Holden and Fred deal with infiltrators on Tycho. Drummer's past comes back to haunt her. Amos returns to Baltimore. Alex and Bobbie's investigation on Mars leads to rogue soldiers.
In the Belt, Camina Drummer's ship responds to a distress call by a colony vessel, Sulaiman Al Mahri. They have been attacked and are asking for assistance proclaiming that they are unarmed. The message is interrupted by a tightbeam from a Belter pirate telling Drummer to back off his bounty. Drummer demands a part of the pirate's gains and that no prisoners be harmed without her permission, but the pirate disregards her warnings arguing that the former controlling faction, the Sohiros, is gone and he doesn't recognize any claims to the territory. When Drummer's ship gets target-locked by the pirates, she orders the nearby Mowteng into action which launches a salvo of missiles hitting the pirate ship, incapacitating it without destroying it. As they try to power back up, Drummer gives them a chance at diplomacy but orders her crew to kill them if they target-lock again.
After their victory, the crew, which is a polyamorous family of Belters, are gathering around a table to celebrate. While they set the table, Drummer claims her bounty from the now compliant pirate and proclaims that she has control of the area now, before messaging the colonists and letting them know she has sent their call for help to a UN ship and they should arrive in a few days. The captain of the colonist's ship, April Molina, is furious that the pirates and Drummer's faction took everything from them, but Drummer cuts her off emphasizing that they didn't take everything before closing the channel. She keeps working until Oksana, her second in command, persuades her to sit at the table with the rest, as victories in life are few and should be celebrated lest they go unmarked. The Belter crew/family rejoice at the good day that they have had, until they pick up on a seemingly abandoned ship nearby and show it to Drummer. The mood shifts when she informs them that the ship is the Tynan, Klaes Ashford's ship.
Timothy returns home
On Earth, Amos arrives in a crowded and seedy area in Baltimore. Walking through the crowd, he sees a woman comforting a young boy and wiping the blood off his face. He walks to an apartment building and knocks on a door inside, to be greeted by an old man. At first he doesn't recognize Amos and seems frightened, but eventually he realizes he is here for Lydia. He lets Amos into the apartment, calling him "Timothy."
The apartment's furniture is covered or displaced, and it seems the old man is about to move. Amos asks him how long he knew Lydia, and he says he had been living with her for the last ten years, introducing himself as Charles. Amos disregards his outstretched hand and asks him if he was good to her, to which Charles retorts that they were good to each other. Amos asks him how she died, and Charles is upset, as Lydia had spent every moment waiting for Amos to return and now he has nothing else to say, but Amos threatens him and he says it was an aneurysm in her sleep. He tells Amos that if he needs to beat Charles up to make himself feel better about abandoning Lydia, then he should do it. Amos asks if Lydia was happy, and Charles says he doesn't know because she kept a lot to herself, but he thinks she was. Charles breaks down, wondering what he is going to do without her. Amos backs down and accepts Charles' invitation for tea.
Charles and Amos sit down and talk about Lydia. Charles didn't know exactly what she did and didn't care because you can't judge people for the things they do to make ends meet, but Amos replies that sometimes you can. Charles knows that Amos was born into Lydia's world and that she worried they would use him up until there was nothing left. Amos replies with something that Lydia told him: Float to the top or sink to the bottom, everything in the middle is the churn. He tells Charles that Lydia taught him how to save himself, and he thanks Charles for being with her. Charles says he spent the happiest years of his life in this house with Lydia, but now he has to leave as the house belongs to a man named Erich who let Lydia stay in it. Without her, he has to go. Amos tells Charles to stop packing.
Holden checks Sakai's work
On Tycho, Fred Johnson and Bull are discussing the gunships that Fred is building for the OPA, which Bull disapproves of. Bull doesn't understand why Fred isn't enjoying the status and lifestyle he could potentially have as a retired UN Colonel, but Fred replies that if he didn't work on Tycho he couldn't have offered Bull the job he has now, and if Bull wasn't broke himself he could have afforded to reject it. Fred believes that it's important and good for the Belt to be able to protect and police itself. Bull tells Fred that he has a problem: he believes when someone is an underdog, that means they are also the good guy.
Holden brings Sakai some coffee as she works on repairs on the Rocinante. He asks her how soon the repairs will be over, and she replies that it would take 12 hours roughly, 18 if she does it perfect, or 6 if he doesn't mind blowing up along the way. Holden laughs and settles for 18 hours. Sakai asks Holden why he won't just go to his room in the station, which is far more appropriate for living in than the Roci which is full of noise from the repairs. Holden replies that the Roci is home, as he heads over the the communications panel and looks at the profiles of his friends: Neither of his crewmates have sent Holden any messages, but he does have a message from Monica Stuart. In her message she reveals, much to Holden's sarcastic shock, that she has not been completely honest with him as she has definitive proof that someone has been going after the Protomolecule and she needs to protect that proof. She asks Holden to meet with her in her room to discuss it. He replies that there is nothing he can do, but then looks back at the message and reluctantly heads out.
Reaching Monica's room, Holden finds the door ajar and the interior of the room smashed to pieces. There is blood on the wall and Monica's terminal is abandoned under her bed. He calls Fred Johnson for help.
Force reduction and easy math
Alex heads to Bobbie's place, and she lets him in as she is working out with weights. She apologizes for being a shitty friend and not listening to him when he was low, but Alex replies that Amos talks to him way worse most of the time and he still knows he would take a bullet for Alex. Bobbie retorts that she is pretty sure she already has. Alex asks Bobbie what is wrong with her, and points out she has been angry and snappy and won't tell him what it is about. She keeps blocking his attempt to reach out to her but, when he turns to leave, she asks him to wait.
Bobbie shows Alex her storage room full of contraband and explains that she is working with Avasarala to expose a conspiracy of black market weapon smuggling. Alex is shocked that Bobbie is working for Earth and against Mars, but Bobbie points out that Avasarala is the only person she is sure isn't part of the conspiracy. He tries to reason that Bobbie should go to the police or the military, but Bobbie responds that the contraband came from the military and the police are their delivery service. When Bobbie reveals she thinks there are stealth missiles being smuggled, Alex says that those are first strike weapons and realizes whoever is buying those is planning to attack an entire planet. Bobbie shows Alex her web of contacts in the conspiracy, claiming with certainty that someone high up in the chain of command is in on it. Alex recognizes one of the people on the web as Admiral Sauveterre. He believes it isn't possible for him to be part of this as he is a patriot, but Bobbie tells him that Sauveterre has been signing all the transfer orders she has been tracking. When Bobbie mentions he has been lecturing at the War College, Alex sees an opportunity, confident that Sauveterre will talk to him.
Amos sends Erich a message
In Baltimore, Amos finds a street dealer, Theo and asks him to tell Erich that Amos is looking for him. He denies knowing any Erich at first. When Amos persists, the dealer flashes a weapon under his jacket to intimidate him and tells him to get lost. Amos swiftly grabs the gun and hits him a couple of times to which he begs for Amos to stop. Amos says he needs a friend to tell Erich that he wants to see him then asks whether Theo wants to be his friend. Theo concedes but parts with a remark that Erich will kill Amos. Amos simply retorts, "I thought we were friends."
(unlabeled, unmarked chapter)
Bull is talking to Fred and Holden, confirming that the blood in the room was Monica's and informing them that someone deleted the security footage, meaning they had access to the station's security, so there must be an infiltrator in the station. Holden believes the OPA is involved, as Monica disappeared just after claiming she had proof that someone in the Belt was after the protomolecule. Thankfully, Fred managed to get the station locked down, so no ships have left since Monica's disappearance and she must still be in the station.
Monica wakes up with her hands and feet tied up inside a small rectangular space. She calls out to whomever her abductors are declaring they can talk.
Alex attends a lecture
Alex attends a lecture by Sauveterre at the War College, where he is teaching his students how a small force of ships could potentially hold the inside of the ring network very easily. As he walks into the room, he is noticed by a uniformed woman who is standing on the gallery. Sauveterre gives the Martian students an impassioned speech about how analyzing all situations and trying to be prepared for everything is futile, and that unless they learn to act decisively and quickly rather than try to think through every possibility, they will never have time to act on anything. He gives them a quote by Xerxes: Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers. He wants the students to embrace the changing tactical landscape and learn to adapt without losing the original Martian vision, particularly now that they are travelling further into new worlds. Alex approaches him expecting a friendly interaction and offers to go out for coffee, but Sauveterre abruptly retorts that Alex pilots a stolen Martian ship under an Earther captain and that they have nothing to say to each other.
Alex is left behind, confused, but he is approached by the woman who saw him from the gallery: Lieutenant Emily Babbage. She is much friendlier and tells Alex that Sauveterre's reaction wasn't his fault, and that she admires Alex's achievements as a pilot and a Martian. She offers to take Alex up on the offer that he made to Sauveterre, and the two of them plan to go out for coffee together. When Alex leaves, Babbage reports to Sauveterre, who tells her to find out why Alex is on Mars. Babbage replies that she is already on it.
(unlabeled, unmarked chapter)
Amos is sitting at a café and watching the heavy rain outside, when he sees the same woman from before, dragging the same injured boy into the cover of a doorway. He watches as she comforts the boy and wipes the blood off his face again, and she gently takes a gun off the boy's hands. He is then approached by the dealer he punched earlier, who tells him to follow. Amos gathers the ice from his drink in a napkin and offers it to the dealer for the bruise, which the dealer confusedly accepts. When he leaves the cafe, the woman and the boy are no longer on the doorway.
Troubles letting go
On Luna, Avasarala's daughter Ashanti has come to say goodbye to her, as she and her children are returning to Earth. Avasarala tries to persuade Ashanti to stay and hire tutors for the children, but she doesn't want to impose her desires on them the way Avasarala did to her. She offers the possibility that Avasarala return to Earth instead, confident that she could patch things up with her husband Arjun, who Ashanti claims misses her even if he won't admit it. Avasarala cannot return, however, because her role in Luna is still important, and she knows Arjun understands. Ashanti is disappointed, but Avasarala kisses her goodbye and she leaves.
Later, Avasarala attends a meeting with Nancy Gao, Chief of Staff Graham, and Admiral Delgado. She brings up the matter of the Hasami and Bobbie's discoveries, stating that she believes the OPA is buying Martian technology and weapons, including stealth composites. Gao is aware of those reports, and Avasarala tries to introduce the possibility that the buyer is Marco Inaros and he possibly had the Hasami destroyed, but Gao interrupts her, asking Delgado if he agrees with her. When he says that the possibility is 50/50, Gao reminds Avasarala that she is on Luna to do a job and she should focus on it, instead of discussions that she is no longer needed for. She tells Avasarala she is welcome to submit her opinion in writing if she wants to, to which Avasarala gravely relents, after which Gao insists they get back to work.
Holden looks for Monica
Traffic on Tycho has been cut until Bull, Holden and Fred get a hold of the situation with Monica. As Bull and Fred argue, Holden pushes a button on Monica's terminal, and it shows that she is using her recording implant to transmit video of what she sees to them. She is unable to hear them, but Fred surmises she is locked inside some cargo container.
Monica manages to free herself from the restraints and tries to open the container's door unsuccessfully. She manages to open up a small hole in it, which begins to let air out of the container. She realizes that behind that door is vacuum, and her oxygen is now running out much faster.
Fred sends Bull and Holden to one of the containers which has an atmosphere inside. As Monica starts to run out of oxygen, they build a vacuum bubble around the container and open it, only to find it is full of live soil which needs oxygen to not die.
Amos Burton wants to talk
Amos is taken to a remote location in Baltimore, where he has to surrender his things. He is led to a luxurious apartment, where Erich is waiting. He talks about how strange it was to receive the message that Amos Burton wants to talk, as Amos Burton has been dead for about twenty years, and asks Amos "what the fuck are you doing, Timmy?" Amos replies that Lydia died, but it doesn't satisfy Erich, because they had a deal, which Amos wants to change. Erich reminds Amos that he killed the real Amos Burton for Erich, instead of killing Erich for Burton. As per their deal, Amos got a new name and a way out of the planet, and Erich made sure that Lydia was taken care of her whole life. Erich is uneasy because he thinks Amos is trying to come back after Lydia's death, but he assures him that it is not the case and he just wants Erich to let Charles stay in Lydia's apartment.
Erich is speechless and confused at first, asking Amos if that is the whole reason he came back to Earth. It takes a while for Amos to convince Erich that he doesn't want to take anything away from him or hurt him, and he just wants to settle Charles' affairs. Erich notes that both of them have changed a lot, and they reminisce about when they were street trash watching the shuttles leave and wishing they could leave too. Amos grabs Erich's bottle of alcohol before turning to leave. Erich warns Amos that his fake identity will not hold up on Earth if he gets arrested, putting both of them in danger. He tells Amos that he loves and misses him, and that if he ever comes back to Earth, Erich will have to kill him. Amos simply replies that it was good to see him again.
Monica wakes up
In the container on Tycho, Monica starts to gasp for air, before she seemingly loses consciousness. At the absolute last moment, Holden and Bull find her and inject her with hyper-oxygenated blood, which brings her back, gasping in shock. Holden holds Monica as she settles down, telling her that she did a good job as if she hadn't blown the hole in her container, they would have been unable to find her. She looks at Holden, in total disbelief that she isn't dead.
Chrisjen raises suspicions
On Luna, Avasarala and Delgado are having a drink at a bar. Avasarala wishes she could slap Gao's condescending smile off her face, and sarcastically thanks Delgado for having her back in the meeting. When Avasarala laments that Gao goes out of her way to humiliate her, Delgado points out the sassy and passive-aggressive message that Avasarala herself left for Gao before they switched offices. Delgado thinks Avasarala should accept that new, younger people will start holding power soon, and they will want to get rid of her lingering, older methods and ideas, but Avasarala downs her drink and exclaims, "Fuck that!"
After a moment of silence, she asks Delgado why he thinks the Hasami was destroyed. She reminisces about sitting in her office, casting herself into her enemy's mind to anticipate them. Delgado points out that it was a great job, but it is not the job they have now. Avasarala insists that there has to be a reason Belter pirates took the risk to attack a scientific vessel in the Inner Planets' domain, which is the most dangerous space for them to operate. She tries to push Delgado to put himself in Marco Inaros's place and ask himself why he would take such a risk, and he concludes that it's probably not an act of piracy, but something to do with the Hasami's mission. When Avasarala proclaims her satisfaction, Delgado tells her that he knows what she is doing. She asks him if it's working, to which he replies with a smile.
It takes strength to be kind
At the dilapidated docks of Baltimore on Earth, the woman and the boy that Amos has been seeing are sitting on a concrete block at the edge of the water. She turns to the boy and tells him that what he did today was hard, that when you are hurt, hurting others is easy and that it takes strength to choose not to. She tells him that doing the right thing anyway, even if life is unkind to you, always takes strength. Or when you don't even know what the right thing is. The woman is revealed to be Lydia, and the young boy is Timothy, a younger Amos. She tells the boy that she loves him, but she is not a righteous person. She offers that the two of them can imagine a version of her that is good and kind and wise; Lydia will pretend to be that person, and Timothy will pretend to love her enough to listen. She says that maybe that is enough for people like them, and takes hold of the boy's hand.
Back in the present, Amos is sitting at the same spot at night, looking at his hand. He intimidates a group of low-lifes who approached him with their eyes set on taking advantage of his being by himself out there in the dark of night. Once they leave and Amos is alone again, he turns to send Avasarala a message asking for her help, as this is his last time on Earth and he isn't coming back ever. His attention is set on someone he needs to see first and he needs the clout of someone like Avasarala to help arranging it.
In the distance, a rocket fires off into the night sky.
- Steven Strait as James Holden
- Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
- Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata (credit only)
- Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
- Frankie Adams as Bobbie Draper
- Cara Gee as Camina Drummer
- Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros (credit only)
- Jasai Chase-Owens as Filip Inaros (credit only)
- Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
- José Zúñiga as Bull
- Michael Irby as Admiral Delgado
- Sandrine Holt as Oksana
- Frankie Faison as Charles Jacob Allen
- Tim DeKay as Admiral E. Sauveterre
- Stacey Roca as Lydia Allen
- Anna Hopkins as Monica Stuart
- Bahia Watson as Sakai
- George Tchortov as Leveau
- Lara Jean Chorostecki as Lt. Emily Babbage
- Nazneen Contractor as Ashanti
- Jacob Mundell as Erich
- Chad L. Coleman as Col. Frederick Lucius Johnson
- Amanda Cordner as Hutch
- Amanda Martinez as Colony Ship Captain
- Andrew Fleming as Gavin
- Basel Daoud as Belter Pirate Captain
- Cole Pollock as Angry Boy/Timothy
- Dayton Sinkia as Theo
- Gabriel Iglesias as Street Kid
- Idrissa Sanogo as Dock Tough
- Lily Gao as Nancy Gao
- Ryan Hollyman as UN Chief of Staff
- Samer Salem as Josep
- Stephen Tracey as Bertold
- Vanessa Smythe as Michio
- Wilex Ly as Serge
- This is the first episode since the beginning of the Expanse not to feature Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata.
- The episode title is a reference to the notion that there are periods of major upheaval after the fall of any major authority structure and leading into the next alignment of power. This kind of occurrence is the focus of the novella titled The Churn which tells the story of Amos's young life as Timothy before he left Baltimore and the events leading up to that departure. The churn is a concept related to a paradigm shift which was the theme of the sixth episode in season 2.
- During the scene where Amos is watching the street activity to identify someone to lead him to Erich, a street food vendor is shown selling Khlav Kalash, a brief easter egg reference to a fictional food described in the Simpsons episode The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson. Khlav Kalash is also shown as a canned food item in "Hard Vacuum".
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("The more you share" [00:05])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Timothy returns home" [06:15])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Holden checks Sakai's work" [13:31])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Force reduction and easy math" [17:55])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Amos sends Erich a message" [21:12])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" (<unlabeled & unmarked> [22:26])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Alex attends a lecture" [23:35])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" (<unlabeled & unmarked> [28:28])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Troubles letting go" [29:11])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Holden looks for Monica" [32:20])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Amos Burton wants to talk" [37:32])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Monica wakes up" [43:11])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("Chrisjen raises suspicions" [44:52])
- Season 5, Episode 2: "Churn" ("It takes strength to be kind" [46:48])
- "Paradigm Shift"
- 'The Expanse' Season 5: Here's That Hilarious 'Simpsons' Easter Egg You Might Have Missed