"Warhead" is the fourteenth episode of the animated television series Star Wars Rebels' third season. It is the fifty-first episode of the series overall. It aired on January 14, 2017, on Disney XD.
The episode opens with two Imperial Star Destroyers deploying pods into hyperspace. One of the pods lands on the planet Atollon, near the coral mesa where Chopper Base is located. An E-XD-series infiltrator droid climbs out of the pod. Walking a short distance, it sees a rebel ship taking off and notes a potential target. It proceeds to investigate, but is accosted by two krykna.
At Chopper Base, Hera Syndulla tells Wedge Antilles and Hobbie to hurry up because they are late for a training exercise. Ezra Bridger and Garazeb Orrelios fist-bump as the two pilots run off. Zeb is upset that he can't come along, but Hera tells him that he is her chief of security and that she needs someone to mind the base. Zeb pleads not to be left behind to be bored, but Hera reassures him that Chopper and AP-5 will keep him company. Kanan Jarrus promises they will be back soon, while Ezra and Sabine Wren tell Zeb to cheer up. The Ghost takes off, departing for the exercise.
AP-5 tells Zeb that he is surprised to learn that he has been made chief of security, adding that he assumed that Zeb was always a heavy-lifting grunt. When AP-5 asks Chopper what Zeb does, the astromech droid beeps that they never really figured it out, and Zeb growls in anger. When Zeb asks AP-5 what he does, the RA-7 protocol droid says that he will take the opportunity to conduct a thorough inventory of the base's munitions supply depot. AP-5 asks for help, but Chopper is not interested. Zeb grumbles that he has to spend time with Chopper, who he does not get on well with.
When Zeb remarks that counting crates is not his idea of fun, AP-5 quips that he could teach Zeb how to count. Zeb pushes AP-5 aside in annoyance and heads off to the command center to do some "commanding." There, a communications officer informs the Lasat that they have been tracking several meteors which have been impacting the surface near Chopper Base. One of them knocked out a perimeter sensor in Sector 6. The officer asks whether they should send a unit, but Zeb says he will go and have a look. Zeb tells Chopper to come along, but the droid is reluctant. However, Chopper changes his mind when AP-5 asks for his help in going through the inventory lists.
The stray droid
Zeb and Chopper travel to Sector 6 in a landspeeder, where they find a damaged sensor beacon. Zeb thinks the marker was damaged by krykna, and soon discovers a protocol droid trapped between two dead krykna. Zeb marvels at how the droid got here, and remarks that it doesn't look Imperial. He thinks they should take it back to base for repairs, while Chopper advocates trashing the droid. Unaware that they have discovered an infiltrator droid, Zeb disagrees and carries the droid on his shoulders back to the landspeeder. Zeb also reminds Chopper that Hera placed him in charge. As Zeb carries the droids body back to the speeder chopper makes a sound similarly to “I have a bad feeling about this” before the scene finishes.
Meanwhile, on the bridge of a Star Destroyer, Agent Kallus is informed by another officer that they have lost contact with an Infiltrator Droid. When Kallus asks for the droid's last known location, the officer responds that the droid never transmitted its coordinates and proposes alerting Imperial High Command. Kallus replies that if they chased down every temporary comm failure, they would have little time to do anything else. He tells the officer to wait another cycle to hear back from the droid before they do anything.
Back at Chopper Base, AP-5 laments the disorganized state of the depot and remarks that the Empire was at least more organized. Shortly later, Zeb arrives with the infiltrator droid and asks if he can identify the model. AP-5 thinks that the droid is an old protocol droid, and charges it up. Due to the emergency restart, the protocol droid starts to revive quickly. When Zeb asks the droid who he is and where he comes from, the droid states it cannot remember, leading AP-5 to think that the droid's systems are damaged. However, the droid begins scanning the munitions depot and identifying its components.
Zeb marvels that the protocol droid has scanned and inventoried the entire area, and jokes that the new droid could do a better job then AP-5. AP-5 disagrees, but welcomes the logistics droid as a useful assistant. Zeb thinks that the droid is harmless enough, and that they can take in another "stray." The droid begins scanning Zeb and identifies him as a Lasat and "military-type." Next, the droid identifies Chopper as an obsolete C1-series astromech droid that is no longer in production. Chopper protests, but Zeb jokes that he will get along with the newbie because they both dislike Chopper.
The comm officer then contacts Captain Orrelios over the intercom and tells him to report to the command center. Zeb tells AP-5 to keep an eye on his new friend before leaving. The comm officer informs Zeb that they have an urgent message from Fulcrum, who is actually Agent Kallus. Kallus has become disillusioned with the Empire and is aiding the rebellion. Fulcrum's recorded message warns the rebels that the Empire is using infiltrator droids to sweep the Outer Rim Territories for rebel bases, and that the droids appear harmless in protocol mode. Looking at the schematics, Zeb is horrified to realize that the new droid is an infiltrator. Fulcrum also warns that one of the droids failed to report in recently, and that the Empire will come looking for it if it fails to establish contact.
Back at the munitions depot, AP-5 leads the infiltrator droid and Chopper on a tour. He tells the droid to categorize everything and thinks that they will get along famously, stating that they will soon have the rebel base in tip-top shape. The infiltrator droid, reacting to AP-5's use of the phrase "rebel base," begins repeating it just as Zeb enters the depot with his bo-rifle. Zeb tells AP-5 to step away from the droid because it is an Imperial recon droid. The infiltrator, remembering, identifies itself as EXD-9 and proceeds to transform into its attack mode. After identifying AP-5, Zeb and Chopper as rebels, the droid proceeds to attack them with its long grappling arms.
The droid leaps on top of a raised bridge and jumps on top of Zeb, who fires his bo-rifle repeatedly. The infiltrator punches Zeb several times, but Zeb manages to drive it away with his rifle. The droid then leaps on top of a stack of cargo boxes and begins firing with concealed blasters. Chopper electrocutes the infiltrator from behind, but EXD-9 hurls him against several containers. Zeb then shoots off part of EXD-9's left hand. The infiltrator runs away, and Zeb helps Chopper up. AP-5 translates Chopper's beeps as "I told you so."
Inspecting the infiltrator's severed hand, Zeb says they have damaged the droid but can't afford to let it report their presence back to the Empire. When AP-5 recommends alerting Hera, Zeb states they don't have enough time and resolves not to let her down. Zeb and his comrades try to track down the infiltrator using the leaking fluid, but instead find a wrecked astromech droid. AP-5 states that the astromech has been drained of its power and its parts cannibalized. Zeb thinks that EXD-9 is repairing itself, and asks Chopper to track the droid's energy reading. However, AP-5 tells Zeb that Chopper is unable to track it down because the infiltrator droid is low on power and looking for more.
Search and disable
Zeb then comes up with a plan to use Chopper to lure the infiltrator out of hiding so that he can blast it. When AP-5 reminds Zeb that they are in a high-explosive area, Zeb relents and proposes grabbing it so that they can shut it down. AP-5 agrees to help. Putting their plan into action, Chopper searches for the infiltrator. He soon finds EXD-9 salvaging a GNK-series power droid and calls out to it. Chopper leads EXD-9 on a chase through the munitions depot. Zeb waits on the raised bridge, and jumps on the infiltrator droid as it passes below. He tries to knock it out with his bo-rifle, but the infiltrator throws him to the ground.
The infiltrator droid then confronts AP-5 and Chopper, but Zeb strikes it with his activated bo-rifle. The droid fights with Zeb, and shocks him by sending the rifle's energy back at him. EXD-9 then proceeds to choke Zeb and hurls him to the ground. Zeb manages to jump onto the droid's back, and holds onto it as it falls off a crate onto the ground. AP-5 and Chopper attempt to help Zeb and shut the droid down, but the droid kicks Chopper away as Zeb struggles to immobilize it. With much difficulty, AP-5 manages to shut down EXD-9.
After subduing the intruder, Zeb asks AP-5 for the good news. AP-5 says that he can't detect any long-range communications, and reasons that the droid hasn't been able to reveal their location to the Empire. When Zeb asks about the bad news, the droid's chest opens to reveal a countdown. AP-5 reveals that the droid has activated its anti-capture failsafe, and states that it probably contains a proton warhead as well, which Zeb points out could vaporize the base. When Zeb asks how much time is left on the countdown, AP-5 tells him it's only twenty seconds. When Zeb, panicked, asks for ideas, Chopper freezes the countdown circuit.
AP-5 thinks that this should buy them enough time to move it away before it explodes. AP-5 adds that this part requires manual labor, which he calls Zeb's specialty. Zeb recalls Fulcrum's warning that the Empire will come looking for the droid if it doesn't report back, and drops EXD-9 on top of AP-5. When AP-5 asks if he proposes returning the droid with its databanks full of secrets, Zeb struggles to find a solution. AP-5 states that this will take a while.
Returning the warhead
When Zeb asks AP-5 if he can get inside the droid's programming, AP-5 replies that he can't memory wipe the infiltrator droid since that would rearm the warhead. When AP-5 remarks that it will be a matter of when it will explode, Zeb points out that it can also be a matter of where. He proposes sending EXD-9 back to the Empire, and asks AP-5 if he can tamper with the warhead and set the countdown to reactivate when it reconnects with the Imperial network. AP-5 thinks that is possible, and asks Zeb what he is planning. Zeb explains that they will send EXD-9 back to the Empire with the data, but set the droid to explode and destroy the other infiltrator units so the Empire won't know which droid blew up.
AP-5 says he can try to do it, and remarks that he is stunned by Zeb's ingenious plan. Chopper giggles and warns that the infiltrator droid might try to kill them. AP-5 replies that he will reset the droid to its disarmed state and activate its "return to base" protocol, so that it will leave Chopper Base peacefully. After Chopper mumbles, AP-5 completes the main system restart, and the three rebels take cover. EXD-9 reverts to its disarmed state and wakes up. The droid leaves the depot, and the rebels follow it back to its ship in a landspeeder.
EXD-9 enters its pod and activates the long-range transmitter. Zeb, watching, shoots and destroys the transmitter dish. With the transmitter disabled, Zeb celebrates that the infiltrator droid will now return home since it can't contact the Empire. AP-5 adds, "If it follows its programming." EXD-9 departs in its pod. When AP-5 fusses that he may not have properly reset the droid, Zeb reassures him that while they may not like each other, he commends AP-5 for doing his job. AP-5 replies that Zeb performed admirably. Zeb says he has had a busy day, and can't deal with the fact that he has befriended AP-5, who agrees.
EXD-9 docks its pod on a Star Destroyer with other Infiltrator units. Two Imperial Navy technicians recognize EXD-9 as the droid they had lost contact with, and begin to plug it into the Imperial system. One of the technicians attempts to alert Imperial command that the droid was damaged but recovered something. However, EXD-9 activates its countdown, and the Star Destroyer goes up in flames. Kallus witnesses the explosion from the bridge of a neighboring Star Destroyer and, surprised, feigns shock and anger as he demands to know what just happened. After an officer informs him that one of the droids' proton nuclear warheads exploded, he secretly smiles.
The following day, the other Spectres return on the Ghost to Chopper Base and are greeted by Zeb, AP-5 and Chopper. Hera demands that Zeb tell her why she called them back on day one of the exercise. Zeb tells her that they got everything under control, just as they receive an incoming message from Fulcrum. Hera tells Zeb it will have to wait, as they go to hear the message. As they leave, Kanan asks Chopper what he means when he says that he had nothing to do with that. Fulcrum congratulates the rebels for reprogramming the Infiltrator droid he had warned them about, and for setting it to self-destruct. Fulcrum expresses his admiration for them. When Sabine asks what happened, Zeb says that it is a long story, and AP-5 adds he can give the full details. Embarrassed, Zeb swiftly muffles him as the other Spectres watch in bemusement.
Meanwhile, Agent Kallus reports to Grand Admiral Thrawn's command center aboard the Star Destroyer Chimaera. When Thrawn asks how the explosion happened, Kallus responds that he believes that the rebels captured an infiltrator droid and reprogrammed it to self-destruct back at base. Kallus and Thrawn agree that the rebel plan was ingenious. Kallus observes that the Grand Admiral is in good spirits despite the setback. Thrawn explains that despite the loss of the infiltrator droids, it was hardly a setback, because it means that the rebels are almost certainly on one of the systems the droids were sent to, narrowing down the rebel base's possible location to ninety-four worlds from over a thousand.
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Notes and references
- Dawn of Rebellion dates the events of Star Wars Rebels: Steps Into Shadow seventeen years after the end of the Clone Wars, which Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates to 19 BBY; therefore, the events of Steps Into Shadow must take place in 2 BBY. According to Star Wars: On the Front Lines, Mon Mothma's denunciation of the Galactic Empire and the Declaration of the Rebel Alliance take place 2 years before the Battle of Yavin or 2 BBY. As "Warhead" is set between Steps Into Shadow and "Secret Cargo," it must also take place in 2 BBY.