In which the Empress prepares a banquet, Stamets keeps his own council, and Burnham continues her winning streak.
So Empress Giorgiou is here, and has called Burnham over to the ISS Charon, flagship of the Imperial fleet in a universe where flagship isn’t thrown around lightly. Things are not looking great for Lorca – Saru decrypted the Defiant data but even that’s been redacted. There’s data on the phenomenon of interphasic space but not its location. This is somewhat good news – they happen to be going the only place where that report is likely to be, so all they have to do is survive. To that end, Burnham gives Lorca a pre-emptive painkiller, although it leaves a bit of a mark that’s probably going to get them all found out. Lorca is confident, or at least good at pretending – Burnham feels the dramatic irony, and soon they drop out of warp at the classified coordinates of the Imperial palace, which is an impressive feat of engineering and seems to house a small sun.
Discovery has Stamets back, sort of, and Tilly is crowing about her success in getting Stamets from unresponsive coma through dead to ‘somewhat more positive-looking coma.’ Saru urges her to keep working on his way out to Sick Bay for a medical emergency. In Stamet’s head, he sees Mirror Stamets in among the sporescape of his mind. Mirror Stamets enjoys a good joke, though. Mirror Stamets also knows a little about the multiple universes. He’s an astromycologist too, also stuck in the network after an accident in the Imperial palace’s research labs. He wants Stamets Prime, the navigator, to help them both out of the network, and to avoid the Dark Predator in the network, which is represented as an encreachment of red-and-black vines.
The Charon is impressive indeed, no less so for all of Georgiou’s titles. As soon as Burnham arrives, she’s offered a Kelpian (Saru’s people) hopefully as a domestic but quite possibly as a sacrifice – now’s not the time to ask questions. The good news is that Lorca’s not going to be immediately executed, he might live for years in an Agonizer booth. But Georgiou’s happy to see Burnham back, because in this universe, their relationship is maternal in a more literal sense. One could imagine that Mirror Burnham’s history has something to do with the conquest of Vulcan, though it’s a little hard to fit in with what we know of human/Vulcan relationships in the Prime universe.
Voq is not pleased to have been found out, though the Klingons did such a good job of espionage that his DNA matches up to the Starfleet records. Before we know how that happened, nobody can treat him. In a brief moment of lucidity, Tyler asks after Burnham before going into seizures again. And at the same time, Lorca is thrown into an agonizer booth and Burnham sits down with the Empress for a nice plate of Kelpian. It takes quite a bit of willpower to eat sentient creatures, and quite a bit of caution to feel out their relationship. Georgiou, however, believes that Burnham was collaborating with Lorca and is getting ready to execute her. A careful observer will note that if that’s true, and Mirror Burnham is supposed to have died by Lorca’s hand after which Lorca escaped to the far reaches, there’s a good chance the two of them will be riding in at the head of a rebel army in a dramatic moment.
The Stamets’ are working on getting out, starting with Discovery’s final jump, and it seems like Mirror Stamets is a bit of a junkie. Rather, he’s being assimilated by the Mycelia – he has a rash that’s infecting him because he’s been trapped for too long. But, heedless of that warning, Prime Stamets goes haring off after an apparation of Doctor Culber.
In order to stave off getting her head lopped off, Burnham tells Georgiou the truth about her true provenance, using a shard of metal from Real Discovery and its quantum signature as proof. Fortunately, there’s a scanner capable of detecting Quantum Variance right there in the throne room. This, at least, we can justify since the Mirror Universe seems to have already experienced universal crossover, and someone would have been studying it. For the Prime universe to know about it, we should suspect a crossover event that transmitted information the other way. In any case, this information is so secret that the Empress grabs a hypertech throwing star and kills all of her Trusted Inner Circle just for being in the same room as this revelation, except for one flunky who gets a promotion to Governor of Andor in exchange for his silence. The Empress has many secrets to keep.
Saru checks in with L’Rell about Tyler – she’s not particularly keen to help undermine Voq’s holy quest. Saru explains their situation, though, and gets a little information out of it. Tyler was captured at the Battle of the Binary Stars and… well, L’Rell says words like she’s conveying technical information but if you think about them for a half-second it’s just noissome gloating that won’t really help their medics. All she’s really saying is that Tyler isn’t really there, and Tyler is all Voq underneath. Stamets chases down Hugh Culber through the metaphor in his mind, but winds up in their quarters talking to his ghost.
Burnham is no longer in danger of getting her head chopped off, but the Empress doesn’t really seem like she’s going to help – she’s not even keen on releasing Lorca. In fairness, although she could easily order it and kill anyone who questioned her, doing so would send a message that traitors could expect leniency… according to Imperial logic that would be both significant and bad, regardless of what Prime universe studies say about the effectiveness of punative justice. Additionally, Georgiou has classified the Defiant logs because of the insidious and destructive ideals of equality and cooperation. Georgiou also taunts her with the cognitive problems associated with interphasic space, and gets the broad strokes of Discovery‘s predicament, and offers a trade.
Saru shows L’Rell how self-destructive Voq is becoming. When she refuses to help, Saru orders Tyler beamed into L’Rell’s cell, which finally breaks her and she agrees to personally help fix him. And good news for Lorca, someone’s come to turn off the agonizer and ask him questions. Bad news, those questions involve some incident Prime Lorca doesn’t know about and a really inventive and messy death for some of Mirror Lorca’s crew from the failed coup attempt. Apparently, Lintaxian parasitic DNA burns humans from the inside out in moments.
Klingon surgery appears to have a sort of ‘quantity is a quality all its own’ approach to how many scalpels a physician should have. Under gunpoint, L’Rell does brain surgery on Voq/Tyler, which seems to stabilize him into English. The fact that L’Rell does a plausible Klingon Howl For The Dead suggests that either she’s a great actress or she really did intend to kill Voq off. And speaking of loss, Stamets has started to remember seeing Culber’s death through the haze, while Mirror Stamets hammers on the door to try to get him out of the trap of memory. The Culber projection appears to be an emanation of the network itself, though – it seems to be pleading with Stamets to help the network. Either that or the network somehow captures ghosts and impart them with knowledge beyond their ken. Following that advice, Stamets wakes up… but in the wrong body, which means Mirror Stamets is on board Discovery and Prime Stamets is being eaten by star fungus. And worse – the Discovery‘s supply of fungus is dead or dying.
Lorca’s interrogator demands he make amends for breaking his sister, whose name Lorca doesn’t know. And Georgiou tells Burnham about how Burnham betrayed her… for Lorca. A Lorca who chose her, groomed her, crossed time and space for her, and… oh yes, there’s a reason all the lights are dimmer on Imperial ships and it’s not because they have a gothy aesthetic. Humans in the Mirror Universe are extra sensitive to light. And Lorca was never really bothered by Burnham being a mutineer, was he? Lorca, still suffering in that agnoizer booth, despite that painkiller, collapses and gets his interrogator to open up the booth to deliver first aid. As was his plan all along.