The Expanse Wiki
The Expanse Wiki

"Hard Vacuum" is the eighth episode of the fifth season of The Expanse.[1] Overall it is the fifty-fourth episode and released to streaming on January 20, 2021.


Amos returns to Baltimore with Clarissa. On Luna, Avasarala's alliances begin to shift. Alone and adrift, Naomi becomes a deadly lure.


The haze has been lifted[]

The episode begins with Amos and Clarissa riding their stolen motorcycles on the road, passing through flooded territory and muddy plains. Clarissa looks up and sees a spaceship launch through the sky.

The scene cuts to the two of them urinating on the ground outside an abandoned building, facing away from each other as they discuss how much longer they have until they reach Baltimore. As they finish, Clarissa notes with relief that the blockers have finally worn out, and enjoys a protein bar as she can now smell and taste again. She notices a large tarpaulin on the floor outside the building, and pulls it off, only to find a group of corpses of elderly people in body bags. She is saddened, and asks Amos whether this will be how things are from now on to which he replies it will be for a while. She then asks what they will do once they reach Baltimore, but he isn't sure. They agree that they need to leave, and Clarissa mentions the ship she saw earlier, adding that she knows a place where they can get a ship, but it will be hard to get there by themselves. Amos responds that they will need to find some help.[2]

Marco mourns[]

Aboard the Pella, Marco is kneeling over Cyn's dead body, mourning that they were together at the beginning and should have been together at the end. He asks Filip to tell him exactly what happened, and he explains that Cyn tried to stop Naomi from going out into space, but she just walked out of the airlock and then she was gone. He laments that if she wanted to die, she didn't have to kill Cyn. Marco sharply retorts that it wasn't Naomi who killed Cyn, but Filip. He sends the boy away, and proceeds to close Cyn's eyes with his hand.[3]

Please retransmit[]

Naomi wakes up on the Chetzemoka, and immediately vomits, howling in pain from the damage she suffers after her space leap. She stumbles to the ship's command deck, but finds that the screens are damaged and she has no access to the navigation or communication systems. She notices a mechanism on the wall, and realizes that the entire ship has been rigged as a bomb. She curses her luck, until she starts to hear a sound from deeper within the ship. She follows it and is shocked to find a space suit that is broadcasting a fake distress call in her voice, saying that she needs Holden's help.[4]

Searching the debris[]

On the Rocinante, Leveau shows Holden, Monica and Bull the readings after the Zmeya's explosion, finding no traces of the protomolecule. They discuss the possibility that the Zmeya could have handed off the sample, but they had no plausible opportunity to do so. Holden surmises that the tightbeam they intercepted was probably Marco ordering them to blow themselves up, which Bull is satisfied with. When he inquires about updates from the Razorback, Bull remarks that he has them looking for a "pebble in the ocean", but Holden retorts that that's exactly why they'll need help, and orders for the Roci to plot a course for the Razorback. Bull asks Monica what she believes will happen when Holden realizes he can't find Naomi. Monica doesn't think it's an option for Holden, but Bull says that it is an option for himself and that he is not going on a suicide mission to save Holden's girlfriend.[5]


On the Tynan, Drummer and her family/crew are collecting salvage from a fleet of ruined ships, and tensions are high as they are all tired, but Oksana calms down the fighting. Josep ponders that he has never seen as many dead bodies before, and Drummer explains that the ships belonged to an OPA faction named Matar Kubileya, who voted to sentence Marco to death in the tribunal against him. Bertold responds that it has nothing to do with them, and Michio asks him how he can act like nothing has changed, which he angrily insists it hasn't, as they still salvage resources like they always have. Drummer says that they are not salvagers, they are scavengers. Marco kills those who defy him, and they pick the bodies clean.

Meanwhile, Karal walks into the command deck and, after looking at it for a couple moments, seats herself on the captain's chair. Oksana walks in, and Karal asks her if they salvaged any missiles, but it looks like they were all used in the fight, which prompts Karal to joke that Kubileya always spend more on whiskey than weapons. Oksana asks why Marco attacked them, but Karal corrects her, saying that it wasn't Marco but all of them, as they are all Free Navy now. She proceeds to explain that Marco offered the Kubileya to join him, but they declined, and he let them go in peace, but they highjacked the Free Navy's transport skiffs. She proclaims that the Free Navy protects their allies and destroys their enemies, and reminds Oksana that Marco expects regular updates on salvage operations, with ordnance as a priority, but to also keep careful track of the food. She ends with conviction, saying "we must feed and protect the Belt." [6]

David Paster addresses Earth and Luna[]

On Luna, Avasarala and Delgado follow Secretary General David Paster as he walks into an auditorium full of spectators, who applaud for him. He gives a speech, mourning all the death and destruction brought by the bombardment of Earth, and honoring Avasarala and Delgado for their efforts, which saved millions of lives. He then passionately proclaims that he plans to hunt down Marco Inaros and his associates and bring them to justice.

After the speech, Avasarala reassures an insecure Paster that he showed the crowd that he is in control of the situation and that it doesn't matter if everyone believes him, as they saw the leader that they needed to see. Paster responds that now all that is left is to make good on his promises.[7]

Cutting a deal[]

Amos and Clarissa reach a devastated and inundated Baltimore, and are led by Hutch to the top of a building, where Erich is waiting for them. Erich jokes that Amos is the only person who could survive an asteroid attack and then willingly walk into a more dangerous situation, but Amos figures that things have changed enough that the old rules don't apply, and introduces him to Clarissa. Erich says he can't provide any help, but Amos replies that they are there to help Erich, and Clarissa tells him about Winnipesaukee Island, a private enclave οf vacation residences for wealthy people, mostly empty, which include individual hangars with orbital shuttles on every residence. Much to Erich's surprise, she explains that she used to spend the summer there with her father. Amos and Clarissa want to get to Luna with the shuttles, and Amos offers Erich a free ride along. He warns Erich that he won't survive on Earth, but Erich doesn't want to leave, as he has built his entire life in Baltimore and everything he has ever had has been there. Clarissa relates to the feeling of having lost everything, and when Erich dismisses her for being rich, she tells a story about a fellow inmate who killed all her children, but talked about them like they were still living. The inmate once told Clarissa that she knew her children were dead, but she also knew that she herself was dead, and that Clarissa was the only person in the prison who thought she was still alive. Clarissa explains that she knew then that her old self had died. Erich is shaken by the story, and turns to look over the flooded ruins of Baltimore, saying that he watched from the top of his building as the high-rises collapsed and entire areas that used to be under his control were swept away by the tidal waves. He thought this was another instance of the churn, but has now accepted that his old life is gone. Clarissa posits that starting over is not always bad. Erich agrees to their plan, and Amos asks if they can bring along some of Erich's tequila.[8]

Earth starts to organize[]

Paster chairs his first Security Council meeting on Luna, joined by Avasarala, Delgado and the rest of his provisional cabinet. He is briefed on the movements of the Free Navy, which appears to be dispersing through the Belt towards the Outer Planets. Paster wonders if Marco plans to destroy the Ring, but Delgado assures him that it's sufficiently protected. Paster asks if the Martians have any leads on Marco's whereabouts, but Avasarala says that they can't depend on Mars until they find out who in the Martian government has been supplying Marco with warships. She asks about Medina Station, which she says is extremely important to their Belter allies' economic future, and Delgado informs her that it's on high security alert, though they have limited offensive capabilities. Paster ponders that they are anticipating Marco's next move instead of making one themselves, and asks his advisors what he can do to show the public that he is an active leader. Delgado offers that the Navy has prepared response strike options for Belter stations like Hygiea and Iapetus, but advises that they strike against Pallas, where Marco started his movement and where he has the most followers. Paster's advisors are divided, as some do not want to murder innocent civilians, while others are dismissive of Belter lives after the millions of deaths on Earth. Delgado compares the situation to the UN's strike on Deimos, which was Avasarala's idea, calling it a bold move. To his surprise, Avasarala counters that she believed it to be the right choice at the time, but the situation is different as Deimos was a military base with a dozen officers, while Pallas is a civilian settlement with between 9 to 13 thousand people. When Delgado insists, Avasarala heatedly retorts that, if the Earth starts murdering innocent Belters, they will radicalize every Belter who doesn't support Inaros, which will lead to war with the entire Belt. This escalates into an intense argument between the advisors and Paster decides to set the matter aside for the moment. As they begin discussing relief efforts, Delgado and Avasarala stare at each other in tense silence.[9]

Naomi works to alter her situation[]

Naomi, still in intense pain, rummages through supply crates on the Chetzemoka, but is unable to find food or water. She picks up the suit that is transmitting the distress call and makes continuous efforts to hack into it using the limited resources at her disposal: She attempts to connect it to the ship's navigation, uses a makeshift pulling device to retrieve a tool that's out of her reach and crawls through a vent to scavenge a round mechanism from a fusebox, all of which prove futile. In the end, she finds a depressurized maintenance corridor, but the suits on the ship have no oxygen supply, so she is forced to go in with limited air. She manages to collect a couple of small cables, which she uses in conjunction with the helmet and the mechanism from the fusebox to craft a makeshift radio. She tries to use it to record a message over the fake distress call, explaining that the distress call is a lie to lure the Rocinante into a trap, that the Chetzemoka is a bomb rigged with a proximity trigger, that she is locked out of all controls but can receive incoming messages, and asking for help, though warning anyone who hears to not approach.[10]

Family squabbles[]

Drummer is alone in a room, calibrating her helmet, when Oksana approaches her. She confronts Drummer, affirming that they made the decision to follow Marco together and that it was the right one, and she doesn't understand why Drummer is pushing her away. When Drummer doesn't respond, Oksana presses that if they had refused Marco, they would be dead, whereas now they are together, and she reassures Drummer that they will get through this. Drummer slowly turns to face her, and simply replies that she isn't sure she can do that, before walking away.

Later, the entire family/crew is having a tense meal on the Dewalt, with most of them sitting in silence. Michio is worried about Serge, as she empathizes that supposing she was on the Pella herself, she wouldn't be at peace. Bertold dismisses her worries and tells her to stop looking back and start thinking on the things she can control. When Drummer stands up for Michio, a small argument starts, until Josep accidentally spills a bottle of water, causing the liquid to float all around in bubbles of various sizes. As he loudly sucks the water out of the air with his mouth, the group is unable to hold back their laughter, and they all proceed to suck the water bubbles, sharing a moment of joy together, until only the smallest bubbles remain. As the bubbles disperse throughout the room, the moment fades, and their smiles slowly drop.[11]

The Razorback finds a lead[]

On the Razorback, Alex and Bobbie are frustrated about being unable to track the Barkeith or any of Marco's ships. Bobbie enters the distress call channel, thinking they might be able to narrow down their search area by intercepting distress calls of ships attacked by the Free Navy, but is shocked to find something different.

On the Rocinante, Holden receives a message from Alex, saying that they found Naomi and attaching the distress call which, unbeknownst to them, is the fake one.[12]

Delgado speaks candidly[]

Paster calls Delgado to his office and notes that he seemed to be holding back in the meeting, and encourages him to speak his mind. Delgado thinks they should blow up Pallas station to show Inaros and the entire Belt that they made a mistake attacking the Earth. Paster wants to make a bold move, but also wants to ensure that it's the right one, but Delgado says that his job isn't to be concerned with morality, and he knows that the victims of Inaros's attack need to see Paster fighting back. Marco targeted their civilians, and is now using the Belt's civilians as human shields, so Delgado is positive that the blood will be on Marco's hands. Paster ponders that all of them will have blood on their hands by the end of this. Delgado responds that, if it's more Belter blood, then he will take it. Paster thanks him for his candor, and dismisses him.[13]

Naomi works more urgently[]

Naomi is overjoyed to receive a message from Alex, but her joy turns to dismay when his message says that he is coming to pick her up. Realizing that all her efforts were for nothing, she rips her makeshift radio apart in exasperation. After she collects herself, she turns the fake distress call back on, and begins to speak the message aloud word-for word, trying to synchronize herself with it, while she puts on the space suit. She enters the depressurized maintenance corridor once more, and approaches a fusebox which she begins to tamper with, all the while repeating the wording of the fake distress call. She places a set of pliers on one of the cables, but her oxygen starts to run out and she is forced to go back to the cabin. She takes note of a sign on the wall that displays the amount of air held in the airlock between the cabin and he depressurized corridor, which is lost every time she makes the trip, and begins to make marks on the wall to keep track of how many journeys back and forth she will be able to make before the air in the cabin runs out. Despite the great strain on herself and the multiple failed attempts, she keeps going back and forth and trying to tamper with the cables in the fusebox.[14]

Karal antagonizes Drummer[]

Karal enters the Tynan's command deck, where Drummer is overseeing the salvage process. She orders that, as soon as they are finished, they will go to Ceres, as Marco suspects the Inner Planets will be repositioning their ships to block trade routes, and they have orders to attack any Inner ship they encounter. Drummer glares at Oksana, but relents. Just then, Josep picks up Naomi's fake distress call and, after listening to it, Drummer immediately orders that she will go there to pick her up. Karal tells Drummer that she can't help Naomi and that she is not on that ship, but Drummer doesn't listen, so Karal reveals that Naomi went looking for Filip, that she was on the Pella when Drummer came aboard, and she mocks Naomi for abandoning her family again by walking out of an airlock. Drummer refuses to believe her, but Karal gloats that she doesn't care, as all that matters is that Naomi was a traitor to the Belt, and that she is now dead. Drummer is enraged and reaches for her gun, but Oksana intervenes and begs her to stop. After a tense moment, Drummer storms away from the command deck.

Walking into a small cargo room, Drummer begins to scream in a mournful rage. Within the cargo room, she spots the whiskey bottle that she and Ashford were supposed to share after he returned from his mission to kill Marco Inaros. She opens the bottle, and begins to gulp down its contents.[15]

New distress message[]

Naomi, exhausted and barely able to speak, stumbles through the maintenance corridor. To her great relief, she finally manages to find the correct cable and, when she applies pressure with the pliers, she manages to cut off portions of the fake distress call. She returns to the ship with the last of her oxygen.[16]

Karal speaks ill of the dead[]

Oksana sits by herself in the galley, when Karal approaches and joins her. She apologizes to Karal for Drummer's behavior, but Karal just jokes about Drummer's famous temper and remarks that it was fun to see. Oksana says that this new situation has been hard on them, but Karal retorts that they are making it hard on themselves, and that Drummer is captain only as long as she follows Marco's orders. Oksana promises to talk to Drummer, but Karal asks her if she truly thinks it will work, to which Oksana replies that "it has to." After a moment of silence, Karal confesses that she and Naomi used to be close, much to Oksana's surprise. When she asks what happened, Karal explains that Naomi stopped believing in what they were fighting for, and that they were a family then and needed her, but she turned her back on them and left. This, in Karal's eyes, proved that Naomi only cared about herself.

Meanwhile, Drummer floats idly in the cargo room, with her makeup smudged with tears and the whiskey bottle in her hand.

As Karal and Oksana sit in silence, Karal gets a notification on her terminal. She is perplexed to see that the distress call just stopped, even though it wasn't supposed to. She opens the channel, and the distress call is now fractured, with most of the audio missing and only small parts of it discernible, saying "This is Naomi Nagata... Tell James Holden I'm in... control". Oksana asks if the message changing could mean that Naomi is on the Chetzemoka, but Karal is adamant that it's impossible; Naomi is supposed to be dead.[17]



Guest Starring[]




  • The episode end credits for the character appears with the name David Paster, written using an "e"; however, the chapter/scene titles within the episode label him as Pastor, written with an "o".
  • During this episode, the two UN battleships at the Sol gate are called Nathan Hale class by Admiral Fleet Delgado when he discusses the security of the Ring; however these ships are shown to be Truman-class dreadnoughts in Nemesis Games (episode). A ship in a previous season was called Nathan Hale; however, this previous ship was of the Leonidas-class. This is therefore a continuity error.

Canned Khlav Kalash

  • During the scene where Amos and Clarissa are escorted up stairs to see Erich, Amos eyes stocks of food. There is a brief easter egg in the form of a reference to canned Khlav Kalash, a fictional food described in the Simpsons episode The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson. Khlav Kalash is also shown being sold by a street food vender in "Churn".


  1. Icon-wgaw-24x24.png
  2. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("The haze has been lifted" [01:27])
  3. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Marco mourns" [05:56])
  4. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Please retransmit" [07:13])
  5. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Searching the debris" [10:14])
  6. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Scavenging" [11:24])
  7. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("David Paster addresses Earth and Luna" [14:59])
  8. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Cutting a deal" [18:12])
  9. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Earth starts to organize" [22:23])
  10. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Naomi works to alter her situation" [25:55])
  11. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Family squabbles" [33:57])
  12. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("The Razorback finds a lead" [37:11])
  13. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Delgado speaks candidly" [38:51])
  14. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Naomi works more urgently" [40:20])
  15. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Karal antagonizes Drummer" [44:08])
  16. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("New distress message" [46:43])
  17. Season 5, Episode 8: "Hard Vacuum" ("Karal speaks ill of the dead" [48:49])

External links[]