After a brief detour, Enterprise and its crew are back on their way to famed pleasure planet Risa. Everyone is eagerly anticipating a long overdue shore leave ... until they pick up a distress call from an unidentified vessel, and vacation is once again delayed. After figuring out that the vessel's warp injectors are simply clogged with plasma residue, Trip gets to work repairing the engines while Archer enjoys a visit with the ship's captain, a ruggedly charismatic alien named Zobral. Hailing from a nearby desert planet, Zobral invites Archer and Trip to his home for a dinner in their honor. Though Archer is reluctant to accept the invitation since it means delaying shore leave yet again, he eventually relents, charmed by Zobral's persistence. Later, Archer is surprised to find Trip unenthusiastic about the invitation. The chief engineer confesses that he's hated desert environments ever since their harsh survival training in the Australian outback. Archer, however, manages to convince Trip to come along.
The two officers take a shuttlepod to Zobral's village, where they are greeted warmly by Zobral and his aides. Dinner is served, and Trip and Archer enjoy the myriad of exotic tastes while Zobral showers them with hospitality. Zobral also makes a curious remark about the Suliban — a remark that indicates he knows the Enterprise crew has encountered the alien race before. Before Archer can question Zobral about this, a bell rings, signifying the start of a Geskana match. This futuristic game is something like lacrosse, played with a glowing ball of energy and two large goal hoops. While Archer and Trip are enjoying the brutally physical match, the crew on Enterprise is hailed by a city on the far side of Zobral's desert planet. T'Pol finds herself speaking with Chancellor Trellit, an abrupt city official who wants to know why the shuttlepod from Enterprise traveled to Zobral's village. T'Pol explains that they were invited. Astounded, Trelit informs T'Pol that she will most likely never see the officers again.
T'Pol immediately contacts Archer, interrupting the Geskana match, and informs him that the Chancellor claims Zobral and his men are terrorists, responsible for numerous attacks on civilians within the city. Based on his impression of Zobral so far, Archer doubts the validity of the Chancellor's claim, but still opts to play it safe and politely makes his excuses for him and Trip to exit the match and return to Enterprise. Sensing Archer's ruse, Zobral confesses: his people have been oppressed by the Chancellor's people for years. Zobral has been fighting a losing battle for their freedom, and he wants Archer's help. It seems that Zobral already knows of the captain, having talked to some Suliban who were recently liberated from a detention camp by a heroic and cunning warrior named Jonathan Archer. As Zobral is explaining his plight, attack cruisers from the city begin bombarding the village. As their shuttle would be an easy target, Zobral convinces Archer and Trip to take refuge inside his bunker. Unfortunately, the attack intensifies, destroying the bunker and forcing Archer and Trip to head out into the desert wasteland.
Back onboard Enterprise, T'Pol argues with the obstinate Chancellor, who suspects Enterprise of assisting the terrorists in their war. The Chancellor threatens that any vessels launched from Enterprise will be considered the enemy and fired upon. Additionally, Reed's sensors are rendered useless by an orbital dispersion field.
The next morning, Trip and Archer traipse through the vast desert, attempting to find shelter before the heat gets worse. Trip, who bruised some ribs in the Geskana match, is having a much harder time with the trek than Archer. When a large cruiser from the city suddenly passes overhead, the two men hide themselves from its sensors just in time, and the threat of detection forces them to keep moving, even though Trip needs rest. As the two men continue their journey, Archer notices that Trip is slowly becoming delirious from heat exhaustion. The two officers, however, must press on.
Meanwhile, a vessel hails Enterprise — it's Zobral. With no other option, T'Pol allows him to dock. After Reed sets the record straight about what happened at the Suliban detention camp, Zobral realizes Archer is not the invincible warrior he was told of. Reed, who has been trying to come up with a way to reach the surface undetected, learns Zobral's shuttle came through a narrow gap in the orbital detection grid, which occurs every 46 minutes, but only lasts for a short time. After Zobral insists the technical maneuvers to navigate the gap without detection are very difficult, T'Pol tries to convince him of his responsibility to help them find Archer and Trip.
Down on the planet, Archer and Trip finally make it to an abandoned structure in the desert. As Trip fights off heat stroke and dehydration, Archer attempts to keep his friend talking, hoping that Trip won't lapse into a coma. Their conversation is interrupted, however, when their shelter comes under attack and begins to collapse. Meanwhile, T'Pol has convinced Zobral to help her locate the missing officers, and along with Reed, they're scanning the surface in a shuttlepod. Reed picks up weapon fire, which they realize is meant for Archer and Trip. Flying low, the shuttlepod fires on the alien weapons, and then locates the two officers. T'Pol helps them into the shuttlepod, and they take off. Back on Enterprise, T'Pol and Archer bid Zobral farewell. Though Archer feels Zobral's cause is worth fighting for, he knows that they cannot get involved. As Zobral leaves, T'Pol assures Archer that he made the right decision.