Scythe Curie writes that she fought against the movement to glean everyone born in the Age of Mortality. It was eventually decided that it was a bigoted violation of the scythes' commandments, and now there are few alive who remember the Age of Mortality. The Thunderhead didn't fight it and simply witnessed the Scythedom's mistake. Curie wonders if scythes decided to glean everyone, if the Thunderhead would stop it. She wonders if the Thunderhead would grieve, and if it would grieve, whether it would grieve like a child who lost a parent or like a parent who lost a child to poor choices.
Because Curie cannot have a relationship with the Thunderhead like other people can, there's no way for her to ascertain how exactly the Thunderhead feels about humanity. However, it's important to keep in mind that the two options that Curie gives suggests that she does believe that the Thunderhead is more than just a sentient, powerful robot. She suggests that it has emotions and potentially compassion, regardless of how it sees humans.
Citra is pronounced legally alive after two days. Curie visits that night and tells her that Rowan was disqualified, but they both failed the test. Citra remembers the look in Rowan's eyes and thinks that it was a dangerous, calculating look. Curie softly says that Rowan isn't who she thought he was.
Curie's warning indicates that Rowan's calculation was effective: Curie and Citra no longer trust him to be kind and to look out for the Scythehood. This means that Rowan now has the freedom to fight Goddard however he can, without worrying about Citra trying to lose.
Scythe Goddard brightly toasts Rowan when he, Volta, Chomsky, and Rand get home. Rowan sees Esme watching and feels ashamed, wondering if she knows what he did. Goddard proceeds to throw his biggest party yet. Volta approaches Rowan and says that Citra is conscious, and then he says seriously that Rowan shouldn't let her win. Rowan wonders if he should win, fair and square, and then glean himself immediately so he doesn't have to glean her.
For Volta, Rowan likely represents an innocence and a potential that, as far as he's concerned, no longer exists for him. He essentially encourages Rowan to do the exact same thing that Rowan counseled Citra to do: get into the Scythedom and then fight Goddard from within.
Goddard tells Rowan that parties like this are how people are supposed to live. Rowan wonders if Goddard could've killed Scythe Faraday and thinks that as far as he knows, Goddard hasn't done anything illegal. On the third day of the party, Xenocrates shows up. He seems uncomfortable. Rowan is even more shocked to see Tyger, who is now a professional partier. Tyger admits that his parents surrendered him to the Thunderhead because he splatted too many times, and the Thunderhead doesn't care if he wants to party. Tyger whispers that he'd love to get a job as one of Rowan's training subjects.
Tyger's behavior impresses upon Rowan how little incentive is in his world for people to mature and truly grow up, especially when they're not scythes. The fact that there are such things as professional partiers also indicates that there's a lot to gain from not growing up, as Goddard's professionals are all beautiful young people (whether they're actually young or reset to be that way).
Volta is the first one to see Xenocrates arrive at the party, and he can tell that Xenocrates doesn't want to be there. Volta settles himself near Goddard to listen in on their conversation. Xenocrates asks if Goddard is concerned about his ostentatious lifestyle looking bad, but Goddard insists it's great PR. Xenocrates says that his biggest mistake was choosing Goddard as an apprentice. The two cryptically discuss that "the girl" will be dealt with, which seems to be the only thing that Xenocrates was here for. He starts to leave, but Goddard calls Esme over.
Xenocrates's robe—which is gold and ostentatious—suggests that it's possible that Xenocrates wasn't always the sort of person to wear threadbare slippers and live in a cabin, and his earlier lifestyle might have influenced Goddard more (there's no indication that scythes ever change the colors of their robes). This offers some hope that as scythes age, they can change for the better and see the error of their ways.
Xenocrates looks terrified as Esme sits on Goddard's lap. Volta wonders why Xenocrates is so uncomfortable and why Goddard is pushing the issue. Goddard introduces Esme and Xenocrates and then snaps his fingers at Volta, the signal he wants a dagger. Volta ignores it as Goddard suggests that Xenocrates dance and make a fool of himself, since he encouraged the scythes to laugh at him at conclave. Volta gives Goddard the dagger, which Goddard puts near Esme's neck. Esme can't see it, but Xenocrates can. Goddard suggests that Xenocrates go for a swim, so Xenocrates throws himself into the pool.
In this window into Volta's inner monologue, it's telling that he's horrified that Goddard wants the dagger when he has Esme around—this suggests that even if Rowan realizes that Volta is corrupted, he still has a firm grasp of his moral compass when he wants to and when he feels that it's safe to stand up to Goddard by exercising it.
Rowan sees Xenocrates jump into the deep end, but the High Blade doesn't come back up. Rowan and Tyger dive down, pull Xenocrates's heavy gold robe off, and help him to the surface. Xenocrates tries to laugh that he fell in, which makes no sense to Rowan. He realizes that Goddard must've ordered Xenocrates in, but he wonders how and why Goddard has so much power. Xenocrates storms off.
The fact that Rowan understands immediately that this is a power play speaks to the kind of environment that Goddard fosters. It's one in which everyone is scheming, as Volta said, and where everyone is vying for power. Rowan's ability to watch this is indicative of his growing maturity.
As the party ends, Tyger finds Rowan again and excitedly says he hopes he can come earlier to the next party. Rowan is irritated with Tyger and wonders if he can relate to anyone from his old life. Goddard notices Rowan, and the two discuss Tyger and the fact that Rowan saw Xenocrates jump into the pool. Rowan notes that people are saying that a scythe killed Faraday, which seems to offend Goddard. He insists that Faraday gleaned himself, and says that even if he did glean Faraday, he wouldn't admit it to Rowan. Goddard threatens to glean Tyger if Rowan does poorly in training tomorrow.
Rowan's question of being able to relate to anyone from his pre-apprentice days reinforces for Rowan how much he's changing and maturing. While once, Tyger was a close friend who made Rowan feel less alone in the world, he now represents a vapid, pointless life that Rowan himself almost took up. Calling out Goddard indicates that Rowan knows he needs to use his life for good and call out corruption where he sees it.
Later, Volta and Rowan play pool and discuss the possibility that someone killed Faraday. Volta thinks that Citra is messing with Rowan. Rowan suggests that he start taking Esme on his runs with him to help her weight. Volta gives him a look and Rowan realizes that Xenocrates is Esme's father. Volta points out that Xenocrates's life would crumble if Esme were gleaned and it came out that he was her father. Rowan says slowly that Esme won't be gleaned as long as Xenocrates does what Goddard wants.
Remember that it's illegal for scythes to have children. Esme is then proof that there's major corruption in the Scythedom at the highest level in MidMerica, though his attempts to hide it—like his distaste for Goddard in the present—suggests that he may be changing for the better and understand why all of this wrong, while also feeling helpless to actually do anything.