I’ve had a strange relationship with ‘Unfinished Business’ this past week. I was not a fan of the original version, even less so of this new extended cut. My immediate reaction was I hated it and never wished to see it again. There was even a point where I found it hard to look at Lee/Jamie and, if you know me at all, that is really saying something. For several reasons, I opted not to write down my thoughts right away and instead I thought about it, a lot. While some additions still make little sense to me, others started to make sense. It’s not that I necessarily liked some of the conclusions I was drawing, but by looking at the episode in the context of the entire series, some things actually made more sense to me, other things I was merely able to rationalize.
On Sunday, I did a brain dump, spending two hours revisiting thoughts and notes. It wasn’t my initial intent, but somewhere along the line this seems to have become an ‘In Defense of Lee Adama’ post. It has less to do with the inevitable fandom backlash I foresee and more about me and my need to make sense of a character I love when there are moments in ‘Unfinished Business’ where he’s really hard to like. At the same time, as I reevaluated and my feelings about Lee, I did so for Kara and this is where I may encounter some unpopularity. Really, I like her! It’s the writing! I’m sure much of this comes down to character bias. I love Lee and I’m certain that there are a significant number of people that can rationalize Kara’s behavior as well.
Some Things Don’t Change
My very first thought watching this episode was, “Oh, joy, more boxing.” For the record, I hate boxing. There are other violent sports, but none of them advocate punching your opponent in the head until they are unconscious and possibly the victim of brain damage. That the fleets first line of defense, it’s viper pilots, are being encouraged to participate in potentially incapacitating activities is beyond me. And, in this cut, we get to see nearly every participant beaten to a bloody pulp.
Also, using boxing as a metaphor? Lame.
Adama still remains as clueless as ever. Apparently, there was no scene filmed in which Adama senses that his son is in love with Kara and has just had his heart ripped out and stomped on. I was watching ‘The Hand of God’ Saturday in which Adama tells Lee that his father was a better father than he was. That is not hard for me to believe.
Disappointingly the fat remarks/jokes lived on further into the season. The more innocuous exchange occurs between Adama and Dee:
Adama: “Lee’s looking good. Glad he lost the weight.”
Dee: “So am I.”
Hmm, funny, I thought Dee didn’t care about the weight. Yes, Ron, let’s make her shallow too.
But the remark that really irked me was Kara’s, “Couple of months ago you’d have to role him into this ring.” Ron wants us to accept that Lee’s inexplicable binge eating and weight gain was a result of serious psychological damage which, I’ll admit, the extended cut made me start to see. If that was his true intent, then don’t undermine it with cheap and thoughtless humor.
The Good, The Bad, and The Confusing Editing.
I went back and watched parts of the original cut of the episode. I’d say about 75% of the episode has been re-edited. In some cases, the re-editing doesn’t works. The first thirty minutes felt very choppy to me. The new opening has lost it’s perspective. In the original cut, while Lee is fighting Helo, we flash back to Lee waking up alone on New Caprica. The scene is about Lee, his emotional state, and the audience trying to figure out why these remembrances are such a distraction for him. In the new cut, we have Lee fighting Helo intercut with Kara and Sam having sex while both are seemingly thinking back to their night on New Caprica as well as Lee thinking about Dee. Having the multiple perspectives lends to a lot of confusion (not to mention indicating that Kara can only get off if fantasizing about Lee?). At one pint I wasn’t sure if I was seeing Lee and Kara having sex or Sam and Kara. I think an assumption was made that we’ve all seen this episode before and we know what happens, so they are presenting more of the cause for all the turmoil up front. Unfortunately, there will be people seeing this for the first time who will be very confused. I also questioned the probability that both Lee and Kara would be thinking of the exact same moment on New Caprica at the exact same time.
On the flip side, I do like that Lee and Kara’s night together on New Caprica is now one continuous scene followed by their fight on Galactica. We now have the setup as to why this fight is so important to them and has so much urgency. And, personally, I’m glad they dropped the flashbacks recounting key moments in the history of Lee and Kara. It played as a bit hokey to me.
Kara and Sam
The extended conversation between Kara and Sam as she gets dressed to go to The Dance I found very enlightening. I really despised Kara in the original edit of this scene. I viewed her as completely dismissive of Sam and his feelings, treating him as nothing more than a convenient frak. But now we see Sam directly confronting her about the situation with Lee, telling her that maybe he’s not the one she really wants. Kudos to Katee here, she clearly conveys Kara’s hurt and vulnerability at his remark. “If that’s how you really feel, I’m not going to try and change your mind.” It’s a surprisingly mature response from her. She could become defensive, because, at this point, Kara hasn’t really done anything for Sam to question her feelings for him. She explained to him in ‘Collaborators’ she couldn’t handle the marriage right now and that he needed to get away from her. That is her confessing she has problems, not ‘I’m in love with another man and want to be with him instead.’ It was Sam’s choice to come back for the occasional frak. And in an exchange a short time later with Lee, in which Lee mocks the state of her marriage, Kara lashes out at him for his failure to find her and Sam a billet. If this is indeed something she asked for (though would Lee be in charge of assigning quarters?) it shows that she had some intention of trying to work on her marriage. So, one line from Kara made me reevaluate her feelings and made her much more sympathetic to me…at least for the moment.
The Dance – The Real One on New Caprica
First the WTF? Lee and Dee were trying to keep their relationship a secret? HOW? Between Dee sitting at his bedside in ‘Sacrifice’, barricading themselves in the pilots quarters in TCH, Kara’s big mouth, and kissing in public, how we’re they keeping the relationship a secret???
But, I am very happy the extended cut includes more of the actual celebration on New Caprica. As I watched Lee dancing and smiling I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen him this happy!’ Moments after he comes off the dance floor Dee says the exact same thing. ;) Unfortunately, Lee is about to get his heart broken, but it was nice to see him, for even a brief period of time, be joyful. And, for just a second, I saw the possibility of Lee and Dee working. Dee really shouldn’t have told him to stay behind and get drunk.
Lee and Kara and the Right After
The biggest and most beneficial addition to the extended cut is the conversation Lee and Kara have after declaring, in what I viewed at the time as a very juvenile manner, their love for each other to the world. If, throughout the years, Lee and Kara had been as open and honest with each other as they are here, I may have pulled for them. May. ;) I’m going to dissect this from the Lee perspective since I view this as a HUGE moment for him in many ways.
Lee has been at the precipice with Kara before, wanting to declare his feelings, but something always held him back whether it was rank, Zak, insecurity, bad timing, or Kara’s feelings seeming to lie elsewhere. The closest he came to opening up to her was probably in ‘Scar’, but as he made it clear he wanted to talk, Kara ran away. Now, they’ve made love, she has said she loves him, and he feels she’s committed to him. It’s the key that unlocks what the man who has feared commitment has kept inside for so long.
I ‘m relieved they brought up Zak, because Zak is an issue. If Lee feared she loved Zak more (and Kara’s exchange with Sharon seems to indicate that Kara met Lee after becoming involved with Zak), he’s apparently moved past that. It’s safe to say an apocalypse and a new beginning on a new planet could do that for you.
But what really stood out for me was Lee saying, “But mostly because I was afraid to admit how much I needed you, I needed anyone.” Lee’s sentiment wasn’t surprising to me, his history has shown how tentative he is to open up. But there was something about hearing him say the words that suddenly put past and future actions in a new context for me. In sharing his need and fear to Kara, he both liberates himself and condemns himself. I didn’t think the expression on Lee’s face as Adama informs him of Kara’s marriage could be any more gut-wrenching or devastating, but I was wrong. Part of Lee Adama died that morning. Thirty some years old, he finally opened up and let someone in and he’s suddenly told it meant nothing to her. Sure, months later, in the ring, after he’s had time to process, he is able to see that Kara was “protecting herself at all costs” and “running away”, but in the moment, he couldn’t see beyond what it meant for him and it sent him on a downward spiral. The weight gain started to make some sense to me. In a way, this was worse than the suicide attempt for me because it’s clear he just stopped caring.
Hypocrisy and the Proposal
Watching the proposal scene, I was immediately reminded of Buffy’s words to Spike in ‘Smashed’(?) – “You’re not just a loser. You’re a pathetic shell of a loser.” That was my gut reaction to Lee’s proposal to Dee, to see Lee as pathetic. But having thought more about it, I can see his actions as the result of the anger, betrayal and desperation he felt in the moment.
Kara: “We’re not getting married”
Lee: “Then what’s the point, Kara?”
Lee is an old fashion guy in some respects. You love someone, you commit to them, you want to spend the rest of your life with them, and you marry them. It also can’t be easy, if you have a fear of ending up alone, of being surrounded by married people - Helo and Sharon, Tyrol and Cally, and, now, Kara and Anders. Even without the inclusion of the proposal, Lee’s marriage to Dee always played as a knee-jerk reaction to Kara’s marriage. It’s painful to watch Lee struggle to propose to Dee, yet I can feel some sympathy for Lee, more so than Dee. Lee is behaving badly here, no question, yet he’s destroying himself by his actions. Lee was unrecognizable to us in early Season 3, and I don’t just mean physically. How he became that man starts here.
There are two very painful moments for me during the proposal. The first is when Lee informs Dee he doesn’t want to start out with a lie, and then proceeds to do just that. He tells her it is Kara’s marriage that has motivated him to make this move and stops there. The thing is, had Lee told Dee everything, I’m not certain it would have changed Dee’s answer. She has her own somewhat selfish motivations for making the decision she does. But, from Lee’s perspective, less than 24 hours earlier, he had been completely honest with Kara and it ended in pain that I’m not sure he’s felt outside of Zak’s death. And having had two people he loved, Zak and Kara, leave him, fearing Dee could do the same and he’d, again, have no one I can see why he felt he had to lie.
The second moment that really affected me was Dee informing Lee that she would marry him, love him and cherish him until the Cylons returned or Kara walked back into his life. As Dee says the words, Lee fights back his emotions and is unable to look at her. The good man that he is wants to be honest, but the hurt little boy (seriously, I think his parents marriage really frakked him up) cannot say the words. The irony is Dee is saying all the things he wants to hear Kara say. He’s getting everything he wants, the life he always thought he wanted, but not with the person he wants it with. The choices Lee makes are extremely selfish. I know he is capable of better, he knows it too, but what he does or doesn’t do is self-preservation on his part and a very human reaction. I should be mad at him, but I feel so very sad for him instead.
Maybe there is something positive about showing the noble young man, the idealist, falling from his pedestal. The Spitzer scandal showed how a man is so easily capable of failing to practice what he so adamantly and passionately claims to stands for. Lee showed Kara vulnerability, it led to weakness, then desperation, and finally to an overwhelming need to be loved by someone when he couldn’t be loved by the one he wanted. Maybe he compounded lie on top of lie because he couldn’t face that he was living a lie.
Whereas Lee was in denial, Dee got the life she wanted with the man she wanted, knowing full well it was all based on lies. It makes me question who actually comes off worse in this scenario.
I should sympathize with Dee who, yes, is treated quite badly, yet I can’t. Maybe she didn’t know about the sex, but she knew her soon to be husband was in love with another woman and could walk out on her at anytime. She made her choice, to take whatever Lee was willing to give her and live her life like every moment could be the last. (On a side note, I did appreciate her echoing Laura’s words to Adama here – it set up nicely what was probably the mindset of most of the survivors.) Knowing that Dee knew what she was getting herself into, I don’t see that she has any right to be pissed off later when it looks as if Lee could be leaving her. Granted, instead of sneaking around with Kara he should have immediately been honest with Dee and informed her that what she thought would happen is, in fact, happening, but, again, Lee’s self-preservation is at work.
The other thing that rubbed me the wrong way is Dee’s convenient naiveté. When Kara makes her “been there, done that” remark about sleeping with Lee, Dee seems shocked. Lee quickly scrambles to tell Dee it was a long time ago and didn’t mean anything. We know Lee is lying on both counts, but, hypothetically, let’s say he is telling the truth. If it was years ago, before he knew Dee or at least was involved with her, is he obligated to tell her? If we assume Dee knows he is lying, how does Dee have a right to be upset when she told him on the day he proposed that she understood fully the situation? She didn’t think they might have had sex at some point in their long and tangled relationship? I really wish this had been left on the cutting room floor. Not only do I prefer the ambiguity of what Dee did or didn’t know, it paints Kara in a very bad light – intentionally hurting Dee just to piss Lee off more.
I really want a better grasp of Kara. It would make my fandom life easier. She married Sam out of fear, I always knew that. And if Lee’s parents made it nearly impossible for him to risk falling in love, Kara’s mother taught her she wasn’t good enough for anybody. I can rationalize her behavior, to a point. However, it was Kara’s choice to marry Sam and she must accept the consequences of that choice. She’s flaunts what happened between them as well as their feelings for each other in front of their fellow pilots, their friends, and their spouses. She’s not just humiliating Lee with her “sloppy seconds” comments, she’s taking Dee and her husband down with him. Lee might be tearing himself apart, but Kara is hurting everyone around her.
While I have difficulty feeling sympathy for Dee because she made her own bed, the reason she was able to make that bed is because Kara chose to abandon Lee. I do believe that Kara sees airing their dirty laundry in public as simply being honest. It’s also a way to try and draw Lee into a fight he doesn’t want. But it’s also demonstrates a lack of respect for others. It’s about what Kara needs, whether to feel better or worse about herself I am not sure, but it’s all about her.
Here’s the thing that struck me the more I thought about Lee and Kara and The Dance. To be honest, I’ve always viewed Lee and Kara’s romantic relationship as toxic. As friends and colleagues, I believe they do bring out the best in each other. As lovers all they do is cause each other pain. At the time of her ‘death’ in ‘Maelstrom’, Lee and Kara were in a good place, but that is due in large part because of Lee’s decision to move on. I will agree that Lee attempting to continue working on a shaky marriage was not the best reasoning, but at least he made a choice that brought some calm to his life and hers.
It has also struck me (no pun intended) that if we are disturbed by Tyrol breaking Cally’s jaw, then going on to become her husband, how is Lee breaking Kara’s nose and embarking on an affair with her any different? Beating each other to a bloody pulp in not a way to resolve issues or reaffirm a relationship. And while the original cut ended on a somewhat touching “I missed you” the new version ends with Kara stating, “I think things just got more complicated.” It’s the same thing she says to Lee after they make love on New Caprica. It seems like a clear indication that she knows she’s about to cause more upheaval in all their lives and saying it with a slight smile on her face makes it feel manipulative and callous to me as well. Before, I thought the quasi affair between she and Lee just happen to evolve, but this new ending makes it seem as if her actions were much more calculated.
Maybe SciFi is right in not giving Ron extra broadcast time to work with.