Monday, June 9, 2008

Baltar's confession

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After being disappointed with the last episode, with the near trashing of Romo, we finally got a really good one. It had everything, a lot of Baltar, important revelations, Baltar trying to talk to a hybrid, kick-ass battle scenes, Baltar evangelically witnessing to a Cylon toaster, major plot-driving events... and did I mention a heavy dose of Baltar? He even confesses to Roslin about how he gave the access codes to the Cylons and nearly destroyed humanity. However, its not like the old days when he was the whole story, that confession turns out to be one the lesser plot-driving events of this episode.

The episode started by flashing back to two days before Lee faced down Romo's four barreled pop-gun to become the interim President. We got to see what happened right after the rebel basestar jumped away. First thing to note is that Cylon basestar jumps have a weird effect on Roslin. She gets scrooged for being a scheming, unloving, pigheaded hard ass by getting visits from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, or Head Elosha, every time the basestar jumps.

The first time Roslin visited jump-space she got a subtle change of wig hair and found herself wandering the desolate halls of the Galactica where she finds Elosha, her long dead spiritual adviser. The Hybrid quickly jumps again and Roslin's vision continues from where it left off: The Galactica is devoid of people except for Head Elosha and Roslin seeing herself dying of cancer in her hospital bed. Head Elosha then goes all Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come on Roslin. When the Basestar reappears in real-space, the vision ends and Roslin is back on the rebel basestar looking at a babbling hybrid (what a job for an actress, you sit in a tub of goo all day and act weird while babbling semi-nonsense).

One of the 8s (the Boomer/Athena model) tells them that the hybrid does what she wants and she thinks the basestar is jumping because something happened to Natalie (Whoa! the speculation back on Galactica last episode was right.) They also can't unplug the Hybrid, so Baltar tries to talk to the hybrid as if he's trying to comfort a young child so that she'll quit jumping. It was rather amusing I thought, Baltar has become more arrogant and comically overconfident now that he thinks he has found God. At one point he even claims he has made a "spiritual connection" with the Hybrid for he appears to have gotten her to quit jumping. But no, the Hybrid jumps again. Roslin pops back into delusion-space and she sees Thrace, Cottle and the Adamas standing over her bed. Elosha is still doing the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come act on Roslin telling her things like: "Don't you just hate these people?" And "At least you haven't taken that [their empathy] from them." And "You don't make room for people."

One of the 8s, the Sharons, figures out that the Hybrid is following the Hub so the attack on it is still on. Helo comes up with a risky plan where the vipers go in without power, they're towed on cables by Cylon heavy raiders, so they won't be detected. The 8 and Helo will sneak on to the Hub while the Vipers cripple it, and once they have D'Anna they'll nuke it. It's a risky move, and while Helo struggles with the risk evaluation the 8 massages Helo's back and Helo notes that Athena only learned to do that after meeting him. The 8 admits that she got curious about Athena and Hera and downloaded her memories. She doesn't mean for it to sound creepy. She says she doesn't want it to be strange, but how can it not be? It means that Helo is possibly living with at least several dozen look-alikes of his wife some of whom might also remember making love to him and all their other intimate moments. He handles it well, so far, but this has potential for a great Helo story in the future. What if when they're back on Galactica one of the not-Athena 8s decides to sleep with Helo and Athena catches them?

Roslin has a secret meeting with Helo and orders Helo to bring D'Anna straight to her first, which is a betrayal of the plan they agreed to with the Cylons. Helo objects and this is where Helo's character starts to get tested. Helo expresses reservations, he thinks the 6s and 8s are trustworthy (but we know from a previous episode they were planning their own betrayal). If D'Anna really does know the identities of the Final Five, Roslin doesn't want the Cylons listening in on it. On the surface Roslin's plan sounds stupid, they are guests on the basestar, probably outnumbered, and this would be a big betrayal of their deal with the rebel Cylons. However, Helo is a soldier first and commanders of soldiers can give orders without explaining them. You're obliged to trust them and hope they know what they're doing. That's why Helo let Starbuck go a little crazy until she wanted to bet the farm on her visions and he had to mutiny.

How much damage do you let your superiors do before you rebel? It's one of those questions we see being asked by people like former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

Meanwhile, on the Resurrection Hub, one of the 1s, that's the Cavils, has just unboxed D'Anna and he tells her about the "shameful" civil war -- the one his models started. He's brought her back so she can stop the Cylons from battling one another.

Back on the rebel basestar, the Hybrid reveals that a D'Anna has been unboxed and jumps (Another whoa! Those Cylons must have some powerful wifi networking going on to get that kind of live update while the colonial humans are still using analog radios). Roslin is again back in dream-space walking the hallways of Galactica and speculating that Elosha and the visions are a manifestation of her subconscious. Roslin and Elosha see Admiral Adama reading Searider Falcon to the dying Roslin. The first time I heard this (I had to watch this episode twice) Once I heard the word "scar" I thought of the Cylon called Scar and heard the word "Cylon" instead of hearing the word "island" so I thought the whole book reading was part of Roslin's delusion (I kind of wish it were because what I thought I heard the first time sounded better).

Back in reality, after the jump, while everyone else is busy attacking the Hub, Baltar finds one of the chrome toaster models, one the Centurions, and tries to evangelically witness to it. He thinks he can make an ally out of it apparently. Baltar tells the Centurion that he's noted a certain hierarchy and that the Centurions seem to be on the bottom. He asks the Centurion if they've told him about God and how "God doesn't want any of his creatures to be slaves." Oh, God doesn't want anyone to be a slave? Then why were there ever any slaves? And Baltar knows what God wants? How? Later Baltar's own logic should betray him on that point. It's also an indication that Baltar doesn't get AI after Allen Turing and the algorithmic approach to it.

On the Resurrection Hub, Boomer comments on the arrival of the rebel basestar and tells Cavil that the basestar has launched a bunch of Heavy Raiders. Cavil correctly concludes that the rebels are attempting to destroy the Hub, and doing so would be mass murder and would make death permanent for Cylons. Hearing that, D'Anna grabs Cavil by the neck and rams his head into the side of her goo-tub, killing him. Payback, no doubt for getting boxed.

Missiles destroy a node at the top of the Hub, taking out its FTL capability. Helo's Raptor heads towards the Hub and there he and the 8 find D'Anna and the dead Cavil. Helo tells D'Anna to run and grabs her arm. Once off the Hub, Helo announces that he has D'Anna and orders a nuclear strike on the Hub.

While Baltar continues to talk to the Centurion the rebel basestar is hit by a missile and the explosion destroys the Centurion and injures Baltar. (Jesus Christ On A French Fry!! Didn't Jesus get wounded in the side by a Centurion, pierced by a spear? Do you think they were doing Jesus symbolism on purpose?)

Baltar then finds himself in Roslin's care, alone with her. She has a First Aid kit and she bandages Baltar up and injects him with morpha. As the morpha takes effect, Baltar tells Roslin she needs God, and then about how he once harbored a terrible guilt that God took away. Roslin keeps asking "What guilt?" and Baltar finally admits that he gave the Cylons the access codes prior to the nuking of the Colonies. (Ohhh, is he going to regret that in the morning.)

Roslin starts to tremble subtly and Baltar tells her how the guilt went away when he realized that "God made the man who made that choice" so it was really God's choice. He talks about "the flood Pythia spoke of," which wiped out most of humanity. Hmmm... getting a bit of Biblical myth in there. I wonder if there's a Noah and the ark story in Pythia?

Baltar has realized that the concept of an omniscient and omnipotent God is a good way to absolve all guilt for any action. John Hagee, the controversial evangelical leader who endorsed John McCain, argued something similar for Hitler in a late 1990s sermon by saying that Hitler was sent by God, tasked with expediting God's will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel:

And Hitler, according to recorded speeches and his book, would have agreed with the doing of God's work part:

"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.... When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom to-day this poor people is plundered and exploited."
- Adolf Hitler, in his speech in Munich on 12 April 1922

If God knows everything we will do before we do it then we don't really have the freedom to do anything otherwise, our actions must be determined by all our experiences, nature and nurture and the type of soul given us etc.. If we could do something God had not foreseen, then God's total knowledge would have been incomplete and he couldn't be called omniscient. Therefore, either God knows all and everything is preordained (free will is an illusion) or God doesn't know the future.

If God knows everything then He knew before He created mankind that Baltar would mistakenly betray mankind, that Hitler would wipe out millions of Jews and that for hundreds of years slavery would be a Roman and Greek institution. God created everything, predetermined. He knew what they would do in the future just the way an expert pool player can cause a chain reaction of events that puts exactly the ball he wants in exactly the pocket he wants. God created it in a certain way on purpose. He wants to see the people nuked and gassed and and enslaved and destroyed by earthquakes and hurricanes, and even go to Hell if you believe in that since the damned don't think everyone who doesn't believe like them will go to Hell.

But who says God has that kind of omniscense and omnipotence? The Bible, apparently:

"Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:19-21)

Shocked by Baltar's confession, Roslin tries to kill Baltar by removing his bandadges. Baltar begs her to stop, saying "please don't do this to me," then there is another jump. In Roslin's vision, William Adama stands over the future dying Roslin while the present day Roslin and Elosha watch. Elosha convinces her to show Baltar mercy saying you can't decide humanity's worth on a case by case basis. Ohh really? Why not? Why does all of humanity have to be judged on the same score card? Not that I think Baltar should die, he's a great tragic figure, someone who may have been driven to religious insanity by the weight of his guilt (with maybe some help from Cylon head manipulations). Besides my way of avoiding that kind of Baltar level guilt is to avoid that kind of life and death responsibility in the first place. I have no important codes I could be seduced out of and if some hot babe wanted my email and blog passwords... well... I'm not saying any more.

Once back in real-space, Roslin checks to see if Baltar is still alive and then begins bandaging him back up.

Meanwhile, Helo is back on the rebel basestar and tells the 8 that his orders are to take D'Anna to the president. The 8 acts all betrayed and D'Anna says "you've never got that human trait called double dealing." Really? Were not the Cylon rebels planning their own betrayal a few episodes ago? Wasn't Baltar betrayed? Isn't every hidden humanoid Cylon a betrayal and a lie? And why don't the 8 and D'Anna stop Helo from doing what he plans to do?

Helo brings D'Anna to Roslin but D'Anna isn't going to tell her anything, she just jokes that Roslin might be one of the final 5. She refuses to provide any information until she feels she is safe. She says she will tell them who the Final 5 are after she is taken back to the fleet. So, not only was Roslin's ploy useless for getting any information, she did real damage by giving the rebel Cylons a claim to the moral high ground that they don't really deserve.

At the end, Roslin sits, listening to the Hybrid, gets another chat with her head Elosha who tells her that Adm. Adama might be closer than she thinks. Indeed, Adama (who has been waiting in a Raptor) sees the basestar pop into real-space a moment later and flies over to them. In the landing bay, he gets all teary-eyed with Roslin and says that he missed her. She says that she loves him. And there it ends.


M said...

I would like to think that we haven't seen the end of Baltar's religious development yet. His current beliefs are understandable given his past experiences so certainly he will have other experiences that will continue to mold his ideology.

Although, I seem to be much more accepting of Leoben's predetermination through Fate than I am of Baltar's predetermination through god. Not that I am pro- either, but I do acknowledge this contradiction and my own biases.

Thanks for another great read.

Anonymous said...

"...someone who may have been driven to religious insanity by the weight of his quilt"

Must have been some heavy quilt.

normdoering said...

Anonymous wrote:
"Must have been some heavy quilt."

Yea, it was... Oh shit, I used a "q" instead of a "g."

Have you watched the show? Baltar is pretty much Guilty of letting the Cylons destroy most of humanity.

I will edit out that q...

Anonymous said...

I don't have cable (internet + cable TV = more time sink than time), but saw a condensation of the first few episodes of the series on NBC in late 2004 in which Baltar did the deed, showing himself to be the Dr. Smith of the BSG crowd. Don't know about later developments; sorry.

normdoering said...

Well Anonymous, enjoy the reviews and comments if my grammar and spelling don't spoil it for you.

And I think you can rent BSG's last 3 seasons at Blockbuster. It's cheaper than cable.