Tears of the Balmera is the fifth episode of Season One.
In the Bridge of the Castle of Lions, Lance remains unconscious while Shiro awakens to the voices of Sendak and Haxus discussing the location of Pidge after the Green Paladin sabotaged the launch of the Castleship. Haxus picks up the transmission of the Voltron Team's communication channel and relays it over the main console's speakers for all in the Bridge to hear. Allura tells Pidge the next step in their plan is to shut off the particle barrier's generator located under the main hull. This gives away Pidge's location; Sendak orders his damaged Sentries to kill the Paladin. The robots leave Shiro and Lance unguarded with only the threat of Sendak and Haxus remaining in the Bridge.
Hunk and Coran have crashed at the bottom of a mine on a Balmera. Two pairs of unnerving yellow eyes watch them, glowing from within the darkness of the mine. Hunk has his Bayard summoned in the form of a cannon, and he warns the aliens not to approach because he does not know how to use his Bayard well. The aliens are not persuaded and step into the lights of the mine shaft; they are Balmerans, locals of the living planet: Shay and her brother Rax.
Both the two visitors and two locals are surprised to find each are not Galran. Before they can properly greet each other, the Galra battle patrol jet from earlier descends into the mine, scanning for the Altean flight pod. Rax wishes to leave Hunk and Coran behind to flee with his sister, but the two protest that they need help or the Galra Empire will kill them, if not do something worse. Rax is not swayed by their plight, as he believes he and his sister will be killed if seen with outsiders. Shay, however, refuses to abandon the "skylings", so her brother reluctantly agrees to help.
The two Balmerans quickly push the flight pod into the mine tunnel, hiding it from the patrolling fighter jet. They hide with Hunk and Coran in the tunnel as the Galra patrol passes by without detecting anything amiss. With the threat passed, Hunk exchanges introductions with the two Balmerans and tells them he and Coran are looking for something they are certain to know about.
It is quiet inside the Castle of Lions as Pidge enters the particle barrier's generator: a long hall with dangerous energy arcs along the walls. The technology appears so advanced that Pidge has doubts it will be easy to understand and deal with. Allura believes in Pidge and reminds how the lives of Shiro and Lance are at stake, so there is no way that the Green Paladin can give up. This prompts Pidge to reflect how the search for the missing Holt family members began.
In the past, Katie Holt, a young girl, sat with her entire family at dinner the evening before the Kerberos Mission launched. Katie wished to join her brother Matt and father Sam on the mission, but her father told her he suspected she would have her own crew some day and be part of something the whole universe would notice. Katie took pride in these words.Five months later, Katie and her mother saw the television broadcast stating that the crew of the Kerberos Mission were missing and presumed dead due to a crash from pilot error. Katie became so hurt and angered at this presumption that she refused to accept it and hacked into the computer of Commander Iverson's office in the Galaxy Garrison at least twice to perform her own investigation. Iverson caught her in the act; the two argued over how the Garrison drones found no evidence of a crash despite the Garrison's claims otherwise. Iverson threatened to charge her with treason for accessing classified information and had her escorted out by a Garrison guard, then banned her from the premises. Katie stubbornly declared she could not be kept out and would never give up searching for the truth.
The Green Paladin
Pidge, reaffirmed by this parallel with the past, asks Allura for instructions on what to do. Allura warns her not to touch the energy arcs, as the particle barrier is also a weapon as well as a shield. Before the princess can continue, the Galra Sentries interrupt by firing lasers at Pidge unawares; Rover is able to shove Pidge aside before she is struck. Allura hears Pidge's yells as she flees from the Sentries. Worried, Allura thinks on what can be done and then remembers that the Altean Mice are still inside the Castle of Lions. She telepathically speaks to them and they awaken from their slumber in the princess' room to rush to the team's assistance.
Pidge cowers behind a structure to avoid the onslaught of laser fire and sees on her projected map that she can escape through a shaft, although to her frustration, it is two floors above her. Pidge generates a hologram of herself from her armor and sends it running at the energy arcs along the hall. The Sentries fall for the trap and fire at the hologram, destroying it and hitting the dangerous energy arcs Allura warned of earlier. The resulting violent reaction takes out one of the Sentries and distracts the rest for a moment so Pidge makes a run for the exit shaft above. Struggling to escape the Sentries' laser fire, Pidge activates her Green Bayard grappling hook and uses it to swiftly pull herself up to the exit shaft. She is stunned by her own accomplishment and scrambles into the shaft with Rover to escape.
One Galra Sentry instructs the others to stay behind as two of them leave to pursue Pidge. The Green Paladin exits the shaft and finds herself in the Training Deck. The two Galra Sentries break out of the command room overlooking the Training Deck and attack. Pidge defends with her shield and accesses the controls of the invisible maze using the computer on her Paladin armor. As she dives to the other side of the Training Deck, Pidge locks the two Sentries inside of the maze and destroying one with its electrical shock barriers. Pidge slips away through shaft in the floor of the Training Deck, but the remaining Sentry escapes the maze and follows her. Pidge fails to avoid being shot in such a narrow space of interlocking crawl spaces: she is struck from behind, jetpack damaged beyond use, and falls down another shaft.
Thankfully, Pidge's armor protects her from the blast and she is able to use her grappling hook to avoid falling to her death by embedding it in the ceiling behind the Galra Sentry above. As the Sentry fires down at her, Pidge catches the robot with her Bayard and yanks it into the shaft, flinging the Sentry to the bottom where it combusts in a massive explosion. Pidge nearly loses her footing from the shock waves and falls again, but Rover, her small floating Galra drone and companion, supports Pidge with its own small body to save her, much to her gratitude. Rover beeps in reply.
Freedom and Family
On the distant Balmera, Hunk and Coran sit around a fire with Shay, Rax, and their Balmeran family eating soup made from cave-root and cave bugs by Shay's grandmother. While disgusted by the ingredients, both visitors try to remain polite. Hunk is saddened when Shay and her father inform him that thousands of Balmerans live in the mines, the entire planet enslaved by Zarkon to harvest Crystals. Although Shay's father claims they find true happiness in having their family, Rax thinks the Galra Empire would tear their family apart if they were discovered with intruders. He is angered that people only take from the Balmera and give nothing in return. Shay recounts that people once replenished the Balmera with energy after taking a Crystal for an equal exchange; this is something the Galra Empire never does, so every Balmeran can feel the Balmera suffering. She places her hand upon the ground and as it glows, they can all hear the Balmera's cry.
Hunk apologizes for putting everyone in danger but thinks faster they have a Crystal, the faster everyone will be safer. Coran asks about a "battle-class Crystal" and learns they are the most rare and guarded relentlessly by Galra Sentries until they are harvested. Shay knows of one recently discovered; Rax silences her idea, claiming Galra battle patrols are seeking the Altean flight pod to destroy it on sight. He believes Hunk and Coran have no chance of leaving alive regardless if they have a Crystal. Thinking aloud that the Crystal is the hardest thing in the universe to obtain, Hunk learns from Coran that "scaultrite mineral found only in the stomachs of giant weblums" is much more difficult to get a hold of. The royal advisor at least agrees they are in quite the quandary.
Shay suggests they stay until another Crystal is produced without the Galra knowing. Hunk cannot wait that long because he has to have a Crystal to power a cryo-replenisher for Lance as soon as possible. As they are so short on time, Coran orders Hunk to repair the flight pod while he does reconnaissance of the area and thinks up a plan of action.
The Path of a Paladin
A Lone Cadet
In the Castle of Lions, Pidge exits the crawlspaces into an empty Castle hallway. After removing her helmet to rest for a moment, she recalls the day she infiltrated the Galaxy Garrison under her forged identity.
In the past, Katie Holt dressed as a cadet and cut off her own hair to change her appearance and enter the Garrison as "Pidge Gunderson". The day she met her new team, Lance was dancing in celebration after seeing he passed the selection of fighter pilots since Keith, the best pilot of the class, was expelled. Hunk was assigned to be the team engineer under Lance's command, albeit reluctant to fly; upon reading the bizarrely unfamiliar name of their communications officer, Pidge approached them and introduced herself under her fake name as a male cadet.While the cadets exchanged greetings and Lance started to suggest sneaking off campus to bond as a team, Pidge overheard Iverson talking to another Garrison officer about securing the Galaxy Garrison's computer system and speaking disdainfully of how it had been breached by "a little girl". When the commander approached the three cadets, Pidge saluted him with her left arm to cover her face. Iverson corrected her to salute properly with her right arm, but otherwise did not notice anything amiss as he passed by. Pidge sighed in relief; Lance tried to redirect her attention to his plans for a fun night out, but Pidge rejected the offer and walked away. Lance was offended by his teammate's cold behavior and left with Hunk. Although seeking solitude to investigate the Kerberos Disaster, Pidge paused to watch them go with a hesitant expression on her face before taking her own leave.
Realizing from her memories how she never reached out to her team nor fully offered her time and support, Pidge decides that now, in the present, she will do all she can for her teammates. With her sense of duty realized, the Green Paladin proudly dons her helmet and leaves with Rover to retake the Castle of Lions. Neither she nor Sendak are aware of the Altean Mice also on the move within the Castle.
As Hunk repairs the Altean flight pod in the mines of the Balmera, Shay asks him what the sky above is like. Hunk is dumbfounded that she has never seen the sky of her own planet. Shay laments this fact, but climbs atop the flight pod and tells him that she sometimes climbs as high in the mines as she dares herself and imagines what the sky is like; the young Balmeran girl voices her jealousy of Hunk's ability to fly to different worlds. Hunk tells her that it is possible for her to be free as well. Shay cannot even recognize the word nor fathom the concept of being "free", as she has only known a life of Zarkon controlling everything. Hunk asks her if she has heard of Voltron. For Shay, the robot is a child's tale. For Hunk, it is a reality and he is one of its Paladins dedicated to defeating the Galra Empire.
When Hunk declares this to Shay, her brother Rax appears and scolds him for filling his sister's head with a fantasy that will never come true; the male Balmeran accepts the safety and comfort of their cavern home even if it is ruled by the Galra. Rax takes his sister away and Hunk watches with concern in his eyes, unsettled by the way the Balmerans have accepted their fate.
Triumph or Death
The Galra are preparing to reboot the launch sequence for the Castle of Lions to take flight. Haxus is in the Central Energy Chamber after undoing the damage Pidge wrought and works with Sendak through the Castle's computer to manually initiate the launch. Unbeknownst to him, Pidge has returned to the chamber with Rover and scales the wall to access a computer panel. She scans it with her armor's computer and gains access to the control systems. As Haxus powers up the main engine, Pidge increases the engine power to dangerous levels and causes the energy within it to overload and violently explode, sending an electrical shock wave throughout the chamber. Haxus is caught in the blast, yet survives; Pidge holds on to Rover as it hovers in the air to avoid being electrocuted.
Rover brings Pidge to Haxus for a showdown. The Galran is insulted that a "child" has been causing so much trouble. Pidge declares herself to be a Paladin of Voltron and by no means a child. Haxus laughs and draws his sword, calling himself a soldier of the Galra Empire who can only be stopped by triumph or death. He rushes Pidge with his sword and while she can dodge his attacks, Haxus catches her Bayard's grappling hook with his sword and uses its rope to send her sprawling. As she lays helpless, Haxus prepares to strike her dead. Suddenly, Rover appears to distract him and Pidge dives between his legs, tangling them in her grappling hook. She pulls hard on the rope and Haxus falls off-balance. As he teeters on the edge of the catwalk and tries to regain his balance, Rover flies at his face and knocks him over.
However, to Pidge's horror, Haxus grabs the floating drone to avoid falling. Rover decides to sacrifice itself for Pidge and overloads its own power to completely deactivate. With its power gone, the drone falls and takes Haxus with it. Pidge yells in protest but is too late to salvage Rover from its fate: both the drone and Haxus fall into the depths of the Central Energy Chamber to meet their end.
Pidge is allowed little time to mourn the loss of her companion. After losing contact, Sendak tries asking for Haxus through the Castle's computer. Pidge greets the Galra commander instead and informs him of his soldier's death; she threatens that soon Sendak will be next. Enraged, Sendak demands that Pidge surrender and she refuses. In order to convince her, Sendak allows her to hear Shiro's screaming as he tortures him with shocks from his prosthetic gauntlet. Shiro tries in vain to warn Pidge not to listen to anything the commander demands before he is struck. Sendak informs the Green Paladin that she has the power to end her friend's suffering if only she surrendered. Pidge must make the decision.
On the Balmera, Rax is insistent that Hunk and Coran leave. Hunk reminds him that even with the Altean flight pod repaired, they cannot leave without the battle-class Crystal and asks Coran if he concocted a plan to retrieve it. The answer is yes and a smirk, but the royal advisor's plan is hardly fool-proof: Coran sits upon Hunk's shoulders as he wears a Galra Sentry armor and wraps them in a blanket to hide that they are two people. Hunk laments how he has to act as the "legs" yet again when he was the one who defeated the Sentry, thinking he should be the head. Coran hushes him as their stumbling makeshift robot approaches two real Sentries guarding the Crystal.
Coran acts as the voice and instructs the Sentries that their shift is over so they need to return to their boss. The robots are not convinced and ask for verification of the new arrival's identification code. Coran tries to act as a higher rank and demands they surrender their laser blasters and "ID badges". Still not convinced, the Sentries brandish their weapons and threaten to destroy the unknown "robot" if it does not verify its identity. Coran pretends to oblige but throws off the disguise to reveal Hunk with his Bayard cannon. They leave no time for the Sentries to react as Hunk litters them with holes.
With the Sentries destroyed, Coran approaches the massive Crystal and touches it; the Crystal glows. Hunk questions what Coran is doing when they have to leave as soon as possible. Coran reminds him that the Balmera is a sacred being and he refuses to force the Crystal out of its host painfully and disrespectfully like the Galra Empire does. He tells Hunk that he must communicate with the Balmera and let its life force connect with his own, such as was done in the past when his Alteans still lived. Hunk is amazed by the royal advisor's knowledge.
The Balmera responds to Coran's wishes and exposes the entirety of the Crystal for him. This nearly causes it to topple over, so Coran tries to steady it. The Crystal is so massive that it injures Coran's spine and he declares himself broken; his endeavors are at least successful. Just as Hunk sighs, he hears the sound of laser blasters arming and turns to see they are completely surrounded by Galra Sentries aimed to kill. Coran tries to pretend he has a higher rank than them again but is in too much pain to keep up the act and collapses. Hunk nervously raises his arms in surrender.
Meanwhile, in the Castle of Lions, Pidge lurks near the entrance to the Castle Bridge and listens as Sendak expresses how impressed he is that Shiro escaped his initial year-long capture. The Galra commander wonders if he should visit Earth to see if any other humans have a similar strong spirit, but thinks they will all end up the same broken soul that Shiro has become. Sendak remains confident in his victory and declares all planets and races will share the same fate now that the Galra Empire has Voltron.
A Castle Reclaimed
The Price of Freedom
Although Hunk and Coran have been locked in a cell on the Balmera, they are soon freed when Shay arrives carrying an arm of a Galra Sentry. By placing its hand on the scanner, she is able to remove the energy barrier of the cell. Shay informs them that the Crystal is prepared for departure on their flight pod. She had been instructed to bring the Crystal to the surface, but chose to betray the Galra Empire instead regardless of the danger posed to her life and her family because Hunk's words of freedom touched her heart. Shay believes Voltron could free all Balmera; Hunk is filled with determination from her bravery and hope.
The three rush to the flight pod and are greeted by a large squadron of Galra Sentries and a battle patrol jet. It is Rax, Shay's own brother, who informed the Galra of their escape. He believes the visitors have brought nothing but trouble and that bargaining with the Empire is the only way to protect his sister. Hunk, angered, is prepared to fight with his Bayard but Shay stops him. She calls on the Balmera for its aid instead by placing her hand on the ground and the massive living planet responds: a near cave-in occurs, crushing the Sentries and patrol.
Rax avoids being caught in the fray and he is not the only one: several Sentries survive and fire on the three heroes. As Shay runs for the flight pod with Coran and Hunk, she is caught by a snare fired by one of the surviving Sentries. Hunk is ready to rescue her, but Shay pleads for him to leave. Coran agrees that they do not have time. Hunk still hesitates until he sees more Sentries and more patrol jets arriving. Frustrated and wracked with guilt, he promises to Shay that he will return to save her and jumps inside the Altean flight pod with Coran. They take off into the sky with several Galra fighter jets on their tail.
The Altean Mice have infiltrated the Generator Room, the long stretch of energy arcs, that is still being guarded by the last remaining Galra Sentry. The largest mouse jumps down from the light fixtures above and lands on the Sentry's head, causing the robot to punch itself. Another mouse bites the Sentry on the hand and triggers it to fire its laser blaster at its own foot. The Sentry falls off-balance and into the energy arcs, exploding. The four Altean Mice gather at the Generator's control panel and press the button to shut down the particle barrier surrounding the Castle of Lions. Outside, Keith and Allura happily watch it dissipate and head inside to retake the Castle.
The Commander Falls
In the Bridge, Sendak sees Pidge appear on screen of the computer just outside the doorway. Sendak turns to attack her with his gauntlet; she dodges, and leads him to pursue her out of the Bridge. It is a ruse: the Paladin he saw was merely a hologram. The real Pidge hastily sneaks into the Bridge and tries speaking with Shiro, drawing the Black Paladin awake—She is instantly caught by the Galra commander's gauntlet. Sendak saw through her plan and returned. As he holds her in his grasp and insults her for her childish trick, Keith and Allura enter the Bridge.
Keith readies his Bayard katar to fight; Sendak commands them both to stand back, seemingly threatening them with Pidge's life. The commander is foolish to leave his prisoners unguarded, however, as Lance finally reawakens, if but a moment, to fire his Bayard rifle at Sendak and knock Pidge out of his grasp. Lance smirks and passes out again. With Sendak's attention drawn, Shiro rushes at the commander and is knocked aside, but this allows Keith to close in. Sendak deflects the first Bayard strike with his armor, but Keith kicks him hard enough nearly knock him over. Sendak struggles to block the second Bayard strike but is able to catch Keith and throw him. A fatal mistake, as this leaves a vulnerable opening: Pidge recovers to sever the energy chain connecting Sendak's gauntlet to his shoulder with her Bayard. This enrages the Galra commander into a fury hyper-focused on revenge against the small Paladin.
While the commander is distracted by Pidge, Keith throws the useless gauntlet off of himself and Allura accesses the computer of the Bridge. Pidge guards against Sendak's attacks as he kicks and punches; she summons her shield to take the brunt of a hit and throws her Bayard grappling hook at his feet, electrocuting him. Keith furiously closes in for the kill, aiming for Sendak's neck. The Commander catches the blade of the Red Bayard with his remaining hand and holds the strike still despite the painful shocks from Pidge's Green Bayard. Sendak does not realize he has been caught in their trap.
At Allura's command, with the computer ready, Keith simultaneously dismisses his Bayard and kicks Sendak with both legs into the center of the Bridge with the Galra Crystal as a barrier rises up. The propulsion frees Keith from capture and leaves Sendak unable to escape. The commander's strength is not enough to break the barrier holding him. With that, the team has won the battle.
After Sendak is transferred to a Sleeping Pod, Pidge frees Shiro from his bonds and Lance reawakens to Keith checking on him. Keith helps Lance struggle to sit upright. With their hands clasped together, Keith asks how the Blue Paladin is feeling. Lance does not make any insulting remark as his purported rival; he only smiles and proudly, albeit tiredly, says they all make a good team. Keith returns the smile.
Fire in the Hole
On the Balmera, contrary to the calm of their allies' victory, Hunk and Coran are being pursued by Galra fighter jets and are taking heavy laser fire as they fly up the deep mine shaft. Coran is thinking their plight is lost; Hunk remembers about the booster fuel Pidge had modified the flight pod with and prepares to press the button to utilize it. Coran reminds him that it might turn them into a giant fireball. Hunk thinks the risk is worth it as their only chance of escape. Coran remains hesitant, but the sight of more Galra battle patrol jets closing in from above persuades him to concede. Hunk activates the booster fuel and the flight pod literally blasts into the sky with an explosion, destroying the Galra jets but allowing Hunk and Coran to safely escape back to Arus.
Family and Crew
With the day won and the new Crystal installed to power the Castle of Lions, Lance is placed inside a cryo-replenisher of the Sleep Chamber to fully heal, which Allura estimates will take about a day. She, Keith, and Shiro turn to Pidge as Shiro thanks the Green Paladin for all she did to help the team. Although Shiro feels Pidge was meant to be part of it, he still understands why she intends to leave. However, the harrowing events have changed Pidge's resolve.
She recounts to Shiro how her father was close enough to his crew members to consider them family, and that is something she finally understands. Pidge expresses her desire to stay and defeat Zarkon for all the families in the universe, including her own. The princess and the two Paladins smile at Pidge, and it is Keith who openly welcomes her back to the team, even though he had argued so vehemently with her before. Pidge, full of pride, smiles in return, happy to be home.