Dereliction of Duty

January 24, 2009
"A Disquiet..." muses on parenthood, both real and figurative.

"A Disquiet Follows My Soul" muses on parenthood, real and figurative.

by millari
screencap courtesy of phoenixothon

This is a review for the Season 4.5 episode of BSG, “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”. More under the cut.

At the midpoint of “A Disquiet Follows My Soul,” scientist-turned religious messiah Gaius Baltar makes his only appearance in last night’s episode, drinking liquor and smoking for the first time since Season 3.5, giving a rambling, drunken speech, tearing down his own One True God for being (essentially) a deadbeat dad, and then looking glassy-eyed and indifferent as a fistfight breaks out during his sermon.

Like much of the rest of the Fleet, Baltar seems broken by the discovery of devastated Earth and poses the metaphorical question hanging over this entire episode: “What kind of father abandons his children to despair and loneliness?”

Of course, Baltar himself is now an absent parental figure to his flock, as he falls into the beginnings of the drunken dissipation we saw full-blown on New Caprica, while urging them to revolt against the God to whom he converted them in the first place.  Baltar’s chief acolyte, Jeanne, even has to remind the slurring, wobbling Baltar to keep talking as he spaces out in mid-sentence).

But Baltar’s not the only authority figure on Galactica who has checked out. A multitude of parental figures in this episode are shown abandoning their symbolic children to “loneliness and despair” – Roslin, Adama, Zarek, and even Cottle.

Roslin, after spending an entire episode last week in stillness and despair, surprises us this week by by springing into motion, but only in the strict, literal sense. Although the camera follows her jogging (yes, jogging) through the hallways of half the ship, looking healthier than she has in weeks, Roslin is in a real sense, running in place. She is still “misssing in action,” as Lt. Felix Gaeta reminds us, hiding out in quarters on Galactica arranged for her by Adama. She is still refusing Doloxan treatments and other medicines, giving in to death so that, ironically, she may live a little bit before she dies. It’s hard to blame her, and certainly, Bill is hard-pressed to deny her that privilege. He continues to shield her from responsibility to the Fleet, and by the end of the episode is essentially hiding away alongside her in her bed at night, arguably trying to shut out the world as much as he can without abandoning his post.

Yes, Adama is back on duty, but it’s clear that what kept the crew unwaveringly loyal to the Old Man in the past is now glaringly absent. For starters, he’s taking mysterious pills, which on this show is often a sign that someone’s falling into dissipation or despair (c.f. Cally Tyrol, Gaius Baltar, Felix Gaeta, Louanne “Kat” Katraine).  Furthermore, Adama is emotionally disconnected from most of those under his charge in the CIC.  Dee’s suicide last week was the beginning of Adama’s wake-up call, but it turns out that he is still not really seeing his crew’s unhappiness. One look at his kids in the CIC kids reveals a somber, ambivalent bunch who don’t quite know what to make of the Admiral’s plans, even if they are still following orders – for now.

Meanwhile, Adama’s unilateral decision to ally with the Cylons in order to take advantage of their jump technology is met with open hostility and suspicion by the Vice-President, the Quorum, the other ship captains in the Fleet (who refuse Galactica‘s orders to allow upgrades to superior Cylon jump technology ), and even a member of Adama’s trusted circle – First Officer of the Watch, Felix Gaeta. This is not helped by his son Lee accidentally admitting to the press that the military high command knows that the Fifth Cylon is a dead woman, but they’re not going to say who.

At any rate, Bill doesn’t really listen, explain or negotiate. He instead moves to solidify his power, through force and subterfuge as needed. He ignores the Quorum’s protests, bring rebellious ships in line at gunpoint, and arrests Zarek for inciting the Hitei Kan tylium refinery ship to jump away in mutiny. Of course, the kicker of this is that Adama is probably right that Cylon technology is the Fleet’s best hope for finding a habitable planet before they run out of food and fuel. But this beloved and respected parental figure is veering dangerously close to dictatorship now, and as Zarek tells him, “there will be consequences” for this behavior.

Zarek himself is arguably another parental figure who abandons his “children” in this episode. After he is arrested for inciting the crew of the tylium ship, Hitei Kan, to mutiny and jump away from the Fleet (presumably to hold Galactica hostage to Zarek’s demands?) we learn definitively that Zarek is not the noble defender of civil rights unafraid to use questionable tactics in defense of the oppressed. No, it turns out he’s a corrupt politician who has been using the Vice-President’s office as a graft magnet and is more concerned with his legacy than with the people he purports to fight for. When Adama threatens to expose Zarek, the Vice President quickly sells out the Hitei Kan‘s mutinying crew and gives Adama the coordinates to where the ship escaped.

Another derelict human “parent” we see is Cottle, whom we see through the viewpoint of a disgruntled human – Lt. Felix Gaeta.  Gaeta watches sourly as Cylons get prioritized over him in sickbay at every turn: Cottle is seen performing sonograms on Saul Tigh and Caprica Six’s fetus while Gaeta waits endlessly, abandoned behind a curtain with only access to an impotent Ishay; his place in line is further superseded by the appearance of yet another Cylon, Chief Tyrol’s son Nicky, (who admittedly, is urinating blood.)  “Can’t keep those toasters waiting,” Gaeta bitterly tells an apologetic Ishay.

Despite all these absent parental figures, there are a few, very unexpected characters stepping up to real parenthood in this episode. Tigh clearly considers himself in over his head, but he steps up to fatherhood and is there for Caprica Six and her pregancy in a way Baltar never would have been. Tigh looks pleased if a bit intimidated by the uncharted waters represented by his unborn child. Also in this episode, Lt. Brendan “Hot Dog” Costanza, learns abruptly that he is actually the father to Cally Tyrol’s child Nicky, not Chief Tyrol.  When Nicky is diagnosed with renal failure and needs donated blood, Cottle is forced to reveal the truth he’s been hiding since before the occupation of New Caprica. Although clearly freaked out by the news (and by a drunken Tyrol coming after him with his fists), Hot Dog quickly comes around and meets his son in sickbay for the first time. Bodie Olmos has always played Hot Dog as an overgrown kid caught up in the Apocalypse, and plays him here as in way over his head, but more or less willing to try to be open to and present for his child. He sits in sickbay for hours watching Nicky while Tyrol sleeps off his drunkenness. It feels like one of the few  rays of hope in an episode full of anger, bitterness and denial.

However, a storm is brewing that can’t be ignored. By the end of the episode, we discover that one of the Adama’s most disgruntled abandoned children, Gaeta, has given up on waiting for the Papadama and Fleet Mom to get it together and has begun gathering support among the crew for what looks to me an awful lot like an upcoming mutiny. The world is “upside down” he tells Zarek, still in jail. “And somebody’s gotta turn it right side up.”

Zarek gives Gaeta what he wants to hear – that he will be the man to accomplish this – but thanks to the earlier interlude with Adama and Zarek, it is obvious how disastrously misplaced Gaeta’s trust will be. Gaeta has always been one of my favorite characters, but I am sad to say that he has not learned from his mistakes in trusting Baltar (which I find especially amazing considering Gaeta served under Zarek on New Caprica and would be in the best position to be aware of Zarek’s apparent corruption). I now think that this episode is the very beginning to a grisly end for this character who started out as the earnest if slightly geeky heart and soul of the show. Incidentally, I think Zarek is ultimately doomed as well.

Get ready next week for lines to be drawn. This week was a character study episode, so we’re due for some shoot-em-up action next Friday. My prediction: Gaeta and Zarek will mutiny, and it will be the impetus that forces Fleet Mom and Dad out of their denial about what is really going on with their unhappy children.

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