This recap is posting late due to streaming issues with CBS All Access on Sunday night.
The cold open of Episode 6 introduces three seemingly disconnected plot lines. Captain Lorka begins grooming Ash Tyler to be Discovery's Security Officer. Michael is seen mentoring Tilly on her plans to make captain, encouraging Tilly not to rely on her strengths alone. Meanwhile, Serek is seen departing Vulcan on an undisclosed diplomatic mission. While in transit, he notices that his counterpart has altered their course. When confronted on this, his counterpart is revealed to be a Vulcan Logic Extremist; a fanatic sect who detest all humans and the United Federation of Planets. He then blows himself up as a martyr to his cause. The opening credits role before we can find out Serek's fate.
Upon meeting Ash for the first time, Michael collapses in the mess hall as Serek telepathically screams out to her. The experience is powerful, similar to what happened in the second episode, but this time it is erratic. Michael can tell that he is in pain and surmises he is likely unconscious. She asks Captain Lorka if he can help her find him. Lorka learns of Serek's last known position and leads Discovery on a rescue mission; characteristically defying orders from his superiors in Starfleet to stay put. This act becomes an important bit of foreshadowing.
The nebula that Serek's ship is trapped in proves impossible for Discovery's sensors. They decide that the best way to rescue him is to have Stamets concoct a means (they use a lot of jargon but didn't go into a lot of detail here) to enhance Michael's telepathy. She is then tasked with taking a shuttle, with Ash piloting and Tilly there to assist, into the nebula in order to reach Serek telepathically and force him back into consciousness so he can activate his ship's transponder. Simple. The only problem with the plan, as it turns out, is that Serek continually rejects Michael's attempts to reach him. Worse than that, he seems to be dwelling on his memory of what Michael considers her greatest failure: the day she failed to get into the Vulcan Expeditionary Group.
Meanwhile, back on Discovery, Captain Lorka is paid a visit by his friend and commanding officer Admiral Katrina Cornwell. What begins as her chastising him for defying direct orders yet again (and managing the rare fete of making a Vulcan Starfleet Admiral angry) quickly turns to a night of drinking and seduction. In the aftermath, while Lorka is sleeping, Cornwell tenderly traces the scars along his back with her finger. Startled awake by the touch, Lorka has one hand around her throat and a phaser to her head before she can so much as blink. He attempts to apologize and explain the overreaction by saying he's not used to company, but Cornwell sees right through it. He is still experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD (see the events described in episode 5) and that means he lied to Starfleet on his psych evaluations. Cornwell begins to realize he is not stable enough to be in command of Startfleet's most important vessel. She walks out with Lorka begging her not to take the only thing he has left.
Back in the nebula, Michael questions why Serek is dwelling on her biggest failure. Ash quickly points out that people rarely dwell on the failures of others on their deathbeds. They think of their loved ones and their own regrets. Maybe there is more to that day than she knows. Michael goes back in with a renewed courage; confronting Serek for a third time in his memory. He again fights her and tries to keep her out. Through her persistence, Michael finally convinces him to show her what he's been hiding. He finally relents. It wasn't that she was rejected, but that Serek had been forced to choose between her and his biological son Spock. Only one human (or half human in Spock's case) was to be allowed into the Vulcan Expeditionary Group, and Serek chose Spock. Adding insult to injury, Spock defied Serek's wishes and joined Starfleet instead. Finally Serek's barriers breakdown and Michael is able to truly connect to him, as he once connected with her as a child, and force him awake to activate the ships' transponder.
They quickly retrieve Serek and return to Discovery. Once he is stable in sick bay, Michael confronts him about how his deception, how he made her believe that she failed him, had caused her a lot of pain. He refuses to acknowledge the telepathic link they shared. He is back to the emotionless man she's always known. Embracing her new perspective on her own humanity, Michael apologizes for the way she was pushing Tilly in the beginning of the episode, and processes what she went through in the mess hall with Ash. She describes the profound weight she feels that has been lifted from her; that she and Serek will never be the person they need each other to be.
In the closing sequence, Admiral Cornwell takes up Serek's original mission to meet two rival Klingon houses, who were left out of the ruling regime, in an attempt to form a new alliance and bring an end to the war. It turns out to be a trap and she is taken captive. When Lorka learns of the news, he uncharacteristically decides to inform Starfleet and await their orders. An optimistic take on this would be that he has decided to honor her wishes for him to follow protocol. The far more likely and logical reason: if he were to rescue her, she would only follow through on her promise to take Discovery away from him. One thing is for certain: Lorka continues to be a sharp divergence of Star Trek captain's past.
In store for next week: fewer technical issues and the return of Harry Mudd!