After last week’s thrilling conclusion, we start off by hearing Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) make an outgoing message to the crew of the USS Discovery by way of a personal log, recounting her experiences in the 32nd century. She notes the difficulty of adjusting to a life post-Federation, and as we watch her hair grow unreasonably fast, Michael almost resolves herself to a life without her crew. She mentions her new role as a courier and the bond she’s developed with Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala). Just as it seems like Michael has given up hope of reuniting with her crew, she receives notification from her old communicator, alerting her that DISCO was in range. Michael beams aboard and is met by the bridge crew, all of whom welcome her with open arms.
As Michael and Saru (Doug Jones) head to the bridge, they catch each other up. She mentions how difficult it was to send a message to Terralysium, where her mother had established a base, and how long it took to get a response. She also mentions that she’d offered Book dilithium in exchange for reuniting her with her ship, which Saru happily honors.
On the bridge, Michael brings everyone up to speed on the state of what’s left of the Federation, recounting both the Burn and the collapse to a horrified crew. She then has Lt. Bryce (Ronnie Rowe) pull up the 12 year-old message from Starfleet Admiral Senna Tal she had uncovered during her search for DISCO. After they devise a plan to go to Earth and investigate the message, Saru offers her the captain’s chair. Michael quickly refuses, insisting that Saru take command of the ship, citing how well he’s performed thus far. After a brief heartwarming and encouraging speech, Saru officially becomes Starfleet’s first Kelpien captain and takes command of Discovery.
As drones repair the ship outside, Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) takes a moment to mourn the fallen and everyone they’ve left in the 22nd century. Michael joins her, and they reconnect, comforting each other before Tilly gets called back to work.
Book beams aboard to collect his dilithium, and is intercepted by a protective Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Michael gives Book what she’s promised, and he marvels at how much dilithium DISCO has in its stores. She suggests that he could come to Earth with DISCO for a fresh start, distancing himself from some of the enemies he’s made. She mentions that he would also be useful in masking how much dilithium they actually have, temporarily taking the target off of DISCO.
Michael pitches this plan to Saru, who is understandably reluctant to hand over DISCO’s entire complement of dilithium over to Book. He notes his concern about her judgement since she turned down command of the ship and insists on an explanation. Michael explains, in so many words, the savagery of the galaxy since the collapse of the Federation and how she’s had to let go some of the ideals they shared to survive. Saru agrees to allow Book’s ship to hide in the cargo bay, laying down a few ground rules as a precaution.
On the bridge, the crew prepares for black alert, and Michael takes a minute to adjust to her old role. Before they jump, Book joins them on the bridge, earning looks of approval from lieutenants Detmer (Emily Coutts) and Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo).
The crew jumps to Sector 001, arriving just outside Saturn as per Michael’s suggestion. Book reacts to the spore jump, harkening back to Saru’s line from season 2: “You never forget your first jump.” Michael stays focused and scans the area as they approach visual range. The crew marvels at our Bright Blue Marble as Saru notices the arrays in orbit. Lt. Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) identifies them as global shielding units, just as they spring to life. As they’re approached by vessels from the surface, the crew goes to red alert, raising their shields as they are hailed.
Cheekily remarking on their old-fashioned viewscreen, United Earth Defense Force Captain Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole), questions DISCO’s sudden appearance in orbit before demanding they leave at once. Saru gives a brilliant cover story, stating that they had been on a classified deep space mission and were the descendants of the original crew and only seek their ancestral home. Ndoye insists they cooperate with a mandatory piracy inspection as Michael and Book quietly leave the bridge. Saru concedes to the inspection, and EDF teams abruptly appear all over the ship, upsetting Stamets (Anthony Rapp) as they materialize in his lab.
Michael has taken Book back to her quarters and promptly puts him in a uniform to avoid suspicion from the boarding party. Book complains the whole time, and Michael is clearly conflicted about whether or not what she’s had to do to survive means she’s still worthy to wear the uniform. There’s a brief, intimate moment as she pins on his badge, but the two quickly return to the task at hand.
Georgiou changes into a Starfleet uniform as well, and Michael gives her a hard time for insinuating that she could be an admiral. Georgiou retorts by noting how well Michael has adjusted to life on her own, almost encouraging the unspoken debauchery she’s most likely participated in.
Michael joins Saru and Capt. Ndoye in the ready room. Ndoye explains that following the burn, Earth became a target and had since beefed up security due to raiders after dilithium. She also establishes that Starfleet and the Federation hadn’t been headquartered on Earth in a hundred years. Shocked, Michael asks about Admiral Tal’s twelve-year-old transmission. Ndoye checks her records, and discovers that Tal had died two years prior.
In engineering, Stamets and Tilly are outwardly annoyed by the intrusion of the EDF inspectors. A young inspector named Adira (Blu Del Barrio) begins poking around the lab, labeling the ship a museum while Stamets and Tilly seethe at the intrusion. They abruptly go to red alert, and as we go to the bridge, we see the raiders Ndoye spoke of arriving in full force, demanding that DISCO hand over her dilithium.
Ndoye tries to take action, but Saru reminds her of her lack of authority on his bridge. She and her team of inspectors try to leave DISCO, but they discover their transporter signals are blocked. Ndoye accuses Saru of sabotage. Naturally he is offended, and states that DISCO will determine the source of their transporter issues and will deal with the raiders. Ndoye once again insists that they leave orbit, or Earth will consider it a declaration of war.
Michael finds Book in the mess hall, several shot glasses stacked before him. She recruits him for a plan to save the ship, informing him that he’s been drinking synthehol. He asks if she’ll need to ask for permission, and she assures him that she’ll ask for forgiveness once the plan works.
Back in engineering, Stamets and Tilly discover the equipment Adira has used to block the inspectors’ transporter signals. They determine that the young inspector must have planted the device to buy some time, and decide on a method to convince Adira to come clean.
On the bridge, the raiders still aren’t answering hails and Owosekun alerts Saru that the unauthorized departure from the cargo bay was Book’s ship, complete with Michael, Book, and DISCO’s entire stash of dilithium. Saru starts to hail the ship, but Georgiou insists that they trust Michael’s insight. Meanwhile, Michael and Book distract the raiders and their leader Wen with promises of dilithium if they leave Earth’s orbit. But on DISCO, the clock is ticking as Ndoye pressures Saru to handle Michael before Earth does. Georgiou pressures him to attack the EDF, but he instead orders Detmer to position the DISCO between Earth’s ships and Book’s to take the hit. Ndoye reminds Saru that the EDF ships will destroy them to protect Earth, and just as things start to look hairy, Michael and Book step onto the bridge with Wen in custody.
In the ready room, Wen and Ndoye argue about who’s got the right to do what, but Georgiou has had enough. She brings Wen (Christopher Heyerdahl) to his knees and removes what was apparently a helmet, revealing a human being, contrary to Ndoye’s earlier assessment of the mysterious raider leader.
Meanwhile, Stamets confronts Adira, sharing some of what makes DISCO unique in the attempt to coax an explanation. Adira admits to sabotaging the ship to buy enough time to determine if the crew could be trusted, revealing the truth about wanting to tag along. When Stamets asks why Adira would want to join them, Adira claims to know Admiral Tal, changing things considerably.
Saru and Michael work that Starfleet magic, and they determine the raiders were actually colonists from Titan who had encountered a wide range of technical issues, causing them to come to Earth for help. When Earth had fired on them, the act sparked animosity between the two groups, pitting them against each other for years. Together, they manage successful negotiations between Earth and the human colony on Titan, sowing the seeds of diplomacy to bring about peace.
Impressed by the nature of his character, Capt. Ndoye compliments Capt. Saru’s handling of a potentially catastrophic situation. She, in turn, grants DISCO’s crew permission to visit Earth, and also allows Adira to stay aboard. After Ndoye departs, Saru is shocked to learn that Adira, a human, carries the Trill symbiont, Tal. He shares this news with Michael, who is learning for the first time that Trill are a joined species. She goes on to apologize for not telling him about her plan to hide the dilithium, promising to be a better First Officer once she’s had time to re-adjust to life on a Starfleet vessel. Saru accepts her apology, insisting that she be more forthcoming in the future.
Michael takes a moment to send Book off, thanking him for his help once more. They enjoy some witty banter before he departs, making sure to cast a look over his shoulder before he goes. Michael then joins Saru on the bridge, and together they gaze fondly at the campus of Starfleet Academy. He extends the offer to go to the surface with the rest of the bridge crew, but Michael decides to stick by his side, signifying the beginning of the next chapter of their relationship.
On the surface, the bridge crew gather around the Great Oak at the Academy, thankful for some semblance of familiarity. Together, they reminisce about their days on Earth and marvel at how much the tree has grown in 930 years. Saru calls them back to the ship, but Tilly pleads for just five more minutes. Saru grants their request, gently reminding them – and us – just how much more work needs to be done in this new time.