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313[BSG] Jammer's Review: "The Ties That Bind"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Nov 21, 2008
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "The Ties That Bind"

      Tyrol's marriage faces a meltdown amid a series of suspicions by
      Cally. Meanwhile, deep ideological divisions threaten the Cylons with
      civil war.

      Air date: 4/18/2008 (USA)
      Written by Michael Taylor
      Directed by Michael Nankin

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      There's a lot going on in "The Ties That Bind," and if there's a
      unifying theme, it's that friction and dissent in all the storylines
      seems ready to explode. In some cases the ticking bombs keep ticking
      for another day. And in other cases they do, indeed, blow up.

      In Plot A, we have the Secret Four (actually three, since one is
      currently off the ship) still trying to come to grips with their
      discovery. There's a fork in the road, and that fork is whether to
      resist the road to Cylon-town and continue as a human, or to embrace
      new discoveries as an opportunity to start from scratch and do what
      you feel. The seeds of the episode's dark climax are sown right up
      front with Tyrol and Tory sitting in Joe's Bar and discussing their
      grappling with this new problem.

      Tyrol's marriage is on the rocks (and thrashing upon massive shards
      of broken glass, for that matter) and he's approaching his Cylon
      problem like a man who has learned he has a secret illness about
      which he can discuss only with members of a support group sharing
      that illness. Tory, meanwhile, seems to approach Cylon-hood as a
      newfound gift: Hey, now I can throw away all the crap that used to be
      my life and start again as something else. Tyrol's take on the matter
      is just the opposite, and very honest and simple in its Tyrol-
      ness: "I don't do well with change." Some of us don't.

      What I love about the fact that these people are Cylons is that it's
      treated in terms of the human condition. It's not simply a plot
      element; it's a personal crisis and the story is about how to live
      with it. Like I said in my "Six of One" review that I posted last
      week (har, har), it's like a psychological condition because it has
      no other (known, as of yet) symptom other than the fact that some
      people might be willing to kill you for having it.

      Cally sees Tory and Tyrol together and assumes they're having an
      affair, which has a cascading effect of suspicions and accusations,
      climaxing with her finding a note (left by Tigh, about where the
      Secret Three are to meet), which she follows to Weapons Locker 1701D
      (a cute touch worth a grin) and hears the conversation that confirms
      not her worst fear, but something far worse -- that her husband is a
      Cylon, and her child is thus ... *something*.

      In Plot B we have the Demetrius, a ship helmed by Kara and supplied
      the oh-so-simple mission of "Find Earth." Kara's role as commander
      seems to consist mostly of locking herself in her quarters and
      painting dreamlike images on the walls in a desperate attempt to
      remember where Earth might be, if in fact she actually was there. The
      ship (whose crew includes such notables as Helo, Anders, Gaeta, and
      Seelix) is brewing with tension, as multiple malcontents grumble
      aloud their doubts concerning this dubious mission and its even more
      dubious commander. This is gonna be a problem.

      And you thought Kara and Anders had a dysfunctional, volatile
      relationship *before* she died. Kara pretty much tells him that their
      marriage is a joke (which was never exactly a secret), before then
      telling him that "I just want to frak," which they do, angrily. So to
      recap: He's a Cylon, which she doesn't know. And she's back from the
      dead and now experiences life like a disconnected, out-of-body dream.
      Sex must sure be interesting, though perhaps not very fun. Their
      feelings, whatever they may be, are helplessly confused and
      complicated by not only their present situations, but their messy
      history.

      In plot C, we have governmental politics brought back to the
      forefront in a way not seen for quite some time, and perhaps not with
      quite this overall feeling/tone since the first season. It begins
      with Roslin forced to field questions about the Demetrius, which she
      has to downplay; the whole situation has put her and Adama at slight
      odds, even though Adama still reads to Roslin as she lies in her
      hospital bed. (What a great, complex relationship these two have.)

      I like that the series is gearing the political machinations back up,
      and thrusting Lee right into the middle of it feels like the right
      choice. Lee is installed to the Quorum, and we've got VP Zarek back
      in the mix giving advice to Lee that may be motivated by Zarek's own
      agenda. This should prove to be an interesting dynamic. Right off the
      bat, Zarek is sounding the alarm about Roslin and her increasing
      secrecy in conducting government under the label "classified," and he
      urges Lee to push back against it where appropriate.

      Push back Lee does, but perhaps not in the way Zarek expected: In the
      list of curious secret executive orders, Lee brings up "Executive
      Order 112," which I believe is the order Zarek gave (and Roslin did
      not know about, and vehemently disagreed with when she found out)
      in "Collaborators" to enact secret tribunals to dispatch with the New
      Caprica traitors. Lee could be a thorn in everyone's side here, which
      might not be what Zarek had in mind. Interesting how this particular
      instance backfires on Zarek.

      In plot D, we have the Cylons and their divisions. Dissent among the
      Cylons is still split down the middle following Six's violently bold
      statement at the end of "Six of One." Cavil reluctantly agrees to
      negotiate, saying violence is not the answer. Meanwhile, the
      Centurions want to hear the word "please" when they're ordered
      around. Cavil warns of the can of worms Six has opened, and Six says
      she wants the D'Annas unboxed to make the deciding vote over whether
      to seek out the Final Five. As a footnote in all this, Boomer is the
      lone Eight to stand apart from her model.

      This aspect of the episode gets perhaps the shortest shrift, but
      that's okay. It does what it needs to, culminating in the reveal of a
      ruthless deception by Cavil as he initially seems to acquiesce to Six
      and unite the splintered Cylon fleet, only to lure them into a trap
      with no resurrection ships and open fire on them. Six seems
      blindsided: "They're *really* trying to kill us!" This move
      constitutes a game-changer in the series' factional makeup. Here we
      see a Cylon civil war with the Colonials relegated (temporarily, at
      least) to the sidelines.

      It's perhaps a blessing that Plot E, Baltar's Religious Cult, is kept
      off-screen for the hour. In a story so jam-packed with goings-on, I
      doubt another storyline could've been sustained.

      What will be remembered most about "The Ties That Bind" is how
      Cally's story ends with dark, tragic consequences. As I said, the
      opening scene sets the stage, and the closing passage writes the
      inevitable (in retrospect) conclusion. Cally is aghast at learning
      the truth about Tyrol, and it leads her to the brink of flushing
      herself and her half-Cylon baby out an airlock. The one who steps in
      and stops her is Tory, and what happens between them is interesting
      because of how telling it really is.

      The story approaches this problem from the personalities and
      psychologies of the characters: Cally as a hopelessly distraught
      woman who had already reached the end of her rope; Tory as a born-
      again opportunist who now feels she can write herself a license to do
      whatever she can get away with. Cally can't see beyond her own
      invectives of Cylon skin-jobs who are the enemy, even if her husband
      is one of them. And Tory talks Cally down from suicide just long
      enough to get her hands on Cally's son and then flush Cally out the
      airlock anyway.

      The episode's most intriguing line is Tory's, when she assures
      Cally, "We're not evil." Perhaps not. But Tory does commit a clearly
      evil act. The point here, is that it's not "a Cylon" that murders
      Cally. It's Tory, a woman with free will, who turns a corner and
      makes a decision *because* she has this new knowledge that she is a
      Cylon, and that knowledge *itself* allows her to commit evil. It's a
      fascinating turn of events. Would Tory have done what she did if she
      didn't know she was a Cylon? No. But I suspect she would've been just
      as capable of it. It may be that the knowledge of being a Cylon will
      simply reveal to the Secret Four what their true colors always were.

      --
      Footnote: I stopped watching Sci Fi's ridiculously spoiler-prone
      trailers after the one for "The Ties That Bind," which basically
      showed Tory airlocking Cally. I understand the need to market your
      show, but if you give away the shock ending to your upcoming episode,
      you've clearly crossed the line.

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      Copyright 2008, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is
      prohibited.

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