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Recap / Star Trek: Discovery S1E06 "Lethe"

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Lorca offers Tyler the position of security chief on Discovery, and faces questions on his fitness to command by Admiral Cornwell. Sarek is nearly killed while on a secret mission and Burnham must find him before he dies.


Tropes in this episode include:

  • Action Bomb: Sarek's aide injects himself with a substance that causes him to explode in an attempt to kill Sarek and sabotage his mission. He fails in the former, but succeeds in the latter.
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  • Aggressive Negotiations: Hardly surprising that's what the negotiations with the Klingon "splinter group" turn out to be.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Lorca is on his knees in the blink of an eye, begging Admiral Cornwell to let him keep his command after pulling a phaser on her when she wakes him up.
    Lorca: Don't take my ship away from me. She's all I got. Please, I'm begging you. Now, you-you're right. It's been harder on me than I let on, and I lied about everything, and I need help.
    Cornwell: I hate that I can't tell if this is really you.
  • Alien Blood: Since Vulcans have copper-based blood, Sarek bleeds green. Admittedly a far more neon green than Vulcans in previous series...
  • All for Nothing: Sarek reluctantly allowed Burnham to be denied a place in the Vulcan Expeditionary Group so his son could one day join, only for Spock to reject attending the Vulcan Science Academy altogether and join Starfleet. Having such a difficult choice be rendered moot through no fault of his own weighs heavily on him.
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  • Ambadassador: In the mind meld, Sarek proves to be nearly the equal of Burnham in hand-to-hand combat, despite being near-death. He also shows no outward fear at facing a suicide bomber, just annoyed resignation.
  • Body-Count Competition: After their Virtual Training Simulation, Lorca has 24 kills and asks Tyler for his score. Tyler says 22, but Lorca checks his rifle and reads 36.
    Tyler: Captain, out of respect—
    Lorca: Don't apologize for excellence. I want my chief of security to shoot better than I do.
  • Bothering by the Book: Lorca plays by the rules and requests orders when Cornwell is captured instead of charging off to her rescue because that prevents her from removing him from command.
  • The Bus Came Back: Dennas and Ujilli reappear for the first time since the second episode.
  • Call-Back: Sarek involuntarily uses the interstellar mind meld that he used in the pilot to contact Burnham.
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  • Call-Forward: The Logic Extremists bring to mind Spock's conversation with Lieutenant Valeris about logic being the beginning of wisdom, rather than the end of it.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Burnham confronts Sarek over his failure to tell her the truth of what really had happened with her rejection by the Vulcan Expeditionary Group and his continuing refusal to discuss it with her.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Burnham specifically mentions the Constitution-class USS Enterprise, indicating it and others of its class are a highly desired posting for those looking to advance in rank.
    • Spock, his half-human heritage, and his decision to refuse Sarek's wishes and join Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Science Academy are referenced.
    • Sarek's inability to be the father Michael needed due to stubbornness is the same problem he had with Spock.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Stamets thinks that Burnham's idea to locate Sarek through an augmented mind-meld is "my kind of crazy".
  • Dare to Be Badass: When Tilly questions the necessity of shaving a few seconds off her time while doing laps, Burnham points out that getting a certain score shows merit which counts toward being captain, and encourages her with that goal.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Lorca manages to seduce Cornwell as a way to distract her from looking too closely at his mental health, only to reveal just how bad it is when she startles him in bed.
  • Dramatic Irony: Lorca's choice not to mount an immediate rescue operation for Admiral Cornwell and instead wait for instructions from Starfleet is exactly the kind of sensible, level-headed command decision that Cornwell expected of him in order to deserve to keep his command. In other words, any chance of Cornwell being rescued now depends on Lorca being the loose cannon whom she promised to strip of his command, because of his loose cannon behavior.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Burnham plays a version of this as she works with Tilly to improve her physical fitness scores. At the end of the episode, she admits that she was too harsh, but Tilly still sees her advice as worth following.
    • Also played with. When Tilly orders a vegetable smoothie for breakfast after their workout, Burnham insists on her getting a breakfast burrito. She justifies it by saying Tilly needs the additional protein to make the most of her workout, but there is the clear implication of it being a reward for working hard.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Tilly tells Burnham that Tyler is hot. Burnham eventually seems to agree.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Klingons lure Sarek and then Cornwell into the meeting by pretending that one of these is brewing within the Empire.
  • Exact Words: When Burnham asks Sarek if he remembers what happened during the mind-meld, he attempts to brush it off by noting that he was unconscious. She doesn't buy it for a moment. When she then tells him that if they'd talked about it they'd have grown closer as a family, he tries to get out of it again by noting that technically they aren't related to avoid admitting he screwed up. She doesn't buy this one, either, pointedly calling him "father" while promising to discuss it one day.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • There's a group of Vulcan "logic extremists" who use terrorist tactics due to their belief that humans are inferior and Vulcans should have nothing to do with them. Sarek's aide is one of them.
    • The Vulcan Expeditionary Group would only accept either the human Burnham or half-human Spock (once he graduated the Vulcan Science Academy), because one-and-a-half humans would be unacceptable even though both were eminently qualified. The director of the VSA even refers to both Spock and Burnham as "experiments" and "not-quite-Vulcans".
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Burnham gives one to Stamets during his one scene.
  • Gambit Pileup: Kol hopes to lure Sarek into a trap, but Sarek doesn't make it due to an attempted assassination by the Vulcan Logic Extremists. Admiral Cornwell plans to have Lorca removed from command, but Lorca convinces her to defer that decision until she can attend the peace talks in Sarek's place. End result is that Kol captures Cornwell instead and Lorca is still in command of Discovery.
  • Impostor Exposing Test: During their training simulation, Lorca asks Tyler various personal questions, testing if his answers match up with his personnel file. Though Tyler does generalize his hometown as Seattle despite actually living slightly outside it, he otherwise passes with flying colors. Both of them quickly acknowledge what Lorca is doing.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: Burnham has to enter Sarek's mind through a remote mind-meld in order to wake him up so he can send out a distress signal from his damaged ship.
  • Lifesaving Misfortune: Yet to be determined whether it shall be a life-or-death matter, but the sabotage does save Sarek from Klingon captivity.
  • My Greatest Failure: Sarek was forced to choose between Spock and Michael getting into the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. Instead of fighting for both he chose Spock, which turned out to be a waste as Spock later made the decision to go into Starfleet instead of attending the Academy, a prerequisite for joining the VEG. Sarek never told Burnham the truth, allowing her to believe that she hadn't been good enough.
  • Nasty Party: The negotiations with the Klingons were a ruse by Kol to capture a high-ranking Vulcan. A Starfleet Admiral is a decent consolation prize when Sarek is waylaid. Lorca may have expected this outcome when sending Cornwell, given how calmly he takes the news of her capture.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!:
    • By attempting to kill Sarek, the Vulcan extremists unintentionally ensured he wasn't in position to be captured by the Klingons.
    • By capturing Cornwell, the Klingons have made sure Lorca will retain his post, at least for now.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Lorca takes note of Stamets being unusually chipper, though he accepts that Stamets turning himself into a living computer is probably exciting from a certain perspective.
    • Saru is taken aback when Lorca decides to seek Starfleet's opinion when Cornwell is captured, rather than simply rescuing her without delay. Lorca justifies this by noting her capture could be another potential trap and Discovery is too important to sacrifice, which placates Saru. (Of course, in reality Lorca doesn't want Cornwell and her psychiatric evaluation of him to get back to Starfleet, lest he lose the Discovery...)
  • Old Flame: Lorca and Cornwell used to have a relationship, and they end up having sex.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: Lorca keeps a phaser tucked in his pants behind his back.
  • Pet the Dog: Lorca decides to rescue Sarek solely because Burnham asks him, and tells her directly that he did it because he is there for his crew just as he expects them to be there for him.
  • Pillow Pistol: Lorca hides a phaser under his pillow, even though the captain's quarters is probably the safest place there is on Discovery. Cornwell understandably treats it as a sign of mental instability, combined with the choking.
  • Rank Up:
    • Lorca officially gives Burnham a posting on Discovery as the science specialist on the bridge, moving her up from an unranked consultant. He also offers Tyler a position as chief of security.
    • Kol has leveraged his control of the cloaking technology into becoming the leader of the entire Klingon Empire.
  • Reluctant Retiree: Cornwell tells Lorca that she plans to have him step down voluntarily rather than just removing him from command, so he can seek help and eventually regain his post. Her capture scuttles that plan for the foreseeable future.
  • The Reveal: The Vulcan learning center bombing that nearly caused Burnham's death as a child was caused by Vulcan extremists trying specifically to kill her — and they succeeded. Fortunately, she was Only Mostly Dead when Sarek brought her back.
  • Saved by Canon: It'll be a while yetnote  before Sarek dies, so his rescue here is guaranteed.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!:
    • Lorca decides to rescue Sarek in spite of the Vulcans' reluctance because it's important to Burnham, who he cares far more about.
    • Tyler ignores Lorca's instructions to abandon the search for Sarek if Burnham was at risk.
  • Screw You, Elves!: When Lorca is told about Sarek's disappearance when he checks on his status and that the Vulcans don't want Starfleet to get involved, Lorca not only blows off their concerns and says he's going anyway, he hangs up on the Vulcan Starfleet admiral who tells him to stand down.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Lorca reveals himself to be one when he wakes up suddenly after having sex with Cornwell, chokes her and sticks a phaser in her face. Aside from keeping a phaser in his bed, he also secretly carries one in the back of his pants.
  • Shipper on Deck: Tilly is actively trying to get Burnham to play nice with Tyler.
  • Shooting Gallery: Lorca and Tyler go through a holographic version.
  • Space Clouds: Sarek's shuttle is knocked out of warp in the middle of a highly radioactive nebula. The radiation scatters sensors and its size makes probes impractical for a search. Discovery can't fly in to get him because it would react explosively with their spore drive. Burnham has to fly in with a shuttle so she can get Sarek to activate his locator beacon.
  • Spotting the Thread: When Burnham explains the memory she keeps barging into when trying to get through to Sarek, thinking he was disappointed by her failure, Tyler realizes that Sarek wouldn't reminisce about the event unless it meant something more to him. This allows Burnham to get through to Sarek.
  • Squee!: Stamets is almost giddy at the idea of setting up a remote mind-meld.
  • The Stoner: Stamets is a lot more chilled out after a few rounds in the spore drive.
    Stamets: Groovy.
  • Synchronization: Burnham can feel Sarek's pain, even from light years away.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Sarek's reaction when he sees that his pilot is a suicide bomber. (His Vulcan emotional restraint keeps him from going all-out "Oh, Crap!")
  • Uriah Gambit: After Sarek is left unable to complete his diplomatic mission, Lorca suggests Vice-Admiral Cornwell take his place, knowing she'll value a chance at peace. He seems to have anticipated the Klingons wouldn't honor their word, and is in no hurry to rescue her once she's captured. This keeps her from returning to Starfleet and removing him from command.
  • Wake-Up Fighting: Lorca is suddenly awakened by Cornwell and responds violently. She does not take it well.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Cornwell is not happy about Stamets performing illegal genetic experiments on himself, though she seems to let it slide since it got the spore drive working.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Sarek's inability to fight off Burnham in the mind meld is indicated to be a side-effect of his deteriorating condition; he banishes her the first time and holds her off before Tilly revives her the second time, but by the third he's visibly flagging.
  • You Do NOT Want to Know:
    V'Latak: May I inquire as to the nature of our diplomatic mission?
    Sarek: Allow me to be diplomatic and ask that you do not. In times of crisis, ignorance can be beneficial.
    • Subverted, however, as V'Latak knows exactly where Sarek is going and what he's doing, and will blow himself up to keep Sarek from succeeding.

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