Emma looks worse than any of them and she’s acting very much not herself. She’s snapping at everyone (especially Ram) and her emails to Lex have gotten increasingly weird. Like, signing them “Commander Green” weird. Ram has to do psych evaluations on each of them, and when he grills her a bit she seems to attribute her anxiety more to the fact that she’s worried about Lex (who isn’t responding to her fast enough and who is dating a boy whose own family tragedy might continually remind Lex of what could happen to her mother) and you know, the whole “we may all die of dehydration” thing. When Matt messages Misha about it — the two engineers have become very cute secret pen pals over this water system problem — at first, Misha tells him not to worry, they’re all fatigued. Then over breakfast Emma lashes out at him. The tirade ends with a “take a goddamned spacewalk for all I care” which doesn’t sound super hurtful written out like that but for those astronauts, trust me, it is cutting. Lu suggests an explanation: Whereas Lu has come to accept that she’s simply unable to be a parent to her young son for the next three years, Emma hasn’t. She’s holding on to that with a death grip. Misha puts Matt on alert.
Matt is a busy guy at the moment. Aside from generally worrying about Emma’s health, he’s holding non-stop Contingency Plans For Ways My Wife Could Possibly Die Meetings. That’s not the official NASA name for it, but you get the idea. And he’s doing so without NASA knowing the extent of it, since he is directly getting intel from and passing it to Misha.
Outside of work anxiety, Matt catches Lex in a lie about Isaac and his bikes, and once again forbids her from riding. All of it becomes a little too much for Matt to deal with on his own, and because he 100 percent refuses to talk to our NASA shrink Putney, he seeks some solace and advice from Melissa. Melissa thinks Matt is selling himself short as a dad — she knows all about guys who can’t handle being fathers, she was married to one. They proceed to talk about how Melissa hasn’t dated anyone since Cassie’s dad because she refuses to let any other guy abandon her daughter and Matt reminds her that there are good guys out there. And then Melissa looks at Matt the way Ram’s been looking at Emma and wow, wow, wow you guys, there are obstacles coming at Emma and Matt’s marriage from all directions. Despite all of that, Melissa seems great (and maybe won’t act on her feelings?) and Matt really needs a friend.
He especially needs one because he’s about to get a call telling him that Lex is in the hospital. Over at the motocross track, Lex is all about following her dad’s rules until she gets the latest weird message from Emma that makes very little sense but is all about Isaac being a distraction. Teen girls are going to rebel against their moms even if they’re 20 million miles apart, and so Lex gets on the bike, goes super hard, and crashes.
On the way to the hospital, instead of Melissa or Matt messaging Emma with the news, Matt sends a message to Ram, asking him to tell Emma because he knows Emma trusts him and so does Matt. (Where is Misha and his winky face emojis when you need them?) Ram gets this message in front of the rest of the crew and once again they’re divided: Lu thinks the last thing Emma needs is terrible news of which there are no details yet. Misha thinks she needs to know ASAP. Emma pops up in the middle of this discussion as if she’d been waiting down below all along and Misha really has no choice but to spill the beans. Predictably, she freaks. “I never should have come” is definitely a sentence you never want to hear from your commander while six months into a three-year trip to Mars.
Although I suspect Lu’s initial theory about Emma being unable to let go of her family the way she needs to in order to survive this was pretty close to spot-on, Lu also has an epiphany as to the physical reason this is all coming out: The plant that has magically stayed alive while everything else died around it didn’t do so by spontaneously adapting to its surroundings, nor was it a miracle as Kwesi suggests — Emma’s been using some of her rations to water it. Listen, we all know I’m Team Plants and I appreciate Emma’s dedication, but this is dangerous. Ram tells Emma as much when he goes to give her a saline drip and attempt to reverse her severe dehydration. I mean, the woman is weeping without any tears, that’s how starved she is for water.
By the time Ram goes to take care of Emma, she’s already learned that Lex is fine, just a small concussion and her wrist is in a sling, and the commander and her number two end up in a role reversal of sorts. Remember not too long ago when Ram was ill and he said some things to Emma that maybe he shouldn’t have and things got awkward as hell? Now Emma’s doing the talking. When Ram tells her that it was stupid to give up some of her already small water ration for the plant — a ration of a ration can do a lot of damage — she explains that she was tired of things going wrong and that proving life can grow on Mars was one of their main objectives. It was their future. But, as Ram points out, the plant was also their past and she was unable to let it go, just like she’s unable to let go of her life on Earth. That’s a harsh way of putting it, but it’s not untrue: They have a very serious job to do, and to keep them all alive, all five of them need to be focused on getting it done. Emma’s response is to tell Ram that she “doesn’t have what it takes” and that she “want[s] to go home,” which, again, is something you never want to hear from the person leading you into the unknown. Ram looks devastated (probably for multiple reasons, you know).
Then, per Matt’s instructions, Ram puts on some Debussy and winds up picking “Reverie,” one of Emma’s favorites. And THEN Emma holds Ram’s hand and thanks him. This is all very confusing and stressful, emotionally speaking!!
Emma owes apologies to a lot of people, but her first stop on the tour is Lex. She tries to explain that what her garbled email meant to convey was that at one time, she thought flying and Mars were the only things that mattered, but then she realized there was so much more, something much greater than she could ever have imagined. Of course, through her flashbacks in this episode, we know Emma’s talking about being Lex’s mom. (Not to be cold-hearted, but being one of the first people on Mars beats everything else, yeah, I said it.)
We learn that Emma and her Young Bangs got pregnant just three months into hooking up with Matt, and was adamant that she didn’t want to give up flying to be a mother, and then the day came when she had to make a choice and she chose Lex. And you know what? It’s all working out because she has her family and Mars. Well, it’s all working out for now. She could still die in, like, a thousand ways. Sorry, just keeping it real over here.
• So I guess that’s the origin of Emma and Matt’s “I love you, shithead.”
• In the flashbacks to Emma’s early Mars training (I am here for any and all training flashbacks, more please!), we not only get to witness how much Matt loved Emma from the start — he was in on having a family with her before she was — but we also get to see Emma and Melissa’s friendship. Melissa was already eight months pregnant at the time and not about to be Emma’s cautionary tale to help her make her decision. I really like Melissa, and also her ex-husband — who we meet as an excited soon-to-be dad — is an asshole.
• Misha is a lover of emojis! Who would’ve guessed?
• I cherish the developing friendship between Kwesi and Lu. He used to be so scared of her! Now they’re just nerding out over the prospect of doing experiments and laughing at each other for not being able to see the most obvious conclusion. Best buds!
• Oh, okay Travis, get yours! We learn that Matt’s rehab friend Travis not only got back up on a horse again but it was thanks to the OT Veronica he had mentioned was cute … and now they’re dating.
• “Hey, does it ever bum you out that we’re basically brainstorming the hundreds of ways the water system could break down and your wife could die of thirst? ‘Cause that would bum me out.” Freddie is a great addition to the team.
• “Good morning, space buddies!”
• Okay, but no, seriously, drink your water.