‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season 3 Episode 4 Recap: Truth and Consequences

Mar 9, 2023

With its fourth episode, entitled “No Win Scenario,” Star Trek: Picard Season 3 delves into the tenuous relationship forming between Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his newfound son Jack (Ed Speleers), which plays out against the backdrop of the dire situation that the crew of the Titan finds themselves in, after Picard’s impulsive decisions in Episode 3. While the family drama plays out aboard the starship, Captain Shaw’s (Todd Stashwick) distaste for Picard and the Borg finally comes into focus, with revelations about the last time Shaw crossed paths with Picard.

Following last week’s tense closing moments, Episode 4 opens in a far more upbeat manner, with a flashback to five years ago. While Picard nurses a drink at 10 Forward, a gaggle of starry-eyed Starfleet cadets approach him—all eager to hear his triumphant tales from his travels out amidst the stars. One of them asks about his encounter with the Hirogen, which Star Trek: Voyager fans may remember from their numerous appearances in the series, and he launches into a rather eloquent recollection about the event, which he turns into a neat little teaching moment too. He explains to the cadets that his encounter with the Hirogen taught him that when the time comes, you must remain steadfast to your crew, no matter how dire the situation is. Which is a perfect segue into the predicament that Picard finds himself in, in the present storyline.

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RELATED: ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season 3: Who Are the Changelings?

With Shaw incapacitated, Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is forced to make life-or-death decisions for the crew of the Titan, and unfortunately at the top of the episode, it looks like the only decision he has been left with is a quick death or a slow death. Their shields are no longer able to handle the debris they’re colliding with as they sink further and further into the nebula, and nearly every single one of their systems is facing critical minimums—including life support. On top of that, the nebula is also causing weird bioelectrical waves, which is putting further strain on the starship. With things looking beyond dire, Riker goes to find Picard and eat a little crow. As death looms over the crew of the Titan, Riker recognizes that Picard wasn’t wrong when he called him out about his fear of loss: he does, in fact, fear the nothingness of death. Riker pushes Picard to spend the final hours they have alive with Jack, before it’s too late.

Picard heeds Riker’s advice and heads straight to the Sick Bay, where Beverly (Gates McFadden) and Jack are tending to the injured crew members. Picard reports that their situation does not look good and asks Beverly for a few moments alone with Jack, and of course, she’s quick to say yes. Jack, on the other hand, seems less than thrilled about spending a little alone time with his old man, even though Picard makes strides to be as casual as possible by using the Holodeck to take them to 10 Forward. But perhaps it’s because Picard asks Jack if he’s ever been to 10 Forward, and he’s quite clearly lying when he says he hasn’t.

While it may seem surprising that the Holodeck is still perfectly functional, when the rest of the ship is running on fumes, Picard reveals that the Holodeck is designed to pull energy from a separate power system for just such an occasion: a nice diversion from the inevitable. If Jack is the rock n’ roll to Picard’s classical tastes, it’s not surprising to learn that Jack is the whiskey to Picard’s wine. To Jack’s credit, he does try to lighten the dour mood by asking about the elephant in the room: when is his hair going to go? These interactions really underscore how well-crafted Jack Crusher’s character is, in addition to highlighting what perfect casting Speleers is for the role.

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Elsewhere on the Titan, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) continues investigating the Changeling situation and discovers that the Transporter Officer that the Changeling was masquerading as had been killed days before Picard and Riker boarded the ship or brought Jack on board—meaning the plot to sabotage the vessel was in place long before Picard even received the message from Beverly. She immediately reports her findings to RIker who cautions her to keep them to herself, because they might kill what little morale remains onboard the ship. He also decides not to reinstate her, since she is more help in an unofficial capacity because she can kill the Changeling without jumping through Starfleet’s hoops.

Despite Riker’s advice to keep her investigation under wraps, Seven goes to Shaw with her discovery and asks him for his help: which is a surprise to both of them. Seven recognizes that out of everyone on board, Shaw knows his crew better than anyone else. If anyone is going to recognize a Changeling, it’s going to be him. Shaw imparts what little knowledge he has about Changelings to Seven, and sets her off on a mission to find the Changeling’s pot—but not the fun kind.

On the other side of the nebula, Vadic (Amanda Plummer) reports to a fellow Changeling about the search for Jack Crusher and calls it a suicide mission to attempt to follow the Titan into the nebula, but that is of little consequence to the other Changeling. Vadic is, apparently, expendable—and not at the top of the food chain. This brief interlude creates even more questions about what the Changelings want from Jack, and by extension Picard.

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Speaking of Picard, the episode’s second flashback picks up on the tail end of Picard’s war stories, which have attracted even more star-struck cadets. One of the cadets asks him about his various exploits with the late Jack Crusher, which prompts Picard to dive head-first into a story about a “no-win scenario” which is where the episode’s title hails from. As he tells his tall tales of heroics and reckless antics, Picard is entirely unaware of the fact that it isn’t just cadets listening to his story.

Meanwhile, back on the Holodeck, more crewmembers are slowly filtering into 10 Forward, looking for an escape from reality. Picard and Jack are more than happy to share the Holodeck, especially Jack who seems very over the father-son bonding time. Jack admits that he doesn’t need this, and he isn’t trying to be harsh about it—it’s just the facts. In a rare moment for Picard, who has been so very good at keeping a safe distance from everyone around him, he admits that he’s the one that needs this moment with Jack. Jack might be fine with not needing a connection, but everyone needs them, especially Picard.

Later on, as the Holodeck continues to fill up with wayward crewmembers, Jack asks Picard about what the worst jam he has ever been in was. This leads to Picard relaying the same story he told to the cadets in 10 Forward five years ago. Picard admits that even though it may seem like an odd choice for Beverly to name him after her late husband, Picard would have done the same because Jack Crusher was his very best friend. As Picard revels in the memory of how the two friends inched their way home after screwing up big time on an unsanctioned trip, he realizes that Jack has definitely heard the story before—there’s something very knowing about his expression. He assumes, incorrectly, that Jack knows the story because his mother told it to him. Before Jack has the opportunity to correct him, Captain Shaw makes his grand appearance on the Holodeck.

With the crew of the Titan’s lives hanging in the balance, it’s safe to finally admit that Captain Liam Shaw was actually right all along. Sure, seeing Picard and Riker rescue Beverly and her son is what audiences want to see, but morally speaking—risking hundreds of lives for two lives isn’t the right call. Especially not after two legendary heroes turned up under false pretenses, commandeered an escape pod, and used essentially hijacked a starship and its crew for their own personal mission. But to really drive the stake right through the heart, Shaw delivers a harrowing speech to the crew that reveals exactly why he has such an issue with Picard and, by extension, Seven of Nine.

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Seizing on Picard’s tall tales, Shaw begins to tell the story of when he first met Picard, back on board the U.S.S. Constance, when Starfleet went up against the Borg cube. Of course, it wasn’t Picard that Shaw encountered—it was Locutus, and he was raining down fire and hell on the crew. Left with only one life pod, with only ten seats, Shaw and his forty-nine fellow crewmen were forced to wait and be given orders which would decide who would live and who would die. Shaw points out that every single one of those crewmen was his Jack Crushers—they were his friends, and they were made to wait and see who would live because of Picard. Ultimately, he was picked to live, even though he was just some dipshit from Chicago. Jack attempts to stand up for his father, but Picard pacifies him because he gets it. He knows what he did as Locutus, and it isn’t something he can run or hide from. But he does get up and leave, which prompts Jack to follow after him, leaving Shaw surrounded by horrified looks.

While all of this has been going on throughout “No Win Scenario,” Beverly has been carefully keeping track of the bioelectric pulses that the nebula has been giving off. She has deduced that there is a pattern to them and that they are, essentially, exactly like contractions. She goes straight to Picard and Jack with her theory, and in turn the three of them go to Riker with a plan to use the energy being created by the pulses to divert power to the thrusters to escape the gravity well. Riker is skeptical about the plan but willing to give it a try considering they have no other options but waiting for their deaths. Jack points out that, just like Picard’s story with his namesake, they’ll have to slowly navigate their way out of the nebula while harnessing its power, which ties everything together very nicely.

In order for the plan to work, Picard and Seven have to pay Shaw another visit. Even though the Titan has been updated to be state-of-the-art, they still need a grease monkey who can hot-wire the old engineering parts. Shaw and Seven head to engineering, and within seconds of arriving and getting to work they’re joined by Sidney La Forge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) who claims she’s been ordered to assist them. Only she hasn’t. In last week’s episode, they smartly showcased Seven and Sidney’s friendship, and the second that she calls Seven by Commander Hansen—Seven realizes that she’s dealing with a Changeling. Shaw asks Seven how she knew, and she reveals that Sidney has always called her “Commander Seven” as a sign of respect, which forces Shaw to think about the way he has refused to call her by the name she prefers.

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Back on the bridge, Picard enlists Jack to help him inch the Titan through an asteroid field and, at the eleventh hour, their plan works. The nebula manages to give them just enough of a power boost to not only get them out of the gravity well, but supply them with enough power to kick-start all of their systems. When they emerge they come face-to-face with the Shrike, yet again, but this time they show them a taste of their own medicine by chucking an asteroid at them, the same way Vadic threw a ship at them.

As the crew of the Titan celebrates their victory, Jack watches all the connections—new and old—that have been forged around him. As Picard watches him, and his voice from five years ago begins to bleed into the present scene, he realizes that he has seen Jack before. The final flashback picks up with Jack listening in as Picard tells the Starfleet cadets, “You’re only ever as good as those around you. Your crew becomes part of you. Completes you. They lift you up to accomplish the things you could never do alone.” The real sucker punch comes when Jack interjects and asks him if he’s ever had a life outside Starfleet or a real family. Picard tells him, “Starfleet has been the only family I have ever needed.” This is exactly why Jack chose not to forge a connection with his father when his mother gave him the chance years before fate forced them to meet.

Later, after the dust has settled on their harrowing adventure, Riker finally reaches out to Deanna (Marina Sirtis) to reconcile. Earlier in the episode, he had attempted to record his final message to her, in case they died, but he couldn’t find the words he needed to say. Now, after everything they went through to survive, he realized that he needed to actually discuss things with her. This moment feels like a taste of what is to come with this pair, especially with so many episodes left in this season. “No Win Scenario” ends on a rather ominous beat, with Jack once again faced with the terrifying red tendrils, the red door, and a mysterious voice whispering “find me.” What could all of this mean, and why do the Changelings want him?

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Like the first two seasons of Star Trek: Picard, Season 3 has been an exceptional study of the fallacy of man and the reality of being a living legend within the constructs of the Star Trek universe. As Riker so astutely and simply put it in the previous episode: everyone is faulty. Picard is no more a perfect character than he was a perfect captain—he made mistakes, and he owns up to the mistakes he made, even if he often got through them without serious repercussions.

“No Win Scenario” may be the title because the crew of the Titan finds themselves in a no-win scenario, but it also has overarching connotations. Picard has found himself in a no-win scenario with his son, which is largely caused by his own machinations—past and present—whether he fully recognizes that yet, and Riker has similarly found himself in an impossible situation with Deanna. In both situations, they recognize the error of their ways, but forging forward can’t truly atone for past mistakes. There’s really no way to start over or make up for the lost time. These imperfect decisions, made by imperfect characters, and the fallout of those choices, make for engaging television. It adds drama, intrigue, and a degree of nuance that is often missing in modern storytelling.

This is also showcased in the relationship between Shaw and Seven. He may have a completely rational reason to loathe the Borg and everyone associated with them, but he still chose Seven to be his Number One for a reason—even if he does give her a hard time. Shaw may be flawed, and with good reason, but that’s what makes him a great captain. He could’ve iced Seven out and denied her an opportunity to rise through the ranks in Starfleet, but he didn’t. And we see in the episode that they work very well together and they both hold great respect for each other.

Rating: A-

The first four episodes of the final season of Star Trek: Picard are streaming now on Paramount+.

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