More Low-Stakes Fun for the Lower Deckers
The fourth episode of this season of Lower Decks opens with the crowded corridor where these low-ranking crew members sleep in bunks embedded into the walls. It makes for a cool sci-fi aesthetic, but it isn’t so fun for our lower deckers (no personal space whatsoever). And then Captain Freeman appears, possessed by an alien mask and sending out energy waves that transform the USS Cerritos into an ancient temple. And naturally, none of our main characters know how this happened or why, only that this isn’t the first time. It’s a fun reference to all the times Star Trek characters have been possessed, and, since this is Lower Decks after all, it’s just the kick-off for the episode’s real concern: the clean-up from this mess, and where the lower deckers sleep.
After the whole ancient mask situation is dealt with off-camera, the engineers, including Rutherford and his boss, Billups, are tasked with undoing the whole ancient-temple transformation. Freeman becomes worried that the engineers are becoming too stressed out after having to restore the ship yet again and orders them all on a mandatory spa trip.
Meanwhile, Mariner, Boimler, and Tendi learn that four private rooms on Deck 1 are going to be put up for lottery, and that their arch-rivals, Delta Shift – the lower deckers on duty while their shift, Beta Shift, is a sleep – are planning to game the system for better living quarters. They decide to take to beat Delta Shift at their own game. Boimler claims to know a shortcut to the server room deep within the ship, where they can rig the lottery, and off they go.
The first step in the shortcut is through the holodeck, where Dr. T’Ana and Shaxs are in the middle of some Bonnie and Clyde role-playing… and our lower deckers scramble to get through the room before they witness something they can’t unsee. Next, they end up in a swamp beneath hydroponics, where the air is filled with hallucinogenic gas from the roots. Mariner and Boimler end up tripping hard while Tendi, who as an Orion is immune, bodily shoves them into the next conduit. After that, they wind up in a low-grav chamber, which is all fun and games until it turns out to be part of the deflector shield, which Ransom orders activated after the Cerritos encounters some space debris. Boimler ends up caught in the fast-spinning dish and has to be rescued by Mariner and Tendi, who tie their uniforms together to form a tether. Finally, they reach a chamber before a vent that opens once an hour, which will give them a straight shot to the server. Victory is nigh, and all they have to do now is wait.
Meanwhile, Rutherford, Billups, and the other engineers follow Freeman on board the Dove, a spa ship run by Toz and equipped with everything needed for relaxation. They’re even given wristbands to monitor their stress levels; all are yellow presently, meaning moderate levels of stress. Despite Freeman’s orders that they relax, the engineers are incurable workaholics… fixing the door within moments of arriving, using the sand garden to draw engine schematics, secretly tinkering under massage beds, and even using the cucumbers meant to cover their eyes during mani-pedis to make their yellow wristbands appear green. What a bunch of nerds.
A frustrated Freeman flies into a rage at the last one, and her wristband turns black, indicating off-the-charts levels of stress. She’s carted off for intensive treatment: a puppy therapy room, with a few bunnies added for extra cuteness. Turns out, she was the one most in need of relief, having held untold amounts of repressed stress. Toz says that if the Dove can’t make her relax, they’ll have to ship her off to Earth for a medical evaluation.
So the engineers, of course, engineer a solution: A jury-rigged chamber designed to optimize relaxation. And it works. Freeman emerges after a few moments, fully relaxed with a green wristband. The engineers’ wristbands are all green too, since what relaxes them the most is tinkering. Again, what a bunch of nerds.
Back on the Cerritos, Mariner, Boimler, and Tendi are annoyed when Delta Shift appears in the same chamber they’re in, seeking the same once-an-hour vent, having gone through similarly grueling adventures to reach it and dripping in some kind of liquid for their troubles. But while waiting for the vent to open, they start swapping tales of their misadventures, and camaraderie builds. For a moment, it seems like this episode might be heading to the same kind of kumbaya ending as the last one, but it turns out the Delta-bags were distracting the Beta Shifters. The moment the vent opens, they rush out, leaving our irritated protagonists behind.
But all is not lost! Boimler notices the liquid seeping down a tube no one knew existed. Where does it lead? Only one way for Bold Boimler to find out! He dives into the unknown and finds an even shorter shortcut to the server. Mariner and Tendi soon join him, but then they all realize that it isn’t four rooms on Deck 1 that are available, but just one room on Deck 4. Not wanting to break up their little friend group and relegate one person to living alone, they decide to let Delta Shift have it. A win for friendship, right?
Except they could have just put four beds in the one nice, big room, which is exactly what Delta Shift does while our Beta Shifters grouse about the lost opportunity. Especially Rutherford, who was away for the whole thing and is annoyed that his friends didn’t think of the obvious solution. But they soon move on to their next pressing concern: how to crash the Delta Shifters’ party.
All in all, another solidly low-stakes episode for our low-ranking lower deckers, one that mostly remains self-contained but alludes to some of the larger character arcs, such as Boimler trying to be bolder (and suffering some consequences for it) and Tendi being on track to be a bridge officer someday. The episode acknowledges that the characters’ situation is temporary; no one stays in their first job forever, after all. It will be interesting to see how the show handles the eventual progression of its core characters.