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This question is one big spoiler for Battlestar Galactica Season 2 episodes "Resurrection Ship Part I" and "Resurrection Ship Part II".

In Part I of "Resurrection Ship", Admiral Cain and Commander Adama both plan to assassinate each other after the successful completion of the mission to destroy the Cylon resurrection ship. Admiral Cain plans to order her XO to "relieve Commander Adama of duty", and it's implied that this should be done violently with the help of a bunch of marines from Pegasus. Commander Adama plans to order Starbuck to shoot Cain in the head, with Apollo there to watch her back.

When Starbuck tells Apollo about these orders, Apollo visits Commander Adama and expresses his discomfort. This prompts Commander Adama to consult the captive Boomer copy they keep in the brig, who tells him:

It's what you said at the ceremony before the attack, when Galactica was being decommissioned. You gave a speech, it sounded like it wasn't the one you prepared. You said that humanity was a flawed creation, and that people still kill one another for petty jealousy and greed. You said that humanity never asked itself why it deserved to survive. Maybe you don't.

The result of all of this is that Commander Adama decides not to execute the plan he ordered Starbuck and Apollo to carry out, even though he "has the drop" on Cain because he gets the chance to talk to Starbuck before Cain gets the chance to talk to Colonel Fisk. He says: "It's not enough to survive. One has to be worthy of survival."

Admiral Cain also calls off her plan to relieve the Commander of duty. Why?

Does she have a "change of heart"? Seems unlikely for someone with tunnel vision as severe as Cain's.

Does she realize that Commander Adama was calling off an assassination plot when he spoke with Starbuck while she was in Pegasus's CIC? It seems to me that she's too ruthless to let that soften her attitude toward Commander Adama. If she knew that Commander Adama had plotted to assassinate her at all, even if he decided not to do so at the last minute, it would be more reason for her to execute her own plan. She shot her previous XO in the head for simply disobeying an order, after all.

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    cry Oh how I loved this show... – Jonathan. Apr 3 '12 at 20:05
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    I just rewatched that. She said: "terminate Adama's command, starting with Adama." – user8693 May 17 '15 at 20:17
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While Cain was ruthless, she was also pragmatic. After the destruction of the Resurrection Ship she may have realized that killing Adama wouldn't have allowed events to have occurred in the same manner as thing did when she ordered the execution of the civilians in the fleet she encountered to steal their technology. With Starbuck on board and the majority of Galactica's crew loyal to Adama, it is likely that had she given the order to Fisk and he had been successful, she could have had a mutiny on her hands which would end in her death. Starbuck's presence may have confirmed this for her.

There's also the fact that the Colonial civilian government was almost a fully formed entity by the time that they encountered The Pegasus. Killing some isolated civilians might have been relatively easy for a military. Usurping the authority of an elected or appointed civilian administration would have had repercussions beyond anything with which Cain's rather limited outlook could deal. The enormity of killing Adama and then having Laura Roslin to deal with as well might have suddenly washed over her when she saw Starbuck and she demurred as a result.

The narrative doesn't make this clear and leaves the omniscient viewer with many perspectives from which as to choose why she changed her mind.

  • "Starbuck's presence may have confirmed this for her." Hmm, yeah, I hadn't considered this. I find it plausible that having to face head-on (for the first time since Pegasus's initial escape and Belson's death) evidence that her overbearing manner will have consequences if she doesn't calm down a bit, could have been quite the humbling moment for her. Suddenly, the fact that she can't just get away with anything hits home. If Adama's already willing to have her assassinated, maybe she needs to think about chilling out. And the first step in chilling out was cancelling her own silly plans. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 9 '16 at 21:24
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My impression was that when she saw Starbuck enter the CIC on the Pegasus (with her gun unholstered) she knew she could be dead. When Adama called off the assassination Admiral Cain may have decided one of two things.

  • Because Adama decided not to kill her he respected the chain of command, and therefore didn't need to be killed.
  • Adama had just spared her life (it would have been hard to stop Starbuck from completing the assassination attempt) so she would spare his as well.

Adama talks about the "natural high" that exists in the CIC upon completition of a successiful mission. It is possible Cain was just happy the mission had gone so well her blood lust was temporarily satisfied.

6

If you think about it for a second, killing Adama would have probably represented far more cons than pros. The military on the Galactica would be against her, if anything, in spirit and maybe even in actions (e.x. sabotage). likewise the civil fleet and goverment, and that can cause far too much trouble, riots, mutiny, etc.

So, the moment she noticed that Adama wasnt a dangerous foe and was willing to remain under her command (because really, it is OBVIOUS she noticed that Starbuck was there to kill her, but was stopped by Adama's call), the pros of letting him live outweighted the cons. There was no need to kill him anymore.

3

I just watched this for the 3rd time and came away with a different theory. Cain never intended to kill Adama unless he moved against her first. Cain was very smart and she knew what Adama might do so her plan was a contingency. The audience just assumes it's her Plan A but we never really get in her head and she certainly doesn't trust her XO the same way Adama trusts Tighe. So she only tells him what he needs to know.

This was supported by her earlier conversation with Starbuck where she tells Kara that she mustn't hesitate when the moment comes. Cain knew (or at least suspected) what Kara was going to attempt and she didn't want Kara to second guess Adama's plan. Cain needed to know if she could trust Adama and this was the only way.

My guess is that the Pegasus bridge security crew were warned and were ready to shoot Kara as soon as she made her move. Then she would have given the order to her XO. Once she saw Adama back down she called off her own plan and was reassured that they would find a way to move forward.

This makes Starbuck's eulogy a little more powerful after Cain is killed. We realize she was a redeemable character after all.

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She knew Starbuck was there to put a bullet in her head, her hand was on her upholstered gun. She saw it, and as with any enemy don't make any sudden movements.

  • Welcome to SFF:SE. Could you clarify your second sentence? – Politank-Z Apr 9 '16 at 3:17
  • This does not appear to answer the question in any meaningful way. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 9 '16 at 21:21

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