WARNING: If you don't want to know what happened in this episode, don't read this photo recap!
It's been some time since the events of the UNN mutiny and the protomolecule rising off of Venus. Chrisjen Avasarala has now risen to the top of the ranks at the UN, with Errinwright jailed as a traitor and Sorrento-Gillis resigned. She speaks to the people of Earth, Mars, and the Belt in a call for unity in the face of unprecedented events…
…speaking of unprecedented events, the protomolecule has stretched out into space beyond Uranus, intertwined like a giant fiber-optic cable, and formed a giant, blue, glowing ring. And there it waits, for what purpose no one knows.
Meanwhile, Maneo Jung-Espinoza, a hotshot Belter pilot is flying to the outer reaches of space aboard his racer, the Y Que. As he slingshots past Jupiter towards Saturn, he records a message for his lady back on Ceres. He also notices the news, which has stopped reporting on his slingshot-racing exploits in favor of reporting on the protomolecule ring. He also receives a message from his lady that, in his absence, she's been shacking up with his brother. So lots happening for Maneo right now. Seeing his next challenge, Maneo sets a course for just past Uranus.
Elsewhere, a UN flotilla approaches the ring, including the Rocinante, upon whom James Holden is now something of a celebrity. A Belter hero. There's a documentary/news crew aboard the ship working on a story about him and his exploits, which is mostly irritating to him, hostile to Amos, and frustrating to Alex, who seems thirsty for some of the spotlight. And what about Naomi?
Naomi, as was hinted at the last time we saw her and Holden together, has left the Roci to join her Belter brethren on the crew of the O.P.A.S. Behemoth under the command of Captain Drummer. That ship is also part of the flotilla approaching the Ring. We see her catch a pair of workers smoking pixie dust and warn them not to let her catch them getting high on the job again. She's fallen back into her old Belter accent too.
Drummer calls Naomi back to the deck so they can receive the delegation from Ceres. That delegation is led by Klaes Ashford, an old acquaintance of Drummer's with a scarred-up face. Like all of Drummer's old acquaintances, she maintains a tense, even confrontational relationship with him.
Accompanying Ashford is a familiar face, Diogo Harari, last seen helping Anderson Dawes smuggle the protomolecule scientist Cortazar off of Tycho station. Apparently, Fred Johnson and the OPA have granted Diogo amnesty, and he's now a part of the Belter navy. Naomi is not super pleased to see him again.
Aboard the UNN Thomas Prince, Anna Volodovov, debates with a shipmate about the nature of the protomolecule ring. She notes that when it first rose off of Venus, it resembled a squid and at times has behaved like a virus. She wonders if it's a living organism. Her shipmate seems certain that it's instead a piece of technology, created by a vastly intelligent people. He says to pray that intelligence is inert.
Back on the Roci, Alex is once again doing his Alex thing, showing off to the documentarians about his (meager) kitchen skills. The interviewer seems much more interested in Amos. She probes him about his past in Baltimore, and says she looked into records back there and couldn't find any for him, only a mob boss named Amos Burton. Amos quietly takes this in before erupting and smashing the camera. The documentarian apologizes, saying she's trying to get under his skin, and then quickly changes to a more flirty approach. Amos flirts right back before shutting her down.
Aboard the Behemoth, Drummer and Ashford are still getting used to their professional arrangement. Ashford notes that their command of the former Nauvoo is a political compromise between Fred Johnson (who has the protomolecule) and Anderson Dawes (who has Cortazar). He also makes a crack about how she got shot during a Belter mutiny last season, which Drummer says she still thinks Dawes was responsible for.
When a construction worker runs into distress as his skiff has gone into a high-gravity spin. He's unresponsive, but Naomi is able to reach the ship and bring it on in for a landing. When the dead pilot is pulled from his ship, Naomi recognizes him as one of the drug users from earlier.
Aboard the MCRN Xuesen, Draper is communicating with Alex. She's happy to have been reinstated as a Marine. Alex thanks her for checking in on his family back on Mars, though he reports that Calista filed for divorce. Draper is sympathetic and tries to give Alex a pep talk about what a great pilot he is. They end the call, and Alex has a smile on his face.
Back on the Behemoth, Naomi confesses to Drummer that she'd seen the skiff pilot with a drug dealer earlier and never spoke up. Drummer is realistic about the fact that black markets for drugs exist on missions like this, and isn't even mad at Naomi for making the wrong judgment call. But she wants to know who the dealer was.
Anna receives a video message from her wife, who says that Avasarala's promise to help fund their medical clinic have been kept. But she's also very afraid for Anna, being that far out in space and that close to the Ring. She begs Anna to please come home soon.
Aboard a civilian service ship servicing the UNN fleet, a three-person team prepares to board the UNN Seung Un to do routine repairs. The newcomer to the team, a young woman named Melba, dutifully puts up with her older male co-workers, Ren and Stan, and their attempts to be chummy. She's all business, though, as they shoot the shit about celebrity hero James Holden.
Aboard the ship, Melba looks weary and also like something is weighing on her. Ren notices and tells her the first job is always the hardest and to stick with them. Still, she looks shaken. And when Ren walks away, we see why, as she sets an explosive behind a hidden panel on the ship.
Back on the Roci, Amos is tending to Prax's garden when he's approached by Monica's cameraman, who asks about the plants. Amos explains about Prax and how he and his daughter are now helping to rebuild Ganymede. Amos misses him a lot, though, calling Prax his best friend in the whole world. The cameraman references Amos shooting Monica down earlier, wondering if Amos might be more interested in him, which … hey, shoot your shot. Amos repeats his "I don't shit where I eat" line, and when the cameraman notes that he's on a spaceship, so of course he does, Amos retorts, "I don't shit in the galley." Fair point.
Drummer has found the drug supplier aboard the Behemoth and is preparing to space him in front of a large crowd — and in particular the dealer Naomi saw — to make an example of him. Before she can, though, Ashford pulls her aside and tells her they can't behave by their old brutal rules anymore. They're citizens of the new Belter nation, and if they're going to be treated as equals by the Inners, they have to start acting accordingly. Drummer doesn't like this, but Naomi helps convince her he's right. Drummer instead declares an amnesty for contraband until the end of the shift, after which point violators will be jailed.
Maneo has grown a long mountain-man beard in the time it's taken him to fly out to the Ring, but he's nearly there. He gets another transmission from his girlfriend on Ceres. This time, she's heard about his attempts to hotshot his way through the ring, and she's into it. She says if he can pull this off, she'll be waiting for him back at home. She illustrates her point by pulling her shirt down for him. Maneo is, to put it mildly, psyched.
Drummer is still annoyed that Ashford made her go easy on the drug dealers. "That's not who we are," she huffs and stomps away. Ashford asks Naomi what she thinks, and after declaring her solidarity with her captain, he presses her on it. Why is she here on this ship instead of with her hero buddies on the Roci? "I think this is our time," Naomi says. "Time for the Belt to stand up." Ashford suggests she communicate this to her captain.
Melba and Ren are finishing their repairs when Ren notices a tool on the ground next to a tampered-with panel. He opens it up and sees Melba's bomb, glowing blue. Melba says she really wishes he hadn't seen that. Ren tells her he doesn't want to have to fight her, but he has no idea what he's in for. After Melba appears to undergo a kind of transformation, she lunges at him, easily overpowers him, and with superhuman strength, bashes him head-first into a wall. As his body hits the floor, she collapses too.
Back on the Roci, Monica gets more aggressive in probing Holden, calling him out for denying his own heroism. He sees what she's doing and declines to rise to the bait, instead heading off to shower. Monica notes to her cameraman that she thinks they've gotten some good footage. When she heads off, though, the cameraman sets his drone camera to record things around the Roci command center, focusing on its maintenance controls.
Back with Maneo, he's almost at the Ring. The Martian ships he whizzes past try to hail him, ordering him to change course and cease advancing. He records one more message for his girlfriend, cranks up the music, and goes full speed ahead for the center of the ring. As he passes through it, his ship stays intact, disappearing into the Ring, but Maneo himself is thoroughly eviscerated, pureed into a bloody paste.
Elsewhere, Holden hears something on his ship, turns a corner, and is gobsmacked to see the once-dead Miller just hanging out in quarters, muttering to himself, and wearing his old fedora. Holden closes his eyes and when he opens them, Miller is gone again.