Burnham and the crew of the Discovery travel to Book's home planet to help rescue it from Osyraa, the formidable leader of the Emerald Chain. Meanwhile, Stamets and Adira continue their search for valuable information on the origin of the Burn.
Tropes in this episode:
- A Lighter Shade of Grey: Much of the initial conflict of the episode comes from this. From Book's point of view, the situation is a Cain and Abel scenario, as his brother Kyheem sold out to the Emerald Chain and supported selling them the planet's trance worms and knuckling under to them in general. Kyheem sees it as a Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling one, as Book left Kwejian years ago, cut all ties, and hasn't helped them one way or another since then. The episode generally shows Book as being more sympathetic.
- Answer Cut: When Discovery is dispatched to a possible confrontation with the Emerald Chain, Vance warns Saru, "You have no idea what Osyraa's capable of." Cut to Osyraa feeding her own nephew to a trance worm.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Linus is currently shedding.
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Saru tries to put his own spin on Pike's "Hit it!", but it falls flat with Tilly.
- Brick Joke: At the beginning of the episode, we learn that Linus is not allowed in the mess hall until his shedding cycle has ended. At the end, Burnham introduces Kyheem's son to Linus and says he can take off part of the saurian's face if he likes.
- The opening shows the aftermath of "Scavengers". Tolor is killed for his screw-up by Osyraa.
- The lullaby from "Die Trying" is shown to originate from the source of the Burn.
- The same method used to trigger a mass vahar'ai event in "The Sounds of Thunder" is used to amplify Book and Kyheem's empathic abilities, allowing Discovery to move the locust swarm away from Kwejian's crops.
- Catchphrase: Saru is working on his own catch phrase for spore-jumping and giving other orders. "Manifest" is dropped immediately. Trying Pike's ("Hit it") falls flat, especially when Saru tries to put his own inflection on it. "Execute" doesn't impress the bridge crew. "Carry on" earns a mild shrug.
- Character Development: When Book first met Burnham, he derided her for being a "true believer" in a Federation that was almost gone. Now that he's seen what the Federation does for planets like Kwejian, he's decided that he wants in.
- Coming-Out Story: Adira tells Paul that they are non-binary, preferring "they/them" pronouns. Paul accepts this immediately, and is seen calling Adira by these with Hugh later.
- Court Physician: According to Georgiou, the Terran Emperor has a team of these... who are buried when the emperor is, giving them a really good motivation for keeping their employer alive and healthy.
- David vs. Goliath: Detmer, flying Book's tiny ship, disables the cruiser-sized Viridian and forces Osyraa to withdraw.
- He Knows Too Much: Osyraa wants Ryn back because he knows about the Emerald Chain's dwindling dilithium supplies.
- Hidden Depths: Stamets turns out to be a talented piano player.
- Instant Sedation: While Drs. Culber and Pollard are trying to figure out what Georgiou is afflicted with:Dr. Pollard: I'm gonna need you to count backwards for me from 10. (injects Georgiou with hypospray)
Georgiou: What you need is not imp(zzzzzzzzz)
Dr. Culber: (satisfied nod)
- Leonine Contract: The Emerald Chain contacts pre-warp civilizations in need of something and offers it to them as a protection racket in exchange for whatever useful resources they might possess. In the case of Kwejian, Osyraa controls the supply of a sea locust repellent that keeps the swarm from devouring their crops, which she offers in exchange for the native trance worms.
- Loophole Abuse: To stop Osyraa, Tilly suggests Detmer go on an "unsanctioned" mission to disable her ship using Book's ship, rather than having a Federation vessel attack her directly and risk starting a war between the two powers. Detmer pulls it off, but Osyraa sees through the ruse and promises retaliation.
- Meaningful Name: Osyraa's ship is named the Viridian, which is also a color made by mixing green (Orion) and blue (Andorian) together.
- Negative Space Wedgie: The Verubin Nebula, the origin point of The Burn, is chock full of intense radiation and unstable electromagnetic fields. And yet in the center of it is a Federation distress signal.
- Orbital Bombardment: Osyraa starts firing upon Kwejian's shield when Kyheem won't give Book up. Detmer manages to disable her vessel before her attacks can overwhelm the grid.
- Reality Ensues: Osyraa is not fooled for a second by the pretense of having Detmer attack in Book's ship and declares war on the entire Federation regardless.
- The Reveal:
- The Burn has a discrete origin point.
- The lullaby from "Die Trying" is a distorted Federation distress signal that comes from aforementioned source, which is still transmitting on a loop.
- Burnham previously noted Book's Earth-sounding name even though he's never been there, but couldn't get him to explain it. Here it's revealed that his real name is Tareckx and he changed it after leaving his home.
- Ryn is important to the Emerald Chain because he knows that they're running out of dilithium.
- Shout-Out: Georgiou conking out mid-sentence because of the off-button hypospray plays out pretty much the same way as with the young James Kirk in Star Trek (2009).
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Georgiou and Culber share a particularly hostile back-and-forth snark session on the subject of her deteriorating condition, because she's too proud to admit to any weakness and he knows her well enough to know that she won't acquiesce unless he can give as good as he gets.Georgiou: I realize you see yourself as the Grand Hero, Oracle of the Mess Hall, Savior Man to this ship. Well, I'm not interested.
Culber: The early stages of brain dysfunction will feel manageable. "What was I just doing? Where did I bury that last body?"
- The Swarm: The Sea Locusts. They apparently came from the sea after a natural disaster years ago, and have been overrunning the local ecosystems and eating any usual sources of food on Kwejian ever since. Even the empathic abilities of the natives can't get rid of them, because the swarm is too large and too far from their normal habitat to be convinced to move.
- Taught by Experience: Burnham thinks better of a rogue mission with Book this time, instead convincing Saru to bring the matter to Admiral Vance as a humanitarian endeavor. Vance, the Reasonable Authority Figure, signs off on it, on the condition that Saru not engage Osyraa.
- Teleport Interdiction: The sanctuary is covered by a shield which prevents scanning, direct communication (Kyheem is able to route communications through a series of relays that extend outside the shield), and beaming. These factors combined mean that, once Burnham joins Book to speak with Kyheem, Saru has no means of contacting her or getting her off the planet once Osyraa shows up.
- That Man Is Dead: Book's name apparently used to be Tareckx. He doesn't want to be called that anymore.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Okay, Georgiou's always been an evil jerk, which is SOP for Terrans, but she's even nastier to Culber than usual because her pride won't let her show weakness even though Culber has her number on that subject.
- Transgender: Adira Tal formally follows up on the show's promotional materials saying they're non-binary, shifting to "they/them" pronouns. The crew, in grand Star Trek tradition, accept it without comment.
- You Have Failed Me: Osyraa feeds Tolor to a trance worm for allowing Ryn to escape with Book.