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Author's Note: Having grown tired of what's currently available on TV I've decided to rewatch some of my all time favorite shows. I'm limiting myself to one episode per week in order to experience the storytelling as it was originally intended, which hopefully will preserve the thrill of having to wait a week to see what happens next. This article covers the Battlestar Galactica episode "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down", which originally aired on March 4th of 2005.
Previously on Battlestar Galactica: The captured Cylon Leoben tells President Roslin that Adama is also a Cylon. Gaius Baltar puts the finishing touches on his Cylon detector, which Fleet leaders hope will identify enemies among them.
Up to this point the first season of Battlestar Galactica has been almost flawless, so I guess they were due for a dud. “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down” isn’t an awful episode, but it does come across as a collection of potentially-great storylines that are ultimately half-cooked due to the fact that there’s only forty-two minutes of screen time for them to share. The episode simply lacks the cohesion that I’ve gotten used to expecting from Battlestar, it’s disjointed as if written by a half dozen writers that didn’t bother to collaborate with one another.
We pick up right were “Flesh and Bone” left off, with President Roslin visiting the Galactica to observe Commander Adama. The sequence is beautifully constructed as the camera angles and editing do an effective job of conveying her ever-increasing suspicion that the man in charge of the Fleet’s defenses is a Cylon agent. The performances by Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos, who always display great chemistry regardless of if they’re friends or foes, really sell the growing tension between the two characters.
Roslin visits with Gaius Baltar for an update on the Cylon detector he’s been working on the last few episodes, requesting that he test Adama first. The long hours the project has taken has left Baltar an emotional wreck, and he still has the testing process to look forward to. It takes eleven hours to process each blood sample, meaning if he works around the clock the job will be finished in a little over sixty years. Gaius has his shady side, but I wouldn’t wish such a fate upon even him.
Roslin confronts Adama and suggest that he volunteer for testing, which serves as a verbal slap to the man’s face. Everything we’ve seen so far from Adama conveys just how dedicated he is to his duty, which is now to protect what remains of humanity. There’s no bigger insult than to imply he might be a traitor, but as we’ve seen from Boomer some Cylon agents aren’t even aware that they’re working for the enemy. At this point the audience has legitimate concerns about whether Adama is friend or foe, but unfortunately this is as far as the show runners allow this mystery to grow.
It’s around this point that “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down” starts to lose focus, feeling more like a collection of B plots than a chapter of the main story. We spend some time with poor Saul Tigh, the always-disrespected executive officer of the Galactica. A few episodes ago we saw him burn a hole in the last remaining photo he has of his wife (those that have finished the saga will take note of the location of the burn as it foreshadows Tigh’s fate), and here we see him once again stare longingly at the damaged picture. He still misses his wife, although by the time we see the credits roll we’ll understand what motivated him to deface the photo in the first place.
Adama’s behavior is revealed to be erratic, and after some digging Roslin is able to uncover that he’s been making secret trips to other ships and covering up the records. This coincides with the appearance of a Cylon Raider that is behaving erratically, continuously jumping to and away from the Fleet. With Adama off on one his mysterious adventures Tigh is in charge, and he orders that the Raider be studied to gain some much-needed intel on the enemy. He also sends Vipers out on patrol, a decision that will pay dividends before the episode ends.
Roslin visits Baltar again to check on the status of Adama’s Cylon test, only to discover that the Commander has ordered Baltar to stop the process so he can test someone named Ellen. The identity of this woman is soon revealed to be none other than Tigh’s wife, who Adama has been visiting in secret. She had mysteriously turned up on another ship, leading Adama to be suspicious of her. Tigh is delighted to be reunited with Ellen, and a dinner is planned for that evening.
The Adamas are joined by the Tighs as well as President Roslin, and it isn’t long before Saul and Ellen are drunk. Ellen is evasive about how she survived the Cylon attack and how she joined the fleet, leading everyone except Saul to become suspicious of her. Dinner concludes with her making a clumsy pass at Lee Adama, giving us a taste of what drove Saul to become frustrated with her in the past. This is solidified when Ellen openly flirts with Baltar in the hallways of the Galactica, prompting Saul to chastise her for this latest display of disrespect for their relationship.
Everyone eventually ends up in Baltar’s lab to await Ellen’s test result, and soon the room is full of arguing. Gaius is upset that Roslin and Adama keep changing who should be tested and Saul accuses his best friend Adama of trying to sleep with his wife, the tension of the situation ripping relationships apart. While all this is going on the mysterious Cylon Raider finally attacks, diving towards the Galactica on a suicide run. Saul’s earlier decision to launch Vipers saves the day though, and his heroics are enough to mend fences with Adama. Ellen’s test results confirm her as human, although when Internal Six asks Gaius about the test’s validity he answers cryptically.
The events on Caprica continue to be a mixed-bag, and here we get little more than a check-in to remind us that Helo and Sharon remain on the run from the Cylons. They spend most of the episode running through a sewer, and Sharon tells Helo that they need to get to a city called Delphi where she believes they can steal a ship to get off planet. Considering how little we learn here I couldn't done without going to Caprica this episode.
“Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down” isn’t awful and there are a handful of fun moments, but it simply doesn’t hold up to what we’ve seen so far from Battlestar Galactica. Leoben’s accusation that Adama is a Cylon deserved more attention than it received, given the way this episode starts you get the impression that it would be the focus of this episode. But it ends up taking a backseat to the Ellen storyline, and by the time you throw the Cylon Raider mystery in there as well as a return to Caprica you end up with a bowl of mediocrity. Hopefully next week’s “The Hand of God” sees BSG rediscover the focus that has made season one so enjoyable.