The opening of this episode is really well-structured; I liked seeing DS9 move to more cinematic territory. First we have the witty repartee between Quark and Odo; we learn Quark is playing something of a double agent, giving information to Odo–but definitely getting more than one thing in return. One of those things is a pipeline into mysterious objects-like an earring that looks like something from Bajor, but found on Cardassia IV. Quark decides to indulge his crush on powerful women and goes to show the earring to Kira - who recognizes the earring as something belonging to Li Nalas, a Bajoran war hero long thought dead. She feels comfortable enough to go to Sisko for help, something I don't think she'd have done last season. Sisko wants to say yes, but he's struggling with the diplomacy of it: is it worth potentially risking relations with Cardassia for one man? And so the stage is set for the rest of the episode: we move from Quark's and the sounds of the dabo girls to the Commander's chair. See what I mean? It's one long thread of interlocking bits that sets up our story nicely. Cinematic. During all this the secondary plotline plants its seeds; a group named The Circle, composed of dissident Bajorans, is spray-painting sigils around the station, much to the consternation of Odo.
When the team successfully comes back, not only with Li Nalas but several other refugees, Kira rushes to Sisko and interrupts a call–from Cardassia. Apparently their fears were unfounded. Cardassia apologizes... and retreats. Kira's warned by Bajoran leaders, who don't agree with her that Li Nalas is worth a war. I think it's interesting that Sisko saw Kira's plan as valuable and the need for strong Bajoran leadership worth any cost–but the Bajoran government would rather keep the bits of power they have, even though the problems in their world are increasing.
The Circle gets more aggressive, this time actually going so far as to capture and brand Quark with their symbol on his forehead. As a Ferengi, they naturally want him away from Bajor. I was terrified during this scene–I knew Quark would come through okay, but those masks and robes were so clichéd that I thought I would die. Still, they serve their purpose: something Must Be Done, and people are turning to Nalas to do it.
And Nalas, the coward, is caught trying to run away. In a long, impassioned speech he tells Sisko the truth: everything he's done is an accident. It's well acted, but I'm left wondering how much of it is true and how much of it is actually a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt.
The end of this episode's also cinematic: everything is upside down. Bajorans seem more dangerous than Cardassians. Li Nalas isn't a hero; he's a bare step up from a coward. Kira and the strong relationships she's built with the crew of DS9 are in jeopardy–she's being replaced by Li Nalas. I have no idea what's happening next episode, and I can't wait.
And it's To Be Continued...
Bits and Pieces
In the beginning Sisko consults Dax for advice regarding the Li Nalas situation; interestingly, she seems more comfortable asserting herself in the second season and rejects his comparison of her with Curzon Dax.
Costuming dept: What is Kira wearing? When she dresses as a prostitute to deceive the Cardassian soldiers, successfully, she wears what looks like a badly-crocheted tank top. Is this really sexy alien wear?
Richard Beymer, who plays Li Nalas, has an impressive acting resume: he was in the 1960's West Side Story and The Diary of Anne Frank. What is it about Star Trek that attracts serious actors?
There's a tertiary plot with Jake: he's nabbed a Bajoran hottie, but it's not meant to be: her daddy don't like no aliens. Which makes me wonder if his girlfriend's anti-human Daddy is going to turn out to be a member of the Circle.
Odo: You remember that Subytt freighter we were discussing the other day? The one you claimed was smuggling defective isolinear rods to Bajor?
Quark: Yes, yes, what about it?
Odo: Well, I conducted a little investigation of that freighter, and do you know what I discovered?
Quark: That I was telling the truth.
Odo: That's right. I arrested the first officer and two of the crew.
Quark: Congratulations, Constable, I knew you could do it. Now if you don't mind, I'm needed upstairs.
Odo: Hold on, I'm not finished with you.
Quark: Oh, really, Odo? Sometimes I think there's no pleasing you. I help you crack a notorious smuggling ring, yet you still insist on treating me like the enemy.
A very solid start to the second season, marred only by the weird cultishness of the Circle. 3.5/4 alien political dissident taglines, in yellow!