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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Collaborators"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Collaborators An autonomous group holds secret tribunals aboard the Galactica,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2007
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "Collaborators"

      An autonomous group holds secret tribunals aboard the Galactica, carrying
      out death sentences for those they deem guilty of having collaborated with
      the Cylons on New Caprica.

      Air date: 10/27/2006 (USA)
      Written by Mark Verheiden
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      It's strange to start a season off with an arc that's such a departure from
      the norm of a series. I think back to that six-episode arc that started the
      sixth season of "Deep Space Nine." More recently, we had the Kobol arc
      bridging seasons one and two of "Battlestar Galactica." When things are so
      shaken up, you find yourself wondering how situations will ever go back to
      being the way they were -- or at least resembling something similar to what
      they were. And yet somehow they still do -- with enough change to avoid
      feeling like a cheat.

      Obviously, with this most recent storyline, humanity wasn't going to be
      trapped on New Caprica forever under the rule of the Cylons. But I still
      nevertheless found myself asking: What's the rest of season three, which is
      to be some 20 total episodes, going to be about if the Galactica was able to
      rescue the human survivors from New Caprica by the end of episode four?

      "Collaborators" seems to let us in on some of that. Here's an episode where
      the whole point is that even though we might not be on New Caprica anymore,
      the consequences of what took place there will continue to play themselves
      out now that everyone is back aboard the Galactica and the fleet.
      "Collaborators," as its title implies, is all about how characters deal with
      the aftermath of the failed occupation, and specifically about dealing with
      those who worked for the enemy. Even though "Exodus" might have gotten the
      characters off New Caprica, it was not a Reset Button Plot.

      Take, for example, the small details. Although there isn't a single line of
      dialog about it, the Galactica is shown here as overcrowded, which makes
      sense considering that the Pegasus has been destroyed and there are now two
      crews occupying one battlestar. How exactly are the crews going to be
      integrated? Also: When so many people left both ships to go live on New
      Caprica, that left a lot of changes in the duty roster. Now that no one
      lives on New Caprica, what will the new duty roster look like? This episode
      brings up that question without dealing with it directly. For example, we
      see Helo is still the XO of the ship. Will he continue to be now that Tigh
      is back aboard?

      The answer appears to be yes, at least for the time being. There's a scene
      in CIC where Tigh, as a character of this show, seems to represent the
      living proof that the events of New Caprica are not, by any stretch of the
      imagination, forgotten or forgiven. Tigh calls out his replacement, Helo, a
      "Cylon lover" in full view of the CIC, and then bemoans the fact that Gaeta,
      who was Baltar's chief of staff, has been given full access to the CIC
      simply because "the old man needs his phones fixed." Adama has to call Tigh
      off as if he were an attack dog. Every once in a while you get a scene that
      announces, loud and clear, that things are *not* simply going to be okay,
      and this is one of those scenes. Tigh is going to be a problem. Michael
      Hogan's performance portrays a bitter and damaged man who has been through
      hell and back and has earned his bitterness. "I'm not just going to forget,"
      he says.

      The episode's plot is actually about dealing with the scars of New Caprica.
      In the strong opening sequence, we see Jammer being tried for collaborating
      with the Cylons as a member of the New Caprica police force. Jammer's trial
      is a secret tribunal conducted by six jurors (called "the Circle") in
      alarming swiftness. All the jurors were residents of New Caprica and
      probably members of the resistance. Among them are Tigh, Tyrol, Anders and
      Seelix -- familiar faces that demonstrate how this is not an episode about
      good guys and bad guys, but about a big mess that is now in the process of
      being cleaned up by the regular characters in a very messy way. Jammer's
      crime is treason. The sentence is death. To be carried out right now.

      I see now that the "Resistance" webisodes are more crucial than I initially
      thought, because they further flesh out Jammer's arc. He went from a fellow
      resistance member to a misguided puppet of the Cylons who hoped he would be
      making things better for the human citizens of New Caprica instead of worse.
      If history is written by those who survive rather than those who die, then
      Jammer's obituary is one of a traitor. The reality might not be so clear
      cut. In his defense, he pleads to Tyrol for forgiveness, and he explains how
      he helped Cally escape from being executed by the Cylons. Tyrol doesn't
      necessarily believe him (and even if he does, the rest of the Circle weighs
      Cally's survival against dozens of other deaths), but when Jammer is put out
      the airlock, Tyrol can't watch. It's an interesting moment, made more
      interesting when you consider that Jammer was once a member of Tyrol's deck
      crew. People are being put to death by their own former friends.

      This episode is about the ones being executed, and also the ones carrying
      out the executions. In a civilized society, the reason a criminal trial is
      made up of jurors is so that the verdict is rendered by impartial
      individuals. The Circle members are clearly too close to the case to be
      impartial, and that's the whole point. Guilt or innocence is being decided
      by a biased jury that's in too much of a hurry to get through the cases
      (they have only a few days to judge more than 50 people). What's interesting
      is how the Circle perceives itself: "We're not just thugs out for revenge.
      There was evidence against Jammer," Tigh says. They may not be thugs out for
      revenge, but the presumption is definitely one of guilt, and not innocence.
      Is that appropriate under the circumstances? Perhaps that depends on what
      your definition of the law should be, and whether those accused are worthy
      of still breathing.

      The episode's central plot is that the Circle intends to bring Gaeta to
      trial. We know, and the Circle does not, that Gaeta was the crucial source
      that supplied the resistance with inside information. Can Gaeta relay this
      information before being found guilty, and even if he does, will he be
      believed? At the heart of "Collaborators" is the sinking feeling that an
      unjust execution is going to be carried out simply because the system set up
      to carry it out is an implacable machine that presumes guilt and doesn't
      have the time to look for truth. Tigh points out that while it's true that
      everyone used to like Gaeta, the price must be paid by all who collaborated.
      After all, Tigh's own wife paid the price for collaborating, and as Tigh
      dryly puts it, "I liked her a hell of a lot more than I like Gaeta." Anders
      is undecided on the evidence and would rather quit than convict Gaeta purely
      on unconfirmed circumstances.

      In the rec room, Gaeta is shunned by everyone, and Kara sits down with every
      intention of picking a fight with an unpopular traitor. His professions of
      innocence fall on deaf ears, because the court of public opinion has already
      convicted him. Later, Kara is put on the Circle jury in place of Anders, who
      resigns because he doesn't intend to railroad a potentially innocent man. A
      scene where Kara confronts Anders (ending with their apparent break-up) is a
      powerful one for two reasons: (1) It further demonstrates how damaged Kara
      has been left in the aftermath of her ordeal on New Caprica ("I got out of
      that room, and it was like someone painted the world in different colors");
      and (2) it demonstrates precisely how the Circle is *not* an impartial jury
      at all. In Kara's case it's the end result of a dangerous collision course:
      She's bitterly angry and looking to punish somebody -- anybody -- to feel
      better. Might as well be Gaeta.

      If human beings are defined by their actions, then Gaeta is defined by his
      dignity, even in the face of a jury that is operating more on emotions than
      on facts. When the Circle pulls him in to read the charges, Gaeta doesn't
      grovel the way Jammer did; he simply and pointedly states that re-explaining
      his innocence to those who refuse to believe him is pointless. Surely, Gaeta
      would've been killed had the information about the dog bowl not surfaced at
      the crucial moment to reveal to Tyrol that Gaeta was the secret inside
      source.

      Like the New Caprica storylines (this episode is basically the New Caprica
      coda), "Collaborators" asks tough questions: Do traitors deserve to die, and
      should the law be circumvented in order to get the job done quietly and
      quickly so that government can move on with more pressing matters? That
      brings us to the central issue of the government's role in all this: the
      revelation that Zarek, as outgoing president, is the one who ordered the
      formation of this secret tribunal to carry out these executions "legally."
      (Of course, they *aren't* legal, because they're conducted in secret and
      there are no lawyers.)

      Early in the episode, Roslin makes an agreement with Zarek that includes his
      resignation, with the understanding that he will become her vice president
      once she resumes her role as president. It's interesting to ponder whether
      that offer still applies (the episode isn't clear) once she learns that he
      initiated this secret tribunal. Zarek makes good points, however: Trying
      collaborators in the open public would bog down the system for months if not
      years and would turn Roslin into "executioner in chief." Zarek's secret
      tribunal was an attempt to deal with the traitors quietly, efficiently,
      covertly. And, in some cases -- let's face it -- unjustly. Roslin's solution
      perhaps does not fulfill justice either, but it is pragmatic in terms of
      moving forward: She pardons everybody.

      What makes "Collaborators" such a terrific episode is that it asks these big
      questions and allows for all these differing points of view. And it allows
      the various characters to play their reactions on all parts of the spectrum.
      This story showcases a wide-ranging cast of characters who have experienced
      wide-ranging hardships and have wide-ranging ways of responding.

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      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@...
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