Previously on Star Trek Picard: Narek tricks Soji into revealing where she’s from. Soji activates when Narek tries to kill her. Picard and crew show up to save her, with the help of Hugh. Elnor and Hugh stay behind on the Artifact while Picard and Soji flee through a “spatial trajector.” Does everybody die? Does anybody die? We’ll soon find out.
So Sue is away this week on the Star Trek Cruise and I am jealous because the entire time she’s been drinking daiquiris poolside with Kate Mulgrew (or so I assume), I have been on an emotional rollercoaster processing this episode. So if my snark shows up once or twice during this recap it’s only because I have all the feels.
We open on a familiar scene: Commodore Oh in those highly controversial sunglasses approaching Jurati in Okinawa three weeks ago. Fans have been speculating for weeks that Oh manipulated Jurati in some way during that conversation and…they would be right.
Oh starts by asking what she and Picard discussed at the Daystrom Institute and Jurati tries to lie (“The works of Asimov?”) but Oh knows it all already. She wants Jurati to go with Picard and Jurati is not interested because she’s nervous and not keen to go off-world.
“Let me show you what will happen if synthetic life is to continue to exist,” says Oh as she places her hands on Jurati’s face and begins a mind-meld. Jurati stammers out an “okay…” but realistically she isn’t given time to think and can’t really refuse so I’m adding this one to the psychic assault list.
Jurati sees a flash of images – in the show it lasts about two seconds – we see a woman who appears to be Oh in a black hooded cape in the desert. There are a group of other caped figures standing inside a stone circle who all fall down, presumably these are the same Romulan women we see wearing cape, appearing to be in agony (one has green blood running from her forehead, one is clawing at her face and another shoots herself in the head with a disruptor). This is interspersed with images of Earth and its cities exploding.
The minute Oh releases Jurati from the mind meld, Jurati leans over and vomits, then wipes her mouth and says, “What do you need me to do.” Oh gives her a glowing blue triangle that Jurati is to chew and swallow so they will be able to track her, and lets her know what she has to do, “will require a terrible sacrifice.”
Back to where we left off last time, the Artifact has a tractor beam on La Sirena. The ship is shaking and alarms are going off. Raffi and Rios are yelling at each other – Rios saying that Picard and Soji are “en route to a planet that’s days away at maximum warp – don’t ask me how.” (Raffi might not, but you know the internet will.)
Jurati comes up to the bridge and is starting to let her Oh-influenced feelings about synths start to show. She begs them to just ask the Romulans to let them go and seems ok to let the Romulans hunt down Soji and destroy her as long as they can go home and she can forget all about having murdered her ex because a shady lady (pun absolutely intended) from Starfleet put some images in her head. Rios and Raffi stop to look at her, but they have more important things to worry about.
Flash to the Borg Cube where Narissa has rounded up a group of XBs and is ordering her henchmen to shoot them one by one until Hugh says where Picard and Soji went. When he continues to refuse she orders the rest shot. Meanwhile we see Narek is getting in a small ship and flying away.
Hugh cries over the bodies of his friends. Narissa says she hates the cube, and calls the Ex-Borg “things” who died because of Hugh. She holds a knife to his neck and said she’d kill him if she weren’t prevented from doing so by the treaty with the Federation. And readers, I do not want this and Hugh does not deserve it.
Narissa hails Narek, who says he has a good signal lock, and she orders the tractor on La Sirena released. Raffi says it’s a trick, but Rios wants to take his chances. Jurati ask, “What about Elnor?” and they both look guilty they didn’t think of it.
On the Artifact, Elnor runs over to Hugh and when he sees the XB bodies, Elnor tells Rios to go without him and says, “my help is needed here.”
“Everyone here thinks you’re crazy,” says Rios. “And brave,” Jurati adds, and Rios and Raffi agree.
Elnor gives Hugh a hand up and La Sirena leaves. And I love this because Hugh needs help and Elnor is not dead and they are both so very sweet…but I feel like he’s binding himself to a lot of causes in a pretty short period of time … Whatever, I love it.
Picard and Soji materialize on Nepenthe and see a young, blonde woman with war paint, pointing a bow and arrow at them. Soji says she thought they were going somewhere safe and Picard asks, “Are we safe here, Kestra?” so we all know this is Troi and Riker’s kid, named after Deanna’s little sister from “Dark Page.”
Kestra (Lulu Wilson), who appears to be about 14, lowers her bow and as she leads Picard and Soji back to her house, she peppers them with questions and talks about herself and her family. She’s wearing a costume, dressing as the “Wild Girl of the Woods,” as part of a game her brother made up. “But my arrows are real…I won’t shoot you because I’m a pacifist, but I could.” She’s using a compass to try to navigate home, but it doesn’t really work.
Kestra asks which friend of Picard’s was Soji’s dad and Picard says it was Data. Soji is distrustful of everything and gets upset when Kestra asks if she’s an android. She gets upset because everything she thought was real was fake. Picard says, “Not Dahj, Dahj was real,” and says he’s sorry her sister is dead, murdered by the same people who nearly killed her.
“Whatever. None of this is real. Just get on with the mind game,” says Soji.
They come to a log house in a clearing and Troi comes out onto the porch and smiles as she sees Picard. She holds out her arms to him. She knows he’s in trouble but he says he’s fine. He can’t really fool her though.
Riker is grating cheese and listening to jazz in the kitchen when they call him to come out. He doesn’t believe what he’s hearing but Picard steps into the kitchen and says, “Hello, Will.” Riker hugs him and then realizes Picard is there because he needs a place to hide out. He raises shields around the property and Picard suggests he run anti-cloaking scans. “We’ve had a little trouble around here with the Kzinti” (Niiiice reference!)
Riker kindly does an “I told you so” with Picard, saying he warned him when he wanted to go help the Romulan evacuation that he’d be “ass-deep in Romulans for the rest of [his] life” and also reminded him of “Newton’s 4th Law of Thermodynamics”: no good deed goes unpunished.
Troi comes in and says Kestra is showing Soji where to shower. She says Soji appears human and expresses clear emotion. She seems traumatized, but Troi can’t read her.
“I think I’m in over my head,” Picard admits. He’s without a crew and his plan turned out to only be half a plan.”
“Sounds like you need a new plan,” says Riker.
“One that starts with a nap,” says Troi. She’ll show him to their son Thad’s room. Meanwhile Riker will finish making pizza with tomato and basil from the garden and bunnicorn sausage from game that Kestra has brought back. Riker says Picard should stay as long as he needs.
Side note: Troi is walking around her own house in super high heels. Even among friends who love wearing heels out and to work, I know zero people who wear heels around their house and in the garden on a daily basis when hanging out with family.
Soji takes a shower in their outdoor shower stall and Kestra hands her a towel, while asking a bunch of questions about her capabilities. In her room after, Kestra tells Soji about Data and Picard while asking her more questions like, “Do you have mucus?” Soji looks at Kestra’s drawings and is clearly reflecting on her own fake childhood memories.
Then Soji asks, “Why would Data want to make an android with mucus and saliva?” and Kestra talks about how he always wanted to be more human.
“Until you said the word android back there, I was still clinging to the idea that I was human,” says Soji, and starts to tear up. Kestra asks if she’s ok: “I think you’re amazing.”
“Because I have mucus?” Soji asks.
“And because you’re three years old, so I get to be the boss of you,” Kestra says.
Troi lets Picard into Thad’s room and it’s clear by how hard it is that Thad is no longer with us. There is a trophy on the desk with the nameplate “Thaddeus Troi Riker.” There are papers on the wall with maps and words – Troi says this is related to the made-up language Kestra speaks. He said when he met Thad he was a small child and already speaking an invented language. Troi says he met him earlier than that, and shows Picard a photo with adorable baby Thad.
“Last week would’ve been his 18th birthday,” Troi says. Picard looks at her with concern but Troi says, “We’re fine, really. Kestra still aches for him but with every day the ache fades a little bit more.” Picard recognizes that must be hard for her to watch in a different kind of way and she tears up, but then forces a weak smile.
Picard says he won’t stay and put them in danger. She repeats that Will said they should stay as long as they want, but adds that she doesn’t think she could handle it if something happened to Kestra.
“I’m not as brave as I used to be, Jean-Luc.”
“Then you’re getting wiser.”
Meanwhile back on La Sirena the Romulan “snakehead” ship has caught up with them. This is a fast, small ship with massive firepower for its size. Rios decides he’ll stop and let Narek overshoot them, then lay in an alternate course for Nepenthe – which BTW is named after a potion that’s supposed to bring forgetfulness of sorrow, according to Greek mythology.
Agnes says “I want to be the fun crewmember who suggests Let’s hide in that comet and it turns out to be a giant gormagander or something but can I ask a maybe dumb question?…Do you guys actually want to go to Nepenthe?”
Raffi says: “This isn’t an outing, honey” and seems suspicious that suddenly Agnes doesn’t want to be there when they actually find the synth, after being so starry-eyed about the promise of synthetic life earlier.
“Picard can look after himself and someone else can look after this fucking synth,” Jurati says.
Rios says he has a paying client and Jurati is just along for the ride, so sorry! “Aunty Raffi” offers decides the best approach to what she presumably thinks is Jurati’s anxiety, is to “hook her up with whatever she needs.”
“Is it cake?” Jurati asks.
“You bet it’s cake.”
Back on Nepenthe, Picard joins Riker at the outdoor pizza oven and Riker asks what’s going on, but Picard doesn’t want to say.
“Just think how great it would be if ignorance of danger was all it took to keep it away from the people we love,” Riker says.
“That’s not what I was saying,” Picard says, but clearly he was.
Riker changes the subject and notes that everything grows like weeds on Nepenthe – their family moved there because it’s rumoured the soil has regenerative powers. Soji and Kestra show up speaking the secret language. Kestra says Soji read Thad’s dictionary in two minutes.
Soji catches Riker’s attention when she cocks her head at the sight of the pizza, in a very Data-like way. When the girls leave, Riker tells Picard he’s going to speculate what he thinks is happening, and he’s pretty bang-on. He can guess the Tal Shiar are involved and Soji’s the one on the run. He recognized the head-tilt: “Kid’s got Data in her DNA.”
He says this whole thing is “classic Picard arrogance” – he always gets to decide who’s in and out of the loop, but “Now you’re dealing with a teenager and that can be a very humbling experience. Frankly, I’m not sure if you’re up to it.”
“Perhaps I’m not,” Picard admits.
Soji and Kestra join Troi in the garden and Troi asks if she’s ever seen a real tomato. She’s never had anything that didn’t come out of a replicator and when she tries it she laughs and says “it tastes so real. Real is so much better…” Kestra leaves and Troi tells Soji more about Thad and the secret languages. Thad was raised on starships and was fascinated by homeworlds and wanted one of his own. He invented one called Ardani, which means “home.” They came to Nepenthe when Thad got sick.
Thad had something called mandaxtic neurosclerosis (“MN”). Troi says it’s a silicone-based virus that would have been curable if they’d had access to a positronic matrix to culture the infected cells (this is very sad but also I need a Sue’s Science Corner on this). The ban on synthetic research meant the disease was fatal.
Soji says she doesn’t know much about herself except the Romulans are very interested in finding out where she came from. She says she trusted Narek and believed she loved him, she gets upset and says, “I trusted him but it was all a mind game…and then he tried to kill me.”
Troi acknowledges it must be hard to trust people now. Soji says she trusts Troi less because she’s being caring. Picard comes up behind and butts in sarcastically that yes, this must all be a plot. She shoves Picard into Riker and storms away.
Troi lets Picard have it, even though she acknowledges counsellors aren’t supposed to say this kind of thing: “You had it coming…Do you have any idea of what that young woman’s been through?…Her capacity to trust was a flaw in her programming. She’s been manipulated, tortured, her very consciousness has been violated.”
Picard is chastened and asks what he needs to do. Troi says he needs to be Jean-Luc Picard: “Compassionate, patient, curious…pretend the dinner table is your Ready Room on the Enterprise.”
Back on the Artifact, Hugh and Elnor are going back to the Queen’s Cell. Hugh says it has tremendous power. He promised to protect the XBs and wants to take the cube away from the Romulans forever. Narissa, emerges from a cloud of dry ice with some henchmen. Having overheard, she says that sounds like a treaty violation and now she can kill him.
Elnor draws his sword: “Friends, choose to live.” Narissa pulls out her disruptor and starts firing. Elnor kills a bunch of henchmen during the combad and tries to use one as a human shield.
“This is not how Zhat Vash fights Qowat Milat,” says Narissa. She lowers her disruptor and he sheaths his sword, but she throws a knife that hits Hugh in the neck. Elnor runs over to him and Narissa transports away. As Hugh bleeds out he tells Elnor he needs an XB to activate the Queen’s cell, and before he dies he thanks Elnor for letting him be a “hopeful fool again for a minute.”
I have FEELINGS about this.
On La Sirena, Raffi replicates a giant piece of red velvet cake and chocolate milk.
“Thanks for being so kind to me. You’re a good person,” says Jurati. Raffi shakes her head, “I’m more like the wreckage of a good person.”
Agnes starts sobbing and Raffi starts apologizing, asking if she’s upset because of Rios. Agnes shakes her head and Raffi says, “I’m such an idiot – it’s Bruce.”
Rios calls down saying the snakehead is back. Jurati leans over and pukes all over the floor. Raffi calls for the hospitality hologram but nothing happens.
Back on Nepenthe at the Troi/Riker dinner table, Picard is wondering what his Plan B should be if Rios can’t make it – he still hasn’t been able to contact La Sirena. Kestra says there’s a guy at Infinity Lake Spaceport named Captain Crandall who has a ship called The Inside Straight (but it’s kind of broken) and Riker says so is Captain Crandall.
Soji says that she wants to go home and starts saying that Narek pulled the information out of her. Picard asks what the information was, but she doesn’t trust him. He starts talking about when he met Dahj and how after she was activated she could notice things like his heart rate and pupil dilation and know if he was telling the truth.
Soji still isn’t sure, asks why Picard wants to help her get home. Picard says it’s because she was created from a dear friend, but more than that, before he was haunted and marking off time, but now he has a mission and no one can stop him.
Soji takes a leap of faith and tells him about the planet with two red moons. Kestra says, “You have a homeworld.”
“I have a homeworld. My Ardani,” Soji says with a small smile. Riker and Troi exchange a sad look. I ran out of crying GIFs but I am 100% gutted at this moment, trust me.
Riker asks Picard to consider contacting Starfleet and he admits it might be time, but he has to find out where this place is. Turns out Kestra has been texting Captain Crandall under the table on a small PADD and has found out where the planet is (in the Vayt Sector, Ghulion system) and that it doesn’t have a name, only a number.
Meanwhile, Rios takes Jurati to sickbay but she says she’s ok. Rios says he really brought her there because they need to talk. He says he thinks Raffi’s being tracked and that’s why the Romulan snakehead keeps finding them. Jurati looks nervous and says, “It’s not Raffi,” but Rios laughs at the idea it could be her. He goes back to the bridge to help Raffi.
Jurati starts panicking and replicates a hypospray of noranium hydride. The replicator warns it is a neurotoxin as she injects herself and immediately falls over, collapsing on the ground, foaming at the mouth and seizing. The EMH comes online and runs over to her (“What is the nature of your…oh bloody hell!”) The periphery of her vision is closing in. On the bridge, Rios starts to confront Raffi when the EMH calls and says Jurati’s in a coma.
Narek, in his ship, loses the tracking signal, so Jurati must have known that injecting herself would disable the tracker. (“Qazh!” he swears – ooh he dropped a Q-bomb!)
Meanwhile on the Artifact, Elnor realizes he knows another XB, and activates the tag Seven gave Picard a couple of episodes back – it’s an SOS signal for the Fenris Rangers.
Picard and Riker go for a walk the next day and Picard calls Rios for his ETA. While they wait for La Sirena Picard asks Riker if he’d ever re-up. Riker says he’s still on active reserve but would need a very good reason to ship out again. Riker says he thinks Picard’s done more than his fair share too, and could stay home and let other people look after the galaxy, “especially given your condition.”
In the room they’re sharing, Kestra says she’s going to miss Soji. She said that her mom and dad helped her when Thad died, and Soji doesn’t have a mom and dad, but she has Captain Picard.
“I don’t have Captain Picard,” Soji says.
“But you could, if you wanted to. And he could have you. And you could both have each other.”
“I’ll think about it,” says Soji.
Outside there’s a TNG group hug and Kestra gives Soji the compass to take with her: “You just have to pretend that it works.”
You guys, some people got a break from their sorrows in this episode but as far as I’m concerned, I think this episode has the WRONG NAME.
Right im confused. Does Kestra have the illness that her brother did
Earlier in this article, the author says Kestra is named after “Deanna’s little sister from ‘Dark Page.’”. In fact, it was her older sister who was named Kestra.
I think Lulu Wilson is amazing. Her acting in this episode, along with the directing, made this so real.
They lost me when Kestra killed the poor bunnycorn and nobody seemed to care. Was it really necessary?
Kudos on the link to Kestra’s name. I was puzzling it over, but was crying a lot of tears in this episode, very distracted. Thanks for pointing it out. I am unaware of Thad being named after anyone, but would be interested to know theories. Curious about the surname scheme of Riker and Troi and their kids. I thought according to Betazed custom, it was Deanna’s surname that would be the surname of their family, not Riker’s. Anyways…..
The very recent death of my nephew IRL, leaving behind his younger sister that will always lean toward’s his absence, made this whole episode a huge tearjerker for me. Sometimes shared sorrows stitch people together, to one another. It was interesting that Dahj instinctually felt this with Picard, and their binding seemed almost effortless. However, Soji and Picard are finding it much harder, no doubt because of Soji’s instinctual distrust of everyone after Narek. Picard’s poorly placed sarcasm didn’t help much, either. (Deanna Troi was right; he DID have it coming.)
I sometimes don’t know if providing a place for sorrow eases the pain of it or makes the hurt stronger. At any case, it’s got to be okay to cry when it’s time. Thanks for the write up.
Thad’s name is likely a reference to Thaddius Riker, one of Will Riker’s ancestors from the American Civil War. You learn about him in the VOYAGER episode “Death Wish.”
Yes! That’s it! Thank you!
Deanna was a counseling goddess this episode! And then totally interrupted by Picard who is such an ass! The way he stars Soji down, what was that? Wow. I really had a reaction to that.