Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 4.

Star Trek: Picard has completely reversed one of Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) defining personality traits: he likes children now! For longtime fans, the sight of the stern Starfleet legend enjoying the company of a young child is a jaw-dropper, but that's just how Star Trek: Picard episode 4 begins, with Jean-Luc displaying a warm relationship with Elnor, a young Romulan refugee on the colony planet Vashti. So, how did Picard's remarkable about-face come about?

Along with loving a hot cup of earl grey tea and ordering the U.S.S. Enterprise to warp speed by saying, "Engage!" Jean-Luc Picard is famous some might say infamous for his lifelong dislike of children. The Captain used to bristle at the sight of young Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) on his bridge before he became the boy's mentor and sponsored his application to Starfleet Academy. In fact, Star Trek: The Next Generation mined the Captain's animosity towards kids for a lot of comedy. In the TNG episode "Disaster," Picard was injured while trapped in a turbolift with three young children, which was one of his worst nightmares. In "Rascals," Picard was literally turned into a child and had to save the Enterprise from invading Ferengi by posing as the son of Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), who he called "my Number One Dad!" But the children of the Enterprise-D looked up to their Captain as a hero and celebrated Captain Picard Day, much to Picard's chagrin at the time.

However, in a flashback to Vashti in 2385, Star Trek: Picard episode 4, "Absolute Candor," shows a shockingly different side of Jean-Luc. Not long before androids attacked Mars and destroyed the Romulan rescue fleet, Picard visited his friends, the Qowat Milat, which is an order of Romulan warrior nuns. Jean-Luc was embraced by the Qowat Milat as the savior of the Romulan people, but the Admiral became close with Elnor, a young Romulan boy the nuns had adopted. In a heartening sight, the old Starfleet hero developed a fatherly (or grandfatherly) rapport with the Romulan orphan, reading "The Three Musketeers" to him, teaching Elnor how to fence, and showing the boy genuine affection. But once the Admiral learned of the Mars attack, he was forced to leave Vashti. Later, Picard quit Starfleet in protest after the United Federation of Planets abandoned their mission to save the Romulans from their sun going supernova. Jean-Luc wouldn't see Elnor until he returned to Vashti in "Absolute Candor," 14 years later.

While it's not clear if Picard now appreciates all children or if it was just Elnor who melted his heart, it's still a complete 180 to see Jean-Luc so happy in the Romulan orphan's company. However, it also makes sense that Picard's stance towards kids has softened: By Star Trek: Picard's era of 2399, Jean-Luc is now in his 90s and he has nursed 20 years of regret after losing his friend Commander Data (Brent Spiner) and giving up his Starfleet career. The fact that he kept his Picard Day banner in his vault of cherished mementos from the Enterprise shows that Jean-Luc has reevaluated many parts of his life, including warming up to children, which he knows he will never have now that he's in the twilight of his years.

Amusingly, only the Qowat Milat was privy to seeing Picard so happy with young Elnor in 2385. Even Picard's First Officer, Raffi Musiker, didn't get to see the old Admiral enjoying himself with the boy, so no one from Starfleet who knows of Picard's dislike of children is any the wiser. Frankly, the TNG cast who cameo in Star Trek: Picard like Riker or Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) wouldn't have believed their eyes if they saw Picard playing with Elnor and it's a shame they didn't just so fans could have seen their hilarious reactions.

Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.