“Bastille Day” opens with Col. Tigh falling off the wagon once again before meeting Tyrol to discuss pumping water off of the ice moon found last episode. Since they must melt the ice before getting it to the ship, they need lots of manpower. With this is mind they decide to send a party to the Astral Queen, a ship full of hardened criminals on their way to Caprica for parole hearings, to get the labor force they need in exchange for freedom, or at least in exchange for “freedom points” to be redeemed at a later point in time.
Apollo’s well-intentioned but poorly planned idea begins to fail when Tom Zarek, a high-profile terrorist from Sagittaron, steps out of his cell and declines on behalf of all the prisoners, who then start chanting his name and shaking the bars.
Meanwhile, back on Caprica, Helo and Sharon are in search of anti-radiation medication and food. During their search, they stumble on a dead body covered in rats. Sharon starts to collapse emotionally. Then in a slightly cheesy scene, Helo says, “someone must be watching out for us.” All the while Six and another Cylon watch them from above, discussing how Cylons must rise to power at the expense of humans just as children come in to their own at the expense of their parents.
On the Astral Queen, Apollo, idealistic as ever, has descended into the cages to converse with Zarek in an attempt to pull some heartstrings and convince him to get the prisoners to help out. Apollo has read Zarek’s book and respects his politics but can’t seem to get the man to see reason. Apollo’s plan backfires completely as Zarek and the other prisoners break out of their cells and take control of the ship, taking Lee, Dualla, Cally and Billy hostage.
On Galactica, Commander Adama is looking into why he doesn’t have a Cylon detector yet, and Dr. Baltar, in a very characteristic fit of not-well-concealed hallucinations, tries to get out of having to build the detector while Six berates and terrorizes him until he gives in and asks for a nuclear warhead on her behest. After she tells him to say he needs the plutonium inside, Baltar figures out how to actually make the detector, and Com. Adama gets him a warhead.
Boomer is freaking out about the missing detonators to the Chief in a supply closet when Col. Tigh barges in on them to berate her for her tryst with Chief Tyrol. Before he can really get to ranting, he is called back to the CIC to hear Zarek demand Roslin’s immediate resignation and free and open elections to set up a new government. The Galactica blocks his signal, and Roslin educates Adama on public opinions and how much credence a man like Zarek has in spite of his less-than-upstanding life and revolutionary styles.
As Apollo listens to Zarek’s spiel, he realizes that Zarek is not the goodhearted revolutionary Apollo thought he was, but a true criminal who doesn’t care about anyone but himself and will do anything to get in the limelight. Zarek is doing everything he can to get the marines to storm the ship and create a bloodbath, a final stand to destroy the government and go out in a blaze of glory.
During their little heart-to-heart, one of the prisoners named Mason has decided that Cally doesn’t respect him and wants to teach her a lesson about respect. So he makes her march to a cell away from the other hostages and tried to force himself on her. But Cally, being the strong resilient girl she is, doesn’t take things lying down. She bites his ear off in the struggle and gets shot in the stomach for her effort.
While Apollo is otherwise occupied, Starbuck is acting as a sniper and is leading the marines in an attack on the ship. Hearing the gunshot, Starbuck initiates the sneak attack while Lee takes down the would-be rapists and points his newly begotten gun at Zarek, asking him if he’s ready to die. Instead of killing Zarek, Apollo makes Zarek agree to influence the men to aid them with the water in exchange for holding the normal elections that would be held in seven months according to the law anyway. During this discussion, Starbuck sets up a shot to take out Zarek, but Apollo snatches him out of the way before she can make the kill.
Needless to say, the president and Com. Adama are not exactly thrilled with Apollo’s deal, but they uphold it. After Adama leaves, Apollo tells the president that he has sworn to uphold the law, that he meant no disloyalty, and that she would have his vote come election time. And Roslin lets Apollo in on her secret: that she won’t be around in seven months because of terminal breast cancer.
Over on Galactica, Starbuck fruitlessly tries to bridge the fissure between herself and Col. Tigh with an admonition of her own flaws in an apology to mocking his and a toast with water. The ever dense and emotionally stunted Col. Tigh dowses the olive branch Starbuck is presenting and lights it on fire, claiming that his “flaws are personal, and [hers] are professional” before dismissing her.
The episode ends with Chief Tyrol and some of his crew visiting Cally in the infirmary. She’s doing very well; they exchange some heart-warming quips about her laziness and biting off more than just ears.