TV alternatives) to silly, made-up
      words. But I have to also admit that the word has sort of grown on me as the
      show has gone on. (I read in one of Ron Moore's blogs that the word is a
      holdover from the original "Battlestar," and I guess some nods to the
      original series aren't a bad thing.)

      Back to the story. Adama's loss of objectivity starts almost immediately,
      but isn't initially a problem since it serves as an added motivator for him
      to find his missing pilot. It's as the story progresses that Adama's stake
      seems increasingly personal, less objective, and more risky. Adama and
      Lee -- who both regard Kara as family and also as their last link to Zak --
      team up to become a two-man force whose personal interests in saving Kara go
      far beyond anyone else's. "We aren't leaving anyone else behind," Adama
      explains. The notion of leaving no man behind is a familiar military
      concept, but it's not really about that here, because under extreme
      circumstances, Galactica has already been forced to do far worse than leave
      people behind.

      In this case, Adama can argue strategic risk versus benefit: It's unlikely
      the Cylons will notice their patrol has gone missing for at least a few
      days, and Starbuck has only 40 hours of oxygen. This gives the search
      parties 40 hours to look for her.

      It's not an easy rescue operation. The planet's environment is unforgiving,
      offering poor visibility and causing rescue ships to break down quickly and
      forcing them back to the Galactica. The search area is massive. The odds
      simply aren't favorable (but frak the odds).

      On the planet surface, Starbuck limps along the barren, sand-blasted terrain
      until she happens upon the Cylon Raider that she downed in the engagement
      that led to her crash. Starbuck hopes that maybe she can help herself rather
      than wait for rescue, and attempts to take control of the Raider.

      Here we get some solid sci-fi elements. After opening the bottom panel of
      the Raider, Starbuck finds the interior of the ship is a melding of
      technology and gory organic components that are practically still pulsating.
      There is no pilot. In other words, the Cylon Raiders are actually a type of
      cyber-organic Cylon. The story suggests that they fly themselves. If so,
      this one is brain-dead. Starbuck hopes she can fire up the engines and fly
      herself off this rock. No points for guessing if she's successful.

      The living, organic space vehicle is an interesting, albeit not new, take on
      the plot line of the hero commandeering a foreign vehicle. It's particularly
      appropriate here: Since the Cylons are a species that evolved from
      mechanistic robots to a flawless human imitation, it makes sense that their
      ships would blend technology with the organic. Eventually, Starbuck is able
      to tap into the ship's oxygen supply in lieu of her own depleted oxygen
      tank. She also plugs the holes in the ship, in a manner that either I don't
      understand or am correct in saying they would not likely stay sealed in the
      vacuum of space.

      Aboard the Galactica, the Ticking Clock for the search operation has
      expired, and Colonel Tigh recommends that since Starbuck is likely without
      oxygen and dead, the fleet should jump before a Cylon base ship shows up and
      wipes them out. There's a rare moment where Adama raises his voice and we
      realize that Olmos' performance is usually so calm and controlled that when
      he does get worked up, it's all the more surprising. Subsequently, Adama
      relieves Tigh from duty for speaking up against the continued search
      operation.

      What's interesting here is how Adama is clearly not making the logical
      military call; he's making an emotional -- and personal -- one, at the
      possible expense of the fleet. He's hoping he can still rescue Starbuck, and
      he throws all kinds of resources into it: fuel reserves, rotations of Vipers
      until a third of them are broken down and in need of repair. Strategically,
      it's the wrong choice. Finally, Roslin has to force the issue and comes
      aboard the Galactica to confront Adama. It's perhaps a telling sign that
      Tigh briefs Roslin on Adama's state of mind, essentially allying himself
      with her for a confrontation.

      That confrontation is where implacable logic steamrollers Adama's and Lee's
      cause. At a certain point, one pilot is simply not worth putting the future
      of the entire human race at risk. Roslin offers an argument that is simply
      irrefutable: "If the two of you of all people can live with that, then the
      human race doesn't stand a chance." This showdown, which Adama thought he
      could win because it's "a military matter," is completely neutralized by the
      facts.

      What's somewhat puzzling about the way this unfolds is exactly what Adama
      and Lee were thinking before Roslin argues the cold, hard truth. It's not as
      if they are blind to the odds or the dangers. Indeed, it seems to me that
      Roslin only tells them everything they've been aware of the entire time.
      Perhaps it's just a matter of needing to be called on their actions,
      revealing their motivation for what it is -- personal feelings rooted in
      hope and unacceptable risk.

      I guess there's something inherently human about hope standing its ground
      against all reason. This is demonstrated in a low-key but emotionally potent
      scene where Lee asks his father if he would do the same for him as for Kara.
      Adama's response is heartfelt and simple: "If it were you, we'd never
      leave."

      On Cylon-occupied Caprica, we get a little bit of action/adventure as Cylon
      sentries shoot up the place where Helo and Boomer are staying, and in the
      aftermath of the chaos Boomer is missing. Is this relevant to anything else
      going on in the episode? Not in the slightest. But it does keep Helo's
      storyline alive and not forgotten, and proves to be one of the more
      entertaining executions of this isolated plot thus far.

      By the end, of course Starbuck will be rescued. The plot is a foregone
      conclusion. It's to the credit of the writers, however, that this plays out
      with humanity, feeling, and genuine satisfaction. There's a sequence where
      Apollo goes up against Starbuck's Raider, thinking it's an enemy ship. This
      is an action scenario that doesn't forget that the pilots are human beings
      as opposed to action props. Could Starbuck really learn to fly an enemy
      vessel so skillfully this quickly? I have my doubts, but they're not too
      important.

      This is a story built not so much on what happens but who is involved and
      the relationships between them. By the time Starbuck is returned to the ship
      and lying in sickbay, the reopened wounds from "Act of Contrition" have been
      forgiven, and we see how these people care about one other. That's the key
      to the episode, and one of the keys to what will make this series
      successful.

      -----
      Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...