There are few things I love more than a good “one day away from retirement” setup. My pilgrim soul never tires of watching someone explain, “All right. One more. One more time. But just one more, and then I’m out forever,” while ominous music swells in the background and I get to feel like an Intelligent, Discerning Viewer as I whisper, “No, you’re not! Something terrible is clearly about to happen!” at my TV right before something terrible happens. So, as you might imagine, tonight’s episode was extremely personally satisfying.
First, a list of tonight’s honorable mentions:
1) Ash’s Active Listening Face is transcendently good. I’ve gone back and rewatched multiple scenes where he doesn’t have any dialogue just because he listens 400 percent harder than any other Star Trek character I have ever seen.
2) Relatedly, every time Burnham gets a chance to speak more than two lines of dialogue to anyone else, she delivers with the kind of intensity you only ever see from characters who have just found out they have three minutes left to live, and she does this every time, multiple times an episode. It’s completely hypnotic and it’s a fantastic acting choice; Michael Burnham gives speeches one quarter mile at a time.
3) Michael and Kol FIGHT WITH MEK’LETHS ON THE BRIDGE OF THE KLINGON SHIP. It is beautiful and ridiculous and amazing and he has at least a foot and a half and 50 pounds on her, but shut up, she just keeps dodging and weaving and impugning his honor and totally steals Captain Georgiou’s dog tags back from him.
Additionally, a series of Jeers to the preceding Cheers:
1) Kol continues to use the words Starfleet and humans interchangeably, despite the fact that I repeatedly shouted, “STARFLEET IS A COALITION OF ANDORIANS, TELLARITES, VULCANS, HUMANS, TYRELLIANS, AND LITERALLY DOZENS OF OTHER SPECIES, YOU ACTUAL JAG, ALTHOUGH IT HAS OFTEN SUFFERED FROM HUMAN-CENTRIC LEADERSHIP AND THERE IS PLENTY TO BE CRITICIZED IN ITS INSTITUTIONAL PRIORITIZATION OF NON-HUMAN CONCERNS.”
2) If you are going to make a series of covert sensors used to track the movements of an enemy ship, consider not making them flash a bright blue every three seconds and loudly announce, “TRACKING SENSORS ONLINE” for absolutely no reason. Starfleet has absolutely terrible spy gear. (“Put it on vibrate mode, that is what humans do with their cell phones in the movie theater and you are trying to sneak onto the Klingon Ship of the Dead!” —Nicole Cliffe)
3) Lorca delivers a self-congratulatory pre-victory speech to the Discovery crew that includes the words, “When I took control of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists, but now you are all fierce warriors,” which, A of all, do not come onto my Star Trek and impugn the worthiness of polite scientists, my guy, and B of all, you have done, like, maybe eight cumulative minutes’ worth of team management this whole season, none of it excellent!
Right-ho! Lorca, for reasons that are never explained, suddenly cares a lot about protecting the Pahvans, so he decides to (sort of, but not exactly) disobey orders to retreat to Starbase 46 and uses the time spent warping there to figure out a way to track the Klingon’s cloaked ship, much in the same way that in junior year of high school I figured out my parents’ previously unbreakable strategy for making sure I kept curfew, keeping an alarm clock set for 1 a.m. just outside their bedroom door that would only go off if I came home late, didn’t actually work if I came home at 12:45 a.m., unplugged it, then went back out. The strategy involves beaming over a stealth boarding party to the Klingon flagship, leaving sensors behind, while the Discovery performs exactly 133 micro-jumps. (Why 133? I don’t know. I will cheerfully admit to having checked during the lengthy Explanations and Pointing at a Holographic Map portion of the proceedings.) Stamets’s primary concern is not the prospect of jamming his psyche directly into the expanded mushroom universe 133 times, but having to talk to his husband about the fact that he hasn’t been feeling great.
“Alternately,” my friend Norah suggested, “they could just adopt a Battleship strategy and fire at various intervals until they hit something. Why don’t they just play Battleship and see what happens?” Food for thought, at any rate.
Burnham monologues herself a spot onto possibly the most conspicuous away team in Starfleet history. Every once in a while, she and Tyler remember to briefly crouch behind an ornate pillar before leaving big, glowing, shouting Alexa-like sensors all over the Ship of the Dead. They find and revive an injured Admiral Cornwell, who’s tasked with talking Tyler through a distressing near-fugue state after he encounters L’Rell, his torturer and rapist during his time in Klingon captivity. I’ve been wondering for a while how and if the show would address Tyler’s lingering trauma as a result of months of captivity and abuse, and tonight’s episode put it front and center. There’s a tentative, significant-pause-filled decompression conversation between Tyler and Burnham once they’ve made it safely back, where he acknowledges that his torture was sexual as well as physical, that he sometimes experiences guilt for having survived when so many of his companions died, and that he’s overwhelmingly glad to be alive and on the Discovery with Michael. All Michael can say in response is, “I’m glad you’re alive, too.” It’s a shaky, powerful scene, and it ends with a wordless embrace, which feels like a wonderful acknowledgement that this level of trauma can’t just get talked out in a single conversation.
Meanwhile, Stamets survives the 133 micro-jumps, barely, and gets half-heartedly talked into one last ride so the Discovery can warp to Starbase 46. There’s not much of a reason for him to do it: He makes it clear to Lorca that it’s going to be his last-ever jump, that he needs medical attention, and they’re less than three hours away from the Starbase at warp. Although there’s some vague mention of the possibility of Klingon pursuit, the ship’s in no immediate danger, so it’s either a particularly lazy excuse to put Stamets in harm’s way again, or Stamets has reasons of his own for offering. He promises his husband that after this last jump, they’re going to go see some more Kasseelian opera and offers him a big, cinematic, good-bye kiss. It’s all very “Tell me about the rabbits, George,” so of course something goes horribly wrong mid-jump and the crew find themselves floating in the middle of space, sensors going haywire, with absolutely no idea of where they are. (“OR WHEN,” I shouted. “REMEMBER THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT ALTERNATE DIMENSIONS ON THE SPORE NETWORK EARLIER.”) Plus, they’ve got a Klingon in the brig.
At least the Pahvans get to keep their crystals! We’ll be back in January when Discovery comes back for the back half of the season. See you then!