As per usual for this show, The Teaser is a Flashback. It's the evacuation of the Romulan Star System — which the Federation clearly halted partway through, as Picard is visiting refugees on the planet Vashti and discussing the ongoing efforts with them. He is the guest of the Qowat Milat, a Romulan sect of warrior nuns, and he spends quality time with a boy named Elnor, a Heartwarming Orphan whom the sisters adopted despite his gender. Picard and Elnor are bonding over The Three Musketeers when the admiral gets paged about the First Contact Day Synth Attacks, and he leaves abruptly to (try to) do something about it.
Back in the present, La Sirena is at warp. Dr. Jurati visits with Rios, hoping to find something to do: Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, but Agnes is discovering just how big space really is, and is now bored out of her skull. Rios would rather she leave him alone so he can read his essay, The Tragic Sense of Life by Miguel de Unamuno. (Even though Rios can empirically speak Spanish, he is reading the English translation.) They are interrupted by Raffi, who wants to know why La Sirena has changed course.
Picard is in the holodeck, where the Emergency Hospitality Hologram has re-created his study at Chateau Picard. His solitude is interrupted by everyone on the ship: Raffi charges in demanding to know why "Go to Freecloud" suddenly turned into "Have a Side Quest on Vashti," and Rios hates the fucking EHH, and Dr. Jurati is just bored. Musiker has by far the most reasonable concerns: the Qiris sector, formerly a part of the Romulan Neutral Zone, has become a Wretched Hive, with only Vigilante Militia organizations like the Fenris Rangers providing any sort of order; Vashti in particular is now under the "protection" of the warlord Kar Kantar, who rules the sector with a 23rd-century Romulan Bird-of-Prey (see TOS: "Balance of Terror"). Besides, Vashti is rife with the "Romulan Rebirth" movement. But Picard is convinced that the services of a Qowat Milat warrior nun is his best shot; besides, he knows he is unlikely to have a chance to pass this way again, and Dahj's death has him thinking of Elnor. If the Qowat Milat don't want to help, they'll say so: they practice the Way of Absolute Candor, which this wiki already named Brutal Honesty.
On the Artifact, Soji is watching an old TiVo recording of a Romulan talk show while she plays with pixmit cards. In the projection, Ramdha is talking about "Ganmadan," which the Romulans say is the Day of Annihilation. She says how the day is the end of all life everywhere, when shackled demons will answer the call of Seb-Cheneb, the Destroyer.
Picard beams down to the surface of Vashti. In the flashback, the Romulans were eager to meet him; now, fourteen years later, they show little besides veiled hostility. (The "Romulans Only" sign at the Romulan Social Club doesn't help.) He visits the nunnery of the Qowat Milat to beg them for help. Elnor, now grown up, treats him with nothing but contempt, remembering only the Parental Abandonment Picard showed him. However, Zani, the head of the warrior nuns, urges Picard to make his case to Elnor. He can never join the Qowat Milat on account of penis-owning (or whatever Romulans have), but he is trained in their ways; Zani also wants him (Elnor) to see some of the galaxy instead of being stuck on Vashti.
Soji syncs up with Narek about Ramdha, who attempted suicide after her meeting with Soji. She has noticed Narek has no (visible) rank or badges of authority, and wonders whether he might be Tal Shiar. To distract her, Narek takes her to a corner of the Borg Cube, in Environmental Control, which has become a makeshift Sock Slide Rink. However, their fun (and smooching) is interrupted when Narek asks about how she came to the Artifact. According to her own reports, she was aboard the USS Ellison, but the ship's passenger manifest shows no record of her ever being there. It's hard to tell whether Soji is more disturbed by the allegations that she's hiding something or the idea that she doesn't know her own past.
From orbit, Raffi picks up signs that Romulans are passing the news of Picard's arrival. Picard is ready to head shipside, but the security systems around the planet (installed by the aforementioned Fenris Rangers) only allow beaming every half-hour. So Picard tries once again to make friends with the local Romulans... as well as tearing down the "Romulans Only" sign. He is then approached by an ex-Romulan Senator named Tenqem Adrev, clearly a member of the Romulan Rebirth movement, who accuses Picard and Starfleet of trying to undermine Romulan independence. Picard protests the accusations, but Adrev isn't really interested in a debate; he's interested in a Sword Fight. Picard refuses. Adrev also isn't interested in a fair fight, but Picard doesn't get skewered; instead, Elnor appears, drawing his own blade. "Please, my friend. Choose to live." When Adrev and his companions don't, Elnor takes care of them. ("I regret your choice.") He then declares that he has, in fact, chosen to take up Picard's cause in the Qowat Milat fashion, and declares himself Picard's qalankhkai. Picard then addresses the crowd in general and Elnor in particular, apologizing for failing his (former) Romulan friends.
Aboard La Sirena, Picard has stern words with Elnor: the young man must swear to serve Picard, to hurt who he wants hurt, but also to refrain from killing anyone else. Elnor agrees. Agnes asks how Picard managed to gain the allegiance of a Qowat Milat, and Picard explains that he merely fit the requirements: a qalankhkai will only swear themselves to a lost cause.
There's another conversation between Narissa and Narek about the latter's (lack of) progress with Soji. The only new bit of information dropped is that the two believe that Soji is not the Last of Her Kind: there are more, and the Zhat Vash want all of them dead. Since Narek buttering Soji up is really the only way they can get the location of the other synths, he's allowed to proceed.
Kar Kantar's ship has arrived. La Sirena begins its evasive maneuvers, but they are trapped between the old Bird-of-Prey (which, despite being 150 years older, is still larger and more powerful) and the defensive satellites in orbit around Vashti. The turning point comes when a smaller ship plunges in and attacks; now faced with two more nimble ships, the Bird-of-Prey is overpowered. However, it manages to land a critical hit on the new ship. As the crippled vessel tumbles towards the planetary shields, its pilot hails La Sirena (Picard orders a channel opened; Rios agrees) and requests to be beamed aboard (Picard orders it done; Rios agrees).
"You owe me a ship, Picard," Seven of Nine declares, before passing out on the floor.
This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special.
- 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.
- Accidental Misnaming: Mister Hospitality pronounces Zhaban as "Chee-ban."
- Ace Pilot:
- Rios demonstrates his topnotch starship piloting skills during his David vs. Goliath battle with Kar Kantar.
- Before they meet, Rios praises Seven of Nine as a magnificent pilot to his Emergency Tactical Hologram while she helps him fight off Kar Kantar.
- Alien Arts Are Appreciated: The Romulan orphan Elnor is delighted when Admiral Picard brings him a copy of The Three Musketeers and teaches him how to fence.
- Alien Blood: After Elnor beheads Tenqem, green blood oozes out of the latter's neck just before his head falls off.
- Alien Sky: In the wide shot of North Station on Vashti, there are two suns in the sky.
- Alliterative Name: Kar Kantar, the Romulan warlord who attacks La Sirena near the end of the episode.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Elnor feels out of place among his fellow Romulans, who contemptuously label him as a "sisterboy" because he grew up among nuns. Even within the Qowat Milat monastery that he calls home, his gender sets him apart because the order only accepts women.Picard: It can't be easy being the only boy in a house of women. [Elnor] must get lonely sometimes.
Zani: Yes. He is loved, but he does not belong with us.
- 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.
- The Apprentice: Elnor learned hand-to-hand combat skills from the Qowat Milat nuns. Zani informs Picard that Elnor had completed his training last spring, but he cannot join their order because he's a man.
- Arboreal Abode: The Qowat Milat sisterhood lives inside a solitary, gigantic tree which towers above all the others within the forest next to North Station; it's an idyllic setting for a monastery. The rooms, which are fully-furnished, have been carved into the tree trunk and they're quite spacious, but there are no doors or windows, just curtains which separate one area from another. (The planet Vashti has two suns, so it never gets cold there, and the nuns are such badass warriors that they don't worry about intruders.)
- Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: There are several Romulans at North Station who carry a sword. A tan qalanq, which is an Absurdly Sharp Blade, is the main weapon of the Qowat Milat.
- 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."
- Shortly afterwards, Elnor conveys his supreme confidence in his martial arts skills:"Fight a Qowat Milat and the outcome is not in doubt."
- 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):
- Big Damn Heroes: Elnor and his tan qalanq arrive just in time to rescue Picard from Tenqem. The thug becomes headless when he ignores Elnor's warning to back down.
- Bilingual Bonus: In Farsi, qowat milat means "power of the people," which is an apt name for a sect of Romulan warrior nuns who defy the Tal Shiar.
- Binary Suns: The planet Vashti is located in a binary star system, and both suns shine down on North Station.
- Bond One-Liner: After beheading Tenqem, Elnor follows up with:Elnor: I regret your choice.
- Boring, but Practical: Raffi describes Vashti's planetary defense system as primitive, but effective.
- Break Out the Museum Piece: The Qiris sector warlord Kar Kantar 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 Vashti's planetary defense system at the same time, and the Bird-of-Prey is fast enough that they can't simply warp away without disabling it.
- 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 others, which is completely the opposite of Romulan society in general (and kind of foreign to their Vulcan forebears as well, who tend to prefer controlled displays of the same). Zani, the leader of the Qowat Milat, demonstrates this with her blunt response to the boy Elnor about why Picard doesn't like children.Zani: Because they're demanding, distracting, and interfere with duty and pleasure alike.
(Picard gestures that he agrees with Zani)
Young Elnor: My feelings are hurt.
- 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)
- Cannot Spit It Out: This leads 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 towards his father figure for leaving him fourteen years ago, but Elnor changes his mind just as Picard picks a fight with the locals, who threaten to kill him.
- 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 Kantar who is terrorizing the region with an antique Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Sure enough, before the episode is up, Kantar's Bird-of-Prey shows up to attack the protagonists. The same conversation also mentions the Fenris Rangers, one of whom (Seven of Nine) comes to help La Sirena fight off Kantar.
- 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.
- Classified Information:
- Soji lampshades that the records on the Borg databases are classified.
- Narek informs Soji that Romulan passenger lists aren't made public, unlike Terran ones.
- Color Wash: The Qowat Milat monastery scenes have a strong orange tint, although it's slightly less intense for North Station.
- 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 Narissa 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 three Romulan thugs who attack Picard in two seconds flat, knocking out two of them and decapitating Tenqem.
- Dance of Romance: Not a literal dance, but Soji and Narek sliding about on an icy floor in each other's arms is definitely played like this. On the soundtrack, the title of the music for this scene is "Soji and Narek Waltz".
- Dark Is Not Evil: The Qowat Milat nuns wear a black robe and a black headdress, and they're friends and allies of Picard.
- David vs. Goliath: La Sirena versus Kar Kantar's Bird-of-Prey, with a surprise assist from Seven of Nine; the heroes in their small vessels manage to disable the warlord's larger ship.
- Deadly Force Field: Vashti's security net is extremely dangerous because it will obliterate anything that comes into contact with it, and that's exactly what happens to Seven of Nine's vessel. On impact, it disintegrates into several pieces of fiery debris.
- Death Glare: Elnor has a menacing scowl when he addresses the townspeople, and he's deadly serious about using his sword to slay anyone who attempts to endanger Picard (Tenqem's headless corpse is proof of that).
- Delayed Causality: After a Single-Stroke Battle, there's a Dramatic Pause before Tenqem's head slides off due to a Diagonal Cut made by Elnor's tan qalanq.
- 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.
- Dies Wide Open: Tenqem still appears be glaring at Picard when his head falls off.
- 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 note , 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 equipped with an Asian-style sword, and along with his Warrior Monk robe and Samurai Ponytail, he looks like he belongs in the Wuxia genre. note ) The refugees who live at North Station revere 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. Subverted in the present time by the townspeople who are furious at Picard for giving up on them.
- Don't Make Me Destroy You: Elnor strongly recommends to Tenqem to withdraw from his assault on Picard, otherwise the hooligan will face a Qowat Milat's justice (which is always fatal).Elnor: Please, my friend. Choose to live.
- Duel of Seduction: Narissa points out to Narek that Soji could well be manipulating him in return, although this seems more like projection on her part.
- Duel to the Death: Tenqem initiates a Sword Fight against Picard because he wants to kill the latter for the Federation's empty promises to the Romulan people.
- 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.
- Ethereal Choir: When the Qowat Milat, a monastic order, is first introduced, we briefly hear a choir. It's part of the track called "Happier Times".
- Faction Motto: The Qowat Milat motto is Sem n'hak kon ("Now is the only moment" note ), which is printed repeatedly along the customary belt worn by the sisterhood and Elnor.
- Fanservice: A mild example is the deep V-neck on Elnor's Qowat Milat uniform, 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.
- Fantastic Racism: Some Romulan-owned businesses on Vashti feature "Romulans Only" signs, and the planet is the hotbed for the Romulan Rebirth movement.
- Five-Finger Discount: As a child, Elnor steals a fruit from a Romulan grocer.
- 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.
- Foreign Cuss Word: Rios curses in Spanish when Kar Kantar attacks.Rios: ¡Chasumadre!
- Forest of Perpetual Autumn: The forest surrounding the Qowat Milat's Arboreal Abode appears to be in a perpetual autumn setting due to its reddish foliage and the late afternoon/early evening sunlight.
- Gasp!: Some of the townspeople gasp after Elnor severs Tenqem's head.
- Gendered Insult: Elnor is derided by the locals as a "sisterboy" because he was brought up by the Qowat Milat nuns.
- Gratuitous Spanish: Rios yells, "¡Chasumadre!" when engaged in a firefight with Kar Kantar. He then banters in Spanish with Emmet.
- Gunship Rescue: Seven of Nine shows up in an unregistered fighter to help battle the Bird-of-Prey.
- Guns vs. Swords: A Romulan who threatens Elnor is confident that a tan qalanq is no match for a disruptor, but Elnor doesn't get the chance to prove him wrong because Picard immediately tells Raffi to beam them up to La Sirena.
- Half-Truth: The Qowat Milat will indeed pledge to support a cause that they deem "worthy." However, what is omitted until near the 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 Narissa subtly threatens again to do things her way with extracting information from Soji if he doesn't get results.
- Heartwarming Orphan: Elnor is an orphan with a sunny disposition that's warm enough to melt Picard's heart, who is normally awkward around children and dislikes displays of emotions (traits which Zani mentions aloud). Not only is the Admiral fond of the boy, but they even form an emotional connection like a father and son. Despite the Qowat Milat's no-men policy, the nuns grow to love Elnor.
- 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 thinks the Way of Absolute Candor sounds annoying, mere minutes after she bothers Rios with her incessant rambling about the vast emptiness of outer space, the activities she has done to kill time, and paper books.
- Instant Death Stab: Tenqem dies as soon as Elnor's tan qalanq goes through his neck; green blood flows from the wound before the ruffian's head slides off.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Elnor's tan qalanq looks distinctly East Asian in design, especially when compared to the European-style swords being carried by the other Romulans on Vashti.
- Lens Flare: The glare from the engine of La Sirena is very bright when Elnor and Picard are standing on the transporter platform. Ditto for the pulsating light on the wall behind Raffi when she's next to the transporter console.
- Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Tenqem and his goons have Picard outnumbered (on top of the latter being obviously much older), but Tenqem passes him a sword and chooses to fight him alone. Picard trades a couple of blows before dropping his weapon, absolutely adamant that he won't participate in a Duel to the Death. Tenqem plans to kill him anyway, but he was honorable enough to give Picard the option to defend himself.
- 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: As a young adult, Elnor still retains his boyhood wish to see a cat in person, and Picard even adds that he may run across one or two of them as a way to encourage Elnor to accompany him on his mission. Raffi later invokes this trope when she greets Elnor:Raffi: A boy with a stick.
- Matriarchy: The Qowat Milat is a women-only sect. Zani and her fellow nuns have made an exception for Elnor (whom they have essentially adopted) and they have taught him their ways, but even after he completes the training, he can never be higher than The Apprentice in terms of his official position within their order.
- Meaningful Background Event: It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but just after Picard deflects Tenqem's sword blow and pushes him, Elnor can be seen on the left side of the screen emerging from the Romulan Social Club and unsheathing his tan qalanq. An eagle-eyed viewer would've known in advance that Elnor will intervene in the Duel to the Death and protect Picard.
- 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: Shortly 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 is an order of Romulan Warrior Nuns.Jurati: That's a real thing?! How bizarre.
- Noodle Incident: Rios doesn't elaborate beyond "It's a long story" when Jurati observes that the only holo programs he has on-board are Klingon operas.
- No Sense of Personal Space:
- The Hospitality Hologram gets closer to Picard than he finds comfortable.
- Narissa with her brother; she sits next to him in bed, runs her hands over his chest and arms, and even starts to straddle him while they're talking about his relationship with Soji.
- 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.
- Obligatory Earpiece Touch: Picard performs this gesture in the flashback while Raffi notifies him about the synth attack on Mars.
- Off with His Head!: Tenqem decides to continue his assault on Picard after being warned by Elnor that he'd be choosing to die, so Elnor cuts his head off.
- One-Woman Wail: When Elnor and Picard meet again for the first time in fourteen years, there's the sound of a woman wailing. It's towards the end of the piece entitled "Picard Goes Back".
- 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 by Zani, having chosen to retire from Starfleet in protest and do nothing afterwards rather than listen to Raffi's suggestion that they find another way, however imperfect, to continue the relocation of Romulans without Starfleet's support. Picard himself admits to it.Zani: Because you could not save everyone, you chose to save no one.
Picard: (nods) Yes. I allowed the perfect to become the enemy of the good.
- 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: Please, my friend. Choose to live.
- 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.
- Pretty Butterflies: At the Qowat Milat monastery, there are always butterflies fluttering in the air, and their presence accentuates the pleasantly serene and sylvan charm of the nuns' Arboreal Abode.
- 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.
- Elnor hasn't seen his father figure in fourteen years, and the old man only shows up after all this time to ask for his help on a mission. It's no surprise that Elnor is too pissed off at Picard to join him — initially, at least.
- 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: Narissa 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.
- Sarcasm Mode: Raffi always speaks her mind, so Picard finds it redundant when she says she's going to be honest with him.Raffi: Look, I-I'm gonna be straight with you.
Picard: Oh, well, that would make a refreshing change.
- Scenery Porn: We get a glimpse of the woodland next to North Station, and it's a glorious sight in an otherwise desert environment. The humongous tree where the Qowat Milat nuns reside adds an almost mythical feel to the area. There's also a lovely waterfall on the right side of the screen.
- 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 changed his mind about becoming Picard's qalankhkai.
- Showrunner Michael Chabon purposely gave Elnor (a Space Elf who is the "Traditional Elves in Space" variant) an Elvish name◊ as a nod to The Lord of the Rings. "Elnor" is Sindarin for "Star-Run," which is a close approximation of "Star-Trek."
- The planet Vashti shares its name with the Persian queen from the Book of Esther who disobeyed her drunk husband's command to "show her beauty" (i.e. appear naked) in front of him and his male guests at a banquet. Feminists interpret Vashti's defiance to be heroic because she stands up for herself despite knowing she'll be punished for going against her culture's patriarchal and misogynist values, which parallels the all-female Qowat Milat sect's refusal to bow down to the oppression of the Tal Shiar, who strictly enforces conformity in Romulan society and eliminates any Cultural Rebel.
- Single-Biome Planet: Because Vashti is part of a binary star system, it's hotter and drier than Earth, and when viewed from space, the planet surface is mostly desert except for small pockets of water and vegetation.
- Single-Stroke Battle: Elnor requires only one swing of his sword to win a fight against Tenqem (who loses his head) and two other gang members.
- 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, although 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.
- Space Battle: La Sirena and Seven of Nine's ship trade phaser fire with Kar Kantar's antique Romulan Bird-of-Prey while attempting to avoid Vashti's planetary defense system.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: Picard returns to Vashti and finds it very different from how he left it.
- Strange Salute: When a Qowat Milat greets others or swears an oath, she places her palms together in front of her heart and then opens them to whomever she's talking to.
- 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.
- Sword and Fist: Elnor is victorious against three ruffians by mixing unarmed combat with his swordsmanship. He causes the first man to fall over by roughly pushing the latter down with his hand and then launching himself into the air from the guy's back. As Elnor performs a side flip, he hits the second hooligan with a flying kick to the face, and then he chops off Tenqem's head with his tan qalanq.
- Sword Fight: Tenqem challenges a very reluctant Picard to a duel, and their swords clash a couple times before Picard drops his weapon to the ground, refusing to continue. A thug then attempts to strike Elnor with his blade, but the latter is too quick and too agile, and Elnor ends the confrontation by beheading Tenqem.
- Talk Show: In-Universe, the Romulans have a talk show called Yrrh Mnrrh, and Professor Ramdha was once a guest on it. Soji watches the episode on her computer.
- 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 Zani.
- Teleportation Rescue:
- Elnor and Picard are beamed away before a ruffian can make good on his claim that a tan qalanq is no match for a disruptor.
- Raffi transports Seven of Nine to La Sirena just before the latter's ship explodes when it hits Vashti's security net.
- Teleport Interdiction: The ability to use the transporter to beam down to (or to beam up from) Vashti is extremely limited. Picard has to receive clearance from Central Station before he can teleport to the planet, which is protected by an impenetrable shield. The transporter signal can only pass through the Deadly Force Field when there's an open spot in the network, which occurs every 30 minutes, and the gap only lasts for a minute each time.
- 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. Spoiled by the Cast List too, as "Guest Star Jeri Ryan" is featured prominently in the opening credits.
- Transition Track: We hear Soji's dialogue in the lounge before the scene cuts away from a close-up of her staring silently at Narek while standing next to Ramdha's biobed.
- Unnaturally Blue Lighting: The lounge where Narek and Soji enjoy Romulan ale is lit with an extremely vivid blue illumination, to the point where everything and everyone in the room appear blue-tinged.◊
- Warrior Monk: The Qowat Milat is an order of Romulan warrior nuns, reputed to be among the best single-combat fighters in the galaxy, whom even the infamous Tal Shiar fears.
- The Watson: Since Jurati has little (if any) experience in space, the others explain to her the situation in the Qiris Sector, thus getting viewers up to speed on the backstory as well.
- 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."
- Wire Fu: This slow-motion video of a stunt rehearsal for this episode demonstrates that Evan Evagora's stunt double is aided by wirework when he does a side flip and a flying kick in order to depict Elnor's super-agility.
- Wretched Hive: The Qiris Sector has fallen into anarchy, where criminals run rampant and large segments of the sector are controlled by a Romulan warlord named Kar Kantar.
- You're Insane!: Raffi questions Picard's sanity after she finds out that he ordered Rios to change course for Vashti.Raffi: You wanna go to Vashti?! Are you out of your goddamn mind?! [...] That you even suggest it makes me seriously question your mental state.