Life is made of moments. We see the big changes as all-encompassing things, but they can usually be traced back to a single moment that kicked it all off. There was a moment in Cascade where Martens could’ve brought Bobbie back into the fold and kept the lid on Mars’ involvement in Project Caliban. She’d been lied to repeatedly and just wanted someone to be straight with her about what really happened to her men on Ganymede. And Martens could’ve told her, or appealed to her sense of duty, at least acknowledged yeah, she’s getting a raw deal but it’s for the greater good, but no. Instead he chose to belittle her, tell her that her father would be disappointed in her, and basically call her a whiny millennial.
He messed with the wrong Marine.
Bobbie beats the living hell out of Martens and demands to know what in the blue hell happened on Ganymede; he, fortunately, just so happens to have a sales video - a sales video - showing Caliban taking out Bobbie, her men, and the UN marines that were on the other side of the line. The guy without the vac suit? Real, and for sale. The drone Bobbie swore she saw? Was recording the footage of them all being wiped out. The government she so proudly would’ve gone to war for just a few weeks ago? Used her and isn’t sorry about it. Bobbie, being the eminently practical person she is, swipes the recording and runs out of the embassy, demanding political asylum on Earth, which Chrisjen is naturally more than happy to provide.
That’s not the only good news Avasarala gets, though: Jules-Pierre Mao wants to meet with her. Her spy assistant, Cotyar, pleads with her not to go because, duh, it’s obviously a trap. But she’s already agreed to the meeting; she’s been putting financial pressure on his family for the express purpose of forcing him out of hiding, so she’s not about to tell him to bug off now. But the scene between Cotyar and Chrisjen is simply marvelous. He’s a mercenary, but it’s clear he genuinely likes and admires her, and her headstrong ways drive him bonkers. She trusts him and speaks to him honestly, which is something she doesn’t really do with anyone else, including her own family. Her conversations with Cotyar are where her political brilliance is laid bare, as she anticipates moves, countermoves, and the potential fallout of every option available. What makes these exchanges even more enjoyable is that none of this is ever called out - she just does her thing and Cotyar does his, without the need of lines like “you’re devious” to make sure the audience is paying attention.
Back up on Ganymede, the crew of the Roci (minus Alex, who’s figuring out a way to land without being detected) are still on the trail of Strickland and Mei. Via flashback, we see that Strickland and someone else in on the protomolecule experiment were leading Mei to the abandoned part of the station, where they hooked her and several other children up to some sort of testing equipment. Holden and the others finally discover the hideout and engage in a brief firefight that leads to Amos getting shot, again. It’s always Amos getting shot. Prax spots Mei’s extremely rad backpack, and is afraid that the corpse waiting to be burned in the incinerator is her - but it’s not. It’s another child infected with protomolecule. And here’s where things get very strange, indeed.
Someone tosses a grenade into the room, and Amos, being Amos, scoops it up and tosses it right back out the door. There’s a boom...but there’s also shooting, yelling, screaming, and a whole lot of other disturbing noises. The Roci crew peeps out to discover something has broken out of some kind of medical container, the soldiers are dead, the scientist who’d been working with Strickland is bleeding out in a corner, and the outer airlock door has been ripped open. None of this is comforting. Slightly more comforting is the appearance of Alex at the airlock; he got wind of a black ops ship landing right outside this part of the station and basically followed it down because, y’know, it might be a damn fine time for everyone to get the hell outta dodge. The blue figure without a vac suit on the hill behind him is definitely not invited. Yeeeeep, time to go.
Except Naomi isn’t going. She’s tired of chasing after the protomolecule. At one time, maybe, maybe they had a chance of stopping it from spreading, but that ship has sailed. (Of course, she herself is part of that problem, given that she chose not to destroy that sample of protomolecule they hid, but that’s a conversation for another day.) Time to do the most they can where they can, and for her, that means helping people get off Ganymede before its systems collapse completely. She and Amos go one way, leaving Holden, Prax, and Alex to go another, and it feels less like a plot point and more like a family being torn apart. Each of these characters is strong individually (ok, Holden is a bit boringly heroic, though that’s changing), but they’re stronger as a set. We’ve been with them all since day one, and to see them separating, maybe for good is genuinely upsetting. Amos is interesting, but he’s more interesting in contrast with Alex or Holden. Holden is increasingly comfortable with doing shitty things to achieve the end goal, and Naomi is just the opposite - split them up and balance is lost. The Expanse has quietly been making you care about this crew as a family unit, and you feel the loss when that unit divides.
Oh, also? Some seriously weird shit is going down on Venus.