Battlestar Galactica

Season 4 Episode 5

The Road Less Traveled (1)

Aired Friday 10:00 PM May 02, 2008 on Syfy
out of 10
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504 votes

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Episode Summary

Specialist Tyrol continues to sink into despair after his recent loss. He becomes curious about Gaius Baltar's sermons and the following he has attracted. The crew of the Demetrius grow concerned about Kara's mental stability as an old enemy arrives with a tempting offer.

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  • The Road Less Traveled

    The Road Less Traveled was a perfect and extremely character driven episode of Battlestar Galactica and I really enjoyed watching this episode because the story was awesome, the space scenes were really cool and the ending was very good! As the crew aboard the Demetrius argue over Starbucks orders and a Cylon on board it was great to see how it all played out. Chief Tyrol is really going through some rough times with all the information he has to process after Cally's death and it was interesting to see him connect with Baltar, and Baltar with him. I look forward to watching the next episode!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • Character takes the front seat as we begin a new two-parter

    It's always difficult to review the first part of any multi-part story, because what may seem like a weakness or a plot hole could easily be resolved by the end of the tale. There's precious little resolution to be found. Most of this episode is devoted to setting up the next turn in the season arc, now that the introductory elements have been put in place.

    The title of the episode refers to the famous poem by Robert Frost, in which the road less traveled is the more difficult path, yet ultimately the more rewarding. It's been a favorite literary metaphor in the arts (almost to the point of cliché), but there's a reason it works so well. We all want to believe that making the hard effort will grant us the greatest reward. It happens so little in life that it's cathartic to see it happen on the stage or screen.

    In this case, the metaphor applies to three individuals, all at a crossroads: Kara Thrace, Galen Tyrol, and Gaius Baltar. The most obvious example is Kara and her search for Earth. Her "road less traveled" is through the disbelief and disloyalty of her crew; she must find a way to follow her instincts despite the roadblocks thrown in her path. It doesn't help that the journey may require trusting the one Cylon that has been her personal nemesis: Leoben.

    Leoben has always been touched by a certain mystical insight, and his avatar was used in "Maelstrom" to lead Kara into the abyss. In fact, that must be one reason why she's willing to listen to what he says about her visions and destiny. She's the only one with that knowledge, however, so her decisions seem completely unhinged. To some extent, they are, but her intersection with reality has been tenuous since her return anyway. Whatever the case, she has internal justification for trusting her instincts.

    The interaction between Anders and Leoben is interesting in that Leoben doesn't seem to recognize that Anders is actually one of the Final Five. Not counting D'Anna (since her model is still boxed), I would have expected Leoben to have some insight. On the other hand, Leoben's model has been on Cavil's side of the Cylon Civil War, so why would he even begin to consider that Anders would be one of his own? It's one of those apparent inconsistencies that will need to get cleared up before much longer.

    Back on Galactica, Tyrol is not reacting well to his sudden free time. He's still trying to get his bearings after recognizing his true nature, and Tigh and Tory have done little to help him find a purpose. He spends most of this episode resisting the urge to give Baltar's message consideration, but it seems like a lost cause. It would be quite ironic if the newly revealed Cylons all wound up listening and following, overtly or covertly, Baltar's message about God.

    Baltar continues to follow his own difficult path as he begins to believe in the possibility of his own redemption. There are a couple of ways to interpret Baltar's current arc, both of which would be equally valid based on the character to date. On one hand, Baltar could be living in the most complete example of self-delusion ever encountered. On the other hand, he could have started the journey as an opportunist and found something true and powerful within the message somewhere along the way.

    The connective tissue in all cases is the impact that each individual could have on the Colonist society. Baltar's cult is slowly but surely growing, and as conditions within the fleet continue to degrade, it could begin to catch on with more and more influential members of the government. If Tyrol, a public figure with a very public breakdown, joins the cause in a substantial way, that could be the beginning of the process. Should Kara's "road less traveled" somehow produce something that ties into Baltar's new philosophy, it could go ever further. I look forward to seeing if the conclusion of this particular story confirms this suspicion.moreless
  • Tensions mount

    "I shall be telling this with a sigh

    Somewhere ages and ages hence:

    two roads diverged in a wood, and I --

    I took the one less traveled by,

    And that has made all the difference."

    - Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken (1916)

    The threads begin to come together in this, the first part of a two-episode arc. Personal journeys finally start to meld with the broader series arc. Once again we are concerned with individuals - specifically Baltar, Tyrol and Thrace, but their search for identity is now merging with that second greatest driving-force in the human psyche - the need to understand.

    And yes, Tyrol is a Cylon, but that does not make his need to understand any less meaningful than either Baltar's or Kara Thrace's.

    As the first of a two-part arc, this story is a tough one to summarize or dissect. Until the second half has aired, one has no way of knowing on which side the coin will fall. However, there is a clue in the title: the quote from Robert Frost's poem (frequently and incorrectly called "The road less traveled" after this most famous of its lines). On the surface, there is the obvious interpretation, as stated in the final two lines:

    "I took the one less traveled by,

    And that has made all the difference."

    Which stand as a declaration of the importance of independence and personal freedom: that in making a difficult decision and following it through, then one achieves a greater reward / satisfaction. However, beneath this interpretation lies another, more meaningful declaration, one evident to the poem as a whole, which suggests that once one takes a certain road, there is no turning back; although one might change paths later on, they still cannot change what has happened in the past(1).

    Thus, the poem tells us, choice is very important, and is a thing to be considered very carefully. Certainly, this story works on both levels of interpretation.

    Taking the first, more simplistic interpretation, one can see that Thrace, Tyrol and Baltar are now traveling along roads that are "less traveled" (harder) for a range of individual factors (e.g. Baltar facing further physical persecution; Thrace having to work in the face of an unsupportive crew and driven by an almost insane obsession, etc) - the "reward" for each of them at the end of their journeys is that much greater (Tyrol: vindication of his human identity; Thrace vindication of her single-minded obsession with Earth; Baltar, redemption for his past acts).

    But put this to one side, and one can see the deeper interpretation - than no matter which path one chooses, we can never change (or make up for) what has happened in the past - also has bearing through this episode, and gives potentially greater depth to the unfolding story:

    - While Tyrol's humanity may yet triumph in the face of Tory's malicious whispering and his own self-doubt, he'll never be free of the regrets he has around Cally and Boomer

    - While Baltar may have a new life "of truth" and found a way to publicly wash himself of his sins of the past, he will never achieve true absolution

    - While Kara might ultimately find Earth and lead the Colonials there, she will never fully escape the fact that her life has been pre-ordained from the outset as foretold by Leoben - and by extension, we the audience would do well not to forget the ominous warning given by the "first" hybrid in Razor: that there will be a terrible price to pay for following Thrace's lead.

    This latter interpretation also has resonance for the development of the other players we see in this story:

    - Tory: the idea that one can never make up for the decisions / acts of the past, no matter what future course one takes (or in her case, however she chooses to dress it up (acting within the will of God)) - the fact that she killed Cally will remain hanging over her and threaten her future. - Leoben: that whatever he does now to aide Kara, the passed (and particularly his revelation to her that her life is pre-ordained) will return to haunt - perhaps destroy him once and for all in the future.

    - Tigh that again, no matter how he tries to deny it; no matter where he looks for answers that bring together his real identity with the death of his wife as a Cylon collaborator - he will never be free of the fact that she died at his insistence and at his hands...

    So what does the episode tell us?

    Within the episode, we finally see the spark that once made Tyrol who he is resurface. Yes, he is still struggling to understand himself and come to terms with his loss - but he is finally questioning the circumstances surrounding Cally's "accident". AS this reviewer stated while reviewing "Escape Velocity", it is rather surprising that the questions Tyrol is beginning to ask now should have been asked a lot earlier by other, more rational minds (like Adama). Certainly it is enough to have Tory worried, visiting him in the launch tube as she does. Clearly she hopes to try and get him to stop his questioning of the circumstances around Cally's death (as such questions would eventually circle back to her). However, her confrontation serves as a subtle underscoring of the deeper meaning to Frost's poem. For where Frost suggests that no matter what paths we chose in the lift ahead, we can never change the things we've done in the past, Tory states (in a tone suggestive that she is also trying to convince herself) that, "Whatever has gone before, whatever I have done, it doesn't matter. We can still change..."

    Putting these words against the wider context of the poem as a whole and one cannot help but respond to Tory with a resounding, "WRONG!"

    And within those words of hers, please notice the tacit admission of guilt about Cally's death, "....whatever I have done...." These are words that are going to come back to haunt Tory - and possibly be her undoing at Tyrol's hands. Elsewhere, Baltar continues to preach, and we discover that Tory is indeed influencing Roslyn's decisions (a question this reviewer raised when looking at "Escape Velocity"). In Baltar's case, Tory is apparently ensuring he remains free to continue preaching to the "fringes". Within his sermons we again see resonance with Frost's poem; but again, his reasoning is flawed when compared to Frost's message. Baltar suggests that looking at the past is bad; this it restricts people from achieving their full potential; and it is by looking to the future we can effectively undo - change - our individual and collective past. Thus he stands at odds with Frost's meaning. Yet within this, Baltar does have moments of great compassion - and one of these stands as perhaps the pivotal moment for both him and Tyrol in this episode: when Baltar visits Tyrol in his cabin.

    Here we see Baltar, for the first time, express full and true remorse for his actions; in doing so he not only demonstrates he is now sincere in his beliefs, he also potentially moved Tyrol closer to resolving his own internal conflict. The only real question in this regard is with that resolution will move Tyrol further back towards his underpinning humanity - or closer to Tory's cold and dispassionate actions. Personally, and given Tyrol's actions as the episode opens, I suspect the former.

    And notice how this meeting in Tyrol's cabin stands in marked contrast to another, similar meeting he held with someone not that far removed from Tyrol: Boomer. Back then, Baltar's actions were driven by his need for self preservation and resulted (as he knew they would) in Boomer attempting to take her own life. Here, despite the pistol lying on Tyrol's stomach, Baltar achieves the opposite. He saves a life and in doing so gives credence to the changes he is undergoing. Even so, one cannot escape the feeling that the shadows cast by Baltar's past misdeeds are so great in size, he is never truly going to step out from them...

    In this regard, his sermons and actions resonate nicely with his continued Christ-like development. Last week the angry visit to the temple, this week the speaking in "parables"....But again, we all know where Christ initially ended up because of his preaching and his belief....

    And catch the subtle poke at the feeding of the 5,000 from the New Testament, as a group of Baltar's followers walk the corridors of Galactica carrying baskets of food and framed by the words:

    "Do you think we have enough?"

    "It doesn't matter; they're not coming to be fed..."

    Elsewhere, Thrace continues to unravel as she takes her road less traveled. She has a crew near to mutiny, she is living the life of a recluse, she has more conversations with herself than anyone else....and yet she, alone of everyone in this episode, gives the truest reflection of Frost's underpinning meaning in his poem.

    Despite the fact she seems to be tottering on the edge of a breakdown, it is fair to say that all of the events that have shaped her through the series are now the driving forces behind her actions here. In effect: she is allowing herself to be shaped by her past - consciously or not.

    In pushing for Earth, she is echoing Roslyn's determination in the face of opposition from the likes of Adama during the search for Kobol. The only real difference here is that - in keeping with everything else about Starbuck, she cannot do it by half - she has thrown herself into it full-bore and without regard for other people's perceptions of her, or any real understanding of the possible repercussions of her actions. It is for this reason that I say to all of those who keep denouncing her actions as "out of character" to go back and watch the series'll find that right now, Kara Thrace (despite Leoben's statement to the contrary) is fundamentally the same as she was at the start of the series - more desperate, obsessed and confused, yes - but still the same person. Helo and the crew of the Demetrius are liable to find out, because, at the end of the day, there will be a rescue of Leoben's fellow Cylons and Thrace will be vindicated in her search for Earth....for better or for worse....

    ...all we need is for "Faith" to show us how in particular the Cylons and humans will cement their truce, and how the themes established in this episode will continue to draw all the disparate arcs and threads together. Further questions to be resolved:

    - Why is it that a humble raider can sense, across a distance of at least tens of metres, Anders is a Cylon ("He That Believeth...") yet neither Six ("Escape Velocity"), Valerii ("He That Believeth...", "Six of One", "The Ties that Bind") and Leoben ("The Road...") are incapable of sensing Tigh and / or Anders are one of their own, even when in direct contact with them (Six's beating of Tigh, Anders' and Leoben's confrontations)? (1) This interpretation is potentially the more correct when one consider's Frost's friendship with Edward Thomas, as discussed in 'On "The Road Not Taken"', by William H. Pritchard. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of English.moreless
  • Leoben and Kara meet again for the third time and start to finally like each other. Among all the final five, Anders has definitely remained the same (jalooouuuuus), and Helo who can't stand this lousy triangle of love wants to go home.moreless

    I can understand why some people complain about the lack of action (space battles, gun fires and other spectacular twists), but you can't say that these last episodes are just fillers... I mean this is not like 'The Woman King' or 'Dirty Hands', theses ones were really useless.

    For about three or four episodes now, we are mainly seeing the human fleet breaking apart in a non-spectacular but yet very realistic and dramatic way.

    Less and less characters are willing to listen, or even understand each other.

    The situation in the Demetrius is the same as in the Colonial and the Cylon fleets. Divisions are growing everywhere, even among the Final Five where we certainly all expect a confrontation between Tyrol and Tory.

    Also, everybody has the feeling to move forward into the fog... and most important, above all these divisions, is that no one foresees this invisible and mysterious 'plan' almost completed, and orchestrated by an unknown force (the Final Five eventually ?).

    With Baltar becoming the leader of a minor religious movement on one hand, and Kara finding a way to Earth in which almost no one believe on the other, I'm starting to wonder if Roslin was really the 'dying mythical leader'.

    Remember what Six told Baltar in 'The Hand of God' episode : "The outcome favored the few and led to a confrontation at the home of the Gods".

    Really, things are getting more and more exciting !moreless
  • Mutiny. Gaius beaten up in a silly jacket. Leoben's mind games. A possible Clyon alliance.

    Once again. Why are people so much against thoughtful episodes? Granted that this did not quite cut a "9" (thanks to too much fracking Gaius and Chief), but it did have its moments.

    Starbuck (resurrected) has lost her head, and is putting off seeing Adama for fear of what he might say. In this state, Leoben appears out of nowhere (how the heck did he know?!) and offers an olive branch. Finally *something* happens on the Demetrius. Also, when a (random) crew member dies inspecting Leoben's ship, Kara feels guilty about it.

    The crew's frustration has reached boiling point and made for seriously gripping viewing. Kara's ivory tower, make-no-sense approach to leadership leads to her own demise when even the near-perfect Helo (is he a cylon or something?) mutinies, after enforcing her rubbish orders for the entire mission. And this is *only* after she refuses to rendezvous with Galactica (as ordered), instead of jumping to an apparently damaged base star (and possibly an ambush). Finely deserved for a nut job who is off the rails.

    Gaius continues preaching, but now is wearing a stupid jacket. *yawn*. Chief is still moping. *double yawn*. He then attends a "sermon", but gets pissed and assaults Gaius when he asks Chief to hold his hand, because "Cally would have wanted it". Presumptuous frack. Don't worry, you Chief/Baltar fans - they kiss and make up at the end.

    Sol makes an appearance, and it seems like the whole ship knows of his exploits with 6. I'm gonna love what Adama says about that!

    The meaty stuff is in the contrast of the two "religion" styles. On one hand Gaius is preaching the "ignore out past, look to the future" crap as before - and see where it has gotten the USA today. Thankfully, Tori has alerted the President of this. Unfortunately, he is not a "big enough" player to be worth an intervention. *yet*. On the other hand, Kara is trying to follow the will of the Gods, and her "special destiny". Both discard consequences too easily and make for volatile and dangerous characters.

    Regarding the "alliance" that Leoben offers seemingly off the cuff, it will be interesting to see how the humans can exploit the seemingly-intractable cylon civil war. And what would make for even more compelling viewing would be to see if they break out with their own hostilities regarding the religion issue.

    But the preview: OMFG the preview! Next week's episode entitled "Faith" looks like a killer. Kara appears on a basestar and somebody says "the hybrid will want to see you". A pilot on the demetrius says "she just airlocked her cylon ass", while pointing a gun at something. Athena has Starbuck (resurrected) in a head lock. Helo says "Mr.Gaeta, order the marine guards to the control room". Anders shoots somebody in the calf (I think it looks like Gaeta, but it is hard to be sure). 6 (in a suit) looks like she is hitting somebody young. Roslin looks like she has another fantasy/flashback. Athena points a gun at somebody. And we end with the words of a basestar controller "You are the harbinger of death Kara thrace, you will lead them all to their end". *phew*.

    If they make Kara a fracking cylon I will fracking hurt something. I repeat: I will leave BSG and *never* return. Here's to hoping that she is dreaming, and that the cylons are mind-fracking their own (non-number5) creation.moreless
Katee Sackhoff

Katee Sackhoff

Kara "Starbuck" Thrace

Grace Park

Grace Park

Sharon Valerii/Sharon "Athena" Agathon

Tricia Helfer

Tricia Helfer

Number Six/Caprica Six

James Callis

James Callis

Gaius Baltar

Edward James Olmos

Edward James Olmos

William Adama

Jamie Bamber

Jamie Bamber

Lee "Apollo" Adama

Ryan McDonell

Ryan McDonell

Lt. Eammon "Gonzo" Pike

Guest Star

Lori Ann Triolo

Lori Ann Triolo


Guest Star

Callum Keith Rennie

Callum Keith Rennie

Leoben Conoy

Recurring Role

Michael Hogan

Michael Hogan

Saul Tigh

Recurring Role

Alessandro Juliani

Alessandro Juliani

Felix Gaeta

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • The Demetrius was established to be a sewage recycling ship (as stated by Helo in the recap at the beginning of the episode), but as the crew debates whether to join the rebel Cylons, Athena calls the ship a freighter.

    • The Orion Constellation can once again be seen in this episode, right after the Demetrius runs into the Cylon Heavy Raider.

    • This episode takes place on Day 58 of the Demetrius mission to find Earth. The mission began immediately after the events in the episode "Six of One."

    • Kara pilots a Viper with the name plate of Diana "Hardball" Seelix.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Kara: What happened to me the two months I was missing?
      Leoben: I don't know.
      Kara: The mandala, the paintings, my mother. It had to mean something.
      Leoben: You have to make peace with your past.
      Kara: Why?
      Leoben: Because that part of you is gone. I told you when I first came aboard this ship that you had changed. I look at you now, I don't see Kara Thrace. I see... an angel, blazing with the light of God. An angel eager to lead her people home.

    • Baltar: (to Tory) Not that I particularly care, but since I haven't been arrested lately or beaten up, can I, can I surmise that the president has not been apprised of my pirate broadcasts?

    • Tyrol: Remember when this all started? You said nothing would change you from the man you wanted to be. Well, how about it? You still the same old Saul Tigh?
      Tigh: Everything I've done, I can live with.
      Tyrol: Well, that's the difference between you and me. I can't. Tory's got it in her head that we can be the salvation of the human race. All I know is that if there is a God he's laughing his ass off!

    • Kara: We've all come to remember Sgt. Erin Matthias. To grieve for our loss, to honor her. Matthias is dead because of me. We've all heard the words, the prayers, but I don't know what any of it means anymore. We want to believe that she died for something, but in this war, people die, and it is just stupid! It's an accident; there's no nobility to it. There's nothing we can grab onto that's gonna make it any easier -- they're just gone! I have to live with that.

    • Anders: What do you want from Kara?
      Leoben: Same thing I've always wanted. For her to understand her destiny.
      Anders: That's not good enough.
      Leoben: It's good enough for her. What is the most basic article of faith? That this is not all that we are.

  • NOTES (4)

    • At one time, this episode was to have shown the last appearance of Head Six. At the beginning of the episode, she was to announce that she was leaving Baltar. The scene was filmed, but cut from the finished episode.

    • As of the end of the teaser, there are 39,676 survivors in the fleet, one more than the total listed in the previous episode.

    • Michael Trucco read the "Previously on Battlestar Galactica" line at the beginning of this episode.

    • Although credited in the main titles Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber and Tricia Helfer did not appear in this episode.