Season 4 of For All Mankind entered its tense final phase Friday, with action heating up on Mars and on Earth ahead of climactic episode 10. Episode 9, “Brazil,” is all about setting up that endgame (and it really could be the End, as we await Apple TV+ news of season 5 renewal … or not).
But two characters won’t live to see that endgame. And many more lives are at risk as forces on Earth seek to control the fight in space over the Goldilocks asteroid’s vast mineral wealth — and maybe even the future of space exploration.
For All Mankind season 4, episode 9: Bullet ends dream of freedom in ‘Brazil’
For All Mankind season 4, episode 9, “Brazil,” wastes no time getting into plot machinations as it rushes toward the season finale next week. Last week we learned about how Helios boss Dev Ayeshi (Edi Gathegi) needs his rebel crew to swap out the “disriminator” box on the Ranger spacecraft to seize control of it and keep it from taking the Goldilocks asteroid to Earth orbit.
But Samantha Massey (Tyner Rushing), planted on the Ranger crew, still hasn’t done the deed as a 48-hour window of opportunity starts to close. And then, just before the opening credits roll, she releases a drop of liquid into the device’s intake, shorting it out. A long shot pulls away to show Ranger and the massive asteroid from afar.
And at this point, distracted by the majesty of the void, you’d never guess which two characters are going to die in this episode.
All hail the discriminator
Ranger crewmembers examine the disabled discriminator and decide to put in the spare, an equipment redundancy that proves handy for maintaining space operations as well as plot. Sam volunteers to go get the spare, of course, because that’s when she can make the swap with the version that will enable Dev’s crew to take control. As we learned last week, the mysterious discriminator is the key to everything.
But as she leaves the supply room, the camera perspective switches to take in the room from inside a vent grate. Is that a subtle suggestion a hidden security camera in there watches her, and someone may blow up the heist plot?
Kelly knows something’s going on
As usual, the show cuts from scene to scene on Mars and on Earth, advancing plot lines. Kelly Baldwin (Cynthia Wu) goes over data from her methane research at the crater, suggesting to Dev she may have evidence of microbial life on Mars. But he’s distracted, trying to leave and barely interested in this massive discovery.
She suspects he’s going to do something with her dad, Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman). Formerly antagonists, the two have become suspiciously close. And over the course of the episode, her suspicions build until she confronts Ed about what’s really going on.
North Koreans have ‘eyes’ everywhere
Meanwhile, Ed and Miles Dale (Toby Kebbel) approach Command Lee Jung-Gill (C.S. Lee) about using North Korean surveillance to see the whole base. Lee says it’s dangerous, and we soon find out just how dangerous. And he also wants to know if his American friends are ever going to get his wife out of North Korea, as agreed. Ed convinces him the heist keeping the asteroid in Mars orbit will lead to the Lees reuniting.
“I never thought I’d say this, but God bless North Korea,” Ed later says, when the crew has camera views of everything, including the Happy Valley command center overseeing Ranger’s mission at the asteroid.
They ping the discriminator to see if Sam made the switch. Their contact is authenticated. And as usual, every time something important happens on the show, bits of expository dialogue are included to make sure the viewing audience gets it. “Our discriminator’s in and we control their engines,” Ed says, as if the people who did it need any explanation. He and Miles smile with self-satisfaction.
Will Margo and Sergei just elope already?
Back at NASA, Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) and Aleida Rosales (Coral Peña) meet with NASA Director Eli Hobson (Daniel Stern) about cost and time overruns in the asteroid mining project. But Margo has something else on her mind. She takes Aleida aside afterwards and tries to get her to seek Sergei’s (Piotr Adamczyk) feedback on trans-lunar trajectories.
But Aleida is sick of the secret note-passing back and forth between Margo and her former Soviet scientist paramour who turned out to be in the KGB’s grip, and she insists on a face-to-face meeting at her house — even though Margo is constantly watched by both sides.
Later, Margo and Aleida arrive at her house to find an eager Sergei already there. Over dinner, they discuss technical details and then drift into geopolitics. Sergei says the Soviet leader only cares about enriching himself. He sees Russia withdrawing from Mars after gaining asteroid wealth, which could prompt the U.S. to do the same. “Without competition there is no progress,” he says. It’s clear he cares about advancing space exploration, not about a few hundred trillion bucks from some space rock.
Aleida’s husband, sick of all this talk, sends the kids to bed early. Margo gives each one a little present and Sergei gives Margo a music CD. He asks if she’s thought about his idea that they leave together (in what I’m pretty sure is the show’s first reference to this). She only wants to focus on the asteroid project and worries if they leave it will be just to hide in some apartment for decades. Then he lays out his real plan — to approach his friend high up in the Brazilian space program, who will gladly take their expertise in exchange for protection.
They muse about building a powerful new space program together like in the old days. And yet she still insists on thinking about it. But when he clasps her hand in his, some of her reservations appear to lift. Love conquers all. Or does it?
Espionage charge prompts investigation
Meanwhile, North Korean Commander Cho notices something amiss with a computer monitor. Lee feigns ignorance when the commander finds a NASA-branded gadget attached to the back (seriously, “NASA” is stamped on it and it has a serial number). The commander goes to Happy Valley Commander Danielle Pool (Krys Marshall) and confronts her about this “American espionage equipment.”
Of course, we know it was Lee who put it there to share North Korean “eyes” with Dev’s crew.
In the commander’s indignant ranting to his translator, Lee, about how she should be arresting people, Poole hears the name Miles Dale. He’s the only American who has been in the North Korean module. Poole asks a crew member to track down the gadget’s history and who has used it. This isn’t translated and the Korean commander leaves, fuming that he’ll conduct his own investigation.
Pause to engage human-emotion protocol
Here the show hurriedly injects some deep human emotion, as it often does. It cuts to a scene in which Poole leaves a touching vid-mail for her son. She looks forward to being a grandma to a new granddaughter. Dani cries as she expresses regrets about missing her son’s first steps and jokes that, unlike her son, her granddaughter will be a “full-blown Trekkie.”
Everybody shed a tear or two? Feel better? OK. Let’s move on.
But wait, there’s another one, and this one is connected to plot, not just the show’s general theme of sacrifice for the good of all. A bit later in the episode, having expressed building suspicion about whatever her dad is doing with Dev, Kelly confronts Ed, demanding an explanation for all his lying.
So wily Ed confides in Kelly about his illness — remember the hand tremor? — laying it on thick about not wanting to end up in a nursing home not remembering who he is anymore. So he stayed in space to keep doing something meaningful. She seems to buy it. With tears in his eyes, he apologizes for not being there and for lying to her. She tenderly wipes his tears away and they embrace.
But she won’t let go of the Dev thing, asking him about it again right before the scene cuts away.
Here come the CIA and KGB
Part of Kelly’s urgency to know what her dad is up to stems from escalating tension on base, as Dani orders another search of crew quarters. Her investigation into the NASA comms gear in the forbidden North Korean module stirred up a lot of worries, and the action heats up quickly.
She found out lots of space-comms equipment was stolen. Eli brings in the CIA and KGB-connected Soviet space boss Irina Morozova (Svetlana Efremova). Fearing sabotage, they activate intelligence assets in Happy Valley, one from each agency.
Meanwhile, North Korean commander Cho pores over security video from all over the base while hoovering up loads of North Korean snacks. He watches Miles carefully.
Dani debriefs with the KGB and CIA operatives, whom she has just discovered are her crew members, one from Helios (KGB) and one from NASA (CIA).
Commander Cho examines an elevator using some sort of device and appears to have a minor revelation.
Miles reports to the job to improve air circulation in someone’s quarters, but it’s the intelligence operatives luring him in for interrogation. He denies all, and that turns into a beatdown. But Miles isn’t getting it as bad as some people.
Burger-time — now with more murders!
Cho keeps digging. He sneaks up on Dev’s crew in the closed-off bowels of the base. But Lee hits him with a flashlight from behind and they fight. Dev’s two crew members onsite try to help but Lee ends up choking Cho out, appearing to kill him.
At her hotel, Margo puts on her new Duke Ellington CD that Sergei gave her at Aleida’s house. At a separate hotel, Sergei arrives and settles in. They both get ready to eat, separately, as the music plays, and for a moment it seems like a happy, time-passing montage.
She has her hotel room-service burger — we saw one last week, too — and he has a McDonald’s Big Mac. They’re both fussy about their toppings. She takes her first bite with relish. But when he goes to take his first bite, someone shoots him in the side of the head from behind. And once he slumps down on the floor, the assassin puts a handgun in his dead hand to make it look like suicide.
Watch For All Mankind on Apple TV+
You can catch up with the first three seasons of the alternative-history series, plus the new season, on Apple TV+. It’s available by subscription for $9.99 with a seven-day free trial. You can also get it via any tier of the Apple One subscription bundle. For a limited time, customers who purchase and activate a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy three months of Apple TV+ for free.