[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Thursday's episode of Star Trek: Picard, "Nepenthe." Read at your own risk.]
Thursday's episode of Star Trek: Picard may have changed the game for the eponymous captain. The hour, titled "Nepenthe," saw the former Star Fleet official visit two old friends, while another perished in service of the greater good.
With the Romulans hot on their trail, Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) and Soji (Isa Briones) arrive on the planet Nepenthe for temporary safety. They're immediately met by Kestra, a Wild Girl of the Woods who also happens to be the daughter of Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis). She doesn't recognize Picard at first and only lowers her weapon when he makes it clear that he's a friend of her parents. The young girl finally relents and leads them to her home, where Troi is waiting.
Since their wedding at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, Troi and Riker have enjoyed a happy life together. They now live in a charming cabin surrounded by trees, fresh herbs and plenty of love. Excited to see her friend, Troi pulls Picard in for a warm embrace and immediately senses that something's up. Though far removed from the Enterprise-D, she's still that same sensible empath able to read a person like pages in a book.
Picard then reunites with Riker, who's just as charming and debonair as ever. However, he's traded in his standard issue phaser for chef's knives and now spends much of his time cooking for his family. The pair chat about their last encounter, in which Picard had been prepping for his daring rescue mission to help the Romulans. If the CBS All Access series hadn't already made it clear that this was going to be be a different kind of Star Trek, having the titular character utter the phrase "ass deep in Romulans" while quoting his buddy certainly does.
Though Picard seems to be in his element among familiar faces, Soji is still struggling with the reality that she's a synthetic being likely created just three years ago. In a tender moment with Troi, she opens up about not being able to trust anyone given what's happened to her, which includes Narek (Harry Treadaway) manipulating her for information about her home planet.
Elsewhere, Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) and Elnor (Evan Evagora) attempt to start an insurrection aboard the Cube. Unfortunately, they are promptly caught by Narek's sister Narissa (Peyton List) and a fight ensues. After a quick but brutal battle, Hugh is gravely injured and uses his few last breaths to help Elnor finish what they started. It's a bittersweet sendoff for the beloved character, who, after feeling numb for so long, expressed hope in his final moments.
Back on Nepenthe, Riker cuts the small talk to get at why Picard suddenly dropped by for a visit. Picking up on his friend's anxiety and insistence on scanning for cloaking devices, he deduces that Picard and Soji are running from the Tal Shiar. And after seeing Soji tilt her head out of curiosity, he pieces together that the Romulan military force is after Soji, who's not just an android, but one made from Data's (Brent Spiner) DNA. "I recognize that head tilt anywhere," Riker tells Picard.
With his suspicions confirmed, Riker than calls out Picard for making all of the decisions about Soji himself, handling the situation like he's still the captain of the Enterprise. Given that he's now dealing with a full-fledged teenager, this is entirely new territory, and he needs to approach things differently. Recognizing this, Picard makes another attempt to connect with Soji, but it doesn't quite work, and Soji forcefully shoves him before storming off. Leave it to Troi to break down exactly why Picard should have seen that coming.
"Do you have any idea what that young woman's been through? What she's going through now? What the Romulans did to her?" Troi asks before detailing Soji's horrific experience with the Romulans and why it's so hard for her to trust anyone, let alone Picard. She then urges Picard to be the Jean-Luc she knew aboard the Enterprise:someone who's compassionate and patient.
It's only at dinner that Picard finally breaks through to Soji, who recalls a memory on her home world and its distinct double moons. Though she still doesn't trust Picard, she does open up about her experience with Narek, who's now en route to the unnamed planet. Kestra, who formed a special bond with Soji, immediately figures out the planet in question, and a plan to go there is set in motion.
Picard and Soji prepare to rejoin Rafi (Michelle Hurd) and Rios (Michelle Hurd), who are dealing with their own issues aboard the La Sirena. While at Daystrom, Agnes (Alison Pill) was confronted by Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), who illustrated via mind meld the apocalyptic future that awaits if synthetics are allowed to exist. Agnes agrees to help and swallows a tracking device that allows the Romulans to follow her. Now aboard the La Sirena and regretting that decision, Agnes tries to correct that betrayal by inducing herself into a coma. Rafi and Rios, unaware of her secret deal, are baffled as to what happened to their new friend.
But that's a question they'll have to explore at a later time. A series of sweet moments follow as Soji and Picard end their visit to Nepenthe. Riker tells Picard it's fine to rest and let others take care of the galaxy, especially given Picard's condition. Earlier this season, it was revealed that Picard's brain is deteriorating, the result of his brief time as a Borg. But Picard is sticking to his mission of helping Soji, which might be his most dangerous task to date. The episode ends with Picard and Soji beaming up to the La Sirena, parting ways with their friends for what might be the last time.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard drop every Thursday on CBS All Access.