Oh, no.  Not the stimulus package.  Battlestar Galactica.  I thought Zarek’s actions were out of character, and designed to ensure that they could wrap up the coup in two episodes, ensuring the audience knew who they were supposed to back.

Key evidence:  The Quorum are wimps.   More discussion (with spoilers*) after the jump.

The claim is that Zarek’s execution of the Quorum was both in character, and necessary to ensure that Gaeta understood that they had crossed the Rubicon, that freedom isn’t free, that revolutions are violent, that idealists don’t stay pure.  Respondeo:

1) The coup begins with Zarek’s escape, during which he murders Laird.  This already served to let us know that the revolution would be bloody and serious, and there would be no turning back.  The idea that there was no coming back from this had already been established; if that was the point of the Quorum shooting, it was superfluous.

2) Zarek has the capacity for violence; I’m not denying that, or that revolutions are bloody.  But he also is a guy who wants to be seen as legitimate.  Most of his machinations at this point have been manipulative, but within the framework of what’s left of the government.  Being threatened with accusations of corruption made him back down two episodes previously.  He’s not going to give the Quorum some time to come around?

3) Because, you know, they would have.  Most of them.  Lee wouldn’t, but Lee’s supposed to be dead as far as Zarek knows.  The rest of the Quorum has backed Zarek over Roslin recently (including the vote that brought all of this to a head.)  Legitimacy is important to Zarek, and these guys are wimps.  They make the Congressional Democrats look like a political party.

4)  Public opinion has to be on the side of Zarek and Gaeta.  If it isn’t, it wouldn’t be hard to get it there.  Consider that Baltar’s life is still in danger because he essentially surrendered at gunpoint to the Cylons on New Caprica.  Consider further that the average Colonial at this point has been living on the equivalent of coach class on an airplane for the past four years, an airplane that is not privy to a third-person omniscient perspective.

What do they know?  Probably that a) the Cylons blew up their planets b) the last Cylon-human alliance didn’t work out so well c) Earth is a nuclear wasteland (a fact so traumatizing some have committed suicide..) and a vague rumor that d) Adama’s XO has always been a Cylon (on the assumption that news like that gets out) and e) Adama and Roslin are sleeping together (on the assumption their press is as sleazy as ours.)

Oh, and Roslin fled to the baseship.

Surely some of them would have come around.  And the extent of their bold stand against Zarek?  Calling him “Mr. Vice President.”  I understand they had a lot to fit in the hour, but the confrontation between Zarek and Gaeta after that didn’t add much about the costs of revolution or the loss of virgin idealism.

So it felt to me, at least, that the show was trying to close off a line of argument prematurely.  They wanted to have three episodes about the political fallout from not finding Earth.  The easiest way to do that and have it come to a conclusion was to give us a clear bad guy, a clear sense of which side was the one we were supposed to back.  An undermotivated execution of the Quorum does that.

*I don’t think it’s really spoilers if it’s a discussion of what has already aired.