The Enterprise responds to a distress signal from a damaged Talarian ship and find a human boy among the crew. The human boy, Jono, has past injuries that Doctor Crusher believes could be evidence of abuse. Jono also does not respond well to humans, preferring to behave more in the Talarian way that he has become accustomed to. The crew of the Enterprise, with Captain Picard acting in a fatherly role towards the boy (or attempting to), try to get Jono to connect with his human roots and become more comfortable with his own species. This is complicated by the fact that Jono continues to insist that he be returned to his captain, Captain Endar, who the crew believe abused him.
Tensions increase as Picard meets with Captain Endar, who demands that Jono be returned to him, saying that he had the right the claim Jono as a son because his own son was slain by humans. Picard accuses Endar of abusing Jono, but Endar denies it. Jono becomes conflicted about whether or not he wants to return to Endar or stay with his human relatives, from whom he has received a message. The crew of the Enterprise believe that Jono returning to his human family is what's best for him, but in this case, they may be wrong.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Abusive Parents: What Doctor Crusher and the rest of the crew believe Endar is. It turns out that Jono received his injuries trying to fit in with his peers.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Captain Endar raised Jono as his own son since according to Talarian tradition, he is allowed to claim the son of a slain enemy after he lost his own son in a Starfleet attack.
- Interspecies Adoption: Endar adopted Jono.
- It's All About Me: Jono's human grandmother, a Starfleet admiral, seems only concerned with having him "carry on the family line."
- No Such Thing as Alien Pop Culture: Averted. Jono listens to popular Talarian music that Picard makes him turn off.
- No Woman's Land: The Talarians' society is mentioned to be a strict patriarchy, where a woman can never outrank a man.
- Only Sane Man: Worf openly talks about how crazy it is that one boy could spark a war between the Federation and the Talarians.Worf: Sir, is it worth it? To risk going to war over a child?
- Parental Abandonment: Jono's parents were killed in the Talarian attack when he was young.
- Parental Substitute: Picard attempts to become this for Jono, but Jono feels more affection for Endar, his adoptive father.
- Raised by Orcs: Subverted. The crew initially assume that this was Jono's situation, but they finally accept that his upbringing wasn't abusive and that he belongs with his adoptive father.
- Suicide by Cop: Jono, torn between human and Talarian societies, tries to find a way out by stabbing Picard, believing he will be executed for it. Ultimately averted since Picard has absolutely no intention of executing him, and realizes he should have taken greater account of Jono's wishes.
- Stock Footage: Geordi LaForge only appears in a very brief scene, which is recycled from an earlier episode. The reason for this is that LeVar Burton suffered an accident shortly before filming started on the 4th season.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Jono's relationship with Endar has shades of this. Thankfully Endar is aware of his son's over-achieving nature and does indeed care for him, just appearing aloof.