We open on Cleveland Booker (David Ajala) and Dr. Ruon Tarka (Shawn Doyle) on Booker’s ship, hiding in an asteroid field as they construct Tarka’s weapon. With shaky nerves and steady hands the finish the job, and Booker is clearly still conflicted, despite his outward resolve.
On Discovery, Capt. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is in her quarters, looking sullen as she stares off into the distance. Mr. Saru (Doug Jones) enters and she shares an encrypted message that she’s received from Book. He acknowledges her updated information about the DMA, but stands firm and informs her that he intends to use Tarka’s weapon anyway. He signs the message with love, but Burnham is clearly distressed. We cut quickly to Starfleet HQ, where Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) commiserates with Burnham’s predicament. Burnham asks if DISCO will be assigned the task of recovering the weapon, and Vance conveys his concern that she runs the risk of being too emotionally compromised to complete the mission. He goes on to reveal that he’s assigned a special ops security officer to the bridge for the duration of the mission, just in case Burnham can’t bring herself to pull the trigger. In walks a blast from the past, Cmdr. Nhan (Rachael Ancheril), confirming that she’ll be keeping an eye on the situation at hand, putting Burnham at ease. Vance leaves them to catch up, and Nhan fills in the blanks of her absence.
Back on DISCO, Saru is tending to his garden in his quarters when a thought occurs to him. He calls up an image of Ni’Var President T’Rina (Tara Rosling), who seems pleased to hear from him. Saru requests the president’s help in meditation but has difficulty focusing from the beginning. He confesses that his concern is split between the Booker/Tarka situation and Sukal’s worry about the DMA. He fears his personal feelings are trivial, but T’Rina encourages him to explore those feelings through everyday tasks and personal connections. She even goes so far as to shoot her shot and suggests dinner together to help distract him from the matter at hand, but Saru drops the ball by stating that he’ll keep her offer in mind. T’Rina wishes him luck before ending the call, leaving Saru alone to think about how he just passed on the only interest he’s been shown in the past 930 years.
Saru, having collected himself, steps onto the bridge to prep the crew for the captain’s arrival. He overhears discourse between Lt. Cmdr. Rhys (Patrick Kowk-Choon) and Cmdr. Nilsson (Sara Mitich) concerning the morality of Booker’s decision to flee with the weapon, and quickly reminds them of their duty despite their personal feelings. In walks Capt. Burnham and Cmdr. Nhan, who receives a warm welcome from the bridge crew. Nhan asks them to ignore her presence on the bridge in an attempt to conceal her mission, but Burnham opts for full transparency and tells the crew precisely why Nhan is on board for this mission.
After the titles, DISCO has jumped to Book and Tarka’s location, remaining cloaked as the approach. Burnham calls Saru, Nhan, and Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) into her ready room. There, she briefs them on the security schematics of Book’s ship. When Nhan expresses concern over Burnham leading the mission, Burnham clarifies that Saru will lead the mission, accompanied by Dr. Culber, Cmdr. Rhys, and Cmdr. Bryce (Ronnie Royce, Jr.). Saru reveals the plan to utilize Culber to de-escalate the situation, and reminds them that they’ll have phasers set to stun, just in case.
On the shuttle, Rhys continues to express his disdain that Booker is being pursued with the intent to persecute. Bryce reminds him that Book stole classified tech to build a weapon of mass destruction. The two bicker a bit before Saru and Culber remind them that no matter how they might feel about the specifics, they were all there to fix the problem together. Dropping it, they focus on docking the shuttle to Book’s frigate.
Monitoring their progress on DISCO, Burnham gives the docking command. Nhan checks in with Burnham just as the shuttle triggers an unforeseen alarm, trapping the small vessel on the frigate with programmable matter that is slowly destroying the hull. Booker panics on his bridge, and Tarka confesses to installing a new security system on the way to Borathia. There’s a mad rush to let the shuttle loose before the hull collapses, including an EMP sent from Book’s ship to disrupt the security protocols. Seeing that there won’t be enough time, Burnham has the away team beamed directly to DISCO’s bridge just before the shuttle is destroyed. Booker hails DISCO quickly, just to check on the away team before abruptly jumping to the DMA. Burnham rallies the troops and follows.
At the DMA’s current location, DISCO jumps inside the distortion barrier and begins scanning for the controller. Lt. Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) alerts them that dark matter interference has increased significantly, and Cmdrs. Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) and Detmer (Emily Coutts) weigh in on the increased difficulty in finding the controller before Booker and Tarka do. Nhan requests a meeting with Burnham and Saru in the captain’s office.
Once there, Nhan informs them that she was to give them the following briefing should they fail to convince Booker to stand down. She reveals a plot to disable the spore drive prototype, sending a cascading, system-wide failure on Booker’s frigate. Burnham and Saru protest, each stating that that sort of explosion would take out the weapon and both ships along with it. Nhan and Burnham start to bicker when Saru elegantly reminds them of what Culber said on the shuttle.
…that in times of division, we identify that upon which we can agree. A shared goal, perhaps, so that we may find a compromise. -Saru
Burnham does just that, and focuses on the boromite that the DMA would be mining. She calls down to engineering and tasks Cmdr. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) with finding the boromite so they can calculate roughly how long it would take DMA to finish mining it in an attempt to convince Booker and Tarka to stand down.
On the frigate, Booker struggles to locate the controller amidst all the dark matter interference. Tarka expresses remorse for endangering the shuttle, and Book is openly angered by Tarka’s meddling. Tarka reminds him that he’ll eventually have to make a decision between Burnham and her crew and destroying the DMA controller.
There’s some great tactical cat and mouse between DISCO and Booker’s frigate, complete with Burnham remembering a maneuver of Book’s from a previous excursion and Book reminiscing about the original event. Nhan classifies Booker’s maneuver as an act of aggression, but Burnham insists that he knew the crew would be unharmed. Owosekun locates the subspace barrier surrounding the controller, and Burnham gives the order to position the ship in front of it, intending to hold position for as long as it takes.
Burnham presses Stamets for the boromite timetable and Nhan questions the captain’s choice to wait. Burnham insists that she’ll be able to talk Booker down, claiming that his logical nature will enable him to see reason. Nhan reminds her that new data didn’t stop Booker before, and shares the tactical data with Cmdr. Rhys. Burnham maintains that blowing up his ship (and possibly theirs) is a last resort while the crew looks uneasy. Nhan reiterates that they hope to avoid this option, but informs them that her orders are to stop Booker from firing on the weapon by any means necessary.
Booker and Tarka arrive at the controller, and DISCO proceeds to obstruct their shot, jumping between Booker’s frigate and the controller. Tarka begins pressuring him to fire the weapon but Book refuses, stating that they need a clear shot with only one weapon at their disposal. He fires a warning shot, and despite Burnham’s attempt to justify it, Nhan plainly states that he’s begun shooting at them. Burnham reluctantly returns fire, and the two ships exchange friendly fire while jumping around the controller. Tarka, having his fill of the banter, fires a full spread of quantum torpedoes at DISCO. Nhan insists that Burnham take out the ship just as Stamets comes through with the calculations, stating that it would take the DMA a week to mine all the boromite in the area. Burnham orders Rhys to take the shot if Nhan orders him to, and calls Nhan into her office. Once there, she reminds the commander that nothing is black and white, good or bad, and insists that she can convince Booker to stand down with this new information. She resolves to taking a shuttle and brining it right up to his view screen if she has to. Nhan reluctantly agrees.
Burnham actually pilots a shuttle to Book’s grill and attempts to talk him down, stating that the Federation approves of waiting the full week to try and make first contact with Species 10-C. Should the plan fail, the Federation would support Booker’s plan to destroy the controller before any more lives are lost. Tarka is not pleased by the idea of waiting, but Book mulls it over. He eventually agrees, and Burnham returns to DISCO. Claiming to be clearheaded, Tarka lowers the disruption field and beams the weapon into the controller just as Burnham beams to the bridge. She scrambles for ways to stop the incoming disaster, but the crew is at a loss. Booker is livid with Tarka, and refuses to jump away until DISCO does, cutting it remarkably close to detonation.
Tarka attempts to justify his actions while Booker sits there stunned at what’s just happened. Tarka reasons that no more lives will be lost now that the controller has been destroyed, and begins searching for the power source. After some frantic scanning, he quickly realizes that the DMA was controlled from the other side of the wormhole and the two of them sit there, victorious yet defeated.
With DISCO docked back at Starfleet HQ, Burnham stands in her office, staring off into space as Nhan joins her. She asks if there’s been any word from Booker, and Burnham admits that he hasn’t answered her hails. She goes on to explain that first contact protocols have been fast-tracked amidst a sector-wide state of emergency, ad Vance and the rest of Starfleet has no idea how Species 10-C will react. Burnham them invites Nhan to sit, and thanks her for being supportive in such a high-stakes situation. When asked about her plans to see her family, Nhan admits to never interacting with her distant relatives, even though she had located them. Knowing that she could never tell them exactly who she was, she had opted out of meeting them altogether, stating that she was either all the way in, or all the way out. But, now that she’s been inspired by Burnham’s quest to find the middle ground, Nhan reveals that she’ll make another attempt to connect with her family, and thanks Burnham for the insight.
In sick bay, Dr. Culber begins turning down for the evening when Saru joins him, asking advice on what to do with President T’Rina’s dinner invitation. He expresses his inclination decline given everything that’s going on, but Culber encourages him to take the date, especially since things are wild, and especially since Saru has feelings for her. Saru thanks the doctor for his candor, and joins Capt. Burnham on the bridge. There, we learn that a new DMA has appeared in the precise location as the previous one, and that first contact has apparently been made, despite their attempt to go about things diplomatically.
The seeds of dissent have been sewn as the crew adopts polarizing opinions about how to handle Species 10-C. Hopefully we’ll learn the truth behind Dr. Tarka and his obsession with getting to this external universe. But the more pressing matter is: will Michael and Book’s relationship survive the upcoming consequences he and Tarka are sure to face?