In which Neelix goes digging, a bunch of Kazon die, and Chakotay wallows in self-pity.
Oh man, skipping right past the establishing shot to Lt. Useless Engineer showing off his fruit-gathering skills. I really only have one question here, which is “how many light-years from Earth do you have to be before you stop saying things like ‘I think it’s some kind of apple’?” Neelix knows them to be highly toxic, but nobody gave Carey a tricorder, apparently. You don’t just land on an alien planet and start eating the local produce. However, Neelix has found the local superfood, packed with vitamins and whatnot as well as a lesson in how pampered Starfleet is. They’re not even willing to eat a food that tastes marginally worse than the dirt it grew from.
There’s a ship or something shadowing Voyager that Paris barely managed to spot. Janeway pulls the away team back pending investigation, except that they don’t wait to secure their people before antagonizing their potential opposition. They do this by detonating a flare full of particles the enemy is opaque to, and for the first time this show I have to give the VFX department credit for presentation. The ship is Kazon, who are not currently on good terms with Voyager and her crew. Also, Seska is missing, so Chakotay goes looking in some nearby caves. Alone. Without taking an enhancement beacon. He does find her, and they only have to stun two Kazon to get out.
Voyager left without further incident, and Seska has brought Chakotay some soup to help him deal with his disruptor burn by staging a kitchen heist, which immediately puts Chakotay off his food, even after Seska tries to seduce him into rolling with it. Chakotay knows better than to get back involved with an ex, even if she threatens to drag Harry Kim into bed instead.
In order to distract us from purely shipboard drama, a Kazon ship has been generous enough to send out a general distress call. Neelix warns of a trap, and some outward signs indicate the distress might be genuine, so Janeway tries to exploit the situation for a little goodwill. However, aboard the ship is one of those things that makes the ‘get out of there and come back in assault armor‘ list: people encased in some sort of caked-on grossness. Or possibly phased through walls, it’s hard to say. Either way, it’s bad news. They’ve found a survivor and an explosion source that appears to have come from Federation technology.
Sick Bay analysis reveals that the survivor is full of metals bonded to his cells. He’ll need a complete transfusion, and the pressing concern is how they got Federation tech. This might not be the first Federation ship the Caretaker pulled in, or it might only be similar to Fed tech, or Voyager might have a mole somehow. Although if you have a mole who can sneak a whole console off a ship that’s undergoing tight rationing then you have bigger problems than a mole. Like an utterly incompetent chief of security or quartermaster.
Seska has a risky plan to get to the federation console that risks blowing it up, while Lt Carey’s plan involves rotating the containment field and sweeping the radiation inside it out of the way. And Torres gets an establishing moment – unlike some Starfleet engineers, Torres doesn’t pad her estimates. Chakotay pulls Seska off the project, but then violates basic opsec by letting the suspected mole know you suspect them of being a mole. She’s pulled onto bridge duty, which is supposedly a soft way of doing this, and she wanders into Sick Bay to check on the Kazon patient as the only one who can exonerate her. Oh also she’s never left a blood sample with Sick Bay, which she’s asked to do even though she had a childhood disease and can never donate. She defers for the moment.
Whoever the mole was used a project the entire Engineering team was on to send out their coded messages. This kind of narrows it down to the former Maquis. It’s not that nobody in Starfleet has ever gone rogue for various reasons, it’s more that Starfleet Intelligence has a pretty proven track record of being terrible at their jobs where a sloppy Maquis would get their ship dead. During this discussion, another Kazon ship shows up on long-range sensors, four hours away. Seska has also taken this moment to beam off Voyager without authorization. Even if we didn’t have the omniscient audience perspective of ‘who’s got the most screen time in the last few episodes’ to work from, that’d be a pretty big clue.
Well, except that she’s just in there with a personal shield to retrieve the console with a rigged-up personal shield. Sadly, while Janeway and Tuvok debate the merits of transporting her back, her bubble collapses off-camera and she dies, presumably very painfully. I totally believe this. Star Trek always shies away from gruesome death by exotic energy sources. Then again, we do see her show up in sick bay, burned over most of her body. Thus, the security interviews begin.
The thing about a really successful infiltrator is that they don’t just cause direct damage, they cause the organization they’ve infiltrated to come down with an autoimmune disorder. Consider that while you watch Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok debrief Lt. Carey, and particularly as it pertains to the division between Starfleet and Maquis crew integration.
The second Kazon ship is now close enough to bother talking to, and Cullah, its captain, is a tad curt. He shows up to talk to his dude and they conflict over the next disposition of the Kazon ship. Culla and his aide also kill the patient before he can regain consciousness, but the whole affair gets Janeway into Sick Bay so that The Doctor and Kes can tell her about Seska. Seska does not have Bajoran blood. She seems to have been born Cardassian and altered, potentially as part of a long-term insertion plot that was never activated.
This isn’t necessarily conclusive, but it’s evidence in favor of her being the mole. Not because Cardassians are naturally treacherous (that’s racist!) or even because having one Deep Dark Secret is something of a warning flag, but simply because if she was trying to keep it a secret, she couldn’t realistically plan to do so for 70 years. Chakotay also gets a good line in here, don’t miss it.
Janeway backs Cullah off long enough for Torres to finish up, and I really have to call out the fact that for once in 13 and change seasons of Star Trek so far, an operation goes completely smoothly with no unnecessary clock drama. Torres knows how to get things done occasionally. And as it turns out, the console was a replicator with insufficient shielding and some original Voyager components. And Chakotay finalyl confronts Seska about her Cardassian heritage… and she gives the specifics of her childhood disease. The ship’s still on lockdown, but at least Chakotay and Seska are still good… except for the trap Tuvok baited for whichever of Seska or Carey bites.
In case any of you budding mole hunters are tempted to take this tactic, the more usual and accepted form is to give each of your suspects similar but slightly different information, so that even if they use proxies you know who called the shots.
As Tuvok and Chakotay play cards in Engineering waiting for one of their suspects to take the bait, Kazon reinforcements are incoming and they watch someone hack the inventory records using Seska’s codes. Which proves it’s Carey, right? It’s not like anyone on a Starfleet ship can keep their passwords secret, and you’d never use your own for this kind of operation. Then again, what if that’s exactly what Seska was counting on? Always suspect your opponent of being smarter than you. Which Chakotay does, and which they did trace back to the correct physical terminal.
Spot the mistake in the exposition scene. If you guessed ‘bothering to have an exposition scene before your suspect has been transported to the brig’ you win. Though she justifies herself by claiming her whole purpose was to get the crew home by any means necessary. This does mesh with some past behavior. Once she’s fully exposed, she gloats a bit and does a fantastic face/heel turn before executing an emergency command and beaming out to join the Kazon. Janeway has no choice but to leave her with the Kazon.
Oh hey, also Tuvok sticks with the classic lie that Vulcans never lie while talking to the man he infiltrated for two years, using some fantastic doubletalk. Vulcans are always honest, even if it’s just ‘to their convictions as defined by the parameters of their mission,’ whatever the hell that means.