The Enterprise returns to Earth, where Captain Picard is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Starfleet Academy's graduation ceremony. However, the crew comes to learn of an accident during flight training that has involved Wesley Crusher, injured him, and caused the death of another squad member. Picard, concerned, orders his crew to investigate the accident, and discovers evidence that Wesley's squad were attempting to perform a banned maneuver called the "Kolvoord Starburst". Picard accosts Wesley and demands to know the truth, but Wesley refuses to answer him. Picard reminds him of his Starfleet duty.
Wesley is torn between telling the truth and the demands of his squad leader, Locarno, who insists he state that the accident was caused by their dead squad member. Locarno attempts to coerce Wesley into keeping with the lie, making Wesley question his friendship. At the tribunal, Wesley is driven by the emotions of the dead crewman's father and by Picard's trust in him, and he reveals the truth at the last moment. Locarno, realizing he cannot hide it any longer, admits that he instigated the lie and made the rest of the squad cover up his actions. Locarno is expelled from the Academy while Wesley and the rest of his squad lose the past year's academic credits. Wesley is disheartened but both Picard and Beverly Crusher encourage Wesley that he will regain the trust of his classmates.