DS9 Season 2, Ep11: “Rivals”

Synopsis: We open on what appears to be an elderly alien lady doing shots.

I love this show.

Apparently her husband is dead and she has shitloads of lefotover mad money just lying around. She’s talking to a young man who, I’m just gonna call it, is a gold digger. Although maybe I’m just prejudiced because he’s Prince Humperdink. The Elderly Alien wants to make an investment – presumably in a time-share.

Across the bar, Odo glowers, listening to the conversation with the super dog-ears he apparently has. It seems the Elderly Alien is going to engage in some prospecting-related insider trading (snore) and she’s telling Space Humperdink all about it because she’s so enthralled by his sexy bouncy ’80s hair. And also she’s drunk.

Prince Humperdink pulls some great acting, you can see the manipulation flit across his face as he suggests that they could enter into some sort of partnership, although he doesn’t play the displaced royalty card at all, which, Michael Caine could tell him, is a rookie mistake. At that point, Odo calmly moves in to take him off to the slammer. “We were just talking!” the woman protests, to which Odo responds, “you were talking, madam, he was listening.” I sort of love Odo’s devotion to customer service in this moment. He really needs some sort of cap he could doff at people on the promenade.

As they walk to jail, Odo and Prince Humperdink engage in some expository banter that reveals that Prince Humperdink is a flimflam man who gets people’s pin numbers and “helps” them invest all their money in his dummy companies, and Odo has been eyeballing him since he arrived on the station. He locks him up but good.

After credits, we see Irishy casually walking through the halls swinging a racquetball racquet. I guess he’s on his way to the gym, but I prefer to think this is something he just does, like those high-powered business executives who putt golf balls into cups in their offices (or so television has led me to believe).

When Irishy gets to the holodeck, he finds Bashir sitting on the floor in the completely ridiculous meditative warm-up position, and Irishy is clearly not happy to see him. He programmed the holodeck racquetball court himself, apparently, because he missed playing it so much that he’s having tryouts for a station racquetball league. He did not think Bashir would be the only person at tryouts, but Bashir bouncily assures him that he was the captain of the racquetball team at med school, and led them to the championship his last year. Of course. Of course.

Irishy is all, “oh, so it was like, a college championship?” and Bashir is all, “no, it was like, the championships of the whole galaxy,” and Irishy seems super intimidated, so I guess that tells us that they’re really going to over-correct in the FUTURE when they fix the NCAA (“EVERYBODY PLAY EVERYBODY!”).

Irishy says that he’s mostly self-taught, and has been playing for years, and Bashir, in the midst of his preposterous stretching (I don’t know how anyone involved in this scene kept a straight face), attempts a compliment by saying “oh, some of the toughest players I’ve ever come up against didn’t really know what they were doing.” He realizes his mistake, and tries to rectify it by teaching Irishy one of his silly stretches, which Irishy regards with fascinated skepticism.

They agree to play, and Bashir immediately scores a point. Irishy sighs in frustration. It’s going to be a long game.

In jail, Prince Humperdink is personally offended that someone has the audacity to snore in his presence, and sort of accidentally initiates a conversation with the sketchy-looking alien dude sharing his cell. The sketchy-looking alien dude starts telling him some sort of cautionary tale about how he lost his whole life and everything that really mattered. Prince Humperdink isn’t listening until the guy pulls some kind of one-button Space Bop-It out of his pocket, and then Humperdink is suddenly riveted. They guy says everything comes down to luck, and suddenly the device lights up and he exclaims “I won!” before keeling over dead.

Humperdink wisely pockets the device before summoning Odo.

At Chez O’Brien, a sweaty and defeated Irishy storms in and angrily throws his raquet to the ground, McEnroe-style. Keiko is initially perplexed, then indulgent, telling him that she’s sure Bashir thinks he’s a perfectly good player and he has nothing to be ashamed of. Irishy rants for quite some time, even doing an impressive imitation of Bashir’s voice, until Keiko (who I may have mentioned several times previously, is a bitch) tells him that he’s not young anymore and “people just naturally slow down” when they get older. Then Irishy starts muttering about how he’ll kick Bashir’s ass for sure next time, after he gets back in shape, and Keiko just smirks and shakes her head. I worry about those two, I really do. It’s like the sitcom marriage from hell.

Meanwhile, Bashir and Jadzia are eating lunch and Bashir explains that he was worried Irishy’s heart was going to explode, and Bashir kept trying to bow out gracefully but Irishy wouldn’t let him. Apparently at one point Irishy’s racquet even broke and he made Bashir wait there for him while he went to get a new one. While he was gone, Bashir called one of his nurses and told her to page him about a fake medical emergency so he could leave.

He tells Jadzia that he’s worried about both Irishy’s heath and his pride, because he respects him a lot.

Meanwhile, Prince Humperdink is playing the Pocket Bop-It, winning over and over, apparently. Odo arrives and begrudgingly escorts him out of his cell, saying that the old people Humperdink conned aren’t going to press charges. Odo makes that growling noise in the back of his throat that means he is deeply upset about the state of the modern world.

In Quark’s bar, Prince Humperdink arrives and gambles Quark for a drink, saying that his luck is running high today. He wins, and Quark says that he certainly is lucky, getting the charges dropped and everything, noting that the 47th Rule of Acquisition says “don’t trust a man wearing a better suit than your own.” Seems pretty solid.

Quark and Humperdink trade some barbs, and then Humperdink shows him the Lucky Orb of Luck, winning again. Quark wants to play, but when Humperdink lets him, he loses. Quark is saddened by this, but tries not to show it. Here begins a delicate dance of negotiation, as Humperdink tries to sell Quark the Luck Ball and Quark tries to pretend he doesn’t want it. He says he might purchase it just to keep his nephew “out of his ears,” and Humperdink seems to think the sum Quark’s offering is an awful lot for someone so disinterested. Quark tips his hand by offering him a free drink, and Humperdink demands a vast sum before finally smugly walking out the door.

As he steps onto the promenade, Humperdink notices a shopkeeper packing up all her shit, and, with the keen instincts of a predator, asks her what went wrong. She says she and her husband had a mom-and-pop store for like, 25 years, but now he’s dead and working by yourself isn’t the same. Humperdink slickly cozies up to her, and you know they’re going to be business “partners” in about 30 seconds.

I legitimately don’t know if that’s a hat or her hair

On the raquetball court, Bashir is doing a unconvincing job of pretending to be bad at racquetball. This makes Irishy extremely angry. He threateningly tells Bashir that next time he’ll play his best game or not play at all, and then he walks off the court.

On the promenade, Quark runs up to Odo to demand that Prince Humperdink be arrested. Odo is receptive to the idea, but wants to know what for. The question answers itself as they come upon Humperdink smugly ushering customers into the glowing mouth of his space casino.

After the commercial break, Quark is angrily explaining to Sisko that he has a monopoly to protect. Sisko tries to tell him that the Federation doesn’t approve of monopolies, and one more huckster on the promenade doesn’t make much difference to him. Sisko is calmly striding along like some sort of majestic show boxer while Quark runs around him in circles like an ADHD chihuahua, yelling that Sisko begged him to stay on the station at the beginning of the show. Sisko corrects that he blackmailed Quark to stay on the station, and it really worked out pretty well for everyone involved, and Quark is left just yelling down the hallway about profits.

Things get worse when Rom and Prince Humperdink inform Quark that Rom is now a quarter partner in Humperdink’s Palace. Rom encourages Quark to make him a better offer, but Quark protests that he isn’t going to get in a bidding war over Rom. He gets so hysterical at this point that he yells “DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH!” and follows it up with “A-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!” 

Humperdink’s Palace seems to be the place to be, as Humperdink travels about working people. The old lady from earlier hits Humperdink up for ten thousand dollars, which sounds suspiciously to me like turnaround is fair play. Humperdink relies on his luck and promises to help her. Meanwhile, Rom is meticulously checking the appetizers for foreign parasites, which he says he would not put past Quark. Humperdink tells him not to sweat it, because he’s SO LUCKY. Talk like that has never been known to backfire.

He pulls a sexy waitress into his lap, but suddenly sees his business partner across the room and pretends to be lecturing the waitress about the cleanliness of her uniform. Then he proposes a toast to his partner, the “Queen of the Promenade,” who is wearing a really strange hybrid top that looks like it somehow combined the fashion concepts of the crumb catcher and the shoulder pad into the most bizarre power suit ever conceived.

Shoulder-Catcher? Crumb-Pads?

He says they should “formalize their relationship,” and when she asks if he’s proposing he’s all, “it’s going to be so moving when I murder you on our wedding night,” and pulls out a fancy Bajoran earring he got her, which I guess is what Bajorans do instead of engagement rings. Hmmm.

She comments on the awesomeness of the giant luck balls that are the casino’s main draw, and says she’s never seen anything like them. Humperdink is all, “no one has,” which, yeah, that seems like a really great thing to tie your entire financial well-being to.

In Ops, Kira and Jadzia are doing computer things when Jadzia remarks that she finally found a file she’s been looking for, almost like it “found her,” which is “just lucky.” Hmmmm.

On the racquetball court, Irishy is prone on his back after accidentally stepping on a ball. He clambers up and insists on continuing play, but then Bashir is paged to sick bay (probably to perform a fictional emergency surgery). On his way out the door, Bashir says he doesn’t enjoy the game like he used to, and probably won’t play anymore.

Irishy limps, defeated, to Quark’s, which is completely empty. Irishy doesn’t seem to know anything about the Humperdink Palace, so I guess he has been doing nothing but racquetball all week. Quark gives Irishy the full attention owed to him as the sole customer, and asks him what went down. Quark is making an effort to be a good listener, and hounds Irishy for the details of all of his life’s problems. Irishy explains that Bashir is younger than he is and keeps just barely beating him, and Quark stops listening and begins to see his own troubles in Irishy’s, and begins muttering marketing slogans to himself.

In Ops, things have taken a turn for the worse as Kira loses an evaluation report she’s been working on “for weeks.” I’m starting to suspect that Kira is really bad at paperwork, you guys. Sisko notes that luck has suddenly gotten terrible for everyone, Bashir has informed him that sick bay is full of slip-and-falls, so I guess he either wasn’t lying to Irishy earlier or he’s just creating a really solid alibi. Kira tells Jadzia and Sisko that we make our own luck, and then she immediately falls down, which cues the “jaunty hi-jinks” music in the score.

Meanwhile, in Humperdink’s Palace, everyone in the place hits the jackpot at once.

In Quark’s, Quark is still thinking of potential advertising taglines, one of which is “wonder of the wormhole.” He fiddles with some dice, and apparently he has a good roll.

After the commercial break, he’s standing on the bar promoting…something, and when Irishy comes in Quark introduces him to the gathering crowd as “Miles ‘the Mechanic’ O’Brien.” Irishy trades a glance with Bashir, who is there also, saying he got an emergency call. They both did, but there is no apparent emergency, just Quark grandstanding. He introduces Bashir as “the challenger they call ‘the Doctor’,” and yells that they will be having the “grudge match of the galaxy.”

Irishy catches on first and yells at Quark to get within range of his fists. Quark doesn’t listen, he just announces that the selfless competitors are competing for a good cause, and have insisted upon donating half the profits to the Bajoran fund for orphans. “ORPHANS!” Irishy yells, like, what next! 

Quark says the “grudge match” is happening tomorrow and wraps up his spiel. Bashir and Irishy tell Quark they didn’t agree to anything and he can go screw himself, and Quark says they should “think of the children,” because the monks who run the orphanage have already made a down payment on winter blankets. Well, I’m glad that the blanket dealership had financing options available. (“What do I gotta do to put you in one a these fine blankets?”)

Bashir and Irishy look at each other sadly like, guilting achieved, and Quark moves to look out at Prince Humperdink across the way, morosely standing in the doorway of his presumably empty casino.

In Ops, Jadzia has lost that file she so miraculously found, and Kira has returned from the packed sick bay. Jadzia’s wheels get turning, and she wonders if all the system failures have something to do with all the minor accidents. Kira scoffs as though this sort of thing doesn’t happen every freaking week. “Coincidences,” says the character most likely to try and convince us that various random events are the culmination of prophesy.

Sisko and Jadzia start spitballing about viruses and spacial disruptions, and Jadzia gets to researching.

Meanwhile, Rom apparently thinks that Prince Humperdink is his therapist, over-sharing about his difficult childhood and lobe envy. Prince Humperdink isn’t interested, he’s just trying to figure out why his luck suddenly ran out, and as he buries his face in waitress boobs to make himself feel better, his fiancee walks in, catches him, and reminds him that she still owns the lease on the space. She says she wants him and his luck balls out post haste. She’s keeping her blingy earring, apparently. Good for her!

He decides to follow up on his agreement to invest with the Elderly Alien from earlier. He gives her ten grand out of the casino profits, and she assures him that they’ll both be rich. He tries his hand at one of the luck balls. He loses. OMINOUS.

Irishy is psyching himself up in the mirror at home, telling himself he can beat Bashir’s backhand. Even Keiko knows this is a serious moment, and refrains from making fun of him as she helps him get his sweats on. She tells him that they’ll celebrate that night, win or lose, which I guess is a nice thing to say. She gives him a handkerchief that smells like her perfume, Spite by Calvin Klein. They make out.

Bashir doesn’t have anyone to make out with, so he’s just doing pushups. Quark comes in to try to give him some performance-enhancing elixir, supposedly from the monks. Bashir is suspicious, and since he’s already in a science lab, he decides to run a test on the “folk medicine.” Bashir says there’s an anesthetic in it, and Quark is obviously trying to rig the game, because literally no one bet on Irishy and Quark would like to make some money.

Quark asks Bashir to throw the match “for the children,” and Bashir says no way, no how, because Quark is buying those incredibly expensive blankets whatever happens.

In Ops, Jadzia has found that the laws of probability are broken inside the station, because…science, I guess.

Irishy and Bashir wish each other a good game and begin to play, as the game is broadcast into the bar. Irishy breaks Bashir’s serve, which is kind of suprising, and on the next point Bashir’s raquet breaks.

In Humperdink’s Palace, Rom is upset that Prince Humperdink spent all the profits on the elderly woman’s investment scheme. Rom says he’s out of there, he’s going back home to be cheated by family. He takes the sexy waitress with him.

Meanwhile, Bashir is losing 9-3. Irishy belligerently cuts the feed to the TV, which Quark tries to pass off as a “three-minute break”. Safe from prying eyes, Irishy asks Bashir what the hell is going on, saying he’s making shots he couldn’t have made fifteen years ago. He says he can’t miss, and Bashir says he couldn’t hit the broad side of a mammoth. As an experiment, Irishy tells Bashir to bounce the ball off the wall. He does, but instead of bouncing back to him, the ball bounces, improbably, into Irishy’s hand. Irishy throws the ball a couple of times, and it always comes back to him, may times bouncing off the ceiling and several walls.

Irishy summons the rest of the senior staff, who explain about the laws of probability being broken, and Jadzia traces some neutrinos or something and finds out that the luck balls have caused the probability problem. Prince Humperdink is all, oh. He explains about getting the original small luck ball and making a bunch of bigger…ohhhhhh. 

“Ohhhhhhhhhhh.”

He also says he doesn’t know how to turn them on or off, so that’s super helpful. Sisko and Jadzia wisely explode all of them. Odo slides in and arrests Humperdink because those same people from earlier have decided to press charges again. Let’s hope Odo locks them in this time. Prince Humperdink chuckles at the absurdity of it all.

As he waits in his cell, the Elderly Alien arrives. He’s super excited to see her, because he thinks she’s coming to bail him out, but Odo puts her in a cell of her own. Quark arrives and says that the elderly woman just tried to con him out of money with the “old asteroid mining trick.” Quark says he’s there to bail Humperdink out, and then he laughs uproariously at him. Humperdink asks for 2,000 space dollars to get off the station, and Quark laughs some more.

They barter about how much Quark will pay to get him out of there, at one point Quark is prompted to utter Rule of Acquisition 109, “dignity and an empty sack is worth a sack.” He barters Humperdink into submission and the episode ends.

Meredith’s Analysis: This is a pretty fun episode. I love the competitive space racquetball nonsense, because, really, racquetball? And it feels really organic when that plot converges with the larger Prince Humperdink story. It actually reminds me a lot of season on episode “Q-Less,” in that a bunch of zany, wacky shit was going down in Quark’s, all while the station was slowly being sucked into the wormhole. Much like this episode, things were finally resolved when Sisko and Jadzia finally got off their butts and walked down to Quark’s and asked what the hell he was doing down there. It’s a good lesson for us and for them: if something horrible is happening in your A-plot, maybe go check on your zany B-plot just to make sure that’s not what’s causing it. A Starfleet policy to that effect would save days every year.

Tim’s Analysis: Some people don’t really like it when Star Trek has wacky hi-jinks episodes, but I am not one of those people. This episode is great fun. Nothing really heavy is going on, it’s just a lighthearted bit of goofy fun with characters playing off each other.

I do have a few questions about the probability devices. Who in their right mind would blow up something like that without studying it first? How do you know it doesn’t screw things up more when it explodes. Also, the technology to change probability exists. This is kind of world-changing and we just kind of laugh it off and blow them up. Yeah, the fabric of existence is being modified by a softball sized wad of circuits in a bar, let’s not mention it ever again.

Fun fact: Prince Humperdink was supposed to be Guinan‘s son, but Whoopi Goldberg wasn’t available for the episode. The interesting result is that their species, the El-Aureans, are actually first named in this episode, while Guinan doesn’t actually refer to herself as one until Generations. They are referred to as a “race of listeners” in both cases, so the breadcrumbs were there for the fans at the time to figure it out. It’s kind of sad, though, to think that Guinan could have had some more cool backstory introduced in this episode, but it never came to be.

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3 thoughts on “DS9 Season 2, Ep11: “Rivals”

  1. As always, a fantastic read. One of these days I’m going to have to go through and watch these myself!

  2. Pingback: Season 2, Ep13: Armageddon Game | Meredith and Tim Watch Star Trek

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