Archer, Trip, and T'Pol are celebrating her one-year job anniversary despite her not feeling it's worthy of celebration. Archer notes that while he was filling out her crew evaluation, he noticed a document saying that she once took a vacation at a small mining town called Carbon Creek in Pensylvania. When she says she went there for "personal reasons", this piques the curiosity of the two men, so she claims that she was visiting the site of the real First Contact.
In the past (specifically 1957) we see a Vulcan ship surveying Earth after Sputnik is launched, but they crash on Earth near Carbon Creek. Their captain dies, but the rest survive — T'Mir (T'Pol's great-grandma, who is now in charge), Mestral, and Stron. Their transceiver is broken and they have only a weeks' worth of emergency rations, so five days later, they decide to visit the town, disguised as humans by wearing stolen clothes from a clothesline. They enter a bar and Mestral makes some money to buy food by playing pool.
In the present, Trip and Archer laugh at the idea of such an occurrence happening, but T'Pol continues her story, in which the three Vulcans find jobs over the next few weeks — T'Mir at the bar, Stron as a plumber, and Mestral as a miner. He also falls in love with Maggie, the owner of the bar T'Mir now works at, which T'Mir disapproves of. Mestral is interested in the humans, but the other two find them annoying.
After an argument about humans between T'Mir and Mestral, he goes out to a baseball game with Maggie, who reveals that she's divorced, and kisses him. T'Mir, who'd been watching, tells him off and tells him not to keep seeing Maggie, but he refuses. Then, Maggie's son Jack wants to learn about meditation and astronomy from T'Mir.
A mining accident traps twenty people, so Mestral (despite T'Mir and Stron's warnings that this could expose them) decides to save them with a particle weapon. T'Mir eventually decides to help him, and they manage to save them without being exposed.
The Vulcan authorities finally come to pick the three up, and T'Mir sells some Velcro (which, apparently, the Vulcans invented) to pay for Jack's college tuition, then leaves with Stron, but Mestral stays behind to study the humans, with T'Mir lying that he died.
Archer and Trip ask if this really happened, and T'Pol cryptically just says that it's a "story", but she does look over T'Mir's purse in her quarters, suggesting that it was true.
- Alien Arts Are Appreciated: Mestral enjoys many aspects of 1950s American pop culture, including I Love Lucy.
- Alien Non-Interference Clause: What the Vulcans follow, to the point where they nearly refuse using a particle weapon to save about twenty men who are trapped in a collapsed mine.
- Alliterative Title: The episode is called "Carbon Creek".
- Ambiguous Situation: We never find out if the story was real, just that T'Mir's purse was.
- Artistic License History: What we term today as velcro was invented by a man in Switzerland in 1941 and patented in 1955, not by a woman in the US in 1957. What is interesting is that the writers were apparently fully aware of this as the engineer in question was a man named George de Mestral, which is too much of a coincidence to be accidental.
- Clothesline Stealing: T'Mir and Mestral steal from clotheslines in order to blend in with the towns people. T'Mir accidentally puts her dress on backwards.
- Company Town: Carbon Creek is a typical Pennsylvanian coal mining town.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Stron disliked being nicknamed "Moe" after one of The Three Stooges.
- E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: T'Mir anonymously pays for Jack's college by selling Velcro to a patent office. This was presumably an in-joke on writer Chris Black's part, as a reference to this idea was made in an episode of Sliders that he wrote.
- Exact Words:
- Maggie is slightly put off that Mestral says the kiss was merely "pleasant," to which he replies that he found it "very pleasant."
- T'Pol invokes this when pretending that she made the entire story up.
- Fantastic Racism: T'Mir and Stron find humans annoying.
- Hilarious Outtakes: Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, and Connor Trinneer do an entire take of the penultimate scene where they pretend to be drunk.
- Stron, who is aghast that Mestral wants to use a particle weapon to free some trapped miners, even though he had no problem using a particle welding device to fix a leaking pipe earlier.
- Arguably both he and T'Mir qualify, since they would never get into that situation in the first place had they not decided to risk living with humans rather than to kill and eat a deer.
- I Choose to Stay: Mestral decided to stay on Earth.
- Identical Grandson: Jolene Blalock (T'Pol) plays T'Pol's great-grandmother.
- Interspecies Friendship: Mestral ends up making friends with his human coworkers in the mine, which motivates him to save them when they get trapped.
- Interspecies Romance: Mestral, a Vulcan, falls in love with Maggie, a human.
- Odd Name Out: Stron is the only Vulcan in the past not to have a two-syllable name.
- Only Sane Man: Mestral is perhaps a bit reckless at times, but his companions are so rigid in their adherence to cultural norms and protocol that he has to act in their best interests, since they won't.
- Sexy Silhouette: T'Mir takes a dress off a clothesline and goes behind a blanket hanging on the clothesline for a modicum of privacy. But the sun is shining so brightly that Mestral could very well look at T'Mir's silhouette if he wanted to. And since T'Mir put the dress on backwards, she has to go behind the blanket a second time to correct it.
- Trip calls her story of "two aliens walking into a bar, shooting some pool, and walking out with a bag of TV dinners" as sounding like something from The Twilight Zone (1959). The relaunch of The Twilight Zone (2002) aired immediately following ENT this season on UPN.
- Also, a kid in town is fond of calling Stron "Moe" due to his similar haircut.
- Mestral seems to be a fan of I Love Lucy.
- Straw Vegetarian: Subverted. T'Mir and Stron are aghast when Mestral suggests they kill a deer in order to survive, this despite their being in a desperate survival situation which often requires extreme measures short of cannibalism, though if they've been vegetarians their whole life they would no longer be able to digest meat properly, and it would only make them sick. Their refusal is what drives Mestral to head for the nearby town and interact with the locals.
- We've Got Company: Said by the woman who kissed Mestral in the car when she spots T'Mir across the street.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In-Universe with the Vulcan who chose to remain behind on Earth. T'Pol theorizes he managed to live until old age and presumably was buried/cremated without an autopsy. He makes a few appearances in the Expanded Universe. Apparently he was the one who introduced Lily Sloane to Zefram Cochrane, and was still around when official first contact with the Vulcans was made.
- Whole Episode Flashback: Much like the VOY episode "11:59", this is a flashback about a main character's distant ancestor.