The three younger Borg children have been returned to their race. Departing the transporter room, Icheb observes that Seven is crying. Despite the circumstances, she insists that it is a malfunction in her artificial eye and goes to see the Doctor. It turns out that she is correct. The Doctor will look into it, and Seven insists that he not tell Captain Janeway. In Astrometrics, Icheb reveals that he wants to take the entrance exam for Starfleet Academy. Seven agrees to assist him with preparing for the test and speaking to Janeway about obtaining a letter of recommendation. Suddenly another one of Seven's implants begins to malfunction, which she manages to conceal from Icheb as she excuses herself from the lab. She goes to the Cargo Bay to attempt to regenerate, but the computer reports that it cannot connect. Her Borg cortical node, which regulates all her implants, is malfunctioning. Unable to rest, Seven goes to the mess hall. When Neelix arrives she refuses the offer of breakfast, and then collapses.
In Sickbay, the Doctor and Captain Janeway discuss the situation with her. Seven is certain that the technology of the cortical node is too advanced for the Voyager crew to reproduce. But without it, she is going to die. Janeway resolves to obtain another cortical node. She decides to try to salvage one from a Borg debris field not far from the ship's location. To minimize the risk, she tries to go alone in the Delta Flyer, but Paris and Tuvok insist on accompanying her. They find an intact, but dead, drone and remove its node. However, space scavengers arrive and declare that the debris field and everything in it belongs to them. After a brief altercation in which Janeway and Tuvok are nearly killed, Paris manages to beam them back to the Delta Flyer and they have a space battle with the scavenger's ship, disabling it.
Meanwhile, Seven and Icheb are experiencing increasing tension as she tries to push him away, while he wants to support her. The Doctor explains to him that Seven is just angry and embarrassed by her condition, to which Icheb argues that it is not her fault that she is sick. The Doctor agrees and assures him that he will call Icheb if Seven calms down enough to want company. Icheb is not happy, but leaves sick bay. Then Janeway and the others return with the salvaged node.
A tense operation ensues, with Paris and Janeway assisting the Doctor in replacing Seven's node. The operation fails and she dies. The Doctor says "End program", and it revealed that the whole exercise was an trial run on the Holodeck, the twelfth they have attempted. Every time the procedure fails. Seven is resigned to her impending death and wants to resume working until the end. The Doctor refuses and insists that she remain in Sickbay. However, she deactivates him and leaves, a fact which is discovered by Icheb. Torres helps her hide out in Engineering until the Doctor finds her. He concedes that she can remain working so long as she wears a cortical monitor that allows him keep track of her condition.
Seven enters Astrometrics, where Icheb is working. She has drawn up a list of crew members who can help him prepare for his Starfleet entrance exam. They argue over her acceptance of her impending death. She tells him that he is too dependent on her and needs to learn to rely on others. Angrily he storms out. Later, Icheb is again in Astrometrics doing complex cybernetic and genetic simulations. He takes his results to the Doctor. The salvaged node from the dead Borg drone will never work. But Icheb has mapped out a procedure by which his own node can be removed and transplanted into Seven. He asserts that the fact that his own assimilation was never fully completed, combined with his youth, will allow his body and implants to adapt to the absence of the node if the Doctor performs genetic resequencing that Icheb has designed for himself. The Doctor angrily refuses at first, but Icheb argues that his calculations indicate a high probability of success and the Doctor concedes.
The Doctor presents Icheb's proposal to Janeway and Seven, with his opinion that the procedure is risky but might indeed work. Seven however refuses to accept any risk to Icheb in saving her life and returns to Sickbay. Icheb pleads with the Janeway to order Seven to undergo the procedure, but Janeway states that they must accept Seven's wishes.
The Doctor and Janeway both receive a rather blunt summons from Icheb to come to the Cargo Bay. Janeway and the Doctor joke about both Icheb and Seven not grasping the concept of chain of command. Upon entering the Cargo Bay they find Icheb in his regeneration alcove clearly in great pain. He has shut down his own cortical node and locked out the controls to the alcoves so that the Doctor cannot do anything about it. Janeway asks why he has done this, and he responds that it was to prove that he could survive it.
The three of them beam directly to Sickbay, where Seven is horrified to see Icheb's condition. The Doctor wants to reactivate his node, but he refuses to allow it. Seven accuses him of acting like a child, and he counters that she is hypocritical in telling him to learn to rely on others when she has been concealing her condition and resisting help from the beginning of her malfunctions. He argues that everyone on the ship not only helps each other, but that Janeway risks all their lives whenever they answer a distress call because people are supposed to help each other. Seven reiterates that he is just a child, but Janeway, greatly impressed, argues that she does not think he is, not anymore.
Seven and Icheb undergo their respective procedures. Seven awakens six days later in her regeneration alcove. The procedure was a success. Icheb is still recovering in Sickbay. The Doctor does not think he has suffered any permanent damage, but he is in some pain, so he has been kept sedated. Seven feels guilt that Icheb has felt that pain for her, but the Doctor insists that it was his decision. He awakens Icheb, who is happy to see Seven recovered. She cries, and at first he worries that her implants are failing again. But the Doctor checks and she is merely crying because of how she feels.
- A Day in the Limelight: For Icheb.
- All for Nothing: Janeway, Tom, and Tuvok risk their lives in a Borg debris field to get a new cortical node for Seven, and it turns out that it's been inactive for too long to be useful.
- Birds of a Feather: When Seven lurks in Engineering to get away from the Doctor for a while, B'Elanna cheerfully refuses to turn her in because she hates being cooped up in Sick Bay too.
- Bit Part Bad Guys: The scavengers. It's never stated who they are or why they're so possessive of all the Borg debris. It also doesn't take long for Janeway, Tom, and Tuvok to kick their butts.
- Chekhov's Skill: In "Child's Play," Icheb's father suggested that he could learn genetic engineering. Here, he finally puts it to use.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Janeway proposes taking the Delta Flyer out alone to do a salvage run on a defunct Borg ship.
- The Dead Have Names: Seven refers to other Voyager crew members who've died (Ensign Marie Kaplan, killed in "Unity", Ensign Lindsay Ballard from "Ashes to Ashes", and Crewman Timothy Lang (appeared up till "Equinox, Part II", but time of death not mentioned) while wondering why Janeway won't accept her death as much as the others.
- The Determinator: When Seven refuses Icheb's idea to donate his cortical node, he forces the issue by disconnecting it anyway.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A serious illness that starts with symptoms the patient initially doesn't report because they're only mildly bothersome; when she does visit a doctor, he dismisses it as just in her head and says there's no need to worry. What keeps this from going the way of many early consultations with chronically or terminally ill patients in Real Life is the computer beeping at the Doctor that Seven is in fact correct to be concerned.
- Five Stages of Grief:
- Denial: Seven spends the entire first act trying to pretend that nothing's wrong.
- Anger: When she does end up in Sickbay, she lashes out at the Doctor and Icheb.
- Bargaining: She manages to negotiate some time out of Sickbay (after escaping) under B'Elanna's supervision.
- Depression: She then worries that she'll die having failed to meet Janeway's expectations.
- Acceptance: She's just reaching this stage when Icheb saves the day.
- Friendship Moment: Although B'Elanna and Seven have never gotten along, B'Elanna is still clearly upset when Seven says that her condition is terminal. She tells Seven "you're more memorable than you give yourself credit for" and that she's made an impact on everyone in the crew when Seven expresses her belief that nothing will remain of her after death, and gives her tasks in Engineering so she'll have something useful to do besides brood on mortality.
- Gallows Humor: Seven makes a joke about her last meal. Her delivery is so straight that the Doctor is horrified until she says it is a joke.
- Gal In Back: Captain Janeway takes this role in the Delta Flyer, letting her Ace Pilot give the orders as Tom has the skills to get them out.
- Kid Hero: Icheb, who devises the entire procedure that both saves Seven and allows him to survive without his cortical node. Subverted slightly in that his actions change Janeway's perception of him from a child to an adult.
- Leave Me Alone!: Ironically, Seven of Nine. After years of working through lingering traces of the Collective mindset, when she faces a serious personal health issue she tries to drive everybody else away and face it alone.
- Ludicrous Precision: A variation on the trope occurs when Tuvok scans a destroyed Borg Cube and announces the presence of approximately 37 Borg drones. Paris immediately states that such an even number does not sound like an approximation. Tuvok then has to clarify that he's not counting bodies, but body parts.
- Medical Drama
- Phlebotinum Breakdown: Seven's cortical node, a rare case of a piece of Borg technology that is apparently not self-repairing.
- Proscenium Reveal: The Doctor saying "End program," revealing that the failed operation on Seven was a Virtual Training Simulation.
- Sand In My Eyes: When she sheds a tear at the start of the episode, Seven is disturbed and realizes her cortical implant may be malfunctioning. The Doctor starts to talk to her about normal emotional reactions, but she points out that she felt completely calm and in control at the time, and didn't realize the Single Tear was there until Icheb pointed it out.
- Shout-Out: The casualty list Seven reviews includes the names of characters from The West Wing, which aired opposite Voyager.
- Space Cadet: Icheb reveals that he wants to be this.
- Space Dogfight: Between the Delta Flyer and the scavenger ship through a field of Borg debris.
- Tender Tears:
- Un-Paused: The Doctor is activated shouting that "I'll have to sedate you!" He then realises he's not talking to Seven, who shut him off in the middle of a sentence.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Janeway suggests breaking into a Borg ship to rip the cortical implant out of a living drone. The Doctor flat-out refuses to be party to that, because it would be tantamount to murder. Given the number of Borg they've met who have or attempted to restore their own lives, along with the presence of Seven herself, his argument is valid, and Janeway backs off.
- Seven rebukes Icheb for disconnecting his cortical node, only for him to turn it back on her.Seven: You're acting like a child.
Icheb: I'm trying to save your life.
Seven: Only because you've grown too dependent on me.
Icheb: You think I need to learn to rely on other people?
Icheb: What about you? You've refused to rely on a single member of this crew. You hid your condition from the rest of us, you deactivated the Doctor, and now you're rejecting my help. You're the one who needs to rely on others. (to Janeway) Isn't that what people on this ship do? They help each other?
Janeway: Whenever we can.
- With Due Respect: Tom reminding Janeway that the last time she flew the Delta Flyer, it didn't come back in one piece. It's his way of volunteering to help her.