Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Absolute Candor redirects here; for the philosophical ideal, please see Way of Absolute Candor.

The crew's journey to Freecloud takes a detour when Picard orders a stop at the planet Vashti, where Picard and Musiker relocated Romulan refugees fourteen years earlier. Upon arrival, Picard reunites with Elnor, a young Romulan he befriended during the relocation. Meanwhile, Narek continues his attempts to learn more about Soji while Narissa's impatience with his lack of progress grows.

Summary

Teaser

Jean-Luc Picard visits a Romulan Relocation Hub on Vashti in 2385. The settlement is lively, and the Romulans seem to be getting accustomed to their new lives as they go about their daily routines. When Picard beams down, many Romulans are excited to see him and rush over to him for any updates on the evacuation of Romulan worlds from the impending supernova. Picard is quick to assure them that the Federation will not abandon them and will help them settle in their new life.

A young boy named Elnor sees Picard beam down, hurries to the Qowat Milat's dwelling, and informs the sisters that Picard is coming. Shortly thereafter, Picard enters and greets everyone. Elnor is shy at first, but one of the warrior nuns, Zani, tells him to make himself seen, noting that he's been talking excitedly about Picard since his last visit. Elnor eagerly asks Picard if he brought him a present, to which Picard responds by giving Elnor a copy of The Three Musketeers. Zani rebukes Elnor's excited reactions, saying that Picard is not fond of emotional displays or children. Picard reassures Elnor that he's actually very fond of him, promising to read the book with Elnor later on. Picard thanks Zani and the Qowat Milat for their recent help in successfully relocating over ten thousand new refugees, and says that the Federation is in debt to them. He also gives Zani some sweet hanifak as a gift.

As they eat and speak, Picard notes how it must be difficult for Elnor, being the only boy in a house full of women, as the Qowat Milat is, by tradition, an all-female organization. Zani agrees that Elnor is loved, but does not belong with them. Picard promises that he will find a more suitable place for Elnor to live as soon as he can. Elnor and Picard in the meantime bond with each other on multiple ways, as Picard reads The Three Musketeers and gives Elnor fencing lessons. The are enjoying their time together when Raffi Musiker unexpectedly hails Picard. Picard tries to disregard the call, but is suddenly disturbed by what he hears, and responds "What do you mean, synths have attacked Mars?"

Informed of the devastating attack, Picard leaves earlier than anticipated. Picard meets with the nuns and assures them that he intends to make sure the mission to evacuate the Romulans moves forward as planned, and promises he will be back soon. Elnor just watches, hidden behind some curtains as Picard beams away.

Act One

La Sirena starts its warp drive as Cristóbal Rios sits on the bridge reading The Tragic Sense of Life when Doctor Agnes Jurati greets him. She attempts to engage him in conversation while he silently reads. She mentions that she was able to catch up on two years of back issues of the Journal of Theoretical Cybernetics and that she watered Rios' plants, and expresses confusion as to why Rios' holo-programs only include Klingon opera, to which he says is a long story. Jurati then remembers how she used to live with someone who loved reading paper books, and how she would bother him when he read them. Rios asks what he did about it, and Jurati only responds that since the person was her father, he just had to put up with it. It's then that Raffi Musiker angrily enters the bridge after noticing an abrupt change in the navigational log. Demanding to know where they're going, Rios tells her that Picard requested a stop at Vashti on their way to Freecloud.

Picard meanwhile is in a holographic recreation of his study back at Château Picard. He pauses the recreation, and the Emergency Hospitality Hologram asks if the program is inaccurate, to which Picard replies that everything seems absolutely correct. The EHH seems pleased, noting that the holoscans that Zhaban provided were very detailed, and that they were meant to make Picard feel more at home. Picard notes the strange presence of the EHH on the ship, to which the EHH says that while he came with the basic installation, his services on La Sirena are very rarely needed. Musiker then enters the holodeck, inquiring about Picard's decision to go to Vashti. Rios enters, and expresses his disdain for the EHH as the hologram deactivates. They join Picard for a cup of tea, and Musiker states her opinion that going to Vashti is a bad idea. Picard says that he is as eager to get to Freecloud as Musiker is, to which she immediately denies being eager. Jurati then enters the holodeck, and Musiker, in frustration, says that they can go to Vashti. Rios notes that the Qiris sector has been sketchy with criminal activity. He points out that it's mainly a power vacuum for smugglers and warlords like Kar Kantar, who practically controls the sector with a 23rd century Bird-of-Prey. Musiker scolds Rios for not telling Picard this information sooner, but Rios simply replies that he figured Picard already knew. Picard notes that the Qiris sector is in the territory belonging to the Fenris Rangers, only for Rios to correct him that the Rangers no longer control the area due to a lack of resources.

Musiker also mentions that Vashti is home to many Romulans of the Romulan Rebirth movement, and doubts that Picard will be successful in getting the services of one of the Qowat Milat warrior nuns. Jurati expresses confusion by what she means, and Musiker tells her that Picard is looking to hire an assassin. Picard clarifies that the nuns are not assassins, and that they can't be hired. Picard is going in the hopes that one will willfully choose someone. Picard talks about his past dealings with the Qowat Milat, and how they helped him and Musiker relocate more than a quarter of a million refugees during the evacuations. He also says that they are perhaps the most skilled warriors he's ever seen, and that even the Tal Shiar fear them. Rios is skeptical of Picard's ambitions to gain their service when it sounds like Picard owes more to them than they would to him. Picard notes that they have their own criteria on whether to give or hold their services for a cause. Picard is also confident that the nuns will find their cause worthy, noting that even if they don't, the Way of Absolute Candor will bind them to let him know. Picard resumes the holographic recreation, and Musiker approaches him and tries to reason with him. She understands that Dahj's death is making Picard think of Elnor, and asks that they focus on one thing at a time, and for them to get to Freecloud before going to Vashti. However, Picard tells her that they will still go, since he may not ever get the chance to come this way again. He then exits the holodeck, and heads for his quarters.

On the Artifact, Soji Asha is watching a holographic projection of an old Romulan talk show while she arranges pixmit cards. In the projection, Ramdha is talking about Ganmadan, which the Romulans say is the Day of Annihilation. She says how the day is the end of all life everywhere, when shackled demons will answer the call of Seb-Cheneb, the Destroyer. As she says this, Soji looks disturbed, remembering what Ramdha had called her a short time ago.

La Sirena reaches Vashti where they are met with a planetary defense system that the Fenris Rangers had helped to install. Musiker calls the system primitive but effective. She notes that every thirty minutes, the shield opens up for interstellar traffic with clearance, and that ships without clearance are immediately fired upon. She's also been unable to get the clearance to pass, saying that even when she said that Picard was aboard, the Romulans were unimpressed. Rios suggests that they offer a cash gift instead.

Picard beams down to Vashti's Romulan Relocation Hub. He is shocked to see that in the last fourteen years, the hub has not fared well. While still heavily populated by Romulan refugees, the settlement suffers from poverty, degradation, and ethnic strife. Unlike the last time he was here, Romulans ignore his presence and his overtures as he attempts to greet some. A few eye him in contempt from afar. One even signals another Romulan through a communicator when he sees Picard. Picard makes his way to the house of the Qowat Milat, where he sees Zani. He greets her, and though surprised to see him, she and the other sisters return his greeting. Picard is happy to see her, and tells her that though he knows he has no right to ask, that he needs her help one last time. A loud crash is heard, and a grown-up Elnor dashes through the curtains, apologizing before he realizes Picard is standing before him.

Act Two

Soji is monitoring Ramdha as Ramdha lays on a biobed, unconscious. Narek enters and notes how Ramdha has always been tormented, saying that he isn't surprised she attempted suicide. Soji doesn't understand why she feels drawn to her, but blames herself for Ramdha's outburst, saying that it was something about her that disturbed Ramdha, but that when Ramdha saw her, she felt seen. They go to the mess hall and share a bottle of Romulan ale, and Soji admits that Narek's mysterious nature challenges her paradigm. She asks Narek how he knew she would go to the Disordered Ward, to which Narek denies that he knew at all. She asks if Narek has been watching her, which he also denies. Soji notes his lack of uniform, insignia, and rank, and that he knows an unusual amount of information, and can go wherever he pleases on the artifact, leading her to the conclusion that he is working with the Tal Shiar. Narek denies this as well, though admits that if he was Tal Shiar, he would still deny it. Soji asks him about the Shaenor, but he claims not to know anything, saying that he's sure the Borg databases have those records. Soji says those records are classified and asks if he has access to them, which Narek says he doesn't, but might know someone who does.

Narek then takes her to one of the cube's ventilation shafts. While they walk there, they talk about Ramdha, and how Soji learned to speak fluent Romulan. Narek concludes that she had to have learned it sometime before May 12th, 2396, when Soji left for the Beta Quadrant aboard the Ellison. Soji confirms that Narek has indeed been watching her. They reach the ventilation shaft, and Narek has Soji remove her shoes. Afterward he runs down the shaft and glides along the floor with a gleeful cheer, and she does the same. The two enjoy themselves as they glide through the shaft and engage in a kiss, before Narek tells Soji that the Ellison's passenger list shows no record of her ever having been aboard the ship. Soji once more says she was, and when she realizes that Narek is accusing her of lying about it, she angrily says "To hell with you". She begins to leave him, before he once more asks if she is interested in accessing the classified Borg data files on the Shaenor. She asks what he's doing, and he simply responds that he's doing the same thing she is; feeding an insatiable curiosity.

On La Sirena, Musiker picks up a transmission and realizes that someone has identified Picard on Vashti, and has sent out an alert to other Romulans. When they recommend to Picard that they beam him out, he declines, and says he needs more time to converse with the Qowat Milat. Musiker warns him that there is a lot of anger in the Romulans for what happened between them and Picard in the past, but Picard emphasizes that he is safe with the Qowat Milat. Rios then detects an incoming ship, which turns out to be Kar Katar's Bird-of-Prey. Picard tells them to do what they need to do, but he needs more time, before terminating communications.

On Vashti, Picard and Zani continue to talk. Zani tells Picard how most of the Qowat Milat sisters serve as freeblades. Picard asks if they still bind themselves to a cause, and Zani says they do if the cause is judged worthy. Elnor brings a meal to Picard, which Picard politely declines, but this upsets Elnor, who exits the house. Zani realizes that Picard is shamed in seeing that Elnor never did find a new home after all these years, but Picard also laments in the state of the Relocation Hub, and how it has degraded so badly since the Federation cut ties with the Romulans. Zani simply observes that because Picard was unable to save everyone, he saved no one. Picard responds that he allowed the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Zani asks him what his cause is in regards to his inquiry for the Qowat Milat, and when Picard mentions that he will be taking on the Tal Shiar, Zani recommends that Picard talk to Elnor of his cause. Though Elnor can never truly be of the Qowat Milat since he's a man, Zani tells Picard that Elnor's skills in battle are formidable, and that though the journey may be dangerous, and may even kill Elnor in the end, she will be happy knowing that he will have ended up living, rather than dying on Vashti.

Act Three

Picard approaches Elnor to formally ask him to judge his cause. He recalls how Data sacrificed his life to save Picard's life. He goes on to say that he had recently learned that Data had two offspring, how one was murdered in front of Picard, and how Picard wished to find the second one to save it from the same fate. Mentioning that the Tal Shiar are hunting her, Elnor surmises that the other sister is an android, then recalls stories that Picard had told him about Data, and his pet, Spot. Elnor then asks Picard why he needs Elnor, and Picard mentions his failure to protect Dahj. Elnor mentions that Picard doesn't know where the other sister is, if she's even alive, if Bruce Maddox is still alive, and that Picard anticipates pursuit by the Tal Shiar. Elnor mentions that Picard needs someone, but once more asks why Picard needs him specifically. Picard mentions that Elnor is young and strong, and that Zani had recommended Elnor to him. Picard believes his cause to be appropriate for the criteria of the Qowat Milat, but Elnor gets upset once more and recalls how Picard had left him on his own all those years ago, and ignoring Picard's pleas, leaves Picard, saying he has no reason not to do the same.

Picard lets Rios know that he's ready to leave, and Rios lets him know that the next available window for transport will be in seven minutes. Picard returns to the center of the settlement, and noticing a restaurant that serves only Romulans, decides to defy the warning, and enters the restaurant. Many Romulans take offense to this, but none confront him as he greets them, and sits down, attempting to get service. He is then approached by an ex-Romulan Senator named Tenqem Adrev, who introduces himself to Picard and mentions how he was present when Picard addressed the Hall of State as the embodiment of Starfleet; he remembers the many promises that the "great Saint Picard" made, which Adrev found very touching, moving him to tears. He remembers Picard bringing Wallenberg-class transport ships, and how many of the residents of Vashti boarded the Nightingale. Picard laments that the short amount of time made the evacuation difficult, but Adrev simply retorts that little was expected of Starfleet, and shows visible anger for Picard that he gave up the evacuation efforts. Adrev calls a few friends over, but before Picard can attempt to reason with them, Adrev angrily says that Starfleet had deliberately misunderstood Romulan self-sufficiency, and accuses Picard of trying to deliberately confuse and divide the Romulan people. Picard angrily rebukes the claim.

Having heard enough, Adrev tells one of his friends to give Picard his sword, meaning to engage Picard in combat, but Picard refuses. Adrev doesn't take the refusal for an answer, forcibly gives him a sword, and has him moved into the streets, where he attacks Picard. Picard, assuming a traditional fencing stance, successfully parries the attack, but throws the blade aside, refusing to fight. At that moment, Elnor appears, and tells Adrev, "choose to live". Adrev ignores Elnor, and moves to attack Picard once more. With remarkable speed, Elnor successfully subdues Adrev's friends and decapitates Adrev, lamenting "I regret your choice". Elnor then addresses the crowd that has since gathered to watch the confrontation, and binds himself to Picard as his qalankhkai, warning the crowd that anyone who threatens Picard will be choosing to die by his blade. Picard urges Elnor to put his blade away, before he himself addresses the crowd, acknowledging that both he and the Federation have failed the Romulans. He apologizes that he broke faith with the Romulans, resulting in the terrible pain and loss the Romulans have since had to suffer. Elnor realizes that Picard is also speaking indirectly to him. Rios hails Picard and tells him he's ready to transport them to the ship. At that moment, one of Adrev's friends pulls out a disruptor, but both Elnor and Picard are beamed to La Sirena before he has a chance to fire.

Safely on the ship, Picard angrily scolds Elnor for killing Adrev. Elnor responds that Adrev chose to die, since fighting a Qowat Milat is a battle that is not favorable. Picard angrily says that he will benefit from Elnor's skill and courage, but will tell him when to fight and when to refrain, and has Elnor swear on this. Picard then introduces Elnor to Jurati and Musiker, and Musiker is visibly unimpressed. As they head to the bridge, Picard asks what made Elnor change his mind and bind him to Picard's cause. Elnor simply replies that the cause met the requirements for worthiness, and that Picard needed Elnor after all. Jurati asks what the requirements were, and Picard responds that a qalankhkai will only bind herself (or himself in Elnor's case) to a cause that is deemed lost.

Act Four

On the Artifact, Narissa enters Narek's quarters and startles him from sleep. She taunts him asking if he was expecting his "robot friend", and taunts him for his passionate encounters he's had with her. Narek simply emphasizes that he's interested in her obsession with Ramdha, what truly happened after the Artifact assimilated the Shaenor, and why the crew and passengers lost their minds after assimilation. Narissa simply expresses frustration at Narek's slow approach to Soji. Narek is cautious as he fears that if he presses her too hard, she will activate, resulting in her death, like Dahj. Narissa is unsympathetic, reminding him that the long-term goal is that they eventually will be dead, and Narek tries to explain that he wants to kill all of them, but emphasizes that they can't kill them until they find where they're coming from. Narissa simply rebukes that in his approach, he just slides further into his own goals, and wonders of Soji is handling him, rather than he, her. She has him remind her that she is Seb-Cheneb, before telling him that she'll let him take his approach further for one last week, but warns that if there are no further results, she will take matters into her own hands. She then leaves him in his quarters, visibly torn in what to do and banging his head against the bulkhead.

Back in orbit of Vashti, Kar Kantar's Bird-of-Prey arrives on the scene and opens fire on La Sirena. Rios begins to execute evasive maneuvers, noting that the Bird-of-Prey has a primitive targeting system, but he is still worried about the planet's security net. Jurati asks if they can escape the Bird-of-Prey, and Rios responds that while they are more nimble, the Bird-of-Prey is likely faster than his ship. As the ship takes another hit, he activates Emmet, a hologram for tactical emergencies. Emmet handles the ship's phasers while Rios continues to maneuver the ship. The Bird-of-Prey begins to herd La Sirena towards the planet's security net, and Rios executes a series of maneuvers, but gets too close to the net. At that moment, an unidentified ship suddenly enters the fray and fires on the Bird-of-Prey. Their combined phaser fire cripples the Bird-of-Prey, but immediately afterwards, the unidentified ship takes a critical hit from the Bird-of-Prey.

Musiker tells Picard that the ship is hailing them, and Picard habitually orders for a channel to be opened. Rios agrees and opens a communications channel, and Musiker replies that the pilot is asking for permission to be beamed to La Sirena. Emmet believes beaming over the unidentified pilot would present too big a risk, but Musiker pushes, stating that the pilot's ship is breaking up. They immediately beam the pilot over, with Elnor readying himself for a potential threat, before the pilot's ship crashes into Vashti's planetary shield. The pilot materializes on the bridge, and is revealed to be none other than Seven of Nine, whom Picard immediately identifies. Exhausted and sporting an injury to her forehead, Seven tells Picard that he owes her a new ship and then collapses on the deck.

Memorable quotes

"You're making the admiral uncomfortable, Elnor. He dislikes displays of emotion, and he's not overly fond of children."

- Zani


"A promise is a prison, Elnor. Do not make yourself another's jailer."
"And that reminds me, Zani, last time I made you a promise that I would try and find some sweet hanifak, but I totally forgot that promises were prisons, so..."

- Zani and Picard


"What's your book about?"
"The existential pain of living with the consciousness of death and how it defines us as Human beings."
"Well, that's not a conversation killer at all. I totally want to talk about the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death."

- Agnes Jurati and Cristóbal Rios


"Man can't even take a guilt trip without using a starship."

- Raffi Musiker, on Picard


"I hate that fucking hospitality hologram."

- Rios


"I am as eager to get to Freecloud as you."
"I- Did I ever say I was eager you get to Freecloud? Do- Do I seem eager to you?"
"I would say more… apprehensive."

- Picard, Musiker, and Rios


"What's the Way of Absolute Candor?"
"It's their primary teaching: total communication of emotion without any filter between thought and word. And it runs entirely counter to everything that the Romulans hold dear."

- Jurati and Picard


"You got old, Admiral Picard."
"You didn't."
"I remind you that this is a house of truth."

- Zani and Picard


"No uniform, no insignia, no rank, you go anywhere you like on the Artifact, and you know things. Are you Tal Shiar?"
"No."
"If you were Tal Shiar, would you also answer no?"
"Yes."

- Soji Asha and Narek


"You're not too late to rescue Elnor. He does not belong here. Once the evacuation ended, we simply never found a better home for him."
"He completed his training?"
"Last spring."
"So he really is a Qowat Milat?"
"No, and as a man, he never can be. But he is open-hearted, and apart from this display of the reticence you always seemed to inspire in him, forthright. And his fighting skills are truly formidable."
"And you would send him away? He might find himself in serious danger. He might die."
"He will. Before that comes to pass, it would gladden my heart to see him live."

- Zani and Picard, on Elnor


"We had so little time. There was so many of you to save."
"And so little to be expected from Starfleet."

- Picard and Tenqem Adrev


(in Romulan) "My friends, I grieve."
"No one asked for your pity, Picard, just as no one asked for your help. You and Starfleet had no understanding of Romulan ingenuity, resolve, self-sufficiency! You took advantage of us at the very moment where we doubted ourselves, enticed us with your empty promises, and did everything in your power to scatter, confuse, and divide us!"
"That is NOT so!"

- Picard and Adrev


"Please, my friend, choose to live… I regret your choice."

- Elnor, confronting Adrev


(in Romulan) "I have bound myself to Picard as qalankhkai. Anyone who threatens him will be choosing to die!"

- Elnor, declaring himself to be qalankhkai to Picard


"Have you entertained for even a moment that she might be the one handling you?"

- Narissa, to Narek


"¡Chasumadre!"

- Rios


"... Seven of Nine...?"
"You owe me a ship, Picard."

- Picard, and Seven of Nine's first words to him

Background information

Cast and characters

Visual effects

  • The wide establishing shots of the Vashti surface are recycled footage from "The Vulcan Hello", filmed on location in Jordan, modified with new CGI elements. [2]

Music and sound

Continuity

Reception and aftermath

Links and references

Starring

With
And

Special guest star

Guest starring

Co-starring

Uncredited co-stars

References

2385; 2396; Abyssus; anatomical correctness; antique; Artifact; assassin; Asha, Dahj; auto-evasion protocol; back issue; Beta Quadrant; board game; bribery; Camille Pissaro, a Self-Portrait; cash; cat; Cello Suite No. 1 in G major; Central Station; Château Picard; Christ on the Mount of Olives; Class C shuttlecraft; combadge (comm pin); convoy; Cristal Fêlé; D'Artagnan; Daimanta; Data; de Unamuno, Miguel; deflector shield; Disordered Ward; disruptor (disruptor pistol); doctor; duel; Dumas, Alexandre; Earth; Ellison; Emergency Hologram basic installation; Emergency Hospitality Hologram (EHH); Emergency Tactical Hologram (ETH); ethnic strife; existentialism; Federation; fencing; Fenris Rangers; festschrift; Five Studies of a French Pointer; Freecloud; French language; fucking; Ganmadan; Hall of State; holo; holomatrix; holo-scan; inertial dampener; Journal of Theoretical Cybernetics; Jurati's dad; Jussac; Kar Kantar; Klingon opera; Kwok; La Sirena; love letter; Mars; Milky Way Galaxy; nav log; Nightingale; North Station; North Station Guest House; nun; orange; orbital killer drone; paper book; paradigm; passenger list; patrolling; pixmit; planetary defense system; pleasure; poverty; power vacuum; professor; public record; qalankhkai; Qiris sector; Qowat Milat; refugee; ritual; road; Romulan; Romulan ale; Romulan Bird-of-Prey (Kar Kantar's Bird-of-Prey); Romulan drone; Romulan language; Romulan Rebirth movement; Romulan Relocation Hub; Romulan Social Club; Romulan Senate; Romulan warbird; saint; Saints Peter and Paul; Seattle; Seb-Cheneb; security net; senator; Seven of Nine's ship; Shaenor; Shaenor passengers; sisterboy; Sir Neville Wilkinson on the Steps of the Palladian Bridge at Wilton House; Spanish language; Spot; Southeast Station; Starfleet; Starfleet insignia; statue; study; sweet hanifak; sword; Tal Shiar; talk show; tan qalanq; targeting system; tattoo; Terran; Three Musketeers, The; thrusters; Tragic Sense of Life, The; transit zone; transponder; transporter; trilobite; Twain, Mark; Vashti; Vashti insect; Vashti moon; Vashti suns; ventilation return; View of the monument erected by the Emperor Titus Vespasian restored for the new aqueducts of Anion and Claudia; waiter; Wallenberg-class; warlord; warrior; waterway; Way of Absolute Candor; Women in an Interior; Yrrh Mnrrh; Zhaban; zhamaq

External links


Previous episode:
"The End is the Beginning"
Star Trek: Picard
Season 1
Next episode:
"Stardust City Rag"
Community content is available under CC-BY-NC unless otherwise noted.