“A new name can be the first step to a new identity.” – Hugh
Previously on Star Trek Picard: Elnor (Evan Evagora), a psuedo member of the Qowat Milat, bound his sword to Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) quest. Raffi (Michelle Hurd) tried to reconnect with her son on Freecloud, but he wanted nothing to do with her. Picard and the gang were able to rescue Bruce Maddox (John Ales), and he told them that Dahj’s twin Soji (Isa Briones) is on the Artifact. There, she’s begun a relationship with Narek (Harry Treadaway), who she suspects of being Tal Shiar. But, in fact, he’s Zhat Vash and knows she’s an android, and his goal is to find out where she came from, so he can kill her and everyone like her.
It’s a stormy night, and a young Soji (Ella McKenzie) is wandering through the halls of a dark house, carrying a plushie. She’s scared, and calls out for her father. She approaches her workshop, and opens the door, where she can just see him on the other side of several pink orchids. He calls her name, and she jumps.
Soji is jolted awake from her dream, also waking Narek next to her. She keeps having this same dream, but doesn’t know if it’s a fabrication of her unconscious mind or based on a real memory. Narek presses her to talk more about it, but she changes the subject… to that of secrets. Narek believes that everyone is hiding something, “whether they know it or not.” Soji asks if what he’s hiding, other than his actual job description, is his true name – Romulans have a name for outsiders, a name for family, and a true name saved for their partner. (Are Romulans related to Jellicle Cats?) Getting back to the dream, Narek suggests that Soji asks her mother for insight about this dream, since she talks to mom every night.
Jurati (Alison Pill) reports to Picard that the injures Maddox had suffered were just too much, and it was his heart that gave out. Picard sees that this is hard for her, but doesn’t know the extent of it. Elnor joins them, and the conversation turns to Soji on the Artifact. And it’s exposition time – Picard explains the Borg to Elnor, and Jurati recaps (rather coldly, IMO) the trauma that Picard suffered at their hands as Locutus. But this cube is cut off from the Borg, so maybe they’ve changed. No, Picard knows better, and we see a glimmer of the rage we saw in “First Contact”: “The Borg don’t change, they metastasize.” Picard excuses himself, and Elnor notes that he doesn’t see that Jurati is also dealing with something she’d rather forget. At her pointed look, he asks if he was “in-butting.” Jurati confirms, and leaves.
In his holo-study, Picard tries to calm his nerves, then has the computer search for information on the Artifact and the treaty that gave control to the Romulans. As he scrolls through the Google Image Search, he sees Hugh as he appeared in 2369 and then today, and he finally scrolls to an image of Locutus. The camera pans until the image is superimposed on Picard’s face, and he reaches up to touch where his implants used to be.
A shirtless Rios (Santiago Cabrera) is kicking around a soccer ball, kicks it down the hall, then turns around to see Agnes Jurati holding it. He apologizes for waking her, but she can’t sleep anyway. She’s hurting, and lonely. He offers to listen if she wants to talk, but she wants to bang. She pauses, and acknowledges that this would be a mistake, but she takes Rios’s hand and leads him back to her room anyway.
Narek enters his quarters to find his sister Narissa (Peyton List) playing with a wooden puzzle box. Of course, it’s a metaphor: move each piece the tiniest bit, listen, have patience, and get the prize. Narek reports that he’s making progress – Soji dreams. A synthetic brain is always trying to form the most efficient connections, so her dreams mean that she’s trying to reconcile her belief that she’s human with the evidence that she’s not. If he can get her to talk about her dreams, he can get the information he needs without triggering her self-defense subroutines.
In just a few hours, La Sirena will be crossing into Romulan space, and they need a plan. Picard knows he’ll be recognized by the Borg immediately, if not the Romulans. He wants to get Federation Diplomatic Credentials to allow him to meet with the Director of the Borg Reclamation Project, whom he just happens to know. But Picard also knows that the Federation isn’t going to do this for him, so they pull Raffi, who has returned to drinking and smoking, back to the bridge. She calls an old friend, Captain Emily Bosch (Barbara Eve Harris), to ask for these credentials. And is refused. But the thing is: they’re going to be there in a few hours anyway, and there’s no way that the Romulans will believe that Starfleet isn’t involved if Picard shows up, so why not do this without starting a war. Emi concedes, and gives them 24-hours. Then tells Raffi never to call again. Picard applauds and Raffi starts stumbling back to her quarters to drink in peace.
Soji had the same dream again, and meant to ask her mom about it, but fell asleep during the call. Narek’s checked the communications logs, and every call to Soji’s mother, every night, lasts for exactly 70 seconds.
Rios helps Raffi get to bed, and after she lays down, Raffi opens up to him about her son and his rejection. As she falls asleep, he says, “No one gets all of it right, Raff,” then takes the rest of her booze and leaves.
Soji’s back in her room, calling her mom (Sumalee Montano) again. She really wants to talk about this dream. Her dad is in his lab, and doesn’t want to be disturbed, as per usual. And Soji starts feeling tired. Her mom suggests that she lie down before heading into work, if she’s not feeling well. But Soji tries to force herself to stay awake, going so far as to stab her hand with a tool on her desk, but it doesn’t work.
Picard’s credentials have come through, and they’re only for him, Everyone else has to stay on the ship. They’re relieved, but Picard is anxious. Elnor wants to go with him, to keep his pledge, but Picard orders him to stay. Before beaming over, Picard looks at Dahj’s necklace, to remind him why he’s putting himself through all this.
Soji wakes up at her desk, and starting pulling out all of her old photos and items from home, and scans them – the device tells her they’re all about 37 months old. She scans her plushie – the same one in her dream, a framed photo of her and Dahj, and finally her necklace. They’re all just over 3 years old.
Picard beams aboard the Artifact, and is having a hard time. He’s having flashbacks and getting dizzy. Two drones grab him and he begins to struggle, until he hears a voice say, “They don’t want you to fall.” That brings Picard back to the present and he sees that these are former Borg, and that voice was Hugh. Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) is truly happy to see Picard and says, “I don’t know what you’re doing here, but I’ll help you any way I can,” and the two share a hug.
Even with a friend, Picard is still anxious to be on a Borg Cube, and Hugh understands. But the Borg Reclamation Project needed a director, and he took the job. Hugh is a Federation citizen (more on that, please), and can leave whenever he wants, but the other XBs are under Romulan control. Hugh tries to put Picard at ease: “This is not a Borg Cube anymore, it’s the Artifact. And you are Jean-Luc Picard, not Locutus. All that’s long behind you.” Picard starts to describe Soji, and of course Hugh knows exactly who she is and assumes she’s in danger, since Picard’s looking for her and there’s a Romulan spy that’s been wooing her.
Soji’s panicking, and telling Narek that nothing she owns is more than 3 years old. He suggests that perhaps someone implanted her with false memories, and is using her to find something on the Artifact. Of course, that just scares her more. So she’s totally up for it when he suggests a Romulan meditation practice.
Hugh takes Picard to the XB recovery area, where he can see former drones being healed, and reclaiming their identities. Picard never thought that assimilation could be undone on such a large scale. And once again, Hugh has changed Picard’s thinking from earlier in the episode: “You’re showing what the Borg are, underneath – they’re victims, not monsters.” But Hugh says they’re just as helpless as before, and just serve a different queen now. But, if the great Jean-Luc Picard might advocate for free Borg… things might change. But anyway, Soji didn’t come to work today. So they’re off to find her.
Rios goes to wake Raffi with some coffee, and collect on their bet, since Soji’s alive. If she’s alive, the Romulans must need her for something.
Narek takes Soji to a room where the Zhal Makh is performed – there’s a winding path on a wooden floor, with candles or lights placed all around. Before they begin, Narek knows he needs to make a gesture of trust and vulnerability, and tells Soji that his true name is “Hrai Yan” (Ryan?). He walks her through the ritual as he fiddles with another wooden puzzle box. As she walks along the path and talks through her dreams, Narek presses her for details that she’s never bothered to look at before. And Narissa just happens to be listening in from another location.
Picard and Hugh arrive at Soji’s room to see her belonging strewn about the desk and floor, and Picard takes this as a sign that she’s close to discovering her true nature. The internal sensors say she’s no longer on board the artifact. So someone must be concealing her.
Reliving the dream, Soji enters her father’s lab. Her father yells at her, but she presses on and moves around the orchids that block her view. When she looks at her father’s face, it’s just a blur. And on the workbench, it’s her, in pieces, like a doll. She looks up through the skylight and sees two red moons and lots of lightning. The ritual is over, and Soji has found “home” – Narissa just needs to identify a planet with two red moons and constant electrical storms. Narek kisses her, and tells her, “You’re not real. You never were. Goodbye, Soji.” He puts down the puzzle box and exits the room, and the doors lock behind him. Soji bangs on the door to get out, and then notices the small box opening. It releases red radiation, and Soji falls to her knees and tries to crawl away. But the imminent threat activates Soji, and she literally rips open the floor, and jumps into the space between decks.
As soon as Soji’s left the Zhal Makh room, she reappears on internal sensors, and Hugh and Picard rush to find her, but the Romulans are after her, too. As they rush through the corridors, one XB recognizes Picard as Locutus – he’s momentarily distracted, but keeps moving. When they find Soji, Picard tries to persuade her to with with him, and she asks, “Do you know me?” – exactly what Dahj said when she showed up at his vineyard. He tries to give her a short summary, and shows her Dahj’s necklace. After a brief hesitation, she follows, and Hugh leads them to the Queen’s cell.
Hugh activates some new tech that the Borg acquired recently – a spatial trajector, a long range transporter. Picard calls La Sirena and tells them to meet him on Nepenthe. Rios shrugs and is about to lay in a course when he notices Elnor is missing. Good thing, because Picard and the gang are about to be attacked by three Romulans, but Elnor takes care of that little hiccup. Picard thanks him for disobeying. But more guards are coming, and the spatial trajector is still booting up. Picard wants Elnor to come along, but he insists on staying to cover their escape, he takes his pledge seriously.
Picard and Soji walk through the spatial trajector, and Hugh begins to shut everything down. It’ll take a few minutes to secure the room again. Elnor won’t need a few minutes. The entrance behind them closes as Elnor says, “Please, my friends, choose to live.” I’m guessing they didn’t.
Author’s Note: Next week, I will be on the Star Trek Cruise, so Jarrah will be stepping in to recap episode 7: “Nepenthe.”