This is the eighteenth in a series of “Battlestar Galactica” recaps. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the franchise. Read the last piece, “Revisiting Battlestar Galactica: ‘The Captain’s Hand’ And ‘Downloaded’” here.
Battlestar Galactica’s creative team knows something about big premieres and big finales. “Lay Down Your Burdens,” is no exception, weaving together action, character, politics, and faith into a cliffhanger finish and a series reset. This reset was one point at which where viewers started becoming skeptical of the creative team’s vision.
Each episode begins with the words “The Cylons have a plan,” but that presumed plan seems abandoned here. Perhaps, as in real military matters, a plan rarely survives contact with the enemy. Alternatively, the Cylons’ change emerges from an evolution of their religious doctrine; it is not as if human history does not contain such episodes.
The writers draw upon American history in portraying Tyrol as a union agitator. His speech borrows from Mario Savio’s address to Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement before its 1964 sit-in. In turn, the reference to putting bodies on the machine recalls both the protests of Luddite labor activists and Ghandi’s supporters blocking railroad tracks.
Before their first presidential debate, Baltar broods that he is behind in the polls, while Pres. Roslin memorizes her talking points. Starbuck has been given approval to rescue Sam Anders and the resistance, using Boomer to operate the Cylon long-range navigation system which will allow them to reach Caprica in just 10 FTL jumps.
Cally finds Tyrol laying on the hangar deck in the grip of a nightmare. When she awakens him, he reflexively and repeatedly punches her in the face. He carries her off the deck, shouting for help.
Tyrol seeks religious counseling from Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell). Tyrol confesses he has a recurring nightmare of committing suicide because he fears he is a Cylon sleeper agent like his former lover, Boomer. Baltar loses the debate. Tom Zarek advises him to keep attacking Roslin as a religious zealot, as it is the only issue that moves the polls. Baltar opines that his victory would require divine intervention.
During the first leg of the rescue mission, Racetrack (Leah Cairns) jumps to the wrong coordinates, where she discovers a habitable planet inside a nebula. A survey reveals the planet has a harsh environment, but is temperate near its equator, with vegetation and wildlife.
Both Tom Zarek and Roslin’s campaign manager, Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma), believe the issue of permanently settling the new planet could turn the election. Baltar puts Roslin on defense during a second debate, arguing the nebula will shield humanity from Cylon detection. When Roslin replies that the Cylons may already know of the planet, he accuses her of fear-mongering.
Starbuck’s rescue party discovers Anders in the Caprican forest, but the resistance has been reduced to approximately 60 humans following a Cylon attack that morning. They all come under attack by pursuing Cylon forces, cutting them off from the Raptors.
The humans fall back to a defensive position, but the Cylon fire soon ceases. After 18 hours, Starbuck orders reconnaissance, which reveals that the Cylons have withdrawn completely. Tyrol visits Cally in the sick bay and apologizes for attacking her. She forgives him and admits she has feelings for him.
In a secret meeting with Baltar, Roslin proposes that the settlement issue be postponed until after the election. Baltar concludes she is desperate and says it is his duty to lead humanity to settle “New Caprica.” Roslin confronts him about his relationship with a Six on old Caprica. Baltar is unnerved, but realizes Roslin has no proof.
Starbuck returns in triumph. Tyrol spots a copy of Cavil among those rescued. Adama has Cavil sent to the brig, along with Boomer, who had to know Cavil was a Cylon. Boomer admits to Helo that she blames Adama for the death of their child Hera and no longer cares what happens to herself or humanity.
Roslin and Adama visit the Cavil copy in the brig. The Cavil has a message: Caprica Six and the original Boomer have convinced their fellow Cylons that the invasion of the colonies was wrong and to stop hunting humanity. Rosin orders both Cavils be thrown from the airlock.
On election day, votes are counted aboard Galactica. When it appears Roslin will lose, Tory, Tigh, and Dualla rig the vote with a fake ballot box supposedly from the Zephyr. Zarek surmises the fix was in; Baltar refuses to believe Roslin is corrupt. Gaeta discovers the fraud because the Zephyr’s ballots misprinted Baltar’s name and the counted ballots did not. He notifies Tigh, but based on Tigh’s dismissive response, he alerts Adama that there was a scheme to rig the election.
Adama notifies Roslin of the plot; she confesses she knew about it. Adama convinces Roslin to concede — and Baltar to accept victory without an investigation of the “tabulation error.”
Baltar proposes that he and Gina (the Six aboard Cloud Nine) live together on New Caprica. She declines. As Baltar is sworn in as President, Gina detonates the nuclear warhead previously entrusted to her by Baltar, destroying the Cloud Nine and several other ships. Adama believes the nuke was stolen.
A year later, Baltar has converted Colonial One into a bachelor’s den on the outskirts of New Caprica City, which is essentially a tent city. Roslin and Maya (Hera’s adopted mother) teach elementary school. Starbuck has married Anders, who has contracted pneumonia. Dr. Cottle has no antibiotics for him.
A mustachioed Adama walks the deserted corridors on Galactica and sends Tigh to settle with Ellen on New Caprica. Starbuck spots the Tighs at a union rally against Baltar led by Tyrol and a pregnant Cally. Tigh tells Starbuck that Apollo has a cache of antibiotics on Pegasus for his pilots.
Starbuck contacts Apollo by wireless aboard Pegasus, where Dualla is his executive officer. Their discussion is interrupted when a huge Cylon force appears near New Caprica. Galactica and Pegasus are forced into a retreat FTL jump, temporarily abandoning the settlers.
Baltar surrenders to a Cylon delegation led by Caprica Six and the original Boomer. The Cylons accidentally found New Caprica due to the signature of the nuclear explosion. Centurions march through the city as Starbuck assures Tyrol there will be a fight.