In this episode, Jake steals a shuttle. Flitting lightly over the fact that once again the crew are unable to prevent this from happening, Jake is supposed to be an expert shuttle pilot. So why does he immediately plunge the shuttle into extreme danger?
On Relva, Wesley meets the other candidates and the officer in charge of the selection process, Lieutenant Chang. The opening tests are mostly science based, testing the cadet's knowledge of engineering and mathematics.
On the Enterprise Dexter grills the senior staff, nitpicking every little thing Picard might have done wrong and apparently determined to cast every decision in the worst possible right. Commander Riker is especially annoyed by this, suspecting that his own performance is the supposed problem on board - something Picard can't confirm and wouldn't be able to even if he knew.
Wesley returns to the Enterprise during a rest break and encounters Worf on the holodeck. Wesley is worried about the upcoming psych test, which exposes each person to their greatest fear. Wesley is wondering what scary animals he can program up to practice being afraid. Worf reveals that he struggled with the test himself, but there's no point worrying when you can't do anything about it.
On the bridge, an alarm sounds to reveal that a shuttlecraft has been stolen; Jake is quickly discovered to be the culprit. Ashamed at having failed the entrance exam, he is planning to run away and sign onto a freighter. Unfortunately he unbalances the shuttle's reactor, stalling the engine and sending it out of control towards the atmosphere. Remmick is quick to blame the crew for the situation, but Picard keeps a level head, guiding Jake onto a course that accelerates him towards the planet to build up speed - only to pull up at the last moment and bounce off the atmosphere. The bridge crew is duly impressed, with even Remmick softening a little before quickly wondering why such a situation had ever been allowed to arise in the first place.
Back on the planet, Wesley manages to impress Chang with his knowledge of alien culture when he refuses to apologise to a Zaldan after they bump into one another, since Zaldans are infuriated by courtesy. In the next round of testing Wesley takes time out to help another student, causing himself to finish ahaed of Wesley.
On the ship Remmick reprots back to Quinn in front of Picard, stating that he could find no problem on the Enterprise beyond a certain informality on the bridge, a result of a feeling of family between the crew. He finishes his report by telling Picard that he hopes he will be able to serve aboard the ship one day. Quinn dismisses Remmick and tells Picard that he held the investigation because he wanted to be sure of Picard. He reveals that he believes something terrible is happening in the Federation, something that threatens its destruction. He wants Picard to take command of Starfleet academy so that he can be on earth to help Quinn fight this attacking force.
Wesley arrives for his psych test and is asked to sit in a room on his own. Minutes later a huge explosion in a nearby room strands two men; Wesley begins to pull one clear, but the other man is too scared to even attempt to save himself before the room is automatically sealed. Wesley is desperate to go and save the man, but he knows that if he does all three of them will be trapped inside and die. He reluctantly abandons him to save the man he can get to. As the room closes, Wesley is greeted by Chang who informs him that this was the psych test; Wesley's greatest fear is that he will one day have to abandon a man to die, the way "someone" did with his own father. A subdued Wesley goes joins the other candidates, where chang tells them that Mordock is the successful applicant. Wesley returns to the Enterprise where Picard finds him, depressed about his failure. Picard dismisses any idea that Wesley failed, since he did his best.
Picard meets with Quinn, and tells him that he isn't a political officer and can't accept the job at Starfleet academy. Quinn is disappointed, but leaves the ship.
The other plotline is much more entertaining. Watching the delightfully nasty Remmick trying to tear the Enterprise crew apart is great fun, and as noted in the Great Moments box the intercutting of the interviews is superbly done. I especially love Worf's monotone answer when Remmick smilingly asks if he likes him. "Is it required, sir?"
The end of this plot is an interesting loose thread, and of course we all know how that one turned out. It's nice to see that even this early in TNG the writers were beginning to develop longer term stories and arcs, albeit on a rather small scale.
Overall, this could have been a good episode but the Wesley stuff dropped to average.
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