This episode revisits the ''USS Seahawk', last visited in the series pilot. Also revisited is the plight of female naval aviators. The episode begins with its crew holding a "crossing the equator" ceremony, in which two female crewmen appear to be hazed by being dunked in a fuel tank, paddled and heckled until they play along with the ceremony. Lt Marilyn Isaacs and Lt Elizabeth "Skates" Hawks are the two women seen participating in the ceremony. Consequently, we learn that Isaacs has been grounded for unsafe flying, but she has complained to her Congresswoman that she was sexually harassed and discriminated against. Chegwiden sends Harm and Mac out to investigate. Bud Roberts also tags along.
After interviewing Isaacs and Skates, as well as talking to CAG Boone, Harm and Mac are on opposite sides of the issue. Harm is of the opinion that Isaacs is a substandard aviator who cannot safely handle a Tomcat, and therefore the grounding is warranted. Mac is of the opinion that the "boys club" atmosphere aboard a carrier needs to change to one that is more accommodating of women, and that female aviators need to be nurtured and allowed to screw up a bit, to enable them to eventually succeed. However, before they can complete their investigation, Isaacs' Congresswoman shows up to conduct her own investigation. She butts heads with Harm, is unconvinced even by tape of Isaacs' poor piloting skills, and forces the ship's leadership to reinstate Isaacs' flight status at least for one more training sortie. This sortie is a practice dogfight at night between Isaacs and CAG Boone at night, after which Isaacs will have to execute one of the most dangerous tasks any military person must perform - a nighttime carrier landing. We then see Isacs' F-14 attempting a carrier landing, being warned initially by the Landing Signal Officer, then being waved off and ordered to go around for another approach, but the pilot, Lt Marilyn Isaacs attempts to land anyway. Her RIO Skates is happy to just be on the ground and seems unimpressed with Isaacs' piloting ability. Can she successfully land?
A side story is how Bud meets Ensign Harriett Simms, who will ultimately become his wife and have his kids.
Tropes found here are
- Acceptable Targets: Substandard naval aviators who only endanger themselves and their shipmates by their unsafe flying.
- Author Tract: The writer of this episode admitted to having a bias against women in the military, especially combat roles.
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The Landing Signal Officer's shorthand comments on Marilyn Isaacs' previous carrier landing are a bit funny - OSCB was overshot came back, EGAR was Eased Gun (aircraft's nose) At Ramp and DNKH, which was supposedly a "technical" term for Damn Near Killed Herself!! Those quaint phrases quit being funny when Isaacs botches a night landing and dies in a fiery crash, almost killing Skates too.
- Expy: Lt Isaacs is an obvious one of Navy lieutenant Carey Lohrenz, who was similarly grounded for unsafe flying but sued the Navy claiming sexual discrimination. Even a different offscreen character mentioned in just one conversation, Lt Margaret Louise Smith, has a first and middle name very close to Mary Louise "Missy" Cummings, another former female naval aviator who left the navy to embark on a career as an engineering professor.
- Guy in Back: The "girl in back" for Isaacs is Lt Elizabeth "Skates" Hawks. She eventually becomes Harm's RIO when he regains full flight status.
- Hypocrite: The Congresswoman thinks Harm is this, for criticizing Isaacs, when he also lost his flight status over a failed nighttime carrier landing that got his RIO killed. She expects him to be more sympathetic to Isaacs' plight.
- Meaningful Name: Isaacs complained about "lines being crossed" vis a vis unacceptable touching during the Equatorial Line Crossing ceremony. Her Congresswoman then crosses a different line by meddling in shipboard policy and forcing the CAG to put Isaacs back into the cockpit of a Tomcat, when she had no authority to do so.
- Never My Fault: Isaacs constantly complains about how her mistakes are always someone else's fault. Lost a mock intercept and dogfight? Claims that air traffic control vectored her wrong. Botched the approach to the carrier? Claims her Guy in Back screwed up by getting her the wrong flight path. Landed unsafe? The Landing Signal Officer was out to get her. note
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When Congresswoman DeLong arm twists the Navy to let Isaacs get one more sortie to prove herself, the CAG contemplates resigning his commission as he feels his authority is being undermined. A lot of the RIOs suddenly find excuses to get out of flying with her.
- Straw Feminist: The Congresswoman is initially presented as this, by going out of the way to shower praise on Harriett and some female members of the honor guard, for just standing at attention and saluting. She also initially takes Lt Isaacs' side, that naval aviation must be more accepting and welcoming of women, even altering the rules a bit to allow them to develop better. However, when Isaacs complains about substandard carrier landing grades being posted out in the open alongside everyone else's, she changes her view a bit.
- The Smurfette Principle: Isaacs claims (and isn't completely wrong) when she says that being the only female pilot in the squadron is overwhelming as she has to measure up to very exacting standards with no mentorship or guidance from a female role model.