First off, a big Vulcan hand signal to Keckler, who has been tackling Enterprise like a particularly burly alien tacklebeast. Thanks for the hand-off.
The episode begins with a bowl of soup. No, seriously. We're in the strangely dim and not-at-all inviting dining lounge, where an ensign is spooning up what looks exactly like Campbell's chicken noodle soup, minus the chicken or the noodles. She's reading what looks like a bastard crossbreeding of an astrology and a biology textbook. Oh, let me guess. "Astrobiology." Brilliant. Another anonymous ensign sits down next to her and asks, "How can you eat that stuff?" She tells him that her soup is healthier than what he's eating. Wait, you mean it's way in the future and we're still having to worry about cholesterol and low-fat foods? Forget it. Just kill me now. Ensign Junk Food says that at least what he's eating tastes like something. Man, I hope there are still Funyuns in the distant future. The Soup Lady, who looks like a mix of Renée Zellweger and Maura Tierney, says it takes a delicate palate to enjoy Vulcan cuisine. Vulcans have Campbell's Soup, too? We'll call the Zellweger/Tierney hybrid "Ensign Scrunchieface." Scrunchieface tells Junk Food, "Did you know there are over 5,000 sub-species of termite on Loracus Prime?" This is about the time that any sensible man would realize that not only is he going to not have the opportunity to sleep with Ensign Scrunchieface, but that maybe it's for the best. Suddenly, The String Music Of Deep Space Discovery plays. Ensign Junk Food rises from his gaseous, nitrate-stinking seat All the diners rise and go to a convenient window to see what's outside. Scrunchieface and Junk Food look at a planet that looks an awful lot like Earth. It's huge, right in front of them. Nobody noticed it before? "Anybody hear about this?" Scrunchieface asks. "Not a word," somebody tells her, then goes back to a career as a one-line-per-episode extra on every other UPN show that'll have him. Junk Food speculates that there's a lot of plant life, and maybe the planet has an oxygen atmosphere. "What do you think? First contact?" Scrunchieface asks, smiling. The effort of unscrunching her face to smile almost pops out her eyes. The diners take turns wondering if anybody lives on the planet, or if they might live in caves or underwater. "Is that snow?" Scrunchieface asks. A hard freeze makes face-scrunching a little less labor-intensive. "You'd think the captain would make an announcement or something," Junk Food says. "Well, call him," Scrunchieface says. Okay, I now know why they're not primary crew members.
On the bridge, finally. We're watching over Cpt. Quantum's shoulder as he's looking at the same bluish planet. "T'Pol," he says. "Seventeen percent oxygen. Eighty-one percent nitrogen," she says, turning around from a periscope-like viewing device. We see her at first from behind, which just seems wrong, and then she turns around, revealing her special guest stars. "Sounds like home," says Trip, who has wisely gotten out of the way, but is still just standing there, looking stupefied. "Any people?" Cpt. Quantum asks. T'Pol tells him that the planet has a diverse ecology, but no humanoid life. "Still. Someone may have a claim on it. We don't want to go waltzing into their backyard," Quantum says. Oh, what, they have a planetary deed from Alpha Centauri Realty? The Captain asks for a scan of buoys, beacons, satellites, the Spice Channel, anything. Reed says there are none in range. "Looks like no one's planted a flag just yet," he says, and the way it comes out, it sounds like he's talking about Britpop. Cpt. Quantum tells Trip to prep a shuttle pod. "I like the looks of the northern continent," he tells Mayweather. "See if you can find a good place to set down." Mayweather smiles like somebody just offered him some non-reconstituted cotton candy. "Yes, sir," he says. T'Party Pooper busts in about how there are protocols you follow when setting foot on a new planet. Oh yeah, like that idea is ever going to last. I've seen Kirk. I know the deal. "Protocols…" Cpt. Quantum says, rising up from his half-lean and spitting out the word as if somebody just offered to give him an alien anal T'Probe. T'Pol says that protocol suggests you first send down automated probes to determine if the planet is "Minshara-Class" (I took that in college) and then conduct a geological survey from the ship. Trip and Hoshi look on, waiting for T'Pol to get the red-ass beatdown from Cpt. Short Fuse. Mayweather asks what "Minshara-Class" means. Right. Because he traveled the galaxy his whole life, hopping from planet to planet, as we kept hearing about in the last two episodes. Hoshi, who should by all reason know less about interstellar travel than Mayweather, explains that it means "suitable for human life." Cpt. Quantum asks how long all this busywork will take. T'Pol estimates about seven days. "You expect us to sit up here for a week while probes have all the fun?" Trip asks. Probes usually do. Cpt. Quantum sets his voice phaser to "condescend" and explains to the poor, misguided Vulcan that they didn't come all the way out there to tiptoe around planets and be safe and protect their crew and stuff. They came out here to be cowboys, and he'll be damned if he's going to let some Vulcan piss on his campfire. Or words to that effect. He asks T'Pol to put together a survey team. "I assume that's not a violation of protocol," he says, as if that's supposed to be some kind of slam. T'Pol tilts her chin and slices through a metal wall with it.