Synopsis: We return to our favorite space station after the long summer of 1994. But they don’t have summer in space, or on the internet, so here we all are again. The camera does a slow pan through Quark’s bar, showing aliens drinking and playing Space Craps with majestic horn orchestration to remind you that you’re back in SPACE, bitches.
Aaaaaaand the season’s off to a good start, with Odo wanting to talk to Quark about a matter of some importance. Quark is both shifty and busy, and not interested in hearing Odo’s follow-up on a tip Quark gave him. Odo begrudgingly admits that Quark was right, and it led to an arrest, grumble grumble grumble. Odo can’t figure out why Quark tipped him off to illegal activity (obviously the $1000 Crimestoppers payout, Odo, duh), and he seems pretty ornery about it.
Quark says they’ve just been at each other’s throats too long, and he thinks they should work together now and be buddies and maybe invite Bashir over to play MarioKart on Saturday, which kicks Odo’s suspicion-o-meter up from a 6 to a 10. Quark reassures Odo that he’s willing to wait for Odo to trust him, and Odo scoffs before giving Quark a long, angry look and striding out of the bar.
Quark muses to Rom that he’s never seen Odo look so perplexed, and Rom says that he’s mighty perplexed himself, since the people Quark turned in were a potential source of profit.
“Must I quote you the 76th Rule of Acquisition?” Quark asks. Yes, Quark! Quote it, quote it!
“Every once in a while,” he says, “declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies.” Sun Tzu had nothing on the Ferengi. Rom, for the record, still looks perplexed.
Quark, meanwhile, goes to converse with a sexy alien lady in a jumpsuit who immediately engages him in sexual banter (“how are your lobes?” “tingling, at the sight of you”) and then explains that she has a mission to complete. She promised a guy on Cardassia Four that she’d return this big-ass Bajoran earring to Bajor for him, and he told her that anyone she showed it to there would know what to do with it. I’m trying to imagine a human object with enough significance for our race that you could show it to literally anyone on Earth and they would know what it was without further explanation. An Easter Island head? A Justin Bieber poster? Hitler? (“Hey, we found this guy on Cardassia Four ranting about Jews, is he one of yours?”)
Anyway, she says she won’t be making it to Bajor this trip (how lazy are you? It’s like fifteen feet away) but since this was a Bajoran station she hoped someone here would know what to do with it. Quark assures here that there is someone here who knows what to do with it, and he is that someone.
Meanwhile, Major Kira is praying in her quarters in a stance that tells us early Bajoran spiritual leaders apparently used a lot of metaphors likening the Prophets to football referees.
Quark interrupts her prayer hour with inappropriate banter until Kira threatens to physically throw him out on his ass. He gets to the point of his visit by showing her the earring and asking if it’s valuable. I guess the sexy alien wasn’t wrong about everyone on Bajor knowing about this thing, because Kira immediately wants to know where he got it and the orchestration has suddenly changed to “muted horns of unwelcome surprise.”
Quark tells her the earring is from Cardassia Four, which must be significant because Kira practically runs out of her quarters without saying goodbye or showing Quark out. It’s her own fault if all her valuables are gone when she comes home, I say.
After the opening credits, we see Jake Sisko, taller, but still small enough to fit into his favorite puce jumpsuit, come bounding down from the top to the lower level of the promenade to greet his father. Jake says he has good news, and Sisko reestablishes himself as a Good Dad by making several educated guesses. None of them is right, however – Jake’s good news is that he decided to ask out a Pretty Young Bajoran Thang, and Sisko is all, “The one with the beautiful smile! Mazel tov!” He knows which one she is! More dad points!
To Sisko’s disappointment, Jake’s already asked her out, and wonders if his dad has any good date ideas. Sisko immediately nixes Jake’s proposals of “a holosuite” or “our quarters.” It is as I suspected! The amount of places teenagers can have illicit sex will continue to increase with every passing decade!
Sisko says Jake is too young to take a girl to a holosuite, like, you’d think they’d have some sort of parental controls on them, wouldn’t you? “I’d love to take you to a hotel in Paris, baby, but my dad has programmed this unit to only go to the highly populated areas of Disney World.” To be fair, that’s kind of where I want to go on every date, ever. Screw curing cancer, let’s funnel that money into holodeck production!
Jake whines that they’re just going to talk, and Sisko is like, “then talk when there are other people around who will tell me if you’re making out,” and Jake is all, “we want to talk in private,” and Sisko suggests that they just watch the ships through the window on the second level of the promenade, and Jake thinks that’s a recipe for a terrible first date (I agree).
Before Sisko can suggest that they have a nice evening looking at the stars while sitting a reasonable distance from one another on the swing on his front porch, Kira bounds up with her urgent earring concern. Jake hilariously steps out by telling Sisko that he, Dad, is obviously not ready for this conversation yet.
Sisko and Kira adjourn to the Holiday Inn Express Breakfast Buffet, where Sisko insists on replicating breakfast before listening to Kira’s problems. She explains that she needs a runabout for reasons she can’t disclose, and Sisko points out that he kind of has to know where she’s going, and he does not seem thrilled when she informs him that she wants to stage a jailbreak on Cardassia Four. Apparently the earring belonged to a great Bajoran resistance leader, Li Nalas, who was reported killed in action, but his body was never found, and now Kira thinks he’s in a camp on Cardassia Four. She wants a runabout because apparently Bajoran spaceships suck, and three Bajoran ministers already turned her down.
Kira tells Sisko that Bajor is going to have a civil war (surprise surprise) and to avert it, they need a real unifying leader, and this guy could be it. Just then, Irishy comm badges in to Sisko to ask for his presence on another important matter, and Sisko leaves abruptly, telling Kira he’ll give her crazy cowboy proposal some thought.
When he joins Irishy and Odo, they show him some grafitti in one of the station’s hallways that apparently represents the “Alliance for Global Unity,” also known as “the Circle.” Odo explains that they’re an extremist Bajoran faction who believe in the supremacy of the Bajoran race and think all other species should get the hell off their planet. So much for birds and dogs, I guess. What are they going to eat, plants?
Odo says the Circle symbol has been popping up all over Bajor, but he’s never seen it on the station before. He assures Sisko and Irishy that there’s nothing too much to fret about, because that hallway is a low security area. “As of now,” Sisko informs him, “there are no low security areas on this station.” Good! That means Jake can have his date anywhere he wants! Maybe some of the less populated areas of Disney World.
We next see Sisko in his office, tossing the baseball that Alien/Field of Dreams in Space character Buck Bokai gave him at the end of “If Wishes Were Horses”. Jadzia comes in, asking if she was summoned to discuss baseball, which Sisko apparently used to do a lot with Curzon Dax. “He enjoyed it,” she reveals, “but not half as much as he led you to believe.”
Sisko tells her that he’s been pondering the Federation’s mission on DS9, and seems disheartened by all the shenanigans on Bajor when they’ve worked so hard to set things right. Sisko asks her – hypothetically, of course – what one should do if one, say, knows of a uniting figure whose mere presence could save Bajor from itself.
“I’d say give Kira the runabout,” Jadzia responds cooly.
Sisko is a little grumpy she knows about this already, but asks her what they should say to the Cardassians if they go through with it. Jadzia says the real question is what the Cardassians are going to say to them, because they swore they released all their Bajoran prisoners after the war. Jadzia always leaves when she’s given you something to think on, so she strides out as Sisko puts on his pondering face. As Jadzia returns to Ops, she gives Kira a small smile and a gentle arm squeeze.
Kira looks like someone just let slip she was getting a bike for Christmas, and as Sisko comes out of his office she joyfully looks at him like she’s a puppy and he’s holding a tennis ball. He tells Irishy to prepare a runabout, and then this dialogue happens:
Irishy: So she’s going to Cardassia Four?
Sisko: Is there anyone on the station she didn’t tell?
Irishy: I doubt she mentioned it to Quark.
I really like the idea of Kira campaigning among her coworkers to go on the mission. It’s a funny image, and on a deeper level, it shows how close she’s getting to people – she isn’t content to fight her paranoid little battles by herself, any more, she wants to actively include other people to be on her side, which is definitely a step forward.
Sisko tells Irishy to at least try to keep the mission under wraps, and Irishy assures Sisko that he’s already thought of about eight complicated ways to hide the runabout from sensors. Sisko is all, “you’ve given this some thought, hmmmm?” and Irishy makes a great “who, me?” face.
In Kira’s quarters, she’s prepared for her mission by changing out of her uniform into civilian clothes that are way better than any other civilian clothes that anyone else on Star Trek has ever had. Kira’s early uniform is pretty ugly, but you realize how well the wardrobe department did their job when you see the contrast between that and the clothes she wears here. You look at her in this scene, and you think, my god, how did they ever make that woman look not-sexy, let alone kind of mannish? Kira’s regular uniform reflects how strong, no-nonsense, and businesslike she is, an antidote to more Stripperiffic depictions of strong women in the sci-fi genre. When you see her in her civvies, here, you realize how easy it would have been to slap her in an Impossibly Low Neckline and call it a day.
Sisko and Irishy come in for a visit, and Irishy is also in his civvies, although they do not make him look nearly as sexy. Sisko just dropped by to tell Kira that Irishy is going to be playing tag-along on her mission, because, he says, he wants to make sure he gets the runabout back in one piece. Kira seems to think this is somehow an opt-in situation (check this box for a portly leprechaun!), all like, “while I totally appreciate the offer…” Sisko explains that the Federation has an interest in this too, and Irishy chips in that he knows how the Cardassians handle their prisoners, and no one should have to go through that. Irishy likes to continually remind everyone that, despite his cheerful demeanor, he fought in the Federation-Cardassian Wars, known also as the Border Wars. Kira seems to remember this too, saying she guesses she could use the company.
As they board the runabout, Kira explains that they will either end this mission bringing home Li Nalas, or not at all. Irishy barks, “understood,” and there’s a brief second where Kira really seems to admire him. They pull out of the station and off to an uncertain future.
We come back from commercial about thirty minutes away from Cardassia Four, where Kira announces that they’re being scanned. Irishy says it’s probably a routine scan from a navigational control post, but then whoever it is hails them. Kira is all like, “shit,” but then Irishy points out that they’re actually out of visual range, so they can bluff whoever it is.
Kira opens a channel, and it’s a Cardassian navigation control post just like Irishy thought. Kira lies about who they are, and the Cardassians tell her that their subspace emitters are malfunctioning, the space equivalent of the cops telling you you’ve got a taillight out. Kira tells them they’ve been having a problem and they’re working on it, and the Cardassian surprises everyone by offering to send someone out to check on it.
“They want to help?” Irishy whispers to a baffled Kira, and the two of them goggle for a moment at the existence of a Cardassian interested in something other than shooting your whole family for sport.
Kira says they don’t need help, and the guy is all, “you sure?” and Kira, worried they’re getting suspicious, exploits the natural Cardassian fear of pissing off their superiors by saying that she’s transporting an extremely important load of (sunflower?) seeds for someone names Gul Morrain, and she doesn’t want to delay and inspire his wrath. The Cardassian guy is all, “oh, man, I totes feel you, please, carry on.” Kira and Irishy sigh in relief as the Cardassians cut off the transmission.
Irishy is all, “who’s Gul Marayn?” and Kira says she just made him up. They both have a good laugh, but I think they got lucky. I mean, what if she’d accidentally named a real Cardassian higher-up? Shit could have gotten sticky – “Hey, Gul Marayn is my father and he’s allergic to sunflower seeds! Just who do you think you’re fooling?”
Irishy and Kira move into orbit over the labor camp on Cardassia Four, and their readings reveal not one but a dozen Bajoran life signs down there. Kira asks if it’s humanly possible to beam up more than two at a time, and Irishy says no, especially since the Cardassians will start shooting as soon as they beam up the first time.
Kira is disappointed, but not for the reason you’d think: “there’s no guaranteeing that Li Nalas will be one of those first two,” she says. Um, Kira? How about the fact that THERE ARE ALSO ELEVEN OTHER BAJORANS WHO ARE NOT FAMOUS BEING HELD THERE ILLEGALLY? It’s really weird how selectively Kira mourns the plight of her people sometimes. Let’s just paraphrase Primo Levi and charitably assume that one single Li Nalas moves Kira more than the countless Bajorans whose faces remain in the shadows.
Irishy explains that the compound is surrounded by standard Cardassian security procedures, and Kira says that they’re just going to have to touch down and save everybody. Irishy is all, HOOAH, and with that we cut to the camp itself, which, like many of the exteriors in Star Trek, bears a suspicious resemblance to Southern California. The Bajoran laborers seem to be mainly putting rocks in baskets (“ooh, Dennis, there’s some lovely filth down ‘ere!“) while a high ratio of Cardassian officers patrol the perimeter and poke them from time to time.
A note: the Cardassians are wearing these really cool rain boots that look like they’re made of alligator skin.
Suddenly, we see Irishy and Kira strolling into the camp all casual-like, and Kira asks Irishy how she looks. “I doubt there’s a Cardassian alive who could resist you,” Irishy says. Ah, it’s the tried-and-true Sexy Cop/Pimp Cop routine. I assume.
When one of the Cardassians tells them to halt, Irishy says they want to see the prefect, and he’s doing such an awesome rough-and-tumble voice that I’m half expecting him to say, “we want to see the prefect, mac.” The young Cardassian security officer is all, “um…can I tell him what it’s regarding, please?”
Irishy is all, “she has an appointment, duh,” and Kira chuckles like a hardened three-pack a day whore and hooks her thumb in her belt.
The young Cardassian says that he used to be stationed on Bajor, and Irishy is all, “then you know why he doesn’t wanna be kept waiting for this little hot tamale, amirite?” He’s having a little too much fun with this, I think, I’m expecting him to shoot tobacco out of his teeth any second. He’s very convincing, because the young Cardassian inquires about rates. Irishy barters with him and Kira taunts him in a sexily defiant way until he demands to come over and examine her for himself. He brings the force field down to let in Kira (but not Irishy) and asks her to show him why she’s worth the exorbitant price Irishy’s asking for her. She unbuttons her top button, and as he leans over to look at her boobs, she uppercuts him to the chin, and he’s flat on his back in no time. That’s why, buddy, that’s why.
Another Cardassian runs over to help, but man, once you’ve let Kira into your forcefield it is already about ten kinds of too late. She downs him with her phaser, which has a hell of a kick because he flies up in the air and lands on his ass. Kira lets Irishy into the forcefield and they shoot the…other Cardassian. There were like fifteen of them a minute ago, was there some sort of union break that began right when Kira and Irishy got there?
Kira runs up to Li Nalas and tells him she’s there to save him (“It’s about your kids, Li! You have to come to the year 2015 with me! No time to explain!”). The other Bajorans are all like, “Hooray! You got our secret earring message!” and Li Nalas is all “what? My earring got lost, like, weeks ago,” and one of the other Bajorans is all, “no way, I stole it to arrange a surprise party for you!”
They decide it’s running back to the ship time, but, unfortunately for them, the other Cardassians just finished up their union break and have come back to shoot at people. Bajorans are falling all over the place, and Li Nalas gets hit in – it looks like his back? Maybe he’s just clutching it because his years of hard labor have made him unsuited to running. Kira leads the ragtag crew while Irishy herds/shoots from behind.
As they pause for a moment behind a ridge, Irishy confides that they’ll never make it at this rate. The Bajoran who orchestrated this whole expedition by smuggling the earring says they should just take Li Nalas and some of the other prisoners and leave him and his three buddies to fight. Li objects strongly to this, but the other Bajoran says they did it all for him. Kira promises they’ll get him back to Bajor safely, and she and Irishy practically drag Li away.
They get their party onto the runabout, and Kira tells Irishy to hold takeoff for a moment because the others might still make it. Irishy says they don’t have time to spare, because there are warships coming in and they’ll be there in less than a minute. Li Nalas says they can’t leave those men behind, and Kira seems to agree, but things are getting more and more urgent and finally she tells Irishy to get them home.
Back on the station, Li Nalas is released into Bashir’s care, but Li only wants to talk about how everyone else needs treatment, from which I suppose we are to construe he’s very noble. Kira bounds into Sisko’s office for a debrief, only to find Sisko on skype with Gul Dukat. Sisko says there’s something she needs to hear. At his nod, Gul Dukat, the PR master before which all other spinsters must bow, says that he would like to issue a formal apology to the Bajoran people, because Cardassia proper had no idea whatsoever that there were still Bajoran prisoners being held on Cardassia Four, and that the prisoners left behind are en route to Bajor.
Kira, who was not expecting this and who is not the kind of person accustomed to diplomatic shennaigains, has nothing to say but, “I look forward to their safe return.” You can see that she’s totally out of her depth here, in a word she’s never seen before. After Gul Duakt signs off, Sisko says he’s as surprised as Kira, but I somehow doubt that. Kira suspects that there’s something sinister behind the Cardassians’ quick response, and Sisko agrees, but congratulates her on the success of her mission. As he says this, she actually grows about a half-inch, looking tired but proud.
In sick bay, Bashir is working his magic on Liand trying to make small talk. He’s telling Li what a big fan he is, and how awesome Li was back in the day, and Li just seems bored with all the adoration, and tells Bashir that he doesn’t like talking about that part of his life.
Later, he walks around the station with Sisko and Kira, back in her unsexy uniform, getting the grand tour. He says it’s crazy how good the place looks these days, considering that he used to work there in an ore processing plant. Odo walks up to let Sisko know that a Bajoran Minister has arrived, and Sisko lets Kira have the prestige of handling that one, continuing to walk with Li Nalas.
As they walk past the Holiday Inn Express Breakfast Buffet, Li Nalas becomes weirded out by the way the Bajorans are all staring at him. I swear to god, this happens like every third episode – the Bajorans, as a group, need to leave people alone. It seems like they’re always staring in worshipful admiration or getting up a lynch mob, it’s like they just exist to form groups and react passionately to things. Anyway, Li Nalas wants to take a nap, but good luck with all the worshipfulness around.
Kira goes to greet the Bajoran Minister, and it’s Richard Nixon. He asks after Li Nalas, and makes sure that Kria knows that her little saving-his-life stunt made her some enemies in BajoranMinisterLand, and that while he thanks her as a private citizen, he will end her career in a heartbeat if she disobeys orders like that again. Poor Kira is just balls-deep in diplomacy all of a sudden, all like, “thank you…I guess?” Kira really only deals in blacks and whites at this point, so it’s fun to throw her into intrigue and war games and watch her squint her eyes like she’s listening to a foreign language she only took a semester of Freshman year.
Meanwhile, the Bajoran Adoration Mob wants a piece of Li Nalas, and Sisko says he doesn’t think they’ll disperse until Li Nalas gives a speech. Li is all, “fine, God.” He gives the laziest speech in the history of space, saying things like, “it’s good to be free.” Yes. Yes it is.
Luckily Richard Nixon sweeps in on the wings on his sinister robe to shake his hand and welcome him home. He tells the crowd that they must remember this forever, because their children and grandchildren and assorted pets will some day ask them what this moment was like. Li Nalas is all like, *eyeroll*, and the Bajoran Adoration Mob is all like, “YEAH, that is some hard core idolizing, OMIGOD, yes, that’s what I’m talking about.”
Sisko finally gets Li Nalas to his room, and Li says privacy is the best, and that he’d rather hoped people had forgotten about him by now. It seems that Li does not wear the mantle of hero easily, and he can’t quite get over the fact the Bajor is now free, a goal he worked towards his whole adult life. Sisko explains that Bajor lacks strong leadership, and Li’s all, “shit, that’s why I’m here, isn’t it,” and Sisko is all, “yup, pretty much.” After a nice firm handshake, Sisko leaves him to his bed at last.
In Quark’s, the Feregni brothers are divvying up their spoils according to their usual 6-1 split, when Quark notices that Rom is a little glum, and it’s ruining payday for everyone. Rom says the split isn’t fair, and Quark agrees, changing it to a 7-1 split. Apparently this is the Ferengi equivalent of a bunch of Bajorans staring at you, because Rom storms off to bed Li style. This means that Quark is alone when a bunch of really terrifying guys in plastic masks and red robes grab him, gag him, and brand his forehead with The Circle logo.
We see him next in sickbay, where Bashir seems confident that he can repair the damage and that there shouldn’t be any scarring. Kira and Li Nalas look on, trying not to be amused. Sisko and Odo are there too, but they are naturally unamused and ask Quark straightforward questions about who attacked him. Li Nalas can’t believe that Bajorans did this, and that the government hasn’t been able to stop them. Quark says that the government had better get on the ball, because he’s going to sue their asses, and now Sisko is DOUBLE unamused, snapping, “not now, Quark!”
He tells Li Nalas that people turn to The Circle to get things done because the government sucks, and Kira says that Bajor needs someone to speak out against the reactionaries. Bashir tells Quark his head is all fixed up, and Quark asks Kira how he looks. “As…handsome as ever,” she says, and Quark takes this as an encouraging sign of her interest.
Sisko returns to his quarters and finds Jake still up. Apparently Jake’s date stood him up because her dad told her she couldn’t date non-Bajorans. Sisko continues to rack up the great dad points by dropping everything and telling Jake that that sucks and isn’t OK. He says that Bajor is in turmoil right now, but Jake doesn’t deserve that, no one does.
Jake goes off to cry himself to sleep, and Sisko gets a page from some alien captain on the station. He says he was just about to leave for the Gamma Quadrant when he found a Bajoran stowaway on his ship – it’s a very chagrined Li Nalas. Sisko summons him to his office, and Li explains that he was planning to run away and join the Gamma Quadrant circus. He tells Sisko the unglamorous Ballad of Li Nalas, in which he bungled a bunch of stuff and then shot a Cardassian higher-up basically by accident as the Cardassian was finishing up a bath in a river, and his buddies spread around an exaggerated version and before he knew it he was the Bajoran Robin Hood.
He tells Sisko that he’s already surrendered his own life to be the hero that Bajor needed, and it’s too much to ask him to keep pretending to be the man he’s not. Sisko says it isn’t about being a man anymore, it’s about being a symbol – the Bajorans who look up to him see the best in themselves. Li Nalas says it’s based in a lie, and Sisko says it’s not a lie, it’s a legend, which is as powerful as any truth, and Bajor needs its legend.
Later, in Ops, Sisko and Kira meet up with Richard Nixon and Li Nalas who have just come from Bajor, Li Nalas has been elected to a brand new position, and, oh, by the way, he’s now the Bajoran liason to DS9. Sisko is all, “um, Major Kira is standing right there,” and Richard Nixon is all, “Major Kira is not assigned to this post, you won’t have her to kick around anymore,” and everybody except Richard Nixon looks really upset about this.
TO BE CONTINUED! It is our very first DS9 multi-parter! Return next week to see if Sisko will get the better of Richard Nixon, and also if Jake got to date that one girl after all! We will be suspending our analysis until the last episode of the arc – see you there, dear readers.