Discovery’ Tries Too Many Connections In “Jinaal” – TrekMovie.com

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“Jinaal”

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5, Episode 3 – Debuted Thursday, April 11, 2024
Written by Kyle Jarrow & Lauren Wilkinson
Directed by Andi Armaganian

Strong performances and fun moments of lightness and lore make up for a mixed bag of stories jumbled into a single episode.

 Yes, you can come on the mission… to the friend zone.

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

“Connection isn’t a skill, it’s a choice.”

As Discovery preps to head to Trill for the next quest clue, the crew settles into their season positions. Culber and Book brief the captain on the adversaries, with new details on Moll thanks to Book recognizing a personal connection in the previous episode. Michael’s felonious ex is trying hard to get his life back, so he really wants in on the Trill landing party even though he isn’t Starfleet—as if that has ever stopped them before. Adira and Tilly have identified a Trill spots pattern on the map puzzle piece found last week, leading them to a 24th-century Trill named Jinaal (episode title alert), and maybe his Bix symbiont is still around. Former Captain—now Commander—Rayner comes aboard, and Burnham orders her new first officer to get to know the crew whether he likes it or not. As for Stamets, he continues to be a bit lost, so he’s focused on trying to unlock the secrets in Dr. Vellek’s old tricorder, ignoring Adira’s clear discombobulation over seeing Gray again. It takes Reno going full “woo-woo a-hole” to snap spacedad out of it. So things are more or less running smoothly until they arrive on Trill, when Guardian Xi goes full Monty Python bridge-keeper. Thankfully, Michael answers the riddle quickly (it’s Betazed!) and she pops down to the Caves of Mak’ala with Adira, Culber, and (of course) Book… where they meet what may be the oldest Trill ever.

Kalzara Bix tells the gang she has been waiting nearly her whole life for a “worthy seeker.” For more questions, they can ask Jinaal directly via that Trill ritual we all remember from DS9. Culber steps up as a temporary vessel since “Emotionally overwhelming is what I do best.” Et voilà, Hugh is a whole new man, who immediately comments about how he really works out (someone has been tracking his Gram). This very jaunty Culber-Jinaal says the next clue is nearby, and today is a great day for a walk, so he takes Burnham and Book with him. Upon their arrival at the canyon, Jinaalber opens up with some exposition about himself, Dr. Vellek, and four other scientists who found the Progenitor tech but decided it was way too dangerous to hand over to the Federation in the middle of the Dominion War. So they created a fun quest, planting a “path” of clues to be followed. He’s skeptical the 32nd century is ready for the awesome power (despite Starfleet’s snazzy new uniforms), but Michael makes the case that the good outweighs the bad. BTW, they are being hunted by giant “Intronok” predators, so the quasi Trill recommends phasers ready. Once they arrive at the clue’s location, a plasma-spewing monster gets in their way… and Hughbix peaces out. Dude!

You two go ahead… I’ll just strategically hide behind you.

“We literally used to be connected.”

Back at Starfleet HQ the newly minted Ambassador Saru is settling into his new office with a little help from his Vulcan fiancé. They plan their wedding announcement before heading into a resource meeting, where he successfully argues for more allocations to the small worlds he represents, forging a compromise with others who are worried about the Breen (hmm). T’Rina’s aide Duvin takes Saru aside to say he is concerned about how the wedding announcement will impact delicate Ni’Var politics, but when the Kelpien brings this up with his beloved, she doesn’t take it well. “What would have given you the impression that I am in need of a caretaker?” she asks. Ouch. Navigating Federation diplomacy (and a starship) was a lot easier than understanding a Vulcan heart.

On the Disco, Saru’s replacement isn’t having it any easier. For some reason, temporary science consultant Tilly is organizing Rayner’s one-on-ones. He really doesn’t want to do them, but agrees for the sake of “crew cohesion” and gives everyone “20 words” to reveal something interesting about themselves. Cue the montage as we learn fun new tidbits for the folks at Memory Alpha to add to the pages for Rhys, Christopher, Linus, Pollard, et al. When Stamets shows up and actually shows some enthusiasm for the first time this season (he was able to crack Vellek’s PADD), Rayner practically ignores him and Tilly has finally had enough. She lets the new XO know he is being a giant… well she ran out of her 20 words so we will have to fill in the blank.

One person who misses out on this (not) quality time with Rayner is Adira. They are busy reconnecting with Gray on Trill, who is loving life as a trainee Guardian. Now that each of them has their own body, they realize they both have been growing apart and following separate paths. So season 5 gets its second breakup following Mike and Book… could T’Rina and Saru be next? Noooooo.

What do you mean, no diving?

“Analyzing is not the same as connecting.”

Back to the important stuff, Book tries his glowing forehead empathy connection but all he gets from the monster is that it’s “really pissed off.” Duh. In a replay of the action from last week, Book does some distracting under fire while Michael heads to the rock with the clue symbol on it to get the big prize. Things do not go as planned, and he gets hit. They are pinned down as a second monster shows up. But the creatures aren’t looking at the Starfleet duo as food, just protecting their nest of monster eggs. Aww. Time for Plan B. Michael again remembers her xenoanthropology and holsters her phaser, showing respect to the now calming Intronoks. Book does the same and communicates they just want to leave as they slowly back off… and soon enough they find Dr. Hugh Jinaal casually lounging on a rock, quipping, “I see you survived.” Michael sorts it out: He drew them to that nest after suggesting they arm phasers. By connecting instead of shooting, they passed another test. He was willing to let them die just to see if there was “goodness” in them, but they survived, so they win the prize: the clue and the second map piece, hidden under a totally different rock. Sneaky Trill.

After Culber gets swapped back he heads back to the ship to decompress from a big day of being possessed. Michael catches up to him in the lounge, where they contemplate the spiritual implications of the journey they are on, seeking the technology of the gods. Tilly is also there, and Rayner arrives to let her know he gets it—there is some value in showing respect to the people under his command. Oh and back at HQ, Saru apologizes to T’Rina for Kelpiensplaining Vulcan politics, and she’s totally cool about it, so they’re fine. Things wrap up in the Trill caves with Bix returning to the symbiont pool and Adira and Gray saying goodbye as well. But wait, what’s that? It’s Moll! Disguised as a Trill, she surreptitiously puts something onto Adira’s sleeve before the ensign beams back to the Disco. Dun dun duuun!

What about a four-shift rotation?

ANALYSIS

Connect 4

After two strong episodes, things are more mixed for episode 3. The blend of plot, character, and action was not as finely balanced, mostly due to carrying the load of four separate storylines. This kind of multi-POV storytelling has always been a challenge for Discovery, but there were some big highlights that kept the episode a winner overall. The MVP is Wilson Cruz, who finally got the opportunity to step out of his Hugh Culber and play a different character, a time-honored Trek tradition. His Jinaal was believably a unique individual, down to his speech pattern and gait, with a clear motivation. This storyline tied into all of the others with the not-very-subtle theme of connection; however, there was a more nuanced exploration for Culber and Burnham about the season’s bigger questions about science and faith that was more interesting. And the riddle for passage bit was a nice classic quest beat, evoking ancient adventures. The action sequences felt a bit repetitive after last week, but they made up for it with some fun as Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala again demonstrated their playful chemistry.

The Rayner storyline was also a high point.  He continues to be a great addition to the show, bringing all sorts of Jellico, Lorca, and even some Shaw vibes, but still being his own man (sorry, Kellerun). Callum Keith Rennie and Mary Wiseman showed they have their own delightful dynamic. It may not have made sense for Tilly to act as HR for the ship (especially as she’s only on loan as a science advisor from the Academy), but all of these scenes were still refreshing as we got to add little bits of dimension to members of the crew from Linus’ pride over three clutches of eggs to Rhys lusting over the fine curves of old Constitution classes… and the gruff-off between Rayner and Reno was all too brief. But there was a point to all of this, showing welcome growth for both Rayner and Tilly and the rest of the gang too, although it is not clear why the new characters of Gallo and Asha had to sub in for Owo and Detmer.

Contemplating the meaning of life?… Or if he can skip leg day?

Things started going off the rails with the Saru and T’Rina storyline, which started to feel like an unnecessary distraction. Giving him this new post as ambassador is a good way to shake things up as well as to do some world-building for the show, something that may prove useful for the upcoming Academy series as well. But instead of Federation West Wing, things got more alien I Love Lucy with Ambassador Saru having some ‘splaining to do. Doug Jones and Tara Rosling did their best with the material but the rigmarole about their marriage announcement was low stakes at best, even if this bit about Vulcan purists is setting something up for later. As for the Gray and Adira storyline, it felt like this was mostly just going through the motions, but at least it established that Adira is now fully independent, confirming their new agency. Blu del Barrio’s performance was grounded, making all of this more relatable. But trying to balance these two extra storylines definitely did not help the episode when it came to pacing.

Even with all these character stories, there was some season plot development. We learned key bits about Moll, while L’ak remains a mystery, but that’s okay for now. The origins of the quest are also coming into focus with the story of the six scientists and a reasonable explanation for why they can’t just jump to the end. It feels like we will learn more about the other four scientists as we pick up more pieces of the map. And there was also a bit more worldbuilding as another hint of a coming Breen threat was mentioned. And dare we hope the mention of the Tzenkethi means we will finally see them in canon? Fans were rewarded with plenty of nods to lore, with the main plot structured around the Zhian’tara ritual from DS9’s “Facets,” and the addition of new Trill canon. Nods to Tongo and Bynars along with deeper cuts to Selay, Vavinit plants, cabrodine, Slug-o-Cola, bore worms, and more should have resulted in plenty of Rick Dalton meme moments, especially for Deep Space Nine fans. While it all seems like a lot, these were mostly Easter eggs to reward fans without turning into the dreaded “fan service.”

Now on the runway, Ambassador Saru sporting the new Diplomacy in Blue line.

Final thoughts

Even with all the juggling, episode 3 still was self-contained while carrying on the serialized story. While not as strong as the first two episodes, season 5 still remains entirely entertaining. The show has nicely pivoted with clearer themes, a fun tone, and better connections to lore while still servicing the characters and their emotional stories.

You can really taste the algae.

Bits

  • A USS Locherer could be seen at Starfleet HQ, named in honor of camera operator J.P Locherer, who passed away in 2022.
  • The previously unnamed bar lounge is called “Red’s,” possibly named for the Ferengi bartender, who got their first line in this episode.
  • The Osnullus bridge officer’s name is Lt. Arev.
  • Lt. Christopher confirmed that Lt. Commander Nilsson has been reassigned to the USS Voyager-J.
  • Christopher also reassured Rayner his pet tribble (a gift from Nilsson) was neutered.
  • Trill spots are as unique as human fingerprints, as are Saurian dorsal ridges.
  • In addition to the Selay, the ambassador meeting also included a Facian.

The Selay ambassador is upset this committee doesn’t warrant those cool floating chairs.

More to come

Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe and discusses the latest episode. The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsStitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.

The fifth and final season of Discovery debuted with two episodes on Thursday, April 4 exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the UK, Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and Austria. Discovery will also premiere on April 4 on Paramount+ in Canada and will be broadcast on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada. The rest of the 10-episode final season will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays. Season 5 debuts on SkyShowtime in select European countries on April 5.


Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.



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