Can this mission to Mars be simultaneously cursed and blessed? Because on one hand, now the water supply has been compromised and the one person onboard who could fix it has space blindness, but on the other, Kwesi is there and he is an angel person. It’s really a toss up.
Okay, fine, mostly it feels cursed because really, what else could go wrong before even dealing with the actual landing on Mars? And having a diminished water supply is a biggie — do not mess with dehydration, people. I was just trying to stay positive! And I do mean it: Kwesi is an angel person. We finally get a deeper look at both his backstory and who he is now throughout the latest crisis to plague the Atlas crew.
Kwesi’s over in his mini-greenhouse just, you know, creating life on a spaceship, when he realizes there’s a clog in the water supply. It seems like this has happened before, and he tracks down Misha — who’s in his pod playing chess with Lu and having trouble seeing which piece is which, and that cannot be a good sign re: his eyesight — to check the situation out, only to discover that it’s much more than a clog: The heart of the ship’s water recovery system, the distillation assembly, is dead.
They have a back-up system, but as Misha notes, it’s more like a spare tire — it’s not meant for the long haul. He comes up with a plan to take the distillation assembly out of the backup and put it into the main system so that they can actually make it to Mars without dying of dehydration. There are several obstacles from the get-go: The system and the transfer of the DA is extremely intricate (it’s basically heart surgery on their spaceship), their communication with Ground has a half-hour lag, so they’re pretty much on their own, and oh yeah did I mention, the person who has to perform the bulk of the job is going blind.
The repair gets even more difficult as they go along. The crew starts to split on whether or not to let Misha continue trying to fix the main system or hedge their bets and just reinstall the heart of the backup and attempt to use that until they land on Mars where their new supplies will be waiting in the unmanned ship NASA will be sending. Misha pleads with them to let him finish; this is what he was brought on this mission to do and his last eye exam showed a marked improvement. The crew leaves it up to Emma to decide. You can see how badly she wants to trust Misha to do this job and save their lives. She tells him to continue.
It’s the wrong choice.
They know this the moment a screw goes floating past Misha and he doesn’t even see it. Things get heated on the Atlas and finally Misha admits that he memorized the eye chart to make it look like he was improving. He can’t even see how many fingers Lu is holding up when she’s standing right in front of him. The crew is apoplectic. This was a betrayal, Lu tells Misha. She cuts to his core! They decide to change course and have Ram try and put the backup water system back together again. It’s their best chance at survival, and it isn’t even a guaranteed one. Space is real fun, guys.
Tensions are high because of how fatal this situation is, plus no one’s been drinking water so everyone is severely dehydrated — WHICH I WARNED YOU ABOUT — and things quickly devolve into a shouting match, until Kwesi, our sweet little space botanist, steps in.
Kwesi has always been the Man of Faith on the mission. Devoutly Jewish, we saw him praying with his mother over video chat, one of his few belongings he brought with him was his Torah, and he’s the one who turns to prayer for his crewmates in the most dire situations. Here, in this heated moment, he tells the crew that they’re being tested. But no one wants to hear about faith and prayer and God right now. But, he explains, this is about having faith in each other. And yes, I know that writing that out here makes it sound beyond cheesy, but Kwesi sells the hell out of it, okay? It is not just a speech, but a Speech. And it works. The rest of the crew takes a breath and remembers that they’ve all been chosen for this job because they’re the best at what they do. And then they get to work.
Just because Kwesi’s faith seems unwavering on the Atlas doesn’t mean that was always the case. In his flashbacks, we see tiny Kwesi newly adopted by a couple in England who work for the World Relief Fund, after Kwesi’s family died in Ghana. His adoptive father Sisi, a gardener, also came from Ghana, met his wife Miriam, through the World Relief Fund, and fell in love. Judaism became a huge part of their relationship. As a young boy, Kwesi doesn’t buy it and he’s extremely wary of his adoptive parents. Sisi tries to explain that he and Miriam aren’t trying to impose their religion on him, nor are they trying to replace his parents. He gives him a gift: A papaya flower tree, or Flame Tree, to plant in their garden here. Kwesi recognizes it immediately as a tree in his garden from home. It’s not meant to thrive in the English soil, but Sisi says they’ll try their best to help it grow. This show is doing a lot of cool space stuff, but that shot of teen Kwesi and Miriam memorializing Sisi after he’s died in the English fog, next to that bright, beautiful tree? Now that’s a shot.
Plants became a way for Kwesi to understand his adoptive father, and a way to understand the world. It’s why he became a botanist. And it’s why what happens next is so particularly devastating. LOL, sometimes I can’t believe how sad this show is. Mars better be worth it!
Working together, the crew gets the backup water system online, but after disassembling and reassembling, the very sensitive system is only working at half the capacity it was before. This is bad, but they do have an contingency in place for something like this: emergency water rations. This, heartbreakingly, means there’s not enough water to use on Kwesi’s plants. Within a week or so, they’ll all die. All of his work is just gone. He takes it surprisingly well — he, more than anyone, seems to understand the greater mission at hand. He takes it even better than his fellow crewmates, who one by one arrive at his greenhouse, looking to get some final moments in this place that has become a peaceful refuge for all of them — a piece of home. Even Misha! I truly can’t believe I’m crying about plants in space, but times are weird people.
• As the crew is lamenting the dire water situation while saying good-bye to Kwesi’s plants, Ram mentions that they’re like sailors who die of thirst in the middle of the ocean — the walls of the ship are full of water, but it’s meant to protect them from radiation. Dropping this bit of info doesn’t seem like an accident. Don’t tell me about water in the walls and do nothing about it!
• Sure there’s a lag in communication between the Atlas and Houston, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t working on the water problem, too. Guess who’s baaaaaack: Matt Logan! Emma sends him a message about the water problem and he immediately heads to NASA for the first time since his stroke. He wants to get back to work. Darlene informs him that he can only work as a consultant and not on the mission control floor because he’s just too emotionally invested. Um, no duh. Wouldn’t they have figured he’d be too emotionally tied to this mission from the start? The commander has been his wife the entire time!
• After hearing about the result of the repairs, Matt’s sole focus is fixing the water problem and he tells Darlene as much: He doesn’t care about his title or where his office is, he is working on this! He is going to save his wife, er — this mission to Mars!
• In other Matt news: He finally meets Isaac. While driving home from NASA and trying to message Emma, Matt’s car ends up in a ditch on the side of the road. He’s fine, but Lex, who happens to be with Isaac at the time, ends up coming to his rescue. He grills Isaac with questions until he makes himself look like an ass when he forces Isaac to open up about his father who was KIA. Matt’s on board with Isaac after spending some time with him, although he warns Lex not to move too fast and to never get on one of Isaac’s bikes. Meanwhile, Lex is kissing Isaac in the driveway and has already taken a liking to #thatbikelife.
• Emma finally receives Matt’s message of reassurance that everything will be okay after they announce emergency water rations, but it still manages to calm her. He records the rain falling, which you would think would be a slap in the face at the moment, but it seems to be healing for Emma, as she imagines it falling all over her.
• Seriously guys, drink water.