Previously on Discovery...
Saru was on the mark at the very end of "Into the Forest I Go" when he stated, "Captain, I'm afraid I don't know where we are." As "Despite Yourself" opens, the U.S.S. Discovery crew tries to figure out is going on and struggles to comprehend their readouts and determine if any of the seemingly dead Klingon ships presented any threat to them. What's going on raises Saru's threat ganglia.
The Vulcans -- yes, the Vulcans -- power up their weapons, prompting Captain Lorca to shout, "Red Alert! Shields up!" The Vulcans eve fired on the Discovery, but an assist comes from the U.S.S. Cooper, which at last word was undergoing a retrofit at Utopia Planitia. Burnham reports that the quantum signature of the Cooper, as well as that of the Vulcan cruiser, are "inconsistent with ours," which makes no sense to Saru, who notes that "All matter native to our universe resonates with the same quantum signature." Nothing can change that. Or can it?
"That's true, unless..." Lorca starts to say, the frightful notion creeping into his tone, "... This is not our universe."
Cut to Lorca, Burnham and Saru piecing together the clues. Lorca and Stamets believed the spore drive could jump between parallel universes. It was just a theory, one Lorca and Stamets were working on since the first successful long-range jump to Corvan. "Stamets was keen to chase it with me..." Lorca explains, "after the war." Lorca acknowledges that he pushed Stamets too hard, and Burnham points out that Stamets accidentally brought them to where they are now.
"Now, what we need to do is understand where we are and how to survive," Lorca says. "And then we'll find a way home."
Meanwhile, over in sickbay, Tilly tries to reach Stamets, who's still in a state of neurological dysregulation unlike anything Dr. Culber has ever seen. At one point, though, he pushes Culber with inexplicable strength and shouts "To the palace!"
Tilly apologizes to Culber for Stamets' condition, for not telling him sooner about the side effects Stamets had been experiencing, but Culber says, "You didn't do this," as she'd only been following Stamets' orders.
And in walks Lorca, prompting Culber to comment, "Speak of the devil." Lorca informs Culber he's assigning a different doctor to Stamets over the matter of professional objectivity. Culber seethes, arguing, "Suddenly, you care about protocol?"
Tyler flies a worker bee over to the Klingon debris and is in the process of scanning it when flashbacks rock him to his core. He experiences images of torture, ripped flesh, sees cutting through bone. Finally overcoming the horrific visions, he sets back about extracting the data core and notices dead bodies in a ship... Vulcan and Andorian bodies. Tyler successfully extracts the data core.
Lorca seems satisfied, but turns to Burnham to say, "He's safe now," referring to Tyler, and clearly hinting that he's on to their burgeoning relationship. He leans in and stresses that he needs to be sure he could rely on his crew, especially now. "So, can I rely on you, Burnham?" Lorca wonders. Burnham insists he can.
Over in the brig, Tyler confronts the source of his nightmares, L'Rell. They apparently did “so many things" together, she insinuated sexily. "You have such appetites." He recalls procedures, surgeries and more, and wants answers. "Sweet Tyler," she implores. "Open this cell and I'll tell you everything you want to know." He does so, leaving himself vulnerable to being played and controlled. "Whom do we seek?" she asks. He replies, "Kahless." Finally, upon being asked by the Klingon, "What's your name?" he snaps out of the reverie, demands
again to know what she's done to his body and mind, and storms out of the brig. L'Rell, in Klingon, utters, "You will come back to me."
Tyler confesses to Burnham that he's experiencing flashbacks, but doesn't want to tell the captain because PTSD regulations require quarantine. He asks Burnham to trust him, and she agrees to do so, as long as he promises to tell her if he can't handle things. Cue another flashback, which causes him to crush an empty glass in his hand.
The data core is open, and Burnham and Tilly attempt decipher its meaning. "Is it possible that in this universe," Burnham ponders, "the Vulcans, Andorians and Klingons have some sort of alliance?" Tilly replies, "Allied against... Against us?"
Lorca, Saru, Tyler and Tilly join Burnham in engineering to discuss her finding. They are indeed in an alternate universe, one governed by a fascistic, human-only organization known as the Terran Empire. Terran, as in Earth. Most everything they know from their universe, it exists here, too. "You mean," Tyler asks, "we could literally meet another version of ourselves?" Yes, Burnham replies, and "The Terrans appear to be the antithesis of us in every way" and are ruled by "a faceless emperor." As for the rebels, they're made up of all non-
human species "fighting for their freedom."
Back on the bridge, the crew soon realizes that they must assumes the roles of the other Discovery crew. Tilly becomes Captain Tilly... or Captain Killy, so lethal is she. The U.S.S. Discovery is quickly rechristened the I.S.S. Discovery. Everyone now sports Terran uniforms. Well, not quite everyone. "I am presumed dead," Burnham informs Lorca. "You're a fugitive wanted for my murder." Further, Burnham reveals, she was captain of the Shenzhou and even in the mirror universe, Lorca commanded the Buran. His crew, like before, is dead.
On opposite sides of a power struggle, Lorca killed Burnham. And he'd attempted a coup against the Emperor. Soaking in the details, Lorca beckons Burnham to the window. "Look out there," he says. "Come on. Amazing, isn't it? A different universe and yet somehow the same people have a way of finding each other... Might be the strongest argument that I've ever seen for the existence of destiny." Burnham replies, "I'm not sure I believe in destiny." Lorca, unusually soft-spoken, tries to convince her otherwise, ending his argument with, "You were destined for something more."
Burnham dismisses Lorca's destiny argument again, insisting that "Destiny didn't get me out of prison, captain. You did." Lorca stops the discussion. "Well, let's agree to disagree... for now. So... who is this emperor?" He then suggests that it's not a bad thing that he and she are ghosts and notes that he's got a potential way home he didn't know how to exploit until that moment. "I think you might end up saving us all..."
"It's a suicide mission," Saru observes, upon hearing the plan. It involves Lorca and Burnham boarding the I.S.S. Shenzhou together, as their Terran selves, with Lorca as Burnham's bounty.
Back in sickbay, Culber references a Manchurian test during a conversation with Tyler, but Tyler insists he's not imagining anything. Stamets shouts "Stay out of the palace!" Culber goes over to Stamets and they share a moment. "Paul, I'm not going anywhere," Dr. Culber says to his partner. "I'm staying right by your side. It'll be OK." Stamets' eye revert to normal for a brief second. "Be careful," he warns Culber. "The enemy is here."
The time has come. Burnham encourages Tilly, who's still freaked out by having to pretend to be tough and in command. Lorca enters the room, and he's impressed.
"Well, let's not keep these assholes waiting," Tilly says, sounding strong for an instant before questioning herself. "Too much?" she wonders. Lorca replies, "No. Not here. Here... just right."
On the viewscreen, it's Captain Danby Connor... back from the dead it would seem. Lorca is ready for his closeup. He smashes his face against a wall, bloodying himself. "Showtime," he says!" The crew sells Connor on their ploy. Burnham wants her ship, but meets with a bit of hesitation from Connor. Tilly intones, "Is that how you treat your long-lost captain? If you greeted me that way, Connor, I'd cut out your tongue and use it to lick my boots." Connor prepares for their arrival.
Culber confers again with Tyler, telling him about all the brutal things the Klingons actually did: "bone crushing," possibly putting another, new personality atop his own. In short, the Klingons transformed Tyler both physically and mentally. But into what? Culber wants to perform more tests, but Tyler loses his cool. Then, without warning, he snaps Culber's neck. Cut to Stamets, helpless as he utters, "The enemy is here."
Later, Tyler joins Lorca and Burnham in the transporter room. He has no memory of what just occurred. As they prepare to beam over to the I.S.S. Shenzhou, Lorca makes it clear than cover cannot be blown. "Do whatever you must," he says passionately." Burnham and Tyler both concur, calling Lorca captain. Lorca points out it's the last time they can call him captain, "hopefully just for a while."
In the I.S.S. Shenzhou's transporter room, Captain Connor greets Lorca, Burnham and Tyler. He tries assume control of Lorca, but Burnham refuses to let that happen. She wants to take Lorca to the bring... personally, as "there are any number of souls aboard, looking to serve up his severed head for their own glory."
Over in the I.S.S. Shenzhou's brig, Captain Connor gleefully introduces what awaits Lorca. "Only the finest agonizer booth reserved for the treacherous Lorca..."
Tyler stays behind with Lorca while Burnham and Captain Connor enter a turbolift. Connor, knowing he needs to make his crew fear him, grabs his dagger and a massive, momentarily gravity-defying fight ensues.
The doors open, with the I.S.S. Shenzhou crew, after a moment, applauding Burnham. Detmer -- Mirror Detmer, who no longer sports her eye modification -- says, "The chair is yours, captain." Burnham orders that Captain Connor's body be disposed of. "Long live Captain Burnham!" the I.S.S. Shenzhou crew shouts. "Long live the Empire!"
With that, the I.S.S. Shenzhou and the "I.S.S." Discovery go their separate ways.
A beat-up, dead tired Burnham enters her quarters, only to be surprised by Tyler, who'd let himself in. Tyler expresses his devotion to her. Whatever happens in this mirror universe, to him or to her, and however they change, he's there to protect her. "Nothing will ever stand in the way of that," he says. "Nothing. Do you understand what I'm saying?" They embrace. "Yea," she says. "I'm saying it back." They kiss and then fall into bed.
But not everyone is finding solace. Lorca -- in an agonizer booth, tortured unendingly -- cries out in agony. However, to borrow the tagline from another beloved sci-fi franchise, in space no one can hear you scream.
Next on Discovery...
In "The Wolf Inside," as the crew continues their guise, Burnham undergoes a merciless mission in hopes of helping the U.S.S. Discovery return home. Tilly works on restoring Stamets’ neurofunction.
The teaser for "The Wolf Inside" reveals that the action remains in the mirror universe, giving us glimpses of an Andorian, Stamets clutching Culber's body, and a bearded Mirror Sarek melding minds with Burnham. And exactly who is Tyler fighting?
"Maybe..." Burnham suggests ominously, "none of us really know what darkness is waiting inside."
The episode is director by T.J. Scott. His 60-plus credits as a director alone span from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess and Spartacus: War of the Damned to Black Sails, Orphan Black, Bates Motel and Gotham.
When Star Trek: Discovery ends, After Trek begins. Stream it Sundays at 9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT. Joining host Matt Mira will be: