“It was a thing from prison, a creative writing class, it was stupid. I wrote this little, I don’t know, poem. Kinda took it on as a prayer…I have killed, but I’m not a killer, because a killer is a monster, and monsters aren’t afraid. I’m afraid all the time…”
— Clarissa Mao, “Tribes”

“Tribes” is full of heart to hearts, and I’m guessing it’s because the writers rightfully assumed we’d need a breather after all the intensity the previous two episodes gave us. The above quote comes from the last conversation between Amos and Clarissa, one of many throughout this episode, as they make their way through the devastated Chesapeake Conservatory Zone. We get mentions of Clarissa’s father, Jules-Pierre (the architect of the Eros massacre way back in season one), who is Schrodinger’s parent, according to Clarissa — she doesn’t know if he’s alive or dead, because he hasn’t spoken to her since she went to prison.

Amos and Clarissa are essentially on the run–Clarissa refuses to go to a UN refugee camp because she knows she’ll either be arrested again or shot, which Amos helpfully points out. I doubt the UN infrastructure is intact enough to actually recognize Clarissa as who she really is, but maybe they could. They find a dead man in the woods, who Amos steals a coat from — he’s not using it, Amos rationalizes it while giving it to a deteriorating Clarissa. They meet up with a man who has a campfire, where they learn there’s a man who’s barricaded himself in his house.

The guy must be some sort of prepper because he already has a fence around his property, and he’s got plenty of supplies and weapons to wait out the end of days. Amos confronts him, and it doesn’t go well, with Amos being forced to strip, for some reason that I’m sure is not at all connected to fanservice. Not that I’m opposed to fanservice, it’s just that it’s freezing outside where they are. The guy is about to shoot Amos when Clarissa jumps into action, literally, killing the man rather savagely and leaving Amos covered in blood. It was a stark image in the trailer, and it’s a stark image here.

Amos gets Clarissa’s broken hand into a splint, and Clarissa gets some much-needed rest, and they decide they’re going to Baltimore, which seems like a bad idea considering Erich told Amos that if he ever showed his face there again, he’d kill him, but y’know, Amos does have Clarissa and her implant now. Amos has a little monologue about tribes early in the episode, and he declares that Clarissa and he are now a “tribe of two”. Amos is determined to get back to the Roci, somehow, and we all know not to stand between Amos and something he wants. Maybe they’ll be successful.

“Tribes” starts out with Chrisjen in her office, crying, which she never does, so you know the situation on Earth must be pretty bad. At this point, Arjun is assumed to be dead, but we do learn that Chrisjen’s daughter and grandchildren are on their way to Luna. I suppose that’s a good thing–how old must her grandchildren be by now, considering they were kids in the first season? We’ll probably see them later. Chrisjen also meets the new Sec-Gen, David Paster (Sugith Varughese, who is interestingly one of the original writers of Fraggle Rock, of all things). He’s the former Transportation Secretary, and it’s kind of clear he has no idea what he’s doing. He asks Chrisjen to join his provisional cabinet, which at least shows he has a brain, thank God.

Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) searches for her lost husband in "Tribes"
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala in THE EXPANSE
Credit: Amazon Studios

She accepts the offer, before putting her jewelry back on — her armor — and wiping the tears from her face. Shohreh Aghdashloo plays this whole side of Chrisjen beautifully, and considering we’ve never seen it before, it still doesn’t feel out of place. She’s not weeping, but she’s clearly shaken. And to be honest, it’s good to see. No one in this episode is entirely okay, for sure.

Holden’s in “Tribes” only a bit, to assure us that he and the Roci are alive and well and rebooting the reactor. Monica’s also decided that she’s coming along, which Holden doesn’t protest nearly as much as Bull does. Holden also finally receives Naomi’s “If Something Goes Wrong,” message, because, well…something really went wrong. Was it on a send delay? That’s not entirely clear.

On the Screaming Firehawk, Bobbie and Alex have seemingly managed to recover from their hard burn to hatch a plan that involves putting a bomb on one of the Belter ships’ engines. They succeed, and while it’s a cool bit of spacewalking and shows off that Bobbie’s still got it with her power armor, it all feels a little rushed.

No, most of the action here is with Naomi, the Free Navy, Marco, and Camina. Marco is furious that Naomi was let anywhere near the comms and wants to outright space her. Cyn refuses to do that, and so does Filip. And Marco’s not about to get his hands sullied, so he doesn’t do it either. Karal says she’d be happy to do it at any point.

Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), is, as always, a nasty piece of work.
Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros and Jasai Chase Owens as Filip Inaros on THE EXPANSE
Credit: Amazon Studios

Meanwhile, Camina’s crew is debating actually joining the Free Navy, with plenty of reasons for and against — against, Marco’s a madman who’s essentially allowed the Inners to declare war on the Belt. For, there’s not a war against the Belt, and he might be the only one who can protect them. (That, and they fully acknowledge he could have them killed at any time.) Marco and Camina share a few deliciously tense moments, which really only serve to make Marco look like the slimy conman he is. And that Camina is a badass as always, of course.

Camina also ends “Tribes” knowing there’s something up with Naomi since Filip lets it slip that Naomi is somewhere nearby. It’s kind of funny to see how Filip is so much like his mother, or at least how she’s been characterized this season–way out of his league when it comes to the scheming these particular Belters have been doing their entire lives. Here’s hoping Naomi, who has a heart to heart with Filip at the end of the episode, actually converts her son.

But I’m not holding out hope.

Watch The Expanse Season 5 Wednesdays on Prime Video.