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Recap / Star Trek Picard S 1 E 04 Absolute Candor

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Picard takes a detour to Vashti to look for aid while Soji looks for answers.


Tropes:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Elnor's tan qalanq (a sword used by the Qowat Milat) can slice a person's head off with a single stroke, and it's a very Clean Cut.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: Elnor is delighted when Picard brings him a copy of The Three Musketeers and teaches him how to fence.
  • Alliterative Name: Kar Kanta, the Romulan warlord who attacks La Sirena near the end of the episode.
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  • Amazon Brigade: The Qowat Milat is a very ancient order of Romulan warrior nuns who are so exceptionally skilled in combat that even the Tal Shiar fears them.
  • Badass Boast: Elnor gives a stern warning to the crowd right after he decapitates Tenqem, who was about to kill Picard (English translation of the original Romulan):
    "I have bound myself to Picard as qalankhkai. Anyone who threatens him will be choosing to die."
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The local Romulan warlord on Vashti has a TOS-era Romulan Bird-of-Prey. It's not particularly dangerous on its own, as Rios notes it has an outdated targeting system and is less maneuverable than La Sirena. However, fighting it is complicated by the fact that they also have to avoid the planetary defense system at the same time, and the Bird-of-Prey is fast enough that they can't simply warp out of the system without disabling it.
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  • Broken Pedestal: The opening flashback shows that Picard used to be revered by the Romulans on Vashti. Fourteen years later, that reverence has faded to resentment.
  • Brutal Honesty: The Qowat Milat believe in "absolute candor", a total display of emotion and truth when speaking to each other, which is completely the opposite of Romulan society in general.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Picard knows the locals are armed and none-too-fond of him, but he nevertheless deliberately rips off a "Romulans Only" sign and steps on it to make his displeasure of the current divisions known.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Elnor is bitterly disappointed that he's only seeing Picard, whom he regards as a surrogate father, for the first time in fourteen years because Picard needs something from him, and lets him know this in no uncertain terms.
    Picard: Will you come with me? Will you bind your sword to my quest?
    Elnor: (angrily) Now that you have use for me? Now that I have value to you? You left me on my own, old man.
    Picard: I never meant to—
    Elnor: I see no reason not to do the same. (leaves in a huff)
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  • Cannot Spit It Out: Leading to an Ironic Episode Title. Picard, building on his long standing character traits from TNG, is unable to confess his guilt to Elnor or his true motives for wanting him to come. Instead he simply tells him he needs a good fighter. Which, while true, is far from the whole story. This nearly causes Elnor to refuse to join him, but he ultimately reconsiders.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Elnor initially refuses to join Picard out of bitterness for Picard leaving fourteen years ago, but changes his mind just as Picard picks a fight with the locals.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Rios and Raffi brief Picard and Jurati on the geopolitical developments in the Qiris sector they're about to visit, including a mention by name of a petty Romulan warlord called Kar Kanta who is terrorizing the region with an antique Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Sure enough, before the episode is up Kar Kanta's antique Romulan Bird-of-Prey shows up to attack the protagonists.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Picard teaches boy Elnor how to swordfight, showing he has the skill when Tenqem challenges him—he simply refuses to use it.
  • Continuity Nod: Soji does a very android-like head twitch during her conversation with Narek, much like Data used to.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: No normal Romulan would ever want to be part of Picard's motley crew, but Elnor has undergone unique circumstances which would eventually lead him to accept Picard's offer to join him on a rescue mission. He's an orphaned refugee who is being cared for by the Qowat Milat sisterhood, whose members are friends and allies of Picard, so this creates the opportunity for the young Elnor to bond with his idol as a surrogate son since the Admiral (who happens to be childless) is the only positive male role model in his life. Although Picard would abandon Elnor for fourteen years, and the young man is very resentful over this long neglect, he nonetheless changes his mind after his initial refusal of Picard's request when his father figure's life is threatened by the townspeople. Whatever negative feelings Elnor harbours, his love for Picard is stronger, so Elnor saves him and vows to be his qalankhkai. This decision cements Elnor's place on Picard's team.
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: Narek points out there's no record of Soji being on the shuttle she thinks she arrived on. He later reveals to his sister he did this deliberately, to plant a seed of doubt in Soji's mind and get her to investigate her origins on her own, rather than risk activating her like Rizzo did with Dahj.
  • Cultural Rebel: The Qowat Milat nuns and Elnor follow the doctrine of the Way of Absolute Candor, which runs entirely counter to everything that the secretive Romulans hold dear.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Elnor dispatches some of the Romulans attacking Picard in two seconds flat, knocking some out and decapitating Tenqum.
  • Dance of Romance: Not a literal dance, but Soji and Narek sliding about on an icy floor in each others arms is definitely played like this.
  • Diagonal Cut: Tenqem's head stays on his shoulders for a second or two before falling off as a testament to just how sharp Elnor's blade is.
  • Disappeared Dad: Picard, whom Elnor had looked up to as a surrogate father, had abandoned him when he was still a child. Fourteen years later, Picard returns, and their first interaction is him brushing off Elnor's gift of freshly baked bread, and later, he requests Elnor's help as a bodyguard, which only serve to increase the young man's irritation.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In the flashback, Picard's clothing is very similar to a Panama suit, which gives the scene an uncomfortable colonial subtext (Picard is French and lives in a beautiful chateau in La Barre, and France was once a colonial power), with him as the Federation equivalent of a privileged White Savior, and the Romulan refugees (especially the young Elnor) represent the underprivileged people of color that he helps. Although Romulans have a variety of skin tones, the three characters Picard interacts with the most on Vashti are Elnor, Zani and Tenqem, who are all portrayed by non-white actors. Moreover, the Romulans as a species were inspired by the Chinese Communists, so in general, it can be said that they possess vaguely Asian attributes. (A more explicit example is Elnor, who is a martial arts expert, and along with his Qowat Milat robe and Samurai Ponytail, he looks like he belongs in the Wuxia genre. note ) The refugees who live at North Station regard Picard as their savior, while Elnor Hero Worships him and is eager to learn about Terran literature and fencing from him. By the end of the episode, Elnor chooses to leave his own people to serve as a bodyguard to Picard, and he becomes the Token Non-Human among the crew.
  • Duel of Seduction: Rizzo points out to Narek that Soji could well be manipulating him in return, though this seems more like projection on her part.
  • Elfeminate: Romulans are Space Elves, and Elnor is the most elf-like and androgynous of any male Romulan (or Vulcan, for that matter) character in the franchise, being a tall, slim, Long-Haired Pretty Boy with a graceful bearing.
  • Fanservice: A mild example is the deep V-neck on Elnor's Qowat Milat outfit, which is unusual because the nuns don't expose that much skin. Evan Evagora was a model before he became an actor, so this costuming choice was intentionally done to exploit his sex appeal.
  • Flashback: This episode opens on Picard visiting the Romulan resettlement colony on Vashti fourteen years ago, where Elnor is living with the warrior nuns. After spending some time with Elnor, Picard is called away by the synth attack on Mars.
  • Gendered Insult: Elnor is derided by the locals as a "sisterboy" because he was brought up by the Qowat Milat nuns.
  • Gunship Rescue: Seven of Nine shows up in an unregistered fighter to help battle the Bird-of-Prey.
  • Half-Truth: The Qowat Milat will indeed pledge to support a cause that they deem "worthy". However, what is omitted until the very end of the episode is that the only causes they deem worthy are lost ones.
  • Head Desk: Or Head-Bulkhead. Narek lightly bonks the back of his head in frustration against the wall behind his bed after Rizzo subtly threatens again to do things her way with extracting information from Soji if he doesn't get results.
  • Heroic Vow: Those who are part of the Qowat Milat swear these when they deem a cause is worthy enough to join. Elnor swears one to Picard, and makes it clear that anyone who tries to harm him will die by Elnor's blade.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Jurati comments that the "Way of Absolute Candor" sounds annoying, minutes after bothering Rios with incessant comments about reading paper books.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Tenqem and his goons have Picard outnumbered, on top of Picard obviously being much older, but Tenqem passes him a sword and chooses to fight him alone. Picard refuses to fight and Tenqem plans to kill him anyway, but he was honorable enough to give him the option.
  • Living Is More Than Surviving: Picard is frank about the fact that Elnor could very well be killed if he joins the mission, but Zani says he's going to die eventually anyway, and she'd rather have him live before that happens.
  • Manchild: Invoked by Raffi when she greets Elnor:
    Raffi: A boy with a stick.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Elnor is introduced in a flashback which takes place fourteen years prior as an orphaned boy being cared for by the Qowat Milat sisterhood. He and Picard have a surrogate father-son relationship. Seeing Elnor first as a child is meant to elicit an "Awww!" reaction from the viewers because he's the first major Romulan character in the franchise who's fully on the side of the heroes (as opposed to his species' traditional depiction as villains), so it's important to establish from the get-go that he's sympathetic.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Right after Elnor decapitates Tenqem and threatens the remaining Romulans with death if they try to harm Picard, a goon starts to unholster his disruptor and points out that Elnor can't dodge that. Elnor and Picard are beamed up before the goon gets to test that theory.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Qowat Milat, an order of Romulan Warrior Nuns.
  • No Sense of Personal Space:
  • Not So Above It All: Even though Picard not liking children much is raised, he forms a Parental Substitute relationship with the orphaned Elnor as a boy, including reading Alexandre Dumas to him and engaging in mock swordfights.
  • Off with His Head!: Tenqem chooses to try to kill Picard after being warned by Elnor that he'd be choosing to die, so Elnor cuts his head off.
  • Parental Substitute: Because Elnor was raised by the all-female Qowat Milat sect, Picard was the sole significant male figure in his life, so naturally the boy looked up to the older man as a surrogate father. Zani along with the other nuns of her order are surrogate mothers to Elnor; she tells Picard that the boy is loved by them.
  • Parting-from-Consciousness Words: After being beamed aboard, a dazed and wounded Seven blurts out some before collapsing onto the deck.
    Seven: You owe me a ship, Picard. *THUD*
  • Perfect Solution Fallacy: Picard is called out on this, having chosen to retire in protest rather than work with an imperfect Starfleet to improve the situation.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Elnor makes a simple and effective one during his confrontation with Tenqem, which falls on deaf ears. Tenqem really ought to have listened.
    Elnor: Choose life, my friend.
    • After beheading Tenqem, Elnor follows this up with a Bond One-Liner.
      Elnor: I regret your choice.
  • Precision F-Strike: Rios expresses his feelings about one of the holograms that came with the ship:
    Cristóbal Rios: I hate that fucking hospitality hologram.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Even in ships that can travel many times the speed of light, Dr. Jurati discovers that space is actually pretty boring between the times where the action happens.
    • When Picard is confronted by hostile Romulans, he's unable to settle matters with his legendary diplomatic skills, a good speech or a display of badassery. Were it not for the intervention of a third party, he would have died there.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tenqem (a former Romulan senator) gives one to Picard, claiming that Picard and the Federation made big promises only to renege on them, and now he believes the Federation exploited their desperation in a time of crisis to scatter and break the Romulan people to make them less of a threat.
  • Riches to Rags: Picard is challenged to a duel by Tenqem, who claims he used to be a Romulan Senator, which would have placed him in the uppermost class of Romulan society before the fall. However, like the other refugees relocated to the planet, he's now living at subsistence level. He's obviously quite bitter about his loss in status.
  • Robosexual: Rizzo taunts Narek over whether Soji is "anatomically correct" (also a Mythology Gag to Data being "fully functional").
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: Rather than a refuge so the Romulans can rebuild their society, the planet Vashti now lies in a region of space with no effective law enforcement where petty warlords hold sway.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The crew don't know who exactly is in the unregistered fighter. Most default to "he" when talking about the pilot. So they are very surprised when the beamed aboard pilot turns out to be the very female Seven of Nine.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: La Sirena and its crew finds itself having to fight off the Bird-of-Prey while at the same time avoiding crashing against Vashti's planetary shields or getting blown up by the planet's orbital drones.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: Picard throws aside his sword rather than fight Tenqem, who would have killed him anyway if Elnor hadn't decided to change his mind.
  • Single Tear: As a boy, Elnor sheds a single tear shortly before Picard beams away when the latter is recalled by Starfleet because he's hurt that his father figure didn't spend as much time with him as he had promised.
  • Skewed Priorities: Raffi tells Picard he needs to focus on their mission rather than take a nostalgic trip to Vashti, though it turns out Picard does have a good reason for doing so, as he wants a fighter who can handle whoever they come up against.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Picard returns to Vashti and finds it very different from how he left it.
  • Stunned Silence:
    • When Elnor sees Picard again for the first time in fourteen years, he's so shocked that he freezes in his tracks and gapes, unable to speak.
    • Picard reacts the same way when Elnor lops off Tenqem's head with his sword.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: Averted; Picard delivers an unwitting snub when Elnor hands him a loaf of bread, only for Picard to casually dismiss this chance to "break bread" with Elnor as he's not hungry and is busy talking to the nuns.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Elnor is portrayed by Ian Nunney as a child and Evan Evagora as an adult.
  • Token Non-Human: By the end of the episode, Elnor is the sole non-human member of Picard's ragtag crew.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: You really have to feel for the episode's crew, building up such an effective reveal for Seven of Nine that absolutely no one would have seen coming, only for the trailers to openly show her. invokedSpoiled by the Cast List too, as "Guest Star Jeri Ryan" is featured prominently in the opening credits.
  • Wham Shot: The mysterious pilot is beamed aboard and it's none other than Seven of Nine.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After Elnor decapitates Tenqem and they are beamed up, Picard tears into him for it and makes it clear that so long as Elnor is bound to him, Picard will tell him "when to fight and when to refrain".
  • Wretched Hive: The Qiris Sector has become one, where criminals run rampant and large segments of the sector are controlled by a Romulan warlord.

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