This week we get to see a little of Michael’s backstory:
How did Michael end up in Starfleet? Why does she have so much to prove? Now we know. We also see her mom being nice to her on a whole planet of emotionless and mostly racist Vulcans, which is heartwarming. Michael doesn’t have a lot of nice things happen to her. And Lorca gets way more shady.
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The episode opens with Ambassador Sarek boarding a ship with his… assistant?… on the planet Vulcan. The assistant asks what they’re doing but Sarek won’t say. They leave the planet and go into warp.
It cuts to Michael and Tilly running the halls of the Discovery, with Tilly lagging behind the always exceptional Michael. Michael is coaching Tilly, helping her attain her dream of becoming a captain by setting her goals of physical and mental fitness. Tilly is very cooperative and Michael actually smiles.
Michael doesn’t seem to feel accomplishment when she achieves her own goals. Spock mostly served as an advisor in the original series, giving Kirk the information and advice he needed to make the right calls. Maybe in this series, our sort-of-Vulcan protagonist Michael has found her niche in mentoring Tilly. That would be an interesting parallel.
Next we see Ash Tyler and Captain Lorca fighting together against virtual Klingons in what appears to be a virtual reality simulation of their escape in the previous episode. It seems to be some sort of PTSD treatment, letting them relive their trauma in a safe and controlled setting. They kill swarms of Klingons before the computer declares the simulation a success.
Ash beats the Captain’s 24 kills with 26, but lies to let the Captain win “out of respect.” The Captain reprimands him but also informs him that he will be the new head of security for the Discovery. If you remember, he lost his previous chief of security when she didn’t listen to Michael. It was when she tried to anesthetize Ripper the tardigrade and got herself killed by the almost invincible space bear. I’d look up her name, but it doesn’t matter because she is very dead.
Meanwhile, Sarek is wondering aloud why his ship hasn’t left warp drive yet, as his assistant sinisterly injects himself with some glowing substance behind him. Sarek turns around and calmly talks with his assistant as he begins to glow bright red, apparently turning himself into some kind of organic improvised explosive device.
I don’t know how many different TV series and movies a person needs to watch to recognize the trope of “someone injecting themselves and starting to glow” meaning they’re about to explode, but apparently I’ve watched enough to know, because that’s exactly what happens. He sure was calm about it though. Turning into a bomb must be painful. It has to be. You’re exploding.
But before he explodes, the suicide bomber tells Sarek his obsession with the “inferior” humans has betrayed true Vulcan ideology. Just as he’s getting the last word in, Sarek hits some keys on the console, which seems to throw up some kind of shield in between them. The ship drops out of warp and starts to drift as we hear the explosion. Is Sarek okay? He can’t be dead. That would break all the rules of television. But it’s ominous we don’t see what happened.
Back to Michael and Tilly: Michael now apparently has veto power over the food Tilly eats, countermanding her smoothie order to the computer and substituting burritos that have a better balance of protein for an after-workout snack. Tilly tries to add salsa. Michael makes it roasted tomato salsa, a better source of lycopene. The computer says, “Two appetizing and nutrient-filled burritos.” I think the computer is making fun of Michael, but it could just be weirdly verbose.
They turn and meet Ash Tyler. Tilly is gregarious and Michael is reserved. No surprise there. Ash is oddly friendly, and shakes Michael’s hand. As she does she is suddenly struck with pain. I thought, “Aha, Ash Tyler IS a traitor/spy!” but that’s not what’s happening.
She sees Sarek, on the floor, motionless. She gasps and collapses, bleeding green blood (the color of Vulcan blood) onto the floor. Clearly she’s having another mind-meld with Sarek as she did in an earlier episode.
She is transported to a memory she and Sarek were both present in, where she is being kicked out of the Vulcan academy despite her test scores being better than any Vulcan’s. Sarek sees the real her and becomes angry. He says, “This is my mind!” as he hits her, sending her screaming back to her body. She wakes up in the Discovery’s sickbay. She explains to her captain that she shares Sarek’s katra, or soul, as a result of when Vulcan terrorists (there’s an odd phrase) blew up her academy to kill her.
And the terrorists succeeded. Michael was dead for three minutes before Sarek used part of his katra to heal her, and bring her back to life. Which is pretty intense. I was not aware that Vulcans could resurrect the dead. Maybe, at that point, you have a right to feel a little superior to all the humans.
Michael asks Lorca to find him and save him. Lorca confers with his higher-ups. They say that true, Sarek’s ship was sabotaged, and also that some Klingons are trying to create an alliance with Vulcan in order to win the war against the rest of the Federation. Sarek was sent to be the diplomat in the Klingon-requested meeting.
Lorca casually disobeys orders and jumps to Lorca’s approximate location, but needs Michael’s help to locate Sarek. Michael requests Tilly’s help in entering the dangerous nebula gases. Lorca goes one step further in giving them Ash Tyler as their pilot.
The admiral shows up to yell at Lorca for his disobedience. Lorca is uncooperative, though she says, like she did the last time, that she’s his friend. Lorca pulls out some alcohol and suggests they start talking like friends then.
On the shuttle, Michael is using a jury-rigged neural enhancer that would enhance her ability to tap into Sarek’s mind. As she begins, she sees Sarek’s memories again. It’s almost the same memory as before, but this time he is remembering her adoptive mother, his human wife, giving her the Alice in Wonderland book we’ve seen her with earlier in the season.
Michael confronts Sarek, asking him why he is reliving her failure to get into the Expeditionary Group, which was a big part of his plan to achieve racial harmony between Vulcans and humans. Sarek attacks her, again angry that she trespasses in his mind, but this time she fights back, successfully, until Tilly pulls her out.
Lorca and the admiral are quietly drinking to soft piano music, reminiscing about the old days, which, strangely, Lorca doesn’t remember. Her visit has suddenly turned from a superior yelling at a subordinate officer into an intergalactic date. This doesn’t feel right at all. Everything that happens with Lorca seems off. She questions his decisions and capacity to lead after blowing up his ship and being captured and tortured just a week ago.
Michael tries to get into Sarek’s mind again, this time approaching the memory as one in which Sarek regrets his own failure, rather than hers. They fight again, and Michael asks him what he is hiding from her, why he won’t let her into his mind. He agrees to show her.
He is talking to another Vulcan, the Expeditionary Group Leader. He suddenly begins talking about Sarek’s son, Spock, “another of [Sarek’s] experiments..” Sarek is confused. The other Vulcan explains that he will accept one of Sarek’s “not quite Vulcans” into the expeditionary force, forcing him to choose between Michael and Spock.
Sarek chose Spock. He owns this failure in front of Michael, and admits to an emotion: shame. She forgives him enough to save him as he saved her years ago, infusing him with some of her katra. This gives him the strength to turn on his transponder and be located by Ash’s sensors.
Back in the Discovery, Cornwall and Lorca have continued to reignite their old relationship. They have a very strange dynamic. It only makes Lorca seem more emotionally unstable, weird, and manipulative. She touches some scars on his back and he reacts violently, holding a phaser to her face. The admiral is understandably angry, and says he lied on his psychological evaluations incredibly well, enough to fool Starfleet that he’s okay. She says he’s not the man she used to know.
This explains my questions from an earlier post, where I wondered how Lorca could possibly be fit for duty after the trauma of blowing up his command. He’s not. Is he even the same person? There’s a theory floating around that Lorca is from an alternate reality. The mirror universe, where good characters are evil. Remember the mirror incident at the end of last episode?
The admiral leaves, saying she can’t leave Starfleet’s greatest weapon, the Discovery, in the hands of a traumatized, unreasonable captain. Hm. I don’t think he’ll go along with that. I imagine he’ll be blackmailing her or something by the end of the episode.
Lorca then goes to sickbay, where they discuss Sarek’s injuries and his inability to finish his mission. The captain has the idea of sending Admiral Cornwall instead. Very suspicious.
Lorca then compliments Michael’s accomplishment in saving Sarek, and gives her an actual post and rank: Science Specialist. Again, here we see a parallel with her step-brother (maybe? We’re not sure what she calls him yet) Spock in his position as Science Officer on the Enterprise.
She talks to Sarek, who is apparently kind of a coward, unwilling to discuss his failings in the past when his life is no longer on the line. She tells him talking about it will bring them closer, and that’s what families do. Sarek makes himself a very unlikable character by saying weaselly, “Technically, we are not related.” Michael reacts with a surprising amount of restraint considering how ungrateful he is for being alive, and walks away calling him “father.”
Lorca and the admiral see each other as she leaves to go on the diplomatic mission to the Klingons in Sarek’s place. Cornwall tells him she will relieve him of command on her return. Yeah, that’s definitely not happening.
Michael meets Ash in the cafeteria, where he is again very friendly, even pulling a couple brief smiles from Michael. They discuss emotions and eat together as the camera pulls out. But there’s something wrong with this guy. He basically has to be a brainwashed human or a Klingon in disguise. Lorca commented on his ability to use Klingon fighting styles. And remember, Voq has been mysteriously absent…
Out in Neutral Territory, on Cancri IV, the admiral meets with the Klingons for negotiations. She actually gets a couple sentences out before the Klingons murder her two guards and the Elders of Cancri IV in attendance. They didn’t even get a chance to talk before they got murdered. They capture Admiral Cornwall, which surprises no one but the admiral.
Back on the Discovery, Saru informs Lorca of her capture and almost goes so far as to question Lorca’s response, which is essentially ‘Do nothing.’ Lorca explains it maybe is a trap to lure in the Discovery and capture it too, but as the episode ends the camera focuses on Lorca’s phaser to remind us that it is very much in his interest for the admiral to not make it back to Starfleet.
I knew he was going to do something. This guy could go very bad by the end of the season.