Saru managed to decrypt the Defiant data that was smuggled off the Shenzhou, but the file is redacted, prompting Burnham to comment that they'd "risked our lives for nothing." Not so fast, Lorca advises. Is there any useful info? Well, Burnham notes, the Defiant crossed into this space via a phenomenon called "interphasic space." Lorca lays down the challenge: Locate the original report in the archives of the Imperial Palace… their current destination. "Some people," Lorca notes, "would see that glass as half full."
Burnham has her doubts. Lorca argues that if he can handle more time in the agonizer, she can play dress-up a bit longer. What is she afraid of? "Georgiou," she replies. He nods, "You mean Emperor Georgiou." Burnham explains, "Logic tells me she's not the woman I betrayed. But this feels like a reckoning." Lorca stresses that her Georgiou is dead, a ghost. That doesn't placate Burnham. "Haven't you ever been afraid of ghosts?" she asks.
Over in engineering, Saru and Tilly talk about Stamets, who's still in a coma, but being treated continuously with the spore-therapy procedure. Tilly insists that it's working, as here's increased neural activity. "I know it's subjective," she says very Tilly-esquely, "but he really does look better. I mean, look at his skin. It's so dewy." Saru admires her optimism, but cautions, "Let's call this what it is: a coma." Saru walks away, and Tilly stares at Stamets. "Are you in there, lieutenant?" she wonders. "Are you in there?"
Meanwhile, within the mycelial network, Stamets encounters Mirror Stamets. "What is this?" Stamets asks. "Am I dead? Is this the afterlife? Are you some sort of narcissistic Virgil leading me to my judgment?" Mirror Stamets teases Stamets that he's been wrong about everything, that there is a God, and she's very, very mad at him right now. Stamets tries to figure out who/what Mirror Stamets is. So, who is he? "You," Mirror Stamets reveals. "In my universe. Nice to meet you." It seems they're sharing parallel fates, and Mirror Stamets wants Stamets to "navigate us the hell out." Off to the lab they go. A creeping, rumbling energy appears to chase them, but they reach Stamets' lab safely.
Over on the Charon, in an elaborate throne room, we meet Emperor Georgiou, but she's not just Emperor Georgiou. As detailed by Captain Maddox, her most Imperial Majesty is "Phillipa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius. Mother of the Fatherland. Overlord of Vulcan. Dominus of Qo'noS. Regina Andor." (NOTE: Jordon Nardino, who wrote the script for this episode, tweeted that Emperor Georgiou is somehow connected — possibly a cousin, but more likely as a tribute/honor — to Empress Hoshi Sato, the Mirror Hoshi Sato from Star Trek: Enterprise).
"Captain Burnham," Emperor Georgiou hisses. "A face I thought I'd never see again in the flesh." She is pleased to see the gift Burnham has brought her: Lorca. "Your life will be long, Gabriel," Emperor Georgiou warns Lorca. "And every single moment of it will be spend in our agonizers. A fair price to pay for your vaulting ambition." (NOTE: Vaulting ambition is a reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth.) As Lorca is taken away, to cheers from the assembled, Emperor Georgiou shifts her attention to Burnham. "Let her rest a bit and have her at my residence by dinner," she says. "There is so much to discuss. Everything" — she caresses Burnham's cheek — "will be the way it was, dear daughter."
Back on the Discovery, in sickbay, Tyler threatens to kill everyone… in the name of T'Kuvma. Dr. Pollard and Saru are at a loss. "Unless someone can tell me how they put a Klingon inside a Starfleet officer's body, I don't know how we can treat him." For a moment, Tyler seems to be… Tyler, asking if Burnham is OK. He asks for Saru's help, but then the Klingon rage returns.
On the Charon, Emperor Georgiou eats dinner with Burnham. "No one prepares Kelpien like the Imperial Chef," the emperor intones, passing a piece to a disgusted Burnham. "Here. Have my ganglia. You deserve a treat."The conversation continues. "Why would you leave me, then?" the emperor asks. "I gave you everything. The best education. Riches beyond imagination. Even your own ship." They're feeling each other out. "Never could tell when you were lying to me," the emperor admits. "This time I know." Emperor Georgiou summons her guards. "Take her to the throne room. Gather my council. She is to be executed by my own hand, for treason."
Emperor Georgiou summons a medallion that spins in the air and quickly zips through the skulls of her council, killing all but Lord Eling, who remains to clean up the mess. The emperor clearly believes Burnham.
Saru confronts L'Rell in the Discovery brig. He seeks her help to ease Tyler's distress, but she's having none of it. "Beneath that man's inferior carriage is a devoted warrior who has sacrificed everything… and is T'Kuvma's chosen successor," she says. "He will light the way for his race. He will win this war." Now, Saru is having none of it. "I guess you didn't hear the news," he reveals. "Discovery was thrown in a parallel universe. Here, the war is over — and you lost." Furious, she accuses Saru of lying, but, of course, he's not. And she still refuses to ease the pain of either Voq or Tyler. "Voq" accepted that suffering in order to best the enemy," she reasons. "That is what it means to be a soldier. That is war."
Back in the throne room aboard the Charon, Emperor Georgiou and Burnham carry on their dialogue. Burnham insists that the emperor has no reason to hold "my captain" any longer, as he shouldn't suffer for "your Lorca's crimes." The emperor is unmoved. Burnham explains that her ship and crew are here by accident and all they want is to return to their proper universe, "but we need your help to do that." The emperor dismisses such talk. "Your people are dangerous," she begins, rattling off the many reasons why she refuses to get involved. Finally, Burnham mentions something of value to Emperor Georgiou: the ship jumped here because of a displacement-activated spore-hub drive.
Saru is still trying to reason with L'Rell. He shows the Klingon footage of Tyler scratching roughly at his chest. He's too violent for sickbay. The doctors can't help him. Will she? "No," she replies. Saru has Voq/Tyler's limp body beamed into the brig and right on to her lap. "You," he warns, "have sealed this being's hellish fate." Finally, she caves: "It can be undone… but only my hands can tend to him."
L'Rell, now in Discovery's sickbay, operates — at phaser point — on Voq/Tyler. He goes from speaking Klingon to English. Success. Flashbacks to Voq and L'Rell. Cut to the present, and L'Rell bellows toward the sky, carrying out the Klingon death ritual.
Deep within the mycelial network, Stamets and Culber converse in what Stamets sees as his quarters with the doctor. He saw Culber die and thought it was a dream, but it wasn't. This is their goodbye. "You're in a coma on the Discovery," Culber shares with Stamets. "And the simplest way back is just to open your eyes." Stamets knows he must go, but he doesn't want to say goodbye. "It's never goodbye," Culber promises. "Isn't that what you've been trying to teach all of us? Nothing in here is ever truly gone. I believe… in you, Paul. I love you." The partners kiss and Stamets says, "Goodbye, Hugh." In voiceover, Culber urges Stamets to look for the forest. "Open your eyes!" he implores. Stamets opens his eyes.
"I'm back," declares Mirror Stamets, on the Charon. "He did it!" Meanwhile, on Discovery, our Stamets is back, too. "Oh my, lieutenant, you're back," Tilly chirps. "He's back!… And he's… leaving!" She tries to reason with him, but he notes, "I know about Hugh. But I need you to come with me… right now." They enter the mycelium forest, only to realize they're too late, the sickness has already spread to their supply.
Saru and Burnham speak, he from the captain's ready room, she from Georgiou’s dining room. Their plan is in motion. Emperor Georgiou has a curious smile on her face. "Federation through and through," she says. "They would never abandon you and your captain. Rules to live by… rules to die by."
Meanwhile, over in the Charon brig, Captain Maddox continues his torture of Lorca, cranking up the agonizer. "My sister loved you," he growls. "Say her name and beg for forgiveness." Elsewhere on the Charon, Emperor Georgiou ignores Burnham's pleas for mercy for Lorca, pointing out that if Burnham's bond for her crosses universes, so too does Lorca's treachery. The Lorca she knew was her right hand. She trusted him with the Empire's most-sensitive missions. She trusted him with… Burnham.
Dropping a bomb on Burnham, the emperor spins the following tale: Burnham gained a mother when Emperor Georgiou adopted her. In Lorca, she saw a father, until "it became more." The realization staggers Burnham. "You're saying, Lorca and I…" Emperor Georgiou nods. "He groomed you," she says. "He chose you." Burnham flashes back to assorted conversations with Lorca that back up the emperor's claim "He said," the emperor explains, "he'd cross time and space itself to take what was rightfully his."
Emperor Georgiou glances out a window, first covering her eyes from the light and then turning away from it. "You're sensitive to light," Burnham notes, to which the emperor responds, "Only compared to a human from your universe. It's the singular biological difference between our two races.
Back to Burnham, piecing it all together. Lorca, she tells the emperor, needed her to get aboard the Charon. The emperor wouldn't have let him otherwise. He needed Burnham to get to Emperor Georgiou. "None of this was an accident," Burnham announces. "My so-called captain is not from my universe. He's from yours."
"Ava," Lorca says, standing over Maddox. "Her name was Ava. And I liked her. But you know how it is. Somebody better came along." And, with that he stomps, brutally, on the head of the prone, seizing Maddox. Fade. To. Black.
Next on Discovery…
In "What's Past is Prologue," Lorca plans to move forward with a coup against the Emperor, propelling Burnham to make a quick decision to save not only herself, but the U.S.S. Discovery.
There's no mistaking Commander Landry in the "What's Past Is Prologue" trailer. Also in the teaser, Saru seems to be assuming the captain's chair nobly, spurring his crew by saying, "Discovery is no longer Lorca's She is ours." And clearly Lorca and Burnham will come face to face, as Lorca is seen and heard saying, "Welcome home, Michael."
When Star Trek: Discovery ends, After Trek begins. Stream it Sundays at 9:30pm ET/6:30pm
PT. Joining host Matt Mira will be: