Not long after Rutherford has a nightmare about an explosion that happened in his pre-implant days, his implant goes on the fritz and an alternate personality with a bad attitude emerges (let’s call him Dark Rutherford). Imprisoned within his own mind is the OkeeDokee Rutherford we all know and love, who manifests to his dark alter-ego as a reflection in glass surfaces and tries to battle back control of his consciousness.
Dark Rutherford tries to thwart security and escape the ship, but is phasered by Shaxs, which overloads Rutherford’s implant and puts him in a coma. Inside his mind, OkeeDokee Rutherford and Dark Rutherford compete for mental dominion by agreeing to a race — the winner gets to stay and the loser gets erased. There can be only one victor, because the implant does not have room for both personalities and sets of memories.
With the engineering staff exhausted from working around the clock to repair damage to the ship caused by Freeman’s recent mask-based alien takeover (unlike in TNG‘s "Masks," the ship is not magically transformed back after having been turned into a museum), the captain orders downtime. The Cerritos arrives at the Dove, a Federation spa facility where the patrons are issued color-coded stress-detecting bracelets and ordered to relax using amenities such as the massage parlor or the (admittedly adorable) puppy play room. (The spa manager says they also have a kitten room if you are one of the "deviants" who are into such things.)
When a scientist at a research station on an alien world inhabited by stone-like people (the "Scrubble") is tempted by his greatest fantasy (his hot seventh-grade teacher) and turned into stone by a magical telepathic artifact, the Cerritos crew comes in to clean up the artifacts before they can do any more accidental harm.
The lower deckers are on the case, and while they do the cleanup, they have to deal with hallucinations created by the artifacts which reveal their deepest fantasies. They must avoid temptation lest they be turned into stone — while also competing against the USS Carlsbad‘s lower deckers, whom they are assigned to work with, and whom they assume regard them as a bunch of screw-ups.
The biggest problem with "Mining the Mind’s Mines" is its utter lack of imagination. A story that uses the Trekkian staple of the fantasy world showing the crew false images could’ve been used to reveal interesting things about the characters, or at least use the fantasies to drive some clever comedy. Instead, we get a bunch of surprisingly obvious jokes and "zany" cartoon action.
When the crew comes to the assistance of a planet (whose society considers health and wellness a top priority) to help them repair one of their
space elevators orbital lifts, Ransom assigns himself and Mariner to complete the engineering job while sending the engineers (Rutherford and Billups) to the planet surface to carry out the diplomatic mission.
Meanwhile, aboard the Cerritos, the normally risk-averse Boimler learns that a considerably less cautious peer has had a meteoric rise to become a captain, which makes Boimler think he should take more risks in his professional life in an effort to become "Bold Boimler," leading him to say yes to any opportunity presented to him (like Jim Carey in that movie Yes Man). This quickly goes too far: Boimler agrees to be hunted by a hulking sharp-angled alien aboard the ship, who pulls out various stabbing weapons and informs his new "prey" that the hunt begins in an hour. Comic mayhem ensues.
With Captain Freeman wrongfully accused and awaiting trial for the destruction of Pakled Planet, the Cerritos has been put in drydock and its crew placed on leave. Mariner, convinced her mother is going to be railroaded without additional exculpatory evidence, goes on a mission to find evidence that may clear her mother’s name.
"Grounded" is a reasonable start to Lower Decks‘ third season. It’s easily the best season premiere for this series, but still a bit of a mixed bag. This is fine, but not a ton here to write home about. It’s got the usual Easter eggs, some of which I appreciated. (Boimler works on his family vineyard, where they cultivate grapes for raisins instead of wine. Rutherford and Tendi eat dinner at Sisko’s Creole Kitchen, where the hot sauce is "ketracel-white hot." Boimler exclaims how something is ridiculous, "for Kirk’s sake!" Etc.)