The Enterprise has arrived at Troi's homeworld, Betazed, for some trade negotiations. And you can probably guess what that means. Yep, this is Season 3's Lwaxana Troi episode! During the official reception in Ten Forward, Lwaxana attracts the attention of the Ferengi's representative, DaiMon Tog. Had Tog tried his horribly unsubtle come-ons a year earlier he might have gotten somewhere, but Lwaxana tells him in no uncertain terms that she's not interested and tells him to get lost. In the meantime, Lwaxana tries to badger her daughter into either finding a new man, or just hooking up with Riker again. Rather improbably, Picard has exactly the same thought and tells Riker and Troi to take shore leave on Betazed, while the Enterprise studies a developing stellar cluster. Though considering a large part of the mission is to give Wesley one last bit of hands-on experience before he officially goes to Starfleet Academy, it's understandable why they might want to sit it out.
Riker and Troi's date down on Betazed actually goes pretty well, showing that there's still very much a spark between them. Unfortunately, Lwaxana just can't leave well enough alone, and shows up with the intention of micro-managing the date and ensuring that the two start making babies as soon as possible. Things really get bad when Tog beams down and, not willing to take no for an answer, abducts not only Lwaxana, but her daughter and Riker.
Tog's Marauder, the Krayton, quickly departs Betazed, and just to be as much of a creepy weirdo as possible, transports the two Trois out of their clothing and into his quarters. He does have some standards however, and soon beams Deanna back to the ship's brig (where she quickly re-clothes herself), allowing him to focus his... charms on Lwaxana. Meanwhile, it turns out that guard duty on the brig has apparently been delegated to the dumbest Ferengi on the ship, and Riker goads him into letting him out to play a game of three-dimensional chess. Riker, probably to hide the fact that he doesn't understand the game's rules any more than most of the show's fans do, just knocks the schmuck out and starts working on an escape. Lwaxana nearly fools Tog into giving her the access codes for the entire computer (which she could then telepathically convey to Deanna and Riker) just so that she can program in a particular beverage, but the ship's doctor, Farek (Ethan Phillips), catches her in the act and threatens to relieve Tog of command unless he permits Lwaxana to be experimented on in order to work out how to give Ferengi the telepathic abilities of Betazoids. Tog points out that this plan is insane and will just as likely kill Lwaxana, but Farek refuses to back down. In the meantime, Riker monkeys around with the ship's warp field to try getting a makeshift signal out to the Enterprise.
Speaking of which, the Enterprise has returned to Betazed, and is investigating the disappearance of their officers and Lwaxana. Wesley is in the process of saying his goodbyes, and is told in no uncertain terms that the academy's transport ship is about to depart. As he prepares to beam out, he realizes that something was off in one of the sensor readings just before he left the bridge for the "last" time, before rushing right back up there to save the day. Again!note
As the Enterprise catches up with the Krayton, Riker and Troi break into Farek's lab and stop the experiment before any real harm can come to Lwaxana. Finally remembering that she's supposed to be a famed ambassador and negotiator, Lwaxana makes a deal with Tog, who agrees to let Riker and Deanna go, in exchange for Lwaxana voluntarily staying with him. The Enterprise happens to show up at that moment, and Tog decides that now's as good a time as any to get rid of his two now-unwanted hostages, whom he beams back to the Enterprise. Lwaxana doesn't actually want to live her life as Tog's love slave, however, which leaves Picard with the task of winning her back. And this is when the Ferengi were still supposed to be something of a threat, so the Krayton is only slightly less well-armed than the Enterprise. Picard immediately realizes what he needs to do to gain the edge in this situation: quote Shakespeare as loudly and hammily as possible, while ordering weapons locked on Tog's ship. Not being a Klingon general, Tog is unfamiliar with Shakespeare, and quickly concludes that Picard is obviously insane, and Lwaxana is more trouble than she's worth. He therefore beams her back to the Enterprise, before making tracks.
Lwaxana is returned to Betazed, but this still leaves the issue of Wesley, who missed the Starfleet Academy transport ship and now has to wait another year to re-apply... because the Enterprise apparently can't just intercept the transport ship, or even fly Wesley directly back to Earth. Whatever the reason, Picard decides to drop the "acting" part of Wesley's title, thereby making him a full ensign and granting him a real uniform. Will this make the crew treat him more seriously? Only time will tell!
"Ménage à Troi" provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Par for the course in a Lwaxana episode. This time, though, she gets to be on the receiving end!
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Not quite as much as her previous two appearances, but Lwaxana's attempts to push Riker and Troi back together are just painful to watch, and probably the reason why after this episode they don't seriously consider rekindling their relationship until Star Trek: Insurrection.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Picard woodenly stammers his way through "It's not over between us, Lwaxana. I must have you back," before resorting to Shakespeare and large gestures.
- Crazy Enough to Work: Picard's plan to win Lwaxana back by quoting Shakespeare.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Lwaxana's plan to escape Tog consists of prompting Picard to act insanely jealous by saying things like, "You simply must stop killing all my lovers."
- Description Cut: Picard figures that Deanna enjoys spending time with her mother at the reception. Cut to Deanna barely tolerating her mother's presence.
- Epunymous Title: They usually reserve titles of this quality for Q episodes!
- Even Evil Has Standards: Tog skirts this. While he's clearly horrified at the notion of Lwaxana being harmed by Farek's experiments, he apparently considers hanging onto his command to be more important than saving her life.
- Funny Background Event: While Picard is unloading the Ham and Cheese with his Shakespearean Sonnets, witness Riker, Deanna and Worf's reactions behind him. (Jonathan Frakes even breaks character to look off-stage at one point while cracking up laughing.)
- Harmless Villain: Compared to most other TNG-era Ferengi, Tog isn't really that much of a villain, just an obsessive stalker. The same can not be said, however, for Farek.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: When attempting to dodge Lwaxana at a reception, the best excuse Picard can come up with is needing to show off a new turbolift door mechanism.
- Large Ham: Picard has to turn into this in-universe, in order to persuade Tog to hand Lwaxana back over.
- The Nudifier: Most transporters in the Trek universe can remove arbitrary items during transit, but only the Ferengi are tactless enough to use it to remove a woman's clothes.
- Only Sane Man: Farek may be a Jerkass, but he's the only one on the Krayton who isn't the dumbest guard in the entire Ferengi Alliance, or thinking with his other head.
- Retcon: While Troi had been shown to be able to read Ferengi minds in previous episodes, this episode establishes that Ferengis are immune to Betazoid telepathy, which would be treated as standard in all future episodes of both this series and Deep Space Nine.
- Shameful Strip: Troi and Lwaxana have their clothes taken away, because the Ferengi are an extreme patriarchy where women can't even wear clothes.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: To convince Tog that he's a jealous lover who's willing to kill both the Ferengi and Lwaxana if he can't get her back, Picard hammily quotes from bits and pieces of no fewer than four Shakespeare sonnets, along with Othello and also a bit of Tennyson ("Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all").
- Signature Item Clue: The bouquet of flowers from Ferengi space Tog brought to Betazed is later found by Enterprise security, giving them a good idea who's responsible.
- Stalker with a Crush: Tog is this to Lwaxana.
- Status Quo Is God: Played with. While Wesley ends up failing to get to Starfleet Academy yet again, there is a slight change in the status quo, as he goes from being an acting ensign to a full ensign, and gets a real uniform.
- Suckiness Is Painful: Lwaxana prompts Picard to become a Large Ham quoting Shakespeare in such an over-the-top that this exasperates Tog into handing her back to the Enterprise.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Yes genius, let the prisoner out of his cell cause he only wants to help you with your chess game...
- Too Dumb to Live: Tog is bad enough, with the way that Lwaxana nearly got his access code out of him, but the Ferengi who Riker tricks into letting him out of the brig really takes the cake. Tog also doesn't help his cause by needlessly abducting Riker and Troi, two serving Starfleet officers, though given Lwaxana's status as an important Federation ambassador, the end outcome would probably have been the same.