“See, we do what we do so you can do what you do.” -Leland to Pike
Previously on Star Trek Discovery: Emperor/Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) showed up on Qo’noS and whisked Tyler (Shazad Latif) away to a life in Section 31, after faking his death. Pike (Anson Mount), Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Amanda (Mia Kirshner) learn that Spock is wanted for the murder of three officers and has gone AWOL from the medical facility where he was getting treatment. They need to find him before anyone else does, and luckily Burnham found the location of his shuttle. Meanwhile, Tilly (Mary Wiseman) was infected with a spore from the mycelial network that’s making her see her dead friend May (Bahia Watson). Stamets (Anthony Rapp) tried to get rid of it, but just made things worse. Now Tilly has been enveloped by the fungal blob turn cocoon.
We rejoin our crew just seconds after the end of last week’s episode, and Burnham is sprinting towards Engineering to find out what’s going on with her BFF Tilly. She arrives to see a cocoon-like creature (it’s breathing!) and a forlorn Stamets. In a montage and voiceover, Burnham tells us that they don’t know Tilly’s fate, but Stamets refuses to give up on her and insists that she’s still alive. Burnham’s not so sure. And while she waits for a plan, all she can do it continue to go to work.
Breaking her out of her reverie on the bridge, Detmer (Emily Coutts) announces that she’s picked up Spock’s shuttle on sensors, and Owo (Oyin Oladejo) tells us there’s one life sign on board. But the shuttle is evading them. Saru (Doug Jones) suggests that Spock might not realize Disco is friendly, so Pike opens up a channel in an attempt to reassure his officer. But the shuttle increases speed, and alters course to fly into a nebula. Suddenly, there’s an explosion. He ignited the hydrogen gas in the nebula to mess with Disco‘s sensors… and then came to a stop, causing Discovery to fly past him. So Pike fires a torpedo, detonating it 100 meters away from the shuttle, and it is finally disabled so they can use a tractor beam to bring it on board.
Burnham and Pike head to the shuttle bay, expecting to see Spock. The crew there to meet the shuttle all have their phasers raised as out walks… Georgiou! There’s relief all around, except for Burnham, who has to be scolded by Pike before she lowers her phaser. “Quite the welcome,” indeed.
Time for a good old walk-and-talk. Pike is reminiscing about his times at the Academy with Georgiou, who apparently was a top student and could really hold her liquor. Really, Pike’s trying to get some info, and Georgiou is having none of it, sidestepping every question. As they enter the turbolift, she shows him her black badge – just to clear some things up. Burnham is shocked and appalled, and Pike doesn’t understand what Section 31 has to do with Spock. Turns out, Georgiou’s mission is to hunt down Spock, who’s wanted for multiple murders. But by the time she reached his shuttle, it was empty and adrift. So she took it, of course. Pike tells her that he and Burnham don’t believe those charges, and well…
Georgiou: The innocent don’t run.
Burnham: You ran from us.
The trio arrives at Pike’s ready room, where a comm-hologram of Pike’s buddy Leland (Alan van Sprang) is just standing there waiting for him. Leland’s heading up Section 31 now and he wants Chris to let Georgiou get back to her mission. Pike refuses, because he knows Spock better than anyone else and he’s not a murderer. But Leland doesn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea if he allows Spock’s CO and sister to lead the hunt. After Pike and Leland throw some mutual shade, make some veiled threats, and engage in a major league pissing contest, Leland agrees to send a liaison to Discovery to keep them appraised of the Spock situation. Pike dismisses Georgiou…
And Burnham follows her out for a walk-and-talk back to the shuttle bay. Georgiou seems to get a thrill from the fact that Pike doesn’t know who she really is – and that Starfleet only shares the truth with its officers “when it’s convenient.” But not to worry – Leland is in the know. And now, so is else walking in the corridor. Burnham reiterates that she doesn’t trust Georgiou, in case that wasn’t clear from her phaser earlier, and the Emperor still resents Burnham for bringing her to the Prime universe. But Burnham lets a little bit of her Mirror-self shine through as she warns Georgiou not to lay a hand on her brother before literally showing her to the door [to the shuttle bay].
So Burnham goes to check in on Stamets, who seems to have had a breakthrough. He’s been scanning the cocoon for signs of human remains, and there are none. But the laws of thermodynamics tell us that Tilly can’t just disappear (but mushroom highway? sure) so she must have been transported somewhere. The network! And if she could get in, they can get her out.
Stamets has a theory that the cocoon is really a matter transporter with a direct link into the mycelial network. Michael doesn’t understand why May would have taken Tilly in the first place, but she wasn’t there to hear May’s sinister explanation, “I have other plans for her.” Anyway, if they think of the cocoon as a transporter pad, then there has to be another one somewhere in the network, and apparently Stamets can now scan the network (since when?) to locate it…
Jump to the network (see what I did there?), and we find May pulling Tilly out of that very cocoon Stamets will be scanning for. And she is freaking. the fuck. out. She calms down just long enough to look around and realize where she is, then sees the damage that Discovery‘s jumps have caused. That’s when the JahSepp attack Tilly, until May stops them, explaining to Tilly that her people break down all matter that enters the network. Tilly returns to her freak out. She is going to find a way out of here and, by the way, hold a grudge until the end of time. But May needs her help – her home and her people are in imminent danger. Because there’s a monster.
Section 31’s liaison has arrived on board, Discovery and it’s Ash Tyler. Pike is concerned because of Tyler’s past (he knows all about Voq), but Burnham says he can be trusted. She knows him. Pike is still suspicious, especially after their interactions with Georgiou; Something’s going on and he wants and explanation. Burnham promises one, but not right now.
Once again, Tyler and Burnham find themselves together at a table in the mess hall. Their reunion is a bit awkward, especially with Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) keeping a close eye on the new arrival. He tells her that he’s never going back to Qo’noS, but can’t tell her why. Section 31 is a place for people like him, who don’t fit anywhere else. So, like, a cult? Burnham confides that he’s worried about Spock, and Tyler promises that nothing bad will happen to him. But enough of this, they have to get to the bridge to hear Stamets’s plan to rescue Tilly.
As May leads Tilly through a particularly damaged part of the network, she explains that the monster destroys everything it touches. There are trees with bark that is lethal to the JahSepp, and the monster uses it to kill them. May tried to claim that they have no way to defend themselves, but Tilly points out the high-level scientific understand they continue to display – it’s not like they’re defenseless. This mastery of science is another thing that they share, and Tilly’s bond with May is growing, but before she’ll continue, Tilly wants a promise that she’ll get to go home when it’s all over.
On the bridge, Stamets is explaining his theory/plan to Pike when Burnham and Tyler enter. He is visibly confused and taken aback upon seeing his husband’s killer again, but somehow continues his presentation. He proposes a partial jump, which will leave Disco half in and half out of the network, allowing him (and Burnham, because she insists) to leave the cube, move about the network, and look for Tilly. Since we know that the JahSepp will attack the ship (May just told us), they’ll only have an hour before the tritanium hull is damaged beyond repair. Not ideal. Worse, no one on the ship will be able to touch the barrier with the network during this hour, or they’ll be twisted around the axis of both normal space and the mycelial network – like the bodies they found on the Glenn way back in season one. #callback
Pike opens up a shipwide channel and reminds us that Starfleet means family – and family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten. They’re gonna do this thing.
Burnham and Stamets don some new jumpsuits, and grab some altered communicators that will limit interference from the network, then step into the reaction cube – the only place on the ship where it will be safe to cross the mycelial barrier. And away we go: spinny, spinny, wedge. In the network, Tilly and May see a giant chunk of Discovery‘s saucer appear in the sky. May is afraid Tilly will abandon them and return home, but Tilly teaches her about the power of the pinky swear.
Tilly and May board the ship (how, exactly?) and start to look for the crew. The JahSepp are already breaking down the hull, and May sees signs of destruction that can only mean that the monster is also aboard Disco. They hear a noise, and head towards it… and it’s Burnham and Stamets. They’re ready to leave ASAP, but Tilly explains that May needs their help. That’s when they hear the monster’s screams. And again, walk towards it.
The monster first appeared after Stamets opened the door between the universes. It arrived as a surge of energy. When the JahSepp started to reconstitute it, it got out of their control. Also, it’s skin is indestructible and deadly. The team keeps on walking, though, and they turn the corner to find the monster huddled in a corner.
It’s Culber (Wilson Cruz)! Real Talk: Am I the only one who saw this coming from the very first mention of a monster in the network? Anyway, Stamets is in disbelief and, frankly, so is Culber. May starts screaming for them to “Kill it!” and Culber runs off, followed closely by his space boo. Tilly pushes May away, and Burnham calls the bridge to let them know that they’ve located Tilly, but there’s been a slight delay: Culber. And that news visibly shakes Tyler. Also shaking is the ship itself, as it’s being pulled farther into the network.
Burnham tries to explain to May that she knows the “monster,” and he’s really a healer. “Do no harm” and all that jazz. She finds the bark that has fallen off of Culber, and May explains that he’s covered himself with it. That’s why her people die when they try to break down his matter. The JahSepp see this as an attack, but Burnham sees it as a defense – as armor. These actions prove to them that this really is Culber and he’s alive in the network.
Discovery needs to leave – NOW. The mycelial barrier is now running down the middle of the bridge. But Burnham and Tilly need to find Stamets and Culber. It’ll be a little bit longer. Tyler taps his black badge (whut?!) and calls Leland for backup. A nearby asteroid disappears to reveal Leland’s ship, which attempts to stabilize Disco with a super fancy tractor beam gizmo. Pike is flabbergasted and has absolutely had enough of Tyler. Leland gives Pike five minutes, but Pike stays he’ll stay as long as he wants.
Stamets finds Culber in some empty crew quarters, but Hugh thinks he’s hallucinating. So Stamets tells him about how he helped him find his way out of the network, their third date to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and how he knew he was in love. He reaches out and Culber takes his hand, and they immediately embrace. Burnham, Tilly, and May enter the room. Suddenly, the JahSepp attack Tilly, causing her to drop her phaser rifle, which May picks up and brandishes as Culber. Tilly talks her down, explaining again that Culber was just trying to defend himself, and from his perspective, he was the one under attack.
In a brief moment of calm, Burnham asks what everyone’s thinking: How is he here? When Stamets was trapped in the network, he remembers moments of lucidity. He remembers cradling Culber’s body in sickbay. Culber’s energy “must have” been transported through Stamets and into the network. Because thermodynamics. Sure. But this touching moment is interrupted by another lurch. And it’s all going to be okay, because they’re going to take Culber back with them, and he won’t hurt the network anymore, but they really need to get a move on.
Leland’s ready to disengage his tractor beam, but Georgiou diverts some power from the primary regulators to give them another three minutes. He threatens her, so she blackmails him, and she wins.
Things aren’t looking great on the bridge of Discovery, but things are even more difficult down in Engineering. When Culber tries to reach his hand across the mycelial barrier, it disappears, a la Marty McFly.
Right, because he appeared in the network as just energy not matter, he has no matter in our universe. So what can they do? Matter in the two universes is not the same; They could move Tilly, but they can’t create a body. That’s why May had to enter their universe as a spore, and couldn’t maintain a form without inhabiting Tilly. Culber’s done – he tells them to go and he’ll let the JahSepp break him down. He can’t be the cause of the death of the network. And allowing Stamets to stay would be twice as deadly. As they say the goodbyes they could before, a figurative lightbulb goes off above Tilly’s head: May didn’t have human DNA, but Culber does. If they add that DNA to the cocoon, which is comprised of matter from our universe, then…
Then nothing! May doesn’t want to give up her door to their world. She feels too connected to Tilly. They’ve been through so much together. And Tilly gets it. But she also believes that they need to sacrifice… whatever their relationship is for Stamets and Culber. Because the universe will find a way to bring them back together again. Pinky swear.
Stamets, Burnham, and Tilly hop into the cube and cross the barrier, May takes Culber to the cocoon in the network, and Leland’s ship tries to pull Disco from the network as they engage the spore drive. It’s a nice touch here that we can see the damage caused by the JahSepp as the rings of the saucer section begin to spin (I hope they’re still working on repairing those next week). It’s touch and go for a bit, but Disco finally breaks free from the network and everyone is a-okay. Pike heads to Engineering, and tells Saru to have Dr. Pollard meet him there. Tyler begins to follow, but Pike tells him to stay right where he is. “Protocol.” In Engineering, our intrepid trio watches as the cocoon dissolves to reveal a very naked and slightly shell-shocked Hugh Culber.
Now that everything’s calmed down a bit, Pike beams over to Leland’s ship to have a little chat, and finds that Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) is there to provide some new info about the seven signals to both of them. Starfleet’s been scanning for subspace readings around the location of the first red signal, where Discovery found the Hiawatha. And those scans revealed… tachyons. Tachyons mean time travel! Or cloaking devices or transporters. But let’s be real – time travel! Whatever it is, Spock is the one who seems connected to these signals, so they need to find him, and they need to do it together. And btw, Cornwell is totally over their “manlier than thou bullshit” – they need to get over themselves, realize they’re on the same team, and find that Vulcan! Admonished, the boys start to play nice.
On Disco, Burnham gets a holo-call from Georgiou. They dance around each other until Burnham outright asks what she wants with Spock. Georgiou wants to find him before someone more dangerous does – vigilantes or Starfleet “cowboys” – but Burnham just can’t bring herself to trust that.
And we wrap up the episode the way it began – with a montage and a voiceover. While Culber recuperates in Sickbay and Tilly mourns the loss of her connection to May, Burnham is trying to figure out how to find her path, questioning whether there is an unseen hand guiding their way. If there is, she hopes it will guide them well.
Next week, it appears that Saru will be dealing with his revelation that The Great Balance is a lie. Also, stopping genocide. Like you do.