While Discovery, now designated NCC-1031-A, receives her Mid-Season Upgrade and the crew marvels at the 32nd-century tech, Book's ship arrives with Grudge and a message: he has found archaeological evidence on the planet Hunhau that may help explain the Burn, but has been taken prisoner in doing so. As Discovery's spore drive makes her the queen of rapid response, she is being held in reserve to deal with a potential crisis, and Saru orders Burnham to ignore Book's message. Burnham doesn't, and she and Georgiou depart on a Roaring Rampage of Rescue Side Quest... leaving the crew to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, Stamets forms an unexpected bond with Adira.
Tropes in this episode:
- Almost Kiss: Between Book and Burnham, which gets interrupted by Linus popping in. They get back to it when he transports out.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Georgiou blusters her way onto Hunhau by verbally abusing Tolor while offering to trade dilithium. As she reasons, bullies crumble under bigger bullies, and she thoroughly enjoys being the latter.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Book and Burnham share a kiss in the turbolift after she rescues him.
- Both Sides Have a Point: Vance and Saru are justifiably pissed that Burnham left Discovery and her crew high and dry in the middle of a potential crisis, which gets her relieved as XO for disobeying orders and being untrustworthy in general. At the same time, her argument — that the Federation can never recover as long as the mystery of the Burn is hanging over their heads — works on Vance, which is why he doesn't come down on her as hard as he could.
- Continuity Nod:
- Among the ships being salvaged on Hunhau are a Miranda-class, a Hoover-class, a Cardenas-class, and a Hiawatha-type.
- Tolor picks up a TNG-era phaser to show Georgiou, who dismisses it as not made with authentic parts.
- Self-sealing stem bolts get a mention as one of the things Georgiou and Burnham are looking for.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: When tearing Burnham a new one, Vance points out that she could have come to him with the intel, and he may well have authorized the mission, since it was promising.
- Disappointed in You: Saru is completely crushed to discover that, once again, Burnham has gone out on her own in spite of his direct orders not to. Though he understands her reasoning, it undermined his own authority, and so has no choice but to remove her as first officer, only allowing her to maintain her position as science officer.
- Easily Forgiven: Averted, even for an organization as Mildly Military as Starfleet. Admiral Vance and Saru are not happy that Burnham went rogue and disobeyed a direct order at a critical crisis juncture. In fact, considering the last time she did this she not only ended up dishonorably discharged, but imprisoned for treason, she is very lucky that the only punishment she got was a simple relief from duty as Saru's first officer. The only reason she's even let off so lightly is because both Vance and Saru do understand why she did it, and her mission not only saved lives, but gave them intel that could potentially solve why The Burn occurred. However, her actions may have severely hurt, if not outright destroyed, her friendship with Saru.
- Explosive Leash: The slaves have disks attached to their necks which blow up their heads if they pass through the perimeter pylons.
- Freudian Slip: Burnham says she didn't "love here" when talking about Book's ship, claiming to have had her own vessel, when Georgiou points out her familiarity with it. Georgiou immediately lampshades it.
- The Ghost: The Emerald Chain's ruler, Ossyra, is oft-mentioned but never seen.
- Gunship Rescue: Burnham and Georgiou use Book's ship to gun down the guards chasing the slaves.
- Hero Ball: Burnham violates orders to rescue Book as quickly as possible, even though a three-week absence means his fate wouldn't be likely to change during the twelve hours she would need to wait for an opportunity to perform a sanctioned rescue. Vance even points out he would have likely authorized a rescue had she made a formal request, given how important the data is to determining the cause of the Burn.
- If I Do Not Return: Book programmed his ship to find Burnham and deliver a recorded message if he didn't check in every 24 hours. Burnham notes that three weeks have passed since he recorded that message.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Emerald Chain mooks epically suck at shooting the escaping prisoners, who aren't even really dodging.
- Legacy Vessel Naming: Discovery joins the list of Starfleet vessels which retain their call numbers, instead appended with an alphabetical suffix to indicate the which generation she is. In this case, it symbolizes her re-commissioning for a new era, rather than replacing a destroyed or decommissioned vessel, as had been the case for (everything but the second) Enterprise and Voyager.
- Mark of Shame: Ryn tried to inspire an uprising against the Emerald Chain and failed, so his antenna were amputated and he was forced to stick the Explosive Leash tags on other slaves.
- Mid-Season Upgrade: Discovery gets a refit to bring her up to 32nd-century standards, including detached nacelles, programmable-matter consoles, and an improved spore-drive interface, allowing Stamets to remove his arm implants.
- Mission Briefing: Vance leads a conference in which he gives out assignments to the ships at HQ. This is when Saru learns how thin Starfleet resources are stretched and how vital Discovery is in her new role as a rapid responder, thus setting up Burnham to pull a Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! when Saru refuses to authorize a rescue mission in the middle of a situation that could flare up into a full-blown crisis.
- The Needs of the Many:
- Saru is sympathetic to Burnham's plight, but he's seen the Federation's instability firsthand at the briefing with the other captains, and he isn't willing to risk many lives in the short term for the faint hope of a step toward long-term stability by solving the mystery of the Burn.
- Tilly reluctantly recommends that Saru report Burnham's absence to Admiral Vance, as her actions would paint them all in a bad light unless Saru willingly gave her up.
- Nepotism: Tolor, the Orion who deals with Burnham and Georgiou, is Ossyra's nephew. Georgiou thinks he's an idiot.
- N.G.O. Superpower: The Emerald Chain — the Andorian/Orion criminal alliance — commands enough influence that the weakened Federation has to negotiate with them on even terms.
- No One Gets Left Behind:
- Burnham refuses to abandon Book or the other slaves.
- Book insists on saving Ryn after Ryn took a shot for him, despite Ryn asking him to run.
- Not So Different: Culber points out that Stamets and Adira are a lot alike, which is why Stamets feels driven to help them.
- Oh, Crap!: Tilly's reaction to learning that Burnham disobeyed a direct order from Saru to go on her secret mission.Tilly: Oh, shit. Sh-shit, shit.
Saru: My sentiment exactly.
- Permission to Speak Freely: After Vance finishes chewing Burnham out.Burnham: Permission to speak?
Vance: It had better be the best thing I've ever heard.
Burnham: For the last year, I have spent every single day searching for the source of the Burn. Until we solve the mystery of how it happened, and why, I believe the Federation will never be...can never be...brought back together again.
Vance: Well, we'll see what your intel brings, Commander.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner:Georgiou: Salvage this, you son of a bitch. (shoots the Emerald Chain ships)
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Further demonstrated re: Vance. As understandably pissed as he is at Burnham for going on a rogue mission and abandoning Saru during a potential crisis, he goes far easier on her than he admits he could because said mission was a success. Her reasoning that the Federation needs to solve the mystery of the Burn if it's to ever recover also seems to hit home, even if he has more immediate priorities that demand his attention.
- The Reveal: During her year alone, Burnham salvaged two Federation black boxes, the data on which indicated that the ships exploded at slightly different times (measured in milliseconds). Though imperceptible to the naked eye, this would mean the Burn came from a specific location. Book finds a third black box, which would allow for a triangulation of the Burn's origin.
- Running Gag: Linus popping in and out of places as he tries to get the hang of his personal transporter, which happens three times.
- Scavenger World: Hunhau is one of many places that was a travel hub at the time of the Burn. The Emerald Chain has since set up shop there, breaking down the wrecks for spare parts and selling them.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Burnham disobeys orders to rescue Book and get possible proof of the Burn's origin, joined by Georgiou because she's the only one who'd agree (and thinks it'd be fun). As with the first time she did this, it gets her in serious trouble.
- Still Wearing the Old Colors: Discovery gets new communicators, but keeps the old uniforms.
- Taking the Bullet: Ryn takes a blast for Book, which fortunately isn't fatal thanks to quick treatment.
- Talking to Themself: Adira spends the episode talking to Gray, which Stamets catches onto, having had a similar experience with Culber after he died.
- Technology Porn: The Discovery crew is still in awe of 32nd-century tech, especially their new commbadges/holo-PADDs/personal transporters and programmable-matter consoles.Detmer: Do we really need all this?
Bryce: Hell, yeah, we do!
- Teleportation Misfire: Linus has some trouble properly aiming his personal transporter, winding up in the wrong place several times.
- Too Awesome to Use: Discovery's spore drive is such a powerful resource that Vance doesn't want to send her on supply runs like other ships, but instead keeps her in reserve so she can immediately respond to the most critical situations. Vance even says that he wishes he could have ten more ships like her.
- Tracking Device: Grudge's collar has one linked to Book, which Burnham reverses to track him instead.
- Transforming Vehicle: Book's ship can split apart into different sections and re-assemble in a different configuration.
- Tranquil Fury: Both Vance and Saru are quietly pissed at Burnham for bucking orders and going on a rogue mission while in the middle of a potential crisis. The only reason Vance doesn't throw her in the brig is because she liberated a work camp and may have brought back concrete evidence of the Burn's cause, so he leaves her punishment up to Saru. This results in Burnham getting a "What the Hell, Hero?" speech from Saru and losing her position as his Number Two.
- Trigger: Georgiou suffers from periodic flashes of a past trauma. The second time it happens, she collapses. It's been happening to her for weeks and has been steadily getting worse.
- Unusual User Interface: Programmable matter is integrated with Discovery's consoles, allowing them to generate solid objects for the users to manipulate that can dissolve just as quickly. Willa explains that the technology adapts to the user, allowing each console to personalize to its user.
- [Verb] This!: Mirror-Georgiou spits a "Salvage this" at the Emerald Chain ships before blowing them up.note
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: The Emerald Chain uses slave labor to sort salvage on Hunhau, even though they have access to drones that could be programmed to perform the same task.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Vance gives Burnham a quietly furious chewing out for going rogue.Vance: Commander Burnham, why don't you tell me what I'm about to say?
Burnham: The source of the Burn is not an issue that you have the luxury of pursuing.
Burnham: Because every day you have a hundred fires you have to put out.
Burnham: And I disobeyed a direct order and undermined my captain's authority. And yours.
Vance: Correct. For a hot second there, it looked like Discovery may have had to engage with the Emerald Chain without her Number One. Did you think about the position you put your captain in? You put Starfleet in? As far as I'm concerned, when you jumped through that wormhole, you were doing your job. You're here now. And every mission, you start from zero. The only reason you're not in the brig is because you saved lives. Am I being clear, Commander Burnham?
Burnham: Very clear, sir.
- With Due Respect: A variation in that Saru doesn't challenge or disagree with Vance's orders, but instead volunteers Discovery for one of the longer supply missions (a journey of two months that Discovery could perform in two hours) until Vance reveals that he has other plans for her.Saru: With respect, Admiral, given severely limited warp travel, if time is of the essence—
Vance: (waves a hand) No question. I could use ten of you right now, but as my only rapid responder, I need you here.
- With My Hands Tied: Georgiou and Burnhan have to fight the camp overseer while handcuffed.
- Your Head A-Splode: The result of the Explosive Leash implants detonating.