It’s time for the mid-season finale - with the Discovery standing as the only line of defence for the peaceful Pahvans (who can also mind control people) against the Klingons
Star Fleet, specifically the Vulcan admiral who is considered terribad awful because this seems to be a Star Trek thing underlying the whole, gutsy human “I’m going to ignore reality and do it anyway” being superior to the logical, reasoned approach of the Vulcans
So the vulcan says they need to retreat and yes, very sad that the peaceful people deciding to broadcast “come kill me!” are going to get dead, but the Federation need to retreat all their ships to safe space until they can use science to crack the Klingon stealth ships and not be annihilated.
Lorca says yes honest while deciding to do the complete opposite of course because chain of command just means nothing on this show. And he does this making a great big inspirational speech.
So the plan is to go back to the rendezvous point the slow way by warping rather than using the Magic Mushroom Drive; their excuse is that Stamets is feeling ill and they need to do a full health check
This gives them three hours to figure out a plan. Which they do - if they sneak someone on the Ship of the Dead they can then sneak around and plant beacons (or y’know bombs. We’re going with beacons? Ok, fine) and then they can take lots of information from these beacons to bring down the stealth drive. But this will take several days - unless they teleport all around the ship while it’s stealthed - they need 133 jumps. For science reasons
I’m not going to parse the magical science.
But to sick bay - to back up his alibi for using the slow way home, Lorca decided he needed Stamets to actually have a full health check. Except rather than being the paperwork exercise it actually found multiple brain issues. Dr. Culpepper is Not Amused.
Despite this, Lorca still pushes Stamets to make the sacrifice and do the 133 jumps - and he convinces him with an epic speech about what the Magic Mushroom Drive can achieve, including looking at alternate dimensions. It’s a good speech and of course it convinces the science obsessed Stamets to put his brain at risk. Culpepper is not amused but Lorca asks him to send him the report on Stamet’s health (like Lorca can interpret it?) and Stamets continues to hide his side effects
Except Tilly totally spills the beans and Stamet’s guilty look is priceless
The plan is prepared: Ash and Michael will be the ones to board the ship. Lorca objects to Michael going but she quickly talks him into it since she knows the Klingon ship more than the rest of them. Personally I’d send Saru since he has super powers
After a brief reminder that the Klingons are the worst ever and totally intend to kill everyone for funsies, it’s time for the mission.
While the ships circle, Ash and Michael are beamed aboard (wait, isn’t there some kind of shield preventing people beaming aboard? I feel this may be a flaw) and begin planting the beacons (these glow blue and beep. Seriously not that subtle, you may want them to be less noticeable). But there they find a human lifesign: while Ash wants to focus on the mission, Michael isn’t leaving a human prisoner behind. They find Admiral Cornwell and she’s alive.
Not well though, she needs bringing back to consciousness and can’t feel her legs. And L’Rell is also there, representing all of his worst nightmares and sending him into a catatonic state of PTSD flashbacks. Michael stuns L’Rell (why is her gun set to stun? Why?) and has to go place the last beacon on the bridge alone
The ships are fighting and we see just how nifty the Magic Mushroom Drive is, basically zipping in from every angle shooting the Klingon ship and then vanishing - forcing the ship to cloak (while Culpepper begs Lorca to stop because Stamets is in clear distress). At which point the Discovery continues to zip around to get all the information from the ship and breaking the code.
Kol isn’t a fool and realises something is up and plans to warp out - so Michael shoots a Klingon and confronts Kol. She shows off her universal translator which she thinks proves the Federation are dedicated to communication - while Kol thinks is just proof of how the Federation wants to homogenise everyone.
Kol decides to agree to Michael’s fight in a duel rather than just killing her because HONOUR.
At the same time Cornwell, who is a therapist, manages to talk Ash down from his PTSD meltdown so he can wake up long enough to protect them from Klingon attack
All of this buys them enough time to be beamed back onto the Discovery (because there’s nothing stopping this). They have the cloak hack, they have Michael, Cornwell and Ash - and they have a captive L’Rell. With the Cloak compromised they shoot the Ship of the Dead and blow it up
Kol is dead, the stealth hack is now transmitted to the Federation who is now back in the war. Lorca is going to get a big shiny medal - which he says Stamets deserves (which I agree with - he willingly fried his own brain). Stamets is alive - though planning to stop with the Magic Mushroom Drive and getting some severe medical attention to make sure his brain isn’t melting.
Michael and Ash talk about Ash’s painful time in L’rell’s custody and how he basically had sex with her to spare his life - he has recurring nightmares about her raping him and is deeply traumatised by it. It’s moving and powerful - and more disturbing when he goes to her cell and kneels to her - and she says she’ll not let anyone hurt him which is odd given the circumstances. At best this is a major case of Stockholm syndrome, at worst the fan theory that Ash is a sleeper agent and secretly the vanished Voq… which is a terrible way to address his trauma.
But first he’ll do one more jump to get the ship to safety. And I won’t say Lorca manipulated him into it… but it’s not an unreasonable interpretation.
So we finally have a loving scene between Stamets and Culpepper, they even kiss and their love is really clear -about time Discovery! And they make one more jump… which goes terribly wrong. They end up in a place which no-one recognises (I call alternate dimension) and Stamets is collapsed and catatonic.
Really, true love followed by collapse and maybe death? Don’t do this! Why can’t we have had this emotional moment without it being followed by near death
Lorca makes a lot of big inspirational speeches this episode which really raises a lot of questions about him. I mean, we’ve already seen that Lorca is pretty much the worst, especially with Admiral Cornwell but also with his obviously manipulation of Stamets and Michael. We know he’s the worst - but does that mean everything he does or says is due to manipulation? I mean, he became a Star Fleet Captain before he had the traumatic experiences that sent him into the dark side. None of this really stops him STILL BELIEVING the principles of Star Fleet - whether that is the desire for exploration that he mentioned with Stamets (Lorca became a captain, presumably, before the war started - presumably wanting to do this), or wanting to protect the helpless. Just because Lorca is determined to be a captain no matter what, clearly has a lot of his identity invested in being the captain and has a strong ends-justify-the-means mindset doesn’t ALSO mean he is not sincere in these speeches
Of course he is also a deeply manipulative man who has shown himself willing to say anything to get what he wants - and being a damn good liar. So how much of this is the real Lorca? Especially since, perhaps to avoid revelations from Cornwell or to avoid Stamets leaving the ship, he appears to have sabotaged that last jump