As the Federation starship Enterprise, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, passes through the Coalition of Madena, it detects a small cargo ship, manually controlled by its single occupant. The crew makes contact with the pilot Okona, who requests help to repair a part on his ship. Captain Picard agrees, and has the Enterprise tow Okona's ship while Okona is brought on board. The crew soon finds that Okona has taken a keen interest in the women on the ship, and is in no rush to effect repairs.
Continuing through the sector, the Enterprise is set upon by ships from two different planets, both of which lock their laser weapons upon the Enterprise. Both ships are vastly outclassed (it is remarked that their weapons would be easily defeated by the navigation shields alone). Debin, from the planet Atlec, accuses Okona of impregnating his daughter Yanar, while Kushell from the planet Straleb asserts that Okona has stolen a state treasure, the Jewel of Thesia. These two leaders clearly know each other, but both demand that their own claim on Okona take priority. Okona denies either accusation, considering he holds himself to a gentlemanly code of conduct. Picard offers to arbitrate the dispute. During the discussions it becomes clear that Okona is innocent, used as a go-between by both Yanar of Atlec and Kushell's son, Benzan, who are in love with each other. Yanar is pregnant with Benzan's child and he offered to marry her. Benzan asserts that the Jewel of Thesia rightfully belongs to him as the heir, and intended to present it to Yanar as a courting gift. Okona was carrying the jewel between the two planets. While learning of this secret relationship infuriates both Debin and Kushell, Picard cannot get involved in the internal political disputes between the two planets and allows Okona to go on his way once his ship is repaired. Debin and Kushell are left to argue about wedding details.
A side plot involves Lt. Commander Data attempting to discover humor after meeting Okona. Prompted by Guinan, Data uses the holodeck to generate a comedy club setting as well as a stand-up comic played by Joe Piscopo, but soon finds its virtual audience poised to laugh at anything he says or does. Note that Data mistakenly calls a fish an amphibian in his dialogue with the comic. Though Data is able to unintentionally make the crew laugh as they release Okona by mimicking the "Say good night, Gracie" joke, he does not at first understand the joke himself.
Cast as the crewmember who operates the transporter in this episode was Teri Hatcher, future co-star of Lois & Clark and Desperate Housewives. This character was called Lieutenant Bronwyn Gail Robinson, but is not referred to by name on-screen, nor was the actress credited, despite having lines. Apparently Hatcher asked for her credit to be omitted because so much of her part was left out of the broadcast episode.