In which Stamets goes surly again, Cornwall goes to trouble, and Saru goes mental.
We’ll recall that Admiral Cornwell was just captured in Sarek’s place, just after pissing off Lorca over his extracurricular activities. Now a Federation ship is under attack by six Klingon birds-of-prey, allowing an opportunity for Discovery to show her teeth. In fact is seems the Klingons were ready, and a ship decloaks from behind them, having been waiting in reserve. With the current generation of cloaking tech, the Klingons can mask their specfic location but not their overall power signatures, so they are using wolf-pack tactics of strike-and-fade, and Discovery and the Gagarin are outmatched. Despite their best efforts, they are unable to save the Gagarin, and blink out on a mission-fail.
Post-jump, Stamets’ implants fold themselves back into his arms, presumably to protect the nervous system they tap into from exposure, and Stamets is surprised to see Lorca in the engine room. Of note: Lorca is not in the engine room, at least not in this timeline. He covers for this slip-up by yelling at Tilly while Lorca covers for being outgunned by yelling at Dispatch. The Admiralty, in turn, seem to be able to confirm that Kol of house Kor has shared the cloaking device salvaged from T’Kuvmah’s Light of Kahless, and bringing importance to Lorca’s mission on the planet Pahvo.
Pahvo seems to be the keystone to piercing the cloaking device, so Lorca has sent Burnham to lead, or at least work, the mission. What’s nice is that with the Spore drive, Discovery is not limited to orbit while the away mission goes on, and that paradigm shift, assuming the tech won’t get lost or proven too dangerous, would have allowed Starfleet to build massive specialist science-labs piloted by Spore Navigators that bop from planet to planet dropping scientists and colonists and supplies.
Pahvo is a planet with a pervasive sound caused by all of its life resonating, which is then picked up by a natural crystal antenna and radiated into space. Starfleet wants to figure out how to use this as sonar to pierce the Klingon stealth device. She, Saru, and Ash Tyler had to park 30km away from their goal, and the humans are slowing the Kelpian down – they’re very fast runners, and when pursued they can hit 80kph. Prey species, which is also causing discomfort as he hears the resonance as shouting. As they discuss, a coalescing form of pollen takes shape, and Saru apparently doesn’t think it’s a threat. It signals to the away team to follow it, and when backup arrives it’s clear that this thing isn’t asking.
Aboard the Klingon command ship, L’Rell is back up after her wound on the prison ship and offers her services as an interrogator to Kol. After all, they have that high-value prisoner, and she wants her house not to miss out on Kol’s cloaking device handout.
The Pahvo Spore-people bring our away team to a yurt where they try to communicate. Since the UT can’t lock onto their sound, Saru steps in with his acuities. He makes physical contact with the spores, and that they are sentient and want to communicate. This changes their mission profile from science and exploratory to diplomatic, and they can’t mess with the crystal transmitter without permission. But hey, at least that explains how there’s a miles-high crystal tower on this planet radiating communications into space.
L’Rell walks into Cornwell’s cell with a small array of tools and tells her to scream. Cornwell has objections. Of course, L’Rell does not have quite the objective that Kol and Cornwell assumed.
Burnham and Ash are already making plans for what to do when the war ends, thanks to Saru’s success with Pahvo diplomacy.
And now Tilly’s confronting Stamets over his return to being a dillhole. His mood boost during the Mudd incident seems to have evaporated, and he eventually explains. His reality is getting jumbled, and he can’t report it to the ship’s CMO without exposing his husband do a devil’s choice. Tilly offers to at least help monitor.
During the interrogation, L’Rell finds out what happens to POWs the Federation captures and, on hearing that the Federation has no death penalty (not quite an answer, and also this wouldn’t be the time to bring up Talos IV) asks to defect to the Federation. It’s possible, however, that this is a plan to get Discovery into place, but it seems pretty sincere. If it is, the security arrangements are going to get a bit awkward when she finds that Ash is running things.
Saru has found some things about Pahvo – the spore-people are in fact an extension of the planet itself, but beyond that meaningful dialogue is still dependent on dialogue that hasn’t been decided yet. The transmitter is their SETI, which is nice. The three crash for the night, and it looks like Starfleet-issue bedrolls have some sort of technological component. If it were me, I’d want a force field to keep out disease vectors, and maybe some antigravity components to make the wafer-thin bedroll do more of the work of a mattress. Saru, however can’t sleep, due to his heightened senses. He stumbles outside and asks a Pavan to make it stop, at which point it enters his brain. They can read his memories, then it vanishes. In the morning, Saru reveals that he’s been able to piggyback a comm signal on the Pavan transmitter, reveals that the mission has changed a bit, then takes Burnham and Tyler’s communicators and crushes them both. Saru has been ‘invited,’ and in turn ‘invites’ Burnham and Tyler, to stay on the planet. Forever. With that knowledge, they can’t trust the Pavan permission, but they’re also stranded, so…
L’Rell has a plan to blow up the ship on their way out, but the two of them are caught by some guards and have to make a show. L’Rell has to kill Cornwall to throw off Kol’s suspicion. On Pahvo, Saru explains to Tyler why he’s no longer being assaulted by the planet’s emanations – he’s no longer dissonant. Tyler tries to get some counseling from Saru on his own problem – that his hatred of the Klingons goes above and beyond the call of duty. In service of this, Saru helps him meditate on a rock, but that rock lets Saru see that Tyler is lying, presumably by some vibratory mechanism. Burnham, of course, was using this time to get to the spire. She doesn’t have a whole lot of time before Saru’s 80kph catches up with her.
L’Rell takes Cornwell to Corpse Disposal, only to find the half-dismembered corpses of a lot of old friends, which is a great time to swear vengeance on Kol, out loud, just in case he’s watching.
Burnham is able to get off a quick call to Discovery before Saru smashes the equipment, doing what looks like a little damage to the tower in the process. It’s not entirely clear to me whether Saru is posessed and being puppeted or if Saru just needed the sonic assault to end so much that he’s gone nuts. When the Pavans teleport Tyler to the scene, it’s starting to look a lot like the latter, and once again Saru will have to deal with how Burnham just happens to be around when everything goes wrong for him. Ultimately, it seems that the Pavans have a sufficient grasp of spoken language to be swayed by Burnham and Saru’s debate. Once they’re rescued, we see maybe where there aren’t that many Kelpians in the service in later years – if they’re born afraid and can get that irrational whenever something offers them the opportunity… when even such a disciplined officer as Saru falls victim….
L’Rell has successfully ingratiated herself into Kol’s following as his interrogator. Or maybe not. And to make things more complex, Kol’s ship intercepts the Pahvo signal, which is not operating as expected. They’d expected that the Federation technology would allow them to use the signal as a sonar. Instead, it’s hailing both Federation and Klingon frequencies, summoning both to orbit so that they can chat things out and start talking harmony. Since this is pre-Organia, I imagine that talks won’t go very well. Discovery will now get to fight the ship of the dead to defent Pahvo from whatever the Klingons do when they show up to defenseless planets.