In the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3, Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) once again faces the reporters of FNN! The ninth episode of the season, “Trusted Sources,” was written by Ben M. Waller and directed by Fill Marc Sagadraca.

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Captain’s Log, Stardate 58496.1. Freeman says the California-class mission of “Second Contact” has never been considered a priority. But that may change now that her Planetary Follow-Up Initiative has been green-lighted by Admiral Les Buenamigo (Carlos Alazraqui). Appearing on the viewscreen in the Cerritos observation lounge, Buenamigo tells Freeman that no one is better suited for “Project Swing-By.”

Buenamigo says they need to “ditch the pomp,” a statement which perplexes Lt. Shax (Fred Tatasciore) and Commander Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell). The planet selected for Project Swing-By is Ornara, where Picard made First Contact on Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1 episode 22, “Symbiosis.” However, that was seventeen years earlier. Buenamigo says they’re “long overdue for some Starfleet attention.”

If this mission goes well, Project Swing-By will be rolled out across the California-class. Before signing off, Buenamigo tells Freeman that a FNN journalist is coming to the Cerritos to document the mission.

Gillian Vigman as Doctor T'Ana, Dawn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs and Jerry O'Connell as Commander Ransom  in the Cerritos observation lounge.

A call from Buenamigo. Photos: PARAMOUNT+ ©2022 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Ransom begins congratulating Freeman, but she describes the situation as terrible. The Cerritos needs to be cleaned up before the journalist arrives. At first her command crew thinks she is joking, but Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) sums up the situation: “oh sh*t, she’s serious!” They flee towards their respective departments in a panic.

Meanwhile, in the Lower Decks…

The shuttlecraft Red Wood returns to the Cerritos. Victoria Nuzé disembarks, accompanied by a holo imager. 

Elsewhere on the Cerritos, Freeman is being briefed on the mission by Ransom. The Ornarans were ravaged by a plague cured by a plant called Felicium. The plant only grew on the sister planet of Ornara, Brekka. The Brekkians exploited access to the drug, causing widespread addiction even after the eradication of the plague.

When the Enterprise-D arrived, Ornara had been nearly destroyed by addiction. Picard severed communication between the two planets and left the Ornarans to deal with their withdrawal themselves. Ransom postulates that Project Swing-By will look great if they arrive and offer addiction recovery services. However, Freeman’s concerned about how the ship will look to Victoria.

That’s when Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) passes. She’s covered in blueberry pie filling and humming. She says Victoria should cover the evening’s pie-eatin’ contest. Ransom advises Mariner to lie low for a few days while Victoria is present. However, Mariner is seemingly oblivious to his hints.

In the beta shift sleeping area corridor, Ensign Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid) laments that their duty shift has been reassigned to alpha shift. Ensigns Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) and D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) are nervously preparing for the journalist. Mariner arrives and expresses confidence that they can make the ship look good.

Freeman and Victoria pass by, and Mariner offers Victoria a tour of the ship. But Freeman tells her to go to sleep and turns off the lights in the corridor. She leads Victoria away, leaving Beckett behind, dumbfounded. Boimler says that it was demoralizing, but Mariner says there’s just more time to practice for the pie-eatin’ contest.

Pie Eatin’ Tragedy 

But the pie-eatin’ contest has been canceled. The beta shifters are horrified. Rutherford expanded his GI tract. Tendi learned how to unhinge her jaw. Boimler states it’s “the biggest crew night of the year (not including Pon Farrs).” Worst of all, under the captain’s orders, the uneaten pies are simply being recycled back into raw energy. They aren’t even being eaten in a non-competitive venue.

Mariner, Tendi, and Boimler agree to head to the bar and have some synthehol. Beckett’s positive mood seems indefatigable. Meanwhile, Rutherford stays behind and begs the Lieutenant Junior Grade who is destroying the pies to spare one. The LJG can’t. Samanthan rips his shirt and implores the LJG to stun him. “No!” screams the LJG.

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Elsewhere, Victoria interviews crew members. Ensign Barnes (Jessica McKenna) says that life on the Cerritos is great. Lt. Kayshon (Carl Tart) describes it as “Life in the cave of Garanoga.” Kimolu and Matt in Cetacean Ops praise the fish supply and say when they aren’t stellar mapping, they’re partying. Ransom flirts with Victoria, making her uncomfortable.

When the beta shifters arrive at the bar, they’re told it’s now the “commander’s lounge,” and open only to approved interviewees. Mariner is frustrated. She says the reporter is here to report, and this isn’t what the Cerritos actually is like.

Project Swing-By

The Cerritos arrives at Ornara. Freeman, Ransom, Victoria and Ensign Jet Manhaver (Marcus Henderson) prepare to beam down. The away team arrives and find the Ornarans in what seems to be a good place. However, Freeman cautions everyone to stay alert, as sometimes the dark reality is hidden just below the surface. 

awnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, Jerry O'Connell as Commander Ransom, Marcus Henderson as Ensign Jet Manhaver, and Victoria Nuzé beam down to Ornara in Lower Decks season 3 episode 9.

Freeman, Ransom, Victoria, and Jet arrive on Ornara.

An Ornaran magistrate welcomes Starfleet back. He dispels their concerns about the state Picard left them in. Using a mural, he explains that after the Enterprise left them with no drugs, they did freak out. The magistrate says they were in a bad place for a decade or so, but they pulled through and are now committed to “healthy diet and fitness.” Ransom immediately connects with the Ornarans, even if they describe their interests in different terms.

Freeman offers the assistance of Starfleet to the Ornarans, but they decline the offer. The magistrate excuses himself to run a 10k. Victoria asks Freeman if she anticipates all Project Swing-By missions to be this “superfluous.” Freeman deactivates the imager and excuses herself to contact Buenamigo on her PADD. 

Buenamigo says they need something to prove the value of the project. Freeman suggests they return to Omega III, as there’s a good chance they’re back to worshiping Landru (season 1 episode 9, “Crisis Point”). But Buenamigo suggests Ornara’s sister planet, Brekka. 

Freeman returns to the rest of the away team and tells them they’re heading to the Brekka. She pretends it was her plan all along.

Back on the Cerritos, Mariner is waiting in the corridor outside Victoria’s room. Ransom observes Beckett joining Victoria in her room for an on-the-record interview. He narrows his eyes.

Freeman’s Interview

In her Captain’s Quarters, Freeman prepares for the interview. She carefully arranges a picture of Mariner on her desk and poses with a PADD before calling Victoria inside.

Freeman presents a veneer of confidence, but Victoria soon sets an adversarial tone. She says she’d describe the Cerritos as “chaotic, quote: ‘irresponsible;’” and ‘silly.’” Freeman assures her nothing about their work is silly.

However, Victoria begins interrogating her by bringing up the events of many past episodes: season 2 episode 1 “Strange Energies”; season 3 episode 4 “Room for Growth”; season 2 episode 5 “An Embarrassment of Dooplers”; season 2 episode 8 “I, Excretus”; season 2 episode 2 “Kayshon, His Eyes Open”; season 1 episode 3 “Temporal Edict”; season 3 episode 6 “Hear All, Trust Nothing”; season 1 episode 10 “No Small Parts” and season 3 episode 7 “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption”; season 1 episode 8 “Veritas”…

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Later, Mariner arrives on the bridge. She’s in a jovial mood but everyone present glares at her. They do not laugh at her jokes.

Inside the Captain’s Quarters, Mariner is confronted by Freeman and Ransom. Freeman accuses her of making her look bad in front of Victoria. Beckett defends herself but Freeman isn’t listening. She says she’s transferring Mariner to Starbase 80. Ransom is stunned. Mariner tries to get her to reconsider. Freeman says the shuttlecraft is already en route. Before dismissing her, Freeman says she doesn’t even know if she can call Beckett her daughter anymore.

Mariner angrily leaves the room. 

Goodbye Cerritos

In the corridors, many familiar Cerritos crewmembers glare and grumble at Mariner. Even her girlfriend Jen (Lauren Lapkus) thinks she betrayed them. Mariner asks if this is “a ‘Frame of Mind’ thing” (TNG season 6 episode 21). Beckett tries to appeal to Jen, but Jen doesn’t believe what she’s saying. A shipwide broadcast by Freeman forbids crew from communicating with “former Cerritos officer Mariner.”

In the beta shift sleeping area, Mariner angrily packs to leave. The rest of the beta shifters meet her there. Boimler suggests she consider apologizing for what Freeman thinks she did. Beckett says this isn’t her first time being kicked off a ship. Since the goodbyes are the worst part, they should just not say anything.

Bradward says she can’t leave the Cerritos but Mariner says she can. It’s what always happens.

Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner. She is in the shuttle bay being picked up by two rough-looking guys from Starbase 80. She has just been handed a "new" uniform.

“One size fits most.”

In the shuttle bay, Mariner meets the two Starfleet officers from Starbase 80. They marvel at how nice the Cerritos is before Beckett presses her finger to a PADD, completing the transfer. Their dilapidated shuttle craft leaves with Mariner aboard. Freeman gives the order to proceed to Brekka.

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Lower Decks on Brekka

When they arrive in orbit above Brekka, Freeman transfers command of the ship to Doctor Migleemo (Paul F. Tompkins). She leaves the bridge with Ransom and Shax. Migleemo immediately orders that Boimler open a channel to his “Mee-maw.”

On Lower Decks, the Cerritos goes where the Enterprise-D went first.

Brekka on TNG.

The away team arrives on Brekka. Victoria says she hopes that the Cerritos can prove more useful on Brekka than on Ornara. But there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. Freeman orders they take out their phasers.

Ransom locates a Brekkian and tries to coax her out. However, she’s disintegrated. A battalion of Breen soldiers reveals they have occupied the planet. An emergency transport beams the away team back to the Cerritos.

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Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs holding a two-handed phaser rifle as the Breen prepare to board.

Kayshon, when he was backup for Shax.

In orbit around Brekka, three Breen interceptors attack the Cerritos. The Cerritos flees but takes extremely heavy fire. It takes damage to all decks. The Breen surround the Cerritos and prepare to board.

But an incoming Starfleet ship arrives and destroys all three Breen ships. Freeman says to hail the vessel. But Ensign Barnes reveals there are no life signs aboard.

The Cerritos viewscreen displays information about the arrival of the Aledo. Also, Buenamigo is on screen.

The Aledo arrives.

An incoming transmission from Buenamigo provides answers. The ship is the USS Aledo, part of the new Texas class, the first of three fully-automated ships. Victoria is amazed, and Buenamigo says the Texas class is officially declassified. 

As Buenamigo begins talking up the new ships to Victoria, Freeman asks “what the f*ck just happened?” But Ransom says that since Project Swing-By revealed a Breen incursion, everyone’s sure to be impressed.

FNN Presents

On FNN Presents: Starfleet’s Shame: A Victoria Nuzé Exposé, Victoria introduces a series of clips that reveal that Barnes, Kayshon, and even Shax were responsible for slandering the Cerritos on record. In footage from Mariner’s interview with Victoria, it’s revealed that she actually said nothing but positive things about the ship.

“Well, there’s the family you’re born into and the family you choose,” Beckett says. “I’ve got both here on the Cerritos.” Victoria remarks on the fact that this “sole voice of California class exceptionalism” was transferred off the ship for talking with FNN. The segment ends with Victoria suggesting Freeman is a cruel taskmaster.

The remaining beta shifters lament that they misjudged the situation, just like everyone else. They wonder how the captain is feeling.

Meanwhile, Freeman contacts Starbase 80. In between dealing with a loose Prythian bat, the Starbase 80 comm officer tells her that Mariner resigned her post. Freeman wonders where Mariner is as she looks out the window.

Petra Aberdeen (Georgia King) and Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) on the Indie Arch ship.

The Indie Archeologists.

Somewhere in space, a non-Starfleet ship drifts through the stars. On board is Mariner. She’s joined by Petra Aberdeen (Georgia King) of the Independent Archaeologists Guild (see season 3 episode 5, “Reflections”). Aberdeen says she has a hot tip on some mummies, calling Beckett “Number One.” 

The Lower Decks theme swells as the ship jumps to warp, crossing the screen from right to left.

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New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available for streaming on Paramount Plus on Thursdays.

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