I enjoyed Taking a Break From All Your Worries more than I did Rapture, but I suspect that’s my personal opinion. Rapture contributes far more to the series development and is a very far-reaching adventure. Taking a Break From All Your Worries is far more focused on the characters, and I may be blinded by the acting talents of James Callis, Mary McDonnell and Jamie Bamber.
On the other hand, Erin calls Taking a Break From All Your Worries disjointed, and she may be right. The plot threads seen here have little to do with each other, despite the director Edward James Olmos’ decision to tie the climaxes of both very, very closely together. But for me, the story felt intense, and kept me interested right through to the end.
Here’s what we have: Baltar is where you’d expect him to be: in Galactica’s brig, in solitary confinement, being kept sleep-deprived to try and convince him to tell them what information he gave to the Cylons and engaging in a hunger strike of his own. Things escalate when Baltar, egged on by Chip Six, tries to hang himself (helped along by Chip Six who even ties the knots and kicks the cot out from under him in a really Eek! creepy scene).
The suicide almost goes unnoticed, primarily because there’s no guard on duty inside Baltar’s cell (probably a security measure designed to prevent revenge-minded guards from offing the man before he can spill the beans) and no security camera (probably a security measure designed to… I don’t know, make the plot run smoother?) and is only halted when Gaeta wakes from a restless sleep and goes to Baltar’s cell for some unknown reason.
To try and get the information they need before Baltar dies, Adama suggests an experimental military interrogation method using psychotropic drugs, in an obvious nod to the CIA’s experiments in the 1960s (and probably similar experiments going on in the Soviet Union for a lot longer). In a hallucinogenic state, Baltar confirms his culpability in the initial Cylon attack, his terror at being held responsible, and his desire to be one of the five remaining Cylon models as it would be better in his mind to be a successful Cylon than a failed human.
So, basically, we frak with Baltar’s mind in as many ways possible. His own desire to be a Cylon leds to a scene during his hanging wherein he wakes up in a resurrection tank, and credit to the director that we actually believed it for a few seconds until it became obvious that Baltar was dreaming.
Meanwhile, Lee Adama and Starbuck’s marriages to their respective partners reach a crisis point, with Dee and Anders demanding that choices be made. Lee spends a lot of time in a bar that has been set up near Galactica’s flight deck feeling sorry for himself. He loses his wedding ring, and sinks about as low as he can go before he and Starbuck, reluctantly but willingly, put their married relationships ahead of their own.
Taking a Break From All Your Worries is something of a misnomer for this episode. It could have been entitled Rock Bottom, as this is the common thread that links Baltar and Lee and Starbuck’s stories. Each character sinks about as low as they can go (or, at least, Lee and Baltar do; Starbuck started on her way up when she cut her hair).
It’s good that the script hands much of its duties to the series best actors’, as they really carry things, even though not much really happens. Take Baltar’s experience: his admission of guilt over the Cylon attack and his desire to be a Cylon are probably admissions of things that Adama and Roslyn already suspected. Certainly the audience already knew these details. But I think the important thing, here, is that Baltar finally admits these things to himself. And the experience changes him.
Have a look at the scene where, after the drug treatments end, Roslyn suggests using the carrot rather than the stick and sends in Gaeta to try and win Baltar’s trust. Baltar is a lot calmer now, and he admits that his experience was actually a cathartic one. Now that he’s admitted his own guilt and acknowledged that he’s a human, not a Cylon, his soul seems lighter. He’s hit rock bottom and is now on his way back up, and that’s probably not a good thing for the Galactica crew.
Lee Adama hits bottom after Dee tells him that, with his feelings for Starbuck, their marriage is a lie. His drunken ramble as he searches for his lost wedding ring is a remarkable moment. We have never seen Lee Adama look more pitiful in the series. But once sobered up, Lee and Starbuck separately decide that they should put their feelings behind them and commit to the loved ones they’ve chosen. Lee does an excellent speech to Dee over dinner, begging to be given a second chance, and credit goes to Kandyse McClure for making me wonder right until the last moment whether her answer would be ‘no’.
I’m pleased that Lee and Starbuck have made this decision. It may fly in the face of their love for each other, but it seems to be the choice that makes for the most happiness amongst the four. My one complaint is that a part of this feels like a reset button. Baltar is back in the fleet and has to spar with Adama and Roslyn. Lee and Dee are back together, as are Starbuck and Anders. But this also has the feel of water under the bridge; that the relationships will have been changed by the events of this season, so while the characters might be back in their places, the way they interact will be much different.
Director Edward James Olmos does a wonderful job ramping up the tensions all-round. While his decision to cut rapidly between the climax of Baltar’s tale and Lee/Starbuck’s tale doesn’t quite feel right given how little the two storylines have in common, it still gives the moment a great sense of import, of major decisions and revelations being made, even if only inside a character’s head. Olmos also gets wonderful performances out of actors that are already wonderful. Lee Adama’s drunken search for his wedding ring is an image I’ll carry with me till the end of the series, and Olmos and Mary McDonnell make sure that Roslyn’s rantings walk that tight line between a rational woman pushing very hard at her opponent, and almost losing it, without once sounding shrill or annoying.
But of course, this episode belongs to James Callis as Baltar who does what does best, here, which is look absolutely desperate and terrified as he gets backed into a deep, dark, wet corner, again without sounding shrill or annoying. The scene where Roslyn threatens to throw him out of an airlock after not recognizing some of the faces of people who died under his tenure is a highlight. When he gets walked through the hall of memories, he snatches up one of the photographs and reams off everything he knows about the dead friend in the photograph — though I still have to wonder: did he actually know this individual, or did he make it all up as he went along?
One of the more interesting things about this episode is the sense that Roslyn really has to hold herself back. She says as much at the end of the episode; despite her protestations that she was better than Baltar, she still at a visceral level wanted to see him suffer. Ultimately, she remains true to her human instincts and even gives Baltar a gift. “We give him his trial,” she says. It is a very compassionate thing to do. However, with Baltar rising from the depths of his own soul, more sure of his purpose than ever, and granted at least two more scenes showing him in a messianic crucifix pose, one wonders how wise this decision will be.
Taking a Break From All Your Worries may be misnamed, and it may be disjointed, but it is a strong character episode where the actors and the director take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the script. It shows where the real length of the show lies. And did I say that Rapture contributed more to the series’ development? I may be wrong. The heart of Battlestar Galactica is its characters, and they have been changed here moreso than the events of Rapture.
- Gaeta is particularly interesting in this episode. How many here think that he actually intended to kill Baltar when he stumbled upon him during his suicide attempt? I have my doubts. His acknowledgement of Roslyn’s accusation strikes me as a cover-up, because when he does try to kill Baltar at the end of the story, it’s with a hastily improvised pen, and only after Baltar whispers something in Gaeta’s ear. I also got a distinct sense that Gaeta didn’t want Baltar to confide in him. I mean, could he have been more obvious, glancing up at the ceiling at the “hidden” security camera? Could he have been more obvious with his “where’s what” response to Baltar’s question? Did he sabotage Roslyn’s plan to get critical information out of Baltar? If so, why?
- So, Baltar wakes up in a resurrection tank twice in this episode, once tended to by three sixes, and the second time surrounded by badly burnt humans. The second scene intrigues me, as a young girl at Baltar’s feet leans into the frame and grabs Baltar and takes him underwater. Am I reading more into this scene than what’s there? Who is this girl?
- I should also comment on Tyroll’s apparent marriage problems with Cally. While a nice counterpoint to Lee’s problems, and while giving him a good drinking partner, it still came out of nowhere for me, especially given how solid the couple appeared to be during The Eye of Jupiter. And was it them singing the lullaby in the teaser? That was a good effect.
- I’m hard pressed to pick my favourite scene in this episode in terms of its direction, as Edward James Olmos does such a good job here, but I think the scene pictured above is my favourite. My titling of this review is no accident. Despite the writers giving Baltar a messiah complex and making him look more like Jesus every day, Edward James Olmos may have narrowed in and, with one carefully staged shot, pegged Baltar for what he really is. After all, if this story is a tale about the apocalypse (or one of them at least), it’s worth noting that the Antichrist saw himself as a messiah too.