BSG - Season 3 - Episode 09
BSG - 3x09 - Unfinished Business - Originally Aired: 2006-12-1
After walking out on her estranged husband Sam Anders, Starbuck attends a below-decks boxing tournament in which Tigh referees and rank is forgotten. She watches Apollo suffer a tough loss to Helo, then singles Apollo out, challenging him to fight her. Apollo accepts, and, with a strange tension simmering between them, the two wait their turn.
Laura Roslin, a closet boxing fan, joins Adama ringside. The Admiral explains that boxing is an old fleet tradition for blowing off steam and settling grudges. In fact, the fights tonight are haunted by memories of New Caprica — especially memories of dreams and relationships lost and found as the ill-fated settlement was just beginning.
On the 123rd day of New Caprican coloniziation, President Baltar hosted a groundbreaking ceremony in hopes of a bright future for the young colony. At the party that followed, Tigh and his wife Ellen enjoyed a rare bright spot in their difficult marriage; Adama and Roslin bonded over hopes and concerns; and Tyrol and Cally worried that their jobs aboard the Galactica would deprive their newly conceived son of a childhood spent in the colony's fresh air. As the evening's drinking and dancing wore on, Starbuck and Apollo caught each other's eyes over the shoulders of their new lovers, Anders and Dualla. Despite — or because of — their long, troubled history, the two old friends felt irresistibly drawn together.
By the next morning, Adama had decided to allow members of his crew, including Tyrol and Cally, to leave the Galactica and join the new colony. And Starbuck and Apollo had shared a secret experience that sent Starbuck rushing into marriage with Anders and provoked Apollo to propose to Dualla.
Now, at the boxing match, Adama himself challenges Tyrol to a bout, goading the man to pull no punches until Tyrol unleashes a flurry of blows, leaving his commander bloodied. Adama seizes the moment to warn his crew that he accepts the rigors of war and will never again put humanity's survival at risk by being too soft-hearted, as he did when he allowed so many of them to leave their posts and settle on New Caprica.
With that as a climax, Tigh declares the boxing over. But after Adama, Tigh and Roslin leave the room, the night's real main event begins. Starbuck and Apollo enter the ring to settle scores that only they understand — and their spouses, left out, can do nothing but watch. [Blu-ray] [DVD]
- Survivors, according to the main title: 41422. (This is up one from last episode, possibly due to a birth.)
- RDM amusingly declared that the Adama and Roslin getting stoned scene "is called 'getting away with shit on TV.'"
- Starbuck very clearly indicates Apollo as having the rank of major in this episode. The only rationalization at this point for Apollo having been demoted is that his rank of commander was simply brevetted to him insofar as he had the Pegasus to command. It seems implicitly understood in the fleet that Apollo was automatically demoted when he sacrificed the Pegasus, though a line explaining the rationale in a prior episode would have been much appreciated.
- The teaser is incredible. A roaring roller coaster ride of Starbuck's and Apollo's emotions with the boxing match and the beautiful violin music serving as a backdrop. Little details everywhere are fantastic, such as even Doc. Cottle getting excited about the fight.
- The first flashback depicting the colonization of New Caprica.
- Adama explaining "the dance" to Roslin.
- Starbuck taking out Hot Dog swiftly.
- The flashback back to Baltar's breaking ground ceremony and the party afterward, showing Tigh and Ellen celebrating as well as Adama and Roslin getting stoned.
- The flashback back to Tyrol and Adama discussing Cally's pregnancy.
- Adama challenging Tyrol and sucker punching him as soon as the round begins.
- The square dance flashback.
- Adama provoking Tyrol's anger, causing the fight to get intense.
- A drunk Apollo approaching a drunk Starbuck in a flashback: "Wow, look at that. You literally drank Anders under the table."
- Tyrol kicking Adama's ass then Roslin offering a defiant Adama boxing advice.
- The flashback to Adama granting Tyrol and Cally permission to leave Galactica.
- Tyrol winning the fight, then picking Adama back up.
- Adama's speech and Tyrol leaving to finish work on the busted viper, killing the mood of "the dance."
- Starbuck to Apollo: "So what? You have the guts to try and frak another man's woman but not to fight one?"
- The flashback back to Apollo and Starbuck finally openly expressing their love for each other both physically and verbally. I loved Starbuck's line, "that makes things more complicated."
- Starbuck resorting to dirty tactics while fighting Apollo.
- The flashback to Apollo waking up alone the next morning, then finding out about Starbuck marrying Anders.
- The fight between Starbuck and Apollo getting intense, to the backdrop of the beautiful violin music playing once again.
- The flashback scene depicting Apollo approaching Starbuck and Anders, cordially congratulating him, and leaving to embrace Dee.
- Starbuck and Apollo tiring of the fight and sort of hugging each other in the ring while everyone begins to leave. I like how Anders implicitly gets it and leaves, but Dee just can't bring herself to go.
- Starbuck and Apollo declaring to each other that they missed each other.
Unfinished Business is a fast paced, unusual, but charming episode with very little to tarnish the fun. I must admit that going into this episode I was fairly convinced it would suck, having read spoilers indicating that it would be about a boxing match between Apollo and Starbuck and identify what the long standing grudge between them was really all about. However, this episode trampled all over such expectations, delivering instead an intimate, enthralling, emotionally packed episode that doesn't disappoint.
One of the most charming aspects of the episode is the very idea of "the dance," which is symbolically supported by the beautifully scored violin music played most notably during the teaser and the final scenes of the episode. I detect pieces of season one's The Shapes of Things to Come in the scoring, but also entirely new themes mixed in variously seamlessly, such as some of the Irish bagpipe work.
I found it fascinating how Adama's idea to start "the dance" was motivated by an idea to release pent up frustrations that people harbor toward one another on a warship, only to ring truer than he thought with his own self, motivating him ultimately to fight Tyrol over his frustrations regarding Tyrol growing soft. "The dance" certainly does accomplish the goal of releasing the pent up issues of many of the other characters too and at a rapid pace. If there's one point the episode drove home harder than any other, it's that Starbuck and Apollo really do harbor unrequited love for each other.
It seems evident now that at some point, Starbuck realized she doesn't really love Anders; that it's merely a powerful sexual attraction. While it does invoke a close and intimate friendship between the two people, it isn't in fact true love. Likewise, Apollo jumped into a relationship with Dee emotionally unprepared because he must have been feeling exceptionally alone and deprived; needing someone to fill in the gap after Starbuck literally abandoned him the night of their love making and furthermore married another man. There's something marvelous about watching how small Apollo looks when he confronts the newlyweds. Apollo was a vastly respected man, a battlestar commander, in his commander's uniform even, so reduced by his anguish over his love for a woman.
Starbuck's guilt over her behavior manifests itself in the form of frustration motivated anger and aggression. It culminates in a beautifully crafted line in which she says, "So what? You have the guts to try and frak another man's woman but not to fight one?" The line is fascinating because it has an apparent double meaning. Is she referring to Apollo stealing Billy's girl, or Apollo stealing Anders' girl?
In the end, the largest complaints to lodge against this episode is that it is apparent filler and that it features no worthwhile plot advancement other than dealing with the long brewing unrequited love affair between Apollo and Starbuck that fans have been waiting for since the beginning of the show. They both appear to look at their relationship as a sort of almost taboo subject for reasons never really clearly communicated to the audience. Is it because of Zak? Is it because of their military affiliations and obligations? Is it because of how Adama looks upon Starbuck as a daughter? All of the above?
Certainly such a deep seeded issue is worthy of a whole episode, but part of me feels that there's something missing from the episode because it features no scenes depicting what's going on with the Cylons and Baltar; and for that matter there are no scenes whatsoever outside the hangar bay that aren't flashbacks. The Baltar and Cylon storylines seem neglected to me over the last few episodes. Something major is brewing over there, but it seems like the narrative take of the show is to regard their proceedings as uninteresting.
In fact, Unfinished Business from a narrative standpoint is structurally very simple. The episode really is nothing but a series of boxing matches which trigger a bunch of flashbacks. But despite this, the episode is unusually satisfying because it answers a lot of pent up unanswered questions about the show. Hence the title Unfinished Business. Though, from a stylistic standpoint, I think "The Dance" may have been a better episode title, to underscore the brilliant scoring and to reflect the quirky nickname for the boxing matches in the episode's dialog.
What's interesting is to compare Hero to Unfinished Business. Both episodes are essentially filler, but Hero comes off as an unsatisfying jumbled mess of an episode while this one feels emotionally dense and rewarding, which is ironic given that technically, Unfinished Business is a much smaller scale episode. But it's not what you say, it's how you say it. And Unfinished Business may be relative filler, but it's filler done properly.
The following are comments submitted by my readers.
- From Pete Miller on 2006-12-02 at 11:49pm:
Filler done properly, maybe, but filler nonetheless. A waste of an episode.
- From adamt on 2011-01-13 at 5:28am:
Continuity problem: Both Adama and the Chief have their tags on when they get in the ring. And then the tags disappear after the fight starts.
- From Peremensoe on 2013-07-12 at 8:15am:
I'm baffled by the idea that this is "filler." So it doesn't 'advance' the overall plot. So what? Plot is just one part of a story, and often, to their strength, not the primary element of BSG episodes. This is an essential character episode, and a remarkable visual and sound composition--more than enough to justify its place.