In which you could just watch Leverage instead.
Looks like we’re checking out a mining colony, where a couple of miners are preparing for VIPs in Starfleet uniforms beaming in, although the effect looks slightly off, as one might expect from a low-budget Janeway and Tuvok. Someone is pulling a fast one, and apparently relying on aliens either not having access to pictures or just not being able to tell one human apart from another. The impostor is here to conduct business, but it looks a whole lot like the most obvious con job in the galaxy, although ‘Tuvok’ is deviating from the script.
‘Tuvok’ is, in fact, a bit of a devotee of the craft, which s why these guys didn’t give him the lead. Their ship is… dingy, but it looks like they’re not interacting with people who can tell. ‘Janeway’ is pretty good at making up things on the spot and has just enough jargon to make things sound convincing. Their scam, as enabled by transporter technology, is to arrange a trade, get all the goods they want in one place, and then steal it and flee.
The real Janeway, meanwhile, is hungover and with a malfunctioning shower. It’s shipwide failures, as it turns out, that Torres hasn’t tracked down yet, but which has just migrated into the replicators, so Janeway goes in personally to help shut down the mess hall. They locate the problem in a contaminated heating coil which has somehow infected the whole ship, because nobody believes in network security, partitioning, or cleaning the goop off of your components before installing them. Neelix got the coil from a nun who was ‘trying to help some orphans’ and who will probably turn out to be our con artist. Janeway would also rather deal with a faulting pilot light than whatever she got called to the bridge for as captain. This is, in fact, the boss of the poor idiots who just got conned, demanding his dilithium.
Orek plays their side’s recording of the transaction, which is washed-out enough that we can’t get a clear ID. But his mention of the orphans that ‘Janeway’ talked about is familiar – fortunately ‘Janeway’ only has one story. Back to Neelix for the rest of that lead on Sister Dala. So we flash back to that because Janeway can’t just pass up someone impugning Voyager‘s reputation. It makes sense to prevent reputational damage when relying on the locals for resupply and also it’s the right thing to do, it’s just always a tossup as to what Janeway will actually care about this much.
I digress. Back when they first acquired the heating coil, it was with Neelix and Paris hunting mold in a cave system and stumbling across these clerics, who are of course ‘Janeway’ and ‘Tuvok,’ and who claim that Neelix looks like their messiah. And because all the orphans they need to help will have no food, Neelix offers some food for a token trade ‘so it wont be charity.’ At that point, Neelix and Paris invited them back to the Delta Flyer, where Sister Dala talked with Neelix about Voyager and tom showed Brother Mobard around the cockpit.
One could be charitable and believe that Sister Dala and Brother Mobard are, in fact, their actual identities and all of this conning is to help out the orphans and glorify their holy one, the Crooked Warden. Of course, the sly look Mobard gives as he holds up the glowing-thing-that-looks-like-a-scanning-device and walks around the cockpit while everyone else has their eyes closed doesn’t make that hypothesis look good. Indeed, they downloaded the database. Imagine how Tom must feel, getting conned like this.
Armed with this knowledge, Janeway offers to go hunt down the thieves rather than getting the cops not-called on them. Meanwhile, Dala is already scamming someone else, claiming their junked-up freighter is the Delta Flyer even though it’s outdated tech even by Delta Quadrant standards. Her pitch here is for their mark to ‘join the Federation,’ and despite Mobard getting way too into the character of Tuvok, they do manage to extract a bribe from him to speed along his application.
Tom and Neelix are mainly upset because, as the ship’s resident scoundrels, they’ve clearly lost their edge. In a desperate attempt to bolster their egos, they try running a scam on the Doctor – a being whose vision is based on the ship’s internal sensors. Boy-howdy have these kids lost their edge.
Voyager has found Dala’s ship, and they’re in trouble, as the captain they tried to scam has also tracked them down to return faulty torpedoes and also because his enemies are now also members of the Federation. When Voyager shows up it’s to his attempt to sieze Dela’s ship, which means that Dela can try to spin this as reinforcements and it’s all a hilarious farce. Janeway does manage to capture one of the scammers – Dela/’Janeway’ herself. It’s unclear why Dela thinks she’s got the upper hand here, even before Janeway pulls a page from the Kirk playbook and has Tuvok improvise a scary legal code story. Also, point of order – Tuvok lies. I mean, we know that Vulcans can tell lies despite Spock’s lies about that capability, but our undercover-security spy Vulcan jock friend never fails to impress.
Speaking of security practices, let’s talk about the brig. I hope this is part of Janeway’s attempt at a con, because having Neelix stroll by with a plate of food, which includes a big heavy metal kettle, and having him walk into the cell, with the force field down, wearing a phaser, is such an obvious temptation to attempt a jailbreak that it borders on reverse-psychology. But there doesn’t seem to be much else in the way of methods to feed the prisoner. Do we typically transport food in? Perhaps, but that’s a window where the dampening field to prevent transport is down, if not a long one. There is not, however, any little cubbyhole with a separately-operating force field through which a meal could be passed without risking a prisoner escape. Nor is there… you know… a door that locks in the event of a power outage.
Back to this jailbreak honeypot – Neelix tries to get her mindset, see if she feels guilty, sits down right next to her with that phaser right there, all the while explaining that he used to be a scoundrel like her before he took an arrow to the knee reformed through Janeway’s faith in him. And although there was a perfect opporutnity for her to finesse the phaser off of him, she does it the clumsy way and almost gets shot. She’s very lucky the security officer there is terrible at his job too, or at least she would be if this wasn’t Janeway’s plan including a homing beacon on the Flyer.
Mobard is really into the Tuvok character, including arguing in-character about the logic of getting Dala back so they can keep grifting. There’s also no honor among thieves, and the homing beacon was, in fact, Tom stowing away in the medical pod, taking the Doctor with him. They chase Dala off, and the scammer crew is starting to fracture due to Dala’s inherent distrust of other people, and the other guy who’s not Mobard being cut from the same cloth. Mobard is in the role. When they all beam down and tag the goods, the surprise twist is that Dala was really the Doctor the whole time, and his appearance can be configured to hide the mobile emitter after all.
Shell game complete and loot returned, Janeway has done as much as she can to repair the damage, and Neelix and Tom pull one last shell game on the Doctor just in case the theme of today’s adventure slipped past you.