May 7, 2020
Star Trek: Picard “Absolute Candor”
Previously on Jean-Luc Picard: An Erotic Life: Picard got attacked by the motorcycle aliens from Under the Skin and had to go on the run in a cherry red space hog piloted by a ruggedly handsome, demographic-friendly Latino named Rios, who has a closet full of skeletons and a garage full of holograms. He and the rest of the crew set off to a planet (or possibly a cloud) called Freecloud, where they hope to find Data’s old frenemy Dr. Maddox, who can help them find Soji, Data’s remaining un-murdered daughter. Soji, unbeknownst to them, is dismantling Borg drones and trying to untangle the mysterious prophecies of Ramdha, who warns that Soji is the harbinger of the Romulan apocalypse.
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“Absolute Candor” starts with yet another flashback, but at least we don’t have to watch Mars explode again. We’re on the planet Vashti in the Beta quadrant, a high-fantasy-themed planet and home to a thriving settlement of Romulan refugees.
Picard beams down, greets everybody warmly, and goes to a Romulan convent to greet some black-clad Romulan nuns and a Romulan orphan boy they’re taking in. Picard has brought the head nun, Zani, some sweets, and the boy, Elnor, a copy of The Three Musketeers. For the next couple of days, Picard reads the boy the book and uses sticks to teach him fencing. Guy’s got surrogate family all over the place.
Then the unthinkable happens. Picard gets word from Raffi that the synths have blown up the rescue fleet, and he must relay to them that their families and friends are all going to die unless he convinces Starfleet to find some other way. He promises to be back soon and beams away.
Back in the present, Rios’s ship—which, according to Memory Alpha, is called La Sirena, but I’ll keep calling it the Robotech until they actually use this name on the show—is warping to its destination. Dr. Jurati, realizing she doesn’t have a lot of character traits yet, goes and bothers Rios, who’s sitting in the captain’s chair reading a brooding existentialist tome. She prattles neurotically about this and that, clearly trying to recreate the character beats of Cadet Tilly, but the same awkwardness that was endearing in a fresh-faced kid sits poorly on a grown and accomplished woman. Rios tries to cold-shoulder her with his book so she’ll buzz off. “I used to live with a guy who liked paper books,” she says. “I bothered him, too.”
“What did he used to do about it?” Rios asks. Jurati replies, “He was my dad. He had to put up with it.”
Raffi comes yelling up the stairs asking Rios why they’re making a detour, and Rios says Picard said they have to stop on Vashti. Picard, meanwhile, is in the ship’s holodeck, talking with yet another emergency holoprogram, a “hospitality” hologram which, despite its suggestive name, never offers to have sex with Picard. This one has a Canadian accent, which if I don’t miss my guess makes him the first-ever Canadian on Star Trek (besides the big one). The hologram has helpfully recreated Picard’s study inside the holodeck, because that set was expensive, dammit.
Raffi storms in and asks Picard why they’re going to Vashti, while the EHH goes away to replicate some Timbits. Raffi says the whole sector is dangerous, and under the fist of a warlord named Kar Kantar who cruises around in an old Romulan Bird-of-Prey. The planet is also a hotbed of Romulan nationalist activity. Jurati blunders in and asks what everybody’s talking about. “Picard wants to hire himself an assassin,” says Raffi. “They are not assassins, and you can’t hire them,” protests Picard. It turns out those nuns from earlier are from a sect called the Qowat Milat, and they’re feared warriors and sworn enemies of the Tal Shiar, known for swearing their swords to any supplicant whose cause they deem worthy.
Soon the Robotech is in orbit over Vashti.
The planet is protected by an energy shield that opens up in a random spot every 30 minutes. Picard’s long history on the planet fails to open up any doors, and they have to bribe their way through the shield. When Picard beams down, the settlement is dirtier and meaner than last time, Picard fails to get any hellos returned, and there’s a restaurant with an outdoor seating area labeled “Romulans Only”.
Picard goes to the Qowat Milat convent, greets Zani warmly, and implores her help. Just then, an all-growed-up Elnor appears in the doorway.
On the Artifact/Borg cube, Soji is leaning over an unconscious Ramdha while medical drones sweep her body with lasers and monitor her Borg implants. Soji has recently been looking at holos of a pre-assimilated Ramdha talking about Ganmadan, the Romulan apocalypse myth whose herald is “the destroyer” i.e., Soji. “I don’t know why I feel so drawn to her,” she tells Narek. “When she looked at me, I felt seen.” “I see you,” says Narek, holding her hand.
They retire to the most hopping bar on the whole cube. Soji asks what Narek’s whole deal is. Narek knew she was going to visit Ramdha just now; he knows where she is most of the time, and actually, he knows lots of stuff that someone who doesn’t wear a uniform or insignia should know. Admitting that straight-up asking Narek if he’s Tal Shiar wouldn’t accomplish much, Soji instead asks if he knows what happened to Ramdha’s ship. He says it might be in the Borg databases, and he does know someone who might be able to unlock them.
He ushers her out of the bar and down a dank and very Borgish hallway, inviting her to take off her shoes to partake in a “Borg ritual”. After some fanfare, he slides down the smooth hallway in his socks, inviting her to do the same. The couple laugh and cavort in gauzy focus like they’re in a tasteful commercial for some embarrassing medication, finally collapsing against a wall to make out.
Having gotten her good and buttered up, Narek breaks the kiss to talk to Soji about the ship that took her to the Beta Quadrant three years ago. “Terran passenger lists are a matter of public record, which is shocking to a Romulan sensibility,” he says, “but strangely, there’s no record that you were a passenger on the Ellis that day.”
“Are you calling me a liar?” Soji asks playfully. Then a mysterious mechanical clicking noise issues from somewhere, and she turns serious. “To hell with you,” she says, storming out. Narek says if she goes, she’ll never find out what’s in those Borg data files. “What are you doing?” Soji asks. “The same thing you’re doing,” says Narek. “Feeding an insatiable curiosity.” The noise happens again.
On the Robotech, Raffi is monitoring comm traffic and notices that Picard is trending down on the planet. She calls Picard and tells him about the angry messages he’s inspiring, but he refuses to leave yet. Picard talks with Zani while Elnor stalks around huffily. Picard deplores the conditions on the planet and Zani accuses him of having a hand in it; Picard, it seems, took his ball and went home, leaving Vashti with no balls.
Zani further says that whatever Picard’s quest is, he should take Elnor with him. Although, as a man, Elnor can’t be an official Qowat Milat warrior, he’s completed the necessary training and his combat skills are exemplary. More than that, though, Zani says Elnor needs to leave this stultifying planet and find his purpose.
After the act break, Elnor entreats Picard to tell his story, so that he might see whether Picard’s cause is worthy enough to swear his blade to. Picard tells him all about Data, about Dahj, about Soji, and about the top-secret conspiracy he’s found himself in. “Now that you have use for me?” Elnor asks angrily. “You left me alone, old man. I see no reason not to do the same.”
Seemingly defeated, Picard goes back to the town square to beam back up. The next opening is in seven minutes. He passes the Romulans Only restaurant, looks at it disgustedly, and in a fit of pique tears the sign off and treads on it before seating himself at a table. There’s conspiratorial mumbling on all sides. The waiter won’t serve him.
A man gets up from the table, introduces himself as a former Romulan senator, and recalls the day Picard spoke before the Senate with such big promises, only to fail. He accuses Picard of manipulating the Romulans on purpose to confuse and divide them. Confederates surround him and he instructs one to give Picard his sword, so that they can duel. The editors take a heroic stab at making it look like this 79-year-old man is up for a rousing swordfight, before Picard throws his weapon down in disgust.
“Please, my friend,” says Elnor, appearing behind Picard’s opponent. “Choose to live.” The man doesn’t listen, so with an elven twirl, Elnor slices through two goons and beheads the former senator with one clean stroke.
“I regret your choice,” he says, and then publicly pledges to be Picard’s qalankhkai, or male ninja nun (such an elegant language!).
The two beam up, and then Picard confronts Elnor angrily. “That man did not deserve to die,” he hisses, and makes him swear not to kill anybody without filling out the proper forms. Jurati asks Elnor why he chose to bind himself to Picard, and he says Picard’s cause met the criterion for worthiness. “A qalankhkai will only bind herself—himself—to a lost cause,” says Picard.
Cut back to the Artifact, and let’s all stretch our groaning muscles and put a “yikes” in the chamber, because it’s another Rizzo/Narek scene. God, these never go anywhere and always last for years. Rizzo, whose outfit makes Mirror Kira’s look like a Girl Scout uniform, lounges on Narek’s bed and wakes him by sexily stroking his cheek (there’s a yikes!) and asking for a progress report. Narek says he’s planted the first seed of doubt in Soji’s mind, but she needs careful handling; he can’t clue her in to her true identity too quickly or else her android powers will activate and she’ll go apeshit all over everybody like Dahj did. Rizzo’s being a brat, all like “but I want her dead nowwww!” and he’s like “but we need to find out where the other androids are before we kill her” and it’s all the same shit we’ve done before, and we’ll do it again next week in an even skankier outfit, and let’s just cut away already.
Ah, a spaceship battle! Much better. The warlord Kar Kantar’s Bird-of-Prey has warped next to the Robotech and immediately starts firing, scoring some hits but mostly just pew-pewing lasers out into space, where they’ll continue in the same direction for eternity until they either hit something or perish in the universe’s heat death. They’re also coming under fire from the drones in the planet’s security net. Rios calls up another emergency hologram named Emmet to work the guns while he flies. This one’s lazy, surly, seemingly hungover—all traits one wouldn’t think are desirable in an emergency hologram—and not only speaks in a different accent but in another language, as we learn when Rios yells at him in rapid Spanish.
Despite Rios’s best flying, and Emmet’s best pretending to work, they’re being forced into the security grid and their days are numbered. Suddenly, a mysterious ship shows up and does some fancy flying of its own. By combining their efforts, they manage to shoot one of the nacelles off the Bird-of-Prey, but the interloper is critically damaged in the process. Picard tells Rios to beam the ship’s pilot over, and he barely gets them out before the ship crashes into the energy shield. It turns out to be our old friend Seven of Nine.
Picard and Seven seem to be acquainted already. “You owe me a ship, Picard,” says Seven, before collapsing.
Next Week: Picard dresses up like a steampunk pimp and Seven shoots a lot of people, both of which are extremely my shit. Stay tuned.