My overwhelming sentiment about this episode is: “Ugh”. Because it makes pretty much everyone look bad, including in ways that reinforce gender stereotypes.
First, Voyager comes across a hailing beacon using a Federation signal. They decide to follow it into a nebula, even though their sensors would be useless and it’s practically screaming “You’re going to get ambushed here!” (#headdesk 1).
So they get ambushed! By the Kazon. They hold off firing to make good and sure the Kazon aren’t interested in diplomacy (#headdesk 2), but no, the Kazon would rather ram them with a little ship so they can get some people on board Voyager.
Janeway sends Tuvok to deal with the intruders, leaving them without someone really skilled at tactical during a ship-to-ship firefight (#headdesk 3).
So the Kazon get away with a transporter module. Voyager manages to tractor their ship and finally gets a chance to talk with Cullah, who’s hooked up with Seska.
This whole thing is frustrating because it doesn’t make sense that Seska would’ve gone this route. Initially I think we’re supposed to believe she leaves because she’s angry at Janeway for destroying the Array, and she doesn’t want to follow Federation rules. But it doesn’t make sense that someone as smart as her would choose to hook up with the dumbest aliens in the entire quadrant, especially given their overt sexism.
So it seems like the writers decided to give her additional motivation in being scorned by Chakotay. The problem is, we never saw enough of a relationship between them to make us buy that as motivation. I’m guessing we were just supposed to buy it because it was a cliche that we recognize, albeit a sexist one, about women not being able to handle rejection.
Back to the episode, everyone agrees they need to pursue their stolen technology, even though it seems like a likely trap. The plan is for Chakotay to try to use his knowledge of Seska against her, but he’s not being very objective.
Torres: You’re taking this all very personally, aren’t you?
Chakotay: Why shouldn’t I?
Torres: You’re not responsible for what happened.
Chakotay: Oh no? I let her join the Maquis. I took her into my confidence. I even got intimately involved with her.
Torres: So you have lousy taste in women. Look, Chakotay, she fooled us all. She was my best friend. Or at least, that’s what I thought.
But does he listen to Torres and put aside his misplaced sense of responsibility for the choices made by an adult woman? Nope. He acts like someone who feels emasculated by her. He decides to steal a shuttle and go after her himself (#headdesk 4).
Meanwhile, Culluh is scolding “his woman” for taking too much initiative in the negotiations:
Seska: I sent the messages in your name.
Culluh: I am the leader of this sect. You are only a woman.
Seska: I’m sorry, Culluh.
Culluh: You’ll address me as Maje.
Seska: Yes. Maje. Please, forgive me.
It’s clear by this point Seska’s smarter than Culluh and she’s manipulating him, but her power is seriously curtailed by the society she’s chosen to live in.
Back on Voyager, a painful scene where B’Elanna goes to defend Chakotay to Janeway, because Chakotay was being too “proud” (read “stupid”) to talk to Janeway himself before riding off in one of their few shuttlecrafts to defend his manhood (#headdesk 5).
Torres: He’s a very proud man. And he’s been embarrassed by Seska.
Janeway: What Seska did, she did to all of us. Frankly, I find it more than a little self-indulgent of Chakotay to assume this is all about him. (Thank you!)
Torres: He never said it to me directly but, I think he was in love with her. And then he found out that everything he knew about her was a lie. You said that he publicly defied your authority. Can you imagine what it must have been like for someone as private as Chakotay to be publicly humiliated by someone he loved? And then, as if that weren’t enough, she came back to taunt him in front of the entire Bridge crew.
She defends him entirely on the basis of empathizing with his emotions, his injured pride and sense of responsibility. And then Janeway basically goes along with it (#headdesk 6). I get wanting the shuttle and the transporter module back, but at this point I don’t get wanting Chakotay back.
Chakotay beams onto the Kazon ship and destroys the transporter module, and then surrenders to Seska. The Kazon beat him up a bit and then Seska comes to interrogate him further, in probably her best scene in this episode because she’s so good at pushing his buttons.
Seska: Don’t flatter yourself. It was never that good. You might have been an interesting diversion now and then, but I’ve always been less interested in you than in the information you could provide me with. First you gave me your Maquis secrets, and now I want Voyager’s command codes.
Voyager receives a transmission from Chakotay urging them not to follow, but Torres says losing Chakotay would hurt ship’s morale, and Janeway says they have to, even though “my better judgment tells me we should honour his request” (#headdesk 7).
Back on the Kazon ship, Culluh comes in to help with the interrogation and Chakotay tries to get under his skin by challenging Culluh’s manhood and dominance over Seska:
Chakotay: She’s quite a woman, isn’t she? Does she rub your shoulders and tell you you’re the most exciting man she’s ever known? That’s what she used to do for me. What’s a matter? Didn’t she tell you about us?
Culluh: Stop playing games and give me the command codes.
Chakotay: Flattery, devotion, sex. I always thought she had a lot to offer a man.
Culluh gives up and after he leaves, Seska injects Chakotay with an unbelievably huge needle.
Even though Chakotay hasn’t given the command codes, Culluh pretends to the other Kazon that he has them, because Voyager apparently doesn’t change their codes as a matter of procedure when someone’s taken hostage (#headdesk 8).
Luckily, B’Elanna’s transporter skills and Janeway knowing her way around a dampening field save the day and they end up beaming all the Kazon onto Voyager. They say they’ll let them go in exchange for the shuttle and Chakotay (debatably #headdesk if you think they should’ve also asked for Seska).
Finally, Janeway has to discipline Chakotay. And she’s going to be pissed, because he was really stupid and reckless this episode. Yeah, she’s going to let him have it. I can just picture the look on her face:
Wait, what’s that not-angry face?
Chakotay: I thought if I did it on my own, I could keep the rest of the crew out of danger.
Janeway: That may be a very noble sentiment, but it wasn’t your decision to make. Oh, Chakotay. We’ve spent the last ten months together on this ship. I thought we had an understanding. Why did you choose to ignore procedure?
On the plus side, the guilt trip seems to be an effective disciplinary route with Chakotay anyway.
To finish us off, Seska hails Chakotay and tells him she’s taken his DNA to impregnate herself, because bitchez be crazy, I guess (#headdesk 10).
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass – B’Elanna explains her transporter idea to Janeway. Otherwise, their conversations are all about Chakotay.