We see a huge auditorium with thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of people cheering, and a shuttlepod flies in and lands in the middle of the stage. Archer is then seen approaching Admiral Forrest and other senior dignitaries who congratulate him. Archer gives a speech, calling his crew heroes, but also remembering the 27 crewmen who didn’t make it back. “It’s good to be home”
We scan the San Francisco skyline and find ourselves in a bar. Archer walks in, and heads for the bar, walking past a woman who takes interest in his arrival. She gets up and approaches Archer who is ordering a scotch from the bar. The woman taps him on the shoulder, and tells him that the bar is for regular customers, not galactic heroes. She is Erika Hernandez, a recently-promoted captain, and apparently a past flame for Archer. She asks him what it was like in the Expanse, but Archer doesn’t want to spoiler tomorrow’s debriefing. She says that earth has been holding its breath for the past year, wondering if the Xindi were going to come back and finish the job. Apparently there have been more births and weddings in the past year, although Archer notices that Erika doesn’t have a ring. Married to Starfleet, she says, just like you.
Back on the Enterprise, we’re in T’Pol’s quarters as she’s preparing to leave the ship. Trip comes in, and comments on the amount of clothes she’s packing. He said that he originally wanted to stay on board and supervise the refit (echoes of The Search For Spock, when Scotty says almost exactly the same thing) but Archer has effectively ordered him off the ship to take a break. He doesn’t know where to go since his sister was killed and his hometown was destroyed. He considers the Enterprise his home. T’Pol invites Trip to go with her to Vulcan, to stay in a guest room a her mother’s house. Trip wonders what her mother knows about him, but T’Pol has never mentioned him to her. She would introduce him has a colleague who has never been to Vulcan and wants to learn about more alien cultures. Trip goes and packs for the 1,100 hour journey!
Erika and Archer (why do we always refer to him by his surname?) are on the bridge of the Columbia NX-02 which is still being constructed. Archer seems a bit jealous by the additional features and weapons on the Columbia… upgrades that he had suggested! He reminisces about a conversation he had with Capt Jeffries, the designer of the NX-class ships. He said that he didn’t want to take command of a warship trying to make first contact. But he was wrong… he needed weapons, and much more.
In the de-briefing room, Archer is explaining that he thinks the Vulcans were trying to extract Trellium ore from asteroids. It was used to insulate and protect hulls in the Expanse. He’s then asked about the Seleya, and that when Archer boarded the ship, the crew were delusional and violent. Archer explains that Trellium attacks the nervous system, and removed the ability for Vulcans to suppress their emotions, and that’s why they attacked Archer’s crew when they boarded. Soval, the Vulcan ambassador is asking about the death of the Seleya crew, caused by a reactor breach. Archer explains that this was an accident, they were just trying to disable their power grid. Soval all but accuses Archer of letting the crew die, but Archer points out that they were too far gone, and there was little point trying to save them. Soval questions whether that was Archer’s medical opinion, but no… it was Phlox that determined this. There was nothing to suggest that the neurological damage caused to the Vulcans was irreversible. Archer is really trying to hold back at this point, and reiterates that there was nothing he could do to help them. Soval mentioned that T’Pol was infected, yet recovered. Archer repeats himself that there was nothing he could do, getting really agitated. “There’s no need to get emotional, captain.” Ambassador Soval is now suggesting that because Archer didn’t access the internal sensors or download the computer database, that there is no way of determining what actually happened on the Seleya. Archer almost shouts that he’s already told them exactly what happened. Forrest tries to rein Archer in, but there’s no way that Archer is going to sit there and be accused of murder… but Soval says he isn’t accusing him of anything. Archer suggests that the crew would still be alive if the Vulcan High Command had been more helpful. “I beg your pardon?” Archer accuses High Command of doing everything he could to sabotage the mission, suggesting that he got more help from the Andorians. Archer gets up from his chair and into Soval’s face, but Forrest pulls him up hard.
Just Archer and Forrest now, Archer accuses him of taking the Vulcan’s side, but Forrest isn’t taking anyone’s side. He says that Archer was out of line. Archer doesn’t see why he should have to justify himself to that son of a bitch. Forrest says the briefing is on hold indefinitely, and suggests that Archer takes time off to clear his head. Archer says he doesn’t need a vacation, but Forrest issues it as an order. Archer leaves.
We see Phlox, laden with bags, preparing to leave the ship… calling on Malcolm to help him out. “Why leave the comforts of home when you can take it all with you?” Malcolm warns Phlox to take care on Earth as a couple of aliens have been attacked due to the Xindi incident, suggesting an outbreak of xenophobia. Even the Vulcans are in hiding! But Phlox won’t be stopped, he’s been on Earth before. Malcolm suggests that Earth isn’t the same, but Phlox is sure everything will be fine.
On Earth, we see trees and water and rocks, and hear birds singing. Archer is looping a rope, and then Erika appears with a backpack on. What’s she doing here? You don’t climb without a partner. Archer’s face tells a story!
On Vulcan, T’Pol and Trip have arrived at her mother’s house. Trip is quite taken by the place, but not like he imagined. Vulcans appreciate beauty, she says, and Trip comments on her snazzy dress sense. She’s just about to formally berate him when her mother T’Les appears. And apparently she wasn’t expecting her to bring a guest. “It’s agreeable to see you.” T’Pol looks like she’s been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Trip introduces himself, and gives the traditional Vulcan salute to T’Pol’s mother. In Vulcan, she asks T’Pol what he’s doing here. She responds with the story they cooked up earlier, but T’Les picks on the fact that she’s never brought a colleague home with her before. They go into the house, and T’Les directs Trip to the guest room. It turns out that T’Pol hasn’t received a letter from her mother detailing that she’s no longer an instructor at the science academy: apparently something that she should have known about years prior. “There’s more to life that one’s profession.” A letter arrived for T’Pol yesterday, so someone knew that she was going home. It’s from Koss, her betrothed. She doesn’t appear impressed by the letter and doesn’t intend to respond to it, claiming that he is no longer her fiancé. T’Les may think differently, saying it would be wise to speak with him.
On some rocks, somewhere in California, Archer and Erika emerge at the top of one of them. Erika tells him that her old high school was named after him, bringing the total in North America to around 2-3 dozen… quipping that might be more than Zefram Cochrane. He isn’t counting. More climbing, she asks Archer if he’s had a chance to look at the senior officer profiles that she gave him on the bridge of the Columbia. He suggests that she might want to find someone with more field experience for Tactical, perhaps even a MACO. She’s not happy with a military officer on the bridge, Archer suggests she might need an entire squad. Approaching the top of a mountain(?), Archer comments that things have changed since the Enterprise left space dock, “you’ll spend a lot of time boldly going into battle” She thinks that’s cynical, despite the reports he’s filed. She spots an animal print, Archer identifies it as a Mountain Lion from a few days ago. Erika – rather sarcastically – says that it’s good that he’s here to protect her.
Back on Vulcan, it’s morning – 0400 – and T’Pol wakes Trip to inform him that it’s expected that guests should prepare breakfast. In the living room, they are eating breakfast with T’Les, who still wants to know why they’re visiting. Perhaps T’Pol has decided to go back to the High Command. T’Pol says that she’s been offered a commission with Starfleet, which could keep her away for a few years. T’Les starts to question T’Pol’s motives for not staying on Vulcan. A Vulcan child is encouraged to leave the home, but is expected – at some point – to return. She says to Trip that human children are encouraged to follow their own path, rather than that of their family. (she’s clearly digging at something here) T’Pol and her mother start to bicker about her choices, thinking that what they do in life should benefit Vulcan society. T’Pol reminds her mother that earth is their ally, and that a Starfleet posting is no less important than High Command.
Back on Earth, Malcolm, Phlox, and Travis are in a bar. Malcolm has some – potentially wanted – attention from some young girls wanting his autograph and possibly a tour of Enterprise. Some idiot rolls up and starts talking to Phlox and being rather rude; “it can’t be comfortable being in a bar full of aliens like us”. Phlox says he’s quite comfortable, but it’s clear – with this dude – that he’s not. The dude not-so-subtly says that he should drink somewhere else. Phlox is about to, but Malcolm stops him. Travis supports him too. More dudes start to appear, and your typical barfight ensues with Travis and Malcolm on one side, and a handful of dudes on the other. Phlox, on the other hand puffs up – a Denobulan defence mechanism – the first and only time we ever see him do this.
Back on Vulcan, Trip and T’Les are talking. Trip thanks her for letting him stay. She points out that gratitude is an earth custom. Trip mentions that T’Pol says thank you all the time. She’s noticed that. He wishes he has a home to go to (of course, his having been destroyed). T’Les drops that bombshell “I know you’re romantically involved with my daughter” He said that he was attracted to her the first time they had an argument; he’d never had fun arguing with anyone before. T’Pol didn’t tell her mother, she’s her mother! Meanwhile, Trip has just fixed T’Les’s stasis unit (or freezer, as we would call it), it was mentioned during breakfast, and he had offered to fix it. She asks if he could fix her food synthesizer also? (well cheeky!) There’s a knock at the door, and Trip answers it. It’s Koss. (awkward!) He wants to speak with T’Pol. He wants to know of her time on Enterprise. She wants to know why he’s here, he thinks it’s obvious. She’s not interested in marriage, but his parents are tied into the old traditions. She says he could choose another mate, he doesn’t want one. She turns away and says that she’s been ill recently and could take some time to recover. (now, the expression on her face suggests that she’s battling with this… is she lying? embellishing?) He says he could use his father’s contacts and influence to find the best doctors. Yadda yadda. She threatens the kal-if-fee (a challenge, passion fight to the death). Koss wonders if Trip might be suitable? She asks him to leave. He says he may be able to get her mother reinstated to the Science Academy. T’Pol says that she’d retired. He says that she was asked to resign, but then clammed up.
Back on earth, Archer and Erika have reached the top of wherever they are, and it’s getting dark. Archer looks at the sky and points out the first M-class planet, and Erika suggests that they should return and plant a human colony, but Archer points out that the last time they went there, his crew nearly killed each other due to the psychotropic atmosphere. Archer wonders that if the Enterprise didn’t go out to space “stirring up trouble” as he called it, perhaps the Xindi attack at the end of Season 2 might not have happened. Erika prefers the term “exploring”. Archer says that the Vulcans aren’t explorers, but Erika say that isn’t what they both signed up for. Archer says that she might feel differently after delivering a few dozen eulogies.
T’Pol confronts her mother about the “retirement”. She chose to retire rather than face criminal charges for an alleged theft of restricted data from the archives. She didn’t do it, the accusations were false. They made them up, and told her that if she retired from the academy they would end the enquiry. This was in retaliation for the destruction of the P’Jem monastery which was – in part – caused by T’Pol’s involvement in uncovering a Vulcan surveillance post underneath the monastery. Because the High Command couldn’t reach T’Pol whilst she was in the Expanse, they took it out on T’Les instead. T’Pol is incensed. T’Les thinks that T’Pol’s emotional outbursts are because of Trip, also the reason that she’s rejected Koss.
Back in the mountains, Archer and Erika are asleep. We hear growling. Archer grabs a phaser and goes to investigate. He’s attacked by some wiry types, one of which slashes Archer across the face. They pin him down, and after a brief struggle they throw him off the mountain towards the water below. He wakes up to see Erika looking concerned. She offers to talk about it. He’s obviously struggling with what has happened. He says he went into the mountains to escape the attention and hero worship. If people knew what he had done… He packs up to do some more climbing, Erika wonders if this might be some sort of way out for him, I mean, he wouldn’t have to deal with these feelings. He admits he’s trying to get away from her. He sees the person he was three years before: the explorer. He thinks he’s lost something in space. She kisses him. Perhaps she can help him find it.
On Vulcan, T’Pol is showing Trip around. She admits that she’s decided to marry Koss, because it will result in the reinstatement of her mother to the academy. He can’t believe she’s going to marry someone she doesn’t love? She thinks it’s the right thing to do. She apologises. He’s not taking it, and walks away.
Back in the mountains, they’re still climbing. He’s glad that she’s with him. She wonders why they stopped seeing each other, but it was because he was her superior officer… which of course, he isn’t any more. They kiss again. She wonders what their superiors would think if they knew that the two captains of the only Warp 5 ships… but Archer reminds her that what happens in the mountains, stays in the mountains.
Back on the Enterprise, Phlox is telling Hoshi that the parasites in her system are almost gone. She reminds him that they’re supposed to be going to a Chinese restaurant on earth that evening. He pretends that one of his eels is unwell (my hovercraft is full of eels) but Hoshi knows what happened in the bar, and she tells him that he can’t deal with prejudice by hiding away. People need to be reminded that there are aliens who don’t want to blow up the planet. He says that it’ll take some time for the incident to heal. (this is all sounding very familiar)
Back at the de-briefing, Admiral Forrest closes the proceedings. Archer apologises to Ambassador Soval for being out of line. Soval agrees that he was. Archer quips that at least there’s one thing they can agree on. Soval also agrees that Archers action were necessary, although morally questionable. He said that he originally opposed Archers appointment as captain of the Enterprise, but he admits he was wrong. (echoes of Sarek’s words to Spock in The Journey Home “As I recall, I opposed your enlistment in Starfleet. It is possible that judgment was incorrect.”) He thanks Archer for the service to both their worlds and thanks him.
Back on Vulcan, T’Les speaks to Trip about the marriage he’s getting ready for. He asks her if she’s bothered that T’Pol doesn’t even care for Koss, she says that she’s fulfilling the obligation to her family, and that she and her husband developed a connection in time. T’Les asks Trip outright if he’s told T’Pol that he’s in love with her? “Vulcans may not express their emotions but they are sensitive to them” He didn’t think he realised until T’Pol said she was going to marry Koss. He wanted to tell her, but couldn’t. She tells him there’s still time. She may not approve, but T’Pol deserves to know. Trip is worried about what might happen, and doesn’t want to complicate thins. T’Les almost smiles at him (perhaps that’s what she wanted to hear… to prove his integrity). Trip approaches T’Pol at the commencement of the wedding. She says that she’s grateful that he’s there… full of emotion. He responds, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” She’s led off to the wedding, but at the last minute she pulls him back by the arm and gently kisses him on the cheek. She walks up, leaving him looking after her. The wedding ceremony starts, and we see Trip in a “what am I doing” pose…