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RECAP | Star Trek: Discovery 503 - 'Jinaal'

Not everything has to have an answer; can they be okay with that?

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Discovery.

Graphic illustration of Guardian Xi performing the zhian'tara Trill ritual on Kalzara Bix and Hugh Culber in 'Jinaal'

Previously, in "Under the Twin Moons," following the dangerous events on Q'Mau in "Red Directive," Saru decides to accept President Rillak's offer to serve as a Federation ambassador. When Captain Rayner's decisions that day forces him into an early retirement from Starfleet, Captain Burnham offers him a second chance — to be her Number One aboard the U.S.S. Discovery.

While antagonists Moll and L'ak don't have a crucial part of the Progenitors' clue, Burnham takes advantage of their lead and heads to Trill in search for another piece to the map that will lead them to the Progenitors' life-building technology. However, Book uncovers another relevant clue to the mystery — Moll is actually Malinne, the daughter of his mentor, Cleveland Booker IV, making her the closest thing to family he's got.

In Episode 3 of Star Trek: Discovery, "Jinaal," on Trill, Captain Burnham, Book, and Culber must pass a dangerous test to prove themselves worthy of the next clue. Adira reconnects with Gray, while Saru's first day as ambassador is complicated by his engagement to T'Rina.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Personnel

  • Michael Burnham
  • Dr. Hugh Culber
  • Cleveland "Book" Booker
  • Sylvia Tilly
  • Adira Tal
  • Zora
  • Rayner
  • Naya
  • Arav
  • Gen Rhys
  • Asha
  • Gallo
  • Linus
  • William Christopher
  • Jett Reno
  • Paul Stamets
  • Guardian Xi
  • Saru
  • T'Rina
  • Duvin
  • Gray
  • Kalzara Bix
  • "Jinaal Bix"
  • Dr. Tracy Pollard
  • Moll (Malinne)
Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Locations

  • U.S.S. Discovery-A
  • Federation Headquarters
  • Caves of Mak'ala, Trill
  • Trill canyons
Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Event Log

With the U.S.S. Discovery-A docked alongside the U.S.S. Locherer and other Starfleet vessels at Federation Headquarters, Cleveland "Book" Booker briefs Captain Michael Burnham and Dr. Hugh Culber about Moll as they stroll through the starship's corridors. Moll was born on Callor V, and her father Cleveland Booker IV left when she was only eight years old. She lost her mother at 14, joined a courier guild at 17, and did at least two stints in an Emerald Chain lockup. Book warns the captain about the potential to encounter Moll and L’ak on Trill, but the planet's status as a Federation world means she must bring a uniformed away team.

Book believes he would be an asset to the mission, but Burnham asks him to convince her why his connection to Moll shouldn't make her nervous. The ex-courier confesses that he is learning from his choices, and serving the Federation will help him get his life back. Burnham agrees to consider it, and Book nods before departing. Culber and Burnham discuss the restlessness the Progenitors' puzzle has caused them, and the doctor wonders if the Vulcan meditation she utilized as a kid might be beneficial for her — remembering every little detail is part of his job.

The two move on and join Lieutenant Sylvia Tilly, Ensign Adira Tal, and Book in Engineering, where the Starfleet Academy instructor notes that Trill's surface area of 500 million square kilometers will make finding their next clue difficult. Commander Paul Stamets has been working on the tricorder recovered from the Romulan, while she and Adira have been analyzing the poem from Lyrek. A decryption algorithm uncovered a cryptex key on the metal relic the captain obtained on Lyrek, and the pattern is consistent with Trill facial spots. As unique as fingerprints in humans or dorsal ridges in Saurians, the spots are matched to a Trill named Jinaal Bix, who lived 800 years ago — during the same era as Dr. Vellek.

Adira digs deeper, learning that Jinaal was a symbiont host. Though unusual, it is possible that the symbiont still lives, and its current host would retain Jinaal's memories. Captain Burnham takes charge of the room, assigning Culber and Adira to the landing party and deciding to bring Book along, as well. The Bridge notifies her that Discovery's latest crew member has arrived, so the captain heads off to her Ready Room.

Close-up of Rayner staring off in a distance in 'Jinaal'


Rayner awaits, now holding the rank of commander. The former captain attempts to "break the ice" by joking that he is used to having larger quarters and Burnham's job, but she is more impressed that Rayner has familiarized himself with Earth idioms. While Burnham continues her quest on Trill, Rayner is to do one-on-one interviews with the crew. He brushes past the idea, but Burnham insists he connect with his subordinates in person. Itching to have a hand in catching Moll and L'ak, Rayner nevertheless accepts the task. The two officers walk to the Bridge, and Burnham introduces the senior staff — Lieutenant Naya, Lieutenant Arav, Commander Rhys, Commander Asha, and Lieutenants Gallo, Linus, and Christopher — to their new first officer, Commander Rayner. The captain shifts her focus to the mission, bringing Discovery to Black Alert and ordering the jump to Trill.

Down in Engineering, Adira speaks with Commander Jett Reno about the pending reunion with Gray, sharing that the couple has pretended that everything is normal in their holo-chats over the last six months. Reno tells Adira that they look great, but is curious as to how many raktajinos they have had. The ensign nervously acknowledges they’ve had two… okay, three — well, might be four. Adira beams to the Bridge, leaving Reno to chastise Stamets — "space dad" — for not recognizing that there is clearly trouble in paradise for Adira and Gray. Reno shocks Stamets by comparing Adira to a "lamb off to the slaughterhouse," though her introspective view on life's journey causes her to turn the criticism inward and refer to comments as something a "woo-woo asshole" might say.

Back on the Bridge, Trill denies the captain's request to beam down. Confused, Burnham watches as Guardian Xi's hologram materializes in front of the conn and ops stations. Xi appears solemn, explaining that the information Discovery seeks has been protected for centuries. Before they assist the captain, she must answer a question — “Where does the fourth point?” Burnham understands that the query is a riddle that refers to the poem from Lyrek, whose fourth stanza pointed to Betazed. Xi's expression softens, stating that "Betazed" is correct and the symbiont Burnham seeks is still alive. Its current host — Kalzara Bix — will only speak to an outsider who has provided the right answer. From here forward, all will be up to the captain.

Adira looks up towards a frail Trill, Kalzara Bix, in the Cave of Mak'ala in 'Jinaal'


Burnham, Culber, Adira, and Book beam down to the dimly lit Caves of Mak'ala, where Xi, Kalzara, and Gray stand ready to greet them. An elderly Trill who has been waiting nearly her entire life for this moment, Kalzara Bix admits that only Jinaal can truly help Burnham. Jinaal joined with a symbiont so that it could carry his secrets across the ages until a worthy seeker arrived. A zhian’tara ritual will allow Jinaal's consciousness to transfer to another body for a limited time.* Xi warns that it can be an emotionally overwhelming experience, prompting Culber to volunteer himself for the process. Gray exchanges a brief smile with Adira before retreating to assist Xi prepare.

Ni'Var's President T’Rina enters Saru's office at Federation HQ, holding a decorative gift — a favinit plant. Saru graciously accepts and sets the lovely plant on a table. The Kelpien acknowledges that, while he misses his friends on Discovery, he is excited for this new challenge. Asked to speak on behalf of the planets he represents at today's Resource Committee meeting, Saru is acutely aware that the position he plans to advocate for is a controversial one. T'Rina maintains confidence in Saru's, and she gestures towards the door.

Seated at Federation Headquarters, Saru raises his hand during a committee meeting in 'Jinaal'


As they traverse HQ's hallways, the conversation shifts to their engagement announcement. Having browsed the draft, Saru wonders if they should rethink the section which describes him as "handsome and erudite." T'Rina is open to the change but emphasizes that the words are accurate. Saru welcomes the compliment, and T'Rina promises to have the document sent out within a day. The couple is interrupted by T'Rina’s aide Duvin, who seems unsettled by the notion of the announcement's imminent release. T'Rina straightens Ambassador Saru's tunic, and the Kelpien readies — and steadies — himself for the meeting.

Meanwhile, in Discovery's Science Lab, Lieutenant Tilly informs Commander Rayner that she is to facilitate his introductions to the crew. Rayner views her as a chaperone and prefers to continue combing through sensor data to locate Moll and L'ak's ship. Tilly persists, citing the importance of crew cohesion and the fact that these are the captain's orders. Rayner says he can walk and chew gum — another Earth expression, sternly commanding that the lieutenant schedule five minutes with each crew member and have them report to him in the lab. Tilly is taken aback, but she grins politely and sets off to carry out the directive.

Guardian Xi performs the zhian'tara Trill ritual on Kalzara Bix and Hugh Culber in 'Jinaal'


In Trill’s venerated Caves of Mak'ala, Gray lights a torch and takes a moment away from his duties to embrace Adira. The Trill trainee grasps Adira's hand, carefully mentioning that perhaps they have some things they need to talk about. Adira struggles for a response, but Guardian Xi interjects to announce that they are ready to begin. The group gathers around Kalzara and Culber, who sit opposite each other in the flow of the serene waters. Placing his hands on their heads, Xi recites the zhian’tara ritual. A nebulous fog overcomes Culber, and he opens his eyes — as Jinaal Bix, his consciousness existing in the doctor's body.

An eccentric individual, "Jinaal" is pleased to learn that the year is 3191. "Jinaal" adjusts to Culber's form, his gravelly voice proclaiming that he loves what Starfleet has done to its uniforms. Unzipping his collar, "Jinaal" meets Book — an unaffiliated, professional associate — and tells Captain Burnham that he can take her to the next clue. "Jinaal" concealed it in a nearby canyon, but he prefers walking there over taking a personal transporter — he doesn’t remember the coordinates, he just remembers the path. As Burnham and Book follow him to the exit, "Jinaal" admires Culber's physique, remarking, "Wow. This guy really works out."

At Federation Headquarters, President T'Rina sits with Saru, a moderator, and a handful of Federation delegates around a conference table while their aides sit in the background in 'Jinaal'


At Federation Headquarters, Saru listens to several delegates debate their constituents' needs. Warring factions vying for control have made the Breen increasingly dangerous, but Saru assuages a delegate's request for the security of a new starbase with a promise to increase starship patrols in that sector. The revision is adopted, and Duvin pulls Saru to the side for a private conference. The aide worries that Saru's compromise — and T'Rina's support of it — will become political fodder in the conflict between T'Rina's coalition and Vulcan purists. Since appearances matter in politics, Duvin believes T'Rina's logic is clouded by her love for Saru. Announcing that Ni'Var's leader is betrothed to someone from another world could negatively impact T'Rina's career, an opinion which paints a perturbed look on the Kelpien's face.

As he guides Book and Burnham through the canyon on Trill, Jinaal-Culber delights at an itronok's call. The carnivorous quadruped stands about three times a humanoid's height and is extremely vicious, and the species use these canyons as their hunting ground. People typically avoid the area, making it the perfect place to hide the clue. Captain Burnham confirms that she's ready to risk her life for her mission, so Jinaal-Culber provides some history; eight centuries ago, the Federation President secretly brought six scientists — including Jinaal and Vellek — together to research the Progenitors and the message found by Captain Picard.

A close-up of the Jinaal-possessed Culber stands behind boulders in a Trill canyon in 'Jinaal'


After several years, the trail brought the scientists to a sector of deep space that contained a technology beyond anything they had ever seen. One of their group was killed trying to activate it, the horrible turn convincing the others to make a pact — they told the President that they'd hit a dead end, destroyed all of their research, removed their names from databases, and hid the location of what they found. Witnessing the mistrust and violence surrounding the Dominion War, the scientists knew the Progenitors' tech could be used for great destruction. As Jinaal-Culber states that they made protecting it the focus of their lives, the screech of the itronok grows closer.

Monitoring the sensors left behind by Discovery, Commander Rayner gruffly notifies Tilly, who just entered the Science Lab with Gen Rhys, that Moll and L'ak have returned to Lyrek. Having already been alerted by Zora, the lieutenant politely — Rayner cuts to the chase, asking Rhys to tell him something that can't be read in his file in 20 words or less. Rhys pauses, then offers a smirk as he declares himself a "real shiphead." The tactical officer loves the Crossfield-class, but he is particularly enamored by the curves of a 23rd Century Constitution-class vessel.

Unimpressed, Rayner dismisses Rhys and repeats the same question to several other officers — Dr. Tracy Pollard remembers seeing a bore worm eating a Bynar's synaptic processor, Asha brags about being unbeatable at tongo, Linus shares that Saurians reproduce asexually and raise their progeny collectively, Christopher excitedly outlines the pet Tribble he received from Commander Nilsson when she transferred to U.S.S. Voyager, Jett Reno laments the lack of snacks, and Gallo makes an awkward exit. Tilly is bothered by the brevity of each chat, but Rayner insists that meetings are as long as they need to be. Deflated, the lieutenant heads off to arrange the next appointment.

Adira and Gray sit across one another in the Caves of Mak'ala in 'Jinaal'


Alone in the Caves of Mak'ala, Adira and Gray have an intimate heart-to-heart. Gray reveals that he's been doing surprisingly well, and he acknowledges that things have not been the same between them. He points out that they used to be connected by the Tal symbiont, but they are now following divergent paths — one on Trill, the other on Discovery. Neither wishes for their partner to give up their pursuits, so Gray proposes they try a different kind of relationship. Holding back tears, Adira confirms that it might be best for them to break up, though they both vow to always be there for each other.

Evening shadows have descended upon the canyon, and — objecting to Burnham's urgency — Jinaal-Culber professes that his fellow scientists created the clues so that a person must complete the entire journey in order to reach the end. They wanted the power to be found, but only by a worthy seeker in a time of peace. Has that time come in 3191? Book claims it is a time of peace, but Burnham confesses that she cannot promise the tranquility will last. However, she knows the Federation is driven by a will to do good, noting that the scientists must have also had faith in sentient species — especially since they left clues to begin with. The trio rounds a corner and comes across a fresh ina bird carcass, signaling that the itronok is closer than Jinaal-Culber had thought. He recommends they draw their phasers.

Burnham, Culber, and Book hides behind boulders in Trill canyons in 'Jinaal'


Darkness covers their surroundings, and Jinaal gestures to a stone positioned a short distance away. He asserts that the next clue resides in a compartment under a carving on its surface. Burnham's tricorder shows that the symbol matches the one from Vellek's diary, but an enormous edgernawk [SP?] lands before them. The winged, translucent creature’s scales control the way light refracts, allowing it to cloak. It starts spewing fiery projectiles at the travelers, and Jinaal insists they retreat, bolting away in the process.

Unable to connect with the predator through his Kwejian senses — at least, other than to determine that it’s “pissed off,” Book races out to distract the animal. The itronok gives chase, relentlessly vomiting orange stingers at Book. Burnham examines the stone carving, but a second creature flies down to take a shot. Book dives out, pulling Burnham away from danger, only to have a barb puncture his leg. With the captain's assistance, he scrambles for cover amid additional blasts.

Back on Discovery, Stamets bursts into the Science Lab and apologizes for being late to his meeting with Rayner. He gives off an air of exhilaration, believing he has figured out the data from the Romulan tricorder. Intrigued, Rayner grants him permission to explain — and to use as many words as he'd like. The Progenitors' technology is several billion years old, so it is necessary to factor in the half-life of numerous isotopes, but Stamets concludes that the tech could have incredible applications. Designing new lifeforms, accelerating evolution, modifying ecosystems, and — in theory — reanimating dead organisms could all be on the table.

Rayner stifles the astromycologist's enthusiasm, citing the dangerous nature of such power and dismissing him. Tilly's incredulity reaches a tipping point, and the lieutenant gives herself permission to speak freely. She critiques Rayner, emphatically theorizing that he is masking the fact that he's been demoted and transferred to a new ship by being a giant— she realizes she’s used up her 20 words. Her thoughts finally off her mind, she withdraws to let Rayner consider her commentary.

President T'Rina sits along a round conference room table at Federation Headquarters in 'Jinaal'


While sipping tea with T'Rina at Federation HQ, Saru raises the issue of their engagement announcement. He searches for an excuse to postpone the declaration, going so far as to quote a wise Vulcan who once said, "To rush a sehlat is to risk a goring." T'Rina sets her cup down, immediately cognizant that Duvin is the cause of the Kelpien's concern. Although T'Rina employs Duvin as a shrewd political operator, she defiantly conveys that she has no need for a caretaker. A call from President Rillak cuts their conversation short, and T'Rina strides out of the room with confidence.

In the canyon on Trill, Captain Burnham pulls the barb out of Book’s leg and treats the wound with a dermal regenerator. Book notices that several eggs are resting among a pile of rocks, a fact that gives them context — the itronok is simply being a good parent and protecting its young. Book and Burnham reach a consensus, deciding that there's no reason to agitate the creatures and intending to return another day. Unfortunately, the minerals nearby are blocking their transporter signals, so Burnham draws upon her background in xenoanthropology — show respect to the one you’re studying.

On the surface of Trill, Book runs from out behind a boulder and fires his phaser into the air in 'Jinaal'


The captain slowly emerges from cover, walking into the open and retracting her phaser. Book follows suit, and — with the visitors no longer presenting a threat with their phasers — the animals permit Book to employ his empathy powers to communicate. His forehead aglow, the ex-courier extends their apologies, and he is stunned when the itronok signal their willingness to let them go mere moments later.

Book and Burnham catch up with Jinaal-Culber under the glimmer of moonlight, the Trill-in-human-form acknowledging that he knew of the nesting ground and baited the visitors into arming themselves. Would they see an enemy when encountering a lifeform vastly different than their own, or would they try to connect? With the pair passing his test, Jinaal-Culber removes another relic from its rocky confines and hands it to the captain. However, had they not been worthy, he would have stood by and let the creatures kill them in order to protect the Progenitors' power. Burnham solemnly accepts this admission, suddenly recognizing that the coordinates to the next clue are carved into the new relic.

Saru discovers T'Rina in the hallways of HQ and offers a heartfelt apology for overstepping his partner's wishes. Ni'Var's leader quickly accepts, though the ease with which she puts the discord in the past catches Saru by surprise. He has never endured conflict with someone he loves in this way, but T'Rina counters that conflict is a natural part of any relationship — as well as political life itself. The Vulcan purists will be inflamed by the engagement announcement, but her constituents finding out through other means would erode the trust they have given her. T'Rina is clear that they have nothing to hide, converting Saru's worry into eagerness. She shows her appreciation by tenderly resting her finger on the Kelpien's chin.

Guardian Xi ends the zhian’tara in the Caves of Mak’ala, and Kalzara relays Jinaal’s gratitude to Culber, who has been moved and rendered speechless by the ritual. Burnham warns Xi that Moll and L’ak are likely on their way to Trill, but the Guardian is adamant that Trill Security is capable of handling them. Book and Culber beam back to Discovery, leaving Kalzara to thank the captain for giving her the opportunity to rest before Burnham also returns to the ship.

At Discovery's lounge, Rayner looks over towards Tilly as she waits for her drink from the bartender in 'Jinaal'


In Discovery's lounge, Rayner takes a spot at the bar as the Ferengi proprietor pours Tilly a drink that the commander describes as "radioactive." Unamused, Tilly hears Rayner out. The commander contends that leadership and friendship are two different beasts; professional distance keeps the distinction clear, and his crew on the Antares understood that.

Rayner startles Tilly with some key insights — Rhys' knowledge of starships shows he could have a bright future in the command division, Pollard is unafraid of the horrors she faces, and Linus cares deeply for tradition and stability — that he gained from his fleeting interactions with Discovery's personnel. Still skeptical, Tilly does not equate analyzing the crew with showing them respect or connecting with them. The ice is broken nonetheless, and the lieutenant saunters over to join her friends at a table, leaving Rayner to flash a rare smile.

Culber sits in the Discovery lounge with an empty drink cup lost in thought in 'Jinaal'


Culber sips a drink elsewhere in the lounge and offers a seat to Captain Burnham. Preparations are being made to jump to the coordinates from the clue, but — given to the locale's place in Tzenkethi space — Discovery can't go until the diplomats clear the way. The two officers broach the day's events, with the doctor grappling with how to describe the process of having another consciousness inside his body. His abuela was also a doctor, and she filled her home with religious icons from a variety of faiths as a reminder that not everything has to have an answer. Culber is uncertain if he's okay with that notion, leading Burnham to confirm that she is also searching — the Progenitors' technology is the closest they’ll ever get to the beings who designed life as they know it. Perhaps this voyage will provide both of them with the answers they need.

Surrounded by candlelight in the Caves of Mak’ala, Gray speaks to Adira, Xi, and other red-robed Trill — a symbiont's centuries-long life is a journey. Gray relays that a symbiont is changed by every host, and each host is changed by the symbiont. This teaches us that life is a series of changes and we must work to understand those we encounter — Book gazes at Moll's holographic record aboard Discovery, while Saru and T'Rina tend to their plants at Headquarters.

Gray continues, urging that we must choose to connect with others and ourselves — Hugh stares out Discovery's viewports, Rayner looks over at Tilly in the lounge, and Stamets adds the latest relic to the map in Engineering. Gray argues that we must keep trying, even in the face of failure, because we are all searching for meaning in our lives — Captain Burnham meditates in her quarters aboard her ship. Gray concludes that the connections we make will guide us to those answers and joins hands with Adira. The Bix symbiont swims into the watery depths, and those gathered begin greeting one another by clutching forearms. A red-robed Trill deposits a tiny device onto Adira that melts into their uniform undetected. As the figure turns away, her hood pulls back slightly, revealing that she is not a Trill trainee — she is actually Moll in disguise!

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Canon Connections

* "Facets" — On Deep Space 9, Jadzia Dax went through the Trill ritual, zhian'tara. In order to meet the previous hosts of her Dax symbiont, several of her colleagues served as hosts bodies for them. Another iteration of zhian'tara is seen in Discovery's "Choose to Live" when Guardian Xi modified the ritual to unjoin Gray from the Tal symbiont in order for his consciousness to incorporate with a golem body.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Log Credits

  • Written by Kyle Jarrow & Lauren Wilkinson
  • Directed by Andi Armaganian