Escape Velocity opens with Chief Tyrol given a poignant eulogy at Cally’s funeral and ends with Gaius Baltar in a [for him] most unusual position. In between, this is one of Galactica’s most intense episodes – even though there are no great Cylon battles or even much action at all.
During the funeral, President Roslin sits beside Admiral Adama, and it’s clear that he’s is keeping a concerned eye on her – that her disease has progressed is shown by her wearing a wig. When she tells him this is the kind of service she’d like, he says it’s not his style. She just wants him to know for when it’s time. Following the service they offer the chief their condolences. Then, after they move off, Tyrol grabs Tigh and Tory, who are more than a bit freaked out by that. “What the frak was that,” blurts Tigh.
Next we learn that Tigh has been visiting Six on a daily basis for awhile. When she asks why he visits her every day, he suddenly sees her with the face of his late wife, asking if there’s something he wants or needs from her.
Tigh and Tory visit Tyrol to find out what the frak is up with him. As they talk, Nicky cries in his bunk. Tory almost blithely says he blames himself for Cally’s “suicide.” Tyrol replies that she thought that he was having affair with Tory. What it comes down to is that he doesn’t know whether his entire life has been nothing more than a program. Tory’s response is that he need not feel guilt because, “we were made to be perfect – which earns a snort from Tigh, “Is that some of Baltar’s crap?” Tigh tells him he needs to be a man and movie on – which makes his earlier hallucination kind of ironic.
From the chief’s quarters, Tory returns to Baltar’s little enclave to provoke him with some sensual pain/pleasure stuff – plucking hairs from his head with one hand while her other hand moves south. This part of her belief that there is no evil or good and that, if you become one with God, then you can never do wrong. As her little sermon progresses, members of a group called the Sons of Aries break into the enclave and attempt to get Baltar’s location, but even though they beat the women, no one gives him up.
Meanwhile, on the flight deck, Chief Tyrol is more than a bit out of it and accidentally fails to switch out one component on Racetrack’s bird. The resultant crash doesn’t kill the bird’s crew but Tyrol loses it when nobody will bawl him out for frakking up.
Now it’s time for the return of the Six in Baltar’s head. She helps him figure out who attacked his followers and tells him that they [his followers] have not yet let go of their old gods. She goads him into following the attack on his followers by disrupting a service in the chapel – and he gets taken away to the brig.
In sick bay, Adama is with Roslin as she takes a blood test. He reads to her from a book he enjoyed so much that he never finished it [he never wanted it to end]. While Roslin likes that idea, she realizes that his philosophy in this matter is seriously not applicable to her. So he begins to read it for her – for her there is no later. That realization also prompts her decision to visit Baltar in the brig.
When Tigh returns to the brig to visit Six, he once again sees her as Ellen. She pleads with him to see her as she is – made of flesh and veins, just like him. “The tell me,” he asks, “How you can live with what you’ve done?” How can she live with knowing she’s responsible for the deaths of billions of people? “Are you asking for absolution? I can give you that,” she says.
Also in the brig, Roslin confronts Baltar and informs him that she’s dying – and is not going to indulge him anymore.
Adama tells Chief Tyrol that he’s willing to give him the time off to deal with Cally’s death, or give him extra shifts to take his mind off her – whatever it’ll take to help him get through this trying time. What Tyrol hears, though [in his imagination] is the Admiral saying “She probably couldn’t handle being married to a Cylon and that her son is a half-breed abomination.” Tyrol’s response is to, essentially, go nuts – raving about how Cally was no angel and he’d had to “settle” for Cally after it turned out that Boomer was a Cylon. He talks [or rather, shouts] himself into a demotion and a transfer off the Galactica.
At the next meeting of the Quorum, Lee questions Roslin about a limited assembly law she’d unilaterally passed after the last session ended. It was, she says, expressly to be used for Baltar’s “cult.” But it could be used against “legitimate” religious groups as well, he contends. He calls for a vote on it. Disgusted, Roslin leaves after warning them to be careful in making their decision.
Tigh meanwhile has returned to continue his conversation with Ellen/Six, while Baltar’s mental six has convinced him to return to his enclave – even though, by Roslin’s new decree, his group cannot have anymore members inside.
Tigh gets the answer to his question. Pain – both physical and emotional – enables her to focus, and that is how she deals with what she’s done. After he sends the guards away, she whales on his face to show him what she means – she’s not doing it out of hate or revenge, though, she’s doing it in a sincere effort to show him the way. When she realizes that won’t work, she’s tries another tack…
When Baltar tries to enter his enclave, the guard knocks him down. After he tries a couple more times, and gets thumped again, he decides he doesn’t want to do this anymore but Six has a different idea. As the guard watches, Baltar is lifted up and, marionette-like, is moved forward. When the guard moves to knock him down again, Lee’s voice tells him to stand down. The camera moves to him as he informs the guard that Roslin’s decree has been voted down and Baltar is legally able to go home.
As the episode closes, the beaten and bloody Baltar delivers a speech about how God loves them because they are all perfect, just as they are [kind of like a demagogue Mister Rogers…]. In the background, Lee leaves, with a very worried look on his face.
An epilogue/tag shows Sam Anders quietly [stealthily?] approaching the sleeping Kara on the Demetrius.
Escape Velocity marks a couple of production threes: it’s Edward James Olmos’s third time as director on the series, and Jane Espenson’s third BSG script to be produced.
Escape Velocity is an appropriate title in a number of ways. There are characters who are trying to escape themselves/their memories/their responsibilities; there are characters who have escaped themselves, so to speak, and there are events that are key in their succeeding or failing to escape.
The most obvious wannabe escapee is Chief Tyrol. He wants to escape from himself as he now perceives himself – a Cylon whose entire live might have been programmed. As a result, he blows up at his crew; behaves strangely among his fellow hidden Cylons and, finally goads the admiral into demoting and transferring his sorry butt off Galactica. If this actually happens, he will have succeeded in separating The Four even further – what with Sam Anders being on the Demetrius. Further, if he succeeds in getting off Galactica, he’ll be taking Nicky with him – which could adversely affect Tory’s mood.
Tigh is also looking to escape from himself, again, in terms of his being a Cylon. But he’s being haunted by his late wife Ellen, which means he’s also trying to escape from his memories. Since he is a Cylon, he’s also wondering just how much he contributed to the destruction of humanity – he seeks absolution for not just his wife’s death but for the holocaust created by the Cylons.
On the other hand, Tory has embraced the revelation that she’s a Cylon – designed to be perfect. Because of her belief, she finds Baltar’s philosophy appealing. She has escaped being the quiet, subservient president’s aid – at least, in her own mind. She is a new person, built on the ashes of the old – like a phoenix.
President Roslin would like to escape death, but she’s now resigned to it as it means [to her, at least] that she is the prophesized leader who will take the remains of humanity to Earth. The moment her acceptance of her fate may well be her realization that she couldn’t save the ending of Adama’s favorite book because she has no later. At the same time, she is attempting to escape her more decent side in order to do what she believes must be done to ensure humanity’s survival. She’s shown that she’s been moving in that direction since day one, but now she’s enacting laws without due process – that is the last of her inhibitions, as a leader, to go.
Lee has now successfully left the man-of-action/pilot/C.A.G. part of himself behind – in effect, he’s also escaped himself, or at least the part of himself that has always been conditioned to follow orders. The final move came when he stood up to Roslin about the limited assembly decree – though he has the good sense to see that it might have been an effective idea, just not the right one. Leading the successful, shall we call it a revolt, against Roslin’s subterfuge marks the completion of his transformation.
Baltar has tried to escape his destiny since the series began, but he remains one of the least successful in this regard. The marionette sequence suggests that there’s more going on with him than just a hallucinatory Six in his mind. It may be that he really is a pawn in a much larger game. At the same time, he has shown courage and cowardice in turns [both in this episode] and, until he commits to behaving in one way or the other, he will never escape his fate [he is so toasted!].
Of course, all of this is but a part of what’s going on in Escape Velocity. That’s good news, because it means that series is once again firing on all cylinders. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Final Grade: A-