The Enterprise is hosting an archeological symposium near Tagus III and Picard is set to give the keynote address. He confides in Counselor Troi that he feels like an amateur compared to the professionals that will be attending the conference.
Unfortunately, he is unable to speak from personal experience as the ancient ruins on the planet are closed to outsiders. Troi assures him that his speech will be well-received.
When he returns to his quarters, he finds a Horga'hn - a statue used on the planet Risa where he vacationed the year before. Vash, the archeologist he met there, appears at his door. She has arrived for the symposium as a council member and the two rekindle their romance. The next morning, Dr. Crusher arrives for her regular morning tea with the captain. Though surprised to see Vash, she offers her a tour of the ship much to Picard's visible discomfort.
It soon becomes apparent that, while Picard has told Vash all about his senior staff, he has not mentioned Vash to them at all. Riker takes over the tour when they meet in Ten-Forward and escorts her to the bridge. Picard arrives and is mortified to find her sitting in his chair.
At the reception for the council members that evening, Vash becomes irritated when even Counselor Troi has never heard of her. She interrupts Picard to confront him over why he has not mentioned her to any of his friends. He tries to explain that, as captain, he must keep his personal life separate from his duties. She thinks he's just making excuses because her presence has embarrassed him.
He retreats to his ready room where he finds Q sitting in his office chair. Q explains that he has been bothered by the debt he owes Picard for trying to save his life when he had been stripped of his powers. Picard isn't interested in Q repaying any debt and would rather he just leave. Q is determined to find some way to help Picard and offers to take him to Tagus III and view the archeological ruins in person. Picard refuses to break Taguan law just to satisfy his curiosity so Q suggests they go back in time before the law was enacted and see what the original Taguans were like. Again, Picard will have none of it and demands that Q leave the ship. Picard tells Riker Q is trying to do him a favor and Riker decides to alert the crew.
Picard tries to make amends with Vash and explain that he's not embarrased by her presence, but stops when he notices she has a map of the ruins of Tagus III in her quarters. He searches and finds a shovel and other equipment that leads him to believe that she is actually planning to loot the site and sell her findings. This goes against all of Picard's beliefs about archaeology, as well as his Starfleet principles. Vash argues that she will not change for him or anyone else. Neither realizes that Q is listening in on this spat.
That night, Q appears in Picard's quarters, mocking him for letting himself become vulnerable to this woman. He warns Picard that Vash will only cause trouble for him and offers to get rid of her. Picard is adamant that he does not want Q's help or his favors and plays ignorant regarding his feelings toward Vash. Q asks if Picard would rather he stand by and watch Vash lead him to ruin and Picard says he would.
The next day, Picard begins his speech at the symposium. As he speaks, peaked hats appear on Dr. Crusher and Troi, a staff in Riker's hand and a monk's robes on Data. Finally, Picard himself finds he is in a tunic and breeches, with a peaked cap and a bow. They all disappear and reappear in a forest.
Knowing that this could only be Q's doing, Picard notes the costumes and surmises that he has been transformed into Robin Hood and they are his merry men. Riker is outfitted as Little John, Data as Friar Tuck and Worf as Will Scarlet and the latter protests that he is "not a merry man". At that moment, Sir Guy of Guisborne rides in with his men prepared to take in Robin Hood and his gang. Picard and crew run deeper into the forest to evade their pursuers.
Later, Q arrives on horseback in the guise of the Sheriff of Nottingham and explains that Vash is being held by Guy of Guisborne in Nottingham Castle who believes she is Maid Marian. She is going to be executed unless Picard rescues her. The purpose of this scenario is to determine if Picard is willing to risk the lives of his senior staff and friends to save a woman he professes to care nothing for.
At Nottingham Castle, a perplexed Vash slaps Guy of Guisborne when he asks her to marry him. When she realizes that the bizarre scenario she has found herself in may result in her execution unless she changes her mind, she relents and plays nice with him. In the meantime, Picard decides he is going to Nottingham Castle alone and orders Riker to stay behind with the others so that he will not risk their lives. Q is shocked when he learns that Vash has agreed to marry Sir Guy and insists this must be a trick. Picard infiltrates the castle and breaks into Vash's room through the window. He explains that this whole situation was devised by his adversary Q. However, when she finds out he came alone and left his crew behind, she balks at the risk he's taking. Sir Guy and his men barge in and Picard reaches for his sword, but Vash grabs it first and holds it on Picard, telling Sir Guy this is her wedding present for him.
Q's delight at Picard's capture turns to dismay when he finds out it was Vash who captured him. Vash attempts to get her lady-in-waiting to take a message to Riker in Sherwood Forest, but Q interrupts and sends the servant away. He tells her he had no idea she was so ruthless and this has surprised him. She realizes that this is Q. He finds her lack of redeemable qualities fascinating but then uncovers the letter she was going to send to Riker. This duplicity delights him, but he doesn't have time to explore this facet of humanity and orders the guards to take her away.
As Robin Hood and Marian are led to the executioner's block, they argue the entire time. Q interrupts and asks if she was worth it. Riker and the others have crept into the castle disguised as monks. As Picard asks that Vash - who is innocent in all of this - be let go, Q argues that she is many things, none of them innocent and Data creates a diversion by tossing a part of his ciruitry into an open flame. The crew pull out swords and begin to fight as Picard punches his way to a blade and fights Sir Guy. During the fight, Vash is dragged to the tower with Picard in pursuit. After he dispatches Sir Guy, he breaks into the tower and rescues her. Q appears and explains that his debt is over since Picard has now learned that his people could have been killed over the love for this woman. He feels this demonstrates how weak and vulnerable Picard really is.
Vash protests that this has brought out the best in him, but Q doesn't believe it and sends Picard and crew back to the Enterprise. But Vash does not appear with them. Later, in his ready room, she reappears wearing a pith helmet and safari suit. She explains that Q had something to discuss with her and reminds Picard that the game proved he cared about her. Picard admits that he still has feelings even if he doesn't show them to his crew. He asks where she's off to next and Q appears, telling him that she has the whole galaxy to choose from. Vash reveals that she and Q are now partners. Over Picard's protests that Q is untrustworthy, she reminds him that she is, too. Q promises that she will not be harmed and will see parts of the galaxy no human has ever seen. He disappears long enough for them to kiss good-bye, returning abruptly to retrieve his own pith helmet.