The fourth episode of the second season of Star Trek: Lower Decks, “Mugato, Gumato,” written by Ben Rodgers and directed by Jason Zurek, was released for streaming on Paramount+ today, Thursday, September 2nd, 2021.
If you’d like to catch up with previous recaps of Lower Decks, you can do so here.
We open on the Cerritos gym. Ensign Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Ensign Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) are dressed for Anbo-jyutsu and approaching the gym, noting that Shax (Fred Tatasciore) has a reservation in 20 minutes (and thus dispelling any doubt as to whether or not the Bajoran security chief has remained resurrected since last week’s episode).
Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) spots their equipment joins, but little does she know that Rutherford and Boimler have been secretly training at night…
Ambo first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation season two episode fourteen, “The Icarus Factor.” And speaking of Icarus, in spite of the training undertaken by Boimler and Rutherford, they soar a little too close to the sun: after scoring a hit on Mariner, she beats them both down pretty thoroughly.
Just before we enter the theme song, Shax enters the gym; however, rather than react to Mariner brutally beating Boimler and Rutherford, he acknowledges that he’s arrived early for his scheduled time and just continues reading off his PADD.
S2E4 — “Mugato, Gumato”
After the credits, we open on an alien planet: Frylon IV. A pair of Denobulans are chatting about the benefits of raktajino versus human coffee as they gather samples when they are surprised by a Mugato! They immediately puff up their heads, a defensive mechanism displayed by Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley) in the third episode of Enterprise’s fourth season four, “Home.”
Back on the Cerritos, Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) is recording her Captain’s Log (Stardate 58036.4). The Cerritos is heading to Frylon IV to investigate the reports of a Mugutu (which are not native to the planet). Commander Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) is more interested in making ex-jokes, and Freeman is frustrated that they’ve been assigned another animal control op, but Shax is rearing and ready to go.
In the Cerritos bar, Mariner comes up the still-battered Boimler and Rutherford playing the Quark-brand Diplomath (which she at first confuses for work – not unreasonably).
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Boimler and Rutherford explain to Mariner that they’re both about to lose, which is the point of the game – if everyone is unsatisfied with the outcome, then diplomacy must have been served!
Boimler and Rutherford approach the bar and ask the bartender, Honus, for more drinks – with pain reliever mixed in. As the music changes, Honus begins to act strangely conspiratorial, and starts raising questions about Mariner – if that’s her real name. How does she kick so much ass? How does she avoid consequences?
Honus claims Mariner is a Starfleet Black Ops secret agent! The two ensigns just laugh at this idea, however… Until Honus points out that being friends with the two softest guys on the ship is the perfect cover for being a secret agent. Boimler’s still skeptical, but Honus says that the crewmembers on the Atlantis (another one of Mariner’s former ships) probably didn’t believe the rumors, either…
But before he can further elaborate, a Cerritos crewmember points out that Lt. Commander Andy Billups (Paul Sheer) is still waiting on his peach daiquiri.
Boimler and Rutherford say it’s unlikely Starfleet would put a secret agent on a starship… but then they remember all those times they actually did that (it’s a lot).
Meanwhile, Ensign D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) is in Medical when she’s shoved aside by a pair of crewmembers who outrank her (even though it’s her patient). That’s when Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) calls Tendi into her office and hands her a list of crewmembers who are overdue for their annual physicals (in spite of the fact that the biometric scan is noninvasive).
T’Ana tasks Tendi with tracking down the holdouts and scanning them. “Easy enough,” say the audience members who have never worked in the employee health department of a medical facility.
In the Lower Deckers’ workshop, Boimler is explaining to Rutherford that there’s actually three different ways to pronounce “Gumato,” but Rutherford isn’t listening. He’s become embroiled in reading Mariner’s record, and discovered that half the crew of the Atlantis disappeared!
Mariner interrupts their suspicious speculation, surprising Boimler so badly that he hurls his T-88 at her… and she reflexively catches it! Mariner is impressed with her own skills, but Boimler and Rutherford take it as implicit confirmation that she is indeed Starfleet special ops…
Soon, Shax and the other members of the away team have gathered in the transporter room, when Shax reminds them that phasers won’t be brought to the planet’s surface (as they can injure the genitals of the endangered Mugato). Captain Freeman warns them about an incoming storm over the comm before they beam down to the planet’s surface.
They journey into the forest (which involves some awesome-looking dappled light – the animation budget for this season is really something), with Shax taking point and passing up no opportunity to taste Mugutu dung. Boimler and Rutherford agree that Mariner is not currently a threat, since Honus said she’d only flip out when her back was against the wall…
Soon, they come upon an operation run by Ferengi. They’re whipping the Gumato and forcing them into cages! The Ferengi are harvesting the Mugato horns and selling them for latinum, with an alien customer present, Mr. Hyde (Paul F. Tompkins, joining the ranks of actors who have played more than one Trek role). Worse yet, they’re jamming signal, so no communication can be sent to the Cerritos.
“Just how I like it – backs against the wall,” growls Shax, and Mariner grins in agreement. Boimler and Rutherford are terrified.
The away team bursts into the compound and Shax confronts Kynk, the lead Ferengi, who cares little for Federation conservation laws. Soon, the Mugutu have been released from their cages, resulting in a stampede!
In the ensuing chaos, Boimler and Rutherford look to Shax… but he’s being stabbed by Mariner, who immediately goes for the wound with her mouth! Boimler and Rutherford are convinced Mariner is a murderous spy and flee into the Gamato-filled forest.
Up on the Cerritos, Ensign Barnes flags the departing alien customer’s ship. Freeman hails the ship, which refuses to speak to her.
They emergency transport him over just before his ship explodes… but he sobs that his whole life was onboard.
Down on Frylon IV, Boimler and Rutherford are questioning what Mariner was doing – eating Shax? But then they’re attacked by a Mugato!
They flee and hide under the roots of a tree, where they meet a Tellarite. He says he’s Patingi, and he’s a renowned biologist who has five books on Mugutu. Patingi says he’s been studying Gumato for years and will help the ensigns to safety.
Books on Mugato aren’t as unusual as you might think. In The Monsters of Star Trek by Daniel Cohen, it says that the Mugutu is “probably the most conventional monster in the entire series.”
Meanwhile, Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts by Michael Westmore, Alan Sims, Bradley M. Look, and William J. Birnes has information on the behind-the-scenes details of the Gumato. According to this book, the creature was created by Janos Prohaska using a pre-existing ape suit he modified for this role, which he played himself.
But while you can learn a lot from books, Patingi soon admits that he hasn’t written five books on Moo-goes, he’s read them – and that’s not even one of the three ways you pronounce “Mugato.” That’s when a Mugutu appears and literally bites Patingi’s head off!
On the Cerritos, Tendi is working through the crewmembers who need to be biometrically scanned. She approaches Ransom’s little buddy, Lt. Stevens, but he says he’s too busy for a scan (before heading into the bar).
Undeterred, Tendi follows Stevens into the bar and obtains a DNA scan from his used glass.
Gumato a Trois
Back on Frylon IV, Boimler and Rutherford continue to walk through the woods when they spot two Mugato. They hide in a log to avoid being spotted… but the Mugutu are pretty uninterested in the humans. They’re only interested in… other Gumato.
Soon, the ensigns are trapped inside the log as the Mugato begin to copulate. It’s… pretty graphic. This continues until a third Mugutu arrives – there’s a momentary threat of a fight!
However, the newcomer is actually only interested in watching. The first two Gumato return to their graphic mating as the third Mugato pleasures himself nearby… And it might be time to update the “Shipf*cker” article.
While the Mugutu get busy, we see a montage of Tendi on the Cerritos, working her way through the list of crewmembers who need to be scanned. She gets Jet Manhaver while he’s busy training with Lt. Kayshon, and scans Chief Lundy while he’s distracted on the holodeck. But that’s when she arrives at the final item on the list: a crewmember identified only by a number…
On Frylon IV, the three Gumato have worn themselves out and are sleeping in a pile (including the watcher). The two ensigns continue through the forest, with Rutherford using his implant to spot a booby trap… and that’s when they finally reunite with Mariner.
She’s excited to see them but quickly gets caught in the booby trap. Boimler and Rutherford accuse her of drinking Shax’s blood, but she explains that she was just sucking the poison from the Mugato bite out (this method works way better than the coping strategies on Neural, trust me).
Mariner asks if they found out she was a black ops secret agent, and admits that she was the one who started the rumor. She explains that she likes having the mystique. They ask her about the Atlantis and she explains that half the crew got Kerplickian lice, which Starfleet failed to note (since such an outcome is so unbecoming).
Boimler and Rutherford ask why she’s so good at martial arts and she admits its because she can practice it alone… and she fails to catch the T-88s they throw at her, either. The two boys realize that they’ve misjudged Mariner.
However, their reconciliation is interrupted by the arrival of the Ferengi. Boimler and Rutherford hide as the Ferengi take Mariner prisoner.
On the Cerritos, Tendi tells T’Ana that she’s down to the last patient, and T’Ana tells her not to worry about it… and that’s when Tendi sees the number on the door: T’Ana is the last holdout (surprising for anyone except those of us who have worked in the employee health department of a medical facility). T’Ana tells Tendi that she picked her for the job because she assumed she’d give up, but Tendi has had a pretty significant afternoon!
T’Ana flings her coat at Tendi (revealing her adorable tail) and flees into the bowels of the Cerritos. Tendi chases her over a crate and under a shuttle, finally following the Caitian into a Jefferies tube…
In the Captain’s ready room, Captain Freeman is offering Mr. Hyde a shuttle to make up for the fact that they destroyed his ship. Ransom wonders what Starfleet will say and Freeman assures him they’ll just say they lost it in a black hole (an occurrence with precedent). Hyde goes on to say that he had irreplaceable treasures on-board the Ladyjane, and begins listing Freeman’s Captain’s trinkets.
On Frylon IV, the Ferengi are rounding up the Mugato and putting them back in cages. At first Boimler and Rutherford lament that Mariner isn’t a black ops spy, so she could use her special skills to escape, but that’s when they realize that they have special skills of their own… even if they look different than Mariner’s skills.
In the bowels of the Cerritos, Tendi has nearly located T’Ana. She spots her a level down and tries to tackle her… but gives herself a compound fracture in the process. This drawns out T’Ana, who Tendi finally scans before passing out.
Meanwhile, on Frylon IV, Mariner is taunting the Ferengi, describing them as “creepy throwback Last Outpost-style Ferengi,” referring to the fifth episode of TNG season one, “The Last Outpost,” which introduced the Ferengi. Mariner asks if they’ve ever heard of Quark, and Kynk reponds that “of course” he has.
But that’s when Boimler and Rutherford arrive. At first, it seems as though they’re about to attack… however, instead, they set up a projector and offer a business proposition, mathematically demonstrating that the Ferengi could earn more latinum but turning Frylon IV into an open-to-visitors Mugutu reserve rather than a Gumato harvesting facility.
The Ferengi consider the opportunity and find that the profit margins are inarguable. Kynk says he doesn’t love retrieving captives and Rutherford admits that they should apprehend the Ferengi – in other words, everyone is a little unhappy with the outcome. It’s a compromise!
Kynk’s Mugatu Land
Back on the Cerritos, T’Ana is treating Shax for latent Mugato venom effects (and confirms in dialogue that the romance hinted at between the duo last season has indeed persisted in spite of Shax’s death and resurrection). Elsewhere, Tendi shows off her hard-earned overconfidence.
In her Ready Room, Captain Freeman is telling her husband, Admiral Freeman (Phil LaMarr) about meeting the eco-friendly Ferengi before she realizes that Mr. Hyde has been running a ship-stealing scam in the area. They track down the shuttlecraft they gave him and Freeman reclaims her Captain’s trinkets. Good… I love that Gorn doll.
Mr. Hyde is sent to Kynk’s Mugato Land on Frylon IV, where he is conscripted into shoveling Mugutu dung. Meanwhile, in the foreground, we see the Gumato that the Ferengi separated from their child earlier in the episode reunited with one another.
In the Cerritos bar, Mariner is beating Boimler and Rutherford at Diplomath (but they don’t want to admit it to her). Mariner approaches the bar and begins to tell Honus that Boimler and Rutherford are known as the Mugato Twins, and that they fought off a dozen Mugutu barehanded before grinding up their Gumato horns and snorting them to gain strange powers.
Clearly, Honus is buying it, and hardly even notices the complaints the other crewmembers have about his bartending…
We close on the Cerritos heading off to her next mission.
New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available for streaming on Paramount+ on Thursdays.