Saru: I need to know that you can be trusted.
Leland: If you can tell the answer, I’m not doing my job very well.
Previously on Star Trek Discovery: The Red Angel chose Spock (Ethan Peck) as it’s prophet and showed him a vision of the end of all sentient life in the galaxy. Culber (Wilson Cruz) returned from the mycelial network, but doesn’t feel like himself, and broke up with Stamets (Anthony Rapp). Airiam (Hannah Cheesman) was hacked by a probe from the future, and was attempting to provide Control – an AI used by Section 31 – with data on how it can gain sentience. The only way to stop her was to blow her out an airlock.
Since he clearly was not the saboteur, Pike (Anson Mount) and Nhan (Rachael Ancheril), remove security bracelets from Tyler’s (Shazad Latif) wrists, and he is once again free to move about the ship. Meanwhile, the doctors in sickbay are deleting all of the data that Airiam had downloaded. At her funeral, Pike, Tilly (Mary Wiseman), Stamets, Detmer (Emily Coutts), Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Saru (Doug Jones) all give touching eulogies. As Saru sings a song of remembrance, the torpedo containing her remains is launched.
In the turbolift afterwards, Burnham apologizes that Tyler was confined to quarters for so long – she tried to tell Pike it wasn’t him. But Tyler gets it. And while he’s trying to be comforting, she’s pretty cold. All that has recently happened is because of Section 31, and even if he wasn’t involved, his allegiance is still to them, and that bothers her.
In the briefing room, we get an extended recap of the last few weeks of story. An AI from the future infected Airiam, and forced her to copy sphere data into Control, so Control could evolve. Since Airiam’s memory was deleted before her funeral and the Section 31 station was destroyed, they should be safe from the evil AI. But just in case, all Section 31 ships were instructed to carry out diagnostics, and everything came back just fine. But there’s no telling if it still exists somewhere, just biding it’s time. And they have to be ready to destroy it. #foreshadowing Tilly enters with some new findings – while reviewing some scans of Airiam’s databanks, she found a file labeled “Project Daedalus.” Inside was a bio-neural signature of the Red Angel, which matches that of Burnham. She’s the Red Angel.
Even though Culber hasn’t been officially reinstated, he’s the doctor who’s in the main cast, so Pike has placed him in charge of the analysis of Tilly’s findings. And he says that Burnham is a 100% match to the signature in Airiam’s file, and there’s no way that could be fabricated. Pike can’t quite understand how Michael will go from sitting in sickbay to one day waking up and deciding to save the galaxy as a time-traveling angel. But the ever-sassy Spock points out her penchant for taking responsibility for situations beyond her control, and the rest of the group in sickbay seems to find it rather amusing. And then we’re in for a little more recapping – seven signals, lives saved, no clear connection, etc etc.
A Section 31 vessel pulls up alongside Discovery, and Leland (Alan van Sprang) and Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) beam aboard. Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) takes the opportunity to remind them that Spock, Burnham and everyone on Disco have been cleared of all charges, so there will be no arrests in here on this day. They know, but they don’t have to be happy about it. But they’re really here to propose a solution for stopping further infiltration from the future – they want to trap the Red Angel. The Disco crew shares their knowledge about it’s identity, but Georgiou seems disbelieving/concerned/confused by that news, but all agree that trapping her is the best option.
And now it’s time for Leland to share some information: Twenty years ago, Section 31 discovered that the Klingons had been researching time travel, which would put all of the Federation at risk. As a response, Section 31 followed suit, creating the Daedalus Project. Yep, they created the Red Angel. While the suit was being tested, it was destroyed by the Klingons, and Leland thought that the project had been abandoned… until the signals appeared. And now they want their technology back. Oh, and don’t mind the gaps in the story – it’s all part of being a secret organization. They have the technical specs for the trap they want to build, and just need some help from a top notch engineer – like Stamets. But how will they know where the Red Angel will appear next? They’ll have to figure out a pattern. They’ll also have to find a way to close the micro-wormhole that tethers her to the future so she can’t escape. And… go! Once again, Michael follows Georgiou down the hall, angling for more information and playing on whatever soft spots they still have for one another. But Georgiou refuses – she’s not the one with that information.
In engineering, Stamets explains the science of the Red Angel once again, and Tilly pipes in with how their trap will break the tether, trap her in stasis beams, and shut down the “time crystal” that powers her suit. (Wait. So we’re just going to breeze past this “time crystal” thing? Apparently so. I’d really like to circle back to that and get a bit of an explanation. Why slingshot around the sun if you can just get a crystal?) And then things get weird. Weirder. Georgiou starts… complimenting Stamets. And then Culber enters, sending Tilly all a-tizzy, and Georgiou’s blatantly flirting with Stamets (while still suggesting a location for their mousetrap), making everyone pretty uncomfortable. Culber reminds Georgiou that Stamets is gay. Oh, but in the Mirror Universe, he was pan, and apparently enjoyed the company of the Emperor. So did Culber, who Georgiou calls “papi.” Well, in this universe, Stamets is gay. And so is Culber. Sure, Georgiou will pretend to believe that. And after she leaves, Tilly once again speaks for all of us when she asks, “What just happened?”
Nhan catches up with Burnham in the hall. She wants to explain herself, and she’s sorry about Airiam. But Burnham knows Nhan did the right thing, and she’s grateful that she was there. They shake hands, and seem to have a newfound bond, if not full-fledged friendship.
In the science lab, Saru and Leland are looking for a way to close the micro-wormhole, but Disco‘s graviton beam isn’t powerful enough to… Well, that’s why Leland wanted to do it from his own ship, and he’s not very happy that he’s still on Disco. He’s going to take Tyler, and they’ll handle this part of the plan. Why is Saru there, anyway? Does Pike think he needs a babysitter? No, Saru wanted to assess Leland for himself – he wants to know that Leland can be trusted. Saru believes that he will work to protect both crews to the best of his ability, but even without his ganglia, Saru can sense that Leland is still a threat and is not being entirely forthcoming.
And what perfect timing! Burnham enters, and asks for a moment with the Captain. Saru leaves and Burnham confronts Leland – They’re trying to capture her, so she has a right to know everything. Somehow, this works, and Leland spills the tea: Michael’s parents were working on Project Daedalus for Section 31. He’s the reason they were stationed on Doctari Alpha when the Klingons attacked. Their theory was the technological leaps across cultures were the result of time travel, not natural advancement, and they built the suit to (somehow) prove their point. But it needed a time crystal. Leland acquired one on the black market near an Orion outpost, and the Klingons tracked it to Doctari Alpha. To Michael’s family. Michael finally has someone to blame other than herself, and she take all of her anger and punches Leland in the face. Twice.
Immediately, Burnham goes to find Tyler, and find out if he knew. He has no idea what she’s talking about. She again accuses him of giving up on his principles, forsaking everything, for the mission of a morally ambiguous organization. Tyler believes in that mission. No matter who pays the price? Apparently, yes.
Culber – finally – stops in to see Admiral Cornwell in her capacity as a therapist. Before he says more than a few words, she knows how he feels. His experiences are unique, and go far beyond any questions of identity that humanity has previously dealt with. Culber feels alone, no matter who is close at hand. He remembers loving Stamets, and knows what he’s supposed to feel, but doesn’t know what he does feel. He just knows that he can’t give his husband what he needs – and does seem to feel guilt over that. Cornwell tells him, “Love is a choice, Hugh, and one doesn’t just make that choice once; One makes it again and again” and that “The only way to make a new road is to walk it.”
In the gym, Burnham is beating the shit out of a punching dummy when Spock stops by. Her emotions are logical, with all of the information that she’d learned recently, and Spock wishes he’d been there to see her give Leland a shiner. The two put their sass aside, and (for the first time) genuinely share in their experiences where both logic and emotion have failed them. Burnham knows that she blames herself for everything, and she’s sorry. But Spock understands she was a child, dealing with quite a lot, and he doesn’t blame her. But he does, finally, accept her apology. And it appears that this conversation has helped them both, and something things are starting to mend. Oh, and he figured out what causes the Red Angel to appear: Michael.
When there’s no signal and the Red Angel appears, it’s when Michael is in danger – it’s self preservation. Burnham suggests that they set their mousetrap on Essof IV, where they’re building it, and make her the cheese. Since the planet has no breathable atmosphere, they send her out there are let her start suffocating. The Red Angel will have to show up and save her. Without Present Michael, there can be no Future Michael. (But wouldn’t Future Michael know all about Present Michael’s plan? Though I suppose that she’d still have to save her…self.) Pike and Georgiou both think she’s bonkers. Spock insists that the Red Angel will protect her, but Culber will be there just in case. And it’s more logical to let Burnham do this than risk all sentient life in the galaxy. “The needs of the many” and all that.
The Disco team builds the trap in a facility (which does have life support) on this inhospitable planet. Their work must be perfect – they have one chance to get this right, and Burnham will only have two minutes exposed to the elements before she dies. And if this doesn’t work, they’ll lose a lot more than one life.
While she still has the chance – just in case she won’t in the future – Michael stops in to see Tyler, and apologize for her misdirected anger. For the first time, she expresses some doubt and fear about this plan, and he’s right there to comfort and encourage her. And they totally make out.
The trap is set, the away team is in place, and the crews of both ships are ready to get underway, except at Disco’s science station: Lt. Nilsson (Sara Mitich) enters and, with all eyes on her, makes her way to Airiam’s former post. On Essof IV, Culber tries to take a moment to speak with Stamets, even just offer condolences for Airiam, but this isn’t the time. “It might not ever be the time.” Georgiou asks Burnham if she’s ready, and keeps it all business… until Michael asks why she didn’t just tell her about her parents. It wasn’t Georgiou’s story to tell, but she wanted to make sure it was told. Georgiou silently wish Burnham luck with a squeeze on her shoulder – whatever bond these two have, it clearly crosses realities.
Spock straps Burnham into a terrifying dentist-like chair (seriously, Starfleet puts deltas on everything), and then reminds her that if she dies, he’ll be charged with killing a Starfleet officer – again. “So it would be ideal if you survived.”
Spock returns to the control room, as Stamets turns off life support in the … hanger bay? Let’s go with “hangar bay.” As the roof opens, the effects are immediate, as Burnham begins to choke and struggle, and it looks like her skin begins to burn off her face and evaporate. It’s pretty gross, honestly. Culber is monitoring her blood-oxygen levels, which are falling, and Tilly is monitoring tachyon levels, which aren’t changing. As the exposure window starts to close, Georgiou wants to shut it down, but Spock disagrees – they have to let her die. Still not change in tachyon levels and no sign of the Red Angel. Pike calls it off from the bridge of the Discovery, but Spock is holding the away team hostage, refusing to let anyone go to Michael. Her two minutes are up and Michael stops struggling, and we hear her flatline. They can’t even beam her to sickbay… because there’s interference from a huge surge in tachyon radiation!
The Red Angel has finally shown up and Leland and Tyler get to work on collapsing the mico-wormhole. The Red Angel blasts Burnham with some kind of red energy and she begins to breath again. Stamets shuts the hangar bay roof and initiates the stasis beams. Leland heads to a secure area of his ship which requires a retina scan to gain access. The system gives him some trouble, and then, on his second attempt, stabs. him. in. the. eye. As Leland lays incapacitated on the floor, the computer mimics his voice to let Tyler know he’s rerouted power. So much for those Section 31 ships not being infected by a malicious AI. Anyway, the wormhole is collapsed, the Red Angel is caught in the beams, the roof is closing, and life support has been restored. As her feet touch the landing pad, they fire an EMP to disable the Red Angel’s suit, and a human form falls forward as Stamets initiates the containment field. But that’s not Michael Burnham – It’s her mother (Sonja Sohn).
Next week, something’s rotten of Essof IV and Michael’s mom tries to change the way we think about time.