Last Time on Discovery…
The U.S.S. Gagarin, under attack from six Klingon vessels, reaches out for help from any Starfleet ship in range. The U.S.S. Discovery announced that "We've got your back." Cut to Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) in his captain's chair, growling, "Mr. Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon), can I trouble you to fire at something." Despite a valiant effort, including the Discovery taking same major hits, the battle is lost and the Gagarin explodes. "The Gagarin is gone," Lorca announces. "It's over. Black alert!"
Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) do their spore drive thing in engineering, after which Lorca tells the crew, "There will be time to grieve. This is not that time." Back to Stamets and Tilly, something is off with Stamets. "What are you doing down here, captain?" he asks... Tilly. This leads to an awkward exchange between a confused Tilly and a defensive Stamets.
Admiral Terral voices his concern, yet again, about Lorca racing into trouble against orders. It risks exposing the spore drive to the enemy. As the conversation continues, Terral explains that Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) of House Kor has managed to revive the Klingon Ship of the Dead and is now sharing its stealth technology with any house that will offer him fealty. And that makes the Discovery's imminent mission at Pahvo Starfleet's highest priority. Terral goes on to note the loss of 462 souls, adding, "That number will increase exponentially until we are able to detect those invisible ships. I am certain I've made myself clear." Lorca replies: "Abundantly."
Stardate 1308.9. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Saru (Doug Jones) traverse the beautiful, seemingly uninhabited planet Pahvo. In a personal log entry, Burnham notes that everything on Pahvo vibrates with its own specific tone, giving the planet a signature song of sorts that's broadcast into space via a towering, naturally occurring transmitter.
The mission is this, according to Burnham: "It is Starfleet's plan to modify the electro-magnetic frequency of Pahvo's signal and harness it as a form of sonar that can detect the presence of the cloaked Klingon vessels decimating or fleet, make them visible to our sensors, and turn the tide of the war in our favor."
In an amusing walk-and-talk moment, Burnham describes to Tyler how Kelpiens have exceeded speeds of 80 kilometers per hour and can sense predators from as far away as 10 kilometers, prompting Saru to comment, "And we particularly enjoy being discussed in the third person... while present." Burnham apologizes, to which Saru responds, "But you are accurate. I possess visual, auditory and tactile receptors more acute than yours. Which is why I am being tortured by this planet's constant noise and you are not."
And with that, the Pahvans appear in what appears to be a beautiful swarm of blue fireflies. As one might expect, Saru takes command, attempting to communicate with the Pahvans, while Tyler reaches for a weapon and Burnham turns to her tricorder. So much for uninhabited, right? And they want Burnham, Saru and Tyler to head in the opposite direction of the transmitter.
Meanwhile, on the Sarcophagus ship, L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) engages Kol in conversation. He notices the scarring on her face and dubs it an "improvement." These two do not trust each other. Kol demands more than loyalty from L'Rell. She suggests her skills as an interrogator.
Down on Pahvo, Saru makes progress in communicating with the Pahvans.
Cut to L'Rell back on the Sarcophagus ship, demanding that the imprisoned Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) scream. After a moment of hesitation, Cornwell screams in L'Rell's face, the Klingon screaming back. "Good," L'Rell notes. "You were convincing. The guard is gone. Now, we can talk." Turns out she wants to defect.
After the war ends, Tyler tells Burnham, he plans to take a few weeks leave. He knows a place on Lake Shasta. Trout fill the lake. You can watch the stars fall. "Sounds perfect," Burnham says, before catching herself. Their futures look different. "You go back to your lake house," she says, "and I go back to prison." And here we get a variation of the classic Trek exchange, "The needs of the many..."
Back on the Discovery, Tilly expresses her concern to Stamets about the changes in him. He once again takes the denial route, at least initially, then concedes something is happening to him. "What I know... changes," he says. "People. Ranks. Incidents. History. It all gets jumbled." He can't tell Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz), as it'd be the doctor's duty to report the effects of his partner's genetic manipulation. Tilly and Stamets agree they'll monitor Stamets' episodes... together.
The Pahvans are not just native to the planet. As Saru puts it, "They are the planet." That night, a Pahvan reaches out to Saru, who can no longer tolerate the planet's song, and eases his pain. The experience transforms Saru, who informs Burnham and Tyler that "the Pahvans will grant us anything we want." He requests their communicators, then crushes the devices, revealing that they're no longer necessary, as the Pahvans have invited them to stay on the planet and noting that they will soon "experience this world as I do." And, according to Saru, the Pahvans have already achieved everything Starfleet says they seek. Saru leaves to tell the Pahvans they have accepted their offer.
Over on the Sarcophagus ship, L'Rell and Cornwell walk cautiously through the corridors, talking along the way. L'Rell vows to bring about the "end of Kol's days." Spotted by Klingon guards, L'Rell and Cornwell fight, but not before this: "You're not what I expected," L'Rell tells Cornwell, who replies, "Neither are you." The battle is fierce, but the Klingon finally overpowers the admiral, bashing her head into a panel, the latter's body falling to the ground in a heap.
Though it's a ruse to stall for time, Tyler and Saru engage in a conversation. Saru shares that he is at peace now, in harmony, thanks to the Pahvans. "Everyone wants to defeat the Klingons," Tyler tells him. "I want to hurt them." All of that is in the past now, the Kelpien insists, softly, sympathetically, but Tyler argues you can't just forget as the torture them forced him to endure. And yes, he's willing to become as bad as his tormentors in order to avenge what they did to him. Saru presents Tyler with a green rock that will help him feel the peace and harmony Pahvo offers. It glows as Saru holds it and Tyler places his hands on it. Then, Tyler pulls away and Saru, his threat ganglia raised, realizes he's been duped. He reacts angrily, grabbing Tyler by the throat and demanding Burnham's whereabouts.
Burnham reaches the transmitter and races to establish a connection with the Discovery. However, Saru, using his Kelpien speed, closes in fast.
Over on the Sarcophagus ship, L'Rell drags Cornwell's body into a space filled with the bodies of Klingons from... House T'Kuvma. They've been unceremoniously dumped there, accorded no honor. "Grafk... Torath... Silrek," she whispers in mounting rage. "I will end Kol. I will avenge you all. I swear it to you."
Saru attacks Burnham and bashes the PADD that Burnham connected to the transmitter. She fires her phaser at him, insisting, "Saru, this isn't you." She approaches him, phaser drawn. "Is this what harmony and balance look like?" she asks aloud. "Where is the peace you say you found here?" Saru looks lost. He says, "You have taken it from me. You... won't... stop... taking." She argues there will be no peace for anyone until the war is over -- and staying on Pahvo won't fix anything. "Saru," she implores, "We need you."
Tyler arrives with a Pahvan. Saru apologizes to the Pahvan, telling them "Our war is not your mistake to correct." Burnham pleads her case, insisting that Starfleet, like the Pahvans, seeks harmony, but are dealing with a "threat doesn't share that same goal." She stresses that with the Pahvans help and Starfleet's technology, "we can put an end to this conflict." The Pahvan ignores one last please from Saru and the transmitter glows, sending a signal to the Discovery, which promptly beams Burnham, Tyler and a broken Saru aboard the ship.
Saru, in sickbay, can barely look at Burnham. He attacked her, could have killed her. Burnham seems forgiving, noting that he wasn't himself, but Saru claims otherwise. "I was," he admits. He'd never known a moment of peace, until Pahvo. On that beat...
Kol chastises L'Rell for Cornwell escaping her, and L'Rell walks away, only to be stopped by Kol's guards upon his orders. He says there will be more prisoners before the war ends and acknowledges that a "skilled interrogator will be crucial." He then dips his fingers in red paint and spreads it across her face, marking her as House Kor. L'Rell hides her contempt and utters, "My Lord, I would be honored to serve you." But the moment isn't quite over. Kol boasts that he sees through her deceit and has his guards whisk her away. Just then, a transmission comes through, prompting Kol and crew to head to... Pahvo.
On the Discovery bridge, an angry Lorca confronts Burnham. Apparently, the Pahvans have indeed reached out to the Klingons. "What you did, Burnham, is invite the enemy to join us here." Burnham explains, that, no, the Pahvans did that, since their entire existence is an effort to bring harmony to discord: "They think they're helping."
Pahvo has been visible on the viewscreen as Lorca speaks. He turns around, surveys the viewscreen. "We're the Pahvans' only line of defense," Burnham points out as she steps to his side. "We have to protect them, sir. We have to fight." Down on Pahvo, the transmitter glows.
Next on Discovery…
In the new episode titled, "Into the Forest I Go," bypassing Starfleet's orders, Lorca uses the U.S.S. Discovery crew's ultimate asset, the ship itself, in an effort to end the war with the Klingons once and for all.
"Into the Forest I Go" serves as season one's fall finale, with six additional new episodes to debut starting January 7, 2018 in the U.S. and Canada, and January 8, 2018 in the rest of the world.
This marks the first episode credited to staff writers Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt.
Chris Byrne makes his Discovery directing debut with "Into the Forest I Go," after working as second unit director on "The Vulcan Hello." He previously second unit directed on Hannibal, 12 Monkeys and American Gods, and directed an episode of 12 Monkeys.
When Star Trek: Discovery ends, After Trek begins. Stream it Sundays at 9:30pm ET/6:30 PT. Joining host Matt Mira will be: