Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 3 Review – Jinaal

The search for the next clue that will lead them to a powerful alien artifact takes Discovery back to Trill in an hour that’s more about interpersonal dynamics than adventure.

Wilson Cruz as Culber and Ian Alexander as Gray Til in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 3, season 5
Photo: John Medland /Paramount+

This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 3

After a pair of episodes that leaned pretty heavily into the adventure vibes of season 5’s central treasure hunt, Star Trek: Discovery goes back to what it does best: Talking about feelings. Best, of course, is a relative term in this context. If you find Discovery’s tendency to have its characters verbally hash out every relationship conflict and moral quandary they encounter to be a refreshing sign of maturity for the franchise, there’s a lot for you to enjoy here. If you think all this talking and self-reflection is a massive waste of time…well, you’re going to wonder where the high-speed sand chases and drone fights went. 

“Jinaal” is an hour that sees the Discovery crew continue their hunt for the puzzle pieces that will allegedly lead them to the Progenitors’ mysterious unnamed alien technology that may or may not be capable of creating life. It is certainly a less flashy episode than the two that immediately preceded it, and seems to be set on Trill largely so that Gray and Adira can break up. Technically, Burnham and company are there because the clue to the next piece is being held by a Trill symbiont, who still possesses the consciousness of Jinaal Bix, a host who lived at the same time as the Romulan scientists who started all this and joined with the symbiont upon his death. Team Discovery is hopeful the symbiont will not only be able to point them toward the next clue but help them get answers to what they’re searching for in the first place. 

Thanks to a Trill ritual that allows Jinaal’s consciousness to be transferred to another body for a limited amount of time, Dr. Culbert suddenly becomes a central figure in this particular adventure. This twist seems to exist largely to (finally) give Wilson Cruz something substantial to do, but he’s clearly having such a blast playing something different from anything he’s done on this show in the past that it’s difficult to resent it too much.

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Jinaal is all sorts of curious about what’s changed in the 900 years since and takes Burnham and Book on an unnecessarily convoluted mission to find the next puzzle piece. It involves a seemingly unending hike through a random canyon and an unexpected face-off with some very aggressive giant insect creatures with cloaking abilities and laser eyes. Space is awesome, y’all. 

In typical Discovery fashion, the face-off with the cloaking creatures isn’t so much a real fight as it is a test. The pair of them are guarding a nest, and Jinaal merely wants to know if Burnham and Book are the sort of people willing to do harm and kill innocents to advance their own agendas and get what they want. When they stand down and apologize to the creatures for invading their space (thank goodness for Book’s handy Doctor Dolittle-style mental abilities!), Jinaal’s convinced they’re trying to find the Progenitors’ tech for the right reasons. Of course, he still won’t just tell them where the group hid whatever the McGuffin is, because that would derail the plot of the entire season we’re watching. (He says it is because whoever retrieves it must be a “worthy seeker” who “followed the full path,” which is probably code for “the real Progenitor tech is the friends we made along the way” or something ridiculous like that, but I guess we’ll find out in seven more episodes.)

Meanwhile, back on the Discovery Captain—now Commander—Rayner arrives to take over as the ship’s first officer, and handles it about as well as anyone who saw last week’s episode probably expected: He’s basically being a jerk to everyone. Fully embracing the Not Here to Make Friends vibe, he resents being told to spend his first day aboard getting to know the crew, and repeatedly clashes with Tilly, who insists that he needs to connect with them to be an effective leader. Rayner, not a huge fan of talking, completely half-asses it, but still manages to glean quite a bit of genuine information out of the literal 20 words he allows each to speak to him. His presence makes for an interesting—and honestly, refreshing—change, particularly as there is (and should be) space on this show for characters who aren’t entirely in favor of excavating every emotional trauma they carry in the name of team cohesion. Rayner isn’t Saru, he shouldn’t have to be, and it’s a bit annoying that his very valid point about friendship and leadership roles being vastly different things gets overwhelmed by Tilly’s repeated insistence that he serve as an emotional support resource for everyone on board.

Speaking of our favorite Kelpian, now that he’s no longer part of the crew of Discovery, Saru is attempting to settle into his new role as a Federation ambassador. Admittedly, it feels a bit strange to have such a central Discovery character so removed from the season’s larger story, but he’s adorably nervous about the whole thing, and it does give us plenty of time to bask in the adorableness of Saru and T’Rina’s relationship, which is something that I, personally, will never complain about. (Is anyone else a bit peeved that we missed the entirety of their romance between them deciding they were into each other and getting engaged? Just me??) 

T’Rina is eager to announce their engagement now that Saru has been officially transferred to Federation Headquarters, but he’s taken aback by the political realities of what the sitting president of Ni’Var choosing to marry a Kelpian means. Ni’Var, after all, is a planet of competing factions, and we’ve seen T’Rina have to make compromises to appease the more hardline or conservative Vulcan purists in the past. It doesn’t help that her right-hand advisor is more than a bit pushy about the issue, insisting that Saru’s work could destabilize T’Rina’s position among her people. But T’Rina’s not having it, and rather resents the implication that she needs a minder or doesn’t understand who own political interests. Are our faves having their first fight? Yes, but don’t worry, they’re fine. They’re great, actually, because the one thing Discovery and its love of talking about feelings means is that all its romantic relationships are remarkably mature in the ways they navigate problems and emotional conflict. Within the space of 15 minutes, Saru has his first real disagreement with someone he loves, T’Rina steadfastly refuses to hide something she’s not ashamed of, and it’s all rather lovely in the end.

Though the ongoing threat of L’ak and Moll is little more than background noise during this episode, they catch up to the Discovery on Trill just in time to put some sort of tracking device on Adira, who’s busy watching Gray lead what appears to be a farewell ceremony for the symbiont who contained Jinaal. (In case anyone was wondering how they’d inevitably find the location of the third clue next week.) And despite Book’s insistence that his personal connection to Moll—through his former mentor—won’t impact his ability to help Michael find and ostensibly bring her and L’ak to justice, or at least stop them from selling off a deadly weapon to the galaxy’s worst people, the episode’s final moments certainly linger over a shot of him considering Moll’s picture. Long enough to make you wonder if there’s any way that statement could ever actually be true.

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4 out of 5