Lower Decks Recap: “Grounded” (Season 3, Episode 1)

Everybody chant it with me, you know the words! Lower Decks! Lower Decks! LOWER DECKS!!!! Yes, our favorite adult cartoon comedy Trek is back and ready to tackle the cliffhanger they left us with, when Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) thought she was getting a promotion, but instead Starfleet showed up to give her the world’s worst promotion perk by throwing her into the brig, supposedly for conspiring to blow up Pakled Planet. *gasp*

Captain Freeman grimly being restrained by Starfleet security.

We open up with a newscaster giving us a glimpse of Space CNN as she updated us on Captain Freeman’s upcoming trial, and reveal the evidence against her, damning footage of the shiftiest looking Freeman imaginable cackling as she does her evil plotting against the poor, forsaken Pakleds. While the Captain is on trial, the Cerritos is in ship jail, aka dry dock, and the crew itself is grounded, not allowed to go back until the conclusion of the trial. I very much enjoy Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) and T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) donning sunglasses and fighting off the papparazzi like long lost Kardashians. In other news, cotton candy colored space bugs are flying through space, weeeeeeee!

Back on Earth, Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and her father Admiral Freeman (Phil LeMarr) are discussing the trial calmly. Hahhahaha just kidding, Mariner is literally throwing pots of plants and destroying all of her dad’s flat screens. Mariner pretty much does not know how to have feelings without property destruction. Admiral Freeman wants Mariner to trust in the “system” and Mariner’s response to that is predictable. A call from a friendly admiral results in more destruction as they learn that the judge assigned to Captain Freeman’s case is a “planets’ rights lunatic” which ohhhhhhhh I hope we learn more about whatever THAT is. Mariner is NOT going to leave the fate of her mom in the hands of the SYSTEM, and honestly, my reaction was similar. Justice? Trust? Pshaw, not on my watch. *smash*

Boimler and Mariner in the Boimler vineyards.

Mariner runs straight to her BFF Boimler (Jack Quaid) who getting touch with his roots as a raisin farmer on the majestic Boimler vineyards, which apparently staffed entirely by gorgeous women who really want Boimler to pluck their grapes. Sadly for the ladies, Boimler’s dedication to keeping logs for Starfleet can only be matched by his devotion to Mariner’s rule breaking shenanigans as she figures out that Boimler’s logs might be enough proof of Captain Freeman’s innocence to turn the tide in the trial. As usual Boimler’s intense nerdiness comes in clutch!

Also coming in clutch is Rutherford’s (Eugene Cordero) engineering know-how! Mariner and Boimler head to collect him along with Tendi (Noel Wells) as they enjoy their time off with a fine meal at Sisko’s Creole Kitchen which sounds AMAZING and I am so wishing I could actually eat there. Because Tendi was such a diligent student she never took the time to do important Earth things like visit the Grand Canyon (numerous times), catch a London Kings game, or even checking out historical Bozeman to celebrate First Contact! Mariner takes the time to make sure her entrance is perfectly timed, and like any good BFF Boimler takes the time to roast her for it.

The four ensigns are enjoying a meal at Sisko's Creole Kitchen, including hot sauce!

The Fav Four continue their quest by sneaking into the transporter facility, which turns out to house pretty much every transporter ever used and would be a buffer buff’s wet dream to explore. Adorable transporter chief Grandpa Denny guards the transporters by being way too sweet to hit over the head and tie up. He makes them delicious soup (that could probably use a nice kick from Ketracel White Hot Sauce) and tells them that he absolutely WOULD break regulations and transport them to the Cerritos but unfortunately there is currently no surface to space beaming because of the aforementioned bubble gum pink space bugs who are migrating past Earth’s atmosphere. They are going to need a ship! And what better ship to save the day than a replica Phoenix ride from historical Bozeman, Montana? Onwards, nerds!

I would fist fight someone in an alley to visit Bozeman and drink in the Crash and Burn bar and take selfies in front of the Vulcan ship, but Mariner is laser focused on the goal, which is the Phoenix. They hop on the reenactment flight complete with holographic Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell). They also pick up a random who is ACTUALLY there for the reenactment and then they blast out to Magic Carpet Ride, which let’s face it, is pretty much the only way to do space flight. Rutherford overrides the controls and they make it to the abandoned Cerritos, then Gavin the Botanist is inspired and heads out to explore the galaxy!

They track down Boimler’s intensely embarrassing logs. Pro: they DO have star dates and details that could exonerate Captain Freeman. Con: they go into absurd detail about Boimler’s intestinal problems and worrisome habit of smelling the Captain’s chair. Did we know that Boimler’s hair is dyed purple? It’s honestly weirder than if that was his natural hair color, and I love it. Mariner is crushed – this was her shot to save her mom and she doesn’t think it will be enough. She tricks the other three into heading back on a shuttle and puts into place a “harebrained even for Mariner” plan to steal the Cerritos to track down theoretical Klingons that can prove her mother’s innocence. They don’t go quietly however, and with some creative thinking override the auto pilot and crash back onto the Cerritos in time to literally wrestle Mariner away from the controls. This is a one for all, all for one situation, Mariner, okay? Lower Decks for life!

The Ensigns all comforting Mariner as she confesses her fear that her mother will lose her trial.

Mariner is struggling hard with the lack of control. They dragged her mom away in handcuffs and all she could do was watch. Everyone keeps telling her to do nothing, but doing nothing is just not what Mariner does, and neither is trusting anyone, not even her friends. She’s willing to risk prison because in her mind, it’s the only way to save her mom. I enjoy that as broad as the humor on the show can get, it is usually rooted in real character beats, and this is a good example of that. The Fav Four are there to remind her that they will be with her for every step of the way.

Starfleet surprisingly actually notices one of their ships being stolen and shows up to get to the bottom of it. With some fast thinking Tendi manages to comes up with a legit scientific mission to study the bright pink space bugs that are currently banging all over the ship. She actually manages to convince Starfleet security that they weren’t in fact stealing the Cerritos but are throwing an intergalactic orgy. In true Starfleet Security fashion, they totally buy it but they need some authorization is. Bum bum bum!!!! Captain Freeman, Admiral Freeman and the Senior Staff stride out to save the day. Turns out Starfleet put together a competent investigation (with Commander Tuvok!) and came through. Turns out, the system worked. Wild!

Mariner looks freaked out and Ransom looks sadistically excited that he's going to be her mentor this season.

Mariner’s admittedly bananas plan to steal the Cerritos is pretty much the last straw for her long suffering parents. They love her and they want to help her, but she needs someone who will actually hold her feet to the fire and get her to shape up to Starfleet standards and it’s gonna be… Ransom! I foresee this going interesting places. I’ve always dug their frenemy vibe and if anyone can teach Mariner to channel her creativity and competence into a productive direction it’s probably him. We shall see!

Lower Decks is back! Yay! I enjoyed this episode immensely, and think it sets up some interesting plot bunnies and characterization avenues. And also it’s just so nice to laugh and chill out and enjoy Rutherford’s asymmetrical sweaters, although they probably could be a liiiiittttttle more asymmetrical. I will see you hear next week for more of our favorite four Ensigns and their delightful misadventures!

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