The Enterprise is on a course for Risa to take shore leave when they respond to a distress call from a ship experiencing engine problems. Its leader, Zobral, invites Archer and Trip to his home planet for a meal served in their honor. Over dinner, they talk about their respective planets, and Zobral gifts Archer a Suliban artefact.
The Enterprise is hailed from the planet by Chancellor Trellit of the Torothan government, who informs Sub-commander T'Pol that they will probably never see Archer and Trip again. While playing Geskana, T'Pol hails Archer to notify him and he makes an excuse to leave. Zobral stops him and explains the real reason for inviting Archer to the planet. The planet's society used to run on a caste system. It was abolished, but the Torothan government didn't honor the agreement fully. After ten years of peaceful protest with no improvement, members of the lower caste have taken to using violence to enforce their beliefs. Zobral requests the use of Enterprise's resources or Archer's tactical knowledge, noting Archer's recent assistance to the Suliban prisoners.
The Torothan government begins bombarding Zobral's village. Archer and Trip are convinced to hide so that their shuttlepod's thrusters do not draw fire. When a large explosion rocks the village, Archer and Trip grab survival packs from their shuttlepod and leave, heading east across the desert towards another encampment. Eventually they find the site and take shelter from the heat in a deserted building. Archer looks after Trip, who is suffering from heatstroke.
Meanwhile, on board the Enterprise, Reed detects weapons fire on the surface. Ensign Hoshi Sato can't hail Archer as the region is being jammed. Trellit tells T'Pol that a shuttlepod will be seen as an enemy vessel and fired upon. The Torothans erect a dispersion field to prevent the Enterprise from scanning the surface. Hoshi asks how Vulcans make first contact and avoid taking sides in a war. T'Pol replies that they created directives to guide them in such situations and that Captain Archer will have to do the same.
Zobral rendezvous with the Enterprise and is met by T'Pol and Lt. Reed. He helps them sneak a shuttlepod past the Torothan defenses. While searching for bio-signs, T'Pol, observes the bombardment of the ruined encampment and orders that a new course be set, believing the Torothans to have located Archer and Trip. They land and collect the pair after destroying the Torothan mortar.
Aboard the Enterprise, Zobral prepares to leave and Archer tells him that becoming involved in planetary conflicts is not the reason why Starfleet is exploring the galaxy. As they walk away, T'Pol tells Archer that he said the correct thing but Archer replies that he has a feeling that Zobral's is a cause worth fighting.