f last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery had you biting your nails, prepare to say goodbye to your cuticles this week. With next week marking the end of its groundbreaking third season, DISCO has put us through an entire spectrum of emotions and “There Is A Tide…” is no exception.
Picking up right where we left off, Osyraa (Janet Kidder) sits at the com of a hijacked DISCO as they close in on Federation Headquarters (FHQ) with a “firing” Viridian in their wake. Inside FHQ, Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) and his team remain suspicious as the ships approach. Osyraa and her team of regulators continue to sink their claws into DISCO, but are unable to delete the Sphere data, which has masked itself as the Buster Keaton films.
Vance’s caution gives acting captain Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and the bridge crew enough time to formulate a plan while in captivity. As Tilly defends her crew against abuse, in walks Zareh (Jake Weber) from earlier this season, unfortunately having survived the conditions of the carnivorous ice planet. He drags in Ryn (Noah Averbach-Katz) to add to the hostage pool, making sure to antagonize Tilly for the state of the ship under her command.
Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Book (David Ajala) hurl through a courier subspace transport conduit towards FHQ as Osyraa closes in. As Vance reluctantly agrees to let DISCO inside, Burnham and Book narrowly squeeze his ship into DISCO’s cargo bay.
Osyraa debriefs with Zareh about the cargo bay as they head to engineering. There we see Stamets (Anthony Rapp) still subdued and in custody, observed by Invigilator Aurellio (Kenneth Mitchell). Osyraa encourages Aurellio’s efforts to use Stamets to solve the puzzle of the mycelial network, assuring him of his safety.
In the cargo bay, Burnham and Book devise a plan to get Stamets off the ship. Book elects to stay behind since he doesn’t know DISCO as well as Burnham, and gives her a signal concealment band to prevent detection as she searches the ship. In a tender moment, Burnham confesses her love for Book for what she thinks is the first time, but he reveals that she talks in her sleep.
Back at FHQ, Vance tries to establish communication with DISCO or Book’s ship, and realizes that the Emerald Chain’s presence near Kaminar is a distraction and that Osyraa has taken the vessel. On DISCO, the bridge crew silently conspires to get free just as Zareh arrives, adding Book to the group.
In the corridors, Burnham quietly attacks a regulator while he’s distracted, managing to ultimately choke him into submission despite the knife he plunges into her thigh. Taking his comm device, Burnham hobbles off, leaving a trail of blood in her wake. Meanwhile, Vance pulls out what’s left of the big guns to surround DISCO. Osyraa reaches out, and as she releases all but the bridge crew hostages, together they agree to discuss terms.
Burnham regroups in a Jefferies tube, and cauterizes her wound with the newest Starfleet weaponry as she monitors the comms. She puts out a distress call to her mother, and sets off to pull Stamets from engineering.
Vance, Lt. Willa (Vanessa Jackson), and a small team of visibly tense officers greet Osyraa and her landing party at FHQ. When she asks for the Federation president, Vance informs her that he’ll be doing negotiations in the president’s place since it is a matter of security. Meanwhile the bridge crew execute a flawless distraction to take the guards and their weapons. Tilly delegates Ryn to hack Osyraa’s control of ship’s systems, Bryce (Ronnie Rowe, Jr) to raise a comm signal, and Detmer (Emily Coutts), Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon), and Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) to break them free.
In negotiations, Osyraa inquires about the necessity of Eli, the holo (Brendan Beiser) as a lie detector, but goes on to lay down her terms of peace. Vance is understandably skeptical as she explains that the Emerald Chain is just as strapped for dilithium as the Federation is. She goes on to mention that the singular nature of the spore drive’s functionality could be fixed utilizing the scientific resources within the Chain. She proposes a new Federation, incorporating the Chain and all the worlds within it to maximize effectiveness and safety for everyone involved. Eli confirms that she’s telling the truth, but Vance’s side eye remains.
Burnham gets made by Zareh and the regulators as she tries to get to Stamets in engineering. Aurellio has another regulator remove the neural lock from Stamets so that he can further explain the inner-workings of the spore drive. Their exchange is amicable, almost pleasant as they discuss Andorian opera. Stamets mentions children and family to appeal to his good graces, but Aurellio stays on track, informing him that Chain technology might have a way to recreate the tardigrade DNA.
In the Jefferies tube, Zareh taunts Burnham as regulators close in on her location. As a regulator grabs her, Burnham secures herself to a bulkhead and triggers the fire suppression system, blowing the regulator out of the nearest airlock. Book, Ryn, and the bridge crew listen with baited breath as the ship announces the decompression, and let out a collective sigh of relief when Burnham mocks Zareh over the comm.
Back in negotiations, Osyraa makes a passive aggressive comment about the taste of replicated apples. When Vance admits that he’s never had a real apple, Osyraa doubles down on her offer to unify the Chain and the Federation, if nothing else but for access to real produce. Vance trolls her with the truth, admitting that the replicated produce is made from the crew’s waste, and that while it’s actual repurposed poop, at least they didn’t have to resort to oppression for an apple. Osyraa demands that the Emerald Chain’s admission into the Federation be legitimate, and produces a draft of an armistice for Vance to review.
On DISCO, Tilly and the captives devise a plan to break loose. Stamets tries to appeal to Aurellio’s sense of decency to convince him not to cooperate with the Chain. Burnham busts in and stuns Aurellio and the guards before freeing Stamets. Ryn and Book hold off regulators from finding the bridge crew. Burnham tries to get Stamets off the ship, but he protests vehemently, to the point when he has to use the Vulcan neck pinch to subdue him.
In negotiations, Osyraa continues to antagonize Vance as he reviews the armistice. Vance poses additional terms to the armistice, holding Osyraa accountable for her crimes. She loses her patience and storms out without coming to an agreement. Returning to DISCO, Osyraa is livid to find that they’ve lost control of the hostages. Book tries to appeal to her good graces, but she kills Ryn in front of Aurellio, confirming what Stamets tried to tell him.
Meanwhile, Burnham prepares to get Stamets off the ship by placing him in a rescue pod before blowing a hole in the ship. Stamets gets picked up instantly by a Starfleet tractor beam, and Zareh captures Burnham shortly after. Tilly and the bridge crew formulate a plan to take back the bridge, but they’re intercepted by the ship’s drones. They reveal that they are operated by the Sphere data, and offer to help Tilly take back the ship.
There were interesting notes of diplomacy portrayed by Vance and Stamets in this episode. Together they displayed some of the founding principles of Starfleet in the face of adversity. Osyraa made decent arguments regarding the effectiveness of the Emerald Chain’s machinations, but these efforts proved useless against the unflinching resolve of the Federation’s sense of justice, even in its depleted state. Next week’s season finale has a lot to wrap up, giving us something else to look forward to in 2021.