Our sins and falterings haunt us throughout our lives. Some are capable of putting it behind them and getting on with life, others dwell on the past until it consumes them. There are, however, sins that are so atrocious that only a violently emotional event can start the acceptance process. This week on ‘Battlestar Galactica’ we come face to face with Bill Adama’s past, and the repercussions his decisions possibly had on the human race. No less important, on a personal level, is Col. Tigh facing that same past with him and glimpsing what could be his future if he doesn’t cowboy up.
The show ominously opens with Adama delivering the “Previously on ‘Battlestar Galactica’ line and we jump to the very beginning of the series. Obviously something important happened way back when.
When three Cylon Raiders are spotted, Starbuck and Kat are dispatched to solve the situation. However, it appears that one of the Raiders is actually being chased. Adama, hearing a familiar voice, orders the Vipers to escort the Cylon in. On the hanger deck a human falls out of the Raider. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Danny “Bulldog” Novacek (played to perfection by Carl Lumbly). “Is it really you, sir?” Bulldog asks Adama, to which the Admiral replies with troubled eyes, “Yeah. It’s me. Welcome home Bulldog.” The unspoken history and emotion between these two is palpable. Any concern you had about introducing a new character at this late date in such a way should be assuaged.
After Doc Cottle confirms Bulldog is indeed a human, he proclaims that, “The conspiracy theorists are going to be disappointed.” This is as much told to Adama as it is to us viewers, who wonder if this lucky coincidence of Bulldog finding the Colonial Fleet in the vastness of space isn’t a bit too convenient. Bulldog is the real deal, but the question still remains…How? A question Adama pointedly asks his former pilot. To which Bulldog responds, “The enemy had me locked in a cell for three years. The accommodations were lousy, the service was slow, and after awhile I felt the institution no longer had anything to offer me. So, I left.” This bull**** attitude endears the former P.O.W. to Adama. Bulldog then tells Adama seriously what happened. The Cylons started getting sick from a virus, one that he was immune to. He patiently waited, eventually collapsed the face of a D’Anna model, and made his way to freedom.
Admiral Adama brings Bulldog to President Roslin to explain what happened. They both tell her of a mission to a moon where Taurons (a human colony) were mining for tylium ore too close to the Cylon Armistice line. The mission was to get the miners out of there before provoking the Cylons. The Taurons ambushed Bulldog and shot down his ship. When Roslin asks Adama what he did the Admiral responds, “I made a bad call.” After Bulldog leaves, Roslin asks Adama if he’ll tell her what really happened. He tells her it’s his mess and he’ll fix it. Whatever happened seriously affects Adama, because as soon as the room is clear he violently knocks over a chair. This act is made all the more provocative coming from the normally quiet and intense Admiral. It’s a moment that feels out of character at the time, but it also indicates something of great significance happened out at the armistice line.
Huddled like a hermit in his room, Col. Tigh spends his time bringing a cigarette into his line of vision until he can declare, “I see it,” over and over. Admiral Adama comes to Tigh to inform him of Bulldog’s return. Tigh asks his former friend, “Are you here to talk to your friend, or your XO? Because last time I checked, I was neither.” Adama’s frustrated and troubled face tells Tigh all he needs to know. Tigh asks if he’ll tell Bulldog what really happened, and Adama says the past is the past. This doesn’t sit well with Tigh who says, “Tell him. He’s going to find out sooner or later.” Tigh immediately closes himself off and goes back to seeing his cigarette.
Dwelling on the past, Tigh sits in his room and waits for nothing. Then a knock on the door forces him to come face to face with a friend, and a man who is his kin in pain. “Drink?” The Col asks Bulldog. “You have no idea,” Danny informs him. Yes, I think we can safely say Col. Tigh has every idea.
Bulldog asks Tigh how often he gets out of his room, to which the Col responds, “All the time. I’m just a little under the weather.” Bulldog then asks how they ended up on a bucket like Galactica, when Adama was commander of a shiny new Battlestar Valkyrie. Tigh tells him that the last mission did not benefit Adama’s career. So, we now know that Adama’s tour of duty on Galactica was not a choice, but a punishment for some failing. When Bulldog asks about the rift between Adama and Tigh he’s informed that the Admiral focuses everything on covering his ass, a fact which Bulldog should know well considering how he was captured. Bulldog has no idea what Tigh is talking about, which enrages Saul. “My gods. He didn’t tell you, did he?”
Simultaneously with the above Adama is speaking with his son. Adama tells Lee, “I shot him down.” This information rattles Lee who stumblingly looks for a reason, “Well, if you shot him down you had your reasons. You were following orders. Preventing something worse. Right?” Adama says he shot Bulldog down to avoid detection from the Cylons. The real goal of the mission was to ascertain the likelihood of a Cylon strike. If the Cylons detected a Colonial ship across the armistice line they would see it as an “act of war.” So, now we know Adama’s greatest professional sin. The return of Bulldog from the Cylons proves that they were detected, and thus it is Adama’s actions that may have been the catalyst for the Cylon attack.
This is interesting, because Lee correctly points out that orders were being followed and there was no choice. But the thing about decisions is that there is always a choice. Just because Adama was ordered to do something, does not remove his moral obligation to make a choice. Do I really think he’s responsible for the war? Of course not, but he cannot diminish his culpability by placing the blame for his actions on those who commanded him. It’s a fine line to walk, and we see Adama is faltering. When explaining what happened to Lee he tells his son, “We were the war mongers they figured us to be.” He needs something to help him accept what he’s done and to move on. We’ll get to what that is a little later.
When Tigh tells Bulldog the truth, he at first doesn’t believe it. Tigh tells him, “Sometimes surviving can be it’s own death sentence.” Finally believing Tigh, Bulldog is enraged. He works himself up and then calls for Adama to meet him. When Adama shows up, Bulldog attacks. Asking why he was lied to he chokes the Admiral with a bar. He then hysterically reveals the truth about his escape. “You weren’t coming. You didn’t think I was alive, you weren’t even hoping I was alive! If I hadn’t figured a way to escape, if I didn’t make my move when I saw they left that door wide open for me I’d be good as dead right now!” The Cylons are behind his return. They set him up as a personal guided missile to take out Adama. This explains how he found Galactica in the first place.
Meanwhile, Starbuck was watching the footage of the Cylon Raiders from earlier and realizes that they had Bulldog “dead to rights” but never shot him down. Starbuck also recognizes the convenience of the virus story, since it’s something they’d believe. She goes to Tigh with this information, who immediately sees the implications. It’s here, as he faces the truth about what he’s becoming in his vitriolic attitude towards Adama, that he is finally able to move forward.
Tigh shows up and stops Bulldog, wearing his Colonial Fleet uniform. “It’s better to know the truth than to live a lie. We’re all soldiers, Danny. We’re all expendable. And we did what we had to do to protect the mission…the Cylons let you go, the question is why…you almost gave them exactly what they wanted,” the Col tells Bulldog. Tigh, who is a mirror image of Bulldog’s rage and despair, reveals just how troubled he has been. Saying that it’s like a bottle that never runs dry. When Adama asks how you put the bottle away Saul replies, “I don’t know. One day you just decide to get up and walk out of your room.” We knew that in order to get Saul back on board with the Old Man a dramatic event had to occur, and now we see the producers delivered. Seeing himself in Bulldog, Tigh finally realizes the path he’s on, and how his actions are betraying his duties. Because it was that duty which forced him into killing his wife, and until now he has been unable to reconcile those two powers in his life.
As for Adama, he still feels the need to be punished. After Roslin refuses his resignation, she tells him he’ll be getting a medal for his 45 years of service. Adama can’t let go of his need to pay for his crimes. Knowing him so well Roslin tells him he’s naïve to think that such horrible things as the Cylon attack have such a simple explanation. Coldly calculating she formulates a penance for Adama, one that will allow him to move on. He will accept the medal, not for himself but for his crew. He will stand there and accept it, and be the hero the fleet needs. Pure greatness. Being a hero doesn’t mean putting your life at risk or doing great deeds, it means putting yourself on the line no matter the cost. By accepting the medal Adama is paying back what he feels is owed to mankind, because he’s giving them hope when in his heart they only need that hope due to his actions.
So what did you think of the episode? Was it not awesome seeing Tigh back in full Fleet uniform and a real eye patch? Is Adama really responsible for the genocide? Will we get to see more of Bulldog?