En route to the hyperfield, the USS Discovery high tails it in an attempt to convince the elusive and destructive Species 10-C to stop ripping holes in space and destroying entire worlds. Capt. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) contemplates the magnitude of the situation in her captain’s log when Saru (Doug Jones) joins her. Her log states that the crew will attempt to comb a nearby dead planet for any insight regarding 10-C’s origins, and hopefully, their motivation. The planet’s star sports a fancy set of Dyson rings, comprised out of the same material of the DMA controller. As Capt. Burnham considers who 10-C is (or was), she makes her way down the corridor with Saru, Cmdr. Detmer (Emily Coutts), and meet up with Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) as he says goodbye to his family. As the away team heads on, Ensign Tal (Blu del Barrio) offers some awkward encouragement to Detmer, and promptly fizzles under the pilot’s frosty but friendly reply.
Meanwhile, Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) and Dr. Tarka (Shawn Doyle) are hiding behind an asteroid, trying to figure their own way into 10-C’s hyperfield. Together the develop a plan to hitch a ride onto DISCO without being detected, only problem being that the modification to DISCO’s sensors have to be installed manually.
Capt. Burnham and the away team reach the shuttle bay and are received by the accompanying delegates, including President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal), President T’Rina (Tara Rosling), General Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole), and Dr. Hirai (Hiro Kanagawa). Rillak expresses concern that the away team consists of both DISCO’s captain and her first officer, but Burnham assures her that Saru’s sensory capabilities and her own expertise as a xenoanthropologist will be crucial as the DMA gets deeper into the Alpha Quadrant. T’Rina impresses the urgency of the situation, and Dr. Hirai makes an off-color comment that sets everyone’s already taut nerves on edge. General Ndoye speaks on it, voicing her opposition to the plan one final time. Capt. Burnham takes the time to reassure the delegates before the away team heads out.
The away team encounters some heavy chop as they descend to the planet’s surface. The scans start coming in and as they learn more, the team begins hypothesizing what happened to the planet and its inhabitants. They find structures, and land to determine what destroyed the planet. Once boots are on the ground, the team starts to investigate their surroundings when Saru experiences visions and begins to panic. Culber tries to reassure him, but the first officer is clearly rattled. Saru tries to contain himself, and supposes that he must have been blinded by light reflected off of a nearby structure. A structure, that Culber identifies as an enormous bone…
Back on Book’s frigate, The Getaway Kids (that’s what we’re calling them now, ’cause these two get away with everything) finalize their plans to both hitch a ride and hack Discovery. Tarka presents a personal cloaking device that will mask their life signs once on board, and Book starts to feel regret about betraying the crew that took him in. Tarka empathizes with Booker’s inner conflict, but ultimately reminds him of the bigger picture. Accepting that truth, Book attaches the device and crouches in the corner. Tarka asks if the gesture is some sort of ritual, but once they beam into a Jeffries tube, he agrees to follow Booker’s lead as they head towards engineering.
On the planet, the away team continues their analysis of the nearby remains. The team abandons their earlier theories where they previously believed the population managed to escape before disaster struck, concluding that the beings died around the same time as the planet’s demise. Burnham decides to enter the structure to find more clues, but steps aside to check on Saru, who admits real fear for the first time since his vaha’rai.
Back on DISCO, Dr. Hirai sits in the lounge, playing a crossword puzzle as President Rillak joins him. He attempts to make small talk surrounding the puzzle, but Rillak cuts right to the chase, and asks him to be mindful of his tone. Citing General Ndoye’s reaction, Rillak impresses upon him the importance of diplomacy while so much is at stake, and asks that the good doctor use a bit more tact going forward. In the Jeffries tubes, the Getaway Kids eavesdrop on a conversation between President T’Rina and General Ndoye, where the general still believes that they’re wasting time by trying to learn about 10-C instead of heading straight for the hyperfield.
Meanwhile on the planet, the away team advances inside the structure, and Culber takes Saru aside for a check up. As Burnham and Detmer fan out to search for clues, Culber begins experiencing fear and hallucinations after touching Saru’s arm.
The Getaway Kids drop out of the tubes and into an empty corridor, right below engineering. Tarka proposes a diversion to distract the crewmembers on duty. Before they can begin, Book informs Tarka that he’s decided to try and convince Ndoye to help them with their plan. Tarka reluctantly agrees, but not without posing some legitimate concerns about the general being on their side. Book remains firm, and they agree to meet up after their tasks have been completed. As Tarka climbs back in the tubes, Book sends Ndoye a message claiming to be President T’Rina, requesting that they meet at once.
Back on the planet, Capt. Burnham touches a substance on the side of a rock. Detmer reports no signs of civilization, and offers to take Saru back to the ship. Just as Burnham opts to let Culber take a look at him, she begins to experience the same hallucinations. Together they talk through the panic and review potential causes Noting that Detmer is the only one unaffected, Capt. Burnham charges her with completing the mission should the rest of the team get worse.
On DISCO, Tarka monitors Cmdr. Reno (Tig Notaro) talking with Ensign Tal from a nearby tube. Reno orders raktajino and attempts small talk with Tal, who is too lost in their thoughts to hear Reno’s joke. When called out about it, Tal admits to being preoccupied with Cmdr. Detmer’s resolve in times of high stress. Knowing full well what Detmer’s been through, Reno encourages Tal not to be so hard on themselves and suggests that they actually try and have a conversation with Detmer. Tarka, of course, overhears all of this, and fixates on the replicator.
The away team rapidly troubleshoots what could be affecting them. They gloss over it several times, but eventually realize that their EV suits failed to filter out the substance that was triggering their emotional response. By adjusting the parameters of the suit, Capt. Burnham, Dr. Culber, and Mr. Saru quickly recover. They laud Detmer for her resolve, and she credits Culber’s PTSD therapy for all the heavy lifting before they push on.
In engineering, Reno leans into her team as Lt. Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) alerts her to a series of replicators malfunctioning across several decks. Realizing she was just there with Ensign Tal, Reno asks what could have happened in such a brief amount of time. Linus reveals that the replicators are spewing steamed bananas in a glorious Lower Decks reference, and Reno puts a team of engineers on it. Tarka slips in when the room clears, and sets about hacking ship’s sensors to allow Book’s frigate to remain undetected. Meanwhile, General Ndoye reaches the rendezvous point looking for T’Rina. Book tries to sneak up behind her to cover her mouth, but instead almost dies four separate times when Ndoye pulls a blade. He eventually convinces her to hear him out, explaining his and Tarka’s plan. Receptive but unimpressed, Ndoye opts for diplomacy and insists that their plan remain a back-up.
On the planet, the away team enters a nearby chamber and quickly deduces that they’ve found remains of a nursery. Surmising that the 10-C must value life if they placed their young behind reinforced walls, they agree that 10-C could be empathized with to establish common ground. Capt. Burnham does a quick test of another substance, and instead of fear, she experiences love and safety. The away team joins her, and each of them revel in the intensity of the emotions. Detmer reveals pieces of her strained relationship with her father, and Saru comforts her through it. Capt. Burnham gets everyone back on track, and together they set about collecting more samples before they return to the shuttle.
While Reno finds Tarka hiding in engineering back on DISCO, the away team collect samples from the planet’s surface. They theorize that the same emotion-inducing chemicals they experienced could be a sort of Rosetta stone, serving as a means towards a method of communication. On their way back to DISCO, Detmer attempts to apologize for her lapse in control, but Burnham hears nothing of it. As they bounce around the hope that the 10-C will cease their destruction once they figure out how to communicate, Saru reminds them of the grim possibility that the 10-C know and don’t care.
In the ready room, Cmdr. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) explains that after further digging, the DOTs uncovered a total of 16 distinct strains of hydrocarbons, each pertaining to a separate emotion. Dr. Hirai reminds them that the Rosetta stone required two languages to translate the third, but quickly congratulates the progress after a look from President Rillak. President T’Rina asks Saru join her for a stroll, and Capt. Burnham tasks Stamets with assembling a team to develop a way to communicate with the 10-C while Book listens in.
Down in the lounge, a timid Ensign Tal approaches Detmer as she sits alone staring into a glass of what looks like Romulan ale. As they recount the findings of the mission, Detmer jovially gives Tal a hard time for being such a goober before welcoming their company. Meanwhile, Capt. Burnham calls Dr. Culber to her quarters. Over a cup of mavi, she asks the moment when he lingered in the nursery back on the planet. Culber admits to not being okay, and relishing in that peace for as long as he could. He goes on to worry that despite their capacity for empathy, Species 10-C may simply not care about the damage they’ve caused. But Capt. Burnham sets her jaw and asserts that they’ll find a way to reach them.
And finally, Book beams back onto his frigate while attached to Discovery. Tarka reports that his patch is functioning without detection, but before Book can offer an update of his own, we find that Tarka has taken Cmdr. Reno hostage.
The Getaway Kids have struck again, this time abducting the fandom’s favorite quick-witted engineer on their way out. But how much can they continue to get away with, now that General Ndoye knows what they’re up to? The more we learn about Species 10-C, the more mysterious they become. How can anyone who has experienced the grief of loss and grip of terror be so flippant about such destructive mining practices? How can they value life and disregard so easily? And are they the plant-looking creature that DISCO flies through in every title sequence we’ve seen this entire series??