I like this one a lot. (Season 3 just seems packed to the gills with strong episodes!) Part of what I like about this one besides being a strong Picard episode is that it's also a strong Patrick Stewart episode! He plays a double of his character that's just...a little bit off. Pretty impressive thing to pull off, especially without it being played for goofs. Like maybe the goofiest it gets is the bursting into song? (Oh, but speaking of the Ten Forward scene, one of my favorite moments is Picard congratulating Geordi on the new engine efficiency and clapping him on the shoulder
. Geordi winces back like "WTF JUST HAPPENED." Cracks me up. Second favorite moment is Geordi and Worf trying in vain to sing along to Picard's song.) Also, although there's not a lot of Dr. Crusher scenes, I also think this is a strong Gates McFadden episode. Her performance at the dinner was quite good, I thought, and the button at the very end of the episode is really funny. (Though the metatextual audience in me is like "how much does she know about what's happened in the last few minutes?!" but whatever, it's a funny scene.)
Speaking of metatextual, in the scene where the senior officers are meeting to discuss Picard's behavior, they're recounting weird Picard moments of late, and Dr. Crusher says, like, "He invited me to dinner in his cabin, and it was a very...unusual...experience." Then the conversation just rolls right on, and I'm like WHOA wait, everyone's just gonna let that go by, huh?
Anyway, I noticed something cool on this rewatch that I never noticed before. At the beginning of the episode during the cold open, our perspective switches to the bridge, and Data detects the weird energy in Picard's cabin. Riker calls Picard on the comm and gets no answer, at which point he turns and looks at Worf without saying anything
. Worf then calls for a security team and goes to check on Picard. That was just a nice little bookend/foreshadowing of the end of the episode that I never noticed before!
Finally, since I'm just gonna make this my thing now: poker scene! The poker scene in this episode features literally like half a hand of poker, and it still manages to be terrible. That's even notwithstanding Geordi getting up and leaving the table
in the middle of the hand. Firstly, though, I was struck by a more general thing, since I think this is the first (and possibly only?) time I see Troi at the poker table: who plays poker against an empath
?! And, like, fine, maybe they have an honor system or something that she won't read people, or maybe they're just being cool and including her. That's all fine. So...who plays poker against an empath and then bluffs into them, RIKER?!
She snaps it off (of course, because you can't bluff an empath), and then this is followed by Data -- again, the literal supercomputer who has read everything ever written about the game of poker -- making the worst overcall of all time. What's good, TNG writers, hit me up 30 years in the past to be your poker consultant.
Thank you for joining me for the TNG Poker Corner.