Oh, my dearest plum, why have they dropped you so carelessly onto the ground? Did you survive the fight? Will you return home from the war triumphant? Or were you truly picked up from the floor and eaten, as showrunner Michael Chabon suggested?
As you can see, all I care about right now is the safety of the plum and its brethren. It is the true hero of the Federation. Saved everyone’s lives by falling onto the ground. It should be revered and worshipped. #PlumDay #JusticeForThePlums
Alas, we must talk about the episode, which begins 14 years ago with a quick montage of the Mars attack. (Which the plum could have stopped, mind you) But this time we pick up in the aftermath. Picard and Raffi are in their 2385-era uniforms with Picard looking tired and dejected after leaving a meeting. We find out that Starfleet has refused their revised plans for evacuating the Romulans. It didn’t matter they had alternatives for using old ships and reserve officers, Starfleet saw their plan as unfeasible. More than that though, synthetics have been banned effective immediately. Raffi is shocked, she smells a conspiracy, the ever-reaching hands of the Tal Shiar involved in some plot. But Picard can’t see how the Romulans would sabotage a rescue fleet that was created to help them.
He laments at Starfleet giving into fear and intolerance and Raffi starts picking up on something not being right. And she’s right. Picard gave Starfleet an ultimatum, accept the revised plans or accept his resignation, and they called his bluff. Raffi’s face changes at this moment when Picard says he never thought Starfleet would accept it and she darkly replies that of course, he wouldn’t. This speaks to that hubris once again that Picard has. He thought he was so important and indispensable that there was no way that he couldn’t force Starfleet’s hand. He never entertained that maybe they didn’t see him as so indispensable after all. There is a level of privilege that comes with Picard’s arrogance and self-importance, which is further highlighted by Raffi getting a call from the CNC to meet. Raffi took this to be her getting fired because of Picard’s resignation and storms off. Picard calls to her but doesn’t go after her.
In the present day, Raffi’s anger has been simmering for over a decade. And she has every right to be pissed. He calls only when he needed something from her, a pilot and a ship to Bruce Maddox. He didn’t call her to check if she was alright or to just say hi. He called because she had something he could use, and her life was essentially something that he could be okay with risking. She berates him on revealing his secret plans to Admiral Clancy and then calls him out on his privilege. He got to go back to his “fine Chateau” while she was relegated to her “hovel”. The class and racial disparity in this scene are clear to see. Star Trek has never really dealt with the economic realities of the Federation and its citizens, so this scene provides more context about the world.
When Raffi storms off this time though, Picard does follow. He admits that he disappointed and neglected her, and he apologizes, but she doesn’t care. And really, why should she. She’s right. There was no reason he couldn’t have called her. But even in her anger, you could tell that Raffi does care, even if she’s trying to push it down. The way her eyes follow him at times, the way she still calls him JL, she wants to believe and have hope in him. But she is still having difficulties trusting him. She doesn’t want to go down another rabbit hole with him over any conspiracies and tells him to leave. But because she still does care, she tells him that she’s got a pilot for him, Rios, who will be in touch.
Picard later calls Raffi to send her information on Bruce Maddox, and I will admit, I found the scene to be rather annoying. Not because it’s a bad scene but because I’m not sure Picard truly registered how much he’s hurt other people. Much like this scene last week with Admiral Clancy, he’s once again just waltzing in expecting to be handed things and assume that Raffi will help. The hubris hasn’t really been sufficiently knocked down a peg, and it feels manipulative, especially when he knows that this could be leading to something that can get people hurt. It feels like Picard is just using people and not actually considering his actions beyond just saving Soji to assuage his own guilt and failure. I hope the story continues to hold him accountable for his failures and doesn’t just let him skate off on them because he’s the hero. Because I would like to see him grow. Because sometimes it doesn’t matter our best intentions or what we mean, we do hurt people and we must acknowledge it and learn from it.
Up on the La Sirena, Rios’ ship, we have Picard beaming up and greeted by someone with a British accent who seemingly is assumed to be Captain Rios. By the way, when the exterior shot circles around La Sirena, the music played is from Discovery, usually used in ship exterior shots. But back to La Sirena, the person who greeted Picard is actually an EMH, modelled after Rios himself. The real Cristobal “Chris” Rios has titanium shrapnel in his shoulder that he wants removed. He tells Picard to sit down and we get a moment of a swell of TNG theme as Picard walks by the captain’s chair, stops, and then continues on. Rios seemed to have been reading a book called The Tragic Sense of Life. Appropriate, given what we learn of Rios’ own past and his bitter and painful separation from Starfleet. And on another nod to Discovery, we learn that Rios’ old ship, the Ibn Majid, was erased from the records, much like Discovery was by the end of its second season. Picard claims that Rios is Starfleet to the core and Rios warns Picard to not try to get inside his head.
And we get an idea of what’s inside Rios’ head when later as he’s alone, his ENH for navigational emergencies pokes and prods about Rios helping out someone like Picard, who is “on the side of the angels”. But Rios doesn’t react too well, stating that he doesn’t need another grand heroic captain, not when 10 years on and he still can’t close his eyes at night without seeing the last one’s blood and brains splattered all over a bulkhead. This immediately endeared Rios to me, because I have always wanted a story that addressed the Starfleet characters whose ships didn’t get the happy ending or didn’t have plot armour to survive some horrible conflict. Those were the untold stories, always happening off-screen. And here is the Picard show bringing all of it to the forefront. Between Rios and Raffi, we are seeing the stories of the people Starfleet left behind, the people who didn’t get their happy endings, and people whose trauma couldn’t just easily be reset at the end of an episode. I really hope we get some flashbacks to Rios’ past because there is a lot hiding behind those eyes looking into the stars.
The same stars that Picard is looking up to on Earth, once again showing that Rios and Picard are Starfleet to the core, and their hearts belong out there. Laris joins Picard as he talks about the smell of harvest. She looks sadly at him, and not so much asking as stating facts, that he won’t miss any of this one bit. Picard counters that he will miss her, Zhaban, and Number One, but he never truly felt at home here. Laris admits that he always did have one eye on the stars. This moment breaks my heart a little because you know that while Laris wants Picard to stay, she knows that she cannot keep him here, she knows that in his core, he belongs out there and even if she doesn’t want to, she has to let him go. Meanwhile, Zhaban has already packed food for the road. Seriously, Zhaban is a hero, food is so important. But just as a plum slip from his hands (saving everyone) and he goes to pick it up, all hell breaks loose.
Romulan assassins are breaking in firing their disruptors. Laris and Zhaban go into action mode, arming themselves with anyone in their sight to take out the assassins. Picard is not too shabby himself, knocking one with a cane. The best part of this fight sequence is just how many weapons that’s stashed in this study. And given what we know of Laris and Zhaban’s separation from the Tal Shiar according to the comics, no doubt these two ex-spies were more than prepared for any sort of retaliation. Our heroes dispatch the assassins eventually, and as Laris is hugging Picard, another assassin comes in but is shot by Jurati!
Clearly shaken from having shot someone and finding out that Romulan disruptors don’t have a stun setting so that person is definitely dead, Jurati is really all very fidgety, even as Picard tries to calm her. Fieldwork is obviously not her thing. But it is highly convenient that she appeared just at the right time. After all, a few scenes before, we saw her eating lunch and listening to Kasseelian opera before being approached by the sketchy Commodore Oh. It’s entirely likely that she might have been coerced into getting involved with Picard’s plans. I’m not sure I can entirely trust her so as of now, I will be viewing her with a healthy dose of side-eye until more is known of what went down between her and Commodore Oh. But she does tell Picard about her visit from Oh, even commenting that she’s a terrible liar. However, there is one thing she didn’t tell Oh, but that’s interrupted once the prisoner they got tied up awakens. Though not before we get another wonderful Laris and Zhaban scene where Zhaban is ready to hit the prisoner to wake him up, but Laris says that they aren’t like these assassins anymore.
Picard questions the prisoner who is not that forthright about giving out information, with Laris remarking and whacking him in the head for being a stubborn northerner like Zhaban. But more questioning has the prisoner tell them that Dahj isn’t a girl, that she isn’t what everyone thinks she is and saying that Picard will never find the other sister before they do. The prisoner insults Picard, causing Laris to punch him and knocking the chair over. The prisoner announces that Soji, the sister, is the end of all, the Destroyer, before breaking the acid capsule we saw back in episode 1 and spits acid at Zhaban. I’m not going to lie, for a moment there I genuinely thought Zhaban was a goner and I was going to have to be screaming for the rest of the week. Luckily, they got the jacket off of Zhaban and he’s safe, leaving me to only scream about the fate of the missing plum. The prisoner, however, has melted along with Zhaban’s jacket. Jurati is rightly horrified. Poor thing isn’t exactly equipped for all this drama. But she insists on going with Picard, touting her own credentials to appeal to Picard to let her go, even though we already can tell from the look on his face that he would. So, with Jurati and Picard beaming up to Rios’ ship, most of our crew has gathered, including Raffi who has found Bruce Maddox on Freecloud and says she’s hitching a ride there but after that Picard is on his own. Jurati introduces herself but Raffi isn’t that pleased that Picard didn’t even have her do a basic security check. Somehow, I think that may come back to bite them all. But for now, the crew, almost all there, is ready to set off on their adventure as Picard tells Rios to “engage”, much to Raffi’s chagrin.
The TNG theme as the ship warps off is enough to put a smile on your face, and probably some tears in your eyes.
But that’s not the only thing that may have any fans of TNG smiling. After so many years, Hugh has returned, with Jonathan Del Arco back in fine form. Things have changed for Hugh in the last few decades. He’s got a lot of his cybernetic implants removed, got a new eye, and is the Director of the Borg Reclamation Project on the cube. He watches a playback of Soji speaking Romulan to an ex-Borg and goes to find her to commend her on her work. Their conversation shows that the two have an established history, with Hugh noting her different attitude towards the ex-Borgs and giving Soji the interview with Ramdha, an expert on Romulan mythology. He’s also surprised about the information that Soji knows about Ramdha from her Romulan dossier, something he hasn’t even seen. Soji comments that she finds that if she asks people for help, they’re happy to give it, to which Hugh replies that’s not been his experience. I’m wondering if Soji’s comments could be taken more sinister ways, as in she has the ability to convince and coerce people into getting information?
They visit Ramdha in a room that houses all the disordered who are Romulans, the only Romulans ever assimilated, at least according to Hugh’s knowledge. They see Ramdha playing cards, Pixmit, some sort of Romulan Tarot cards. They note a card she put down that represents a false front door, apparently something every Romulan house has so that you have to go around the back. Soji sits behind Ramdha and asks for permission before Ramdha allows her to sit. The conversation at first seems to be going well, talking about how Romulans don’t have mythology, but it’s more like news. But then Ramdha says she knows Soji, that she remembers Soji from tomorrow. Soji asks what she was doing when Ramdha saw her tomorrow but Ramdha doesn’t say and becomes upset. Soji starts speaking about information regarding Ramdha being special because she was on board the last ship ever assimilated by this specific cube, that her ship was the Imperial scout ship Shaenor with 25 other passengers.
But something went wrong and caused a submatrix collapse. This is information that even surprises Hugh who did not know it. Soji touches Ramdha’s hand but when Ramdha snatches it away, for a brief moment Soji’s badge lights up green, the signal to run. But it was only in that moment. So, there is no clear answer on what the badge was reacting to. Was it detecting Ramdha as a threat? Or was it reading some dangerous program without Soji activating? Or could Soji have been made with Borg technology?
Ramdha flips over a card of two women and asks Soji which one is she, which sister, the one who dies or the one who lives. She then grabs a guard’s weapon and points it at Soji, declaring her to be the Seb-Cheneb, the Destroyer. She’s ready to shoot herself but Soji flies into action with superhuman speed to take the weapon away from her. Something that obviously by the look on her face, even surprised herself. Hugh takes Ramdha in his arms and reprimands the guards for not securing their sidearms. But now all the ex-Borgs in the room are looking very intensely at Soji. They all heard Ramdha calling her the Destroyer, and it seems they all know the myth.
Meanwhile, Soji is worried and scared, calling her mother to ask about Dahj. After all, Ramdha was talking about a sister who dies and a sister who lives. But the mother, same one we saw with Dahj but just with different hairstyles, tells her that Dahj is fine and is thinking of getting a puppy, and this somehow puts Soji to sleep. I still don’t know if the mother is a hologram or a real person, but hologram seems most plausible. When she wakes up, Narek is there to see her. Soji is frustrated because she doesn’t know how she knew the information but surely, she must have read it somewhere in a report. She asks Narek if he believes her, but he never does answer her, instead opting to tell her a secret, that he’s falling in love with her, and they hug. Jurati had mentioned to Picard before about how the twins were designed for some purpose and they were sent to their locations for a reason, but Soji’s mission is still vague and clouded.
Narek runs into his sister Narissa after leaving Soji, she’s back to looking like a Romulan and mocks him about smelling his and Soji’s carnal relations. Narek reiterates that Soji doesn’t know who she truly is and they should keep it that way for as long as possible given what happened on Earth. Narissa counters that Earth was a miscalculation, to which Narek remarks that it was her miscalculation. He still believes his approach will work. Narissa warns him not to fall in love, which I have a feeling will probably happen.
So, another amazing episode as we truly set off on our adventure, with just one last crew member to pick up. And yes, the plum is still the greatest hero and deserving of a Short Trek and even a spin-off show! But while I am excited for the stories to come, it’s very sad to be leaving behind Laris and Zhaban, who are already become fast fan favourites. Hopefully, we will see them again this season!
Now off to find Elnor, the space elf!
Star Trek: Picard airs Thursdays at 00:01 PST on CBS All Access in the USA, 21:00 pm on CTV SCi-Fi/Crave TV in Canada and airs Fridays on Amazon Prime Video Internationally.