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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Improbable Cause

Garak: "I am back."

By nature I love brevity: Dang, this one is good. It's all setup, of course, but you can feel that something is happening. And if I know DS9 (having seen it twice through, I do), the payoff will be epic.

There are many episodes of Deep Space Nine that can be described as grand, big, and/or epic. This one, and its partner 'The Die is Cast', certainly fit into this category. On most shows, you can feel it from the very beginning of the episode whenever something grand, big, and/or epic is going to happen. Just from the way it feels at the start, you know that this one is going to be a big one. But on Deep Space Nine, you don't know at the very start. In the first three seasons, this is merely because none of the grand, big, and/or important episodes feel that way at the start. But in Season Four onward, it is because every episode feels that way at the start. This episode is a precursor, a step along the way, toward the permanent establishment of that feeling in DS9. Things are changing, big stuff is happening, and every episode could change everything.

'Improbable Cause' opens in such a way as to prepare you for an intriguing installment in Garak's ongoing saga. We begin at the table with Garak and Bashir, at which point we settle in for the standard Garak formula, established in 'The Wire': a tense situation that can only be solved by revealing a portion of Garak's past; Bashir investigating into it to try and help; Garak lying to protect his secrets; and an eventual revelation that doesn't REALLY tell us anything. Then the episode keeps us thinking in this way for a while. Garak's shop is blown up - the tense situation. Then Bashir starts helping. But here is where the episode makes its first major departure from the Garak formula: before long, Odo is investigating Garak, not Bashir. This is the first hint we get that all is not as small as it seems. But that isn't weird enough to put us on our guard. Why shouldn't Odo investigate it? Changing up the standard formula is what makes things interesting, after all. And we see things continuing along the standard path again, so we don't suspect.

Garak keeps lying to protect his secrets, which we fully expect. And we come across a man that Odo believes to be the culprit. He's set to track the would-be assassin, with Garak along for the ride. Then the episode hits us with a twist: the assassin is assassinated. At first, this seems to us like it might be just another twist of the plot: a staple of any Garak episode. But we are quickly disabused of this notion. Who killed the assassin? The Romulans. Not a Romulan senator or captain. Not a Tal Shiar agent with a grudge against Garak. Just The Romulans. This opens the scope of our episode wide. It is quickly followed by the information that five other former Obsidian Order operatives were murdered on the same day. This is accompanied by reports of Romulan activity near the Cardassian border. The exception among these dead operatives, clearly, is Garak. We then learn that he BLEW UP HIS OWN SHOP to evade the assassin, and to bring Odo into the matter. He contacts Enabran Tain (Paul Dooley), the former head of the Obsidian Order, only to learn Tain has disappeared. And by now the episode has quickly turned from a quiet Garak episode to a big galactic conspiracy involving the Romulans and the Cardassian Obsidian Order. It looks to be a Romulan plot to attack or invade Cardassia.

So Garak and Odo go to rescue Tain, and the episode drops its last expansion of scale on us in the final scene. A Romulan warbird decloaks in Cardassian space. Garak and Odo are taken aboard, and we expect to meet a Romulan who tells them about the invasion of Cardassian space. Instead we find Tain, who is in charge of the operation. He reveals that it is not a Romulan aggression towards Cardassia. It is a joint operation between the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order, against the freaking Dominion. Now we have involved two of the major galactic players, against the big galactic threat that's starting to build up. Three big powers, clashing against each other, and Garak and Odo in the middle of it. We know this will not go well.


-We continue the theme of Garak and Bashir discussing their cultures' literature. This time, the discussion turns to human literature, specifically Julius Caesar and the Boy who Cried Wolf.

-I didn't realize it at first, but Garak's reluctance to eat his food in the beginning was probably because it had been poisoned.

-Garak is late for his opening meeting with Bashir. This must be because he was preparing the bomb in his shop.

-We didn't see Odo's Cardassian contact very well. One might think he'll show up again from this fact. I don't remember that happening, though.

-We met Tain's housekeeper Mila in this episode. She seems to mean a lot to Garak.

-Garak was exiled by Tain, after serving as his protégé for a long time.

-Tain, too, still means a lot to Garak.


Garak: "Fear of starvation amid plenty. It points to some dark secret of the human soul. Someone should do a study."
Bashir: "Why don't you? You appear to have plenty of time on your hands."

Garak, listing off people who'd try to kill him: "Well, let me see. I mean, there's the Nausicaan whose wedding suit I misplaced, and the Yridian I owe money to, and of course, there's always Major Kira."
Bashir: "This is serious, Garak."
Garak: "I am being serious. I don't think she likes me."
Odo: "She doesn't, but if she wanted you dead, you would be."
Garak: "You do have a point."

Bashir, about the boy who cried wolf: "The point is, if you lie all the time, no one is going to believe you, even when you're telling the truth."
Garak: "Are you sure that's the point, Doctor?"
Bashir: "Of course. What else would it be?"
Garak: "That you should never tell the same lie twice."

Garak: "It's been my observation that you always act from a sense of justice, or at least what you consider justice. There's no feeling behind what you do, no emotion beyond a certain distaste for loose ends and disorder. You don't know what it means to care for someone, do you? People are just interesting creatures, to be studied and analyzed."
Odo: "Is there any point to this?"
Garak: "Only that I find it interesting that you ascribe feelings and motivations to me that you know nothing about. Or am I wrong? Tell me. Is there one person in this universe you do care for? One person who's more than just an interesting puzzle to be solved? Is there, Odo? Anyone?"
Odo: "If there were, I certainly wouldn't tell you."
Garak: "And that would be a wise decision."

6 out of 6 big galactic conspiracies

CoramDeo was raised by a cup of coffee.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this one a lot.

    Watching these for the first time, but having a bit of general knowledge about later events just from having been alive at the time these were airing, I'm fascinated by the Garek/Bashir dynamic.

    I love that both of the actors were quite openly playing their relationship as a romantic one, I hate the fact that Rick Berman was such a massive homophobe that he stopped letting them be in scenes together just to stop it from happening, and I REALLY love that both the fan community and the actors themselves took possession of the relationship back after the shows run and made the fact that the two of them went of to get married more or less 'cannon'. (Does fanfic have a greater claim to canonocity if it's written/performed live by the actors themselves? In this case I like to think it does,)

    Great review. I particularly like the detail that I had completely missed about why Garek wasn't eating. Very cool.


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