Last Time on Discovery…
In a personal log entry, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) says, "Despite my fears to the contrary, I seem to have found my place on this discovery." She has become part of the routine, made friends -- "one, at least" -- and takes comfort in her work. Further, she notes, the U.S.S. Discovery has become the most-important weapon in the Federation's arsenal in their war against the Klingons.
Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is still acting odd, but this new, upbeat, almost-goofy Stamets is so much more pleasant than the old one that no one really takes note of the fact that he's been majorly altered by his direct connection/interaction with the spore drive.
Burnham faces one of her greatest challenges so far: a party. We're talking tipsy Tilly (Mary Wiseman) playing beer pong and revealing she's in a musician phase when it comes to guys; charming, speechifying Tyler; Wyclef Jean blasting in the background. The fun ends -- or does it begin? -- when an announcement is made: "Science specialist Burnham and Lt. Tyler, please report to the bridge." And let's not forget about that power surge/flicker.
"Why would you apologize for a random act of physical interaction?" Stamets asks Burnham after she accidentally bumps into him and Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz). Stamets hugs her and adds, "These are the moments that make life so gloriously unpredictable." He then compliments Tyler both on being so tall and also extremely well grounded given all the torture he endured at the hands of the Klingons. Dr. Culber apologizes for his partner, explaining that he's been "different" lately.
Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) orders the ship to yellow alert in reaction to an unidentified signal. Turns out it's a gormagander, sort of a massive space whale, and the species is near extinct. Lorca acquiesces to Burnham's request to bring the lonely creature aboard.
Once aboard the ship, out from the gormagander's mouth steps a figure in an Andorian helmet. And then the killing starts. Moments later, the intruder's identity is revealed: Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson). "Did you miss me as much as I missed you?"
Mudd then states his case. Number one: No one leaves him to rot in a Klingon prison and gets away with it. Number two: "As soon as I find out what's so special about your ship, I'm going to sell it to the Klingons. Do you hear me, captain? I'm going to sell your ship to your mortal enemy. And in so doing, destroy any chance your Federation has of winning this war." Mudd goes on about his beloved Stella being taken away from him and his plan to kill Lorca "as many times as possible."
That "as many times as possible" comment sets in motion the rest of the episode, as Mudd takes advantage of a time loop in order to figure out what indeed makes the Discovery so special. And so we see the party, the space whale's initial appearance and subsequent events over and over again, with minor variations.
No longer in groovy mode, Stamets realizes something is wrong. In fact, he's the only one who's immune to the time loops. He witnesses Mudd's wrath repeatedly and tries to convince Dr. Culber, Tyler, Burnham and others that he's not crazy.
"You're mad..." Burnham tells Mudd, who just sneers and replies, "No, I'm Mudd."
Piecing together clues, Stamets reasons that since the tardigrade was a multidimensional creature, his temporal loop immunity must be a side effect from combining its DNA with his own. Further, he notes, Mudd can't be far off from figuring out why he can't get the spore drive to work: "Me."
Here's the plan. When the next time loop occurs, Stamets will tell Burnham something that she's never told anyone before. If he knows it, she had to have told him. Burnham whispers in his ear and, next time loop, at the party, he says, point-blank, "You've never been in love before." Stamets explains, or so says Burnham's look, and she states, "I believe you."
Stamets wants Burnham to get Tyler on board, too, but it means interacting with him socially -- and even dancing with him. The two share a heart to heart, with Stamets noting that "Love isn't logical" and suggesting that he take the lead as they dance. "Never hide who you are," Stamets advises. "That's the only way relationships work."
Mudd's secret is... a time crystal. He's been wearing it on his wrist.
Time resets, the party kicks in again and Burnham gives it a go. She's less than subtle with Tyler: "Harry Mudd is here, and in a few minutes, he's going to take over this ship." But it works, and Tyler ealizes -- bonus -- that Burnham likes him. "This night has gotten weird," he says, "But also very interesting." He then leans in, says, "If time really is repeating, this won't matter," and plants a long, affectionate kiss on Burnham, who says, "That was nice." They're called to the bridge once again, but at Burnham's urging, they ignore it. "How can I help?" he asks.
Mudd is done playing games. "Yes, Captain Mudd," the computer intones as he orders his very loud entry music lowered in volume. He banishes Lorca to the brig with the wave of a hand and brandishes a glowing, purple, marble-like sphere. "Of the 823 ways to die in space," he warns, "this is rumored to be the most painful," as the weaponized dark matter rips molecules apart at the atomic level. He kills Tyler and threatens Saru (Doug Jones).
Stamets steps in. "Stop!" he exclaims. "I can't watch you kill any more people... It needs me to work." Off they beam to Engineering.
Burnham and Tilly discover Mudd's ship within the gormagander and a larger crystal within the ship. That's his energy source. Time, so to speak, is running out, so they must get Mudd must reset time himself. But why would he, Tilly asks, since he now has everything he wants/needs? "No, he doesn't," Burnham insists, referring to... herself, as she'd be quite a prize for Mudd to deliver to the Klingons.
Burnham confronts Mudd. First, they discuss his supposedly beloved Stella. And then she really gets down to business, explaining that she's far from the "nobody" he thinks she is. She murdered the Klingon messiah, T'Kuvma. Mudd deems that claim "absurd." He checked the officers' manifest. She counters, "I'm not an officer. I'm Michael Burnham." She'd be worth far more to the Klingons than even the Discovery. He's tempted, but what's in it for her? Lt. Tyler, she replies, prompting Mudd to point out, "Lt. Tyler is dead." Burnham looks him straight in the eye and utters "Not for long" as she reaches for one of the lethal marbles and swallows it. She disintegrates as Mudd looks on, helpless, and taps his wrist bracelet to reset time.
The games start anew. Mudd sets his plan, while Burnham, Lorca, Stamets and Tyler set theirs. On the bridge, they try to con a con man. Lorca insists he's negotiating with a businessman, and offers the ship, Burnham and Stamets in exchange for the lives of his crew. Mudd agrees and orders to computer to send the ship's coordinates to the Klingons. Once they join the time stream, there's no turning back.
Mudd expects to see "those pointy-headed bastards," but he's been played. Burnham and company have figured out that's he's not been running to Stella, but rather from her. Aboard the Discovery, Mudd controlled all the critical systems, but the archive? Not a critical system. And the captain's chair? Not a critical system, either. Tyler rewired it and those coordinates Mudd ordered sent didn't go to his Klingon buyers, but instead to Stella... and her daddy. There's no going back this time, no time crystal to help fix the mistake. Burnham seems to take a bit of glee in declaring, "Turns out you can con a con man."
And, there, in the transporter room stand Stella and her father, Barron Grimes. Foiled!
Barron Grimes promises to ensure that Mudd spends the rest of his days by Stella's side, and out of Starfleet's way. Stella, very much on to Harry but still smitten, says, "Come here, Harcourt, you naughty boy." And the three beam away.
Burnham and Tyler reconnect. They shared an experience, a dance, a kiss. They know that for a fact, but don't remember it. "What I'm feeling, it's complicated and strange," she tells him as they share a ride on a turbolift, initially avoiding his gaze. He replies, "It's OK. I'm not going anywhere." They face each other. She notices that he looks forlorn and wonders, "What is it?" He pauses and answers, "I'm just sad we missed our first kiss."
As Burnham and Tyler step out of the turbolift and onto the bridge, Burnham is heard recording another personal log: "Just as repetition reinforces repetition, change begets change. I guess the truth is we never really know what's coming. Sometimes, the only way to find out where you fit in is to step out of the routine, because sometimes where you really belong was waiting right around the corner all along."
Next on Discovery…
In the new episode titled, "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum," the U.S.S. Discovery is tasked with a high priority mission to planet Pahvo.
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum is Latin for "If you want peace, prepare for war."
John S. Scott makes his Discovery directing debut with this installment. He, in his career, worked his way up the ranks of the camera department, starting as a first assistant camera operator, then camera operator, before directing. Among his credits as a director: Glee, Nip/Tuck, Chuck, American Horror Story, Devious Maids, Suits, Revenge, Mistresses and The Magicians.
When Star Trek: Discovery ends, After Trek begins. Stream it Sundays at 9:30pm ET/6:30 PT. Joining host Matt Mira will be: