Last Time on Discovery…
Sarek (James Frain) departed from Vulcan, headed on a mission of peace. Only, the young adjunct V'Latak (Luke Humphrey) had other plans. V'Latak, having injected himself with an explosive, states to the ambassador, "Your fascination with humans can no longer be tolerated." V'Latak wents boom, but not before Sarek created a shield around himself that staved off immediate death, but left him gravely wounded.
Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) drove Tilly (Mary Wiseman) pretty hard, drill-sergeant-style, as she pushed the cadet to shave 6.5 seconds off her running time. After all, personality doesn't count in the Command Training Program. Or does it?
Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) got better acquainted with new recruit Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), as they engaged holodeck battle against a bunch of Klingons. Lorca killed 24, while Tyler claimed to have taken out 22. As they exited, Lorca noticed that Tyler actually killed 36. Tyler, totally busted, cites respect for his little white lie. "Don't apologize for excellence, Tyler," Lorca ordered. "I want my chief of security to shoot better than I do."
Burnham and Tyler got to know each other a bit better as well, prodded by none-too-subtle matchmaker Tilly. He didn't seem to care about her reputation as a mutineer, noting, "I tend to assess people in the here and now."
The cute banter between Burnham and Tyler ended when Burnham grabbed her side, dazed and in pain. "Sarek?" she asked. Sarek, indeed. He's reached out to her through the mind-meld void. Cut to images of Burnham watching herself, Sarek, Amanda (Mia Kirshner) and others in the past, at the Vulcan Science Academy. Burnham watched her younger self — let's call her Young Burnham — be rejected by the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. Young Burnham apologized to Sarek — we'll call him Past Sarek — acknowledging that she was "not good enough."
Past Sarek suddenly saw Burnham and reacted badly. "This is my mind," he warned her. "Leave now." And he sent her flying with some Vulcan martial arts moves. Back in the present, Burnham awoke to see Lorca, Tilly and Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) gathered around her. Burnham explained that she shared a part of Sarek's katra. It was what saved her years ago when she died for three minutes after logic extremists bombed the Learning Center. And it may save Sarek now… if she can convince him to let her.
Lorca agreed to help Burnham locate Sarek. His decision is surely not altruistic. He wants and needs her loyalty, and there's no better way to secure it than to help save her father.
Burnham formulates a plan to find her father in the Yridia nebula: she'll use herself to create a synthetic mind-meld augment. Stamets (Anthony Rapp), who was still a little off after using himself in a dangerous experiment, grinned and said, "Groovy." The resulting "SarekVision," he announced, would represent "an uncharted superhighway connecting all of consciousness and life."
Tilly and Burnham needed a pilot to steer their shuttle through the storm within the nebula. "Luckily, I know a guy," Lorca said. Enter… Tyler. Lorca suggested that Tyler bring her — her being Burnham — back in one piece, "or don't come back at all."
Meanwhile, even as the Burnham-Sarek and Burnham-Tyler dynamics played out, Lorca dealt with a relationship mess of his own. Apparently, he's got a friends-with-benefits situation going with Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook). She took him to task for launching an unauthorized rescue mission using a convicted mutineer, not to mention a POW who's barely had time to recover. She was also displeased that Stamets engaged in eugenic manipulation and shared her belief that the events aboard the U.S.S. Buran changed him. One thing led to another and they ended up in bed, only for him to startle awake and put a phaser to her head. That was the last straw for her. She can't leave Starfleet's most-powerful weapon in the hands of a broken man, and he pleads with her not to take away his ship.
Burnham revisited the past again, believing that Sarek's dying thought was his disappointment in her. Amanda, with motherly pride and affection, told Young Burnham that she was as accomplished as any Vulcan and that it'd serve her well "as long as you never forget that you're human, too. You need to nurture that side."
Past Sarek again saw Burnham and lost his cool. They fought again, but this time she was more prepared. She argued that his katra beckoned her, to no avail. So, with Tilly and an initially doubtful Tyler, she returned to Past Sarek on that pivotal graduation day. And she did so with Tyler's words in her heart and mind. He'd pointed out that there's no logic in Sarek fixating on her failure. Rather, he believed that Sarek was was more likely the people he loved and how he wished he'd done something differently.
Burnham fought Past Sarek one more time, gaining the upper hand and pleading with him to let her save him. He finally relented, explaining, "I never lost faith in you. The failure on this day was mine… and mine alone. I will show you." And so, Burnham learned the truth, that the Vulcan director would only allow one of Sarek's "not-quite-Vulcans" to apply to the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. Sarek chose Spock, but Spock ultimately joined Starfleet, meaning Sarek's choice "merited nothing." Burnham reacted both angrily and understandingly. Sarek made an impossible choice, but not telling her the truth made her believe she'd failed him. He then acknowledged his shame, a repressed emotion if ever there was one.
Past Sarek then struggled to talk Burnham through a Vulcan mind-meld. "My mind to your mind… My thoughts to your thoughts." It worked. Tyler located Sarek's transponder.
Lorca rewarded Burnham's efforts by offering her a bridge position: science specialist. She readily accepted: "I grateful to serve under a captain like you."
Burnham and the still-weak Sarek conversed in sickbay, his pride perhaps more injured than his body as he pretended not to recall what transpired between them. "You can do better… but I won't push you," she intoned. "We'll have this conversation one day… Father."
Burnham and Tyler, after a bit of serious conversation, got back to their flirty ways. "Michael Burnham," she said, extending a hand. "Nice to meet you." He nodded and replied, "Ash Tyler. We've met," to which Burnham responded, "Have we? Let's try it again."
Lorca recruited Cornwell to negotiate peace with the Klingons, as Sarek could not physically make the journey to Cancri IV. She informed Lorca that they will discuss his stepping down upon her return. Only, she didn't return. It was a set-up orchestrated by the Klingons, and Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) appeared via hologram, declaring that this was so much better than the high-ranking Vulcan he expect to fall into the trap.
Saru (Doug Jones) updated Lorca as to what occurred, fully expecting the captain, as usual, to go rogue. But, slyly echoing/borrowing Cornwell's words, Lorca ordered Saru to inform Starfleet Command and await orders, as "Starfleet can't afford to lose the Discovery. She's bigger than all of us." Lorca looked out the window, phaser on his person, reflection staring back, perhaps secure in the knowledge that Cornwell could not follow through on her threat, at least for a while or possibly… ever.
Next on Discovery…
In the new episode called "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad," as the U.S.S. Discovery crew attempts to let loose at a party, an unwelcome visitor (Mudd, once again played by Rainn Wilson) comes aboard, bringing about a problematic and twisted sequence of events (including time loops!).
David M. Barrett makes his Discovery directing debut with "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad," but it's not his Trek debut, as he helmed the "Divergence" episode of Enterprise back in 2005. Among his many other credits: FreakyLinks, Veronica Mars, Cold Case, NCIS: Los Angeles, V, Castle, The Mentalist, Blue Bloods and Zoo.
When Star Trek: Discovery ends, After Trek begins. Stream it Sundays at 9:30pm ET/6:30 PT. Joining host Matt Mira will be: