At a reception aboard the Federation starship Enterprise following a trade conference on Betazed, Counselor Deanna Troi argues with her mother, Lwaxana Troi, about her insistence that Deanna get married and raise a family. At the same party, Lwaxana is approached by the Ferengi Daimon Tog of the ship Krayton, who is interested in Lwaxana in a sexual way, but also explains he would like Lwaxana to use her telepathy to help him make business. Lwaxana rejects him flatly and later remarks that she would rather eat Orion Wing Slugs than date Tog.
Afterwards, at the urging of Captain Picard, Commander Riker and his one-time flame, Deanna, decide to take a quick shore leave on Betazed, while the Enterprise heads out on a routine mission studying a nebula. Lwaxana tracks down her daughter and Riker, with intent to encourage a renewed romance between the couple. She is just getting started when Daimon Tog arrives stating that he has come for Lwaxana. When he is again rebuffed by Lwaxana, Tog has himself and the others transported aboard the Krayton, leaving a confused Mr. Homn to wonder where his employer has gone.
The three awaken in a cell aboard the Krayton. Tog then has Deanna and Lwaxana beamed into the lab of Farek, a Ferengi doctor who hopes to study Lwaxana's telepathy using mind probes. In the process of transporting them he leaves the women's clothing behind, saying that women are not worthy enough to wear clothes. Lwaxana pretends to be interested in Tog, and gains Deanna's return to the cell with Riker by agreeing to discuss with Tog a proposal to use her telepathic abilities in trade negotiations.
Riker entices a Ferengi guard into a chess game, and once outside the cell, Riker quickly overpowers the guard. Once freed, Deanna and Riker attempt to send a message to the Enterprise, only to learn that the ship's communication system is secured by access code. As Lwaxana seduces Tog by rubbing his ears, she receives a telepathic message from Deanna asking her to try to get Tog's access code.
Lwaxana has nearly gotten Tog to tell her the code when Farek walks in and catches her in the act. Farek threatens to humiliate Tog by revealing his incompetence to the Ferengi, but offers to forget the incident if Lwaxana is turned over to him for experimentation, despite the fact that the proposed tests may be lethal.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise leaves the nebula, which has been interfering with communications, and learn from Betazed officials that Riker and the Trois have been kidnapped. Returning to Betazed, the Enterprise crew discovers flowers indigenous to a Ferengi planet at the spot where Deanna and Riker were last seen. Picard orders a frequency scan to see if Riker has somehow sent a message, but are unable to pick up anything discernible. In fact, Riker has tapped into the system on the Krayton that suppresses Cochrane distortion from the ship's warp field, and modulated it to generate a signal using unsuppressed distortion into a pattern he hopes the Enterprise crew will recognize.
In the midst of the search, Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher is in final preparation to depart to Earth for his second attempt to pass the Starfleet Academy entrance exam. Just as he is about to leave, he realizes that the modulated interference itself may be the signal, and rushes back to the Bridge, missing his transport back to Earth. Decoding the signal, young Crusher finds Riker has provided the heading of the Krayton and the Enterprise heads out in pursuit.
In the meantime, Deanna is experiencing great pain as she senses the mind probes being used on her mother. Riker, having finished setting up the modulation of the Cochrane distortion, arms himself and bursts into Farek's lab to free Lwaxana, but a standoff ensues when Tog enters with a phaser. Just then the Enterprise arrives, and Lwaxana buys the release of Troi and Riker by agreeing to stay with Tog and serve him both as a lover and a business partner. After Riker and Deanna are returned to the Enterprise, Picard begins to play the role of a jealous lover, describing his love for Lwaxana and telling Tog that if he can't have her no one will, and threatens to destroy the Krayton if she's not delivered to him immediately. Fearing for his life Daimon Tog hurriedly beams Lwaxana directly to the Enterprise Bridge and leaves the area post-haste. So taken is Lwaxana by Picard's poetic profession of "love" for her that she takes her place on his lap in the command chair, causing Picard to quickly tell Ensign Crusher to "set course for Betazed", almost whispering "warp nine".
Crusher is told that he will be allowed to reapply for entrance to Starfleet Academy in one year, and Picard gives him a field promotion to full Ensign in light of his contributions to the ship and crew.