We see the Nostromo from the outside as Mozart plays. Dallas sits in a cockpit as Ash calls to him through an intercom, telling him that something has happened to Kane. Dallas turns off the music, before telling Ripley to meet him in the infirmary. Suddenly, we see Kane’s face, exposed, as apparently the alien has removed itself. “Where is it?” Ripley asks, as a portal opens, and she, Dallas, and Ash file into the infirmary tentatively. Ash throws up his hands in exasperation, and Dallas goes over to examine Kane. The trio look around the infirmary, frightened, and Ripley looks under the bed that Kane is on. Suddenly, Dallas accidentally kicks over something, which startles Ripley. After he apologizes, they go back to inspecting the room for the creature. Ash closes the portal, while Dallas looks around with a flashlight in an adjoining room. When Ripley goes to look in a corner, Ash urges her not to, handing her an implement “just in case.” Suddenly, the creature falls down onto Ripley from above, who screams in fright, and pushes the alien off her.
The creature ends up on its back, as Dallas and Ash rush to Ripley’s aid. Ash prods the creature, which moves, but Ash assures them that it is just a reflex action. They examine the creature on its back under the light. It appears to have opened from its insides, revealing blood and organ-like substances within. Ash pulls apart the innards, and says “Seems dead enough.” While Ripley is relieved that it is dead, and urges Ash to get rid of it, Ash is in awe of the fact that this is the first species of its kind that they have encountered, and insists that they keep it to examine it on Earth and conduct tests on it. Ripley is unconvinced, reminding him that it bled acid—“who knows what it’s going to do when it’s dead.” Ash looks to Dallas, insisting that they bring it back with them. While Dallas is worried about the creature, he defers the decision to Ash. Ripley feels betrayed, as Dallas leaves the room.
Ripley follows Dallas down the hall, closing a portal in his path so that he will listen and talk to her. “How can you leave that kind of decision to him?” Ripley asks him, and Dallas insists that he’s only the captain. Ash has the final decision because he is the Science Officer, Dallas tells her, and that’s what the company wants. Ripley asks Dallas if he’s ever gone on a mission with Ash, and he responds that he has gone out 5 times with another Science Officer, who was replaced with Ash 2 days before this last mission. “I don’t trust him,” Ripley tells Dallas, to which Dallas responds that he doesn’t trust anybody. Then Ripley tells Dallas that the repairs are almost done. Hastily, Dallas returns to the cockpit and prepares to take off, yelling, “I just want to get the hell out of here, alright?”
The Nostromo takes off and leaves the home of the creature, with the creature’s dead body still aboard. They take off successfully, which makes everyone happy, and they re-embark on their mission back to Earth. Later, we see the crew sitting around, troubleshooting what to do with Kane. Parker suggest they freeze him, to prevent the spreading of disease, and Brett agrees, saying “Right.” Ripley gives Brett a hard time for always saying “right” to everything Parker says, as Brett rolls a cigarette. The crew laughs, but Dallas becomes upset, realizing that Kane will have to go into quarantine. Ripley tells him they will all have to go into quarantine, as Lambert approaches and announces that they are 10 months from Earth. All of a sudden, Ash announces over an intercom that Kane’s condition has changed. When Dallas asks what happened to him, Ash tells him that it’s simpler if he just comes and sees the body. All the crew members go to the infirmary to look. In the infirmary, Kane is conscious, coughing as they hand him a cup of water. When they ask him what he remembers about the planet, he tells them that all he can recall is a horrifying dream about smothering, then asks where they are going. When they inform him that they’re headed back to Earth, he asks for something to eat, and they all go and eat dinner together, in good spirits.
They sit around the table eating and drinking, in jolly spirits. They joke about how bad the food on the ship is, and Ash notices that Kane is visibly famished. All of a sudden, Kane begins to choke. Kane becomes violently ill, writhing, and falling on his back onto the table. The crew gathers around him, trying to control his body. Suddenly his chest begins to burst open with blood, and an alien pops out, covered in Kane’s blood, with sharp teeth and a long tail. The alien looks around, and Parker grabs a knife, but Ash urgently advises him not to touch it. The alien shrieks and quickly scampers out of the room, as the crew members look on in shock and horror. Down a long corridor, crew members call to Dallas, searching for the creature. Later, in the cockpit, they gather around a camera, which shows the body of Kane wrapped up, which they eject into space. We see the massive exterior of the Nostromo as it makes its way through space.
Brett holds up a prodding weapon that shoots sparks that might be used as defense against the alien and gives a demonstration. “Now we just have to find him,” Lambert says, and Ash informs them that he’s set a tracking device that will locate a moving object on the ship. When Ripley asks what it picks up, Ash tells her it locates slight changes in air density. Ash demonstrates the tracking device, and Dallas splits the crew up in to two teams, Ash, Lambert, and himself on one team, and Ripley with Parker and Brett. He urges them to put the alien in the air duct once they find it, and to communicate with the crew at all times.
The crew splits up in search of the alien. Ripley, Parker, and Brett walk down a dark hallway on one of the lower decks, and Ripley says she thought they fixed this portion of the ship, alluding to the darkness. A circuit must have broken, Parker decides, and sets to work trying to fix it. As Brett holds a flashlight up to his work, suspenseful music begins to play and Ripley looks around. Suddenly the lights come back on, and the trio continues to look, holding out the tracking device. They open a portal to another room. The room is dark and Ripley’s tracker seems to be picking something up. They scream as they open the portal where the noise is coming from. It is only the cat. They are shocked and somewhat bemused. Worried that their trackers will pick up the cat again, Parker and Ripley send Brett to fetch the cat.
Brett calls to the cat in another room in the lower deck. He calls the cat’s name, “Jones” and meows to get the cat’s attention. Hearing Jones’ meow in response, he wanders farther. He looks up through a grated ceiling, then follows the sound of the cat. The cat scampers out from behind a machine and runs out of Brett’s grasp, as Brett discovers a strange scale-y skin on the ground. He picks it up, then quickly drops it, creeped out, and follows Jones into the next room, a giant hold, where a landing strut is kept. Water drips down from above and an ominous clinking sound rings out as Brett continues to call for Jones. Finally, he spots the cat in a corner, and the cat begins to hiss. Even though Brett thinks Jones is hissing at him, we soon see that he is actually hissing at a giant spider-like creature that has descended behind Brett. The cat growls and backs up, as Brett turns around, looking up at the now-giant creature. The creature is massive, and shoots a second mouth out of its main one, biting Brett in the head and pulling him up towards the ceiling. Jones watches from the shadows.
The scene shifts to Parker and Ripley telling Dallas that Brett was pulled into one of the airshafts by the creature. The crew looks discouraged, and Lambert asks Ripley if Brett could possibly still be alive. Dallas looks at the computer, plotting to lure the creature into the airlock and send him into space. Parker tells them that the alien is huge, and Ripley questions Ash about whether the Science Department can help them kill the alien. Ash tells them that the creature seems to have acclimated to their air, but they do not know about temperature yet. “Ok, what happens if we change it?” asks Ripley, and Ash agrees that “Most animals retreat from fire.” Dallas orders Parker to rig a number of incinerator units, and Ripley volunteers to go into the air shafts after the creature, but Dallas says that he will go instead.
In this section of the film, Ripley is again undermined by the loyalty shared between her male counterparts. While she wants to get rid of the dead alien, Ash insists that they keep it on board to bring back to Earth. Even though Dallas agrees with Ripley, he defers to Ash’s expertise. Dallas’ loyalty to Ash infuriates Ripley, but when she tells Dallas that she doesn’t trust Ash, he retorts that he doesn’t trust anyone. Ripley continues to have her opinion and authority undermined, even though she exhibits a no-nonsense and risk-averse approach to all of the challenges faced. Indeed, her intuition about keeping Kane in quarantine for 24 hours was correct, as letting him onto the ship after his accident only exposes the entire ship to the threat of the creature. Ripley’s adherence to protocol and her no-nonsense approach to conflict turn out to be the right instincts; the only problem is, no one will listen to her.
Ripley is a unique protagonist in that she is a very matter-of-fact and by-the-book leader. In fact, she doesn’t want to take any risks at all, favoring protocol above all else. When Dallas tells her that the company wants Ash to make all science-related decisions, she fires back, “Since when is that standard procedure?” Ripley has a solid loyalty to the rule-book, to the way things ought to be done, but her authority is not taken seriously by her crew mates, who want to take greater risks and submit the ship to increased danger. Ripley’s temperament is somewhat unexpected, especially for an action movie. While one expects an action hero to be the most prone to take risks and confront danger, Ripley’s heroism lies in the fact that she wants to leave risks behind, skip the nonsense, and maintain the safety of her crew. While she is competent and brave when tackling present danger, her initial impulses are always to avoid the danger entirely. The horror and the conflict of the plot is compounded by the fact that nobody will let her avoid it, and instead invites it onto her ship.
At this point in the narrative, things start to become truly horrifying. What seems like a triumphant moment—the revivification of Kane—quickly turns into an exceedingly terrifying death. As the crew happily eats dinner in the mess hall, Kane becomes rapidly sick, choking on his own innards. As he is laid out on the table, the alien creature, a terrifying snake-like beast, with fangs, a tail, and a horrible shriek, bursts out of Kane’s chest, splattering his blood everywhere. The scene shifts from joyful reunion to paralyzing blood bath. The sight is truly horrific, and the creature is the thing of nightmares, an eyeless monster that scampers in at an unsettlingly quick pace and seems bent on violence. What’s more, the revelation of the creature bursting forth from Kane’s chest suggests that it is an unpredictable killer, that it can attack externally as well as inseminate its victims from the inside.
Not only is the creature itself horrifying, but the fact that its emergence from Kane’s chest comes on the heels of such a quiet and subdued scene of reunion and camaraderie adds to the suspense and shock of the scene. The viewer is assaulted by the image in the same way that the crew members are themselves assaulted by its presence inside their ship. Thus, the suspense is built on a kind of betrayal, much in the style of a horror film; just when one thinks that everything is okay, something worse happens. The pace of the film remains slow, so the violent outbursts become that much more violent. Ridley Scott puts the viewer in the position of the crew members, never quite sure of when another atrocity will occur. This contrast between slowly paced, seemingly event-less scenes and the sudden eruption of horrifying events is central to the film’s structure.
The slowness of the film is also used to highlight the size of the Nostromo, which only adds to the suspense, as it reveals the endless possibilities for where the alien might be hidden on the ship. As the camera pans down one of its long corridors, the viewer no longer just sees a ship, but an ominous hiding place for the disgusting and horrifying alien. When the flutes of Goldsmith’s score play and we see the massive exterior of the Nostromo, one realizes both how large the ship is, and the countless number of places the alien might be. Then later, as the two teams of crew members hesitantly wander through the ship, the viewer sees the almost cavernous hallways of the Nostromo, its numerous hidden corners, its dark shadows. These different chambers are beautiful and awe-inspiring, visual feasts for the science fiction lover, but they are also cause for alarm. The Nostromo is not simply a beautiful ship, but a playground for a violent menace. The size of the ship and the slow pans of the camera add to the horror of the crew members’ circumstances.