This week’s Expanse episode title is “Down and Out,” so you know everyone’s going to be feeling the hurt of what’s happened so far—and man, it’s been a lot. But just because certain characters are in regroup mode doesn’t mean the action gets any less tense this week. Quite the opposite: season five shows no mercy!
This is a recap, so be aware: there will be spoilers. Don’t read on unless you’ve watched “Down and Out.”
In the Belt, everyone in Drummer’s faction is reeling after hearing news of the asteroid strike on Earth. They’re shocked by the loss of life (the report they’re watching estimates one to two million dead), and they’re displeased that Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) has just drawn all of them into a war they weren’t necessarily looking for. “All Belters will have to answer for Marcos’ deeds now,” Oksana (Sandrine Holt) points out. But others among the crew don’t feel terribly sorry for Earth after its long history of oppression. Yeah, Marco is a mass murderer on a power trip—but he also pulled off the kind of devastating attack that no Belter ever dreamed possible.
Feeling a different kind of way entirely is Drummer (Cara Gee) herself. She was already guilt-ridden about letting Marco go after capturing him last season, after which he went on to kill Ashford. Now, she feels the weight of millions of lives—including that of her former boss, Fred Johnson, assassinated on Tycho Station as part of Marco’s plot to steal the protomolecule. But while not long ago she was declaring her intentions to collect the bounty on Marco’s head, she now realizes she’ll need to play ball with him if she wants to protect her crew. When he sends a message asking to meet, she grits her teeth and accepts, knowing it’s her only choice.
Back on a ravaged Earth, the dust is settling several stories underground as Amos (Wes Chatham) and Peaches (Nadine Nicole) cough their way back to consciousness in her badly damaged cell. While he was waiting in the prison lobby, Amos caught sight of a news report about a meteor hitting Africa, so he assumes they’ve weathered some kind of aftershock—not realizing a second rock made a direct hit nearby. Guard Rona (Natalie Brown) helps Amos pry the cell door open but is immediately suspicious of Peaches, who’s now disconnected from the blockers that prevent her from tapping into the body modifications that make her super strong. But Peaches is sluggish and in no shape to fight anybody—and Amos is, well, we all know how useless it is to try and argue with Amos.
The building is in bad shape and there’s no word from anyone on the upper levels, so Amos, Peaches, Rona, and two of Rona’s coworkers decide they’ll need to make their own way out before they’re trapped for good. The situation is dire—“It’s a maximum-security prison. They didn’t design a lot of escape routes,” Rona says—so one of the other guards suggests they spring a hulking prisoner named Konecheck (Boomer Phillips), whose body-mod inhibitors have worn off enough for him to put his super-powered muscles to good use. Their only chance is climbing up an elevator shaft, though they’ll need the wild-eyed Konecheck—or “Tiny,” as Amos, who never met a nickname he didn’t like, immediately starts calling him—to rip off the metal plates concealing a hidden ladder as they go up. It’s a wild plan, but it works, though one of the guards falls to his death (we don’t see how, but it’s implied to be Tiny’s fault) on the ascent, and at one point the elevator suddenly drops from above and nearly brains everybody as it whizzes past.
On Tycho, a worried Holden (Steven Strait) tries to reach Naomi (Dominique Tipper). He’s deeply concerned that she hasn’t responded since heading out to find Filip, especially in light of, well...everything. (“Things are not good,” he says; Naomi, currently being held against her will on Marco’s ship, the Pella, would no doubt agree with that assessment.) In the brig, Holden and Bull (Jose Zúñiga) try to get information out of Fred’s killer, Sakai (Bahia Watson), who’s having a jolly time taunting her guards but otherwise remains tight-lipped. Holden wonders aloud why she’s joined Marco’s cause, given the comfortable life she’d built for herself on Tycho. “Working on an Earther station, for an Earther? And an Earther [looks at Bull], and an Earther [looks at Holden]?” she spits back with resentment. She tells Holden he should just go back to Earth and stay there—otherwise “the Belt will remind you that you don’t belong here, again and again and again.”
The conversation is interrupted by a message from Monica (Anna Hoskins); as we saw last week, her eyeball camera recorded the flight path of the ship that made off with the protomolecule. “It’s time to take the Roci out for a hunt,” Holden mutters to Bull, but Sakai—letting her “I’m a badass” facade slip for juuuuuust a millisecond—stops him. Then she reconsiders whatever she was going to say and ramps the attitude back up, sending them off with a faux-sweet “See you when you get back.”
A sliver of time must be made for the season’s least involving plot thread thus far, so aboard the Razorback we go. Alex (Cas Anvar) and Bobbie (Frankie Adams) are still in pursuit of MCRN ships they’re convinced are about to do a black-market weapons deal with Belters. Thanks to the news, they’re up to speed on what’s happened on Earth, Mars, and Tycho, and the fact that Marco and his Free Navy are behind “the most devastating terrorist attack in human history.” Alex and Bobbie are now even more certain that the ships they’re following are somehow involved—so Alex does some sneaky flying to stay within range.
One more storyline in this episode: checking in with the shell-shocked Naomi, who must endure being patronized by Marco while still trying to comprehend that their son, Filip (Jasai Chase Owens), is much deeper into his father’s deadly business than she realized. When Marco and Filip have a moment alone, Marco says he’s disappointed that Filip brought Naomi aboard. “What did you hope to achieve? Do you think that she can be saved?” Marco asks, which is ironic considering Naomi reached out initially because she was trying to save Filip. Soon, though, it becomes clear that Marco’s true worry is that with Naomi suddenly, distractingly, back in the picture, Filip’s loyalty may be wavering. “We are at the most important juncture in the history of our people,” Marco warns his son. “I need you on my side, clear of mind.”
Naomi’s only sort-of ally aboard the Pella is her old crewmate Cyn (Brent Sexton), an aging Belter who speaks up against Marco in her defense and seems eager to rekindle their friendship (it’s through Cyn that we learn her old nickname was “Knuckles,” though it’s not explained why). She rejects his olive branch (in this context it’s an offer to help him “recalibrate the scrubbers”) and lashes back—she’d hoped that he, of all people, would have tried to steer Filip away from Marco’s corrupting influence. Cyn, who believes in Marco’s mission, argues that “Marco is trying to build something for all the children of the Belt”; Naomi’s comeback (“He’s building it on a river of blood...with your help”) is the equivalent of a door slamming in Cyn’s face.
Another of Naomi’s old associates, Karal (Olunike Adeliyi), is far less friendly. In fact, she’s outright hateful. It’s clear that this isn’t new; Karal and Naomi were never pals, even back when they were on the same side. As part of her litany of insults, Karal brings up the event that made Naomi leave all those years ago: the destruction of the Augustín Gamarra, which Marco pulled off by misappropriating code that Naomi wrote and using it to blow up the Earther ship’s reactor. Karal follows this up by telling Naomi that Marco will kill her before he lets her out of his sight again. Desperate, Naomi grabs a knife from the dining room and creeps up on Marco, intending to strike first—but Filip intervenes before she’s able to get too close and hides the weapon before anyone sees.
“You should be grateful to me for taking you,” her son says as he’s hustling her out of the room. “I saved your life.” At first, it seems like he’s referring to stopping her from attacking Marco just now. But then...you can see Naomi’s eyes widen as the lightbulb goes off. That bit of information, combined with Karal’s mention of the Augustín Gamarra—and the fact the Rocinante got all its repairs done at Tycho, a place Naomi now knows is crawling with Free Navy loyalists—suggests there’s yet another piece of Marco’s plan in the works. (The audience, meanwhile, has been waiting for the other shoe to drop since Bahia, who was the chief engineer on that Roci retrofit, shot Fred Johnson in the back.) But there’s no way for Naomi, who’s unable to access any of the Pella’s communications, to warn Holden of what’s to come.
While we’re biting our nails about that dilemma, The Expanse shifts back to Earth, where Amos, Peaches, Tiny, and the two remaining guards have finally reached the surface. There’s just a ruin where the entire prison complex once stood, which Tiny finds hysterically funny—until he spontaneously kills Rona’s coworker and very nearly squeezes the life out of Amos, growling “Call me Tiny again!” (Maybe antagonizing that guy was a bad idea in retrospect.) We see Peaches trying to activate her own body mods to help, but she’s still too weak; fortunately, Rona’s able to use her coworker’s freshly dead hand to fire his biometric pistol into Tiny’s torso, stunning him enough that Amos is able to kick him in the crotch then body-flip him down the elevator shaft.
After a brief hesitation, Rona decides there are more important things in life now than trying to keep Peaches in custody, so she peaces out. Left with nothing in a world that’s suddenly been plunged into nuclear winter, things don’t look good for Amos and Peaches. Step one: “We gotta get out of here,” Amos says, and the camera pulls back to show just how much destruction was left behind.
And then, oh crap, we’re back at Tycho—where Holden, Bull, and the crew Bull’s assembled are aboard the Roci, gearing up for Operation Hunt Down the Protomolecule. At the same moment, on the Pella, Naomi has come up with a plan, though it’s not clear at first and you may be forgiven for screaming (props to The Expanse’s editors) as we cut back to the agonizing sight of a completely unaware Holden running systems checks ahead of firing up the Roci’s reactors. NO! NOT THE REACTORS! “Tell me something,” Naomi says after faking her way through an apologetic conversation with Cyn. “Did Marco slip the Augustín Gamarra code into the Roci?” He doesn’t have a chance to answer before she wallops him with a wrench and grabs his hand terminal, managing to send a desperate message in the nick of time, warning Holden not to start the reactor. Yessssss.
The Roci is saved, but Holden’s got a new worry on his plate: Naomi’s safety. Right before Cyn grabs her and the message cuts off, she’s able to scream out that Marco’s holding her captive, but there’s no location data and Holden has no idea how to find her. Meanwhile, Naomi has no way of knowing if her message got through in time to save the Roci—and Marco and his underlings are glad to let her suffer in suspense.
With the episode’s tension sky-high, we cut back to the Razorback and finally start to see some payoff in this thread. After tailing their target to what they think is a rendezvous point, Alex and Bobbie realize that the MCRN ships they’re following aren’t carrying black-market weapons—they are the black-market weapons. Marco’s Free Navy needs ships, after all, and Mars makes the very best. Unfortunately, the Razorback is spotted by one of the said warships, giving Alex a chance to yell “Here comes the juice!” and pull all kinds of ridiculous aerial maneuvers to save their skins. (Bobbie unsuccessfully tries to send the details of what they’ve discovered to Avasarala—giving Chrissie her only mention this episode.) Hooray for that emergency core dump, which makes the Martian ship go boom—but the fate of the Razorback, which shoots off in the other direction, remains a mystery until next time.
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