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306[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Crossroads, Part 1"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Mar 31, 2007
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      Battlestar Galactica: "Crossroads, Part 1"

      As Baltar's treason trial begins, Lee finds his shipmates questioning his
      loyalty for serving on Baltar's legal defense team.

      Air date: 3/18/2007 (USA)
      Written by Michael Taylor
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      It seems the second-to-last episode of a BSG season has become the slot
      where we get the progression of the ongoing plot, but also new developments
      of bizarre and disturbing ominousness.

      Last season's "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 1" had an opening teaser where
      Sharon sensed a cold feeling, and Tyrol suddenly awoke from a nightmare and
      beat Cally to unconsciousness.

      First season's "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1" had Sharon, who had been
      teetering on the brink all season, shoot herself because she thought she was
      about to do something terrible. She survived.

      Both episodes opened with musically scored montages of crosscutting.
      "Crossroads, Part 1" has no such opening sequence (a shame), but it does
      have what might be the creepiest portending to date, because it's not in
      what characters say or do, but in what seems to be in their minds. Helo, by
      the end of the hour, is sensing the doom in the air: "Weather's changing,
      Felix. We need to be ready for it. There's a storm coming."

      Roslin's dreams might be predicting that forthcoming storm. For the first
      time since the cancer, Roslin has a mysterious vision. It involves Six
      grabbing Hera in the ancient opera house on Kobol. Anything
      imagined/envisioned/prophesied at that opera house -- or more accurately,
      Opera House -- has automatic meaning in the BSG universe.

      In "Crossroads" we've also finally reached the beginning of the trial of
      Gaius Baltar. Tory tries to push the prosecutor, Didi Cassidy (Chelah
      Horsdal), into charging Baltar with genocide for the original attack on the
      Colonies. In classic "Law & Order" style, the prosecutor explains that
      she'll try the case she can prove, not the case that the political/societal
      machine might want.

      The trial sequences are very much in the style of contemporary TV courtroom
      drama like "L&O." The crucial difference, of course, is that the witnesses,
      judges, and defendant are major characters in the larger picture, and the
      details of the trial involve stakes that become deeply personal as well as
      legal and societal.

      Those proceedings begin with the opening arguments. It's worth mentioning
      that Cassidy's argument isn't particularly compelling. Certainly, the
      numbers are significant -- 5,197 went dead or missing on New Caprica during
      Baltar's presidency -- but they don't get to the heart of Baltar's guilt or
      innocence. Certainly not the way Lampkin's defensive argument does. His
      fiery attack on the "justice of the mob" is far more compelling material,
      delivered with far more feeling. Indeed, Lampkin's defense makes a good
      point about Baltar's decision to surrender to the Cylons: He simply had no
      choice. The only other alternative would've meant death. (Cassidy's argument
      might've been better had she mentioned that it was Baltar's ill-advised
      decision to colonize New Caprica in the first place. Of course, no one knows
      the truth behind the nuclear bomb that took out the Cloud Nine, which was
      also Baltar's fault.)

      The simple fact is that no one is going to out-lawyer Lampkin. Cassidy is
      competent but colorless. As audience members, we already have far more
      invested in Lampkin as a personality. It's an interesting way of setting our
      sympathies; even if we are in favor of Baltar being found guilty, our
      attraction to Lampkin's arguments help balance the scales.

      Interesting things start to happen when the witnesses testify on the stand.
      Tigh gets on the stand partially drunk, and his guilt over Ellen -- which
      has been brought back to the forefront in a memorable scene between Tigh and
      Six in which the interrogator has unexpectedly had the psychological tables
      turned against him -- ends up with him confessing the killing of his wife in
      open court. The testimony has the effect of making Tigh's bitter hatred of
      Baltar look completely personal and not objective.

      Meanwhile, a sense of dread begins building behind the scenes. A woman
      visits Baltar in jail and begs him to bless her son. She's the fifth such
      visitor. Why does she seem to worship Baltar? And is there a significance to
      the fact that she's the *fifth* visitor?

      Down at the bar, Anders can hear mysterious music in the static of a radio.
      So can Tigh. So can Tory. But no one else seems to hear it. At one point,
      Anders and Tory share a stare that's chilling in its mysteriousness. What do
      they have in common? Is the music a warning? A strange Cylon communication?

      Tigh's incident on the witness stand has launched him into a drunken mess.
      Adama helps the poor guy into his rack, who sadly notes that he can no
      longer smell Ellen's scent on her clothes. Tigh has become a tragic warning
      of a battered life of warfare. Let me quickly add the performances of
      Michael Hogan should never go overlooked.

      Meanwhile, Galactica's tailing Raptor learns that the Cylons have discovered
      how to follow them and are catching up. The theory is that a radiation leak
      on the tylium refinery might be traceable by the Cylons. Before fixing the
      radiation leak, Lee comes up with a plan to throw the Cylons off track: Send
      the tylium ship on a different path before rendezvousing with the fleet.
      It's a plan that's as smart as it is simple.

      So there's a lot of percolating dread in the background. The main drive of
      the story, however, is Lee, and what his association with Baltar's defense
      is doing to his relationships with his shipmates, his father, and his wife.
      Following Tigh's debacle on the stand, Adama and Lee have a conversation
      that shows just how quickly their relationship has deteriorated since Lee
      joined Baltar's defense. Adama doesn't trust his son anymore, and flat-out
      accuses him of having leaked Tigh's secret about Ellen to Lampkin.
      (Ironically, the truth is that Lee didn't even know about it.) Lee resigns
      his post, saying he won't serve under an authority who questions his
      integrity. Adama accepts his resignation, saying he *has* no integrity. As I
      watched this scene, it seemed to me that Lee was practically baiting his
      father into this course of action. It's such a cold, cold scene between
      father and son that it's almost painful to watch.

      Why is Lee doing this, anyway? Is it merely to stick it to the old man, as
      Lampkin contends? Lee thinks he may have information about Roslin that could
      potentially damage her testimony over Baltar's signing of the New Caprica
      execution order, but he's loath to share it. Lampkin essentially tells Lee
      that it's time to put up or shut up: Either he's really working for the
      defense, or he's simply acting out a charade to annoy his father. Lampkin, a
      brilliant strategist, knows just what buttons in Lee to push to get the
      right reaction.

      The episode's crucial turning point comes when Lee cross-examines Roslin.
      Seeing Lee in a suit rather than a uniform makes for an effectively jarring
      little moment. Jamie Bamber's performance is finely tuned in how it reveals
      Lee's obvious nervousness in standing up and cross-examining the president
      in court. (Unlike Lampkin, he has *not* done this before.) The power of this
      scene comes in its implications. It's not merely that Roslin is forced to
      admit that she has resumed taking chamalla and that her cancer has returned.
      It's that she's forced to admit this in open court when it's an attack on
      her credibility -- by someone who was once close to her. When she whispers
      to Lee, "I feel so sorry for you," you realize just how deep a hole Lee has
      dug for himself.

      The scene shows Lee passing a point he might never recover from, burying
      himself in alienation. That night, Dualla leaves him. When Lee attempts to
      defend his behavior on behalf of "the system," she frankly says the system
      should be taken apart, and we realize that this trial is not simply about
      one man, but a possible referendum on the legal system itself (such as it

      I love how unflappable Roslin is in the face of an inquisitive press corps.
      She keeps her cool, and has a sardonic wit. Reporter: "Madam president, how
      long do you have to live?" Roslin: "How long do you have to live, Karen?"
      It's a cooler head than Tory's, who calls the reporters "vultures" to their
      faces. Later, Roslin tells Tory to get her act together and to relearn the
      functions of a comb. I love these little details. Yet they still service the
      ominous foreboding. What's wrong with Tory, anyway? And with Tigh? And

      The episode ends with Tigh alone in his quarters, hearing that song and
      concluding: "It's in the ship!" The scene is eerie as hell, and proves that
      the confident setting of tone in storytelling can sell the notion that
      Something Big Is Coming. Even if we didn't have Helo telling Gaeta to beware
      the coming storm, we'd still be getting the point. Beware.

      Copyright 2007, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Jammer's Reviews - http://www.jammersreviews.com
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...