Rating: *** (out of four)

Written by: David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed By: Michael Rymer

It’s a year later, and the close of “Crossroads” still ranks as the biggest “WTF?!?” season-ender in the history of big and small screen science fiction, worse even than the “Evil Alien Nazi!” climax of Enterprise’s third season Xindi war arc. The latter was simply a non sequitur – a, well, evil alien Nazi sticking his face in front of the camera as the season finale went to black that had utterly nothing to do with anything that had unfolded on-screen in the previous seven months. But the former? A character that we ALL SAW PERISH when her Viper BLEW UP with no, zero, zip, nada, repeat, NO EVIDENCE of an ejection, that DIED unquestionably, unequivocally, conclusively, definitively, suddenly pulls up alongside former Major Lee Adama in the middle of the Ionian nebula and the final, genocide-finishing Cylon eradication of the battlestar Galactica and its last remnant of Kobolian humanity in a Viper that looked BRAND, FRAKKING NEW and calmly, matter-of-factly says to him that she’s been to Earth and has come back to take their people “home”. And, oh by the way, I’m alive.

This is one of those rare times that I’m of two minds.   On the one hand, the arbitrary resurrection of Captain Kara Thrace is an offense to my logic and an insult to my intelligence. I haven’t liked the metaphysical direction Ron Moore & Co. have been taking this show for quite some time now, but this is just silly. Starbuck CAN’T be alive. Yet there she is. The former Apollo himself exclaims, “Naw, naw, this is frakking crazy!” I don’t agree with you on much, Major, but on this we’re two peas in a proverbial pod.

On the other hand, this is obviously a major plot development that has a significant storytelling purpose. If the story turns out to be an intriguing one, much less entertaining, it might cover the “sin” of jerking major characters around and inserting the big, fat, Berman/Braga-class reset button that has heretofore been blessedly absent from BG.

Color me a skeptic. But as I’m still watching, we’ll see where it goes.

Lee is, as aforementioned, incredulous. Back on the Galactica, his father is enraged at what he considers to be a Cylon trick, and a cruel one at that. Although on the face of it, it’s difficult to see what the purpose would be of somehow capturing Starbuck, making the Humans think she was destroyed, then send her back to them right as the final attack is commencing. Why would a trick be necessary when overwhelming force is already being employed? Obviously something is up, obviously that can’t be the real Kara Thrace, but it’s difficult to see a Cylon connection to it.

Speaking of which, Colonel Cylon hallucinates shooting Adama right between the eyes – you just knew it had to be a hallucination, because they did that gimmick two years ago – Sam Cylon is petrified of flying out to take on his own for fear of being turned against the Humans, on whose side he thinks he still wants to remain, until Chief Cylon gives him a pep talk in the midst of sabotaging all the Vipers to blow up in their launch tubes for all he or we know; and Tory Cylon does a strip tease on the bridge, because SciFi can’t risk losing the 18-34 male demographic completely, and because if President Cylon started taking off her clothes….

Oh, wait, that’s right, she hasn’t been officially, um, “revealed” yet.

Well, if they’re going to go full-bore Braga, that’s what they should do.

The battle rages, briefly. But it somehow doesn’t ring true. Five base ships should be able to tear through a single decrepit battlestar and its couple of dozen interceptors in seconds. Yet the entire Cylon thrust is halted cold, with the kamikaze destruction of but a single civilian ship and moderate missile damage to another.

And then Sam Cylon comes face to face with a Cylon raider, whose single red eye focuses in on Sam’s, which briefly flickers red.   Whether in kindred recognition or as a trigger for a particular subliminal subroutine is anybody’s guess, not that I’m particularly interested. But whatever the reason, it causes the Cylons to bug out, as it was obvious they were going to have to do one way or the other. Because, I’m guessing, Cylon does not fight Cylon.

Not yet, anyway.

Now that the frakking preliminaries are out of the way, let’s get back to the Starbuck impersonator.

No, no, wait, we gotta check on Dr. Baltar first. Don’t ask why, just play along.

After his utterly implausible acquittal on war crimes charges, Gaius, as you’ll recall, was left high and dry. He was a free man in every sense of the term: free to go where he wishes, free to associate with whom he wishes, free to get assassinated in more ways than even he can calculate, free to starve. That would, in fact, have been not only the just post-trial outcome, but an inevitability. Too many people hate Baltar for him to remain alive for long.   If, as Abraham Lincoln once said, a man can kill even the President of the United States if he wants to bad enough, how much easier would it be to off that “worthless piece of garbage”?

Not, apparently, as easily as the writers would prefer.   We’ve seen Gaius Baltar in many roles on this show: highbrow celebrity, sex-addicted patsy, unbalanced hallucinator, scientific expert, born politician, Cylon collaborator, Cylon prisoner, accused war criminal. But there’s one role for which, ironically, he’s even better suited. Can you guess what it is?

Would you believe religious cult leader? I know, I know, I wouldn’t at first glance, either. But when you start thinking about it, it makes a great deal of sense. It has the classic Baltar dynamic: a small band of (in this case) monotheists who, for gods’ know what reason, see him as some sort of really slimy messiah, take him in not out of the kindness of their own hearts, but to, yes, worship him.   Baltar is horrified at first – what passes for his better nature doesn’t want the attention, while his ingrained atheism scoffs at the very notion of a God or gods. He initially wears the expression of a man who says nothing only because he believes he’s surrounded by kooks who might be unpredictable if he insults them. But his overpowering narcissism is unable to resist the lure of having power, even over a small band of misfits. And it doesn’t hurt that most of them are hot-looking women who can’t wait to find out if he really is hung like a Tauran.

But if you think that Baltar appeared slack-jawed at the sight that confronted him, the resurrected (or replaced) Kara Thrace was on the other end of the astonishment equation, and several orders of magnitude enhanced. For my money, it’s been a while since Ron Moore & Co. produced a scene that rang so true in each character’s reactions.

The setting is the Galactica flight deck. Starbuck has just landed and is disembarking from her Viper. She’s all jazzed about finding Earth, tossing off to Chief Cylon (Tyrol) to have the film in her wing cameras developed. A state of mind that would be perfectly understandable and in character if not for the fact that she perished in a fiery explosion two months previous. She gives no appearance of the slightest awareness that she is back from the dead, nor of the state of mind she was in on her last flight to that death, or even of the general emotional downward spiral that she’d been in going all the way back to season one.   It’s like this Starbuck left the fleet months, even years ago, and a frakked-up doppelganger has been filling in for her up until now. Or two months ago, anyway.

Everybody else gathers around and just stares in shock.   All, of course, except for Lee Adama, who races over from his ship and engulfs her in a passionate embrace, followed by a Sam Cylon (Anders) encore.

Kara reacts completely in character, which is to say, exasperated puzzlement at the crew’s reaction to her. This quickly boils into angry outrage when Admiral Adama sends guards in to take her into custody. Colonel Cylon (Tigh) asks him, “Do you believe in miracles?” Adama replies, “No.”

This, too, is perfectly in character. To the Admiral’s mind, Kara Thrace is dead.   Therefore, whoever this person is, though she may look like Starbuck, fly like Starbuck, and sound like Starbuck, it cannot possibly be Starbuck. A Cylon duplicate? An alien impersonator? A miracle? There’s no way to tell. That makes her an unknown quantity, and therefore a danger to the fleet and its people until they can get to the bottom of just exactly who and what she is and, if it is Kara, what on, well, Earth happened to her over the preceding two months.

‘bucko is just as flabbergasted at being told that she’s been gone for two months as everybody else is at her very presence, and her claim that she’s only been gone six hours, which is, indeed, what her fighter’s clock indicates. But that’s not the only discrepancy. Though Doctor Cottle confirms that she isn’t a Cylon duplicate, she has suspicious gaps in her memory – specifically, in her flight to Earth and her flight from Earth back to the fleet. Then there’s her Viper. It has the same registry number, but other than that it is, according to Chief Cylon, not the ship in which Kara left two months back. That ship was full of dents, dings, scratches, and whatever battle damage was left intact because it wasn’t keeping the craft grounded. This one is brand new. And not only does the clock show only six hours flight time, but the navigational computer is blank. Or, in other words, a match for her memory. So there is no way of determining how Kara got to wherever she went or how she got back, to say nothing of her resurrection.

Now just about anybody else in her shoes would be able to at least understand why Adama, President Roslin, and the rest of the palace guard are being so cautious. As far as you know, you were only gone six hours, and you found Earth. YOU FOUND EARTH!!! And you’ve got the pictures to prove it. Or at least prove that you found an Earth-like world. You’ve come back with the info everybody’s been waiting for.   You’re expecting at least a warm welcome, even a routine “Hi, how’s it hanging?” Preferably you envisioned being carried around on the crowd’s shoulders with the entire crew chanting your name, like Adama was back in Exodus. Being greeted like a ghost at best, and the enemy at worst, wasn’t supposed to be on the program. But the obvious holes in your story that you cannot account for would compel you to see their point, if grudgingly. You’d probably want to solve this mystery as much as they, if only to restore your credibility and assuage your own doubts.

But this is Starbuck we’re talking about. Or at least a convincing fascimile. Whatever her temporary acceptance of her “special destiny” in Maelstrom, this is the old headstrong Kara Thrace back in force. She doesn’t care if she can’t explain how she got to and from Earth (and therefore whether she actually did); she knows she went there, returned, has a “sense” of the way back, and insists that everybody listen to her and follow her to their salvation. Anything less than that she considers a betrayal.   And she’s getting considerably less than that. What’s worse, with each jump away from the Ionian nebula, this “intuition” of hers fades a little bit more.   And she gets more distressed with each jump. Almost as if she’s been….programmed. Or psychologically conditioned.   Not that there’s necessarily much difference between the two, really.

There is a priceless scene where Roslin, Adama, Lee, and the Tigh, Tory, and Tyrol models are bandying about what to do with Starbuck and whether she might somehow be a Cylon after all, and the President muses, “There could be Cylons in this very room and we’d never know it.” The eyes of the three Cylons in the room all get as big as dinner plates. At least they didn’t look faux furtively at each other, the visual equivalent of stage-whispering, “Oh, frak, she’s onto us!” Almost as big as President Roslin (Cylon?)’s eyes got when Caprica Six told her that the other five Cylon models are “close”. Welcome to the final season’s ultimate plot collision course, the casualties of which will probably not be long in coming.

Like, in the last scene, where after another jump, and Kara telling Sam Cylon that if she found out he was a Cylon, she’d shoot him between the eyes (C’mon, Anders, why’d you look so shocked…?), she goes berserk on her two guards AND Sam, grabs one of their sidearms, bursts into the chemo-addled President Roslin’s temporary quarters on Galactica, and gives her an ultimatum: turn this bucket around or I pull the trigger.

Yeah, they’re MUCH more likely to listen to her now.

Next: Starbuck pulls the triggeror does she???

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