Still on Starfleet’s mission to distribute dilithium, the crew of the USS Credence prepares to transport the precious mineral to a nearby planet. Everything’s going according to plan, until a small yet lethal band of masked mercenaries board the Creedence, subdue the officers, and kill the commanding officer. Before running him through with her sword and leaving with the dilithium, the lead bandit pleads that he “choose to live,” identifying her as a member of the Qowat Milat.
Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr), Federation President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal), Ni’Var President T’Rina (Tara Rosling), and Capt. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Greene) discuss the grim details surrounding a string of dilithium-related thefts, culminating in this most recent death of a Starfleet officer. Together, they agree that a mutual effort in apprehending J’Vini (Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves) would be best, and T’Rina calls in another member of the Qowat Milat, Dr. Gabrielle Burnham (Sonja Sohn) to oversee the operation. After sharing a brief embrace with her mother, President Rillak pulls Capt. Burnham aside, seeking assurance that the mission will be carried out in the most efficient, and politically favorable, way possible.
After the credits, Lt. Tilly (Mary Wiseman) joins Mr. Saru (Doug Jones) in the mess hall, asking to try her hand at tending his prized garden to further her attempts to get out of her comfort zone. Saru rushes off to talk with Kaminar as they begin retrofitting their space gear to rejoin the stars.
In engineering, Cmmdr. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is hard at work, crunching the numbers surrounding his newest theory as Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) looks on. Capt. Burnham joins them, asks to borrow Book’s ship, and catches up to speed. Calling it a Dark Matter Anomaly (DMA), Stamets attempts to classify the anomaly as a primordial black hole. It has all the makings of a young black hole, save for the telltale signs of tachyons (it’s always tachyons, isn’t it?). Capt. Burnham advises them to sit tight until they get there. Book offers to tag along, but Stamets is concerned for his emotional state, warning that his definition of the destruction of Kwejian will be clinical and harsh. Book appreciates the gesture, but insists, just the same.
Meanwhile in sickbay, construction on Gray (Ian Alexander)’s new body is nearly complete. Gray and Ensign Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio) geek out over the event together, while Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) looks on, awaiting a call from Guardian Xi (Andreas Apergis) from Trill. The Guardian arrives and goes over the final details before the consciousness transfer begins, warning them that because of the unprecedented way Tal has been hosted, there is a possibility that Grey could be lost in the process. Adira and Grey reaffirm, and Guardian Xi gives his blessing.
In the corridors, Saru counsels Capt. Burnham on her upcoming mission. When mulling over which tactical officer to bring with her, Saru suggests Tilly. Capt. Burnham affirms that Tilly’s skillset has nothing to do with combat, but Saru convinces her to bring the lieutenant along for her diplomatic abilities.
On board Book’s ship, Tilly settles in with the additional Qowat Milat nun while Capt. Burnham debriefs with her mother. Dr. Burnham explains that J’Vini was the sister that nursed her back to health when she landed in this future. Arriving at J’Vini’s last known coordinates, Dr. Burnham insists that phasers are left on board. She insists that Tilly and her daughter use katana-esque swords instead.
After landing on a moon, Tilly scans the mass for the dilithium, locating it in a cavern beneath the surface. Before they can go learn more, the frigate is boarded by J’Vini and more of her agents. Killing Dr. Burnham’s Qowat Milat sister, J’Vini warns them not to follow her again.
Back on Discovery, Adira frets about how long it’s taking Grey to gain consciousness. Guardian Xie reminds them that these things take time, and asks to be alerted if Grey’s condition changes. Dr. Culber scoops up Adira, convincing them to take a walk to pass the time.
Back on the moon, the away team begins to piece together the evidence, seeing more of a mausoleum than anything else. The Burnham’s debate J’Vini’s motives when Tilly gently eases the tension. The ground rumbles beneath them, and Tilly determines that the dilithium has been activated. Finding a turbolift, they step on and rise to a top level.
On Ni’Var, Stamets explains his findings regarding the DMA to the gathered scientists while Book watches from the side. The scientists unceremoniously slip into a meditative state to ponder what Stamets has presented them, leaving him in silence. President T’Rina explains, and tries to comfort Book by offering tea. She counsels him, offering reprieve from his survivor’s guilt.
Back on the moon, Capt. Burnham has Tilly sabotage the engines. As she works, Capt. Burnham deciphers pictographs on the walls, determining that this moon is in fact, an ancient ship carrying a living species in cryostasis. Dr. Burnham asserts that this must be J’Vini’s cause, and Capt. Burnham asks Tilly to stay put… as bait.
On Discovery, Dr. Culber listens as Adira vents their feelings about the delay in Grey’s corporation. Culber reminds them to be patient, and to remember to reach out to the crew if they need help. He gives them some space and sits with Saru, who asks about Grey’s condition. He goes on to commend Dr. Culber for his double-duty as CMO and ship’s counselor. Adira goes to sick bay and talks to Grey, attempting to pull him into consciousness.
Meanwhile on the moon, the trap is set, and J’Vini arrives right on time. Dr. Burnham and J’Vini fight it out until Gabrielle looses her sword, and J’Vini holds it to her neck. Capt. Burnham bargains for her mother’s release, explaining that the nun’s lost cause was not what it seemed after all. The women determine that if the ship systems are repaired, that the race of beings could complete their journey and come out of stasis, but only if J’Vini allowed them to make it happen. J’Vini concedes, and the away team works together to get the beings where they were ultimately headed – the nearby planet.
Back on Ni’Var, the team of scientists wakes, to ultimately debunk Stamets’ theory surrounding a primordial black hole. President T’Rina suggests a mild meld to held look for additional evidence of tachyons, forcing Book to relieve the last moments of his world. He asks to wait a bit longer, to confirm that his nephew knew that he loved him and give himself some closure, despite the lack of tachyons.
On the moon ship, Capt. Burnham and Lt. Tilly repair the damaged systems, convincing J’Vini to come quietly. Back on Book’s frigate, they mourn their fallen sister and watch as the aliens spring to life and claim their new home. As they journey back to Federation space, Dr. Burnham counsels both Tilly and her daughter on the paths they’ve chosen for themselves. Dr. Burnham goes on to confide in Capt. Burnham, revealing that she brought her daughter along to ensure that she’d be able to apprehend J’Vini.
Back at FHQ, Capt. Burnham appeals to Rillak, Vance, and T’Rina, that J’Vini’s heroism be taken into account when her sentencing is determined. Rillak explains that in the interest of diplomacy, J’Vini would be taken into custody on Ni’Var. Capt. Burnham asks if she’ll be held accountable for her actions, but Vance and Rillak inform her that Ni’Var will take it from here. Burnham insists upon justice for the fallen commander and his family, but Rillak insists that protecting Ni’Var’s interests is more important than immediate justice, even if she agrees with Burnham. Vance uses a florid analogy to explain that Burnham, and the Federation, learn to trust the President’s decisions. Meanwhile, Tilly visits Saru in his quarters and thanks him for suggesting her for the away mission. She teases him a little before helping him water his plants.
In sickbay, Adira watches tensely over Grey’s still lifeless body, until he sits up. They wrap him in a blanket as he orients himself with his new surroundings. Dr. Culber enters and Grey leaps into his arms, thanking him for all his diligence. Grey explains that it was Adira’s words that brought him back, asserting that they would always be linked, symbiont or not.
Capt. Burnham joins Book in his quarters as he gazes at a holoimage of Kwejian’s forest canopy, basking in his newfound peace. She remarks upon his stillness, and Book seems emotionally equipped to handle the wave of grief and acceptance to come.
SO many emotions in this episode. The continuous appearance of the Qowat Milat cements whatever events that transpire in Star Trek: Picard as canon, while simultaneously giving Michael another tether to this future through her mother. Seeing Tilly embrace new things is always refreshing, but Grey re-incorporating is definitely a certifiable tear-jerker.