The Russians are here! The Russians are here! “Best Laid Plans” starts with two Russian cosmonauts and their entourage descending from a plane, to the strain of the Soviet national anthem, which is being played by a brass band. They’re here because Apollo-Soyuz — or is it Soyuz-Apollo — is being actively planned now. This is the mission that Dani is officially a mission commander on, and she’s clearly over the moon to get started. General Bradford and Margo are less excited.
It quickly becomes clear that this mission is going to be remarkably difficult, because the Russians refuse to be the “passive” docking mechanism, and the Americans, of course, have to be the “active” docking mechanism. This is explained by Sergei Nikulov (Piotr Adamszyk), who I think is Margo’s Russian counterpart. Eventually, it’s revealed that Sergei wants to work with Margo as much as she has to get this damn project off the ground, and the two meet at Club 11:59 for a secret meeting. This is after some clever subterfuge on Margo’s part–this is the thick of the Cold War after all. The two come up with a system where both Apollo and Soyuz would dock actively, and asides from a minor roadblock which a nosy Aleida helps out with, the design is approved by both the Americans and the Russians. Margo even gets their RF encryption protocol from Sergei first, and she hands out NASA’s right back at him.
The real stars of “Best Laid Plans”, though, are the two Russian cosmonauts who Dani successfully woos. Stefan Petrovich (Nikola Djuricko) is easier to get on her side, while Orlov (Alexander Babara) is still prickly by the end. They show her and her Apollo crew mate how to successfully toast: first, to the fallen, then, to the women–all the women, Stefan explains. The Russians also get persuaded by getting to eat hamburgers and drink Jack Daniels–instead of borscht and vodka. It’s a cute moment between the astronauts and the cosmonauts, and it’s very important that they are called cosmonauts.
In the relationship drama side of things, Gordo’s determined to woo Tracy back to his life, even going so far as to tell Sam Cleveland, her new husband, that he’s going to the moon to do just that. Oh, Gordo. Ellen and Pam are renewing their relationship, but Pam is unsure if Ellen really wants to come out, once and for all. Ellen says she is and even tells Larry that she’s going to come out, but whether she will or not is left up in the air at the end of the episode.
Kelly gets another great scene in “Best Laid Plans” where she’s writing her application essay for Annapolis and asks Karen and Ed a big question–why did they adopt her? It’s revealed she was a Band-Aid adoption, bringing the two of them back together after a separation post-Ed’s return and Shane’s death. This obviously crushes Kelly, and she even starts to go after the truth of who she is, looking up the adoption agency where she was found.
On the dangerous aspect of space, the Marines are getting ready to start shooting on the moon, in low gravity. It’s not going so well, but Tracy seems to be doing better, successfully piloting the LSAM in a tense situation. She has another conversation with Deke and his grave, which is melancholic in tone, even if she gets in a nice dig at his haircut.
Things seem to be back to moving along in “Best Laid Plans,” with Apollo-Soyuz (Soyuz-Apollo) going forward, Gordo finally getting his mission, and Kelly starting to discover herself and her heritage. We’ll see where this all goes. The plot I’m most worried about is the Marines on the surface of the moon, with guns. That seems like it won’t end well, not at all. Stefan brings up Laika in his conversation with Dani, and he tells her the truth: she died in pain, alone. As our heroes return to the inky blackness of space, I can only hope that won’t be their fates.
Watch For All Mankind Season 2 Fridays on Apple TV+.