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Recap / Star Trek: Discovery S2E05 "Saints of Imperfection"

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Hugh Culber?! You're alive?!
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Discovery attempts a risky partial-jump to rescue Tilly from the mycelial network, while Tilly finds out she's been brought there by May in order to destroy a monster that's killing May's species, which turns out to be Culber. Tyler gets assigned by Section 31 as a liaison on Discovery in the mission to locate Spock.


Tropes in this episode:

  • Absence of Evidence: Stamets uses the fact there are no human remains of any kind, even on a molecular level, as proof Tilly was taken.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: The mycelial barrier is deadly to the crew, and Discovery is slowly slipping into the network so it advances on them in bursts as they struggle to hold position.
  • Back from the Dead: Culber's mind is rescued from the network and May creates a new body for him in the Prime universe using the organic transporter she abducted Tilly with.
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  • Bait-and-Switch: This is the second time it looks like Burnham is going to be reunited with Spock, but ends up meeting somebody else. Last time, it was Connelly; this time, it's Mirror Georgiou.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with Culber while he's in the network. After his calm and heartfelt goodbye to Stamets, he has clearly been through the wringer, disheveled and blistered with unkempt hair and beard. (He gets a shave and a haircut when his body is reconstructed.)
  • Blackmail: Leland wants to pull away from Discovery because his ship can't maintain thrust, but Mirror-Georgiou overrides several safeties to buy a few more minutes. When he objects, she not-so-subtly hints that she has dirt on him that would get him put away for botching a covert op.
  • Call-Back:
    • Burnham recalls the state of the crew of the Glenn in "Context is for Kings" when Stamets describes how unprotected contact with the mycelial barrier will warp the bodies of the crew.
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    • Cornwell references Article 14 of the Starfleet Charter (pre-dating the Federation). It was stated in Star Trek: Enterprise that Section 31's authority comes from a vaguely-worded section in Article 14 of the charter (specifically, section 31 of the article, hence the name).
  • Call-Forward: Tyler reveals that Section 31 uses combadges, much to Pike's surprise, which will become standard Starfleet issue in about 100 years.
  • Cathartic Scream: When May tells Tilly that she was abducted in order to save May's people from a monster and begs her for help, Tilly, who was furious at May for what she was put through even before being abducted, screams in frustration before she asks what she can do.
  • Dead All Along: Thoroughly inverted; Culber has been alive the entire time in the mycelial network.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: When Pike, Burnham and a security team arrive at Spock's shuttle, everyone but Pike charges their phaser and points it at the hatch.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Mirror-Georgiou casually grabs an apple in Captain Pike's quarters and starts nomming down while he takes a call. A bit of a subverted example given that she is posing as an old friend of his, but is probably aware that he's figured out something is off about her.
  • Eureka Moment: Just when it looks like Culber can't cross back, Tilly has a classic one and managed to save the day for everyone on both sides of the network.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: There was no particular reason for Mirror-Georgiou to make an extra effort to give Discovery a few more minutes other than her apparent fondness for Burnham.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: May says this verbatim while she is speaking to Tilly in the mycelial network early in the episode.
  • The Gadfly: Mirror-Georgiou's actions from the time she arrives on Discovery to when she leaves are apparently made in large part simply to annoy Burnham.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Culber deliberately wipes off the toxin protecting him when it seems as if he won't be able to return to Discovery, since he knows Stamets won't leave unless he has no other choice and Culber doesn't want to be responsible for any further damage to the network. Fortunately, they're able to devise a way to save him and the network at the same time.
  • Holographic Disguise: Leland's ship has a holographic generator which can disguise it as an asteroid.
  • Kill Him Already!: When Tilly, Burnham, and Stamets catch up to the "monster" that turns out to be Culber, May shouts at the top of her lungs for them to kill him.
  • The Lad-ette: Pike claims that back when they were at the Academy, Georgiou could party harder than anyone, typically drinking her fellow cadets under the table. Which is quite the contrast to the restrained though puckish captain we briefly saw in the series pilot.
  • Mythology Gag: This isn't the first time that we see a character demonstrate their arrogance by casually munching on an apple at an inappropriate moment.
  • Naked on Arrival: Culber is reconstituted without clothing.
  • Necessarily Evil: Admiral Cornwell raises some salient points about Section 31: namely that despite Pike's misgivings about working with the organization they are a sad necessity in a universe that does not share the Federation's ideals. The contrast between Pike's idealism and Leland's realpolitik allows her to drive home the point that each needs the other to keep them in balance, and opens the door to the two radically different commanders working together.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: Pike remarks that "Captain Georgiou" has gotten good at giving non-answers to his questions.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: When Burnham expresses her mistrust and dislike for Georgiou, Georgiou is only too happy to point out that Burnham was the one who decided to bring her there in the first place.
  • Noodle Incident: According to Georgiou, Leland did something six years ago that could get him court-martialed... to the wrong ambassador.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Pike makes the quote when informing the crew they're going to attempt to rescue Tilly.
    Pike: Starfleet is a promise. I give my life for you; you give your life for me.
  • Not Herself: Pike, an old friend of Captain Georgiou, knows something about her demeanor isn't right. Burnham tries to gloss it over by saying the war changed her. Pike doesn't buy it for a second.
  • Pinky Swear: Tilly teaches this to "May" to gain her trust. At the end, she asks for one from May that they'll see each other again.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Much like "Point of Light", this episode is meant to be this for the in-development Section 31 show, although unlike that episode, this episode sees Section 31 interacting directly with the Discovery crew.
  • Precision F-Strike: Admiral Cornwell tells Pike and Leland to "cut the manlier-than-thou bullshit."
  • Retcon: Culber is alive.
  • Screen Shake: Returns in full force each time the mycelial barrier advances through the ship, with the bridge crew enthusiastically flinging themselves around the set.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Leland tells Pike that the reason Pike and the rest of Starfleet is able to go around being noble and heroic is because Section 31 works in the shadows.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • Burnham is not happy having to work with Mirror Georgiou on the same mission.
    • Similarly, Pike is not pleased having Tyler on his ship. Nor is he particularly pleased to be working with Section 31 on an extended basis.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: subverted. This is the first episode of the season that has no B-plots; everything (save for a couple bouts of "manlier-than-thou bullshit" between Pike and Leland) focuses on Tilly and the mycelial network.
  • Walking Wasteland: Culber is one for the lifeforms in the mycelial network. Justified since he covered himself with toxic bark to avoid being broken down and consumed by the network.
  • Wham Shot: The creature that's been wreaking havoc throughout the mycelial network is...
    Stamets: Hugh?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) butts in on Stamets in Engineering during the previous episode, highlighting how awkward it is that she has simply disappeared for this one — especially given the implications that there is no Time Skip between them. (She also reappears in five episodes with no explanation as to where she was.)
  • You Owe Me: Burnham knows that Mirror Georgiou expect to be paid back for saving Discovery.
    Burnham: I heard you bought us a few minutes.
    Georgiou: Is that any way to think the savior of the Discovery?
    Burnham: I know you expect to be paid back in spades.
    Georgiou: Maybe I'm an altruist.
    Burnham: Maybe I'm a Terran.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: When Mirror-Georgiou comments she finally sees someone she recognizes in Burnham when the latter is fuming and looks ready to take a swing at her, Burnham restrains herself.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: May's people (the JahSepp) see Culber as a monster that's killing them by using a local toxin that makes touching him deadly to them, while he's trying to protect himself against the spores that are trying to break down his body.

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