Y’all, remember when I mentioned how much of my taste can probably be explained by the fact that I watched DS9 at a formative age? Yeah. Like, it is very hard for me to say anything vaguely coherent about this episode because EMOTIONS, SO MANY EMOTIONS.
But let’s try, shall we?
Bashir demonstrates that he is, indeed, capable of getting his life right
I’ve mentioned previously that, early on, the main thing that makes Bashir even remotely tolerable is that, when push comes to shove, he is extremely serious about his job, and he is really fuckin’ good at it. Even in the episodes where that’s been demonstrated, however, it generally hasn’t been the focus. And he’s also generally ranged in the same episodes from mildly to very irritating. Watching this episode as part of a full rewatch, with everything that’s gone before…this may be the first time I actually like him, instead of just tolerating him (or making jokes about him being into feet).
He’s not spending his time trying to entertain people, or get people to like him — hell, he has a whole one-on-one scene with Jadzia in her quarters and doesn’t try to get her to date him or make so much as a suggestive comment!
(Because he is preoccupied with the actual love of his life, Elim Garak.)
Also, he just…takes a runabout! To go into Cardassian space!! In order to snoop in the files of the former head of the Obsidian Order!!! Remember in the season premiere, when Kira had to have a big discussion with Sisko about doing that? Even if he got Sisko’s permission (which, I get that they had a time limit, but I would have loved to have seen that scene), it’s still surprising that he went alone — Kira had O’Brien with her in “The Homecoming”, for instance.
I also love the way that, contrary to how excitable he’s generally been about whatever he and Garak are up to in the past, he now gets more and more deliberate and calm as Garak becomes more and more out of control. The best example, IMO, being his very careful “okay, Garak, that’s your prerogative” in response to Garak’s “I hate this place, and I hate you”.
What the fuck, Odo
- “Is that [monitoring Quark’s communications] legal?” “It’s in the best interests of station security.”
- “Whether you agree with their [the Obsidian Order’s] methods or not, you can’t help but admire their efficiency.”
Seriously, I love this show, but with every rewatch I side-eye them ever harder on the lack of A) any serious interrogation of Odo’s role in the Occupation or consequences for the things he did in that role (outside of a couple of episodes that are usually not mentioned again), or B) any acknowledgment of the fact that he can actually be kind of a fascist! The only person who calls him out on it regularly is Quark, and we generally aren’t meant to take his criticisms very seriously.
The show is very “the ends justify the means” about Odo’s running roughshod over civil liberties, and that could be fine, even compelling, if they examined it in any serious way. But he’s pretty much always proven right, and so whatever he did to solve the case is therefore okay, and in general Odo is never seriously viewed by the text as anything more than good guy who’s a little overzealous (or a good guy who shouldn’t have to deal with all these pesky rules).
That’s an angle that is, admittedly, of a piece with many, many cop shows, but this isn’t a cop show. Indeed, it’s a show where the question of how far a person or a culture is willing to go, what they’re willing to give up, to achieve their ends — peace, security, prosperity — is one that comes up pretty regularly. Other characters wrestle with this, and sometimes they regret the things they’ve done, and even feel that they went too far. Even when they don’t, there’s at least thought that goes into it: “In the Pale Moonlight” is an absolutely brilliant episode, and it ends with Sisko deciding that yes, the ends justify the means, that “I can live with it”. But it’s also clearly something he struggles with every step of the way, and even if he decides that “a guilty conscience is a small price to pay”, he does, in fact, feel guilty.
It’s just a strange and jarring lack of thoughtfulness from a show that, especially later, is absolutely willing to look at things from different angles and wrestle with serious issue.
G A R A K
Holy shit, people. Andrew Robinson’s appearances are pretty much always great, but holy shit.
Among other things, this is really the first time we get a sense of just how fucking scary Garak can be. We’ve known there was more to him than meets the eye for awhile, and there have been hints of the fact that he has the technical and political knowledge to be dangerous. But in this episode, he’s truly scary for the first time. Certainly, it’s not like Cardassians have been warm and cuddly before this — witness “Duet”; TNG’s “Chain of Command”; hell, the mere fact that, two episodes ago, when Sisko came home to find that his son wasn’t there and Gul Dukat was, he immediately assumed Dukat must have done something to Jake. But Garak has generally been relatively unthreatening — the closest he’s come to doing direct physical harm was in in “Profit and Loss”, when he briefly held Quark, Lang, and her students at gunpoint.
(The one exception, for me — and an even greater one than “Profit and Loss” — was just a brief exchange in “Cardassians”, at the orphanage, when the woman running the place mentions having been in the Resistance, and he, sounding absolutely delighted, suggests that perhaps they’ve met before.)
Also: WHEN HE HOLDS OUT HIS HAND AND JULIAN TAKES IT, OH MY GOD, I CANNOT. Please recall that Cardassians generally have a Hand Thing and this is essentially equivalent to a kiss.
Other notes and observations
- I am kind of amused by the fact that, while Kira isn’t nearby during the first conversation Garak and Bashir have, as soon as Garak leaves she is right there to ask for further details. See my past remarks re: everyone on the station being a messy bitch who lives for drama.
- Paul Dooley is really great as Enabran Tain, but particularly when, in the midst of their generally cordial conversation, he very politely says “I bet you could tell me all kinds of things I’d like to know, Doctor”, it is absolutely friggin’ chilling.
- Drunk Garak is friggin’ amazing. A lot of actors really just cannot play drunk well, but Andrew Robinson is not one of them.
- Also in that scene, Bashir and Quark’s little dance of getting the bottle away from Garak is ridiculously delightful to me.
- “I wasn’t yelling. I was just expressing my feelings. Loudly.” SISKO GETS IT, Y’ALL. (I do kind of feel like that line might have worked better for Kira; Sisko is typically pretty diplomatic and keeps very careful control over his emotions, especially when he’s working. But it’s such a Mood that I don’t even care.)
- Apparently the novel Garak gives to Bashir to read at the end, the sci-fi novel about a war between the Klingons and the Cardassians, was meant to be an intentionally absurd idea “to show what Garak thought of Bashir’s literary taste” and I cannot stop laughing at this.
- Honestly, even with as horny as Bashir is for Garak more generally, he is being such a professional in this episode that right until the very end he’s barely horny at all!
- Garak, for Bashir, in general, but most especially in the scene at the bar when Bashir suggests they go someplace quieter and Garak, agreeing, very deliberately puts the stopper back into the bottle. Like, goddamn, y’all really just went for that, and I friggin’ love it.