By Nick Schager
March 05, 2020 at 06:14 PM EST

Star Trek: Picard delivers its longest episode to date with “Nepenthe,” all so it can spend as much time as possible on Picard’s long-awaited reunion with two of his closest Enterprise comrades.

Yet before that happy get-together can take place, this eighth installment flashes back to Jurati and Commander Oh’s chat at Okinawa’s Daystrom Institute. Oh knows Jurati has met with Picard, that Picard has revealed his belief that Maddox created a synthetic, and that Jurati gave him 300 GBs of material relevant to Maddox. Oh tells Jurati she wants her to accompany Picard on his off-world mission to find Maddox and the synthetic. Oh subsequently uses a Vulcan mind-meld to show Jurati the death and destruction — on a planetary scale — that will take place if synthetic life is allowed to exist. Shaken, Jurati agrees to Oh’s demands (which will require “a terrible sacrifice”) and ingests a tracking device.

On the Artifact, Rizzo demands that Hugh give up Picard and Soji’s destination (i.e. Nepenthe). She executes Hugh’s fellow XBs, but can’t kill Hugh himself because he’s protected by an “asinine” Starfleet treaty. At this point, La Sirena is released from the Artifact’s tractor beam. Although Rios knows they’re being followed by a Romulan ship (piloted by Narek), they nonetheless take off for Nepenthe — albeit not before first contacting Elnor, who’s staying behind on the Artifact because “my help is needed here.”

On Nepenthe, Picard and Soji are greeted by a young girl wearing an animal ear-decorated cloak and wielding a bow and arrow. Her name is Kestra (Lulu Wilson), and she knows Picard. On their way to the girl’s house, Kestra talks to Soji, who’s still plagued by confusion and distrust. Kestra shows her a compass but concedes it’s broken and admits that her arrows are real but that she’s a pacifist, and thus wouldn’t use them.

Kestra asks about Soji’s father, and upon hearing it’s Data, exclaims, “You’re an android?” This freaks out Soji. Trying to soothe her, Picard says that, though her memories and identity might not be real, her sister Dahj was. Then, he informs her that Dahj was murdered by the very people now hunting her. Having been repeatedly deceived, Soji is unwilling to believe anything.

At the house, Picard receives a giant hug from Kestra’s mom, Commander Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), who instinctively senses that he’s in trouble. Picard goes inside and receives a similar embrace from William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), who immediately recognizes that Picard needs a place to hideout. When Picard suggests not only raising the residence’s shields and activating its perimeter scans but also running anti-cloaking scans, Riker realizes that Picard’s problems involve Romulans. Picard states that his plan has fallen apart, he’s (temporarily) lost his crew, and Soji is still in danger, to which Riker says, “Sounds like you need a new plan.”

As Picard takes a nap and Riker continues making homemade tomato-and-basil pizzas, Kestra tells Soji about Data. She surmises that the reason Soji has mucus, blood, and saliva is that Data always wanted to be human (i.e. have dreams, tell jokes, learn how to ballroom dance).

Credit: Trae Patton/CBS

Troi shows Picard the bedroom of her and Riker’s late son Thad, whose 18th birthday would have been a week ago. Troi tells Picard to stay as long as he likes, but she acknowledges, “I’m not as brave as I used to be, Jean-Luc.” Picard responds, “You’re getting wiser.”

Onboard La Sirena, Rios strives to lose the pursuing Narek. Jurati asks if Rios and Raffi really want to go to Nepenthe. Since Jurati was originally eager to embark on this intergalactic search-and-rescue mission, Raffi is surprised by the question. That prompts Jurati to yell, “I just want to go home! Picard can look after himself and somebody else can find that f---ing synth — why does it have to be me?” Raffi calms her down by giving her red velvet cake, which she promptly throws up.

In the medical bay, Rios says he suspects the reason he can’t shake Narek is that Raffi is being (unwittingly) tracked. Before Jurati can fully confess that she’s the one with the tracker, Rios heads back to the bridge. Upset and alone, Jurati creates a handheld device and injects herself in the neck, instigating a mouth-foaming seizure that puts her in a coma.

Picard tells Riker that his visit is “a desperate impulse. I regret it already.” Riker presses the former admiral for details, stating that ignorance of danger doesn’t keep it at bay. Not that Riker needs Picard to spell things out for him — he’s already intuited that Picard is being hunted by the Tal Shiar and that Soji is the android offspring of Data (her head-tilt gave away her lineage). “Not bad for a pizza chef,” Picard smiles.

Riker slams Picard for his classic “arrogance,” once again deciding everything for everyone, and cautions that dealing with a teenager isn’t the same as commanding a starship. Picard admits he may not be up to this challenge, which is the first “baby step” toward attaining the humility he needs.

Soji and Kestra have become fast friends, speaking to each other in a language called Viveen that Thad created. In a lush garden, Troi has Soji try a real tomato — the first food she’s ever eaten that didn’t come from a replicator. She hears about Thad’s desire for a home, which is what Nepenthe eventually became for him. Apparently, Thad died of a rare disease that could have been cured if not for the synthetic ban (which denied the family access to an active positronic matrix) — proving, according to Troi, that “real isn’t always better.” Soji is still intensely skeptical of everything, suspecting that this paradise and its kind inhabitants are part of an elaborate trap.

Picard tells Soji he understands her doubts, but she violently shoves him aside and storms off. Troi chastises Picard for not fully comprehending how shaken Soji has been by Narek’s subterfuge and attempt on her life.

While Picard struggles to forge a connection with Soji, Hugh tells Elnor he’s now going to lead an open revolt against the Romulans and seize control of the Artifact. Rizzo takes this as a violation of the treaty governing his service — thereby granting her permission to kill them both. Elnor dispatches Rizzo’s guards and directly engages her in combat. Using a dagger, Rizzo murders Hugh. She then beams away before Elnor can finish her off. With his final breath, Hugh tells Elnor that he needs an XB to activate the Queen Cell, and thanks the warrior for giving him hope. Shortly thereafter, Elnor finds a dog tag-like device that allows him to activate a Fenris Rangers SOS signal.

Over pizza dinner, Soji recounts Narek’s meditation-ritual ruse, and Kestra — with the aid of Captain Rupert Crandall, who also lives on Nepenthe — discovers the location of Soji’s homeworld, which doesn’t have a name but does have a number. Picard works hard to convince Soji that she can trust him, admitting he wants to help her because she’s the daughter of his dear friend Data. Moreover, before this undertaking, Picard was just wasting his life, whereas now, “I’m alive. And I have a mission, which means there’s not a hell of a chance that you or anyone else can stop me.”

The next morning, Picard and Riker take a walk to a forest-nestled lake. Picard has heard from Rios, and he talks to Riker about his “decidedly motley” new crew, who “seem to be carrying more baggage than all of you ever did.” Sitting on a pier bench, Riker lets Picard know that no one would think less of him if he gave up this quest. That said, Riker also says he never thought Picard had any business retiring, to which Picard replies, “And you were right.”

Picard thanks Riker for “so many things. But today, for not trying to talk me out of all this.” Riker says he knows better than to attempt that, since “that, my friend, was always a losing proposition.”

Kestra conveys to Soji that she understands what it’s like to experience something really awful (i.e. her brother’s death) and that what helped her get through it were her parents. She says Picard could be Soji’s new father figure and, in turn, Soji could be there for Picard. “I’ll think about it,” Soji responds.

After receiving Kestra’s compass as a gift, Soji and Picard say their farewells and beam back up to La Sirena.

Captain’s Log:

  • Kestra is named after Deanna Troi’s late older sister, who died when Troi was an infant – events that were first recounted in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s season seven episode, “The Dark Page.”
  • Elnor’s SOS call to the Fenris Rangers strongly suggests that we haven’t seen the last of Seven of Nine.
  • Presumably, Narek will also get more to do in the coming weeks, since this episode relegated him to fiddling with a toy while flying his ship (minus any dialogue).

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