Karen starts out “Pathfinder” on the offensive, pointing out that the confrontation that occurred in the previous episode, “Rules of Engagement,” doesn’t just mean that Ed isn’t over the death of their son; it also means he desperately wants to go back to space. Ed denies this but clearly ends the conversation shaken, because Karen’s totally okay with him going back, y’all. She even points out he should be on the crème de la crème assignment…Pathfinder, i.e., the space shuttle with nuclear engines…and possibly weapons, someday?
Ed gets to his office and stares at his Pathfinder model…we go into the main credits for “Pathfinder”, and we wait for a bit through Gordo having another panic attack—this time because they put a helmet on his head, which seems like an essential part of going back to the moon—and Ed drunkenly telling Gordo’s son, Danny, that he better look after Kelly at Annapolis. Whew, looks like Ed’s over that, at least. Ed then announces his decision to Dani and Gordo: he’s going back up. On Pathfinder, of course. Is anyone surprised?
Ed, Gordo, and Dani are the main lines of “Pathfinder” — Gordo’s increasing mental destabilization as he anticipates going to the moon, and Ed’s increasing excitement at the prospect of being back in space, with no mental destabilization…so far. Dani gets a brutal takedown by her sister-in-law, who thinks Dani’s been marginalized by NASA ever since her “accident” on the moon. Remember, she broke her arm so Gordo wouldn’t get grounded for the rest of his life due to his onset of moon cabin fever craziness? Turns out she told her dead husband, who told his sister…wonder if that’ll come back to haunt her.
After this conversation, Dani fights for a spot as a commander of a mission and accuses Ed and rightly so of implicit bias against black astronauts. Really, this episode is about the domino effect. Because of the conversation with Dani, which frustrates Ed deeply — he is a fragile white man, after all — he decides Dani should be the commander of what I’ll call the US-Soviet Apollo handshake mission, which Reagan has given the go-ahead on. They’re using the Apollo capsule because they don’t want the Soviets to steal the shuttle technology. Dani is really the perfect astronaut for the job, but Paine is resistant, which he implies is because the White House really doesn’t want a black woman at the head of such an important mission. Margo, Ellen, Ed, and General Bradford all gang up on him, and Dani gets the job!
Ed gives Piscotty both a Navy hat — Piscotty’s an Air Force man — and the second spot on Pathfinder. Man, from begging for a spot on literally any mission to the plumest spot on the most important mission…good going, man. Dr. Sally Ride (Ellen Wroe) is also on this mission, which is phenomenal, as she built the engines for the new shuttle! But before Ed can start training his three-person crew, which seems tiny, he has to go on a wild ride with Gordo, who confesses that he’s just not up to going back to space. Ed basically yells him down from this — as opposed to talking him down from it — and the two play-dogfight, which ends with Ed sailing on a parachute down into the ocean. Oops…one of his engines gives out due to the stress of Ed and Gordo’s shenanigans. Which, I should clarify is entirely Ed’s fault.
Other little storylines in “Pathfinder” — Pam Horton (Meghan Leathers) sends Ellen a book of poetry she wrote, with the dedication of “Can you guess which poem is about you?” — guess there’s still a spark. Molly, who seems to be suffering, becomes head of the astronaut office, reluctantly. Karen and Danny share some sweet moments, with perhaps Karen being a mother to Danny, which he doesn’t really have with Tracy. Tracy blasts off to the moon, and Gordo says he’ll see her soon, as he watches the TV broadcast.
And that’s all cool, but Dr. Sally Ride is officially a character in this show, and that’s all I can think about…see y’all next week! Will Ed survive his jet crash? But also…what awesomeness will Dr. Ride unleash on this show? Can you tell she’s one of my personal heroes?